Back to Reality

Last week I arrived home from a month in the US – primarily to attend the SCBWI Winter Conference in New York, visit the US publishers of Queenie, but also to have a holiday.

Two days before I left, the paperback of ‘Queenie One Elephant’s Story’ was launched at the place where Queenie once resided, the Melbourne Zoo. The launch was a joyous celebration of her life and many of those who loved her were present – the family of her keeper, an apprentice pastry-chef who helped decorate Queenie’s cakes, as well as Black Dog Books (an imprint of Walker Books) and my wonderful family and friends, many of whom are fellow writers.

We celebrated with the cutting of a huge Queenie cake (a replica of her long ago ones), made lovingly by the Greensborough Cake Decorating Centre. A Channel 9 crew also attended and it was an enormous thrill to see Queenie and the book hit the Sunday night news again, as it did when the hardcover was launched 5 years ago.

The week leading up to the launch was full with radio and newspaper interviews, I was even doing a final interview with the photographer in my home as I was throwing clothes (and books) into my suitcase, the day before I hopped on the plane.

It was all a flurry of excitement, not to mention sheer panic at times and I had to pinch myself often to make sure I wasn’t dreaming.

I’d never been to America before, so New York and the conference was a whir of busyness, books, publishers, editors and the sheer enormity of being in one of the most vibrant and exciting cities in the world, was breathtaking. New York has a pulse which is all its own.

Which is why, I’m reeling a bit, when three things happened which somersaulted me back to reality and made me think about the highs and lows of a writer or anyone involved in the arts.

The first reality blast was a rejection letter I received as an email while I was away. The rejection was fine ‘read with interest, but didn’t fit’ standard line, but the next sentence which went something like ‘We know that writing is hard but encourage you to persevere in your efforts’ line, was a little too condescending to take. I know full well how busy publishers are, but how difficult can it be to glance at the tagline within the email to notice the difference between authors submitting their first story, to authors who have published 30 books?

Reality check two, was the experience of another well published writer friend, who having recently won a prestigious writing competition, received the harshest judge’s report I’ve ever read.

And the last – sharing my very new and very emotionally raw story with my husband last night (and yes I know I should know better). It was just that he was with me when I started writing it in New York and I felt he was part of it. Wrong! The air is fairly icy here this morning and forgiveness will depend on the colour and number of roses he comes home with tonight.

All jokes aside, writing has got to be one of the most wonderful and glorious things to do, but it’s a double-edged sword and apart from being creative and emotionally charged in our writing, we also have to learn to wear suits of armour.

Strawberry Fields

Outside the New York Library

Central Park

Me in six layers (it was very cold)

Tags: , , ,

← Back to all Blog posts


  1. Alison Reynolds Aren't rejections horrible? But I suppose even if we lived in exciting New York that they would still arrive. I hope that you have that ms back out there. And partners need to learn that writers are fragile! Mine said something the other day about a piece of my writing, and then looked startled and said, "Whoops, did I say that aloud." It made me laugh, but should have held out for the flowers. I hope that you are planning your next adventure and lots of acceptances flood your inbox! Alison
    February 29, 2012 at 1:17 pm · Reply
  2. Chris Bell We writers do indeed need to wear our armour, sometimes even with family and friends. Wouldn’t it be great if we could all wear mithril shirts as saved Frodo from a would-be fatal blow in LOTR? I think the most important thing is for us to write for the love of it first and publication second. On the days such harsh words and rejections come, we’re allowed to grieve, eat chocolate, drink wine or whatever salves the hurt. The next day we have to pull up our bootstraps and get on with it again. (Though sometimes that’s a lot easier said than done.) Happy days. I do think though that it’s a shame that the highs are so high and the lows so low. Writing is not a path for the faint-hearted, that’s for sure. Thrilled to hear your trip was so wonderful, and congratulations again on the launch of Queenie in paperback. I can vouch that it was a wonderful day to be a part of.  Chris
    February 29, 2012 at 6:01 pm · Reply

Add a comment