Thursday, December 01, 2016

Celebration of "One Minute Before Bedtime"

This is one of the poems that didn't make it into the book - but it was then accepted by Ford Street Publishing for "Rich and Rare". Lovely that it found a home!

Story World

Here in my shadowed room
one light spreads a cloak
across my bed.
Outside, the wind whines,
pulls at the leaves on the trees,
flaps the shutters back and forth,
but in here the evening is still,
the book lies open
near my pillow, promising
adventure and rollicking ramblings,
a hero and his dog,
a heroine and her speeding horse,
all racing to an ending I must hear
one more time
before I close my eyes
and venture into my world of dreams,
a journey there and back
all the way to dawn.

If you'd like to read some more poems on the blog tour, go here to Jackie Hosking's blog.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

What I've learned about writing - Janet and Lucia!


Five points I now know after completing my writing course — that would have made life infinitely easier at the start.

1. There is a naturally progressive order to learning how to write — ignore it at your peril. I scanned the timetable for subjects that would ignite my upward trajectory to the dizzying heights of fame in the least amount of time. Novel writing? Tick. Short stories? Tick. Wrong — so very wrong! Okay, what is the main thing a story has? Hello — a plot! And what does a plot have? A premise, a theme, characters, dialogue, scenes, point of view, grammar and punctuation. I could go on, but I’m breaking out in a sweat just remembering it all. A story is a whole made up of the sum of its essential parts. Get a firm grip on those essentials from the start. Choose your order of subjects with as much care as you would take to edit a selfie!

2. I found it almost impossible to write an assignment unless I was under the pump, deadline looming, when I, having exhausted all other excuses, could quite possibly self-ignite to avoid the chore! What I realised was the fear of failure was stopping me from even beginning. ‘It’ll be crap! Why start?’. And just to compound the issue, my editing voice would take charge as soon as the first sentence was down on paper. ‘Seriously? That’s your opening sentence? Open that Thesaurus stat and let’s spend ten hours looking for a better adjective!’ In the end, I had to work with my deadline addiction and had ideas, notes and research completed for that last minute race to the finish line. Begin as soon as you can — don’t wait for the optimum time, it’s exhausting!

3. Finding my voice. I tend to write the way I talk and initially I felt I wasn’t writing properly. It didn’t seem ‘writerly’ enough — literary enough. I doubted its veracity. ‘I’m just writing down what I’m ‘seeing’ and thinking, how can that be enough?’ Now I know if my voice could be recognised simply through my writing, if no-one knew it was mine, then I’ve nailed it. It has a distinct character, its own personality, as does everyone’s, but if I can find that point of difference, that EDGE that makes it unique, then I have a chance of success. Find your voice, find your power.

4. Like many students of the course, I have the unfinished novel. At the time I thought it was great. I enjoyed writing romantic comedy and found a natural fit with dialogue. Perfect — straight to the big screen adaptation. Rose Byrne and Kristen Wiig, you’re on my list! Four chapters in, I had no idea where it was going, how to write a sub-plot, have more than two characters or avoid the typical RomCom recipe. Fast forward to my first encounter with creative non-fiction. At last! I didn’t have to find ideas, they’re everywhere. Memoir, essay, reviews, blogging, listicles — the list is long. Here I am finding a way to explore my own interests combined with my writing. And what about my penchant for RomCom you ask? Well, I did write about a comedy of romantic errors — my ‘romantic’ trip to America to meet an online love interest!

5. I am proud of finishing the course! Good on me. I don’t have the best track record when it comes to finishing things, so the completion of my diploma says as much about the course as it does about me. I loved the learning, the exploration of themes and ideas that truly interested and excited me. It also went deeper than that. It helped with depression, with structuring a new life in Melbourne, introduced me to a great group of people and I am missing it already. 

And from LUCIA NARDO, one of our great writing teachers!

Five things I've learnt about writing in the past 10 years

1.     Strengthen my writing muscle
Any muscle is built by repetitive action and the right nutrition. In my writing world, that repetitive action means regular writing, even if I have to do it five minutes at a time. I leave my PC on then come-and-go into the piece I'm working on. Sometimes I'm lucky enough to get a long stretch of time, which is a luxury but not essential to production. Everything is written one word at a time. I don't need to be fast, just steady. My writing nutrition includes reading widely, attending literary festivals and author talks. Mixing with other people interested in books and writing is my best sort of soul food.

2.     Be part of a workshopping/writing group
After point 1, a workshopping group is the thing that has improved my writing and confidence the most. At first, it was daunting showing my work to others but I gathered my courage and dropped my defences. I learn most when I allow myself to be vulnerable to feedback. The rhythm and trust didn’t build overnight and there were a few early bumps. These days, I know that my group has the best interests of my work at the core of their comments and a bonus is that my development as a writer flows from this. Their constructive feedback is the thing that propels my writing forward. It would be poorer if not for them.

3.     Stay a curious observer
Overheard conversations, interactions, events, news items all sparks story ideas and questions. Curiosity about what is behind these fuels my imagination be it one sentence in a conversation or an observation on a walk. Being an observer means paying more attention to the world around me than focussing on my own. That inquisitiveness has ever left me short of inspiration.

4.     Persistence and patience
Being published is a challenge. Where creativity meets commercial reality can be an uncomfortable place. It's easy to become dejected and want to give up. Rejection is never pretty and when it happens, it's hard to remind myself with any conviction that it’s the work, not me personally facing the thanks but no thanks message. Each time I tell myself it's too hard, I take a breather, come back to it, polish the work more and send it out into the world again. If I stop, I will have failed for sure.

5.     Remain gracious
When I see "everyone else" around me being published and celebrated, it can erode my confidence. I wonder if I will ever be "good enough". The antidote is to be gracious. Their journey to publication might have been fraught too. There is rarely a true overnight success. I've seen envy drain all the creative energy from some people when it's better spent on continuing to write. I try to learn what I can from successful writers and remind myself that if I work on points 1 to 5, I might find myself in the same place as they do.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

More thoughts on writing from our students

Last but not least!

As DIJANA NECOVSKI herself notes, slightly off brief, but she's gone where the muse took her.

5 things I’ve learned about myself in 2016 so far…

I’ve been living with myself for many years now, 34 in fact, so it should come as no surprise that I know myself pretty well. So it’s nice that there are days where I learn something new about myself. Here are just a few things I’ve discovered about myself this year.

1. I love mustard as a colour and as a condiment.
You can keep your tomato sauce, keep your horseradish and soy, and give me mustard any old day. It goes well with hot chips, hot dogs, steak, cheese and as a dip with corn chips. Don’t even get me started on how great it looks as a knitted jumper. Try it, it’ll change your world.

2. I actually enjoy living with my mother.
It’s rare to find a 34-year old who decides to live with their parents and actually enjoys it. When I was 25 I couldn’t wait to get out of the house and leave my folks behind. I went overseas, lived in the UK for a couple of years and then returned to never leave the nest again. Yes, I’ve travelled since, but there seems to be no point in leaving a house where I can be myself, know someone will find me if I’m on the floor choking, and I have someone who gives a shit whether I make it home each night. It’s rare to find someone that cares about you so much, so I’m going to take it, and enjoy it. Think of it as an older version of the Gilmore Girls.

3. I’m never going to believe I’m a good writer.
If I’ve learned one thing from studying as an adult is that it’s okay not be perfect. I’ve been studying writing for three years, or maybe it’s been four, and my confidence in my skills has not grown, not one bit. However, my confidence with being okay with not being perfect has improved dramatically. I’ve learned that I’d much prefer to share my writing , then to try to perfect a piece and never have it go anywhere, ever. What’s the point? So I’ve decided to live a little, and you should too. Write it all down, share it on your blog, with the local newspaper, whatever it is, just share it and go for it. What’s the worst that could happen?

4. Money does not make me happy, but reading funny stories and hanging with people I love does.
I’ve done my fair share of shopping, and don’t get me wrong, I love it. But not once have I ever bought something that has rocked my world enough to increase my level of happiness.* Yes, the purchase makes me feel good, almost as much as the chase, but at the end of the day, I’m going to keep my clams in the bank where they belong, for now, and spend more time having cups of tea with people I love, and sharing stories and opinions on the world around us. Now that is what I live for.
*Note: Books always make me feel better, but they’re not included as a shopping item as they are a necessity, like food.

5. Scary movies are scary!
I’m still waiting to recover from watching Twin Peaks as a young girl. The scene where the old man with the long hair is crouching in the corner of Laura Palmer’s room still gives me the heebie-jeebies, but that didn’t stop me from watching every other scary movie known to man. Now I’m a little older, I’m a little wiser. I still watch scary shows, poo my pants while watching them, then watch something a lot less scary like Brooklyn Nine-nine as a chaser, and then listen to a podcast while I’m sleeping. This ensures that I do not, under no circumstance have a nightmare that night. However, this has only proven to be effective 50% of the time.


Five points of a writer’s self-discovery.
Before I started my Diploma in Professional Editing and Writing, writing began as an insomniac’s idea. It was also an idea to help me through depression caused by an injury, which ruined my previous career. Now it’s opened up an entire world for me and given career options I never even considered.

1. Proofreading.
My biggest problem as a writer was proofreading my own work. The task is all about perception and it pays to have a second or even a third pair of eyes at your disposal. Let’s face it, reading your work in your head can be useless and sometimes reading aloud doesn’t cut it at times either.

2. Writing Buddies.
It’s an extension of proofreading, though it’s so much more. I’ve read many novels with two authors and I never quite understood this until I discovered the writing buddy system. What starts with two authors befriending and proofing each other’s work can become an amazing workshopping experience, with two heads creating something neither could alone.

3. Workshopping.
Buddy writing is a binary workshopping effort, though engaging in workshopping with an entire class can be an amazing process beneficial to many writers. It delivers an insight one may never obtain with solo writing efforts, and how I became aware of how much tighter my writing needed to be.

4. Tight Writing.
Tight writing is something I’ve never been able to execute well until now. In workshopping sessions and in the incredibly diverse themes explored in assignments I have started to train myself in tightening up those words. During these assignment adventures, I’ve discovered a dormant love for research projects.

5. Technical and Research Writing.
I very rarely dabbled in technical writing and research, though now they’ve become something I’m very passionate about. Before I started looking on job search websites, did I know how high the demand for technical writers of many specialities was? Research, project, procedure, operations, and human resource training all fall under the technical writing banner.
* * *

Thanks to all the students who gave me permission to post their listicles. Like any writing assignment, you might start with a set topic but of course each writer's own experiences, world view and creative ideas make for a different response!