Sunday, November 29, 2009

Mobbed by proxy...

I have not been mobbed yet (maybe after I have spent my winnings and am newly styled?). It is the physical embodiment of Stephanie Meyers creation for whom the fans go wild. Maybe for a writer that is the equivalent of being mobbed personally? I think maybe it is. If Jack the Viking ever made it to some kind of screen I think he'd have a few fans too. And I would be even more pleased that I created him. I am mulling over some more thoughts on Jack and am tempted to give him another adventure even if it never sees the light of day. Maybe he will need his own blog too.

I am nearly finished my latest WIP (nearly 33,000 words). I want to finish it before I go away on holidays. I may post up the first chapter before I go so you can have a read while I'm off drinking cocktails on a sunny beach and trying to keep sand out of the new laptop. A holiday is definitely in order for all of us. At least eldest's NCEA exams are finally over - yay!

Just read on Beattie's blog this morning that Anthony Browne has picked Duck, Death and the Tulip as one of 2009's books. This picture book is like nothing else, is startling, provocative and lovely. It is one put out by Gecko Press and is beautifully produced. Go Gecko!

Went out last night with the remaining members of my old ante-natal group (about six or seven of us still meet up a couple of times a year having first got together before the birth of our first children more than 16 years ago). As always, was nice to catch up and reassuring to know our children are coming up to the same milestones and parental worries. We didn't stay out late but the dog wanted out at 5.45 am this morning and I am out again tonite (critique group christmas dinner - need to go and get the flashing christmas earrings ready), tomorrow night (Paper Plus Gelnfield christmas shopper event) and wednesday night (our company christmas do). Phew, feeling a bit pooped already.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

I'd like to be mobbed just once...

Not that it matters but I'm team Edward (although I'm sure those abs are airbrushed on) but I caught a bit of some E channel Twilight doco on the telly yesterday and footage of R Patts trying to walk down the street whilst being mobbed by hundreds of women of all ages all probably wanting to have his airbrushed abs babies made me feel sorry for him for like a whole moment. Then I thought, imagine being famous enough to be mobbed by fans. Does Stephanie Meyer or maybe Neil Gaiman get mobbed when they walk down the street, like R Patts does? If not then why not. I always thought books were sexy.

Gecko Press...

Went to hear Julia Marshall of Gecko Press talk last night at groovy local indie bookshop 'Time Out'. I enjoyed hearing her talk (especially the bit about being on the Global Board for the Seriously Distracted), and was completely won over by the Gecko philosophy. I love the way her company operates. Obviously as a business, thoughts about the bottom line have weight in any decision making, but there was no doubting the passion for books that underwrites everything they do. Does the text make an emotional connection, does it have 'heart'? - these are the crucial elements for stories they select to publish. Needless to say, I think having a manuscript accepted by them would be a wonderful experience. I came away with several Gecko Books and laughed my way through 'Reflections of a Solitary Hamster' last night. This book is better then any happy pill. When I am in need of a pick-me-up I will be pulling this one off the bookshelf. Like Ian Falconer's Olivia (of which i still do not have a copy - argh) the humour and joie de vivre will never get old.

Here is today's juicy link. Via agent Janet Reid's blog here is a little treatise begging for more rejections by writer Chris Rodell. Funny and sad all at once. Excellent stuff.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

simultaneous submissions...

UPDATE: In my mulling over of the issue of simultaneous submissions below I think my maths is pretty shonky and I just wanted to add that a 'no' can be startlingly horrifyingly quick (sometimes in just 4 weeks) making the process very streamlined and efficient but totally depressing. However when its not a straight out 'no', ( instead, being either a long drawn out 'no' or a 'yes') in my experience so far - on average - my wait time has been in excess of 4 months.

My brain cells have been debating 'simultaneous submissions'. Its not something you see discussed much and I thought it might be useful to lay some pros and cons out there. If you don't already know, simultaneous submissions (aka multiple submissions) are where you send your manuscript to more than one publisher at a time.

Pro - If you are an impatient biddy like me, waiting x (as in x = more than 4 months) amount of time for each publisher to consider your manuscript before being able to send it on to the next one should the first publisher decline, is like having one long session at the dentist without anaesthetic. If it takes 4 or more months for each reply then you can make only three (or less) submissions per manuscript per year (without even factoring in the christmas close-down etc). If a yes is 6 or more publishers away then this is two years to get a yes and then at least another two years (on average) before publication. Thats maybe up to four years folks assuming you get a yes at some point. If you don't get a yes, its two years of slowly pedalling backwards. I thought the pace of life was speeding up? Why is the inverse true in the publishing industry? Is it God's cruel joke? Was I that naughty? Simultaneous submissions will reduce this waiting time considerably, effectively becoming the publishing industry equivalent of prozac without the chemical side effects.

Con - if they are all nos then you've had a lot of rejection in a short period of time which is the opposite of prozac. Still, better to know sooner rather than later that that manuscript is the mouldy side of death and you can move on to honing the next piece of literary perfection. Having said that, multiple rejections are not always the last word on a manuscript which might find a home when publishing trends change. I never bury my mouldy dead manuscripts but keep them in cryogenic stasis just in case.

con - I have had the experience of having two publishers interested in the same manuscript at the same time and I have to say it was not pleasant. I stressed heaps and while overseas this kind of situation might lead to a better offer being put on the table that didn't happen here. I had to decide which publisher I preferred and it wasn't an easy decision but I believe the decision I made was the right one in the end.

I don't send simultaneous submissions to create a sense of urgency or a bidding war between publishers because I'm not Neil Gaiman or Audrey Niffeneger and publishers aren't falling over each other beating a path to my door. I do it to preserve my flimsy shred of sanity and keep my dreadful impatience in check. I also figure there's more benefit to the publisher then there is to me with single submissions which doesn't seem fair. I can't help feeling that the submissions and publishing processes are weighted in the publisher's favour. Making simultaneous submissions feels like a way of giving the author a little bit of control back. Publishers are taking longer and longer to make decisions (I've heard instances of some people getting a no after a year's wait - although this is not the norm). I'm not trying to be stroppy or controversial - I'm just trying to manage my writing career without going crazy. If manuscript turn around times were shorter I would be more than happy to do single submissions.

It pays to check out if the publisher you are submitting to accepts multiple submissions. They should specify if they don't accept mulitple submissions in their guidelines and if they don't mention it I assume they are okay with it. if in doubt - ask. It should be mentioned in your submission that you are sending the manuscript to other publishers - its just professional courtesy. I confess to having forgotten to mention it on occasion (in those wine and chocolate fuelled unprofessional moments) but where possible I try and let the publisher know (this is one of those moments where its better to do as I say, not as I do. Professional courtesy is always the preferred means of operation).

Monday, November 23, 2009

Flattery will get you everywhere...

I think this particular plaigarism issue is unresolvable. I don't think there will ever be consensus on this particular case because of the person involved. I never thought about plaigarism much before because my brain is like a very holey seive (more a colander perhaps, or a rusty bucket with shotgun bullet holes in the bottom) so I thought it unlikely I would transgress. I still think I'm unlikely to transgress and i certainly wouldn't do so knowingly. Yikes! But I guess I'm a little more wary now (forewarned, forearmed?) and I'm definitely ready to move on. You too? Excellent.

The fabulous Fifi has done it again and created a new set of superb velvet artworks which you can have a sneek peek at here. If you live in Wellington I am jealous, as these and other works will be exhibited and available to buy at the Deluxe Cafe from December 20. I bought one of the lovely ladies last year for my Mum and Dad's new house and I covet it something chronic. It really is gorgeous. My favourite so far this year is the navy boy in blue. Make sure you click on the photo to get a closer look...Sigh...

I was visited by a stylist yesterday courtesy of my Westfield win. He had the most fabulous shiniest winkle-pickers I've ever seen and super Ed Hardyesque tattoos on his arm. And he was a master of flattery and made me feel beautiful for the hour he was here. Who needs fashion. Just having someone telling you loads of nice things is all you need :) although of course I am still looking forward to dropping $1000 on clothes at St Lukes next week. Yowza

As a publisher is willing to look at my current junior WIP I'd better go finish it. Happy writing folks

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Wiser? Probably not, maybe just more cautious

I have been thinking a lot on plaigarism. There is still a considerable amount of discussion on this topic in the media, in blogs and in conversations (see Beattie's Blog, Mary Mccallum's blog and todays Sunday papers). Before I say anything else I want to begin by mentioning that I believe plaigarism is a dreadful thing to do. But...

When writing, based on research, I am incapable of remembering fragments of sentences, let alone complete ones without referring back to the source. My remembery circuitry is a bit rubbish. I therefore struggle to understand how someone can use another's sentences unwittingly. However what if I am the exception rather than the rule? Should we be reviewing our definition of plaigarism and how it is applied? Are we too hard on ourselves? Can any of us say with 100% certainty that we would never commit this error unknowingly? I hope I never do, I will be making efforts not to, but I can't guarantee it with absolute certainty. Maybe I already have and I am just completely unaware (ok, that freaked me out a little) - I won't be casting any stones . I do have high expectations of those in positions of authority however. If you teach at the highest level I think a greater effort should be applied to avoid errors - especially when so many people look to you as a role model. So I guess I'm disappointed...but now a little more circumspect on the issue.

Friday, November 20, 2009

In defence of children's writers...

I was hugely honoured to receive some letters from readers through the ASB wordbank competition run during NZ Book Month. In this competition young readers were asked to choose their favourite book by a NZ writer and write a letter to the author saying what they liked about the book. There were around 3,000 entries and 6 of them were to me. I loved all the letters and was thrilled that they picked me and my books. A very big thank you to Rosa and Sylvie (Onehunga), Briley (Gore), Jacinta (?), Olivia (Morrinsville) and Albert (Waiuku) for writing to me and telling me what they thought. I was especially thrilled by Albert's comment about Jack the Viking that 'It was the first book I liked and read the whole way through.' The thought that you've given a child a positive reading experience through something you've written is the biggest buzz for a children's writer.

I have discovered that there are very mixed views about children's writers, especially from writers of other genre. Whatever your opinion might be, can I just say that children's writers are a big part of switching children on to books (go teachers, librarians and parents/grandparents as well). And with all the competition for children's attention today from playstation, wii, the internet (youtube, facebook, bebo, twitter), television, after school sports and activities, the task of gaining a share of their time has become that much harder. But we are working hard at it and still succeeding. If an individual is not switched on to reading during their childhood what is the likelihood they will grow up to become a reader? If children's writers are less important than other types of writers, are child readers less important?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Why thank you...

I have been nominated for a blogging award by excellent writery blogger Justine Windsor aka Welshcake. This is a first for me and is a bit exciting and surprisingly for me I am a bit lost for words.

Thank you Justine!

Like being crowned Miss Bay of Plenty or Class President there are responsibilities attached to this award and these are:

1. Copy and paste the pretty picture which you see above onto your own blog.

2. Thank the person who gave you the award and post a link to their blog.

3. Write 7 things about yourself we do not know.

4. Choose 7 other bloggers to award.

5. Link to those 7 other bloggers.

6. Notify your 7 bloggers.

So now I need to spill the beans on those things I thought I could keep secret from you forever

1 - I love tarty shoes and would wear them way more often if I was brave enough

2 - I have a secret stash of chocolate - the dog has his suspicions about where it is

3 - I love the Harry Potter books in all their under-edited glory. How bad can it be that all those extra words make the book last longer!

4 - I have a bad habit of teaching folk how to suck eggs - sorry! I'm trying to retrain myself

5 - I'm also a chronic interrupter - sorry again, but I don't know whether I can cure myself of this one. I only seem to become aware of it after the fact.

6 - the only movie that ever gave me nightmares was Lost in the Desert about a small boy and his little dog who have to fend for themselves in the desert after a plane crash which I saw when I was about 8 or 9. It still haunts me...

7 - I believe there are some things about writing which you just can't teach.

I hope I haven't traumatised you too much with my revelations. So here now are my nominees for this award - some excellent folk that I love hanging out with in person and/or on the internet - in no particular order:-

1. Fifi at Fifi versus the World

2. Maureen Crisp at Craic-er

3. TK Roxborogh at Banquo's Son

4. Tania Hutley

5.Nicola Morgan at Help I Need a Publisher

6. Maria Gill at Kids Books NZ

7.Thomas Taylor at That Elusive Line

Sunday, November 15, 2009

They're growing up...

I can't seem to make Creative New Zealand care for me. They still don't want to give me money. And I am still struggling to find out what part of my application is letting me down. Is it my writing, my project, my newbie-ness or my chocolate addiction (I have been trying to get help!). Will they ever give me the big tick? Hmmm - its all very frustrating.

Still these pictures cheered me up no end - my eldest up on high during warm up at the Allstar Cheerleading Internationals held in Auckland recently (her two teams 1st and 2nd equal) and above, my SO and my sweet Halloween baby. (There are only videos of my youngest so I will have to post a piccie of him in the future).
And I am nearly finished a junior fiction novel. It was previously unfinished (at around 32,500 words) because it had plot confusion so I've been editing to tidy that up and have finished that and now just need to write the ending (which I already know). I intend to complete that before we go away on holiday in December. All of you out there will have to keep me honest :)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A full time writer?...

It is a strange week. My daughters sports team is in crisis and its stressful for her as she comes up to her NCEA exams. My SO's work is a leetle crazy right now too. Yet I have had three good bits of news this week - one related to my writing, one for my university study, and one completely out of the blue. I'm trying not to jump up and down too much but I am definitely doing a little dance on the inside.

I came across this smart yet funny bit of writerly advice (where writer/editor Kit Whitfield cleverly compares query letters to dating) the other day via Sally Zigmond's blog The Elephant in the Writing Room. Its not quite so applicable for the New Zealand writing/publishing scene but still very much worth a read.

You know how gas expands to fill a jar? I am definitely an expert time waster. When people ask if I write full time I tend to laugh. I have time available at the moment to spend on my writing but I still manage to distract myself with other things LIKE HOUSEWORK or Sudoku or picking lint out of my navel. There are writers who sit at their computer every day and make themselves write so many words (like a thousand or ten thousand or something). I'm not sure I'm capable of this, or that I want to be capable of this. It works for them but I'm not sure it would work for me. I like the way my stories develop slowly over time. Short stories and picture books are my quick writing fix but novels need a longer gestation. There's a lot of thinking that goes on behind the scenes, and a whole heap of tinkering, both inside my mind and on the page. Sometimes I wish they'd just hurry and grow up and leave home but then they wouldn't be my stories. My stories have to be hand made by me, using the process that I use. So you tell me, do I write full time?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Favourite Books...

The festive season draws near and I am in a list making mood.

My Top 5 grown up books in no particular order

1) Lord of the Rings Trilogy - JRR Tolkien
2) Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
3) The Time Travellers Wife - Audrey Niffeneger
4) A Room with a View - EM Forster
5) The Boy in Striped Pyjamas - John Boyne

My top 5 children's books in no particular order
1) The Wizard of Earthsea series- Ursula le Guin
2) Northern Lights (aka The Golden Compass) - Philip Pullman
3) The Outsiders - SE Hinton
4) The Moon in the Cloud - Rosemary Harris
5) The Dark is Rising - Susan Cooper
6) Little House on the Prairie - Laura Ingalls Wilder
7) The Harry Potter Series - JK Rowling

My Top 5 picture books in no particular order

1) Dear Greenpeace - Simon James
2) Anything by Lauren Child
3) Olivia - Ian Falconer
4) The Chicken Thief - Beatrice Rodriguez
5) The Sneetches and other stories - Dr Seuss
6) The Lion in the Meadow - Margaret Mahy
7) Tulevai and the Sea - Joy Cowley

as you can see I have cheated. I have always been terribly undisciplined and I am not in a mood for rules right now. And lets face it, 5 (except for adult books) is not really enough. I know there are other books that should be on the lists and they have temporarily fallen out of my brain - maybe Bond's Paddington Bear books and Enid Blyton's Famous Five and some New Zealand saga set in and maybe titled Pencarrow, along with heaps of others. I really clocked up some serious book mileage with those books as a child. And comics - Little Lotta, Archie and Jughead, Superman, Casper and Wendy, Beano, Jackie, Mickey and Pluto, Scrooge McDuck. I spent hours reading all sorts of things when I was young. Folk who worry about the quality of what their children are reading shouldn't. How can you sort the good from the bad, what you like from what you don't like, if you don't read widely. Nothing is wasted with reading. Discovering that reading can be a source of enlightenment and pleasure should be the goal because of course if you enjoy it you will want to do more of it.

Monday, November 9, 2009

A wave of apologies is not anywhere near as good as a mexican wave...

Now that I have free time on my hands, my brain has turned to jelly. Not even coloured jelly, but more like the almost transparent kind you get from boiling pigs trotters. I have been wondering if there could be a literary equivalent of the NZ music airplay quota? What do you think?

I am non-plussed by the whole Witi Ihimaera thing, thrown on multiple levels by the plaigarism, the apology (?), the level of media coverage (I would dance naked through the streets for this kind of exposure except without the negative aspect of course), what this means in view of his teaching responsibilities and for writers in New Zealand in general and a few other things as well.

There seems to be a wave of apologising going on at the moment and I feel uncomfortable about all of it. Its like people who say, "don't take offence but..." and then go on to say something offensive. That doesn't make up for the offensive comment folks, it doesn't absolve you. These are people who if they weren't already aware they were doing something wrong, should have known. And if they did know then they shouldn't have done it. Thats why they are in these well paid positions of trust and responsibility. Yes people make mistakes and should be able to say sorry and move on but the kinds of mistakes we make reflect who we are. For example Mel Gibsons anti-semitic rant when trolleyed. Where he said it was his mistake, but what he said is what he believes - his apology couldn't cover that. Well I guess if nothing else, I now know what NZ's current apologisers really think and how they really act. And I guess I am not that impressed.

And why is Spring back-pedalling into Winter? Where's the warmth? I am so over my winter clothing. I want short sleeves and bare-feet. I can almost see the confusion in the plants in the garden. I can just about hear them saying 'my buds are cold. Should I bloom?' At least there hasn't been as many as usual of the sad little egg-filled nests blown out of trees at this time of year. My dog is off his food and as I sit at the computer typing this I am being serenaded by his belchy, squirty stomach noises. Its not conducive to creativity (not mine anyway, and i hate to think what his stomach is working on!) so i am going to take a wee break. Talk to ya later...

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Someone turned my crank handle...

Colour me cranky...I didn't get one of the fellowshippy things I applied for, one of my children is having a bit of a crisis, there's way too much on for a friday evening (I JUST WANNA VEGE PEOPLE!) and well...I'm just a tad fed up with all the doom and gloom abounding in this industry. Yes recessions are not sunny happy things and yes, look what technology did to the music industry and now its hungry again and is it eyeing up the book industry? Well folks, I keep buying books, and whats more I keep writing them too. And all you other writers out there are DOING THE SAME! We love books. Heaps of us love books. This is what author Jeff Somers had to say about the death of the book... Go Jeff! There is nothing we can do but keep writing and reading and hoping. And the next person who starts warbling on about the terminal nature of the book industry better keep out of reach of me!!

And btw children are still reading. I've seen them. We've talked about it. And I'm not talking about my own kids (although they do read too). I was in an article about the new library opening at Owairaka Primary School in last wednesday's Central Leader Newspaper along with fab author Kyle Mewburn. When we visited, the whole school was just fizzing about their new library. The children were excited about books. And I was so happy to find out that some children chose my books to write about for NZ Book Month's ASB wordbank competition. I would be super sad if focusing solely on the bottom line led to the decline of book publishing. What would that say about our society? Probably something similar to what some people's desire to dismantle the anti-smacking law says. Folks you have to think about the bigger picture and stop using only one colour to colour it in.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Respect the head you're in...

Awhile back I gave a talk which included a discussion on Point Of View and I think I confused more than I clarified. I'm very sorry folks. POV is one of those aspects of writing that just when I think I have it sussed, breaks free of my grasp like a wriggley two year old who turns around and blows a raspberry at me. I confess that once or twice I have written in first person just to avoid committing any POV sins. And I must also confess that I am not confident when head hopping is and isn't a legitmate thing to do. But what I can say about POV is, respect the head you're in. Whatever point of view you are writing from will have certain limitations which must be respected. If writing from my own POV I cannot know what is going on inside someone else's head or how they are feeling. I can make educated guesses based on physical and verbal cues which is how it should be spelled out in my writing. I cannot know what is going on beyond my hearing or vision except for some physical or aural cues which must be spelled out in my writing. Likewise from any character's POV. POV can change during a piece of writing but there must be a reason for doing so and there must be enough cues for the reader to know who the POV resides with. Readers like a challenge but if they can't tell what is going on they will put the book down. An omniscient POV does not necessarily solve all these problems as knowing everything can also lead to reader confusion. If you are having trouble with POV in your writing, try working in first person for awhile. The discipline of a more restricted point of view will show you what is and isn't possible and once you have it under control, can provide a good springboard onto more complex POV arrangements.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

I learnt something from the movie Bull Durham

A snippet from Tomas Gray's "Elegy Written in a Country Church-yard"

Full many a gem of purest ray serene
The dark unfathom'd caves of ocean bear:
Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,
And waste its sweetness on the desert air.