Heather is the author of ‘Adventurous Spirit’, a memoir chronicling her life through its many challenges. You will see, below, that I’ve asked Heather to tell us a bit about herself… don’t be fooled by her modest coverage of her achievements. Heather is a warrior; a life loving, spirited, warm, motivated and resourceful woman who tackles life head on. She may have ‘stumbled’ into long distance running, but she conquered it with a determination and spirit that I am simultaneously envious of and inspired by.
Heather truly is an adventurous spirit. Her book takes you on a journey from her youth, into motherhood, through her cancer diagnosis and treatment, and then onward and upward to her many adventures since then.
The Manuscript Agency had the absolute pleasure of working with Heather and her publisher, Murdoch Books, to edit her book for publication. It was a real joy working alongside her to help bring this story to its audience.
We asked Heather to share a little of her writing and publishing journey with us, to tell us what it was like her to bring her story to life.
Can you tell us a little bit more about yourself?
I’m a 52-year-old Aussie mum who, after surviving ovarian cancer 10 years ago, rediscovered my Adventurous Spirit.
If you asked me right now what the most important thing in life is, I would immediately say ‘my family’ – they mean the world to me. It was my Mum and Dad, the original Adventurous Spirits in my world, who were my most inspiring role models.
At the age of 47 I stumbled into long distance running, which set me on a whole new trajectory; taking me from the icy extremes of the North Pole, and across seven continents (running seven marathons in seven days). Last year I embarked on a 1700km trek across the Himalayas with my adult children. It was an epic journey of endurance and courage…
But there are still more adventures to come!
I love being an Adventurous Spirit and it is my desire to encourage others to find theirs too.
WRITING AN ADVENTUROUS SPIRIT…
Can you provide a short synopsis of your book?
My book is as an open, honest memoir following my journey from childhood through to the woman I am today. I was an Adventurous spirit from very early on; seeking solo outback adventures, always testing my limits. But as often happens, I found ‘the one’ and settled down into the fulfilling, and busy, role of being a working, suburban mum. All this changed when, out of the blue, I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. It was frightening and confronting, yet through it all I rediscovered my Adventurous Spirit. I’ve chronicled my discovery of long distance running, which quickly progressed to competing in marathons and ultra marathons in extreme locations, then on to trekking the length of Nepal. All through these experiences I’ve woven in the memories and experiences of my family, with the aim of bringing encouragement to others.
What motivated you to write your story?
I really wanted to share the message of hope from my own survival with others – particularly cancer sufferers and their families – and to encourage people that no matter what their circumstances, to always give things a go, and to surprise themselves.
Another motivation was to get people thinking about being Adventurous Spirits, in whatever form that may take: following a passion, acting on an adventure, getting fit, volunteering, raising funds for charity, starting a hobby, a project, or travelling.
But most of all, I wanted to remind people to simply be brave, to live in hope, and everyday – no matter what it may bring, or how you may feel – to live life to the full!
How did your manuscript develop, both in
your initial thinking about it and in the revision/editing process?
My plan from the very beginning was for the manuscript to feel like a journal, like a personal diary that would take the reader on a journey with me.
I mapped a framework for the chapters, noting the order of life events and where they’d appear in the book.
Then I got writing.
I had a deadline of 5 months. (My publisher told me she knew I loved a challenge!) So to make it manageable I did my maths and broke it down to writing approximately 3,000 words a week and stuck to that plan diligently.
I was fairly clear about what stories I wanted to include in each chapter, but this did change, because I found other memories popping into my head as I was writing. These were then added in.
The whole editing process really refined my writing beautifully. I was encouraged to delve deeper into my emotions and to clarify what exactly was going on inside my head and heart, particularly when I was writing about the challenges in my life.
Also the brilliant suggestion by my editor to add an extra chapter to the book, created the perfect link from my younger years to my cancer diagnosis. It really helped to flesh me out as a normal, relatable, working mum.
I’m really proud of what has been created together with my editors.
Did you plan what you were
going to write, or did it just happen?
I had a pretty clear idea of what I wanted to write. I was keen to create a book that would take the reader in a full circle; the story starts in the middle of a dramatic climb over a high pass on the Great Himalaya Trail in Nepal, then the middle chapters weave my life and all the memories of my parents together, and then the final chapters take the reader back to the trails of Nepal during our final days of trekking.
I also kept to an original plan of closing with a ‘call to action’ to encourage readers to reflect on their own lives and to seek to make change in their lives.
How did the editing process help
shape your work, do you feel?
The editing process was incredibly helpful and truly invaluable. Without a doubt in my mind, I know that my book is a far richer, more emotive, smoother flowing piece of work.
I was challenged to expand on my feelings in several sections of the book and this was the encouragement I needed to open up and write with far more emotional depth and clarity.
The suggestion to add in an extra chapter of my life (as a young woman, newlywed and mother) really helped to flesh out the manuscript and convey who I was; it makes me a whole lot more relatable to the reader.
The editing process also helped to polish the grammar, spelling and ensure I was using the correct tenses throughout the manuscript!
What happened in writing/editing that you
didn’t expect would happen?
Being my very first book, I was unsure how well I’d written it – I was anticipating that I’d be making copious numbers of corrections. I was pleasantly surprised.
What part of the process did you enjoy the most?
I really enjoyed seeing how much my manuscript improved when I applied the feedback from my editor. She certainly knows her craft. When I sat down to work on her suggested changes it was clear that the book flowed so much better and was a far more compelling read. I’m really proud of what we’ve created together and I’ve personally learnt so much through this experience.
What do you hope people will take
away from reading your work?
I really hope that people will have an enjoyable and memorable experience reading my book, that they will relate to it and feel a connection with me, that they will laugh, cry, be filled with joy and hope, and be encouraged to be an Adventurous Spirit too.
What are the reasons you
decided to pursue publishing?
I’ve always loved stories, descriptive stories, adventure stories, and it’s been my desire for a very long time to share an Australian story with young readers. In fact, for the past 22 years, I’ve been working on a manuscript for a children’s novel – but it’s not yet finished, because life keeps getting in the way!
In stark contrast, ‘Adventurous Spirit’ happened so fast! Unbeknownst to me, while I was trekking in Nepal, a mutual friend referred my husband Doug to my publisher to chat about a possible memoir. He met with my publisher, showed her my manuscript for my children’s novel, and this gave her the confidence that I could actually write! So when I returned from Nepal I was offered a book contract to start immediately on my memoir. Wow! It was an incredible opportunity, and one for which I am truly grateful.
And now that ‘Adventurous Spirit’ is done, I’ll revisit my children’s novel to finally finish a first draft manuscript and I’ll submit it to my publisher in the hope I’ll be offered a contract for that one too!
What did you find easy, difficult,
surprising about the publishing process?
It was a far more emotional experience than expected, which surprised me. Not since high school had I submitted a piece of written work for people to comment on… so sending off my first draft manuscript, and subsequent drafts, were huge, huge moments. I clearly remember watching the emails go out on my computer and feeling it was my heart and soul going out too!
Then to experience the sheer joy and elation of holding a copy of my book in my hands for the very first time… it is a moment like no other!
The whole publishing process has been an easy, straightforward, enjoyable experience and has truly opened my eyes as to how books actually come into being and what’s involved – it’s a skilled process, and is definitely a whole team effort.
OTHER BOOKISH STUFF…
Do you usually read ebooks
or ‘traditional format’?
Traditional format. I love holding a book in my hands and turning pages. The sense of reading through the book, marking my place and progress with a bookmark, and have it sitting on my bedside table as a companion for however long it takes me to read it. Some books have stayed there, as a trusted friend, for quite a while – it’s a yardstick of how busy I am, and also for how tired I am at the time!
Where do you mostly buy your books?
I mostly buy my books from our local bookshop Harry Hartog Bookseller at Bondi Junction shopping centre, Sydney. They have a wonderful selection, the staff are so helpful, and I particularly love the sailing boat in the middle of the shop fully laden with its precious cargo of new releases. I had a discreet little dance for joy in the middle of the shop when I saw ‘Adventurous Spirit’ sitting in there!
Are there any writing forums, blogs, groups
that you follow or belong to that you have found to be invaluable?
I attended a writers workshop at The NSW Writers’ Centre a couple of years ago and came away with some really great insights into the publishing process and helpful tips on writing. I’ve also loved listening to several speakers at Sydney Writers Festival and each time I’ve come away inspired to write.
Tell us what’s next for you?
I’m busily finishing my children’s novel with fresh eyes, renewed enthusiasm and I’m applying all the things that I’ve learned from the editing experience of ‘Adventurous Spirit’. The first draft of the manuscript is not far away now!
Where can we buy your book?
Adventurous Spirit is available at all good bookstores and department stores (Target, Kmart, Big W, David Jones), online at Booktopia, Book Depository, and at Audible Books as an audio book (read by myself).