a 2020 update

Oof, it’s been a while since I updated this blog! Almost two years.

In that time, my book has been published (!) in Australia, New Zealand, North America, and the Netherlands (!!), and is now available all around the world. (!!!)

I am now a published author. Pinch me!

It’s been an extraordinary year and a half since my book came out. Last year, in April, I got to launch my book beside the sea. Margo Lanagan—friend and huge writing inspiration— stood in front of over 100 friends and family, and released my book out into the wild. A stunning day.

Last year, I was welcomed by the YA writing community so warmly it took my breath away. It continues to blow my mind. The kindness, the open arms, the connection. I keep marvelling at it. You spend all these years, standing in this liminal, wanting space—as a reader and as an aspiring writer—training to be better, working so hard towards the dream of being published, and then, suddenly you’re there. The door opens, the windows are flung wide, and you realise you were always welcome, that there never really was a door, just people on every side who love words as you do, supporting you completely. What a revelation.

Last year, I travelled to the US for a mini book tour, and found my book in all my beloved book stores in Seattle and in the Bay Area. I met and chatted with the wonderful Joy McCullough in Seattle and the amazing Jandy Nelson in the Bay Area. (I got to talk to Jandy for four hours about books and life and the craft of writing. Complete bliss.) I saw my face on a poster in Barnes and Noble! I signed my book in all sorts of stores and spaces. I sat in Golden Gate Park one afternoon, on the grass; I breathed in and out, and marvelled at my life.

Last year and this year I received incredible reviews—in the Saturday Paper, in the Australian Book Review and in the Sydney Review of Books, to mention some of the ones here in Australia. In the US, I received starred reviews in five literary review journals. FIVE!?! Mind blown. I also received beautiful letters and read online posts from readers, sharing their stories with me, letting me know how my book had resonated with them. And what an extraordinary gift that is—to write your heart out onto the page and have it be welcomed with such love and then have a reader’s heart offered back to you in return. I will never ever get over that. I am so grateful.

I also appeared in my first ever writing festivals—last year at Writers Unleashed, Heroines Festival, and the Wollongong Writers Festival. I was on panels. I sat in front of rooms of humans, on these mini stages with incredible fellow writers, and people listened to me as I spoke. WILD. This year, I was supposed to do a whole week of workshops and talks at Somerset Storyfest, in Queensland, but it was cancelled due to Covid. I was also supposed to fly down for Melbourne Writers Festival—also cancelled. But then, little lovely spots of sunshine opened—for example, I appeared in the MWF Digital Festival, talking on the topic of Kindness. And I have to say, speaking to the thing I care most about, for such a legendary festival, was beyond any dream I’ve ever had, and one of the most wonderful experiences of my life.

Hugely, I was also shortlisted for awards. My book! Awards! The NSW Premier’s Literary Awards, the Queensland Literary Awards, the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards, and the CBCA Book of the Year. I was longlisted for the ABIA Literary Awards and the Indie Book Awards. AND this year… I won one. How is that even possible?? But yes, I won the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Writing for Young Adults. I went down to Melbourne on the train with my daughter, and on awards day I shook hands with the Premier and met smiley, dear fellow authors and book-lovers, and spoke on ABC Melbourne radio with David Astle, and ate vegan tacos and drank mescale with my friend and People’s Choice winner Chloe Higgins and her lovely Picador editor Matilda. WHAT A DAY. The outpouring of support afterwards was extraordinary—I am so grateful for all those kind words, just wilding in and leaving me speechless. Literally almost speechless—I still haven’t managed to thank everyone personally. But please know: I am SO THANKFUL.

In the last couple of years I have also worked with some extraordinary humans—my agent, my editors in the US and in Australia, and their incredible colleagues—all working to make my words better, to get my book out into the world, making it beautiful inside and out, and supporting me at every turn. And we are all excited for the next new journey, which is Book Two, forming as we speak! Ah…I love working with these lovely people—they are as supportive as you could ever imagine, or hope for, and I’m so glad to have them in my corner.

To finish up My First Blog Post in Two Years, I can’t quite believe that I’m living out something I have wanted to do and be since I was young. I wanted to write—now I am writing; I am a writer; I am a published author. I get to teach writing and teach mental health self care through writing. I get to watch my students grow and become stronger and find their voices and speak. I get to tell my story on my own terms; I get to connect with other people in ways that move me to tears and delight me, that make me squishy with love. I am so grateful. I know I said that before, but the gratitude is huge, deep, and flowing.

Hopefully I will write again soon, before another two years have passed! I will post this and immediately remember all the things I didn’t say. About readers (YOU ARE AMAZING) and about mental health and self care and how vital it is we have open conversations about how we feel, and about the Black Lives Matter movement and the huge, huge need for diversity in publishing, and the incredible LGBTQ+ community and how important representation is, and about love and compassion and how critical it is we practice kindness every day.

Yeah, I have lots to say. Hopefully I’ll be back soon and share some of these thoughts with you!

Much love,

Helena

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