What a day

Last weekend, I attended the Latrobe City Literary Festival. It was a wonderful day and exhausting, not the least because I helped to organise it.

Following the Regional Ambassadors meeting at Writers Vic late last year, a fellow Gippsland writer and I decided to form a group to connect writers across our vast region and to be the point of contact for WV. We met, talked about organising an event to drive awareness and membership of our group and then set about looking into venues etc. Unfortunately, my colleague became too unwell to be involved, but as I work for the local council and have access to the wonderful library team, I was able to continue with the festival.

Leveraging from the Creative Gippsland arts program which runs through May, we set the date for our event for 29 May, to be held at Traralgon library. I set up the group, applied for a grant through WV and managed to book Sofie Laguna to deliver a workshop for the morning session. The afternoon session consisted of three authors ‘in conversation’, reading from their works and taking questions from the floor. Sandi Wallace (crime), Cath Crowley (YA) and Honey Brown (thriller) then spoke to the question: Does Genre Matter? during a panel discussion session.

Writers Victoria were so supportive, offering advice and attending the event to promote membership. There was a member meet-up at a cafe the afternoon before which meant I could plug the Gippsland Writers Group. And attendance at the festival broke all expectations. The workshop was booked out with 24 participants and there were more than 50 people for the afternoon sessions. It was a huge success and we will do another one next year.

I now have a mailing list of around 15 writers who would like to receive further information about the Gippsland Writers Group. I can start to visit those other established writing groups in Gippsland to talk about what they want from WV, how we can connect, either physically or virtually, and go from there.

There were many take homes from organising this events, from learning about programming, picking the right venue etc but the biggest single take home was that the writing scene in this great region of ours is thriving.

For more information on the Gippsland Writers Group email gippslandwritersgroup@gmail.com or follow @GippsWritersGrp on twitter.

 

workshop LCLF.jpg

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My writing week

It’s been a mixed bag of writing ups and downs.

On Saturday I had the pleasure of attending Writers Victoria’s Regional Ambassadors Forum. The forum looked at ways WV can increase opportunities for accessing quality events and resources for writers in regional areas in our state. Although I only live a couple of hours from the city, I do, at times, feel disconnected from the buzz that the WV program generates in terms of weekly writerly events.

The forum was a great way to share the limitations we face. But it also proved a great inspiration as we talked about the many resourceful ways in which other regionally-based writers and writers groups work. I hope that, as a regional ambassador, I can be the link between WV and Gippsland and will be able to facilitate opportunities  for my fellow writers to access more of what we need, what we like and what will help further our writing careers.

Bonus – it looks like me and a fellow Gippsland writer, whom I met at the event, will be setting up a writers group in our region. Lots of work ahead but it will be great for our professional development!

Double bonus – I wrote a micro fiction on the train to Melbourne for a competition. Haven’t done one of those for ages!

In other writing news, I received a not entirely unexpected rejection from a publisher for my novel. A jolt of disappointment, a little bit of cursing and a lot of ‘oh well’s later, and I’m ready to pitch it to the next one…

I also had an interesting challenge for work this week where I was asked to write a speech on a subject I knew nothing about, to be delivered by a person I scarcely know. I did the only thing I knew how to do: turned that person into a character and let the character tell me what was important for the speech. The methods of writing, whatever the content, are often the same.WV regional ambassadors

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One year on from Brisbane…

So, this time last year I was on my way to Brisbane to take part in the QWC Hachette Manuscript development program. I was one of ten writers to attend the four-day retreat which featured one-on-one meetings with Hachette editors and publishers, mentoring by authors, agents and other industry professionals and, of course, lots of discussion with my fellow participants.

It seems unbelievable that a year has passed and even more unbelievable that I chose to use the term ‘writer’ in the above paragraph. I clearly remember, when the list of participants was announced, going into a state of flux about how much more competent the other nine people must be. I was particularly hung up on how many of these talents had written literary fiction and my manuscript was simply a contemporary romance…they must be much better than me, right? I mean, these people are serious writers. I’m just a woman who writes fiction in her spare time. Surely I would be unmasked as a pretender.

What I found though, was that no matter what we had written, no matter what style or genre, no matter how much or how little experience we had, we all found a kinship in the group. Evident straightaway, was the shared desire to learn as much as we could from the professionals we met, as well as providing support to each other, throughout the retreat. We still keep in contact with each other and we regularly share our writerly angst, or good news, on a Facebook page.

For me, the trip was a giant leap out of my comfort zone. First, I had to leave my family for the long weekend. Second, I had to fly. Third, I had to walk into a room of strangers and appear to be normal.  Fourth, I had to do a reading of my work (before which I spent hours hyperventilating and shaking). Fifth, I had to fly home again.

However, I did survive all these terrifying experiences. Not sure if I’ll ever be a confident public speaker but I did stop shaking whilst I was reading, at least.

What did I learn? That the most long-term impact of spending those few days living out of my comfort zone was that I can finally call myself a writer without it sounding weird.

Oh, and whilst my manuscript was not accepted by Hachette, I did manage to write the first book of a teen trilogy in the months since the retreat and I’m currently redrafting with the hope of sending it out into the scary world of publishers, slush piles and rejection letters next year.

brisbane

 

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Inspiring and inspiration

Coal Creek

On Saturday, I had the pleasure of attending the Coal Creek Literary Festival in Korumburra. It’s a small, relaxed affair but with authors Honey Brown, Sandi Wallace and Nicole Hayes on the timetable, it was far from ‘small’ in terms of value. In fact, the informal atmosphere made it a great way to connect with the writers and have the opportunity to ask questions without a microphone and 200 other people listening to you!

Listening to authors who’ve been published is always inspiring for me. It’s a path I’d like to follow and to hear again about the creativity, the hard work, the isolation and introspection, the setbacks and sometimes the luck involved in the publishing process is always interesting. I learn something new each time I hear it.

And there were books…

I’ve recently been added to a Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/745877708873062/ and the photos of old houses, sheds and outbuildings is proving inspirational for short story ideas. I’ve finished the first draft of a story based on one of the photos posted and hope to redraft ready to send off to the FAW National Literary Awards. It’s always great to get a sudden jolt of inspiration, and I haven’t written the short form for a while. A refreshing change from the current novel-in-progress.

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It’s good news week

I’ve had a pretty good couple of weeks in writing terms. First, I came second in a writing competition, one that I had forgotten I’d entered. Reading the judge’s report gave me food for thought – how other people see your stories. It’s difficult to move your perspective from subjective to objective when writing, editing or reading your own work. I’ve always found reading the judge’s reports a great way to improve my writing, to work out what catches the interest of a reader, whether it’s character, plot, perfect grammar and spelling etc. I believe that for most judges it would be a combination of both, so too for most readers.

In short stories there is little room to write a convoluted plot so characterisation is key. My own stories tend to take place over a relatively short period of time, sometimes no more than a few hours. Putting a character in a confronting situation and seeing how they react is the way I tend to write. Plot is secondary. However, the story that placed in this competition was perhaps a little outside of my usual style – set in the past and the present with two characters lives intertwining.  It was enjoyable to write and very enjoyable to know that it left an impression on someone else. Thanks to the team at the Yarram Community Learning Centre for organising the competition.

The other good news is that I’ve finished the first draft of my latest WIP – a teen novel, which I hope will end up as a trilogy. It’s always a relief to get to the end but I know that now is the hard part – revising, redrafting, perhaps restructuring. It’s a challenge, a slog and it’s also the time when a writer can lose heart in their work. But it’s these struggles that can refine an ordinary first draft into a piece of work that sings.

Wish me luck!Yarram certificate

 

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Women’s fiction and ain’t love grand?

I attended a couple of sessions at the Melbourne Writer’s Festival yesterday – both with a focus on women’s fiction, women in fiction and women writers. The first discussed lit vs genre and dealt primarily with erotica. My take home from the debate was that writing good sex does not mean mind-blowing multiple orgasms and lithe bodies a la Hollywood, but rather entails honesty and intimacy which leads the reader on a more organic experience that exposes character rather than physical attributes.

The second discussion was around women’s fiction. What is it? Why is it distinct from fiction in general? Is there men’s fiction? Is women’s fiction less worthy than fiction written by men, about men or for men? According to some of the statistics that were given out during the debate – yes, women’s writing seems to be less valued. We learned, with no great surprise, that the vast majority of writing prizes around the world are awarded to male writers. However, the panellists agreed that perhaps the industry is changing. We can only hope.

It did make me think about my own writing and who I write for. I generally write for me , or women like me. Perhaps stories for younger women too. I write stories which I would like to read, about characters I can either relate to or have met or want to understand better. And now with my teen novel, young people of both genders.

The term chick lit came up in the discussion and I think, although I dislike the label, that is probably where my novel Que Sera Sera would fit. Chick lit was characterised as a genre where a woman is ‘saved’ from her predicament by a man. I baulked at this. Is my independent young woman protagonist rescued by a knight in shining armour? Yeurgh!

When I had ruminated some more I saw that both my female and male lead ‘rescued’ each other, for want of a better term. Yes, they become romantically involved but together they overcome their personal conflicts. Equality in partnership. Each gives the other more than they can give themselves . And isn’t that what love is all about?

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Once more with feeling

Hi there

I’ve been away from the blog for too long. But I haven’t been away from writing. In fact, since I last posted here I’ve written two novels and quite a few short stories, some of which have snagged me awards or prizes.

My third novel, called Que Sera Sera, was selected for the QWC Hachette Manuscript Development program at the end of 2014. I travelled to Brisbane to attend a four day workshop with other participants, editors, publishers, agents, writers and mentors. It was utterly brilliant, took me right out of my comfort zone, forced me to reassess my work in the harsh light of someone else’s day and presented me with the best opportunity for publishing the novel. Added bonus: meeting like minded souls who travel the same tortured path!

I resubbed the revised work but sadly it wasn’t picked up by Hachette. I am now in the throes of resubbing to other publishers. I’m also nearly at the end of the first draft of a teen novel and I noticed something about my writing. There’s a saying: write what you know. The MC in Que Sera Sera is obsessed with Doris Day – me too! In my as yet unnamed teen novel, the MC and his bestie are obsessed with The X Files – me too!

It got me thinking…how can I include Duran Duran in my next work? No, really. It just seems to make sense to include character traits that are easy for me to make genuine. If I understand the feelings that my characters are having, the way their minds work, the motivations etc then my writing will feel more authentic. I know that I write with more feeling when I fully submerge myself in the skins and bones of my characters, obsessions and all.

Of course, the real bonus is having to do field research. During the writing of Que Sera Sera I managed to revisit some Doris movies. And currently, I can indulge in a few eps of The X Files whenever I need to reference a Fox Mulder witticism or a Dana Scully retort.

Whip crack away, anyone?

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