Thursday, 1 February 2018

With thanks and apologies to my editor, my publisher, my mum and dad and .... well, everyone!

I love writing children's books.

I love the blooming of ideas - daydreaming and drawing and scribbling and playing little scenes in my head and holding imaginary conversations. (Yes, out loud, with  myself playing several parts. Don't judge me!) 

I love that moment when a really great character comes alive in my mind and demands their moment in the spotlight - or their place in print.

I love plotting a story. 

I love writing that very first sentence of Chapter 1.

I love the way a character can take on a life of their own and lead me away from the expected course of action I had so carefully plotted.  

I love writing that final sentence and sending my book out into the world.

I love the editing process and all the creative to-ing and fro-ing it entails. 

I love that moment when I first see the cover art and feel like someone else has understood the world I have created.

The gorgeous cover for the first Lottie Perkins book.
Makoto Koji seemed to know exactly who Lottie was,
as soon as she read the manuscript.
And I love, love, love that moment when a courier pulls up at my front door and delivers a brown cardboard box and I rip it open and find ten advance copies of my brand new book. Ooooh! Sends a shiver down my spine just thinking about it.

What I don't like is writing the acknowledgements.

Don't get me wrong. I think we should always say thanks to those who help us.
Gratitude is so very important, both for those showing it and for those receiving it.
Which is why I have such a tough time writing the acknowledegements.

I'd  hate to  sound trite - like I'm just saying thanks because I have to, because I'll sound like an ungrateful brat or an arrogant snot if I don't.
Let me make this clear: The people I mention in the acknowledgements have been very important in helping my story come to life.
And there are many that I don't mention, even though their contribution has been significant, because it might sound daft and their inclusion might make the role of the others sound less significant.

So, every time I come to the final stage of a book, I spend an inordinate amount of time writing the acknowledgements. Even so, when they are done, they seem hopelessly inadequate.

How do I explain that my editor and publisher are not only two of the most brilliant women I have ever met, but they are also incredibly kind, humble and forgiving? 
Sooo forgiving. 
Not once have they scolded me for the state of my first pages - despite the fact that they arrive at my house in pristine condition and I return them in a form that suggests they have been   borne through a long and bloody revolution, stuffed in the breast pocket of a regularly-injured and rarely-bathed soldier who might also have used one or two sheets to wipe his nose or his comrade's sweaty brow.
They don't scold. They don't snigger behind their hands. They don't even lift one eyebrow slightly higher than the other. (Or maybe they do, but they're kind enough not to do it near me.)

How do I explain the importance of my family and friends in making my world a safe and happy place? I could not write if I did not have peace of mind, a sense of worth and a wealth of happy and fulfilling experiences on which to base my stories. Furthermore, my family and friends make me laugh. What a gift! And that makes me want to bestow that gift on others - to become better and better at writing giggles and joy  and wonder into my stories.

How do I even begin to list the ways in which my husband has encouraged and supported me over the twenty years of writing and rejections and successes. Should I list the way he has worked hard to provide well for us, while I have earned a low income? Should I mention the times when I have tuned out, mid-discussion, because the world of my book has seemed suddenly more real than reality? Should I mention the chocolate and magazines and glasses of wine and cups of coffee in bed he has provided to jolly me along when I'm exhausted? Should I mention the fact that having him in my life makes me a better person, of which being a better writer is a subset?

And then there is the niggling suspicion that there is more, so much more, that matters when I am writing a book. More that I should be acknowledging for its part in the process:

The oaties that I sometimes eat with cheese during my writing breaks. They matter! My sincere thanks to the Scots.

My dear friends for those lunch dates that kept me sane and reminded me that there is a world outside of my story and one should stop to enjoy it from time to time.

Olive, my dog,  whose sudden need to play a game outside with her squeaky rubber sausage has distracted me from a plot glitch that I just couldn't see past - until I was distracted!

The producers and cast of 'Fargo', 'The IT Crowd' and 'Rizzole and Isles' for providing veg out time at the end of each long day's writing.

My mum and dad for their financial support through my childhood years and while I was at university.

The  NSW government for providing my public e
ducation, and all the teachers that built upon my skills and knowledge, year after year. You made me literate - which is important for a writer.

My brother for being such an adventurous young lad. The inspiration you have provided for character types and wild episodes has been invaluable.
He was not as tame as he looks here.

The bullies in my life. You have inspired wonderfully wicked characters like Pig McKenzie and Padre Paolo.

Cadbury's Chocolates. One small box of Roses can fuel an entire chapter and see me chug onwards into the next page or two before refuelling.

Vittoria coffee. Where would I be without my daily pots?

I could go on and on and on.
But I would need enough pages to fill a whole new book and that is not the point.

So please, if  you read the acknowledgements at the back of one of my books, know that they are sincere and just a taste of what matters in my writing life. And, somewhere, lurking behind the lines, is a giant dollop of gratitude for you, my reader. For where would my writing career be without you?

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