Thursday, February 19, 2009

Sally O is Back, to Discuss her - um - Career.

I'm posting on MY Friday morning, at eighteen minutes past midnight. Therefore, I hope it hits Ginger's blog sometime on YOUR Thursday. Since Ginger very kindly invited me to re-post after I accidentally landed on your Tuesday, here goes.

In the beginning...

I've been a writer almost all my life. I started writing stories as soon as I learned to string sentences in shaky printing, complete with fingerspaces. My parents were both musical and talented in sports. I was neither. Instead of letting me feel like a disappointment, they encouraged me in what I could do, which was tell stories. With their support, and encouragement from some of my teachers at school, I started entering writing contests. Having won a couple, and placed in another one, I began selling my stories to a magazine. I was thirteen.

Moving on...

When I was fourteen, I wrote three books, and submitted one to a publisher. It was rejected, but the editor suggested I should write something else. I did so, and my first published book hit the shops in 1977. You can see the cover here.

And on...

In the years that followed, I gradually moved from being a "new young writer" to a "reliable midlister". These days, well into my fourth decade of publication, I suspect I'm either a fossil or a dinosaur. The longevity of what I'm pleased to call my career has led some people to assume I'm very much older than I am.

Like many midlisters, I look back on my stories in a series of epochs. In the beginning, I wrote fantasy. The editor who gave me my "start" at sixteen suggested I should write farm-and-family stories to reflect my own background. This I did until the mid 1980s, when farm-and-family went out of fashion. Gritty-city-realism came in, and I went out... and back to fantasy.

For the next few years I wrote junior fantasy, picture books and educational reading scheme texts, and sold quite a lot of poetry. The 1990s brought recession, and I started writing "odd" books that were a blend of fantasy, humour and surreal family life. I also wrote more ambitious fantasy and sf for teenagers.

In the mid 90s Australian publishing offered new lines of popular fiction. I sold a few romances/historicals and, ahem, erotic horror stories before the windows closed.

Enter Yoram Gross Film, which employed me to write storylines for the Blinky Bill and Skippy telly series. As the 90s closed, so did the market for my YA sf and fantasy, so I reinvented myself again, writing more educational texts and moving into e-books.

In the mid 2000s, my husband and I pitched a series called Jack Russell: Dog Detective. It was accepted, and has currently reached Book 11. The associated Pet Vet series stands at Book 4. ( You can see them at ) I am also writing a junior fantasy series under another name, and working now and then for a mass market company that produces pop ups and other colourful children's books. I do educational texts to order, run a micro-business that deals with manuscript assessment and workshops, and pick up occasional editing work. I have recently had some graphic novels with a NSW company and some e-novels and poetry published by Eternal Press.

And now...

That's what I am pleased to call my career. I have been fantastically lucky in many ways, with over 300 published books over 32 years. On the other hand, I have stayed largely under the radar. (You'd never heard of me, had you? Admit it...)

I have written, and had published or performed, songs (though I can't sing), plays, (though I don't act), sports stories (though I don't play sport) a tourist guide (although I get lost with terrifying regularity) and levelled texts for overseas companies concerning places I have never been and subjects about which I knew nothing and care less. (I'm a good quick study in some areas.) I am living proof that you don't necessarily HAVE to love what you write to write well. I write what is given me to write, and so we eat. We brought up two children on the fruits of writing.

One thing I have learned is that it is very difficult to get a "profile" if you happen to be an ordinary person aside from your books. If Madonna writes a book, it is News. If Sally Odgers writes a book it's a book. Another book. One of hundreds.

Another thing I've learned is that the image many hopeful writers-in-training have of life as an old pro is way, way out of kilter with the truth.

So many nervous writers say to me, or to others, "Oh, but what will my family/friends/workmates/neighbours say when they find out I've written a book?"

My answer is, "Dear, unless you tell them, they'll never, never know."

Take it from me. I have lived in the same small town for 51 years. In that time I have written hundreds of books. My friends know I write, but probably couldn't name more than two or three of my titles (if any). Acquaintances are vaguely aware that I've had a book or two published, but assume I don't do it any more, since they never see copies in the local book shop, or hear me interviewed on local radio. Most people in town know me as the weird woman who walks a lot with dogs...

It's just as well I have a sense of humour.
So, there's the life of a jobbing writer. Not very glamourous, is it?


MarthaE said...

Thanks for the interesting background on your writing career! I am surprised you started at 14. I love the Jack Russels! We have a Rat Terrier - very close.

Sally_Odgers said...

It's been an interesting ride so far. One bad thing about starting young was that I was a midlister in my 20s, so I never got to be a rising star.

One good thing about starting young was that I passed the dreaded Gulf of Disappointment in my 20s, when I was too young and silly to know what it was. (The GoD is what hits most writers somewhere in their 6th or 7th year (or about the 10th book). It's the time when they're multi-published, still unnoticed, and KNOW, suddenly, that they're not going to be rich or famous. It's like starring in several movies, I expect, and still having casting agents look puzzled when your name is mentioned.

Ginger Simpson said...

Sally, thanks for being my guest. You're welcome to come back anytime.


Bevie said...

I don't know. The way you put it, I still think life as a professional writer sounds good. Wish I could do it.

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