Category Archives: fiction

Be what you wanna be. Do what you wanna do. Read what you wanna read. Yeah!

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You know what I am tired of? The need for articles coming out in defense of Women’s Fiction, Speculative Fiction, Genre Fiction in general. Every day my newsfeed has multiple articles on this phenomenon, and sadly, they are still needed. For some reason people just cannot seem to get the point that we do not live in an English classroom where book titles are dictated by necessity so that knowledge and understanding can be tested in a standardized way that the government requires. In real life people can read and enjoy whatever they want… AND WHO THE HELL ARE YOU TO TELL THEM THAT THEY CANNOT!

Sorry guys, I know I went all caps there. It got scary, I was even a bit scared of my own emotions but this book shaming is really starting to get my goat. And if there is one thing regular followers of this blog know, it’s that I don’t like anyone looking at or touching my goat, let alone taking it. Don’t make me go all Liam Neeson on your arse over my goat. I have a terrible Irish accent and nobody will benefit from this scenario. Now let’s get back to the heavy stuff. You’ve had your levity break!

This morning a picture captioned “A call for respectful discussion of Fifty Shades of Grey – It is okay to and welcome to criticize a book. It is not okay to be a terrible person” was on my newsfeed. Yesterday an insightful article by Marian Keyes entitled, “Please can we stop saying ‘chick-lit'” caught my attention. For the former here’s what I have to say, love it or hate it, you have no right to dictate to someone what they enjoy reading. I love reading James Joyce. People often tell me I am a shameless wanker and that Joyce is likewise a wanker and hence we should just die in wankerhood together. It isn’t going to stop me loving James Joyce. His writing just really sits well with me. As does Julian Barnes. It doesn’t matter what you say, I will continue to love them, and read them and reread them. And although I quite happily debate the merits of Barnes and Joyce with people and am fine with people not loving them, when people resort to name calling and put downs it’s a bit much. Those people are poo poo heads, yes I get the irony. Same thing with Fifty Shades, lovers, if it vibes with them, if they enjoy it, if it gives them a moment’s escape from their lives, go for it. Love it, read it. Get inspired, go read more books, yeah! Go ahead, don’t like Fifty Shades, criticize it, but when you start being nasty to people who like it, well you’ve lost the argument, you’ve lost respect, you’ve lost yourself.

As for Marian Keyes plea – please stop saying Chick Lit, I both agree wholeheartedly yet disagree at the same time. Does Marian Keyes, hate chick lit? No, of course not. Is she saying it sucks? No, of course not. Is she pointing out that the term is used as a put down? Yes. Is it a put down? Yes and no. The term Chick Lit is often used by men and women alike, to put down works that focus on women. Novels in this genre tend to have successful female leads, with professional ambitions and a quirky group of friends, add to this a man often comes along and catches the lead characters eye. Then things of course get complicated, job goes to shit, fall out with friends, love interest goes all skewwhiff, then the strong female leads, pulls herself together, gets her groove back, gets her job back, gets her friends back and then the cherry on the cake, last of all, gets her man. Sounds a lot like real life, professional woman + career goals + crazy friends + a bit of romance. Hardly something that should be put down. I mean people rave about the Bronte sisters. They write about the same stuff. “Oh it is just silly fluff, about love,” you hear people say. Yeah, because love is just so stupid. Having meaningful connections is just ridiculous and would never happen in great literature. Dickens, Shakespeare, Virgil, none of these dudes would ever write about silly love stories. To be honest, typically in Chick Lit the love interest is actually the icing on the cake. Don’t get me wrong, frosting is important, I like me a big chunk of butter cream. If I have the choice between frosted or unfrosted… well let’s just call me Elsa. But the female lead tends to have to sort out her career and friends first. That is the priority, it’s not that the love interest doesn’t get a lot of the word count dedicated to them, but the priority, the first things first, goes to career and bat shit crazy friends. Where would we be without out friends? How could we pay rent without our job? It’s a bit realistic isn’t it? Sure it gets mashed up with wit and humour but there’s a lot of deep stuff in Chick Lit, but there is a lot of truth and tragedy included. So why put it down? The answer is quite simply, because we live in a society that trivializes women and their experiences, and for women to get ahead they almost have to turn on their own kind. The bagging of the term Chick Lit is simply a manifestation of that. So as far as I can see you can call it whatever you like, Commercial Women’s Fiction, Women’s Fiction, Chick Lit, Clit Lit, Vagraphy (okay I made that one up, I just wanted to use vag somewhere for my own amusement), the same issue will arise. People will put it down. People, what a bunch of bastards. Hopefully society progresses, that’s what needs to happen, and we are getting there, but until then, no matter how many terms we throw at stories for and about women, they will get trivialized. They’ll sell, because us bitches be smart and good with the books and the learning and stuff, but it’ll be marginalized.

Whoa. Robin, what just happened? Did you just go all overt feminist on our arses. Yeah, I kind of did. Commercial Women Writers tend to do that. Sorry. We give you plenty of shits and giggles, but we give you a message too. Let’s just take a deep breath and hug it out.

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Prepublication: What Happens in Book Club…

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As those of you who have read my ABOUT section will know it states that this blog is – “The works of Robin Riedstra unedited, unchecked, unkempt and totally untamed. Read them if you dare travel through the grammatical jungle.” So I thought I should give you a sneak peek at roughly the first 5,000 words prior to editing. Typos, grammos, and the occasional just plain wrongo, all there. I think you’ll still have plenty of fun reading it. Will post a link when the editing is finalized and the book is live on Amazon.

What happens in Book Club… is unashamedly Commercial Fiction for Women. I am a woman, I write stories that I’d like to read. So if you hated all things Bridget Jones, Pride and Prejudice, Devil Wears, Jane Eyre, Confessions of a Shopaholic, Wuthering Heights, and Sex in the City… For the love of your sanity read no more! What Happens in Book Club… opens at the end of Gwyn’s book club’s meeting about Fifty Shades, it is awkward to say the least and the women decide that they need a year of classics to cleanse their minds. But unfortunately this doesn’t help Gwyn, who now seems to see sex and sexy sexing in every text she reads. Mr Rochester, Mr Clerval and Mr Bingley never looked so good… and so bad. 😦

Warning: Contains a sexy silver fox and my love of my hometown Sydney is very apparent. Think of it as Sex in the SYDNEY. Lol.

What happens in Book Club…

Bookclub cover websiteIt 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, and dark brown eyes. 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 Fifty Shades 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 in the middle of them. It almost seemed to pulsate 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.’

‘To be honest after reading about a lot of sex I don’t want to talk about it, I just want to go out and have it. Just a lot less rapey.’ Unfortunately, as a boring schoolteacher, reading about a bunch of erotic sex was about as close as I was going to come to… well… cumming.

‘Perfect. Why didn’t you say that?’ Selene challenges me. ‘It would have opened up a whole lot of conversation.

‘I don’t want to talk about sex with those women!’ I am utterly aghast. ‘They’re old enough to be my mother.’

‘Actually,’ Mac has apparently appointed herself as my fact checker, ‘only seven of our members are old enough to be your mother.’

‘I just wasn’t feeling it today,’ I mumble into my hands.

‘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 intended target’s 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.

‘First week back at school,’ I purr. Every man has a sexy schoolteacher fantasy. ‘Those kids are running me ragged.’

‘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.

His tractor beam shifts from me to Mac and she meets it head on with her laser green eyes. Ugh, of course she will win. Damn those green eyes. All I can shoot back at him is a poor imitation of his own, much more spectacular, blue.

‘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. Your weird humour always makes them open up. And that is what we are here for. Info.’

‘Sorry,’ I frown at my hands. ‘It’s Maureen’s fault.’

‘She wasn’t even here’ Selene rolls her eyes at my seemingly poor excuse.

‘Yeah, but she’s so wild. She would have put a firecracker up this evening’s arse… and… well… 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,’ Selene is clearly still unimpressed with my excuses.

Hemsworth from behind the bar stifles a snicker.

This is not my night.

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 what women want so we can write a great book, 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. This should have been a slam-dunk. That book was so popular. They should have been gas bagging away like nothing else telling us what worked. But no. 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. The tip of her delicately upturned nose is already starting to turn a far too merry shade of pink. 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 this 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 cannot be mad. Half the time it is 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 walking 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 decides it then.

I nod enthusiastically and charge forward.

*          *          *          *          *

I stare out at a sea of bored faces. Fifteen-year-old boys and girls are 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 than I actually own.

I want to yell at her, ‘It’s only the first week back, how can you be bored already? There are no boring subjects, just boring people!’ But I do not.

‘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 coastal management?’ Eyeliner questions me with a pout from her highly glossed lips.

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

Mental, mental note: I love gloss, buy more… and put some glitter on that list. And tampons, ugh, my lower back is killing, I’ll be needing them soon.

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 year. Apparently, domestic violence just is not 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 year. I still remember the parent phone call after I had reduced their seventeen-year-old daughter to tears with current domestic violence incidents in the news. Making kids cry is not cool. I 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 chat date with the girls at 3:05pm. It is important, it is tradition… it is habit. We always have a chat 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 that I am 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 going to 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. Always better to be safe than sorry.

‘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 off his baseball hat, complains as he no doubt will every single lesson, ‘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, so would make a most excellent primary school teacher.

‘Yes, and that is why I have 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 season.

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!

*          *          *          *          *

When I arrive at the Usual, Selene and Mac are already sitting at our usual table. Nice and close to the dark timber bar and a high table with high stools so we can semi stand and not have our thighs go all squidgy on the seats. It may be our Usual but we are not animals, we still want to look hot. Just not actually utilise that hotness to its full potential. Mac is tapping at her wristwatch with a frown whilst Mac is staring meaningfully at the ornate, silver watch hanging around her neck. I am only five minutes late but clearly she and Selene got here early in anticipation. How did they get out of work early for this? Why did they get out of work early just for me?

‘Sorry I’m five minutes late,’ I say dumping my over-seized beige, faux-alligator skin handbag on the corner of the table.

‘Seriously, you’re the first one to get off, how can you be the last one here?’ Mac is not happy with even a five minute tardy. Selene comes across as the uptight one but deep down it is Mac. She adjusts her frilly pink blouse and squints those green eyes at me. I swear she knows her eyes are special so she uses them as a weapon as much as possible.

‘Apparently she was the last one to get off,’ Selene smiles into her wine glass. I laugh in return. Sensible Selene is here customary black business suit. How many of those things must she own? At least one hundred and fifty.

‘Oh shut up you two,’ Mac is frustrated. ‘So, details? Who was it? Was it Thor?’

Ahhhh, now it makes sense, she is worried that I have been getting my hand on the God of Thunder’s hammer.

‘Come on, spill.’ Selene as always is simple, direct and to the point.

‘Ladies, chill, at least buy me a drink before violating my privacy.’ Two sets of eyes stare at me. One set green, the other brown, but identically unimpressed. ‘Okay, at least let me buy myself a pint before you start in on me.’

I spin to get up and nearly clash with an unfortunate looking bar tender.

‘Hey Gwyn,’ he is like a puppy, practically panting, ‘a customer ordered a pint and then decided they wanted something else, so I thought I’d bring it over to you. I know it’s your usual.’

I thank him for his generosity but assure him he really should not put himself out on my behalf. He stares at me with big cow eyes, which let me know that it is far too late for that.

I turn back to Mac and Selene.

‘We need to find a new Usual.’

‘No,’ there is no arguing with Selene. ‘You made your bed, now you lie in it.’

‘How is this even my fault?’

‘You shouldn’t have flashed him,’ Selene responds flatly.

‘But I was drunk, it was late, we should have moved onto a new location by then. I clearly remember saying that we should leave. I know that you never stay at your local to disgrace yourself.’ I plead.

‘I’m more interested in hearing how you disgraced yourself last night,’ Mac butts in, ‘and with who.’

‘Do you remember the Silver Fox?’

Two heads shake no at me.

‘There was a hot older business man, really good suit, amazing smile, dimples? He was there with a bunch of other suits, and stood at the bar.’

I am met with shrugs.

‘Well, him.’

‘So, not Thor?’ Mac asks.

‘Not Thor,’ I respond slightly frustrated. ‘Mr Grey.’

‘What?’ Selene is looking at me incredulously.

‘You know, like in the book.’

‘Oh my God!’ Mac is staring at me aghast. ‘You didn’t read the book. He doesn’t have grey hair.’ Not reading the assigned book is Mac’s equivalent of swearing in church. I am a little stunned by the attack.

‘I know,’ I raise my hands trying to placate her rage, ‘I read it.’ She is still glaring at me. Clearly, she does not believe me. ‘I just thought it was a funny play on words. And he was all hot and businessy and we’d just been reading about all hot and businessy so I thought…’

‘Why not fuck an old man?’ Selene interrupts bluntly.

‘He wasn’t old! He was one of those just going silver guys, still young and fit.’ So fit, so hot, strong body, abs that you could carve a mountain with, so fucking hot. Hard body pressed up against me, lips mashing, tongues touching, hands gliding along skin, hot mouth running along my neck, hands clutching at my thighs, buttocks, lips teasing nipples.

‘Are you still with us?’ Mac is waving her hands up and down in front of my face.

‘Sorry, I was just having a flashback.’

‘A flashback?’ Selene is frowning at me with her WTF face. ‘You went to war last night? With the Grey Man?’

I nod slowly and my crotch twinges at the memory.

‘Sexnam,’

‘Sounds intense,’ Mac is leaning forward, eyes bright with anticipation for details.

‘I’m now suffering from PTSD, Post Tremendous Sex Desire.’

‘That’s hot,’ Selene says.

‘That is hot,’ Mac gives a confirmation on that.

‘He really loved my hair,’ I can still feel his hands running through my hair. ‘He said he has a thing for gingers.’

‘You’re not a real ginger,’ Mac’s rebuttals come virtually automatically these days.

‘My hair might be fake but my orgasms certainly weren’t.’

‘Orgasms?’ Selene picks up on the plural.

‘Oh yeah, multiple orgasms.’

‘I need a vibrator,’ Selene always knows just what to say.

An Irish backpacker sitting behind us swivels around with his best attempt at a suave grin pasted onto his sweaty face.

‘Ladies, have you ever heard of an Irish eight-pack…’

‘No!’ Selene’s word is final.

*          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *

‘Have you read it?’ Mac is looking at me accusingly over my pint. She seems to be attempting to coordinate her drinks with the colour of her bronze sequined top. A new level of fashion obsession even for Mac. Is she into disco now? I have only just got used to her pirate princess look.

‘Read it?’ I am slightly offended, ‘I’ve taught Pride and Prejudice!’

‘So you’re definitely prepared to speak at tomorrow’s book club meeting?’

‘Of course!’ Our routine, pre-book club, book clubs are not usually so hostile. ‘Why are you getting so sassy? Save your arguments for the Longi. We don’t want to taint our usual hang out.’

‘By flashing our tits at the barman?’

‘It was my bra!’

‘Settle down girls,’ Selene has had enough of our bickering. ‘They should be thankful to see Gwyny’s B cups. But, to be totally honest, you were awfully quiet last month. It kind of stuffed up the whole vibe of the evening.’

‘I’m sorry. I was just embarrassed. I already told you, I just didn’t want to discuss sex with those women. They’re old.’

‘Too embarrassed to talk about it but not too embarrassed to fuck about it,’ Mac spits out.

‘Woah, what is your problem?’ Sure Mac is feisty, and she loves our book club, but this is ridiculous. ‘Have you got your period or something?’

‘Ohhhhhh,’ I can see Selene shrink down as if she wishes to duck for cover. If it is true it will snap Mac right out of it, if it is not, there might just be a catfight in our Usual.

‘That is so insulting,’ Mac sniffs loudly then breaks into a grin, ‘but yes I do.’

I nod understandingly and we touch hands.

‘Let me get you a nice Sav Blanc and we can talk about Pride and Prejudice further.’

‘You going to bang a Darcy this month?’ Mac asks as I am walking away. I shake my head and laugh. She is too cheeky sometimes.

I sidle up to the bar. The middle aged bar manager puts a pint in front of me. I may be just a tad too predictable.

‘I’m grabbing a drink for Mac too.’ He slaps a white wine next to it. Well, at least I am not being predictable on my own. ‘I should get one for Sel whilst I’m here.’ He stares at me, no automatic response for Sel. She seems more strict and proper than Mac and I but deep down she must be the wild one. After all, she even changes her drinks. ‘I think she’s favouring dirty martinis this evening.’ He raises his eyebrows at me and I cannot resist winking at him, ‘That’s right, dirty.’

When I return to the girls the bar manager is still blushing.

‘What did you say to him?’ Mac asks indignant.

‘He does have grey hair,’ Selene says. ‘She probably put the hard word on him.’

I snort loudly as I try to repress a laugh. One fuck a month ago and they are still banging on about it. We need to get laid more often.

‘So?’ I ask, getting us back on track, ‘Do we love it or hate it?’

‘Love the idea of having a good shag with a sexy businessman,’ Selene helpfully answers.

‘But not with the bar manager at our Usual,’ Mac responds.

‘I know, don’t shit where you eat.’ I am resigned to the fact that we are not going to be doing our regular pre-bookclub discussion this evening. I will be needing a lot more pints.

‘Or flash your tits at your food.’ Mac does not miss a beat.

‘Okay. But is it alright if from time to time I flash my bra at a side salad or something?’

‘You do what you need to do to get us free drinks,’ Selene says with a wink. ‘Meanwhile, I’m not feeling Darcy.’

‘Me neither,’ I agree, ‘but you can’t say that. The ladies will flip. Particularly the older ones.’

‘I’d like me a slice of that Wickham,’ Mac is bobbing on her seat as if she is grinding to sex music. ‘He’s a bad boy but you know he’d be good in bed.’

‘What about poor old Bingley?’ I ask, ‘He’s a nice guy.’

‘He’s totally whipped!’ Selene nearly spits out her dirty martini in horror. ‘Seriously if he was alive now he’d be living in his parent’s granny flat with his tragic sisters.’

‘No.’ I shall defend my sweet natured Bing. ‘He’s a good boy, he’s just a bit Cinderellee.’

‘That’s not a word,’ Mac interrupts.

‘Oh, it’s a word!’ It should be a word. ‘He’s all dominated by his wicked stepsisters.’

‘He doesn’t have wicked stepsisters.’

‘I’m using creative license!’

‘Whatevs,’ Selene says flatly, ‘he’d be a fumbler in bed.’

‘I think Mrs Bennet gets a bad rap,’ Mac muses thoughtfully. And with that, we are back on track. No more sex talk, no more teasing over silver foxes with strong arms, pulling me into him, my nails digging into his broad shoulders, spreading my legs as wide as I can eager to have all of him inside of me.

‘Sexnam?’ Selene is staring at me, Mac is nowhere to be seen. ‘Mac was so engrossed in her thought about the novel she failed to notice you’d departed.’

I start guiltily.

‘Has she gone home?’

‘No she’s just gone to the can.’

‘Sorry.’

‘It was that good, huh?’

‘Yep,’ is all I can utter in reply as my vaginal muscles contract as if searching for the Grey Man’s cock.

Selene pats my hand sympathetically.

‘I really do need to get a vibrator,’ Selene says as if thinking aloud.

Mac comes rushing back across the bar looking really excited.

‘Girls, I have had the best idea!’ Her face is flushed with her own brilliance. ‘Instead of hiding the fact we don’t like Darcy, how about one of us admits to it. You know, get the ladies really fired up. Add some spice to our meeting.’

‘Great idea,’ I nod. ‘Last month was so quiet that we could use a good shake up.’

 

How Not to Communicate with Publishers

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How Not to Communicate with Publishers

In my time I’ve done a lot of writing courses and gone to a lot of writing seminars/festivals/workshops. I’m not just saying that to brag, I’m going somewhere with this. Because of this extensive training I have become a bit of an expert on what publishers don’t want. Me, would be a simple yet hilarious answer, and however crushingly truthful it might be, it would not help any of you good folk. So below I have collected all the insights I have had revealed unto me by publishing house reps and published authors alike.

How Not to Approach a Publishing House Representative

  1. NO GLITTER! Don’t put it in envelopes, don’t glitter bomb them in passing, don’t offer them glitter lip gloss. These people fucking hate glitter. No surprise really, glitter is the herpes of the craft world. I have three kids and I can tell you, that once you get that stuff on you then you may very well never get rid of it. I have probably accidentally glitter bombed countless people because I can never guarantee that my hands are glitter free. If you want to get published do not come into contact with young children or parents of young children, they are riddled with glitter.
  2. In addition to the whole no glitter thing, I would suggest that strip-o-grams, fat-o-grams, kiss-o-grams, or indeed any kind of o-grams are well out. I’ve never heard publishers despair at length over them as they do over craft herpes, but I suspect they wouldn’t like them much either.
  3. Do not write – “Well, well, well, as if this isn’t your lucky day. I’m about to give you Dan Brown mixed with J. K. Rowling with a side of Stephen King and a spicy E. L. James sauce drizzled over the top. If you pass on this little puppy I’ve got in my hot little hands you will literally kill yourself. That’s a scary thought, but you will. That’s how good this script is.”
  4. Do not say – “Yo, bitch, stop being such a lefty, leso, femmo, right winged, Nazi, bitch and read my script. You might not like it because you’re such an uptight frigid slut, but other people will love it. Then we can roll about in a hot tub full of money together. Call me, you’ll thank me for it later.”

How Not to Deal with Rejection

  1. Do not say – “Fuck you, fuck your sales team, fuck the marketing department, and fuck the work experience kid. Seriously, fuck you all. I hope you get sent a chain status update on Facebook that you get cancer if you don’t pass on.”
  2. Do not email – “You are an idiot. I am going to be the biggest thing ever and you have missed out. I’m going to make J .K. Rowling look like a destitute hooker begging for favours in Gateshead, and you’re going to miss out. Suck on it losers.”
  3. Do not voice message – “I never liked you anyway, so get lost. You smell like a butt.”
  4. Do not write – “Jesus Christ, I can’t believe I got rejected by even you. You’re like the arse end of publishing. I only submitted to you because I’ve been rejected more times than Danny DeVito at a sex party. If I can’t get anywhere with you I may as well load a shotgun with deep fried chicken and shoot it directly into my mouth.”

Suggestions on How to Deal with Publishers

  1. Oh, I don’t know, maybe treat them like they’re hard working individuals, with a busy job, and respect their privacy. Don’t try to corner them in the bathroom/elevator/shower.
  2. Submit your manuscript using the submission guidelines provided on the Publishing Companies Website. If they ask for a 200-300 word synopsis, give them one that is 200-300 words. If they ask for the first three chapters, give them the first three chapters… If they ask for glitter give it to them, if they haven’t just leave it at home.
  3. Make sure you edit your work before sending it. As much as everybody loves a good mystery and discovering the exact meaning of your manuscript because not one word is spelt correctly, and the tense is constantly shifting, does seem fun, publishers are busy people so maybe just keep it simple.
  4. Deal with rejection with some dignity. By that I mean, cry, eat a lot of cake, bitch about it to your friends, and then send a polite “thank you for your rejection” letter.

I hope that helps. Cost me many, many, lots of dollars to learn this. Don’t worry, I’m not going to charge you. Me, eradicating craft herpes from the publishing world will be thanks enough.

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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“All I Want For Christmas Is You” … and books, mainly books

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Trust me, he wanted a book not that sweater.

Have you left Christmas shopping until December? Have you just realised that stores are now zoos full of rabid animals? Never fear, I can and will help you… well,  not so much me as books. Books can and will solve your problems. So here are my Christmas recommendations for those of you without the time to think.

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Where Do You Hide Two Elephants? by Emily Rodda. Ridiculously cute picture book.

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The Red Wind by Isobelle Carmody. For the lover of fantasy. Added bonus, yes it is a series. We fantasy geeks love a good series.

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Impossible Quest Series by Kate Forsyth. The first two books are already out. Get into them before they blow out Harry Potter style. Fantastic kids series.

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The Protected by Claire Zorn. Incredibly moving YA novel about grief, resilience… I actually have to stop writing about this novel now because I’m tearing up just thinking about it. It’s powerful stuff. I’ll leave it at that.

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The Fictional Woman by Tara Moss. Non Fiction exploration of stereotypes and beliefs thrust upon women/Tara Moss. That description does not do it justice at all. Captivating read. Just go out and get it for any and all women you know.

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Under Siege by Belinda Neil. A memoir about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It rings true for a lot of mental illnesses though, such as depression and anxiety,  not only PTSD, so is highly accessible.

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Holiday in Cambodia by Laura Jean McKay. For you travel bug friend. Get Destination Cambodia by Walter Mason as a companion piece. Your friend will love you forever. I’m trying not to literally laugh out loud remembering the “dangerously jolly” scene in Destination Cambodia.

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The Black Dress by Pamela Freeman. Get it for the woman who wants to read about strong women and also anyone with an interest in religious history. A truly excellent read about Mary MacKillop.

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Burial Rites by Hannah Kent. Yes, you can believe the hype. Buy it for yourself for Christmas.

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The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton. For your historical fiction loving friends who enjoy some romance.

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The Nightingale by Fiona McIntosh. Another beautiful romantic historical fiction novel.

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Fishing for Tigers by Emily Maguire. For the Literary snob who secretly likes it a bit sexy. In other words,  exceptionally well written but they get down to business.

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Avoiding Mr Right by Anita Heiss. For the woman who likes the idea of chick lit but needs something with a bit more depth.

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Sea Hearts by Margo Lanagan. Styled as young adult but so brilliant. Honestly,  it’s for any adult, young or old, human or seal. A beautiful take on the Selkie myth.

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Blood and Circuses by Kerry Greenwood. Love a light murder mystery and the cover is very cool. Seriously, I know you can’t judge a book by its cover but… well… we do.

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Animal People by Charlotte Wood. Slightly traumatising but oh so good. For your friend who likes a bit of real life grit.

Okay Christmas peoples,  go forth and part with your cash. Probably online, so you can avoid the people. Mwah.

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What Would Tara Do?

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What Would Tara Do?
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What would Tara do?

It’s no secret that I’ve got a bit of a Lady Writer Crush on Tara Moss. Of late I’ve been using expressions like, “I’m channeling my inner Moss,” and, “I totally Mossed it,” much to my friends’ amusement. And I’ll be honest, it has caught on with them. Anytime we appear particularly serene and confident when under stress we’ll say, “I see you Mossing it.” If one of us is flipping out we’ll say, “What would Tara do? Put on her lipstick and pull herself together.” I’ve actually started wearing red lipstick now. I had to go emergency purchase some the morning of Literary Speed Dating in order to “Get on Moss of it.” I’m now wearing my red lippy all over the place. This has come as a shock to people who have known me for years and are more familiar with me channeling my inner Woolf rather than Moss.

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What would Virginia do?

But you know what, it works. I feel much more confident with my lip mask on. So I drink a cup of tea, put on my lipstick and high heels, and I’m ready to face the day. However,  I’ll let you in on a little secret, lean in closer, closer,  I have to italics it because I haven’t let anybody else in on the secret,  shhhhh, Tara Moss isn’t the only person I channel. Gasp. Yup. I’m a bit of a Lady Writer Crush (LWC) hussy (LWCS???). Although Tara Moss is my go to at the moment I can’t solve all the world’s problems through giving it “a red hot Moss.” So here are some more LWC that you can channel.

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What would Emily Maguire do? She’d put on her pajamas and pull herself apart. Because sometimes you just need to get comfy in your sauce stained PJs to truly become one with yourself. If she was scared of something she’d go out and confront it. She’d research it, interview it, visit it, she’d get that business all taken care of because knowledge and understanding is power. Then she’d go home and get comfy. Because pyjamas are awesome.

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What would Kate Forsyth do? Plaster on a smile, sip some champagne and hug her many, many books, published in many, many countries. When you’re as internationally recognised as Kate Forsyth not much phases you, so just drink champers and be fab. We all need to just shake it off with a champagne and a smile every now and then. If I was to channel pre published Kate Forsyth (translation: broke) To “Forsyth it” would mean to be focused, devoted and don’t allow for distractions or detractions. Choose your priorities and go with that. If that means skipping a few meals to do a writing course then so be it. So really,  however you “Forsyth it,” pre published or internationally celebrated,  you’ll be doing something pretty amazing. Self belief is key.

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What would Nakkiah Lui do? No idea, she’s a bit like the Spanish Inquisition,  nobody expects them. The only thing I know is that she’ll challenge, she’ll be unique, she’ll probably swear and she’ll definitely make you laugh. So if you want to “Lui it” you’ll need to be able to think on your feet and always do the unexpected and BE the unexpected.

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What would Margo Lanagan do? Something so profoundly brilliant that it beggars belief and then be self deprecating about it. Modesty thy name is Margo Lanagan… Ok, I haven’t channeled my inner Lanagan yet, because I haven’t written anything as brilliant as her yet, but I look forward to the day I do… because then I’ll be smug as hell instead of self deprecating.

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What would Hannah Kent do? Start a bidding war over her first novel… haven’t channeled her yet either… sad face.

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What would Anita Heiss do? Be ground breaking,  brilliant,  devoted and still be family oriented… I hope my daughter channels her inner Heiss, Mummy will always be here, please don’t forget me.

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What would Pamela Freeman do? Say something sassy as hell and make everyone laugh, then follow it up with a ridiculously insightful comment. Pamela is cheeky, she’s funny, she’s willing to tease her writer friends on panels just to make them laugh and she follows it up with intellectual insights. In short, she’s as close as you can get to a Terry Pratchett witch in real life. So just go say what you want, write what you want, be who you want, that’s what Pamela would do, that’s why she crosses genres and age groups in her writing.

So who are you going to channel today?

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The Hidden Benefits of Writing Courses

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The Hidden Benefits of Writing Courses

I love a good writing course. You leave energised, focused and ready with a new way to attack that novel. Saggy middle syndrome? No problem, see if your midpoint reversal lacks punch or is too early/late. Characters all sounding the same? Make each characters’ facial expressions as you write their dialogue. You’ve got interesting characters and beautiful language but nobody is really “feeling” it? RESTRUCTURE! The writing advice that you come away with is invaluable but you actually come away with even more than technical solutions and professional insights. You come away with a whole host of hidden benefits.

1. You open your imagination in ways you don’t expect:

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Knowledge is power, knowledge is sexy and all that Jazz, but knowledge is also creativity. From my perspective, I generally go to a course to fix a specific weakness I have in my writing or my current project. So for example I could go to a course on Graphic Novels with Pat Grant to work on my ability to combine language and visual art. I’ll be honest, I’m so far gone that even the genius Mr Grant would not be able to help my artistic woes.

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But let’s say for arguments sake I go, not only would I learn about the visual medium, comments made in passing may get me thinking just as much. Pat Grant might mention that his mate DC Green got his start peddling his own wares from school to school and made quite a good living this way. Suddenly you’re thinking about how you can get your own work out in an unconventional way. One thought leads to another and suddenly you’ve started your own boutique ePublishing business for tea fetishism.  Or you undertake a course on being Fabulously Creative with Walter Mason and he mentions how he did his PhD on “How to Win Friends and Influence People” and next thing you know you’re completely addicted to spiritualism and have written a bestselling novel about Rodrigo of Spain. Your mind is basically a science experiment. You put a stimulus in and you really don’t know exactly what will come out but you can bet it’ll be interesting.

2. YANA:

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You are not alone! Sometimes writing can seem almost like an existence of hermitude and madness. Trapped,  alone in the dark, with just your thoughts and your hands, expressing yourself away from prying eyes where you can hide your shame. But there are many of us out there. You are not the only one who secretly pretends to be texting when you’re actually noting an interesting phrase you heard. You are not the only one who uses toilet time to dream up new ideas. You are not the only one who never leaves the house without a variety of notebooks and pens in an array of colours so that you can colour code your ideas. There others like you out there. You don’t even have to like them, nor communicate with them, just knowing that there are more like you out in the wild can be enough. It takes away the isolation of your secret habit of hibernating over words because now it’s a community thing not just you. I did the Year of the Novel with Emily Maguire and it was fantastic because although we were all writing for different audiences, in different genres, we were all mad writers in it together.  YANA.

3. Friendship:

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But you just said we didn’t have to make friends! You don’t have to. Many courses I walked away with the glow of knowledge and a bit of a YANA sentiment but no friends. That’s cool, that’s normal,  that’s what I expect and pay for. But guess what, sometimes you get more. You get to meet like minded individuals,  who aren’t desperately paranoid that you’re out to steal their ideas, or desperately competitive and want to tear you down, and they just want to do their best and for you to do your best too. You see, the more Australian authors published,  then the more people reading Australian authors,  then the more people wanting to read Australian authors, then the more Australian authors who get published. So really,  helping others is helping yourself, so play nice people. Just let any paranoia or competitiveness go and be receptive to new things… I think I’m channeling my inner Walter Mason. I’ve met some absolutely beautiful friends through Kate Forsyth courses, one of the most exceptional teachers that I have ever met and so keep going back for more, and have felt very supported to expand my own ideas and writing. Writing friends are the best. Not only can they give you ideas about structure,  plot, characterisation and dialogue but they also understand when you explain quite calmly that you cut five human characters from your novel and replaced them with a pet rabbit. Not too many people can do all of that for you… and writers tend to like wine, so they’re often fab if you need a boozy lunch. Admit it, we all need a boozy lunch from time to time.

4. Positivity comes from negativity:

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Not everyone will get you. Some people will think you’re writing about weird crap and have spent far too much time researching the exact atmospheric  composition required to make a vanilla sky. They might think writing for children is stupid. Hell they might write in the same genre as you but actually hate the genre and want to write in it only for that sweet writer cash, whilst you love it and want to stay true to those who came before but add your own stamp to that. Or you could just not be their cup of tea nor shot of tequila. For whatever reason,  some people will just hate your writing,  and for that same unknown reason, some people will want to say it in the nastiest way possible. Usually not out and out aggressive but passively aggressively in a manner that will still cut straight through the bone and right to your soul because us writers are sensitive. Heck, I got a little note written to me that said, Nice try, but your story is really stupid and it is a stupid idea, even the teacher clearly hated it, but good effort.  Keep trying and you’ll eventually get there. I admit that zen like thinking did not envelop me immediately. I thought, Bitch you be like half my age and haven’t even finished your first chapter let alone your novel so just go over there in the kiddy pool and bite my arse you mean poo poo head! I don’t like you! And you don’t get to speak for the teacher!! And your face is stupid!!! And you’re stupid!!!!  Fortunately this is rare, most people are truly constructive but there are those special folk amongst us who really like to go for the jugular. I am quietly confident that our teacher would have been utterly mortified had she seen that note. Although this can feel negative in the moment it is actually quite positive. It will force you to think about your writing. Are they right? Is there a weakness?  If so, fix it. Not in the way they tell you to, it’s your story not theirs, and also, because if they can’t phrase criticism constructively… then communication just isn’t their strong point so their suggestions will probably not be spectacular. If they aren’t right, you’ve spent a lot of time going over your novel and making sure it is strong,  it is necessary and come away with renewed confidence. So even your harshest critics can give you a positive lesson.

So what are you waiting for? Go do a course today.