So this is the third in a three-part series I’ve been working on with Anna Branford and Sally Murphy.
I’m not entirely sure what approach the others are going to take to this topic. There are, of course, all sorts of ways of defining ‘recognition’. There’s the formal recognition of awards and the informal recognition of people such as peers and readers and random strangers at the shops.
Very early on in the scheme of things, I remember being full of excitement because someone had found my website on purpose, by searching for my name, rather than accidentally, via some variation on “goldfish + ponds” or “hydrocodone”.
Once, I was doing laps at the local pool, complete with swimming cap and goggles, when I was stopped, mid-turn, by a lifeguard who wanted to know if I was “that writer-woman in the paper”.
More recently, after writing a letter of complaint to a local business, I was asked during a follow-up phone call whether I was “the” Meg McKinlay, putting me in the unlikely position of having to say, “Define the.”
These things are all recognition of a sort.
Last week I was interviewed over at Books for Little Hands. One of the questions asked what had been the highlight of my career so far and I found it a little difficult to answer, partly because of my maddening tendency to want to unpack the nuances of every word put before me.
I wanted to wrestle for a while with the word ‘career’ and what that really meant for me and whether it was the ‘right’ term for what I’m doing with this whole writing thing. And the highlights I arrived at had nothing to do with ‘career’ really and more to do with small creative satisfactions. So it may be that my response was a bit disingenuous. Possibly even pretentious.
And then the very next day something happened. I had a genuine career highlight, and it was this:
In April this year, my book Duck for a Day was adapted for musical theatre by Tony Bones Entertainment.
Since they only tour on the east coast, I didn’t get to see the show, but last week, the lovely Tony himself sent me a DVD of one of the performances. And I feel a little ridiculous, but watching it made me a bit teary.
Last week I posted about having submitted the draft of a follow-up to Duck for a Day.
Just after that, I experienced another of those curious alignments of which I am so fond.
It was about two years ago that I finished the revisions on the first Duck and the day after sending those off, I woke up to find a duck on my doorstep. At the time I wondered:
Is it a sign?
And if so, what does it mean?
Today I moved from one state to another.
Today I moved from this …
… to this:
From a whiteboard covered in scenes and scribble to one covered in nothing but possibility.
Yesterday, I learned that Duck for a Day (illust. Leila Rudge) had been selected as a Notable in the Younger Readers Category of the Children’s Book Council of Australia Awards. An hour later, I learned it was on the shortlist. Shortly after, my inbox looked like this:
Thank you, lovely, supportive writing friends. Thank you, Children’s Book Council. I never imagined my duck might quack loudly enough to be noticed. I’m thrilled.
And I’m mindful, too, of the many books that didn’t make it on to the various lists (Duck is my fourth book, my first listing). With every award, there’s a chorus of excitement and head shaking. What about this one? And that one? Why that one?
I did promise the occasional dash of random and I’m not sure I’ve really been delivering. To rectify that, here are two completely unrelated things:
Random Item #1
Surface Tension came out this week. This is excellent and I’m thrilled to see it on shelves. I’m told it received “a cracker of a review” in Bookseller + Publisher, though I’m yet to see it myself. As you do when you have a shiny new book, I’ve taken to picking up a copy, opening it, reading a few lines, sighing, and putting it back down.
Shall we call it Shiny New Book Syndrome? It is an identifiable disorder – I’m sure of it.
I’m starting a new novel. A chapter book, to be precise. To be even more precise, a follow-up to Duck for a Day, whose characters I love altogether too much to leave alone.
When I wrote Duck for a Day, I knew it needed to be around 8000 words (ish). So of course, I wrote 15000. Then I pruned it to 12000. Then I sent it to my long-suffering editor, and she wrote back to me and said, altogether unexpectedly, “I love this, but it really needs to be around 8000 words.”
Eventually, we got there.
My fondness for ducks is no secret. Neither is my tendency to find spurious reasons to write books about them. I’ve talked here before about how Duck the First is out in the world, Duck the Second is on is way, and Duck the Third is pecking at the thin walls of my writerly sanity, begging to be next.
Now I can officially announce that Duck the Second really is on its way. That it has a contract and an illustrator and pencil sketches and a projected publication date and all of the things that mean it is really, truly, going to be a book.