G’day, Doug. It’s me, Mitch Webber. Sorry to interrupt out of the blue like this, but I’m desperate.

Book cover - Belly FlopPeople sometimes ask me if I’ve ever thrown a book away. I tell them definitely not. I would never throw a book away. Not even if it was all soggy.

Once I spilled lemonade onto one of Isobelle Carmody’s superb fantasy novels, but luckily it was thick enough to soak all the liquid up. Even though there was quite a lot of lemonade. It was gushing out of a lemonade tanker. The one I’d been driving until I crashed into the fourth volume of Isobelle’s Obernewtyn Chronicles that someone had left on the freeway.

Usually I get interrupted at this point, just as I’m starting to explain that the accident only happened because I swerved to avoid a poor lonely copy of Diary Of A Wimpy Kid trying to cross the road on its own. My questioners say that what they meant was, have I ever chucked one of my books away instead of getting it published because I thought it was rubbish.

No, I say, I haven’t. The closest I’ve come is throwing away a paragraph or two if they seem a bit exaggerated and unbelievable. (See above for examples.)

Actually, now I think of it, I did almost throw one of my books away. When I was writing Belly Flop and I was two-thirds of the way through the first draft, I realised it just wasn’t fitting together properly. It felt like I was doing a jig-saw puzzle with six spaces left, and twenty-seven pieces and a set of eight place-mats left over. I wrote the book three times, and three times I got into such a muddle I almost binned it.

I couldn’t figure out where I’d gone wrong. I really liked the story, about a boy in a small Australian town who wants to be a diving champion but because it hasn’t rained for eleven years he has to borrow washing-up water and bath water from all his friends to fill the town swimming pool so he can practice. He meets a girl whose best friend in the whole world (a guinea pig) has died and because she can’t bear to be parted from it she keeps it in the freezer until her new grandmother finds it and suggests a Viking funeral and … and … and suddenly I realised why I was getting stuck.

I was trying to write two different stories at the same time and they were getting mixed up. So I separated them and wrote them as two separate books, Belly Flop and Water Wings.

Phew, close thing. Imagine what might have happened if I’d thrown those books away. I might have given up being an author. Today I could be a long-distance tanker driver, driving tankers of porridge across the (rest of paragraph thrown away).

  • Belly Flop 2001 cover

    Australia

  • Belly Flop 1996 cover

    Australia

  • Belly Flop UK 1997 cover

    UK

  • Belly Flop and Water Wings UK 2006 cover

    UK

  • Belly Flop Italy 2003 cover

    Italy