I am seriously running late. I decided to become an author at the wise old age of eight. I was living in Japan with my family for a few months and had recently discovered how much I loved reading, thanks to Enid Blyton, Elyne Mitchell, Noel Streatfeild, and of course, J.K. Rowling. I asked my mum for the age of the youngest author she could think of, and she told me twelve. I immediately set my sights on that goal. At twenty-two, I’m now ten years behind schedule and really need to get this thing moving!
So winning the Faber Academy ‘Writing a Novel’ Scholarship is incredibly exciting. And frightening. Prior to entering the competition, I had shared my story with exactly four people. To open it up to significantly more than that is pretty terrifying (the first four were hard enough!) – but of course the flipside of terror is excitement and I am very curious to hear what others will make of it.
I started writing this book early last year, but had to put it aside in the second half of the year for a few months to concentrate on finishing my Honours thesis. My main character had been living in the side of my mind for those few months, captured in little snatches of dialogue or description in notes on my iPhone. Now he can make his way back onto the laptop screen and slowly back into his story. I’m aware of how cheesy it sounds, but after having been apart for those few months, it feels like seeing an old and dearly missed friend.
Going along to our first session of ‘Writing a Novel’ I was pretty nervous, but also energized. Being inside the offices of Allen and Unwin was exciting in itself; our meetings take place inside their ‘library’ where copies of every children’s book they have published (and reissued) line the shelves. It’s a tantalizing, motivating glimpse.
It made me smile with recognition as I arrived to see the other writers comparing notebooks – as any writer knows; the perfect stationary is crucial (I went with a green moleskin if you’re wondering!). It felt not a little like the first day of school as we all tried to choose the notebook most likely to inspire our booker prize winner.
Meeting our tutor Carrie Tiffany and the rest of the class was great, and thankfully we weren’t called on to do anything too scary…like read out extracts of our stories for work-shopping. Yet. Carrie highlighted the importance of constructive criticism – so no pain no gain! She told us that books are one of the only things that can be created entirely with one’s mind – a very inspirational thought.
We discussed our favourite books and authors, and attempted to give an approximation of our projects. The convergence of what we love to read and what we try to write can be quite revealing! It was interesting to hear snippets of detail of everyone’s lives; careers and families, Carrie told us that we would come to know each other very very well, as our lives and personalities will inevitably be revealed over the course duration as we share our writing.
For myself, writing creatively is very liberating. Writing academically obviously requires you to write in a certain way, and it feels very freeing to let that go. It’s still nerve-wracking and thrilling all at the same time, but having the framework of the ‘Writing a Novel’ course, for the next six months, will hopefully make it a smoother journey.