So, at long last, I got to sign one of these:
A publishing contract.
It took a while to reach my hot little hands and as soon as I’d signed it, I had to return it to the publisher for counter-signing, so I haven’t been able to gaze at it and behold its beauty, or take it to bed with me and hug it all night.
How it Happened
A while ago, I wrote about signing with my agent. About six weeks later, she rang to say the publisher at Allen and Unwin, Annette Barlow, liked my book and wanted to take it to an acquisitions meeting. For those who don’t know—which, until recently, included me—acquisitions meetings are when editors, sales and marketing personnel, and the board of the publishing house meet and discuss the merits or otherwise of accepting a new book.
My heart skipped a beat or twenty at my agent’s news but I didn’t want to get my hopes up as I know a few writers whose novels have made it to acquisitions only to be rejected.
While my heart was thumping, she asked if I’d had any ideas for Novel #2. I wracked my buzzing brain for one of the crazy, half-formed ideas that periodically flit in and out of my mind. I remembered one, which I told my agent, prefacing my pitch with the words, ‘This might sound really silly …’. When I’d finished, she said, ‘I love it!’. As soon as I put down the phone, I started on Novel #2*.
A few days after that phone call, my agent rang again: Allen and Unwin wanted to publish my book. She kept talking, telling me percentages and details, but none of it registered because my brain could only think one thing:
My book is going to be published!
I wanted to get off the phone and find a quiet corner and sit with this news, just me and the news, on our own. It was the most exquisite moment of my life. I’ve had a few special moments—when my husband proposed, graduating, giving birth—but this surpassed all of those. I think because it had taken so long, and I’d worked so hard, and it was so personal. I felt overwhelmed.
When I began an online Beginners’ Writing Workshop in 2010, I didn’t allow myself to think about being published one day. As soon as the course ended, I enrolled in another one, and by the time I’d finished that, I knew I wanted to write a novel.
I knew I knew nothing, but I had no idea how much I didn’t know. I knew writing a novel would be hard, but I had no idea how hard. I knew I’d have to give of myself, but I had no idea how deep I’d have to reach, and how vulnerable that would make me feel.
In those early days, there were times when I read my words and cringed. There were times when I read others’ words and despaired at the disparity between their prose and mine. There were times when I wondered if I’d gone completely mad by pursuing this weird and wonderful pipe dream.
But I stuck with it. I decided to give myself time to learn and to let go of worrying about how long it took. To let myself practice and make mistakes. To not feel embarrassed if I misused a word, or missed some punctuation, or wrote something clunky, or if my words didn’t paint the picture I had in my mind. So what if I made a mistake? Isn’t that what learners do? I thought of myself in the way I think of my kids when they’re learning, and I tried to be as patient with myself as I was with them.
And I patted myself on the back for having the courage to wear ‘L’ plates again.
I’ve already thanked a lot of people in the post I wrote when I signed with my agent, and I thank all of them again: Rosemary Stevens, Iris Lavell, Emily Paull, Kristen Levitzke, Glen Hunting, Carol Major, Varuna and the Eleanor Dark Foundation, Jennifer Kremmer, Michelle Johnston, Jacquie Garton-Smith, Fremantle Press and the Hungerford judges, Marlish Glorie, Lily Malone, and Monique Mulligan.
I want to add to that list and thank my agent because without her my novel wouldn’t be anywhere near publication standard. She read my manuscript and spotted the flaws in it—one of my main characters was rather two-dimensional and my storyline was too depressing. She spent a long time on the phone talking to me about it, and then sent me a three-page summary and my annotated manuscript.
She did all of this without charge and without a contract. I could have taken her advice, rewritten my manuscript and sent it elsewhere. But I was so grateful for her help, I sent it back as soon as I’d finished, and from there, everything has fallen into place.
I also want to thank Caroline Woods at Margaret River Press. Caroline and her husband, John, are staunch supporters of the writing community here in WA. Last year, they generously allowed me to take a mini-writing retreat at their studio in Margaret River, where I was able to sink my teeth into the final stages of the rewrite without the distraction of family and internet, and all the other intrusions of home.
A&U want to change the title of my book. I must admit, I felt a pang of disappointment when I first heard—How could they rename my baby? I couldn’t imagine it being called anything else. But, within an hour, I’d already forgotten the old title. (It had something to do with Ida and children, I believe …)
It’s currently called, ‘Whatever My Book Will Be Titled’ or ‘WMBWBT’ for short. (Thanks, Amanda!)
I have no idea, but I’m sure it will be exciting and I’ll keep you posted all the way!**
It’s amazing where life takes you when you listen to your heart. It’s scary to leap into the unknown, but wonderful, too. And there’s nothing so rewarding.
Thanks for staying with me on this wonderful ride!
*It’s progressing very slowly. In fact, I almost abandoned it. Actually, I did abandon it, and started another one, but while I was working on Novel #2.1, my interest in Novel #2.0 reignited, so I’m back at it, working on both. Slowly, slowly …
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