Wobbles - An Olympic Story

I began writing Wobbles as an exercise in exorcism. It was 1999 and I was preparing for the race of a lifetime - the trials for the Sydney Olympic Games, 2000.

I had moved from Sydney to Adelaide to train, but as always, wanted to keep up with my university studies. The options for distance education in a teaching degree were limited, so I decided to take a creative writing unit - why not? I could resurrect "Tom and the Unicorn" for a lark.

It didn't take long before I realised the potential that writing out one's demons held as a training tool as well as a step towards a teaching gig.

What I could not forsee was the 10-year tussle; the eight complete re-writes; the strange feeling that I had been possessed all over again by something that felt so much bigger than me, and yet was me; the self-doubt; the awkward, flush-faced tingle of disbelief when each respected critical reader said "yes" mixed with a deeper sense of having known the answer already. Yes - this needs to be published. Yes - this is good enough. Yes - you can, you should, you must persue the path of the pen...

But No, I cannot publish it. I am sorry. I wish you well. Thank you for your submission, your time, your beautiful and inspiring words. Thank you, but no...

Wobbles spent many years in the proverbial bottom drawer, gestating.

It waited patiently until I had finished uni, grappled with relationship breakdowns and the turmoil of seven years lost at sea after stripping myself from the clutches of elite-level swimming and finding myself in the land of mortals. It waited for my to-be-husband arrived and guided me to the psychological help I needed. It waited until I was jobless and friendless in a new town, haunted by the shaddows of the past, and then it re-emerged, again as an exercise in exorcism.

But what came out as I began to rewrite this time was a story. Not a rant. Not a purge. Not a self-pitying wail for recognition. It was a story seeking a voice and a form that was both beautiful and confronting, something that could carry a reader along, something to provide a raw and honest window into a reality so often lost in slick editing and shiny lights. No heroism. Just the real and human truth.

I struggled to find the exact voice until I read Marcel Pagnol's "My Father's Glory, My Mother's Castle". It had been given to me by my ex-partner's mother and I had carried it around for years. It, too, waited for the perfect moment.  I finished reading while nursing my newborn baby boy, five days before the deadline for the IP Picks Award entry deadline. I was gripped by a force I had not encountered before and I knew I would not breathe until I had rewritten again.

My parents visited my husband and I each month from their home on the south coast, and as they pulled into the driveway the next morning, I tossed them the baby and called over my shoulder "Get me when he needs a boob." And that was it. Three days of mania. Hit send. Pray. Shrug. Wait for another "thank you, but no."

Only this time there was silence. I had almost forgotten the absurd deadline scramble when my mobile phone rang. I was hanging nappies on the line. Really. Nappies. Lots of them.

The voice said, "I'm delighted to tell you that you have won the 'Best Non-Fiction' category."
I said, "Oh."
The voice said, "The prize is publication."
I said, "Yes..."
The voice said, "Of your book. Your book, Wobbles?, Yes. It will be published by us. Congratulations."
I said, "... ... ... I'm sorry. I think I'm crying."