REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL

moomins dancing

2012 was a huge year for me with the long-awaited release of Thrill Seekers. Finally, after ten years of full-time writing I had a book out in the world to prove I hadn’t just been sitting at home watching Oprah the whole time.

And yet, I still feel only at the very start of my career as a writer, a beginner. When, in 2002 I picked up a pen and wrote my first short story since high school, I’d known what an arduous road lay ahead of me, perhaps I would never have tried. But I’m glad I did, and would do it all again.

Writing is a wonderful profession. Your comrades are sensitive, intelligent,  thoughtful creators and I have been lucky to share my journey with good writing friends who have cheered and supported, and cried and commiserated, with me as together we have made steps towards seeing our dreams of books on shelves become reality. Baby steps and then suddenly this year, some giant leaps.

And the writing itself still never fails to excite me, infuriate, confound, besot and delight me. Each new project is greeted with enthusiasm, each draft a challenge to surmount. I’ve learned to love rewriting, perhaps even more than the initial draft. I’ve lost that true beginners’ enchantment with the first draft, knowing as I write it that most will end up trashed. But still, it is thrilling, the places stories will take you, the characters that take over and demand to be given their say. I love it.

This year too, I’ve learned the business side of writing. Every writer runs their own small business whether they like it or not. Marketing your work is essential, from targeting the right publisher to entering competitions, to applying for grants. These skills too, need to be mastered. Can’t say I love this part of the business quite as much, but I’m getting a little better at it.

My heart is filled with gratitude at the turn of events in 2012, and especially for those who have championed my work, like my dear uncle, Jonathan Shaw, who has just released his own book of poetry, Veny Armanno, Julianne Schultz, Favel Parrett, Helena Pastor, Katherine Howell and Stephen Romei.

Who knows what 2013 will bring. I wish you all much love and luck and good fortune.

Onwards and upwards, dear friends. Onwards and upwards!

moomin_valley_nye

STILL GRINNING

Favel Parrett and Edwina Shaw at NSW Literary awards

Moment of award being announced

Well I didn’t take out the big prize, that honour went to the deserving Rohan Wilson for The Roving Party, but I’m still grinning.

The awards dinner was in the incredible Mitchell Reading Room , that had been turned into a banqueting hall for the evening. I got frocked up (a very rare occurrence) and, as I never attended any of my graduations – banned from the high school event and not fussed by the uni ones – it felt very much like a graduation ceremony for writing.

The Mitchell Reading Room, State Library of NSW

The Mitchell Reading Room, State Library of NSW

I was very happy to be sitting between my lovely friend Favel Parrett (hint on pronunciation: Fave as in favourite) and my wonderful uncle, Jonathan Shaw, who has long been a staunch supporter of my writing and me in general.

Favel, whose book Past the Shallows is a must read, had come along with two editors from her publisher, Hachette, who were as normal and down to earth as budding writers never expect them to be. Across from us was Peggy Frew, another shortlistee whose book House of Sticks is next on my list.

Our places had gilt name tags and official booklets with the judges’ comments on all the shortlisted titles. The feedback on Thrill Seekers was so beautiful it made me cry. I particularly liked “so real is hurts” and “whip-like prose”. You can read the whole review here

Our category was one of the last to be announced, and our nerves grew and grew to the point where, after watching the winners have to get up from their tables and make the thousand-mile trip up to the stage accompanied by the worst musak you can imagine, the urge to run from the room became very real. I did enjoy seeing the winners’ looks of surprise and joy, their happiness was contagious. Rohan, the winner of our category was in Japan and hadn’t even prepared a speech for his agent to read because he’d thought it so unlikely he’d win!

And even though I didn’t take the prize, I still feel like a winner. A “graduated” writer, and on my way at last.

Read more about the awards and who won what on Uncle Jonny’s blog