One of the hardest things about being a writer is, of course, dealing with rejection. It can be pretty gut-wrenching when that manuscript you’ve slaved so hard over is returned to you with barely a comment (or, even worse, vanishes into the void without a trace). So central is rejection to the publishing experience that one enterprising blogger turned the whole sorry saga into a support hub for writers, literaryrejections.com. They provide a comprehensive database of literary agencies in 11 countries and interviews with literary agents and publishers, but my favourite part of the site is Best-Sellers Initially Rejected: Some of the Biggest Errors of Judgement in Publishing History. Everyone knows that J.K. Rowling had Harry Potter rejected 12 times before it was picked up by Bloomsbury, but did you know that Dr Seuss (who has now sold over 300 million books) once received a rejection letter with the advice that his manuscript was “too different from other juveniles on the market to warrant its selling”, or that Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows was called “an irresponsible holiday story that will never sell” – until it sold 25 million copies? This website is guaranteed to make any writer who has ever been rejected feel immeasurably better.

The discussion around women’s under-representation in literary awards is a perennial one, and something that, as a female writer, I feel quite strongly about. Brooke Boland over at ArtsHub has put together this great little article on how women can improve their authorial careers and counter under-representation. Although the article is targeted primarily at women, many of its tips are useful to all writers, regardless of gender.

Nine Ways for Women to Stop Self-Sabotaging

by Brooke Boland

Nine ways for women to stop self-sabotaging

 

The popular conception of a writer is someone stuck at a lonely desk in a garret somewhere, beavering away at their typewriter/laptop. For many of us, myself included, that sounds quite idyllic. But one of the strangest things about being a writer is that, at a certain point, you’re expected to change personalities almost instantly, from a solitary cave-bear to a social butterfly. That point is usually when you get your draft to publication standard, and the pressure only increases once you’ve actually got a contract.

When Greythorne was accepted for publication, I found it rather surreal to have to suddenly take off my writing hat – which is all about craft and story – and put on my business hat, which is where you start to worry about things like rights, contract clauses, account-keeping, taxes and, of course, online presence and social media. If it’s your first time dipping your toe in that particular pond, it can be quite overwhelming.

Enter the writing society.

These are different in different countries, but in Australia they fall into two main groups – the state Writers Centres (I’m a member of the ACT Writers Centre and have also been to events at the NSW Writers Centre) and the Australian Society of Authors. It’s amazing how many beginning writers are unaware of these resources and what they can do to help you enter the big and scary publishing world. But first, it’s important to understand their different focuses.

The state writers centres are mainly about the craft of writing. This is where you go to hear talks and attend workshops on how to make your writing better. They also provide lists of upcoming awards and competitions, and are a great place for networking.

The Australian Society of Authors (or the Society of Authors in the UK) is business-oriented; they advocate for the rights of authors and they also offer workshops and advice on breaking into the publishing industry. I met the editor who signed Greythorne through the ASA’s ‘Literary Speed-Dating’ workshop, which they run twice a year in Melbourne and Sydney – they get a collection of publishers and agents in a room and aspiring authors have three minutes to pitch to each of them. I can highly recommend it as a way of getting your book in front of a lot of important people very quickly. Once I got a contract, I used the ASA’s contract assessment service to get an idea of which areas I should try to negotiate and which were fine. This is an affordable alternative to hiring a media lawyer – because you really need a legal expert with a knowledge of the publishing industry to tell you if your contract is fair, not just if it’s legal.

Coming out of the writers’ garret isn’t so much a case of walking down the stairs as jumping out the window – but, in my experience at least, the writing societies help make the landing just that little bit softer.

 

Greythorne portraitOne of the things that really gave me the drive to write Greythorne after going through a bit of a creative drought was connecting with a fabulous group of artists, including dancers, painters, musicians, poets and other writers at the Poatina artists colony in Poatina, Tasmania. In January 2014, after I’d just finished the first draft of Greythorne, I spent a week in Poatina at a creative arts summer school, and was very fortunate to be able to collaborate with my good friend and amazing visual artist Pamela Horsely. Pamela took the following excerpt from the book, where our heroine Nell first meets the enigmatic Professor Nathaniel Greythorne, and fashioned a gorgeous (and incredibly accurate!) portrait of him in less than 24 hours. He now hangs on the wall in my study, overseeing my writing…

*

The dining room was very pleasant, with a fire crackling merrily in the large grate, dispelling the chill of the autumn evening. A long, polished wooden table took up the centre of the room, and at the head of it sat the Professor. He rose when he saw me enter, giving a little bow. He was formally dressed, and I suddenly felt my attire to be far less adequate than I had a few minutes ago, but if he found some deficiency in my dress he was polite enough not to say so.

“Miss Featherstone,” he said with evident warmth. “Welcome. I apologise for being unable to greet you personally this afternoon; I was engaged in an experiment that could not be neglected.”

“I am pleased to meet you, sir,” I said, “and please don’t trouble yourself. Jonas provided for me more than adequately.”

He laughed, a great booming laugh that I found almost infectious; I felt myself smiling automatically in response. “I doubt that,” he said. “But Jonas is a good man, despite his lack of sociability. Please, have a seat.” He pulled out a chair for me to his left and I sat obediently. In truth, I was somewhat taken aback. I had expected a notable eccentric, not this charming and, truth be told, rather handsome man.

The Professor was a man of middle years – I would hazard a guess at forty – but his hair was still jet-black, with only a few streaks of grey appearing at the temples. His moustache, which grew thick and luxuriant, was likewise not lacking in pigment. He had a distinguished, aristocratic nose and a firmly-set jaw; the overall effect I found very pleasing. I had expected his eyes to be dark like Sophie’s, but they were of the palest grey-blue, a striking feature in an otherwise tanned face. When he smiled I could recognise some similarity with his daughter, but I suspected she must take most strongly after her mother.

“I trust you are settling in well?” he asked, as Jonas entered bearing soup.

I nodded. “Sophie and I became acquainted this afternoon,” I said. “She’s a sweet child and seems keen to learn.” I did not tell him of my real impressions, nor about the disastrous game of hide-and-seek, partly out of wounded pride and partly because I knew I would never win Sophie’s trust if I went to her father at the slightest infraction.

“She is a bright girl, no doubt,” he said, “but she is undisciplined with regard to her studies. I would teach her myself, but I am much preoccupied with my work, and also I fear our temperaments would not allow for much progress.” He gave a charming half-smile, little more than a faint crinkle around the eyes, which I took to mean that father and daughter both possessed the same fiery streak.