The concept of Anna Black – This Girl Can Play was scribbled in a notepad a year and a half ago while waiting for a Friday evening training session to finish for my daughter, Aurelia. The previous title Jarrod Black – Guilty Party was still being completed, but there was obviously something in my head that I had to get down on paper. That was two pages of remarkably neat scribbling on A4. A month or so later, a skeleton of the story was created in a number of parts, and that sat in a Word document for another few weeks before the writing got underway.
The writing process was, as always, a very disjointed affair. It started off in a hurry, then a few weeks would pass following the ebbs and flows of work and family life. Then I was on holiday and found my mornings in Queensland, while the sun was up early and the rest of my tribe was not, the most productive. By the April of 2020 I was seriously getting through the story. That’s when publishing guru Bonita Mersiades put me in touch with champion footballer Heather Garriock and we spent time running through my ever increasing list of questions about how professional football works in Australia, and specifically how the W-League and Matildas function on a day to day basis. With this new knowledge, I could be confident that I was painting a realistic picture, and the final third of the book sees some golden moments in the (future) history of Australian football.
Knowing that I had come up with something a little different, I sent off the draft excitedly. The following nine months though were quite a challenge. The editing process was brutal. I called on some subject matter experts to validate some of the storyline and there were some parts of the story that were removed on advice. Fair Play Publishing engaged various sets of eyes to run through the storyline and there was some deliberation as to how to round some fairly sharp edges in a potentially sensitive tale.
When the book went to the final stage of setting out for printing, and the final draft checked for misplaced full stops, questions raised about grammar rules and dashes turned into hyphens, it was mid-March 2021. There was excitement now. The date was set for the release and a book launch arranged at Gleebooks on Glebe Point Road. As with each of the previous books I’ve had released, I didn’t see a copy until the day. The first two books, Introducing Jarrod Black and Jarrod Black Hospital Pass were released at the Football Writers Festival in Jamberoo in March 2019. It was surreal to have never seen a book of mine in print and to arrive to see a pile of them and start signing and selling them on the spot. The third book came out in May 2020 in the middle of the pandemic, so lockdown meant the book came out with little fanfare and I didn’t see a physical copy until a week or two after its release. This time it was different. And so, with the enormous help of Michelle, we rounded up as many people as we could at short notice on a Tuesday evening and headed to Glebe for an extraordinary night. Would we get anyone to come? Did the hastily rearranged Sydney FC women’s game at Cromer Park, where they’d raise the Premiership trophy, have more of a draw than this book launch?
After first grabbing a beer at a nearby bar, we headed up to the first floor of this famous bookstore. People started to arrive, there was a genuine sense of ‘wow’. Drinks were flowing and it was just fantastic to have support from friends, and a big surprise from my work colleagues who I only ever discussed my passion for writing in passing. Half an hour later, the seats were all filled and Bonita took us through a Q&A session on the stage. Not having much experience of these types of forum, there were obviously a few nerves. Throwing it open to the floor was fun, some great questions coming in from the crowd, and I found myself enjoying the occasion.
It was time then to have a chat and mingle, and a table was brought out to sign copies of the book. For someone who, two years ago, had never had a book published, this still fills me with joy. Knowing that someone trusts your book to entertain them, and to get to add a little note of encouragement in the inside cover, is definitely one of those feelgood moments that you’d want to repeat.
The evening went very quickly, and it was time to wrap up before I’d really had a chance to chat to everyone. That’s okay though, as Michelle had organised an after party at a restaurant nearby and we continued our night there, watching the Premiers lift their trophy on an iPad while enjoying some full strength Margaritas and some smashing Mexican food. The party was over, and we found Glebe was a very early closing neighbourhood, arriving at the pub after last orders and then moving on to the one and only open bar just before they closed. This though had been a massive success.
After attending a number of launches at Gleebooks, I can now say that I’ve been at one for one of my books. What an honour to be alongside names such as Jason Goldsmith, Professor John Maynard, Andrew Howe, Greg Werner and soon-to-be tell-all autobiographical author Andy Bernal. We’re all stable mates at Fair Play Publishing, and we’re lucky to have found a publisher who will let us tell our football stories.
Since then, the book has taken its time to make it to Amazon, so I’ve not been able to spread the word over in the UK. Do you know how much it costs to send a book overseas? I’ve been pushing it on social media and have had a couple of radio slots with Plenty Valley FM (at about 11mins I am introduced as a ‘very famous author!’) and 2RRR to talk about the new release. There was also a great article on the Sydney FC site when I got to meet the players ahead of the W-League semi-final. What I need now though is some people to read the book and get the word out. The storyline will hopefully leave the reader delighted and excited for the Women’s World Cup in 2023, and the more people who read it, the more reason there’ll be to follow up with the next book in the Unashamed Football Novel series.
Heartfelt thanks to Bonita and Fair Play Publishing for everything they do, a big hug to Michelle for organising the night, reintroducing me to Facebook and for being a total champion. This has been a thrill, and I really do want to hear from anyone who reads the book. Did you enjoy it? Did it get you pumped for 2023? Has it generated discussion? Have you checked out the other titles? Hopefully the right people get their hands on a copy of Anna Black – This Girl Can Play, and the word can be spread far and wide. As Bonita suggested at the book launch, this would be a great fit for a movie or a TV series!