You don’t have to look far beyond our shores to hear some extraordinary voices. Voices like Kate Forsyth, Anita Heiss, Melina Marchetta, Kate Grenville, Margo Lanagan, Nikki Gemmell, Isobelle Carmody, Fiona McIntosh, Randa Abdel-Fatah, Nicole Murphy and other Australian women writers. In the big wide world of books and bestsellers, Australian women are certainly up there with the best of them and they are paving the way for new and emerging women writers in Australia so that they too can tell their own extraordinary stories.
There have never been so many opportunities and challenges for new and emerging writers today, especially with the advent of digital publishing and social media. I chatted with four women who have decided to venture into this brave new world: Kimberley Gaal, Charmaine Clancy, Emma Gibson and Karen Tyrrell. These women shared with me the joys and challenges of writing, their diverse journeys in getting their stories published, and their words of wisdom for other up and coming writers.
Kimberley GaalOriginally from Melbourne where she studied writing, editing and desktop publishing, Kimberley is now based in Canberra and works as the Publications Manager for the Australian Science Teachers’ Association.
Kimberley says that she feels about writing “the way some people feel about yoga – when I haven’t done it in a while I feel stressed and tight, like I’m crawling out of my own skin.”
Kimberley is still trying to become a published author and like all new and emerging writers, she believes that self-doubt is the biggest challenge for her. “I haven’t learned to beat that yet,” she said, “but sometimes if I’m very sneaky and wear a fake moustache I can give it the slip.”
However, Kimberley is getting there with the support of the Australia Council’s JUMP National Mentoring Program for Young and Emerging Artists. Kimberley and her mentor, Canberra author Kaaron Warren, were accepted into the program earlier this year.
Kimberley has been working with Kaaron over the past nine months on short stories, inspiration, technique, and Kimberley’s young adult speculative fiction novel “about a woman called Mae who is found by the side of the road without any memories and a hulk-ish tendency to turn into a monster when she gets angry.”
Kimberley is fairly optimistic about the opportunities for new and emerging writers. “Publishers are facing a lot of challenges at the moment, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want new writers,” she said. “It just means that it takes more to gain their attention and trust. You can’t be just a little bit good. But if you really love writing, you should be aiming to be more than just a little bit good anyway, regardless of whether you ever get published.”
School teacher, events manager and dog groomer – these were just some of the lives Brisbane based author Charmaine Clancy lived before deciding to become a writer. Then while she was studying for her Diploma of Education, Charmaine met a fellow student, Amy. In between classes and exams, Amy was writing several novels. Amy inspired Charmaine to complete the first draft of her first novel and Charmaine hasn’t looked back.
Charmaine enrolled in every writing class she could find, read lots of novels, sent her work out to family and friends for feedback, and then got the courage to submit her first novel to publishers.
“I gained the interest of one of my favourite publishers,” said Charmaine. “It was a worth while experience, but by then I was fascinated with the Indie movement in publishing and how this was changing and shaking up the industry. I decided to set up my own small independent press and publish my first book.”
Her first book, My Zombie Dog, a humorous horror story for kids that’s the first in a series of books called Zane and Kev Versus Everything, was published digitally this year and it soared up the Amazon bestselling e-book charts. Charmaine is currently working on book two in the series, Undead Kev.
This prolific writer also has several other books she is working on including a teen fantasy about an Egyptian girl resurrected after being mummified for thousands of years, a mystery/thriller set in a remote Australian country town in 1939 and an historical adventure for kids called The Pirate Girl.
As a new and emerging writer, Charmaine has embraced the opportunities and challenges presented by digital publishing and social media.
“I think the book industry in Australia is going to really start feeling the affects of ebooks over the next few years,” she said. “I hear a lot of negative talk about this, but really, publishers will still want the same things they’ve always wanted: A great story written well.”
Her advice to new writers? Get your book written, get it perfect, then send it out. Have faith in your product. “If you care about your work, it will show,” Charmaine said. “Even if after all that, the money still doesn’t follow? Well, baked beans on toast tastes pretty good if you’re happy with your life.”
About the Author:
Belladonna Took worked in community development and primary education in Sydney before moving to Canberra in 2010. She is a writer for Her Canberra, a website for women of the Canberra region. Belladonna is also writing her first novel-a young adult fantasy featuring elves, dwarves, romance (of course) and not so sparkly vampires.