Guest Bloggers Deborah Hunn & Georgia Richter on How to Be an Author

Guest blog post: introducing an indispensable new book for writers

Between the pages of How to be an Author is everything you need to know about the business of being a writer, from people who live and breathe books. In this guest post, co-authors Deborah Hunn who is a lecturer in creative writing, and Georgia Richter, a publisher and editor, talk about how the book came about, what you might learn from it and the joys they find in their everyday working life.

Deborah Hunn says:

When Georgia and I began to discuss writing our book How to be an Author, I  remembered how a former Curtin colleague was fond of saying she’d rarely met a creative writing student who didn’t have a great idea for a story; the real problem was with what came came next: taking that great idea and transforming it into a viable, well-crafted, fully developed piece of writing. In short, what makes an author is not just (perhaps not even) some magical innate streak of creativity. It’s putting in the work, doing the business.

Georgia and I aimed to provide our readers with help and advice in understanding that business when we drew on our varied experiences in teaching, writing and publishing, and when we decided to include the voices of an additional 18 authors in this book. Whether the apprenticeship of young and emergent writers (for not all new writers are young) is through a university or one of sundry other pathways, they must learn and sharpen through practise – developing skills with language and syntax, with structure, plot and characterisation as well with voice and point of view; building an awareness of the possibilities of genre, an eye for observational detail and other modes of creative research, and an ear for how to pitch to their target audience. However, doing the work of a writer also requires persistence and a willingness to be open to advice and critique. It means developing a workable routine, managing to write through the bad days as well as the good, and committing oneself to editing and redrafting, dealing with rejection and finding a way through when imagination runs dry.

As well as cultivating persistence, the developing writer needs to find their tribe. For some who start outside established educational or community networks, it may mean locating like-minded others to share writing, information and ideas with; for all it will mean learning to recognise and take on constructive criticism through peer workshopping and editorial feedback, and then making good use of that in refining a draft.

Then of course there’s the next big step towards being a writer: understanding and utilising the mechanics of pitching and publication.

 

Georgia Richter says:

Some people write as an end in itself – for them, the satisfaction of laying down words on a page, like bricks on a path, is enough. There is the joy of the hard, exacting slog of it, and the satisfaction of looking back and seeing a path that has been shaped, travelled and wrought.

For others, finding an audience for their work is an essential component of their sense of themselves as a writer – and so publication is a necessary part of their practice. If it is an audience a writer seeks, then there is much to think about. A writer can ask questions like:

  • What is an author brand, and how do I authentically create my own?
  • What’s in a contract and do I need an agent to get one?
  • What takes place during the editing process?
  • What are the important relationships I need to work on before and after publication?
  • What is success and what is reasonable to expect?
  • How will I bear the bumps and setbacks and rejections and learn to carry on?

Deb and I, and the contributing authors, provided as many insights and practical suggestions as we could to help emerging writers answer questions like these.

There are lots of things I love about my job as a publisher.

One is the feeling of reading a submitted manuscript and experiencing the affirming excitement of being in the hands of an assured storyteller who knows what they want to say and who has found exactly the right vehicle to say it.

Another is building a relationship through the editing process with an author as together we hone and refine the submitted work so it is as perfect as it can be.

A third is placing a book, fresh off the printer, into the hands of an author. Here is the hard, beautiful proof of all they have worked on – here is the moment when they are on the brink of sharing it with the world!

A fourth is when authors tell me about reader responses – conversations with strangers who have told the author how they were touched or moved or consoled or entertained by a book.

I derive huge satisfaction from having been a part of a writer’s journey to publication. Deb and I hope that this book will serve a similar purpose. We know that the greater work is always with the creator – from the clearing of the path and the placing of the first brick to the invitation to others to come walk that path too.

The book is available in all good bookstores and online

To connect with Georgia Richter, Deborah Hunn and other writers, join the How to be an Author in Australia Facebook Group.

Georgia Richter has also launched a new podcast series How to be an Author which features interviews with passionate members of the Australian publishing industry. You can listen on your favourite podcast app or using one of the players provided here.

 

Thanks for visiting, Georgia and Deborah. 

 

 

Guest Blogger: Josephine Taylor author of Eye of a Rook

Guest blogger Josephine Taylor hopes her historical novel will shine a light on a condition many women have but most don’t discuss

I’m always reassured when I hear other writers advise, write what you feel passionate about, because that’s why I wrote Eye of a Rook.

I was angry. Angry that so few people knew about a condition that was so debilitating and that affected so many women, including me: vulvodynia. And I felt frustrated and helpless – at least at the beginning, way back in 2000. Then, in 2003, I started writing about my experiences, and I began to feel more in control, more an agent in my own life. I researched and wrote and eventually began a PhD, which turned into a memoir – a kind of embedded sociological detective story that delved into the history of vulvar pain and hysteria, and that explored more recent understandings of pain that won’t leave, from psychoanalysis, psychiatry, neurophysiology, feminist studies… The resulting investigative memoir, Vulvodynia and Autoethnography, won several awards, but it was an unwieldy beast from a publisher’s perspective. So, while I continue to draw material from it for my personal essays, with many published, I’ve left a full-length memoir to one side – for the moment at least!

After I finished my PhD in 2011 the pressure inside me remained. I knew that somewhere between 10% and 28% of all women would experience vulvodynia in their lifetime, so how could I contribute to beneficial change for them? What was I to do about the BIG story I wanted to get out into the world? I had no conscious idea. Fortunately, my creative life had its own plans, and at a writing workshop in 2013, two Victorian men came to life in response to a writing prompt. One was a man called Arthur, with fine brown hair and dressed in a frockcoat, and the other was a real-life surgeon I’d been researching, Isaac Baker Brown. It seemed that Arthur was consulting Brown about his wife, Emily, and contemplating the surgeon’s radical ‘solution’ to hysteria. This initial scenario turned into a short story which now also included a scene with a contemporary Perth couple driving tensely to an appointment. It seemed that the modern-day Alice had the same pain as Emily – the same pain as me – and both women needed answers. The short story, published in an anthology as ‘That Hand’, became the first chapter of Eye of a Rook.

I wrote my novel in timelines separated by almost 150 years because I wanted to show how little has changed since 1866. In fact, my research had shown that the understanding of chronic pelvic pain and specific pain states like vulvodynia has stayed largely stuck for many centuries. It’s men who have, until very recently, studied, written about and treated mystifying female complaints across recorded history, and medical understanding has been based on a male model. Knowledge skewed even further in the twentieth century, as the theories of Sigmund Freud were taken up by psychiatry then gynaecology, especially in the US. Under this influence, vulvar pain was interpreted as psychosomatic, a woman’s way of acting out unresolved unconscious conflict, a ‘defense mechanism’ against intercourse. The onus was placed upon the woman, rather than the limits of medical knowledge, with women generally told or made to feel that the pain was ‘all in her head’.

Both Alice and Emily come up against this kind of ignorance and dismissiveness, enduring harmful treatments and worse. Both reach out for help, with Alice finding community in a support group and Emily relying on her husband at a critical moment. I hope that readers will be able to relate to or empathise with Alice and Emily’s pain and the decisions all the characters make, for themselves and their futures.

My biggest hope is that my book will be read by women with vulvodynia and that it helps them in tangible ways. More, I hope that the people these women depend on read it: family, friends, GPs, physiotherapists, gynaecologists, dermatologists, urologists and psychologists. I hope that those who live with chronic pain, who may have been made to feel that they could be doing more for themselves or that they are exaggerating their symptoms, read it. I hope that Eye of a Rook will shine a light where one is so desperately needed and bring this conversation into the public domain.

Eye of a Rook is available in all good bookstores and online.

Thanks for visiting, Josephine. You  can learn more about Josephine, and connect with her

At her website here.

On Twitter.

On Facebook.

And on Instagram .

 

Guest Blogger: Author in the Wild – Cristy Burne

Author Cristy Burne shares her top six survival techniques for touring authors.

So, it’s been a while since you’ve been on tour. In this new-normal, COVID-19 world, we’ve all grown used to the comforts of home: skyping in your PJs, talking to yourself, not wearing pants.

If you’re like me, it’s been a while since you’ve packed your Meet-The-Author bags to head into the [Big] Wide World.

Well, that’s about to change. This month I have a new book out (YAY!!!), and that means, COVID-19 lockdowns permitting, I may need to actually leave the house.

The book, Beneath the Trees, is a junior fiction adventure about teamwork, family and survival.

It’s based on the true story of a 2019 hike my family went on in Eungella National Park, Queensland. A hike I’m really glad we all survived! (Spoiler alert?)

Eungella is one of the best places in the world to see wild platypus, and that’s how everything really started … In the book, Cam and her little sister, Sophie, are looking forward to seeing a platypus, but when they finally spot one, something is wrong.

And then things just get worse. Soon they’re lost in the rainforest with their bossy older cousin, Jack. And they need all their resilience and courage to survive …

Just like you’ll need when you step out the front door on your next author tour.

So, because I’ve been thinking loads about survival, I’ve written up a list of top tips totally recommended if you want to make it through your next author tour alive …

  • Find water

Dehydration leads to headaches, lethargy and hallucinations. Only one of these things will serve your career as a children’s writer. So it’s essential you secure a source of water early. Your voice will last loads longer if you’re sipping all day. Also, your brain needs water for proper functioning. Just saying.

Score additional points if you bring along your own reusable bottle.

  • Signal to rescuers

If you’re drowning, not waving, you have an issue with communication.

If you’re an author on tour, it’s essential that you master the basic skills of effective signalling. Personally, I practise survival signalling every day, before I even leave the house. Techniques such as ‘I’d love a flat white, please’ may just save your life.

  • Navigate to safety

We all get lost at some stage. I usually get lost on the way to the venue. Or on the way home from the venue. Or on the way to the bathroom at the venue.

The point is, if you find you’re losing your way, don’t panic. Just pause, get your bearings, and then strike out in a better direction. If you get lost onstage, the pause is your friend. It’s a survival tool you can use. Any. Time.

  • Build a shelter

Protect yourself from sweltering heat, bitter cold, buckets of rain and billions of fans by ensuring you have shelter. This could take the form of a green room, staff room, hotel room, even the inside of your car. It’s way more fun if you actually build your shelter, so feel free to use library furniture, cushions, cardboard boxes and BYO mattress.

  • Pack basic medical supplies

Throat lozenges, headache tablets, dark chocolate, instant coffee. Your melt-down bag should provide a strong sense of safety. Whether you’re suffering from a blister, bruised ego, or muscle cramp from signing so many books, packing some basic emergency supplies is always a good idea. Include a second thumb drive. And a second shirt.

  • Make fire

Fire helps us cook, keeps us warm, and burns inside our souls for the rest of our lives.

Fire drives us forward, even when our slides don’t work or there’s an unexpected evacuation drill.

As children’s authors, our job is to start fires. A spark here, a spark there. Starting fires is the reason I get out of bed in the morning. It’s what drives me out of my front door. So make books, find your pants, and practise these survival techniques. Let’s start a fire in the hearts of children everywhere.

Cristy Burne’s new book, Beneath the Trees (Fremantle Press), is available from all good bookstores and online. It’s one of a trio of junior outdoor adventure stories that includes To the Lighthouse and Off the Track.

 

Thanks for visiting, Cristy.. You can find out more about Cristy at her website

 

Meet Me at the Intersection, edited by Rebecca Lim & Ambelin Kwaymullina

We are the voices too often unheard, the people too often unseen. But we are here; we are speaking. And through this book, we invite you into our worlds.
Meet us at the intersections. 

As the introduction to this collection reminds us, there is a startling lack of diversity in the books offered to children and teens the world over. Most importantly, stories told by diverse creators are significantly under represented in the publishing landscape, and thus in bookstores, libraries and schools. Meet Me at the Intersection aims to bridge this gap by offering an anthology written by authors who are First Nations, People of Colour, LGBTIQA+ aor who live with disability.

Included stories include memoir, contemporary fiction, historical fiction, speculative fiction and poetry and each includes a brief biography of the writer and their aims and considerations in producing their contribution to the anthology.

Edited by Rebecca Lim and Ambelin Kwaymullina and iwth contributions form a mix of established and emerging creators, including Alice Pung, Kelly Gardiner and Amra Pajalic, the collection offers a range of unique perspectives of life for readers of all backgrounds.

Meet Me at the Intersection, edited by Rebecca Lim & Ambelin Kwaymullina
Fremantle Press, 2018
ISBN 9781925591705

Off the Track, by Cristy Burne

Harry’s perfect life was straying way off track. he looked pleadingly at Mum. Surely she could see? Spending an entire weekend tramping around stinking-hot snake-filled scrub was a horrible mistake. But doing it without a phone? That was just brutal.

Harry is not happy. Not only has his mum moved him from his comfortable life in Sydney to live in Perth, but now she’s agreed to spend the weekend hiking in the bush with her old friend Ana, and her daughter Deepika. There are snakes, and spiders and insects in the bush – and, worst of all, no mobile phones allowed. Well, not for Harry, anyway. Mum seems to be the only one allowed to have her phone. She says it’s in case of emergencies, but Harry knows she’ll be using it every chance she gets. Out on the Bibbulmun Track, his worst fears are realised – there really are snakes and spiders. And every time they are in range, Mum has her phone out. Then, just when he starts to enjoy himself, Harry discovers that things really can go wrong out in the bush.

Off the Track highlights the Australian outdoors, and especially Western Australia’s iconic Bibbulmun Track, in a pleasing blend of adventure and self-discovery. Many young readers will relate to Harry’s dismay of being ‘forced’ to live without every day conveniences like flushing toilets, beds, and technology. Others will love the outdoors setting and the taste of hiking the story offers.

Gripping junior fiction.

Off the Track, by Cristy Burne
Fremantle Press, 2018
ISBN 9781925591743

Bush and Beyond: Stories from Country by Tjalaminu Mia, Jessica Lister, Jaylon Tucker and Cheryl Kickett-Tucker

I’ve got a secret and I’m so excited!
Actually, I’ve got two secrets and that makes me feel really happy inside.
‘What are you grinning at, Debbie?’ my brother Billy asks.
‘Nothing.’ I don’t want him guessing my secrets.

Bush and Beyond is a collection of stories from Country. The four stories were originally published as individual books. ‘Bush Secrets’ is the story of Debbie and Dada Keen who share a bushwalk and in ‘Yippee! Summer Holidays’ they spend more time together. In ‘Barlay’ Nan tells Sarah and her siblings about a traditional bush protector. ‘Lucky Thamu’ sees Eli and Thamu take a trip into the bush near Kalgoorlie. Each story is accompanied by black and white illustrations on most openings.

Bush and Beyond celebrates the relationship between grandparents and grandchildren, from the perspective of individual grandchildren. It also offers an understanding about the importance of passing knowledge between the generations. This collection offers Aboriginal children an opportunity to see their world reflected in literature, and everyone else a peek into what it means to be indigenous Australian. Recommended for newly independent readers.

Bush and Beyond: Stories from Country, Tialaminu Jia, Jessica Lister, Jaylon Tucker and Cheryl Kickett-Tucker
Fremantle Press 2018 ISBN: 9781925591132

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller
www.clairesaxby.com

The Hole Story, by Kelly Canby

One day, Charlie found a hole.
He couldn’t believe his eyes.
A hole of his very own!
Charlie bent down, picked up the hole and popped it into his pocket.

When Charlie fins a hole, he is very excited, but he quickly discoevrs that having a hole in his pocket is a problem – and a hole in his backpack is even worse. So he sets out to find someone who needs a hole. For some people – – including the boat builder and the seamstress – a hole is very unwelcome, while others – including the donut seller – already have enough holes. Finally, after a very frustrating day, Charlie decides that the hole is worthless, and throws it away. He doesn’t see the very relieved rabbit, who has followed him all day, hope back into the hole it calls home.

The Hole Story is a humorous exploration of perspectives of usefulness and value, and could be read also as a critique of the need to ‘own’ things, particularly those things found in nature. Mostly, though, it is a whimsical, funny story which youngsters will love, with cartoon-style watercolour illustrations which are a delight to explore.

So much fun.

The Hole Story, by Kelly Canby
Fremantle Press, 2018
ISBN 9781925591125

In the Lamplight, by Dianne Wolfer, illustrated by Brian Simmonds

Bessie says the nurses have set to work at Harefield House, scrubbing floors, dragging beds and mattresses upstairs, unpacking bed linen and stamping it with their hospital mark.
The nurses are asking local women to read to the Australian soldiers. I wonder if I dare. Bessie says she’ll read to them if I will…

When war breaks out, fourteen year old Rose O’Reilly’s life changes. A local manor house is converted into a hospital for Australian soldiers, and soon Rosie is volunteering there, keeping the soldiers company and, eventually, allowed to help with their care. Rosie loves her job, but when she’s not busy, she worries about her brother, away fighting on the Western Front. Life in war-time England is not easy, but when a new Australian soldier arrives, Rose finds some happiness.

In the Lamplight is a satisfying complement to the Lighthouse Girl and Light Horse Boy, from the same author/illustrator pairing of Dianne Wolfer and Brian Simmons, again exploring Australian’s role in World War 1. This time the setting is England, with the main character an English girl, but with Australian soldiers being a key part of the story. As with the earlier books, the narrative uses a scrapbook like blend of diary entries from the perspective of the main character, photographs, newspaper clippings, and third person narrative, as well as the stunning black and white illustration work of Simmonds.

In sumptuous hard cover, this is a collector’s delight and will be adored by young and old alike.

In the Lamplight, by Dianne Wolfer, illustrated by Brian Simmonds
Fremantle Press, 2018
ISBN 9781925591224

Brobot, by James Foley

That is my brother, Joe.
I never asked for a brother, but if I had …
I would have asked for a better one.

Sally Tinker is not impressed with her baby brother, Joe. He is messy, smelly and is always breaking things. So Sally, the world’s foremost inventor under the age of 12 (she has a trophy to prove it), has invented a Brobot. Much better than a brother, this robot can clean up messes, fix broken machines and is never sticky or smelly. But what happens when things go wrong?

Brobot is a hilarious graphic novel for younger readers. The illustrations, in grey scale, are filled with humorous detail. Sally speaks directly to readers, and the brobot also speaks, with an LCD type font, and boxes showing his internal ‘computations’. Readers will like Sally, but will probably feel more empathy for Joe in the early pages. As the novel progresses, they will see the relationship develop through the humorous turn of events as the Brobot becomes out of cotnrol.

Lots of laughs to be had.

Brobot, by James Foley
Fremantle Press, 2016
ISBN 9781925163919

The Smuggler's Curse, by Norman Jorgensen

The Smuggler's Curse - Norman Jorgensen‘You, boy, commands the Captain, seeing me listening. ‘You can handle an oar tonight. We’ll get you toughened up even if we have to kill you doing so, eh men?’
The men laugh, happy at the thought of me getting killed, I suspect. I nod slowly, embarrassed and unsure. Is this how the new ship’s boy is to meet his fate? Ambushed on a deserted Malayan beach by a regiment of government troops or skinned alive and sold for a satchel?

Red is quite happy with his life in Broome, where his mother runs a hotel. Red spends his days reading, or avoiding errands. So he isn’t impressed when his ma sells him to be ship’s boy to an infamous smuggler. Suddenly, instead of avoiding chores, he’s avoiding pirates, headhunters and drowning, as travels the world with the infamous Black Bowen.

The Smuggler’s Curse is a rollicking tale of shipboard life. Set in the 19th century in Western Australia and Southern Asia, there is action aplenty, and Jorgensen doesn’t hold back. While there’s humour, there are also scenes of fear and violence as befits the setting, and which young adventure lovers will relish.

Adult readers will recognise the nod to novels such as Treasure Island.

A gripping read.

The Smuggler’s Curse, by Norman Jorgensen
Fremantle Press, 2016
ISBN 9781925164190

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