I've had faults in my stars before. Plenty of them.
One of the big faults was the book itself, by the amazing John Green. I have nothing against his book, it was fabulous. The problem was that The Fault in Our Stars coincided with my first novel The Other Side of Tomorrow, both of which dealt with a teenage girl suffering from cancer. The Fault in Our Stars was the reason my manuscript didn't get across the line with two major publishing houses, despite reaching the board meeting level. The timing was incredibly unfortunate. And John Green's book was such a hit, it was hard to sell a similar story, said the publishers. So, after feeling sorry for myself for a few weeks, back to the drawing board went I.
By the time I started writing Inside the Tiger, I already knew I was pregnant with surprise baby #5. And that I had six months to get this novel onto the page before my life reverted into a chaotic frenzy of midnight feeds, mastitis, one-armed cooking and the rush to get everyone out the door for school. My baby at this stage was only 18 months old, so I'd barely left that craziness. Still, I knew it would multiply once #5 came along.
I wasted no time, pouring my story onto the page in record time. Then after our beautiful little Lacey was born, I grabbed the odd free minutes, sacrificed sleep and food and substituted with caffeine, to edit my novel. I sent it to the editor at one of the publishing houses, who'd worked hard to get my last novel across the line. She gave me some suggestions for revision, and I edited again. I am learning the painful lesson that publishing houses move slowly. Really slowly. The good news is, this slowness gives you time to enter your manuscript in competitions.
Which I did earlier this year. After some prompting from fellow writer Stephanie Holman-Lee, I entered my manuscript in the Litlink Residential Fellowship for Manuscript Development offered by the Varuna Writer's Centre. This is a competition open to regional writers to develop their manuscripts with a mentor in the peaceful setting of pioneering Australian author Eleanor Dark's house in the bushland surrounding Katoomba. It's two weeks of unadulterated quiet and solitude to write. Ha, two weeks. Can a mother of five kids ranging from 1 to 9 really take two weeks out of life's crazy demands to do something as indulgent as writing? As if I would win a residency anyway, I thought. Varuna won't be interested in my 'commercial' style of writing. They like award winning stuff. But as part of the process of getting my work out there, I gave it a shot.
A few months went by. I wasn't chewing my fingernails to the nub, because I knew my manuscript barely stood a chance. Besides in those months, Chad applied for a new job in Japan, which involved exhaustive testing in Tokyo. A couple of weeks later, as I was racing off to school to pick up Mia and Zara, he texted me the words, "I job the job with ANA."
I floated into the school yard, barely able to feel my feet. After a tough three years in aviation (and life), it seemed we were cutting a break. This was Chad's dream job, and solidified our belief that 2016 would be our year of change. Later that night, while bathing and getting everyone into their pyjamas, I heard my own phone buzz. Nonchalantly, I checked my emails. There was something sitting in my inbox with the subject "LITLINK 2016". It took me a second to realise it was from the Varuna Writer's Centre. I wasn't expecting an update from them for a couple of weeks. I clicked on it and instantly read the word, "Congratulations". What?! I'd won a two week residency. A Varuna consultant had read my manuscript and felt it worthy of developing. Support like that is bolstering.
What followed was a frantic run around the house calling my Mum, Chad, my aunty, my sister and my best friend. All people who've read my manuscripts and guided me with ideas and enthusiasm. Varuna writer's centre. I hadn't even allowed myself to invest in the idea of it as I was so sure I wouldn't get the chance to write there.
The stars rarely align for Chad and I so beautifully, and for it all to happen in the one day was thrilling.
The fellowship starts in a couple of weeks. In two weeks, I am writing at Eleanor Dark's house. With other writers, amongst my own kind. In quiet solitude instead of trying to steal an hour or two while Chad 'looks after' the girls and they hammer on the door, yelling 'MUMMA' as they fight and strangle each other. That's my usual 'writing space'. So peaceful. Now I only have to hope the total serenity doesn't throw my harried inspiration out the window!!
Varuna, the countdown is on.