Tag Archives: writing

Promoting some Tassie events!

Some really interesting Tassie events coming up (some of which I’m involved in!):

Tasmanian Writers’ Festival – 16-24 March, 2013 (over two weekends).

TrifleDead-Cover2Book Launch: A Trifle Dead by Livia Day (from Deadlines, a Twelfth Planet Press imprint), Hobart Bookshop, Thursday 28 March, 2013 (more details to follow).

Get Published! Hints on avoiding the pitfalls to success – Saturday 13 April, 2013 (yep, I’m presenting at this one!).

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Creative day

I love writing. I choose not to do it much these days, as I’m focussed on editing and reading, but I’ve always made up stories. And so days like today are wonderful for my soul, because I get the chance to immerse in creative writing completely randomly! Just as when I had fun at the John Marsden session at the WA School Library Conference earlier this year, today has been a simple and creative pleasure. I was asked to come along with a few students to the Fremantle Children’s Literature Centre for a full day workshop with Aussie author Simon Higgins (I first met Simon at the Aurealis Awards a couple of years ago). It’s been a great day! Below is one of Simon’s exercises we did (and, at risk of ridicule) my own attempt at it :)

10 sentences
Keep them simple
Don’t add anything unasked for
Write about a mother and daughter meeting face to face for the first time in years
Choose your storytelling voice and tense & use throughout
number your sentences

1. Something about the weather on the day or night they meet and place them somewhere (meeting can be anywhere & when)
2. Mention a sound the characters can hear – be specific but don’t over describe
3. Choose a small physical object near or between the two characters.
4. An update on the weather.
5. Writing in the first person (about the other) third person (about either) – mention one item of clothing or an accessory
6. Revisit the sound from sentence 2
7. Make one of your characters look at the object from sentence 3 and as a result, think or feel or imagine something. (first person – about self)
8. Whoever wore or carried the article of clothing or accessory – have them do something with it.
9. As for #5 mention one physical trait (can be shared feature)
10. First time there is dialogue – one of the characters finally speaks. Has to be dramatic, intriguing, mysterious or a hint to why they haven’t seen each other in years.

The wind pushed the clouds in front of the half moon, whipping Asha’s hair around her face as I watched. The whispering of the gum leaves overhead was a constant echo in the torchlit dark. The balustrade was cold beneath my hands, gritty with peeling paint. A playful breeze flirted with the fringes of my shawl, drawing Asha’s attention at last. The rustle of the leaves seemed suddenly louder as the silence between us grew. I clenched one hand on the wooden beam, anxious now as I had not been before. I threaded three fingers through the loops of crochet shawl, nervous and waiting. Her eyes, so much like mine, widened as she took in my appearance.
“How can you be so young?”

I’m here with a bunch of 13-16 year olds and the ones who read theirs out were WAY better than mine! The future of writing in WA is solid :)

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On slushing…

Image courtesy of whisperwolf on Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons.

In reading for Apocalypse Hope (working title), this is the first time I’ve opened my slushpool doors internationally. It’s been an interesting experience. I’ve been flooded with submissions from all over the world (particularly the US), and what has been the most heartening part of the process is how well the Aussie subs stand up against the international ones. Don’t get me wrong, there’s been quality submissions from all over the world, but the top Australian submissions are surpassing any from overseas, which is fantastic to see.

I ended up with over 200 submissions (I’ll do a stats breakdown when I’ve finished reading, for gender, nationality, reprint vs original works etc), and with a rather manic month and a half just past (starting with two weeks of being very ill, then school holidays and my mum’s ongoing journey of discovery of illness), I’m down to the wire on the actual reading deadline I gave myself. I plan to have all first round reading done (that is, any outright rejections) by the end of this month. Two days away. Eep. And then I’ve got another stack of second round readings to do, which I don’t want to go much beyond mid-November on. That’s my plan, right at this moment, and I’m so grateful to the wonderful authors who permit me to hold on to their stories a little longer than I’d originally hoped.

I’ve been interested to see how some authors deal with their submission. I really should have had a column for “Didn’t follow guidelines” to put in the stats, because it’s been surprisingly high. Top offenders were stories outside the word count (without query), submission of reprint (without query), multiple (without query) or simultaneous submission, and completely not fitting the theme. There were also plenty of emails without any information in the body of the email (not even a “Dear Editor, please find my submission attached”). Weirdest “Didn’t follow the guidelines” was a snail mail submission from the UK (what the WHAT?!). Typewritten. I kid you not.

Image courtesy of irina slutsky on Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons

And it’s also been interesting to have more than one author take rejection very badly. Newbie writers, please take note – being aggressive with the person who publishes the work is a really bad idea. I’m an editor and publisher and sure, I don’t put out a whole lot of anthologies. Right now. At this point in my career. But my goal is to go on to bigger things. And I happen to have lots of friends who are editors and publishers. And we talk. About writers. And unprofessionalism in a writer is something we are interested in talking about, because if you can’t handle the rejection of your precious story (and yes, they are all precious, we understand), the chances are you won’t deal very well with the editorial process. Or, should you make it through that, with negative reviews (the very BEST of stories gets them – live with it).

Read a few pro writer blogs. Read about the rejections slips almost EVERY pro writer gathered when starting out (and may still gather, if they are the most wonderful type of writer who continues to take risks, who writes without contract, who submits on spec, even though they probably don’t HAVE to any more!), and consider their graciousness with this process. Rejection hurts. We all KNOW this. But you have to learn to deal with it if you really want to write.

The thing is too, you sometimes have no idea why you’ve been rejected (such as when the editor is very busy and doesn’t have time to give you more than a standard rejection). It could be that your story was actually pretty good, but just a bit too similar to another story already accepted. Or that the story just didn’t quite fit the interpretation of the theme in the editor’s head. Or any number of reasons (including, yes, that it was just plain bad). And if you behave badly in reaction to the rejection you receive, guess what? You just got crossed off that editor’s list of people she wants to work with in the future. To be honest, the best response is no response; trust me, there’s no point in arguing, and if feedback has not been freely offered, don’t ask for it. There are plenty of online and face-to-face crit groups who will give that to you.

I need to say though, almost all the writers I deal with are fantastic. They are wonderful to edit, respond promptly to email, and handle rejections gracefully. And they are the reason I continue to do this job – the good guys outnumber the bad, thankfully!

Right, so now I’ve got that off my chest, excuse me while I dive back into the slushpool, to fish out some more gems.

If you enjoyed this rant post, you might also be interested in the (more reasoned) post Alisa Krasnostein at Twelfth Planet Press made recently on the same topic.

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On indie press: Dave Luckett

I’ve invited a number of people who have published in indie press and gone on to become professionals in the field to write about their experiences. Today’s post comes to us from Dave Luckett, who has a different journey to share. 

Photo courtesy of Sandra L Chung

I had only one short story published in the old Eidolon before I got published by Scholastic, who have been publishing me ever since. They had never heard of Eidolon. That Scholastic publication only happened because Lucy Sussex was editing a collection for them – it was because she knew me. So I first got commercially published via the same route, alas, that most authors do. It was because I knew somebody in commercial publication. I am as dissatisfied with that as anyone. I don’t think it should work that way, but it does.

It was Scholastic’s imprint Omnibus who published the Tenabran Trilogy, which took two Aurealises, and that made what name I’ve got. After that it wasn’t hard to get short stories for adults into (some) indie collections like those from your good self and ‘zines like ASIM and Oceans of the Mind.

But Omnibus publishes children’s and YA only. I can’t get long works for adults published at all. The only work for adults that I can get published is short fiction in small press. The commercial outfits publish hardly any short fiction, as you know. They’re utterly risk-averse, category-driven, only listen to each others’ sales figures and industry gossip, and are only interested in this week’s bottom line and the next Big Thing. On the other hand, the indie publishers don’t publish novels, generally, and they rely – perfectly legitimately, in their case – on the personal tastes of the editor and publisher.

But my output of short stories remains small and peripheral, and it doesn’t get a foot in the door with any other publishers. In my experience, indie-published short stories are invisible to mainstream publishers, commissioning editors, and agents. In fact, almost all short fiction is invisible to them, except the very small amount they publish themselves, and then only because the very act forges personal contacts between editor and author.  The industry functions on these personal contacts.

I’m really glad that you seem to enjoy my work, and so apparently does Stephen Dedman. Others putting out indie collections, such as Bill Congreve or Russell Farr, don’t care for it. All I can do is write the best I can. I certainly don’t regard small press as any sort of career in the “earns money” sense, and regret that it doesn’t seem to be any sort of recommendation to a publisher who might be able to pay a living wage for regular output. That’s sad, and it’s wrong, but there it is.

Dave Luckett has written three junior novels for the Omnibus Ripper range: The Adventures of Addam; The Best Batsman in the World and The Last Eleven and two Shorts: Night Hunters and The Wizard and Me.

The first book in his Tenebran TrilogyA Dark Winter was released to much acclaim in April 1998, and was shortlisted for the 1999 West Australian Premier’s Award. The second book in the Tenebran TrilogyA Dark Journey was released in February 1999. A Dark Victory, book three in the trilogy, was released later that year.

Rhianna and the Wild Magic and Rhianna and the Dogs of Iron are among Dave’s recent Scholastic releases for children, and his 2010 book, Paladin, is a great time/world slip novel for younger teens. 

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In judgement

This year I was invited to judge the inaugural Rockingham City Council Short Story competition. I was judge for the KSP Speculative Fiction comp a couple of years ago and enjoyed the experience (my judge’s report for that one isn’t on their site anymore – might post it somewhere for posterity) so I was happy to say yes. Foolishly, I thought it probably wouldn’t be a huge job – first year of the competition and all. I didn’t reckon with the powers of Lee Battersby, competition organiser and champion! Ended up with nearly 140 entries across three categories (Youth, Open and 50+). The stories had only one theme – the inspiration of an artwork owned by the RCC, the very evocative “The Eviction” by Derrick Carroll.

I did my duty and chose the winners (1st, 2nd and 3rd plus three honorable mentions in each category – 18 in all). It was blind reading – all names stripped from the manuscripts, just numbered. So imagine my surprise when Lee told me that the winner of the Open and 50+ categories was the same person, and the winner of the Youth section was her daughter! I was blown away, particularly as the three stories were all very different. I would never have imagined the Open and 50+ stories to have been written by the same person. I thought that was pretty funny. It was even funnier tonight when all the winners were announced at a lovely little event put on by the Council, when I realised that every single one of the 18 stories I’d selected as winners was written by a woman. Could have knocked me over with a feather!

Am I a gendered reader? I wouldn’t have thought so. Yes, a lot more women than men pass through my hands when I’m reading these days, but fifteen years ago, four out of my top five favourite authors were men (Dean Koontz, Stephen King, Raymond Feist and David Eddings – Anne McCaffrey rounded out the five). It’s changed since then, and while I still do read and enjoy many books and stories by male authors, if I’m given the choice between a new male author and a new female author to read, I’ll almost certainly pick the female.

I don’t think I can put the motive for this change squarely in the court of the company I’ve been keeping for the past several years (I’m looking at YOU Alisa, Tansy, Helen, Alex et al!), although of course that helps. I would suggest that part of it is an exposure to more woman writers, but also my own growth and change as a person. It’s an interesting thing to consider about myself.

***

Anyway, here’s the gist of my judging report for the competition:

It was a great privilege to judge the inaugural Rockingham City Council Short Story competition this year. The huge number of entries was a surprise for the first year of a competition, but demonstrated the interest in the creative arts in our area and across Australia.

With such a darkly intricate artwork to draw inspiration from in “The Eviction”, it’s hardly surprising that stories were evocative, compelling, disturbing and engaging. While many writers took a very literal interpretation of the work, others used it with a light touch, with satisfying results in both areas.

The image prompted many ghost stories, which was fascinating, and a multitude of works featuring a cat as protagonist. Both types of story can be difficult to execute successfully, and the best took the trope and gave it a unique twist. While many works were very well-written, some were let down by a lack of true story, being instead mood pieces or vignettes. A very short story is possibly one of the hardest types of writing to execute well, as in a limited space there is still a need for plot, character and good writing. Rarely can any one of those three elements stand well enough on its own to create a good story – almost always, all three are required. The very best of stories uses all three seamlessly and integrates them into a work that makes it impossible to tell which of the three are doing the hardest work in making it great!

YOUTH SECTION

1st place – While not unique among the entries in terms of the premise (ghost stories were a favourite trope for this competition), this story was executed extremely well. The characterisation and set up of the story were very believable – it was creepy and sad, and above all, written beautifully.

2nd place – An action-packed piece that took me to a completely different place than I’d anticipated! Cleverly done and well-written.

3rd place – One of the few stories submitted that examined the painting itself rather than simply drawing inspiration from it. While not quite as well put together as the first and second place stories, it held my attention and made me want to read it again once I got to the end.

OPEN SECTION

1st place – Eerily beautiful, this haunting story still packs a punch. I love the paranormal premise here, and the writing is excellent.

2nd place – This solid story was a dark little insight into what goes on behind closed doors. A quite innocent facade but not all that pleasant to read!

3rd place – Another behind-closed-doors story – the narrator of this piece was particularly likeable. A little sad story.

50+ SECTION

1st place – This story took a fabulous idea and pulled off a well-paced, creepy tale. The over-the-top characterisation set off this horror story very cleverly. Great writing!

2nd place – As an editor, I would have advised the author to do some judicious trimming of this story, but it’s overall a very well-written piece. I liked the way the painting played an important role in the story.

3rd place – A number of the submissions tried to use an anti-hero narrator – someone completely unlikeable telling the story. This is a difficult thing to do well and this story did it best. Cleverly done.

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