15 February 2008

The world has suddenly become several degrees brighter. Not only has the new Australian government finally apologised to Indigenous Australians this month, my novel has been short-listed for the Unpublished Manuscript Award in South Australia’s Festival Awards for Literature. These are the equivalent of the Premier’s Awards in other states, which means I will be soon be covered in bruises from pinching myself.

It’s amazing what a little recognition can do. Suddenly I have more confidence in my work. I feel like a writer. I think I may even have grown a few centimetres. Best of all, it’s a wonderful boost as I steel myself (this is the part of writing I hate) to send the manuscript out into the world.

20 June 2007

After making it to the short list for the Varuna Awards, I was invited to join the selection panel for this year’s program for regional writers. Alice Springs writer Kathryn Brewer and I joined creative director Peter Bishop for a week’s reading and rating of entries from all around Australia. It was hard work, but a wonderful experience and a great way to get a feel for the range of talent that exists outside Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. It was also good to feel I was giving something back to the writing community and playing some small role in fostering new Australian talent.

On a more practical level, the reward was a week to work on my own writing. I thought it would be hard to beat Spring at Varuna, but a rainy week in May was just as good. As wind roared through the Jamieson Valley and rain pelted down like a gift from the Gods, I shut myself in Eleanor Dark’s old studio, set up my laptop on her desk, closed the curtains on a spectacular view of Autumn leaves and wrote a chapter that had been bugging me for months. That must surely be the perfect way to spend a week.

16 January 2007

It's good news week. I'm through to the short list for the Varuna Awards, a program designed to set new and emerging writers on the path towards publication.

Varuna is as close to writer's heaven as you can get in Australia. Once the home of author Eleanor Dark, it is now a writer's retreat set in the heart of the Blue Mountains, surrounded by glorious bush and only a short walk from some of Australia's best views. Without any of the distractions of daily life – no cleaning, cooking, or shopping, no running errands or remembering the million and one things you should have done yesterday – you can write all day if you've a mind to, or gaze out across the old English garden, or leave it all behind and wander along bush tracks to waterfalls and gullies and cliff-top lookouts with classic views, including – yes, just over there – the famous Three Sisters. Add in ten days working on your manuscript with an editor from HarperCollins and it's no wonder I'm holding my breath until March, hoping to be one of the lucky five selected this year.

16 December 2006

2006 is almost over and after working harder than I ever thought possible I now have an MA in Creative Writing and a novel developed to 2nd draft stage. The year was a roller coaster from start to finish, but I wouldn't swap a minute of it. After so long immersed in nonfiction, it was daunting at first, but then wonderfully liberating to give my imagination free rein. At times each chapter seemed like another Mount Everest and although I never intend to test this out, I'll swear no mountaineer experiences a greater sense of exhilaration than a writer finishing a first draft.

Now all I have to do is finish the third draft. And the fourth and fifth and however many it takes to get the novel published.

Not right now though. For the moment it's back to the nonfiction, because – wonder of wonders – I've just discovered that I'm through to the second round for the Varuna Awards. The short list comes out in January, but I'm not getting my hopes up; it's a long, long way from sixty down to twenty.