Writers Club

I had an extremely fortunate journey to publication starting with I just wanted to see if I could write a book. That was in 2005, when my son started kindy. I’d had a lot of encouragement from my writing mentor, Jeff Toghill and it was him that encouraged me to try and get a Publishing House for Red Dust.

I’m very much known for my ‘bull-at-a-gate attitude and impatience, so when I decided that I was going to submit to the Allen and Unwin Friday Pitch Day, I did it with a half completed manuscript. When Louise came back to me, she said it was quite what she was looking for at the time, but my writing was strong and commercial. She encouraged me to look else where. I decided I didn’t want to do that, so I re-jigged the first three chapters, waited about three months and then resent it.

It was that time, I only had to wait two weeks and I was given a contract, but I still had the rest of the book to write.

I can still remember the phone call I had, from Louise, to tell me that she wanted to offer me a contract. I’d been flat out on the farm and it was my first day home, for about two weeks. When she rang, she said ‘Hi, it’s Louise.’ I wasn’t expecting her call and started to think, ‘who the hell is Louise!’

She then went on to tell me who she was and why she was calling… I started to shake, couldn’t speak and then decided I needed to be very professional whilst talking to her. She said later that I was one of the most unexcited authors she had ever spoken to – she knows better now, but she couldn’t see me jumping on my bed and laughing, when we’d hung up!

Allen and Unwin have been and continue to be, so supportive of me as we go down this crazy road of publication and when you get picked, your publishing house will be too!

Some recommendations:

Never, ever give up. Allen and Unwin ‘positively rejected’ Red Dust, once before they picked it up.

The feedback I was given was ‘your writing is strong and commercial, it’s just not what I am looking for right now. I strongly recommend you try other publishers.’ I have to admit, I was very naïve when it came to my decision to not try another publishing house. I felt I had made ‘good contact’ with Louise from Friday Pitch Day and as she had said, she just wasn’t looking for Red Dust now. So, I reasoned, perhaps she would be in a few months time. I resubmitted and was picked up. What a Publisher doesn’t want today, she may very well want tomorrow, or in three weeks time.

Join a writing and critique group – it’s really easy to feel you are the only one who is going through the emotions of loneliness, ‘I can’t write,’ and so on. When you sit around a table with other people and chat to them, you’ll find you are not on your own. Facebook and Twitter are a great place to meet author like-minded writers, going through their own journey to publication.

Join a Writer’s Centre – I recommend and am a member of The Queensland Writer’s Centre based in Brisbane. You don’t have live in Queensland to join.

This is their ‘About us Statement’ taken from their website:

About QWC

Queensland Writers Centre strives for more Australian writers to have sustainable careers, and to be read and enjoyed throughout the world.

In our 20 year history QWC has remained an essential organisation for writers and Australian literature. We encourage connection and creativity through the art and business of writing. We celebrate the importance of books and stories. We help Australian writers to create them and readers to engage with them.

Our members are published authors, emerging writers, children’s authors and illustrators, journalists, editors, agents, publishers, poets, storytellers, playwrights, cultural producers, freelancers, teachers, academics and critics. We provide development and support to beginner writers through to established professionals in Australian writing and publishing.

QWC passionately supports regional writers and communities. Through a robust network of partnerships with local councils, regional universities and community organisations, QWC has delivered programs to writers in locations as diverse as Blackall, Bowen, Bundaberg, Cairns, Charleville, Charters Towers, Cooktown, Cunnamulla, Emerald, Gold Coast, Ipswich, Longreach, Mackay, Maryborough, Mission Beach, Mount Isa, Rockhampton, Roma, Stanthorpe, Sunshine Coast, Toowoomba, Townsville and Warwick.

QWC resides in a new, custom-built premises on Level 2 of the State Library of Queensland as a strategic partner of SLQ through the State of Writing initiative. We collaborate with our resident partners Queensland Poetry Festival, Book Links, the Children’s Book Council of Australia (Qld) and if:book Australia.

QWC is a not-for-profit cultural enterprise with more than 2,400 members, and is the publisher of The Australian Writer’s Marketplace – Australia’s leading resource of the writing and publishing industry. QWC also leads innovation in digital book culture. In 2010, we established if:book Australia, a think-tank to foster engagement by Australian writers, readers and publishers with digital futures.

Their phone number is: 07 3842 9922

Lastly, buy a copy of The Australian Writer’s Market Place Guide. Published in conjunction with QWC, it is the writer’s bible. It has every contact, for every publication and competition, in Australia. You can buy it here: http://www.awmonline.com.au

I was lucky enough to write the forward for this book in 2010 and this is what I wrote:

Foreword for Australian Writer’s Market Place:

Writing is a solitary occupation. We sit at the desk, with only characters for company and tap at the keyboard. The cast of our latest project become friends and for a time, that is all we need. Everything else fades into insignificance.

What happens, when we emerge from the cocoon, manuscripts ready for publication? Who do we turn to?

The Australian Writer’s Marketplace, of course!

When I came to the world of writing, I had no idea where to start. It was only through hard research that I came to understand a little of the industry. I foolishly thought that writing for me was enough – I didn’t need to talk to others, didn’t need anyone except my publishers. I was very wrong.

Luckily, I stumbled across The Australian Writer’s Marketplace. I can tell you it travelled many a mile with me! It sat next to me in the ute while I was shifting stock, I poured over while I was on the loo, and I had it beside me when I made my first pitch to an agent. It was like my map in a world that was completely unfamiliar and is responsible for me finding writers groups and like-minded people, as well as to my publisher.

I became aware of its power and have purchased them every year since. I now proudly own five copies! And what is even more exciting is being able to point aspiring authors towards them.

One of the things I’ve learnt during the publication of my two books is that just because one publisher doesn’t want your manuscript today, doesn’t mean no one will want it tomorrow. As a writer, you need to keep this book handy, so when the rejection letters come (which, unfortunately they will!) you can find the next publisher without having to spend too much time researching where to pitch next – with AWM the information is all in the one place.

The dedicated team at The Queensland Writers Centre spend many hours putting together this resource that not only includes every publisher in Australia, but where to find agents, writing groups, magazine specs, hints on setting out your MS and many industry hints that I wouldn’t have know otherwise. I think I was incredibly lucky to have this book as my ‘best friend’ and will continue to keep it close by as my writing career continues.

Thank you to all who have a hand in compiling this book and to all who use it, I wish you the best of luck in your writing career – using The Australian Writer’s Marketplace, will help you go far!

My offer to you as a writer:

I am happy to chat to people who are keen to become published. I have conversations of a general nature – sometimes it’s so hard to know what the right thing to do is and every situation is different. So if you are after practical, general advice, please email at fleur@fleurmcdonald.com with your questions and I’ll answer you as quickly as possible.

Unfortunately, for time and legal reasons, I can’t look at any manuscripts, but please know you have my ‘in-box’ open to you at any time.