Friday, May 3, 2024

Unexpected consequences ...

Recently I was asked to do a small paying job after a casual chat at an event with someone I didn't know terribly well at the time. At that same event another chat with someone I'd never met before ended with an invitation to participate in something poetic later in the year.  And not long after I was emailed with some lovely news. A poem I had submitted to this fun and welcoming UK online children's poetry site is to appear in an anthology they are putting together. Opportunities can spring from the most unexpected places. This is not why we have the chats or go to events but it is a reminder that this business can be full of good unexpected consequences if we actively participate in it.  

I may have talked about this before. I know I have definitely mentioned that being a writer is a long game. Every part of the process tends to be fairly slow as a rule (to which there are always exceptions), and some outcomes happen years after the wheels were set in motion. But sometimes things also follow a pathway that no one can see or takes the road less travelled popping up in a different, sometimes better destination than you had in mind.  We can't anticipate how things will play out. How can we plan accordingly? How can we control any of it? For the most part we can't. But there are some things to keep in mind as you traverse this crazy book writing journey.

Our industry is a community. It is good to join it and participate in it, whether on the periphery or fully immersed (or anywhere on the spectrum inbetween). Everyone is there because they share your passion - this is your tribe. And your tribe will embrace you, support you and be the font of opportunites. And you will have the chance to give back in your turn.

Be true to yourself. If you always do what is right for you and reflects who you are inside and out, then any outcomes will be the right ones for you. They will be more satisying and your journey will have consistency as a result. With the long game, and continuing community participation, others will see this too. And sometimes this leads to other opportunites you had not anticipated. Keep working on your body of work. 

Be polite and professional. Make this a strand of your brand. People will want to work with you if you are good to work with. 

Enjoy everything in the moment as much as you can. Keep copies of any good news you get so you can remind yourself of it when you need a boost. Be hopeful. Trust your intuition. Don't let failure undermine you. The writers you admire have had their failures too. And failures can also end up having good outcomes, because remember, this is a long game. 

And here is a poem I wrote that I am a wee bit fond of - just a lil bonus content for you: 


the world cannot turn like it

used to - it creaks and groans

with nothing left to grease it

the oil long since mined

pimped, pumped and spent

leaving a grimy film on the

sky like a weighted blanket


the world cannot turn like it

used to – swollen tides

climb out of the sea to

wash the dirt of houses and

gardens, fish cooked and

oversalted gasp on beaches

there are rivers in the sky


the world cannot turn like it

used to – the poles want change

will there be a gentle pause

and reverse, or a jolt

no less than we deserve

shucking us off into the

waiting hell of the heavens


I guess we shall see what the revolution brings


Melinda Szymanik

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

A bag of cats ...

I finally sent off my last piece of non-fiction writing on Monday - a report - that was on my list of to dos. It's taken me two and a half months to reach this point, and I tell y'all my mind is a bag of cats right now. I decided to take a few days off but I am not yet feeling rested - too many cats up there, I tell ya.

Over the weekend I got to read my poem Pet Lessons and a couple of others at the launch of Takahe 110 at The Open Book in Ponsonby. You can read my poem here or check out all the goodness here.  Despite some nerves, I enjoyed reading my poetry aloud. And I loved hearing the work of others. The whole event felt warm and inviting and supportive. Note to self 1: attend more poetry reading events. Note to self 2: write more poems. 

I have sent a couple of picture book manuscripts off into the ether (fingers crossed for these babies) and am waiting on edits for another in preparation for its publication hopefully later this year. Now I want to work on a couple of longer projects but I am finding it hard to settle in to it. The end of daylight saving doesn't help. Is it just this year or is every autumnal 'fall back' accompanied by this amount of sleep adjustment? It also doesn't help that the nights are unseasonably warm. I also navigated my first school visit for the year, talking to Year 7s and 8s at St Kentigern Boys' School on Monday. It was a fun session with such lovely students. I have another booked in for July at a primary school and a couple of creative writing workshops earmarked for May. It's good to have a mix of things on the schedule because I think I work better when time is somewhat limited.

I was excited to see some lovely reviews of Sun Shower on the KiwiReviews site here:  

I think what first drew me to Sun Shower was the quality of the illustrations. Isobel Joy Te Aho-White has done a superb job in capturing the essence of the differing landscape patterns of Aotearoa New Zealand with the weather variations unfolding in the sky above. 

The text contains a powerful message about diversity, cooperation, and friendship. Melinda Szymanik has started with a scientific concept and presented it in a context that even very young children can understand.

I was apprehensive as to whether my 10-year-old would stay interested in the story, but knew my 7-year-old would stay till the end, but to my surprise my eldest was captivated, and it even opened up conversations about other weather patterns and how they are formed. I recommend this book as a cute story to show that even though people maybe opposites, they can still get along and still create something special.

And the book is currently hanging out at the Aotearoa New Zealand stand at the 2024 Bologna Book Fair, along with many other superb local titles. I hope some international rights get sold!!

Monday, February 26, 2024

Ready for the 100 day challenge?

Happy New Year! I can't believe we're just about to say hello to March. The last few months have galloped by and seem to have been all about poetry and non-fiction for me.

I received a lovely email from Roi Faineant Press while I was away over Christmas accepting all three adult poems I'd sent them - Double HappyPlum Jam and The Politics of Pockets - which was a wonderful surprise to end the year on. You can read the poems here. I also received a copy of Volume Ten from Paddler Press in Canada which has one of my poems in it - The Night is Singing. And another three children's poems of mine have been published on the Dirigible Balloon site, most recently The Talk in the Trees which you can check out here. I still feel very much in my infancy as a poet so these results are very encouraging. I feel so slow writing poems - I wish I could speed up. There are a steady stream of publishing opportunities and I never seem to have sufficient new poems to submit - more on that in a minute.

Despite the earlyness of the year I have already been busy with a brace of projects - current status? - two down (I have penned a profile on the wonderful Feana TuΚΏakoi which will be in the next Magpies Magazine, and I wrote an article on 'translation' for The Sapling), one to go. There are other small jobs hovering round the edges as well. As is always the way, because I have these jobs on the go, my mind has been busy working out a solution to an old abandoned junior novel. Of course, as soon as I am done with those other tasks my brain will lose interest in the junior novel. I'm wondering if I can trick my brain into maintaining that excitement. It really is a very fickle organ sometimes. Perhaps it needs some specialist training.

To that end, and apropos of my comment earlier about never having enough poetry to send out, a small dedicated bunch of us are running a project which we hope will help build a lovely daily poetry writing habit and result in a good swag of poems. If you are a keen poet you might like to check out the 100 day Poetry Writing Challenge over on The Poets XYZ page on facebook, starting March 1st. I hope I see you there!!

PS: My picture book Lucy and the Dark, illustrated by Vasanti Unka and published by Puffin (Penguin RH) has been shortlisted in the picture book category of the 2024 NZ Booklovers Awards (you can see all of the finalists here ) woohoo!!!, and it is also off to Germany, hopefully for publication there later this year.