Wednesday, July 28, 2010

results are inconclusive...

So the extra exciting, all-new fantastic Fabo project is up and running and children are sending in their chapters and their guesses about who penned Chapter One. As this is 'all-new' and never been done before, we are tweaking and adjusting as we go along to make sure it is the best possible. This suits me very well as my general MO is flying by the seat of my pants. It is also very exciting as we wait to see what happens with every new step we take. I never knew it would be this much fun. I can't wait to see what happens next week. If you aren't already part of the fun and would like to be, check fabo out here.

I have bleated on and off recently about the drag of having to wait to hear back on things and I was sure my brain would explode if I had to wait any longer. You will be relieved to know my head is still intact on my shoulders despite the fact that I have had no conclusive results on anything (although I did discover that the overseas conference I attended several years back is still paying positive dividends now - note to self, plan to attend another writery conference over next year or two). I can also without doubt confirm I do not have esp, or any mind bending or telepathic persuasvie powers (rats). Having the weighty carcass of a smelly assignment albatross hanging around my neck has kept me a little distracted and given me other things to carp about and the fabo project has been a thrilling little sidetrack. And here over at one of my favourite blogs (with a warning about excessive expletives) is an insightful little rant about publishing by the rejectionist. This lady is smart and wise. Go read it.

Monday, July 26, 2010

All I need is a cape and a mask...

Jane Austen will never date (in both senses of the word although Pride and Prejudice and Zombies might allow otherwise) and here (check out the July 24th post at Janet Reid's blog) is proof. I laughed, I cried, I howled. I always knew Austen wrote feisty heroines, but this puts a new spin on it.

My other juicy link is courtesy (yet again) of the amazing Miss Maureen Crisp who is the Sherlock Holmes of the internet, hunting out the new, the exciting and the thought provoking. This particular post is a little incendiary and I will not be casting a vote one way or t'other here but I did agree strongly with one thing. If you intend to make writing your career, learning the business is the smart thing to do. You need to be informed to make informed decisions whether you have an agent or not. And if you choose not to or are unable to get an agent then you must understand how publishing and editing and contracts and publicity and marketing and funding applications and new developments etc.. all work. Of course this takes time and there will always be new things to learn but it is how you will help yourself. This link particularly resonated with me in view of recents actions I have taken on my own behalf. I have been asking questions, sending e-mails and standing up for my rights. I have had interesting and positive responses. Sure I have taken some risks and I will undoubtedly make mistakes (although I have made more mistakes by not asking and being hesitant than I have being bold) but this is a business and if I am professional and business like and my questions, suggestions and enquiries are sensible than I will continue to put them forward. Jane Austen Fight Club indeed.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Please don't be kind...

Its Sunday down here in the Antipodes and of course that means domestic duties and housekeeping. My younger daughter is reading the first draft of my YA for me and of course in a world driven by market forces and commercial interests I am paying her on the promise that she tells me if and where its boring and/or incomprehensible. She has assured me she won't be kind. She's a good girl :)

In a crazy turn of events I have had an idea for a short story for adults (inspired by some international news in a recent newspaper). As I have never written fiction for adults before this could be interesting. The idea has been maturing in my head over the last few days but I must confess I am a little wary of putting fingers to keyboard. I shall have to get over myself though because I would like to enter it in a competition that closes in August if I can get it done.

As suspected I have had children home for four weeks instead of the requisite school holiday fortnight. I had the youngest off the week before and have had the middle child off the week following. I am behind on a lot of things and am keeping my fingers crossed that this coming week is my own. Time will tell.

I am still in a Jane Austen phase and watched the film version of Sense and Sensibility (not as good as the most recent BBC production IMHO and I just wanted to slap that Edward Farrars and tell him to grow a backbone) and Persuasion with Sally Hawkins which I adore. Saw 'Milk' last night and think Sean Penn is really quite a remarkable actor, Harvey Milk was an incredible and inspiring person and that that was not one of the US legal systems finer moments - that there can even be such a thing as a 'twinkie defence' is gobsmacking.

And in the good news section of this post: the super fabulous uber-talented Fifi Colston has been successful in having her Wearable Arts Award entry accepted for the competition and I am very lucky to be going down to Wellington in September to see the Show dress rehearsal which I am very excited about. I have always wanted to see the WOW show and I love having an opportunity to catch up with very good writery friends. Can't wait.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Fabulous first fabo chapter

Its ALIVE! The most amazing book writing project ever, like Frankenstein's monster, has finally breathed its first....Go check it out here. I can't wait to see what will happen. Children, sharpen your pencils and your imaginations 'cos the fabulous first chapter of fabostory is rolling out.... Can you guess who wrote it? Will you take up the challenge to write the next thrilling installment? Will it be anything like our next thrilling installment? Win prizes! Laugh your heads off! Find out what we think about when we write, the questions we ask ourselves, and the crazy answers we are sometimes forced to come up with!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Dan's shirt just wasn't wet enough....

This is a classic case of avoidance behaviour. I should be doing my next assignment (there's no escaping them at the moment - they are lined up back to back like a queue for the latest ride at Disney World). And I am trying not to think about all of my submissions because things seem to be getting complicated. Just when I thought I was getting the hang of how things work they go and bend it like Beckham and I have to go do some goalie up-skilling. Ack...So here I am mooning over the latest BBC production of Sense and Sensibility instead (okay, it's not that new but its only just gone into the dollar for 7 days on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at the local dvd rental store and I was too miserly to get it out beforehand and folks it was worth the wait). Oh all those zipped up emotions and stifling manners and the dos and donts of genteel society. In those days folks, blushing was an art form. And the lovely Edward Farrars and the uncomplaining Elinor Dashwood, how could anyone hold it all in like that, I bet she was horribly constipated. And Willoughby was really just todays Robbie Williams and no one blinks too much over men like that anymore and take that why don't you Jane Austen. Actually I love Jane Austen most of all and I am praying someone discovers a secret hidden unpublished manuscript of hers which I would love much much more than a fourth Steig Larsson novel. After all that being careful with my money so I only had to pay a dollar I may now have to go out and buy the DVD outright so I can re-watch it multiple times at my leisure, especially the good bits. Sigh.

And I can't believe that all that superstitious stuff I went on about last post is purely a NZ phenomenon. I would have thought we were potentially the least superstitious so some of you just aren't owning up.

I'm off to critique The Wolves in the Walls and talk about sexism and its cultural function in fairytales.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

No black cats near my submissions, thanks...

Got my first university assignment back and felt pleased to see my sweating and straining had been worth it. Of course now I will have to keep sweating and straining to keep the standard up. I don't mind :) I'll take an A+ any day.

Had dinner with a bunch of writery folk last night and managed to ask the only illustrator present what he was writing at the moment - I didn't even have the excuse of being a little tiddly. Maybe it was ESP as he does have an interest in writing his own material. It was fun to gossip and grizzle (I am only slightly ashamed) and to hear how people were going about the business of developing and maintaining their writing careers. There is always something new to be learned.

I have not previously considered myself a superstitious person but as a result of recent behaviour I have come to realise that is just not true. This morning out dog walking with one of my besties, as we discussed whether I would get the flu injection or not, I did not even want to confirm my opinion on the current state of my health lest it should bring a decline in said state. A shocking display of superstition! But folks, I am even more superstitious about the state of my writing career. The other day I included two sentences in my new blog post outlining the current status of a project of mine. And about two hours later I had to remove it, for no other reason, than that it may somehow jinx the outcome. In my more normal, rational, lucid moments I know that these things do not influence the publishers decision. Heck, they don't even know about it. And yet I try and keep things as close to my chest as possible, tell the least number of people, put enquiries off as long as possible, just in case any of these things somehow mess karmically with the progress of my submissions. You may scoff, LOL, guffaw or chortle at all of this, but I KNOW I AM NOT THE ONLY ONE WHO BEHAVES THIS WAY. I comfort myself with the fact that I have not yet developed any special rituals or tics.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Taking advice from Life of Brian....

In the past few days while blog surfing I came across a comment on a post where the commentor complained about the cynicism in the post and also in other comments. I felt a pang. I have been guilty of some pretty intense cynicism over recent years. Now I didn't arrive at my cynicism on my own, I was driven there by some upsetting events. I have had some wonderful highs in my writing career to date, but I have also had some very miserable lows. But it is easy to let cynicism take the wheel and keep driving. So here are some positive things from recent weeks. I finished (Welshcake, I hope you're reading this) the first draft of my YA after having an epiphany about the ending the other night. Yay. Its now all printed off waiting for a read through and I am puddling about happily on my other YA, the bodice ripper. I have had some nice comments on my story Made with Love, now appearing on the Smorie website here, and fabulous illustrator friend Fifi has blogged about it too. I had coffee with writer pal Maureen Crisp yesterday, in itself a lovely event, during which she suggested long waits on submissions might mean they are 'crunching the numbers' to confirm whether they can take the financial leap with your work. I confess my cynicism reared its ugly head then, but today it's nice to think my stories might have made it to this part of the process (I have 8 submissions out there right now, five of which have been out longer than 5 months). Thank you Fifi and Maureen, I really appreciate your kind words. And another comment I came across in the ether made me realise that whatever happens to all my stories whether they are ultimately loved or unloved by others, I love them and feel proud of what I have created.
Also writer friend Sher Foley was on the children's bestseller list this week with her new picture book The Three Little Lambs: Kiwi Corkers Great NZ Yarns (Scholastic NZ), and another writer friend Elena de Roo is launching her first picture book The Rain Train (Walker Books)- with pictures by Sher's partner, award winning illustrator Brian Lovelock - on August 7. Big congratulations to Sher, Elena and Brian.

And last but not least I am a lucky participant in the most amazing writing project you might ever come across - the FaBo project. Go take a look on July 21st...

9 Mad Writers. 1 Crazy Story. No Idea What Happens Next.

A team of New Zealand children’s writers have a crazy idea for a story and they want children to help them write it.

On the 21st of July - a wacky Wednesday - the story opens with the first chapter of a junior fiction novel being posted on the FaBo story website.

Then the fun begins. New Zealand children are being invited to write the next chapter, at the same time as one of the FaBo story writers, and send it to the FaBo Team. The winning kid’s chapter will be posted side by side with the FaBo Team’s version.

Each week New Zealand kids can write the next chapter, while the Fabo story team tries to out-write them and take control of what will be a wild and crazy plot.

Kyle Mewburn, FaBo story team leader, said ‘On week 1 - Writer A writes chapter 1. In week 2 - Writer B writes chapter 2 and completely messes up Writer A's original idea (while cackling gleefully and rubbing evil little hands together). In week 3 - Writer C takes the story off into a completely different direction altogether (while cackling gleefully etc).

There will be competitions, prizes and ideas stolen.

Kids can write as part of school or library teams or on their own.

The FaBo Story website is

All details will be up on the website in time for the start of term 3 of the school year.

The name FaBo was chosen as short for Facebook as the writers initially discussed the idea in a facebook discussion.

The FaBo Team want the story finished by Christmas. ‘We’ll need a nice lie down by then,’ said Team Member Maureen. ‘We’re up against New Zealand kids, it’s going to be tough!’

The writers are spread around New Zealand geographically.

Kyle Mewburn is in Central Otago. Michele Powles is in Dunedin.

In Wellington, Fifi Colston, Fleur Beale and Maureen Crisp.

Auckland have four writers in the team, Melinda Szymanik, Brian Falkner, Kathy White and Tania Hutley.

The FaBo story writing team, email;

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

No pacts with the devil allowed....

ahh - school holidays. Suffice to say we're in the midst of one and we love the local DVD rental place and EVERYONE in Auckland was at St Lukes shopping mall yesterday. Had dinner out with the Wellington branch of the SO family clan last night for eldest's birthday at GPK in Ponsonby. We were informed on arrival to get our order in quickly before a party of 50 were expected, including the All Blacks. Cue an undercurrent of excitement. We were seated en route to the loos and can report that some of those boys are better looking in real life, some are the size of small mountains and some seem to have a bladder weakness - go figure. We were too wimpy (or just respectful perhaps of their privacy) to ask for autographs but it was fun to stare.

One of the commentors on Nicola Morgan's blog post, 'There are no rules for writing, just results' suggested that trying to tease out the 'hows' can mess with the process. If we think too much about how we go about writing we get caught in the nuts and bolts and lose the freedom and effectiveness of just doing it - kind of like getting the yipps if you are a golfer (think Ian Baker Finch). I have wondered about this myself as I have gone about the business of trying to understand how I do what I do to be able to share it with workshop groups and other audiences. Generally I have found it useful for my novel writing although there are still many instances where it is just intuitive and I can't remember the names for things from grammar class at school . Picture books are murkier. The overall structure and defining characteristics are easy to outline but the story itself is the result of magic and I really cannot explain it any better than that. When it is right, you just know. Hardest of all for me are short stories. I do not know how these work and how they are short stories rather than some other form/genre. I only know sometimes I can write one very well and I have had some success with these. In an upcoming pair of books to be published by Scholastic NZ, Pick 'n' Mix Volumes 1 & 2 due November 2010 and February 2011 respectively I have three short stories. I will post the cover up when I have the first volume in my hot little hands. I have had a number of other short stories published, a good proportion of these twice by different publishers. But I don't think I can tell you how I do it. For me, I think they are picture book ideas that were too big and long and didn't need pictures. But the important ingredient is still the magic of that story idea and there are no rules that will help you get those. You just need to work on your own magic - but no pacts with the devil now, eh?

Thursday, July 1, 2010


My children’s story Made with Love has now gone live on the Smories website (UK) and can be viewed here - ..go check it out. This is a competition with a cash prize for the top five place getters. Winners are decided by most views over the month of July.

And go check out this fab post There are no rules for writing - just results, over at Nicola Morgan's brilliant blog Help! I Need a Publisher. As Nicola says "When you look gorgeous, I do not need to know how you got dressed." Genius.