Anna writes her own success story
Rejection by traditional publishing companies did not deter Anna Solding from her goal of becoming an author - instead, she and two fellow graduates started their own publishing company.
And Anna's belief in another Adelaide alumnus, James Roberts (aka Zanesh Catkin) helped him to realise his own dreams of being a published writer when she put his first novel on the shelves last year.
In 2011, despite Anna's book The Hum of Concrete being shortlisted for multiple awards, it was still not being picked up by publishers.
Anna lamented the constant rejections with good friend, Mathematics and Computer Science graduate and entrepreneur, Dr Ross Williams, who suggested they start their own publishing company and together with another alumnus, Peter Cassidy, they formed MidnightSun Publishing.
"We know there are plenty of fabulous manuscripts about unusual topics floating around, but publishing new and unknown writers poses a big risk. MidnightSun is prepared to take that risk," says Anna.
"The large publishing houses are quite conservative today which is understandable as these are very tough times for traditional publishing with the demise of local bookshops and the rise of self-publishing. Even though printing costs are increasing, readers are expecting to buy books for less. This turmoil and conservatism has left room for smaller publishers to shine."
And both publisher and authors have done just that.
Anna's novel The Hum of Concrete - the major part of her PhD in Creative Writing - was launched to endorsements by Nobel Laureate, J.M. Coetzee and acclaimed novelist, Brian Castro; shortlisted for the Unpublished Manuscript Award at the Festival Awards in 2010 and is currently nominated for the People's Choice Award.
Both The Hum of Concrete and Zanesh's novel Pangamonium have been longlisted for the prestigious Commonwealth Book Prize. MidnightSun Publishing's newest release, Kim Lock's novel Peace, Love and Khaki Socks is about to be launched and has already received rave reviews.
"The Hum of Concrete has had so many remarkable reviews and every positive review has made me happier and more confident that I can do this," says Anna.
Anna came to Adelaide in 1999 on a one-year university exchange from Sweden. She discovered the Masters in Creative Writing which led to a PhD. Fourteen years and three children later, Anna is more than happily settled in Australia.
She considers herself fortunate to have been among a "hothouse of writers" in her time at the University of Adelaide - among them many published and prize-winning authors she now calls friends.
"The University of Adelaide not only shaped my career but also my life," Anna says.
"Studying Creative Writing made me feel like I was part of a larger writing family; that writing was a worthwhile pursuit which could generate an income (at least in the shape of a scholarship) and that no matter how scary it was to put myself out there, it was the fear of failure that I most needed to face before I could call myself a writer."
Anna recalls the celebratory feeling of launching her own publishing company, surrounded by a huge, supportive group of people at the SA Writers' Centre.
"Standing on the stage at Writers' Week seeing my first novel The Hum of Concrete take flight has had the most profound impact on me, as that was truly a childhood dream come true," she says.
"Every time I see my novel on the shelves of a library or a bookshop, my heart does a little dance."
As one of her biggest supporters, Zanesh, also a graduate from the University's PhD in Creative Writing, says he is keen to see Anna's success continue.
"I am proud of Anna for having the courage to start a publishing company in this climate of gloom and doom in the book world," he says.
"She backed her belief in the quality of her writing and mine, when we had both been knocked back by mainstream publishers. The fact that both our books have been longlisted for the Commonwealth Book Prize is a confirmation that her judgement is sound.
"Getting my PhD novel published was the biggest highlight of my life post-university."
Zanesh's exegesis of his first novel, The Ludic Mode of Pangamonium, is the third title published by MidnightSun and he is currently working on his second novel, The Troubadour - an adaptation of his Honours thesis for which he won the Driftwood Manuscripts Prize.
"It is always exciting to get the recognition of your peers, and since writing can be solitary it does remind you that there are others out there who appreciate your craft," says Zanesh.
Working full-time as Series Producer with Australia Network, the ABC's International Broadcasting Service, Zanesh says that the best he can hope for is an hour a day of writing time.
"The best part is when the writing flows easily and you don't want to stop. The challenges are working through flat spots and avoiding the scourge of rejection letters," he says.
Anna also attests to the challenges and rewards of being a writer and although she has put her writing to one side while she focuses on the publication of MidnightSun's latest novel, she has tentatively started work on a new book.
"Sitting down and actually putting pen to paper is always the biggest challenge. The distractions are endless...for most writers I know, writing doesn't actually come easily - it's a long, hard slog."
"But at the same time, it is the most rewarding and wonderful thing you could ever do."
story by Genevieve Sanchez