Last Friday evening I sat with eleven other like minded creative women and one lone divine man, in Saskia Havekes Sydney shop Grandiflora, to celebrate the end of an era.This was a very special evening a tribute and thank you to the very talented Julie Gibbs. The evening was hosted by Saskia Havekes and Megan Morton and I felt privileged to be included. Julie Gibbs has been the publishing director of Penguin Lantern for the last eleven years and in that time she has given many authors the opportunity to produce some of the best illustrated books in the world.

I was introduced to Julie by a friend several years ago. At our first meeting Julie told me she had been a fan of my previous book, Sensual Living published by Conran Octopus many years before in the UK. She then went on to say she would love to publish a book by me which completely took me by surprise. At the time I had no idea of what that book would be. As I was leaving Julie’s office she said words to me that were magic ‘write about something you love’. That was all I needed to hear. I knew immediately what I was going to write about, my new love which was living in a village community on a Greek Island. That is how My Greek Island Home was born. I come from a visual background and have never felt confident writing. When I was art directing magazines I spent much of my time trying to get the editors to cut the words to enable me to fill spreads with large photographs. So when Julie suggested I write the book myself I felt overwhelmed and terrified. She said it’s your story and you are the only one who can tell it. She had such confidence in me that I could not refuse I just had to get on with it. Whilst I had nearly all the images I needed for the book it took me a while to put pen to paper. I have many friends who are authors and journalists and felt uncomfortable asking them for help. I did discuss my fear with a few friends and they offered some suggestions based on what worked for them. One of my friends suggested a I use a dictaphone to record my thoughts whilst walking my rescue dogs. This however ended in disaster with me being distracted by their bad behaviour and screeching their names (TRIXE…… BERTIE…..HECTOR……MAVRO) at the top of my voice whilst they headed off in the direction of their choice chasing some poor creature into the countryside for sport. Another suggestion was to go to my computer everyday at a set time put on my favourite music and type and type until I came up with something I was happy with. As I find typing a very slow process and have never been one for routine this was also highly unsatisfactory.

I did finally manage to find my own way, armed with a pile of fresh clean sheets of white paper and a very pleasing felt tipped pen I sat under the rays of the Greek sun on my terrace or in a taverna by the sea with a cold glass of wine and some fresh calamari and poured my heart out. I had two great editor friends take a look at it before I had the nerve to hand it in, it was like homework. I will never forget emailing the text to Julie who was on a shoot somewhere in Europe. She was excited to receive my words and said she was looking forward to reading them on the very long train journey she was about to embark on.  She said she would then report back. Whilst I waited anxiously for her call I tried to distract myself from the what if she hates it thought that kept swirling around in my head. When Julie called me she was so enthusiastic I wanted to weep. Julie understood me, she has a knack for understanding her authors, we are all different and approach our books in very different ways. She understood I needed complete freedom to go off and shoot, to edit my own shots and to lay the pages out. She knew I came with a lot of experience in these areas and respected that. She also knew who to team me up with in the Lantern art department. Her choice of Evi O was perfect and Evi brilliantly designed the cover of my book. We sat together until every page had been laid out perfectly.

I want to thank Julie Gibbs for giving me the opportunity to write about something I love, for her pride and passion in the books she produces and for her friendship. I am excited for her as she embarks on a new chapter in her life. Thank you so, so much Julie xx

PS thank you too, Saskia and Megan

Untitled-1 The woman of the evening Julie

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Untitled-13 Amanda, Megan, Julie and Christine

Untitled-14 Saskia, David and Collette

Untitled-15 The divine table thanks to Saskia and Megan

Untitled-16 Besties, Julie and Saskia