Hello! Welcome to my blog. I am an emerging Australian writer of creative nonfiction / memoir, and I have set up this to blog to record the process of preparing my memoir manuscript to a publishable standard within the next six months. This memoir, currently titled ‘Iron Men: Alchemy at Work’ (a new title is needed, but has not yet been decided), explores the challenge of disaffected youth from a mother’s perspective. My work on this memoir recently won me a 2010 / 2011 HarperCollins Varuna Award for Manuscript Development. The award includes a ten-day residency at Varuna, the Writers’ House, in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney. Every year, five lucky writers work with five senior editors from HarperCollins, and the aim of the program is to help each writer to bring their manuscript to a publishable standard through an on-going relationship with their editor. The finished work is then submitted to HarperCollins, one ofAustralia’s leading publishers, for first consideration.
I have just returned from Varuna (27th April-6th May, 2011) where I consulted at length with Senior Nonfiction Editor, Anne Reilly, who chose my manuscript from the long-list. Thank you, Anne, for giving me this wonderful professional opportunity! Along with the four other HarperCollins awardees – Sally Bothroyd, Tim Denoon, Anna Hedigan, and Heather Taylor Johnson – I conferred with my editor at the beginning and at the end of the residency, and have left Varuna with a blueprint of what further work I need to do. During the residency we also had information sessions with Sue Brockhoff, Head of Fiction, who explained the intricacies of the publishing process should HarperCollins accept our manuscripts.
Varuna is heaven for writers (thank you Mick Dark!). All the household / cooking needs are catered for (thanks to Joan and Sheila!), and writers are left undisturbed (thanks to Lis and Vera!) to write, read, think, walk, sleep, have baths, eat chocolate, drink wine … whatever! As well as writing over 65 000 words while I was there – yes, amazing! – I walked for hours each day around the streets of Katoomba. My editor, Anne, also enjoyed walking, so we ‘walked and talked’ through the mist and rain, up and down hills and discussed what the manuscript needs. The good news is that Anne thinks my memoir is ‘imminently publishable’, but the not-so-good news is that it basically needs to be re-written and re-structured. Sigh … Did I mention that I’ve already been working on this manuscript for three and a half years? Oh, well.
According to Anne, there are two types of writers – mapper-outers and arrow-shooters. Mapper-outers, as the name suggests, are those writers who plan their manuscript in great detail, a technique which works particularly well for genre writers. They always know where they are going and what they are doing. Arrow-shooters, the category I fall into, are those who shoot out the arrow (the idea that interests them) and see where it lands. The place I am in now is that I have shot out my arrow – and have a work-in-progress of 85 000 words – but now I need to incorporate some ‘mapping’ techniques to improve the content and structure. My aim is to merge some of the 60 000 words I wrote at Varuna with some of the current content. By the end of six months I will have a much better story and will have learnt how to put my heart – my emotional truth – into this work.
And how am I going to do that, and where am I going to start? More about that in my next post … but let me just say that so far it has involved pencils, cardboard, a laptop, tissues, long walks, lots of red wine, a trip to the movies to see ‘HOWL’ and two fantastic massages.