Everyone feels a bit giddy when they receive their first copy of their first-ever published piece of fiction, right?
Well, maybe not if you’re really young, I suppose…? That’s when everything’s happening for you, exciting first jobs, first cars, budding politics, lots of people falling over themselves to shag you, new friends, new cities, life is full of colour and movement. ‘First story published, awesome, oh hey I lost my virginity, cool.’ Every week there’s another milestone, so that you don’t really notice it’s all pretty extraordinary.
That was the stage of my life when I’d expected, in my teenage arrogance, to publish my first story. (And I did, technically – an article on St George captain Mark Coyne in the Grand Final edition of Rugby League Week magazine in 1998, where I’d just completed a week of work experience. I believe I was the first female ‘journalist’ to ever get a byline there. I doubt I was also the last – you’d bloody hope not – but I don’t know for sure, I stopped following rugby league many years ago.) It wasn’t fiction, though. I didn’t actually write many stories through my late teens or twenties, aside from those churned out for my creative writing classes; I stopped and started a couple of novels, revised a few shorts, but nothing took. As my twenties slipped away, I realised all my early fantasies of Gordon Korman or Lisa Gardner-style prodigiousness were already years behind me, and I’d better get my butt into gear if I was serious about the dream I’d always, very casually, assumed would just somehow ‘happen’. The glossy, momentous events of youth had slowed to a muddy trickle by then, but the years seemed to be passing faster than ever, and I had nothing to show for them.
So here I am, a little closer to forty than thirty now, holding my first copy of my first-ever published story in my lap. It’s in the anthology I posted about last year – ‘Twisted Tax Tales’, the fundraiser for the Save the Tasmanian Devil Appeal – and it looks good. It’s an exciting moment. As mentioned up top, I do feel giddy. But… a little less so than I’d expected? (That’ll learn me for Having Expectations!) To be honest, nearly three months after its original scheduled date for publication, I’d almost stopped believing it would happen. Then, after it was finally mailed out, it took nearly two weeks to arrive, so that it was almost – almost – an anti-climax when it did. And then my name was misspelled on the author’s page. (Spellcheck wouldn’t have picked up ‘Cover’, an actual word.) I’m also a ‘copyrighter’, apparently? And it turns out my face looks a bit weird in greyscale.
But that’s okay. It’s all okay. I’m published! In a book, with my name, and words I wrote! And there were only two editorial changes made that I’m unhappy with, which feels like a win!
The most exciting, satisfying, overall excellent thing is that I finally feel comfortable calling myself A Writer, even though I’ve been writing for money for nearly three years now and I wasn’t paid a cent for this story. Weird! But it’s true: only now, with Abacus out there for people to read and buy (please do! Help save the Tassie Devil!), do I feel worthy of the title.
I’m on the path. I’m finally on the bloody path. And as strangely un-strange as it feels, it’s a milestone I’ll always cherish.