Book Review: How to Make a Movie in 12 Days by Fiona Hardy

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This book has the best crafted opening chapter I’ve read in a long time. From there it settles into a pleasant middle grade novel with enough touches of brilliance to make up for a few problematic areas.

Eleven-year-old Hayley is obsessed with films and wants to be a director. She and her grandmother were writing the script for a horror film about a killer rose bush, which her grandmother was also going to star in, when she unexpectedly died. Hayley is devastated. But part of Hayley’s inheritance is a brand new video camera so that she can start making her movie. Hayley suggests to her mother that they throw a party to celebrate her grandmother’s life and screen the movie at it. The only date they can get at the function hall leaves Hayley just twelve days to film all the scenes, edit them together and finalise the movie. Thus the title of the book. Continue reading

How to Write Your Author Biography

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Harry: “Why don’t you tell me the story of your life.”
Sally: “The story of my life?”
Harry: “We’ve got eighteen hours to kill before we hit New York.”
Sally: “The story of my life isn’t even going to get us out of Chicago. I mean nothing’s happened to me yet. That’s why I’m going to New York.”
Harry: “So something can happen to you?”
Sally: “Yes.”
Harry: “Like what?”
Sally: “Like I’m going to journalism school to become a reporter.”
Harry: “So you can write about things that happen to other people.”
Sally: “That’s one way to look at it.”
When Harry Met Sally

It’s strange but the one thing writers seem to struggle with the most is the subject they know better than anyone else: themselves. Perhaps that’s because writing an author biography is about finding the balance between arrogance and unworthiness (something everybody struggles with, of course, but only writers have to put the results down on paper). Toot your own horn without at least a smidge of self-deprecation and potential readers may write you off as a narcissist. Fail to toot your own horn enough and potential readers may write you off as a nobody who doesn’t have the right to ask them for an hours’ long commitment.

Perhaps it’s also because an author biography tends to be something we dash off at the last minute instead of giving it the thought and attention it really deserves. You’ve spent months, possibly years, polishing a piece of writing and now that it’s being published, you need a few paragraphs that will be appended to the end of it to enlighten readers about the person it came from. But if you feel like “nothing’s happened” to you, then it can be tough no matter how long you spend on it.

There is no foolproof template for writing an author biography but here are a few things that might help get your creative juices flowing about your least favourite topic. Continue reading

This Was Supposed to Be the Announcement of My New Book… But It Isn’t

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Draft Image for Black Spot Cover

This is a strange blog post to be writing. It was supposed to be the announcement of the release of my new book, Black Spot. I’ve been talking about it here for years now, from conception to writing to shortlisting in the 2016 Text Prize to its planned publication. I’d originally planned to release it in February 2018 but life and a hectic new job kept delaying it. It was eventually ready by the end of May 2018 (apart from the cover, which would be ready a few weeks later). And then came something that threw a spanner in the works. Continue reading

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

Book Review: Beautiful Mess by Claire Christian

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Full disclosure time: in 2016, this book was shortlisted for the Text Prize for Unpublished Children’s and Young Adult Writing along with a book I’d written and three by other writers. Clearly, my book and those three others didn’t win and this one did. I was always going to read Beautiful Mess because 1) it won a writing prize and that’s a pretty great endorsement, 2) I wanted to know what Claire Christian had done better than me and use it as a learning process, and 3) I’m a little masochistic (but mostly the first two). I’m very pleased to report that it’s an amazing book because 1) it justifies that it won the Text Prize and 2) I get to write a glowing book review and avoid looking like a sore loser. 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