Halfway through 2005 we’d just taken on a new farm at Walkaway. It was a fairly rushed affair, but we set ourselves up for a big 2006. Organised the finance for a crop, leased another farm at Chapman Valley, and prepared as much as we could to go hard. And then it forgot to rain, and forgot to do so again in 2007. That’s not much fun at all.
Fast forward ten years and the equivalent of ten Sydney Harbor’s worth of water under the bridge, I saw what I thought was going to be a repeat of those years at the farm I work on. I did three weeks of seeding for them last year (after a badly frost affected harvest the year before) and not a drop of rain fell during it. It was 2006 all over again, and it made me feel sick to the stomach. Watching them go through all the same stresses; do we stop, do we keep going, what if this, what if that, brought back a lot of bad memories. Thankfully the tail end of the season was exceptionally kind and things weren’t too bad considering what might have been. Sadly for folks further east the same can not be said.
In 2006/07, I hadn’t even heard of Facebook. Twitter was something the damn birds did at five a.m. outside my window every morning, and Instagram was a form of freeze dried coffee. The only networking we had was the local pubs and sports club, but when you finally got home it was just you and your family.
What a difference a decade makes. Last season I saw so many posts, blogs, tweets and shares, about everything from dry seeding windows, cut off dates, yield calculations, and most importantly, where to get support. Even just seeing the bloke down the road asking the same questions you were already thinking helps. It’s the networking, the airing of shared experiences, the realisation you’re not alone that can make it all seem a bit clearer. It won’t bring the rain, but it gets you better prepared for when it does.
And I saw that exact same thing last night, at a book launch of all places.
When Ridgeview Station came out, I had no idea of what to expect. I think part of me was waiting for the publisher to come to their senses and pull the whole deal. To be honest I felt a bit of a fraud. Everywhere I looked I saw war stories of endless rejections, beta readers picking apart the words, countless rewrites, submission after submission until finally an author managed to break through. Me? I submitted three times, the first so totally half-arsed I’d be surprised if it didn’t go straight to the spam folder, and the third was not that much different to the second, just a bit of reordering of things to get the action happening quicker.
I’d planned to self publish, which I knew would involve some hefty marketing on my behalf, but when Allen & Unwin picked me up I thought, well, they’ll take care of that. Which they do – to a point. I’ve since learned that many new authors get caught out like this. Turns out authors are the ones who need to pound the pavement and contact the book sellers, bloggers and libraries, and do all those little things that gets you into people’s faces. Which of course I didn’t, not until later, but by then the next lot of new releases was out and, rightly so, the focus shifts to them. So six months on I couldn’t help but feel a little underwhelmed, which in turn made me feel a right shit because I have met plenty of good writers still trying to get a foot in the door.
Last night Louise Allan launched her debut novel, The Sisters’ Song. It was a well attended affair with her friends and family, people who followed her writing journey, along with a stack of Perth’s published authors, some of whom I’d met either in person or online, or hadn’t at all. And inevitably most would ask ‘So how are you finding it?’
And you know what? After trying to explain my last six months without sounding like an ungrateful git who expected a bestseller in the first three days of release, I found they had similar stories. And then we listened to Louise tell the ups and downs of her publishing saga and I saw others nod in agreement, and things suddenly didn’t seem so bad. I guess the knowledge that others have been through, or are going through the same doubts and frustrations help you deal with it and better prepare for the next attempt. Not quite as serious as a drought, but the principle is the same.
So thank you Louise for a wonderful night, both for giving us an insight to your adventure into writing, and the opportunity to meet with other authors, who in turn I thank for their advice and stories of their own. It was inspiring stuff.
As for me, I’m off to get a second book published.