TAG Hungerford SponsorsI’m finally allowed to tell everyone that my novel, ‘Ida’s Children’, has been shortlisted for the 2014 City of Fremantle-TAG Hungerford Award. This is the nicest present I’ve ever been given, and a wonderful way to end the year.

Not long before Fremantle Press called me with the news, I’d sought an appraisal of my novel. It came back with a list of suggested revisions, a very long list. I felt quite disheartened as I read and realised I still had a lot of work to do. I’d been hoping that my novel was nearly ready to submit to publishers—I wrote about that in ‘The Final Countdown‘. Instead, it looked as if I’d misjudged my novel’s readiness, and it seemed that I still had a long way to go …

So, I’d half-written another blog post about not finishing my novel by the end of the year and not achieving what I’d set out to do. The title of the post was, ‘There is No Hurry’, and I’d written that I had no deadline apart from my self-imposed one to have my book finished by the end of the year. Really, I told myself, it didn’t matter if I spent another year revising my novel if at the end of that time it was the best it could be.

Then came the phone call from Fremantle Press, and with it a sense of overwhelming relief: they liked my novel as it was and I could set the revising aside for a while.

So, I leapt about and gushed a bit, then they told me I had to keep the news secret until it was formally announced on December 11th.
What? How am I meant to do that? I thought. I need to tell my family, my writing group, Facebook, Twitter …

But I did keep it a secret. I tucked it away and pretended as if everything was normal. I’m not good at keeping secrets and I’m also a very bad actor—I once did an acting audition and at the end they asked me, very kindly, if I’d thought about working backstage. I knew I wouldn’t be able to hide my excitement if anyone asked, so I avoided discussing my novel or writing about it, hence the lack of blog posts. If anyone asked how it was going, I changed the subject, or off-handedly said, ‘Oh, I’m still plugging away,’ all the while thinking, Roll on December 11th. Roll on December 11th …

December 11th finally came, and my husband and I dressed up for the breakfast function at Fremantle Town Hall. We met the other authors whose novels had made the list, along with the Mayor of Fremantle, Mr Brad Pettit, and representatives of Fremantle Council, Fremantle Press, Writing WA, and the West Australian, who sponsor the award.

The Mayor read the judges’ report. Here’s what they said about ‘Ida’s Children’:

‘Ida’s Children is an at-times heartbreaking narrative about the childless Ida who gives her love to her nieces and nephews, the often neglected and mistreated children of her troubled sister Nora. A narrative spanning several generations, this novel is simply written and contains many moments of beauty and sadness. The novel raises important questions about past attitudes: the proprietorial attitude to children and the reluctance of society to intervene in the ‘private’ realm of the family.’

The other shortlistees and their novels are:

Madelaine Dickie, Troppo
Portland Jones, Seeing the Elephant
Mihaela Nicolescu, Other Place
Nicole Sinclair, All That’s Gone Before

If you want to read about the other authors and the rest of the judges’ report, see here.

We were presented with bouquets and then it was photo time:

The shortlistees: (L to R) Portland Jones, Me, Mihaela Nicolescu, and Nicole Sinclair. Madelaine Dickie was unable to be there.

The shortlistees: (L to R) Portland Jones, Me, Mihaela Nicolescu, and Nicole Sinclair. Madelaine Dickie was unable to be there.

With the Mayor, Fremantle Council Members, and the Board of Fremantle Press

With the Mayor, Fremantle Council Members, and the Board of Fremantle Press

With the Mayor of Fremantle, Brad Pettit

With the Mayor

And now we wait until the winner is announced in February …

The shortlisting has given me hope that one day Ida’s Children might be published. For three years I’ve been up here in my attic, working on this novel, alone with my thoughts and my story and my characters. This might sound weird, but I love my novel as if it were my child, albeit a demanding and time-consuming one. Its world is real to me, and I love the characters as if they are living beings. I even love the flawed ones.

I’ve told myself many times that it doesn’t matter if my novel isn’t any good, or if no one reads it, or if those who read it don’t like it, because I love it and it’s the story I want to tell.

But, if I’m completely honest, I do hope that it’s good enough to be read.

I know it still needs work, and I know this is just a shortlisting and not a win, but it’s validation. Validation that my story is on the right track, and validation for me as a writer. Finally, I feel as if I’ve earned the right to say, ‘I am a writer’.