I met a fellow writer today.
I’d observed him from another table at my local Saturday farmers’ market in the little cafe there a couple of weeks ago; he, squirreled away in the corner, shoving buckwheat pancakes into his mouth and slurping his coffee, lap top at his fingers, and me, scoffing a delectable lemon curd tart and a dandelion tea, wrapped in a snuggly love-in with my husband.
This time I was alone and had my writing things with me, and begged to share his table, the cafe being full except for his little corner. So with a promise not to disturb him I sat down to write.
Of course, that didn’t stop a conversation from starting.
We spoke about his writing, my writing, writing in general, the publication market, getting published, Shakespeare, the proximity of (Shakespearean) middle English to German in grammatical structure and writing prizes.
He is the recent winner of the Australian Nature Writing Prize, a prestigious and rather lucrative biennual prize about place, which I’m aspiring to and have read, both his winning entry, and the inaugural year’s winner too. He was rather chuffed that I’d heard of the prize, even more so when I told him I’d read his essay. The prize is on my radar and something I plan to submit to.
He also is one of the ‘staff’ writers for Overland Magazine (the online version), which focuses mostly on essays and non-fiction articles, of a political and topical bent. He gave me some good advice. Subscribing to literary magazines (they do have a print version too) is a good way to get yourself to the top of the pile. He also told me that they do read everything that they get sent. And they publish short stories, poems and essays and articles. I submitted to their magazine last year but was rejected – I can’t remember if that was for the online or print version. I will try again. He also said that getting published was mostly luck and politics (talent being implied, I guess) and that 3 out of 8 submissions being published was a very good strike rate for me last year. I thought so too.
I wrote a bit in my notebook, working on an exercise from my Kate Grenville book that I’ve been chipping away at, and he asked me what I was working on.
“That’s very disciplined of you,” he said.
I laughed. “Very sporadically disciplined, yes,” I replied.
It turns out that he had a time away from writing fiction a bit like mine – a long stint – and is now, after five years of having returned, finally to the stage where he’s got a significant body of work to stand behind, and is designing a web site and getting recognition.
“So you’re only now just getting that all together?” I said.
“Yes, it takes a long time.”
I mentioned that my husband and I wanted to start a family and that I thought I’d realistically be hitting my stride as a writer when I was about 50.
“That sounds about right,” he said.
Sometimes you just need to hear things like that.