On Friday March 15, a gunman opened fire in two Christchurch mosques, Masjid Al Noor and Linwood Masjid Mosque. During this terrorist attack, 50 people lost their lives and 48 people were injured.
Members of the kidlit community are making a stand against hatred and Islamophobia, and showing solidarity with the victims and affected Muslim communities. The auctions and raffles on this page will support the United for Christchurch Mosque Shootings fundraiser, which aims to help with the immediate, short-term needs of the grieving families. Items on offer range from query letter and manuscript critiques through to books and memorabilia.
The auctions and raffles opened on March 24th at 12:01 AM EST and will close March 27th at 11:59 PM.
I’ve felt beaten lately, when it comes to my writing and the state of the publishing world in general. So many things have come to my attention that I’ve, rightly or wrongly, taken to heart.
These range from the explosion on social media surrounding an upcoming YA novel (which was subsequently pulled from publication – for now, anyway), and insights into scammers infiltrating Amazon (one indie author’s perspective is here if you’re interested), through to my immediate writing world, including the varied feedback I’ve received on my middle grade manuscript from its first beta readers.
Ah, beta readers…
I gave the first two chapters of my latest work to three beta readers. The first two were school aged, one smack-bang in the target age and the other slightly older. The third was an adult. None are writers. I wanted them to read it for fun, for the sake of the story, as readers.
All three gave me feedback on the all important start, as well as on pacing, characters, description/setting, and the age appropriateness/suitability of the narration.
Overall, the first two liked what I’d written. I was on a high.
Overall, the third did not. I mean, really did not. I bottomed out fast, so much so that I began to question whether I could write this story at all. I then extended that to questioning whether this industry, with all its hard knocks and hardships, with those eager to take advantage of people, to take others down, was worth the effort I was throwing at its front door.
I was also left with another dilemma. When writing in a genre controlled by gatekeepers such as teachers, librarians, and parents, whose advice should I follow when feedback conflicts?
Those more likely to buy this story, the adults?
Or those more likely to read it, the children?
Or *ahem* neither?
When your gut tells you to, well, follow your gut, but your gut doesn’t know what to do, it’s time for a break, for distance.
Especially when you’re hit with yet another rejection for a different piece of work on the same day.
So yesterday, I stepped away from writing to immerse myself in cooking, choosing a different creative pursuit to distract my brain, nourish my gut, and comfort my bruised (and confused) ego.
While chopping, I flicked on the television. The Oscars telecast was on (due to the time difference, it was televised live during the day in Australia). I don’t usually watch this event, but background chatter while preparing a casserole is preferable to listening to self-doubt demons And this is when I watched Lady Gaga’s acceptance speech for winning Song of the Year, when she said:
‘…And if you are at home, and you’re sitting on your couch and you’re watching this right now, all I have to say is that this is hard work. I’ve worked hard for a long time, and it’s not about, you know…it’s not about winning. But what it’s about is not giving up. If you have a dream, fight for it. There’s a discipline for passion. And it’s not about how many times you get rejected or you fall down or you’re beaten up. It’s about how many times you stand up and are brave and you keep on going…’
Was she talking to me?
Hmm, I like to think she was.
Regardless, it made me finish up in the kitchen quick smart and plant my sorry backside back in the seat, in front of my screen. Don’t know about being brave, but I’m getting up. I’ll keep on going.
I’ll take my beta readers’ feedback on board, filter it, then do it my way.
And I’ll strive harder to ignore rumblings and happenings in the industry that I can do little about.
school summer holidays (yep, it’s summer where I’m at) has meant limited time to write. Time has been swallowed up by chauffeur duties for socialising offspring, working at the bookstore – did I tell you I now work as a bookseller? More on that, perhaps, in a future blog – and melting under the Australian sun.
I have found time, however, to catch up on some long overdue reading, tackling the TBR book pile near my bed with joy (and just a little vengeance), as well as blog posts on books, writing, and everything in between.
This post, from teenage blogger, Vickywhoreads (who has more great posts, by the way) piqued my interest and is well worth a read for YA readers and writers, no matter your age.
One of the main points Vicky makes is that the people who buy books have a voice on what gets published, and that people who don’t buy as many books (like teens, who usually have limited disposable income) don’t have as strong a voice, making it harder for teens to influence the market they read and harder for them to have a real say in what is available.
As they say in business (publishing being no exception), money talks.
Also, with many adults buying and reading YA, this is leading to YA characters behaving in a more adult-like way, not truly reflecting the teen experience (I don’t know about you, but I’ve read many YA characters saying and doing things I wouldn’t have thought, or known, to say or do at their age.)
This influence by adults is also flowing down to the lower end of the YA market, in terms of the availability and range on offer. As Vicky says,
“I went through 2+ years where I didn’t read anything for pleasure, because I couldn’t find a YA book that appealed to me . . . We need lower YA and YA/MG mixes. Because without them, the world is losing so many readers in the span of a few years, just because all the books in the YA category are intimidating and seemingly for adults.”
This concerns me to no end, not only as a writer with a manuscript which sits squarely in the lower end of the YA range, but also as someone who believes that reading for pleasure is one of life’s greatest experiences. One I’d hate to do without due to lack of interesting material, whether now as an adult, or back in my early teens.
What do you think? Do you think YA books are failing to correctly portray the teenage experience? Is the YA market representing what adults want, rather than teens?
Ever since an agent suggested one of my manuscripts straddled the “fence” between middle grade and young adult fiction (making it harder, in the agent’s eyes, to clearly market this work to publishers), I’ve been more than a little interested in how books are slotted on bookshelves and how often this categorisation restricts potential readership.
As Krysta from Pages Unbound so eloquently puts it in the below post, a good story is a good story, regardless of how it is marketed. It’s well worth a read. 🙂 (Her post also touches on the viewpoint by some that middle grade books are somehow inferior to young adult, but don’t get me started on that – not this week anyway. 😉 )
Hope you’re gearing up for a bookish Christmas!
“Middle-grade” is simply a marketing label meaning a certain age range might like the book. It has nothing to do with the quality of the story. If you search “What grades are middle books are written for?” you will find plenty of articles asserting that middle-grade novels are written for ages 8-12. This definition may be surprising to some because it indicates that middle-grade novels can skew younger than middle school level. However, the definition is interesting to me because it creates an abrupt cut-off between MG and YA, with eighth graders suddenly becoming the target audience of a book market that is much darker and much more focused on romance. In reality, however, reading does not work like this. Children do not suddenly change all their reading habits when the clock strikes midnight on their birthday. Indeed, upper middle-grade books can continue to appeal to some teens. […]
‘The male leads in YA are starting to look strikingly similar. Some may be princes, some troubled youths, and some the boy-next-door, but their personality traits are incredibly similar. Often they are misunderstood or under-appreciated. Typically they see and value the female lead in ways no one else does. They pair strength with sensitivity, showing that they are able to cry over a family member but also able to fix a car or fight for their girl’s honor when necessary. All of them appreciate the beauty of the female lead, but in a romantic, respectful, aesthetic sort of way. You will never catch them looking at a girl’s assets. In short, they are, every one of them, the perfect boyfriend. These depictions of teenage boys are fascinating because they are so obviously a female fantasy rather than attempts at realism. The services asked of YA male heroes often seem close to superpowers.’
Yep, I’ve wondered this myself (and the full post at the above link says it beautifully – thank you, Krysta, and Pages Unbound!)
You see, I’ve wondered if female-dominated YA writing is making male leads more and more unrealistic, raising the behavior standard and thought patterns of males in YA fiction to something not likely to be true.
In the publishing world’s push for more strong independent female YA characters, are we forgetting about the REAL males? About the ones who don’t want to talk on the phone? The ones who hang out in their room, who crave their privacy above acting the hero? The ones who are awkward with words, can’t read the female mind – and really don’t want to?
Male main characters in YA fiction are becoming harder to find. Let’s at least make them authentic.
Would love your thoughts! Have you read a recently published YA book with realistic male main characters?
…”there is no one path or service that’s right for everyone all the time; you should take time to understand the landscape and make a decision based on long-term career goals, as well as the unique qualities of your work. Your choice should also be guided by your own personality (are you an entrepreneurial sort?) and experience as an author (do you have the slightest idea what you’re doing?)”
A huge thank you to Jane for the work she does in communicating the ever-changing publishing landscape to authors.
I hope you find Jane’s chart useful and, whichever path you take, I wish you all the success 🙂
Yes, it was that time again! Time for Australia’s kidlit writers to come out to play at last Saturday’s WritingNSW Kids and YA Festival.
It’s hard to believe two years have passed since the last Kids and YA Festival at WritingNSW (you can read my round-up of the last festival here if you’d like your memory jogged.) This year’s event was just as wonderful, with quotes flying left, right and everywhere. Some of you know how much I love a good writing quote, so I thought I’d base this year’s round-up on the best (and quirkiest) quotes I heard.
Here are a few of my favourites from the day:
Jacqueline Harvey, best-selling author of the Alice-Miranda, Clementine Ross, and Kensy and Max series (with me in left pic), on how to have a best-selling series – “Fall in love with your characters and have great plots. Don’t dumb plots down; they can be complicated.”
And Jacqueline doing a little cheeky name-dropping – “Marcus Zusak (author of the best-seller, The Book Thief) told me to think of the obvious and do the opposite.”
Belinda Murrell, author of the Lulu Bell, Timeslip, and Pippa’s Island series (with me in pic below), gave some cold hard facts – “In 60% of kid’s books, males are the central character. 20% had no girls who speak.” And if that’s not disturbing enough, Belinda (who was also Festival Director) added that, “Boys speak twice as often in books as girls do.” Gender bias rears its ugly head again…
But on a lighter note from Belinda: “You must back your protagonist. And include yummy food.” 🙂
Which led us to hilarious comedy writer, Oliver Phommavanh(in right pic). When asked what he wanted to be when he grew up – “A dinosaur.” 🙂
Yvette Poshoglian, author of the Ella and Olivia series, on growing that thick skin – “You never get the words to the page without critical feedback. Sometimes you just have to back yourself as a writer.”
Then there was writer, publisher and educational consultant, Louise Park – “Education publishing is a good way to get published. And it’s usually a flat fee so you know what (and how much) you’ll be paid.”
And YA writer, Megan Jacobson – “We do teen readers a disservice by not writing about the dark issues.”
As well as YA debut author, Eleni Hale – “Imagination is something we don’t talk about enough.”
And novelist and critic, James Bradley – “All writing is about vulnerability.”
Before we came to Aussie fantasy writing legend, Garth Nix(in left pic). Garth on writing voices – “I’m often asked how I write women’s perspectives but never asked how I write the voices of fantastical monsters.”
And Garth on writing fantasy – “When I start out trying to work contemporary realism, something creepy always happens…and once I draw the map, it’s all over.”
Then there was Kate Forsyth, Australia’s historical fiction queen (in right pic), on the business of writing – “An author needs to be the engine of their own success.”
And Jaclyn Moriarty (yes, one of those Moriarty sisters) on writing rules – “You often read rules about writing, like ‘write every day’, which makes me feel insecure, because I don’t.”
The very funny R.A.Spratt on earning a writing income – “Being a children’s author is like being a nun…you get no money and you’re basically doing it out of the goodness of your heart.” 😉
As multi-media creative, Graham Davidson, noted – “This is the age of digital disruption, after all.”
So what entices the reluctant reader? What drags kids away from their gadgets and devices?
Of the Top Ten children’s books sold in Australia last year , nine were humorous (all with male authors). The other was fantasy (with a female author). Go figure.
And the quote to end all quotes must come from Belinda Murrell: “I met my publisher in a pub”. Yes, people, it can be done…
last week I spoke about my experience listening to the lovely Julie Koh at WritingNSW’s Forest for the Trees publishing industry seminar at this month’s Sydney Writer’s Festival. If you missed my take on Julie’s writerly words of wisdom, you can find it here.
Julie followed her quote-packed session with a chat with fellow Australian award-winning author, Charlotte Wood. Charlotte is the author of five novels and two books of non-fiction. Her latest novel, The Natural Way of Things, won the 2016 Stella Prize, the 2016 Indie Book of the Year and Novel of the Year, and was joint winner of the Prime Minister’s Literary Award for Fiction (whew!)
And yes, during her chat with Julie, Charlotte was kind enough to share her own (and in some cases, similar) wisdom pearls. Here they are:
Prize culture is good for morale but can be meaningless (it swirls around and may do little for sales – this one is strangely similar to Julie Koh’s Quote Number 15. Food for thought).
You must learn to hold your nerve (her second book was rejected after the first was published).
The process of writing is all you can control (not whether your work is traditionally published).
People who say luck doesn’t play a part in this industry are deluded (this one drew more than a few chuckles from the audience 🙂 ).
Be prepared for how greedy success can make you (Charlotte confessed that she first heard this quote from Christos Tsiolkas, award-winning author of The Slap. I don’t blame her for “re-using” it – it’s a great reminder that we are all human, susceptible to succumbing to the flaws that plague us).
“Write every day” is bullshit (thank you, Charlotte, for alleviating the pressure many writers feel, that they MUST write very day to be worthy of this craft. Besides, Charlotte confessed that her life is so full of other author commitments – such as festival talks 😉 – that she is unable to write every day anyway).
To sustain longevity in a writing career, you must have curiosity in the work itself (it’s that need to write. Although, in another confession from Charlotte, she admitted that she would probably stop if she wasn’t being published).
Tenacity and perseverance are more important than talent (keep at it, if it is what you want to do. Once again, persistence is key).
You need a tribe at the same writing stage as you (I hadn’t heard this one before but it resonated with me. Find those at similar stages of your writing journey, who read and write in your genre, who GET WHERE YOU ARE AT).
And on that note, I’m out of here – to touch base with my tribe…
And there’s more here from another self-published author, Robin Elizabeth. As Robin says, “…along with writers, it’s time to make the previously invisible members of book creation visible, the people that people interested in self-publishing want to find and hire but are largely ignored by Australian festivals.”
I agree with Pauline and Robin. Writer’s festival attendees are not only readers. Many of those that attend are also writers, writers that seek information on EVERY way they can publish.
And speaking of readers, how often does a reader have the chance to meet self-published authors at major festival book signings in Australia?
So what do you think? Is it to the detriment of the Australian publishing industry as a whole, including its readers, that self-published authors and the self-publishing process has been largely ignored by writers’ festivals?
I spent last Thursday soaking up words at Forest for the Trees, a whole-day seminar conducted by WritingNSW as part of the Sydney Writers’ Festival. Forest for the Trees brings together writers, publishers, and industry representatives to discuss the state of writing and publishing in Australia.
The program commences with a writer describing their journey to being published and how they stay on their path through the forest that is publishing. While the speakers’ pathways to getting published are as interesting as they are diverse (in the three years I have attended, vastly different pathways have been revealed), it’s the quotes speakers use to push their point home that I remember most.
Lovely Julie Koh in action
So much can be relayed in a few well chosen words, and this year was no exception, with Julie Koh, author of Portable Curiosities and Capital Misfits, and one of The Sydney Morning Herald’s Best Young Australian Novelists of 2017, dishing out quotes thick and fast, telling it like it is.
I thought I’d share them, along with my own two cents worth of comment 🙂 :
It’s okay to start late, and it’s okay to fail (something I struggle to remember).
Sometimes you have to make sacrifices (and don’t we know it).
Learn about writing and the industry ie. from festivals, courses, reading, twitter, professional memberships (let’s face it, finding out how the literary world works can be fun, and painful).
Butter your own toast ie. don’t obsess how other writers work (my new favourite writing, make that life, quote. This one’s going up on my office wall).
Book deals can be accidental (don’t you all wish one would accidentally drop into your lap?)
It’s all about connections (you connect with people who understand your crazy need to do something that may not make you much, if any, money).
You gotta have the hunger and the hustle. (Julie also said: “Preparation meets opportunity”, another good line to remember. There’s no shame in approaching key people).
“When the Lord closes a door, he opens a window” (one straight out of The Sound of Music. Julie – Koh – referred to it as the scatter gun approach, spreading your work out wide. I must admit, I had a fleeting picture in my head of Julie – Andrews – fleeing from her hilltop meadow at the sound of gunfire 😉 )
Your first book is probably not a magic bullet (speaking of gunfire…but seriously, don’t we all wish for the first book to strike it big? Yeah, probably not gonna happen).
Know that the joy of writing is in the writing. Everything else is noise (yes, yes, yes! And that’s why I blog, for the sheer joy of it – and to get out of housework).
Say “Yes” until you can say “No” – but preserve your sanity first (in other words, do all you can in the quest for success but don’t run yourself into the ground for it).
Get your financial house in order first (this is something I haven’t heard from many writers. Julie said: “You don’t know how hard it is until you try…I may become super famous or super homeless, or both”. It’s extremely hard to make a living from writing, so it is wise to ask yourself why you are doing it).
Realize that the literary world is no mythic garden of noble unicorns (I wish, you wish, my daughter wishes…)
Be savvy about publishers, agents, and contracts ie. what type of relationship do you want with publishers and agents? (Julie employed a publishing consultant to go through Julie’s first book contract).
Don’t get sucked into the prize culture (it’s important to keep in mind the subjectivity that may come into play when awarding winners – each panelist has their own taste and bias).
If you’re a writer of colour, know it will be harder for you eg. you may be defined by it when asked to appear on panels/as a speaker (and the times are not a-changing fast enough).
Your book can be a business card (it may be the BEST business card for your writing career).
“Writing is like driving at night in the fog.” (Ah, what a great one to end with, that famous quote from American novelist, E.L.Doctorow, the second line being: “You can only see as far as the headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”)
I’d like to add, and maybe make a career of it that way too.
Hope you’re driving well,
P.S. Writing quotes that mention food strike a chord with me. For some reason, I’m more likely to remember them. Wonder why 😉
Do you have a favourite writing quote? If so, I’d love to hear it!