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Going Back to the Start

Mar 01,2013
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My first book

I’m writing this first entry from several thousand feet above sea level, onboard a very shaky airbus en route to Melbourne. This is all the glamorous jetsetting you can expect during my stay in the kennel — the rest of these blogs will be written at a far more sensible height from my studio in St Kilda East. Today I’m flying back from Western Australia, where I’ve just spent a week swimming, eating fish n’ chips and talking about books at the Perth Writers Festival.


This was my first festival since my debut YA novel Fire in the Sea was published last year (still in all good bookshops [and possibly a few not-so-good bookshops]) and I had a great time. I listened to talks by fantastic writers, I appeared on panels with fantastic writers and I rubbed shoulders with far-more-famous-and-successful writers than myself. It’s now my favourite writers’ festival. (Okay, so it’s also my first — but what a great start!)


But, as much as I enjoyed hearing other writers say intelligent things, it was the chance to meet readers that was the festival highlight. Writing is a lonely occupation. Most of your best friends are imaginary and, as far as more sensible people are concerned, you seem to be spending most of your life sitting in a dark room, talking to yourself.


When I’m not writing books, I work from home as a journalist, writing articles for magazines. This means, between 9 and 5, my most intelligent conversations are usually with my dog. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that there are real people out there — people like you, quite possibly — who are actually reading the words that I’m writing.


This week, I’ve been lucky enough to meet some of those people. Most of them were aged between 10 and 16 and all of them had intelligent and often surprising questions. I love questions. My favourite question, from a slightly shy 14-year-old girl, was “When is the sequel coming out?” (This is all the motivation I need to finish the next book.) Other questions included: “What is your favourite book?”, “Are you more scared of the sea or the sky?” and “Do you like rainbows?” (My answers: “I don’t know”, “I don’t know” and “yes, particularly double rainbows.”)


But the question that really got me thinking was from a 10-year-old boy, who asked: “When did you know you wanted to be a writer?”


I honestly can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be a writer. I wrote my first book in year four. It was a 20 page science fiction story set in the 21st century — which we used to call “The Future” — and featured Jack the Ripper, Sherlock Holmes and an elevator to the moon. I wish I still had a copy.


When I was pretending to clean out the garage recently, I found a notebook my mum bought for me when I was eight. She had put a label on the front which read: M.R Bartlett, Author. It took me another 20 years or so to get a book published, but I honestly think that was the only job description I ever wanted under my name. I grew up in Perth and going back there this time, revisiting places I spent time as a kid, really made wonder why I started feeling that way. Was it something about the place I was living? Was it the books I was reading? Was I dropped on my head at a crucial age? 


This month, I’ll be writing quite a bit about the things that made me into a writer. (These things include boredom, ghosts and Doctor Who.) But I’ll also be very interested to hear about the things that made you interested in writing. Because, if you’re reading this blog, I’m kind of guessing you might like books. If you don’t write, then you probably read. Why? When did you start? When did you first know that books would be your thing?

Mar 04,2013
Aw, that notebook is so sweet. :) I think, I started reading when I was six and I actually learnt how to read properly. I had a friend I was really competitive with (it was an unspoken competition though), and he was in a higher reading group than me at school, so I was determined to catch up/ overtake him. At that point, I didn't love nor hate books, they just... existed. And then I kind of started getting into reading thanks to different authors like Roald Dahl and such. And then when I read Harry Potter, it was like reading became permanently ingrained in my 'list of things I will forever love to do'. Also thanks to the influences of my awesome aunty who always bought me books and encouraged me to read. My writing story is similar to ambivalence's. Just that she was the friend who indirectly got me to join the writing site. ^^
Mar 03,2013
anonymous's picture

Literally LOLed at 'Most of your best friends are imaginary and, as far as more sensible people are concerned, you seem to be spending most of your life sitting in a dark room, talking to yourself.'

I've just finished a four-week residency in the US and while I got a lot of writing done, the best part was still meeting other writers and artists who understood the weird work/lifestyle :)

Mar 01,2013

Yes, ghosts! I was obsessed with ghosts (both the Ghost Busters and real life variety). But more of them later. 

I envy you your access to a story writing site in year seven or eight. There was nothing like that when I was growing up. (And it always rained... and everything was black and white... and the music was terrible... etc...) It would have been great to feel part of a community. Instead, writing was just something I did secretly. I always felt a bit odd, I think. (It's possible I was odd.)

Mar 01,2013

Ghosts! And writing several thousand feet above sea level! And if my memory serves me correctly, you're the one who made us an Aussie Katniss? If so, I foresee an amazing month ahead x)

My intro into the reading world... well, I don't think I officially had one. It was kinda always something I did, but didn't really think about. Writing... one of my best friends forced me to join a story writing site somewhere around year seven or eight o_o Which is why she's my best friend. I donno, I kinda fell in love with it from there :D

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