I admit it: I’m excited. About the fact that a novella called Fall On Me is getting closer to being in the world. Since I last wrote about this, a date for the launch has been set – Thursday 15 September – and a city chosen – Canberra ACT, which is an hour south from where I live. Plus there have been two other developments: we’re now down to just a couple of cover options, and my first preference for the launcher of the book has said yes.  When the yes came through it almost felt like a successful marriage proposal (except the law’s not on my side in that regard).

And then there’s been the completely and utterly nerve-wracking process of sourcing an endorsement quote.  I know someone, a writer at the very top of the literature game. I haven’t known this person for long; we’ve just been getting to know each other this year. It’s been such a joy. How enriching to receive thoughtful emails about many things: the writing life, family, health, landscape, the weather. How I’ve tried to be as thoughtful in my replies. But then I had the ridiculously audacious notion of asking this writer to read Fall On Me and prepare one of those sentences that will entice a reader to pick the thing up in a bookstore.

Being brave to the point of stupidity at times, I sent off an email, a very nervous email. Within twenty-fours I had a reply. Yes, the writer would read the novella, but on one condition: goodwill wouldn’t be enough, there had to be genuine enthusiasm for the work. The email made it clear that these things were ‘always a risky business’. What was the risk? That our friendship may not (yet) be sufficiently robust to withstand the honesty that maybe required. Feeling even more nervous than before, I accepted the terms.

Some weeks later, when Blemish Books sent me a proof of the text layout, I went down to the main-street and had the thing copied, then I went to the post office and sent the copy away. What on earth was I doing? More to the point, what on earth would the writer think about my work? And if it wasn’t good enough, would I cope with the rejection?

As I waited for the response, I thought about how Fall On Me has happened.

In April/May last year I went down to Launceston, Tasmania, with the goal of writing six short stories. I hadn’t written short stories for half a decade, because I’d been focussing on bigger things, and creative journalism (which is a euphemism for writing for newspapers but not having the faintest idea how to do it). I had another goal: to write by hand. My handwriting is so appalling that at times I can’t read it myself; every third word is an unintelligible scribble. But I wanted to see what impact this would have on my prose. Wiser people than me say that compared to using a computer you write more slowly by hand, it’s a considered act, an act of composing.

And I had a third goal: to write whatever the hell I wanted. If I wanted to write a grim tale where everyone dies, then I’d write that tale. If I wanted to fill my pages with hardcore gay sex (which is something I find difficult to do, because I’m more interested in warmth and connection and intimacy) then so be it. If I wanted 500-word paragraphs contained within brackets, then I’d do that too. I didn’t want to care about rules and conventions; I just wanted to write what would excite me as a reader.

Did I come away with six short stories? No, I came away with three novellas, one long short story, and one piece of experimental prose that most likely won’t see the light of day. I also came away with one very blurry right eye, because I found that as I wrote by hand my face became closer and closer to the table, which was glass-topped and reflected the bright globe of the lamp.

Now, over a year later, which is a frighteningly short period of time in the world of publishing, Fall On Me, the second novella I wrote in that month in Launceston, is forming itself into a book that others will read. One which a certain writer has now read in ‘two swift reading sessions’.  Does the writer like what I have written?  Well, what I can tell you is that we now have an endorsement quote for the cover. Which is a very big part of the reason why I’m starting to feel excited about a little book that might just be able to.  Stand up in the world, I mean to say.

Advertisements