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Archive for September, 2010

ASA Mentorships Open

Posted by Rowena Cory Daniells on September 30, 2010

If you can get a mentorship this is an opportunity not to be missed. Working with a published writer, who can guide you to help you write the best book you can at this point in your career will help you avoid the blundering around the dark that we all do as we learn.

The ASA mentorship program applications opened today, Friday, October 1st and close on the 29th of October. Here’s the link to the web site.

‘The program offers 15 successful applicants the opportunity to work closely with a mentor of their choice for 30 hours over up to 12 months. Mentorships can be conducted by phone, post, email, face-to-face meetings or a combination of these.’

The mentorship is funded by CAL (Copyright Agency Limited) and it is open to people over 18 who have not had a full length literary work published. For more info, here’s the FAQs page.

Best of luck if you are applying.

Posted in Creativity, Editing and Revision, Editors, Mentorships, Nourish the Writer, Writing Craft | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

‘How I went about applying for a grant’ by someone who was successful

Posted by Rowena Cory Daniells on September 25, 2010

Vision member Gary Kemble announced this week that he had received an OZCo (Australian Literature Board) Grant. So I grabbed him and said, Gary, please tell us how you did it!

A bit about Gary:

Gary Kemble is a speculative fiction writer and journalist/blogger/social media guy for the ABC. His two most recent credits are ‘Feast or Famine’ (Macabre: A Journey Through Australia’s Darkest Fears, Brimstone Press) and ‘Bug Hunt’ (One Books Many Brisbanes 5, BCC).  The speculative fiction book he will write is set in Brisbane and is about ghosts, tattoos, police corruption and politics. Here are Gary’s tips on applying for a grant.

Gary on grant writing …

The bad news: most grant applications *aren’t* successful. In the 2010 Australia Council New Work Grant (Emerging) round there were 87 applications, of which 71 were deemed eligible and 13 were successful. The year before, there were 226 applications, but the year before that there were only 58. (http://www.asauthors.org/lib/EWG/2010/ASA_Emerging_Grants_2010.pdf)

The good news: first-time applicants (such as myself) can get funded! So take the process seriously, but try to keep your expectations in check. And if you don’t succeed – try again. You’ll be up against a different batch of applicants, so anything can happen.

I first thought about grants back in 2006, after interviewing horror writer Martin Livings . That was when I realised that the Australia Council actually funded people writing speculative fiction. Up until then, I just assumed that it was only for ‘literature’. I think at the time I looked at the eligibility criteria and realised I didn’t have enough publication credits.

I thought about grants off and on after that, and then earlier this year I noticed that the Queensland Writers Centre had a seminar on grant writing, run by CEO Kate Eltham. It was fantastic. I learnt a bit more about the Emerging Writers Grant and also a bunch of other grants, such as the Arts Queensland Career Development Grant (which I also successfully applied for and, as a result, was able to attend AussieCon 4).

But the real revelation was that the people who administer these grants *want to help you*. That kinda seems like a no-brainer now, but for some reason I imagined they were trying to figure out reasons to *not* give people money. Whereas, in actual fact, they exist to *help* writers, artists etc.

The next step was to sort out my eligibility. There’s the Emerging category, and also the Established category. The Emerging section is administered by the Australian Society of Authorsand the Established is administered by the Australia Council . It’s important to get this right, because if you apply for the wrong grant, they won’t forward it to the other body, it will just be deemed ineligible.

I’d had over 60,000 words published, but in short stories, not one big work. So I phoned the Australia Council, asked them what they thought, and they advised me to apply for the Emerging category.

A key hurdle in applying for the grant is establishing that you are eligible. This is the Australia Council making sure that you’ve got some hope of completing the project that they’re funding. In the case of Emerging writers, you have to have had (if like me your background is short stories) 10 short works of fiction published in ‘professional literary journals, edited anthologies, major newspapers or general national magazines’.

By ‘professional literary journals’ they mean publications (and this includes online publications) where there are submission guidelines and a clear editorial selection process. To give you an idea of what they consider ‘eligible’, my publication credits included Borderlands magazine, Dark Tales magazine, Shadowed Realms (online), Espresso Fiction (online), Ripples magazine, Artworker magazine, The Writing Show (podcast) and the following anthologies: London at Dawn, Zombies, The Devil in Brisbane, One Book Many Brisbanes 3, One Book Many Brisbanes 5. I listed them in reverse chronological author so the assessors could see my progression as a writer.

This process took quite a bit of digging around, even though I keep track of my publication history. They need to know the month of publication, as well as the year, so that’s something to keep in mind when you’re updating your writer’s CV.

The second part of the application process was the project description, stating what you want to do and how you propose to do it. There’s no right or wrong way to do this. I watched the Charlotte Wood case study on the Australia Council website to give me some ideas .

I decided to start with a quick (one longish paragraph) synopsis of my story. And when I say ‘synopsis’, I mean sort of like the blurb you read on the back of a book. I felt it was a strong hook.

After that, I explained how this project would help me develop as a writer – I wanted to fuse my burgeoning fiction talent with the skills that I have acquired as a journalist. I explained the challenges of finding time to devote to a project when you’ve got two small children. I can write at night, but it’s hard to find time to interview people and do research at the library.

Then I did a quick overview of my writing career, explaining both the successes I’ve had writing short stories and also the challenges in moving over to the novel (I’ve written or co-written six novel-length manuscripts) – I explained that even though none of these had been published, they were part of my journey as a writer.

I said that I wanted my novel to be steeped in Queensland history and to do that I would need to do proper research – library research and interviews. I told them I wanted to add to the growing list of speculative fiction novels set in Brisbane: Will Elliott’s Pilo Family Circus, Stephen M Irwin’s The Dead Path, Trent Jamieson’s Death Works trilogy.

After that, I threw in a short paragraph about the novel’s themes, and then one last paragraph about how I’m aiming for this book to be the first in a series.

The final part of the application is a writing sample. This can be anything: a sample of the project you want to work on, or a previous example of your work. I chose an excerpt from ‘Untethered’, the short story published in One Book Many Brisbanes 3 (http://www.brisbane.qld.gov.au/documents/libraries/obmb3_untethered_kemble.pdf). I did this for two reasons: 1. It’s got the tone I’m going to aim for in my new project, and; 2. I’d worked on it with OBMB editor Rosie Fitzgibbon, so I was confident it was of a high standard.

After that, it’s just a matter of bundling it up and licking the stamps!

In summary:

* Plan for the worst, but hope for the best. I’m living proof that magic happens!

* Short stories are a great way of building your skills and getting over the eligibility hurdle.

* Keep a good record of your publication history – it will save time later.

* Write a project summary that tells the panel about the project, but also how the project will help you develop as a writer.

* Choose a strong example of your writing.

Good luck!

Rowena here, I’ve applied for 2 professional development grants and gotten one. ( A nod of thanks to Arts QLD for funding my trip to the World SF Con in Glasgow in 2005). And I’ve applied for 3 or 4 grants to write new work and not gotten any. Have you applied for any grants and if so, what were they?

Posted in Australian Spec Fic Scene, Creativity, Editing and Revision, Nourish the Writer, Publishing Industry, Research | Tagged: , , , , , , | 11 Comments »

Momentum

Posted by trentjamieson on September 23, 2010

I’m being virtuous.

Here I am even with my structural edits for book three (The Business of Death) due tomorrow, and I’ve been frantically getting them done, even though I have new stories I want to work on – writers are like magpies and new stories are extremely shiny at this stage in the novel-writing cycle. New stories, other stories, wearing a tricorne hat, mowing the lawn, anything but the story you’ve been focusing on for months and months.

Though I do like this process. I’m at the final read through tweaking stage – which usually takes me about a week to two weeks.

I tend to find that the first two-thirds take up about three-quarters of that time, because they’re all about set up, getting the story moving, feeding in necessary back story but not too much, and generally sorting out all the thrashing about I do in earlier drafts. It also takes me time to get into reading the story yet again, you read through something enough times and all you can see are the mistakes – it’s like chewing on used gum, you’ve ground the flavour out of it. The story’s not story to you any more, it’s words that you are using to perform what you hope is a fascinating and interesting function.

But by the time I get to the final hundred pages, something curious happens, it’s all about momentum, and if the novel is going well, it tends to drag me along by then.  And the story starts to feel new.

Doesn’t mean that I’m paying the pages any less attention, just that there’s less work and more story pay off going on – it’s also, probably, because it’s the end that I spend most of my structural edits, before this read through, working on.

The last two books were like that, and this is too. Which either means that it’s going OK, or I’m deluding myself.

How do you find it with your edits and rewrites? Is it the beginning or the end that’s hardest for you?

Oh, and tomorrow once I hand this in I’m going to see Inception or Scott Pilgrim versus the World – any recs for either?

Posted in Editing and Revision, Editors, Nourish the Writer | Tagged: , , | 6 Comments »

World Con Through the Eyes of the Uninitiated

Posted by Rowena Cory Daniells on September 18, 2010

While attending Aussie Con 4, Leanne C Taylor took her lap top to each panel and made notes. She had kindly offered to share what she gleaned with us.

Take it away, Leanne.

When I first heard about the World Science Fiction Convention, I was thrilled.  I’m a big fan of sci-fi and fantasy related events, even if I don’t usually find my way to them.  My favourite part of Supanova is going to look at all the wonderful, inexplicable merchandise that is absolutely nowhere else in Brisbane.  Sure, you can order some of these things online, but if you have an experience as I did with my purchase of a Clalaclan figure via Play Asia, where what looked cute and demure in the pictures turns up with a rack that would make Jenna Jameson blush, you quickly learn to admire from afar, until you can examine up close.

So it was, with dreams of capitalistic glory and a heavy wallet, that a ventured to Melbourne, to attend my first ever WorldCon.  We eventually found where we were supposed to be, gathered our wits to determine which room our first panel was in, and decided that half an hour spent perusing the dealer’s room would be a half-hour well-spent.  I entered, and took a cruise-by of the stalls on offer.  I made it to the end of the row, and turned the corner, expecting I had entered the wrong door, and sure that eclectic consumerist joys awaited me.  Past the Borders stall, around the divider and…  What?  Coffee?
So the dealer’s room was a little smaller than I imagined.  I left for my first panel, slightly disgruntled and with a severe case of nerves.  Maybe they hadn’t told anyone.  Maybe no one knew.  I ascended the stage in the all-but-empty room, unable to find my fellow participants, with a cold lump of dread settling into my stomach.  What if no one turned up?  What if they got bored and left?  What if – like the survivors of some unforeseen apocalypse – we were doomed to spend our days, wandering the empty halls?
What followed were some of the best days of my writing career.  My first two panels got off to a great start, and I spent the next 4 days flitting from lecture to panel to lunch and back again.  I listened, enraptured, as people whose books I’d seen on store shelves spoke frankly, wittily, and with a heart-warming familiarity.  I took page after page of notes, as you’ll see, and retired each day, exhausted and happy.  I really feel that attending WorldCon has made me a better writer, and has helped put my priorities in order.  It’s something of a shift, to see that there are these wonderful, passionate people, doing what they love, and happy to discuss their passion with you, stranger though you may be.  There’s a sense of community, of togetherness, which I haven’t felt for a long time, not in my professional career.  I can only hope that next time AussieCon rolls around, I’ll be in a position to attend once again, and maybe slip in a couple of visits to the US WorldCons between now and then.
So, was I disappointed?  Momentarily, yes.  But the materialistic side of my psyche soon lost out to my desire to learn.  And learn I did.  I hope my notes provide some small idea of what it was like to attend each of the particular panels.  I hope they’re as useful to you as they are to me.  And I hope, next time, I’ll see you there.
Leanne would like to stress that these notes were taken in real-time, while the panel was happening. I would like to thank her for generously sharing with us. (Also something weird is going on with the formatting when I upload the post, sorry about this).


“Are there taboos in dark fantasy? At what point does the fantasy stop and the psychosis begin? “
Deborah Biancotti, Terry Dowling, Richard Harland, Jason Nahrung, Catherynne M Valente

“For some authors, the most important aspect of writing a story or novel is preparing a meticulously constructed plot. For others, the appeal of writing comes from developing the story on the fly, and allowing the plot to develop as they go. What are the benefits and drawbacks of each approach , and the best techniques for plotting in a chosen way?”
Stephen Dedman, John Scalzi, Melinda M. Snodgrass

“As new technologies arise, story tellers learn (sometimes tot heir embarrassment) which techniques can be adapted from old media, and discover new possibilities. Join our crew of passionate storytellers as we navigate from Stone Age campfires to the interactive multiplayer future.”

Chris Lawson, Grant Wartson, Peter Watts, Ben Chandler

Anachronistic Attitudes: Writing thought and belief in historical fiction

“Writers of historical (or historically inspired) fiction often pay close attention to accuracy, ensuring the technology and fashion surrounding their stories never fall prey to anachronism – but what about the way the characters behave? What responsibility does an author have to their characters’ thought processes, beliefs and understanding of the fictional world around them?”

Kaaron Warren, Rowena Cory Daniells, Juliet Marillier, Ginjer Buchanan

Writing your First Novel

“Suggestions, tips, advice, ideas, opportunities to help all those who would like to write. “
Juliet Marillier, Richard Harland, Leanne Hall, Carol Ryles (chair)

“Editing a 5000 word short story is one thing – how do you edit a 100 000 word novel? A panel of professional editors discuss their own experience in editing the novel – how to keep a work that long consistent, how to maintain energy and enthusiasm, how to liaise with the author over the long haul, and how to decide how long or short a novel should ultimately be.”
Simon Spanton, Zoe Walton, Jean Johnson, Ginjer Buchanan

“Clarke’s Law famously states that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. When writing about the distant future, where do we draw this distinction? Can we? And, perhaps more importantly, should we?”
Rani Graff, Bob Kuhn, Alistair Reynolds

“Science fiction used to be a means of extrapolating today’s technology and society, and predicting the future. More and more often, however, our ideas of the future simply aren’t turning true. What happens when the real world starts advancing faster than the imaginations of science fiction writers?”
Kim Stanley Robinson, John Scalzi, Mike Scott, Norman Cates


“Submitting a story to a journal, anthology or magazine might seem as simple as attaching a  Word document to an e-mail and firing it off, but is it? How do you know the appropriate market for your fiction? How much is enough money to be paid for your work? How should you approach an editor? What are the dos and don’ts of getting published in the speculative short fiction marketplace?”
Cory Doctorow, Robert Silverberg, David D. Levine, Angela Slatter

“The mutual admiration of Virginia Woolf and Olaf Stapledon for each other’s novels will serve as a start for a comparison of the very different treatments of time in their books, which will then lead to a discussion of the many ways novelists can portray the passage of time, often in ways unavailable to the other arts. The impact of these formal methods on the reader’s senses of pace and meaning, therefore crucial questions of readerly pleasure, will be explored by way of example of Joyce, Proust, Golding, Garcia Marquez, and other great fantasists.”
Kim Stanley Robinson


“At the crossroads between science fiction and horror there is a familiar formula at work: a group of humans trapped in a claustrophobic environment – a spaceship, a space station, a distant colony – being hunted down one by one by some inhuman and utterly terrifying monster. From Alien and The Thing to Even Horizon, Resident Evil and most recently Cargo and Pandrorum (both screening at the convention), we investigate the origins of this popular sub-genre of cinema, why it works and which films of its type work the best.
Bob Eggleton, Christian Sauve, Foz Meadows

“To be a ‘Philistine’ has entered our language to mean uncouth or barbaric, a perception deeply situated in Biblical thought. Just as the Greeks described non-Greek neighbours as ‘Barbarians,’ so too did the Biblical writers describe people settled along the southern coast of the Levant in derogatory terms. This talk will discuss the Aegean and Cypriot origin of the Philistines,  who were reputed to be among the Sea People wreaking havoc in the Mediterranean at the end of the Bronze Age (ca. 1180 BC). I will present recent results from the archaeological excavations at the Philistine site at Tell es-Safi/Gath (Israel), the city associated with Goliath in the Bible. The archaeological remains of the Philistines reveal them to be a socially and economically advanced, technologically innovative (iron production), artistically sophisticated (decorated Mycenaean-Greek style pottery), and cosmopolitan culture that positively influenced surrounding region.”
Dr. Louise Hitchock

“What keeps the pages turning on a good speculative fiction novel? A panel of authors reveal the tricks and tools they have used – and others they have seen as readers – to keep the momentum of a good story going, and to ensure the reader’s attention. What makes the difference between a tedious bore and an un-put-downable narrative rollercoaster?”
Peter V. Brett, Carrie Vaughn, Howard Tayler, Jay Lake

“The writers of fantastical horror face some very particular challenges. Our panelists discuss defying the prefixes.”
Shane Jiraya Cummings, China Mieville, Carrie Vaughn

Once again, my thanks go to Leanne.

Posted in Australian Spec Fic Scene, Editing and Revision, Genre Writing, Nourish the Writer, Publishing Industry, Writing Craft | Tagged: , , | 5 Comments »

In Which The Creative Writing Teacher Finds Himself Not Above Suspicion

Posted by trentjamieson on September 16, 2010

I’m always suspicious of people who profess a mastery of writing. Mastery’s a very slippery term. And when you start spreading that so called mastery around as some sort of writ, rather than a possibility among a multitude of possibilities, well, it becomes a little dangerous.

Teaching writing (at least) is only ever suggesting, I hesitate to use even the term facilitator because it’s less about enabling and more about, well, suggesting. So, yes, that’s about the best descriptor I can find, and if it sounds somewhat uncertain, a little shaky even, well, that’s probably a good thing.

Suggestion is good, because it offers options.

It’s when you start stating “that this is so” and that this is how it’s done to the exclusion of other things (just as I am doing here, by the way) you drift swiftly into perilous territory.

And to say, “well, this is wrong” well then you’re heading into dangerous waters in a boat that is leaking, at an alarming rate, because so much interesting material comes from things that are regarded as wrong, and to wrap things up in a litany of wrong is to be blinded by rules to the beauty that occurs when someone gets it right.

I don’t enjoy everything and you probably don’t either.

And to teach writing I think you at least need to recognize this, otherwise you increase the likelihood of stunting the writing of someone who is getting right what you see as wrong. Which is why I believe teaching must always be approached with humility and care.

We’re all miserable failures in some way. We’re deaf to at least one, though more likely many, aspects of the human story. We’re all grasping in the dark.

If anything, teaching writing is an acknowledgement of that, and at best you can only hope to provide the tools that work for you, in the chance that they might help shine a little light in helping another writer find their way, but not so much that they are in themselves blinding.

Posted in Artists, Creativity, Editing and Revision, Nourish the Writer, Writing Craft | Tagged: , , | 4 Comments »

Woot for Marianne

Posted by Rowena Cory Daniells on September 15, 2010

Our very own Marianne de Pierres in her guise as Marianne Delacourt has won the Davitt award for book one of her Tara Sharp series.

The Davitt Award is run by Sisters in Crime and is in its 10th year.

Tara Sharp is light hearted amusing crime series.

“Sharp Shooter is the first story featuring Tara, a sassy twenty-something with a knack of landing herself in trouble. Filled with humour, this action packed thriller set in the suburbs of Perth, is billed as targeting fans of Janet Evanovich, and is a satisfying blend of action, mystery and laughs.” aussiereviews.com

Marianne says of her Delacourt persona:

‘She has a much more optimistic, lighter view on life. She deals with the murky stuff with humour.’ For the full interview see here.

Way to go, Marianne.

Posted in Awards, Genre Writing | Tagged: , , , | 4 Comments »

Calling Aspiring Writers

Posted by Rowena Cory Daniells on September 15, 2010

NOTE:  As Chris just pointed out to me, today is the 15th of September.  Very sorry about this, I lost track of the weeks.  The Scribe Fiction Prize is annual, so look out for it next year.

The Scribe $15,000 Fiction Prize is open again. For details see here. This year they will be taking entries electronically. They say:

‘In August 2009, Scribe launched the CAL Scribe Fiction Prize for an unpublished manuscript by an Australian writer aged 35 and over, regardless of publication history. The winner receives $15,000 and a book contract from Scribe.

Many writers only find the time and have acquired the life experience to write fiction later in life. This prize recognises that there are many examples of late bloomers when it comes to writers, certainly in terms of getting published. Youth is already celebrated in so many ways, and Scribe wants to support writers who are emerging or still going strong in their prime.’

Entries close Septmber 15th. There’s a minimum word count of 40,000 words.

Posted in Genre Writing, Nourish the Writer, Writing Opportunities | Tagged: , , , | 7 Comments »

Revision and Editing

Posted by Rowena Cory Daniells on September 11, 2010

Having escaped my work and family for about 10 days I went to the World SF Con but first we did our 2010 Melbourne ROR where, Dirk, Richard and Maxine confirmed what I had suspected about my latest book. Luckily, I was prepared for this. (Oops, Id written a science fiction books instead of a fantasy).

We read Richard’s new book Liberator, the sequel to the highly successful Worldshaker, Maxine’s intriguing new book in which proves that obsession can lead to great writing. Who would have though Maxine had been reincarnated from a World War One Flying Ace? And then we read Dirk’s libretto, set in bedlam, staring Lord Byron and the Queen of the Faeries. Honestly, no wonder I felt like a wall flower!

Anyway, what this is leading up to is revision and editing. We call came away with suggestions to make our work better. While I was in Melbourne I was working on the first book of my new trilogy. And it was only on the day before I was due to come back that I realised I’d ended book one in the wrong place and needed to start book two earlier. This meant I had room for extra scenes in book one, and book two would have a better introduction to the characters. All of this is great, but it meant a major reshuffle of scenes and time line.

How did I know the book ended in the wrong place? I don’t know. I just did.

Editing and revision is a really tricky thing. Over at the Mad Genius Club, Sarah Hoyt did this great post on editing and revision and it got me thinking about the ROR Sunday Craft post.  When I came to research this topic there were a lot of sites offering software to help you edit your fiction. (I bet a software package couldn’t have told me my book ended in the wrong place). There are plenty of sites to advise you on how to edit your academic essay. And there are plenty of sites offering fiction editing services.

Thank goodness for Holly Lisle! Here is her One-pass Manuscript Revision article. I like the way she comes at this by first asking you to think about theme. Often discovering your theme will help you strengthen your work. When I critique work I often ask people what are your tyring to say in this story. Then Holly asks you to write down the story arc for the main character. Notice she hasn’t talked about actual editing yet. That’s because she’d helping your refine your vision for the book! (If fiction writing were as simple as an academic essay everyone could do it). And Holly has an excellent list of questions to ask yourself about each scene. All of this is really useful.

But you do reach a point where you have looked at a book so many times you can’t see it any more. That’s where I’m a great believer in – I’ll read your first-draft, if you’ll read mine.

When you don’t have a year to put your book aside and refresh your brain with other work, giving it to your critique partner to read can be a life saver. This is why we set up the ROR writing group. For those of you who are interested this is how ROR works. And this is how we critique.

The most important thing about editing and revision, is being open to changes, while keeping in mind your vision for the book. I really like editing. For me the temptation is to go on adding layers. Then I need a crit buddy to take me aside and gently tell me I’ve added too many layers.

How do you tackle editing and revision? Do you work alone? Do you have a critique partner?

Posted in Editing and Revision, Writing Craft, Writing Groups | Tagged: , , | 15 Comments »

Melbourne World Con – Just one observation

Posted by Rowena Cory Daniells on September 8, 2010

Let me misquote Douglas Adams and start out by saying the World Con is big, like really really big. In the US it can be 5,000 to 7,000 attendees, while in Australia this World Con had around 2,500 attendees. This is big compared to our National Conventions which have between 250 – 350 attendees.

So there was no chance to get to every panel, or even half the panels you wanted to get to. In fact it took me three days to walk down the first aisle of the dealer’s room because every time I tried I ran into people I knew and was waylaid chatting.

Here’s Marianne with her anthology ‘Glitter Rose’ produced by Twelfth Planet Press. Support Indy Press!

Here’s a link to a friend of mine’s blog who was much more organised than me and very thoughtfully took notes while observing the panels. This one is The Future is Overtaking Us. This  is my favourite quote:

‘Every generation has the moment when they realize this is no longer in the children’s world and have become adults and they’re now in the future’

I’m sure the other RORees will have much to say on the subject of the World Con, this is just a quick drive-by post from me.

Posted in Australian Spec Fic Scene, Genre Writing | Tagged: , , , | 6 Comments »