It’s day one of my give-me-holidays-or-I’ll-quit visit to the Adelaide Writers’ Festival, and so far it has been great! On a sunny day worthy of the last day of summer, and with the occasional falling leaf to remind us of what season begins tomorrow, I was lucky enough to hear Audrey Niffenegger (The Time Traveler’s Wife, Her Fearful Symmetry) speak. Audrey is refreshingly normal, very entertaining and gratefully not hung up on genre.
Today the festival has taught me how important it is for a writer to also be a confident speaker. Many people in the audience will not have read the authors who speak, so the fifteen minutes at the podium is essentially the closest a writer gets to a ‘coming soon to a cinema near you’ type ad. Those writers who make you laugh, or bring a tear to your eye are the ones who will be making sales in the book tent. Today, for me Jim Crace is the author who made me laugh, made me nod my head as if he was speaking directly to me, and made me want to hear a lot more from him. So I have no idea what he writes, but you can guarantee I will be reading it soon.
So I guess I’d better get to work on my public speaking skills, or at the very least expand my repertoire of jokes beyond what’s long, brown and sticky? A stick.
Until next time, happy writing!
This weekend I went to the launch of Foz Meadows’ book Solace and Grief. Foz is part of my writers group, SuperNova, and it was fantastic to be a part of her magical moment. It was also wonderful to see so many of the group there to lend support. There is a perception out there that writers are guarded, jealous types, but my experience had been exactly the opposite.
My group are always willing to share ideas of how to improve a story, alternative ends, where its weaknesses and strengths are, and even suggestions about markets to which I might be able to sell it. This sort of information will never come from friends or family members no matter how well read they are. I won’t lie, some of the ideas people have for my stories are so out there or way off track for where I want to be going that I will just smile politely and nod as they go to a very dark place indeed with my poor, innocent protagonist, but other times they point out the tiniest change that can turn a good story into a great one.
I have often committed the sin of sending out a story before the group has seen it, and it has promptly come back, rejected. Then it goes to the group and becomes so much better than it was, but I have already burned the intended market for the story by sending it out too early. It only takes a little while to learn this lesson (oh, about five years) but it is well worth learning.
So I guess my advice for new writers this week (besides keeping up that visualisation) is to get yourself into a writers group if you are not already in one. And don’t be disheartened if you don’t like the first one you go to. Groups can be very different, some are big back-patting, and some people need that. Some will rip even the finest story into bloody pieces and leave the writer emotionally battered, but that too is perfect for other writers. Try them out, and if possible get an introduction, that way you can find out if it is the group for you.
And remember, when it is finally your turn to launch your book, no matter how much they might have criticized it, cut it to pieces and re-written it, it will be your writers group who will be first in line to buy your freshly published baby. Because they, more than anyone else you know, will understand what you had to go through to get to that point, as well as the enormity of the next part of the journey; selling it. So find a group and be prepared to share, it is the only way to learn.
Now, back to WriMoFoFo, only one week to go and I’m very far behind…
I don’t think I am doing this visualisation thing quite right. Do you picture a contract, or the email where they ask you for your book, or do you see the actual book itself? Perhaps you visualise the people lined up out the door for a signing? Or maybe you see yourself in the house of your dreams sitting in the library you have always wanted (with archaeopteryx on one wall and books lining the others) plugging away at your computer as you work on that next book.
I tried them all, but in doing so I felt like I was giving mixed signals to the powers that be. Having said that, perhaps it is no coincidence that this week I got a ‘hold’ request for a story. A hold request means someone likes your story, but they don’t want to buy it just yet. Often it is happens when a submission deadline has not yet closed or co-editors are working on something together, so other stuff might still come in and bump the story.
I know that sounds negative, but the truth is it is very exciting, something akin to when that first lotto ball falls down and it is one of your numbers. You haven’t won yet, but you certainly haven’t lost and you are a lot closer to winning than a lot of other people out there. And that is exactly how it feels; close to winning. To know you piqued enough interest that they think it ‘could’ find a home in their anthology is such a warm feeling.
So from now on I will add visualisation to my weekly task list, but unlike the ‘cleaning my wardrobe’ task, it will be one that I actually do.
Until next week, my friends,
The other day, while driving through the city, I pulled up to a set of lights behind a taxi. All at once I was struck with the unerring knowledge that it was about to pull into the turn right lane and block the intersection. As the seconds ticked by nothing happened, yet my gut feeling was as strong and clear as when you watch a Hollywood blockbuster and know from the opening scene that the male and female leads will end up in each other’s arms by the end, no matter how unlikely.
Just before the light turned green a woman dashed through the traffic and leapt into the backseat of the cab. You can guess what happened next; the right-turn indicator came on, he rolled forward so that half the taxi was in my lane, the other in the right turn lane, and he effectively blocked the road.
Was this a flash of latent psychic ability that, like all of us, I long ago learned to ignore or better yet, repress? No, methinks not. I think it was the secret at work. I must have sent the message out to the world that I wanted that taxi to block my way and the universe was obliged to grant my wish.
Naturally this begs the question… Why do I ask for traffic impediments and not publishing contracts? If I knew the answer to that there would be shelf space with my name on it at Borders and I wouldn’t be suffering Sunday-night-itis at the thought of going to work tomorrow. The power of the mind is truly an awesome thing, so shouldn’t I be working out how to turn this energy to work for me?
My task this week is to spend twenty minutes a day working on the power of positive thinking. Just knowing I didn’t have ringworm seemed to work a treat; it’s one week on since my last post and I’m now officially scab-free. So will I be able to think my way to a publication? Let’s see, one can only try…