I've been inspired to blog after a wonderful writerly week at the Asian Festival of Children's Content (AFCC) in Singapore.
I attended the AFCC back in 2011 and 2012, but 2013 was my first year with a publishing deal under my belt. My first chapter book, Darcy Moon and the Deep Fried Frogs (working title) is signed with Fremantle Press and is due for release early 2014.
But more about that another time.
This blog is a reach out to all of those aspiring authors I've talked to over the years, all those I've met at AFCC, and all those I know are out there, who share my secret dream, almost too raw and private to share, that one day I might get published.
I've kept this dream inside of me my whole life. Since I was a small girl reading under the covers with a torch.
But it wasn't until 2007, after the birth of my second child, that I actually allowed myself to try. Before that, I had been too scared of failure to admit how much the dream meant to me.
I lived in Perth, Western Australia. I wanted to write for children but had no idea where to start. I found a local writer's group (very easily through google) and joined a 10 week short story writing course at the Peter Cowan Writer's Centre.
We were required to write a short story and read it out the following week. I was terrified. But I stood up and read my story. I was told the story was 'nice' but full of cliches. Cliches! I looked up the word when I got home and wept. Then I got my pen out and began to write another story, careful to avoid cliches.
I learned many things that day.
Firstly, avoid cliches when writing (Yes, I had that much to learn!)
But also, that if I wanted to be a good writer, I was going to have to work at it. Work hard.
Through PCWC, I learned about the Society of Children's Book Writer' and Illustrators (SCBWI) and joined up in early 2008.
I felt like a fraud when I attended my first meeting but was inspired and thrilled to meet so many talented and passionate people.
These people have supported, encouraged and inspired me ever since.
I joined an online critique group with some other aspiring SCBWIs. Critiquing others' work was as much a learning experience as getting my work critiqued. I highly recommend joining a critique group.
Through this critique group, I heard about and enrolled in an online writing course. I completed the Diploma in Professional Children's Writing through Cengage Australia. I absorbed every word. I wrote whenever my children slept. I lived and breathed my story.
In mid 2010, I completed my first manuscript. It had taken me two years.
I attended the 2010 WA SCBWI Rottnest Retreat and paid a visiting editor to critique the first 10 pages of my manuscript. Her feedback was invaluable, and I realised I had a long way to go before my manuscript would be anyway near publishable.
But I didn't have time to dwell on things, because soon after, we discovered we were moving to Singapore. With two children under 5, the move kept me busy and when I picked up my manuscript six months later, I was able to see it with fresh eyes. I knew exactly where I needed to make changes.
I rewrote the whole thing.
In the mean time, I had joined the Singapore SCBWI group and was happy to find they met every month to discuss all things writerly in Singapore, and critique each others' work. Fantastic!
I kept writing, and kept getting feedback through every avenue I could access (competitions, conferences, panels, peers) and eventually, by early 2012. I had a manuscript I was happy with.
So then I started researching publishers. Were they accepting unsolicited manuscripts? What sort of titles did they publish? All that stuff. Scary.
Fremantle Press were accepting manuscripts by West Australian Authors or with West Australian content and setting. And they had a strong children's section, which included mid grade. My manuscript seemed like the perfect fit.
So I sent it off.
And 7 weeks later I got a 'we would like to publish your manuscript' email.
I almost wet myself.
It was a miracle!
A miracle five years in the making.
This is my story.
And for every book published, there will be a different story.
Keep working on yours.