Archive for September, 2010

… some days the only way to feel better is to yell loudly at the season four final of Dr Who and make a strawberry cheesecake for one’s significant other. Objective achieved.


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Marshall Payne has posted his query letter here.

It is well worth having a look at, as it’s what got him representation by the Donald Maass Literary Agency – well, that and the fact his writing rocks. So, go to his Super-Sekrit Clubhouse and learn something that may well help!

And how about the coffee-monkey? I love the coffee-monkey.

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Cat Sparks is an award-winning writer and editor, talented photographer and graphic designer, and owner of THREE cats – and author Robert Hood :-). She was one of the inaugural Clarion South grads in 2007, a Writers of the Future winner, and has a small but significant pyramid in her backyard built from her nine Ditmars and four Aurealis Awards.

1. I knew I was a writer when …
… glancing at my desk one day, not so very long ago, I saw that it was piled high with ruled, A4 note pads, each one dog eared, coffee ringed and filled with crappy handwriting. As well as these (and the inevitable laptop) were graphs and charts, plotting the peaks and troughs of my protagonist’s journey. Goodness! I thought. That’s all starting to look a bit serious.

2. The worst sentence I ever wrote was …
… most of them prior to 2001. Here’s a sample: ‘she said she saw mirrors in the sky but I saw only reflections’ Thankfully I grew out of my poetic phase. Today, most of my sentences contain explosions, car chases, knife fights or descriptions of people with really bad hair.

3. How many cats are essential to the production of an award-winning story? 
Well, as you know, you can never have too many. Unless you have too many in which case you’re probably a crazy cat lady. I tend to write at my best with three. Any more than that and the chair tips over.

4. If I wasn’t a writer I would …
… have time to read the whopping massive stack of books beside my reading chair. Also: renovate the house, weed the garden, visit my non-writing friends, travel to exotic countries, be wearing something a little more classy than daggy tracksuit pants, try my hand at hot air ballooning, parachuting, hang gliding and a bunch of other dangerous, aerodynamic addictions, and I would most definitely get a real job so as to earn enough money to finance all of the above.

5. Donuts or danishes?
I am appalled by the lard content of question five but I must confess to having a bit of a thing for those sugar coated donuts with the squishy red jam at the centre. Danishes would, of course, have been the more elegant response.

She can be found here.

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Okay, so most writers manage to send an editor bald via tearing out of hair, but Russell B Farr is volunteering to de-fur himself.

All for a good cause. Head on over here and contribute to his de-hirsuting.

Help turn this


into this

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One of my major frustrations in the last fortnight has been someone who keeps coming back to me for the same information – which was given to her/him a couple of months ago. The revenant activity is not because s/he can’t find the info I gave her/him in the first place. There have been several fulsome emails and directions to other sources of the info s/he needs. S/he has been handed the keys to the kingdom

But s/he is lazy and wants someone to do the work of finding an agent/publisher for her/him. This person cites “being extremely busy due to a day job” as the reason for finding the task “too hard”.

Well, welcome to the world of writing.

Most of us hold down day jobs and have to fit our writing in between the cracks of earning a living, spending time with family and friends, eating and – lest we forget that most wonderful of past-times – sleeping. Sleeping is kind of a non-negotiable.

This brings me to another point about favours and soliciting them: when you ask someone for a favour you are asking them for their time. The least you can do is value that time. The time someone spends doing you a favour is time they could be spending writing and moving their own career forward.

So, you know what? Don’t be a time-suck. Don’t be an ingrate. If someone does help you out, if someone does you the kindness of donating their time to your cause, then do the right thing: take that information and use it. Do what has been suggested. Do it in a good and timely manner – do not come back to that person weeks or months after they have done the favour and say “Aw, yeah, I kinda didn’t do it coz I found it daunting and now I want you to go back over everything again.”

This is the professional equivalent of asking someone to wipe your backside and is about as respectful. The answer will probably rhyme with “firetruck cough”.

If you have not made good use of the information and time given unto you, then do not go back to the source and ask for more time and more information.

Yes, I am wearing my grumpy pants and have accessorised them with grumpy beret, grumpy pumps, grumpy shirt, grumpy earrings and a severely pissed-off handbag.

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1. Bad back.

2. Stiff neck.

3. Increasingly poor eyesight.

4. RSI from typing and general ouchies in the forearms and forepaws.

5. Ass-creep from too much time in a soft chair and too little time spent outside walking for 30 mins a day.

6. A milky-blue glow to the skin from monitor radiation.

Yes, alright, I had my monthly beating today from the person who keeps my joints and muscles in line and moving. And there were pins involved and heated cups. And I am bruised, holey and have the body equivalent of crop circles down my back – less mysterious in origin and more like the Hickies of Cthulhu.

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“You’re cool with that, right? Yeah, I know the grocery bill is $120 – so how about three sonnets? You’re not cool with that? Dude, you used to be cool.”

And so, another starving artist is thrown out of Woolworths or Coles or IGA, etc. I bring you this tone of disdain because (a) it’s my default setting, and (b) because the other eve I had one of those conversations that makes my head go “pop”.

Not thirty minutes earlier, I’d listened to someone bang on about creating sustainable careers for writers. Nice, a good goal, keeping writers out of the Poorhouse – we don’t do well there, we tend to steal other people’s socks and pens. Then the next chat I had (not with the same person) was with someone who uttered the words “But you don’t do it for the money”, with quite a degree of contempt when I spoke about attempting to make one of those sustainable careers for myself.  

And so we fall into the yawning abyss between artistic integrity and the compelling need to eat and pay bills.

Certainly, if you become a writer thinking it’s the path to fame and riches, then please go away and hand your pen in at the door. This is crazy talk. You don’t know what’s going to next catch the reading public’s imagination. You don’t know your book is going to be a best-seller. Publishers don’t know what’s going to be a best-seller – they surely have some role as taste-makers, but they cannot guarantee that the next book they release with go all Harry Potter on your ass. The next wave of the zeitgeist is notoriously hard to predict.

If, however, you write because you cannot do anything else, and you find you have some success, and you decide you’d like to do this as a career, then by all means, approach it as you would any career: train, learn, advance, and get paid for your efforts. The last one isn’t an unreasonable expectation – writing has value. Work has value. Writing should be a paid career. The fact of the matter is that we don’t all get to be Bryce Courtney, Neil Gaiman, Wilbur Smith, JK Rowling or Stephanie Meyers.

As you move up the ladder, your payment should, in theory, increase as you get into better paying, more professional markets (I speak as someone who cut her teeth in short stories and is now trying to transition across to novels). As your reputation and skill grows, people will begin to seek you out for submissions. Publishers will start to notice your name appearing in various places (hopefully not on toilet walls), and with any luck one of them will sidle up to you at a conference and say ‘So, got any novels on the boil?’

If you’re not writing fiction, but non-fiction, then this is often the place where money is more easily made. Recognised writerly jobs include publications and promotions officer, advertising and marketing copywriters, textbook writers. In fact, non-fiction writing is an area where you can approach a publisher with an idea for a book without actually having written the book, and be commissioned to do so. Not always, but sometimes. But you better have a kick-ass proposal.

Most of the time, you’re going to have to have other day jobs to supplement your income – receptionist, bus driver, waitress, gynaecologist, pole dancer, lawyer-by-day-writer-by-night. I have it on good authority that Batman is still trying to finish his first novel but he just can’t find the time, what with all the crime and taking his Batsuits to the cleaners.

We certainly don’t do it for the money, but we are entitled to expect to be paid for our efforts. So, don’t curl up the lip at someone who wants to make a living out of their writing and mutter about “filthy lucre and sell-outs” because I, for one, will find a way to get you in a dark alley and yell multisyllabic words at you from an Oxford Thesaurus (not the concise version either).

Writing for a living is a hard row to hoe. It takes planning and strategising and sacrifice, and not a little writing talent. People who pursue this dream give up a lot to do so, to make the space in their lives to have writing time – which I have blogged about previously here.  

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to try and exchange a villanelle for a new fridge.

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