Friday, May 30, 2008

To blog or not to blog...

To blog or not to blog...that is the question. Just been reading about Emily Gould, an american blogger who got so personal and revealed so much on her blog, that her life kind of dissolved around her, eaten away by the acid of her own vitriol. I feel pretty safe at the moment because i have a readership of one and that includes me. So its me listening to the sound of my own voice which i guess is a little awkward but as i said in an article i wrote recently on this very topic - it feels like good practice. I'm a writer, and this is writing. I read about world events, local and international politics, issues in publishing, the lives of friends and family and i process it best by writing my thoughts down. I have to say i'm not entirely surprised at what happened to Miss Gould. People have some extremely strong reactions on comment streams i read on other blogs. There's a lot of anger and frustration out there on the net. People really don't hold back and in the end they're all unwinnable arguments. Nobody changes anybody elses mind. For me I just like the information i pick up here and there and sometimes people make me laugh (always a good thing). I like that i can post a comment to a friend in Wellington or join a conversation in the US. I wish people would chill out a little more.

The NZSA e-newsletter had more on the changing submissions policy of Scholastic NZ yesterday. They gave the reasoning behind the changes which made a lot of sense and i have no reason to quibble. Scholastic do have smart alternatives to the slushpile like the Tom Fitzgibbon awards and the Joy Cowley Award and to run both these competitions and manage a slushpile sounds like its been crippling. New writers will still be able to submit their manuscripts via the competitions. I wonder if the changes will speed up all the processes involved in publishing? Any changes as a result of the changes will be reported here.

Have a lovely weekend. The weather, so far, is better than expected. I always feel more kindly towards the queen of E at the beginning of June.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Opening a can of worms...

I am giving a wee talk in a few weeks on the ten most important things i've learnt about the writing business so far and i must confess i've already rewritten it about five times and i'm no closer to being happy with the final product then i was at the beginning. I'm realising that the ten most important things vary widely depending on where you are at in your writing career. Things i want to know now are not the things i needed or wanted to know four years ago when i had my first book accepted for publication. I know, i know - i should stop whining and get on with it because ultimately as a writer i should be able to come to some conclusions and write them in an interesting fashion. Its what i'm meant to be able to do. I just didn't realise i'd set myself such a difficult task when i glibly suggested i'd talk about the ten most important things. I guess this uncertainty i'm experiencing might be a good place to start my talk. Have a good weekend folks. I'm talking at St Andrews church, Epsom on June 9th in the evening if you want to see me squirm (check out the kiwiwrite4kidz website for details). I'll also be at the Storylines family day in Auckland on Sunday June 15 at the Kiwiwrite4kidz table hawking my books if you want to say hello or see what my books are about. Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Good friends

A very good friend of mine came home from a holiday in europe last weekend (lucky thing) and we met up yesterday for the first time since her return. It was great to see her. We talk about nothing most of the time: the small details, the minutiae of our daily lives, the similarities (we both have three children of similar ages, pets, husbands not necessarily in that order) and the differences and I really missed her while she was away. We usually meet twice a week and our meetings are an enjoyable part of my weekly habits. Its like a regular debrief that wipes away the little annoyances that can build up and swamp you if you aren't careful. We share good news and debate our worries and concerns until they are manageable. We talk about books, movies and whats been happening in the world. We have different jobs and our families do different things but underneath all that we have a lot in common. Everyone needs good friends. I'd recommend this one but she's mine and you can't have her.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Will we all need an agent?

I'm discovering that the path to world domination is not as straightforward as I'd hoped. If I think I've taken two steps forward, I envariably find the next day I've gone a step back. Some days its two or three steps back. I haven't actually made the inroads into selling my books overseas that I thought I had, although I still have hopes that things may work out.

Yesterday I heard that some NZ publishers are tightening up their submissions process. Considering I made my first book sale out of the slush pile I find this a worrying trend. Will NZ go the way of overseas publishing and require an agent for the majority of submissions? We'd need to train up a lot of agents double-quick as they are a rare breed at the moment.

In the past i've loved the fact that you could get published in NZ without the help of an agent. but reading US blogs about the difficulties of getting an agent before you can even start thinking about submitting work to publishers strikes fear into my heart. Being a writer is fraught with difficulties to begin with. If you have to add the search for an agent to your search for a publisher it makes the whole thing more like Mt Everest, then Mt Taranaki. Good luck everybody. Don't forget your crampons and a good supply of oxygen.

Friday, May 23, 2008

My books

I picked up advance copies of my books The Were-Nana (due september 2008) and Jack the Viking (due October 2008) from the publisher yesterday. I have them in my house. They are real. I've held them, looked inside and shown them to my husband and children, who also all agree the books are real. Its been a long process. I finished writing both stories in early 2006 so its hard to get my head around the fact they are finally here. I want to run around the neighborhood showing them to everyone. I want them to be in bookshops now. They are beautiful and i love them and its exciting. Pictures available shortly.

I was also celebrating yesterday because i read the news that the author's fund has had a very positive makeover in the latest Budget. A new name, more money and eventually a new home as well. Yay!!! Hopefully there will be a little extra in the cheque this year.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

New Zealand Post book Awards

I didn't win at the NZ Post Book Awards (see here for results ) last night. Sigh. Probably because I wasn't a finalist which was probably (but I'm just guessing here) because i didn't have a book published last year (except for my short story in an anthology, Dare and Double Dare) so no surprises there really. Its probably a blessing because i'm bad at giving speeches. Big congrats to all the finalists and the winners. What a buzz. I was especially pleased to see the awards mentioned on TV3's late news last night. Children's literature doesn't get the press it deserves in this country so some news coverage (with Ruth Paul-winner of the children's choice award-being interviewed - yay!!) is brilliant. Couldn't find the winners mentioned in this morning's Herald sadly but there was a nice piece on supreme winner Joy Cowley. That woman is a writing goddess. maybe one day I'll get to go to the award ceremony.

Monday, May 19, 2008

The 2008 CBCA Conference, Melbourne

The Children's Book Council of Australia Conference, 2nd to 4th May 2008, Melbourne. I stressed a lot about this before I went, mostly because i'd never travelled overseas by myself before (I lead a very sheltered life) and had never been to Melbourne before either. I needn't have worried. Melbourne is reasonably straightforward, the hotel was a hop, skip and a jump (although I walked) from the main train station (where the airport bus ended up) and the conference venue, and four other kiwis conference attendees were staying at the same place. For a comprehensive run down of many of the keynote addresses and panel discussions check out Fifi's blog but i thought I'd mention a few other highlights and benefits of attending.

First i'd like to say that going to one conference has only made me want to go to more. They don't need to be overseas, although a little bit of shopping in another country is always fun but NZ doesn't really have them yet for the children's book industry. The Storylines AGM in Auckland every March is usually a great day and an excellent opportunity to catch up with others in the business but it doesn't do workshops, panel discussions or cocktail events. The Storylines festival in June is aimed mostly at the readers as it should be so doesn't really qualify either.

Being immersed in the children's book industry with like-minded people for three whole days was bliss. Writing is a solitary business done at home so to be surrounded by people who are passionate about the same things and who don't glaze over discussing the same topics for hours on end is my idea of heaven. Being a part of this made me feel more committed then ever to writing.

I got to see a little of what the industry is like in Australia which was useful in terms of my long term plans to sell my material overseas. One of the things that came out of the 5% talk during the Writers and Readers Festival last weekend was the concern that it is becoming less economical to publish children's books in NZ unless they have international appeal and can be sold overseas. I don't know how true this is and whether its a trend or a blip but there are real benefits to the author publishing beyond NZ anyway. The recent international interest in NZ authors such as Lloyd Jones and Bernard Beckett has to be maximised by other NZ authors. From what I saw in Australia, while there will always be tough competition to publish, our books would not be out of place over there.

The company of the kiwi contingent over there was fabulous. It would have been much harder alone, much less enjoyable and i came away feeling so much more a part of the local writing scene. I have made new friends from three different sectors of the book business here in NZ.

Introducing yourself to publishers is a complicated business. Most of the publishers at the CBCA were there to sell. Most of the delegates were librarians, teachers and literature or educational academics. The publishers weren't looking for new manuscripts/books and generally don't do that publicly at the best of times. 'Author' can be a very dirty word. I decided to avoid it mostly unless there was already some connection, for example with people who had already seen and or published my work. This was an extremely small group of three. I did introduce myself to several other publishers who publish things in a similar vein to what I write, but tried to keep it low key and didn't frighten too many people I think. This was all good practice but i still need to work on not freezing into the nervous plastic smile and losing the capacity to form decent sentences during conversation. I guess the lesson here is to keep these things brief and have a few safe non-book topics to fall back on - this is hard when you are totally surrounded by books and book people though.

All in all it was a lot of fun (although expensive fun). i hope one day to get such a trip paid for by the industry but i'm not holding my breath.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

writers and reader festival

The Writers and Readers festival has been on in Auckland and I didn't go to one single thing. I don't write adult fiction and I don't really read much of it either (although I think Audrey Niffeneger's The Time Travellers Wife is one of the ten all time most perfect books ever written) so I'm generally not too fussed. I wouldn't have minded going to hear Bernard Beckett speak. He launched his book Genesis in Australia at the CBCA conference I attended in Melbourne, May 2-4 and he was a fantastic speaker and didn't really talk for long enough. I also wanted to go to the discussion on the 'slushpile' titled 0.5% on the weekend but didn't have a minder for the children. I did get some feedback from a friend who attended though and it sounded very interesting. Confirms what I thought too - an agent is not essential to get published in New Zealand and it is easier to get published then to get an agent. I believe it is a very different story overseas.

On the weekend (NZ Herald Saturday May 17)I read an interview with writer Mo Hayder, one of the speakers at the festival in which she said "I think it's sad the way the world has changed so that writers have to be part personality and part writer. I think its an absolute tragedy." As a shy person who dislikes public speaking I have to agree with her. Surely its about the writing. It seems unfair to have to be a good public speaker if i want a writing career. On the other hand I want to help my books get into the hands of readers and if a little self promotion helps me do this i would be silly not to? It is tricky though as i don't have any natural skills in self-promotion. I'm still learning.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

I have a super power. I can break wardrobe doors with my butt. I discovered this yesterday. Time will tell if this super power will benefit humankind.

I have two books coming out later this year. A novel for children called Jack the Viking and a picture book The Were-Nana both with Scholastic NZ in September and August respectively. I got extremely excited earlier this week when these titles were listed on Amazon UK, Japan and France. But my joy was well and truly deflated when I learned that the listings are just an automatic event where Amazon lists everything that appears on another list somewhere else. There go my plans for world domination. But how incredible would it be to have a book translated into another language. I get light headed just thinking about it and i so hope it happens to one of my books one day.

I attended my first ever book industry conference at the beginning of May. The Childrens Book Council Of Australia (CBCA) bienniel conference in Melbourne. It was wonderful and I had a great time and I will talk more about it next week. I'm waiting for the fog to clear before i take ma wee dog for a walk (he had a close shave about two weeks ago and I'm afraid he might freeze to death but I cannot bring myself to put clothes on him. He's a dog. The upside of the cold might be that the fleas freeze right off him but they seem an extraordinarily hardy bunch this year).

Have a fun weekend. Go the Blues and all the soccer players in my family.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


Two years ago I had my first picture book Clever Moo published by Scholastic here in New Zealand. A number of my short stories have appeared in NZ's The School Journal and the Australian School Magazine published in New South Wales. Last year I had a sporty short story included in Random NZ's anthology for children Dare and Double Dare and this year another story was included in Black Dog Books (Australia) anthology Short. I'm slowly beginning to feel like the real McCoy and when I travelled overseas last year and this, I put my occupation down as author and felt secretly very pleased. But there's an awful lot I still don't know about the business of publishing books. As I find things out I will pass this information on to you. And while an american agent recently encouraged writers everywhere to make mistakes because thats how we learn, if i can help anyone skip a mistake and move straight onto a better course of action then it will be all worthwhile.

Hello world...

Hi! I'm a writer of children's fiction living in New Zealand, slowly and simultaneously navigating the treacherous waters of publishing and child-rearing, the waters of which are full of sharks and other fear inducing creatures. Everyday i work hard to procrastinate and avoid writing on my latest project because despite what some people who've never tried it think, writing for children is HARD. As often as I can manage, when i'm not skipping up to the post box to gather rejection letters or checking my e-mail inbox for the millionth time I will post something I hope might be of interest to some accidental visitor to this blog.

I am twice as impatient as the most impatient person you know. I worry a lot for an optimist and wish chocolate wasn't fattening. I have three starry children, a fab husband, a shy pretty cat and a cute small dog.