Making Plans

There once was a lady who made plans. Plans for her career, her family, and her life in general. The kids would go to school while she would go to work some days (she worked in a library, a job she looked forward to each week), and she would continue with her studies, and write in the cracks as well. She even bought a book all about making plans and wrote a list of 100 things she would do in 2020.

IMG_5317

Then one day, she saw a meme on the internet about beer, and some kind of virus. She had no idea what this all meant, and assumed it was something funny the ‘young people’ were on about.

By the next week, she knew what the meme meant, and that she and the rest of the world were about to experience living through a pandemic. Was this a movie? A TV show?

She could no longer go to work, and her kids could no longer go to school. And that book she bought about setting goals and making plans, she scoffed and hid it under a pile of other books. Ha! What was she thinking making all those plans?

For the next while she stayed home, supervised her kids schooling, and made quick trips to the supermarket. She watched TV and ate a lot of snacks. And washed her hands. A lot4E3B741B-1EF8-4F62-8A69-E7F0CBC8233C.

IMG_5318There were some sweet and funny moments, and she grew a deep appreciation for all the schoolteachers that have ever taught her kids. Her littlest son become fascinated with fairy tales and she gave him the book of French fairy tales her grandfather read to her when she was his age.

They went for walks, bike rides, and played a lot of table tennis.

Then one day, she decided to open the book with the lists of goals and plans. What she found was that while many of these did require putting on pants and leaving the house, many didn’t.

#3 Read Cloudstreet

#8 Write 5 poems

#29 Practice the guitar

#30 Submit 6 times to The School Magazine

So, she got on with the list. She wrote a poem about eating almond croissants and sent off a story to The School Magazine. Her guitar practice is going well most weeks, and Cloudstreet has moved to beside her bed.

She still wishes she could go to work, but her kids will be back at school next week, and things are changing day by day.

Hopefully, she will get to do #31 on the list which is to visit her favourite tree in the Sydney Botanical Gardens during Autumn.

She knows it must be changing day by day now too.IMG_9690

The Emerging Writer’s Group

I was thrilled earlier in the year when Paul and Beth from The Children’s Bookshop

in Beecroft announced they were starting the Emerging Writers Group (or EWG as we call it). The aim is for unpublished or newly published authors to come together and network, share our writing, and listen to established industry professionals who come and speak. Honestly, it is the most generous gift to us, hearing the stories of the twists and turns that have led to publication. It’s an encouragement to keep going, keep trying to make the work the best it can be, and a reminder of the generosity of the kid lit community where everybody seems keen to share their knowledge and experience.

Pirate Boy Blog          Prize blog

The EWG recently held it’s first short story competition, and my story (involving pirates, books, and toilet paper and inspired by this Sephen Michael King artwork)) was voted the winner. It was a great thrill and honour, and I keep my mini bubbles trophy on a shelf above my desk to inspire me. The other part of the prize was a coffee date with an established author, so stay tuned for that one.

 

The Rules for Writing

The Rules for Writing

There are so many ‘Insert number Rules for Writing’ articles out there.

TDeskhey talk about things like sentence length, adverbs, big words vs small words, never start a book with the weather, avoid prologues…. and the list goes on and on.

Here is my own list of Rules for Writing, though in the spirit of  #6, I’m not calling them rules.

 

A Short Compendium of Helpful Hints for the Journey

  1.  Daydream. Often.
  2. Turn off the freaking internet. Only turn it back on if you 100% have to know the technical name for a pirate peg-leg, or the collective noun for goose larks.
  3. Write the terrible first draft. So you can rewrite it and make it better.
  4. Try that sentence again. Without the exclamation point.
  5. Don’t write for others. Be selfish and write the best story you can for you. It’s highly likely that someone else will like it too.
  6. Be kind to yourself.

 

P.S. I had a story published in The School Magazine last month, and I have another one coming up soon. It was quite the thrill! (I’m keeping that exclamation point)

 

 

 

SWF All-Day YA 2018

Last Saturday was the Sydney Writers’ Festival All-Day YA event at the Riverside Theatre in Parramatta. This is the second year I’ve been, and again, it was fantastic, and I came away inspired with fresh ideas, and with new knowledge about how authors and illustrators do their thing. There was a fun and friendly vibe, beanbags, food tucks, and a great selection of YA books to buy.

Surprisingly, as I have not read a whole lot of sci-fi or dystopian YA, my favourite panel of the day was the Architects of New Worlds panel featuring Jesse Andrews, Cally Black, Claire G. Coleman and Jay Kristoff.

They spoke about world building; who they think does it well, and how they manage to do it themselves. Some ideas that I took away were:

  • You don’t have to empty the notebook and put it all in – have an in-depth backstory for your own self, but not all of it needs to go into the story.
  • Conversations in the story (particularly with those who are new to the world) are a great way to integrate backstory and exposition.
  • Don’t explain things you don’t need to.
  • If it’s a cool idea your readers will go with it.

The MG dystopian novel I have had brewing in my head for about 5 years has risen a bit closer to the surface.

I enjoyed all the sessions I went to and was really impressed with the Youth Curators who programmed the day and chaired some of the panels.

 

 

Morning Pages

There are countless articles and anecdotes on the internet about the life changing power of doing morning pages. They are well known in artistic and writerly circles, as is The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, a book which guides you through a 12-step program in discovering your creative self.

Artists Way

I bought my copy of The Artist’s Way at a second-hand book stall somewhere on the north coast and began writing morning pages in August 2014. The idea is that you are not supposed to go back and read them, but when I come to the end of a notebook, I usually have a quick skim back through. Sometimes there are great ideas I had completely forgotten about, and other times there are painful reminders of how I was feeling on a particular day. Often, I sound completely mad and bonkers.Morning pages

You are most definitely not supposed to show them to anyone, but here is a small snippet of my first ever morning pages:

“I’m reading The Artist’s Way, hoping to ignite my creative self. My dream is to write books for children. I want to be able to describe myself as ‘someone who writes for children’.

“What do you do?” someone may ask me.

‘I write books for children” (insert grin and satisfied sigh)

I would love to see a child read something I had written, then hug the book to their chest, squeezing it, as if they want the book to become part of them”

Well, nothing has changed in almost 4 years. That is still my dream. I will keep going, showing up at my desk, working hard to become a better writer, and hoping to one day see a child hug a book written by me.

Note to self: Give daughter instructions to burn all my morning pages notebooks upon my death, lest anyone read them and thinks I was completely bonkers.

notebooks

NaNoWriMo 2017

November is National Novel Writing Month, better known as NaNoWriMo. People from all around the world sign up to write 50,000 words in 30 days; which equates to 1667 words per day in case you were wondering. This was my third time aboard the Nano rollercoaster, and unlike previous years, I didn’t write 50,000 words. I ran out of steam at about 21,000.

Should I have planned a bit more? Or sent my husband and kids away for the month? Or outsourced all the cooking, shopping, and cleaning?

What I think happened, is that I can see the potential for my story, and wanted to give it the proper thought, research, daydreaming, and attention that it deserves. Perhaps the writing process needed to be savoured a bit more. Considering the main character Henry is a boy who loves to cook and eat (much like myself), savouring the writing feels right.

There were plenty of highlights for me during the month though, and these are some of them:

 

  1. The interest and encouragement from friends, family, and online writing groups. A friend even bought me this sprout hair clip, to help ‘good ideas to sprout’. And I didn’t accidently leave the house with it in my hair once!
  2. Surströmming,   a type of Swedish fermented stinky fish, which appears in my story. I wept with laughter watching the many clips on YouTube where people encounter this for the first time. Hilarious!
  3. Falling in love with my tiny desk. She may be small (are desks like ships, and always female???) but I loved sitting down at her every day to write.
  4. Writing in cafes with good Coffee.

Interview with an Unpublished Author

I absolutely love reading interviews with published authors and illustrators, they are so inspirational. But have you ever wondered how an interview with an unpublished  author would go?

(These questions have been inspired, OK copied pretty much, from the wonderful Kids’ Book Review website)

IMG_9893

  1. What does a typical day look like for you?

I get up at 7am, and immediately turn on the coffee machine. I have of course been pressing snooze on my alarm since 4am because I live in hope that one day I will be like Murakami, rising at 4am and writing for 5 hours, before running 10km. Ha!

Get the kids out the door for school and Uni, then begin my daily writing routine.

 

 

 

 

Daily writing routine:

Step 1: Pick up Herman and Rosie and re-read it for the thousandth time while shedding a few tears because:

  1. the story is so beautiful.
  2. it is set in New York, and I especially want to go to New York.
  3. I realise I will never write or draw anything remotely as wonderful as Gus Gordon does.

Step 2 – Do some menial jobs around the house such as vacuuming or washing up, as this is when I get my best ideas.

Step 3 – Write my new ideas down in one of my many, many, idea notebooks.

Step 4 – Sit down to write a book using one of my ideas.

Step 5 – Remember that an idea is not a story. The idea is not much use without a story and a ‘voice’.

Step 6 –  Go searching for this elusive story and voice. Try all the usual places, under the lounge cushions and in the letterbox.

Step 7 – Pick up Herman and Rosie again. Repeat steps 1-6 at least one more time, before giving up and settling down to do my Uni work.

2. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you. 

When I was in Primary School, I wrote masses of love songs and poems, and sent them all to Boy George. I am still waiting for one in return.

3. Describe your writing style in 10 words. 

In the process of being discovered, unearthed, and explored.

4. Tell us five positive words that describe you as a writer. 

Aspiring, hopeful, little red caboose.

5. What book character would you be, and why?

Rosie from Herman and Rosie. She lives in New York, she can sing Jazz, and she has a friend who is an oboe playing crocodile.

6. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life, what would it be? 

Possession by A.S. Byatt. I have read it multiple times, but I skip all the tricky Victorian poetry. If I got tired of reading it, I could tackle the poetry and that would keep me going for quite a while longer.

7. What keeps you going as an unpublished writer for children? 

I have this vision of seeing a child literally hugging a book that I have written, and I hope to see it come true one day.

I will stop here because who want to read an interview with an unpublished author anyway? 

Being a mother and writing for children.

IMG_9466Lauren Child commented during her recent SWF talk, that many people over the years had doubted her credibility to be able write for children, because she was not a mother. (She became a mother only five years ago).

In my experience, I have found the opposite to be true. Sometimes I think being a mother has hindered my ability to write a good story.

As an example, a few years ago I had an idea for a junior novel set in space. When I started researching what it’s like going into space, I thought, What kind of mother would actually let their kid go into space? Space is a dangerous place! And it can seriously mess with your health and maybe shorten your life.

It was a total creative buzz kill. My story about kids going in space is still waiting to be written.

A year or so ago, I did a writing for children course with Jess Black, and I have written in my notes from that day, ‘Put pressure on your character – it’s not mean’.

She explained to us that sometimes she felt like she was being so cruel to her protagonist, pushing her to breaking point with problem, after problem…. but that is what makes a good story.

In my own life, I am around my children quite a lot, and I try to protect them from danger, but as a writer, I think I need to do the opposite. Get the adults out of the picture as much as possible, and let the kids be the heroes and solve the problems.