Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The crushing grip of self-doubt

So Christmas and birthday are over and I am apparently a year older. I shall be whipping the hair dye and face wrinkle filler out shortly. Next week we are away down to the Kapiti Coast where it has been raining a lot. Hmmm. I should be writing the novel but am currently feeling the crushing grip of self-doubt. I wish it would go away. I do not like it. Sadly it is the occasional unwelcome friend of many writers - bit like this person over at Catdownunder's blog. No one has the right to tell you what your dreams should be. If your dream is to be a writer don't give up unless it is no longer your dream. Of course I reserve the right to complain about my dreams and give up regularly and change my mind about it whenever I want but it is my right and my choice to do so. Self doubt is a little different and the higher the stakes the bigger the doubt. Where is my turtle shell when I need to hide inside it? I hope I am my own worst critic but even if i'm not and folk do not like what I come up with then I guess I will just have to survive it and move forward. While a turtle might not agree, there is something thrilling about sticking your neck out and giving things a go. It might be nice inside that shell but I know too well what the inside of it looks like. I do not want to be a shell dweller all my life. I want to seize the day and suck the marrow out of it. And if that means feeling some doubt about what I am creating then I suppose it comes with the territory - buy a dog, expect to pick up some poop - its all part of the experience.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Its wot I do...

I do like a good story. I also like when good things happen to nice people. Here the two mix. Yeehah. Congratulations to Tracy Baines over at Tall Tales and Short Stories in the UK!!!

And happy gift blogs are happening over at one of my favourite blogs, Help I Need a Publisher here.

If I was good at lawyering or playing Tennis I would do that. Some days I wish I was good at being a scientist in a lab coat (or out in the field in gumboots and something hose-downable) or maybe organsing and managing (all things I have trained in). I would have more money and these are more conventional ways of earning it with less rejection and more certainty. I am a bit of a people person. I like knowing things, especially natural science stuff and history of all kinds from ancient to recent and everything inbetween fascinates me. I understand a fair amount of stuff but the thing wot I am best at is writing. And the thing wot spins my dials is ditto. So although it generally pays very poorly and does not show the love much it is wot I will continue to do. I hope you will keep me company and hang in there too.

This has been (mostly) a good year and I am fairly fond of it and a little loathe to let it go. But I have my game plan for 2011 and there are some nice prospects hovering in my near future so I will step forward into the New Year with a nice tingley sense of anticipation. I have that Jenny Valentine Cassiel Roadnight book and the I am Number Four one as well to read over summer. There is baked ham and Eton Mess to eat on Christmas Day and time to be spent at the beach in early January although I will not truly be on holiday till the middle of next April at the earliest. Please, please take care of yourselves and your loved ones over the Christmas and New Year period. It is a fraught and stressful time when the wheels, if they are going to, are most likely to fall off. I am over the whole present thing but I cannot wait to hang out with my family because that is what Christmas is all about for me. Merry Christmas peoples!!! Have a good one!!!!!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Making plans for a shiny new year...

Yay - had a letter yesterday from Random House NZ to say that the 'Friends' themed anthology of children's short stories including my story "A Passport to Friends" is to be published October 2011. After stories were selected in January 2009 for a proposed publication date of October that year the project went dark and I confess I thought it probably unlikely it would be resurrected so it was a wonderful surprise to find it was going to come out after all. This is my 10th short story to be published and I think its time I developed a short story writing workshop and I plan to work on this next year. I have been thinking quite a bit on next year and what I hope to achieve and expect to happen. The first quarter of 2011 will be dominated by finishing my world war 2 novel and working towards the Spinning Tales conference ( have you registered yet?? Pitches are limited and everyone registered so far has signed up to pitch). The second Pick 'n' Mix collection will be out in February, my picture book is due mid year and the Random anthology in October so there will be some promotion and other activities associated with those. I am currently working on finding a loving home for my YA and as several friendly folk have read it I intend to do some minor tweaking as a result of their feedback but this is not a big job. The only project remaining incomplete at the moment is my YA bodice ripper and I will probably carry on with that over the course of the year. I am thinking of putting Jack the Viking: Magnetic North out as an e-book and if i do this it will be in the first half of the year. In the second half of the year I would like to go to Wellington and hopefully visit some schools and promote the new books down there. I'm thinking maybe August/September. Hoping too to fit a family holiday in there somewhere and will probably sign up for another university paper as I work towards completing the diploma in Childrens Literature. There will also be a new Fabo project to participate in and the final Harry Potter movie to see. And thats all I have planned for 2011. I am really looking forward to having the current project completed and a bit of free time once this is done. But there are still a number of free spots if you would like to book me in for something. What are you planning for 2011?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

my favourite read for this year?...well madam it's...

My SO and I watched a documentary about The Topp Twins last night. A pair of truly unique, yodelling, lesbian, comedian, policial activist singers (and I'm fairly sure I've left a descriptor or two off here). They are a similar vintage to us and we remember seeing them busking in Queen Street, Auckland several times in the 1980's, singing their blend of personal/issue-driven country songs. They have toured the world, wowed crowds, had their own tv series, battled cancer and changed lives. They have been there at the forefront of just about every major issue this country has faced over the last thirty years - no nukes, anti-apartheid, maori land rights, gay rights and breast cancer awareness. They still giggle away at their own stories as they tell them during their gigs. They are New Zealand icons. And one of the things that sets them apart from successful celebrities and is i think a big part of their success and their celebrity is that they are always themselves. Even as they inhabit their other personas, Ken and Ken, Dilly and Prue, Camp Mother and Camp Leader, the bowling ladies, and Belle and Bell Gingham, they are still themselves while holding up a mirror to who we are. Being themselves has enabled other New Zealanders to do the same. Its one of the things I admire most about them. And for all the famous folk who worry about a loss of privacy in sharing their lives with the world somehow the Topp Twins complete openness has lead to a refreshing respect for them. There is nothing to know about them that they haven't already mentioned. I rate this as one of my top tv watches for 2010. Other top watches this year - Glee and still got it after all these years award goes to The Office (US version).

Top read - this year has to go to The White Cat by Holly Black. Honourable mentions go to The Graveyard Book and Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman.

Top Movie - haven't seen Inception yet but my fave for this year is Kick Ass.

Top moment - getting a phone call the day after posting a manuscript, watching my kids perform on the stage, the soccer field, the sprung floor and other arenas.

Top write - this year goes to my YA - My Sister's Shadow. I am very proud of this story. There have been some very positive noises about this from publishers. I have my fingers crossed

So, next year is approaching like Superman. What's on the agenda for 2011? I think I better make some plans, then if I tell you, I will HAVE to do them!!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Is it impossible to not be a snob?

I have to confess...I too am a writery snob. After lambasting literary snobbery in a recent blog post I have become conscious that I too have been guilty of this transgression. If you are a reader but not a writer of books it is a simple story. You go and buy the books you like and you read them and unless you are a reviewer or a book club devotee you don't have to justify your reading habits to anybody. However if you are a writer, your view on books is no longer so clear cut. Everything now becomes relative. The bottom line is how many books will be sold. If you sell a lot then you will be odds on favourite to be published again and this is understandable as publishers cannot stay in business if they do not sell enough of their product. If you do not sell many books you must hope for some other virtue to be recognized to raise your cache and make your future books desirable. And here writers are pitted against each other for their share of book sales and recognition. Is a good book a book lots of people choose to buy? A book that wins awards? A book that makes a reader cry? A book with a rousing plot, hang the preponderence of adverbs? A book with a main character that has you swooning or determining to be a better person yourself, forget about the plot holes? A book that makes a reader happy? A book that teaches the reader something or is full of useful information? Should books be literary/commercial/romantic/action/have vampires/be entirely in Haiku? My favourite books to read are those with smart plots, engaging characters, clever use of words and a great sense of satisfaction on conclusion. But must this response be the one other readers must have? I strive to write the best prose I can. I try and make my characters ones a reader will care about and place them in a plot that will make the reader turn the page. I like to add humour and make the story emotionally engaging. Where does this put my writing on the literary totem pole. Do I need to climb over some other story to get higher up? The sad situation is that there are a finite number of publishing opportunities. There are plenty of good stories that never see the light of day in book form, plenty of masterpieces that languish alongside a 'bloody good read' that heads out of the shop in droves. It is hard work not to compare my writing to someone else's. I want my books to do well so the publisher might choose to publish more of my books in the future. I need my books to sell well and/ or win recognition in some way. I do my best to not be a snob but as hard as I try I feel like this business makes it impossible to avoid it completely.

I read this today in a review by Maggie Rainey Smith on Beattie's Book Blog - "...all writers to some extent need courage, bravado and a decent dose of vanity just to send their manuscript to a publisher." We must, by necessity, think our work is going to be good enough to be published, and therefore better than others on the slush pile. However it is never right to dismiss a genre as automatically inferior, and to demand that your genre/style/category is automatically superior. That's just rude.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

But edipubligents, do you not want to clear the decks?

I don't think there are too many writers out there who think they have picked an easy career. The road to publication can be like an army assault course. Not everyone lasts the distance and the reward for persistence and hard work is often the need for more persistence and hard work. But publication is a heady delight, a dangerous drug, a compelling high and I have strapped on my crampons and downed an energy bar or two and intend to keep on trying to climb up. And then while I'm not looking Christmas sneaks up and sticks a ruddy great slippery incline in the way. Everyone deserves a holiday and ok, I get it, summer is a nice time to have it, but while editors and agents and publishers can put their work down and run away for a beach side frolic with an empty mind and a joyous heart, like an elephant I CANNOT FORGET. I am doomed to fret over my submissions. But edipubligents, do you not want to clear the decks before you slip into your jandalabras? Get rid of all those outstanding subs, there since Adam was a boy? No? Whaddaya mean No? ARGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHH Get me some egg nogg STAT!

(phew someone slipped me a little Dahl and I came over all portmanteau).