Thursday, 1 December 2016

End-of-year check-up

Goals check: AKA Things I forgot to do

This year has been big. Busy big. Lots of unexpected pluses big. Lots of hits and misses big. BIG. So big I didn’t do my usual mid-year goal check.

In my usual tradition, I’ve left it to the almost last minute to look at my goals, when I have about three clear days between now and the start of School Holiday Hell. So anything not done now won’t be. And I’m okay with that.

A photograph of about 12 books
Last year's TBR pile.

Set up writing room

Done, done, done! New desk, new desk chair (which has since broken and I’m using a dining chair), and a bookshelf!

Pluses: Not spending anywhere near what I did last year time-wise or cash-wise at the café. Have perfected ninja sneak down the hall to avoid waking the child (mostly). I can play my music and sing badly. Able to do housework during breaks away from the keyboard.

Minuses: Am doing more housework than I should because it’s a distraction. The internet’s connected: great for research, not so great for distraction. The trail bike noise from next door’s still loud – but not as bad as it was – and remains a distraction.

A photograph of two shelves filled with books
This year's TBR shelves. I have a book addiction problem.

Read more

I have read more books that I did last year, but my TBR pile has grown, not shrunk. It’s like an alien that doubles in size every time I touch it. I read one book, two more appear from nowhere.* The bookshelf/containment unit is already near-full.
*Bookstores/library/borrowed from friends.

Finish current YA novel

First: finish the first draft. Second: leave it for a couple of months. Third: rewrite, rewrite…
First: has been rewritten twice this year – once off the back of the mentorship, and I’m reworking again now following feedback from my beta readers. And I have a deadline for Some Thing which is right at the end of the school holidays.

Also… I’ve rewritten my second YA MS, got into a national program, and will tackle it again after reworking the first MS. I went through a patch of switching between them, but the protagonists’ voices began to sound the same!

Work on MG series

Edit/finish the first book. Write the next couple. Plan the rest.
Finished the first, but it’s probably due for a fresh look. Wrote half of the second, vaguely planned the rest.

Look into manuscript assessments
Gain some experienced feedback into one or two manuscripts. Take it from there.
Done – through a mentorship and feedback from beta readers.

Submit, submit, submit!

Manuscripts, short stories, competitions, industry opportunities. I just need to do it, dammit! Let’s say… three a month. And keep my submission spreadsheet updated.
I’ve kept the spreadsheet updated, but there hasn’t been much to update. But I’m counting this as a pass, because the reason the subs dropped off was because I had a couple of major programs I was involved in (see below), plus surgery. All up I submitted/applied for/entered… (checks spreadsheet) 14 times. Huh. More than I thought!

Build on pitching/synopsis skills

This is a weak point for me and one I’m working to improve.
Still working on it. I’ve attended pitching and synopsis-writing workshops, and the skills are definitely getting better.

Do more exercise

A write 2000 words, walk around the block schedule might work.
Ahahahaha. Nope. I did start walking, then rolled my ankle in September. And apparently the injury was worse than I thought because I kept walking and am now booked in for an ultrasound on my still-buggered ankle this arvo. Fingers crossed it’s not the ‘you’ve torn the tendon and need to stay off it for weeks’ diagnosis, or whatever scary Latin term the doc used for that was.

Other things that happened this year:

To be completely honest, I was worried about how I’d go after finishing my Masters last year. I was feeling pressure – and still do – to make the writing thing happen because I’d taken a risk in writing full-time. So I’m happy to report that Good Things have happened this year.

Shortly after going through last year’s goals I found out I’d been offered a Maurice Saxby Mentorship through CLAN for my first YA manuscript. Over two weeks myself and three other mentees visited publishers, libraries and bookstores and sat in on author and illustrator talks. We were completely immersed in the publishing industry and learnt about it from every angle. I also had a mentor read through my manuscript and give me feedback.

In April, just before starting the mentorship, I was offered a place in the ACT Writers Centre’s HARDCOPY national professional development program – for my second YA manuscript. This too was an amazing program, with two three-day stints in Canberra – the first a Masterclass and the second dubbed Intro2Industry. We met publishers, agents, booksellers, sales reps, authors… and the other writers in the program were incredible, warm, talented. All the good words. For a group that was pulled together from around the country, it was uncanny how well we all got along.

I had my first creative piece published. I’ve had two writing-related non-fiction pieces published, plus several pieces on the internet.

I’ve developed a strong network of friends through writing, and have swapped manuscripts with several to gain feedback.

This network has also supported me through a difficult period when a major rejection, surgery and issues with my son all hit at once, and I’m constantly touched, humbled and grateful for the messages, emails, and conversations of encouragement and acknowledgement, as well as those who booted me up the backside when I needed it.

So, all up, didn’t meet some goals, exceeded in others, and feeling pretty damn happy with how the year's turned out.

My new goals:

Finish this rewrite by the end of January.
After that, reassess.

Friday, 18 November 2016

Beta readers are 'gold'

A step not to be missed

A photo of a Comment o Word with the following text: Who said that?
You’ve written your manuscript, redrafted, polished. You’re ready to send it to a publisher or agent. But there’s a vital and valuable step to take first: beta reading.

A beta read is when someone who’s not an editor or other industry professional looks at your entire manuscript; the concept being that you are your own ‘alpha’, or first, reader and your beta readers are your second readers.

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Real mates kick your arse when you need it

Status update: exhausted. But in a good way.
a photograph of Clyde House
I had the chance to check out one of
my favourite buildings in Melbourne:
Clyde House in Collins St.

I arrived home in the wee hours of this morning after four days in Melbourne. Last night I had about three hours consecutive sleep (which was the most in several nights thanks to a dodgy rented room in the city), due to drinking caffeine on the train. But I made it home in one piece. So that’s a win. However, after so little shuteye this post might ramble a bit. Bear with me.

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Crisis talks

I’m having a crisis of confidence.

There. I’ve named it. Like one of the online articles on having a crisis of confidence says to do.

However, I wouldn’t have looked up ‘crisis of confidence’ if I didn’t know what I’m going through. It’s not writer’s block – I know what I need to do, and I have another story tunnelling its way out of my skull. The article also says the mind doesn’t know what’s really going on, that the body and the heart know. But I feel like I’m the opposite – emotion’s overriding logic to the point where I can’t bring myself to open my WIP.

Friday, 5 August 2016

Writer, care for thyself

I’ve been thinking about self-care for writers a lot lately.

A photograph of papers spilling off the printer and across the floor.
Life. Sometimes it's like this.
A friend has recently left her job to write full-time, and this triggered a discussion among some of us who’ve made that transition, either temporarily or permanently, about what to do and what not to do.

And I realised during an interview with IH Laking for his blog, when he asked me about tips for moving into writing full-time after a career in another field, that I fall firmly into the 'learn from my mistakes' camp. In hindsight, I tried to do too much too soon and it contributed to an episode of depression.

Friday, 15 July 2016

Knock, knock…

A different take on gatekeepers

A photograph of a locked gate
Image: Evans 

There’s an author coming to my child’s school. I’ve met this author several times. After learning a lot from sitting in on workshops earlier this year during the Maurice Saxby Mentorship, I thought I’d take a chance and ask if I could sit in on Author’s school visit (details kept vague for privacy reasons).

Monday, 9 May 2016

Two weeks in the City of Literature

Creative immersion therapy at its best

A photograph of the dome reading room.
The dome reading room
at the State Library of Victoria.
The past month has been Huge. Life-changing. One of those periods that could prove to be a pivotal – or starting – point in my creative writing career.

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Review: Frankie

“Don’t judge me, bitch. This is a high-stress situation.” - Frankie, p. 9.

A photograph of the novel Frankie with the following text: "Frankie, Shivaun Plozza, Frankie's a gutsy character with a lot of heart, Melina Marcheta."
Shivaun Plozza's debut YA novel Frankie.
Shivaun Plozza’s debut YA novel Frankie (Penguin, April 2016) will slice you like an electric knife through kebab meat. The title character’s sassiness, cynicism, mistrust and anger hooked me immediately, and I seesawed between wanting to hug her and boot her up the backside throughout the book. The writing is smooth and immediate, and pinballed me around the full range of the emotional spectrum.

Frankie Vega’s 17 and lives with her aunt Vinnie in a flat above Vinnie’s kebab shop. Xavier contacts Frankie claiming to be her half-brother, and she’s suspended from school after breaking a boy’s nose. When Xavier disappears, Frankie reluctantly accepts help from his partner in crime (not a euphemism) Nate to help find him.

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Review: Forever

Judy Blume
Macmillan (2015 reprint)

A photograph of the cover of Judy Blume's Forever.
The 2015 reprint of Judy Blume's Forever.
My son pulled Forever off a shelf in a bookstore. It was next to Enid Blyton in the young readers’ section.

He thought I’d like it because it had a cherry on the front, and I like cherries. He’s a young, innocent child. Thoughtful – but innocent.

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Why the message matters

We’re sending our children mixed messages. 

On one hand – be confident to be yourself. On the other – don’t be too much like yourself, because difference is something to be feared.

Between the failings raised by the current inquiry into institutionalised child abuse, the treatment of asylum-seeker children in offshore detention centres and the attacks on the Safe Schools program, which provides “resources and support to equip staff and students with skills, practical ideas and greater confidence to lead positive change and be safe and inclusive for same sex attracted, intersex and gender diverse students, staff and families”, Australia is not acting like it’s kid-friendly.

Make that Australia’s not kid-friendly to those who don’t fit into a constructed view of ‘normality’.