Thursday, July 26, 2012

National Poetry Day - My contribution...

Okay it needs work but I do think there's a poem in there somewhere

For All The Lost Girls

By Melinda Szymanik

They’re calling my name
But I’m not her anymore.
By chance,
Picked up
Put down,
Lost at sea
Buried in the sand

There’s no outlook,
No chance of stormy weather
Slammed doors
Lost touch.

Pitch a tent,
Query the neighbours,
Let the dogs out.
But I’m gone
Whatever you find
I’m not her anymore.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

"Infected with disturbing silver..."

After the initial sadness at her passing I have come to realise how lucky I am to have read (and own) so many of Margaret Mahy's books. They are dense with magic and ideas, and eternal truths lurk between the lines. Like the Higgs Boson particles, we know if we look hard enough we might be lucky enough to catch them there. I was lucky to meet Ms Mahy both in person and through her writing.

She has been likened to some of NZ's other great writers such as Janet Frame and Katherine Mansfield. She has been called our greatest children's writer. But I believe her to be NZ's greatest writer ever. The age of her audience is irrelevant. Her skill with words, the breadth of themes and topics she explored, the sheer volume of work she produced, her wit and fearlessness, her essays, her discussions, her generosity were all breathtaking. What she left behind is truly remarkable.

She is the benchmark, the giddy heights and the love of words all writers should aspire to, yet she never climbed over any other writer, or genre to elevate her own work. I wish I could be Margaret when I grow up. She has infected me and happily there is no cure...

One hot summer night Angela woke up and found she could not go back to sleep again for, beyond her closed lids, the room was infected with disturbing silver. (the first sentence from The Catalogue of the Universe by Margaret Mahy - one of my favourites).

Monday, July 23, 2012

The divine Ms M...

Margaret Mahy died yesterday, July 23rd. 76 years old, she had been diagnosed with cancer earlier this year. The world is a poorer place for her passing. There will be no new words with her special stamp of vigour and imagination like rumbustification and horrakapotchkin. Words behaved differently under her guiding hand and I will miss this, but she also explored the psychology and philosophy of story in stunning essays like this one. I idolised her more than I realised. If I wanted to be like any writer, she was at the top of my list. If you need any convincing of her genius go read The Lion in the Meadow or The Man Whose Mother Was a Pirate, Down the back of the Chair or Bubble Trouble. Check out The Changeover, The Other Side of Silence, The Tricksters or The Catalogue of the Universe. I only wish I'd started reading her books sooner, when I was younger and more impressionable and their vividness and daring could have inspired me more. She left us with an immense wealth of literature that will delight and inspire generations to come. She will also continue to inspire and motivate me for the rest of my days.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Whip it good ...

I have been head down, posterior up recently slaving over a hot rewrite and must give thanks to Maureen Crisp (yet again) for alerting me to this fab blog post by Kristine Katherine Rusch on the approach that writing is a profession. I haven't spent as much time wittering around the intramawebb as I would like and I have been missing some good advice and fascinating insights. I am still working on the ms, in a seemingly never ending loop of rewritery. But this post resonates for me particularly at the moment. I am a lazy individual, but I have been racking up the hours on this book. And the bottom line is, if you are serious about being a writer you have to do the work. Good workers work hard at their jobs. I have had moments when I have told myself it is too hard and I can't do it, but then I have to slap myself and tell myself to buck up my ideas and work a little harder. If you don't whip that talent into shape and drive it with a cattle prod you are less likely to survive long term.

What interested me most about Ms Rusch's post though was the belief writers are indoctrinated with (and yes, I am guilty of perpetuating this) that we are unlikely to make a living as a writer. We believe we are unlikely to succeed. Whether we succeed/make money or not, telling ourselves we won't is not a smart attitude. There are other beliefs about my writing and the writing business as a whole that I have and I continue to hold these to be true. Most centre on what it is I want to write and what it is I think I can write. But I need to remind myself this isn't a hobby, its my job and if I'm smart about it maybe I can do better at it and reap some more benefits.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Fabo rides again ...

Here is a little something I am involved in. If you are a primary or intermediate school student you should check this out. Lots of fun to be had, prizes to win and writing skills to benefit. Go to it y'all.

FaBo Story 3 launched this morning at and we'd LOVE you to write with us again. As it's the beginning of the term and you're all busy, we're giving you a bit longer to write your first chapter and email it to us (deadline 27 July).

FABO STORY 3 begins with a letter posted on the blog on Monday 16 July - a letter that threatens to disrupt the biggest sporting event in world history - the TITANIC GAMES.
Who wrote the letter and to whom? Why would they make threats? It's your job to write a follow-on chapter. YOU decide what the story is about, who the characters are, and what happens to them next. Write the next chapter in the story (up to 1000 words) and send it to in the body of your email (not as an attachment) by 5pm on Friday 27 July. The winning chapter will appear on Monday 30 July at the same time as a chapter by one of the children's authors. From then on, every week is another episode in a big, dark writing adventure.

By the end, you will have used your imagination and sleuthing skills to figure out who the villain is and how to stop him or her from destroying the Titanic Games. Are you ready to compete? Let the Titanic Games begin!
As always, there will be prizes, so start working on your medal count now.

Go to to read the letter that kickstarts your story about the Titanic Games.

GOOD LUCK. : ) Start reading, and start writing.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Learning to Swim in Custard so you can stay afloat when things turn…

So the publishing/book world is in a state of uncertainty right now with plenty of theories, doomsayers and zero confidence about how things are going to look in one year’s time, let alone 5 or 10 years. So what do we know and what can authors do to hang on, survive and thrive in this environment.

What we know.

- Right now publishers are still publishing printed books
- some publishers are publishing in other formats
- it has never been easier to publish your own work in different formats
- most importantly, people are still reading – millions of people if you look at how many copies of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ have sold.
- reading and writing skills are still acknowledged as fundamental to education and children are still being encouraged to read

What you can do

-          You should be writing. Write the stories you want to write and rewrite and edit them until they are just how you want them to be
-          keep up to date with which publishers publish what books
-          keep up to date with advances and changes in new formats. You should at least know the basics of what an e-book and app are, how they are read, what the reading devices are and what formats are needed for the different devices. It would be even better if you also knew the basic steps to producing an e-book
-          Are you still writing the stories you want to write?
-          Meet other writers and/or illustrators. This will never be the wrong thing. Knowing other writers will strengthen your writing and your resolve and help you keep going when the going gets tough
-          Keep your choice of mood enhancers handy
-          Read current books. Know what’s hot and what’s not. It is IMPOSSIBLE to write the next hot thing. NO ONE, and I mean NO ONE, knows what the next bestseller will be, but you earn a lot of credibility with your target audience if they know you are reading the same books as them. And it helps your writing.
-          No one knows what the formats of the future will be but any format will still need content. Are you still writing?
-          Get involved. Help out at Storylines, Kiwiwrite4kidz events, run a critique group, a book club, maybe help run a book club in a local school, go read to some children who never get read to.
-          Have an online presence. Whether you believe in it or not, like it or hate it, it’s where a whole lot of book stuff happens these days
-          Keep writing. If you are not writing, you are not a writer. End of story

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Little bits ....

I have spoken before about New Zealand's country of honour status at this year's Frankfurt Book Fair and NZ@Frankfurt and expressed my disappointment at the approach that has been taken with this terrific opportunity. Many members of the children's lit community here in NZ have been discussing our concerns at length and are getting behind an open letter to organisers that summarises these. Go here to listen to a radio interview on the topic.

I would be doubly sad if my previous comments are dismissed as sour grapes because I am not going to Frankfurt. Seriously! it doesn't have to be me, although as a writer with a growing book list I would be a fool not to want to go. I am allowed to want to go. But I accept that others might be well ahead of me in the queue. It just doesn't seem like they are going either. The Frankfurt Book Fair this year should be a platform for NZ writers. Other endeavours have their own platforms - this one is for literature from this country.

I am the Star Author this month at the Christchurch City Libraries Christchurch Kids Blog. Check out my first post here. Its extremely cool to be able to connect with book-loving kids and I am very grateful and honoured to have the opportunity.

I also have a guest post and free book giveaways this week over at the fabulous Tall Tales and Short Stories Blog as part of their on going 100,000 hits celebrations. Go check it out.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Two girls...and a boy

Our globe-trotting eldest is home, shivering in the current wintry blast after the tropical idyll that is Miami. She is changed but still her very brilliant, funny, loving self. She is fit and healthy and brown as a berry and we are amazed and impressed with what she has been up to while she was away. Very excited to have her home and looking forward to what comes next.

Second child had a fierce final week for term two at school with Drama class production (for NCEA assessment), music performances (for NCEA assessment) and the 2012 Stage Challenge performance. This was the culmination of months of work by a dedicated team of students who developed a storyline and choreographed dances to represent that storyline, practised the dances, made costumes, designed make-up and lighting, built props and much more. Our girl was a choreographer and helped teach and drill the dancers in their jazz steps. In the past Epsom Girls Grammar has performed on a Wednesday night. They have won their night for the last two years. In 2011 they were second overall nationally behind overall winners St Cuthberts. This year they were switched to Thursday night and were competing against some very, very strong competition including St Cuthberts and Baradene Colleges. My SO and I managed to make it in for part of the Stage Challenge Show. EGGS knocked it out of the park in a dramatic, haunting performance with the audience gasping at the final climax. EGGS won the night and we were very proud.

Our youngest has been doing his Dad (and Mum) proud in the club soccer team (which SO coaches) and they are looking very starry at the top of the table right now. Son also plays school team and futsal and on the weekend after playing his game for third and fourth play off, was invited to play in the final and won a first place medal for his efforts. Wow. Sadly son is camera shy and I have no photo to post here at the moment.