Friday, July 25, 2014

Avery on the prospect of giving up the dummy

 Why do you like your nunny? Cause I like it. Cause I can bring it to Penny and Olive’s house. I just like it. Write Mummy loves me I love her. 
Is it sweet or savoury? Sweet. Warm. 
Will you be sad when you don’t have a nunny anymore? *Nods.* 
How can I help you not be sad? *Shrugs.*

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Writer's Blog Tour

Thanks to Snazzy Delicious, I mean Sarah Dollard, for tagging me in The Writer's Blog Tour.  I love a bit of fellow-writer sanctioned procrastination. I mean, isn't it great that we are all supporting each other by drawing attention to the community of ideas in which we all dwell? I kind of want to be Sarah now, but I will keep pretending I am me for long enough to answer these questions.

What am I working on?

Horyzons, Latitudes, Meridian, Altitude. I am working at Orygen Youth Mental Health, writing psychological interventions for young people with psychosis and depression and for their carers. Amazing project that came into my life at a time when I was my own wellbeing journey. Now I'm learning a lot about wellbeing and mental health and really enjoying collaboration after being basically self employed since 2000. If you're going to go back to the workplace after 14 years, I highly recommend working for psychologists who specialise in positive psychology. Amazing flexibility too. And super! I am almost old now (40 this year!) and super is a thing. Status: ongoing

The Endsister. Online novel being delivered chapter by chapter on the weekends, published on Storybird. Lots of fun. Ghost story. Several protagonists ranging in age from 4 to middle-aged. Status: My happy place.

80s Dark Pastoral semi-autobiographical political coming of age novel. Great working title huh? Catchy. This is the Bill Henson novel I always sort of wanted to write about art, children, politics, sexuality, the gaze, suburbia, pedophilia and the nuclear (in every sense of the word) family. It is also probably the most personal thing I've written and also the one requiring the most research. Australia Council endorsed: I have a grant to travel to Tasmania to write it. Lookbook here. Status: Mind-mapped. Flights and accommodation booked. Back up at the ready. (Cover me, Alison. I'm going in.)

Also sort of in process (but the opposite of in progress):
The Shallow Drowned: a "New Adult" novel about a girl who works in a childcare centre on an island cut off from the rest of the world who has lost her cat and her boyfriend, goes on night time adventures looking for both, accompanied by the ghost of a girl she thinks might have hated her in high school. Atmosphere up the wazoo, but wha happen? Plan one day to make it part of a crime trilogy about violence against women with a poet-detective protagonist (see, I think poets could make good detectives. Outsider. Observer). Status: Potentially awesome. Abandoned for now.

Old Scratch: a novel about a group of children one new year's eve playing a very scary game who call up an entity called Old Scratch while their parents watching from the porch. Tried to write this as a children's novel but the mum tried to take over. Publisher politely told me it would make a good short story (cry). Plan one day to return to this, maybe as an adult novel. Status: Abandoned for now. Perfect reader, possibly only me.

The Changing Light. A book about two 12 year old boys and their girlfriend (who is a friend who is a girl) who (spoiler) dies. It's really about how young boys becoming men are conditioned by society to respond to grief. It's also just about the sadness of the end of childhood. An idea I've been pushing around for about 10 years, was going to write this after Undine, but then Undine became the first in a trilogy because of reasons. Tried writing it as middle fiction, then YA with flashbacks, back to middle fiction. Status: Argh. 

Phew, are you still reading along? NEXT QUESTION!

How does my work differ from others in my genre?
I am not sure I care! I do think Australian YA has always been different to commercial YA in other territories, more experimental, character driven, raw and real, able to tell an emotional arc without relying on heavy issues or "concept" narratives. I'd be proud to be considered part of that tradition. But some people tell me I'm a grown up writer in denial.

Why do I write what I do?
The short answer is I write to work out what I think about stuff. It takes me a long time. This is why I am not a journalist and probably why I need to wallow around in the long form of the novel. For example, the Dark 80s Pastoral is based on some of my complicated feels about Bill Henson, which I blogged about in 2008. 

How does my writing process work?
Sometimes it doesn't. See above. Sometimes I plan, sometimes I write without a plan. I think I am best with a half plan with lots of space to move around inside. Usually I write from beginning to end, but that wasn't the case with Only Ever Always. Sometimes I write the first page last.

The next novel I write (the 80s dark pastoral) I plan to observe my process with curious compassion and learn more about myself as a writer.

You're it!
So now to the tagging! Two of these tags is sanctioned and the other not because she is on some remote tropical island with a new hairdo. Because of this her penance is being tagged.

I asked three people who are intertwined with three different parts of my life.

Eliza Osborn is a freelance writer turned novelist originally from South Carolina, where she spent her childhood riding horses and reading books. She has lived in Colorado, Florida, and Tennessee (and roamed around southern Ontario, Canada, for a month one summer in high school). Eliza now resides in Youngstown, Ohio, with her daughter (who she homeschools) and her husband. She is currently writing a serialized novel, THE MYSTERY OF DOGWOOD CROSS at Storybird.com

Chris Miles writes and designs things. He has written for the best-selling Zac Power series, and two of his non-fiction books for younger readers — Who’s on the Money? and Stuck on History, both published by Black Dog Books — have been listed as Children’s Book Council of Australia Notable Books. His short fiction and other writings have appeared in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, Materiality, Crank, Antipodean SF, Visible Ink, The School Magazine and the Black Dog Books anthologies Short and Short and Scary. He works as a website designer and developer, and in his spare time he indulges his love of Doctor Who, LEGO®, Dungeons & Dragons and anchovies. He is a dog person (though not literally). Spurt: a balls and all story is his first novel for teenagers.

C. S. Pacat is a friend who I first encountered as a student. She is a rising star who is already famous on the Internet and about to take the book world by storm, having sold her trilogy to a bunch of open-mouthed fannish publishers who clearly love her as much as I do. Because she's on a desert island, I shall let this quote, nicked off Goodreads, stand in for her bio. 

“I like writing that is restrained and invisible. I don't mean that I like things to be simple and easy to decode, the opposite. I like writers who deal with ambiguities, biased viewpoint and subjective truth; I like the writing to be clean but everything behind the writing to be complex. I like to feel that there are things going on in the spaces and behind the lines.” C. S. Pacat.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Storybird: the Endsister

One of the best things about being a writer is that every now and then an email lands in my inbox from an interesting person involved in an interesting project asking if I want to get involved.

Last year, I got an email from Molly O'Neill, who I knew on the Internets, and also through Greenwillow, the US publishers of Undine and Breathe. She had a new job, working with Storybird. I was familiar with Storybird, Martin had an account already and had used it with the girls. It's a site where kids can make their own picture books, using art supplied by illustrators, writing their own text. It's got a really active community and they've done an amazing job with keeping it positive and friendly, looking after their very young users security. As far as social media for young people go, the thing I like about it is that it's centred around meaningful work and creativity. It's about sharing stories, accessing a feedback loop, and creating not in a vacuum but in a community.

Storybird, Molly told me, were rolling out a longform publishing platform that they wanted to test with a few sample authors, some already published and some keen Storybird users. Would I like to be part of an experiment, writing a serialised story that would be published on Storybird week by week? I was invited because Molly knew and liked (shucks) my writing and also because they knew there was a big Australian userbase already on Storybird. And–

Who cares? DID SOMEBODY SAY SERIALISED STORY?

The next step was to sign a non-disclosure agreement. So I have been waiting MONTHS to break this news.

They asked me to pitch an idea. I had a look through my computer and remembered a story I sketched out ages agot. I wanted to write something Fred (11) and Una (8) could read. I wanted to write an old fashioned ghost story and an 'ensemble' type family story of the Noel Streatfeild oeuvre, but also with a contemporary fresh twist like Hilary McKay's Casson series. I wanted the sort of novel I could write to the background tune of family chaos.


After Molly wrote to tell me they'd accepted my pitch (hoorays!), they asked me to choose an illustrator. I pored over the images on Storybird and eventually the earthy, whimsical images by Victoria Usova seemed the perfect fit to the book I was holding in my head. It was funny getting character illustrations from her before I started writing, she helped give me a stronger sense of who they were and how they were connected to each other.



The novel is called The Endsister. (Loyal Eglantine's Cake readers might remember a poem I posted on this site with the same name. It's still there if you want to go looking, but I am not going to link to it because it is ever so slightly spoilery.)

I did quite a lot of thinking and planning before beginning in April, but I've also tried to keep it loose and open. I am writing it week by week, listening very carefully to the chapter as it tells itself in my head, then on the seventh, sitting down and writing in one go. It is the most productive and enjoyable writing I have done probably since Avery was born.

Then I read the chapter aloud to Una and Fred before posting it, which gives me a chance to notice awkward phrasing, or missed words.

Then I press publish.

The story quietly began going up four weeks ago, at the time of writing this post, I've just submitted chapter five to the moderators. There's been a steady stream of readers and commenters, it is both exciting and scary to have access to that sort of immediate feedback and, gulp, data.

They've just launched all the titles officially, here's their blog post about it. So finally I get to tell you all about it!

Please feel free to ask questions in the comments or on Twitter and I'll answer them in a future blog post.


Monday, April 14, 2014

Avery Miles Mrs Jorgensen


1.
My name is Avery.
My name is Avery Miles.
My name is Avery Miles Mrs Jorgensen.

2.
Avery: Servant!
Me: Yes, Master?
Avery: No, I'm your majesty
Martin: Yes, your majesty?
Avery: I'm not your majesty. I'm Mummy's majesty.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Thursday, February 20, 2014

I Three Years Old

Avery and I head off for an evening walk. 
'There's Frieda's house,' he says. 
'Yes, and who else?' We list the names of Frieda's brothers and parents. It seems like a lot of people for one house, the same number we have in our own home.
'I want to go see Frieda.'
I say it's too late. They'll be finishing their dinner, getting ready for bedtime.
We keep walking. I say, 'And a little boy lives in this house whose the same age as you.'
'Who lives here?' Avery says, as we reach the next house.
'I don't know.'
He wants to walk in the gutter. I like hearing him say 'cutter'. We look for kangaroos and see none, but we see lots of kangaroo poo. We hear birds in the trees, singing their sun going down songs.
We walk a while more and turn around to come home. He wants to go visiting. He picks a house and says let's go there. He says, let's go see Frieda.
I say, 'Everybody's having dinner and getting ready for the bed. It's the end of the day.'
He nods. He says, 'is it the end of the story too?'
Yes. I nod. I say, 'It's the end of the story. It's the end of the story of the day.'

Thursday, January 30, 2014

A complete guide to missing

A complete guide to missing
Follow the corner
search the thinking chairs,
open the surroundings
vacuum pets
small children
your boundary
with hopes of a tiny piece of breath,
accept the possibility that it's
high and low, here and there, in and out,
and you've come up with avenues
If you believe your puzzle was never there
rare,
then see
you've already constructed the however.

A "cut up" poem using text from this site.