Winter is upon us. It is a freezing 24’C in Perth city…brrr. I know. I know. For those of you living in cold places, like Northern Ireland where my daughter is visiting, you are probably breaking into a sweat just thinking about 24’C. But I swear–it is freezing! However, the cold is great weather for us writers. All cozied up in my little cottage with the heater on high, as there is no way I would head out for anything more than my daily walks and shopping (Oh and work of course!), it is the perfect opportunity to rug up and write.
So What’s Been Happening?
Quite a lot of not a lot, not actually. Well, no, I have been studying poetry and learning about the double entendres used in Shakespearean poems. I am also working on a sonnet of my own too-but am about to turn it into a couplet elegy, simply because I have too much of an Australian accent to hear the iambic tu-tums.
And while I am out and about, being creative, I’ve met my first groupie. So I am at my writing group when a woman with a six month old says to me:
‘I know where you live. You live on XX street, don’t you?’
Im like, ‘Er- yes, (weird stalker, young-mother) I do’.
And she says, ‘Oh! You’re the lady with all the kids and cats! I live up the road from you (big smile).’
Mortified! (What? You mean Im not the famous author living on your street?) I wave a hand at my tired face, ‘Kids and Cats. Welcome to your future.’
But, she must not be getting out a lot: nine months of pregnancy and a six month old baby will do that to a person. My last kitty passed away a year ago, and my older children have been leaving the nest. Now, it is just me and one teenager, a far cry from ‘the lady with all the kids and cats’. And, not all of those ‘kids’ were mine… teenagers are forever bringing in strays! Which is how my daughter ended up on the other side of the world: ‘Please mum let him (Polish backpacker) stay here, he got robbed and was eating out of rubbish bins’ added (+) to my soft heart equalled (=) true love and an intercontinental romance for my gypsy child! Fortunately for her, I don’t write romance.
What I do is write literary stories.
For those of you who have been following my blog. The Night Jasmine novel, which I had set aside in 2015, has been sent away to a competition. The competition will be stiff, so I am not expecting to win a publishing deal, but that is okay. ‘But hang on,’ I hear you say, ‘Didn’t you get a publishing deal for that novel?’ Well yes, if I sat on it for ten or so years until it became less controversial. So the deal is over. Now, I just want to get it out in the world and see where it lands. The competition will not be drawn until November, and that is how it is when you write something. It can take a year or two before it finds its home, and maybe it will not be the first, second or third etc. place that you send it. But, eventually, it will. Writing is about patience, and letting go enough to write other things.
The second novel (actually it is a novelette), The Witch Who Ate Autumn, is one of those other things. I thought it would be done by Christmas, that was six months ago. My studies have not given me much time to write the final chapters, and that is disappointing. However, it is also reality. Never underestimate how long it takes to write a novel. So far each has taken me a year to the final edit, and for both, I was so sure they would take only 3-6 months. Of course, I am also a working, studying, member of four writing groups, single mother, and no one is paying to keep a roof over my head, so *pat on the back* one year to write a novel is perfectly fine. Finding an illustrator for this second novel is the hard part.
You might think there are illustrators everywhere on a campus full of ‘Arts’ students. You’d be right! Except, they, like me, are so busy doing their course work it is nearly impossible to find the mental space to be naturally creative. Any time spent on one’s own creativity is time not given to your lecturer’s ideas of creativity. Going to uni is a catch 22 situation. For a start, you are learning all these cool things, like ‘post-colonial literature’ and ‘post modernism’ and ‘did you know that the two main characters in Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde are gay, they just couldn’t say it in those days…’ and your brain gets over full. Over full, I say. Therefore, imagination becomes stifled, limited or switched off all together, because you know, if you want to be a successful literary writer you will need to have a great deal of innuendo shovelled between the lines. Speaking of innuendo: Please re-read this paragraph.
So after asking several visual arts students if they want to design my book cover, for actual money – because I believe in paying artists for their work, and none of this ‘well you will get publicity from this experience so give it for free’ crap from me – I found rejection the norm. Everyone is just too busy studying. *Fiddles playing in background*. I am still looking for a book cover illustrator. I need the cover to be specific, not something I could just whip up myself. I need my characters on the front page. Patience! Patience! I still have four chapters to finish writing. Surely, between now and then an illustrator will magically appear.
For the last 8 weeks I have been working with the City of Belmont, as a participant, in the ‘City’s Children’s Book Project’. This has been a very exciting project where interested residents come together to write and illustrate a young children’s story book set in Belmont.
(Free Pic From City o Belmont’s Facebook Page
– that is me, forth down on the right, deep in thought)
We have had writer, Dr Bailey Bosch and Illustrator, Cameron Aitkenhead leading the workshops. (Yes, I did say illustrator, and he is very good, but he is also a professional and my online indi-novelette will be below his usual level, which is working for publishers and government agencies illustrating non-self-published books etc.). The whole process of writing a children’s book has been very interesting and well set out. Personally, I have really enjoyed the workshops and the wonderful ideas the locals have come up with. The children’s book will be published in November, 2016. This has been a fantastic local council project, which I am very grateful to be a part of. Of course, I have had a lot more training in writing then others, and so I have taken a back seat (hidden the fact) and tried to be encouraging and supportive to a group of lovely locals who are new to writing and really enjoying the sessions and having a strong input into their area. Many are particularly happy to be able to cross ‘publish a book’ off their bucket lists, or to have a book to read to their grandchildren as something Nana wrote. It has been an excellent initiative and experience.
My poem, ‘Lessons in Enjambment’, which was featured at the 2015 ECU graduate show, has been picked up by UWA press and will be published in print, in their ‘Westerly Magazine’ later this year. Woo hoo!
I seem to be spending a lot of time at the UWA campus this year. Firstly, because my youngest has decided to aim her sites there when she graduates high school. Secondly, because we attended the Perth International Arts Festival in the beginning of the year, and went to UWA to see Emily Rodda give a free workshop. She didn’t show, but we saw another children’s writer instead and enjoyed roaming around the campus for the afternoon. Okay, so I feel like a bit of a traitor going to a rival uni lol! But, if ECU put on writing events I would go to them too. I also went to Curtain uni for the Scottish Bagpipe championships…but that’s another story 😉 I suppose what this is leading to is what will I do next as far as post graduate studies goes.
I should know by now, but I don’t. I am considering staying on and becoming a school teacher, which is a paid job, unlike creative writer, and yet, I live to write. Of course, it is the Holy Grail for a creative writer to be able to support themselves financially through their arts. My mind is going towards becoming an early childhood educator. It involves a lot of creativity, and I would enjoy getting children into reading and writing when they are young. But that means giving up a dream of becoming a writing lecturer. And maybe it was a dream, because I am not seeing many of them continue with their writing once they have their tenures. Well no, that is a bit of a hyperbole. Many play-writers and poets will always put their writing before lecturing, and they are more passionate about their classes and students because of it. And so I keep writing.
Belmont Writers Group
This year, I am able to attend the writers group that I initiated in late 2014. I have written my short story for each month and enjoyed being a part of the well-structured sessions. I thoroughly encourage everyone who reads this to join a local writing group. It’s a lot of fun.
I did very well in my poetry classes last year. Many of those poems have since been sent off to competitions, where none have been placed. This is normal. What would be abnormal would be winning! It makes me grateful for the poems and stories that have been published by magazines. Eventually, all these poems will also find their homes.
On a Final Note
I have had a professional photo taken by my son, Ibby, a photography student. This involved me and my youngest flying over to Sydney for a lovely family reunion with both my sons who live in NSW. I caught a flu immediately, but I think he did a good job with Photoshop (R) in removing my black under-eyes and red nose!
From the author, the ‘lady with all the kids and cats’, thank you for reading, be patient and write on.