Emily Paull: A well-experienced debut author

January 13, 2021

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You would need to take a really long breath just to list the amount of awards, writing experiences, industry involvement and degrees my latest Western Australian author, Emily Paull has under her belt. From being a moderator at the Perth Writers Festival, to being shortlisted for the John Marsden/Hachette Award. From her involvement and book-buying for the iconic Bookcaffe, and nominations for the ABIA Young Bookseller of the Year Award. Not to discount being a Young Writer in Residence Program at the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers’ Centre. Is it any wonder Emily’s short story collection Well-Behaved Women has been been praised by industry professionals as real, honest, compelling and challenging? Topics including societal expectations, the dynamics between friendship and family and fundamental human tales are explored in this debut book.

Emily has a MASSIVE amount of experience in writing/literature/books/reviewing and has gifted great insight into being an un-agented author who got published through other avenues. Connections and networking, as well as experience are the theme for this week’s blog. It’s so wonderful to have Emily Paull here with me today, discussing her incredible journey from child-publisher to published author.

How long have you been writing?

I’ve always written, even as a child. In late primary school I even “started” my own publishing house in my bedroom and wrote a book from every genre to showcase my range. I decided to pursue writing seriously in 2008 when I began working on my first book, but I had written things before then.

What led to your offer of representation with an agent (or contract with a publisher, if you went that way around first?)

I am currently unagented (but definitely happy to be approached by any agents who may be interested in having a chat!) I got my publishing contract through Margaret River Press because I had been included in a few of their short story anthologies (Shibboleth, and Joiner Bay) and had developed a working relationship with the publisher, Caroline Wood. Caroline is a great supporter of emerging WA writers and had this idea about mentoring emerging short story writers through to publication. She approached several writers – including myself and Bindy Pritchard and Leslie Thiele, whose collections have both also come out recently—and then we supplied her writing samples and letters of recommendation so that she could apply for funding to get the mentor program up and running. I didn’t understand at first when she emailed to say that we’d been successful that this meant my book would be published, I thought it just meant I would get mentored and would have a shot at publication. It was so exciting and so funny to see my name listed as an upcoming publication in their newsletter not long after!

How long did you have to wait to hear back and was it a partial or full request?

I think it was at least a year between being approached about whether or not I was interested in the program, and getting the email to say we’d been successful. Then there was another 6-7 months before I submitted the book—during that time I got to work with my mentor, Laurie Steed.

How many submissions did you make prior to gaining representation/publishing contract?

 For Well-Behaved Women it was only one—I had submitted it to Margaret River Press to see if it could be published without the mentorship at one point but it wasn’t up to scratch.  Close, but no cigar, as they say.

For my other book, the one that I started in 2008, I think I have pitched it to 4-5 agents and 2-3 publishers. There’s something in it that needs fixing, and I know what it is now, so that’s exciting.

Any tips on cover letters/synopsis/pitches? 

I might not be the best person to ask about this, because I have never done a successful pitch! What I would tell myself to do if I were at the pitching stage would be to practice on your writer friends who have had some luck of their own with agents (if they have the time), and familiarise yourself with the guidelines on agents’ websites. Also, read Query Shark. Mostly because it’s funny.

Your first reaction when they offered the representation/contract?

Confusion. Joy. Relief!

What’s next for you?

I’m working on a historical novel set between 1913 and 1921 called The Turning Tide, which is about a woman who finds a new purpose in writing children’s books after her husband is killed in the First World War. It’s heavily inspired by women writers like Ethel Turner, Miles Franklin and May Gibbs and looks at the early days of Australian publishing, which was a component of my Honours thesis.

It sounds like a fabulous concept, Emily and I’m sure fans are going to be eager to read this historical novel! You can follow Emily’s journey here and purchase Well-Behaved Women here. Thanks for being on here, Emily!

And thanks for stopping by, readers!

Holly

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