Well, it has been a beautiful three days of not quite believing my luck! In case I’m not in touch with you via social media, the luck is: my manuscript Treehearts being longlisted for the 2022 City of Fremantle Hungerford Award run by Fremantle Press. I know! I was surprised too.
I’ve come here to write about three aspects of this and, hey, I’ll try to be concise – but you may want to get that cup of tea first. 😉
Firstly, you know how people say they have no expectation of winning and the acknowledgement is enough? And, maybe, you’ve always thought yeah yeah but… Well, if, like me, the last prize you were in the running for was inside a Pass the Parcel, hold onto your hats. It’s really true! I am so freaking humbled to have got this far. I mean, I adore my little story about saving the banksia woodlands and trying not to fall in love, but there are so many people writing amazing manuscripts. As I said, humbled. And extremely grateful to the judges and Fremantle Press to have considered it worthy of longlisting. Thank you again.
Secondly, let me tell you about Monday. I was having a rough morning. Somehow, this year, I was in a place to submit three different (2xYA, 1xsocial fiction), many times drafted manuscripts into three different competitions. The reasons for this were not all happy. The grief I started dealing with in 2020 took its toll and stopped me submitting as much as I might have otherwise. But, it meant that this year, I had a few stories ready to go. Early Monday, I heard that the adult social fiction/women’s fiction MS that is my WIP hadn’t made it onto a longlist. This hit me in a way previous rejections had not. Of course, I could tell myself the disappointment would pass, remind myself about the luck factor, all the things we do. But my belief in that novel meant it REALLY hurt. Was my judgement about what worked actually very flawed? Had everyone just being saying kind things all this time? All the doubts hit me at once. Hard. I had to step away from social media and my phone, peruse the kitchen cupboards, step into the garden, think about what I was doing with my life, brush away tears, let a few leak quietly down. You know the drill. Some time later, I heard my phone ringing and braced myself. I have other things going on in my life; I needed to be contactable.
“Why…don’t you…sound…excited..?” My clever author friend Karen Herbert asked, her voice growing more hesitant with each word. We established that I didn’t know why I should. You see, I didn’t know any other longlist was out. I hadn’t even heard an email ping in. Upside? I heard the news first from a friend. Nice, right? Somewhat amusingly, I was starting from such a subdued base that I barely reacted at first. We talked for a good few minutes about other things before it began to sink in! And I haven’t come down out of the clouds yet.
So, when I say to others who write that I understand how it feels if your number hasn’t come up thus far, I really do. I’ve had ups and down in this business before. Yesterday was just the most dramatic rollercoaster to date! Even in the morning, in the midst of the tears, it occurred to me to be proud of myself for putting work out there, for putting myself in a place where I could experience big emotions even if that emotion was intense disappointment. I wasn’t going to die not having tried. And eventually I would have got up and tried again.
Lastly, please allow me my Oscars moment LOL! Actually, it’s just that I have a heap of thank yous that I want to say now in case I don’t get another chance! I keep reflecting on how this manuscript, like so many, is not mine alone and how it took me half a lifetime to understand that it was not only okay, but better, to ask for help. Firstly to the Australian Society of Authors who awarded me a Highly Commended in their 2020 Mentorship Program right when I needed some outside acknowledgement; thank you SO much. Not only was it the first big tick from people (professionals at that!) who didn’t know me from a bar of soap, it introduced me to my incredible mentor Kristina Schulz. Kristina gets my work on a level that means everything she feeds back pushes me to do better. To be better. Who doesn’t dream of that kind of mentor?! My current place in the FAWWA Four Centres Emerging Writers Program allowed me to continue my work with Kristina as well as offering up numerous brilliant workshops I could attend. (Apply to these mentorship programs, unpublished writer friends!) Also, gave me another chance to meet more lovely people. Speaking of which, my writing group is sensational. Karen, Nic, Liz, Marlish, Susan, Ali, David, Fi – you couldn’t meet a more supportive bunch of people.
Brilliant journalist and writer Emma Young very kindly spoke with me about issues around the remnant bushland in our Perth suburbs. The incredibly knowledgeable anthropologist Dr Barb Dobson answered my emails generously. Twitter buddies: you know who you are and some days you’re the only ones around! Don’t tell me the writing community on Twitter is over; I’ve found it to be quite the opposite. Thank you! And those of you who support us creative people by reading these ‘blurts’, you perhaps know not how much your kind likes/loves and comments mean. This can be a lonely journey and I am so grateful for every one of you.
Old friends who’ve never once queried me chucking in paid work to sit at a desk and bleed onto pages – thank you! My sister-in-law Marie and brother Roddy so kindly employed their PhDs checking this story for zoological and botanical inaccuracies; my other brother Martin and his wife Tracy are helping me with a different book! Thank you. To my husband’s family, especially Brigid and Poppy, Jan and Tony, thanks for always having my back. Some people have been particularly patient and encouraging: my beta-readers (Alyssa, Fleur, Fi, Danielle, Sofia, Savannah xxx) and ohhhh my family (Andrew, Harriet, Fionn – you are THE BEST) Lastly, and as always with these things, in no way least, I am so lucky that Drisana Levitzke-Gray agreed to be my Auslan Consultant for the love interest story in Treehearts. I could not have had confidence in this story without her.
The Oscars music closed me out long ago – thank you for staying the course! May you get a chance to be with trees today.