NONI REGINATO & AMY CAMPBELL – 6 JULY 2022
Few things are romanticised quite like writing a book. Whether it’s the bottomless coffee and toast drizzled with olive oil that fuels Patti Smith’s poetry as she sits in her beloved Café ‘Ino, or the wall-flowering that inspired Joan Didion’s seminal account of ’60s America in Slouching Towards Bethlehem, the writer’s life is a thing of great fascination. Books, meanwhile, become portals into their rich inner worlds.
What we see far less of, however, is the grit, determination, and persistence it takes to start and finish a book. One of the more accurate portrayals of the messiness and madness that comes with articulating ideas, creating structure and meeting (or missing) deadlines is Lena Dunham’s Hannah Horvath—the cash-strapped fledgling author desperate to become the voice of a generation—in Girls.
So, what does it actually look like to start and finish a manuscript—does it feel more like the journey described in M Train, or, as Annie Dillard posits in The Writing Life, is dreaming about the placement of semicolons and the crippling burden of perfectionism something every writer endures? How on earth does one land a publisher, and just how long does the editing process take?
To find out the answers to these questions and more, we turned to four of Australia’s most exciting debut authors: Isobel Beech, George Haddad, Mawunyo Gbogbo and Hayley Scrivenor. From typing that first word to plugging their work on the promo trail, each writer has collected valuable lessons along the way.
Here, they share them with us.