This is Joan, 87-years-old, who always wanted to be a writer but quit school at 10 to help feed her family. She was a pineapple farmer’s wife by 17, and mother of 6 (plus 3 miscarriages) by 29. This is my Granny, who I spent vast amounts of the first four years of my life with in her lush and thriving garden, where she held me close and told me rich, fantastical stories that taught me to look for magic not just in flowers but also in the dirt.
These are photos I have deeply feared for a long time I’d never see, of Granny holding a printed and bound copy of my novel (she put on her best pewter day shoes to go into town with my gorgeous Aunty Debbie to pick it up). Ever since I can first remember talking with Granny about pursuing a writing life, I’ve had a deep and vicious fear that I’d never be ‘good enough’ to write a novel. I’ve long been haunted by an imagined glimpse of the future when someone might ask me about my regrets, and I would feel pain twist through my gut when answering that although I could have, I didn’t write my first book in time for Granny to read in her life. Because I was too scared.
When my phone pinged with this email a few days after these photos were taken, I had to have a lie down after reading:
I have read the book and never missed one word. It took me four days. I am deeply moved by this story and I am so proud of you for creating such beauty and intrigue. Even I could not fathom out what was going to happen next. I could see the fairy garden and a little girl I remember under the big white bell flowers behind the old brick BBQ. Well done Holly. You have achieved something precious.
If I get any more overcome, I will pop my buttons off my shirt with pride.
Love you so much.
Your own Granny.
No matter what happens after my book is sent out to publishers next week, in many ways, how it feels to take in these photos (one of her hands on her heart, and the other on my book?! I can’t bear it!) and realise it is done – Granny has read my first novel, has walked with me through every page of the story – is beyond my dreams. This is one of those feelings about being alive you can’t know until you know it. And it is so much more powerful than fear.
Whatever your day has held, or holds, I hope you find yourself in a moment when you surprise yourself. I hope you give yourself a chance to be braver than you think you are.