To be or not to be?

Did you make a conscious decision to be a writer? Or did it creep up on you?

Doesn’t really matter either way … there is still the potential to be rendered powerless and disheartened when your manuscripts make a habit of returning with a ‘thanks, but no thanks’ letter attached. You’ll probably have to depend on your significant other for economic support or do part-time work. But if you climb back in the saddle after a little swearing or mourning to carry on regardless you are a writer, whatever the outcome.

Luckily, there are several things that shine through the times of self-doubt to keep writers going.

For me, it’s the way dozens of writers turn up to support their fellow writers’ book launches … like the other night as Queensland author, Belinda Jeffrey and UQP launched her debut novel, Brown Skin Blue. Next week, we do it all over again at Christine Bongers‘ launch of Dust. Then on July 4, I’ll be helping Dee White celebrate the birthing of Letters to Leonardo in Melbourne.

I’d hate not having the comradeship, support and friendship I get on several internet Australian children’s writing chat groups. Even being in separate cities makes no difference – it’s a great excuse to visit interstate.

There are fabulous opportunities open to writers in this country – like the May Gibbs Children’s Literature Trust Fellowship awards; the Australia Council with its systems of grants, fellowships and residencies; Arts Queensland grants, the various Varuna House awards, fellowships and residencies, and the support of CAL.

Then there’s the Australian Society of Authors – an organisation every Australian author should belong to – and one that offers the annual ASA Mentorship Program.

I’m proud to be chosen as one of 20 successful applicants for their 2009 mentorship awards.

This is a fantastic opportunity for any writer – you get to work for 30 hours (over 1 year if you want to take that long) with an experienced author and mentor. Mine will be Sally Rippin, children’s author/ illustrator and creative writing teacher from RMIT in Melbourne. I know from experience how valuable and significant this opportunity is – I received an ASA mentorship in 2002 and worked with Sue Gough on my first children’s novel.

This time the focus will be on my adventure/historical/fantastical (as usual can’t pin my stories to one genre) novel, McAlpine & Macbeth.

I raise my metaphorical glass to toast the Australian Society of Authors for their support of us, the developing writers of Australia; and also to the insightful, wise and perceptive judges of this year’s Mentorships – grinning widely.

I’ll keep a blog on the ins and outs of this mentorship via my other blog, dénouement when we start in mid-July. You may find it interesting. In the words of Macbeth, my cockatiel character with a penchant to quote Shakespeare, ‘ And thereby hangs a tale.’

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7 thoughts on “To be or not to be?

  1. Hi Sheryl,

    It was lovely to finally meet you at Christine’s launch last night. Great post. The support, friendship and encouragement between writers continues to amaze me. It makes it so much easier to hang in there and keep going. Congratulations on your mentorship. I hope it will be a wonderful and fruitful year for you.

    Cheers,

    Lynn

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  2. Great comments, Marianne. It’s so interesting finding out how other people took up the gauntlet to become writers and then persevered until they became published authors. And yes, I’m sure I’ll enjoy my mentorship by Sally Rippin. 🙂

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  3. I knew I wanted to be an author from about age ten, and went about telling everyone I knew. They usually replied with, “That’s nice, dear. Could you set the table, please?” or similar. I guess they filed my dreams of publication in the ‘wants to be an astronaut’ category. When I got older, I filed them away too then, one day, it occurred to me that a published author is just an unpublished author who is published! This shift in perception made me think it really could happen, so I started my first novel and, six years later, there it was on book shelves.

    Being a writer is about your mindset as much as anything, so now, when I’m struggling with a story, I remind myself to stay positive and that the ‘my novel is hopeless and I have no talent’ phase is just that – a phase, albeit a frequent and unwelcome one!

    Enjoy your mentorship, Sheryl.

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  4. Thank you, Chris. The mentorship is just what the writing muse’s doctor ordered.
    And yes, I could imagine how writing solely for a living could kill the fiction writing process – like writing advertising hoo-ha and commercial blurbs. ;(

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  5. Writing for a living killed it for me for twenty years from 1984. When I decided to write for nothing but my own satisfaction, I reclaimed my love of writing. When I decided to write for my ideal reader, I think I took the first step towards being a professional novelist.
    Congratulations on your ASA mentorship, Sheryl. You are a most worthy recipient. 🙂

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  6. My writing has always been there, but it did disappear for a while when I entered the ‘real world’, but then came back to rescue me when I needed it most. It was then that I discovered I wanted writing to be my ‘real world’ 🙂

    Congrats again on the mentorship! You really deserve it, as does McAlpine and Macbeth.

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