After the Vogel Prize night in Sydney, my agent Clare Forster went all guns blazing with my manuscript. It felt like I was getting a VIP pass into publishers - she was shopping it around like nobody's business. Having an agent at this point was so valuable, and Curtis Brown, of all agents? Dream stuff.
For the last three years, I'd been in contact with an editor at Penguin Random House who had seen something in my writing that by some miracle, she believed in. So she'd already taken my previous manuscript to an acquisitions meeting. When it was turned down, she asked for my next one. I was determined my next one would get across the line because I didn't know how I'd cope with another knock back.
But I'd fallen pregnant with our fifth baby unexpectedly and realized time was of the essence. If I was going to write this next story, I'd need to write it hard. So I did. Pumping out my first draft in eight weeks, then polishing it for the next two months. This manuscript was INSIDE THE TIGER and when I first sent it to the editor at Penguin, she kindly told me it was an 'early stage manuscript'. So she gave me some revision notes, which I worked in before submitting it to Varuna. Much to my shock, I won my first fellowship on the back of that manuscript. Then I went one further.
It was the last year I'd be eligible for the Vogel Prize, so I polished INSIDE THE TIGER as much as I could and shot it off. The deadline for the prize was midnight. I worked on it till the last moment, and hit submit at 11.58 p.m. with shaky fingers. My manuscript hit the competition inbox at 11.59 p.m. With seconds to spare on my last year to enter. Talk about cutting it to the wire!
After months of hearing nothing back, I was certain my manuscript hadn't been successful, so to find out I'd shortlisted was an incredible shock.
Within a week of the Vogel Prize winner being announced, my editor at Penguin took INSIDE THE TIGER to acquisitions. I was out of range of mobile reception when the decision came through. It would be the making of a childhood dream, or a crushing blow. So I made a special trip back into range, heard messages coming through on my phone. I pulled over the first second I could, and there it was. A text from my agent.
Penguin had made us an offer! It was the most bizarre feeling. Smiling, floating, disbelief ... but it also felt like the end of a long journey to publication. When I drove back to our country property, Mum and Chad came up to the car to greet me, questions on their face. I couldn't hide my smile as I told them Penguin had a new author. They jumped on me and hugged me, while I was still half-stunned.
There were stiff drinks around the campfire and I felt like anything else could happen in my life at that moment, but nothing could quell the joy.