Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre in the hills east of Perth,trekked down to Eagle Bay, a lovely spot some three hours’ drive south. One member had struck it lucky – a friend had offered her the use of a luxurious home for a few days, and when the fortunate scribe hit on the bright idea of using the time for a writing retreat, the other four were all enthusiasm.
I was one of those five writers, and I was giddy with anticipation. I’d always wanted to go on a writing retreat, but finances had not permitted. Now here was my chance! Two months before our adventure, we sent each other our beloved baby manuscripts, all hoping that the others would love our babies — and at the same time filled with doubts. What if they hate it? What if it’s no good? What if they laugh at my baby?
But nobody hated, nobody laughed, and while the manuscripts were rough around the edges, none was inherently bad. As soon as we’d settled in at Eagle Bay, we gathered around the kitchen table with our laptops to consider the first novel. We only had four days, so we had to make good use of the time. Each writer got half a day’s consideration, more than enough time for a lot of constructive criticism, a bit of bickering, a few tears and a lot of laughs.
From our excursion Egoboo was born. When we got back to Perth, we settled down for another couple of years steady writing, for we’d all realised that far from being finished, our precious stories all needed what amounted to complete rewrites! Over the following months we exchanged rewritten chapters and continued to give each other feedback and encouragement.
Even before the Egoboo adventure, we’d all been working on our stories for some time, but in that regard Jo took the blue ribbon. She had first envisaged the quartet decades earlier, when as a girl she had been moved by her love of all winged creatures, especially angels, to invent a fascinating world filled with winged gods and demi-gods, not all of them admirable. A clear struggle between good and evil, the basis of all good fantasy stories, started to emerge. In the two years after our Eagle Bay retreat, Jo not only rewrote book one of her four-part fantasy series, she also drafted the other three books! All are now more-or-less complete. (I’m still struggling with my book one!)
We watched with awe as Jo’s work soared skyward on its stellar path, taking us to worlds unimagined to meet characters so deftly drawn that they started to feel like old friends. As the adventure unfolded we saw a clear narrative emerge from what had previously seemed an amorphous blob of a story.
Last year, several of us started to submit our manuscripts to a variety of agents and publishers. Now and then, an agent or publisher would express interest in one or another of our babies, but no one struck the gold of a contract.
But Jo’s time had come! Three months ago, she was offered a contract for the first book with an option on the others in the series by Stateside press Musa Publishing. Like many forward-looking publishing houses, Musa is focussing on e-book releases for their full-length acquisitions, so it will be easy to buy Jo’s first book, Daughter of Hope, on the internet when it is released on 8 June of this year. Further books in Jo's Siaris Quartet will be released in sequence.
As you can imagine, the rest of the Egoboo crew — Carol, Helen, Keira, Laura, Sarah and yours truly (Satima) are almost as joyful about the book’s forthcoming publication as Jo is herself. Closer to the time, we’ll ask Jo for a post about her journey to publication; a journey we are all watching with interest in the hopes of learning how to accomplish the exalted station of Published Novelist ourselves! We stand on the sidelines, cheering as she makes her way to the finishing line.
Maybe, just maybe, we will all have a turn to run that race before too long!