Take a Chance on Me signed with Curtis Brown

The Moet’s been cracked

My women’s fiction manuscript, Take a Chance on Me, has found a home with Australia’s esteemed literary agents, Curtis Brown. The way this came about is a fantastic story in itself and one I will share down the track. Oprah defines luck as preparation meeting opportunity. And I’ll throw into that equation a bucketful of crazy inspiration, a few dedicated readers, and serendipity. Mix it all together and my long-held dream has come true.

I’ve been writing for thirteen years and completed ten manuscripts in that time, most with no tangible reward. So it was a fantastically gratifying moment to receive my agent’s (gosh, it’s still fun to say that), Fiona Inglis’s, email with contract attached. The Moet that had been sitting in the bottom of the fridge for six months, determinedly waiting for a chance to pop, did indeed get its way (and left a dent on the ceiling too).

I’m counting my blessings, but I’m also working very hard, juggling a newborn baby, the winding up of the horse rescue charity I began three years ago, selling our house, and finishing another draft of my story. So back to the story I go now, as my dear supportive husband has gifted me an in-house writing retreat this weekend to make good headway and meet my deadline. I don’t have a moment to waste.

Speak soon…

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The Text Prize Opens

The Text Prize for unpublished Young Adult or Children’s manuscripts opens today!

The Text Prize offers the winner a $10,000 advance against royalties as well as publication. I was honoured to have made the shortlist for the prize in 2009 with my Young Adult novel manuscript, Wildfire.

The competition is open to published and unpublished authors and submissions close on 1 June 2012.

 

 

Life Changing Moments

I’m madly editing my women’s ficition novel (Take a Chance on Me) manuscript right now… riding the wild donkey as the inspirational Goddess Leonie calls it. And I am doing some serious rewriting of one of my main character’s journeys. In particular, I’m looking at her motivation and her passions. And it prompted me to think about those life changing moments that our characters need to have, as well as my own. I stumbled across someone’s list on the intermawebby thing where he listed his top 101 life changing moments. I don’t have time to do 101 (I have a wild donkey to ride), but I thought I’d throw out 25 to ponder.

25 Life Changing Moments (in no particular order or chronological plan)

  1. Being shortlisted for the Text Prize
  2. Winning One Book Many Brisbanes
  3. Attending my first dogger sale (horse meat auction sale) and spontaneously saving four horses
  4. Starting my own horse rescue charity (Charlie’s Angels Horse Rescue Inc.)
  5. Having ankle surgery
  6. Meeting my husband as he rushed into Tongue and Groove cafe in West End, late for our first date after we met online
  7. Becoming a teacher
  8. Quitting teaching, turning to unemployment and writing my first novel
  9. Meeting Hercules, my first horse and the subject of my memoir, Webs of Light.
  10. Attending my first Woodford Folk Festival by myself, camping in a cow paddock in 40-degree heat, and going on to to write Woodford Virgins.
  11. Getting married to my love.
  12. Falling pregnant, having a miscarriage, falling pregnant again.
  13. Swimming with a mother humpback whale and her calf in Tonga in 2009
  14. Finding myself alone in Athens, with taxi cabs on impromptu strike, in searing hot temperatures, unable to speak Greek, pulling my luggage over cobbled roads and playing charades with Athenians to find out how to get to the airport.
  15. Getting my dog, Daisy, as a puppy and as a surprise gift from my boyfriend (now husband), forcing us to move out together for the first time so Daisy could be in a dog-appropriate home (and my sister/housemate didn’t kill any of us for having a puppy in a house with no fences, no prior permission to introduce a dog, and two cats living indoors).
  16. My cousin, Ken’s, death when I was 19. Being at the beside of my Nan when she passed away several years later.
  17. Meeting Justin, my first and most significant long-term relationship prior to meeting my husband.
  18. Breaking up with Justin and feeling the pain cleave through my chest until I was sure I would die. And, later, not dying.
  19. Swimming with wild dolphins in Bunbury, Western Australia.
  20. ‘Delivering’ my first foal, Leila, under a full moon at 4.30 in the morning, being splashed with amniotic fluid, wiping the fluid from her nostrils as she coughed repeatedly to clear her airways, and watching her perfect, perfect body spring to life on those long, long legs.
  21. Becoming an aunt for the first time (and the second time).
  22. Moving to rural Australia.
  23. Giving up full time work and working from home.
  24. Working hard in the corporate world, dealing with insane levels of stress and eventually giving myself chronic fatigue syndrome, which took years to recover from.
  25. Buying my first house.

So many more… but I do need to get back to that donkey.

I’d love to hear about some of your life changing moments.

The Messy First Draft

The Messy First Draft

Here it is! My messy first draft of my current WIP, Take a Chance on Me, a women’s fiction novel set across Australia and England.

This is, without doubt, the messiest first draft I have ever created. But that’s what the first draft is for: getting it on the page. All 72,000 words of it can now sit and marinate for a month before I get stuck into it and clean it up.

This draft took a lot longer than I usually take to write a draft: three years! Mostly, it took that long because I kept stopping to work on another book project, get it finished, then get back to this one. This is my first women’s fiction novel and the most commercial book I’ve written yet.

And by far the most fun 🙂

Basically, I’ve written the book that I wanted to read. And that fills me with much joy 🙂

The Art of Procrastinating

I’m having one of those days. It’s now past four o’clock in the afternoon, and while I have been busy at home all day, I have not been busy doing what I (thought I) wanted to do. While my latest YA novel is resting, waiting for me to return to edit it for draft two, I have picked up an older manuscript to start again. It is a chick lit/women’s fiction manuscript, and one for which I have created the most charming world in which my characters roam. (In my mind, anyway.) So why am I procrastinating?

I just haven’t been able to pick myself up today. I feel dopey and depressed and desperate to catch up on some sleep, but it’s too hot to do that. So I’m stuck in the lounge room with the air conditioner, trying to convince myself to start work on my chick lit/women’s fic manuscript.

It’s nothing new. All writers suffer from bouts of procrastination. And I’ve never quite been able to work out why. I feel better when I write, and writing inevitably begs me to write some more. (It’s a lot like exercise or, ahem, other sweaty activities.) So, I’ve washed the dishes, folded clothes, found my passport for an upcoming trip to New Zealand, found tiny bottles of shampoo and conditioner, written a long list of everything that needs to be done before said trip to NZ, designed and ordered marketing materials for Charlie’s Angels Horse Rescue, fluffed around on Facebook and YouTube, and wrangled cats, dogs and horses.

And now I’m blogging…

I know that I am not constructively procrastinating. And that’s the real key. I believe that procrastination can be good–indeed, necessary–but only if we do it constructively. Over the years, I’ve worked out some good and bad procrastination activities.

Good procrastination activities (i.e. that actually move and develop me as a writer) include: reading books, reading writing magazines, editing my writing (because it seems easier to deconstruct things than it does to construct them, but it inevitably leads to me wanting to construct once more), going on an ‘artist’s date’ (to the theatre, dance class, festival, delicatessen… anywhere that feeds the senses), riding my horse (the combination of exercise and joy gives me a real boost), critiquing other writers’ work, and meeting other writers for fun/work purposes.

Bad procrastination activities include: housework, going to the post office, emailing, updating websites (such as blogging…), going grocery shopping, paying bills, bookkeeping, researching new appliances/computers/cars/food dehydraters, ebaying, ordering stuff online, organising, filing, and feeling guilty.

All of those ‘bad’ procrastination activities are all useful and worthwhile and need to be done. But not at the expense of writing.

So, here I am, signing off from my current ‘bad’ procrastination exercise to go onto some ‘good’ procrastinating.

Then again, it’s nearly time for Bold and the Beautiful….

Take heart in the journey to love and publication

I often say to people that, for me, the journey to publication is just like the journey to love.

It is at times exhilarating; at times devastating; at times the cause of a pounding heart and sleepless nights; at times the cause of neglecting my practical ‘real world’ duties; and at times the activity that prompts the most soul-searching, journal writing, navel gazing and even the odd drunken night.

The pain of each rejection of a manuscript is as familiar to me as every romantic rejection, unreturned phone call, dead-end relationship and broken heart, because my work is me. There is no difference. Every time I receive a letter that says, “we really liked this manuscript, we liked this and that but we don’t feel it’s quite right for us” it feels very personal. And yet I also know that it’s not so much personal as it is a mismatching of fate.

In my personal romantic life, I found The One. And I look back on all the years of searching, heartbreak, Bridget Jones-type hilarity and doubts that I would ever find The One and I realise that all of those broken relationships were opportunities to learn and grow. And if I could go back in time and tell myself not to worry and that it would all be okay, it would certainly have eased the pain. But would it also have taken away the growth and important lessons? Would I have simply stopped trying and sat around waiting for it to fall into my lap and therefore not have been the person I was when I did finally meet The One?

We cannot see the future and so we feel stuck in this limbo world of unrequited love.

Until it happens, for real.

I tell myself to take heart, a phrase that seems to mean “to gain courage”. The courage to keep going. The courage to keep believing. The courage that I will find The One. And The One will love me just as much.

Good news at last: shortlist for Text YA Prize

I must say, it’s been a long time since I felt as though I had anything worth writing about. So it was with much joy that I received a phonecall today informing me that I had been shortlisted for this year’s Text Publishing YA Prize, for my novel manuscript, Wildfire.

Wildfire follows the story of Jennifer Kellar whose house burns down in a bushfire on the same day that her father decides to head overseas to the Congo, where he is volunteering with Doctors Without Borders. It’s a story that I began many, many years ago, originally as an entry into the first year of One Book Many Brisbanes (in which it was unsuccessful). At the time, I lived in a house in Mitchelton that actually stood in line of a bushfire, which came so close that at one point I had to seriously contemplate what I would take from the house if, indeed, we were evacuated.

Of course, after this year’s horrible bushfire events in Victoria, the story seems more relevant than ever.

This novel has been submitted on invitation to more agents and/or publishers than I can count without looking up my spreadsheet, and it has received everything from a standard ‘thanks but no thanks’ letter to detailed, constructive feedback and high praise, but has not yet found a home.

And just when I had all but given up on it… the good news phone call came. 🙂

Whether or not Wildfire finds a home at Text Publishing, I am thrilled to finally, truly believe in my heart that it is not the pile of doo doo that I have often imagined that it was. Thanks Text for the vote of confidence!

And I look forward to the phone call 😉