I have been waiting a long time to share this news. Not just the past four months since my agent, Fiona Inglis, at Curtis Brown first sent out my manuscript to seven big publishers and quickly began receiving excited feedback. But for years. Fourteen years, to be precise. Fourteen years since I decided unequivocally that I wanted to be a career writer. And in that time I’ve written around ten full manuscripts and received countless rejections. Some of them lovely. Some of them rude. Some of them heartbreakingly close to success. All of them leading to this moment.
In January 2012, a fairy godmother of sorts entered my life. You might have heard of her? The delightful and talented Monica McInerney. Though Monica didn’t know me, something I said must have piqued her sixth sense because she very graciously shared her professional assistance. So began a journey that led to her own agent, Fiona, signing me on as well. One thing led to another and finally, I am very, very proud and excited to say that I have a contract with Australia’s largest independent publishers, Allen & Unwin, for my women’s fiction manuscript, The Tea Chest.
In the past four months, I have received three offers of contract, flown to Sydney and Melbourne, been treated to the most exquisite afternoon teas, and listened to the most insightful and flattering descriptions of my book—a book I wrote because I loved it but one I never really thought anyone else would ever read, but which has been so joyfully received by the publishers who did.
When I went to Sydney to meet with senior editor, Annette Barlow, I had no idea that the entire population of the Allen & Unwin office building was going to join us for afternoon tea. Annette led the way through an empty floor, with office chairs sitting alone in front of cubicle spaces with computer screens that had long since gone to sleep. We walked up a narrow stairway to the enclosed roof space where I could hear what sounded like a party going on above. I said just that to Annette and she smiled at me and said, ‘Well, it is a party.’ I still had no idea until I walked into the room and approximately 60 people applauded. Better yet, they had baked! They had a large row of teapots, all with beautiful teas and little cards with tea descriptions, and piles of home-made goodies of brownies and cakes and slices. Fine bone china teapots. A photographer.
Now, I’m a bit of a wallflower when it comes to parties so I took my lovely cup of Russian Caravan tea and sidled to the side of the room wondering what on earth I should do in this large crowd. Never fear. Many friendly faces came up to say hello and talk about my book. There was great excitement. And speeches. And a presentations from people on ‘what I’ve been reading’ (which, of course, turned out to be me).
To hear other people read from my book and talk about it book-club style was nothing short of an out-of-body experience for me. I was the person who’d been systematically rejected by publishers and agents for fourteen years. I truly couldn’t believe they were now sharing such love for my work.
I wanted to share this story with you because if you are like I was right up until this moment, you might feel that publishers are a bit scary. But I’m thrilled to say that they’re ‘just my cup of tea’. (Come on, who wouldn’t love a group of people who have a monthly in-house competitive bake-off?) And when they love your work, they really love it. And that is the most amazing feeling in the world.
I really want to thank Annette Barlow from the bottom of my heart, as well as all the team at Allen & Unwin who also read my manuscript and loved it, for sharing such a beautiful moment with me, for spending so many hours baking (all gluten free food, which, very sadly, I couldn’t eat because I’d had a bout of food poisoning the day before), for bringing in their own personal collections of teapots and tea doilies, and for reading out my words aloud and teaching me more about my own book than I had realised. It was an afternoon I will never forget. Big love to you all.
Thank you to Fiona for taking a chance on me and listening to my rather inarticulate, sleep deprived mummy-brain-impaired conversational skills (I flew to Sydney to meet Fiona just weeks after I’d given birth) and deciding to represent me anyway. (I’m sure you’ll be pleased to know, Fiona, that I seem to be finally getting my sentence ability and memory back.)
And of course a big thank you to Monica for starting it all by stepping in and changing my life.
Finally, to make my news just that little better, my contract includes a two-book deal. Hooray! I am working on my next novel right now, and I look forward to bringing it to you in partnership with Allen & Unwin in 2016.
My first published book, The Tea Chest, will be out in early 2014.