Submissions Week

The world in and outside the window – June Perkins

This was a watershed week of submissions for me.

I have spent most of the year reworking and editing a number of promising writing pieces, and working out whether some earlier projects are short stories, picture books or novels.  Sometimes I don’t know in the early drafts what the final form will be.

Each piece chooses its destiny, as I write and rewrite.  I play, experiment and do radical things when it just doesn’t seem to be working but the story tells me it must be told.

Then there are some other tips I have picked up during the year like to, remove telling not showing from my work through avoiding ‘thought verbs.’

The other thing that’s happened is now that so many rules have been absorbed about writing I pick and choose which ones to follow.  This is based on which ones improve my writing.  Sometimes I even reverse a rule.  I will share more about that one day.

The most enjoyable part of editing is reading my pieces loud to find the musicality and poetry.  I realise I love things that have a beautiful sounding and flowing sentence, but it must also be purposeful.  My family often hear me in my room doing this and wonder who I am talking to.  ‘Just editing’ I say afterwards.

So with all of these things now happening, I reworked some stories I have always wanted to tell, and sent three completed pieces off.  All three were reworked pieces that I have filed away to keep working on and had rediscovered.

If they don’t place in the competitions, and even if they do, I will then begin submitting to other places like publishers.  There are so many competitions and not all of them result in publication.  The stories feel just right to me.  They still make me laugh or cry.

When I write I go looking for magic sentences, engaging characters, and use setting as a character when I can.

Now onto some much longer pieces, to apply the same process!

As well as editing and reworking, I do keep on writing new pieces.  But my patience for the time a work might take to come to fruition has grown.  Especially when the difficulties with it that niggle at me feel solved!

Over and out, off to do more writing.

Finding the Heart

Image by June Perkins

The last few months I have been revisiting picture book drafts and short stories, that didn’t feel like they were quite there yet.

Something special was missing.  I just couldn’t put my finger on it.  But I didn’t want to give up on the potential.

I had to have a huge break from them to see these pieces with a new heart.  I attended a few workshops and made tips lists for myself.  I read books on writing.  I read books I loved.  I waited and then I leapt back into my stories with hope!

What was I really trying to say in them?  How could I give them the life they deserved and make them leap off the page into the reader’s imagination?

I reflected on where do I want to go with my writing?  Where do I want to take the reader?  How can I invite them to a conversation without a set idea of the answer?  How can I make them care about the characters?

My new notebook for jotting down ideas in inspiring spaces, just looking at the cover makes me smile.

Here are the top ten techniques that have been helping me find the heart of my stories.

  1. Visualising the scenes and story boarding the works, including consideration of the turns pages to keep someone reading.
  2. Ensuring a story is played out to a length that allows me to do everything I intended without limitations (some picture books are short stories!)
  3. Changing the perspective the story is told from but retaining the overall scene and setting.
  4. Adding a sense of rhythm in the language from poetic techniques and keeping that going throughout the piece so it is a musical sound to the ear.
  5. Recognising when I am in the mood to work on a particular piece and going with the call of the muse.  Especially when it comes to hearing the music of words in my head.
  6. Removing the ‘thought verbs’ and rewriting the scenes without these.
  7. Playing with point of view, by extending it, restricting it, moving from first person to third person until it feels just right
  8. Adding the back story and pulling the back story out and hinting at it.
  9. Leaving the stories on a tricky point and day dreaming options to resolve that.
  10.  Changing the title to a key phrase in the story that I can use as a motif throughout the work.

So far, so good with this methodology.  One picture book became a short story and was successful in making it into an anthology.

One picture book remains a picture book, but the characters are so much closer to what I wanted them to be, and this one feels almost ready for submission.

Another three picture books are in the process of rewrites and again may be short stories, or short chapter books.

One flash fiction piece, from the ideas for my much longer memoir, made a long list for the Brisbane Writers Festival.  I will go back to the piece again and work on it and submit it somewhere.  Maybe I have lots of flash fiction pieces ready to go!

Another picture book is a definite chapter book and is progressing well.  This one had a change of perspective

My utmost thanks to Gabrielle Wang, Isobelle Carmody, Virginia Lowe, Giuseppe Poli, and Trent Dalton, for enabling me to press on in this journey with something they said in a talk, a tweet or a workshop, or something that they wrote that sparked a renewal of this journey, and also to other people who regularly read my work and give me some ideas of how to develop it.

Meeting Trent Dalton at the Brisbane Writers Festival

Some people are great sounding boards, as I tell them the story the solutions begin to just pop out of my brain, so thank you to anyone being that.

Today I have a whole day to write and revise.  I might even begin to tackle  unfinished novels.  Whilst I love revising, I keep jotting down new ideas and give myself space for free writes. 

One series of new ideas, free writes, is just called Australia’s Maya Angelou, and in this space I can write anything mostly from memories,  I am not sure if I will ever share it, but it is a place where anything goes with my writing, and I just experiment with all of the things outlined.  I think in these free writes there are more stories, poems and even one day finally that elusive memoir that might mean something to others.

So signing off from blogville land, to go visit my characters and their worlds, with a renewed sense of joy and a willingness to craft them until they have that special something.

June Perkins aka Gumbootspearlz

Reaching the Mountain of My First Draft

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I am looking down the pathway of writing my way to the mountain of my completed first draft.

Using my plan and outline as a map and continuing to read books that inspire me when I become stuck, I have reached my fourth chapter.

I am following the plan, but letting the characters help me construct them as I write them.  I look forward to seeing you at the other end of the first draft.

I was delighted to write two and a half chapters today.

At this point I am trying not to censor each sentence and perfect it but rather get the character and my  plot and scenes down cleanly and then I will work on other aspects in my second draft.

With this draft I am determined to get my structural plot, pacing and introduction of characters very clear.

I have started reading  Molly and Pim and the Millions of Stars.  (2016) It’s so beautifully written and  delightful, you just want to read it from the first paragraph.  This will be the task of my second draft.

All the very best,

June

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The Writer Looks for Her Song

This weeks arrivals in the mail!

The highlight of the week was receiving  package of books that I had ordered on line, including my favourite poet, Maya Angelou!

I am busy reading them now.  The Murphy book, Pearl Verses the World, was just lovely~ so looking forward to meeting Sally on the 26th of August and asking her to sign it.

This week I put a notice up on my social media space, ‘Gone Writing’, and then disappeared to write and edit.  It ended up being more editing than new writing, but it was a productive week nevertheless.  I also contemplated singing more, and listened to lots of music, from Enya to Adele, whilst writing, .

I had put my novel away for a while and was ready to come back to it fresh, restructure and then move back into the book and finish that all important first draft. I knew that later in the week I would be at an editing workshop put on by SCWIBI.  I spend a lot of time at my computer so it is always precious to catch up with writing friends, both old and new.

This week I  spent time working with youth.  They always inspire me when they grow in confidence and engage with topics of peace and ending war with optimism.  I have been working with this group for a year and a half now and they are just going from strength to strength.

If I have a chance I will pop back into the blog to say a little about the inspiring Think Like an Editor workshop, where we covered topics like ‘writing from the heart’ and finding our unique ‘voice’,  and ‘writing for the joy of it to practice, with no pressure of publication’ to improve our writing, but this is a quick blog just to say, the less I blog for now, the more I can work hard on those all important writing projects.

Thanks everyone who is a blog follower!

Feel free to look back through old poems and stories, etc in this space. I might even do some reposts of favourite blogs.

June

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Leonie Tyle receiving thank you  gift from Sheryl Gwyther at Think Like an Editor

 

At Learn to Think Like an Editor Workshop with some other  writing participants Charmaine Clancy (organiser of the Rainforest Writing Retreat) and new friend Margaret. Saturday 12th August

CYA 2017 Highlights

The absolute highlight of the CYA conference for me was catching up with new and old writing friends, and seeing many of them successfully place in the competitions.  The absolute look of joy on their faces as they were rewarded for their efforts in working on their craft and then having the courage to submit their stories were priceless.  Four Write Linkers placed this year, Jacqui Halpin, Leslee Hewson, and Danielle Freeland and Rachelle Sadler(who placed twice).   A big congratulations to Jacqui for her first placing, and she had a placing last year as well.

The cheer from the Write Linkers as each of their writing buddies went up to accept their certificate was loud and joyous.  Another friend from the Rainforest Writing Retreat Georgina Ballantine, also received a first place in her category, and I was so, so happy we had a chance to chat during the morning tea break.  And a couple of SCWIBI friends did well in the competitions as well, Sandra Flett, and Sheryl Gwyther.

There is a good chance with 200 people I didn’t see half my friends that were at the conference, so apologies if we didn’t catch up or it was a quick passing wave.  There’s always a next time.

 

Another highlight of this conference is just how lovely Tina Clarke is.  She is always calm even though she has done so much work in the lead up and to keep a track of on the day.  She stops and chats, and never makes you feel stressed.

It is just so inspiring that she began this conference twelve years ago and has been able to assist so many writers to see an editor or publisher for the first time, and to learn through the various master classes how to improve their work.  Many people love the conference so much they just keep coming back.

 

Tina always acknowledges that this conference is supported by brilliant volunteers, many of them are writers, illustrators, teachers and they just love children’s literature.  This years red tshirt was just a great colour and here are some of those lovely volunteers (many of them dear friends).  They too, even though busy, had time to stop, smile and chat, as they went to their next task.  They kept people very calm going into their editors’ and agent appointments. They are experienced at just saying, ‘Make the most out of the constructive criticism you will receive in these meetings.’

 

I was so delighted to hear from the author of Helene’s current new book The Whirlpool Emily Larkin. Do check it out in book stores!  Helene and I ran into each other all day, and had lots of time to catch up.  This was slightly amazing as there were 200 delegates this year, the most ever, but still we found each other several times.  I think Peter Allert, the conference photographer has a picture of Helene and I together, so I will ask him for that later.

Helene and I don’t call each other creative sisters for nothing, but we also mingled with the rest of the conference goers.  But there is something about working together on Magic Fish Dreaming that will make that team forever special to me.  And we do have plans for future workshops and much more just because we like working together.

 

Okay so by the end of the day I was getting a little weary, after learning about trade versus educational publishing with Pamela Rushby, and  all things Social Media with Julia Ferracane, and listening to a fabulous talk by Michelle Worthington on the power, diversity and importance of picture books, and learning about Kindergo from Nadine Bates, that I began to have a conversation with Quigley, my dear little quoll.  ‘Quigley,’ I asked, ‘Do you want your own chapter book series?’  and ‘Who should star in this book with you?’

You know Jacqueline Harvey started with a picture book idea that became a series (Jacqueline’s opening session of total Question and Answer was just brilliant). Jacqueline, shared with us her own moments of joy and struggle on her writing journey.   One young member of the audience asked if she ever tired of writing about the same characters, and she answered ‘no.’  She strives to improve with every book.  She is always excited about writing the next one.  I wish I could have made the master class with Jacqueline!  Sometimes I wish conferences didn’t have parallel sessions, but I do understand why they do.  I  would have loved to go to the skype with Shaun Tan!

 

The other reason Quigley and I were having this conversation was because one of the editors I met with felt some of my ideas were chapter books, not picture books.  Hmm lots to think about.

I found the editors all gave constructive feedback,  and were friendly and encouraging, on how to improve my picture books and let me know which ones might have a better chance of being published.  I showed them Magic Fish Dreaming, and was so happy that they could see how professionally it was put together, and one editor encouraged me to write some of my picture books in the same style as Magic Fish Dreaming and maybe even make some of my picture book ideas into a collection of poems.

 

I love that one editor said, ‘Remember to follow your heart, and just take what you need from my advice and go for it, good luck. ‘ It was encouraging that they some were open to staying in touch and maybe receiving a submission despite the huge number they already receive.

The reality is that publishers receive so many more submissions than they are ever able to fully read, and as they are so busy working on books and with authors they already have, they usually read on weekends and in the evenings.  They had a really humorous and down to earth heart to heart with us at the end of the conference.  The take home message was research your publisher before submitting!  Know their back list. One editor said she doesn’t call is the ‘slush pile’, she calls it the ‘treasure trove.’  Another said, ‘Please spell my name correctly and don’t put glitter in the envelope!’

 

So that’s all from my experience of the CYA conference.

Now I will work on polishing my submissions and query letters and emailing them, and get together for coffee, with friends like Yvonne and Barbara.

Although writers and illustrators can often be solitary when in the process of creating there are many wonderful communities, like Write Links, Writing Centres, SCWIBI and online groups like Just Write For Kids, and courses through Children’s Book Academy etc. etc that between conferences can continue to nurture their talent.