Friday, July 30, 2010

Conflict of Opinions

I've been working on a new short story for a while now. It's a very literary exploration of a girl's grief over losing her partner. Nothing particularly new in the plot as such, but I've had fun with the language and creating changing moods through flashbacks. My critique group have been having a field day with this particular piece. Some have loathed it, some have loved it, some have told me there is no story arc or character growth, and others have liked that the arc and growth is so small as to be almost invisible.

For a while I was really upset that no one liked it, thought maybe I'd written something truly awful, but as the opinions stacked up, I realized something important: if my story was sparking so much debate, so many conversations about what literary fiction is and isn't, then it's struck a chord somewhere. And as a writer, isn't that all we're trying to do?

So while I don't think the story is 100% where I want it to be yet, I'm not giving up on it. If all those different people can have all those conflicting opinions, I think I might have something quite special on my hands.

Then again, I've been wrong before...

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


I've been so busy with all my projects, I've kind of let the screenplay I'm supposed to be writing with my friend GT slide to the back burner. I wrote the outline a few weeks back, but neither of us were entirely happy with it. On Tuesday night, GT and I were talking, and we had a breakthrough.

Our main character needs to be a woman.

As soon as I made that shift in my head, it made perfect sense. Her entire backstory came in a rush. GT and I got very excited about it. Making her female adds so many layers to the character, and several of the key scenes will be that much more interesting and complex. It's amazing we didn't think of that earlier because it's so obvious.

Now I need to find time to flesh out this idea more. I want to write the opening scenes, set the tone and pace in a certain way, only to have that totally subverted a few scenes later. This film, if it ever gets made, will screw with your mind from start to finish, believe me!

Monday, July 26, 2010


When I started this blog I thought I'd post something every day, but I'm finding I just don't have something I want to share every day. In fact, I've been struggling to think of anything I want to write here for several days. I've been busy, both with work and with writing, and nothing of any real life-changing significance has occurred. I've had a couple of rejections, but after the high of last week's acceptances, I'm not surprised. I don't have a whole lot of work submitted at the moment actually. I've been saving my new stories for contests, so they haven't been going out. In November, when both contests are finished, I'll have a lot of stuff to send out.

I've been trying to work on my novella for the anthology, but am struggling a little to find where I can expand it. I've tinkered around a bit, added a few scenes, changed the timeframe of a couple of events and thrown in a new character whose role I'm unsure of as yet. I hope it will come together soon. I'm hoping to sit down with it for a few hours tomorrow and knock something out.

I'm also hunting around for beta readers for Prayer and Prey. This draft is done and I need some critiques to make it better. My WDC novel groups are great, but it takes so long for people to get through your whole book that if I had to wait for that, it would be a year or more before I was ready to start querying. I don't want to wait that long. One member of one of my groups has finished it, but most of them are still lingering around chapter 3 or 4. I've taken all M's advice, and now I need some from other people. I'll get some print copies made, and a couple of my workmates have agreed to read it, but I'm not sure how much they will be able to help. If any of you out there are interested, just let me know!

I'm beginning to think I might end up sending P & P out before whatever Assignment 9 eventually becomes (I will have to change the title once I've changed the framing story because it won't be an assignment anymore). I'm quite excited to write it. Casey's voice is beginning to haunt me again...

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Back to square number... something.

A couple of weeks ago I sent Assignment 9 off to a freelance editor and paid her to do what editors do. Having only ever self-edited and edited the work of other writers, I was curious as to what she might have to say. Yesterday I got her comments back.

Apparently, Assignment 9 is unpublishable as it is, something I was beginning to realize myself after the numerous rejections and research I have been doing. She was also very positive about some of the book, and gave me a few suggestions as to what I could do to change it.

So now I'm almost back where I started.

I can throw away the 'NOW' sections and focus on what has been the assignment up until this point. But if I do that, I need to change my protagonist's age, or lose some of the more icky aspects of her life and make the book suitable for MG. I don't think I want to do this. Making Casey older changes everything because all the other characters' ages will need to change with her, and the dynamics between them will be different. Taking out the more icky aspects will dilute the story and Casey's journey, so I don't want to do that either.

I could also make this an adult book which gives me two options. I can either start the 'NOW' story earlier, and develop Mark and Casey's relationship before the assignment is given. I can see this working because both of them are so damaged, I imagine they would have kept their pasts secret, even from each other, wanting to pretend they are normal first year college students having a normal relationship. The assignment throws a spanner in that, and once they've laid their issues on the table, I imagine their relationship might suffer.

Alternatively, I could scrap Mark and Casey's story all together and introduce a new framing story, one in which perhaps Casey works out her relationship with Will in the end. I love Mark and Casey together, but in reality, their story is a hangover from when Holding It Together was a part of this book. Once I discovered that having the two stories told side by side made the book too long and too complicated, I should have realized their story didn't work in there either.

So this third option is the one I'm leaning toward. I have an idea for what the framing story could be, and I quite like it. Although doing another complete rewrite of a book I've probably rewritten five or six times already, does feel a little wearisome. Unfortunately, Casey, Rick, Jason, Alan and Will won't let me go. Until they do, their story is going to have to be told.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

A change of heart

A few weeks ago I wrote a post where I mentioned I had a love/hate relationship with my in-box. As of yesterday, I fell in love with it all over again. I got not one, but two acceptances in the same day! That has never happened to me before. Two rejections, even three, yes. But acceptances? This is a first.

And with one of them, what I discussed in my last post actually came up. My zombie/erotica story was accepted, and I had to decide if I should publish it under my own name or not. In then end, I decided to err on the side of caution and am going to be credited as Katharine Lark. I did struggle with it for a couple of hours, but in the end, I thought it better not to take the risk. I would hate to lose the opportunity to publish one of my novels because I published a silly little erotic story in an anthology. And it means I now have an alter-ego for any other stories I write that may not be appropriate for a younger audience. I mean, I write picture books as well as YA...

It's not something I like doing, and I will still take pride in those stories because I am proud of them. I can always even list them in my credits as "under the name Katharine Lark..." But it does feel a little odd. I've worked so hard to write the stories, get them out there, it seems wrong to give someone else, even a fictional someone else, credit.

In the end, it's all about building a career. And you don't want to sabotage yourself before you even start.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Conflicting advice

Yesterday I took part in a Twitter chat with Elizabeth Law, an editor with small publisher Egmont. She specializes in YA and is incredibly generous with her time in answering questions from all of us unpublished wannabes. In several other chats with agents and publishers I've asked whether publishing widely in different genres makes a difference, especially if you're working in genres like erotica or horror. In general, the responses I've gotten have indicated that other publishing credits pretty much count for doodly-squat when you're trying to sell a novel. Plus, other writers have advised me to use a pseudonym if I wanted to publish anything really adult.

When I asked Elizabeth Law the same question, her answer was completely different: "Goodness, no! Experience in other genres only a plus when you are submitting. Unless you are Mel Gibson."

Well, leaving off the Mel Gibson quip - which by the way, is good advice. Listen up Mel. -, this is completely contrary to anything I've received up until now. It has been my mission this year to publish in as many genres as possible, and while so far I haven't managed publishing everything yet, I've written in most of the genres I can think of. Including, most recently, erotica and horror. Even erotic horror... Unfortunately both my erotica story and my horror story were rejected by the first places I submitted them, but hey, they're only the first. I'm beginning to think that in most cases 4 is my lucky number, although I do have a few stories that have been out 6 or more times without getting taken, and three or four that made it into my first choice publication.

So what do I believe? Is writing horror/erotica going to lessen my chances of getting a contract for a YA novel? Or does it prove that I am a versatile and diverse writer?

I'd like to believe the latter.

Saturday, July 17, 2010


I saw a documentary about Joan Rivers on Friday, and what impressed me about her the most was her drive. She's 75 years old, but is still as determined and driven to work as she was as a young struggling comedian. And she's still as funny and lewd and outrageous as ever. I know part of it is a desperate need to be loved and to have the attention that comes with being in front of an audience, but anyone who still panics about white space in her diary at the age of 75 has to be admired.

I don't think Joan suffers from procrastination. She'll do anything, is game for any challenge and even if she doesn't like it, will show up and do her best. I think we can all learn something from that.

As writers, it's easy to lose that drive. Rejections knock us on our asses, there isn't enough time in the day to do the writing we know we need to be doing, the house needs cleaning, this list goes on. To make it, you really need to WANT to succeed. You can't be half-assed about it or you won't. You need to focus and throw yourself into it, even when you don't really feel like it. Write every day, even when you don't really have an idea. Don't stall on projects, just throw yourself into them and get them done. If you can do that, you'll be well on your way to fulfilling that dream.

I'm as guilty as the next person. Some days just dragging myself to the computer and opening my WIP is painful. But I usually find, if I do it, I can throw myself in. Sometimes it starts slowly, but I usually warm into it. And if I can't, then I'll try something else.

I dont think I'm as driven as Joan Rivers, but I sure as hell am working on it.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Changed perspective

I went to the opening of the Film Festival last night. The film was one I had already seen, and enjoyed, a few months ago. This time though, I did not enjoy it nearly as much. In fact, I found it quite flawed, primarily because it looked down at the audience. Rather than just letting the information sink in, the film makers felt, in several scenes, that they needed to bash us over the heads with it. People are not that stupid. Film is a language and in this day and age, everyone speaks it. If you've shown the protagonist making the connection in his head, you don't then need to show us a flashback of what actually happened. We've figured it out, thank you very much.

I see a lot of films. A lot. Over the next couple of weeks I expect I'll see at least one every day, and on some days, two or three. I think because of the number of films I see, I am far less forgiving of flaws. A film has to be really good to impress me. This year, I haven't seen a huge number of films that have blown my mind. There have been some good ones, some enjoyable ones, but nothing that made me sit up straight and go "Wow". Except maybe Toy Story 3. And what does that say about the film industry?

So, I'm hoping that over the next 17 days, I will find a 'wow' movie. Of course, you will be the first to know....

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


After procrastinating and fiddling around for several days, last night I sat down and really seriously started working on the new ending for Prayer and Prey. It took a few minutes to get into the flow, but once I did, I went for it. In just over an hour and a half I'd written 2500 words and only stopped because if I hadn't, I wouldn't have gotten any sleep. Now I can't wait to get back to it, despite having realized as I climbed into bed I'd forgotten to have a character do something she absolutely has to do for the story to work. But that's a small problem and can be quickly addressed.

Inspiration is a funny thing. Sometimes it just happens, and idea falls on you and you just have to write it. Other times you have to coax it a little. I was definitely coaxing it to find the inspiration to start work on this new ending, but once I got into it, it was there by the bucket-full. It amazes me how easy it is to fall back into a certain voice, even after months or years away from a project. It may take a minute or two to warm into it, but once there, I find I could keep going forever.

I hope the same thing happens when I dive back into the sordid little world I created for my story Angels, Oddities and Orthodox Habits. I've agreed to be a part of an anthology of novellas based around this story, so have to expand the 8000 words to around 20 000. This is part of the same anthology idea I mentioned in an earlier post, with the Wizardpunk story. I struggled to find a story that would work in that world, so suggested that perhaps another anthology on a different theme might work, and bam! Here I am with a team of people working on stories based on mine. Scary!

But back to inspiration. I hope I can fall back into the voice of that story because it's very lush and overblown in some ways, and the world is very dark and sordid. I haven't got a huge number of ideas as to how to expand the story by 12K, but am sure they will come to me. I have some ideas at least. Luckily I don't have to be done with this one until the beginning of November. Plenty of time to mull. Let's just hope I don't get a lightning bolt of inspiration to do something completely different while I'm trying to focus on that.

Monday, July 12, 2010


The road to publication involves a lot of waiting. You write your stuff, send it off and you wait. And wait. And wait. If you'er like me, and not the most patient person on earth, the waiting can be enough to make you snaky. I hate waiting. Just ask anyone who has had the misfortune of traveling on public transport with me! Waiting for things feels like wasted time, and I just don't have enough time to be wasting it.

So what do you do? It's often difficult to move on to something else while waiting to hear about your current work. But in reality, that is the only ting you can do. Send off that query or story or novel and try not to think about it too much. Get your head down and work on your next project. The, if the news is good, you'll have something to follow up with. If the news is bad, well, you have something else to throw out there.

I always try to have at least two or three things on the go. I tend to get stuck on projects and need to step away from them for a while before I can go back and find my way with them. This is also handy in the waiting game.

When waiting gets really frustrating, it's when you don't know how long you might need to wait. For my short stories, I use Duotrope's submission tracker because it tells you how long on average you will wait to get a response. Unfortunately, they are not always right.. I have one story that has been out over 100 days. The average response time listed was 68 and I queried them after 80 only to be told they had a lot to get through. I'm still waiting.

And that's for a 3000 word short story. Think what it's like for the people who have to wade through novel submissions. It's no wonder it can take 6 months or more to get a response. But use that time. Write another book while you wait. Otherwise you will have wasted your time. And quite possibly have gone insane.

Sunday, July 11, 2010


I'm feeling a little overcommitted at the moment. I have so many writing projects on the go, I'm not sure what I should be focusing on first. Plus there is real life to deal with and with the film Festival starting on Friday, the next three weeks are going to be off the charts busy. So, for a little mental clarity, I'm going to write down all the writing things I need to do so I can make some attempt at prioritizing them.

1. I need to finish polishing up my tree story for the KM awards (deadline July 23)
2. Finish femme-vampire story for Pill Hill Press (deadline early August)
3. Write new ending to Prayer and Prey (started last night & it's going well.)
4. Work more on A9 query letter and send out to more agents. I'm also deciding whether it might be worthwhile to pay for a professional edit on the MS before sending it out again.
5. Come up with an idea for Wizardpunk novella anthology and start writing.
6. Work on Holding it Together.
7. Entry for other NZ writing contest.
8. Work on Angels to make it the novella it so wants to be.
9. Scenes for screenplay.

Written down like that, it doesn't seem like too much, but somehow it feels a little overwhelming. Especially the Wizardpunk thing because every idea I've had has been shot down by the group I'm working with. I think I may wind up bowing out of this one. It's not really my genre, but I'm always up for a challenge and this seemed like a good one. Luckily the deadline isn't until November, so I have time.

It's also about inspiration. It's hard to force yourself to work on something you're not feeling inspired by. At the moment, what I want to work on is Prayer and Prey. So I feel like I should do that while I'm inspired to. I know my enthusiasm might wain....

Saturday, July 10, 2010

To Read or Not to Read

I was staggered this week when I read a statistic stating that most people only read 2-3 books a year. I had to read the sentence several times over to make sure I was seeing it right. 2-3 books a year? I'd read 2-3 books a week! And I don't read nearly as much now I used to. What do people do then? I cannot imagine riding the bus without reading a book, lying in the bath without a book, eating alone in a cafe without a book. I carry one everywhere I go, just in case I have a spare five minutes with nothing to do.

I cannot imagine a life without reading and books, even now. I don't read less these days, but because I do a lot of reviewing and critiquing of other people's books and stories, a lot of the reading I do is of unpublished work rather than completed books. But I do still read a lot of books. I go to the library every 3 or 4 weeks and check out 4 -5 books, depending on length, and it is unusual for me to return any unread.

There has been a lot of online debate about Tin House magazine's latest policy that requires a writer who wishes to submit to them to include a receipt from a bookstore with their submission. I think it's a great idea. As writers, we have to support other writers, and how do we do this if we don't buy books? It's one book. Depending on where you buy books, you can get them pretty cheap if money is your issue. When I lived in Melbourne, I bought books all the time. I was spoiled for choice really. The complex my cinema was in had a wonderful independent bookstore across the road, a Borders underneath it and a bargain bookshop across from that. Books galore! And for any budget.

I buy fewer books now, I admit. The Wellington Public Library is wonderful and I never have any trouble finding enough books I want to read. But I still buy books that I love because I am a chronic re-reader. There are certain books I read at least once a year because I just love them so much. These books I need to own, need to be able glance at on my shelves and know they are waiting, just like the old friends they are.

What books do you feel this way about? That you need to own because you want to return to them over and over again?

Friday, July 9, 2010


One of my critique partners just finished Prayer and Prey today. It's the first time anyone has read all the way through, and considering I wrote the entire thing in a month, and have done very little revision on it yet, I'm happy with his comments. He thinks it is the best book I've written, which surprises me. Unfortunately - or perhaps fortunately - he hates the ending. I originally wrote Prayer and Prey as a short story, but it grew bigger than a short story had any right to be, so I decided it needed to be a novel.

The writing a book in a month idea was daunting, but because I had the outline of the short story already there, I thought I could use that as kind of a map. It didn't quite work that way, but it did help. But the ending is kind of a cop out. I only got this guy's comments this morning, but already I have an excellent idea of a new ending which will be a lot less tragic and overblown. It will also give one of my minor characters, a thirteen-year-old farmhand who wanted to hijack the novel for a while during the writing phase, more of a part.

All in all, given I need to add about 15-20K to the novel to make it a more acceptable length for an adult novel, this feedback has been perfect. I can take my time with the ending and a lot less blood will be shed. And Ben will finally be given the breathing room he really wanted. I'm looking forward to exploring his relationship with his father.

This is an example of where critique groups are so incredibly valuable. Without my friend's comments, I would probably not have realized how crappy the ending really was. Or if I had, I may not have figured out what I needed to do to fix it. Now I do, and I'm excited to jump back into this book and try to find the right fates for all my characters.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Location Location

It is short story competition season here in NZ with both the prestigious contests open now and I am struggling to decide what to enter. You see, I am a writer who lives in New Zealand, but I am not a New Zealand writer. My best story at the moment, and the one I probably should enter into the BNZ contest is an Australian story. I don't think there is a chance in hell that an Australian story will win a New Zealand writing competition. I thought about trying to change a few details, to try and force it to be a New Zealand story, but it won't work. The story is firmly grounded in its location (Bell's Beach) and there just is not a New Zealand equivalent. The characters are also very much Australian characters and to change them, make them Kiwis, I would have to change almost everything about them. So, not a good story for that contest. I will just have to try and find another place for that one.

I've been racking my brain, searching my portfolio, trying to find something. The entries close on the 23rd, so time is running out. I have plenty of stories, just nothing that seems to fit that contest. The stakes are high too. Because I'm now published, I have to enter the professional category so the prize is much bigger. Do I go for the fractured narrative of a woman in shock, discovering what it is she did? No. It's a great piece, but I think too confrontational for this particular contest. The musing on grief? Maybe. But I haven't even had that one critiqued by my publishing group yet, and I wouldn't dare submit anything that hadn't at least had a few of their eyes cast across it.

And what about the beach house stories? There are four of them now, and they are amongst my best stories. And my most popular. Plus, they are all New Zealand stories, at least in their setting. But I entered one of them last year in the novice division. Would it be foolish to enter another story with the same setting, the same characters into the same contest? Probably.

Somehow I feel so much more relaxed about the other contest, the one run by the Sunday newspaper. I think because you can enter more than one piece in that one it's less intimidating. I can select three or four quite different pieces and throw them at that one. Choosing just one story, and one that might end up being worth $10 000 is daunting!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


I'm developing a love/hate relationship with my in-box. I am trying to wean myself away from checking my gmail account 15 times a day, just in case something wonderful is in there, but the urge is still there. Yet most times I check it, there is nothing of interest in there at all. And if there is, it's usually a rejection and frankly, I've had so many of those now, they're just not that interesting.

Yet a spark of hope lights in me every time I hold my mouse over that little icon. This time? Will there be something there this time? Every now and again, there is. This week I had another story accepted for an anthology, so that was good news. I now have 3 pieces in the same book. But I also had a rejection from an agent I would really have liked to work with. And this morning I got a rejection for a story I really like from a publication that took 131 days to decide to reject it. At least they said they really liked the story...

So, am I a masochist? Why do I compulsively check my email when I know 99% of the time it'll end up being disappointing or painful? Because on the odd occasion there is something good in there, it's awesome, that's why.

Gotta go. My inbox hasn't ben checked in....well, ten minutes.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


At the beginning of 2010 I wrote myself a letter outlining my goals for the year. Now that the year is over half-way through, I thought it might be a good idea to pull that letter out and see how I'm progressing. So, here is the letter, with my comments on progress in italics.

Dear Me,

2010. Wow! How did that manage to creep up on me? I swear, every year seems to be getting shorter and it is getting harder and harder to achieve everything I want to achieve in each one. So, in an attempt to organize the chaos that is my life, I am going to put on paper some of my goals for 2010. Perhaps having them written down will focus me more towards actually making them happen.

But before I go ahead with 2010, I think I should reflect for a moment on 2009 because the successes and failures of that year are certainly going to color my ambitions for the future. I went into 2009 with only one concrete goal: to get published. And in October, I was. Okay, it wasn’t exactly what I’d been aiming for which was to have my novel, Assignment 9, accepted for publication, but even the little 800 word story that wound up in a barely-read women’s business magazine, so badly formatted that it made little sense anymore, counts. Right? Right! Published is published. And then I had another story accepted for an anthology coming out in March 2010, so I felt that I had achieved my goal.

So in 2010 I want to build on those successes. I want to publish more, and publish widely.Well, that has happened. So far this year I've published YA fiction, Magic-Ralism, Literary Fiction and Chick Lit as well as some flash-fiction I want to get my stories into some publications that people actually read. If I can get paid as well, then that’s just gravy! Some of my friends are setting themselves goals as to how much money they would like to make, but I don’t think I’m ready to do that yet. Good plan. So far my writing has earned me a grand total of $11.00 Maybe in 2011. I have a feeling that 2010 is going to be a year of as many rejections as acceptances as I get a feel for the marketplace and where my particular style might fit into it. But at least I’m prepared for that. My approach is to aim high, submitting first to the most prestigious or highly paid market that looks suitable, then to move down as the rejections pile up, re-writing on the way if necessary.

I haven’t abandoned my ambition to get my novel published either. In 2009 I joined several different novel review forums on WDC as well as rather audaciously seeking help from a local YA author, and have completed an extensive re-write of Assignment 9. It is out with a publisher at the moment, and I have my eye on a contest to enter it into as well. Entered the contest, made the semi-finals but still no publishing deal. Got another agent rejection yesterday too, which made me sad because it was from an agent I really like. Fingers crossed 2010 will be Assignment 9’s year to shine. Even if nothing else gets accepted, if this book finally manages to make its way out into the world, I will be more than satisfied. And I still feel that way. I hope by the end of the year I will have something more positive to add to this paragraph

Staying with novels for a moment longer, my other book, Holding it Together, has been somewhat neglected for over a year, but with Assignment 9 being out in the world now, I plan to focus my attention onto this one. In the Novel Focus Group, my turn for being read and reviewed comes up again in April and I would like to have a new draft ready to go by then. Unfortunately the group folded because there were not enough people participating... I’m taking the book and a great swathe of critiques I’ve received for various chapters with me on holiday next week. Without internet or cell-phone coverage to distract me, I hope to make some significant inroads into this rewrite while I’m away. I just hope the kids will leave me enough peace to do it! Well, I didn't do it while on holiday, although I did chip away at it, but later in the year I had the epiphany that the book needed to be written in first person, not third, and I rewrote it that way. It's much better now, but still needs work. I hope by the end of the year I will have a version I'm happy enough with to start querying.

The review groups I am a part of are so incredibly helpful and supportive that I cannot ignore them. I intend to continue being an active reviewer of other peoples’ work. I have done that and will continue to. I have learned so much from reviewing, and can be much more critical of my own work as a result. And when one of the stories or books I’ve helped with gets published, it feels fantastic to have had a hand in getting it to that point. It’s not quite as good as being published myself, but a close second!

Because I am committed to these groups and want to give reviews that are as helpful and well thought out as possible, I am going to make a weekly schedule for myself, outlining which group, and what pieces I will review each day of the week, ensuring that I also leave time to actually write myself. I have taken a rather scattershot approach to reviewing in the past, and have often found myself struggling towards the end of the month to get through everything I have taken on. This is working really well for me. I'm very pleased I chose do it this way.

I would like to participate in NaNoWriMo in 2010. I didn’t in 2009 because I thought I was going to be at a conference for a week in the middle of November. As it turned out, I didn’t end up going and could have done the NaNo thing after all. So this year I will get myself prepared and will attempt to write an entire book in a month. Given it took me almost twenty-five years to get the other two done, it will be a miracle if I do. But hey! I believe in miracles. At least sometimes. I have at least two ideas for novels tripping around my head, so I’m sure one of them will make an appearance in 2010, NaNo or no NaNo. I actually ended up doing the March NoWriMo and ended up with Prayer and Prey, but I plan to do the November one too. I have a new idea for a book that I will try to get out in November.

With two children’s picture books completed and ready to go to a publisher, I would like to see these in print in 2010. And I would like to continue to collaborate with the very different artists whose work I have been privileged enough to be associated with. Dave Boyle is such a prolific painter that should our Jessie And The Witches garner the success we’d like it to, I foresee more Jessie adventures in our future. So far no bites here. I've had one rejection and heard nothing back from the other five publishers we sent the MS and artwork to.

I have grown so much as a writer in the last twelve months. I would like to continue to grow, tackling genres and subjects that are outside my comfort zone. Done that. I've written a Sci-Fi piece, something I never thought I'd do, am just finishing up a horror story and have written several other pieces well outside my own genres. I have thousands of stories to tell, and I look forward to putting them down on paper and sharing them with the world. I may even take another stab at poetry, something I have almost a phobia about. In fact, I am going to ensure that I write and submit at least one poem in 2010. I don’t think I can call myself a writer unless I’m willing to push myself to write poetry, however bad it may be to begin with. And it will never get better unless I practice. Not big on the poetry thing. My first attempts did not generate a good response from my critique group so that is definitely on the back burner. I really don't enjoy poetry, so why should I bother?

With all those writing goals to take care of, I’m going to struggle to find the time for my day job! Or my kids. But I tend to work best when under pressure, and I am far more productive when I’m busy. So it looks as if 2010 is going to be a busy year! Stop musing about it, girl, and get on with it! Am I going to have to kick you in the pants already? It’s only January!



Not too bad eh? I'd better get moving though. There is still a lot to achieve before December.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Times Change

My son is on school holidays for the next two weeks. I took him to work with me yesterday, and was thinking about how different his experience is to my own. My mother was a teacher, so she always had holidays at the same time as we did. So I never had to spend hours entertaining myself while my mother worked.

But it is not just that. Childhood seems to be an entirely different thing than it was when I was growing up. We've had a whole string of birthday parties in the last few weeks, so I have found myself spending a lot of time in toy stores. All the toys these days seem to be tie ins with movies or TV shows. What happened to using your own imagination? It makes me sad to see. I know movies and television have a huge influence, and I know how much extra money all the tie-ins make for the company, but to see aisle after aisle of toys, none of which aren't related to Thomas the Tank Engine, Toy Story, Transformers or other lesser known films or TV shows, really made me sad.

Another thing that makes me sad is how coddled today's kids are. When I was the same age my older son is now, I had a large number of friends in the neighborhood, and would dash off to any one of their houses after school, or on weekends without an invitation. If they weren't home, I'd move on to the next one until I found someone who could play. These days it has to be organized between the parents. Kids don't run off down the street alone. On the plus side, at least I always know where my kids are, something my parents would not have, but I feel like they're missing out on something. Parents shouldn't know everything their kids are up to.

At school, a huge number of kids are dropped off by their parents in cars. Even those who walk are walked by their parents. We always walked alone. My mother walked me on my first day to show me the way, then after that, I always walked alone, or with the other neighborhood kids who were heading the same way. I know the world is a more dangerous place these days, and the roads are busier, but if your child only has to walk a few yards down the street to reach the school gate, do you really have to go with them? Some of my mother friends were horrified when I started letting E walk on his own from the bus stop. On the days I work early and have to get O to daycare, I walk E as far as the bus stop where I catch the bus. From there he has less than a block to walk to get to school, and the only big road he needs to cross is patrolled by the school crossing guards. Am I risking my child's life by allowing him to walk this short distance alone? I don't think so. He's always made it.

I feel as though children are being babied for longer these days, yet at the same time, are being marketed to so ruthlessly that they are forced to grow up faster than we did. It's a strange dichotomy, and one I wish did not exist. Childhood should be a time of freedom and wonder, not something to be exploited with plastic tie-ins from bad television shows. We should be able to let our kids play outside together without supervising their every move. How can we expect these little people to grow up into independent, forward thinking adults if we never allow them to be independent or to make the mistakes that will teach them to think things through in the future? I don't have the answers. If I did, I'd probably be a millionaire.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Throwing It Out There

I sent off three new queries for Assignment 9 last night. I haven't heard back from everyone I sent my last round out to, but it has been six weeks and it seems that a lot of agents have adopted a policy of only responding if they are interested. Which saves time I guess. And saves me the pain of another form rejection.

At this point I don't know what to expect. So far I have not even been asked for a partial, but I think the query letter I was using until recently kind of sucked. Now I have a much better query, and I hope it will translate into requests. I have confidence in my book, especially since it made it as far as the semi-final round of ABNA. That's in the top 50 of 5000 YA entries. And my review from Publishers Weekly was really good. I know a competition like this doesn't mean a whole lot, because it is so dependent on the quality of the other entries. I assume that a large number of the 5000 entries were not really ready for submission, but to be in the top 50, I imagine the book would have to be pretty good. Unless the pool to choose from was utterly diabolical.

For now, I guess I keep sending my queries out and hoping for the best. Fingers crossed something comes of it.

Friday, July 2, 2010


In all the excitement this week, I completely forgot to mention that I got an acceptance. Not a major one, but after a run of rejections, it made my heart grow lighter for a while. The Barrier Islands Review accepted a little story of mine called Catch of The Day . It made my day to be sure, even though my inbox also contained a rejection for another story, one I actually think is better.

But it's those little things that keep you going for another day. Sometimes the rejections pile up, and you go back to read the story and wonder why it has been rejected over and over. I have one that is up to its sixth rejection and I've had personal comments from three editors on it, and they all said something completely different was wrong with it. So I'm stumped. Clearly something isn't working, but what? I'm not going to send that one out again for a while. I'm going to sit on it, muse, and see if a fresh look in a month or so might illuminate the problem to me. If not, there's a publication called The Rejection Quarterly which only takes stories that have had 6 or more rejections. Not exactly something to aspire to, but certainly a last resort.

But I was talking about acceptance, not rejection. It is amazing how one little acceptance can wipe out the hurt of several rejections. I've come close to giving up so many times, and each time, something happens to give me a little ray of hope. Maybe I don't suck. Maybe I am meant to be doing this. Each acceptance bolsters that. The list of credits is like a wall, keeping out the negative thoughts that inevitably creep in when you've had a seemingly never-ending string of 'thanks, but we're going to pass' letters. You can grab hold of them and think to yourself, 'well, maybe you didn't like my work, but these places did!'

Writing is often a very solitary pursuit, and the rejections hit hard when you don't have anyone to bitch about them to. Non-writers don't understand the crushing feeling those e-mails bring. I am eternally grateful to my critique group because they pick me up when I'm so low I can't face sending another piece out. And when something has picked up multiple rejections, they're always willing to take another peek, try to figure out what might be holding it back from publication. They're the most important people in my writing life and I honestly wouldn't be here without them. I'd probably still be sitting around writing stuff that only I ever saw.

So when you have the chance, revel in your acceptances, your successes. They don't come often enough, so enjoy them.

Thursday, July 1, 2010


Whenever people ask me what I do for a living, I get the same reactions:
"Wow, that must be great!" and "I bet you get to see lots of movies."

I run a movie theatre, and most of the time, yes, it is great. And I do get to see a lot of movies.

But, it's not as great as people might think. I see a lot of movies, but not necessarily a lot of good movies. In fact, I have to say, the vast majority of films I have to watch are mediocre at best. And sometimes, they're terrible. This week, I watched an absolutely awful film that I won't name in case the film makers ever find their way to my blog. Suffice to say, after the opening scene I was tempted to turn it off. I gritted my teeth and kept going. I'm not a quitter. I tend to keep going even if I'm hating a film - or a book for that matter - in case things improve further in. Sometimes I've been surprised like that. This time? No. I had to give up after forty minutes. I just couldn't watch any further. The plot was laughable, the acting terrible and the mechanics of the film making were clumsy and uninteresting. Needless to say, I passed on this one.

I wonder who, if anyone is going to screen this particular film. I'm terrifically supportive of local film makers and will usually do some kind of deal with them just so they can get their work on the big screen, even if it is only for one session. But sometimes something is just so terrible, I know it won't find an audience, and putting the film on screen will be humiliating for everyone involved. Better to kill it before that point.

So, in that case, I am the gate keeper. With my writing, I'm approaching gate keepers too. Publishers and agents. It's exactly the same thing. They read my work and decide whether or not it's worth taking. If they pass, are they trying to save me the humiliation of publishing a book no one wants to read? Hmm... Worth thinking on. I'm sure the film makers believe as passionately in their vision as I do in mine. I hope someone else manages to find whatever spark of genius might be in their work, because I sure couldn't. I hope someone manages to find the spark in mine...

Don't forget the contest! Only one day to go to win a substantial full manuscript edit from the lovely Cassandra Marshall.