I Did Try…

November 16, 2009 at 4:10 am (Uncategorized)

Well, my dears, a high in among recent lows: I got email confirmation this morning that MS #2 was shortlisted in the inaugural Varuna Publisher Fellowships. And a big congratulations to Darkling Jenny, whose latest MS also made the shortlist – nice one, Changeling! Unfortunately only the bastard winners are listed on Varuna’s website (and no doubt they’re all really very nice people), but you can read about the program here. From memory, I submitted 20 pages for consideration; the MS itself is very much an incomplete first draft, currently travelling at about 30,000 words. I guess it does make me feel more optimistic about its chances of one day being a fully realised story. It certainly beats being bitten on the bum.

The current situation is one of sheer neglect: I haven’t touched it in months. All my effort has been focused around redrafting MS #1, although frankly it too has been utterly ignored since my return from the Cottage Pt writing retreat with the Darklings back in mid-September. The rash of freelance work was really well timed, as was the holiday, and it was only yesterday that I turned to Llew and made some noises about starting work on the fiction again. I think I needed the break.

There were a staggering 500 entries in the Varuna Publisher Fellowships. Talk about a tough field! It’s disappointing that #2 didn’t get over the line – boy, that would have been a sweet little pick-me-up – but the shortlist placing is encouraging nonetheless. And I’m genuinely looking forward to getting back to those characters. I think it’s into their world I’m headed, rather than back into MS #1. Right now I’m not sure what else I’ve got to bring to that particular story, so I think that means it’s time to step away. Most of you (and Llew, and the Darklings) feel putting #1 online would be a mistake (thank you for your dissenting opinion, David, I think you really understand where I’m at), so I’m going to listen to your collective wisdom, thank you, and revisit this down the track if and when I conclude it’s lying dead in a ditch from a publication point of view.

In other news, I’ve been feeling a little cramped and crowded in my office recently, so as part of a spring clean (by which I mean trying to reduce the piles of paper in here), I thought I’d try culling some books – something I’ve never, ever attempted before. I was curious to see how I’d fare, so I went through every single one of the hundreds of titles on my shelves, and you’ll be pleased to know I felt able to jettison a full fourteen titles from my collection. Fourteen! Llew peered into the box and said dismissively, “Hmmm, looks like someone got distracted before she really got going…”

No, no, I assured him, I was done. I was even feeling quite proud of myself.

“Why bother?” he said. “You may as well keep these too.”

But I felt lighter and more orderly for the tough decisions I’d made. I felt the significance of shedding those 14 titles in a way Llew would have trouble imagining. It was quite a big deal. A hard ask. And now they’re sitting in a box. Right here by my desk. In my office. Exactly where they belong.



  1. Paddy said,

    OK Di – fess up what the 14 titles are…

    • doctordi said,

      Ah, Paddy, you had to ask! I was hoping to wheedle out of that one… they’re mainly review copies of books I wouldn’t have otherwise read, a couple of book club chick lit confections (anything “…for Beginners” sets off alarm bells, don’t you think?!), and two nutty freebies I think we were handed on the street. Books I think I can live without, in other words. But it wasn’t easy, let me tell you, it made me feel a bit like I was cutting off fingers and toes, and I doubt they’ll make it out the door.

  2. davidrochester said,

    Congratulations on the shortlist placement! Definitely much better than being bitten anywhere at all.

  3. Pete said,

    Well done on the cull (14 books is a lot so I’m proud of you). I also culled yesterday, all of about 10 books. And congrats on the shortlist-placing for MS#2. Just the boost you need to invest more energy in those characters. As for the biting, we won’t get into a discussion about whether any biting is better than none at all 😉

    • doctordi said,

      Please do tell me about the ones you culled – I’d be fascinated to compare notes. Yes, it was a boost all right, just when I needed one. I think the frustration with these things is never getting to make the comparison – I don’t know anything about the winning entries and will in all probability never know why they were chosen over my own effort. It makes it hard to learn, not getting that perspective on what publishers do and don’t want. Anyway, I’ve signed up for a telephone consultation, although that’s with Varuna, not the publisher (who chose three winners out of a shortlisted group they were sent by the Varuna creative panel).

      Now, Pete, whatever could you mean?!

      • Pete said,

        I meant love-bites (not the vampire ones, although that’s a whole discussion in itself!) As for my book-cull, they were all freebies or presents. A book of sex quotes, two little guides to dating (internet dating and speed dating), a couple of trashy novels given away for free etc. They’re sitting in a neat pile waiting to go to the charity shop, although I’m sure I’ll find a reason why they all need to stay after all 😉

  4. charlotteotter said,

    Hooray on the short-listing! Go, Di.

  5. doctordi said,

    Thank you, Charlotte. It’s tough out there, I tell ya!

  6. Lilian Nattel said,

    Congrats on the short listing! And I had to laugh at the 14 titles culled…and sitting by your desk.

    • doctordi said,

      Thanks, Lilian, and typical, isn’t it?! So, so typical… I wonder how long it will take me to unpack them…?!

  7. Grad said,

    I am so happy about the short-list!! That is such wonderful news. Those poor little books, though. Are they sitting in that dark box wondering “Why doesn’t she want us? Why is she casting us away as if we are simply flotsum on the sea of life” (I’m just kidding. I couldn’t help myself – I am such a trouble maker). Truth be told, I need to get rid of some of my books. Especially the paperbacks. They get dusty and brittle and I won’t read them again, if I’ve ever read them at all. I just can’t seem to bring myself to do it….

    • doctordi said,

      Thank you, Graddikins, I think in the absence of actual wins we have to take these near-misses as successes, don’t you? I know – I’m feeling sorry for them too. The box is a reproachful presence that seems to follow me around the room. All I can say is GOOD LUCK with your own cull as I think mine’s something of a failed experiment!

  8. Joan Barrett said,

    congratulations! Do you have a plublication for your piece on Shanghai? – please forgive the question if you’ve already answered that.

  9. doctordi said,

    Hello, Joan, lovely to have you back, and thanks. Nothing on Shanghai yet – travel pieces tend to take a while as publications have a schedule of destinations and reports and oftentimes a backlog of commissioned features… I’m hoping to get something away soon, though, and I’ll let you know here when I do. It’s very frustrating in the meantime as I am busting to blurt!

  10. litlove said,

    Congratulations for the shortlisting!! Wow – that’s fantastic news. From here on in, it’s a question of personal, subjective taste on the part of the judges. You should consider this to be a real, genuine, significant win.

  11. doctordi said,

    (Pete, I think we all knew what you were referring to, young man!)

    Thanks, LL… I don’t know, an ACTUAL win would still beat being an also ran (again) … but yes, it’s nice just knowing #2 was in the race.

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