So, this time last year I was on my way to Brisbane to take part in the QWC Hachette Manuscript development program. I was one of ten writers to attend the four-day retreat which featured one-on-one meetings with Hachette editors and publishers, mentoring by authors, agents and other industry professionals and, of course, lots of discussion with my fellow participants.
It seems unbelievable that a year has passed and even more unbelievable that I chose to use the term ‘writer’ in the above paragraph. I clearly remember, when the list of participants was announced, going into a state of flux about how much more competent the other nine people must be. I was particularly hung up on how many of these talents had written literary fiction and my manuscript was simply a contemporary romance…they must be much better than me, right? I mean, these people are serious writers. I’m just a woman who writes fiction in her spare time. Surely I would be unmasked as a pretender.
What I found though, was that no matter what we had written, no matter what style or genre, no matter how much or how little experience we had, we all found a kinship in the group. Evident straightaway, was the shared desire to learn as much as we could from the professionals we met, as well as providing support to each other, throughout the retreat. We still keep in contact with each other and we regularly share our writerly angst, or good news, on a Facebook page.
For me, the trip was a giant leap out of my comfort zone. First, I had to leave my family for the long weekend. Second, I had to fly. Third, I had to walk into a room of strangers and appear to be normal. Fourth, I had to do a reading of my work (before which I spent hours hyperventilating and shaking). Fifth, I had to fly home again.
However, I did survive all these terrifying experiences. Not sure if I’ll ever be a confident public speaker but I did stop shaking whilst I was reading, at least.
What did I learn? That the most long-term impact of spending those few days living out of my comfort zone was that I can finally call myself a writer without it sounding weird.
Oh, and whilst my manuscript was not accepted by Hachette, I did manage to write the first book of a teen trilogy in the months since the retreat and I’m currently redrafting with the hope of sending it out into the scary world of publishers, slush piles and rejection letters next year.