Sunday, March 31, 2024

Weekly Goals 1-4-24

 Now that I have a computer again, it's time to get back into querying Guide Us.  And I think it's time for a query letter tweak.  So I will be trying to find some people to critique my query and make suggestions where it could be better.  Then I'll send a few queries out with the new one and see if anything changes.

It may be that it isn't my query.  Maybe no one is interested in teenage lesbians struggling with faith...

So that's my goal for this week.  To get a new query written and sent out.

What are your goals this week?

Friday, March 29, 2024

Celebrate the Small Things 29-3-24


It's the end of the week, so it's time to Celebrate the Small Things...

What am I celebrating this week?

I got my new laptop!  And I've managed to set it up and load back all my files.  At least, I think I have...

So I guess I have no excuse not to keep querying Guide Us now.  And to start thinking about writing something new or finishing one of the many partly-written manuscripts lurking in the dark alleys of my hard drive.  With it being a 4-day weekend, I will do some writing-related work.  I think I might have a go at re-writing my query to see if I can come up with something more compelling since I haven't had a single request yet.

And that's the other thing I'm celebrating this week - the long weekend.  After the last couple of months, I need it!

What are you celebrating this week?

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Books I've read; The Librarianist

I bought this book after meeting the author at the Writers Programme of the recent Festival.  I was a big fan of his book The Sisters Brothers, and was excited to read this new one, despite not having read anything else he's written.  Especially after discovering what a lovely and amusing person he is!

The book is about an older man, Bob Comet, who has lived his life for literature as a lifelong librarian.  When he comes across a confused older woman in a store, he takes her back to the home where she lives.  Hoping to fill the long lonely hours of his retired days, he volunteers to help out at the home and quickly becomes entangled in the lives of the residents.

When his own past rushes up to slap him in  the face as a result of a strange coincidence, Bob is forced to take a good had look at himself and what has brought him to the place he finds himself today.

And what a life it is.  For someone who seems, on the surface, to be a simple, possibly boring man, comes a life-story to rival anything in the books he has so lovingly curated over the years.

There's his adventures as an 11-year-old runaway, the love story between he and his wife and the tragedy of having love torn from him.  There's his struggle to make friends and the power of the friendships he eventually manages to foster.

Bob is an introvert and this book explores what that means in a world that focuses so much on those who make the most bluster and noise.  And as Bob moves through his own quiet world, he observes these people, and finds himself often surrounded by them and the his own life becomes inextricably tangled and changed by them.

I really enjoyed this book.  It really shows how you can't truly understand the depths in people without digging deep.  Bob appears like such a nothing person at the beginning of the book, but by the end, you get a real sense of the people and events who have made him the person he is in the present.  And it's a slyly funny book too.  Bob has a knack for surrounding himself with outsized characters whose often bizarre behaviour have a profound effect on him.

So I'd definitely recommend this one.  It's funny, poignant, literate and a very enjoyable read.

But don't just listen to me.  Here's the blurb:

From bestselling and award-winning author Patrick deWitt comes the story of Bob Comet, a man who has lived his life through and for literature, unaware that his own experience is a poignant and affecting narrative in itself.

Bob Comet is a retired librarian passing his solitary days surrounded by books and small comforts in a mint-colored house in Portland, Oregon. One morning on his daily walk he encounters a confused elderly woman lost in a market and returns her to the senior center that is her home. Hoping to fill the void he's known since retiring, he begins volunteering at the center. Here, as a community of strange peers gathers around Bob, and following a happenstance brush with a painful complication from his past, the events of his life and the details of his character are revealed.

Behind Bob Comet's straight-man facade is the story of an unhappy child's runaway adventure during the last days of the Second World War, of true love won and stolen away, of the purpose and pride found in the librarian's vocation, and of the pleasures of a life lived to the side of the masses. Bob's experiences are imbued with melancholy but also a bright, sustained comedy; he has a talent for locating bizarre and outsize players to welcome onto the stage of his life.

With his inimitable verve, skewed humor, and compassion for the outcast, Patrick deWitt has written a wide-ranging and ambitious document of the introvert's condition. The Librarianist celebrates the extraordinary in the so-called ordinary life, and depicts beautifully the turbulence that sometimes exists beneath a surface of serenity.

Thursday, March 21, 2024

Celebrate the Small Things 22-3-24

It's the end of the week, so it's time to Celebrate the Small Things...

What am I celebrating this week?

An awesome outcome to something that could have been a tragedy!  How's that for cryptic???  

Some of you may have noticed I didn't post my usual Wednesday book review.  This is because on Tuesday my computer mysteriously stopped working.  It was fine in the morning; in the afternoon it wouldn't go and just made odd woodpecker noises.  I naturally freaked out.  I have my files backed up, but only to a point....  And that point is not where my latest drafts are currently sitting.  And I haven't backed it up since I wrote the first few chapters of a new book.

My partner thought it might just be the screen so we tried plugging it into an external screen, and sure enough, it seemed like that was the issue.  But a few other weird things were happening too so I decided it was time to take it to the shop.

Turns out, there was liquid damage to the computer.  Someone must have spilled something on it or next to it and it was pretty fried.  So I took the shop's advice and made an insurance claim on it which was accepted within 36 hours and they are replacing it with the current model.  And the computer shop managed to get all the data off my old machine and onto a hard drive, so when my new laptop arrives (hopefully on Monday) I can load everything back on and it will all be even better than before.  Because the machine that got damaged was a 2015 model....

So that's what I am celebrating this week.  How about you?

Sunday, March 17, 2024

Weekly Goals 18-3-24

 The Festival finished last night with a spectacular aerial dance show that used light and haze and music to create something truly amazing.  I absolutely loved it.

But now it's time to try and claw back some semblance of real life again.  And to catch up on some of the sleep I haven't had.  I don't think you can ever really catch up on lost sleep, but it's nice to try.  I have two days off during the week to start to recover, and I am very much looking forward to that. 

So this week my goals are to get my life in order again and to try and get back into a good routine. The house needs a good clean and I have booked a haircut which is very needed.  I need to try and catch up on some of the movies that have been released since the Festival started too.  Not to mention I need to do some work on my query letter - another rejection over the weekend.

I entered my query into a contest in the hope I might get some good feedback I can use to improve it.  So fingers crossed...

What are your goals this week?

Thursday, March 14, 2024

Celebrate the Small Things 15-3-24

It's the end of the week, so it's time to Celebrate the Small Things...

What am I celebrating this week?

It's the final weekend of the Festival which feels really odd.  We've been working on this for so long and it seems insane that it is finishing so soon.  The three weeks have felt both incredibly long and over far too quickly.

I've had the opportunity to experience so many wonderful performances over the three weeks, often things I would never have gone to if I hadn't been involved in the event.  I mean, I don't think I  would have ever paid to go to see an all-male a cappella group myself, but the skill and mastery those guys demonstrated was just amazing!

Last night I got to see Arooj Aftab, an incredible Pakistani/American singer with a voice that is out of this world.  I cannot recommend her more highly.  She sings mainly in Urdu, making her perfect writing music - I can't get distracted by lyrics, but the emotional intensity of the songs still pulls through.

We have three more shows this weekend, and I hope to get to all of them - a collaboration between a famous Australian digereedoo player and a chamber music quartet, an aerial dance extravaganza and a theatre piece by and Irish company.

Then next week, sleep...  Even though we have just gone on sale for our next event in May/June.

But hopefully I will have some more free time soon to actually look at my query letter again.  three more rejections this week.

What are you celebrating right now?

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Books I've read: The Interestings

This was one of those books that sounded like it would be really interesting and right up my alley.  Unfortunately, I ended up finding it quite boring....  Admittedly, I did read it in very small bites because I've been too busy to read much the past few weeks, and maybe if I had read it more quickly, I wouldn't have found it quite so dry.

But I don't think so...

The book follows a group of friends through their lives from the moment they meet as teenagers at an arty summer camp, focusing primarily on Jules, the one who is the most surprised to be included in the group.  This camp remains the high point of her life, the place she discovered herself, realised she could be funny and met the people who are to become the most important in her life.

At fifteen, all these people are talented and creative and certain their lives will be tied directly to the arts they are passionate about.  There's Ethan, the artist whose passion is animation and who, at fifteen, has already created an expansive fictional world in which he is the main character in a story unlike his own real life.  There's Jonah, the son of a well known folk singer whose passion for music has been soiled by the predatory acts of one of his mother's associates.  Then there's Ash and Goodman, brother and sister from a privileged New York family who are as different from one another as chalk and cheese.  And on the fringes of the group is Cathy, the voluptuous dancer whose passion and talent is not enough to overcome the challenges her decidedly undancerly body throws up.

When camp is over, the group remains connected, partly because they all - except Jules - live in NYC, something that makes Jules feel resentful and left out and makes her behave badly toward her mother and sister at home.  She escapes to the city and Ash's family whenever she can and moves to the city to make her name as a character actor as soon as she finishes college.

As they grow up, couple up, start careers, marry, have kids and live lives both rewarding and challenging, this group of people who once called themselves The Interestings remain friends, helping one another through tragedies, celebrating joys and holding one another's secrets.

I found the way this book was written annoying.  I felt very removed from the characters and never really felt like I grasped the motivations behind their actions.  Jules irritated me in the way she she remained so in awe of her wealthier, more successful friends even when the work she was doing seemed so much more important and meaningful than anything these supposedly more successful people were doing.  Again, this may have been because I only read a few pages at a time and never really fell into the book's rhythm or flow, but I don't think that is the case.

So, I probably would not recommend this one too highly. 

But don't just listen to me.  Here's the blurb:

The Interestings explores the meaning of talent; the nature of envy; the roles of class, art, money, and power; and how all of it can shift and tilt precipitously over the course of a friendship and a life.

The summer that Nixon resigns, six teenagers at a summer camp for the arts become inseparable. Decades later the bond remains powerful, but so much else has changed. In The Interestings, Wolitzer follows these characters from the height of youth through middle age, as their talents, fortunes, and degrees of satisfaction diverge.

The kind of creativity that is rewarded at age fifteen is not always enough to propel someone through life at age thirty; not everyone can sustain, in adulthood, what seemed so special in adolescence. Jules Jacobson, an aspiring comic actress, eventually resigns herself to a more practical occupation and lifestyle. Her friend Jonah, a gifted musician, stops playing the guitar and becomes an engineer. But Ethan and Ash, Jules's now-married best friends, become shockingly successful—true to their initial artistic dreams, with the wealth and access that allow those dreams to keep expanding. The friendships endure and even prosper, but also underscore the differences in their fates, in what their talents have become and the shapes their lives have taken.

Wide in scope, ambitious, and populated by complex characters who come together and apart in a changing New York City, The Interestings explores the meaning of talent; the nature of envy; the roles of class, art, money, and power; and how all of it can shift and tilt precipitously over the course of a friendship and a life.

Sunday, March 10, 2024

Weekly Goals 11-3-24

 It's the final week of the Festival this week so I'm just beginning to peek at life on the other side of it.

I had another query rejection yesterday, so I'm starting to wonder if I might need to tweak the query a bit.  It's clearly not landing the way it should.  I'm not going to have time to work on it this week, but the following week might be a good time to do some radical surgery on it and see if I can make it more compelling.

In the meantime, I will send out a couple more queries and keep my fingers crossed that someone is interested in my beautiful, tortured, Catholic lesbians...

What are your goals this week?

Thursday, March 7, 2024

Celebrate the Small Things 8-3-24


It's the end of the week, so it's time to Celebrate the Small Things...

What am I celebrating this week?

It has been a fantastic week of arts events and everything seems to be running well, so far. Nine days to go before we close!  It has really raced past.  That opening weekend feels like it was a lifetime ago, yet it was only two weeks.

Highlights for me this week have been solo violinist Johnny Gandelsman playing Bach's cello suites transposed for violin.  It was in a beautiful Catholic church with the most extraordinary acoustics and even though I generally find solo violin piercing and annoying, in this locale, it was simply beautiful.  I also saw Tim Minchin last night which was very entertaining.  I feel like he is one of those mad geniuses whose brains work at a million miles an hour.  I'll be interested to pop my head in on one of his other performances to see if the show is much the same every night, or if he changes things up a lot night by night.

I got some print copies of My Murder Year and they look as pretty as I imagined they might.  I will have to get a couple into the library system when and if I ever get a chance to get back to the library.  It's been weeks!  I have had no time to read recently and it has taken me almost two weeks to get about 2/3 of the way through the book I'm currently reading.  So unlike me who usually reads 2-3 books a week.

I haven't had any more query rejections. Whether this is good news or not remains to be seen... They may all be no reply means no agents, or they may just be behind in getting to queries.  Either way, hope is still alive here. 

What are you celebrating this week.?

Tuesday, March 5, 2024

IWSG - March 2024

 It's the first Wednesday in March so it's time for the Insecure Writers Support Group!

The awesome co-hosts for the March 6 posting of the IWSG are Kristina Kelly, Miffie Seideman, Jean Davis, and Liza @ Middle Passages!

This month's question is very topical...

Have you "played" with AI to write those nasty synopses, or do you refuse to go that route? How do you feel about AI's impact on creative writing?

I have to admit that I have played around a bit with ChatGPT.  Out of curiosity more than anything else.  Not to write a synopsis, but I did feed a synopsis to the AI to see what kind of a query letter it might make of it.

The answer?  Not a very good one.  It gave some weird comp titles that I didn't think matched my book at all, and focused the query on a sub-plot rather than the meat of the story.  Perhaps my synopsis wasn't good enough?  Or AI isn't as smart as it is cracked up to be.  I certainly would never use what Chat GPT spat out in any real-life scenario.

Maybe if I'd persevered and given the bot more guidance, I would have got something better out of it.  But frankly, doing that defeats the time-saving purpose of using the bot to begin with.  It took me far less time to write a more compelling query by hand than it would have to keep engaging with the AI to get something useable.

I don't think AI can ever replace real writers.  Even if you ask the bot to write something in the "style of Writer X", it's never going to capture the nuance of that writer's voice which comes from their experiences and emotional responses to situations.  Yes, maybe the bot can find words the author is partial to and use those in whatever text it spits out, but it still won't feel or read the same as something actually written by that author.

I don't think AI has any place in any creative field.  Creativity is something uniquely human that is born from the particular experiences, emotions, values and sensitivities of individual people.  A computer is never going to be able to replicate that in a way that feels wholly satisfying because it doesn't have those influences shaping its thought processes from birth.  All it can do is replicate stuff that has already been created and spit it back at us after it has been through its electronic filter.

So I would never use AI as a tool in my writing work. I don't find it that helpful.  Where I have found it useful is in creating things like NDA agreements or generic job description documents or form letters.  Things that have been created many times before and can be tailored to fit your own needs.  These things can take a long time to pull together from scratch, and using the AI created document as a framework for your own can save a significant amount of time.

I just wouldn't use it exactly as it is when it comes out of ChatGPT...  There are always some weird phrases or terms that need some adjusting before they say what you truly want to say.  

What are your feelings about AI?  Would you use it in your creative practices?

Sunday, March 3, 2024

Weekly Goals 4-3-24

 It feels kind of unbelievable that the Festival has only been going for just over a week.  So many shows have already been and gone.  Yet there are still more to come.  Another two weeks' worth.  I don't think I'm ever going to catch up on sleep...

But it has been going well.  Audiences have been good and everyone seems to be enjoying the events.  We had a morning rave on Friday which was super fun.  Over 350 people dancing at 6:30am... Who'd have thought something like that would be so popular?

So my goal this week, like it was last week, is to get though the next week of events without incident and to try and get as much sleep as possible.

What are your goals this week?