They Call it Chick Lit with Anita Heiss- @AnitaHeiss as the cool kids call her #writensw

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My first writing course of this year was with Dr Anita Heiss at the New South Wales Writers’ Centre and it was fantastic. The energy that she brings to a room is as impressive as her credentials. And with 12 books to her name and a PhD in Communications those credentials are pretty darned impressive.

But what am I thinking, if I have learned one thing from The Australians obituary for Colleen McCullough it’s that I should mention her appearance straight up. So forget about Dr Anita Heiss’s credentials for a moment, she has spectacular calves. I have to say the best calves I have seen on any lecturer. Now I don’t want other lecturers getting all uppity with me complaining about how this isn’t fair because I haven’t seen their calves because they always wear long trousers, because quite frankly I can only physically objectify what I can see. So if your calves are so magnificent then put on some shorts damn it and I’ll mention them next time, like all reputable journalists do. I also saw some rather impressive deltoid action as she hefted a sturdy table over head to set up her room. Oh yes, she set up her own room. She set up her own room in a killer pair of heels. Books, awards, PhD, internationally recognised and setting up her own room. Must admit I was slightly aghast and let out a little squeak, ‘Let me help you,’ but she was already pretty much done so all I did was pop two chairs out and put some props on tables.

As for the actual course. It was fun, it was informative and it was practical. Anita took us through her process for writing – synopsis, character profile, chapter break downs, research, writing, editing, and celebrating – and took us through activities for each. Well not the celebrating one, but Anita, should you ever like to have a vino, call me. I won’t go into detail for each one because… well… to be honest… that would kind of be cutting Anita’s grass. She is good enough to do talks and workshops for up and coming writers, giving back so to speak, so for maximum benefit you really need to attend in person.

Although I will not share all the ins and outs of Anita Heiss’s course I am willing to share the first 2,000 words of the project that I am currently working on. It is a first draft, and I must confess that I am one of those cheeky buggers that doesn’t edit until I’ve finished the complete first draft which won’t be until mid Feb, so there will be plenty of typos, spellos, grammos, wrongos and nonos. Just take your editing hat off, sit back, relax, and just enjoy the ride. We can spoon afterwards.

What happens in Book Club…

It was over. We all stared at each other in awkward silence. The dirty deed had been done, empty wine glasses sat on the dingy bar table between us and we did not quite know how to move forward from this point. There needed to be empty shot glasses lined up as far as the eye could see for the women in the book club to be able to meet each other’s gazes again.

‘I think now that Fifty Shades is done we should cleanse our loins with a classic of some sort,’ Selene finally broke the silence. She was the leader of our little book club. Bright red lipstick, slick black hair, if she would just wear a short black dress instead of business suits she would fit right in on the set of a Robert Palmer video.

‘I think about a year of strong women is in order’ Mac agreed vigorously. Her face was almost as red as her hair. She dabbed absentmindedly at a wine stain on the frilly long sleeved blouse she was favouring of late. It must be another pirate phase or failing that Shakespeare?

The rest of us still just stared at our hands too embarrassed to look at one another. Some had flicked through and only read the sexy bits, desperados; some had flicked past the sexy scenes, prudes; and others had stopped reading because the sentence structure made their brains hurt, snobs. Either way, Fifty Shades had stirred up something inside of us that nobody wanted to name or discuss. Our book club was usually so boisterous that we disturbed other patrons. Thank God we knew how to drink, otherwise we would have been far too much bother. Instead, we were welcomed each month. Well, at least our wallets were. However, that once a month shrill disturbance at the Longie had been practically a whisper this evening. We should have drunk more wine. All that was on the table between us was a few empty glasses and E. L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey standing erect, it almost seemed to glow and call out to people, ‘Look what these naughty girls have been reading.’

‘So Pride and Prejudice?’ Selene asked.

There was a general murmur of agreement before everyone but Selene, Mac and I fled the scene.

‘Well that was awkward,’ I finally found words.

‘No shit, Gwyn,’ Mac slumps back in her chair and drains the remains of her seventh wine glass.

‘What was up with you?’ Selene clearly does not have a bad case of loving me this evening. ‘We rely on you to say inappropriate things at poorly positioned moments to lighten the mood.’

‘I wasn’t feeling it today,’ I mumble. To be honest after reading about a lot of sex I didn’t want to talk about it, I just wanted to go out and have it. However, as a boring schoolteacher, reading about a bunch of erotic sex was about as close as I was going to come to… well… cumming.

‘I’m feeling something.’ Mac has managed to un-potato sack herself and is sitting bolt upright, breasts stuck out as if attempting to push their way out of her pirate shirt into her attended targets hands.

‘You were quiet tonight ladies,’ the barman flashes his perfectly white teeth at us. As he collects our glasses, he pushes a strand of blonde hair away from his eyes. His electric blue eyes run a warm current up my spine. ‘I missed your laugh red.’ Mac dissolves into giggles on the spot. ‘Yours too red.’ He is looking at me. I feel like I am being struck by lightning as he focuses the full force of his charisma on me.

‘She isn’t really a red head,’ Mac throws water on our moment and it fizzles out. ‘I am.’ Dear God, are her breasts growing.

‘I’m sure I’ll find out one day,’ he flirts back, then walks back to the bar leaving Mac with a wink to keep her warm.

‘He’s so hot,’ Mac swoons back into her chair hugging her wink to her chest.

‘He looks like a lost Hemsworth brother,’ I sigh.

‘Forget that!’ Evidently Selene is still not happy. ‘You better bring your A Grade Ditz routine next month. Those bitches rely on it to make them feel good about themselves.’

‘Sorry,’ I frown at my hands. Selene rolls her eyes. ‘I’m just horny,’ I confess.

‘We’re all bloody horny,’ Selene explodes. A silver fox businessman at the bar looks over at us. ‘Get a bloody vibrator.’ Hemsworth from behind the bar stifles a giggle. This is not my day. Selene sits for a while fuming until she finally calms down. ‘Sorry. I’m just frustrated. We’re only running this book club so that we can find out how women think and write a book for them but tonight we got nothing! How does that help me get published? I’m just so frustrated. I want to write Fantasy, but nobody wants to publish fairy stories, so we try to write something people want but the people aren’t speaking to us. It’s just… I mean… I’ve gotta head,’ she kisses Mac and I on the forehead and says, ’emails tomorrow girls,’ and then vanishes.

‘I’d like someone’s head,’ Mac drools. She has somehow managed to get her hands on her eighth glass of wine whilst Selene and I argued. It is going to be a long night.

*          *          *

‘Did Hemsworth see me throw up?’ Mac is looking at me with such pleading eyes as I strap her into her taxi that I find it within my heart to lie to her.

‘No.’

‘Did he see me trip over?’ Yes, it was at that point that he called you a cab.

‘No.’

‘Good.’ Mac smiles for a moment and then starts to cry. I smile sympathetically at the driver before standing up, closing the door, and rapping the taxi on the roof to let him know he is good to go.

I stand back, breathe in the fresh night air, and stretch out my neck after the strain of carrying Mac to the cab. I can’t be mad, half the time it’s me. The North Sydney Street is practically empty at this time of night. Wednesday nights are not known for their wildness in these parts. I am sure Coogee would be off the hook right now but it is nice and peaceful here. I need a taxi of my own but it could be a long while. A miracle, a yellow glowing beacon comes swinging around the corner like a golden gift from the Gods, hooray, I am saved from waiting for hours for cab never to arrive and eventually walk home. I go to put my arm out to wave the taxi down but I am beaten. The silver fox from the bar has just exited the bar and already has his arm out waving down the taxi. What an arse hole. The taxi pulls up and he opens the door then pauses and stares back at me. He has the most amazing blue eyes that I have ever seen, his perfect lips break into a grin and he calls out to me,

‘Care to share a cab?’

I do not know where he is going but I do know that this is probably my last chance for a cab and so going a few minutes out of my way to drop him off is probably worth it. Besides, there are worse ways to spend an extended cab ride than gazing at that perfect mouth. Then again, my mother did tell me not to get into cars with strangers. Well I guess that decided it then. I nod enthusiastically and charge forward.

*          *          *          *          *

I stare out at a sea of bored faces. Fifteen-year-old boys and girls sitting slumped in their chairs as if I am their cult leader and have just given them a spiked “communion.” Me teaching Geography is definitely one of the signs of the apocalypse so there is probably some truth to this metaphor.

‘I’m bored,’ whines a girl wearing more eyeliner on her melon than I actually own.

‘Well of course you’re bored,’ I respond with a sniff, ‘this is Geography, I’m not a miracle worker.’ The class giggles in response. Always a good idea to humour the teacher.

‘Seriously Miss, this is so stupid, when am I going to have to know about costal management?’ Eyeliner questions me with a pout from her highly glossed lips.

Mental note: bring sunglasses to class, gloss is back in, big time.

I try not to let out a sigh. I felt the same level of What the fuck is happening to our society? when I was asked why we had to study The Removalists last week, because apparently domestic violence just isn’t an issue anymore. I take a deep breath to calm myself so that I avoid giving an impassioned speech that will only proceed to alienate the student, a feat I did not manage last week, and proceed to attempt to meet her needs in a way meaningful to her.

‘Tell you what,’ I bargain, ‘we get through all our work for the week today and we can watch an interesting show instead of working on Friday.’ Ah, the evil genius of the teacher, using media and celebrities to make points that our lame selves cannot. They will get educated quite happily if I tell them they are not learning.

A general murmur of agreement comes from the class and the previously roofied class turns into a class on speed. It is my turn to slide down in my chair in a rohypnoled state. I stare at the clock. I have an important email date with the girls at 3:05pm. It is important, it is tradition… its habit. We always have an email catch-up at 3:05pm. It is the one thing I can rely on. I may spend my rent money on shoes, I might forget my own phone number, I might even forget I’m a non-smoker and have a few cheeky cigarettes on a big night out… okay, a few packs, BUT, I know that every weekday, like clockwork, I will have a flurry of emails from the girls at 3:05pm. Easy for me, it is the end of my school day, but how the girls manage to schedule it in everyday is a miracle to me. A miracle that I am not question. I am just thankful that my high flying Executive Assistant pal Selene and my Banker buddy Mac can make time for a cretin like me.

TICK

The minute hand moves from 3:03 to 3:04.

‘Okay guys, time to pack up.’

A flurry of noise and activity erupts that makes me believe that perhaps I have just announced the end of the world. This may explain why the students are constantly bringing stashes of food to class.

‘Remember to put your chairs up on the desks,’ I yell over the thundering storm.

‘Miss,’ a tall boy, I always have to remind to take his baseball hat off, complains as he does every single week, ‘No other teachers make us do this. It’s so Primary School.’

Ouch, the ultimate insult. Unfortunately, I happen to like cut and paste, and glitter.

‘Yes, and that’s why I’ve got the cleanest floors out of everyone,’ I dutifully give out my standard response. ‘If you make it easier for the cleaners, they’ll treat you right.’ I finish it off with a wink and the lanky boy blushes a bit. Oh dear, another one. I will have a week of being stalked followed by months of being called a lesbian. Oh what fun. I hope that he is more creative in his toilet graffiti than the last kid. A picture of a stick figure with enormous boobs with my name written next to it is just so last week.

The bell goes and without awaiting any instructions, the students run for the hills.

I open up my laptop. Our group email has already started.

Selene: How’d you end up?

Mac: Drunk, but thankfully managed not to embarrass myself and got home in one piece.

Selene: Sure you did.

Mac: Seriously I did. Ask Gwyn.

Me: I had sex.

Selene: We need to meet now.

Mac: What the fuck?

Mac: Bullshit!

Mac: You lie!

Mac: Yeah we need to meet.

Mac: The Usual?

Mac: Come on guys, you’re killing me. The Usual?

Mac: 5pm?

Mac: Guys!!!!!!!

Selene: Chill out Mac. It’s been like 5 fucking seconds, not everybody types as fast as you do.

Mac: Shut up mole.

Selene: Game on mole.

Me: You’re both moles. See you at 5:30pm.

Mac: Fine. 5:30pm. You better be on time.

Mac: None of this 154 minutes late shit.

Mac: *15 minutes

Mac: Any details to share in advance?

Mac: Who was it?

Mac: Did I speak to him?

Mac: Guys?

Selene: See you at 17:30.

Mac: You girls suck!

*          *          *          *          *

Anita does have some Chick Lit writing tips publically available on her website that you may find interesting https://anitaheiss.wordpress.com/2015/01/08/some-tips-for-writing-chick-lit/ I highly recommend reading them. But I also recommend going to her courses. She is so fresh and invigorating that you will come away inspired and ready to embark upon some new challenges.

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12 responses »

    • Thanks. I couldn’t help but reference it. I think I just about fell off my chair when I read it the first time. I am clueless as to why her appearance was referred to at all and in such a bizarre manner.

    • July! I am coming out in July! I am a bit excited! Although it is an elaunch so that may involve me simply drinking Passion Pop from a brown paper bag on a park bench rather than something fancy. But hey, if you eat cheese cake on the 4th of July stop and pause and think of me. I shall message through a PDF to you once the big edit is finished.

  1. Very entertaining! How do you plan your novels? I plan out each chapter but get stuck at certain points. Also, I obsessively edit. How do I avoid that? I am working on my third novel but this is my first for adults. The way zi am going, it may be my last…

    • Ah planning. I generally get an idea in the form of a story and a main character so then I really just sketch it out. But I find Kate Forsyth’s narrative arc excellent for fine planning http://www.kateforsyth.com.au/kates-blog/writing_advice_the_narrative_arc I essentially put zero words at the bottom left, then whatever my projected end amount is at the end and that helps me know where to put the different events. Of course it still leaves room for creativity because you can always think of things and add them but it just means I have a tighter structure for first drafts. Means less structural editing. I was actually shocked with how effective this was for cutting down on editing. So would highly recommend it.

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