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2% Mercury


It’s been 4 days since I returned home from the QWC/Hachette Manuscript Development Program in Brisbane. I flew back late on Tuesday night, drove to Leongatha at dawn the following morning, then spent the next 3 days digging up artefacts in a paddock and watching sunsets on the beach. I know. Hard life.

Dirt scratching

The time away from all things writing-related gave me the opportunity to absorb everything that happened during the QWC/Hachette Program. In a word, the experience was invaluable. Not only did I meet a bunch of awesome writers and receive individual feedback on my manuscript from a top children’s and YA publisher with Hachette, but I also learned a great deal about the nuts and bolts of publishing, agents, ebooks, and bookselling.

Trent Jamieson – our resident writer and hug distributor – was on hand to lend reassurance and tease out some tricksy writing worries, as well as answer the gazillion questions put to him about being a professional writer and bookseller. The QWC team – Kate, Aimée and Sarah – were wonderful hosts whose enthusiasm for writing was particularly encouraging. The Hachette publishers – Bernadette, Vanessa and Jon – generously offered their knowledge and expertise. Sophie from the Cameron Creswell Agency shared some interesting facts about getting an agent. Simon from if:book Australia gave us some great advice on ebook publishing and how digital and social media can help writers. And thanks to Zoë Rodríguez and the Copyright Agency (CAL) for assisting me with some last-minute travel expenses. Where would we writers be without funding and grants?

(Oscar Wilde might say we were in the gutter looking at the stars. It’s a lovely metaphor, but it doesn’t exactly put food on the table or get us to and from manuscript development programs.)

Speaking of famous writers and stuff they said, this quote cropped up during a coffee-and-cake fest on our final night:

Writing is 98% lead and 2% mercury

I’m pretty sure it was Robert Frost who said this (and I suspect he was referring specifically to poets, but I’m going to use a bit of artistic licence here and open it up to encompass all writers).

I adore this quote. For years I’ve had the formula scribbled on a post-it note above my desk as a constant reminder that, no matter how hard a slog writing seems (and it seems like that more often than not), all it takes is a single spark of inspiration to turn an uphill battle into a runway for the imagination.

Some other things I’ve got stuck around my desk:

Albert Einstein's formula

Failing with style

The wonderful Bell Shakespeare's most recent advertising campaign

As a writer, stargazing Wilde-style is important, but the 2% mercury factor is vital. A spark can’t catch by itself, though – the support from friends and family, the networks with other writers, and the enthusiasm of industry professionals will also have a significant – if not, greater – impact on creative success. Writers merely lay the silver threads. It’s others who find them and follow them to the source.

No matter what we do, no matter who we are, we all need a touch of mercury in our lives.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. 26.12.2011 11:04 PM

    I have to agree. Great post. I’ve never seen someone smile so bright while working so hard!

  2. 27.12.2011 1:55 PM

    Haha! It is a broad smile, isn’t it? That’s me saying to the dig director, “Look at all my hard work! Now can I finish early today?”

    Always great to hear from you, Hook.

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