Sunday 25 September 2022

My Publishing Career by Darcy Tindale

Whenever I talk to creatives, be it actors, playwrights, or artists, the story of their journey is always colourful, interesting, with lots of twists along the path that led them to the place where they were now. It is the same when talking with authors. It is the story of roadblocks, side streets, highways, back alleys and jumping fences that filled their map and steered them to reach their goal of being a published author.

In 2001, I entered my young adult novel Bend in the Road in the CBCA Frustrated Writers Competition and to my delight, it was shortlisted. At the Children’s Book Council dinner, I sat beside the winner, Jacqueline Harvey, who would go on to become a bestselling author of children’s books. After shortlisting, I sent the first three chapters of my YA Novel out to publishers, was even asked for the full manuscript to read, only to come to a dead end. For some reason, I took this failed first-time attempt at being published as the idea that perhaps I didn’t have the skill or talent to write books. Life went on.

Then, three years later, writing for a publisher came knocking on my door. My first publication was in 2004 with McGraw Hill Australia Pty Ltd, when they asked if I would like to pen (of all things) a story about a goat. I was issued a word list, told to make it funny, and away I went. What Good is a Goat, illustrated by Richard Hoit, was one of the many books published in sets by McGraw Hill as part of the school reading system. How did I land that gig? Years of writing comedy for Kaos Comedy Restaurants, comedians, media personalities, performing stand-up comedy and writing skits for radio. Yep, they thought I could write funny. And I did. This led me to pen another book Vanity Hare in 2005 for McGraw Hill, and the thrill and pride of seeing my name on a cover of a book re-ignited a childhood dream and my passion for writing novels.

I kept at it. Writing, tinkering away, and over the years my short stories, poems and dozens of plays have been published in The School Magazine, Celapene Press, Tincture, ZineWest, Black & Blue Publications, Penguin Books, Bumples Magazine, Birdcatcher Books, Newcastle Anthology, Stringybark Publications, Curiouser Magazine, Buzz Words, and Storm Cloud USA.

I sent my work off with fingers crossed not only to journals, anthologies, and magazines, but also competitions. My work has been nominated and won many awards including the CBCA Frustrated Writers, Varuna Writers House, Nairda Lyn, Di Cranston National Literary Award, Monash University Undergraduate Prize, Stringybark, SD Harvey Short Story Australian Crime Writers Association Ned Kelly Awards, Newcastle Writers Award, CA Broadribb Award, Scarlet Stiletto Award and the Writer Around the Murray Award. Not only have I received monetary rewards, I’ve even won a week of solitude in a lighthouse just to write. I was now well on the way in my journey of writing publishable work.

It's an impressive list of accomplishments, but for every story, play or manuscript sent, many, many rejections followed. Patricia Highsmith, author of The Talented Mr. Ripley and Strangers on a Train not only wrote novels, but also wrote short stories and said for every nine she sent out, one would be published. One. I knew then, keep going, keep sending them out. I quickly found that while one of my stories may be rejected in a journal or magazine, the same story could end up shortlisted in another competition. Different publishers looked for different things. It was subjective. But it was also exciting.

It hasn’t always been an easy road. I’ve landed an agent with a picture book I wrote, met with a publisher, only to be told they were steering clear of ‘cows’ because they had a current court case in progress, but could I come up with an early reader series? I did. Three months later when I was ready to return with my first book and synopsis for the other books in the series, the current editor had left, and the new editor wasn’t taking on any new authors.

But I kept at it. I landed another agent, who took my gothic noir adult novel and almost landed a film and book deal. Then the government reduced funding and support in the film industry, and without a history of success, I was too much of a risk. The film and book deal was dropped and the enthusiasm with the agent fizzled out. 

Feeling a little battered by now, I think I continued because I had to prove to myself there was joy in writing, in creating. And my list of ‘almost-made-it’ was seen more as affirmations than rejections.

In 2014 I finally published my middle-grade reader, Thumb Pickles and Other Cautionary Preserves with JoJo Publishers -- only two months after it was released, the company collapsed into liquidation, and an estimated 50 authors were owed money. However, Woodslane Publishers believed in my book and came to my rescue. They took on my novel and a year later pulped every copy because a Japanese company used the name JoJo as their adult entertainment site and my children’s book was now mulch.

After years of writing manuscripts that hadn’t landed a book contract, an abundance of ‘almost’ ‘under serious consideration’ ‘impressed with the quality of work’ ‘not unanimous’, I couldn’t get a publishing contract over the line. Life’s path now had me as a single parent raising my son, working as a drama teacher, acting, and writing on the side, and yet I felt that if I really wanted the dream, then I’d have to find my flaws and seriously hone my craft. I was already busy as a working single parent, yet with all that on my plate, I enrolled in a part-time Batchelor of Arts degree in Creative Writing and Literature with Griffith University. This was a jump on a new path I’d never expected and in 2019 I graduated with a BA. Did this make the difference? I read books on the syllabus I never would have sought to read. It sharpened my eye and expanded my reading. It certainly taught me discipline, polished my essay skills, and taught me how to accept criticism – a class of over sixty all giving feedback weekly! I read a lot, analysed a lot, and wrote a lot. (My house was looking a little messy).

Then in 2020, the world slowed, and like everyone, I reflected. Torn between selling up in Sydney and moving to the country with a veggie patch and a dog or putting my all into one last crack at the dream. I decided to give it one last shot and began writing my adult crime novel The Fall Between. It was my last stab at publication. I felt if I didn’t have what it took by the end of this manuscript, then writing would be a hobby, an enjoyable interest, and a publishing contract a distant dream, but fun while chasing it.

I entered my manuscript in the 2022 Penguin Books Literary Prize and was one of six finalists announced. As a flow on from this honour, while I didn’t win, I was offered a literary contract with Penguin Books for my Detective Giles series. I did it! My first two novels have since been signed with the first novel The Fall Between to be released May 2023; my second novel The Edge Pushed to follow in May 2024.

What path I’ve trod! Scuffed shoes. Ups and downs. Hills and bumps. Yet worth every step. I say to all writers, I wish you a smooth path, but if there is a bump, it makes the view more interesting.

Keep writing and keep dreaming. Know that your writing path will never be the same as the next person, but the journey will build you into the writer you become. 

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