Scott Pearce’s novel, faded yellow by the winter, tells the story of the Henrithvale Football Club, which is struggling to survive in a time of environmental change and financial hardship. When we published the book only one year ago, the plight of regional football clubs stood in stark contrast to the prospering and increasingly wealth AFL. How quickly things change. Scott’s book cuts to the heart of what footy means at a local and personal level. The problems faced by the fictional Henrithvale Football Club are being played out throughout many leagues and competitions.
In a time without live games, here is some footy reading. The book is available for purchase here.
Below is an interview with Scott regarding writing, publishing and telling stories.
So Scott, how are things going?
I am uncertain if I should say this but not much has changed for me. I have four kids at home and they are certainly bored by the need to isolate. But I’ve always liked isolation. In the Bukowski poem Roll the Dice, he writes: “isolation is the gift, all the others are a test of your endurance,”
I am working from home, the gym is closed, and I go for long runs along the rail trail so I can see the sunrise. The cold air is exhilarating. And I keep writing in the spaces that I find, the hours here and there, in the morning or at night. And I do it not because I am a writer or because I want to be writer; it’s an advertising word, “writer,” it’s like “author.” All I do is tell stories. I hope they will find an audience, someone, somewhere. That likelihood might be diminished by these circumstances, but it might be improved. Getting work into publication is a fight. I used to think publication was all about talent, about whether I was worthy or unworthy. But now it seems arbitrary. Maybe that’s me rationalising my unwanted works. I am not bothered by the answer, I’ll just keep writing, keep telling stories.
What is your process between writing and publishing?
Publication is important because a story without an audience is a story untold. I am not squirrelling anything away and doubting myself. It might all amount to mouldering and unread pages my grandchildren inherit, but I won’t die wondering. I do it in part for myself, ego is glorious, and l do it in part for the people in the stories and the trust they have in me. Sometimes I tell them,”you should get someone else to write this. Let me watch TV.” But they persist and I write. The writing is the glory. But l hate the process of sheepishly asking friends and colleagues if they have some spare time to read over something, to give an opinion. It’s degrading and demanding and fixed. Yet, without a stable and ongoing connection to a publisher, this is what inevitably happens. The submissions to journals and competitions and publishers , the months and months of waiting for a response. Who reads those submissions? Did someone cringe at the cover letter because of a mis-placed comma?
How do you regard the relationship between writers and publishers? Particularly small publishers?
But one must love their characters and do all those things so that maybe the story is told. The difficulty for small publishers is survival. No one ever takes a risk, they make a guess, try to get something to work. Publishers have no obligation to me or anyone, why should they? What will happen in the post-coranavirus world? Fewer publishers inundated with more submissions and less time to do much about it. It’s hopeless, but so what? If we only did those things we were certain would work, and always took care to avoid outrage, despair, anger, humiliation (public, professional or private) and loneliness, what kind of life would that be? I am having a conversation right now with a large group of people, gathered around me, telling me I need to write about them, telling me they have matters to discuss, a truth to be told. I tell them it’s pointless. It will be years of heartbreak for us all. They listen patiently. I tell them to speak to some other people, look elsewhere. They wait and I eventually give in, take up my trusty pen, and say, “Okay, I warned you. So, start at the beginning.”
It is a difficult time for publishers as well as writers. What is frustrating about the process of submitting work to publishers?
I don’t understand those publishers who want to know, first up, about my target audience, my social media presence, if I have a website, ask me to list three or four big sellers that my humble submission could be likened to. The writing is secondary. And the workshops, the manuscript assessment services, the collectives, the membership fees. If I could sing, play guitar, l’d busk, have a YouTube channel. Have you ever seen someone standing on a street corner reading poetry? They are the roaring fire to my candle. It’s not the rejection that stings, it’s the adulation given to the the mediocre. The proliferation of picture books and YA novels from the overly enthusiastic and bland celebrity class. It’s schools still in love with Shakespeare. I want more Nelson Algren, more Virginia Woolf, more Hubert Selby Jnr, more Camus.
To that, I would add, more local, Australian writers.
Photos courtesy of Scott Pearce