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 🙂