Sunday, 31 July 2011

We all love bookshelves

I'm moving out of home in the next few months and the most exciting part of that is thinking about where I'm going to put my books. I used to want a book room, where all the walls were covered in books, and in the centre was a desk to write. But I also like having my books in constant view. I think the right bookshelf is like a piece of art. As soon as I find a bookshelf as cool as the ones below, I'm going to invest in it. Alternatively, I love the look of books just coming out of everywhere. 

What kind of bookshelf do you want?

Sunday, 24 July 2011

How I write


I’ve always been a big story planner. I can’t start writing until I know the beginning and end, and I like to know the main events and conflicts that happen in the middle. In terms of characters, I only tend to start writing knowing their names - the rest of them comes with the story.

Sometimes, though, it’s the character that comes to me, already pretty developed. I write down everything about them and build a story from that; from knowing who they are and putting them in a situation that I’d like to see them deal with.

Planning involves pages full of notes, snippets of dialogue and sentences, words that I like for the story, and the tone of voice of the piece.


I’ve been trying different writing methods.

In the past, I used to write a couple of paragraphs, read over them and have to ‘perfect’ them before writing on. If I wasn’t happy, I couldn’t continue. This writing technique got me into a lot of trouble: lots of unfinished stories and wasted time.

Lately, I’ve been writing writing writing and not editing anything until the end. The only reading over I will do is of the last few paragraphs, just to capture the tone and moment before continuing on. Sometimes, I will make some small tweaks and fix obvious spelling or grammar issues, but nothing more. And that’s been working really well for me. The story I just finished, I sat down in three different sessions over a week and wrote the whole thing out.

Most of the time I write on my laptop but sometimes I do enjoy writing by hand. I just find that my hand doesn't write as fast as I'm thinking. Often, I'll be writing on the computer with a notebook next to me so I can jot down words and events as I think of them. 


I like to leave stories after they’ve been written for at least a week, usually two weeks, without me reading it. That way, I can look over it with a clear mind and pick up a lot more issues with it.

I print it off and go over it with a coloured pen, marking all the spelling and grammar that needs fixing, plot parts to watch out for, words that need switching and areas that need re- working.

For paragraphs that I’m not 100% happy with, I will open a new document on my computer, and re-write that paragraph, sometimes with the other one next to it, sometimes just working from scratch.

Sometimes, if there are issues with where to start or with the flow, I will print out the story, cut it up into chapters and shuffle it around on the floor.
Editing usually involves a lot of cutting and adding.
And it usually results in quite a few drafts.

How much do you plan before writing?
Do you write in sections and edit, or get it all out before editing?
Any particular methods of editing?

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

The excitement of a new story

You ever get this feeling? When you’re going about life as usual and suddenly the excitement of something hits you – maybe a new love interest, a holiday coming up, or for me, the buzz of new clothes or books – and you get butterflies in your stomach?

I get that with new story ideas. 

I’ve decided to write a NaNoWriMo this year (I finish uni in October so no excuses of assignments being due). I’m kinda nervous and excited because I’ve never written anything that long before. I usually write short stories and the longest one has only been 15 000 words. So this will be a challenge. But I’m definitely ready.

I have 4 months to plan the story and get myself ready for writing. No pressure and no looming deadlines. 
Slowly, things keep revealing themselves to me: characters are developing, and events and dialogue come in to mind. These skeletons of characters are growing skin and muscle and personality. I’ll be at work or driving and suddenly something new hits me. 
My story just keeps falling into place.

I have constant (excited) butterflies in my stomach.

I’m not going to say too much about my idea, only that
      I have to talk to the police and the Australian defense force for research,
          I know it will be YA,
               It will involve letters from one character to another
                     And a mysterious older boy named Cade.

Anyone else get butterflies in their stomach when they have a new idea bubbling away? Anyone plan on doing NaNoWriMo?

Friday, 15 July 2011

What a beautiful, beautiful book

I just finished one of the most beautiful books I've ever read. 

The Day Before by Lisa Schroeder is a YA about a girl called Amber, who wants to spend the day alone on the beach. She meets Cade there, a boy who is doing the same thing. The reader doesn't know right away why the two characters want to spend the day alone, but their reasons are slowly revealed. 

No 'blurb' can do this book justice. 

The Day Before is a verse novel, written up entirely in joining poems. I read El Dorado, by Dorothy Porter a few years back, which was also a verse novel, and I loved the idea of it. 
It worked so beautifully for this story and I really felt like every word was contemplated and perfectly placed. 

The story was thought-provoking, and powerful. The characters were so real, the conversation so natural, that I never doubted anything for a second. 

The book made me smile and cry. It was one of those books I loved so much that I never wanted to put down, but at the same time I loved it so much, I didn't want to read because I wanted it to last forever. Which is a feeling Lisa describes in the book itself, making a parallel between reading, and the way Amber felt about Cade.

I recommend it to everyone.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Second poem for the poetry shmoetry blogfest

Yare'ackh *

I chased the moon
in my car that night;
it was large in the sky,
almost surreal
and I tried to catch it
as a child would a lost           
floating balloon.
I thought of us. 

*Yare'ackh means moon in Hebrew

Monday, 11 July 2011

Poetry Shmoetry blogfest

Time for another blogfest!

The blogfest is hosted by Shelly and you can see her page here.
So the rules are:

1. Follow this blog
2. Sign up by filling out the Linky below
3. Write a Poem
(ANY kind of poem or you could even blog about 'why I hate poetry.' I'm cool with that.)
4. Post your poem the week of July 11th-14th (midnight PST)
You did it!
You can stop there if you want.

And here is my first poem, a haiku. 

to grow wings that are
large, lavished, feathered cream and
light, to fly away. 

I will post another poem tomorrow. But for now, I'm off to read some other poems in the blogfest. 

Saturday, 9 July 2011

taking pieces of people lives.

I went to the Camberwell Sunday Market today. It was a real variety market; lots of hand-made jewellery and soap, as well as lots of antique collectables and vintage items. 

I couldn't help but think that I was walking through the remnants of peoples lives, taking and rejecting. 
I was imagining 
            what everything looked like in a home once upon a time ago,
                 the people who bought and used those tea cups,
                       who took those old photographs and wrote in those postcards,
                             and who travelled with those suitcases.
There were old wind up phones, type writers, old fragile lamps, fur coats, cow boy boots and records. 

I bought some old Men in War magazines for my boyfriend, who has a love for history and the military, as well as a framed picture of a military plane flying over a base. 

For myself, I bought some old written-on postcards and some black and white family photographs. They were too beautiful to resist and I just felt like there was a story radiating from them, wanting to be heard and recorded. I couldn't help but wonder who those people were, where they came from, and how their family photos and personal postcards ended up at the Sunday Market. 

Thursday, 7 July 2011

The Writer's Life

When I first told my mum that I wanted to be a writer, she said that it wasn’t a good idea because writers lived a lonely life. At that point, I was 14 and often closed myself in my room to write, knocking back movie nights with friends. I didn’t know anyone else who wrote so I was pretty much on my own.

As I’m getting older and understanding what it really means to be a writer, I’ve realised that my mum was completely wrong. Half my social life stems from my writing - especially since all my uni friends are writers, too.

  • Going out for coffee with writer friends.
  • Work-shopping with groups of people.
  • Going to literary festivals and events.
  • Going to weekend writer retreats with uni groups, that end up a combination of words and wine.
  • Researching for stories - often very interactive.

 ... just to name a few.

And not to sound schizophrenic, but when I'm really into a story, I find that the characters are always in my mind. They become people I know and trust, people I want to help, and be helped by. So in that sense, it's not so lonely. 

As a published writer, part of the job is to market and promote the book and yourself. This involves having an active online presence, being interviewed, touring, etc ... 

So while the physical process of writing is exclusive, I just find that there are so many other aspects of being a writer that are social. 

I usually think that my mum is always right. Not this time though. Sorry Mum!

Monday, 4 July 2011

Author Interview - Amy Espeseth

Amy Espeseth was my creative writing tutor at the University of Melbourne last year, where she is currently completing her PhD. She is a writer, tutor, academic and publisher at Vignette Press.

Amy moved to Melbourne from rural Wisconsin in the late 1990s.
I’m wondering if you were already writing in Wisconsin, and if so, did the change of place affect your writing?

As a child, I always enjoyed writing stories.  After wandering through a few degree options at university, I eventually majored in English Literature and took only a couple of creative writing courses.  I did write for the university’s newspaper, but I wasn’t brave enough to submit my fiction anywhere.  So, I didn’t really get started writing or being serious about my writing until I moved to Australia and undertook a Masters of Creative Writing at the University of Melbourne.  I don’t know where I got the gumption to pursue creative writing in such a formal way.  All I knew was that I loved reading, had a story to tell, and thought I could learn to tell it. 
When I lived in America, I was interested in writing about faraway places and fantastic people and events.  I still have the same impulse since moving to Australia, but now the faraway place I write about is Wisconsin.  Changing places allowed me to see my original home with more clarity and affection than I would have been able to achieve if I had never left.

How do you find the Australian literary scene (writing, festivals, events, publishing) compares to the American literary scene? I know a lot of Australian writers and publishers are itching to get to the states.

I’ve spent almost my entire adult life in Australia, coming here for the first time when I was twenty-one.  Because I left America very young—especially as I wasn’t really a writer then—I can’t really compare the literary scene there with the one here.  What I can say about the Australian literary scene is that I have felt welcomed and encouraged by other emerging writers, established writers, editors and publishers, and the various other arts workers that populate our City of Literature.  Although I do hope my work is published in America and elsewhere, Australia is home to me.

Your first novel, Sufficient Grace, won the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award in 2009. What did it feel like to win such an award? How did you celebrate?

Winning the unpublished manuscript prize was an unbelievable experience.  Honestly, I can’t remember that much about the weeks between the announcement of the shortlist and the awards night.  It was exhilarating and scary to have both media and industry interested in me and my work so suddenly.  To attend the awards, my mother travelled from Wisconsin and my partner’s mother travelled from rural New South Wales.  We were busy at home hosting and enjoying our family.  But all during the awards evening, I had to assure people that I was happy to have had won; I think I was pretty overwhelmed.  I remember smiling and talking to many people, but I don’t remember any conversations.  Out of the VPLAs, I became friends with the other writers in my category, met my supportive and kind agent, and also was introduced to my eventual editor and publisher.  It was an incredible experience.  And, no one leaves the VPLAs without mentioning the famous dessert buffet; the dessert buffet is worth all the angst, commas, and commitment.

And Scribe is publishing the manuscript in 2012. How exciting! Did they scout you or did you approach them?

My agent, Clare Forster of Curtis Brown, introduced me to Aviva Tuffield, Scribe’s commissioning editor of fiction.  When I spoke with Aviva and heard her vision for the manuscript, I felt an immediate connection with her and knew she absolutely understood my book.  She has patiently guided me through the worry and excitement of the rewrite process.  The entire Scribe family has been welcoming, encouraging, and understanding.

A lot of my blog followers are interested in the process of getting published. What was that like for you?

Getting a novel published is—forgive the cliché—an absolute dream come true.  I originally wrote Sufficient Grace as my MA thesis, so it has taken a long time to take it from 40,000 words in 2005 to approximately 90,000 words now.  Sufficient Grace, for me, has been a process in teaching myself to write.  A good book requires more than just an original voice; structure, setting, plot, characterisation and pace are all necessary.  I’ve made many mistakes along the way, but the rewriting process is where I’ve really learned what makes a novel.  The rewrite has made me a writer.

When you first started writing, were you writing novels or shorter pieces?
How did you get to where you are now?

Writing for me is a layering process: I write very few words and tend to write episodically, returning to pieces numerous times.  Sections of several chapters of my novel were able to stand alone as short stories, so they were the first pieces I published.  My advice to newer writers is to read, study, write, and rewrite.  Correct grammar, precise punctuation, and clear expression are essential.  Becoming involved in creative writing courses and a writing group encouraged me to keep developing the manuscript, submitting stories for publication, and entering competitions.  I’ve been lucky but I’ve also been tenacious. 

I recently saw on Twitter that you were tossing up between having a baby and buying an ipad. Of course, the ipad won. Is this so you can read on it?

All of my friends are either having babies or buying iPads.  I really like robots, so I think I’m leaning toward technology rather than reproduction.  I don’t have an e-reader yet as the majority of my reading is done in the bathtub.  Once a water-proof iPad is released, I’ll reconsider my decision.

Where do you write?

I used to write in cafes and libraries.  I seemed to need the movement and life around me, even though I always wore earplugs.  Now, I tend to write at home in my office.  My partner has built up a beautiful taxidermy collection for me, and it lives in my bookshelves.  The birds, butterflies and bones reconnect me to the natural and wild world I loved as a child.  While I write, I drink hot water and listen to old-timey gospel and bluegrass music.

You can follow Amy on Twitter here

Friday, 1 July 2011

June shenanigans

Alright alright, I'm just going to come out and say it. I didn't complete all my June goals. 
My excuses are: 
-getting my wisdom teeth out and feeling mindless
-unexpectedly starting full-time work. 

What I did manage to do though, I'm pretty happy with. I finished editing my new short story called Co-painicitis Syndrome which ended up being around 1500 words. It's quite different to my usual writing - it's a mix between Raymond Carver and Etgar Keret (my favourite short story writers) - because it's a surrealist piece (which I've never done before) and just a totally different writing style that I'm used to. It was a bit of an experiment for me and I gotta say, I think it turned out better than expected. 
I haven't had a chance to start my other short story idea (I'm writing it for a competition though so will be working on it hardcore for the next 2 weeks) but it will also be that same writing style, although not surrealist. 

How did everyone go with their June goals?

In June I read:
-Anne Brashares - the 3rd Summer of the Sisterhood (reread)
-Anne Brashares - Forever in Blue
-Liane Moriarty - What Alice Forgot
-Courtney Summers - Fall for Anything
-Elizabeth Scott - Perfect You
-Patrick Jones - Things Change

And I went crazy on book depository so I have heaps of books to read in July.

I had a scary thought, too. I was thinking of giving myself a $50-$60 book allowance a month. Which is do-able since I get a lot out from the library, and I already have a huge TBR pile at home. Then I added it up and that's over $600 a year. And in all honesty, seeing as though I usually end up spending more like $70 a month on books, that adds up to WAY more. Kind of a scary thought. Considering I'm also addicted to coffee ($3 a pop, around $21 a week), Zumba ($10 a class) and Artichoke hearts ($3 average).  Well, at least I'm not a smoker. That's all I can say. Because adding cigarets and gum in there would pretty much make me hopeless. 

How much do you spend on books a month? Any other addictions we should know about?

Anyway, this was posted on twitter and I thought it was pretty cool. Oh, did I mention I got twitter?