[I] felt as if Loser had been tattoed to my forehead.
In July 2015, I started writing fiction. I stood at a crossroads; my kids were growing up fast; I’d previously had a successful career in corporate communications, and a lifetime of reading–it was time to start writing. And so I did.
What followed since that day I took up my pencil in 2015, has blown me away. And not always in a good way. My writing journey seems to be full of shocks and surprises. For such a short journey, I seem to have collected a huge breadth of experiences and a tad more baggage.
I started blogging after a friend advised that blogging was a great way to write publicly. I blogged about everything–poets, social media, matcha lattes, ballet, and street art. And a US publisher invited me to write a short story. I had never written one before (I had always feared the form believing it to be too onerous with its limitations and rules). I sat down and wrote a harsh story about a girl called Miriam who had been living in my head for months. It was titled Disappointment and is one of the publisher’s best-selling short stories.
After viewing Amanda Todd’s video on YouTube (a Canadian teen who lost her life to suicide after being cyberbullied), I penned a novella with an alternate ending to suicide; a story where the girl didn’t die and the bullies didn’t get to win. I thought I could share this story via social media and maybe some kid would read it, and not feel so alone. But my writing career was about to take off. The novella, Jenna’s Truth was picked up by a small educational publisher and my story became my debut book. Overnight, I found myself a published author.
Jenna’s Truth garnered some lovely reviews but also some shocking, hateful ones. I ignored the positive reviews and focussed in on the few awful ones, and spiralled down into a week of melancholy. Why the heck did I choose to pick up my pen? What was I thinking? I will never be good enough.
And then came a wonderful book launch with eighty or so people crammed into a cafe. There were heartfelt speeches and tears of joy and a signing line that seemed to go on forever. A few months later, I sat at a table ready to sign books and I signed not one. I was seated next to a successful author/illustrator and felt as if Loser had been tattoed to my forehead.
I was awarded a writing fellowship and for three months I wrote in an old building in historic Fremantle behind a gorgeous children’s bookshop. It was idyllic and I was productive. People believed in me and my writing. I churned out a ghostwriting submission which was promptly rejected and a young adult manuscript that is currently wallowing on slush piles all over the world (repeat after me: I will find a home for my manuscript).
A local high school invited me to be writer-in-residence for a week. So I packed up my notebooks and settled in to teach narrative workshops and to inspire kids to write and read, and be kind to each other. It was a hard week but I loved it. I had some dubious haiku turned in by a couple of hormone-fuelled students but there were moments of authentic connection with the students. My happiest time during that week was when a student originally from New Zealand interrupted my presentation to declare: ‘You’d make a good Kiwi, Miss.’
I gave presentations at libraries and schools. I spoke to halls filled with hundreds of kids who were eager to guess my favourite book, and I had a library talk where only two people showed up and one of those was a friend (thank goodness for friends).
I’ve been on television, radio and in newspapers and I have only one booking for Book Week. I’ve cried over my writing, at the things I’ve done to my characters (my manuscript out on submission explores domestic violence), and I’ve literally laughed in delight after writing sessions when my characters come alive on the page and I’ve hurried to write more.
And in conclusion, I’ve realised that publication of books is a fickle industry. There are people out in the world who don’t give a fig about reading and books and will never understand why I have six copies of Pride and Prejudice. I have a chosen to embark upon a career that will most likely never afford me a living. I will have no control over what happens to my work but I will delight in the creative process because on the good days, there is nothing else I would rather do. Will I forsake everything for writing? No. Will I enjoy what I do? Absolutely. And I will keep on putting one foot in front of the other, I will share my love of storytelling and I will help others to tell their stories because, for me, storytelling is a way to shape the world and to forge a connection with others.
No doubt, there will be many more humiliating times to come, but I cross my fingers and pray there will also be lovely surprises just around the corner.