Educational Resource: A Winter's Day in 1939
- Educational Resource: The Were-Nana
- Educational Resource: The Half Life of Ryan Davis
- Educational Resource: Made With Love
- Educational Resource: The House That Went to Sea
- Educational Resource: A Winter's Day in 1939
- Educational Resource: While You Are Sleeping
- Educational Resource: The Song of Kauri
- Educational Resource: Fuzzy Doodle
- Book List - Complete List of my Publications
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Monday, December 20, 2010
And happy gift blogs are happening over at one of my favourite blogs, Help I Need a Publisher here.
If I was good at lawyering or playing Tennis I would do that. Some days I wish I was good at being a scientist in a lab coat (or out in the field in gumboots and something hose-downable) or maybe organsing and managing (all things I have trained in). I would have more money and these are more conventional ways of earning it with less rejection and more certainty. I am a bit of a people person. I like knowing things, especially natural science stuff and history of all kinds from ancient to recent and everything inbetween fascinates me. I understand a fair amount of stuff but the thing wot I am best at is writing. And the thing wot spins my dials is ditto. So although it generally pays very poorly and does not show the love much it is wot I will continue to do. I hope you will keep me company and hang in there too.
This has been (mostly) a good year and I am fairly fond of it and a little loathe to let it go. But I have my game plan for 2011 and there are some nice prospects hovering in my near future so I will step forward into the New Year with a nice tingley sense of anticipation. I have that Jenny Valentine Cassiel Roadnight book and the I am Number Four one as well to read over summer. There is baked ham and Eton Mess to eat on Christmas Day and time to be spent at the beach in early January although I will not truly be on holiday till the middle of next April at the earliest. Please, please take care of yourselves and your loved ones over the Christmas and New Year period. It is a fraught and stressful time when the wheels, if they are going to, are most likely to fall off. I am over the whole present thing but I cannot wait to hang out with my family because that is what Christmas is all about for me. Merry Christmas peoples!!! Have a good one!!!!!
Thursday, December 16, 2010
Sunday, December 12, 2010
Top read - this year has to go to The White Cat by Holly Black. Honourable mentions go to The Graveyard Book and Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman.
Top Movie - haven't seen Inception yet but my fave for this year is Kick Ass.
Top moment - getting a phone call the day after posting a manuscript, watching my kids perform on the stage, the soccer field, the sprung floor and other arenas.
Top write - this year goes to my YA - My Sister's Shadow. I am very proud of this story. There have been some very positive noises about this from publishers. I have my fingers crossed
So, next year is approaching like Superman. What's on the agenda for 2011? I think I better make some plans, then if I tell you, I will HAVE to do them!!
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
I read this today in a review by Maggie Rainey Smith on Beattie's Book Blog - "...all writers to some extent need courage, bravado and a decent dose of vanity just to send their manuscript to a publisher." We must, by necessity, think our work is going to be good enough to be published, and therefore better than others on the slush pile. However it is never right to dismiss a genre as automatically inferior, and to demand that your genre/style/category is automatically superior. That's just rude.
Thursday, December 2, 2010
(phew someone slipped me a little Dahl and I came over all portmanteau).
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
And yesterday I found myself straying from my work in progress. I was going over my Young Adult novel and it sucked me in. I love this story. It has some difficult elements to it - it contains a difficult subject. When I described some of it to another writer last friday she looked aghast but as a whole I think it works. But I must hide it away for now. I want to spend more time with it, to fluff, titivate and massage it till you need to wear sunglasses to look at it. But I must focus on the WIP and make lots of lovely little paragraphs join hands and dance around the room together in perfect harmony. The grass is always greener eh? I didn't love my YA quite so much when I was in the middle of it trying to push through to the end. When it was hard work that made me want to tear my hair out. Its an easy date now, familiar and comfortable. I know what to say to it and what it likes to eat. I still have strong feelings for it. I'm still getting to know WIP and it doesn't always say what I want to hear, I'm not sure what it needs and I have to concentrate on what it is trying to tell me. I just keep telling myself as the story grows we will grow closer and when it is finished I will know it just as well as I know my YA.
Friday, November 26, 2010
I participated in a Meet the Author event (organised by the human dynamo Maria Gill and Kiwiwrite4kidz) on wednesday afternoon at Albany Junior High with a bevy of other writers and illustrators, speaking to and talking with school teachers and librarians from around the area. A good time was had by all, I busted some fiction myths (no Virginia, not all authors are rich and famous), spilled all my state secrets about writing and hopefully gave some useful tips for teaching creative writing in the classroom. It is very encouraging to find so many teachers and librarians keen to foster a love of books and writing amongst their students.
Not so encouraging? Once again I was turned down for Creative New Zealand Funding. The money would have been incredibly helpful and it is always a knock to one's creative confidence to be unsuccessful. I can't imagine having a better project to apply with than a contracted novel, with letters of support from several important industry folk. I am at a loss to know what is missing from my application. I now have a cold (to add insult to injury) and am feverishly applying lashings of chocolate and alcohol. I have a ship load of writing to do :)
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Sunday, November 21, 2010
Today I must add a certain amount of words to my WIP to keep it progressing towards the March 2011 deadline. Dealines are a mixed blessing: a wonderful ego boost of contract before book, a show of faith in one's writing 'chops', and the knowledge that this book 'will' be published. But now I march to the beat of the clock ticking drum. I must have done this much by this date. Freedom is gone. Do it and do it well no matter where my head or my creative skill might be at. I will do it. Progress is currently slow but steady. Meeting deadlines is part of the business that I must master and I relish the opportunity.
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Talk to you again soon :)
Monday, November 15, 2010
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Here's some of my writing from a recent project.
I hung my school bag off the back of a kitchen chair and helped myself to some biscuits from the cupboard. A packet of store bought chocolate chip ones. I tore the plastic wrapper along the length and sitting down, placed them in the centre of the table. Alex turned the seat opposite me around and sat in it back to front, leaning forward to grab a handful of the cookies.
The back door opened and Gemma walked through.
“Hey,” she said, doing that upward nod of acknowledgement thing before surveying the kitchen table and picking up the last few biscuits for herself. “You guys are pigs.”
I smirked. Alex ran his fingernail along a groove in the table top.
“When’s dad home?” Gemma asked, opening the fridge and grabbing the chocolate milk. She poured herself a glass, her schoolbag still slung on her back.
I shrugged. “Late. I’m cooking dinner.”
“I hate nacho’s” Gemma said as she walked through to the sitting room, glass of milk in one hand, biscuits in the other.
“You can cook if you want,” I called after her retreating figure, but the only reply I got was the jangly theme tune of her favourite afternoon TV programme wafting through the open doorway.
I watched Alex keep digging away at the groove, his long fringe obscuring his face as he bent forward.
“Don’t break my kitchen table,” I ventured.
They’d broken up. No fight, no discussion. It was just over. But Alex hadn’t been out with anyone else since. We didn’t talk about it.
After Alex gapped it to make tennis practice in time, I wandered into the sitting room.
“Dad’s looking at another house after work tonight,” I said flopping on to the couch beside my sister.
“Hope its better than the last one he looked at,” she scowled. “I want a bigger bedroom.”
“As long as it’s close to school … and we don’t move until after exams,” I said, grabbing the remote and flipping through the channels. The X Games was on one of the sports channels. I have to get my bike fix vicariously now. They put a couple of screws in my wrist and I’m off the bike for at least six months. It aches a lot. My freestyle riding career is on hold.
I ran my hand over the bristles popping out on my scalp. I liked the way they felt.
“Does it itch?” Gemma asked.
I looked over at her. Dark circles framed her eyes. The summer sun hadn’t made any impact yet on her paleness. I don’t know that it had the power to put some colour on her.
“Not anymore … Kim’s getting used to it now too. She likes the fuzz better than what it was like before anyway.” When I cut all my hair off, I shaved every last bit and my scalp had been baby-butt smooth.
Sunday, November 7, 2010
If you are serious about writing it is likely you have experienced doubt about your skills at some point. Someone once said that feeling doubtful about your abilities or the product of your writing was a good sign. They suggested that a good writer will question what they have written, and that those who never ask if their writing could be better are the ones who probably need to question it the most. I suspect this is only true to a certain extent. The supremely confident are not always self-deluded. There are always exceptions to rules and thank goodness there are. If there weren't exceptions to rules I doubt there would be any life forms on this planet, let alone humans. Anyway, I digress, where was I....oh that's right...self-doubt. So there will be a lucky few good/successful writers out there who feel perpetually confident. The rest of us, (far and away the majority I'm sure) have those moments, moments that sometimes stretch out to horrible days, weeks or maybe months, where we feel unhappy with what we have written, where no amount of mental massaging makes the sequence of words any more appealing in our eyes, where we are sure we will never get published/be published again. Or someone reads your most beloved, precious manuscript and says, "well, yes, that was...interesting," (as happened to me the other day) and your heart sinks. We read or re-read our favourite books by the most fabulous authors (hers was Suzanne Collins. I go for Neil Gaiman, Ian Rankin, or JK Rowling or Meg Rosoff or Lauren Child, or the guy who writes the Olivia books or...oh God I'm depressed) and say 'look how good this is, I'll never be able to write this well'. We take to our beds, pull the covers over our heads cos then we're invisible, experience a sharp decline and mutter about never writing again.
So, what to do when self-doubt strikes? First a piece of chocolate. Then, pat yourself on the back a bit and say soothingly, "thank goodness, I'm normal." Then hide all the books by all your favourite authors in a room that you can lock. Hand the key to someone trustworthy and tell them not to give it back until you are no longer 'self-doubt sober'. As soon as you are drunk on confidence the keys can be handed back and you can read anything you like.
But seriously? There is no cure. Self-doubt happens. But remember self-doubt also passes. Remember it is good to question what you have written. It is good to ask, "can I make this better?" It is good to push yourself to work harder and improve what you have written. When you are feeling in the grips of self-doubt step away from the best writers. Go look at the book that always reminds you you can write better then that. Go look at the piece of your own writing you've always liked best. The one that makes you smile, the one that made you think, yes I can write, the one that makes you choke up because the emotions are so convincing. And when your confidence is restored get out a book by your favourite writer and remind yourself what it is your aiming for. Go write people. You can do it!
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
Here are some rules I keep in mind when writing. None of them are about the use of commas or adjectives or dialogue. They are rules that over the years, I have realised, keep my writing going in the right direction. You might be surprised.
1. Keep it simple
2. Less is more
3. Trust your intuition
4. Have faith the right solution will come
5. The more you give the more you receive
6. Friends are the greatest wealth
7. You can never read too many books
Friday, October 29, 2010
I got my final university assignment back in the post today. I was very happy. My SO called me a girlie swot. One of the benefits of having a paper completely internally assessed is that I get to see what the tutor thought of my efforts. I like that his comments on my essays and tasks push my understanding even further. I learnt something extra from his feedback. I wouldn't have had that in an exam.
Some of you will already know I now have a picture book coming out next year. I love this story. I mentioned it a while back in this blog with a brief excerpt - The House That Went to Sea. I am so very happy it will be a book. It has happened very quickly (I sent the manuscript off less then a month ago). I am excited to see what the illustrator comes up with. I now have to put head down and bum up to get finishing my World War Two chapter book. The trail went a little cold while I waited for the publisher to decide whether they would definitely take this story, then it got a little more distant while I worked furiously to finish my university assignments. My task now is to quickly bring myself back up to speed with where I was at and where I'm going next, and fall into a pattern, a rhythm of regular writing to complete it. I still feel in touch with the 'voice' and my direction, so it should be reasonably straight forward. I am not sure what I will go on to after that is finished by April next year. Maybe, I hope, a proper holiday ( I will be writing over christmas - even when we go away - to meet my deadline).
I think I might wander up to my local indie bookshop (the fabulous TimeOut) and see if they have the new Scholastic Short Story Anthology with some of my stories in, Pick 'n Mix: Volume One. I haven't seen it yet and I am curious. I have recently been pondering the idea of doing an e-book of my children's short stories. I have an 8,000 word story that has received praise but no publication offers yet, that I think would go in a collection quite nicely, along with the fifteen or so published and unpublished short stories I've accumulated over the years. I will be exploring the mechanics and process of publishing an e-book and will let you know what I discover and how I get on.
Monday, October 25, 2010
On a completely different note I was thinking some more about the whole 'flogging a dead horse' issue. You definitely do not want to be spending precious time and energy going over and over and over the same story that may never be the one as far as a publisher is concerned. As a writer you have to find some litmus test for yourself that says a story is finished. I trust my gut instinct (and am generally like to err on the side of slightly underdone anyway - like a good medium rare steak - slightly blushing on the inside). Maybe you need to limit the number of drafts any story can go through. Find what works for you, but acknowledge that the polishing process is never-ending if we let it be. There are things I would change about most of my stories in print (although I am at least content with most of my short stories) but they were publishable without that extra titivation.
On the other hand sometimes it takes a long time to find the right home for a story. This is not about polishing and re-polishing the story until it shines with a blinding light. This is about keeping the faith that your story is good and sending it out despite previous rejections. We've all heard the story about how many times the first Harry Potter book was rejected before Bloomsbury took the risk. Its happened to me too, on a somewhat smaller scale of course. But there was no questioning the enthusiasm of the publisher for my manuscript. And it wasn't that I edited the story after previous rejections - the story stayed the same. It wasn't the story that needed to change.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Loved this juicy link courtesy of someone who exemplifies my point above. I love belonging to the children's writers and illustrators community in New Zealand and around the world - they really are a quality brand of folk.
Thursday, October 14, 2010
On the flip side of the coin sometimes we want to move on but can't get started. Writers are easily frightened by a blank page. They often get that manic stare, that possum-in-the-headlights look (which often precedes that flattened feeling), and have the five coffee jitters. Its closely related to the will-I-ever-get-published-again neurosis. I've been there and knew I needed help when I started looking for strait jackets in my size (10-12 with plenty of room across the shoulders). Experience has taught me that 'dithering' is a normal part of the process. Sure some writers are really disciplined, or like little sausage factories writing vast quantities of words every day and it works for them but I know I will have days where I have nothing to put on the page. And that's ok. Its only not okay when you fret about it. The minute you give your fear some attention it feeds on it and grows like Topsy (name that reference to win a prize of my choosing). Go watch some bad TV or read a bad book. You'll be back at the page in no time knowing you can do better then that.
BTW Nicola Morgan has had some fabulous advice on dialogue on her blog recently. Check it out here and here.
Sunday, October 10, 2010
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Finished reading 'Wasted' by Nicola Morgan. Great writing. Compelling and complete characters. Intriguing narrative voice, although sometimes I was more conscious of this than I wanted to be. The author makes the story predictable as she explores its central themes - issues of fate, chance and luck - and challenges the reader to toss a coin to decide the outcome of certain events. And this predicability ultimately raises questions and gives possible answers about the randomness of life. Very smart stuff. An important book for young adults I think.
I also finished 'Surrender', this year's inaugural Pindar Prize winner by Donna Malane. At first I was conscious of a few gumshoe style cliches but as the first person narrative voice kicked in these fell by the wayside. The story is fast paced and exciting with plenty of character development to keep readers satisfied and two parallel running mysteries provide plenty of interest. The author wrapped things up well at the end although I had guessed who one of the bad guys was (I inherited this skill from my mother who always figured out the bad guy before the end of the movie or tv programme). The only jarring note for me was the descriptions of pain experienced by the central protag but this was a minor niggle in what was an otherwise
entertaining and well written read.
Had a fun morning at the Mt Roskill Library reading The Were-Nana at last saturday's storytime, a special one devoted to grandparents. That's me in action up the top of this post. Children's book lovers and librarian's, Marion and Danielle run a great programme and local library goers cannot help but be infected by their enthusiasm.
Friday, October 1, 2010
Went to an Auckland Branch NZSA meeting last night. Was interested to find there were three speakers lined up to discuss their respective creative writing courses: Jack Ross of Massey University which is starting up a new Masters of Creative Writing next year (will be available extramurally which is cool), Brian Morris of the NZ Institute of Business Studies which offers a range of writing courses and Paul Mountfort from AUT's Master of Creative Writing. I was disappointed to find neither of the masters courses included children's or YA writing, although when asked Mr Mountfort did not rule out the possibility of including writers for children on the course. I did not get the chance to ask Mr Ross. I applied to the AUT masters course a few years ago and was advised they weren't able to cater to Children's writers at that point. No matter. These courses are not essential to learn the craft of writing and become published. You cannot teach talent and a diploma or degree will not make a publisher accept your work. Writers do need to share their work before submission though, and their work will benefit from the identification and weeding out of obvious weaknesses. There are basic elements of writing that must be learned: basic grammar, technique, and issues of voice, plotting, tense, POV, character development, setting, tone and dialogue, etc... And I believe it is important to have a group of like minded-individuals with whom you can discuss specifics, generalities, industry gossip and opportunities and a course can be a great place to meet these people. And sometimes all you need to move forward is a little confidence. A course can provide some or all of these things. Will completing the course take you closer to publication? It is impossible to say. A boat load of reading, a boat load of writing and a boat load of submissions will probably give you the same chances. I find myself doing a fair amount of writing teaching these days. I've learnt a lot through doing and passing on what I have learned has forced me to clarify the mechanics of how I write. I've achieved some of the things the course might have given me through alternative channels. Folks, do what feels right for you. I'm off to write a book.
ps I believe there will be more speakers discussing other courses at the next Auckland NZSA meeting in November.
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Friday, September 24, 2010
Monday I braved the harbour bridge without navigator/wing man/person to squeeze my hand and offer me reassurance during the tricky bits, to attend my first Spinning Tales (2011 Children's Writers and Illustrators Conference/Gathering) Committee meeting. Got invited to jump on board and as they were two members down thought an extra pair of hands might be handy. I am a closet bossy britches and congenitally interfering sort happy to offer my two cents worth until the piggy bank runs dry so naturally gravitate towards committees. So far I feel like I've made a couple of useful contributions and have put my hand up to run the pitching sessions. Folks go here to register your interest in attending this amazing networking and career furthering opportunity next April. There will be a great pitching session organised by moi where you can dazzle publishers (and agents?) with your fabulous manuscript pitch. Start paring down your synopsis/hook/tag line now to fit into 3 to 5 minutes so you are all ready to go next year. There will be prebooking on line before April and gentle support and encouragement offered on the day. I pitched at Spinning Gold and can advise on the amount of Rescue Remedy required to get through, and regale you with tales of how pale everyone looked beforehand and how relieved and proud of themselves everyone was afterwards.
Tuesday I took my middle child to her follow up visit to the oral surgeon who checked out the holes left behind by the removal of six teeth and the four screws now emerging from her gums. We were both thrilled and relieved to find out we would not have to return for another appointment. That afternoon I had my last workshop (number 6 in the series) with the talented budding writers of the local Intermediate only to find they have asked the Deputy School Principal if I can come back for some more sessions with them. I felt most loved and appreciated. They are a great bunch of kids, serious about writing, enthusiastic and very switched on.
Wednesday I took both my girls to the orthodontist (yay - it was the last visit for eldest), delivered them to school, went home, delivered middle child's baking back to school, went home, ran around like a mad thing doing domestic chores and drove down to the airport for a 3.30 flight to Wellington where I was met by the fabulous Ms Colston and her crafty friend Norelle - both finalists in the World of Wearable Arts Awards and after some titivation and sprucing we hied ourselves off to the dress rehearsal. Attending one of these WOW shows should be on everyone's bucket list. I sat riveted for more than two hours through the most delicious spectacle full of the most amazing creations. I was truly WOWed. Thank you so very much to Fifi for inviting me to this wonderful event and to both Fifi and her SO Adrian for putting me up in Wellington.
Thursday after chatting with Fifi before she had to dash off to work, and then Adrian who showed me this smart view (scroll down to the talk by Sir Ken Robinson) on education which I totally agreed with, I was dropped into Wellington City for coffee with Wellington authors Maureen Crisp, Fleur Beale and Philippa Werry - bliss. I trotted off afterwards for an hour or two of wandering around Te Papa (yay the childrens shop had my book The Were-Nana) before heading back to the airport and home. In the meantime Maureen had forwarded this link to me on why blogging is such a good idea. Thanks Maureen! Back in Auckland I whipped up dinner (rats - the water was too hot and killed the yeast in my very flat pizza dough) before meeting with Auckland authors Tania Hutley, Jill Marshall and Dawn Grant to farewell soon to be ex-Auckland author Kathy White. Lots of booky gossip in two cities made me feel authory to the bone.
Friday I went a-school-visitin' to Sancta Maria Primary in Flatbush, also meeting up with new author Leonie Agnew who is a teacher there. The children were just so passionate about books and I got to hear some of them read out their stories. Excellent work guys! In the evening I learned Fifi had won third place in her category. Go check out her brilliant entry at the WOW winners pages (titled Lady Curiousity), inspired by Rachel King's book Magpie Hall.
Today (Saturday) I took my middle child (she had some tickets after filling goodie bags as a job a few weekends before) to Fashion Week's Garage Sale where we scored some fashionable bargains at Stolen Girlfriends Club and Lonely Hearts. This evening it is her dance performance at the The Performing Arts Centre in Western Springs. Tomorrow I have a critique group meeting. Next week it is school holidays. We will be having a staycation at home.
Friday, September 17, 2010
A happy spot or three for me - last weekend I got to see my eldest compete in The Allstar Cheerleading Spring Carnival. We sold off our last fundraising hot dog by 7pm and sat through the performances of the final four teams, two of whom contain my daughter. Then it was prize giving. Both teams did well and one of them won top overall team. Yay!! My son is off doing what he loves best, competing in another soccer tournament in Taupo this weekend and my middle child, who has been invited to move up a class for Screen Acting, is dancing next saturday at the Performing Arts Centre. And tonite its just me and my sweet honey bee, with the boys away and eldest off to a party in Southside. We are plotting takeaways from Burger Fuel and a mini Harry Potter film festival.
And the release of the short story anthology, Pick 'nMix: Vol. 1 (Scholastic NZ) in November is getting close enough for me to feel that twinge of delicious anticipation. There is at least one of my stories in there (Smart Soup) and maybe two (The Man With the Dog Eye), and some of my Fabo writery pals (Tania and Kathy) have stories in there too. The book looks real pretty and I'll load up a picture as soon as I make this disobedient technology bend to my will. Volume 2 is coming out next February. Yeehah.
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Have been getting some unexpected and lovely feedback recently on my picture books. Was delighted to hear my first pb, Clever Moo, was being used in the classroom to teach writing at an Auckland primary school, and The Were-Nana gained some new fans in Hamilton. I've been invited to read The Were-Nana for a special storytime on October 2nd at 11am at the Mt Roskill Library and Pt England School have done a super podcast on The Were-Nana which you can check out here. I especially love how when students Brooke and Selina read the part about Simon scaring his sister with a spider on her plate, ask the question who's brother would do that and both agree that their brother would. Siblings do all sorts of things to each other, including mean and scary things and I like to explore these kinds of things in my writing. Its great to know that readers relate to the family dynamics I portray.
Congrats to fellow writer and faboist, Kyle Mewburn, who is the next University of Otago, College of Education, Children's Writer in Residence. And if you haven't checked it out lately, you should go see where our crazy tale The Visitor's has gone at http://www.fabostory.blogspot.com/ (now up to chapter 8). Love the ruby encrusted lingerie - those are some big gems!
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
Ideas are afraid of me right now. If they appear inside my head they bounce around like an agitated electron, unable to stop for more then a few seconds at a time. I can't seem to settle to anything. My one relief at the moment (the one thing I don't have time for and shouldn't be doing but if I don't I may explode) is reading Holly Black's White Cat - okay I think I figured out the main plot twist after the first page and I reckon I know what is going to happen and why, but I DON'T CARE. The writing is so sweet and delicious and mind feeding that I am bowling along at a rate of knots thoroughly enjoying the experience. I may just have to post up a short review when I am finished and let you know if my assumptions were correct (not that I would ever reveal what those assumptions actually were). If my brain doesn't explode and my head doesn't fall off normal transmission will return next week.
Thursday, September 2, 2010
In my last post I mentioned my submission explosion (waiting on thirteen things not 12, as first reported) and this got me to wondering. It is most unlikely that I should get a bunch of yeses but if for arguments sake I got a yes from every different publisher I've submitted to for different projects (which is possible but as i said, most unlikely) I would have 7 new different publishers (plus my current one). While I seriously don't think I have anything to worry about it occured to me that this might be considered bad form. On the one hand I write in more than one genre and not all publishers publish all things. Even if they do chapter books and picture books, they may not publish all variety of picture books. Not all publishers of chapter books publish YA. They might do fantasy but not historical or contemporary. Not all publishers do short story anthologies. One publisher may not like every story I come up with. It is acceptable then, if you write across different genre that you may have more than one publisher. But what happens if they have overlaps in what they publish. Who gets first dibs? Does it come back to the best contract? What kind of loyalty can be asked and expected? I'm thinking my submission explosion might lead to a brain explosion before it leads to anything else. From my point of view, for each of my stories I want the publisher who feels the most passionate about it to take it on (they're unlikely to take it on otherwise). And a good working relationship between author and publisher is essential. It's not my intention to annoy any publishers, but my goal for each and every one of my book babies is publication and if this means multiple publishers then I will do my best to work out any kinks that may crop up as I go along. I like to think that the more books of mine that are published, the more each publisher may benefit and every one would be happy. That's the plan.
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
By the way you are my inspiration because since the FaBo story started I decided I want to be an author. Keep up the good writing and continue to write and maybe I can be an author.
I never anticipated how children might respond to our crazy writing experiment. I was hopeful they would want to join in the fun but results so far (not even half way through yet) have exceeded my expectations and I was thrilled to find how much it is inspiring some kids. If you'd like to see what its all about click here . The quality of the children's writing is very high. Make a note of the names of these kids - they are the writers of the future for sure.
Yet again Maureen Crisp has found some wise advice on the intramawebby you should be checking out - two items needed in every author's book promotion toolbox.
Had fun yesterday with a small but dedicated crew of intermediate students in our third workshop together, with the highlight a diversionary discussion on the significance of the book titles of a particular series.Fascinating for everyone concerned I think. Looking forward to next week.
Oh, and huge congratulations to fellow fabo team-mate and all round excellent writer Brian Falkner for winning the Sir Julius Vogel Science Fiction YA Award for his book Brainjack. Brilliant stuff.
I'm off to smell the new grass - the aroma of vigor and potential. Quite a heady fragrance.
Saturday, August 28, 2010
Although they are keeping me busier than I want to be, my studies are interesting, enlightening and ultimately motivating. Read an article in my study guide by Mem Fox yesterday about who we write for. Here is a little of what she said:
As a writer for very young children I often struggle with the question: just who am I supposed to be writing for?
Do I write for publishers, so they can make a dollar? Do I write for the critics, so they can make smart remarks? Is it for the bookshops, so they can pay their rent? Or is it for academics, so they can deconstruct the text, write articles and seek promotion? Is it for the bestseller lists and the book awards so they can make or break me? Or is it for librarians and teachers, so they can use my books in some teaching/learning program they're planning? Do I write for illustrators, so they can share my royalties? Or is it for parents, so they can do the right educational thing by their children? Or do I simply write for me, so I can pay the mortgage I've saddled myself with? Or, in the final analysis, do I write for the very young children so they may be enchanted, informed and comforted? The answer to each and every one of these questions is: yes. To write at all is to write for everyone.
How ever, while I know that when I write I cannot control my audiences nor ignore them, I know my primary audience must be very young children. If others read my work meanwhile, so be it; but if I consciously write for all those others I'll find that failure is all that I achieve...
...It is far, far better to ache with caring for the children for whom I write, to keep those little kids firmly in mind, far away from the ubiquitous bottom lines on the bank statements, to see their wide eyes and bright faces, to imagine them curled up in bed, caressed by parental voices, or sitting cross-legged on the mat in school as a teacher reads the words aloud, weaving the magic spells of literacy.
I am writing to conjure young under-five-year-old children into loving reading, to inform them, to entertain them, to enchant and affect them, to provide escapist delight, to challenge values and assumptions, to present my own values, to assist in the development of literacy, to make them feel good about themselves and their world, to present hope and ideals and possibilities, and to enhance relationships between reader and read-to.
Ok, so a touch more cynical in places than I can manage but I will not argue with the last two paragraphs.
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
One of the issues many writers can face is the feeling of powerlessness. Stories are essential to the publishers but they are spoilt for choice. Chatting with some writer friends yesterday, one described her recent strategy for dealing with that issue. She has now developed an action plan which has given her back some control over her situation. I realised that I had come to the same conclusion/result via a different route. Over the last month or two I have been advocating for myself, asking questions, and putting myself forward. The results have all been positive and in addition I have to say I feel very proud of myself. Too many times in the past I have been a shrinking violet but the funny thing is when you take more control and act confident people treat you differently, and in a good way. I know my new approach won't always have positive results but at least I'll know I tried. I might fail if I try, but I can guarantee I will fail if I don't try. Don't hang back in the shadows people, no one can see you there!!
Friday, August 20, 2010
Anonymous asked how the bottle opener story (aka The House That Went To Sea) was faring and I must report that despite several attempts and some favourable comments it has failed to find a home so far. It is winging its way overseas to a US publisher at the moment as I continue to try and find someone who loves this story as much as I do. No matter how good I think it is, it must convince a publisher that it will delight enough potential readers to make them buy it and then tell their friends about it so they buy it too. There are so many other factors at play as well. Do they have something similar just published? Can they convince the educational market to buy into it if it is a more sophisticated book, is it super fresh but not too edgy/different/weird that people just don't know what to make of it. Are they just looking for something else although they don't know what that something else is but they don't think this is it. Is your brain tied in knots from all the possible permutations that lead to a no? Are you tired now? I think this book is different but not too weird. Its uplifting and cute and funny in places. It conjures up some cool images. It has good themes. There is nothing 'wrong' with it. This is when perserverence and patience might be the key. Time will tell.
Anonymous also asked how a successful author deals with rejection. I don't know. I am stuck on the idea that 'successful' equates with not having to deal with rejection. But for me, I know that being published in the past is no guarantee of being published again. Ideally each manuscript should be judged on its own merits. There are some books I've read that weren't judged on this basis but were published because of an author's previous success and it would have been better if the budget for that book had been put to better use. And while my manuscript might have merit I need to find a publisher who agrees. Being a bestseller makes you more desirable and I haven't had bestseller status - not yet anyway (its in the 50 year plan). I've won an award and been nominated for another but unless this translates into big sales this is no guarantee of anything either. There are a number of things I tell myself when I receive a no, that are designed to make me feel better. First I remind myself that I like what I wrote and I believe in it. The second thing is that it is better to have a publisher who feels the same as I do about my story who will turn it into a lovely book and want it to do well. The third thing is that the publishing industry is suffering in the recession like most other businesses (except possibly the manufacturers of prozac, chocolate and alcohol) and is in turmoil as it wrestles with new technology (and despite all the words about the demise of books and the surge in e-books, ipad apps and the kindle I have not yet met a child who uses any of that stuff). I refuse to give up on my good stuff and I have not yet exhausted all possibilities and the beauty of this business is that the longer I hang around in it the more I know about how it all works which makes me better equipped to exist within it and find new opportunities for my work. Because folks, what doesn't kill me makes me stronger. So I just package my darling up and send it out into the world again in search of new friends. One downside to rejection that I don't appreciate that I haven't yet figured out how to deal with is a growing cynicism. Cynicism is a poxy quality for a children's writer. If anyone knows how to dissolve cynicism please let me know.
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Today I'm starting a series of writing workshops with some older budding writers at the local intermediate school and tomorrow morning I'm off to chat with some fabostory enthusiasts at Maungawhau School. Whew. Its a busy week. On Sunday its the Auckland Storylines Family Day and I will be there (Aotea Centre, on level 3 I think?) on the Kiwiwritekidz table if you want to come and say hi, ask questions or pick up any fabostory writing tips.
I've recently had some good news (sorry this is embargoed till the i's are dotted and the t's are crossed) and some bad news - a 'no' on something that I thought was looking pretty good. I am allowing myself some grieving time and then I'm going to put this result in my past where it belongs and move forward with new submissions, and new writing, because really, what else can you do when you're a writer. I hate the no's. I hate that sinking feeling as you read the rejection and the sinking plummets from a greater height when its been a long wait. In rational moments I will remind myself that a longer consideration means the writing/story was in the ball park. And I will send this story out to another publisher to start the whole process all over again.
I am ready for some uninterrupted sunshine and some warmth. The first of September isn't far away. Bring on Spring I say...
Friday, August 13, 2010
Here is something that I am rather fond of from my as yet unpublished picture book The House That Went to Sea about a shy boy Michael Mariner whose parents have disappeared while studying monkeys in the rain forests. Michael goes to stay with his grandmother in her cottage by the sea and one night granny pulls up the anchor and away the house sails...:-
Michael checked for mermaids, sharks and pirates before he dropped into the water. It wasn't quite as warm as a bath which was just as well, he thought, for you shouldn't use soap and shampoo in the sea. He frog-kicked around the house and when his fingers and toes got wrinkly, he climbed back on board. As he did so, a bottle with a message knocked at the porch.
The message read, 'Dear Bottle Opener, We were pushed in the sea by some bad tempered monkeys. The log we managed to cling to, took us to an island. We shall be available to be rescued any time after 3 o'clock on Friday.
Yours most sincerely
Mr and Mrs Mariner
Enjoyed this handy little guest blog on the topic of coincidence over at the Rejectionist. I like the last paragraph especially which wisely says that its okay to have coincidences in your stories but only if you make them believable.
Also found this lovely piece on the importance of doing your own thing as a writer over at Janet Reid's blog. Like Sean Ferrell it took me a while to realise that I didn't have to write like other people wrote. I didn't have to follow their methods. Didn't have to do it the way they did to produce something good. I guess its a matter of confidence. Like shoe horning an ugly sisters foot into cinderella's shoe, its uncomfortable and impossible to walk forward. When I started out as a writer I spent a lot of time stressing that I couldn't do what needed to be done the way it should be done. Simultaneously I kept scribbling down things in my own cack-handed fashion and after a while the cack-handed stuff began to look better then the method writing. What an immense relief it was when I finally settled on the right shoe for me (nothing too orthopaedic or sensible) - how comfortable it felt and now I could walk a lot faster with ease, maybe even sprint or jog at times. I had to hand make that shoe myself but boy it fits like magic.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
It was about as long as Lyra's thumb, and dark green, not black. Its wing cases were erect, like a ladybird's about to fly, and the wings inside were beating so furiously that they were only a blur. Its six clawed legs were scrabbling on the smooth glass.
"What is it?" she said.
"If you was to crack it open," said Farder Coram, "you'd find no living thing in there...There's a clockwork running in there, and pinned to the spring of it, there's a bad spirit with a spell through its heart."
Its kind of the holy grail, these sentences that blow our minds, that make us want to work harder and strive more to write these things ourselves. To touch this magic and reveal it for other readers. Sigh. I've been thinking about things I've written and sentences that I've been especially proud of. Sentences that have a hint of this kind of magic. I can't quite bring myself to post any up today, so close to Pullman's genius. Maybe tomorrow. Or the next day. In the meantime I'd love to hear about the sentences that made you feel this way - in your own writing or the writing of others.
Sunday, August 8, 2010
My daughter finished reading my draft YA and gave it her seal of approval. She's been talking about it with her school mates and tells me they want to read it. So I started wondering if I should just do the e-book thing and my daughter promptly said none of her school friends have something to read an e-book on. So back to considering the traditional route, I am at that horrible point in the writing of a book when I need to turn it from a first draft into a final draft and I just can't face the prospect, I'm not sure why. I like this story and I'm happy with how the plot developed and finished up. I know its common practice to put a first draft away in a drawer for a few months to let it ripen like a smelly cheese but I have to say this is one writing rule I've never really followed. I want to get on with this one. A publisher has expressed an interest in having a look and I sent the first three chapters to another publisher some months back and if they do decide they'd like to see the whole thing its probably best I whip it in to shape as soon as possible. I have some other things that need working on and if I don't attend to the YA soon, it may be a while before I can get back to it. Update: I asked if they wanted to see it in its raw state and they said 'send it now'...so i did. As these things take a while to consider it makes sense to be doing the titivating whilst they weigh up the project. As I am happy with plot and voice and only working on improving grammar and style this seems sensible to me.
Took my YA reading daughter to a live performance of the musical Grease last night. It was loads of fun and she loved it. She has aspirations in that direction and felt very inspired by the whole thing. My only quibble - whenever we go see a movie or show together we always end up sitting next to, directly in front of, or behind the person with the hacking cough, the loud-voiced seat-kicking rudely-behaved children or the crying infant. I am acquiring some good aural blocking skills but I would rather I didn't need them.
Thursday, August 5, 2010
And whats with all the mud. I spend too much time scrubbing mud out of boy clothes. That'll teach me for having a son, especially one who likes to wallow in the stuff (he does have a nice complexion though). Elinor Dashwood knew what she was talking about when she lamented that she was experiencing all the punishments of loving someone without any of the rewards. I feel that way about mud. I don't know that that was what Jane Austen was trying to tell us but it just goes to show her themes are timeless and widely applicable.
Loved this post over at fellow writer Tania Hutley's blog. I am curious to know what the website where Tania found that lovely quote is trying to sell. Luck perhaps?
Monday, August 2, 2010
Special mention also needs to go to fellow writer and blogger on the other side of the planet, Miss Windsor (aka Welshcake) for her fabulous win at YouWriteOn.com for Children's Fiction Book of the Year 2010 with The Scarlet Heart. Fantastic news!!!! This must become a book!!!!
I have finally shoved another assignment in the post and will shortly be beginning the next one. I am thinking right now that I may take a sabbatical next year so I can actually do some writing. Yesterday I had a go at getting down on paper the adult short story that has been knocking around in my head. Ha ha - it reads like a short story for kids with grown up themes. Ack. I shall persevere. After all, I am an adult and I do occasionally read fiction for adults. I also have to do some research as its set in Pakistan where I have never been and of which I know little.
It is raining again but earlier this morning the water just hung in the air in a gloomy fog. It would have annoyed me if I hadn't been so fascinated. The rain was so light it was suspended, fixed in an earth bound cloud. Much better than the poxy stuff thats falling now. Even the vegetation is over it.
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
I have bleated on and off recently about the drag of having to wait to hear back on things and I was sure my brain would explode if I had to wait any longer. You will be relieved to know my head is still intact on my shoulders despite the fact that I have had no conclusive results on anything (although I did discover that the overseas conference I attended several years back is still paying positive dividends now - note to self, plan to attend another writery conference over next year or two). I can also without doubt confirm I do not have esp, or any mind bending or telepathic persuasvie powers (rats). Having the weighty carcass of a smelly assignment albatross hanging around my neck has kept me a little distracted and given me other things to carp about and the fabo project has been a thrilling little sidetrack. And here over at one of my favourite blogs (with a warning about excessive expletives) is an insightful little rant about publishing by the rejectionist. This lady is smart and wise. Go read it.
Monday, July 26, 2010
My other juicy link is courtesy (yet again) of the amazing Miss Maureen Crisp who is the Sherlock Holmes of the internet, hunting out the new, the exciting and the thought provoking. This particular post is a little incendiary and I will not be casting a vote one way or t'other here but I did agree strongly with one thing. If you intend to make writing your career, learning the business is the smart thing to do. You need to be informed to make informed decisions whether you have an agent or not. And if you choose not to or are unable to get an agent then you must understand how publishing and editing and contracts and publicity and marketing and funding applications and new developments etc.. all work. Of course this takes time and there will always be new things to learn but it is how you will help yourself. This link particularly resonated with me in view of recents actions I have taken on my own behalf. I have been asking questions, sending e-mails and standing up for my rights. I have had interesting and positive responses. Sure I have taken some risks and I will undoubtedly make mistakes (although I have made more mistakes by not asking and being hesitant than I have being bold) but this is a business and if I am professional and business like and my questions, suggestions and enquiries are sensible than I will continue to put them forward. Jane Austen Fight Club indeed.
Saturday, July 24, 2010
In a crazy turn of events I have had an idea for a short story for adults (inspired by some international news in a recent newspaper). As I have never written fiction for adults before this could be interesting. The idea has been maturing in my head over the last few days but I must confess I am a little wary of putting fingers to keyboard. I shall have to get over myself though because I would like to enter it in a competition that closes in August if I can get it done.
As suspected I have had children home for four weeks instead of the requisite school holiday fortnight. I had the youngest off the week before and have had the middle child off the week following. I am behind on a lot of things and am keeping my fingers crossed that this coming week is my own. Time will tell.
I am still in a Jane Austen phase and watched the film version of Sense and Sensibility (not as good as the most recent BBC production IMHO and I just wanted to slap that Edward Farrars and tell him to grow a backbone) and Persuasion with Sally Hawkins which I adore. Saw 'Milk' last night and think Sean Penn is really quite a remarkable actor, Harvey Milk was an incredible and inspiring person and that that was not one of the US legal systems finer moments - that there can even be such a thing as a 'twinkie defence' is gobsmacking.
And in the good news section of this post: the super fabulous uber-talented Fifi Colston has been successful in having her Wearable Arts Award entry accepted for the competition and I am very lucky to be going down to Wellington in September to see the Show dress rehearsal which I am very excited about. I have always wanted to see the WOW show and I love having an opportunity to catch up with very good writery friends. Can't wait.