Writing on, and about, an island

Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

A Week at Varuna Writer’s Centre

In Books, Crime & Mystery Writer, Writing on July 17, 2014 at 3:58 pm

My experience of a week at Varuna, published over at Island Magazine

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Still waters run deep (‘Who is Pufferfish?’)

In Books, Crime & Mystery Writer, Tasmania, Writing on July 31, 2013 at 12:37 pm

I’m a bit late to mention this, but I currently have a crime piece in the latest issue of Australia’s venerable literary publication, Island Magazine.

I profiled Tasmanian author David Owen’s character, Pufferfish (aka Detective Franz Heineken). As if he were a real person.

Interesting assignment… the piece is titled, ‘Who is Pufferfish?’ Australian author Carmel Bird sent me a very nice email about it, which I am enormously grateful for.

If you’re into crime stories, and Tasmaniana in general, I thoroughly recommend you try to get your hands on one of David’s books (pretty hard to find, although I do believe there’s a new book out later this year).

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The ‘commercial writing vs literary writing’ conundrum

In Books, Career, Crime & Mystery Writer, Tasmania, Writing on March 13, 2013 at 8:28 am

I’m about to have a short crime story, “The Wifemaker”, published in Tasmania’s well-regarded Island Magazine (issue 132).

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I’m surprised and pleased to have been asked to submit the story. Of course I don’t think the story is good enough, shouldn’t have been written at the last second (ahem)… and all that fragile-ego writer stuff. But more importantly, it’s got me thinking about the expectations and requirements placed on writers.

Two thought-provoking points:

  1. Am I now a literary writer (Island Magazine is considered a literary magazine; I have never considered myself a ‘literary’ writer)?
  2. Have I now published my first work of fiction (despite writing fiction for magazines, newspapers and books for about 15 years now)?

A couple of years ago, I considered applying for an Aus Council grant to complete a piece of writing. Having worked for more than a decade as an editor, writer, ghostwriter and journalist (being published consistently in my chosen genres), I thought I’d slot in somewhere between the ‘emerging’ and ‘developing’ writer categories (the final one being ‘established’). Apparently not.

The (very nice) grants advisor regrettably told me that none of what I’d done counted. I needed to have written and published serious literary fiction, essays, short stories or poems to even get within licking distance of the emerging category.

As a proudly ‘commercial writer’, it made me question all that I’d done to that point. Did all my training and talent not count?

In my mind, then and even more so now, there is no more rewarding and rigorous training for writers than having to churn out high-quality work to a tight deadline and within a rigid word count – often having to bestow bland, regurgitated material with a new hook that’ll entice readers. It’s such an incredible skill.

Ernest Hemingway was one of the pioneers of taking this commercial training, this style of writing, and applying it to ‘literature’. But the AusCo would not have granted him money to complete his first novel, as he would not have satisfied their criteria.

(And, as an aside, crime writing is a genre that’s notoriously disrespected by the establishment, despite some crime writers clearly being worthy of literary accolades and awards.)

I’ve finished my novel regardless, having always been very uncomfortable with the idea of writers getting free money to write. And I probably could apply for an AusCo grant now. But I won’t be. I don’t like the way they think – it’s predictably outdated and elitist.

There is a group of Tasmanians who are currently in the process of forming a Creative Industries Council for the state, to act as a peak body for its under-represented creatives. I hope that their framework includes space and place for the advocacy of the island’s commercial writers as real writers – those who have the potential to be, or already are, literary writers. There’s a gaping hole here, where the people who fall between being categorised as a straight journo or straight literary writer, fall. Perhaps the establishment simply doesn’t like what can’t be categorised?

So, going back to my two thought-provoking points – am I now a literary writer, who has published their first work of literary fiction? I don’t have the answer to either question.

Writing Crime or Popular Fiction: one-day intensive with PD Martin

In Books, Crime & Mystery Writer, Tasmania, Writing on July 4, 2012 at 1:40 pm

PD Martin

If you’re in Tassie in September, this Tasmanian Writers’ Centre workshop sounds worth attending…

“Blockbuster novelist PD Martin will guide you through some of the major elements of writing a popular fiction novel – genre, planning, research, character development, plot development, dialogue and the all-important writing process. The session will focus on take-home theory and practical tips, coupled with some exercises and workshopping to improve your writing skills.”

Phillipa Martin is the author of five crime fiction novels published in 13 countries. Her Sophie Anderson series has met with international acclaim. Her books are Body Count, The Murderers’ Club, Fan Mail, The Killing Hands and Kiss of Death. She’s also published an ebook novella, Coming Home. You can find out more about Phillipa at www.pdmartin.com.au

Details
Sunday, 02/09/2012 – 10am to 4pm

Meeting Room, Salamanca Arts Centre, Hobart TASMANIA

Email admin@tasmanianwriters.org or phone (03) 6224 0029

Alain de Botton. Advertising. Creativity. And skulls on desks.

In Books, Career, Crime & Mystery Writer, Writing on June 22, 2012 at 5:03 pm

Three things…

My ceramic skull by Tasmanian artist Marion Abraham

1. I have a turquoise ceramic skull on my desk at home. I bought it as a present to myself when I finished the first draft of my book. It alternately creeps me out, inspires me to write about death (something I think about pretty much all day long) AND reminds me to keep perspective (which is important when you’re predisposed to think about death all day long).

2. I work in advertising. That’s my day job. And every big campaign or teeny ad I come up with is arrived at by:

trying to find the truth of something;
the insight that comes from the truth;
the idea that can express that insight;
and then the execution that will catch the public’s eye…

3. After a hiatus, I am restarting my Masters degree next year (I’ve done a third of it so far). I’ll be studying philosophy – which I’ve always wanted to do yet somehow, until now, had felt was not practical or relevant enough for my pragmatic mind…

What do these three things have in common?

This cool Mumbrella post, and [thinking woman’s crumpet] Alain de Botton’s musings on skulls, creativity, advertising and philosophy – that’s what!

Seems I’m on the right track.

Snacks of the Great Scribblers

In Books, Career, Crime & Mystery Writer, Writing on June 19, 2012 at 9:36 am

This clever article was originally in the NY Times book review, but I first discovered it on Sarah Wilson’s blog. I am obsessed with food, so cannot imagine writing slightly starved, like Lord Byron… and I am still learning how much wine I can drink before it goes from helpful to unhelpful.

If you’re interested in a murder-meets-food story, I’ve just added one of my short stories – Death is Served – onto my author site.

Enjoy!

Death is Served: A murder in four courses

In Books, Career, Crime & Mystery Writer, Writing on June 18, 2012 at 4:49 pm

I’ve just uploaded one of my short stories, Death is Served: A murder in four courses, to my author site. Would love you to read it. It involves food… and, naturally, death… and there’s a lot of my ‘olden days’ magazine life behind it.

The story was shortlisted for last year’s Scarlet Stiletto awards – I ended up with a Highly Commended.

I wrote the piece in about four hours, just before the comp deadline – and it serves as a reminder to me (a perfectionist-slash-procrastinator) that you should just ‘do it’. I almost didn’t write the story, and I almost didn’t submit the story. Boy am I glad I did.

Final tally: 30,000 words in 10 HOURS!

In Books, Career, Crime & Mystery Writer, Island Life, Tasmania, Writing on June 4, 2012 at 9:45 am

“Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” – Alice in Wonderland

This weekend, I wrote a massive 3,000 words an hour for 10 hours.
That’s 30,000 words in total, written far faster than I’d expected. The words just kind of spewed out, so to speak – there was no writer’s block or anything.

I am mentally drained, and I can’t quite believe it, but I now have 30,000 words with which to play with.

I allowed myself to walk into this unfamiliar process with an open mind. I had decided that I would not take my finished crime-novel manuscript (Undercurrent) into the writing room with me. What I would do was write freely about my characters and the scenarios they were in, just to see what happened…

Hmm:

  1. Someone died (who I wasn’t planning to kill off).
  2. My main character, Cattis Cull, was accused of something by a colleague and had to be stood down, pending an internal investigation.
  3. And someone turned out to be gay…

Of course, I won’t be using a lot of what I’ve written (or perhaps I will – who knows?), but I cannot tell you how valuable it is to simply sit and write very fast, without over-thinking what you are doing.

Rachel Edwards, editor of Islet Magazine, was an excellent team leader, and hopefully we’ll be doing this again soon.

If you’re interested, here’s another post about the weekend, from one of the Melbourne Rabbit Holers, Little Girl With A Big Pen

Down the Rabbit Hole I Go…

In Books, Crime & Mystery Writer, Tasmania, Writing on June 1, 2012 at 10:34 am

The writing marathon starts tonight, at Hobart’s Salamanca Arts Centre. I’m going to attempt to write 30,000 words in about 30 hours – with a group of strangers. It’s a national thing, and is, like all my favourite things, COMPETITIVE!

We have an exciting weekend ahead of us! Teams in Melbourne, Brisbane and online will be watching the Tasmanian contingent closely! We’ve got a full house with a waiting list – so if you’re having second thoughts let me know early.

Participants in all states and online will be staying in touch via Twitter and Facebook. In these spaces you can update your word-counts as well as encouraging (or dissing) the other teams. If you tweet about the Rabbit Hole, don’t forget to include the #rabbithole and #ewf12 hashtags. To keep in touch via Facebook, join the group here: https://www.facebook.com/events/341870419210286/

Twitter? What’s that?

Anyway…

Here are two of my favourite posts on writing lo-o-ong…

How to Write 300,000 Words in 1 Year by Chris Guillebeau

How to Write a Novel by Nathan Bransford

30 hours; 30,000 words…

In Books, Tasmania, Writing on May 30, 2012 at 9:30 am

This weekend, I’ve committed to locking myself away with a bunch of other Tasmanian writers, and will attempt to write 30,000 words in a marathon 30 hours.

The weekend is hosted by Tasmania’s literary magazine, Island (and Islet: a free online journal of micro works from emerging writers and visual artists, an initiative of Island magazine)… The epic write-fest is connected to the Emerging Writers’ Festival.

Here’s the lowdown:

“We start the weekend at 6pm on Friday June the 1st at the Meeting Room at the Salamanca Arts Centre and that is where we will be spending our writing weekend.
 
Island will supply you with a shared, yet dedicated writing space and some inspiring books. We will have some tea and coffee and cakes and we are working on a special (proper) coffee deal for you. You will have access to the entire range of Salamanca eateries and drinkeries to keep you fuelled for the weekend.You will need to bring sharpened minds and laptops or other writing devices. We’ll have intermittent internet access – bring yer dongles if you’d like.
 
The poets amongst you have asked about spending their time with poems, the novelists, the critics, the essayists amongst us have queried aspects that relate particularly to their practice of writing. The goal is to spend the weekend writing – and writing 30,000 words each. It is achievable – and it is going to be fun.”

And here’s what we’ve been given as inspiration – 9 Books on Reading and Writing – thanks to BrainPickings.

The weekend is going to be very challenging. But I’m going to use the 30 solid hours to write extra for my crime novel. I’m not necessarily convinced it needs the extra words, but I’m pretty excited about having a clear (child-free) run at the opportunity…

I’ll let you know how I go.

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