Like most writers I swing between ridiculous delusions of grandeur and the depths of morose self-loathing. A publication starts an upswing, followed by a terrible downturn when yet another rejection follows hot on its heels. In order to help keep me on an even keel I need a strong support team.
I have my writing friends, my husband and family, and they all help a lot. But it was only when I discovered a team of supportive writer ghosts that I felt as if my gang was tough enough to weather all storms.
Especially with Old Uncle Ernie (Ernest Hemingway to you) at the helm. I’d always admired his writing, if not his machismo and despair, but while I was studying my masters degree I read an enormous volume of his collected letters and fell in love with him as a mentor. I loved the way he complained about chest colds and bottom issues. His letters made him very real, and he was kind and warm and funny and had lots of good advice about the writing life. I also liked him because when one of his grandchildren was born and Edwina was forwarded as a name he said it was a good one. I found a photograph of him in his boxing gear and used it to protect me the evening I first presented my work to my masters workshop group. Since then he has been my protector. He’s smiling at me now, all hairy chest and bushy beard, from the picture that still hangs on my wall.
He’s team captain. Since then, I’ve added lots of other favourite authors. A big gang from the American south, Steinbeck and Faulkner and Tennessee Williams and Truman Capote. Walt Whitman turned up and he and Ernie came to blows over who exactly was captain of my ship. Ernie won. I don’t think Walt was much of a boxer. Thoreau, D.H. Lawrence, Thomas Hardy, Chaucer, Shakespeare – no ghost was too big to join my team.
And the women? Tove Jansen – my beloved creator of the Moomins, pipe smoker, trench coat wearer, adventurer. Josephine Ulrick because she too smoked a pipe and is a great supporter of emerging writers. She and Tove get on like a house on fire. Jane Austen of course (she’s much in demand) the Brontes, Willa Cather, Olga Masters, Katherine Susannah Pritchard,Thea Astley, Miles Franklin, Henry Handel Richardsen, George Eliot, Margaret Mitchell, even Barbara Cartland.
You should’ve seen the fuss when she turned up. Ernie and the other fellows were about to blow their stacks till I pointed out just how many books she’d written and how well they’d sold. Not only that – she’d done it all while looking glamorous and reclining on a couch! She stayed. I’d like to add Susan Johnson, Helen Garner. Tim Winton and Margaret Attwood but they’re still alive!
The team is growing all the time, but Ernie remains my champion. Every morning I check in with him. When I’ve been procrastinating or busying myself with other work besides my writing, Ernie gets grouchy, tut tuts and taps his foot. On days when I’ve been working hard he grins and punches the air with glee.
The other day he said “You’re on your way now, girl.”
I hope he’s right. He isn’t always but it’s good to know he’s on my team, along with all the others.
Of course it may be, and probably all is, my imagination. But hey, I’m a writer of fiction – I live in my imagination. My characters are real to me and so is my support team. What’s more, they keep my spirits up as the publishing world seems to be swirling down the gurgler.
So, who’s on your support team?
I’d love to know. (Oh and I’m happy to share. these guys are like Gods – omnipotent)
Love to you all,