I have only been thinking of myself as a writer for a few months now, even though I’ve been writing fiction for seven years and journalism for nearly twice as long. Even now I feel a little like an impostor. Like someone is going to bust me – some writers’ police – demanding they have a look at my manuscripts first and my meagre income. The first time I wrote it down as my profession, on my incoming passenger form as I re-entered Australia, I wondered if the customs officer would sneer at me over his passport scanner: “What, exactly, have you written?”
My first novel is coming out in September this year from Sleepers Publishing, a small press in Melbourne who publish some very lovely books. I really look forward to sharing this process with you. Many times I never thought it would happen. It is the second full-length manuscript I’ve written (the first is in the “drawer”) and it has been a long journey towards publication. Since I started with my first novel I’ve had two children, left two jobs, moved house twice and been longlisted and shortlisted for various awards that brought my hopes up and then dashed them to the ground
I had friends and acquaintances die unexpectedly and was forced to take stock of my own goals and reasons for doing what I was doing. One year ago I read over an old letter from a friend who passed away, someone I hadn’t been in touch with for awhile but with whom I used to exchange wonderful letters. He worked tracking wildlife in the American West and when writing this particular letter was out in the wilderness monitoring fisher – a rodent like animal which he called “the ten-pound weasel of the woods”. He wrote of how he was inside his tent and the rain had been coming down without stopping for awhile, which was frustrating.
“I get a nice easy day and it rains. I’m usually luckier than this. At least it’ll make the huckleberries even better. Wow they are a lifesaver. Just when you start getting frustrated with the disappearing fisher or stuck in the brush and exhausted and mad, you come across a patch of hucks and everything’s beautiful for a while.”
I was in a tough place when I re-read this letter, wondering whether I had made the right choice to eschew other forms of paid work to write. But this meant the world to me, for some reason, reading this passage. I remembered that the rain pouring down makes the huckleberries taste sweeter. I remembered what it feels like when everything is beautiful for a while, a feeling which is worth a hundred days of rain (or rejection). I decided to stick with it, because I loved the feeling of writing more than any other work. I still do.