Well, I’m out of the editing wilderness at long last, and lots has happened since I last wrote. First pages are done and dusted, second and third pages have been checked by the team at UQP, my memoir has a new title – Wild Boys: A Parent’s Story of Tough Love, and the book is now at the printers. Hooray! A friend came over the other day with a couple of fancy beers; we sat by the table – with a candle, a platter of food, and some wildflowers in a jam jar – and celebrated the end of this stage of the process.
Receiving the typeset pages in the mail was very exciting. For nearly two weeks, I read and re-read the pages until the words were a blur – adding things, rubbing them out, adding things again, making sure everything was right – and then I sent the pages back to UQP. Since then, it’s been hard to settle. My editor says the time between finishing work on a book and waiting until it actually comes out can be a bit weird for an author. I’m finding that to be true, so I’ve decided to use the next two months to get healthy. In an effort to restore a normal sleep pattern (after all those early mornings / late nights of editing!), I’ve given caffeine the flick. I’m slowing my mind, sleeping more, and, like a bear waking up after a long winter, I’m noticing a few changes in my world. My back fence is falling down, the house needs painting, and my garden has turned into a jungle. I think I need to find a friend with a chainsaw … but, first, I must take some time to recover.
So, instead of frantically trying to get the house in order, I’ve been playing guitar, writing songs, catching up with friends, and watching movies with my ten-year-old son. I’m still dreaming about the caravan I wrote about in my last blog post. I even wrote a song – ‘Caravan Dreaming’ – where the chorus is: To me it looks like freedom / a life of simple ease / hear the sea outside my door/ saltwater’s on the breeze. I’ve been writing songs for about a year now. I like how the music and lyrics come to me unexpectedly – while I’m out walking, or cooking dinner, or hanging the washing. I have to listen closely and ‘catch’ each song before it disappears. As for the caravan, my 19-year-old son has taken it to a permaculture farm in northern NSW, a bush wilderness with pigs and chickens and geese. I’m heading up that way soon for a visit – to meet his friends, to swim in the river, to sit around the fire pit and share meals, and to collect wildflowers to put in jam jars.
A goose I’d like to meet
So much has happened since I last wrote. First of all, the PhD paralysis passed and I finished the semi-final draft of my thesis at the end of September – yes, even the exegesis! I had to spend a long time in the PhD isolation ward, where I swore profusely at my computer screen, googled things like: ‘How do I muster up the energy to finish my thesis?’, and listened to Bob Dylan’s Desire album … where he sings ‘The way is long but the end is near.’ Oh, so true. Strangely enough, I actually like my exegesis now and I can’t understand why it took so long to write. As I wait for my supervisors’ final comments, I can relax – take a breath – and re-enter the world.
I’ve just returned from a celebratory writing retreat at the coast with my dear friend, Edwina Shaw. After reading and commenting on Edwina’s latest manuscript – a gripping work of fiction based on a horrific true crime – I spent the remainder of the retreat walking on the beach, swimming, and lying on my swag under the trees. In the evenings, Edwina and I sat on the verandah of our cabin and drank whisky and chatted about writerly matters – like the best way to write bios of different word lengths and our next projects. I’m so fortunate to have a writing-friend like Edwina. Check out Edwina’s report about our retreat: http://edwinashaw.com/2014/10/08/retreat-by-the-sea/
Along with celebrating my ‘almost-finished’ thesis, Edwina and I also raised our glasses to … wait for it … my book contract with University of Queensland Press! YES! In July 2015, UQP are going to publish my memoir about my involvement with BackTrack Youth Works in Armidale. All of this came about through the efforts of Brian Cook, who is now my literary agent. Thank you, Brian, and thank you Alexandra Payne, the non-fiction publisher at UQP, who loved my manuscript and pushed it through the acquisitions meeting. Life can change so quickly – I signed contracts for a publisher and an agent in one week. After I heard the news from UQP, I rang Bernie Shakeshaft, whose work features in the memoir-manuscript. I could barely form coherent sentences I was so excited, and when he heard the news, Bernie said: ‘It was always going to happen … but good that it happened.’ Yes. What a relief.
Edwina now calls me her ‘poster girl for resilience’, and although it has been a long haul, my experience confirms that successful writers are the ones who don’t give up. Keep the faith.
Reading under the trees at the coastal retreat