Welcome to the blog of the Tasmanian branch of the Children's Book Council of Australia!

Tuesday 25 February 2020

Thoughts from a Book Launch

Lyndon Riggall, a long time contributor to the CBCA Tasmania blog, writes from a new perspective - as an author at his first book launch. Congratulations Lyndon for this heartfelt post and your first forays as a published children's book author.

I must, by now, have been to a hundred book launches in my life, and I have loved every single one of them. Still, there is a side of the table that I belong on, and it does not feel like this side. The nerves are the same as any anxious wait where the crowd meets the writer, but here, with a pen in my hand, the experience begins anew every minute. I keep going, gradually learning to breathe and not to shake. For years, the local newspaper has insisted on calling me an “author” despite the fact that I have never been published anything beyond articles in the occasional magazine. Today, I still don’t feel like an author. But the books beside me with my name neatly printed on a hardback cover appear to be suggesting otherwise…

I am at the launch of my first picture book, Becoming Ellie (created in collaboration with artist Graeme Whittle), which is held at Launceston College in a huge hall packed with people. 

Lucinda Sharp of 40 South Publishing, Graeme Whittle, and Lyndon with the real Ellie. 

Photo by Kate Tuleja.

I was sure that the event would either be wildly underattended or draw a huge number of people, and I am very pleased to say that the latter is the case. Although Graeme and I bring an equal measure of friends and family along, the signing line nevertheless feels like one of those dreams you might have where every face from your past appears in front of you: here, a family friend I haven’t seen in a decade or more, there, a teacher who taught me in primary school. It could be argued that we write books because it is not possible to share everything person-to-person, or as John Green has argued, “a writer is someone who would love to tell you a story but doesn’t want to look you in the eye.” I am reminded in this moment that stories are also, actually, a celebration. Sometimes, they bring people together.

I have had lots of moments since then that make the nine-year-old inside me, with his dreams of being a writer, screech with delight. Becoming Ellie is on a shelf at Petrarch’s Bookshop. Becoming Ellie has covered its publication costs and is turning a profit. Becoming Ellie is available at the state library and is listed on Goodreads with me as an official Goodreads author. Chief among the highlights, though, are hearing people discuss it at a party, where they do not know that its writer is behind them scoffing a handful of Doritos, and a woman who stands at the sales desk at the Tasmanian Craft Fair, laboriously reading the entire text in front of me. As she completes it, she reaches not only for her wallet but also for a tissue, drying her eyes and declaring, “Well I have to buy it now, don’t I?”    

A page from Becoming Ellie. © Graeme Whittle.

As I continue to sign, unsure if by the end of the night I will be able to remember my own name, let alone anyone else’s, I reflect. I love book launches, and I have been to more than I could ever hope to count…

But I still think mine was my favourite.

Lyndon Riggall is a writer and teacher from Launceston, Tasmania. Becoming Ellie, his first picture book and the story of a greyhound searching for a new identity, was created with Graeme Whittle and released at the end of 2019 at Launceston College by Lian Tanner. You can find Lyndon on Twitter @lyndonriggall or at his online home http://www.lyndonriggall.com. For more on Becoming Ellie visit http://www.becomingellie.com.au.

Images are © and used with permission.