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.
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.
So this has been a week of longing to creatively write and being busy with so many other tasks.
I have the longing of this girl staring into the banana field. My finished novel and books are somewhere in the distance. But now I need to use that longing to walk into that path and continue, and to keep searching for pockets of time to write.
I managed to figure out a new approach to a tricky picture book idea and write half of it down. Then another task demanded I do it.
I gave myself one session on my novel, but longed for more. But Sunday is looking good to continue on this. The novel is ticking away in my head even though I am not writing it.
I kept editing a piece written for my brother’s memory. A writer generously gave me the tools to find the most moving and emotional way to write this story. Sometimes writing can take a lot out of you. I understand now why my memoir (which I have done a lot of work on) needed more time. I think I now know the way to write it, although I don’t have time for it just now. I realise it is going to be a roller coaster ride to write, so I will have to brace myself for that one.
I know that Sunday writing session is going to be great! But I want to build up my writing sessions to be more regular and give them some priority.
I am working on a project which is shaping up to be interesting and helpful to others, and just have to bring together the whole proposal and find the funding. I will allocate some time to it in my work diary. I just love it, and hope others will as well. The team for this project are just wonderful and I look forward to sharing our plan with you. I do love collaborating.
I’ve had some wonderful guests from the Sandcliffe Writing Festival on the blog, and tomorrow I am on a panel. Doing some more rehearsal for it today!
I am loving the energy these blog visitors bring and am delighted they are happy to be in this space, and am set to have more of them.
It has been empowering to connect with many other poets for children. Two so far have guested on the blog.
I just found out one of my childhood friends will be in the Sandcliffe Writing Festival audience. So excited about catching up with her and it will help having her and a few other people I know there and know some of the journey until now.
Those who are there at the beginning often understand just how hard you have worked, and how many obstacles you have had to achieve your dreams.
I love guest blogs, interviews, and connecting to other creatives, and so a huge highlight for me was meeting Melissa Lucashenko who I had heard so much about for so long.
I’ve completed some more reading for a spirituality and arts course (including writing) online and journalled some poetry ideas (again really keen to do more work on this once this week is over). I have a month to do a creative piece for my assessment for that. Thank you creative journal, as I know there is something in you that I can develop now. Why do study when I have so much else to do? The course has enriched my creative practice and given me a new found sense of purpose and direction.
I wrote one blog this week, inspired by a conversation with a writing friend about the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels. I think I will come back to this topic again, as it intrigues me my grandfather and other relatives possibly were there for that time in Australian history. I wrote a photo essay about visiting Bullimba to drop off some books. Sometimes just doing fun things like this give me more energy.
On top of this is the usual balancing with life, and stopping to discuss philosophy with my daughter in the kitchen, and movies with one son, and life in general with my eldest who is a third year uni student, as well as meet with my children’s teachers and thank them for the work they are doing to educate my children. Too often as a society we don’t thank teachers, we choose to ignore the wonderful work so many of them do. Being married to a great teacher makes me appreciate their role so much. He works so hard, and cares so much about his students that he inspires me every day.
I do wish I had a bit more time to catch up with friends, but there have been a few social media and email chats, especially to people understanding where I am this present moment in the creative and life journey. I love that we all find a bit of time to support each other, even if it is virtually a midnight email or a catch up when we are selling our books outside a shop.
Dear hubby is a great sounding board. Some times writing puzzles are worked out when we are just having a quiet chat. Something about vocalising to him some things troubling me with a plot, or a character helps the problems unravel. I am appreciative that he seems to help by just listening.
Magic Fish Dreaming has arrived at a new book shop, Chapter in Yeppoon. (They aren’t open yet, but Magic Fish Dreaming is there for opening day!) The book is now in ten Queensland bookshops.
I received a replenishment order for Riverbend Books, who had sold out, and also another library order from Peter Pal. Hoping so much that sales continue to rise.
The new shops stocking the book love it! Hope their customers do too.
I’ve been asking some successful indie authors for tips on how they streamline their distribution and printing, and save money. They are just wonderfully generous in sharing this information. Many of them are just so good at what they do and I hope to learn from them.
Looking for Balance
As for the future, I am working hard to pace myself and find balance. I don’t want to be skit, skatting, and not attending to my writing. I want to find a rythmn to my creative day and somehow maintain it.
I want to plan far enough ahead to prepare well, and to have my bigger pockets of creative writing time.
I want to limit more of my time on social media, as once in there I just follow so many trails, of interesting things to look at and read, and I need less of that and more time writing! True it is space of finding opportunity, and for that I am grateful, and true it does make me less lonely on writing days.
Maybe I need to be more lonely until the book is finished!
With perseverance I hope to get there. Ah the life, work balance that dedicated parents, and peace seekers, seek. True my children are teenagers now, but I like to be there for my family, community, students, and my spiritual self as well.
All the best to my friends, extended family, and readers seeking their balance in life. I like writing you letters on my blog as it allows me to reflect on what I can do to improve in my life journey. It also lets you know why sometimes I take so long to call, email, phone or visit.
I haven’t forgotten you but am just trying to find a balance and pace to fit everything together, in some cohesive way. Somewhere amongst all the writing, parenting, community, connecting, there is the writing of the eternal spirit onto mortal paper.
Keep well and all the best if you too are striving for balance.
And thanks to all my understanding friends, whose kindness and care, gives me the courage to keep on with this quest for balance, and to write to the very best of my ability for the very best of reasons.
Last year when I was running my kickstarter campaign I came across the Sandcliffe Writing festival whilst online, and it looked kind of cool because it was concerned with diversity and was in Brisbane.
I emailed them to let them know I thought their festival looked great and to say I had a book coming out, Magic Fish Dreaming, would they be interested in my participation.
I promptly forgot all about it, and then early this year an email from the lovely Adele Moy arrived, with a phone number and asking me to ring her about the Festival, she apologised for taking so long to get back to me.
I phoned Adele as she requested and had the most beautiful conversation about diversity, life, writing, family and my book which went much longer than I think we both expected, and next thing I know I am on a panel to tell my unique story.
I met Adele for the first time in person at the Insights of an Outsider Panel last week, and felt like I had known her for years. She greeted me with such friendliness and warmth. Thanks for that Adele.
I am going to give you three photographic hints about my presentation on Saturday, and well you will have to attend to find out fully what this all means. I am going to share the story of my main inspirations, and the things that compelled me to write.
English Grandmother and Me
My favourite literary character, Mma Ramotswe, in The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency novels, by Alexander McCall Smith, because she is curious, caring and looks for the most just resolution to any situation. She also knows a story for almost every situation.
Now I don’t have to tell you to go to any links really because this is my main blog home and if you are reading this well you are here. But I can also be found on twitter, instagram and facebook.
Join authors Duncan Richardson, June Perkins, and Michael Aird as they talk about their inspiration and ideas and what compels them on their creative journey, where they are today, and where they hope to be in the future.
A huge thankyou to the Sandcliffe Writers Festival Organisers for giving me the opportunity to share the story of why I love writing so much and how I set about becoming an author! I also look forward to the literary dinner with Matthew Condon on Friday and the panel following ours (and the lunch!) and catching up with Lauren Daniels.
PLEASE NOTE FOR SALE
I will be selling copies of Magic Fish Dreaming, $18 each and signing them at the event.
Please bring cash, exact change if you can is much appreciated.
For $25 in total you can receive a custom printed calico bag along with your book.