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The Great Leap Forward – Miriam Zolin

Published 13th July, 2017 in The Great Leap Forward

Strong.  Brave. Paralysed.

My brother says ‘You were always strong, brave. I looked up to that. I still do.’

Honestly, I had no idea.

On the inside, it always just feels like a pragmatic weighing up of options and going with the one that will let me sleep at night.

I reveal to a new friend why she’s never known that I write. That I stopped. That I have only just started again.

‘I was paralysed,’ I say. ‘I had my novella rejected eight times, and I had no courage left.’

My new friend leans forward, her eyes shining. ‘Did you read that thing?  The author. What’s her name? She said she had her book rejected 253 times. You should never give up.

Revelation remorse, I call it. Me and my big mouth.

There’s the hard way and the easy way. In my experience, the easy way is rarely the right way. Subjectively speaking.

Nearly ten years ago, this started.

The feedback from my publisher was a stab wound. ‘Poorly written. Tired themes. You already wrote about this.’  (I paraphrase a little)

This was my most personal story, the second manuscript. My heart on a page.

The other rejection I remember is the photocopy unmarked by human contact. Grainy from years of copying and recopying. Some words that spelled ‘thanks but no thanks.’

Other rejections whose particulars I forget.

I attended workshops and classes to figure out what I was doing wrong. Learning, learning, and the feedback was always good. People liked it, wanted more. I wrote and wrote and wrote. Back to the sentence. Lexical precision. Pace. Space. Breath.

I met some publishers. I heard them talk about the work they received, unsolicited. I looked at my writing, thought. Some of it’s bloody good. I have a voice. A way with language. I’m told this, and I know it too. Not blowing the trumpet, just saying. How do I get it in front of the right people?

Submitting, submitting.  I got nowhere.  Stab. Stab. Stab.

I wanted the world to be one where good writing got published. I felt like my writing was sometimes very very good.

I met writers who knew editors who knew publishers who went to parties together and talked long into the night. I saw that the publishers often chose stories by people from the long nights. The Facebook friends. The Twitter followers.

Understandable. It’s human nature.

I wanted it to be about the writing.

Understandable. That’s human nature too.

I started a publishing company. To see how it felt to receive unsolicited submissions. To understand the process. Can you imagine? It’s easier than you think to start one of those.

I received some wonderful submissions. Published, promoted, sold some writing by other people (not mine, never mine). Heart swelled with the joy of sending it into the world.

Went broke.

Stopped writing, from the weight of it all.

Moved to the country. North East Victoria, where I had been yearning to return.

‘I can write there.’

The moving. The climbing out of being broke. The new friends. Still hiding my writer. Secret words on waking. Jottings on the long train rides through paddocks, between narrow country platforms.

Broken words. Displacement.

I started a gallery. To see how it felt to support the arts. Can you imagine? It’s easier than you think to start one of those.

Showing work by local artists. The beauty of it. Heart swelled with the joy of sending it into the world.

‘How you must love art,’ they said. I learned to smile enigmatically.

After a year I unpacked a box I’d forgotten. Manuscripts, notebooks.

Reading in middle of my loungeroom floor. Sobbing. Coming home to it. Some of the writing was still very very good.

The gallery closes in August.

The publishing company has been put to bed.

No longer paralysed.

Miriam Zolin’s fiction and non fiction have appeared in Griffith Review, a Sleepers Almanac, Australian Book Review, Canberra Times, Sydney Morning Herald and some other places. Her first novel was Tristessa & Lucido (UQP, 2003). She is working on the next one. Miriam lives in Mansfield in North East Victoria. His story, ‘Better than the Farm’ appears in Joiner Bay and other stories, published by

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