Ever since I got a call in September last year telling me that I was a recipient of the Nielma Sidney Literary Travel Fund through Writers Victoria, and that I would be going to the United States of America, I knew that the significance of this trip was yet to be revealed.
This is a good story, wanna come with me?
My only other experience leaving the country was for a couple of weeks holiday to the U.S.A. with my family when I was 16. Other than that, I always found I was describing myself as “remarkably untravelled” in conversation with people.
So, finding that I was going overseas by myself was equal parts daunting and exciting. I’ve never been on my own. Ever, really. And here I was, venturing to a whole other country by myself.
Let’s skip forward to the actual trip. There I was on the plane with so much ‘unknown’ ahead of me. I am not the type to step out of my comfort zone easily, and while I’ve been trying to do that a whole lot more in the past year, my comfort zone is my house, my friends and my City of Literature. What was I doing on a plane?
Oh, that’s right, attending a booksellers conference and then a writers retreat.
If you want ‘real-time’ unfolding of my trip, check out my Instagram account and in particular the #MichaelWalksRainbows
tag. I will write in greater detail about each separate segment of my trip as I have time, but this is the short version with the sweetest punchline ever.
The Children’s Institute
was so invigorating as a bookseller. Hearing from so many passionate booksellers, publishers and authors was the lift I needed to know that bookselling isn’t just a job. It’s an art. It’s a calling.
I then had two weeks holiday in New York City. A dream, right? Even for an emotionally insecure, still kinda broken dude who is incapable of starting conversations with strangers? Yes, and no apparently!
I was forced to really examine myself during my time in New York. I wasn’t entirely impressed with everything I saw in me, but I came to find I had the resolve to make changes and look forward to the future. The sights and attractions were wonderful, but the fact that I was on my own meant I had to overcome things that I’d been putting aside for a very long time. I won’t take full credit. I had some very supportive people close to me who listened to me cry and gave me a stern talking to when I needed it.
Then, right when I’d run out of steam for sightseeing, my trip changed pace (quite literally! I went from doing 20,000-30,000 steps a day to doing 2,000-3,000) when I then went to Summer Camp at the Barn, run by The Highlights Foundation
in rural Pennsylvania. And here’s where it gets juicy.
Not only did I have an amazing mentor for the week, Lamar Giles, who told me how it is and helped me see the light with my manuscript and writing life. I also met so many amazing people and clicked so strongly with some of them it was breathtaking. All the faculty were incredible!
One such person was literary agent, Linda Epstein of Emerald City Literary Agency. We became fast friends and found we shared many opinions. One such opinion, as it happens, is that my middle grade magic realism manuscript is pretty special and should be published. So, to really abbreviate the telling, Linda offered me representation and I have accepted!
I never would have expected that I’d gain so much from this trip. Personally, professionally and, if I’m honest, spiritually. But to have found an agent that not only is passionate about my work, but that I also get on so well with is a dream come true. I genuinely didn’t expect this to happen for quite some time.
But hey, if the universe has decided to notice some of my hard work, then who am I to turn it down? I’m still struggling with the word ‘deserve’ (when people tell me I deserve all these amazing things) but I know I’ve been doing the work (maybe not consistently, but I’ve been doing it) and I will accept that I’m ready for it.
Everything’s coming up Michael.