Set against the colourful backdrop of a swinging sixties Sydney and the brutality of the Vietnam War, War Flower by Mary-Anne O’Connor follows the journey of six young people through their lives in a turbulent era, and asks – can love still prevail when horror becomes almost too much to bear?
By Mary-Anne O’Connor
Looking back at those angst-ridden years when I was trying to get published, I wonder why I didn’t end up with permanent scarring from banging my head on the desk. Rejection is a nasty beast and anyone who says otherwise is far too emotionally mature to read on. This post is purely for those of you who have wailed, gnashed teeth and howled at the letter box in frustration, in the hope that you may take some comfort in the following advice from someone who knows exactly how you feel, yet survived to write another day. So, without further ado and in true Tardis style, here we go:
1. You’re allowed to cry.
I know you think that’s a defeatist reaction and you don’t want to give your rejecter the satisfaction, but they will never know. Go on, let all that muck out until your nose is red and bulbous because it does make you feel better. Rip up that politely worded parchment of devastation while you’re at it. No-one’s around and the dog will get over the trauma of witnessing your tantrum, I promise. Eventually.
2. Don’t try to memorise their name.
You won’t remember who they are and walk up to them at the ABIAs holding a trophy one day to wave it in their shocked faces. (Incidentally, they wouldn’t remember you if you did.) As soon as you get published all rejecter nemeses are wiped from memory, mostly because you don’t have the brain hard-drive space available anymore now that you’re going through something called a ‘professional edit’, but more on that later. I don’t want to scare you off when you’re only at point two.
3. You’re not going to give up.
I know you blubbered that mid-howl but you don’t really mean it. You’ve been bitten by the authordom vampire and writing is forever in your blood. Expect a nocturnal existence and an aversion to mirrors for many years to come.
4. You will get published.
I know some of you are reading this thinking that’s all very well and good for Mary-Anne to say because I know it happens in her future, BUT the main reason I did get published is because I believed it would happen. I truly, truly did. Some thought me manically deluded at the time but I’ve forgotten who they are, too. Which brings me to the scary news about edits… I think you can handle it now that you’re graduating to the final point:
5. One day, in your not-too-distant published future, you will face something called a professional edit.
Think of it as a mountain, ‘Mt Ever-Edit’ if you will, and there are a few things you will need to survive this quest, so listen carefully:
a) Sherpas. Husband and children will not be able to carry your emotional baggage alone. This will require girlfriends, multiple ones, to help manage the load.
b) The ability to kill. Some word-babies will need to die along the way. Nothing can be done to save them; you must continue the climb to the summit for the survival of the greater group. It will be reached eventually, I promise, however a few brain cells will be left behind, but in fairness that will be due to point c) …
c) An emergency bottle of red wine or two. For purely medicinal reasons, of course.
The 1960s are beating a fresh pulse of political and cultural upheaval through Sydney. For sheltered convent schoolgirl Poppy Flannery such changes seem irrelevant. But it doesn't stop her from longing to join in, especially if it means spending time with the popular boy she secretly loves, Ben Williamson. So when the opportunity for a dream escape to Surfers Paradise arrives, Poppy and her twin sister Rosemary seize it and find themselves in the midst of the swinging sixties at last.
Rosemary embraces their secret new life with a vengeance, discovering drugs, boys and radical politics in a haze ...
About the Contributor
Anastasia Hadjidemetri is the former editor of The Booktopian and star of Booktopia's weekly YouTube show, Booked with Anastasia. A big reader and lover of books, Anastasia relishes the opportunity to bring you all the latest news from the world of books.