Thursday, 3 March 2016

Yeah I'd Go To Church.

".. yeah I'd go to church
if there was one
I could believe in
coz I need it now." - Bono

A funny thing happened when I met Will Kostakis. It was kind of awkward - actually so embarrassing my face went red, which it rarely does these days. For somebody with no shame, I gotta lotta shame. (I blame my Catholic upbringing.)

The day started with my friend Megan and I hailing a water ferry on Sydney Harbour to take us to the Sydney Writers Festival last year ... and we had the entire boat to ourselves.

It was hilarious. We were celebrities when we got off that boat to join the throngs of people all looking at our spectacular entrance. Megan writes a website called Children's Books Daily. We met online years ago through awful circumstances and one day I'm going to live next door to her in Brisbane. Her two girls are currently designing my new tattoo but that's not the point. The point here is something entirely different and incredibly offensive.

We headed straight to the children's and young adult literature section where Megan knew everybody AND their dog Toto while I stood awkwardly. Her sidekick, if you will. Megan MADE me steal seventeen Secret Seven badges from the cute Enid Blyton Clubhouse. It's a little-known fact that Megan is a raging kleptomaniac but that's not the point here either.

The very first author she introduced me to that day was Will Kostakis, and some other guy. But I remember Will the most, he is just so lovely and kind and signed his latest book for me to give my son. It's called The First Third. Megan stood with all the authors on the OTHER side of the table like she belonged right there and she talked and laughed so much and I wondered yet again how somebody could just talk so much to people because I find it hard to talk to people because people are actually quite terrifying.

So, it was just me and Will there for a while and he's shy too so we did a bit of chit chat, I thanked him for the book, and then it somehow came up that we were both on Instagram so we both stood there and looked up each others Instagram accounts because that's just common practice these days. There was a line forming behind me so I fell back a bit and leant against a wooden wall idly checking out Will's Instagram. While he checked out my Instagram and we were metres from each other checking out each others Instagram and followed each other at the exact same time and it was AWKWARD and all the time Megan was oblivious to the lines forming she just chatted away like she owned the place.


So the day went well, Megan did the rounds A LOT, talked A LOT, while I stood back always the sidekick. We walked back to her hotel and I gave her husband Dan and her a lift to the airport after scraping off all of the detritus in my car because when you have children your car becomes a mobile trashcan.

When I got home I gave my boys the books I'd bought them and they read them. And liked them. Very much. Reading books is one of the very best things our kids can do.

So. Yesterday I found out that the award-winning Will Kostakis has been cancelled from a visit to De La Salle Catholic College in Revesby Heights, Sydney. Will has already done a successful speaking visit to the same school last year. Why the cancellation? Well, Will came out as gay on his blog last week after an ex-boyfriend of his was diagnosed with cancer. Oh, and his new book "The Sidekicks" includes a gay character.

Will received a letter from a teacher at De La Salle Catholic College:

"We have a concern about promoting your book new book at our school as it is a Catholic school. We were reading over your blog and I think your speaking engagement might not be appropriate, as parents might not be happy. This is nothing personal against you. "The Sidekicks" sounds like a touching story but it isn't appropriate. We can't promote your new book. You are more than welcome to still visit and promote your previous book "The First Third" and focus on becoming an author." 

I guess the teacher at De La Salle Catholic College in Revesby Heights Sydney mustn't have read Will's previous book "The First Third" as this book ALSO features a gay character coming to terms with his sexuality in context of his disability. You can read Will himself responding in full to the letter on his website HERE.

A snippet from Will: "I was worried about this happening. The plotline wasn't for Catholic schools, it wasn't for parents, it was for students, students like me, who felt less than adequate because they loved someone 'they weren't supposed to.'"

Megan and Will during one of his author visits to her school. 

Please read Megan from Childrens Books Daily review of The Sidekicks HERE. Megan is running a giveaway of three copies of The Sidekicks.

So there you have it. Right now I'm deciding to keep all of my very strong opinions and feelings about this to myself. But I will say, I'm very glad my eldest son recently moved from a Catholic School to a state school. And I'll state the obvious: that the Catholic Church doesn't have the greatest of PR happening at the Vatican at the moment. I'll also say that Will Kostakis is one of the most beautiful men I have ever met and we regularly have conversations on Instagram. Also, I have a hugely busy day ahead of me today but I will be visiting my local bookshop and buying a copy of Will's late book "The Sidekicks" hell I may even buy five copies of it and give it to my friends for their children to read. I may even buy Will's entire back catalogue.

On a personal note, I will be formally excommunicating myself from the Catholic Church. Apparently there's an App for that? I grew up Catholic and wore the cutest white dress on my First Holy Communion Day oh man it was so exciting - new white shoes and EVERYTHING. Therefore I still "count" in the Catholic Church's statistics even though I haven't been to church ever since the priest told me in 1988 that my stepfather's soul was in purgatory because he committed suicide. I guess my brothers soul is in purgatory too now? Is purgatory hell or some penance place I don't even know and I do not care. Before I excommunicate myself I might go in to the local Catholic church and do my first formal act of contrition since 1988. That's 28 years ago can you imagine all the sinning I've done? Me and the priest would be there all day. He'd probably have to beg me to stop and I'd be all, "But I'm only up to 1994!"

I like Jesus - he was one of the world first social activists, throwing people out of temples. Jesus preached compassion, tolerance, giving, understanding. And love. It's sad that so many religions give God a bad name. No wonder we live in societies that worship shopping centres instead of churches.

In 2005, Will Kostakis won the Sydney Morning Herald Young Writer of the Year Award for a collection of short stories. His second novel "The First Third" was shortlisted for the 2014 Children's Book Council of Australia Awards. His current novel is called "The Sidekicks" .. there are unconfirmed reports he named it after seeing Eden Riley be Megan Daley's sidekick for a whole day during last years Sydney Writers Festival but that's not the point here. 

Will - keep writing. The world needs your words. See you on Instagram!

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Write to be understood, speak to be heard. - Lawrence Powell

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