But last weekend at the Perth Writers Festival, I met the maker of Mr Curly and of many things duckish and otherly delightful – Michael Leunig. I’ve made no secret of the fact that the original inspiration for Duck for a Day came from an interview Leunig did with Andrew Denton, but beyond that, I’ve been a long-time fan of Leunig’s work, which my father shared with me from a very early age. The corkboard above this very desk is dotted with tattered Leunig cartoons, snipped from newspapers here and there over the years.
In December, Sue Whiting tagged me in “The Next Big Thing” book meme which has been doing the rounds. It was Christmas, and I was on holiday. I said, “Thanks, but no.”
In January, Nicole Hayes tagged me again. It was the New Year and I didn’t want to start 2013 off with “busy work”. I said, “Thanks, but no.”
So let’s file this one under attrition, war of. Or perhaps it’s more that Amanda Curtin happens to have caught me on a day when I’ve given up on achieving anything other than small fragments of ‘stuff’.
So here is one such piece of stuff. The meme asks writers to answer ten questions about their forthcoming work. So that’s what I’ve done. It does seem that I’m a bit constitutionally averse to things like this, and don’t do very well at disguising that. If you detect essence of curmudgeon in any of these responses, that’s the reason.
… where I tell you I’ve been busy.
And where I use the cunning technique of splitting the first sentence in order to form a pointlessly catchy title for the post. A title that tells you nothing much at all. A title that if it tells you anything, tells you that this is going to be one of those shapeless, formless catch-up posts that people who are fond of articles with titles like “Ten Top Tips For Terrific Blogging” are so appalled by.
So I’ve been busy – busy being hard on myself for not having finished the novel I began so-called ‘fast-drafting’ at the beginning of the year. Apparently for me, fast drafting means an average of about 12.6 words a day. Which are then thrown out the next day, to be replaced by 12.6 possibly better ones.
But then I’ve been busy remembering that I have three books coming out in the US this year (No Bears, Duck for a Day, and Surface Tension, now known as Below, about which I shall write a vastly more terrific post at a later date), and two in Australia (Ten Tiny Things, Wreck the Halls, about which, terrific-ness, also later). And that I have in fact been occupied rewriting and copy-editing and proofreading and visiting schools and libraries and conferences and answering interview questions and doing promotional stuff here and there and everywhere and the many, many other bits and pieces associated with what it means to have five books coming out in the same year.
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.