I burst into tears in the kitchen just now, while stirring sugar into my coffee, so I guess the shock has started to wear off and now the relief is kicking in instead. You see, my darling Darklings directed me to the news on the Varuna website this morning, and three of us (not bad, girls, not bad at all!) have made the long list of the Varuna HarperCollins Manuscript Development Awards. Oh wow. Thank goodness. This is a moment of validation that has been nearly two years in the making, and I am going to enjoy it.
Of course, as I said to the girls, it’s a long way from anywhere, but it certainly still feels like somewhere to me. From here, those on the long list send their full MS to Varuna by December 10. By the end of January 2009, they’ll announce the short list of around 15 writers, or half the long list. Those 15 manuscripts are then sent to HarperCollins, and HC editors choose f-i-v-e writers for the program, which takes place at Varuna over 10 days in April or May. In other words, there’s two big and super competitive stages to go. But I’ve never made a long list before, and I didn’t make it this far last year, so I feel mighty fine right now, albeit in a teary, tight-chested, emotional kind of way.
If you only knew how much work I’ve done. I’ve been trying so, so hard (oops… more tears) to make it better, to make it work, to make it good, and it is just such a relief making it onto that list. I’m still trapped deep in the well, and believe me when I say I’m going to have to pull out something pretty special to get this structural, narrative arc stuff in hand by December 10, but I know there’s a way out, I’m sure of it, if only I keep working to find it. I don’t know how many applications they had this year, but it’s usually somewhere between 350-400, so making that list in an achievement in itself. Not making it last year was good for me, as it turns out, and even better for my MS. It didn’t feel it at the time – it felt resolutely fucked, as a matter of fact – but it was a hard, harsh lesson, and they’re usually the best kind. I have worked my arse off since then, and my manuscript is a better chance because of it.
Llew said to me it’s ironic that I sent it out so prematurely last year only to be so worried that it won’t be ready in time for the next round now. I’ve gone from not knowing what’s wrong with it, to being all too abundantly clear. Perhaps that’s the best measure of how far it and I have come in the last twelve months. For today, seeing my name on that list is enough, and whatever happens next, it’s one of the sweetest rewards I have ever known. Onwards we go.