I’m gonna say straight up it’s a long-ish odyssey, round about a ten minute read. So if you’re interested I’d love to settle in and tell you about it.
Yup we’re going all the way back! In 2002 I found myself unemployed and living back at home with my parents. I also had no licence and we lived on a small property that was at best 5kms from nowhere. Bit of a dire situation which led me to sign up for Creative Writing through The Writing School and I did it… wait for it…. By correspondence. That’s right, back in the day when I would receive my course material in the mail, type it up and print it out and then send it back for marking.
Nothing much happened after this except I had a bunch of articles and short stories written that would never see the light of day. But I had, in a way, admitted to myself (and the local postie) that I wanted to be a writer and that was supposedly enough for the moment because I marinated on that thought for six years.
I am sure I am not the only woman who had the thought, “Yes, when I go on maternity leave is when I will write my novel. Because, you know, I’ll have so much time.” Thankfully, I had a ridiculously easy baby who did allow me to write a novel. I think I also knew that if I didn’t do it, then I would never do it and that thought scared me more than writing a novel.
The completed piece was a light-hearted chick lit titled Cruise Control and it was complete with plucky main character, Poppy McCain. I would still love to pull this book out, polish it up and publish it as I had a great time writing it.
Another baby, another maternity leave and another novel. This one called Awaiting Annie Jones. I really don’t remember writing this (maybe having a two year old and a newborn took up all that memory space!) but I wrote it and then left it to sit for many years.
I know in here somewhere I wrote a short chick lit story called The Gin Fizz Club. It was published on a chick lit blog and I felt like I had hit the big time. I had a story, published online!
Ahh, my blogging years. I was really het up about climate change and environmental issues and I wanted to write something that made us all stop and live a bit simpler. My husband told me to stop wasting time and get writing and A Little Change was born.
This blog is one of the things I’m most proud of and it gave me the diligence to be a writer. I wrote a weekly blog post complete with illustrations (supplied by clever husband) and photos and I was very strict about never missing a deadline even though I didn’t have a lot of readers!
But, from this foray into blogging I was approached to write for a website and actually received payment for articles. It was $25 per article but still, someone had seen my work and liked it enough to offer to pay for it!
There’s a definite lapse of any new writing in here but there was also another (and final) baby so that may account for it.
I did bravely send off my first novel, Cruise Control to three publishers and one competition over a two year period and then I fell into the depths of despair when I didn’t hear anything back. Tut, tut, tut. If I could go back and tell myself anything now I’d say, “Get over yourself, girl! Send it out again!”
It was 2017 that fate stepped in and offered me a voluntary redundancy. I had been working at my job for long enough that it would be worth taking and the idea was I would shortly get another job.
As it turned out finding a part-time job that worked in with the rest of my family commitments was really hard! Naively I was shocked by this fact but my husband, bless him, wondered if we tried me staying at home and giving the writing thing a red hot go.
What followed was me diving into writing. I wanted to make this work and I wanted to someday make us an income so it would be worth it. I started looking at short story writing. This was a bit of detour but a good one. Concentrating on short stories slowed me down from racing through a novel and had me learning more about the craft of writing. I also entered a heap of competitions, none successful but I was selected to have my work read out at a couple of literary nights. This was a big thrill hearing my work being read out and watching people smiling and laughing in all the right spots.
However, by the end of 2017 I knew one thing. Short story writing wasn’t for me. I had wanted to get some short stories published so I could build up a bit of an accomplishment/publication list then I would send out a novel and publishers would look at my website and go, “Wow, look at all the comps this writer has won?!” But it wasn’t really working like that.
Enter 2018. This is the year it all started to come together. Four major things happened.
1.) I picked up Awaiting Annie Jones and went “Hey, this is pretty good. Did I actually write this?” Then I polished it and polished it and polished it. I learnt about three act structure, the hero’s journey and downloaded beat sheets. This time instead of flying by the seat of my pants I actually mixed a bit of learning and intent with my storytelling.
2.) I was longlisted for The Richell Prize with Awaiting Annie Jones. This one still blows my mind today that I got anywhere near this and I kept expecting them to ring me shame faced and saying, “We’re so sorry, someone put your name on the list as a bit of a joke and we forgot to take it off.” But they didn’t. And when I Googled the other longlisters I couldn’t believe I was jostled in with other actual writers, some even journalists. This was my first thought of, “Maybe I don’t suck at this?”
Because of this longlisting I was approached by an agency who asked for my manuscript. This was a very surreal moment when I was like, “Oh my god, is this happening?!” But at the same time it was also the start of just another long road of submissions, where you realise you have to hold the champagne because there’s no book deal yet, which was my experience on this occasion.
3.) I joined the Romance Writers of Australia (RWA) and in turn found the South Australian branch. Choosing a genre to align myself with and finding my tribe within it was like opening a treasure chest and finding it filled with gold. Actually better than gold, it was filled with lots of opportunities and supportive people willing to share information.
4.) And number four I attended a course about the process of actually sitting down and writing. I still count this as another huge light bulb moment for me as the facilitator of the course said. “I chose self-publishing because I wanted to make an income, I wanted to be in charge of my writing career.” Or something to that effect but in my mind I was like, “Wait, can you actually do that? How do you do that?” And so I set off on a new path of discovering self-publishing.
So, with my new found confidence and longlist experience, I entered the new Banjo Prize.
Also no dice.
And submitted a couple of short stories and an article.
No dice again.
I think my confidence as a writer was still up in 2019 as I decided to try something new with a novel titled Killing Heidi Sinclair. It was told from three different points of view and in my mind it was going to be the next Lianne Moriarty type bestseller. Unfortunately, it sort of stank and when I submitted it to comps in 2019 it went nowhere. Killing Heidi Sinclair still sits in a (metaphorical) drawer and I imagine re-working it one day when I have more experience because I did love the story and the characters in it.
I did have a small win when I submitted Awaiting Annie Jones to a new UK publishing house that had opened up and they asked for my full manuscript. Again, I’m reaching for the champagne but no, they decided to not go with it. I embarrassingly also sent them Killing Heidi Sinclair but funnily enough they didn’t want that either.
In all I submitted Awaiting Annie Jones to ten publishing houses and two competitions in 2019 – not a lot. It seemed like it wasn’t going to be the year for me but then hurrah! Late in the year I found out I had come runner up in the Selling Synopsis competition run by the RWA and been longlisted in another RWA comp, The Emerald Award!
The two RWA competitions were a massive boost and it egged me on to book tickets to Perth to attend the RWA conference in August 2020. But then… you know… we had a pandemic.
2020 being what it was though I was surprised how much I did manage to get done.
I submitted Awaiting Annie Jones to three more competitions and I managed to score a shortlist for the Queensland Writers Centre (QLC) Manuscript Development Program. I felt like I was slowly creeping forward.
Through the QLC prize and attending the RWA conference online I managed to pitch Awaiting Annie Jones to two agents, one Australian, one from the UK.
Both agents asked for the first three chapters.
Then both agents asked for the full manuscript.
Then both agents said thanks but no thanks.
So I put that ruddy champagne back in the fridge.
That brings me to now. Through 2020 I started working on a book titled The Making of Molly Gardner which is to be my toe dip into self-publishing. This process has had me right outside my comfort zone as I learn about finding editors, formatting, ISBN’s as well as promoting myself and diving into newsletters and social media. I’m weirdly enjoying being out of my comfort zone though and learning all this new stuff. And I’m really proud of the work I’ve done on getting Molly to publication.
For Awaiting Annie Jones I am focusing on submitting to as many agents as possible. So far this year, I have had one agent request the full manuscript, but I haven’t heard back.
For a super long time.
So I’m gonna assume it’s a no.
But that’s okay because when I do pop that champagne it is going to be really well chilled which is exactly how I like it.
That’s it! That’s my odyssey and if you made it this far, thank you!
I hope at the very least reading this helps people see writing is a long game and if you want success you have to keep going. So keep going!
PS: If you got to the end of this epic essay, thank you! Do you have a writing journey story yourself? I’m fascinated by the road people take in chasing their dreams and would love to hear about yours and even add it here for others to read. Drop me a line if you’re keen!