Over the last six months, I have written exactly one story. To be precise, I have rewritten this story – I initially worked on This Silent Sea over the last span of time before my daughter was born last year, at which time it was a short story (and for me, mostly an exercise in trying to write a story to a limited word count).
The last few months of my pregnancy were hard, and the first few months of my daughter’s life were harder (I do not do well, either physically or mentally, with the sleep deprivation that goes with having a newborn). When an opportunity came up for me to publish something in Review of Australian Fiction, I initially hesitated. I wasn’t coping well. I was exhausted, I was dealing with postnatal depression and another baby who has reflux and wasn’t a good sleeper. But I said yes, because I knew I had This Silent Sea waiting there ready, and all I had to do was read over it and send it in. Simple.
Except apparently even in an exhausted state, my brain doesn’t work like that. I started tweaking, and I started expanding. Eventually I gave in and just rewrote the whole thing, expanding it from a short story to a novelette. I got feedback from beta readers, and with the help of my husband and mother, I snatched time as much as I could, and I rewrote and I rewrote.
It wasn’t a sane decision. By the end of it, when I sent in the story (almost literally at the last minute), I was worn too thin, but I was proud of what I’d written.
This Silent Sea was shortlisted for an Aurealis Award (which it didn’t win, but honestly, I can’t complain about losing to Tansy Rayner Roberts, and if you haven’t read her novella, Girl Reporter, which did win that category, you should do so, for it is most excellent). It did win the 2018 Tin Duck Award for Best Western Australian professional short written work.
I was organised with a thank you speech for the Aurealis Awards, but not for the Tin Ducks, but thankfully Russell Farr of Ticonderoga Press accepted the award for me and conveyed my thanks (and thank you to him for accepting and delivering the award, and to everyone who coted). For posterity, I want to paste the speech I sent in for the Aurealis Awards here, because good people need to be acknowledged and it is just as relevant to the Tin Ducks.
The original incarnation of this story was written while I was heavily pregnant with my daughter, and was influenced heavily by that state of waiting, feeling her moving and turning in her own silent sea. The story was later expanded and further developed after Emily had entered the world, written in a fevered haze of sleeplessness, exhaustion and postnatal depression and as a result, has been one of the most difficult things I have ever worked on. Just having this story shortlisted for an Aurealis Award is a huge thing, and winning is something else entirely. Thanks have to go primarily to my mother and husband and son, all of whom pitched in to help while I was madly working on the expansion of the story. Thanks also to Matthew Lamb and Phil Crowley at the Review of Australian Fiction for publishing This Silent Sea, and to Deborah Biancotti, with whom I shared the issue and whose insightful editing and suggestions made it so much better than it was. Thanks also to Pia van Ravestein for being the best critique partner anyone could hope for, and to Anica Boulanger-Mashberg, copy editor for RAF who went above and beyond. I’d also like to acknowledge the judging panel and everyone involved with the Aurealis Awards, most especially Tehani, whose tireless work is so much appreciated. I’d like to dedicate this win to my son Liam and daughter Emily. May the stars always shine on them.