When Red Dust was on its way to being published, my nerves ran riot, I was unsure of the editing process and some days, things just got too much for me. I also had the deadline of Blue Skies hanging over my head and I was fairly sure that I wasn’t going to make it.
Enter Sharyn Munro! We met through our websites and Sharyn offered me straight, practical advice – most of which I took and my madness seem to retreat!
Sharyn and I have kept in contact and her life leaves me in awe. As a woman working in a man’s world, I understand how difficult it can be, but I have my husband to rely on if the generator won’t go or the header won’t start. Sharyn has only herself.
Living in a mudbrick, solar-powered hut, Sharyn has turned her mountain into a wildlife refuge, where even red-bellied black snakes are welcome – or at least relocated!
In her guest post, she tells you about her writing path to publication.
Sharyn will be popping back to answer any questions you might have – please ask! Or you can see her website – it’s worth a visit just to see her photos!
Growing up on a farm, any spare time from picking beans or packing tomatoes I spent indulging in the daydreamy pursuits of reading, writing or drawing.
From the time I was nine and allowed to go alone by bus to the town library, I have been hooked on books – and words, and the worlds they create.
My primary school teachers praised my compositions, but these would have been derivative pieces, with at least three adjectives per noun!
Much as I loved writing, it fell by the wayside as life dragged me through University, work, marriage, children – and divorce. After dozens of odd jobs, from teaching to selling spa baths, I had ended up writing copy for corporate newsletters and brochures; good training for precise and targeted language.
Otherwise, apart from sporadic jottings, my writing urges stayed buried until my children were grown up and I was back living in the bush. To be ready to accept turning 50, I made two vows on my 49th birthday: to stop dyeing my hair and to get serious about writing short stories.
For I love short stories; Alice Munro, Carol Shields and Jane Gardam write some of my favourites. Mine start with an observed or remembered scrap from real life; I imagine around it until the story takes flight into fiction – where to, I never know.
Treating writing as work, I revised my stories hard and often, cutting out all the purple prose bits that I secretly loved most, ensuring no bloopers of grammar or spelling or punctuation were lurking to baulk the reader and snap them out of the story.
I began sending stories off to competitions, and within two years little old grey-haired me had won a fairly major short story prize. There have been many since, including the Alan Marshall Award in 2002, a national prize that finally convinced me I was a proper writer.
I had also sent off a tongue-in-cheek contribution to the reader’s page of The Owner Builder magazine; they liked it so much they asked me to write for them – for money! Ten years later I still write articles about creative and persevering people who build their own homes, and still find it a privilege.
Yet I had no outlet for my jottings, funny or sad, about the animals and plants in my wildlife refuge, my struggles with sullen farm machinery, or my environmental concerns. After having many of these broadcast on ABC Radio National’s Bush Telegraph program, I approached Exisle, a non-fiction publisher, with the idea of a collection. They said only nature writers read nature writing; it had to have wider appeal.
So I devised a conversational, personal form of non-fiction, using selective memoir to weave the elements together. Exisle loved it and offered me a contract to write ‘The Woman on the Mountain’, which came out in 2007, causing me to be off the mountain more often, give many talks, and have a web site – which is how Fleur and I met.
Exisle then suggested a collection of tales about my wildlife neighbours for animal lovers to dip into; I illustrated them with black and white drawings, and so ‘Mountain Tails’ was born in 2009. An e-book on ‘Smart Shelter’ is almost out, and a collection of my stories is next, I hope.
Now, at 61, every day is potentially exciting because I may find time from chores like cutting firewood to sit at my Macbook and write.
It just shows that it’s never too late to reclaim dreams, to find that path you once knew well.
You can win a free copy of The Woman on the Mountain by Sharyn Munro!
Just comment on this blog post before Friday 5th of Februrary.