Thursday, 4 February 2016

My ASA Mentorship

My writing space at Varuna

In late 2014, following a nudge from one of my RMIT lecturers, I applied for a Mentorship with the Australian Society of Authors. I submitted excerpts from my manuscript The Year of the Lilyweeds (since renamed) which had won a Varuna fellowship the previous year.
I spent hours perusing the ASA list of all the people available as mentors - everyone who's anyone in the world of writing and publication, it seemed to me - and eventually chose Diana Giese, a Sydney-based writer, literary journalist and editor. One of the many testimonials available said "Diana understands the culture and essence of the publishing world, and what it takes to turn a manuscript into a publishable work. It was her encouragement, unfaltering belief and undying optimism...that kept me going when I was ready to call it a day...."
I also invested time in close examination of Diana's own website - and concluded that here was a woman who gets things done! And how right that turned out to be.
The mentorship has finished now and I have been the recipient of 12 months of the most wonderful support and insightful comment from Diana throughout. I was invited to join the ASA as an Associate Member and have enjoyed ongoing contact with the ASA administration, who have been prompt, friendly and informative whenever I've had a question. 

There's no 'but' coming here. It has been an amazing privilege throughout. For a start Diana read my entire manuscript, which mentors are not obliged to do. From that point we worked on the manuscript together throughout the year - mostly via email - negotiating changes, deleting parts that didn't seem to go anywhere and adding a lot of material to expand the story and let the characters grow. I deleted about 25,000 words and added another 40,000. 
It was such a thrill and a challenge to hear comments like 'Your readers will want to know more about Jack' or 'I think Bridie and Jacob must get together'. As the story is an historical fiction I found myself researching  things like National Service in Australia, music of the Depression years, what might an isolated woman be reading in 1950, knowing that I had someone to be accountable to and knowing that she wouldn't miss a trick!
I have a very different manuscript now from what it was 12 months ago. The latest hard copy went off with a kiss and a sigh to Diana a week ago. All fingers crossed.
What an honour this experience has been. The What Now? phase isn't nearly so daunting, knowing that this manuscript, thanks to Diana and the ASA, is as good as I can possibly make it.


Oh! The 2015/16 winners have just been announced! Congratulations and the best of luck to every one of them!


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