For years and years, I have kept a box of cards and letters that I have received from my friend Helen. The cards began before the letters: birthdays, Christmas and just ‘cos exchanges, that morphed into longer letters when Helen got her first job in the country, 400kms from Adelaide.
They tell of a time where we were both testing our ideas, becoming adults with opinions, sharing jokes and quotes, extending and showing off our vocabularies, and of course revealing the inevitable love stories. Here I’d found a friend that ‘got me’ and while I missed her not being in Adelaide, our friendship via correspondence was always a source of great joy and continues, albeit less frequently, until today.
One of the cards we exchanged (I can’t remember whether I gave it to her, or she to me or whether I’m making it up completely) was by Judy Horacek, Woman with Altitude. Judy’s work was always appealing – it charted our conversations, the personal and the political. It acknowledged the inequalities women faced, with sometimes a not-so-gentle, cheeky, raised middle finger to patriarchy.
In the intervening years Judy has also been skilfully creating art for children’s books and worked with Mem Fox (coincidentally Helen’s university lecturer, and mother of Chloë, whom I sat next to in Year 9) on her books Where is the Green Sheep, This and That and Ducks Away.
This history all came together one chilly day in 2017 when I decided to visit Judy Horacek’s exhibit in the Melbourne Rare Book Week.
One of the welcome additions to the week-long rare-book fest is the celebration of art in books. Mini exhibitions have been hosted by the Melbourne Athenaeum Library (worth a visit if you’ve never been there).
So it was a serendipitous moment when I pushed through the wooden framed, glass doors of the old reading room, and walked up to a spritely woman who greeted me enthusiastically,
“Hello, I’m Judy”
So we had a writerly exchange and she did as all authorpreneurial authors should – encouraged me to buy her book, Random Life. How could I resist with all that history, an autograph and a very poignant foreword by John Clarke? Actually I couldn’t and I bought a couple.
The exhibit was small, consisting of a few limited edition prints and two displays in glass cabinets, of books and ephemera, but I was on top of the world, so size didn’t matter.
Look out for the 2018 instalment of the free Melbourne Rare Book Week – one never knows who one will meet!