Back in Business!

May 30, 2007 at 2:40 am (Uncategorized)

Wow, sorry guys, that was some hellish radio silence! Thank you for your patience. I haven’t been blogging because I haven’t been able to. But I have fixed the problem with my computer, finally, on my own and completely unsupervised, so I am feeling rather pleased with my techie efforts. Yes, yes, it was something really, really simple, but I don’t care. I fixed it.

The week that was…well, I’ve had a rather busy time of it, actually. The big news is that I have finished drafting my fiction manuscript (MS). It’s been read by a friend and colleague from PhD days, Tim, and I have spent quite an intense few weeks redrafting it based on some of his feedback, which dovetailed very closely with my own concerns. Given I didn’t discuss any of those concerns with Tim prior to his reading, the fact that we both independently thought the same things were problematic was enough to convince me that they had to go. So. What now, you ask? What now indeed.

I don’t really know the answer to that. Yesterday I submitted the MS to an annual competition for unpublished manuscripts – The Australian/Vogel Literary Award. Entries close tomorrow – I’ve always believed in cutting it fine. I entered it because I turn 35 in September, so this is the final year I will be below the age limit. It is a window of opportunity that is closing for me, so I thought I should throw it into the ring, come what may. It is the deadline I have been working towards since I began writing the draft in December, so I am, if nothing else, very pleased to have met it. It’s terrifying, putting it out there, but at the same time I wrote the thing to have it read, so now begins the really hard work. The likeliest scenario is that it gets nowhere in the competition. They receive around 200 entries per year. One winner. A couple of runners-up. If I am not short-listed, I won’t get any feedback on my entry. This is the likeliest outcome simply by virtue of the numbers. If it is short-listed, I may get feedback, but no publication. In some cases, runners-up have been published alongside the winning entry. No cash prize, but a book at the end of it. That in itself would be a great result. The winning entry receives a cash prize of $20,000 and guaranteed publication. That, of course, is simply too much to hope for. Someone has to win, but I can’t imagine the world in which that person would be me. My whole brain shuts down even trying to entertain the possibility. So why enter? Well, why not? I have an unpublished fiction manuscript. I’m 34 years old. The competition closes tomorrow. How could I not enter?!

Unfortunately, whilst the competition is being decided, I cannot offer my MS to any other publishers. I am now in virtual limbo. Hilarious and frustrating when you consider that the likeliest outcome is losing, but that is a condition of entry. What I can do, though, is start the serious slog of searching for an agent to represent me. If I can find one, then, assuming I get nowhere in the competition, I will at least be in a position to try and get it published elsewhere once the Vogel is announced in September. This is where the real work begins. Australia is a tiny market. It’s extremely competitive. There’s almost no money for new authors. And I have no idea how my work compares. No sense of its worth. No concept of whether a stranger would see any value in it. My chances of being published are miniscule. For those of you who are friends of mine, dear, supportive, endlessly encouraging friends, thanks so much for believing otherwise, but the reality is stark. As I begin this next phase, I think we all have to keep that in mind. But let’s go and find out, shall we?! What the hell!

The other thing I wanted to mention was that last Thursday night I went to the Stephen Dupont exhibition opening at the Byron McMahon gallery, 88 George St, Redfern. Dupont made his name as a photojournalist, before reinventing himself as a fine art photographer. Sandra Byron, the gallery’s director, has been championing fine art photography in this country for decades. The space itself is a converted pub – very lovely – and Dupont’s photographs are stunning. Black and white only are in the current exhibition – I’m not sure about the rest of his catalogue. He’s been to some unbelievable destinations: Cuba (a place that holds a strong pull for me, though I can’t really explain why), West Papua, Palestine, Afghanistan, India, Indonesia after the Boxing Day Tsunami…Talk about being right at the coal-face. But his eye is just superb. The composition of his pieces is uniformly commanding. I was very sorry I didn’t have a spare few grand to spend – there were a couple of pieces Llew and I would have bought had the funds been at our disposal. As a medium within contemporary art, I do love the photograph.

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4 Comments

  1. Warwick said,

    Congratulations Di! Come what may, just completing your book is an amazing achievement, and you should be really proud of yourself.

    Reading your entry reminded me of a quote from one of my favourite authors, Tobias Wolff, who aside from writing beautiful novels and memoirs, also teaches creative writing to aspiring authors. In an interview he once remarked that:

    ”Everything I’ve written … has seemed to me, at one point or another, something I probably ought to abandon. Even the best things I’ve written have seemed to me at some point very unlikely to be worth the effort I had already put into them. But I know I have to push through. Sometimes when I get to the other end it still won’t be that great, but at least I will have finished it. For me, it’s more important to keep the discipline of finishing things than to be assured at every moment it’s worth doing.’

    The moral? One thing I take from this is that authors are in no position to judge the quality of their own work, which I always find quite reassuring when I doubt myself and my writing. So who knows? The Vogel may one day be yours 🙂

    W.

    PS A friend of mine found a home for her book here: http://site.calidrislitagency.com/index.html

  2. doctordi said,

    Thanks, Warwick! By the way, someone keeps searching your name – my blog stats in recent days indicate several searches of your name have directed whoever it is to the blog. Is that slightly strange to hear? No one has searched MY bloody name in the whole time I’ve been doing this, so I’m rather impressed with your high profile!

    Anyway, thanks. I think you’re right. I have absolutely no idea what to think of what I’ve just done. Giving it to Tim to read was one of the hardest ‘letting go’ moments of my life. Truly. As much as I need and want external feedback, the terror of that external opinion was and indeed remains really palpable. But I agree with Mr Wolff that pushing through is absolutely essential; for me, that was the invaluable lesson of writing a thesis. I’ll never again underestimate the work required, nor the simple tenacity, nor the essential madness that somehow propels these things along. Writers of all description work in such a weird vacuum. It’s so strange and contradictory, because the purpose of all that writing is, of course, to have it read by someone other than the writer. Madness.

    Thanks too for the link to Calidris. I’ve got my Dream Agency in mind, so I’ll have to try it first, but Calidris may well be the second cab off the rank!

  3. Warwick said,

    Yes, um, the person searching your blog for me might actually be me… I probably shouldn’t tell you this, but sometimes, when I get bored with writing assignments, I google-stalk friends and acquaintances. Then, when I get bored of that, I google-stalk myself. Is that sick or what? I can’t remember if I’ve done this recently, but I’ve been pretty bored of late, so it’s entirely possible.

    W.

  4. doctordi said,

    But wouldn’t you already know you appear on this blog?! Why click into it from a google search…?! And doesn’t everyone google-stalk? I sure as hell do. I wouldn’t feel bad about that at all – I think most of us sneak a stalk in on a fairly regular basis, although we might be wise to remember curiosity killed the cat.

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