Writing is a hard gig.** First there’s the actual writing, a rollercoaster of pleasure and pain. Then there’s finding a home for the product of your many hours of bum-numbing (literally) labour, and the possible (and, for so-far unpublished authors, inevitable) pain of rejection. If you’re lucky enough to find acceptance, you then have to run the gauntlet of reviews, reviewers, and awards shortlists (or the lack of them). And all of this while earning less than you would on the dole (unless you’re Mem Fox, who I heard remark about how much money she’d earned for such minimal effort. Pah.)
So writing joy can sometimes be thin on the ground, and when it descends, it needs to be noted and celebrated.
I am absolutely delighted, therefore, that the fabulous Cristy Burne has won this year’s Frances Lincoln Diverse Voices Book Award in the UK for her novel Takeshita Demons. I had the pleasure of getting to know Cristy through a mentorship program through Varuna: her writing has great energy, narrative drive and originality, and I’m so unspeakably happy to see that recognised. (She also won the Voices on the Coast manuscript award last year for One Weekend with Killicrankie, which is a gorgeous piece of work).
Cristy is also a study in what serious writers need to be able to do: keep going and keep positive. Killicrankie had many almost-accepteds, and throughout she has continued to write, and to polish what she has already written. The inimitable (and brutally honest) Doris Lessing once scoffed at a writer who had given up because his first novel hadn’t been published – her view, expressed in one Walking in the Shade (I think), was that you should keep going until you had it right, and that having several unpublished manuscripts in the drawer were part of learning the craft of writing. (Anyone got the exact quote?) Writing is not for the faint hearted; and faint hearted is what Cristy Burne is not. I can’t wait to see Cristy in London in July and to have a glass of something nice to properly celebrate.
Meanwhile, I have just finished reading proofs for my Chomp Famous!, and am now in the process of doing a big structural edit/rewrite on Chess Nuts. My wonderful editors make this part as easy as can be, but for my money, it’s way harder than the first draft. But exciting, too: you can see the final novel taking shape under your considering, critical gaze. Noice.
** Yes, yes, I know, nobody forces you to do it. I’m merely making observations.