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Appearing At A Writers’ Festival As A Debut Novelist, by Jenn J McLeod

If you’ve read my previous posts you may have noticed a bit of a theme. I’m not sure why I always go with water and boat analogies because, frankly, boats scare me. Water scares me too – something to do with a rogue wave knocking me down when I was a toddler. I remember it vividly, especially my sister laughing as I stood in the shallows crying an ocean of tears. Finally, there was the school swimming instructor who thought tying a rope around my waist and pushing me into the deep end of an ocean pool was a good teaching strategy!

In March this year, with House for all Seasons on the shelves only three weeks, I got another shove in the deep end when asked to take part in a writers’ festival as a ridgey-didge published author. Not only did that mean people were paying to hear what I had to say, but I found myself on panels and in the company of amazing authors including shortlisted 2013 award nominees: Jessie Cole, Druscilla Modeska, Katherine Howell, Carrie Tiffany, Romy Ash and Cate Kennedy.

I was suddenly a little dinghy amid an armada of author greatness; an insecure wannabe bobbing around on a busy sea of sleek, ocean-going schooners that I couldn’t possibly keep up with. Of course, I didn’t; they were way ahead of me. So I slipped in behind, happy to follow their lead. Riding in an author’s wake has lots of positives. It’s sort of what I’ve been doing for a while now and while chatting at the festival I advised other aspiring authors to do the same. That is: identify an author you admire and make them your mentor – officially or unofficially. Follow them, and watch what they do and how they do it (but not in a creepy, stalker kind of way).

How did my festival gig go? Well, after working myself into a stress mess in the lead up, I have to confess… I have a new addiction, and for once it’s not bad for me. It may even be good for me. (I’ve heard one author say that she makes more money from appearances and workshops than she does from her book sales!) I love that festivals help you connect with readers and inspire other writers to follow their dream, and I look forward to one day giving back by mentoring others.

Right now, my mentor is teaching me that those highest of highs can be scary places but they can also reward you with the best views. Even though I still hate the water, perhaps that teacher at school did teach me a valuable lesson. I am not so afraid to dive in the deep end, which is just as well, as the deeper you get into this publishing business the scarier things can seem. The scariest stage has to be the self promotion but self promote you must because, as debut author Lily Malone states in her recent blog post The Art of Self Promotion, “You can’t sell a secret.”


Jenn J McLeod’s author website:

Jenn J McLeod’s bio page


House for all Seasons by Jenn J McLeod     A Distant LandHalf Moon BayRotten GodsThe Fortunes of Ruby WhiteCold Justice

Writing Novels in Australia

10 Comments Post a comment
  1. A great post, Jenn. (Before I went through my one-and-only festival experience as a ‘debut writer’, I was paralysed with nerves. But it turned out to be a much more pleasant experience than lecturing to first-year undergraduates!)

    May 13, 2013
  2. Jenn J McLeod | Come home to the country... #

    Oh I imagine that could be so! And an update since I wrote this post… I now have that new writer to mentor. A local who is a lot like I was many yars ago–needing someone to take my hand, point, then let me go and try. So far, it is all good. Thanks for dropping by.

    May 13, 2013
  3. As an attendee at that festival can I just say Jenn your enthusiasm, passion and humour was infectious. You might not have had years of publishing experience behind you but I found your journey as a late-bloomer author to be very inspirational.

    May 13, 2013
  4. Now that I’ve read House For All Seasons, Jenn, it makes so much sense that you have a water/boat phobia… I was digging my fingernails into the seat every time you put someone on that dodgy old punt.
    Great post. Good on you. I identify you as someone I can learn from, and I’ve loved watching your journey, especially this year.

    Best wishes
    Lily M

    May 13, 2013
    • Jenn J McLeod | Come home to the country... #

      That’s scary. Learn what exactly, Lily????? 🙂 Thank you for your excellent post too.

      May 15, 2013
  5. kerriepaterson #

    You can be that mentor for me, okay?! 🙂

    May 14, 2013
    • Jenn J McLeod | Come home to the country... #

      You are already way ahead, Kerrie. But thank you. If only you were a few hundred kilometers closer…. Online is great, but there is nothing better than sitting around a table and chatting.

      May 15, 2013

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  1. Cruisin’ with RWA | Romance Writers of Australia
  2. Month In Review (May 2013) | Writing Novels in Australia

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