Wednesday, 20 August 2014

first manuscript query - allison tait of 'the mapmaker chronicles'

Australian writer Allison Tait joins me today to answer the big questions about her first manuscript.  In the process of writing my own, I've wondered what led other writers to this point and how old they were at the time.  I've discovered there's often a difference between the first manuscript and the first actual book published and a full resume of jobs until that point.  It's fascinating to discover the back-story and I'm delighted Allison has agreed to share hers with Stonefruit Season readers.

Allison writes fiction, non-fiction and features - and writes regularly about writing, life and .... whimsy at allisontait.comThe Mapmaker Chronicles, her first series for children (9+), will launch on 14 October 2014, with book one: The Race to the End of The World.  I'm a regular reader of her blog which is a lovely community for writers, both new and established.  I have also become a huge fan of her podcasts, So you want to be a writer, co-hosted by Valerie Khoo for Australian Writers' Centre, which feature tips, insights, motivation and interviews with writers from around the world - well worth checking out.

At what age did you write your first manuscript?
I was 29 and it was a romance novel - aimed at Mills & Boon. I was working in magazines at the time and thought that romance novels made complete sense for me. I'd read hundreds of them in my late teens, they had a specific market, and they were relatively short. What could possibly go wrong? As it turned out, quite a lot and it wasn't until I won a mentor in a competition that I was gently steered in the direction of broader women's fiction. "I think you have too much to say for a category romance novel," were her exact, diplomatic words.

What jobs did you have until then?
I've worked in various roles in magazine publishing (editorial assistant, sub-editor, features writer, features editor) almost my entire career, apart from three memorable months as a (very bad) receptionist for a homewares company. 

What was the catalyst for your first full-length work?
After I received those gentle words from my mentor, I turned my attention to longer manuscripts and I've since written two for adults, one of which got very close to publication, and two of which I'm still reworking. I've also, now, written 2.5 children's novels, my series called The Mapmaker Chronicles - the first of which, Race To The End Of The World, will be published in October 2014, and the last of which (the 0.5) is nearly at complete first draft stage. The children's series has been THE MOST FUN I've ever had with writing and I'm keen to do more of it.

Words of wisdom for budding writers
I've written a lot of stuff on my blog over the years but it all boils down to three things:

•You don't 'find' time to write a novel, you make time. Make it a priority. It's more important than The Block or Offspring or anything else on tele, for starters.

•There is no perfect time or place to write a novel. There is only now, there is only here. Sit at your computer or pull out your notebook and start right now.

•Finish the damn book. You can't edit a blank page and you sure as heck can't publish half a novel - push forward when it gets hard and remember you can always go back and fix it later. You'll learn to love editing…

Thank you Allison for your wonderful insights and taking the time to answer my questions.  Best of luck for The Mapmaker Chronicles - Book 1 is available for preorder now.

Over to you readers - are you writing too?  If so, please leave your answers to these questions in the comments section of this post.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

in the post: my salinger year

Joanna Rakoff's My Salinger Year winged its way to my house this week courtesy of an Australian Writers' Centre competition.  I recently heard Joanna talk on So you want to be a writer and I could have listened to her all day.  Her memoir recounts her time in New York answering writer JD Salinger's fan mail.  If Joanna writes as well as she talks, this promises to be one of my all time favourite reads.

Winning the book wasn't as simple as sending off my name and address - I had to write a short account of the funniest thing that happened to me in my first job.  Keen to find out what it was?  Here goes...

While this wasn't my first job, it was my first proper-Melbourne-job-in-an-office.

I was working as a marketing assistant at an industry association.  I spent a lot of time on the photocopier, but wasn't ever clear on what to do whenever those annoying flashing lights appeared.

One night, I was working late and I eventually realised that the toner cartridge needed replacing.  There was only one other person in the office.  I knew it wasn't worth asking her to do it for me, she would just say I had to learn how to do it myself.

I opened the huge beast of a thing and did my best to insert the new cartridge.  Something didn't quite work and the next thing I knew, I was knee deep in black toner.  It went all over the floor!

My co-worker heard me screaming and came in to find the biggest mess imaginable.  If you think of how many copies you get from one toner cartridge, you can imagine the scene of black dust in the photocopier room.

I maintain a fear of photocopier parts to this day and in every office since then, have deferred to others to change consumables.  You might say, I'm tarred for life.

How about you?  Any similar tales in the office cupboard?!

PS More wonderful AWC podcasts here.

Monday, 18 August 2014

why I didn't marry the boy next door

Overseas many years ago, I was told that when I got back to Australia, I should go and introduce myself to the boy next door.  The advice was given by a guy from the Northern Hemisphere who was married to a Kiwi and he said life was far simpler that way.  Ignoring his advice, I eventually met and married an Irishman, commenced our life together over there and moved back to Australia nine years ago.  While it's not always ideal, marrying someone from another country means you end up with family and friends on both sides of the world and a life that's all the richer from your chosen path.  We wouldn't change it for the world.

As for the boy next door, I didn't ever really meet him, but I'm pretty sure he was a real dork - and a teenager, which would have been quite awkward, given that I was in my twenties at the time…

Do you live between two countries?  Are they kind of close by like, say, Australia and New Zealand or do they requires hours in a tin can cruising from one hemisphere to the other?  

Better yet, did you marry the boy/girl next door?  Should I have gone and introduced myself after all?!

PS Joe arrived home last night to much excitement and relief from us all - pictures from our new point and shoot Nikon S3600 which did a fabulous job of capturing local sights and scenes.

Friday, 15 August 2014

book week - thank goodness for clementine rose

Australian author Jacqueline Harvey has saved our Book Week bacon with her delightful character Clementine Rose.  Here's someone who wears clothes just like Soph (who is minus the red bow - whoops) and saved a busy mother from a custom design!  Phew!  It's been lovely to find young Clementine Rose and the Treasure Box, a present from Joe before he flew out to Ireland.  As this is the sixth book, we'll have to work backwards, but it's always a bonus to find a series that hooks in young readers.  Sophie has read most of the Alice Miranda books and loved them, so we'll be keeping an eye on any new releases.  Find more here.

Have you had a lucky escape with a last minute costume?

Thursday, 14 August 2014

repurposed wheelbarrow: the succulent garden

Too good to throw away, this old metal wheelbarrow makes a great home for succulents.  Requiring little water, this is an easy care garden, only needing a slight trim when things get out of control.  When the aeoniums at the front get too big, I snap them down to size and start them growing again.  Larger plants can be transferred into other beds and cuttings from bigger plants can be started back in here - quite a lifecycle we've got going!

Do you repurpose secondhand items in your garden?
If so, I'd love to see some pictures of your creations.  
Please leave me a link in the comments and I will come and visit.

Joining in with Circle of Pines for #growforagecook.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

back to the faber academy - arnold zable

I'm delighted to be heading back to the Faber Academy at Allen & Unwin, this time for a story telling workshop with Arnold Zable.   I remember Cafe Sheherazade as being beautifully written, his wonderful tale of the Melbourne cafe and the lives of its owners and patrons.  I can't believe I'm going to get the chance hear insights from such a master of his craft - a very exciting opportunity.  The course outline says it will focus on both fiction and non-fiction, so it will be really worthwhile.  I'll let you know more once I've been!

Have you attended workshops with your creative heroes?  If so, I'd love to hear more!

Have you read Cafe Sheherezade or anything else written by Arnold Zable?  I can remember loving it so much, I'd consider it a must read.  Track it down and let me know what you think!

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

photo printing recommendations - help!

We celebrated a special birthday over the weekend and I had three of my favourite photos printed for the occasion.  They were all taken at the home of the person for whom the celebrations were held and were a great success.  I have loved seeing them in print so much I'm keen to get more of my photos blown up and put into frames.  But therein lies the rub: who to use?  What paper should I choose?  There seems to be fine art prints in cotton rag or giclee, printers located throughout Australia, both near and far.

Over to you readers - have you had your work printed to fine art quality?

Who did you choose and why?  

Thanks in advance for your help!