A writer's circle

11 June 2012 / 3 comments
A wonderful thing has happened to me since becoming serious about my writing earlier this year - when I started this blog, joined Twitter and posted part of my novel on Authonomy. No - I haven't found a publisher who would like to publish my book. But I have found something extremely valuable - a community of writers who I have connected with.


I studied professional writing at university, ten or so years back, but I have lost contact with the other writers that I met there. I didn't realise what a luxury it was to be surrounded by like-minded people who were passionate about writing. I took my degree for granted really; I was keen to start my life, get a job, a dodgy apartment, a holiday in Europe, a serious relationship. And then, without me really knowing it, for many years my life got in the way of writing.


Through my Approaches to writing series that I did for this blog, I connected with a handful of writers that I discovered on Authonomy. There is the talented Kate Braithwaite, whose historical novel superbly explores Titus Oates and the Popish Plot. She has three children and I feel like she is someone who understands the challenges I have of being an unpublished writer and mother. Recently, she was kind enough to read and suggest improvements on my synopsis - for me to enter into an unpublished manuscript award. As a busy mother, whose time is precious, I was so grateful for her clever insights and improvements on my synopsis. I have struggled so much to capture what my book is about on one page, but Kate was able to point out to me what was confusing or unnecessary and highlighted what should be the main attractions.


Then there is Neil Randall whose writing I am so inspired by. Even though I have Philip Roth's American Pastoral and Peter Carey's latest book on my bedside, if I get twenty minutes to spare, it is Neil's The butterfly and the wheel book on Authonomy that I keep returning to. From the moment I read the first line in his pitch I was hooked, 'Turgenovsky’s literary aspirations far outweigh his talents'. (Perhaps this is a little too close to home for me??!!) In any case, Neil's writing is fresh and witty, his main character is like watching a train wreck and there are fabulous cameo appearances from Lenin and Stalin. I have to admit that I have a writer's crush on Neil Randall - so I was genuinely delighted to hear that one of his shorter pieces has been published on Alfie Dog and another shorter piece has been picked up by The Rag and Bone Man Press - who he discovered through this blog.


A couple of days ago, I received an email from Paul Beattie whose book made it to the top 5 on Authonomy last month and has since been reviewed by the editor's desk. Paul's novel Filthy Luca is not only brilliantly named, but has been much loved by the Authonomy community. And the other thing that I have loved about Paul is his thoughtful and detailed critiques of other writers' work on Authonomy. He has been very generous with the time that he puts into his acutely observant feedback - and I am sure that many writers, as well as myself, have benefited from such a close reading. I'm currently keeping my fingers crossed for Paul.


I am staying in touch with these three writers, as well as Dave Ocelot (who always puts a smile on my face) and Michael Dale who have also been featured on this blog. And lately, I have been excited to get direct messages through Twitter from a writer named Fleur Ferris, a mother of three, who is doing really well with her novel on youwriteon.com and is very encouraging about mine. Something as simple as a 140-character message from her can really brighten my day. For all of these writers I feel excited when they have a success and feel their pain when they face a road block. Their interest in my own writing encourages me to keep on going, reading their work inspires me and hearing of their successes reassures me that it can happen to ordinary people like myself.


I have often thought about artistic circles and how their creativity impacted on each other. There are many examples of circles of artists and writers throughout history, but the one I often think about, that is closest to home for me, is the Heide circle of artists that were brought together by art collectors John and Sunday Reed. Their property Heide, at Bulleen, was the meeting place for Melbourne's most influential artists in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s and included Sidney Nolan, Albert Tucker, Joy Hester and Charles Blackman. I have often wondered did these artists become great because they found each other or were they great already and that is why they found each other?


In any case, I think it is important for any artist or writer to have their circle - whether they see each other every day and work side-by-side, or once a month through a local writer's group, or for me, it is the occasional message from people that I may never actually meet. If a writer gets support and encouragement from their peers it helps them to feel connected, and that is a very valuable thing.
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