Weeks flipping over like the pages of a good novel, days rushing by on casters. Perth mid-winter. I wake in the half-light to the welcome sound of rain on rain, the type of rain that heralds an Ondaatje awakening:
‘Half an hour before light I am woken by the sound of rain . . . slow snail-light rain, rain, and underneath the hint of colours a sound of furious wet birds . . . Dark trees, the mildewed garden wall, the slow air pinned down by rain. . .’ (Running in the Family).
Eyes tight shut, random thoughts blend one into another and I see the spider’s web of my writing life, dripping pearls of rain and still being spun. One of the earliest filaments came about by a chance connection.
Some years back I was trying to place my first book which would eventually become the rather lucrative For Women Who Grieve (now available as an e-book). The book was important to me because it arose from my scary experiences on the death of my husband. This book, I hoped, would help others to avoid my mistakes.
Originally it had been written – and accepted – as a back-page ‘opinion piece’ for one of the women’s magazines of the day – now defunct. When, five months later, it hadn’t been published, I queried the editor. Three months later, the promised publication still hadn’t eventuated and nor had the $50 cheque; shortly afterwards, it was returned. The accepted/rejected article preyed on my mind – particularly when I found an expanded version published in the same magazine a couple of issues later – and so I determined to turn the article into a book.
The 900 words wrote themselves quite easily into 25,000 and I sent it to a literary agent I had in Sydney at the time. Several rejections later, it lobbed back in my bottom drawer. A year – maybe two – passed, until one day, after lunch at the old University House at UWA, I happened to pick up a flier for Perth literary agent, Christine Nagel. Serendipity?
Christine accepted it immediately and mailed it off to Lothian Books in Melbourne. Within a week, it was accepted on the understanding I add another 15,000 words. It was printed three or four months later; shortly after that, the US rights were sold. It is only now out of print and I have converted it to an e-book.
Eventually Christine left Perth for Melbourne and we lost touch for a decade or more – only to meet up again through Linked in. Check out her manuscript assessment agency at www.nagelliteraryservices.com .
There is an addendum to the story of this book. Prior to my Spanish trip earlier this year I enrolled for a basic language course at the local library. On the first evening I happened to be walking up the rather soulless central corridor of the mall with another participant. We introduced ourselves. She stopped and turned to look at me. ‘Tangea?’ she asked. ‘Tangea Tansley? I’ve read one of your books. Just after my husband died fifteen years ago. I’m so glad I’ve met you. It helped so much. . .’ Another heartwarming strand to my own writing web. Love to hear of your experiences.
(Image courtesy of dan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)