This is my final newsletter as they are becoming far too long when done on mid-semester breaks. I will be doing shorter, more regular blog posts from now on. Enjoy!
Lost at Curtin University
I can smell the western acacias in Perth’s petrol-pollen mottled atmosphere. Dappled sunlight on my face, cold wind on my body, I inhale wafts of spring as I roam [ok I am lost] around the Curtin University Campus. It is my break time from the lecture hall. No, I am not looking for a new home, I am still, very much, an Edith Cowan University student. But, once again, it is not my university that has put on a writing event. Seriously, ECU’s literary ‘amiss-ness’ does disappoint me and doesn’t do my wonderful writing and poetry lecturers any justice.
So why am I at Curtin University?
The Tim Winton Lecture Hall is packed with people, all here for the Creative Conversations event put on by the China Australia Writing Centre. There are fourteen guest speakers discussing various writing topics. The entire conference is recorded by ABC national radio for later production as well.
Topics range from:
- The novel through time.
- Writing from the heart.
- What is it about crime? (Crime novels)
- Writing that challenges the establishment. (Journalism)
Some of the feature Writers and Poets are:
Kim Scott, Tan Zheng, Alison Lumsden, Lucy Dugan, Nicolas Wong, Isabelle Li, He Jiahong, Leigh Straw, and David Wish-Wilson.
Personally, I think the money ($40) spent on entry was well worth it. There is so much more to learn, and it is events like this that help emerging writers figure it all out. I left with 10 pages of notes about writing processes that were all quite new to me. It did make me realise that three years at university studying writing and poetry is only the beginning. I am, put simply, an undergraduate tertiary writer—and nothing more at this time.
The event was friendly and pleasant. A journalist from the West Australian Newspaper bought me a coffee and made me feel special, in an ‘I am going to write an article on you as soon as your novel is published’ [by a literary publisher] sort of way, as he waited to pounce on one of the featured speakers. Even then, he made an effort to wave at me, now and then, and come over at the end of the session to remind me that he will be interviewing me [one day]. I was extremely flattered, of course, and went home to tell my daughters about it.
The oldest daughter smiled and said, “Geez mum, next you’ll have the paparazzi following you around!”
After a good laugh, I left my ego on the hat hook in the hallway, and returned to my real life: a cup of chicken soup, an outline of a poem, and mountain of homework.
I have definitely decided to continue on with my studies. But, have given up the idea of doing creative writing at a post-graduate level. This will come as a surprise to many, including my recent, past self! My grades are excellent and I honestly thought I would take writing all the way. Even until a month ago I was organising my independent study unit based on the idea of continuing in creative writing at Edith Cowan. But things change…
First, I had some excellent feedback from someone I know, who finished her PhD two years ago and is still working the low paid job she was doing to put herself through ten years of university—because there is very limited work in creative writing. That was an eye-opener for me, especially as I consider her to be an excellent poet.
Secondly, as I come closer to the end of my degree, I am thinking deeply about where to place all this knowledge entrusted to me by my wonderful lecturers. There is a massive amount that I want to do for writing in WA, but it comes from a grass roots level—and I have never been one to keep my thinking inside the box. I’m not sure that a PhD in writing is what I need. A publishing internship might be better suited to my big ideas.
Awards and Publications
You win some, you lose many more:
- My novel, The Night Jasmine, did not make the shortlist in the T.A.G. Hungerford Award. However, that is okay. I do feel the ending is weak and needs to be reworked. I did receive some absolutely fantastic feedback about TNJ though, which was very helpful. I was quite chuffed to see that I knew one of the shortlisted writers, and am very pleased her novel did get the attention it deserved.
- My second novel, The Witch Who Ate Autumn, was completed recently and sent off to a publisher. Unfortunately, it was rejected for publication. That hurt, a little *sniff* but is fine. I do appreciate them getting back to me quickly, rather than leaving me to sweat it out for 6 months.
- The Uneven floor rejected two of my poems.
- Creatrix rejected one of my poems.
Now I could get all down about this. I could sit here crying and wondering why I am a loser. But rejection will always be the norm, no matter how good a writer I am. So, I dust myself off and put my stories/ poems aside a bit longer so I can see them with fresh eyes.
Rejections make the acceptances so much sweeter.
There is no point taking it personally! Publishing is subjective and it follows market trends—which one assumes the publishing company is following.
There are also a few other little behind the scene, unsaid, things about publishing that go a long way to explaining why many good novels get rejected—but I will save that for another post.
- The Westerly did publish my poem ‘Lessons in Enjambment’ and have agreed to pay me for the publication. I will let you all know when that happens, as I have plans to use the money—which isn’t a lot but is not bad—for an exciting little writing project.
- Barnes and Noble and Collins Booksellers have both picked up one of my short stories each and they are now downloadable through their e-Book websites.
- I have become a Goodreads author.
It happens. Sometimes when you send in a submission which a publisher wants, they say in their email that they WILL:
- pay you for your work, then conveniently forget, or offer a free version of the e-Zine instead, which they may also neglect to do in the hopes that you and your friends/ family will buy it.
- give you a free subscription to their magazine, or at least the issue you are being published in, then don’t.
- publish your story in print, then after the contract is signed, let you know it will be in the online version only.
Sometimes they will do one of these burns, sometimes all three at once.
So far I have been burned once before on all these things – by the Dark Eclipse e-Zine. It was only $5US, a print spot, and a copy of the printed mag, but it still left a bitter taste in my mouth. I didn’t receive anything from them, and I bought a copy of the e-Zine so I could see my story published. Remarkably, they still invited me to submit another story for their next feature magazine!
That was a couple of years ago, and I am still jaded by it! Therefore, I have no problems naming magazines that promise one thing and do another once you sign up. Basically, everything they offer you in the initial emails means NOTHING unless it is in the contract right before they go to publication.
A few points:
- Always change the contract they send you right before publication, type in exactly what they promised you in those initial emails and add a date you expect these things to be finalised by. Yes, I know the initial emails might have been a year previous, but you should always keep those emails as a record in your email sub-folder. I do!
- Publically note, on the internet, when agreements are not lived up to. That way other writers don’t get trampled by the same bull.
- Don’t let them get away with it, no matter how prestigious they are—they don’t deserve to be renown if they treat their writers like slaves. No Way! Get right onto them and request your payment.
- This type of ‘If we don’t pay, they won’t ask: because we will never publish them again’ mentality, is rubbish. Personally, if you don’t pay after saying you will, or you make me chase payment, I won’t be sending you my writing again, ever. Which probably won’t affect your bottom line—but writers talk to each other.
- This type of thing also happens to writing clubs who get promised x plus x to do advertising etc.…and then are not paid. Non-payment seems rampant in the writing industry, both commercially and non-commercially, in Australia at least. Please let me know if other countries are the same. OUT a non-payer today. Never shut up and put up with it!
- Finally, be forgiving. Sometimes these magazines etc. are run by disorganised people who mean well, but are really just fluffy perfumed ducks. Be nice, email them politely the first couple of times. They might remember—eventually—to get it together.
The Art of Being a Featured Guest
Very briefly, I learned something interesting this month. Not only does no one want to pay for literary writing (you will not get a hipster to part with his coffee money), those who might ask a writer to attend an event as a featured guest…have very long potential guest lists. If you really want to be their first choice as a featured guest, offer to pay your own return airfare, and tell them you want to donate the money they were going to pay you, back to their group. Trust me, they have very little money to start with, and if they did have money they would be throwing it at the artists they are trying to support by keeping such event going. I promise, they would. However, don’t give up the accommodation, there will always be a couch at someone’s place you will be welcome to crash on for the duration. You might even enjoy the experience—creative people can be fun!
I know, I said it before, many times: Writers should be paid for their work. They are professionals. They have studied for years. No other professional would be a guest speaker for free. And, some of the guest speakers will get paid. But, if you really, really want it on your resume, do it of your own volition. Because let’s face it, until such groups commercialise [yes, I said ‘the dreaded word’] themselves, they are funded by Arts grants and local councils, with poor writers volunteering to pull it all together. So if you want it bad enough, offer to do it for the prestige alone, and consider it your way of sponsoring the Arts that you love. You might as well—it isn’t like the government is going to keep doing Arts grants indefinitely.
What else have I been up to?
Poetry! So much poetry in my life at the moment. I have been attending the Perth Poetry Club events for a couple of months and enjoying listening to all the wonderful open mic poets and guests. I have even stopped writing Tanka and given Haiku a try! I have put aside my sonnets and given Confessional poetry a go as well. Okay, I haven’t quite given up sonnets, I just sent one off, along with a couple of other poems, to the Talus Prize—the only writing event Edith Cowan does put on annually. More news on that in a month.
I stuck my hand up for the position and am now the voluntary Poetry Submissions Manager for the Creatrix Poetry & Haiku Journal! This is a thoroughly enjoyable experience. I love reading all the wonderful submissions and being part of an excellent team of dedicated people. I am learning heaps from this position too! I consider it a mini-internship (not that it has been called that) but I do hope that what I learn from this experience, I will be able to take with me to remote communities to help them in their writing projects. The people behind the scenes are awesome. If you have any poems you would like to submit and are a WAPI member, submissions are open at the moment.
I was also offered another position as a voluntary co-contributor writer for an online Poetry Magazine, writing up articles on poetry events in WA, but turned it down. They were commercial, and as such, I felt they should pay their writers. However, that is just my opinion and I am sure they have many co-contributors who are happy volunteering their writing to them.
Blog vs Newsletter
That’s probably enough of an update for one newsletter. I have quite a lot of writing events on in the next few months and will be updating the blog as they happen. So this will be my last seasonal newsletter. I have updated the blog in the last couple of weeks. I hope you like the new layout. All images are free CCO from pixabay.com
Thank you for reading