As an author you never know how far your book will travel. Nor possible effects it may have on others’ lives. Occasionally there’s special moment, when a reader contacts you. Or even a potential reader.
I had one of those significant moments this week. It was about relating to a hero, who was a relative.Fact evokes different responses from fiction.
Poignant e-mails arrive about fictional picture books and YA novels with which readers empathise. Parents write to me about the psychological importance of the ‘Guess What, There’s a Hippopotamus on the Hospital Roof Eating Cake’ picture book in helping a child patient adjust to hospital. Or about ‘f2m;the boy within’, the YA novel which has evoked genuine responses of relief because of the subject matter of transitioning gender has been portrayed in an approachable way in fiction.
‘But ‘Weary’ in the factual New Frontier Aussie Heroes series has been evoking responses from the ‘parent’ and ‘grandparent’ wanting to share a ‘hero’ with their young ones who are caught up with ‘celebs’ and in need of heroic, historic role models.
With a factual book, chances are that others knew the subject. And the readers have their stories to share too. I’ve had a few calls from those who knew ‘Weary’ or ‘Fred Hollows’ and each time, I wait to see if I got a fact wrong. But usually, it’s overwhelming praise from the reader, that the subject has been acknowledged in an accessible way for younger readers. And for the opportunity to provide historic ‘heroes’ who have actually done something for others rather than just been fashionably photographed as a ‘celeb.’ e.g. superficial socializing in front of camera.
I had a poignant moment today when Weary's former secretary Valda Street contacted me to get an autographed copy of my 'Weary' book for Sir Edward’s grandson Edward with whom she retains frequent contact.
A charming lady, who has close contact with the grandson, 'who is just like Weary' and regards him as his hero , but whose father Alexander is hospitalised with dementia. We shared anecdotes.
It's conversations like this which make the writing worthwhile.(I did notice she always called him Sir Edward, not ‘Weary’.)
I told her about being asked to speak about 'Heroes' and Weary to teenage Sudanese and Somali males at the Coptic Christian school and she said the grandson is hungry for stories of his grandfather and also wants to be a surgeon and is interested in the peacefulness of Buddhism.
Valda said Weary forgave, but never forgot his POW experiences. Agreed about the flaws such as road rage but also said at the time you don’t realise you are working for a hero. A 'big' man . And now his medical and rugby charities continue this compassion.
I've posted an autographed copy today.
Further resources for the Sir Edward 'Weary' Dunlop book are available on Hazel Edwards' website.