The Cultural and Historical Context of Words

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Last week, Senator Fraser Anning of Katter’s Australian Party gave his maiden speech in the Australian Senate. In it, he called for a ban on Muslim immigration and a return to the White Australia policy (actually a collection of policies barring people of non-European descent from migrating to the country – the policies were effectively dismantled between 1949 and 1973 and officially legislated against in 1975). That was bad enough in itself. But he then went on to say that the “final solution to the immigration problem” was a plebiscite, a non-binding and hugely expensive opinion poll of the entire Australian voting population.

The speech was widely condemned for its racist overtones and blatant lies but the two words that reviled people the most were “final solution”. I read an article about his speech only hours after he had given it and before the outcry began in earnest. As soon as I saw that he had used those specific words, I was shocked. I am by no means a Holocaust expert but even just from watching a couple of documentaries years ago, I knew that “final solution” was the euphemism used by the Nazis to that they didn’t have to call it “our plan to kill six million Jewish people”. Thus, those two words, as innocent as they are when used separately, become something to be avoided as a pair regardless of what they are being used to describe. Continue reading

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Twitter Writing Wisdom

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Every time I sit down to write a blog post, I aim for approximately 1,000 words. But as I posted my most recent tweet (as of writing this), I realised that writing advice doesn’t always have to be quite so lengthy. Here’s a selection of my Twitter ramblings (right back to when I started tweeting at the end of 2012) to do with writing. Hope you get something out of it. (I got an entire blog post out of it!) Continue reading

A Guide to Writing Drunk

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“I was drinking a case of 16-ounce tallboys a night, and there’s one novel, Cujo, that I barely remember writing at all.”
On Writing, Stephen King

One of the persistent stereotypes about writers is their fraught relationship with alcohol. For some, it’s absolutely accurate. But for most of us who write, we know it isn’t true. While there may be plenty of creatives who struggle with sobriety, it’s no greater in percentage terms than members of the general public experience. Still, why let that get in the way of giving it go?

Stephen King is the cautionary tale but what he did was alcoholic writing. Drunk writing is less intense, less destructive to life in general and a much more rare occurrence. Continue reading

Controversy in Writing

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Without having any real evidence to back up the theory, I have always thought that writers could be divided up into two categories: those who court controversy and those who avoid it. (I later realised there was a third category – writers who are controversial without realising it – and you can read a bit about that here.)

I also figured out a long time ago that getting involved in any type of controversy tends to leave me upset in greater proportion to any change I may be able to effect in advocating for one side or another. So I generally try to stay quiet unless I feel very strongly. And even then, I moderate myself and think long and hard about how to phrase what I want to say in order to avoid reactions from trolls and people who never change their mind about anything even in the face of overwhelmingly logical arguments. After all, the vitriol of stupid people can be vicious and my greatest ambition is an easy life.

Besides, how much controversy is there in writing really? 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

Writing Is What Happens While You’re Busy Missing Deadlines

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About eighteen months ago, I published my most recent book, Project January: A Sequel About Writing. But I’d actually planned to publish it about four months earlier. Yet as the deadline I’d set for myself arrived, the book still wasn’t finished. I still have the publishing plans for it and my next four books written on one of my whiteboards:

*Project January: A Sequel About Writing – November 2016
*Black Spot – November 2017
*Trine – November 2018
*Project February: A Trilogy About Writing – November 2019
*Matriarchy – November 2020

I eventually finished and published Project January in March 2017 and you can read about how I did that in my post on how to psych yourself into writing a book. But because it was four months late (or at least four months later than I’d planned to publish), suddenly my subsequent publishing plans were also thrown out. (Obviously I like the idea of publishing roughly one book a year.) 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