I am very proud to announce that I am now an official sponsor of a Story Dogsteam here on the Sunshine Coast, sponsoring Ella and Charlie (pictured). Story Dogs is a registered charity that supports literacy programs in schools by sending in a volunteer human-canine partnership to help students on their paths to becoming confident, enthusiastic readers.
I first came across the concept several years ago via an American website and then looked for a similar program in Australia. I looked into volunteering with my Golden Retriever Daisy, but quickly realised Daisy was too much of a clown and I didn’t think we’d pass the behaviour test! Now, with my son starting Prep this year, I came across the program again and was truly excited to discover that I could add my name to the list of enthusiastic sponsors who help to keep this program running around the nation.
While the sponsorship money is pooled across the country to ensure that no child misses out, the beautiful faces of my personal sponsorship are Ella and Charlie, who volunteer at St Thomas Moore primary school here on the Sunshine Coast, and I have committed to sponsoring a Story Dogs team each year that my son is in primary school.
As a former English teacher and now author, I know that reading is the keystone skill to a life of opportunity.
You don’t have to be an official sponsor to help out too. You can donate or volunteer your time. Just visit the Story Dogs website at www.storydogs.org.au.
In February 2009, QWC published an article I wrote called ‘The Power of the Positive’ in their WQ magazine, and I’m betting more than a few people thought I was a little nutty and ‘woo woo’.
I started off by saying, “It seems to me that there can be a tendency in writing circles to dramatise the negatives… the main message is all about how difficult writing is, how it’s nearly impossible for a first-time writer to get published, how the annual salary for full-time writers in Australia is ridiculously low, how you ‘shouldn’t give up the day job’, how you ‘shouldn’t get your hopes up’, how everything is so competitive and how the slush pile is so high and the editor’s time is so short.”
The rest of the article goes on to talk about the importance of believing the positive, visualising success, and channeling all that creative energy you have into something useful, rather than something that’s going to tear you down and bring others down with you–incorporating some sports psychology and some new age theory too.
But most importantly, it poses the question, ‘Why can’t it be you?’
Now, my first novel, The Tea Chest, has finally made it out into the world. And I am living proof that you can rise above all that negativity out there that will shoot down your dreams before they’ve even started. I’m not saying it’s easy to face more than a decade of writing books (10 manuscripts in 12 years for me before I got a publishing deal) and literally hundreds of rejections. It’s emotionally hard going when you’ve put your soul into a piece of art that other people criticise. And then it just sits silently and invisibly on your laptop with no where to go (which is why I’ve turned some of my manuscripts into books via http://www.lulu.com, just so I could see the completion of the project).
And just for the record, The Tea Chest was submitted to every mentorship program and manuscript development program out there and not picked up.
You’ve got to do the work. Of course you do. I guarantee your book won’t get published if you don’t write it. But there is no predetermined expiration date or outcome on this. The sky truly is the limit (or maybe not even then).
Having said that, I do actually want to ‘ground’ this notion in a larger philosophy: that of art for art’s sake. Because I’m not saying you WILL achieve all those things you dream of. Sometimes, good work just won’t get published. This is not about bulldozing your way into perceived success via milestones and paycheques. The most important thing of all is to write. Just WRITE.
If you are going to become attached to anything, become attached to being a writer, not to your manuscript. Then you will be able to move on from the wonderful manuscript you’ve worked so hard on for so many years and write a new one, or indeed something else entirely.
And just for once, I won’t quote Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way (I do not work for Julia Cameron or get commission though the amount I plug her I probably should…), but instead I will quote Australian author, Torre de Roche:
“Forget the stats, the numbers, the wealth, the prestige, the popularity, the things you imagine to be waiting for you on the other side of ‘success.’ They’re not there, and if they are, they won’t stay long. Instead, work tirelessly to make your soul happy. Keep going until you’re standing before a big, glorious creation made by you, for you. Your baby—made of cells, or paper, or clay, or words. That’s yours.
Be proud. You did it for the simple joy of creating. There is nothing more to life than that.
But there is no harm in expecting the best along the way. There is no harm in valuing a financial reward for your art. Imagine your biggest, scariest possibility of whatever you deem to be ‘success’. Got it? Good. File it away somewhere in your heart and mind to revisit at a later date, shrug of the criticisms and the crazy looks you get when you say you’re working on a book (to which someone will instantly say, ‘oh, do you have a publisher?’ and you’ll squirm inside and say, ‘no, not yet’), and go write. It doesn’t matter what anyone else has to say about your ‘chances’ of being published. That’s their reality, not yours. Feel free to invent your own.