Anyone who has ever slaved over a piece of prose or poetry knows the agony of finally admitting that it is ready to be released into the wild, to take its chances amidst the front-runners and also-rans in the publishing world.
As soon as your manuscript has been prised from your hot little hand (or keyboard), you are stricken with doubt: should I have edited it one more time? Did I let it slip from my grasp before it was fully matured, a mere wordy stripling competing with mature authorial oaks?
Ok, ok, enough metaphorical hand wringing, you get the picture – it’s hard to let your baby go and be judged by others. At the 2011 Auckland Writers and Readers Festival session we’ll hear from several experienced writers regarding this problem:
Aminatta Forna: born in Glasgow, raised in Sierra Leone and the United Kingdom. She is the award-winning author of The Devil That Danced On The Water (a memoir of her dissident father and Sierra Leone), Ancestor Stones (linked short stories set in Sierra Leone), and her new novel The Memory Of Love (a story of friendship, war and obsessive love).
Gail Jones: an Australian author who has won many awards (including the WA Premier’s Award for Fiction, the Age Book Of The year Award, the Adelaide Festival Award For Fiction and many others), been shortlisted for international awards and her fiction has been translated into five languages. She has five novels published – Black Mirror, Sixty Lights, Dreams Of Speaking, Sorry, and her most recent Five Bells.
David Mitchell: an English novelist who has written five novels, Ghostwritten; number9dream; Cloud Atlas; Black Swan Green and The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet. number9dream and Cloud Atlas were shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2001 and 2004 respectively. He has lived all over the world and has known that he has wanted to be a writer since he was a child. Mitchell has the speech disorder of stammering and has said that he ‘outed’ himself by writing a semi-autobiographical novel, Black Swan Green, that is narrated by a stammering 13 year old.
Tea Obreht: born in the former Yugoslavia, and spent her childhood in Cyprus and Egypt before immigrating to the US. Her short stories have been widely published, and her first novel The Tiger’s Wife was published in 2010.
David Vann: an assistant professor of English at the University of San Francisco, teacheing creative fiction and non-fiction. He is the author of a memoir – A Mile Down: The True Story of a Disastrous Career at Sea, and has had other work appear in many magazines. He has also written two novels – Legend Of A Suicide; and Caribou Island.
Having personally filed many pieces of work into a bottom drawer, never to see the light of day again, and agonised time and again over exactly when a story has been edited for the final time, I’m looking forward to hearing how ‘real’ authors have coped with sending their work out into the world.