Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Gifts of Writing

It's my birthday later this week. People keep asking me what I want for my birthday, but to be honest, I don't want all that much. I'm a writer, so I like writerly things. So what are some things you could buy a writer friend for their birthday? Here are some suggestions, and for all the writers out there, here are some ideas you could give to your loved ones when they ask you what you'd like for your birthday:

1. Vouchers. Namely for bookstores, but I'm sure some writers like vouchers for stationary stores too.

2. Books. Buying your writer friend the book they really want to read but don't have is always a nice gesture and it saves them the trouble of buying it themselves.

3. Books. Again. If there's a book you think your writer friend might really like that they haven't read yet, gift it to them.

4. Notebooks. If your writer friend likes to draft longhand, or carry something around in their backpack/handbag for jotting down ideas, or if they're a visual thinker and like to have something to physically draw mind-maps etc. on, cute and awesome notebooks of all shapes and sizes with fun and colourful covers might be an ideal little gift. Leather-bound/moleskin covers are really cool too.

5. Sticky-notes. Not just ordinary sticky-notes, but cool and quirky sticky-notes. This is especially for if your writer friend is a visual thinker or likes to jot down little ideas and reminders for later and stick them all over their writing space. Exciting sticky-notes with smiley faces and pretty pictures are always great.

6. A proofread. I think I saw someone suggest this as a gift before on another blog, but if your proofreading skills are decent, most writers will agree that it doesn't hurt to have a second pair of eyes go over your work, or at least a part of it.

7. A combination of the above turned into a sort of mini-hamper. Especially if there is a group who want to get a present for someone. Everyone put in a little bit of money to get a few little things that make something big and special.

Earlier this year, I was watching the Game of Thrones television show as the new episodes of season 3 aired. One of the guys I've become good friends with through my course hinted that he was going to get the first book of the A Song of Ice and Fire series for my birthday, because I NEED to start reading them.

On Monday, I was presented with a large slab of something in colourful wrapping paper. It did not look like a single book, nor was it from just that one friend. It was a collaborated gift from six of my writer friends...

My academic success is over. I have been provided with the ultimate distraction. 
And this was the card they gave me.
People have been saying to me all year that I look like Daenerys Targaryen
or at least Emilia Clarke (the actress). I don't see it, but I'm not complaining! 
I love having other writers as friends. Like, seriously, THANK YOU SO MUCH to the six beautiful people who contributed to that amazing present. You guys are the best. Ooh and the poster of Westeros and the Free Cities that came as a freebie in the box-set is now up on my wall. I'm a very happy birthday girl. I love you guys!

While I'm on the topic of A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones, I have been DYING for an excuse to share this video with my fellow bloggers and I think this might be the opportune moment. WARNING: anything ASOIAF/GOT related is bound to contain strong violence, course language, and sexual themes, but this is funny so you should watch it anyway.

Have you received any really awesome writerly presents? Have you read any of the A Song of Ice and Fire books? Thoughts on the Game of Thrones Ultimate Birthday Rap Battle? 

- Bonnee.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Writing Spaces: Getting Published

Of course the week they decide to do something that wasn't on the programme was the week that I couldn't make it to class on account of a job interview. Oh yeah, I got a job interview for a job in the library next year. I also got the job. Fingers crossed that'll go well. But yeah, the job interview made me miss the lecture, and then the lecture wasn't about what it was supposed to be about. It was supposed to be about digital media, but instead we had a guest speaker from the Australian Society of Authors talking about some of the inner workings of the publishing industry.

What I didn't realise was that lecture recordings this trimester, or at least for this particular lecture, was audio only due to copyright issues. Which royally sucks, because half of the lecture was the guest speaker referring to charts and lists and whatnot, which is a little useless when you're only listening to audio. So although I listened to the lecture, a lot was going way over my head, much to my dismay. 

Nevertheless, I am here to share as much as I can of things I have learned. 

The first thing the lecturer stressed that we needed to be aware of as writers is what's going on with reading and books. That is, who is buying and in what mediums? Who is reading and what are they reading? Who is not reading and what is not being read? There are trends and fads in the literary world all the time and it is our job as writers to keep up with them, make them, and break them.

We need to know what different mediums exist: not just books, but also ebooks, magazines, and journals. There is a whole digital and online market on top of the hard-copy books and physical bookstores. Writers need to determine which mediums suit their creations best and which mediums suit them best. This is also where the choice between traditional publishing and self publishing comes in.

Who are the players in the writing and publishing business? Obviously, there's us, the writers. Then you've also got the publishers, the agents, the editors, the booksellers, and everyone else who lies somewhere in between. In Australia, we've also got the Australian Society of Authors, who help negotiate better terms and conditions for us and help deal with government issues around us. I'm going to guess there are probably similar organisations in other countries.

Writers need business skills, or somebody who does to help us. Some of these skills include knowing how to read the book market, understanding your market and yourself, knowing why you're writing and where your writing fits into your market, and where you are getting your income from.

The note about income is a relevant point to linger on. It is hard to make a living just of writing books and you're pretty amazing if you manage it, but the bottom line is that not everybody can do it, especially not right from the word go. From your writing, you'll get income from advances and royalties, and possibly from grants, fellowships, Public Lending Rights, Educational Lending Rights, Digital Lending Rights, copyright agencies, teaching, and public speaking. Depending on how well your writing is received by readers, this may or may not be enough, and it's not uncommon for writers to have other jobs and means of income, whether it still be publishing-industry related or a job from a completely different field.

What else do we need to do? We need to gather info. This can be done by subscribing to journals, reading in the library, researching online for example on the websites of organisations like ASA, and going to writers festivals and conferences. It is important to do our industry research. Find out who is publishing your genre, who is taking unsolicited manuscripts, what their editorial guidelines are, and remember to only send what they've asked you for. Know who your competition is and what makes you different from them and learn how to talk to people. Gather your resources, know how to talk to agents, publishers, editors, maybe even accountants and lawyers. Get serious about your professional development. Know what your rights are. Overall, just make sure you how know to make the most of being a part of the writing and publishing industry.

As for the publishers, they are looking for new material and new voices. It's a risky job for them, even when they're dealing with pre-established authors, but once they've found someone they think has potential they will invest in them; understand them, their writing, their market, and how they perform in public. A publishers job is to form a list that represents what their house stands for, and this is why it is important that writers know what publishers are looking for, because at the end of the day they will make a decision based on commercial value and potential.

I really wish I'd been able to see some of the charts and lists the guest speaker put on on the screens. It sounded like there was some interesting information and statistics there, but I think this post is long enough now, as much as I would have loved to share more with you. Sorry if a lot of this read like dot-points.

Have you got any tips and tricks for getting published, or some insight on how the publishing industry works? 

- Bonnee. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Writing Spaces: Exegesis and Theory

I want to first of all apologise to everyone for the sudden inundation of new posts from me this past week or so. Not only have I recently had a lot to tell you about, but I also fell behind in making the re-caps of the Writing Spaces lectures and I really wanted to catch up on them.

As a part of our next assignment, Writing Spaces students have been asked to hand in a creative piece (both a first draft with workshopping notes and a final draft) and an exegesis. So our lecturer thankfully decided that he should probably explain to us exactly what an exegesis is, especially in relation to writing and what we've been asked to do for our assignment.

Exegeses are self-analytic critiques and reviews of the process of how something, in this case our creative writing piece, was produced, or an explanatory note of discourse. They can be done in the form of a video or in writing. An exegesis comments on and/or seeks to explain one's own creative work. They can often be found in books in the form of a preface, introduction, apology, foreword, afterword, author's note, or footnote.

This is the example video on YouTube that we were shown in the lecture. (Had trouble embedding the video to the post for some reason... sorry!)

An exegesis can be used to explain the writing, the creative processes, and the methods used. It can also be used as a way of providing guidelines for readers by giving them relevant information about the research that was done for the story, relevant information about yourself as the author, creative strategies, and as a chance to discuss issues around the work. This is where an author can explain their motives and reasons for writing, their doubts, successes, and difficulties, and general advice on how it would be best for the reader to approach the work. Basically, an exegesis is written in the hope of providing a better or more informed experience for the reader by focusing on what you as the author think is especially important for the understand of your work (e.g. your creative process, your diagnosis of your own achievements, or your understanding of your own motivation).

A good exegesis contains astute critical thinking, and an understanding of: the context of your creative piece; techniques/strategies; your field and others in your field; decisions you made as you created; and your work overall. It could also contain perceptive research and investigation of the issues that were significant to your piece and into the workings of your own mind, emotions, practices, and methods.

An exegesis is theoretical in the sense that it creates insights that can be used to think about other works as well as the one discussed by its creator. I say creator here because exegesis and theory is not limited to the art of writing. It is theoretical because while it is more than a hypothesis of how something was made, it doesn't go out of its way to state or explain the obvious.

So this is going to be an interesting assignment, seeing as my creative piece is a creative non-fiction recount of writing my W.I.P KATHERINE and is in a way an exegesis itself, and I have to write an exegesis on that... hmm.

Have you ever written an exegesis? 

- Bonnee.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Melbourne Writers Festival: 'Verandah twenty-eight' launch

So a couple of weekends ago, I went to the Melbourne Writers Festival event for the launch of the Deakin run literary journal Verandah, which was releasing it's 28th annual edition. I got to explore the inner workings of Federation Square to locate the venue. That was interesting. Eventually, I found the place and I made it there on time and had a bit of an adventure and plenty of fun along the way.

I stumbled upon the event 'Words On The Square' in my search. Giant outdoor Scrabble, yay!

The Verandah launch ran for around 40 minutes and it was a nice first experience. I've never been to any sort of launch before. A few of the people who had taken part in assembling this years edition spoke, one of the girls did a live music performance, the artwork that is featured in the journal was being played in a slideshow, and a couple of the lucky people who had something published in the journal had a chance to read their piece. It was a really nice environment! (Except for that guy who quite obviously only came for the free food and ate very loudly and messily for the entire event... he smelled really bad too.)

So after the formal part of the event was over and it was down to socialising and just celebrating, I got myself a copy of the new edition of Verandah and headed over to Flinders Street Station, just across the road, planning to catch the next train back to my hometown (I hadn't been home for a few weeks). It was a Saturday, and as I got to the station, I realised I'd looked at the Friday timetable and had actually just missed my train. As in, I saw it leave as I walked into the station. Oops! Double checking the timetable, the next rain wasn't for more than an hour. So what did I do for the next hour? I wander around Melbourne and take random photos on my phone! Yay!

St. Paul's Cathedral
There were police cars and stuff randomly going past in a hurry when I was taking this one. Also, for some reason, whenever I see St. Paul's Cathedral in the dark, I half expect to see Batman crouching somewhere up there, watching over the CBD. 

Flinders Street Station
I did a lot of loitering around here. I didn't want to stray too far from the station in case I missed the next train too, or in case I got stabbed. 

The Yarra River and Southbank
This photo was taken from the bridge on St. Kilda Road. I kept feeling like I was going to accidentally drop my phone into the water or something stupid, but I wanted you to see all the pretty lights! 

Southbank and the Eureka Tower
More pretty lights! And the tall building up the back is the Eureka Tower. 

Yarra River and the bridge on St. Kilda Road
I stood on that bridge to that the previous two photos. I'm pretty sure I nearly got stabbed going down to the river's edge to take this photo... 

More pretty lights!
Can you guys tell that I love pretty lights? 

Eureka Tower (again)
Aaaaand then I legged it back up to St. Kilda Road and went back to Flinders Street Station, because there was a real stabby sort of vibe down by the water's edge. I'll have to take another adventure in the daytime with more photos to share with you all. 

On a different note: the poem I had published in the Deakin Writers Club magazine last month can now be read on Goodreads. Check it out :)

Been to any launches lately? Ever played giant out-door Scrabble? Had a random adventure around Melbourne (or your own local city) recently? 

- Bonnee.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Writing Spaces: The Novel

The Writing Spaces lecturer usually splits a single topic over two weeks, building on what we learned in the first week during the second week. But the lectures on prose fiction were split a little differently. The first week, which I re-capped in my last post, was about short stories and flash fiction more than anything, and the second week, which I'll cover in this post, was dedicated to a form I think more of you out there reading this will be interested: the novel.

In the lecture, we talked about some of the qualities of a novel. It's a form of long prose fiction which is capable of exploring every type of plot, in many different styles and genres. It has the capacity to cover every imaginable subject matter from all points of view. This writing space appeared with the print revolution and has developed since then into the most diverse and commercially used forms of literature. Today, a novel has the freedom to explore multiple conflicts and complex issues and themes in depth, which is something that cannot be done as successfully within the constrains of shorter prose.

The novel that we studied for this particular part of the unit was The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy. I haven't finished it yet, but none of my assignments are going to be based on it so that's okay. I'm determined to finish it though, as I firmly believe that it is one of the best books I have ever read. I'm only a quarter of the way through and so I won't say it's because of the plot or the characters, though so far I love them too. What I love most about this book is Roy's ability to surprise me over and over again on every page by the way she phrases things. There are so many moments, moments I wouldn't have even considered, that could have been written in cliches, but the descriptions in this book are so incredibly unique that it makes me want to keep reading and never stop. I can't wait to finish reading it.

Writing a good novel takes a lot of hard work. There's finding and developing a substantial idea for the novel, and then there's putting in the hard yards to writing out that first draft. Then there's looking over your first draft, seeing it riddled with cliches and unnecessary dialogue, among other things, and having to redraft it. And redraft it again. And again. Until you are satisfied that it is good enough to start showing people. I mean people who matter, like agents. Especially agents. If you're lucky enough to get an agent, then there's all of the redrafting and editing they'll make you do, and all the editing and redrafting you'll have to do to please the publisher if you make it that far.

Basically, editing and redrafting is a lot harder and more time consuming when you've got a chapter length novel that's tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of words long, than when you're doing the same thing for a short story. Novels require a long-term commitment. Maybe this is a big part of why some people consider short stories the inferior 'easy' way into publishing. (I am not one of these people. I love a good short story as much as I love novels. This is just food for thought and whatnot, so no hating.)

What are some of the best novels you have ever read and why? 

- Bonnee.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Writing Spaces: Prose Fiction

My Writing Craft/Writing Spaces folder, under the
Wordly: August Edition, my glasses case, my new
copy of Verandah twenty-eight, and The God of
Small Things
by Arundhati Roy. 
First of all, I huge apology to the people I normally follow for my recent absence! Assignments and whatnot piled up and while I've had plenty of things to blog about recently, I haven't had the time to. Now that I've got some free time to catch up, I'll tell you a few things you'll see in future posts:

  • Melbourne Writers Festival event: the launch of Verandah twenty-eight, the 28th edition of the annual Verandah literary journal published by Deakin University.
  • A review of Verandah twenty-eight
  • Writing Spaces: The Novel (although it falls under the 'Prose Fiction' category, it was given a lecture of its own)
  • Literature and post-colonialism 
  • A review of The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy 
  • Writing Spaces: The Exegesis and Theory
  • The 'ressie writers group' I have officially started
  • How I felt about the first creative assignment I had to hand in for Writing Spaces (including workshopping it a few weeks ago), and how I'm feeling about the second assignment. 
  • The Deakin Writers Club Wordly: Space edition 
Not necessarily in that order, and some of the topics might be combined into one post. But I'm pretty excited to get you guys up-to-date with the events of the past few weeks. But for now, on to Prose Fiction!

The writing space of Prose Fiction includes the novel, novella, short story, and flash fiction, but the first lecture was mostly focused on the shorter forms and not the novel. These shorter types of Prose Fiction can generally afford to be more radical and experimental than the novel.

The short story is an older form of story-telling than the novel, but it has received some heavy criticism, such as being simply a starting-point for writers who then go on to write novels. I disagree with that, as there are short stories that are capable of outshining some novels and some authors who write predominantly in the form of short stories, if not completely. I love writing short stories! Another criticism short stories have received is that of being outshone by the even shorter form of flash fiction. There also seems to be a ratio problem between people who want to write short stories and people who want to read them. It seems more readers are inclined towards novels despite the numerous writers who adopt the shorter forms, though I personally love both forms.

But what makes a short story? Or rather, what does a short story make? A short story makes a deep and thoughtful comment on the culture and our experiences of it. Not only this, but it also makes our experience of the culture strange to us and then re-explains it. At least, this is how the lecturer explained it and I think it's a brilliant answer.

I guess what makes a short story does also need to be considered. While short stories generally follow the same rules as a novel, there is more strictness in some areas and of course, a smaller word count. Short stories begin quickly, in the midst of an experience, and use only a limited number of characters and scenes. Our lecturer advised us to start as close to the end as possible and deal with only one major issue or problem, giving just enough necessary detail and allow for suggestive details too.

This all made me stop and think about the short stories that I've read and how much I love both reading and writing short stories and flash fiction. My personal favourites are Love and Honour and Pity and Pride and Compassion and Sacrifice from the collection The Boat by Nam Le, and of course Super-Frog Saves Tokyo from the collection after the quake by Haruki Murakami... actually, make that all of the short stories in the Murakami collection, they were especially amazing.

What do you think of short prose fiction? What are your favourite examples of it? Do you prefer to read or write it? 

- Bonnee.

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