Australian Women Writers Challenge, Book Reviews

The Paper House by Anna Spargo-Ryan

My heart fell out on a spring morning…

~ The Paper House by Anna Spargo-Ryan

Grief is an ever present theme in Australian literature. We are a nation of writers fascinated by either lack or loss. That, in itself, intrigues me. And it intrigues me that much like Anna’s opening line here, that we never run out of ways to twist and use language to be able to describe so well the nuances of the nature of that grief.

The Paper House by Anna Spargo-Ryan

The Paper House by Anna Spargo-Ryan

And language and the use of it is what strikes me so immediately with The Paper House. This is Anna’s first book, one she has worked on for ages, one that has seen a lot of back and forth between her father, herself, friends and editors and perhaps that has helped fine tune the words because fine tuned they are indeed. Tweaked to perfection, the few lucky fans reading advance copies (you can even read about Anna’s reaction to receiving them including what she wore to chase down the delivery guy) or the excerpt of the first ten pages on Seizure Online, have no option but to react in rather visceral ways, taking to Twitter to let her know:

Anna kindly sent me a PDF version to read and I delved into in lunch breaks at work, in the interruptions between bouts of sleep on some nights and generally any time I had a pint of ice cream and wished to procrastinate.

The doctor came in and I lay my uterus down on the bench and she ran the machine over the top of it, but I already knew, and we already knew, and I put my hand to the purple organ crying on the bench and it sighed and wept against my skin.
~ The Paper House by Anna Spargo-Ryan

This is a book about miscarriages, mothers and mental health. It’s a book about wanting to be a mother, to nurture and care, to not feel left behind, left out, left alone by doing so and then to feel wretchedly on the outside as your chance to mother is absent rather than present because no one else knows what it feels like but they all think that they do.

And you think what can you do? Anna uses language well to communicate the sense of shock at what has happened with the clinical objectivity of never saying her lost child’s name, the funeral glossed over, the silence in response often to others and questions.

And then later, she uses it to tell us the stories that Heather tells us, of paintings made together with her mother, of the way her mother checked in and out of hospital for mental health issues, of the things that occurred in childhood, of the drawings she makes now hiding them from Dave her partner, of her loss of her mother, of the person living at the bottom of the garden, of her new neighbours rallying around her, a stranger.

Bit by bit, flitting back and forth between present day Heather and childhood Heather, Anna uses language to show us that perhaps after all, Heather isn’t seeing things clearly. Family members show up with their own versions of events and while Dave is connected into the community unlike Heather, others tell her that no one notices those who care for those who are sick and both sides of the story have truth to them. Heather’s flawed view also makes her the only one to question the strangeness of her neighbour’s life, the contradiction between the story told and the reality lived.

And throughout it all, you see and feel the sadness but it doesn’t overwhelm you to the point where you cannot read further. This isn’t a book that makes a nuisance of itself, flooding you with the nature of grief – it’s a book that makes you invite it in, offer it tea and have a chat before you flood yourself with the amazement of how it manages to convey the fact that grief is individual and weird and precious and always valid be it for mothers, kids or horses.

Which is why we keep writing about grief. Why we keep striving to understand how we process loss and also lack when we grieve for things we have never had. And with The Paper House, Anna shows us how the act of a miscarriage leaves us in a limbo land where we are grieving both the loss of someone and something that once was and someone and something that we will never get to experience or have at the same time.

Anna Spargo-Ryan’s The Paper House is published by Picador Australia and will be out on 31st May 2016. You can pre-order copies from Readings, Booktopia and from Picador as well. You can also read the first ten pages at Seizure Online.

And if you are keen on odd cats, mental health and all things wacky and writing related you can tweet at Anna too.

Writing

Watch “How to make your writing funnier – Cheri Steinkeller” and then let me know what you think.

I once spent an entire year while in high school writing what was my first attempt at a novel. It was very episodic and almost sit-com like because it was a) cheesy and b) I was working out how to write humour into scenes, from wit to slapstick.

These days there are still a lot of things I have to learn about writing such as figuring out the best way to convey something I want to say when I see it in the way a character moves physically in my head and to turn that into words on a page that conjure up the same image. I think visually – it can be a problem. Maybe I should write plays and screenplays instead.

But I hope this video helps:

Writing

27 ways to support diverse writers

I had this thought one day. I should qualify that it was between the hours of midnight and four am, generally not a great time for coming up with new ideas for me but a good time to work on ideas I already have.

I thought about how I didn’t always see a lot of non-POC authors discuss, read, review POC authors’ works or interview them despite doing so for various non-POC authors regularly on their blogs. There are some authors who don’t do that sort of thing on their blogs at all for anyone else’s work and that’s fine and up to them but there are some that do post reviews and interviews and one tends to go “Why aren’t you reading outside of your known frame of reference or culture or comfort zone? Why aren’t you reading diversely?”

So here’s a simple question for both the writer-readers and the non writer-readers: when did you last read a book by a POC author or an Aboriginal/Torre Straits Island author or a disabled one or an author that identified as queer or within the LGBTQIA community or as a culturally and linguistically diverse author?

Note: since POC/CALD/disabled/LBTQIA/ATSI is a large term, within this blog post it is interchangeable¬†with “diverse”. Just so it is easier for you to read so any time you see “diverse” that’s what it means and this way I won’t forget anyone halfway through.

If you can’t remember, then you need to start now. Because if you are for equality for all (and you are reading my lovely blog so of course you are ūüėČ ) then you need to put your money where your mouth is and help support all authors, not just those that come from where you are from.

To not do so is to help support a system of unequal privilege based on an assumption that you, the Australian reading market, does not want to read and cannot relate to diverse authors save for cookbooks and memoirs of tragedy which tends to make us then feel like you only want our food and our assurance that our homelands/life experiences are awful/titillating and Australia is great but you don’t want our ideas, our stories, our creativity, our knowledge¬†and that none of those things have any worth.¬†

Now you and I know this is not true. So please, here is a list of ways you can help support us:

1. Buy the book. If you have the money. This is the quickest, easiest way to prove that there is a demand. Work out how many books you read and how often and in which genre and work in a diverse author’s book per week/month/quarter.

2. Borrow diverse authors from the library if you don’t have the money. This makes a dent too. The library is more likely to stock more books by diverse authors if they feel there is a demand for it.¬†And borrowing books from libraries means authors still get some payment for it. So don’t borrow from a friend. Here is Robyn Mundy’s piece on this.

3. Gift books by diverse authors as presents – there are diverse authors writing across all genres so don’t worry. You can order in books that aren’t on the shelf so there will be someone writing about something obscure for a non-fiction book somewhere and you will be able to get it.

4. Review the books you have read by diverse authors and if they are female ones, submit them to Australian Women Writers so they (and your review) get even more circulation.

5. Have a blog? Already interviewing authors? Set yourself a goal of one interview with a diverse author per week/fortnight/month in your blogging schedule and start getting in touch.

6. Like one book? Hunt down the backlist.

7. Talk to diverse authors on social media. Become friends. Let your fans and followers, if you are a writer and even if you aren’t, let them know that such authors exist and you like their work and that it is something they should read.

8. Give diverse authors’ works away as prizes and giveaways. One easy way to do this is to look up the calendar of national holidays and independence days – if you plan in advance, you can find a book by a diverse author that fits the bill that you can then giveaway to a lucky fan/follower/reader for every day on the list. This gets the books out to a wider audience and you can choose how it will benefit you in what you want people to do in order to win a prize.

9. Got a bookish podcast? Invite them on to chat.

10. Go to their book launches, readings, plays and events. Hang out, take photos and videos (never at the plays though) and spread the word across social media (do you see how a lot of this works in your favour for promoting any literature/book related blogs you have?)

11. Share their posts on social media. If you write and remember how cool it was to be at your first launch event or signing, share those posts by diverse authors. Revel in their success. Share the posts about things that matter to them (like funding cuts or other political shenanigans).

12. Write reviews for a publication? Send in reviews of diverse authors’ works.

13. Take on a reading challenge and only read diverse authors for a year or a book from each country or an entire country alone for a year.

14. If they haven’t got one, create a Wikipedia page for them. How awesome would that be? *looks around for mine*

15. Part of a book club? Convince them to give one diverse author a go.

16. Tell your diverse author friends to join sites like Diverse Writers of Australia and other groups on Facebook so that they have safe spaces and solidarity.

17. If you write and work best with others around in writing groups, invite diverse authors you know that fit the vibe to join you. They will appreciate the invitation at the very least and most will probably be thrilled and will see it as you being supportive of their work and believing in them. That was my experience.

18. If you get the chance, offer to read their work and be part of any beta reader or feedback group.

19. Invite them to every writing/editing/publishing event that you think they can make it to. I get invites to east coast events that I cannot attend most of the time but I still appreciate the invites.

20. Ask them to speak at conferences, society meetings, events, schools, anywhere that you have a say in choosing speakers. By now you should know so many diverse authors that it should be easy to find an author that would be able to address specific topics and so on. I must also state that you must have more than one speaker out of many at a conference type event be a diverse person because otherwise it gives the impression of tokenism not true acceptance so aim for as many as possible.

21. If you are a writer/reader and your state literary events and festivals aren’t diverse then raise your voice and ask the organisers why very very loudly. You have a platform as a writer – use it to champion others even when those who should know better are very short sighted.

22. Support organisations that do try to support diverse authors and voices like the Centre for Stories. Try to donate or go to their events.

23. Subscribe/donate to journals and publications that publish diverse work regularly. Kill Your Darlings, Seizure Online and Meanjin are three you can start with. If you can keep these publications going, then your diverse author friends have more chances of seeing their work in print. The smallest things help.

24. Subscribe to the blogs of diverse authors and follow them on social media.

25. If you write, run your diverse characters past a diverse author or someone from the same background, please. The less stereotypical you make your diverse characters the less likely readers will be to think in stereotypes in general about such people and then the less likely it will be that diverse authors are asked to change their work to exoticise or stereotype those character representing them and their relevant groups. And we are asked. Quite often. Please help us stop it.

26. Send their books to editors and publishers you know as gifts and ask your editor and publisher why there aren’t more diverse authors on their lists.

BONUS:

27. Do something awesome and do what author Anna Spargo-Ryan did where she acknowledged ATSI people and the land in the book The Paper House itself:

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This should be something all Australian writers do as a matter of course and at the front of the book. Let’s make it possible.


As always, any brilliant ideas and suggestions are welcome. Please add them in the comments below.

Writing

Reader question: what sort of music do you listen to when writing?

The simple answer is that it varies.

At one point while writing Sedition, I listened to UB40 and a lot of reggae. I like reggae. I like drums and saxophone.

At another point there was a lot of old ’20s jazz standards I¬†listened to that you can download from here. For free.

Right now editing Sedition, I am listening to my friend’s surrealist nerd punk pop rock stuff – her band is called My First Telescope.

But to work on HIM, I often write while going through the backlog of vlogbrothers videos on Youtube on my phone. Or while catching up on the Wimbly Womblies’ progress in FIFA. As in I put on the playlist on my phone, put the phone down and listen to it while writing on the laptop or scribbling in the book. But that’s when I am alone.

At my Friday writing dash, I am at the mercy of whatever the bartenders put on and while it isn’t mainstream, it is a mixed bag. It could be very weird offbeat covers of various hits or what in the nineties was called “World Music” (as if putting a nationality to it was somehow a weird faux pas) or what I tend to think of as hipster alternative pop and lounge music. I don’t usually pay much attention to it and I have never come back from a writing session with an urge to find out more about a song. I tend to tune it out.

But this music thing РI think I do it because I want to be writing in company Рcompany where no one will interrupt me unless it is about pontificating on many important higher thoughts or because food is arriving and so I have to put something on in the background to make it feel like I am not actually physically alone when I am.

What is hard is trying to find music that I am in the mood to listen to but not to dance to at the time. If I want to dance to it, then I am not going to be writing. The point is to do the writing.

If you have other questions, leave them in comments or check out the ask.fm profile.

Writing

The Gap by Ira Glass

For those moments when you despair that what you are creating isn’t as good as you hoped it would be:

Video by David Shiyang Liu, found via a group on FB, thank you my darlings.

Books, Writing

All my worries as a WOC writer

This is a list of worries that Marlee Jane Ward, award winning writer, thought I should post about. In the hope that it would help. So here we go.

I worry about a lot of things as a writer.

I worry about a lot of things anyway.

And after a week of funding and job cuts for both the arts and journalism, I am more worried.

Here’s what I worry about along with some ranting – perhaps you can relate. They may be unfounded or not – the point is I worry about all this stuff.

TW: possible triggering with mentions of patriarchy, racism and bias.

Let me know if you  worry about them too or if you have any antidotes to these worries in the comments.

  1. I worry that being a female writer and a female writer of colour that I won’t be able to get my work published. I worry that if I do, I will be the token writer shuffled out by said publisher to illustrate that yes of course they believe in equal representation for all.Which is why I love hearing about people like Sulari Gentill and Maxine Beneba Clarke getting published but…

  2. I worry that some (hopefully not all) publishers will want me to write the sort of stories that Maxine and Sulari and others do because they have proven that they can win prizes and sell well and they write really well but I am me, not a Sulari, not a Maxine and I can only write the sort of stories that I can write. And so if my stories are different and they probably will be, to certain publishers they still may seem like unknowns that no one feels comfy about betting on.

    I worry that I will be asked to exoticise or stereotype any POC characters.

    Because hey my stories will have Sri Lankan characters in them who aren’t going to be all about the war or asylum seekers or the tsunami but that’s what people have come to expect them to be about when they come across them in Australian stories. And Sri Lankans, like any other nationality, like Australians, are about more than their national issues and tragedies and histories – there are Sri Lankan asylum seekers but there are also Sri Lankan artists, teachers, scientists and people who are pretty much normal at the end of the day.


  3. I have already heard it and I worry that I will continue to hear it – that an Australian audience for Australian work will be unable to relate or care about or find stories with foreign characters in them relevant. So why don’t I write about Australians?I can only write the stories I can write and when I do have characters I spend a lot of time and care trying to ensure they are fully developed and not in any way typecast by nationality or any other grouping and this goes for Sri Lankan characters as much as other characters. I worry a lot about how I am representing the characters as it is and I am highly unlikely to want to write a story where I am writing about a culture I am not entirely familiar with. I have seen other well meaning writers make this mistake and I come from a place with colonial history so I know how erroneous and biased writing can be when an outsider writes about something they don’t have knowledge of and assigns meaning as they do. How horrible would it be for me to commit the same error?

  4. ¬†I worry about inherent unconscious bias against my name. I love my name. But I¬†have been told that it might be easier for me to get published under a pseudonym. And then the example of George Elliott was pointed out to me. But the problem with that example was that she, being a white female, picked a white male name. I could perhaps be ok with the genderbending of this and pick an equally Sri Lankan name like perhaps Ashok Ferry (except I cannot because there already is an Ashok Ferry) because then I would, like Elliott, be going from female to male only. ¬†If you thought patriarchy doesn’t exist, there you go.

    For me to have to change my culture AND my gender in order to just get my manuscript read by people who don’t want their worldview offended or upended in the slightest and yet claim that they are for diversity just seems wrong to me. I love my name, it reminds me of my dad and even changing it to my mother’s more European name seems like a step too far. I am mixed heritage writing in my first language of English and if some publishers want to not have me be mixed heritage/writing in English then they need to build a time machine and go back and stop Europeans from embarking on colonisation. Since that can’t happen, shut up and accept the reality¬†already that we are here and writing. And yes we are writing in English. That language your ancestors taught us because they thought our ones weren’t good enough. And if you can say Schwarzenegger and manage Pfeiffer, Wikramanayake is a walk in the park and you have no excuse.


  5. I worry, and this is weird so let me explain this: I worry that for all the above reasons and others it is going to take so long to get my work published that anyone who was reasonably excited about my book writing at any one point is going to be totally over it and I won’t have an audience or support if and when it finally does happen.Which is why I think it is crucial that non-POC writers etc who are all for diversity, keep up to their claims and help support and promote their fellow POC/CALD/disabled/LGBTQIA authors and writers. If you are lucky enough to be published and mainstream or have an audience, please introduce them to other writers and diverse work so they get used to seeing us and find it normal and there is a demand that flows through to all publishers.Part of this I fear is because maybe I will be the new Sri Lankan author to make it internationally and be some sort of wunderkid but quite probably maybe I won’t. Let’s not bank on it, ok – it will probably make me all sorts of uncomfy anyway.

    I used to write a weekly column and a lot of people would meet me and lie straight to my face that they read it. So there may be a lot of claiming perhaps but not actual doing and maybe I am now past the point where I could get them excited about me publishing something finally. Especially since I will probably write about something they could not agree with – I don’t know, maybe they will surprise me. But I do get this feeling that so many people don’t know how long creating anything can take, how long it can take to improve enough at something for it to be good enough as a skill to create to good work, and so they give up on supporting people long before it is time for said good work. And I do feel people have given up on me publishing anything.For a while, new acquaintances get excited but after a point you can see their excitement fade. Their expectations have been dashed, you see.

    Why worry about this? Well, I helped run a conference, I buy books, I write about books, I chat to authors, I interview them, I go to book launches and I go to union and society meetings and try to figure out how best to help them and occasionally I¬†get so riled up at everyone else’s inefficiency¬†that¬†I get mad and go organise things and apart from a brief sojourn with the West Australian when I was paid for book reviews, I am not paid for any of it. It’s all done in my free time because I want to help and support authors.

    That takes time away from time I have to work to earn money and time to write my own books. That’s a fact. It is a sacrifice I make which I hope does help others.

    I worry that if I get to publish my book, I won’t see anything like that occurring for me ¬†– I cannot interview/review myself after all.

    I am not the only one – there is a community of writers online supporting each other in these ways – I just worry (and they are nice people so it is very likely totally unfounded) that it won’t happen for me.


  6. I worry that non-POC readers will not understand why I am writing about certain things they may have already read elsewhere. I explained something about Sedition once to one non-POC person and they said to me “Isn’t it overdone that X happens to Y? Why do people like Y always have to end up like this? Why are you writing that?”

    Here was my answer: “I’m writing that because I kind of want to say that while the Western world may have moved beyond it, guess what, these issues crop up elsewhere in the world still and we have to talk about how we are going to address them especially if we can’t do it in the same way the West has and so if I am going for realism here, realistically, this is a very common situation for people like Y to find themselves in IF they are not in the more liberal West. If I WAS setting in the Western world then sure you could tell me I was being cliche and you would be right to do so because the story would then be a very very different thing in its nature and I would have to respect it and write it differently – but it isn’t set in the West, it’s set in urban Sri Lanka.”

    Or take Manic Pixie Dream Girls. I don’t want to put them into my work, definitely not. But apparently my main characters often seem to like viewing other people in flawed ways especially as Manic Pixie Dream Girls even when those people are clearly not such things. Always be suspicious of how my characters see things, ok? They are meant to be realistic and therefore flawed, fallible and human and sometimes very, very stupid.


  7. I worry that I am going to have to give publishers or people running grants or anyone else a lot of incentives to get my work published in the form of readymade audiences via social media, changing the nature of my work, whitewashing it, changing my name and so on. I worry that one lousy review along the lines of “it is surprising that this person has got this far when it is clear English isn’t her first language” (which was what was written on my Honours thesis when it was supposed to be marked without my name being on it), might¬†mean that my publisher will think twice about publishing me.I think all these things and worry about them because I have seen instances of people who think like this already working in publishing and in reviewing and it does worry me greatly.

  8. I worry that with the latest round of funding cuts it will mean¬†not just less money, space and support for writers but for POC/CALD/disabled/LBGTQIA writers especially. I worry that it will end up being those with privilege and the ability to support themselves by other means and still have time who will have the luxury to write – in other words those of a higher socioeconomic status or class only. It is already too much like that and we are already silencing all sorts of diverse and important voices and stories. I worry that it will give more people more of a reason to not publish diverse writers’ work because we won’t be, initially, bankable enough. It makes the money and the profit more important than the goal of diverse voices and work. It makes it impossible for some really great longstanding publications and organisations to stay afloat, forcing them to close doors.

     

  9. I worry that this idea of doing away with parallel importation laws is going to kill Australian literature all together. While we love foreign work from the UK and the US, they cannot tell our stories. Why would we help them unwittingly colonise our culture this way? Because that is what it is if we do away with the laws – we won’t have a way of saying this is who we are as a nation in literature, this is how we are changing and evolving. We won’t be able to hear ourselves.

    But I think that’s enough worrying for now. But if you are a writer who worries too drop your worries in the comments. Let us all worry together.And any antidotes or support is greatly appreciated.

    Image: Stressed? by aaayyymm eeelectriik via Flickr

Books, News

Why my brain has no space and why I have no time

So here is the news.

I am going to slow down considerably on writing HIM.

I can hear you: “You were supposed to finish by mid-April!”

Yes, I know. The funny thing about books is that they don’t generally behave the way you would like them to. Ditto for life.

So why am I decelerating on HIM at the moment?

Lots of reasons but mostly: I want to enter the Vogel Awards and the Richell Prize.

The deadline for Vogels is 31 May. The deadline for Richell is 1 June. I want to enter Sedition into the Vogels but that means editing Sedition before 31 May which at the moment means having HIM wait a bit.

But I also want to enter HIM into Richell.

“But it’s unfinished!” you say. Well, yes but they only want the first chapter or so. And I entered Sedition‘s first chapter last year and heard nothing but the chirping of crickets. They may like HIM better. Who knows?

Sedition is better than it was in June last year. It needs editing. I can do the best I can but I can’t ask anyone else to do a rush job. And I cannot submit it to both competitions at the same time.

So I want to focus on editing Sedition first. Which at the moment means using #thesisfriday time for this though how this will happen I don’t know because last I checked there were no powerpoints near our usual table. I may have to ostracise myself.

“You have six other days.” is what you may point out.

Well, yes, but there is this little thing called money. And this other thing called a job – I got one.

BEFORE anyone gets excited at the absolute lottery like improbability of this occurring – it’s a contract for just two months till the end of the financial year in June, four days a week for a rather nifty hourly rate ūüôā but it occupies me from nine to five and involves staring at a screen. And it’s not in journalism or publishing. ūüôĀ I am knocking it out of the park as far as my work duties are concerned, so far down the alphabet that you have gone past KPIs but I do come home less likely to want to stare at a screen and less energised to write/work.

So I plan to try to come home and edit Sedition after work. I also plan to try to wake up earlier and do a bit of editing before I leave but frankly it is so far very tough given that my early morning hours are engaged with figuring out how best to combat not just the winter outside but the very weird thermostat settings in the office.

Now add to that the fact that I have to do a heap of organising, analysing and volunteering stuff, all unpaid, for Diverse Writers of Australia, Australian Women Writers and the WA Media committee of the MEAA union for journalists and writers. I want to do all these things though because you know, ethics, principles, and supporting other writers and so on, because I want to. But I also want to acknowledge that it takes time and effort to do so. And it isn’t always visible and you may not have known that I do all this. Well, now you do. This is where my time goes.

Well on all this, sleeping, eating and this partner I have suddenly acquired. I say suddenly because it’s been awhile but it is still very mysterious as to where he appeared from.

My brain is busy, I am busy, I need more time, I have so many other stupid things that I worry about unnecessarily – basically, the lesson here is that until you get to submission stage your book ain’t done so don’t start the next one. Also, Mother, if you are reading this, I am not letting you see Sedition till it is done.

But you can help by reading HIM so far and giving me pointers and tips and suggestions. Please subscribe to access the free stuff collated on this page.

If you want to beta read Sedition before I submit it, please email me.

Cheers, Marisa

Competitions, News

Upcoming awards, residencies and other awesome things for writers

It’s tough out there for a writer.

So here are a few things coming up that you should probably be aware of.

Hachette Australia Manuscript Development Program (QWC):

  • Upto 10 writers will get to work with editors on their manuscripts with 3 places reserved for writers residing in Queensland.
  • The program will run from 4¬†‚Äď 7 November 2016 in Brisbane, Queensland.
  • Only unpublished and emerging fiction and non-fiction Australian resident writers can apply.
  • Application deadline is 16 May 2016.
  • Entries must be between 55,000 and 110,000 words and the following are NOT ELIGIBLE: sci-fi, fantasy, young adult, self-help, cookbooks, business, academic, educational, poetry, plays, short stories.
  • Applications must include: first 50 pages of the MS + one page synopsis + entry fee of $50 AUD.
  • Upon shortlisting, the full MS must be submitted within 72 hours.
  • Application guidelines and forms and terms and conditions are here.

Allen & Unwin/Vogel Awards 2016:

  • Open to Australian fiction and non-fiction, memoir, Australian biography and history writers that are under 35 years old on 31 May 2016.
  • The deadline is 31 May 2016.
  • Submissions must include full MS between 30,000 and 100,000 words in English.
  • Entry fee is $25 AUD.
  • Allen & Unwin will publish the winning entry and have exclusive worldwide publishing rights.
  • The MS cannot be under submission elsewhere and no more than 10% of it should have been published previously.
  • The winner gets $20,000 AUD as an advance against royalties.
  • Application information and guidelines are here.

Richell Prize 2016:

  • Only unpublished Australian resident writers can enter.
  • The deadline is 1 June 2016.
  • The winner gets $10,000 AUD + mentoring for a year from an editor.
  • Submission must include the first three chapters of the MS + one page synopsis on direction of work and how the author will benefit from the prize.
  • Hachette Australia gets first option on publishing the winner and any other entries.

Small Wonder Short Story Festival Writer in Residence, UK:

  • Deadline to apply is 6 May 2016.
  • Writer in residence gets to attend festival in East Sussex at Vanessa Bell’s home for free from 28 September to 2 October 2016.
  • ¬£250 stipend + local travel, meals, per diems and hospitality are included/paid for.
  • Travel to the UK, visas, insurance and accommodation not paid for/included.
  • The writer must produce a short work after the festival related to the setting and will retain copyright but the British Council will be able to use it for promotional material, websites and social media.
  • The writer will get mentoring from a UK literary professional after the festival.
  • Application information is here.

Contribute to Chicken Soup for the Soul books:

  • Writers can submit stories for the collections by theme before each deadline.
  • The next deadline is 30 April 2016.
  • If published, writers will receive $200 USD per piece + 10 free copies of the book one month after publication.
  • Writers, if accepted, will get a response within 60 days of submission and rejection notices are not sent.
  • Submission details can be found here.

Good luck and if you know of any upcoming prizes and opportunities, let me know in the comments or on Twitter.

Books, Writing

HIM update for April 29

Quick explainer: I am writing my second book HIM and have staggered my word count goals this time. If you sign up to the mailing list or become a blog subscriber you get to read the first draft. If you don’t you just get this update on whether I hit my goals or not each week. Subscribers scroll down for your link, mailing list, you will get an email in your inbox.

Word count this week: 726
Total word count so far: 12,064
Total word count goal at this point: 20,000 for novella, 60,000 for novel

How long did it take me? 2 hours

What have I learnt?

  1. That this is very much an exploratory draft in a lot of ways still. At this point I am not sure I have sorted out Sophie’s voice. So I am just going to get all the words down on paper and see if I can get to the end of the story.
  2. But that getting to the end of the story bit? It’s hard – yet again I am worried that I have written myself into a corner with the storyline. Here’s a tip: don’t make a character that’s kind of clueless, helpless and a tad bit lost your main protagonist.
  3. People I write with are kind of amazed by the fact that I write with pen on paper and keep scribbling away. And I am  like, yes, yes, I do scribble and most of it is rubbish you realise and I just drop it into this very weird draft and the rest of you lovely readers probably scratch your head and wonder how I could possibly write stuff this bad and I just sort of hope that it will once finished be able to edit it into something worthwhile that perhaps you might be more used to seeing. Maybe. that was just a very long sentence.

What distracted me?

  1. I had cells coming off my eye. Yes. You read that right. A layer of cells was coming off my eye each time I blinked. This was first treated with a routine of different eye drops and lubricants to allow the eyelid to glide over the area and the cells to bed down and fix themselves. It didn’t work so instead I spent about five or six days going to the optometrist every day to have them take out a contact lens and insert another one so that it could act as a barrier between the cells and the eyelid and let the area heal. That worked but I now have to sleep with one eye full of ointment every night for the next six months.

    So yeah eyes. And trying to figure out where this story is going.

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