Fullers Bookshop

where two roads diverged: the latte years hobart launch

The Hobart launch of The Latte Years a few months ago was not unlike a wedding - gathering in great excitement with my parents and siblings at the family home beforehand, with sparkling wine and hair and makeup preparations; a fancy car to take us right to the door; getting my photo snapped the minute I alighted outside Fullers Bookshop; speeches; even a CAKE (!); but most of all, seeing the faces of so many people I love and knowing they were all there to celebrate something very special.

Also like a wedding, it's amazing how suddenly you get so incredibly nervous, knowing that everyone's there because of you! 

But it was wonderful, utterly wonderful, in every way. Like my wedding day, I'd do it all again tomorrow and wouldn't change a thing.

An aside: towards the end of 2004, as it began occurring to me that I needed to start at least trying to extricate the shit out of the blades of the fan that was my life, I joined a T.S Eliot appreciation group that met once a week at Fullers Bookshop in Collins Street, Hobart. I was the youngest person in the group, by about a quarter of a century, but I loved it. Our leader was passionate and inspiring, and it was rocket fuel for my brain that had been lying dormant since graduating from uni two years before. The discussions always ended in the Afterword Cafe, where we were given coffees and slivers of fudge. So to say it was surreal, just over 11 years later, to be back there launching my own book, is something of an understatement! 

If you've ever been to Fullers, you'll know what an oasis it is. It's one of the world's loveliest bookshops, warm and comforting like a favourite relative's house, and smells like two of my most favourite things in the world - books and coffee.  It was amazing to be there, and to see my book everywhere I looked!

My friend and one of my most favourite writers of all time (if you haven't read Mothers Grimm, go and get it now, it's amazing!), Danielle Wood, officially launched The Latte Years. She began by reading a poem very dear to my heart, Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken", and these are a few of the very kind words that followed:

Phil’s story is not really so much about health, fitness and body issues, but about a journey every single one of us will understand - the journey to being the very best version of ourselves that we can possibly be.
...we are, every single day of our lives, every single moment, confronted by diverging paths. The choice of what to do, what to say, what to think....with each tiny choice, we are forging our character. And that’s what The Latte Years is really all about.

..it’s not a matter of choosing the steep, difficult and challenging path once. As Phil tells us in The Latte Years, you have to keep choosing it. Every single time two roads diverge in a yellow wood. And that will make all the difference.

And then it was my turn to say a few words and, to be honest, I was quite overcome. I felt overwhelmed with gratitude and love, for everyone in the room. A friend had flown over from New Zealand to be there, another from New South Wales, and another still had flown down from Melbourne that day as a surprise, and casually strolled into Fullers with her baby strapped to her back and into my gobsmacked, overjoyed and utterly overwhelmed arms. There were old friends there, some I've known for 30 years or more; family; former classmates, their partners and children; women who taught me in primary and secondary school; and even a handful of readers I had never met but who wanted to come and say hello (and I'm so glad they did!). It felt strange but unbelievably wonderful that this little book I had drafted and redrafted, smiled and cried over, alone in my study on the other side of the world was now out and being read. It was all now real. It had gone beyond a Word file on my Macbook and was now a real book. I was a real author. And I got to celebrate it by returning to where I'd come from, where the story began.  

Many of you would know that The Latte Years started life as a novel. Fiction is a wonderful vehicle for so many things but in this case, it was a shield. It was a way to distance myself from everything that had happened. I told myself I was trying to make it more universal but in truth it was a way of trying to rewrite the past, to bring everything to more satisfying conclusions than had been reached in real life.

But The Latte Years became the book it was destined to be, and that it needed to be. I had to write this book exactly as it is. Our stories choose us, we don’t choose them.

And the thing about being brave that we’re never told is that it’s not about feeling righteous and invincible, all swords and shields. Being brave is about putting the shield down.

I wrote this book because I knew I couldn’t possibly be the only person in the world who lost their way in their youth and life didn’t turn out as planned. I couldn’t be the only person who went through a divorce in their twenties and had to learn how to heal, trust and love again after heartbreak. I couldn’t be the only one who found out success has a dark side. I couldn’t be the only one who’s had ‘friends’ screw them over. I couldn’t be the only one who has reached a goal, that was once upon a time so out of reach, and then wondered ‘what’s next?’

And it turns out, I’m not. Far from it. The response to The Latte Years has been beyond anything I could have hoped for. I’m so happy that it’s helped so many people, because it’s also helped me. It turns out it was a book even I needed! I needed to remember the strength and power we all have to turn our lives around when we’ve lost our way. I needed to remember how empowering it is to take responsibility for your life and your choices.

Most of all, I needed reminding that the past is the past. I can’t change any of it. And now, I don’t know if I would, even if I could. Because it got me to right here, right now. And I wouldn’t change that for anything.

And then it was time to drink wine and sign some books. By the time we reached the end of the line, my hand hadn't been that sore since university exams in 2001, but it was totally worth it. I was told I had attracted a bigger crowd than Molly Meldrum! Ha ha.

One of the things I didn't anticipate writing a memoir is how INSANELY FUN it is when so many of your 'characters' show up to your book launch...including Sarah and Dave from Canada!! 

How often do you get a  world famous author  show up to your book launch?! I was a squealing fan-girl on the inside!

How often do you get a world famous author show up to your book launch?! I was a squealing fan-girl on the inside!

Fullers were amazing - they even did this gorgeous window display which I couldn't get enough pictures of. Occasionally I stood on the pavement and just stared at it (and got curious stares in return!). 

I know it sounds silly but I'm still having moments of OH MY GOD I WROTE A BOOK IS THIS REALLY HAPPENING? and I have occasional moments of overwhelming pride and disbelief, when I see a picture of it being read somewhere, or my own copy on my shelf in my study, that I wrote that. It's still all sinking in, like I wrote in my last post.

Thank you again Fullers Bookshop and if you were there that night in Hobart, thank you for being a part of it. It was one of the happiest nights of my life. 

Now how about a (virtual) piece of that amazing cake?