NOVEMBER NEWSLETTER

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Click here to read our November newsletter, which contains:

  • dates of upcoming meetings
  • members news
  • what’s on at the FAWWA and in WA
  • interesting articles and interviews from the web

 

July Meeting Round-Up

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Our guest speaker was Brigid Lowry who talked to us about writing, the life of a writer, and her latest book, ‘Still Life With Teapot‘.

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Brigid was born in Auckland, New Zealand, into a strange but very creative family. Before turning to writing, she was a hippie, a waitress, a software tutor, a librarian, a mother, a wife, and a primary school teacher. At the age of thirty-five she returned to University to do a BA in Creative Writing. Since then, she’s published poetry and short fiction, and eight young adult books. Her second novel, ‘Guitar Highway Rose’ was a bestseller, and won the WA Hoffman Young Readers Choice Award. She’s also won grants and residencies, and taught creative writing at Curtin University.

These days, Brigid’s a Zen student, a grandmother, a drifter, a dreamer, an editor, and a creative writing teacher. She’s fond of chai, the ocean, coloured pencils, found objects, and fairy dust. Brigid loves to inspire people of all ages to explore their creativity, truly, madly, deeply.

9781925163544_WEBLARGEBrigid’s most recent book, ‘Still Life With Teapot’ is her first adult title. It’s part-memoir and part-advice for how to live a creative life. It’s quirky and honest, and heartfelt and meaningful. I’ve read it and believe it ranks right up there with ‘Writing Down the Bones’ by Natalie Goldberg and ‘Bird by Bird’ by Anne Lamott.

Here are some of Brigid’s wisdom and inspiration:

  1. Trust the writing process. This was her biggest take home message. Keep at it, keep writing, even when you don’t know where you’re headed.
  2. Applying for a grant is, basically, ‘bullshitting’.
  3. When Brigid has taught creative writing, it’s the writers around the middle of class, the average to above-average, who eventually make it. It’s not the ‘shining stars’. And the difference is ‘bum glue’—that is, discipline.
  4. Brigid asked us to answer four questions:
    (a) What stops me writing?
    (b) What do I love?
    (c) What do I think I ‘should’ be doing?
    (d) If I could have an artistic date, what would it be?We then went around the room and shared an answer to one of these questions, and found we all share similar fears and loves and shoulds.

    ‘We all breathe out of the same nose.’

    Our fears, desires, needs are all the same, including the fear we feel when writing—that, ‘I’m an idiot’, or ‘I’m a dunce’. Every writer feels it, so acknowledge it. (And keep writing.)

  5. When you sit down to write, set the bar low: Don’t aim to write a novel; start with the aim of writing four interesting lines.
  6. Brigid also works as an editor and mentor, and said there are two types of people who are difficult to edit: Those who won’t change anything, and those who change everything. Editing is meant to be a relationship—listening to each other and working together.
  7. Brigid had a few book and author recommendations:
    Natalie Goldberg’s ‘Writing Down the Bones’ and ‘True Secret of Writing’
    Anne Lamont’s ‘Bird by Bird’
    Sylvia Ashton Warner
    Diane Ackerman’s essay ‘What Writers Do’
    Helen Garner’s ‘The Feel of Steel’

I’ll include part of the excerpt Brigid read to us from ‘Still Life With Teapot’.

‘The article I liked most claimed there’s no such thing as writers’ block. Instead, one of three things might be happening. One. You can’t write because you’re dealing with a major life event such as a health issue or the death of a beloved. Once this is dealt with, your writing will flow. Two. Your work has a technical problem. Your story is in the first person but would work better in the third person, or you need to do more research. Define the problem. Fix it, seeking advice if need be. Three. Your well has run dry. Take a break. Feed your soul. Nourish your creativity. Inspiration will return.

And this:

But if you feel you must write, here are my tips.

Write with every ounce of your being. Write as if your hair is on fire. Be the writing. Apply yourself to what Owen Marshall calls ‘the necessary strict toiling with language.’ Don’t wait until tomorrow, next week, after Christmas. There’s no perfect time to write. There’s only now. You want to be a writer. Okay. Stop whingeing about how hard it is. Stop being a lazy bugger. Show up for work everyday and give it everything you’ve got.

For more of this excerpt on Writer’s Block, see here and if you want to read more about Brigid and her book, click here.

Brigid also gave us advance notice of a book coming out in September in which she has an essay, called ‘The Book That Made Me‘. It also features essays by Marcus Zusak and Sean Tan.

OTHER NEWS

A reminder that submissions to the Dorothy Hewett Award close on 1st August. The manuscript can be fiction, narrative nonfiction or poetry, and includes hybrid genres such as verse novels or memoirs. The winner will receive a cash prize of $10,000 and will be offered a publishing contract by UWA Publishing. Click the link for more information.

Also, the Avon Valley Readers and Writers’ Festival is on 9-11th September. For more information and tickets, click the link.

NEXT MEETING

Our next meeting will be on August 21st, with a 10am start. Hope to see you then.

Louise

June Meeting Round-Up

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We had a record turn-out for our June meeting, which was most likely due to our guest, Laurie Steed.

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Laurie talked to us about his journey as a writer, and then spoke from the other side of the desk, as a member of the board of Margaret River Press (MRP).

Before I go any further, I’ll remind you of Laurie’s accomplishments to date:

Laurie completed his Ph.D. in Creative Writing at the University of Western Australia in 2015. He won the Patricia Hackett Prize for Fiction in 2013 and in the same year, won the Creative Works Prize at the Higher Degree by Research Achievement Awards. He’s also been a recipient of fellowships from The University of Iowa, The Baltic Writing Residency, The Elizabeth Kostova Foundation, The Katharine Susannah Prichard Foundation and The Fellowship of Writers (Western Australia).

His fiction has been broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and has appeared in Best Australian StoriesAward Winning Australian WritingThe Review of Australian FictionThe AgeMeanjinWesterlyIslandThe Sleepers Almanac, and elsewhere. His non-fiction has appeared in Australian Book ReviewBookseller + PublisherKill Your DarlingsThe Courier MailThe Big IssueThe Emerging Writers Festival ReaderThe Emerging Writer: An Insider’s Guide To Growing Your Writing, and elsewhere.

He has taught writing, publishing and editing at Monash University and Deakin University, and currently teaches Advanced Fiction for Writers Victoria. He is on the Editorial Board for MRP, is a former advisory consultant for the Emerging Writers Festival, and lives with his family in Perth, Western Australia.

Laurie has an agent for his interlinked story collection You Belong Here, which will hopefully be published soon.

Here’s a summary of Laurie’s gems of wisdom. (I doubt I jotted everything down, so if you notice I’ve omitted something, please add it in the comments.)

1. Laurie’s early stories were published in small journals, many of which are now defunct, and he kept a blog. That way, he learnt the craft of writing to a small readership—in a ‘safe space’.

2. Some stories just have to be written, to ‘clear space’ mentally. Sometimes, too, the same story must be written more than once, or the same topic, until it clicks.

3. Laurie estimates he’s written about 260 stories, of which 5-10 have been published.

4. Laurie’s connected series of short stories You Belong Here has been seriously considered by a publisher, however they wanted changes that Laurie felt would destroy the integrity of the book.

It can be difficult to decide which changes to make, he said, but you need to be true to yourself, and true to your writing, and at the end of the day, it’s the integrity of the book that’s important.

5. Laurie’s worked many jobs—including delivering alcohol and mulching at Perth airport—and he’s written in the time around his paid work. He’d recommend doing a PhD, as it gives you time to dedicate time to writing.

6. He also recommends getting out of Perth, even out of Australia, to write. Get out of your comfort zone and see what comes up in your writing.

7. Laurie had a fellowship at the University of Iowa in 2012, which he describes as a ‘literary Vietnam’. He used the criticism of one of his short stories (The Knife) to inspire him to rewrite it. It later won the Patricia Hackett prize and was published in the Review of Australian Fiction.

8. He reminded us that not everyone is going to like our writing, and nor do they have to.

As a Board member of Margaret River Press, Laurie also sees the other side of the submissions desk—the publisher’s perspective.

Caroline Wood began MRP in 2011. It is a not-for-profit press, set up to support diverse voices. Laurie is one of the project managers, and reads 20-30 submissions every couple of months, which amounts to about 150 submissions per year.

Laurie chooses the manuscripts he likes, and three members of the editorial board then read a partial of each. If they like the book, all members of the editorial board read the complete submission and decide if they’ll publish it. Each year, only two to four of the 150 submissions make it to publication.

MRP also publish an annual short story collection. About 200 stories are submitted, of which 24 are published—i.e., the odds are better!

What Laurie looks for in Submissions:

1. A polished draft.

A lot of editing work needs to have been done already. Things like static description, grammar/punctuation errors, and stereotypical characters detract from a manuscript.

2. Does it adhere to the ethos of MRP?

MRP is mainly literary fiction, but also publishes a few food and surfing titles that fit with the district.

Laurie’s Tips:

1. Aim high.

2. Don’t overstate things in your bio. Truth and authenticity is good.

3. Be nice.

4. Personal approach is good. Research the publisher to whom you’re submitting to make sure your book fits their style.

5. Don’t take rejection personally.

6. You don’t have to be the best.

7. Never bite back when rejected.

8. Make sure your work blows you away because you have to be dedicated to it.

Laurie can be found at the Centre for Stories at 100 Aberdeen Street, Northbridge, or via his website.

MRP’s latest short story collection, Shibboleth, will be launched in August. Emily Paull, one of our BLPG members, will be reading her story at the launch.

 

FAWWA EVENTS

The fortnightly ‘Write Night‘ is coming up tomorrow night, July 5th, at Mattie’s House.

Creative Writing and Inspiration Day Course (School Holiday Programme)—July 8th and 15th.

Memoir Writing Group—August 4—More details to come.

Haiku Workshop with Matt Hetherington—August 7.

 

NEXT MEETING

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Sunday, 17th July at 10am, when we’ll welcome the author of numerous novels, non-fiction works, and poems, Brigid Lowry, as our guest speaker. I’m about half-way through Brigid’s latest book, Still Life With Teapot, which is a thoroughly enjoyable and quirky memoir. Read more about it here.

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Meanwhile, keep writing and always remember:

ProfessionalWriter

Louise 🙂

May Meeting Round-Up

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My apologies that it’s June already and I’m only posting this now. Here’s a quick recap of our May meeting:

Text to Speech Apps

Bruce told us about Adobe Acrobat DC, an app he uses that converts PDF text to speech. Bruce has found it incredibly handy for picking up errors, like repeated words, that the eye doesn’t.

I was playing around and discovered that my Mac laptop already has a text to speech app installed, which can be found via: System Preferences—>Dictation & Speech—>Text to Speech.

There are many languages and voices with different accents to choose from, and initially I chose ‘Karen’, because she was Australian, but it wasn’t the best choice! All you have to do is highlight some text, select your pace, press ‘Option-Escape’, and she reads …

Like Bruce, I found it particularly good for picking up repeated or omitted words, misspellings because she couldn’t pronounce them correctly, (She also mispronounced a few normal words, like ‘Ornty’ for ‘Aunty’), and clunky sentences and errors. It’s also kind of fun to hear your words read aloud!

Building an Online Platform

The general consensus is that it’s important, even essential, for a writer to have an online presence. There are many platforms: blogging, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram. It’s impossible to do them all, especially if you’re starting, so begin with one and go from there. Some will appeal more than others, and after a while, you’ll find the ones that suit you, and stick with them.

Reasons to build your online presence:

It gives people somewhere they can go to find out about you, and find your books or articles.
It builds a relationship between you and your readers, somewhere they can contact you directly, and they feel as if they know you.
It showcases your writing.
It showcases your personality.
If you write non-fiction, you can show your credentials or research in this way.
It can be regularly refreshed with new material for your readers.

Belinda talked to us about setting up a newsletter via Mailchimp, which is free app for up to 2,000 subscribers, with many templates and formats to choose from. The advantage of a newsletter is that it’s mailed directly to your subscriber’s inbox, with all the information you want them to have in a single click.

Email

If you’ve not received notification via email about this blog post, you may not be on my contacts list. Please let me know via the Contact page (or the FAWWA), and I’ll add you to the list, so you can be notified of upcoming BLPG meetings and events.

Next Meeting

Laurie Steed will be our guest speaker at the next meeting on 19th June.

Laurie is the Patricia Hackett Prize winning author of You Belong Here, and his work has been broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and published in Best Australian Stories, The Age, Meanjin, Westerly, Island, The Sleepers Almanac and elsewhere.

He teaches Advanced Fiction for Writers Victoria and is a member of the Editorial Board of Margaret River Press. In 2014, he became the first Australian writer granted fellowship in the history of the Sozopol Fiction Seminars and, in May 2015, he was selected for The 2016 Bernheim Writers Residency in Kentucky, USA.

Laurie’s going to speak to us about his (still continuing) journey towards full-length publication. While it’s not all cheers and gold jewellery, he says there are many lessons in his story, which he’ll tie in to talking about Margaret River Press, and his own journey in the industry. He’ll give us submission and publication tips, and answer any questions.

I think it will be a particularly fruitful session, so don’t miss it!

Forthcoming Events

Well Versed: WA Verse – Past & Present‘ on June 6th.
Aim to Entertain – Book Buzz with a Splash of Song, with Annette Raison on June 8th.
Creating Place Workshop, with Michelle Michau-Crawford, on June 12th
Creative Conversation with Ron Elliott on June 19 (the afternoon of our next meeting
Introduction to Screenwriting Workshop with Ron Elliott, on June 26th.
More details are available from the FAWWA website.

A reminder that Write Night is on at Mattie’s House every Tuesday fortnight, and the next one is on 6th June.

Quote of the Month:

‘Our power is patience. We have discovered that writing allows even a stupid person to seem halfway intelligent, if only that person will write the same thought over and over again, improving it just a little bit each time. It is a lot like inflating a blimp with a bicycle pump. Anybody can do it. All it takes is time.’

KURT VONNEGUT

A Funny to Finish Off: Do you do any of these?

26 Obvious Signs You’re a Writer

See you all again on the 19th June.

 

APRIL MEETING ROUND-UP

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COPING WITH NEGATIVE FEEDBACK ON YOUR WRITING

If you want to publish your work, even self-publish, feedback is essential. It’s probably the most difficult part of the writing process—to hear criticism of our hard-earned words. But it’s ultimately helpful. We need to know where things aren’t working, where there are plot holes, where someone is acting out-of-character, and so forth.

If we don’t want readers, getting feedback’s not necessary, but if you want to be published, feedback is essential because:

  • We don’t always see the forest for the trees when it comes to our own work, even after putting it aside for a time. We’re too intimately acquainted with the work—we know the background, the plot, and the characters too well. We can’t read it without bringing all that knowledge to it and we can’t see it for what it is. We need people to read it ‘cold’.
  • Two heads are better than one. Other people pick up things we’ve missed. They also come up with brilliant ideas we hadn’t thought of!
  • Most of us are still learning—writing a book-length project is a very long on-the-job apprenticeship, and it’s impossible to teach ourselves everything we need to know to write a novel (or biography or memoir), without having someone look over our work.

Remember, too, that it’s not just learners who seek feedback on their writing—every published author works with an editor, and even before their books reach their publishers, many authors have shown their work to readers who’ll let them know if they’re on the right track. I listened to this podcast of an interview with Graeme Simsion (the interview starts about half-way through), and he has about ten beta-readers before he sends his work to his publisher.

When we’re younger, for some reason it seems easier to accept that we don’t know everything and we’re more accepting of feedback in order to learn. But as we age, we feel embarrassed to still wear ‘L’ plates. We needn’t—for a start we’re all learning throughout our lives and we should be patting ourselves on the back for being willing to step outside of our comfort zones.

How can getting negative feedback make us feel?

It hurts.
We feel very discouraged.
We wonder if we’ll ever be able to write well enough to be published.
Sometimes, we feel like giving up.

All those feelings are normal, but they pass! That’s the amazing thing—after a cry and a couple of hours, we see that we’re still alive, our limbs are intact, and we can get back to work and address the issues in our manuscript!

Before I go any further, I’ll say a quick word about getting reliable feedback. We do have to be mindful of who is giving the feedback because they’ll always bring their personal biases. Generally, my beta-readers are writers whose writing style I admire and like to read. I know, then, that I’m getting reliable feedback. I wouldn’t give my work to someone who writes speculative fiction, for example, because they wouldn’t necessarily ‘get’ my style.

I don’t know of any writer who says feedback is easy to hear, so here are a few techniques I’ve found useful when dealing with feedback.

Coping with Feedback:

  1. Prepare yourself for hearing things that you don’t want to hear and that might even hurt.
  2. Brace yourself for more work. Even though you think you’ve already invested hours, weeks, months, and even years, of time and effort, more is likely to be required.
  3. Remember it’s not personal. This is perhaps the hardest thing of all—our creations are so deeply personal (they were aptly described as ‘our children’ during the meeting), and we’ve poured our hearts and souls into them, revealed our innermost secrets and dreams, and laid ourselves bare before another person. However, they are still not us, not in the sense that our value as a person is proportional to the quality of our manuscript. Our worth as a person does not depend on how good our manuscript is.

    Nice people can write crappy books, and a*$eholes can write good books.

  4. Don’t react to the feedback straight away. Give your brain time to process it—it may have merit.
  5. You don’t have to take all feedback on board. Ignore things that don’t resonate. Sometimes, you get conflicting opinions—some readers might like something that other readers don’t.
  6. If you hear the same criticism from a couple of readers, it’s probably worth addressing.
  7. Readers can’t always put their finger on what isn’t working and it may be hard to work it out. So, even if the feedback doesn’t quite hit the mark, try to work out what the reader is trying to tell you about that passage. What is the real problem with it? Is it that it doesn’t advance the story? Is that person acting out of character?
  8. Think of it as a ‘collaboration’—two heads are better than one. Other people often have great ideas.
  9. Take the attitude that if it will make the story better, isn’t that what I want?

Feedback is a great way to learn. My first feedback was on a few pages/chapters, which helped because I took what I’d learned and edited the rest of the work. I’m now much better at spotting the flaws in my own writing.

The other thing is, after a while we get used to hearing negative feedback. Our hides thicken and we get better at separating ourselves from our writing.

So, don’t let negative feedback discourage you or cause you to trash your manuscript. I’ve seen manuscripts develop so they’re almost unrecognisable from the original. Personally, I believe there’s always a solution for every problem. Sometimes, however, it means a lot more work, but if you’re prepared to do it, it will pay off.

Feedback helps us improve as writers. It can take our stories to the next level, and even if the next level still isn’t publishable, it will be better than it was before. Each time we go through the process, we get closer to a publishable manuscript.