On Reading the Book That Beat Me for the 2016 Text Prize

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In 2016, I entered the then unpublished manuscript of my young adult novel Black Spot in the Text Prize competition for young adult and children’s writing. I wasn’t holding my breath about winning because I’m not the holding-my-breath kind of person. And when I received a blanket email from the Text Prize people thanking everybody for their entries and saying that the shortlisted authors would be contacted individually, I assumed I wasn’t one of them because I hadn’t heard anything.

A couple of days later, my phone rang. I didn’t recognise the number. I thought it might be about a job I’d applied for. Instead it was a woman named Ally, who told me she worked at Text Publishing. She was calling to let me know that Black Spot had been shortlisted for the Text Prize. And to invite me to the announcement of the winner in just under two weeks’ time.

If it sounds like I was very calm during that phone call, I wasn’t. I was stunned. I was overwhelmed. But I was happy. This was an achievement. This was amazing. This was bliss. Continue reading

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I Am the Very Model of an Unknown Author Immemorial

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I’m very bad at marketing and anything promotional
Even though with books I’m always quote devotional
In short, in matters authorial and even editorial
I am the very model of an unknown author immemorial
(And in this case, a bit of a plagiarist and an awful lyricist)

I know I do plenty right when it comes to my writing. If I thought differently, I probably would have given up a long time ago. But I know I do plenty wrong as well. How do I know that? Because I’ve written two-and-a-half books of writing, editing, publishing and marketing advice and often it’s a case of “do as I say, not as I do” because at least fifty percent of the time, I don’t – and sometimes just can’t bring myself to – follow my own advice. Which undoubtedly has something (probably a lot) to do with why I remain an unknown author (since time immemorial).

Here’s a (hardly comprehensive) list of things I do wrong. Continue reading

The Insidious Side of Perfectionism

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My little sister has a lot going for her. She’s model beautiful, thin, smart, socially aware, vegan (so much commitment required to do this – I know because I’m vegan as well when I dine with her, which is a fair bit), loves animals and children, hates injustice and generally wants to make the world a better place and herself a better person. All of this is more amazing when you find out she suffers from chronic fatigue syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis (at the age of twenty, mind you), clinical depression, borderline personality disorder, endometriosis and a multitude of allergies. But she still managed to finish Year 12, complete a Certificate IV in Youth Work and is now studying a Bachelor of Social Work with aspirations of eventually doing a master’s degree.

She’s also a perfectionist. I shouldn’t be surprised it runs in the family since I’m a perfectionist, too, although our nineteen-year age gap has given me the time she hasn’t had yet to work through my perfectionism and settle on a more reasonable goal of extremely good. Mostly I meet that goal; sometimes no matter how hard I work, I don’t. Results can range from good, just okay, not good and complete failure, depending on what it is I’m doing. (Housework is a complete failure more often than not; I just can’t be bothered.) Continue reading

Should You Set New Year’s Writing Resolutions?

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Knowing that this blog post would be published just before New Year’s, I thought to myself, I should write a New Year’s themed blog post (just like the Christmas-themed blog post that was published last week just before Christmas). I’ve written about new year’s writing resolutions before, setting four goals at the start of 2016 (that I pretended weren’t goals to relieve a little bit of the pressure on myself) and writing at the end of 2016 about how successful I’d been (about 50/50 – I achieved some of them, failed entirely at others and achieved things during the year that I’d never even thought about when I was setting those goals).

I wasn’t sure I wanted to set goals again. Setting goals and then failing is demoralising. And I always fail at goals, especially ones that have definitive and relatively short deadlines. More often than not, I accomplish them but long after any arbitrary time frames I’ve set. That sums me up really. I’m easygoing. I’m laidback. I’m not ambitious. I’m happy to succeed over years rather than months and pressure to do it sooner doesn’t make it happen. In fact, it makes it less likely to happen.

So then I asked myself, Should I be setting New Year’s writing resolutions? Should I be setting goals at all? Continue reading

Holding Yourself to New Year’s Writing Resolutions

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It’s been a whole year since I made four New Year’s writing resolutions. Given my previous lack of success in making plans and sticking to them when it comes to writing, I gave no guarantees about achieving any of them but because New Year’s Eve is right around the corner again, I thought I should review them and see if I managed to tick any of them off the list.

Resolution #1: Publish Black Spot
Straight off the bat, a big fat no. I didn’t publish Black Spot. I said at the time I made this resolution that I was just waiting for a couple of rejections from publishers before going ahead and self-publishing. Of course, that was before Black Spot was shortlisted for the 2016 Text Prize for Writing for Children and Young Adults. Although I didn’t win, I did get a lot of great feedback, did another rewrite and sent it off to a few more publishers. So I’m still waiting for a few more rejections. One way or another, Black Spot will be published in 2017. (I won’t call that a resolution, just an inevitability. There aren’t any more reasons to keep putting it off.) But as with everything when it comes to publishing, it’s just taking a little longer than I thought it would. Continue reading

Writing the book or character that will headline your obituary

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Earlier this year, while scanning news headlines (as I do frequently each day), I came across the following:

Legends of the Fall author Jim Harrison dies aged 78”

Even though I’ve seen the movie of Legends of the Fall, starring Brad Pitt and Anthony Hopkins, I didn’t know it was based on Jim Harrison’s book. In fact, I didn’t know who Jim Harrison was.

Now I know (because I did a little research before writing this blog post) that Jim Harrison started writing while he was recovering after falling off a cliff, that he was rather prolific, that Legends of the Fall is actually a novella, that he specialised in novellas and that I’ve never heard of any of his other works. Which explains why the writer of the headline felt it necessary to include the name of his most famous work. Continue reading