The Hungerford Longlisting

Dear readers

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.

Much love


Mentor Chat

How is it May already? Here in Perth, the minimum temperature is finally closer to ten degrees than twenty and the leaves of our few deciduous trees are turning crisp and brown and dropping to the ground. Not for us the lengthy turn of seasons, colours shifting from green to red to gold, more of a wham oops it’s not baking hot anymore off with your leaves! situation. I don’t mind, because I enjoy our long, guaranteed summers, but I do miss the autumn colours of the softer climates I’ve lived in.

Anyway, I digress. Partly because it is the great game of waiting that continues to be played out here. I’ve been in waiting training all my life, as an older sister, a teacher, the partner of someone with a demanding job and a primary carer. Patience is something I could put on a C.V. – which is helpful when choosing to be an author because there is A LOT of waiting involved and the best thing to do is just keep writing.

However, I have had one particularly lovely book-related experience: the feedback from, and very nice chat with, my ASA competition mentor. Kristina Schulz is a highly experienced, now freelancing, editor and publisher and I was thrilled that she agreed to work with me. She said some very kind things about my writing and made me think more intently about certain aspects of it – which is exactly what one wants from a mentor, don’t you think? There were several moments that meant a great deal, but what I will share is that Kristina did that thing that every author loves – told me a sentence from Chapter One that she’d stopped to put love hearts around. There is nothing quite like knowing you’ve hit the mark and made the reader feel what you wanted them to feel.

So, a new month is here and the year is fast progressing, but I am at ease. Because it takes many small steps to walk the whole mile and you may as well enjoy the view along the way.

Good luck with whatever your small steps may be this month.

What winning something meant to me.

So. Most of you reading this will know that, just the day after my last post, I won a Highly Commended place in The Australian Society of Authors Mentorship Awards 2021 for the first draft of my Young Adult novel about love, communication and saving the banksia woodlands. The win filled me with joy, which makes sense, but I quite like to overthink these things so here’s exactly why!

Firstly, pretty much every writer I know experiences the absolute horror show that is the way the same words can look different to you one day after another. On good days, you read what you’ve written and go, “Hmmm that ain’t half bad, maybe I’ve got something here.” Or words to that effect. 24 hours later you may look at THE EXACT SAME WORDS and think, “Oh My God. This is the absolute worst rubbish ever written, so clunky, so awkward and unimportant, and not at all saying what I want to say.” You get the idea.

Winning this HC means some writers I hugely respect read my words and AGREED WITH GOOD DAY ME! So now, on a bad day, I can remind myself of this and more easily tell the negative voice in my head to go and sit in the corner and have a think about what it’s doing. Priceless.

Secondly, for me like for many people, the last year has been a sad one. I lost my feisty, supportive mum to a bleak, fast cancer and our dear labrador to a slower one. And, I had an empty nest for the first time. We don’t talk enough about the significant change that is children leaving home. For many reasons, but largely because it once appeared it might never happen, I am filled with deep joy that my two are out in the wide world, living their lives. But, oh boy, I miss seeing them every day. They’ve grown into adults who are fun to be around and they’re off being fun around other people (as they should) instead of me and…well you get my drift. I miss them and I miss me with them. So, yay for this lovely, happy news early in 2021!

Thirdly, as a Highly Commended winner I will receive direct feedback on the beginning of my manuscript from a hugely experienced mentor (I’m so thrilled to be working with this person), as well as be part of a Pathways to Publication program. Yay!! In addition to the obvious benefits of being a mentee, I’m a tad on the extroverted side and often miss the zillion billion interactions of a teaching day. Okay, maybe not every single one of them, but definitely the ones that made me feel like I was doing an okay job! Working alone can send me a little crazy (refer to my first point!)

Lastly…I’m sure I could think of more, I just don’t want to keep you here all day 🙂 …so, lastly, I’m so excited that this manuscript got noticed. There are themes in it that I care about deeply, not least: how we communicate and connect when we think we don’t have a common language and how we handle our responsibilities as custodians of this planet. This mentorship will help me write the best version of this book that I can and, to paraphrase something I heard Pip Williams (The Dictionary of Lost Words) say recently, have a better chance of ‘not letting down the idea’.

So, that’s the gist of it. A sincere thank you to the ASA and the judges of the Children’s, YA and Picture Book Illustration category,  Oliver Phommavanh and  Deborah Abela. I feel extraordinarily fortunate to have received this opportunity at this precise time. I know that there is sooo much good writing around and I was lucky.

Hmm, I’ve also got a kind of funny story to tell you about a pitch I did recently, but this post is long enough, so I’ll save that for another time. I hope you are all well and thank you to every single one of you who has signed up for emails – I’m truly honoured by the numbers.

May it be a good day at your place 🙂