2013 Australian Book Review Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Prize…

I’ve just entered a new short story  in the 2013 Australian Book Review Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Prize.

In just under three weeks I’ll make my debut at The Margaret River Readers and Writers Festival. I’m trying not to think too much about talking on the panel. Instead, I’m anticipating the lovely South West food and wine. It’s okay to crack open a bottle of red pre-panel isn’t it? Yes?

I’ve bought a new flash drive for my next redraft of the novel. It’s a symbolic act- the  2012 version will exist forevermore, but now I feel like I have the freedom to hack at it, to ‘kill my darlings’ as it were.

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It’s been a rather exciting week on the writing front. My copy of Knitting and Other Stories arrived on Tuesday. It feels so good in my hands- such a beautiful weight of paper and words…

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 The winning piece, Knitting, by Barry Divola, had me laughing out loud on the first page. Divola’s story is humorous and poignant in equal measure- I’m honoured to have been published alongside him.

My favourite parts in Barry Divola’s Knitting (read it and you’ll understand):

‘They chingle.’

‘…a business card bearing her name and the words ARTIST, WRITER, BON VIVANT on it.’

‘The world is too sharp. There are edges everywhere. I must soften them.’

In other news, I attended Natasha Lester’s Better Beginnings Workshop today and I’ve come away feeling alternately inspired and daunted. I’ve long known that the existing manuscript is problematic and Natasha was very astute in identifying its shortcomings. Her practical suggestions will help me to make my way forward in a clear sighted way. I know that I’ll need to invest an awful lot of time and energy- the novel requires a lot of work and I’m terribly impatient. I need a plan (and an au pair!).

Document saving dilemmas…

I feel like I’m developing OCD in relation to saving my Word documents. Do other writers feel this way? Do they have a protocol typed and blue tacked next to their computer monitor?

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Yes- I need a poster. We all have our own skill set and remembering minutiae such as this is not part of mine.

Have you ever accidentally saved an earlier version to your flash drive (when you should have transferred the document on the USB to your computer) and lost all revision? I have. Does it occur to you that those changes are gone forever? That you’ll be able to restore some of the most pertinent corrections but that the more nuanced parts, particular to that day, that particular revision session, are gone forever? That muse is a fickle beast and she’s gone, dragging those lovely new sentences behind her?

I tried to keep it simple by saving my documents on my computer and doing a weekly back up. Seven days is a long time when you’re worried that the computer hard drive will fail (it’s happened before), or the house will burn down. I know I need to nut out this ‘Cloud’ business, or this ‘Dropbox’ business, but the idea of having my work stored intangibly in the heavens gives me the heebeegeebees too.

So, fellow writers, how do you manage this? Any wisdom to impart?

I’m no literary snob; from Twilight to Lolita to Ulysses, I’ll have a go at anything. And when I say ‘have a go’, I mean I’ll read one to two chapters and then I’ll decide whether to toss it or not. Kindle samples have really made this vetting process easier, although I sometimes worry that I’ve jumped the gun; that I haven’t given a book a decent chance. Not so for Fifty Shades of Grey- I went so far as to delete the taste test from my Kindle. The author had committed a cardinal writing sin on the first page and I couldn’t forgive her; the protagonist described herself by looking into a mirror. Good Lordy, I don’t have time for that. I also have the bad habit of assuming the voice and style of the authors I’m reading…just imagine what could happen…

So, I recently read The Hunger Games (I know what you’re thinking: you’re judging me. High art, low art, no art…I’m there, because I’m a curious cat). An aspiring author has to keep her finger on the pulse (okay, I know I’m a wee bit late…). I was pleasantly surprised. It was a serendipitous read- I’d just finished The Handmaid’s Tale, the ultimate in dystopian novels. I read Atwood’s early work during my teens and, as always, it was fascinating to return to the text as a woman and a mother. There are quite a few similarities between the texts but The Hunger Games is less preoccupied with a totalitarian patriarchy and feminist concerns. Suzanne Collin’s bestselling YA book reads to me as a clever allegory about the relationship between the first world and the developing world. It is a treatise on the proverbial ‘first world problem’. I’m pleased that teens are reading this stuff in droves.

This post is brought to you by my little friend, the brown fairy…

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Oh coffee. How I love thee.

Publication patience…

I’ve just read the blog post that I NEEDED to read today.

http://whilethekidsaresleeping.wordpress.com/2013/04/02/how-to-get-published-8-authors-share-their-stories/

Go on, go ahead and read it. Ten years. Eight years. Five. These authors have indicated that publication takes time and I need to take a deep breath and go forth with confidence…and caffeine.

My manuscript has been on ice for some time now; I’ve been very focused on work, short stories and household management. Life is full. But I feel it is time to really give The Quickening one last bit of love. It is a difficult child, and I need to talk myself into affection, because, in truth, I can hardly bear to look at it anymore. I need some perspective, so I have booked into a workshop with Natasha Lester- http://www.natashalester.com.au/resources/March-2013-flyer.pdf

I’m going to let you in on a little secret: I fear that my first novel might be my ‘in training’ effort, my ‘failed manuscript’. This is my fear, but I will give it one more year of redrafting and submissions before I put it to bed (or under the bed). I have another story in mind and plenty of notes, so, I shall continue to write, and in two years or twenty, I’ll hold that beautiful weight of hard work in my hands.

In other news, Dawn Barker’s Fractured has had a lot of media coverage. I haven’t read it yet, but it seems that it deals with postpartum depression and psychosis. My soon to be published story, Solomon’s Baby (http://www.margaretriverpress.com/catalogue/fiction/knitting-and-other-stories/), deals with similar issues, and I wonder if Ms Barker and I did not tap into the same zeitgeist at a similar time here in Perth. There were a couple of news stories a few years ago that inspired my piece and she mentioned the same in a recent interview.

It’s a funny thing, publication. It’s always felt like the ultimate goal but now, as I await the arrival of Knitting and other stories, I can’t help but worry a little about the conjecture of others (namely my work colleagues) upon reading my first published story. I’m going to take this opportunity to be clear on a few things: I have not experienced severe postnatal depression as such; my character, Meredith, is an amalgamation of many women I know. The experience of early motherhood is often fraught and I believe that most women probably have an insight on some level. I realize, as I write this, that there is a certain reticence about postnatal problems; heaven forbid we admit that our little darlings ever brought us anything other than joy. In my writing, I am most interested in the female experience, and rather preoccupied with motherhood; how better to develop an understanding than to read a novel on the rather taboo subject? I look forward to curling up with Barker’s novel- I believe it is an important one.