Posts Tagged ‘mentoring’

Clem Is Coming

October 15, 2008

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”.


November 13, 2007

I’m sitting here waiting. Not that it’s doing much good at this time of night. After dinner on a quiet Tuesday is not the time when a publisher is going to call and offer a contract on my novel. I know there’s more waiting to be done. It helps to have thick skin.

An editor friend ran through the early ms. She sent it back filled with scribbles and attached pages of notes. It was daunting to see her thoroughness but it sure did improve the novel. She emailed me to see how I was getting on, hoping that I hadn’t got discouraged. It’s a skin thing, writing.

Then I met one of Australia’s most highly regarded authors who thought the work had merit and deserved some mentoring. This wonderful experience meant very significant work. Chopping and changing wasn’t easy. But hey, I can take it.

Lots of reading by the mentor and lots of writing by me and it was pronounced ready for submission. I sent it off to a publisher. Also entered a competition.

The query came back with a polite negative. They read the synopsis but didn’t call for the ms. It didn’t fit their profile. I survived it. Their politeness helped.

Then the competition result was announced. I’d been longlisted! Translated, I didn’t get anywhere. They sent the judges’ tally sheets and things got really interesting. The novel had been judged on the first 1,000 words, that’s it. The judges agreed that certain elements were missing from what they had read. All I had to do was move those bits to the early part of the work. Sounds easy? After all, it’s only a skin thing.

I sent the new beginning to my editor friend and the mentor. Got good responses. So I queried another publisher and they asked for the ms. And that is where I’m up to. Waiting. Sitting in my skin and waiting.

Back when I sent off my first short stories to a publisher I got the reply, “Three of these we would publish straight off, the others need work.” I got a little morose, and bit discouraged, I got angry even. I sulked a bit and went all quiet inside. It did me no good. Then I woke up. “Hey, they want three, that’s pretty good for a first time ever submission.” So I worked on the others, asked the editor’s opinion of their poor showing, took his advice, re-wrote some, discarded others, wrote some new ones. The result was a book in print.

I respect that editor. He published a book of shorts a year later and won one of Australia’s significant literary prizes. $15,000, how’s that sound? I’m glad I took his advice.

This writing lark has got its moments. I love it when the ideas come and the words flow and the universe seems to constellate around my keyboard. It makes even my skin seem more alive when that happens. But there are other times when a thicker skin is needed. Comes with the territory.