Clem Is Coming

Clem is the teenage narrator of the young adult novel that I have just contracted to a publisher.

Late one sleepless night when I was on holidays, January 2006, Clem walked into my mind and told me his story. OK, it wasn’t quite that simple. But the experience of the book building itself in my head while I lay there in the dark was not my normal expectation.

I got up in the morning, wrote a two page outline, and started typing. That old laptop ran hot for five days and I had 55,000 words and the story finished itself in a most unexpected manner. I had to get through the feeling that it was perfect as it was, that took a few months, then came the work of knocking the whole thing into shape.

A friend is an editor with teenage kids. She read it and pointed out some storyline inconsistencies. She also let me know how teenagers think these days, something that I have left behind. It was good to see the book improve as I followed her notes.

Another friend edits a national journal of childrens and young adult literature. I sent a copy. He liked it, reading it was a good experience, he thought it was worth publishing. He thought it needed work. He noted that it will have to find its way in some very hot competition in the YA world. I took his suggestions and the text cleared a little more.

At a writer’s festival mid 2007 I met an extraordinary woman named Hazel Edwards. Hazel is one of Australia’s most prolific authors for young people. Over 150 works published. Her first book is still in print after 29 years and is found on shelves everywhere.

Hazel read the manuscript overnight, filled it with notes, and we spent an hour talking the next day while I took more pages of notes. I did everything Hazel suggested and could see the wisdom of her comments as the book matured. Hazel mentored me in this work over the next couple of months, what a wonderful blessing from a very sharply focused teacher.

I started querying publishers. I entered a writers competition. There were a few rejections from publishers and I took each one as the stepping stone to the next query. Then along came the present invitation to send the manuscript. Then the offer of a contract.

I will continue the story in a future blog. Until then, Clem says “Hello world”.

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