In which I drink an LSD which changes my life forever.
In Part 8, I had just managed to locate the brother of the artist, Hoang Nguyen, who had done the picture I had fallen in love with. I gave the man my manuscript and all I had to do was wait, and pray, and try not to pick off the entirety of the skin around my fingers (gross, I know).
I had resigned myself to having to wait the full week before making a follow-up phone call to see how Hoang had reacted to the story.
I got a phone call on the Wednesday, just three days later.
“Yeah, look, I really like the story.”
Double take. Swallow. “Really?”
“Yeah! You have a crazy imagination, you know that? Some of the stuff in this is unreal. But I think what you write about is really similar to the message that we try to give people, about living a sustainable life in touch with the environment, and making joy and family and community first.”
I nodded, a bad habit I had had since I was five years old when I used to answer the phone and nod or shake my head without speaking.
“I think it’s such a coincidence, you know, because we were just thinking about doing a book too.”
“That’s great!” I said. Finally, vocalising. Progress! “So, how about we meet up after the markets this weekend and talk about our next steps?”
“OK, I will be at the Rocks markets until quite late, so say, 7.00?”
“That’s fine. Can we make it Berkelouw’s? It’s a book store with a cafe on Oxford St, not far from where the book is set.”
“OK sounds good. See you there!”
“Great, see you Hoang!”
WOOHOO! He liked the story, he liked the story….I did my little kitchen dance, which involves a bit of foot swinging in the air and jigging my arms around. Then I called my affianced, who was suitably excited for me.
Saturday rolled around. My fiance parked the car on a side street and reclined the seat to have a little nap while he waited for me. I hopped it to Berkelouw’s. As I walked, Hoang called to say he was running a bit late from the markets, so I had time to order myself an LSD at the cafe. “LSD” to the uninitiated is a “latte soy dandelion,” and is way better than it sounds. It is creamy, and delicious. I have espoused its virtues elsewhere so that’s enough for now. All coffee drinkers, shame on you for sniggering.
As I was sipping my LSD and pretending to leaf through a book about Sicilian tiles, a young, sprightly man approached. He was Australian Vietnamese and it was impossible to tell how old he might be, given he had a shaved head and no lines on his face except for big smile ones as he barrelled over to my chair and shook my hand.
“Jackie! I’m Hoang.”
“Great to meet you,” I said, because it was.
We chatted, and it became pretty clear pretty quickly that this was going to be awesome. We seemed to agree on everything: the proposed style of pictures, the key messages and moral of the story. Most of all, Hoang agreed 1000% with the prerogatives for a creative life. He told me how he had started off his business when he had moved back to Sydney from Alice Springs with his wife. He had previously worked at an ad agency, then moved to Alice and done massage for several years (which was something else he connected with in the story, when the antagonist, Mr Richards, travels to Alice to find himself). Theythen returned to Sydney but weren’t sure what to do next, when his very smart wife suggested he print off some of the pictures he had done, which were saved on his computer. They set up a market stall and made enough money to do it again. And again. And again.
Pretty soon, they found themselves doing what they had always dreamed of doing: making an income from their creative pursuits, with very strong ethics of environmental sustainability, inspiration, spirituality, and whimsy.
I was getting more and more excited throughout this conversation. I had never found a perfect creative collaborator before, but I thought that this might be It.
We agreed that Hoang would create two character illustrations, one for Mr Middleton and one for Mr Richards, and three pictures from key scenes: the beginning, something from the middle when all the World goes crazy with teleporting, and one for the end, when Mr Middleton has the transformative experience of teleporting for the first time himself. He also agreed to do them within a month, which was amazing, so that we could get the pitch to the publisher before they lost interest.
Soon my affianced came looking for me. He met Hoang and noted that things must have gone well because he “Could hear my laugh from the front door.”
Things had gone very well indeed. Now all we needed was for Hoang to be visited by his muse, five times, if we asked very nicely, in the next four weeks.
To be continued.