Writer Josephine Taylor explains how the Four Centres Emerging Writers Publishing Program helped her secure a publishing contract with Fremantle Press for her debut novel

Josephine Taylor is the latest writer from the Four Centres Emerging Writers Program to receive a publishing contract with Fremantle Press. In this post, she details how it helped her on the path to publication.

I finished my novel in August last year, just after my dad died, which was significant, given that my dad informed the creation of one of the primary characters.

I began writing the novel in 2013, after the characters burst into story at a writing workshop. The structure came next and was ambitious; the two timelines in the novel – 1860s London and Perth from 2007 to 2011 – interweave, and the connections only become apparent about two thirds of the way through.

It took a lot of work for me to get it right, but I couldn’t let the idea go. Susan Midalia, who was my mentor, kept saying, ‘It’s just not working, Jo,’ so I rewrote the last third of the manuscript a few times, and this restructuring, of course, ricocheted through the earlier parts. Finally, though, I had something I was really happy with.

I realised that I’d had those quiet misgivings that you try to ignore when things are not quite right, and Susan had made me stretch myself to find what that was. Fortunately she liked the final version as much as I did! I celebrated then, because though I was satisfied it was the novel it was meant to be, I wasn’t sure it would ever find publication; I’d lost all perspective, and so had Susan.

In that celebration, I understood that I would far rather have a novel that I was happy with that never found publication than a novel that found publication but I wasn’t completely satisfied with. This was a significant moment for me and a validation of what motivated me to write. I didn’t do a great deal with the novel for some months. It went to one publisher and one agent without success, with spells of just sitting and resting in between.

Before that, I’d been selected by Peter Cowan Writers Centre as one of their candidates in the new Four Centres Emerging Writers Program, and I had two manuscripts to consider: the novel, which I hoped I’d complete soon, and a memoir / illness narrative / collection of personal essays – I’m still working out which! – based on my award-winning PhD thesis. The subject matter for each was the same: vulvodynia, a chronic pain disorder. The program began and then I finished my novel, so I decided to focus on the ‘memoir’ as my primary project for the program.

As it turned out, the timing was perfect for both my writing projects. PCWC began the delivery of the program with a series of workshops on writing a synopsis and preparation for pitching, so I could use my just-completed novel for the tasks we were given.

By the time Fremantle Press’s ‘Business of Being a Writer’ came around in February 2019, I had a synopsis as well as a strong sense of the essentials of my novel and how to pitch them.

The opportunity to prepare my material for a publisher as part of the workshops and to pitch to some of the Fremantle Press team gave me further confidence. Workshops that followed provided practical insights and hands-on experience in presenting myself as an author, and in using media and social media to further my career.

So now I had a novel that I hoped was attractive, and that I was beginning to feel comfortable promoting to a publisher, and another manuscript in serious need of mentoring – and this began in May, just when I was ready for that work. In the midst of this, I submitted the novel to Fremantle Press; it was accepted, and I’m still quietly celebrating. I’m hoping that the second writing project will come to publication fruition, but that’s for the future …

So how has the Four Centres Emerging Writers Program helped me on the path to publication? It has been absolutely invaluable, providing me with a smorgasbord of information and practical exercises from presenters and workshop facilitators on the business of being a writer; the chance to present myself and my manuscript to my peers and to publishers in a safe environment; the opportunity to learn from my peers about their work and careers, and how they present this to the world; and the confidence to see myself as an author.

I’ve felt like a writer for years, because that’s what I do whenever I’m not editing, but feeling that it was possible to be an author was something I had to get my head around. The program gave me that opportunity, and more.

For me, the Program has reinforced the health and vigour of our local writing community. There have been no negatives: I have an even stronger appreciation of my ‘home’ writing place, Peter Cowan Writers Centre, and the support they give me and all their members, as well as many new and valuable friendships within the wider writing community and with other writers centres.

The program, and now the contract offer, makes something that I previously experienced as intangible very concrete, real and dependable: Fremantle Press is there to actively encourage and nurture West Australian writers and their stories; and Culture and the Arts, as a division of the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries, is keen to fund and support this as a culturally significant endeavour.

How lucky am I?

The Rook by Josephine Taylor will be published by Fremantle Press in 2020

Books discussed
Eye of a Rook

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