Tag Archives: #nswwc

Speculative Fiction Festival at #NSWWC

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Be Careful What You Wish For

As you all know I can’t resist a good festival so I of course went to the Speculative Fiction Festival at the New South Wales Writers’ Centre run by Cat Sparks. A good time was had by all. My main take-aways from the day are listed below. Enjoy.

Garth Nix

  • Garth Nix is so brilliant and so talented that he sold his first short story at the age of 19 to a magazine he didn’t even submit to. No I don’t feel like elaborating on that story because the specialness might decrease and I prefer to keep him godlike in my mind.
  • Garth Nix states that there are no dead manuscripts. A manuscript might not sell simply because it does not fit with the appeal of the time, in another five years it might suddenly be in. Don’t ever throw away manuscripts, resubmit, recycle, repurpose them.
  • Garth Nix said that I could sit in the same sunny spot as him. I died and the ran away. Totes kept my cool…

James Bradley

  • Initially thought that he would live out his days as a poet in poetry excellence of the most poety kind. Turns out he unfortunately needed to have written more than six poems to do this.
  • If you win a cheque, don’t lose it, the organisers of whatever competition or award you won it for will be pissed off that they have to rewrite it.
  • Authors get rejected all of the time. Don’t let rejection deter you because even if you have one success that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a nasty rejection lurking around the corner.

Kate Forsyth

  • Submit your manuscripts typed. Publishing houses don’t generally accept ones hand written in an exercise book that you have illustrated yourself.
  • Always be brave and keep on persevering. Never let your own fear or ego hold you back.
  • Kate Forsyth signed a copy of Impossible Quest 3 for my niece. I am now the favouritist aunt ever.

Marianne de Pierres

  • Internal logic is key to ensuring that your work is believable and accepted by the reader.
  • Marianne de Pierres says she doesn’t know how she feels about a lot of issues hence her characters have different views and she allows them to sort through bigger picture issues. Her works are explorations not morality messages.
  • Write to you personality style. That being style, genre/subgenre, length, strength of message etc. You have to write your novel not somebody else’s.

Stephanie Lai

  • Stephanie Lai starts with a human/scientific problem and then develops the story around that.
  • Stephanie Lai leans towards short stories because she loves quick immediate communication and gratification.
  • Stephanie Lai says to keep the science real but the world fun and fantastical.

Isobelle Carmody

  • Isobelle Carmody crowd funded her book before crowd funding was a thing. That’s how cool she is. She sold shares in her first book for $30 each and agreed to give the money back should she ever be published.
  • Isobelle Carmody has never been rejected. She humbly claims that it is because she takes so long to write her books that publishers are too scared to say no lest she never write another one or takes even longer next time.

Bruce McCabe

  • Bruce McCabe starts with real life problems being explored in scientific labs today, then moves out twenty years and explores what will be happening with those issues and advances.
  • Bruce McCabe feels that trying to box Science Fiction into a narrow definition isn’t productive. That there is a whole spectrum of sci fi ranging from hard to soft and they’re all equally valid.

Pamela Freeman

  • Okay, I am so spun out by what she said to me personally that I cannot even remember what she said on her panels. It would have been insightful too because she always says really good stuff. Pamela Freeman told me that she had read my ebook What Happens in Book Club… and had laughed so hard that she had to read bits to her husband. I nearly died in fangirling overload. I’m not confident that I am actually awake and this isn’t some extended dream. If I truly am awake… GO ME!

Now the bit that you really want, WHAT DID THE PUBLISHERS SAY THEY WANTED?!?

FableCroft Publishing

They are looking for sci fi. Middle Grade and YA. Make sure you read their submission guidelines or Tehani Wessley will cry. You don’t want to make her cry do you?

Ticonderoga Publications

They like anthologies. Love them! So write an awesome short story. Just don’t be sexist, and violent for the sake of shocking rather than for the sake of the story, otherwise Liz Gryzb will cry. You don’t want to make her cry either, do you?

Just quietly, I did pitch to one of the owners the idea of making a The Voice / Literary Pitching crossover show. They weren’t down with it, so if you have any great ideas like that, don’t pitch those to them. Russell Far rather kindly pointed out that although spinning chairs would be fun, they don’t actually see the person pitching as it is, only their words. Good point Russell, good point. However, if there are any TV execs out there who like my idea I am prepared to except my millions of dollars now.

Pantera Press

Their rep was so warm and wonderful that I think everyone wants to now submit every manuscript to them. Seriously, he was lovely and so caring. He was the Rick Martin of the Panel because he had such passion. The rep in attendance likes Romance so I think we’re all switching just to work with him.

Momentum

Genre fiction with a very clear audience in mind. So none of that boundary hopping, all over the place, wishy washy stuff. Keep it tight, keep it focused, keep it commercially appealing.

Harper Voyager

Wouldn’t mind seeing a bit of Epic Fantasy. But please don’t use humour in your submissions, or guilt trips over the fact that your family will starve if they don’t pick up your manuscript. They don’t like that.

Bloomsbury

Submit through the UK website

Hope to see you at the next festival.

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@dougcoupland speaks to @mmccwill at the #SydneyWritersFestival

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imageDouglas Coupland,  unless you’ve been living under a rock you’ve probably heard of him. He’s the dude that coined the term Generation X. Turns out he went on to do a whole bunch of other profound stuff too… like write 14 novels and is an artist etc. Who knew. I was lucky enough to get a ticket to one of his talks at the Sydney Writers’ Festival, Writing that Defines Modern Culture. He was interviewed by Michael Williams, who is the same age as me and is director of the Wheeler Centre, what have I been doing with my life?

I found Douglas Coupland to be an amazing speaker, not only is his voice the opiate of the masses (his voice is so calm and lilting it nearly drugs you into blind acceptance), but also he is just so deeply profound. Either that or he’s an expert in delivering sound bites. I’ll give you a few of his amazing quotes at the end of this entry but first I’d like to really focus on one comment that he made that really got me thinking. Douglas Coupland said, “When one medium is eclipsed by another it allows the old medium to become an art-form.” Now he was talking about the Internet superseding television. We used to get our news, our water cooler talk, our quick entertainment from the television, these days we get it from the Internet. Sure the television is still there, just as are books, radio, and movies, but the Internet has really invaded our lives. And through this ability for the Internet to cater for our immediate gratification it has allowed television to really step up. We have so many gorgeous shows these days, written by novelists, starred in by film and theatre actors, composed by award winning musicians. Give Tom Perrotta a Google for a sterling example of a greater writer in any format. We’re having a bit of a golden age of television. And it’s fabulous. Sure we have plenty of crap on television but there is also some beautiful stuff that really makes you think.

Now part of the reason why this got me so interested, aside from my love of golden age cinema and television, was that this same argument could be had around paper books and epublishing. Many traditionally published authors have spoken critically (a few darn right cruelly) about epublishing. They have claimed it is the ruin of reading, and that through the end of traditional publishing. That people self publishing ebooks for 99c will bring about the apocalypse of books, totally devaluing reading and leading to a wasteland of illiterate morons who don’t know what good literature is. Good literature being what big publishing houses allow, and there is no room in this argument for it to be otherwise… Or is there? Does this rise of new epublishing quickies for 99cents give immediate gratification for those who want it? Does it allow the consumer to have what they want and the ewriter to produce what they want. Is it like a quick and wonderful friendship between consumer and producer where they are both giving and getting what they want? And is this bad for traditional publishing or good? Perhaps this rapid fire exchange has actually allowed the paper book to step up and become an art-form? It is time to put some of that old fashioned love and dedication back into traditional publishing. That same love that resulted in embossed covers, gilded pages, artworks of breath taking beauty. Now I’m not suggesting that this needs to be done again, just putting that same level of thought and dedication into the system will provide far greater accomplishment than any amount of finger pointing at new systems. As Douglas Coupland has said himself, “Blame is just a lazy person’s way of making sense of chaos.” Stop blaming, stop shaming, start loving and giving.

When the radio came out people cried that there would be an end to reading, when VHS came out people cried that there would be an end to the movies, when epublishing came out people have cried it will be an end to books and world order… How about we all just calm down. How about seeing new technology as an opportunity for you to use. Don’t quit, step up your game. And if you can’t, maybe your game wasn’t that good to begin with.

Now as promised, the awesome sound bites:

  • “Words are art supplies.”
  • “There is nothing that we make that isn’t an expression of our humanity.”
  • “We are in the middle of an attribution crisis.”
  • “Publicity has turned into extortion.”
  • “Looking people up used to be considered stalky, now it’s rude not too.”
  • “Younger people are different than they have ever been before, but so are older people.”
  • “Oh English Language, you are a minx.”
  • “People are predictably surprising.”
  • Researching Google is like, “crowd surfing this bath of humanity.”
  • Researching what people search on Google makes, “you want to give humanity a great big hug.”
  • “Things get better after you’re 40.”

discolego

And finally, when I asked Douglas Coupland to sign my book he complimented my bag, which has an image of my family as Lego minifigures emblazoned on it. So Doug, this little pic is for you, because who doesn’t love disco?

Structural Workshop with the Divine Dr @KathrynHeyman – #SydneyWritersFestival

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If loving Kathryn Heyman is wrong, then I don’t want to be right. There, I said it. Everyone else in the Structural Intensive workshop hosted by the Sydney Writers’ Festival was thinking it, I just said it. You would be hard pressed to find a more dynamic presenter, and the best bit was, that Dr Heyman had substance to back it up. I’ll be perfectly honest, I am not going to detail everything that she covered, partly because I wouldn’t do it justice, and partly because if you want to truly learn from Kathryn Heyman then you need to go and do a workshop/course/mentorship with her yourself. What you get out of a course is a deeply personal thing because we are all on different paths in this writing journey. BUT this would be the world’s shortest blog if I gave nothing away for free so here goes…

One of the first sound bites that really moved me was when Kathryn Heyman said, “Your fear drives why you write.” Now I’ve heard, “if it scares you do it,” “go where the fear is,” and all those other common things before but on that cold, wet, Friday, where I had arrived drenched, late, with a slightly broken umbrella and the memory of my kids crying ringing through my brain, this phrasing, and this women really hit home. For me, I’d got my money’s worth all in that one hit. Because, I’ll let you in on a little secret, come closer, even closer, shhhh, closer, I’m going to whisper this so listen carefully, every single novel I have written deals with exactly the same issue, no matter what the genre or target audience. My chick lit novel coming out in July has a main character who has an intelligent, and quirky main character who happens to have incredibly low self-esteem so can make some pretty dumb choices. My children’s novel coming out next year has a very confident main character but the backstory that never gets explicitly covered is that the mother is deeply scarred and traumatized individual trying to be that super mum who gets everything right. Memoir From the Madhouse (I’ve never shared an excerpt from that so will pop it at the end of this) looks at why we are who we are, how our past demons drive us. I could go on but in a nutshell, I write women’s fiction, no matter the genre, no matter the age range, and the story is always – What happened to the little girl that nobody loved. Fuck, I hope she turned out okay. Until Kathryn Heyman said, “Your fear drives what you write,” I did not realise that I had written the exact same story over and over again as I grappled with my fear. It’s kind of liberating to know that I am on a cathartic journey. It’s even more liberating to know that I love that story and I will tell it over and over again, in as many ways as I like until I am ready to put that issue to bed. Because that story needs to be told. That story needs to be told not just for me but for all those little girls. I’ll keep speaking out. I’ll keep publishing for you. I hope you will join me.

Now I think you can understand what I meant by saying that this writing gig is a deeply personal journey and you have to go sit at Dr Heyman’s feet yourself to get what you need. However, I won’t be a total spoil sport, there were plenty of general things that were good for everyone. Mainly, it really helps to have a concrete, physical manifestation of conceptual matter. So if there is an obstacle, how about getting another character to embody that. If you have some sort of transformation make sure there is some sort of event or location that can act as a metaphor rather than having it all inside the character’s head. If the character has an internal desire, give it a physical manifestation, as in what action or situation would demonstrate that the desire had been met or totally failed. I’m leaving it there because as I keep saying, you have to go learn from Kathryn Heyman yourself in order to get the real benefit.

 

As promised, and true to my blog’s about section, unedited, unkempt, and untamed, here is an excerpt from Memoir from the Madhouse.

 

I am running, running faster than I’ve ever run before. The cold from the dew damp ground runs up my bare legs and covers my naked body with goose pimples. But still I run on. The warmth is fleeting, the wind is chasing me, and they are hunting me. I run naked in the cold dark night and all the while I think – I’m not crazy, I’m not crazy.

Out of my periphery I see a nurse approaching me. I let out a delirious laugh and keep on running.

‘Run, run, run as fast as you can…’

The wind whips away my words and I still run on. The ground starts to gently slope downwards and in the darkness I lose my bearings. I trip. I roll. Arms and legs flail at impossible angles. The world slows down as sky and earth blur into one. I smile and think about what has brought me here, starkers, in the dead of night, chasing demons, in the psychiatric hospital’s grounds.

 

6 Hours Earlier

I sit in Consultation Room 2 staring at my psychiatrist. I have no idea what he is saying. His voice is so soft that I can only make out every second sentence if I’m lucky. Regardless I nod like I understand. I don’t want him to think I’m rude or worse, stupid. My constantly interrupting to say, ‘Eh?’ or, ‘What?’ only results in him repeating his mumbles anyway. So instead I just nod along like I agree.

‘Are you anxious about going home tomorrow?’ Finally a sentence I can hear.

‘No,’ I lie.

Of course I’m anxious. I’ve got newborn twins and a two year old. They’re hard work. I have to somehow keep on functioning, no, mumctioning, despite the fact that the twins won’t sleep, which means I can’t sleep either. All work and no sleep makes Robin a dull girl. Perhaps they could be trained to settle one another. One cries and the other rubs their back, then they roll over and swap jobs. That’d be pretty sweet but although I’m in the nuthouse even I know that won’t happen.

‘Really?’ my psychiatrist raises an eyebrow. ‘Last time you were supposed to go home you had such an anxiety attack that we had to transfer you to a medical hospital.’

I shrug. More words are spoken that I nod thoughtfully along too. God only knows what I’ve agreed to in these sessions.

‘Do you like cap guns and pillows?’ Nods in agreement.

‘Do you still wet the bed?’ Nods thoughtfully.

‘Do you have a Christ complex?’ Nods politely.

‘Do you like the smell of your own farts?’ Nods vigorously.

He probably thinks I’m the biggest psycho to ever have graced this Crackpot’s with Babies Unit. No doubt I’ve inadvertently agreed to having a fetish for gingerbread men, partaking in cock fighting as a chicken, and having to burp three times every time I hear the word purple lest the world ends. Not surprising that Doctor Huang is so shocked by my casual attitude.

Truth be told I’m just quietly packing shit. My husband and I have arranged for a babysitter to come for a few hours a day during baby rush hour. 4 – 7 sucks with the under threes. They’re cranky, they need baths, they need dinner and they need to go to bed. Times that by three and I seriously struggle. The babysitter coming at these times doesn’t help me rest. Just helps me make sure none of my kids are neglected. I want to rest. We can’t afford rest. Fucking money.

‘A lot can change in a week.’

Aurealis Awards 2014 nailed the Australian Women Writers Challenge – #AWW2015 @aurealisawards

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aww-badge-2015Aurealis Awards prove that anything men can do, women can do just as well.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Aurealis Awards I suggest you check them out, they’re the premiere awards for the Australian Speculative Fiction crowd. A chance for Spec Fic writers to get recognized, connect, maintain a professional discourse, and to sink a few bevies. Or French Champagne for the more successful authors.

It was a fantastic event, organized by two women, Nicole Murphy and Tehani Wessley, and MCed by the talented, multi-award winning, Margo Lanagan. Those unfamiliar with her works, might I suggest Tender Morsels as a starting place. Her writing is spectacular, you will not be disappointed. Cat Sparks, demonstrated her multi-dimensional talents by, presenting, photographing, and if you check out twitter, also doing a spot of glamour modelling. On top of that, Kate Forsyth (if you haven’t heard of her… have you been living under a rock?) presented the Fantasy awards. I am pretty sure I was not the only one who had to pop on shades when she walked onto the stage to dim her radiance. She is truly amazing. And the cherry on top was Angela Slatter. Angela Slatter essentially won the Aurealis. Well, she won pretty much every category she was in. She even beat out internationally acclaimed, juggernaut, Garth Nix.

The Australian Women Writers Challenge was up for the Covenors’ Award for Excellence this year and although it didn’t win, I think it actually kind of did. The Australian Women Writers Challenge is about showcasing the enormous depth of talent that is demonstrated by Australian women who are writers. These Aurealis Awards certainly nailed that brief. So bravo Aurealis Awards, bravo Australian Women Writers Challenge and bravo all Australian women writers. If nothing else, you all get a vag badge from me.

So let’s have a ‘Clam Bake’ and celebrate these wonderful women of the Aurealis Awards and go check out their wares. Names listed below for your convenience.

Angela Slatter

Margo Lanagan

Kate Forsyth

Juliet Marillier

Kim Wilkins

Cat Sparks

Lian Tanner

Amanda Bridgeman

Amie Kaufman

Carole Wilkinson

Charlotte Nash

Deborah Biancotti

Deborah Kalin

Faith Mudge

Glenda Larke

Goldie Alexander

Jaclyn Moriarty

Judith Rossell

Karen Foxlee

Kathleen Jennings

Keri Arthur

Kirstyn McDermott

Lisa L Hannett

Liz Argall

LynC

Lynnette Lounsbury

Marianne de Pierres

Meagan Spooner

Nina D’Aleo

Nova Weetman

Rebecca Lim

Rosaleen Love

Thoraiya Dyer

Tehani Wessely

Nicole Murphy

Up and coming Australian women writers at the Aurealis Awards: @LisaFleetwood , @helen_petrovic , @RobinRiedstra (me!)

Up and coming Australian women writers at the Aurealis Awards: @LisaFleetwood , @helen_petrovic , @RobinRiedstra (me!)

Book Review: Take me to Paradise by @_WritersJourney #AWW2015

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Here we go. Review number 2 for the Australian Women Writers Challenge. Today I am tackling Jan Cornall, not only a writer but an institution in this country. She sings, she performs, she teaches, she is a mentor to many an artistic soul. Australian artists salute Jan Cornall, so let’s take a look inside her first published novel.

Take me to Paradise follows the journey of Marilyn, both her physical and emotional Journey. Marilyn wakes up one morning and instead of catching the bus to work, catches the ‘I don’t like Mondays’ flight to Bali. It is a poignant journey of self-discovery and self-recovery. A woman getting out of her element and in doing so she can strips away the trappings of her life and discovers what is truly her and versus what is a construction of her. It has many nods to metaphysical thought but also has that feeling of rebellion of like expressed in feminist movies like Thelma and Louise. I think this book would resonate with anyone who has had an existential crisis, midlife crisis, or went through those awkward teenage years, because all of these times are  a deeply perplexing and painfully personal experience. The novella has a beautifully rich setting, with sights, smells, and sounds blasting at you. You feel as if you are immersed in this world. The tropic jungle descriptions in particular are quite powerful and make you want to travel. Take Me to Paradise shows how different the paradise dream can be: for a western woman, for a Balinese man, for a Balinese wife, and the many characters Marilyn meets.

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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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Literary Speed Dating: #ASA and #NSWWC

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Literary Speed Dating: #ASA and #NSWWC

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Like 49 other aspiring authors I managed to secure a ticket to Literary Speed Dating through the Australian Society of Authors and New South Wales Writers’ Centre that takes place this weekend. I am of course both excited, nervous and wetting my pants… I had twins in January who felt they’d like to engage at the same time and split my pelvis so the pants wetting might not be entirely date related. TMI? Or JTRAOI (just the right amount of information)? Getting back to the point of this blog entry, Literary Speed Dating?  Yes that was it, LSD as @AKalagianBlunt calls it.

I should probably explain what Literary Speed Dating means in this context lest you all think it refers to a group of nerdy, yet sexy, singles getting to know each other in three minute intervals,  then falling madly in love with your genre mate and making some erotic fiction together. It certainly isn’t that. I’m a married mum of three and I’m not the only monogamous individual going. @AlisonWhipp (winner of the Kids and YA Festival pitch contest early this year) will also be putting her mum jeans on and getting sassy. Literary Speed Dating in this setting refers to 9 lovely publishing reps and 1 equally lovely literary agent clawing their way out of their massive reading piles and allowing 50 aspiring authors to pitch their manuscripts to them in three minute sessions. For aspiring authors this is a big deal, we get three minutes of real face time with someone in the biz (bus?) which is a rare opportunity to get. All we had to do was be able to get a ticket (and have written something good enough that we believe it is publishable). I got my ticket in May and am pretty sure I only just managed to scrape in. Have I mentioned it’s a really good opportunity that everyone wants? Well it’s SOLD OUT in advance of 6 months good. So I can tell you that my fellow aspirings and I are packing shit. Even I, who know 4 of the 50 aspiring authors pitching (could be more, 4 have told me they are) and have the whole safety in numbers vibe going on, am ready to bite my own fingernails off. We’ve all been preparing for at least six months yet still feel desperately under prepared.

So how about I share the prep I’ve been doing and then you can share back what you are doing,  have done in similar circumstances, or what you would do if you were in a similar situation?

Firstly,  I’ve got three novels to a minimum of first draft stage so I have something to pitch. For me it’s my Memoir from the Madhouse*, a PND biopic of non epic proportions**, that you could say has been 35 years in the making. And also to the three children’s representatives attending, my jaunty little children’s fantasy Chloe Prime : Alien Space Vet which I’ve been editing for a couple of years now. Secondly, continuing to attend a lot of writing workshops, courses and festivals. Thirdly, reading, reading, reading. Memoir,  children’s fantasy, books on writing but also off genre, looking at how they build suspense,  engage the reader, and all that Jazz. Fourthly,  shamelessly imploring published authors I know for the secret of the perfect pitch. Unfortunately they all told me there is no secret formula (clearly a secret gatekeeping conspiracy) but did give me some excellent tips such as just be yourself, let your enthusiasm and knowledge show, and one fabulous published author instructed me not to be desperate, because they’re used to desperate authors hitting them up. To the latter I was all like, “WTF, desperation is literally the only thing I have going for me. I was reblogged by mamamia.com soley because I am a desperate mess, it’s my thing! I’m really not that long out of the nuthouse.” He mentioned that although that may be the case try playing it just a little bit cool, like a real date… Got it, pushup bra (oh yes I need one), red lippy (possibly a bad move as it accentuates my thin little lizard lips), and let them know they can see any of my wares without so much as a foreword and they can reorder my works into any position they like, I’m flexible and open to new ideas. He said that’s exactly what he meant and don’t forget to get incredibly drunk and cry a little. I’m quietly confident he was not joking, so I got this sucker nailed.

As for the other two pieces of advice that I got, I have come up with 7 questions,  no, not 6, 7, in order to help me achieve that non desperate pitch I’m searching for, should the drunken crying approach fail.

1. Sum up my book in 1-2 sentences in an informative yet exciting way?
2. What are the three main take aways from my book?
3. Why did I write this book?
4. Why did this book need to be written by me?
5. Why did this book need to be written now?
6. What other books is my book like, what is its competition?

All this culminates into the final question:

7. What can be said to make the commissioning editor excited about my book in 1 sentence?

So I have written up pages of research on these questions over the months, (well not 2 or 7 they need to be short) plus on the publishing houses and their titles, that all need to be distilled into one non desperate sentence. It can be done!

Good luck to everyone else pitching and myself. Let’s hope we take the literary world by storm.

* My Memoir of Appropriation is not my real memoir!!! It is just a lark.
**I deal with similar issues in my Confessions of a Mad Mooer entries such as:
https://riedstrap.wordpress.com/2014/05/07/confessions-of-a-mad-mooer-wabi-sabi-and-the-mona-lisas-smile/
https://riedstrap.wordpress.com/2014/05/05/confessions-of-a-mad-mooer-ive-just-had-an-oprah-moment/
BUT my memoir is first person present tense, so you get to see the disgusting thoughts of self loathing and hopelessness without any filter or reflection. You’re right in there with me.

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