Writers can make the worst audience. We’re observant – we notice the over-expansive gestures, the nervous hand movements, the change in voice timbre, the long look at notes, the unusually long silence between points, the nod of approval when someone asks an intelligent question, the red flush up the neck if the technology doesn’t work, the genuine smile as someone mentions a well-loved book …
We also have so many questions. Who handles the submission process? Do I need an agent? How do I find an agent? Explain show and don’t tell again, please. What do you mean – the slush pile is 1200 manuscripts deep? Can I have your email address? What’s the difference between a structural edit and a copy-edit? Can I make you my Nana’s sausage rolls in return for a publishing deal?
And we’re so hungry for any knowledge that will improve our manuscript or smooth our way to a publishing contract. Luckily for myself and fourteen other writers, Elise Jones, senior editor at Allen and Unwin, had all the answers for us in her workshop at 100 Story Building last Saturday. And she certainly did not show any of the negative traits above!
Elise is definitely the friendliest editor I have ever met. And she was so passionate about not only her industry, but also her workplace at Allen and Unwin. She was generous in sharing her insider knowledge and tips, and her handouts really weighed my bag down on the train and tram home!
But it was the way Elise spoke about her relationships with the authors she works with that highlighted the calibre of Allen and Unwin’s editors. She talked about the authors and their books with respect and passion, and it was clear how much she loved her job, how much fun she had with the authors and how much she cared about making their books into their best possible version. As a freelance non-fiction editor, I understand how connected you become with authors and how invested you become in the success of their books, but Elise took this to a whole new level. She was inspiring.
I sat next to my middle-grade fiction friend, Renee – I want her books to be published so my kids can read them! Between us, we asked Elise a lot of questions – apologies to the other participants if we took up too much time!
Then, we listened to Kim Kane, author of picture books, middle-grade fiction and a young adult novel talk to us about her experience of publication with Allen and Unwin. Kim’s word to describe the difference between a published author and an unpublished author was tenacity. This is not to discount talent, but tenacity – sending your work out again and again, dealing with rejection again and again, revising your manuscript again and again – is what really matters.
Twenty-three drafts over five years with many rejections for my first book – think I’m starting to learn the meaning of the word tenacity!