Posted in Blog

Why I Support Publishers Who Support Authors From Marginalised Communities

If you’ve reached a stage in your writing career where you submitting your work to publishers you’ve probably noticed that many of them say they welcome or encourage submissions by authors from marginalised communities. Usually it’s only a sentence at the end of the submission instructions. It’s an important sentence.

I am a straight, white, cis woman. While I have experienced racial prejudice I don’t know what it’s like to be judged by the colour of my skin, to not have dolls that look like me, to only see my people represented by stereotypes or in tokenism. I have never had to explain my sexuality to anyone. I’ve never had to argue that my feelings and experiences of my body are real, and that my genitals do not match the person I feel like inside. I’ve never had people from outside of my community take my experiences and, no matter how well intentioned, use them as their own and profit from them.

Publishing is a competitive world. Honestly, getting published is a struggle. But in my mind, letting authors from marginalised groups know that their stories, their experiences and their unique points of view, are not only welcome, they’re desired, is a good thing for everybody. It’s wonderful for readers but it’s also good for writers regardless of their background because it means the playing field is becoming more even, that we are getting closer to equity of opportunity. That if you are a good writer, with a compelling story to tell, regardless of your race or religion or gender or sexuality, there are people out there who want to bring your stories to the world.

And that’s the world I want my children to grow up in.

Posted in Blog

Hello Again!

My goodness, I feel like I’ve been gone for years! Although, to be fair, every day at the moment has the feeling of coming out of cryostasis and finding that world is not as you knew it.

Anyway, I’m back. The kids are on holidays (here in beautiful Victoria) so my teaching duties are done and who knows, I may actually be able to get back to the task of WRITING.

I hope you writing endeavors are going better than mine, that you’re part of the world is as safe as it can be, and that you and the people you love are healthy.

Posted in Blog

One of Those People

I am one of those people. One of those people who doesn’t really know what they’re doing, who’s always looking for the thumbs-up or the gold star to tell me I’m on the right track. It’s not that I don’t have internal motivation to follow certain paths, it’s more that I don’t trust that internal pull and therefore look to others to validate that I’m doing the right thing.

This works well when you’re a kid in school because extrinsic motivators are a big part of schooling. It works less well as an adult when so much of life doesn’t have anyone watching over you and telling you you’ve done well or, conversely, you can find just as many people telling you you’re doing wrong as telling you you’re doing right.

For someone like me, that leads to a life lived in doubt and guilt.

Um…yes!

Are there really people out there that know what they’re doing? They’re adulting and getting it right? REALLY!?

Are you one of those people. And if so, can you give me some tips?

Posted in Tips for Young Writers

Creative Catatonia

Struggling to find your creative mojo? You and me, both. There’s something about a daily diet of infection rates and global death tolls (not to mention the kids being home and constantly hungry) that makes it hard to sit down and make up problems for your characters.

So what do you do?

Here’s three things I’m trying right now to reboot my creativity and get back on track.

Try something new

Or, go back to a hobby you’ve let go. I know, I know, you’ve got to get the words on the page, fight the blinking cursor and push through to get the story on the page. Why? Are you working to a deadline? Do you have an agent or publisher demanding to see the finished product? If you do then good on you, but if you don’t then taking some time to do something creative just for the pleasure of it may help you relax, destress and get back in touch with your creative self. So go knit that scarf, decorate that cake or paint that picture. If you need some inspiration Bluprint is offering free lessons until the 9th of April.

Start a new writing project, try a different genre, or form

Do you always write in prose? Try verse. Give in to your angst or your appreciation of the natural world or today’s current events and immortalise it in poetry. Or put your novel on the back burner and give short fiction a try (I’m always open to receiving two-sentence stories to publish here for Two Sentence Tuesday). Or step away from romance for a while and give sci-fi or contemporary or some other genre a try. Rhiza Edge – the young adult imprint of Wombat Books – have just opened their short story competition. Trying something new might land you in an anthology!

Let it go

Do an Elsa and let it go. Not forever. Not even for the next six months. But we are living through an unsettling period of time, so let yourself breathe and let yourself adjust. When things settle down again and the world returns to normal, and sooner or later (probably later, to be fair) it will, your writing will still be there.

How are you keeping your creative juices flowing at the moment? What strategies could we use?

Posted in Blog

Turn the Pressure Down

Feeling anxious?

Me too.

Anxiety for me is not something new. I’ve mentioned before that I have an anxiety and depression disorder, which I control with cognitive behaviour therapy and medication (I love my medication. For me it has made the world of difference). But in circumstances like we’re in now, anxiety is a pretty universal feeling.

Right now, all I want to do is take everyone I love and put us all in a bubble where nothing can get to us. Possibly a little unrealistic. I said to my (long suffering) husband last night, “We just need to take care of ourselves, and our little boys…and mum and dad, and your mum. And my brothers and sister and their partners. And T1. And your sisters and their families. And Adrienne. And then we’ll be OK.” And he laughed. Because what can you say to that?

Swimming in this anxiety, let’s take a breath. Let’s all try to be our own therapist. You feel anxious, but what are the thoughts that are driving that anxiety. Are those thoughts justified? If so, can you fix the problem right now? If not, let it float for a while. If you can, go do it.

I feel anxious. I’m worried about my children getting sick. Is this justified. Yes and no. Yes, because they have a compromised immune system. No, because children are less likely to develop Covid-19, even if they do contract the virus. So what can I do? I can keep them in isolation for the time being.

I still feel anxious. But, honestly, less so.

And remember, you are not alone. We are all feeling the same way. So try to be calm, be courteous, be compassionate and have courage.

Courage, dear heart.

C.S. Lewis

We’re all in this together.

Posted in Blog

Interesting Times

In one of his books Terry Pratchett says a curse for your enemies is ‘May you live in interesting times’. I’m currently away from my beloved bookcase (and my computer) so I can’t tell you which book right now, but we are certainly living in interesting times right now.

In the words of another amazing author, Douglas Adams, DON’T PANIC.

Right now, panic is our enemy and common sense and compassion are our friends. In Australia right now fear and panic buying has put everyone in a more tenuous position. Panic, not Covid-19, will be our undoing.

Here are three things that I’m trying to keep top of mind in these ‘interesting times’. Perhaps they can be of use to you.

  1. This is not unprecedented. Within my lifetime there has been zika, swine flu and bird flu. In history there has been Spanish flu and, yes, bubonic plague. We are a long way off painting red Xs on our doors.
  2. Compassion and generousity will not only help others, it will make you feel better. At this stage those in the know are saying that it is the elderly and immune-compromised people who are most at risk. The rest of us may get ill, but we’ll most likely be fine. With that in mind, as you scour the near empty shelves for dinner, remember your elderly neighbour or your friend who’s child has astmah or the homeless person on the corner, and ask if there is anything you can get them, so they can avoid going out and meeting with risk.
  3. You are in control. Of how you think, what you say and how you behave. Fear can make us do and say things we otherwise wouldn’t but while fear may be a reason, it’s not an excuse. Treat those around you, your fellow shoppers, the busy checkout person, the harried medical staff, with care and respect.

We are all in this together.

Posted in Tips for Young Writers

Time Management

I’ve written about time management before. There’s no end of ideas out there about how to get more out of your time. So many in fact that I know in writing this I’m adding to the din, but I’ve been trying something new and it’s been working for me. Really, honestly, working for me.

A month ago, I decided that I needed to up my game. Not just in my writing career but in my personal life. In classic Wendy style I headed to the library and picked up a few books. I read them all and settled on the one that really stood out for me, The Five Choices of Extraordinary Productivity from Franklin Covey. I mean the name says it all. Five choices. I make a load of choices every day, I can add another five.

The five choices are:

  1. Act on the important, don’t react to the urgent
  2. Go for the extraordinary, don’t settle for the ordinary
  3. Schedule the big rocks, don’t sort the gravel
  4. Rule your technology, don’t let it rule you
  5. Fuel your fire, don’t burn out

I’m not going to summarise the entire book because there’s so much in it. I do encourage you to check it out, because time management can make a huge difference to finding time to write.

For me, acting on the important (writing, spending time with my kids, calling a friend) rather than being distracted by the urgent (what Jennifer Aniston looks like now, reorganising the spice-rack) has being really helpful. I’m very much a ‘oh, shiny’ sort of person and while that means I notice things that others don’t, it also means that I’m pulled away from meaningful tasks more than I like.

Scheduling those things that are important and getting them done, rather than drowning in the mess of things that “need” doing has also really helped me. In the book they say the first step is to identify if something is important or meaningful, and then to put it into one of four categories – either it’s a task (and goes on a list), an appointment (and goes in your diary), a contact (and is added to your contacts) or a note (and is filed with other notes for easy access).

I’m still working on getting a handle on my technology, but I have to say that I’ve managed to organise my inbox which is really the modern-day equivalent of climbing Everest (I bet all those mountain climbers have overflowing inboxes).

I’m certainly not saying this is the only or best system out there, but it’s a system that I’ve found easy to implement. As with all time-management systems, there is an element of discipline at play. While I’ schedule a walk at 11:30, it’s still up to me to make sure I take it. That said, if you’re finding it difficult to find time to write, it might be worth looking into. And it’s a fairly easy read, so you could probably read it and watch TV at the same time.

Don’t be fooled. There’s always time for TV.

Posted in Tips for Young Writers

The Doubt Demon

Doubt. Everyone, in every job, experiences it. In some jobs doubt can be fatal – ideally your brain surgeon won’t be in the clutches of the Doubt Demon when she looks down on your grey-matter – but in writing it’s only fatal to your confidence.

That’s fine, you know doubt isn’t going to kill you, but it still keeps you up at night and makes your stomach roll over when you approach your keyboard. So, what do you do?

The first thing I do is google such heart-warming phrases as, ‘when should you pull the plug on your dream’ and ‘how long does it take to become a dental nurse’. This is a waste of time but at least I feel like I have options. I can walk away from writing; the world won’t end. There are options out there for me, I’m a capable and multi-skilled person.

Then, I do the useful stuff. I reach out to my critique partners, writers on FB groups I’m a part of and chat with my husband (who gives the best advice). I step away from what I’m working on (which is usually what’s raising the doubts) and look at my other work. Writing both young adult and picture books helps because they’re so different. Young adult tends to be very issue based, where as picture books are across the spectrum from deep issues to light and fun. Swapping from one to the other can help to break the conflict going on in my brain.

You won’t be the first person to doubt their ability, drive or ideas. Doubt is a part of life. God knows I don’t just have doubts about my writing career. I have doubts about everything from parenting to adulting to driving. But it is possible to work through our doubts and, when we do, we’re one step closer to success.

Posted in Blog

NYC Midnight

I’m a big fan of flash fiction. I love writing the stories for Two-Sentence Tuesday (if you’d like to contribute your own two-sentence story, contact me) and I recently took part in the NYC Midnight flash fiction challenge. I had never done a writing challenge before, but I saw an ad for the NYC challenge on Instagram and thought, “Why not give it a go?”

The NYC challenge is broken into four rounds, with each entrant guaranteed to participate in the first two. Entrants are divided into groups and at a specified time (midnight US time) and date you’re sent a genre, location and object that you must include in your 1000-word story, then you have 48 hours to write and submit that story. The top fifteen stories in each group are awarded points – 15 points for first, 1 point for fifteenth. After the first two rounds, the top five entrants for each group move on to round three, while the others are finished for the competition.

I didn’t move on to round three but I did make it into the top fifteen for my group in both rounds, which I was so excited about (and genuinely not expecting). The real prize from participating was the detailed feedback on my writing from three different judges. Although it’s unlikely that I would return to those stories, they highlighted strengths and weaknesses that I see time and again in my longer work.

I don’t know a lot about NYC Midnight, but they seem to offer a variety of competitions throughout the year. I would definitely give it another go, and if you’ve been thinking about entering more competitions, I would recommend looking out for one of theirs.

After all, there’s nothing like a tight deadline to get those creative juices flowing.

Posted in Tips for Young Writers

Gadget-Man (or Woman)

As modern writers we are incredibly lucky to have a wide range of programs and gadgets designed to help us get our stories from our brains and onto the page. No hand cramp for us. Or messy type-writer ribbon. If writing a 90,000-word novel by hand doesn’t make you shiver, imagine editing it by hand. Yikes.

The downside of having all these writing gadgets is know which one to choose, if you choose any at all. There are still plenty of authors who go the pen and paper route all the time.

While I haven’t used all the available writing tools out there, I use WriteWay and Word myself, I do have some tips on things to keep in mind when considering a new writing tool.

1.Ease of Use

Is it user-friendly? Can you get the basic idea of how to use it without having to go through long tutorials? Is it intuitive? Does it use those basic short-cut keys that you’ve grown used to in other apps (ctrl+c, ctrl+v for example)? Is it easy to move text, scenes or even whole chapters, around?

2. Back-up

Does it allow you to easily back your work up either in the cloud or to external storage, or both, quickly and easily? There’s nothing quite like the feeling of realising you’ve just lost half your novel and there’s no way to retrieve it.

3. Cross-Compatibility

Can you export your work to other apps quickly and easily? For example, from Word to Google Docs, or from your particular app to Word.

5. Is it Affordable

Personally, I much prefer to pay a one-off price than a monthly or yearly subscription, but that’s just me. What’s important is that you choose a program or tool that sits comfortably within your budget – writing is one of those fields where the expense of a tool doesn’t directly affect the quality of the work.

6.Does it Address a Problem You Have?

There’s no point getting an app that promises you a distraction free environment, when you don’t have a problem with distractions. Or allows you to divide your work into Acts, when you exclusively write poetry. Apps and gadgets need to make your life easier, otherwise what’s the point?

As I mentioned, I use WriteWay (which my husband bought me right at the beginning of my writing journey) and Word. I’m not endorsing them over any other program, they’re just the apps that work for me and make it easier for me to create. And that’s the most important thing. There’s no point having a whizz-bang app if you’re not sitting down and creating with it.