First Book Journey: Lucy Treloar’s Salt Creek

The Contract / Book Deal

The journey towards publication varies so much from person to person, but for me, doing the excellent Professional Writing and Editing course at RMIT University in Melbourne began everything. From an early focus on editing, I moved onto creative subjects, and after having three children’s books published and several years in Southeast Asia, I returned to Australia and began writing my first adult novel, set in Cambodia, spending more years writing and rewriting, and beginning to understand the work involved in writing a novel. All those years I’d been thinking that a good burst of inspiration would do the job; turns out solitary confinement, no amusements (phone, internet) and application were more important.

All those years I’d been thinking that a good burst of inspiration would do the job; turns out solitary confinement, no amusements and application were more important.

Writing competitions and publication in literary journals were my tools to bypassing the dreaded slush pile, and winning the Writing Australia Unpublished Manuscript Award (won the year before by Hannah Kent) was the turning point. In the space of a week after being shortlisted in early 2013 I’d been approached by publishers and an agent (the fantastic Gaby Naher), and was lucky enough to work with Drusilla Modjeska on revisions. So far, so good. But when the time came for submission publishers thought the novel’s setting and themes weren’t commercial. Apparently Australians don’t buy Southeast Asian novels.

But the wonderful Alex Craig of Picador asked about my next book. So I pulled out my embryonic second novel, Salt Creek, begun during a lull the year before, and over a frantic weekend wrote an opening chapter with a good hook ending, connected it to another section, and pulled together a synopsis that I hoped was compelling. The pressure of those two days was when Salt Creek really ignited for me. I couldn’t wait to keep going. Those five thousand words, and then Alex flew to Melbourne for a lunch meeting and after a little negotiation I had a contract for my novel.

After Signing

I began to have misgivings almost instantly: twelve months to write a book, and there was a mountain of research to do given its historical setting. The thing that really kept me going was the publisher’s confidence: ‘Don’t be afraid to go big,’ she said. I can’t deny that panic helped too. Somehow I had a manuscript of 115,000 words by mid-December, which my agent had read and was very excited about, and in the end it was submitted a week early.

My publisher loved it: an amazing relief. The manuscript went to the amazing Jo Jarrah for the first edit and after her detailed (the publisher called it ‘forensic’) report arrived, and a week or so to recover from it, I began working on edits with Samantha Sainsbury (the loveliest and most encouraging of people) of Picador in March this year – my favourite stage. I loved tinkering with words and scenes and characters, making the story strong. All the deadlines were tight since the book was going to the printer in June. My editor gave me dates to submit each revision – six weeks, then two weeks, and finally six days to create more tension in a key chapter. Over two months, the book grew by another 15,000 words. I shut down my editing business towards the end and worked fourteen-hour days on the manuscript. Family became a dim memory. Although it was intense it was somehow exhilarating too. There was a pause before the typeset pages came through, then one more round of smaller changes and a final read through to pick up last minute issues. All the editing was done online and there were a couple of conference calls with Alex and Sam to thrash out plot mechanics, as well as frequent emails.

I worked fourteen-hour days on the manuscript. Family became a dim memory.

Aesthetics and Essentials

I first saw my cover design (by Sandy Cull of gogoGingko) in March, very early in the editing. I’m not sure what would have happened if I hadn’t liked it, but I couldn’t have been happier. It’s beautiful and unusual and shows an amazing understanding of the book. Throughout the next few months other little administrative things cropped up: tweaking the blurb and my biographical material for the publisher’s website, and looking over and adding material to the book club notes that had been written. It was very strange to read someone else’s understanding of the book, what its themes are. It’s when I really saw that the book was separate from me, that it had its own life. I missed thinking about all the characters and the book’s setting; they’d become so real to me that it was hard to let them go.

Marketing and Publicity

In a strange way, it already feels as though the book is out in the world. My copies have arrived (yay!). It’s very exciting to see how the whole thing has come together, but scary and exposing too. This is what I’ve been thinking about for the past eighteen months, and now I’m inviting people to judge it. The publicity machine at Pan Macmillan is amazing; my publicist, Rebecca Thorne, is a dynamo, the most organized person I’ve ever come across. So far, invitations for interviews have come in from radio and print media, I’ve been completing online questionnaires for book sites and pitched for festivals, and have been lucky enough to be invited to read at and be involved in one or two things that I’m not supposed to mention yet – though I’d love to. (News to come on Facebook and Twitter – just saying.) I’m starting to think about my next book, but I think I’ll have to stay with Salt Creek for a while yet!

3 Tips: Tax Time for Freelancers

A tax return is a nice way to bolster some additional funds into your working life, but make the most of this annual bonus by looking at it as part of a bigger, more holistic way to manage your freelancing finances. Here are some tips to consider if you’re a solo show-pony.

  1. Set yourself up for success:  Setting yourself up properly is key to success – this includes setting up an ABN and understanding deductions that you can claim on tax. These will be unique depending on your line of work, but some expenses may be related to travel, clothing, home office, tools, equipment, gifts and donations. Remember, one of the perks of being a freelancer is that you’re own boss and keeping up with changes or advancements in your chosen industry are no longer optional, but essential. As is self-education. So sign up for courses, attend seminars, invest in subscriptions and research, and network like no other to ensure you’re ahead of the game.  
  2. Hire help for long-term gain: Freelancers may find it hard to get out of their own heads (both for business and pleasure), which is why hiring other professionals can be one of the most powerful ways to enhance your business without necessarily increasing your workload. You might find simpler ways to get jobs done with a virtual assistant doing the niggly things on your website, an agent to negotiate the rights of your publishing contract, or completely reinvent your day-to-day goals and direction with a specialised creative consultant. A single brainstorm and consult may snag you months – potentially even years – of bigger and better business. The best bit? This investment is likely to be tax deductible.
  3. Work from your favourite cafe (and claim it!): Heading to a cafe to write up a few ideas over a spiced chai can actually soothe your financial woes as well as your stress levels. Provided the experience is conducive to producing high-quality work on your part, this little outing can return a small present to your back pocket once a financial year – like a caffeinated Santa Claus. Instead of keeping individual receipts from every business meeting you have, consider getting a low rate credit card with interest free period to pay for work-related meetings. This is great for tracking expenses, but also makes tax time a breeze as all your claims will be in one place, eliminating the stress of tracking receipts and purchases.

Blue Mountains Heritage Hotel Hop

I am a woman of many genres, but if I were to choose my favourite books, a fair few of them would be contemporary Australian women’s titles that straddle the past and the present. Written by authors like Kate Morton, Kimberley Freeman, Belinda Alexandra and Fiona McIntosh, these are the books that get me thinking and dreaming. I find them rich in detail, place and personas, and they trigger interest in certain eras that indulge my curiosity and sense of wanderlust.

This is what I love about reading, and also writing, even if it means no one else understands. I certainly raised a few eyebrows among family and close friends when I trudged up and down La Trobe Terrace in Brisbane’s Paddington through the rain in a rain coat because it was the setting of one of Kate Morton’s novels.

So when my husband whisked me away to the Blue Mountains for a weekend getaway to celebrate my birthday and first Mother’s day, I was thrilled. It went beyond a great present/surprise because I had recently read Kimberley Freeman’s Evergreen Falls, a novel set in a luxury hotel in the mountains in the 1920s, and I knew I would relish taking the story further in my imagination by fantasising about the characters and their adventures.

Little did I know how close I would come. I first saw the Carrington Hotel from the car. My husband had told me we had a long drive ahead of us after our lunch at the Leura Garage (their Bucatini Meatball pasta was a delight, FYI) so naturally I was thrown off course, so when I saw the grand building on the hill I knew it was something special and took mental note to find out what it was. But then he pulled into its driveway and I was mesmerised. It was built in 1880 and the age of the place – its past ghosts, its historic splendour – was obvious from the moment I stepped inside.

The age of the place – its past ghosts, its historic splendour – was obvious from the moment I stepped inside.

Stained glass windows, a beautiful dome, and wings dedicated to the various activities of the day – a library, drinking lounge, billiards room, baths… Everywhere I looked, I could imagine Freeman’s characters lolling about inside, hotel staff at their beck and call in a world that was still engulfed in a disparity of the classes. Even the stairs, which creaked with every step, seemed to the carry the stories of the people who walked them before me for over a hundred years.

Even the stairs, which creaked with every step, seemed to the carry the stories of the people who walked them before me for over a hundred years.

I couldn’t imagine the weekend getting better until I arrived at the Hydro Majestic Pavilion. I thought we were stopping in for a coffee break and didn’t have the heart to tell my husband that this was the hotel that Freeman’s book was loosely based on, because then the real place we were staying wouldn’t feel as fun.

But it was the place that he had booked, and when stepping into its grand art-deco wings, I was almost inside the story. It was filling me with so much joy and inspiration I could burst. The old dome built in Chicago, the majestic view of the mountains and the fact that it had been a military hospital for the Americans in World War II. It had so much history, and I was going to be a part of it.

It had so much history, and I was going to be a part of it.

This is the thing about wonderful books. They give you places to go, characters to love, things to dream about. They pull you into the story, so that you too, leave a fraction of yourself in an another world, immortalised, in words that will live forever and a history that will always be uncovered by someone else who dared to go beyond the page.

Carrington Hotel 1

 

Carrington Hotel Dome

 

Champagne Charlies

 

The Blue Mountains

 

The Carrington Hotel

 

Three Sisters Katoomba

 

Evergreen Falls

 

Hydro Majestic

 

Hydro Majestic Hargravia

 

Hydro Majestic Hotel Belgravia

 

Hydro Majestic Lobby

 

Hydro Majestic Lounge

 

Hydro Majestic Pavilion

 

Leura Mall

 

Leura Passage

 

Sarah Ayoub Escapes 1

 

Wintergarden Afternoon Tea

 

 

 

 

Brisbane and Beyond

I packed for heat and humidity, and for about 18 hours, Brisbane delivered. It was muggy, warm and sticky all at once, and I was thankful for the brief respites from the weather when I tucked into the shops at Queen Street Mall. But despite my desire to explore, I found myself a little stumped of things to do in the city beyond said shopping district. Turns out, those with a sense of wanderlust need to branch out of the city centre to satisfy their yearning for more, and in that respect, Brisbane was a little different to many other capital cities, which could distract me with enough things without me having to leave town.

Brisbane City Cat Ferry

 

Archies Books Brisbane

 

Brisbane Alley

 

Pig and Whistle

But this wasn’t a bad thing. I know this because I loved the little discoveries I made as I meandered beyond its city limits, to suburbs like Newstead (where I savoured ‘Queensland’s best brownies’ at Dello Mano cafe – and yes, they were good) and Paddington (where I wandered around admiring the weatherboard cottages off – and on – La Trobe Terrace). I got my husband coffee from the well-lauded Bellissimo Coffee in Fortitude Valley and trekked to the best food markets I’ve been to in Hamilton.

Brisbane 5

 

Eat Street Markets 1

In Paddington, I walked up and down the streets with vigour, entranced by the sprawling antiques store right atop La Trobe Terrace, something which brought me back to the novel that inspired my visit to begin with (Kate Morton’s The Forgotten Garden). I shopped at Paddington’s cool and quirky boutiques, where I unearthed things like Pineapple Salad Servers at Green Tangerine and the cutest baby boots and moccasins at Cocoon Petite Living. And when the days drew to a close, I headed back into town, where I nourished myself with dumplings at New Shanghai (which you can see the Chinese women making in the window!) and traditional British fare at the Pig & Whistle (think pork pies, scotch eggs and steak and Guinness pies, washed down with beers or cool cocktails like their delicious passionfruit mojito).

Antique Centre Brisbane

 

Brisbane
Eat Street Markets

 

Eat Street Markets Hamilton

 

Paddington Brisbane

The saying goes that if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. I escaped the Brisbane heat and in the process, found some of the hottest venues the city had to offer.

 

 

  1. Eat Street Markets: Definitely one of the biggest highlights of my trip, the Eat Street Markets are a wharf-side adventure for Brisbane locals (much like Sydney’s Night Noodle markets, but way hipper). Here, creatively-jazzed up shipping containers are little market stalls and compact kitchens serving up dinner, drinks and desserts from all over the world and in all manners of style (I mean that – this is the place where you get ladies wearing garters dancing to pop music serving you confections in pretty art forms). Think potatoes on a stick, handmade chocolates and marshmallows by New Farm Confectionery, the most gourmet toffee apples you have ever seen, plus all sorts of cruffins and cronuts and gourmet iced-teas. It is a foodie heaven that will have you bursting at the seams. The live music just adds to the atmosphere, but if you really want to make a night of it, catch the Brisbane City Cat Ferry back from Hamilton Wharf to the CBD and enjoy the lights of the city by night.
  2. South Bank: I went for the man-made beach by the river and stayed for all sorts of adventure. South Bank is the home of the afore-mentioned Streets Beach, great for city dwellers who can’t be bothered trekking out to the seaside, or who just don’t want to look for parking. Nearby, weekend markets sell crafts, clothes and knick knacks and there’s a delightful walk from the city to the river via a lovely archway of pink flowers and greenery. If you fancy a tipple with a side of fancy pub fare, stop in at The Charming Squire. Their pork sliders are perfectly smokey, but it’s their $59 serving of Bay Bugs, Prawns and Calamari that wowed me with its taste and size (at a fair price I must add).
  3. Down Memory Lane, Paddington: My sense of wanderlust was rewarded when I stopped in at this cute little store on Paddington’s La Trobe Terrace. Filled to capacity with all sorts of pretty homewares and vintage memorabilia, service at the store comes with a little dose of history. The well-versed owner will chat to you about the former resident who came in and pointed out the room she slept in as a baby decades prior, hunting weapons from the world wars and his very expansive collection of vintage cameras, all in working order (he’ll even tell you what to look for when sussing out such wares). This is the perfect place to do a little research if your creative project is set at the start of the 20th century – the store owner also showed me an exact replica of the rations pack British soldiers were sent off to war with. I’ve made a mental note to return here the next time I am in town.
  4. Folio Books: A store filled with floor to ceiling books, need I say more? What I loved about Folio was its emphasis on travel, lifestyle and non-fiction titles over mainstream fiction books. You know, the sorts of books that you wouldn’t necessarily find at a Dymocks or Angus Robertson just by walking in off the street. Which basically translates to, I found more books on Paris that I don’t need, that I wouldn’t know existed if shops like Folio were not around. Yay Folio! If you prefer your books a little aged, you can’t go beyond Archives books, which has over a million books lining its floor to ceiling shelves.
  5. Designer Archives: Fancy a designer accessory without the hefty price tag? Perhaps you’re on the hunt for a discontinued piece for your collection, or are ready to part with an item you purchased before you really refined your look. In any case, this consignment store is for you. Run by the beautiful and designer-savvy Shannan, Designer Archives stocks shoes, bags and accessories from all the top labels, including Hermes, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, YSL and more, in excellent pre-loved condition. The best part is that Shannan is the perfect person to talk to – her knowledge of the brands, their ranges and what you ought to be looking for in your search for a particular piece comes in handy, especially if you’re going to be parting with a lot of cash. In any case, the stack of Louis Vuitton luggage parked in her Hot Air Balloon window display is just gorgeous.  

Streets Beach Brisbane

 

Down Memory Lane

On Anzackery

Right now, the twittersphere is abuzz with opinions on the Scott McIntyre saga of the weekend, and I don’t know where I stand. I’ve wanted to weigh in on the debate, but brevity has never been my strong suit and I am finding it hard to condense the many thoughts I have on the matter into snippets of 140 characters or less. More so, I have been less inclined over the years to publish opinion columns on anything, but considering I’ve spent most of the day on Twitter reading people’s tweets and comments and articles, I know I won’t be able to file these thoughts away unless I pen something about them, so here goes.

Some months ago, a Saudi Arabian blogger named Raif Badawi was sentenced to (according to Amnesty International) 10 years in gaol, a $300,000 fine and 1000 lashes for inciting social and political debate in his homeland.

Over the weekend, SBS reporter/presenter Scott McIntyre was sacked from his position for tweeting ‘offensive’ remarks about ANZACs, ANZAC day and the people who celebrate/commemorate it.

To many, McIntyre was exercising free speech. That contentious notion of being able to say what you want to say, because freedom and democracy allow you to do so. But, as Muslim writer Susan Carland wrote for the ABC today, McIntyre’s sacking obviously means that there are some things we idolise more than this notion of free speech. Like ANZAC day. In fact, she cited the example that we often deride Muslim communities (and other faith groups) for their “firm attachment to what they hold sacred”, often questioning why they don’t heed our demands to be more open-minded or more reasonable.

Carland’s column spoke a lot of truth. In a largely secular Australia, ANZAC day has become a sacred day of sorts that she believes – based on McIntyre’s treatment – is idolised and held above these ideas of free speech.

But it’s what follows free speech that defines the values of a nation. Opponents of McIntyre’s are reminding him that his ability to exercise free speech filters down from the freedoms resulted to him as a descendant of the diggers who fought in WWI. Opponents of Badawi’s are investigating whether or not he is guilty of apostasy, something which carries the penalty of execution.

Two polar opposite realities for the same exercise of opinion.

McIntyre had a lot to say about the ANZACs. He accused them of ‘widespread’ rape and theft. In He labelled the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings the worst terrorist attacks and he mocked those who commemorate ANZAC day as mostly white, poorly-read drinkers and gamblers.

For the record, this was the first time I really part-took in anything ANZAC day-related. I went to a dawn service for the first time, baked ANZAC biscuits, and researched my husband’s great-grandfather’s role in WWI after inheriting his medals and zero facts about his life.

I don’t gamble, I barely drink and I am neither white nor poorly-read.

But I am a descendant of people who lived in the Ottoman Empire who felt relief at their freedoms when the Ottomans fell in the aftermath of the war. Beyond this fact, I can’t presume to know much about Ottoman Turkey or its empire. Some say it was ruled by Sharia Law, others say that those at the helm of the empire used religion to justify their crimes. In any case, in countries like Lebanon, where my family hails from, Ottoman rule was a mixed bag. Sometimes there were relative freedoms, and others, mass executions on religious grounds. The current plea of the Armenians to recognise the genocide of up to 1.5 million of their own by the Ottomans is one such example of this. If this indeed was the case, then fighting against 400 years of strong Ottoman conquest had its merits.

And this is where McIntyre’s comments were in poor taste. Like every group, the ANZACs probably had among them a minority of soldiers who acted unethically in all manners, but I wouldn’t go so far as to condemn them all for widespread rape and theft. Just as I could not condemn every Muslim person for the actions of a minority group. And I wouldn’t lampoon every person who stops to remember them as some uneducated person who uses this day for token nationalism and booze.

We now have the benefit of hindsight to see how unsavoury war is. The original WWI veterans told us so. But we also have the benefit of foresight, and in this day and age, we can see for ourselves what could happen if we leave evil to flourish. The current state of Iraq and Syria is a perfect example.  Australia might have had a choice in resisting the Empire’s call in 1914, just like it has a chance now to resist the call of the minority groups suffering persecution under IS.

But it did intervene, and although countless lives were tragically lost, others were given freedom. Today, many Christian and Yazidi communities in Iraq and Syria have been annihilated. Men executed, women taken as sex slaves. History that predates most monotheistic religions has been eradicated in the destruction of old temples.

And so we intervene again, because although intervention is not flawless, failing to intervene compromises the rights of those weakest among us. Those who have no one else to defend them. Failing to intervene gives legitimacy to groups wreaking a barbaric havoc on all those who don’t espouse their same values.

For me, ANZAC day is not about drinking or glorifying war. It’s a nod of appreciation for those who run to shelter the rest of us from danger. It’s gratitude. It’s remembering that certain wars stopped evil in its tracks and brought liberation to people who were desperate for it.

Not two weeks ago, Australian Stacey Eden defended a Muslim couple from the racist tirade of a passenger on a Sydney train. One could argue that the prejudiced passenger was also exercising her right to free speech.

But free speech, like everything else, comes at a cost. You just have to weigh up the worth of things you are speaking out against, the things you are fighting for, and what stands to gain from them.

Stacey Eden could have stayed quiet. But she didn’t.

Our soldiers could have stayed home, but they didn’t.

100 years on they are still going out into the world – flaws and all – and doing their best to fight so that all people – irrespective of their colour or creed – are not sacrificed in the name of evil.

Sometimes this is war. Sometimes it’s an order.

But the sacrifice, well, that is ANZAC spirit.

3 Tips: Tackling the first edits of a manuscript

  1. Divide and conquer: Butchering 75,000 or more of your hard work is especially more daunting when it is all sitting there in one big lump – the literary equivalent of King Kong. I should know. In the six months or so I was trying to edit but failing miserably, all I did was carry around a huge manuscript, which was both a mental and physical burden. No sooner had I opened one chapter before another beckoned, distracting me from the matter at hand and reminding me of the big task before me. But dividing it into separate little blocks worked wonders: I literally tore each chapter out of the binding and stapled it separately. It made it easier to shuffle chapters around to re-arrange the storyline, but I could also take two or three chapters with me and work in small do-able blocks – on the train, in a cafe, in between appointments, which got me over the line much quicker.
  2. Graph it out: The structural edit is probably the hardest one of all, because it requires scrapping, cutting, pasting, re-writing and so on. And when that involves the input of your first readers (in my case, my agent, my publisher and my editor) there are a lot of things to work through. Graphing your book out into a timeline or table helps, because you can keep track of what’s happened, and what still needs to happen, before you reach The End.
  3. Paper first: There’s so much more freedom for expansion and contemplation if you work away from a computer. Working off a printed version of your manuscript means you’re essentially editing twice – once on paper, and the second time into your actual document – which gives your second draft the refinement it needs for the next stage of the publishing process. I find there is so much more room for movement when I am away from the demands of the computer. Scrawling lets me plot and dream and draw arrows and connections that might not have otherwise come to me.

But…every writer works differently and my set of tips won’t work for everybody. What other tips would you add here?

Wordsmith Lockdown: Taking your book to the next level

If you’re an aspiring writer, chances are you’re writing ‘on the side’, that is, next to some other demanding thing in your life that takes up way more time than you need it to. It could be the job that pays your sizeable mortgage (if you live in Sydney like me, you’ll no doubt understand), your children or even just the mass of things that come with being alive (grocery shopping, social occasions, chores and so on).

Recently, I blogged about what happens when writing on the side turns into not writing at all. At this stage of my life, I am the perfect definition of a slashie: I work four days per week, I do a little freelance journalism work, a little blogging, a lot of parenting and at the moment, very little creative writing, even though I have a book deal that I hope will one day turn into a book-writing career. But when my book writing – one of the biggest priorities in my slashie life – took a massive hit, I had to re-evaluate the way that I looked at it.

And my answer, was wordsmith lockdown. I’ve used the term before, long long ago, when I was still an aspiring author and when my novel had no prospects of being published. Back then, I had very little demands in life by comparison, and because the publishing deal was so far far away (I still don’t believe that it happened with the ease that it did), sporadic writing was OK.

Now, it’s not OK and it’s definitely unhealthy if I want to make the book writing a regular thing. I realised I needed to commit to it and schedule it the way that I was committed to the other musts in my life.

So I made a deal with my husband: Every weekend, over Saturday and Sunday combined, I would, without fail, get 2-6 hours of solid writing time in the local library, where there were no distractions, no shops, no phone and no family members.

Two weeks in, it’s been one of the best moves I’ve ever made in my life. I’ve since realised that for me at least, the answer to countering a writer’s slump wasn’t sporadic sessions of writing that lasted for hours but didn’t come around again for two months (which is how I tended to write)  but continuous bouts of regular writing sessions: constant connections with my characters and their stories.

And this is why, 13 months after penning the first draft, the second draft of my novel is finally (FINALLY!) going somewhere. Of course, part of that had to be letting go of some of the bitterness that accompanied the long breaks taken at both my end and my publishers’. But part of that had to be re-evaluating my strategy: and that meant cutting everything less significant out and prioritising what needed to be paramount. In the process, I also evaluated some of my other approaches, which is why next week, I’ll also be sharing three tips on tackling your macro/structural edits when the process seems like a huge and daunting task.

We’re all familiar with the phrase ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’, but sometimes there are things that need more than just a fix, and they repair more than just the physical. They heal the wounds wrought out of painstaking efforts, hours of investment, and hopes built on dreams.