Some marvellous news on Caroline’s writing career: not only did Caroline go on to achieve first class honours in her MA in Creative Writing, she has just won a three-book publishing deal with Poolbeg Press! Caroline continues to be represented by the Trace Literary Agency. Click here to read more about her first book, The Ghosts of Magnificent Children, which will be released later this year. Caroline is a wonderful example of how talent, hard work and perseverance reap rewards.
February has arrived and our New Year’s resolutions may be a distant memory for many of us. Was your resolution to start or progress your writing career in 2015? Are you any closer to your dream of becoming a published writer? If you’re looking for a little inspiration to help you keep that resolution, my friend and fellow Wexfordian Caroline Busher may be able to provide it.
Caroline, can you tell us a little bit about your author journey to date. Did you always want to be an author?
My fascination with books began at an early age when I would spend hours in my local library reading as much as I could. My favourite book as a child was The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. My love of reading inspired me to write and in secondary school I had a fantastic English teacher who nurtured my creative flare and encouraged me to write whenever and where ever I could. As I got older I continued to write, but I didn’t pursue it as a career until January 2012 when I submitted a short story to a competition and it was published. Following this, a selection of my poetry was chosen to accompany Ireland’s state art collection. Both these events inspired me to take the plunge and commit myself to becoming a full-time writer.
Once you made the decision to pursue writing seriously, what first step did you take and where did it lead you?
I knew that I’d have to work hard to make writing a career so I read as much as I could about the process of writing, and the craft of writing. One book I highly recommend to anyone starting out is On Writing by Stephen King.
I entered the Bord Gáis Energy Book Club short story competition, held in conjunction with TV3, and was selected as a finalist. While I enjoyed writing short stories and poetry, I felt it was time to try a longer format. Writing a novel really allowed me to explore writing in a new way, as it didn’t have the same restrictions as short stories and poetry. I enjoyed developing the plot and watching the characters grow. My novel Outside The Storm took a year to complete. One thing really does lead to another and in 2014 I was awarded a literature bursary from Wexford County Council and I realised that the hard work and commitment I was putting into being a full-time writer was starting to pay off. It was great to get recognition and support from my local council; it really helped me to believe in my ability as a writer.
You’re currently studying for a Master's Degree in Creative Writing in University College Dublin (UCD). Are you enjoying the course?
I applied for the MA in Creative Writing as I felt I needed to learn more about the craft of writing from skilled practitioners who are successful writers and who understand what it is like to write a novel from start to finish – writers such as Frank McGuinness, Éilís Ní Dhuibhne, James Ryan and Paul Perry. I also wanted to have my own work analysed and critiqued in a constructive way by experts in the field of creative writing. Deciding to study for my MA in Creative Writing was the best decision I’ve made to date in relation to my career as a writer.
I’m halfway through the year and it’s hard to quantify the amount I’ve learned; I can only describe it as accelerated learning. I could have reached the same level of learning without the MA but it would’ve taken me years to achieve on my own. It is also a unique opportunity to look at your own work more closely; it helps you to find your voice and to develop your style.
One afternoon a week we invite writers and members of the publishing industry to advise us on writing and getting our work published. Last term we had Donal Ryan, Ferdia Mac Anna, Dave Rudden and Susan Stairs in to speak to us (Dave and Susan are graduates of the MA and both are successful writers). This term I’m really looking forward to other writers visiting, such as Peter Murphy who is a super, talented writer and a musician.
Do you think authors benefit from studying creative writing?
I highly recommend the MA to anyone who is serious about becoming a writer. Yes, it is hard work but I really believe that the time and commitment you put into the MA will pay off in the end. It helps you to edit your work – you will instinctively learn what to leave in and what to take out. You will learn how to develop characters and plot, and you will understand the importance of setting. But most of all you will be given the opportunity to push your writing to a new level, in a supportive and nurturing environment.
I was delighted to hear you recently signed with the Trace Literary Agency. How did that come about?
In June 2014 I attended the Date With An Agent event at the Focal Literary Festival in Enniscorthy, Co Wexford. I had ten minutes to pitch my novel to the well-respected American agent Tracy Brennan. Trace Literary Agency represents clients such as the successful Harper Collins published Wexford author Carmel Harrington, as well as Terry Prone and Louise Hall. I had a sample of my manuscript prepared and had read over my work and practised my pitch before I met Tracy in Enniscorthy Castle. She appeared very interested in my work; we clicked right away and I was hopeful but also realistic. I understood it is very difficult to get agent representation, so I waited a few weeks for Tracy to contact me and when she did she asked me to send her my full manuscript. I’m pleased to say that Trace Literary Agency has agreed to represent me.
How will having an agent make a difference to your writing career?
Having an agent is very important for an author. There’s so much competition out there and unless you are represented by a good agency it can be very difficult to get your work into the hands of a publisher. I’m really looking forward to working with Trace Literary.
Is it difficult currently to be a successful author in the publishing industry?
In order to be a good author you have to work hard and read a lot. It’s helpful to know what’s going on in the world of publishing, although I was advised against writing a book based on what is popular at the moment because by the time your book is published the industry may have moved on. Instead be true to yourself, find your voice and write what you are most comfortable writing.
It’s also extremely helpful, in today’s climate, to have a strong web presence, so create a blog, have a Twitter and Facebook account and use social media to your advantage. Contact agents when you feel that your work is ready and if you can, try to get your work professionally edited, as you only get one chance to impress an agent or publisher. Also, attend events and make contacts with other writers. In the three years since I started writing full-time I have made some amazing friends who are also writers. They are such a kind, helpful and supportive group of people.
Have you any final advice for aspiring authors?
Join a writers’ group and if completing an MA seems a step too far for you at the moment, then contact your local library and find out where the nearest writers’ group is. I am a member of a writers’ group and it helps to meet other writers on a weekly basis and to write in a group. You also get the opportunity to read your work aloud and this is something you need to get used to if you are serious about writing. Also, write every day. It may seem obvious but it is so important that you make the time to write something every day, and don’t give up. Writing can be hard: there may be criticism and knock-backs but don’t let that stop you. Just keep writing.
Finally, Caroline, if you were starting again, would you do anything differently?
I would have started sooner. It is a big decision to become a full-time writer, but it is one that I do not regret.
Thank you for sharing your experiences and advice, Caroline. It has been a pleasure chatting with you. I wish you continued success with your writing career and I look forward to reading Outside The Storm in the near future.
If you would like to learn more about Caroline and her writing, you can visit her website or follow her on Twitter.
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