It’s always a pleasure to visit other people’s blogs, but I’m especially delighted to be visiting your blog today, Claire, because the topic I’m going to be talking about today is the importance of friends in a writer’s life. And you, Claire, are one of the most wonderful friends a fellow author could have. Now, for the sake of our readers, I’m going to stop talking about you as ‘you’ (second person) and switch to third person ‘Claire’ as if you’re not really here. Ready? Go.
Okay, so, I’m here as part of my blog tour to promote my brand new picture book Do Not Forget Australia. This book was four years in the making – which sounds like a long time, but is actually pretty common in the picture book world. It is, in fact, a bit over four years since I first got the idea for the story and started researching it and working on it. The first draft was written on ANZAC Day 2008.
Backtrack a little (okay a lot) to 2002, long before I had the idea for this story. At the time, I was living in a tiny town, trying to get somewhere with my writing. I knew very few other children’s writers, and those I did know I knew through email groups and discussion groups. I knew I needed to get out and learn more about the industry and meet people, and so I took myself off to Perth for the CBCA National Conference. The day I spent there changed my life. In just one day I saw and learnt so much. But, more importantly, two of the first people I met there – Claire Saxby and Sue Whiting – went on to become really close friends and colleagues. Our friendship grew from a fairly brief meeting there to regular email contact, to meeting up again at the next CBCA conference and then on to things such as sleepovers at each other’s houses (we live in 3 different states).
I won’t bore you readers with all the details, but suffice to say the three of us have become firm friends. Yes, we’ve also developed working relationships (Sue was my editor at Banana Books, and now works at Walker Books, the publisher of Do Not Forget Australia and Claire reviews with me on Aussiereviews) but it is the friendship thing I value most. We share each other’s lives – writing and nonwriting – through email, occasional phone calls and in person when our paths cross. I have lots of other friends who I see more often (and I’m sure the other gals do, too), but I really believe having close friends who are writers is both wonderful and important.
What can a writer friendship do?
·Gives you someone to share the highs and lows with – I get an acceptance, I email my writer friends, who I just know will happy dance with me. I get a rejection, I tell them that, too, because I know they’ll get it.
·Provides someone to bounce ideas off. We have never had a formal critique arrangement between the three of us, but when we need another set of eyes, or just want to bounce an idea off each other, we know we can.
·Makes going to conferences and festivals fun. We have met up as a threesome at five conferences, and I’ve managed to be on a Festival Program with Sue. We all can’t wait for the day that we are all booked to appear at the same festival – or on a conference panel together.
·Gives you extra opportunities to celebrate. Whenever one of my writer friends has good news – an acceptance, an award, good sales figures etc – I get to happy dance. This means I get to happy dance more often, and keeps me fit.
·Gives you friends who ‘get it’. Your family and ‘regular’ friends will support you and enjoy seeing your successes, but there are things that sometimes only another writer can get. Which friend will understand how special it is to finally get rid of a problem phrase from your picture book? Or understand why, in spite of having one book accepted, you are still worrying about where the next acceptance is coming from? Or know what PLR and ELR are?
So, how does all this relate to Do Not Forget Australia? Well, after I’d written several drafts of the story, Claire and Sue were two of the first people I shared it with. It was rough. Very rough. In fact, in retrospect, the draft I showed them was not as good as earlier drafts – because I had taken things out that I later put back in. But they were encouraging and recognised that I really wanted to get it right, and so made some wonderful suggestions. Later, about a gazillion drafts later, the book was accepted, and my friends celebrated the news with me. And, now that it’s being released, I’m sure they’ll celebrate with me again. In fact, Claire’s celebrating by having me here on her blog (Thanks Claire!)
Lastly, Do Not Forget Australia is a story about friendship. On an intimate scale it is the story of friendship between two boys who never meet but who are connected through the events of the war and through a soldier, who is Billy’s father and Henri’s friend. On a global scale it’s the story of friendship between two countries – Australia and France – which grew from the events of World War 1.
Friendship is one of life’s great pleasures. For writers, the friendship of other writers is invaluable. So thank you to Claire and Sue for your wonderful friendship over the past ten years – and thanks to all my other wonderful writer friends who haven’t been mentioned here. And to the people of Villers-Bretonneux, France, thank you for your friendship with Australia these past ninety odd years.