We are delighted to share this blog post by the exceptionally talented debut author Josephine Taylor. Her novel, Eye of a Rook, was released this week and we know you’ll love it as much as we do. In this post aimed at aspiring writers, Josephine shares how to get the most out of mentorships and professional development.
In 2018, in a bold, exciting and very welcome move, the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries offered funding for a pilot program to support emerging Western Australian writers to find book publication. The resulting Four Centres Emerging Writers Program saw the following four WA writing centres come together for a two-year period under the auspices of Fremantle Press: Peter Cowan Writers Centre, Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers’ Centre, the Fellowship of Australian Writers WA and WA Poets Inc. Successful applicants to the program were absolutely delighted to be offered the opportunity to develop their projects to publication level, with each centre separately assigning their allocated funds to workshops, mentoring and other forms of skill and professional development. Supporting this, common purpose activities saw participants from all four centres come together at regular intervals over the two years.
Two Program Projects
I finished my first novel (now known as Eye of a Rook) in August 2018, just after the Four Centres Emerging Writers Program began. It had taken me five years to complete something with which both I and my mentor, Susan Midalia, were happy, and now it felt satisfyingly whole. For the next few months I didn’t do a great deal with the novel, submitting it for two unpublished manuscript prizes and to one publisher and one agent without success. I had also been working on personal essays themed on vulvodynia over the previous seven years, with a number published and a few still in development, so I decided to focus on this as my writing project for the program, with the thought of building a collection of personal essays for publication.
The timing of the program was perfect for both my projects. My writing home, Peter Cowan Writers Centre (PCWC), offered a series of workshops on writing a synopsis and preparation for pitching in the first six months of the program, and my just-completed novel was perfect for the workshop exercises. Fremantle Press’s ‘Business of Being a Writer’ at the Perth Festival Writers Week in February 2019 gave me the opportunity to prepare my material for a publisher and to pitch to some of the Fremantle Press team. PCWC and Four Centres group workshops that followed provided practical insights and hands-on experience in presenting myself as an author, and in using the media and social media to further a writing career. Now I had the confidence and skill set needed to pitch my novel and to connect with the writing and publishing industry. And my personal essays? One-on-one mentoring with Heather Taylor Johnson, organised by PCWC, began in May, and I found immediate success with my sixth essay, ‘Affectionate Love’, published by TEXT in October 2019. I continued to work on several more essays over the course of the program, and I’m now tweaking and submitting these to journals and competitions.
I had to consider carefully where next to turn with my novel. Fremantle Press had already offered terrific overarching support for the Four Centres Emerging Writers Program. I knew they championed West Australian writers and books set in Western Australia, which my novel was – partially, at least! – so in August 2019 I decided to submit to them. It was wonderfully overwhelming to receive a phone call from Georgia Richter telling me that Fremantle Press would like to publish my novel, looking at November 2020 for release. The date was pushed back due to the advent of COVID-19, but now February 2021 is upon us, and I’m both nervous and thrilled at the thought of Eye of a Rook making its way into the world. I’m still hoping that my second writing project will come to publication fruition, but one step at a time. In the meantime, I’ll be celebrating the other program participants whose books are heading towards publication!
Tips for Authors
We all find our own way to publication, but there are some characteristics or qualities that I gleaned from my time in the program which have helped me in finding publication and in building the foundations of a healthy writing career.
- Only submit your novel (or other full-length manuscript) for publication once you are satisfied with it. It’s better to be proud of a book that never finds publication than to find publication with a work that still gives you the niggling feeling that it’s not as good as it could be. Hopefully, you’ll achieve both, but this primary focus on the writing rather than publication brings job satisfaction over the long haul.
- Once you have completed your book to your satisfaction, have unwavering belief in it, knowing that you may well have to sustain confidence over multiple rejections.
- Identify possible outlets for your work carefully, making sure beforehand that they publish writing in your genre and of your type. Follow submission instructions to a T.
- Only take notice of feedback for your book that repeats the same criticisms. This saves redrafting in a state of confusion. (I had two opposing forms of criticism/feedback for Eye of a Rook while it was under submission, so didn’t change anything!)
- Continue writing other short and/or long works while pitching your book. This will give you a sense of stability and productivity during the peaks and troughs of seeking publication. Ongoing creativity feeds the body and soul.
- Persevere! We all know about luck and good timing, but you must also cultivate a bloody-minded stubbornness in your efforts to find publication.
- Go to every workshop offered as part of programs in which you are a participant. There is always something to learn, even on topics you think you know back to front.
- Support the writers in your community. The writers in our local industry are a generous bunch and understand that we will all have our moment in the spotlight. Celebrate when someone else is shining!
Eye of a Rook by Josephine Taylor is available in all good bookstores and online. To hear Jo talk about her book in person, join her online in conversation with Lee Kofman. This Zoom event hosted by Avid Reader is free to attend, but registration is a must. When and where: 4.30 pm AWST / 6.30 pm AEDT Tuesday 9 February via Zoom.