For me, writing started out as a housework-avoidance strategy – a sanity preserver as the only female in a house of males. It’s cheap, quiet, and can be done anywhere in yoghurt stained pyjamas. You can do it breastfeeding, on the bench at swimming lessons – you can even do it in your head while burning risotto. I enjoyed every minute.
I never thought anyone would read the damn stuff.
It’s true – I never set out to write a book. Never dog-eared a how-to guide, or taken a course. But for some reason, while on maternity leave with my third son, at a time I barely had the energy to read a book, let alone write one, I sat down and just started making things up. I found a calm coursed through me when I wrote. Time raced by when I was with my imaginary friends.
So, I’d write in the left overs of my life – the gaps. The twenty minutes here or there when no one noticed me escape the real world. The scribbled idea on the back of a receipt while jostling for a seat on the train. The process lacked any process or planning (I’d cut a paragraph, defer World War III and return to find I’d forgotten where I was pasting it). But it was the piece of the day I owned. The ‘peace’ that was only for me.
My secret file grew. When no one was watching I’d skulk away to my laptop (sometimes to the laundry so I couldn’t be found) and purge out the product of the day’s fermented thoughts.
Eventually I came clean, and told my husband my dirty secret (to explain the dirty house). As a kid I was an indoor girl, as a teen I devoured books, but I didn’t see writing as a career. I felt I didn’t know anything, then. What would I write about? Besides, jobs were meant to be awful – that’s why people were paid to do them. But writing felt like the easiest thing I’d ever done.
I realised my love of words was nothing new, life had just gotten in the way of our relationship. I yearned to take the next step – to get someone with ‘street cred’ to stroke my ego, as if that would validate my skill, justify the time I spent doing it. So, I cut and polished, tried to hone my craft. I found a lot of prescriptive rules that sounded so procedural for something fundamentally creative (and a lot was just hoity-toity words for things I’d picked up intuitively by simply reading). But as a clueless-wannabe-writer, I clung to advice like a life-raft, as if adhering to the rules was the secret to publication.
When the thought of reading my manuscript again made my eyes twitch, I googled how to get published and, with no agent, found publishers that accepted unsolicited manuscripts.
Random House was the biggest publisher in the world. I figured I’d start at the top and reject my way down.
I sent off my fifty-page sample to the dreaded slush pile. And to my utter disbelief, a few weeks later, I had a contract. Losing Kate, my little secret, was not only published but translated internationally. My second novel launched the following year.
Who said jobs need to suck? It was that easy. And that hard.
If I had to give one reason why I was published, it wasn’t because I complied to any rules. It had something to do with voice. Find yours, and shout it loud.
Since being plucked from the Random House slushpile, Brisbane writer Kylie Kaden is now an internationally published author of women’s fiction and domestic noir. Her bestselling debut novel Losing Kate took shape as she sipped tea at the kitchen bench, often with a toddler on her lap and ABC Kids chirping in the background.
For more info visit kyliekaden.com.au