I’m delighted to publish today a guest post by author Glenice Whitting. Her debut novel Pickle to Pie was shortlisted for the Victorian Premier’s Literary awards and won the Ilura Press International Fiction Quest. During her studies from VCE to PhD she was invited to become a member of The Golden Key International Honour Society and awarded an APA scholarship. Her latest novel, ‘Something Missing’ will be published by MadeGlobal Publishing and launched at Swinburne University 11th December 2016.
A Writer’s Dream
by Glenice Whitting
Writers often dream of being published and getting their work ‘out there’. I am no exception and I am delighted that my second novel will be launched in December 2016 by MadeGlobal Publishing. ‘Something Missing’ began life as my artefact for my PhD at Swinburne University. It is the story of two women who changed each other’s life through a friendship that spanned two countries and many decades.
I had just completed my Masters of Creative Writing at Melbourne Uni as a mature aged student when my first novel, Pickle to Pie co-won the Ilura Press International Fiction Quest. This meant a cash advance, plus publication and I was beside myself with excitement. Pickle to Pie was the story of a boy, a great-hearted German Grossmutter and a man caught between two worlds. I had promised myself, if Pickle to Pie was ever published that I would give up my day job. Hairdressing had always augmented the family income through good times and bad. After the book launch I stuck to my promise and sold the salon. I knew I was not a J K Rowling, but I was happy.
I had often toyed with the idea of studying for my PhD but never dreamt it could happen. However, to be awarded an APA scholarship meant the opportunity to study at Swinburne University and I grabbed it with both hands. With the help of two supervisors I could learn the craft of writing and understand all the rules. I would then know why I was breaking them. This was my chance to spread my writing wings and fly to the moon.
Did I follow on from the German Australian story? Did I build on the shoe-box of old postcards written in High German found in the bottom of dad’s wardrobe after he died? Or the bookcase filled with A4 folders containing years of German/Australian research? Of course not. Instead, I decided to do what so many writers do. I chose to write something close to my heart: something entirely different. This time it would be a women’s story based on my thirty-five year pen-friendship with an older American poet. It would be a story about two women, a life changing pen-friendship and the lies that led them both to truth.
I wrote in my journal,
‘I am writing an epistolary, autoethnographic novel grounded in both feminism and post modernist paradigms with the aim of revealing women’s hidden stories in the hope of instigating social change. I believe this embedded story of the journey of self discovery and friendship will carry with it the possibility of nothing less than the restoration of faith in human kind.’
What lofty aims, but here was a chance to use our letters, interspersed with text, to explore the influence this elderly poet had on a young woman who left school at fourteen to become a hairdresser: a woman who unconsciously yearned for the education given to her brother and denied to her. My ongoing journey into epistolary fiction using letter, diary and journal extracts, plus snippets of poetry, had begun.
For four years I am caught up in a world where my mind keeps bouncing backwards and forwards between my creative writing of this novel and the formal academic exegesis. I try to remain true to my research title; A Novel and an Exegesis Beyond Epistolarity.
Friends warned me that I would have a meltdown post PhD, but I was convinced that would not happen to me. I was too strong, too resilient. That sort of breakdown only happened to other people. The wail of the ambulance soon bought me back to earth with a thud. To leave my wheelchair and walk on stage wearing the hired floppy Tudor bonnet and colourful gown was a highlight in my life. I had an overwhelming feeling of achievement and self worth that no one could take away from me.
The mature aged student journey from VCE to PhD had required passion, dogged determination and guts, but it had also been the most exciting, exhilarating time in my life. I knew I would miss it and all the friends I’d made along the way.
I took a long hard look at what I’d written, and following the suggestions of American author/editor, Cindy Vallar, I inserted quotation marks to all the dialogue and renamed the manuscript ‘Something Missing’. But, had I, over the years of study, begun to sound as if I’d swallowed a dictionary?
The third rewrite of the entire manuscript is the one that is being published. It was an invaluable lesson. To be a writer I had to be myself and write the way I really wanted to write, from the heart. I took out the overarching second person narrating character, made both Maggie and Diane third person narration, threw in a handful of suspense and Voilà… ’Something Missing’ was born. It had gone beyond academia, beyond epistolarity into popular fiction. I was over the moon with excitement the day I received the email that Tim Ridgway and Melanie V Taylor of MadeGlobal Publishing loved the story and would be sending a contract etc.
I will always be grateful to fellow colleague and wonderful friend, Wendy J Dunn, author of Author of Dear Heart How Like You This, The Light in the Labyrinth, and Falling Pomegranate Seeds who recommended I send the manuscript of my novel to her publisher .
It is every writer’s dream to hold their book in their hand. It gives them a chance to thank all the people who have helped along the way. There have been so many people I could list who have patiently and painstakingly worked with me through all three versions of this novel. However, there is an indescribable joy in finally being able to thank them formally, via the acknowledgment page, in the soon to be published last reincarnation of the manuscript, ‘Something Missing’.
I have asked Wendy Dunn if she will endorse my novel. Below is her generous reply:
Something Missing narrates the story of a life changing friendship that spans decades and two continents. It is a powerful and beautifully told story of how we grow through the power of friendship – and how relationships change over time. Empathetic, full of life’s truths and wise – Something Missing is a work that stays with you, and speaks to our hearts.