Dream a little dream of me (or, 2014)

2014 was a year that saw quite a few long-held dreams come true, for me, so I hope I can be forgiven a trumpetblowing review of the year’s highlights. I give you: some dreams and their fulfilment (plus some other writing highlights).

Being invited to a writers festival

I’ve sat in the dark in the audience for so many years, wondering if I’d ever make it onto the stage, and that happened in 2014 at three festivals (Perth in February; New Zealand Festival in Wellington, March; WORD Christchurch in August) in two countries. It was as much fun as I’d ever imagined.

Having my novel long- or shortlisted for award

The dream of one became, in reality, a magical three: The Life and Loves of Lena Gaunt was longlisted for the Miles Franklin Literary Award (won by Evie Wyld, All the Birds, Singing), shortlisted for the WA Premier’s Book Award Fiction Category (won by Richard Flanagan, The Narrow Road to the Deep North), and shortlisted for the Barbara Jefferis Award (won jointly by Margot Lanagan, Sea Hearts and Fiona McFarlane, The Night Guest).

Hogging the airwaves

Radio New Zealand (bless their Drama department and its support of New Zealand lit) adapted and produced The Life and Loves of Lena Gaunt for broadcast. Lena hogged the airwaves for 2.5 weeks in October‑November. All sorts of people heard it, all over the planet. Brilliant.

Stealing time to write

Three weeks in a room, nothing (much) to do except work on the next novel: heaven. That was me in April 2014, at New Zealand Pacific Studio as inaugural R.A.K. Mason Writer’s Fellow. I’m looking forward just as much to two weeks at Varuna in March 2015 on a Varuna Second Book Residential Fellowship.

Actually winning something

I’ve been focussed on the novels (Lena Gaunt and writing the next one), so the short story I wrote in April (at NZ Pacific Studio) snuck up on me. Winning the Sunday Star-Times Short Story Award (in its 30th year) with it was gobsmackingly lovely, and all the sweeter for being judged by Sarah Quigley, whose writing I admire greatly. And honestly, it was really, really good to actually win something.

Getting a grant to write

This is a biggy. In 2014 I successfully applied for Arts Grant funding from CreativeNZ. I’ve been awarded a grant towards finishing my second novel, tentatively titled The Hope Fault. The funding (and my employer!) is letting me take six months leave from my day job, to write full-time. I officially started on 1 January 2015. So far, so good.

Dream on (or, 2015 and what she holds)

Honestly, I don’t know what 2015 holds, but it sure feels like a big new adventure, with this six months of writing ahead of me. I just need to lose the continuing urge to pinch myself, because I don’t want to wake up from this dream.

I know that people keep on discovering and enjoying Lena, which is encouraging; may it continue in 2015. Here are a couple of dreamy recent and/or year-end loves for Lena:

An incredible debut…a novel so believable that I wish it were true
Scott Pack

UK publisher Scott Pack picks The Life and Loves of Lena Gaunt as one of his 2014 Top Ten Books of the Year

Excellent, moving, brave…it is a book for now
Fiona Kidman

Fiona Kidman picks The Life and Loves of Lena Gaunt as one of her 2014 Books of the Year

It is such a great debut. Different, original, gutsy. Just fabulous stuff. Read it.
Jenny Ackland

Jenny Ackland spends a day with Lena, Seraglio blog, November 2014

So, dream a little dream

I’ve always loved belting this song out, trying and failing to emulate Cass’s big voice. Once upon a time I used to play it on guitar, learned in my teen years from tablature notation that the lovely Mr Smith, my guitar teacher, wrote out for me.

‘Sweet dreams til sunbeams find you’ and here’s to a dreamy 2015.

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