Friday, July 28, 2023

A bit of a rant...

 I often hear the phrase - 'it's really hard to get published' and my mind has often responded with, 'it's always been hard'. I've thought that the publishing setbacks and failures I've experienced are because my stories or books are just not good enough.   

But other things have been happening to legitimately make it harder. The sheer volume of stories being published now provides a veritable ocean of books in which your own book is the proverbial drop. It is easy to sink without trace. There are self published books in addition to traditionally published. It is fantastic that folk can now self publish and there are many wonderful self pubbed titles out there, but the total number of books has increased markedly as a result. There are less in-print reviews, especially of children's books, whether in magazines or newspapers. Some online review sites have popped up (yay!) but are they reaching the audience that can make a difference? How do we get cut through, can we even get seen? And can we stay on the shop shelves long enough with so many books coming through? I read an article here which talks about market saturation and some things you can do to help your book along. Personally, recently I've been teaming up with fellow creators to try and connect more with our target audience on social media in a positive, and interesting way. Social media is having a few hiccups at the moment but people are still hanging out around the digital watercooler so hopefully our community building will have some mutually beneficial outcomes. I'll keep you posted on our project when there is more to share. I also think creating and strengethening your own personal brand can help - being visible whenever possible and doing good work both in your books and in the writing and reading communities.

I've been finding it hard recently to stay strong in the face of the unspoken belief that children's literature requires an inferior skill set to produce and has lesser value in the eyes of adult writers and readers. I know 'not all adult writers and readers' but I've had some personal experience of being denigrated as a writer for children recently and it wasn't great. I am at a loss to understand what the issue is. As if literature is a pie and if adult literature cedes anything to children's literature it is a failure or a loss from their own share. I'm not sure how it became like this but I'd say boosting children's literature and valuing it helps create young readers who turn into adult readers. Isn't that desirable? I'd also argue that children's writers, just as any other writers, strive to master their craft and create quality. I'm thinking about plotting, character development, language techniques and deeper themes. I'm writing for an audience that I am no longer the same as. I'm writing not just for the child reader who might have emerging language skills and an inquisitive and demanding mind, but also the oft present adult intermediary who would like some relief in the form of subtle adult humour or other emotional connection and universal ideas that also speak to them. I am mindful always of the malleability and potential of words and how my efforts in the text will grow and inspire a young person's vocabulary and future reading and writing skills. Its not less than. Its just different. And the disdain I have felt recently is frankly undeserved. Maybe a children's book hurt you as an adult. Honestly, I don't know what it is. But it is selfish and it is unnecessary. Lifting each other up seems like the best thing to do eh?

Tuesday, July 4, 2023

Mixed bag ...

 I'm not sure if writers still get caught up on the whole issue of copyright these days - the whole, do you need to assert copyright on your work, when do you do it, how do you do it, and what might happen if you don't? 

I'm pretty sure copyright is automatic here in NZ, meaning it applies as soon as your words are assembled on the page or screen. You don't have to add the symbol or register your story anywhere. Once you submit your completed story to a publisher there is a date stamp on your email which can corroborate any arguments about who had an idea first (information that is required so rarely that I cannot recall any instances of stolen ideas over my more than 20 years in the business). And if the publisher decides to publish, it is then up to them to do the final official paperwork/admin and copyright appears in black and white on the imprint page. 

So you are not required to do anything. And doing something can cause problems and make you look amateurish. You can read about it here - this from a US blog but it is relevant here too.

Things have been quiet around here since my big news about getting the residency. I have a few articles to write, a few missives too, and I am slowly sorting the admin for my trip. Visas and the like. Part of me wishes I was going away next week. I want the admin to be over and I want to be focusing on my project. I have made a very modest start and I have been wondering/worrying about the technique I am using. It is new to me so I have gotten some books using the same technique to read. The one I'm reading first is next level genius and it is a little intimidating, but when I went back to my own modest beginnings I thought this isn't so bad. Probably not Cilip Carnegie Medal material like my exemplar, but not as bad as I suspected. Maybe I can do this. The technique I mean. I already think the story idea itself has legs. Anyways, in lieu of having anything else to talk about I thought I would post up some poems for younger people. Enjoy!

(And if you are an NZ adult writing children's poetry you might like to enter a poem competition some poet friends and I are running. You can check out details here. The competition close August 4th and there is a small cash prize and the winning poem will be printed and displayed.)

Reluctant Ambler 

I go out for a walk,

(they make me),

I don’t want to go!

I dawdle, mope,

and drag my feet

I get so rambly slow!

The grass is tall

above my head,

each step I take

fills me with dread,

I fancy being in bed instead

but no one is at home -


I smell the flowers

(Pinks I think),

I must admit

a spicy stink.

I touch the grass,

admire the sky,

watch monarch

butterflies sail by,

and by the time we reach the bay

I actually have a mind to stay.

The sun is shining

waves shush in,

I secretly let

out a grin.

We picnic on

a sunlit shelf,

don’t tell them

I’ve enjoyed myself.

And just in case

next time’s a pain,

I drag my feet

back home again.

Blistery Mystery

There’s a word for this

I know what it is

it’s just on the tip of my tongue

and ‘tongue’ is a tip

well, a clue -

it’s a quip

or a joke

not a word on its own.

It’s a weather event

it’s a tempest, a storm

but it means

something different

as well

giving your tongue a blister -

‘She sells shells,

that shore sifter.’

That’s it -

a tongue twister!

Well done!