2013 was a truly wonderful year for me in terms of my writing. Though I had my share of rejections and disappointments, as well as the usual frustrations about making less progress than I might have liked etc, on the whole the positives far outweighed the negatives, and, if you will excuse the cheesy metaphor, I felt like some of the seeds I have planted and tended over many years finally began to bloom.
Whisky Charlie Foxtrot (published in the US as Whiskey & Charlie)
Perth Writers Festival is my hometown festival and one of the highlights of my writing career was discussing Whisky Charlie Foxtrot there on panels on ‘identity’ and ‘happy endings’. It had a lovely warm, friendly atmosphere and I had so many stimulating discussions with talented writers. I also read from Whisky Charlie Foxtrot, alongside three other writers, including the rather fabulous MJ Hyland, at Melbourne Writers Festival.
I visited 9 libraries and 18 book-clubs to meet readers and share stories about my writing process. I met many lovely people at these events and it was wonderfully affirming and encouraging to hear how my novel had resonated with readers.
Whisky Charlie Foxtrot was also shortlisted for the Small Press Network’s Most Underrated Book Award which was a lovely surprise.
It seemed like it would never happen but with the help of my fantastic editor, Susan Midalia, I finally finished editing my third novel The Ark. I was rejected by the 7 agents and 1 publisher I submitted my manuscript to but definitely coped with these rejections better than I have in the past and am now committed to self-publishing The Ark next year. Supported by an awesome team of creative friends, I have made slow but steady progress towards the creation of the app which will accompany the novel, and was very happy to speak about my process as part of the ‘Digital Drive’ day at Melbourne Writers Festival.
I wrote 45,000 words of my fourth novel, Monkey See, 20,000 of which were written during a month-long writing residency at the Fellowship of Australian Writers WA. Thanks to a grant from the Department of Culture & the Arts I will be able to continue work on Monkey See next year.
Monkey See is a contemporary take on the classic epic quest narrative and some of the more adventurous scenes have been inspired by a fantastic workshop I attended with Peter Heller, author of the brilliant post-apocalyptic adventure The Dog Stars.
My Writing Community
After meeting at Perth Writers’ Festival, myself, Amanda Curtin, Emma Chapman, Natasha Lester, Sara Foster and Dawn Barker formed a writing group. We meet regularly to workshop each other’s works-in-progress, and also to share our experiences on all aspects of the writing life. We learn a great deal from each other and have also come to function as a sort of cheer squad – celebrating each other’s successes and offering pep talks during the many mortifications of being an early career writer. (We also talk a lot about Ryan Gosling, although this is not considered part of our official mandate!) I feel very lucky to be part of such a supportive and talented group of women.
This year I had my first experience of being a writing mentor, through my residency at Fellowship of Australian Writers WA, which I enjoyed very much. I met with talented early career writers such as Kristen Levitzke, and gave feedback on their work as well as advice on publication,.
I wrote 199 blog posts this year! I love sharing wonderful quotes from books I’m reading, as well as top tens on various themes. I continued the Friday Faves series which I began last year, inviting 25 writers and other bookish types to share their favourite novels. I also began Monthly Reading Round-Ups, and the Writers Ask Writers series.
I truly love blogging and am so thrilled when people comment on my posts. My post ‘On (Not) Making a Living from Writing’ went (by my very modest standards) ‘viral’ attracting 1500 views, and generating a fantastic discussion both on the blog and on Twitter.
I am currently working on a new WordPress website and blog which will be launched in the new year… watch this space! (If you’d like to be notified when the new site launches, you may like to sign up for my quarterly-ish newsletter).
Short Stories & Non-Fiction
I recently had two short stories commended in the KSP short fiction awards, one in the open award and one in the speculative fiction award. Short stories are very difficult and slow work for me and I am never sure that they’re working so it was lovely to get this validation.
Non-fiction piece is not something I write a great deal of, so I was very flattered to be ‘commissioned’ to write a piece on digital literature for the NSW Writers’ Centre Magazine. I also had my first op ed published in The West Australian and wrote a follow-up to my blog post ‘On (Not) Making a Living from Writing’ which was published on the Wheeler Centre blog.
Chairing & Peer Assessment
I was thrilled to be invited to interview author Peter Docker at Margaret River Readers & Writers Festival. It was my first chairing experience which went swimmingly because Peter was such an interesting person and a wonderfully relaxed and chatty interviewee.
Last but by no means least, I was invited by the Australia Council to be a peer assessor for the literature board’s grant assessment panel at their head office in Sydney, which entailed reading and rating 80 grant applications and gave me a deeper awareness of just how many creative and talented writers there are in Australia, and also how incredibly competitive the grant application process is.
…So that was my year in writing and I’m looking forward to more adventures and challenges in 2014.