Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Things are looking better today already...

Two daughters arrived safely at 5.10am this morning. Okay so there will be squabbles over the TV remote and more clothing to pick up off the floor - bliss.

And I didn't make it to 30,000 words on the WIP by Monday but I did get to 28,422.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Sigh...today is not my day...

When I go on holiday I expect to be without an internet connection for most if not the complete duration of the vacation. I've done this before and survived just fine with only a few tics and other (mostly hidden) side effects. We changed provider and have been offline from Friday to Tuesday. I mostly do not phone people, I e-mail them. And they mostly e-mail back. I felt cut off. I spent an hour on the phone this morning trying to figure out why I wasn't connected despite a brand new shiny modem. This has all been horrible. Especially as i felt the internet was one way to try and keep informed about my travelling girls, who are hopefully back tomorrow although one did not make her scheduled flight from Orlando and i have no idea if she will be turning up at Auckland Airport tomorrow. Did I mention how horrible it was. Have I said how horrible it is not knowing where one of my daughters is? She is one of sixteen who missed the flight so at least she is not alone but I can't imagine she is enjoying the unexpected adventure. I know I'm not. Hmm. She is never leaving the country without me again. Ever. Ever, ever. I am meant to be doing an assignment, already overdue that I am having trouble getting the required books for. The libraries do not have them. The book shop did not have them. And I cannot logon to the university library. I am not having a good day. Maybe karma is telling me to hibernate. There is too much going on to hibernate. I have author visits coming up. I am meant to be racing welshcake to the end of our respective novels. I am crabby and distracted. At least I got to read the graphic novel Hicksville by Dylan Horrocks. I am not much one for the genre but this was brilliant. And he's a Kiwi. Small mercies.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

good times...

To my delight, in addition to its small screen appearance last tuesday, The Were-Nana is turning up on a couple of 'recommended' lists. This freight train just keeps getting faster and adding carriages. But mixed in with my happy feelings is the realisation that the only thing I had any control over was the writing of the story and the action of submitting the manuscript. At that point I had to let my story go and accept whatever fate befell it. I have done nothing different with my other books and they have lived a different life. I can get out there and promote them all but their fortunes are out of my hands. And of course this doesn't include the manuscripts that came back to me. The unpublished stories I loved just as much and spent just as much if not more time nurturing and polishing and refining. I still hope their time will come and I will never give up believing in my paper babies but their futures are out of my control. All I can do is write the best stories I can and keep sending them out. And of course celebrate like there is no tomorrow when things go well.
Hey thats me in my pre-schooling days in the photo. I was at my sister's first holy communion. Yes my dresses were a bit short even in those days but at least I wore my hat at a very cool jaunty angle.

Monday, April 20, 2009

How crafty...

We don't know how lucky we are to have Fifi Colston in our midst. She is incredibly multi-talented and an all round fabulous person. Today she made clever crafts based around The Were-Nana on the Good Morning show on TV1. You can go check out her work here. Thank you Fifi. Me and Stella Rosa love you oodles.

I had a text from my eldest today, currently in Tampa, Florida. Both girls competed on the weekend in their respective teams in a warm up competition for the Cheerleading Worlds next weekend. Both teams scored extremely well and consequently did well and both were recognized with additional awards, the senior team got the Spirit Award and the junior team got Most Entertaining. Its moments like this that I curse not getting on that plane with them. What was I thinking! They sound like they are having a wonderful time and looking forward to their week ahead. And I bet they are wearing t-shirts and shorts. Okay, okay, my son, still here with us in Auckland, is wearing t-shirts and shorts too but his thermostat is hinky and I am getting round in long trousers, sweatjackets and shoes and socks (and still feeling a little cold).

In writing news I am making slow but very useful progress on the WIP. I've had a few good minor plot ideas that are adding tension and driving everything along in the right direction. Just when I think I have it sussed, my brain shows me something I didn't expect. Go brain. I love how creativity works, except I am at a loss as to how to explain it to anyone else. I still grab at the word magic when I try. Maybe its best unexplained. If we understood it, it wouldn't be magic anymore.

I also checked out a lovely post yesterday by Toni McGee Causey here about when to quit (this insane business) and loved her conclusion which was:-

You quit when you want something else, more. You quit when you have another dream that means more to you.

I think about quitting regularly but haven't managed to follow through yet and now thanks to Ms McGee Causey I know why. I have never read it summed up better and I will be pinning this up somewhere I can see it everyday. Maybe you should too...

Saturday, April 18, 2009

A Little snippet from my WIP

I'm still plugging away at the YA WIP. Its a slow grind and I still haven't completed the first draft yet but just to give you an idea of how its shaping up here's a very small taste...

She’d said nothing as I’d walked in the back door, but the way she was drying her hands with a tea towel reminded me of that scene in Macbeth where Mrs Macbeth feels like she can’t get the blood off her hands. I was thinking, why did she feel guilty? But her face looked like thunder and as I walked past she put out her hand and stopped me.
“Who do you think you are?” she said, the sound of her voice matching her face. “Don’t you dare leave this house again, without my permission.”
I opened my mouth to say ‘I’m not a little kid,’ and her hand just flew out and caught me on my left cheek. It wasn’t that she was too fast for me. It was that Mum’s don’t slap their fifteen year old sons. That is, no other Mum I’d ever heard of.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Writing the book is hard enough...

The gorgeous uber-talented Fifi Colston, who has a regular craft gig on TV1's Good Morning programme will be basing her creations on my book The Were-Nana next tuesday April 21st at 9.15ish. Yay!- I am excited and will be craft glued to our tv screen on the dot of.

I has come across some very interesting posts at some of my fav haunts over the last day or two. This one Here at editorial anonymous is about the impact of reviews on book sales and you may be pleasantly surprised and relieved to see what EA has to say - I know I was. To not be reviewed is crushing. After all the struggles authors go through, the hoop jumping and the hurdling, to be ignored by the book community can seem like the straw that broke the camels hump. But a bad review? - you finally get noticed and they tear you to shreds - I don't know that I could dig a hole deep enough to hide in. I have been fortunate so far and have had mostly positive feedback on my books but even the thought of a bad one makes me shudder. So check out what EA has to say and fear not!

Over at editorial ass, she wrote a post here on book marketing and what can be done to push your book. Its good basic advice. You don't have to become part of the solution to promoting your book but it makes a lot of sense to. I know I want my books to succeed. If I can help them sell and be discovered by more people then I will do it. Why wouldn't you?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Pressure makes diamonds...

The daughters have flown and now the house is quiet - a little too quiet. The dynamic is easy but flat. Having worked so hard toward their departure, I now await their return. Do we spend too much of our lives waiting? Of course, and much more so as writers.

So with only one child in the house I now have more free time. And uninterrupted opportunity is the worst time to be creative and move forward on the old WIP. Pressure makes diamonds out of coal. Maybe its time to take a little mental holiday. And I want to be ready when the registrations open for the Spinning Gold Conference, my fingers poised over the keyboard, ready to press enter. Here is the latest on the programme. I like what's on offer but I also relish the opportunity to hang out with other children's writers from around NZ. Socialising with people who know the highs and lows of this business is a major sanity saver and I can't wait.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Books are right up there with the air we breathe...

A large proportion of my time over the last few days has been spent either helping my daughters prepare for their trip to the US, buying items for them to take, or worrying whether a)they have everything they need and b) that they are ready for every eventuality once there. I am exhausted and stressed. They are part of a large group with plenty of adult chaperones and the trip is pretty well organised but there are plenty of lists to be ticked and advice to give and of course they are my children and therefore extremely precious to me. Somehow i did not get enough chocolate for my needs this long weekend despite it being Easter. All I got was closed offices, and no mail deliveries for four whole days. My favourite distraction is always writing and everything that that entails (bugging the agent just back from Bologna and London, bugging the editor, the publisher, my writer friends and anyone else remotely connected with getting my words into print) but these things are not available over long weekends made of public holidays. So all I've had is housework and fretwork.

To compound things, the day after my daughters depart I have an author talk. No matter how much I enjoy these there is always stress involved and a fair amount of mental preparation and worry. This all has to be got through before the visit because children can smell fear a mile away and have no qualms about making you squirm. Speaking to school groups (or similar) is a completely different beast to book tours and signings - with school groups (or similar)your audience does not necessarily want to be there or hear about your books, your writings or you. None of this 'preaching to the converted' here. You have to win them over, entertain them and make them think books are better than playstation, television, and youtube. I have a bit more experience now and have a few tricks up my sleeve and down my jumper. And ultimately I have my firm belief that books are right up there with the air we breathe in terms of their importance and value. I will be keeping the faith and hope I manage to get a few converts.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Going to the Readers and Writers festival...should I?

I have just purchased the wickedest little black dress for the NZ Post Awards ceremony in May. Of course I have a few concerns - will I be brave enough to wear it (as 'little' is definitely a defining adjective on this occasion) ? Will it be warm enough to wear it? Should I be worried that my husband's comment was, "You don't look like a children's author in that." (Which raises the question, how does a children's author dress? :)

I have been scrutinising the 2009 Auckland Readers and Writers festival programme and have been pondering what to do. When I first started being serious about my writing I attended a fair number of author talks, lectures, workshops etc...in fact I was a bit of an event junkie of little discernment. Initially I was looking for inspiration and motivation. I needed to hear about the hurdles successful writers had overcome in order to perservere in the face of the obstacles confronting me. Then I had to admit that time spent attending author talks, workshops, lectures etc...was time I wasn't spending on my own work. I'd heard what I needed to hear to get going. The message began to sound the same at every different event. I had reached a point of saturation and I stopped going. Now I just go to the occasional event if I think it might be truly beneficial.

There are so far three lectures I'd like to go to on this year's programme (only two yesterday - maybe I should stop scrutinising). One on YA writing with Kate De Goldi, Mal Peet and M.T.Anderson which might be useful as I am working on a YA novel at the moment (or it might not - these things can backfire shooting one's confidence and motivation right out of the water), one on writers who write and teach writing with Paula Morris, Kirsty Gunn, Debra Adelaide and Marina Endicott, on the pitfalls and positives of doing both (potentially valuable as I consider other ways to make money through my writing) and added this morning due to a fascinating review in today's Canvas (Saturday Herald magazine) one on Marcus Chown, a writer who brings complex science to the masses. I love science. I crave scientific understanding. His sounds like a brain well worthy of examination. So folks, the question is, should I go? I'll probably just end up buying one of Mr. Chown's books instead (Quantum Theory Can't Hurt You) which I now desperately want to read - curse you Canvas review!.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

What is a picture book...

What is a picture book? I've been reading around the definition recently with the studies I am doing and came across this via a link at Editorial Anonymous this morning. The School Library Journal blog in the US is compiling a list of the top 100 picture books which has raised the issue of what qualifies. I worry about definitions. Usually I am a stickler for definitions. We communicate better if we agree on what particular words mean but when it comes to picture books - well, I feel a little differently. Over the years writers and illustrators have been pushing the boundaries of what constitutes a picture book until I think the only thing that really matters is that a child wants to hear it, see it, read it or have it read to them, whether they have come to it themselves or been introduced to it by another child or an adult. There are so many good exceptions to the conventions that are loved and respected such as Shaun Tan's The Arrival that I suspect publishers keep an open mind and look for qualities other than just page length, and word length. Like the concept of 'picture book' itself, my opinion on this is still evolving but the more I know, the less certain I am. The one thing I am confident of is, I knows what I likes. When it comes to writing one and submitting it, I consider the same applies. A publisher will not rule out anything. The deciding factors are about their reaction to the whole. This doesn't mean writing something wildly different to the average picture book, it means writing the best picture book you can.

I was interviewed recently and snapped by a photographer and the final product appeared today in The Aucklander. It seems okay. I'm glad I wore that red jacket. Everything else I had on was black and I thought I remembered reading somewhere that it is good to have a little colour on for pictures. When the theme of my book is being afraid and the story includes witches and were-nana's being all in black might have given folk the wrong idea. Being interviewed made me feel like the character Stella Rosa in my book. I too was afraid. And like Stella Rosa I discovered I didn't need to be afraid. I always find it difficult to remember what I've said afterwards and I always think of smarter things to say when its too late. If there is a next time i will make some notes beforehand. But I'll probably be just as worried.

Happy Easter folks.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

I'm just a word nerd...

Been studying today. I am so out of the habit that I am having to relearn how to be a student as if I'd never done it before (and having spent YEARS as a student I can only laugh at my greenness). That'll teach me :) In one of those spooky coincidences (cue twilight zone theme tune) today I've been reading about the definition of picture book (versus picture story book and illustrated book) and checking in with the latest post at the editorial anonymous blog an hour ago, the blogger is discussing this very issue, although her take on the topic is somewhat less academic and more practical than the one I am wading through. Academic definitions can give us insights but won't make the publisher pick your manuscript.

I am also still trying to get my head around everything that has been happening to my picture book The Were-Nana. Its like a dream and is perhaps best kept that way. The Were-Nana has now gone to reprint. Yowza. I will be sorry when this train stops and the conductor boots me off (I did buy a ticket - really). I'm trying not to look at the desert flashing past the windows. And reprint is a magic miracle word that I'm trying not to get over fond of. I would like to be its best friend but its the most popular word on the block and I'm just a word nerd. I think I have a crush. Please don't tell.

Friday, April 3, 2009

In local news...

I love the internet. The other day I discovered via google that an Australian Library in Victoria had my book Jack the Viking. Jack the Viking is not currently available in Australia. It seems that librarians hunt out the books they've read about (perhaps in reviews?) that they like the sound of. Probably via the internet. Did I tell you I love the internet? I love librarians too.

In local sports news my husband ( a soccer veteran of many years standing) is coaching our son's soccer team for the first time. They were both experiencing nerves before the first official game of the season this morning. They needn't have worried. The sun shone. The air was cool but still. The soccer gods smiled and the 11th Grade Division One Team Norman won 8-1. Go lads! And there is now just over a week to go before our daughters fly out to the US without us, for two weeks in Florida. We all went in 2007 and after a week in Orlando for the World competition at Disneyworld had a wonderful time checking out Miami, the Bahamas and New York. Exploring new places as a family is fantastic and now the girls have a fair idea of what to expect and how the whole travelling thing works. But its a mother's job to worry and I take my job seriously. I'll miss them terribly too. I hope our son is up to three times as many hugs as usual. I've been working through a mental list of things to be bought before they go (toiletries bag, socks, hair ties, spare cheer gear, strapping tape etc, etc, etc,...).

And in publishing news - blah - I had some short stories rejected by Learning Media. One editor was kind enough to give me feedback on two of the stories and not one to waste time, I have already sent these off in other directions. Call me impulsive but I just can't help myself. One story is unchanged but I decided to tweak the second story into something different. I will keep you posted on whether the new incarnation bears fruit. And I'll tell you more about the transformation too.

I unfortunately had to miss Michele Powele's book launch for her novel Weathered Bones last thursday night, but I hope to get myself a copy soon. Instead I got to bake biscuits for the son's shared lunch at school the following day and make homemade Chicken Fried rice for the hungry cheerleading daughters. You can read about the launch at Bookman Beatties Blog. There are no more launches in the immediate future but I have a few authors talks coming up instead.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

A jolly good idea...

Had coffee with some writer friends this morning and it was good. Meeting regularly with other writers is an essential part of a writer's life. At least it is for this writer. Writing as we all know is usually a solitary occupation. For most it works best this way. But writing is not just about writing. There are times when we need to let our mind dwell, percolate, create, collect or rest. There are other times when what a writer needs most is the ear and collective brain power of other writers. It might be to discuss ideas or difficulties. To share strategy or industry news. It might be just to talk a load of absolute rubbish or have a jolly good moan about things or people or characters that are lost, misbehaving or just ticking you off. Maybe one writer has just had a fit of baking and has more chocolate product than he or she knows what to do with (okay thats probably just me).

In amongst a whole host of other topics, this morning we talked about the idea of a writer's collective. An idea like this one in New York (-sigh-) where there is a quiet place to write away from the hubbub of home and domestic distractions. A place where you can find people dealing with the same issues and with whom you can take time out to talk about writing. A place where you can hone skills and learn more through workshops and author talks, classes and just the chance to hash things out with like-minded individuals. For a yearly flat fee you can sign up to become part of a writers community and share the facilities and resources. I felt very excited by the idea that Jill Marshall raised. Would you be interested?