Monday, 28 February 2011

Character Sketch

Just a teaser of something I am working on...

Grace is standing by the fountain at Placa Catalunya. She is holding a book, as usual, but she isn't reading. She's waiting, holding her sunglasses in one hand, partly leaned against her lip. She needs to reapply her lipstick. Usually that's the only makeup she wears-- she has a baby face and can't carry off eye make up. Also, her jawline is too strong. Dutch, they call it. And her eyebrows are so dark, they're almost beautiful. Almost, though. Not actually beautiful. The kind of girl you could mistake for beautiful if you were too far away. She's one of those annoying independent girls. She wears clothes from vintage stores rather than op shops, as if it makes any difference, as if it somehow makes her a better person; smarter, cooler. It doesn't. It makes her pretentious. It makes her act superior. It makes people dislike her, as people tend to when someone is obviously a snob.

She's the type who says her favourite band is The Beatles, even though she was born in the nineties and only bothered to buy the greatest hits (and not even on vinyl) and she likes to pretend she's read all of Dickens. And maybe she has. But none of these things make the slightest difference. None of these things mean anything to anyone other than Grace, try as she might to persuade them.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Why Everyone I Know Is Getting a Book For Their Birthday This Year.

I'm getting a little bit sick of the harsh truth about the publishing industry's current state. I've read some articles in the last two months that have really opened my eyes to the ramifications of the e-book revolution on writers. I mean, I guess we should have seen it coming. After all, it happened to the music industry first. And I guess saying that 'there is nothing like holding a paperback or a hardback in your hands' is kind of like being one of those hipsters who insists that nothing will ever sound as good as vinyl. Yet I find it hard to believe that I am the only person out there who will miss the concrete sensation, and the beautiful smell of a real life bound book.

Here are a few articles for your perusal:

One from Sara Foster's blog.

And one that makes me worry that I will soon be hearing from less of my favourite authors. (This one comes to you from Saundra Mitchell's blog but I heard about it through EgobooWA) Just as a side note to this blog, I'm aware that it's not the E-book that is causing the problem in this case, but the reaction of people to the availability of the E-book... that is, those people who steal 'free' copies of E-books.

I'm sure there are heaps of other eye opening articles out there and hopefully when you read them, you'll feel as inspired to action as I am. If you have a birthday coming up and you're due a gift from me, IT WILL BE A BOOK. Most likely it will also have come from an Indie bookshop.

Shout out to my favourite Indie, Crow Books in Vic Park.

Monday, 21 February 2011

My Favourite Book

It was pointed out to me today that I frequently refer to several books as being my favourite. This has got me thinking. What book would actually be my favourite? And by what criteria do I define it as thus?

I think it would be reasonable to say that a favourite book should be one that you've read more than once. Of those that I say are my favourite, that leaves me with Cloudstreet, Jasper Jones and Wuthering Heights. That being said, there are many books which I would gladly read again had I the time, and had I not eleventy-million unread books and unwritten stories on my mind. (Which reminds me of the scene in Gilmore Girls where Rory steps into one of the giant libraries at either Harvard or Yale- possibly Harvard during season...err.. three- and immediately berates herself for being such a slow reader, because she will never read all the books housed in that library, never mind those housed in the many others at Harvard. This is, of course, absurd, as the girl reads everything.) (And yes, I still like Gilmore Girls. I like picking the references, and sometimes copying the outfits.)

So, criterion number two: Favourite books compel me to contact the author/ see the author live. Obviously, I could try to contact Emily Bronte but I haven't demonstrated any clairvoyant abilities to the present day. That leaves me with Jasper Jones, Cloudstreet, The Shifting Fog and Remember Me. Yes, I am a fickle creature, and how much I like the author as a person is very much a factor in how long my favourite book may stay my favourite.

Criterion number three: Favourite books keep me up all night reading. This leaves me with Jasper Jones, The Distant Hours and The Woman in White. It's probably also a good idea to keep in mind the fact that my memory comes in drips and drabs. I can only really remember those books I have continued to love in the last three or four years. And I've loved a lot of books.

Finally, I think that in order to define a particular book as your favourite, you need to want to narrow it down to one. Personally, I'm really liking having several favourites. I am liking the variety this is demonstrating about my personality, and about my interests at different times. Obviously, there is one book that has appeared in every category and yes that would probably be the current fore-runner... and not just because an essay on it got me an HD in first semester last year.

So yes, if we're ever speaking and I start talking about "my favourite book", perhaps for confusion's sake, it may be wise to ask me of which book I am speaking. Or maybe, you can see if you can guess. 99% guarantee that it won't be one of the ones listed in this post.

Catcher in the Rye does not appear, for example.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Just something I was struck by...

On Monday (by which I mean yesterday), as I sat in my only Creative Writing lecture for the semester, I was struck by the oddest sensation. It was a sensation in the form of a realisation, more specifically, and that realisation was as follows.

I am not the same writer I was last year.

No, indeed I am NOT the same writer when you consider the things I have done in the latter part of 2010 and the earlier part of 2011. I have...

*Met my favourite local author for coffee.
*Met my other favourite author at a book signing.
*Come second in a competition.
*Run my own fiction segment.
*Written a terrible query letter.
*Redrafted a terrible query letter and used connections to get it in the hands of someone who can actually do something with it.
*Emailed (read: harrassed) published authors in search of advice.
*Finished the fifth draft of my manuscript.
*Wasted a tree by printing that manuscript double spaced and with 4cm margins, and spent a tenner mailing it.
*Worked out (although who knows how successfully) what a note on the author's view of potential readership and marketability probably should look like.

And a lot of that was really only in the last month or so. I guess that's why on Monday, or 'Yesterday' as you regular people would say in this situation, I was struck by a sense of separateness. I felt like the teacher was talking to me and expecting me to nod knowingly. I don't know whether I liked it or not.

Friday, 11 February 2011


***I've been wrestling with writer's block now for... perhaps nearly a fortnight? Since I got back home, anyway, although daily scribblings in my notebook about how we did this that and the other hardly count as holiday writing.***

It's morning, Saturday. The throes of a deep sleep still hold onto me and even with my glasses on, it's hard to see the screen. To my left, I can see that I didn't bother to close the curtains all the way. A thin sliver of bright light peeps in. And I am still in my clothes, from last night. This how I can tell that I needed to sleep so badly. I needed to relax.

I can hear the dull whirring of my pedestal fan but it's hardly stirring the air. Perhaps it's because in the night all my blankets migrated to the end of the bed and formed a barrier that the cool air could not break through. Some nights I move the fan close to the bed so that this cannot happen, but not last night. I wonder what my hair looks like.

There are three things I can safely assume about the day: One, that it will be hot. Two, that everyone will be home or at least around. Three, that today I will feel restless.

It's how I've felt the past two days. It's been strange. Boredom has nearly brought me to tears. I'm finding no pleasure in reading or watching movies. I tried baking. I tried seeing my friends. That, at least, was fun for a while. Then they had to go, to work, to see their significant others, to their lives. So it was back to being restless.

I am restless, because now that my novel is effectively 'finished' (for it will never be done, it will always be imperfect to me) I am emptier than empty, I am dryer than dry, and I am boreder than bored.

So bored that I post freewriting on my blog and inflict my boredom on all of you.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Having Trouble With...

Covering letters. Not for jobs, although those are hard too. Just ask my blogger buddy Jade. I'm talking about writing ones. I am talking about Dear Publisher, my name is X and you should most definitely want to publish my stellar book.

Specifically, I'm finding synopses difficult. I know my story inside and out like the back of my hand. How am I supposed to be able to decide what a publisher will find the most intriguing about this story that has been well and truly in control of my life for nearly three years now??? Just how?

But, as difficult as I find it, I must persevere. And so, I wrote this charming little piece... sarcasm intended.

"A young boy captivated by the romantic history of his parents sets out on a search for love in the summer of 1937. The love of his life turns out to be the daughter of the town bully, and her cold aversion to his advances sends him looking for answers in battlefields on foreign soil. While a prisoner of the Japanese in Singapore, the boy learns that growing up is something one must do on their own. He returns to Fremantle later in the war only to find that everything has changed— especially his own heart."

Now don't get me wrong. For all intents and purposes, that IS my book. But I'm not selling it right, if you know what I mean. I'm not mentioning that my book has bullying, licentious women, blackmail, attempted rape, a prison break, 'ghosts' and a 90 year old man going into cardiac arrest at the sound of his first love's name.

I've since rewritten this synopsis, mostly for the purpose of sending a letter of introduction to someone in the biz... it's a complicated situation but when opportunity knocked, suffice to say, I answered the door. And I thought the letter was okay, and so did the person who proof read it, but I am a realist and I am not getting my hopes up. But in between writing these two synopses, I came across a great little blog that helped me at least build a template to work on. Find a near perfect example of a cover letter here, if like me you are struggling.

Has anyone else been in the same boat? Any tips or suggestions? Much appreciated everyone.

Coming to you live from my home, back in Australia and back at my desk...