Category Archives: Writing

My Writing Day

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Her name is Winter. She’s a Scottish Deerhound. Yes, she’s very tall. Saves bending over to give her pats – she’s already at just the right height.

One day a week. That’s all I have for my own writing. And when I say ‘day’ I don’t mean a whole day, I mean a school day, between about 9:30 and 3:00pm.

Also minus the school holidays. And minus time spent hanging out the washing, catching up on my day job, making cups of tea and procrastinating by playing Tetris. I’m now very good at Tetris.

My routine, on my writing day, is to take the dog for a walk after I’ve dropped the kids at school. Apart from the many therapeutic benefits of the forest, I use the time to decide exactly what it is that I plan to work on that day. I’ve learnt the hard way that if I don’t decide before I sit down at my desk, then I invariably fritter my time away hanging out the washing, catching up on my day job, making cups of tea and procrastinating by playing Tetris. Did I mention that I’m very good at Tetris?

You’d think it would be easy to decide, each day, what to work on next. Maybe it is, if you have the privilege of working on the same thing for multiple days in a row. But when it’s been a week, or more, since I last looked at the manuscript, I find it valuable to be very clear about the task at hand. It’s not at all simply a matter of writing about ‘what happened next’. If only!

Maybe, for example, I want to Read the rest of this entry

Done! For now at least…

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With apologies to those who already know, via Facebook and Twitter – I sent the draft manuscript to my editor at Text Publishing late last week.

Very happy.

Subsequently spent a relaxing weekend in the garden, and celebrating Mother’s Day with my gorgeous kids.

No deadlines, no pressure – bliss.

Next steps? The editor edits the manuscript, sends it back covered in comments and I go back to working on it. And in the meantime I keep following up and trying to source all the images I need.

And yes, the champagne was delicious.

How to finish a manuscript

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Young Woman Writing a Letter (detail), from a poster for Encre Marquet by Eugene Grasset, 1892. Image courtesy Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Well, by not spending time writing blog posts, obviously.

The manuscript must go to the publisher (for editing) in about week, so the last little while has been just a teensy bit frantic.

I kind of finished working on the text a few weeks ago, and since then I have:

  • drawn up a Macarthur family tree (thank you PowerPoint),
  • included a list of NSW Governors from 1788-1855 (eg, in Elizabeth Macarthur’s lifetime),
  • written an epilogue in which I discuss Elizabeth Macarthur’s legacy and her importance to Australia’s historical view of itself (including very brief biographies for each of her children and grandchildren – a sort of ‘what happened next’, if you like), and
  • tidied up and made consistent all the footnotes (now endnotes) and the bibliography.

I’ve also been sourcing images. Naively, I learned upon signing with the publisher that all the images (including copyright permissions, if relevant) have to be sourced and, where necessary, paid for by me. Much daunted, I duly compiled a very long list of all the images I’d quite like to include and then discovered that some institutions are likely to charge me as much as $150 per image. My image list quickly became shorter! Others charge $45.  And still others, like the State Library of NSW, charge nothing for digitised images that are out of copyright. Guess where most of my images will be sourced from…

For those of you who enjoy meaningless statistics, the draft manuscript currently has:

  • 22 chapters
  • 257 pages
  • 121,791 words
  • 842 endnotes
  • 119 works/sources listed in the bibliography
  • and a partridge in a pear tree (not really)

And of course, now that I’ve stepped back from the text, I keep thinking of things to add to it. My haphazard To Do list reads roughly as follows:

  • acknowledgements
  • psychiatrist’s opinion of John Macarthur’s being bipolar (done)
  • rum rebellion – more depth
  • Elizabeth Farm renovation, add letter from EM to her son. ‘The important improvements your dear father mentions’, Elizabeth explained in a letter to Edward, ‘are little other than delusions.’ (done)
  • ‘Quarrels’ chapter – fix it.
  • Banks of Parramatta River – no mangroves! (done)
  • ending, add EM’s comments about collecting sea shells at Bude and her comments re memories of Bridgerule.

Then all I need do is step back and look at the manuscript as a whole and completely revise and … who am I kidding? As a long time promoter of the saying that finished is better than perfect, perhaps I should start practicing what I preach. And I don’t quite have the chutzpah to imagine that I’ll ever achieve ‘perfect’ anyway, so best get the jolly thing off the editor to see what she thinks of it all.

 

HARDCOPY Writing Program 2017

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2017_hardcopytag-279x300HARDCOPY 2017 is now open for applications. The main reason I have a book publishing deal is because of HARDCOPY 2015 and I simply can’t recommend this program enough.

Don’t think too hard about it – just put your application in! Apply here.

Established in 2014, HARDCOPY is a national professional development program that helps build the capacities, aptitudes and resources emerging Australian writers need to reach their potential.

By creating an environment that is educative, vigorous and nurturing, HARDCOPY:

  • helps writers develop their manuscripts;
  • increases industry knowledge;
  • facilitates relationships between writers and publishing professionals; and
  • breaks down the barriers of location and geography.

In 2017 the program will focus on nonfiction project. The program alternates each year, so last year the focus was on fiction. In 2015, the year I participated, the focus was nonfiction.

HARDCOPY does not specifically aim to have its participants achieve publication as a direct and immediate result of the program. Rather, HARDCOPY focuses on (1) manuscript/project development, (2) education about how the Australian publishing industry works, and (3) building connections and relationships within the industry/writing community. Any publication outcomes that may occur because of the program are considered an added bonus.  And yep – I scored the bonus! As did several of my colleagues.

HARDCOPY aims to develop writers who will have longevity as Australian writers.

HARDCOPY is underpinned by the principle of pragmatic optimism: being aware of the challenges, but also being positive about the future.

HARDCOPY is a special initiative of the ACT Writers Centre and funded by the Australia Council for the Arts.

I’ve written about Read the rest of this entry

Stella Prize 2017 Longlist

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the-stella-prize-homeWow – this might be the strongest Stella Prize field I’ve ever seen. Congratulations to all.

This year’s longlisted titles are:

  • Victoria: The Queen (Julia Baird, HarperCollins)
  • Between a Wolf and a Dog (Georgia Blain, Scribe)
  • The Hate Race (Maxine Beneba Clarke, Hachette)
  • Poum and Alexandre (Catherine de Saint Phalle, Transit Lounge)
  • Offshore: Behind the Wire on Manus and Nauru (Madeline Gleeson, NewSouth)
  • Avalanche (Julia Leigh, Hamish Hamilton)
  • An Isolated Incident (Emily Maguire, Picador)
  • The High Places (Fiona McFarlane, Hamish Hamilton)
  • Wasted: A Story of Alcohol, Grief and a Death in Brisbane (Elspeth Muir, Text)
  • The Museum of Modern Love (Heather Rose, A&U)
  • Dying: A Memoir (Cory Taylor, Text)
  • The Media and the Massacre (Sonya Voumard, Transit Lounge).

The shortlist will be announced on 8 March and the winner at a ceremony in Melbourne on 18 April.

As a writer of non-fiction, I can’t help but be pleased to see the shortlist comprises seven works of nonfiction (and four novels and one short-story collection). Great mix of large and small publishers too – including two from Text – huzzah!

This year’s prize is judged by author and academic Brenda Walker; author and literary critic Delia Falconer; bookseller Diana Johnston; editor and chair of First Nations Australia Writers’ Network Sandra Phillips; and author and screenwriter Benjamin Law.

The Stella Prize is presented for the best work of fiction or nonfiction by an Australian women published in the previous calendar year. The prize is named after Miles Franklin, whose first name was Stella, and was inspired by the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction.

The people you meet…

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Given that writing is such a solitary act, I had no idea how many people I would meet in the process of writing my book. And what wonderful, friendly and helpful people they would turn out to be.

Mr John BoudenIn England, when I visited Elizabeth Macarthur’s birthplace (a tiny village in north Devon) I met Sheila Cholwill, her husband Colin and her good friend Rose Hitchings. For two days they showed me around, fed me, introduced me, and generally just made me feel extraordinarily welcome.  Octogenarian Mr Bowden showed me through St Bridget’s church (where John and Elizabeth Macarthur were married) and then rang the church bells for just for me!  That’s him holding the enormous key to the church.

Online I discovered Read the rest of this entry

People Watching

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State Library of Victoria. Source: wikicommons

State Library of Victoria. Source: wikicommons

The grassy forecourt of the State Library of Victoria is a lively place where people gather to rest, eat, play and observe.

At a recent writing workshop (which I will write more about in the days to come) we participants were asked to spend fifteen minutes observing someone, and writing about them.

One woman wrote about two children playing chasing games.  Several wrote about a pair of chess players. Another described a kiss in telling detail.

No-one who knows me (my lovely husband least of all), will be surprised to learn that I focussed on a good-looking tradie. Here’s what I wrote in fifteen minutes, unabridged and unedited. Be kind.

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So handsome.  So confident. Sleeveless shirt to show off his solid guns, his single sleeve of ink. A tall and fine young man with dark skin and a winning smile. His flouro vest gives him status and credibility – is he with the buskers or just an enthusiastic listener?

The long-haired blonde girl beside him is less enthusiastic although he’s trying hard.  He chats and weaves and grins but her legs are firmly crossed away from him and before too long she shakes his hand (she shakes his hand!) and walks away. He watches her go, on her long slim legs, and ruefully lights a cigarette.

Was she resentful of his flirting, of his intrusion into her lunchtime space? Or, once safely back at her desk, will she spend the afternoon with a secret smile, flattered and charmed and electrically self-aware.

Five minutes pass, maybe ten, and the young man continues to listen to the buskers. Then he turns to the next girl to enter his orbit – dark hair this time, in a stylish bob – and he begins again to charm and flirt…