Sunday, August 28, 2005

The Melbourne Writers' Festival has just finished and I will post some notes from the sessions I attended in a day or two.
Today I wrote - just a little. Took my new laptop out into the wilds (the Australian bush) and wrote 4 more poems for my new verse novel, plus a half page of a short story that has been bugging me for a couple of months.
I think I have also worked out how to fix another short story that has been almost there but not working properly. One of those that niggles at you. You send it out, you get rejections, you know something's not working but what?....
We'll see if I can fix it.
Finished a crime novel from the festival (or should I say, one of its guests, John Harvey). It was OK, but not as good as Peter Robinson, IMO.
Have started an Australian novel 'Everyman's Rules for Scientific Living' - good so far. A main character who promises to cause trouble.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Writing accomplished! Very pleased that I wrote more of the short novel on the weekend and I think I have got over the plot problem (the problem was I had no plot). Now I can see the end in sight, but as usual, I have to take care that I don't rush it.
I also think I have finally discovered the secret of talking to school children. Relax and be silly and talk about the stuff I'm interested in rather than try to give them a 'nice author talk'. I had a lot of fun yesterday with two different school groups, teaching them how to talk like a pirate. (There is actually a website for this - as 19 September is international "Talk Like a Pirate Day".)
I sold 25 books altogether, which was astonishing as both schools were in less than affluent areas of Melbourne. A great morning.
This week here in Australia is Children's Book Week. I think quite a few schools have visiting authors, although I have spoken to one who said they wanted me to come later as they don't do authors during Book Week. But mostly there are lots of activities and things to do with books and reading.
The discussions are often about who won the CBC awards, with much dissention. That, of course, is what is great about books. Everyone likes something different.
The time for me to fly off to Arizona is getting closer, just a bit over three weeks. I am quite excited and looking forward to it, and I will talk to lots of students at Pima College as well as do a bookshop reading and give a talk on writing about place. For the latter I will need to put together some of my photos.
I am feeling quite productive for a change. It's a pity my desk is covered in stuff as usual, and the place is a mess. But I am making headway.

Friday, August 19, 2005

After several delays, my website additions are finally up and running. I need to keep adding more stuff, including links to other sites and some articles I've written, but most of the main material is there. School visit information and some photos. Haven't yet worked out how to put up my small video. Apparently I need a plug-in from Macromedia which I'm putting off getting (ah, procrastination). I've added a link to this blog too.
No new writing this week. I had good intentions and then suddenly had to write a synopsis for a YA novel I've finished reworking. I thought I had an old version on my very old computer in the back room but couldn't find it so had to start from scratch. It took several hours and who knows if it's any good. Synopses seem to be the thing everyone hates writing (so hard to make them sound interesting!) but are becoming standard in a world where most editors only want to see the first three chapters.
We are all time-starved and I often wonder why.
An old friend who writes family histories has asked me to help her on the one she is writing at present. Previously I had said I couldn't manage it. However I am now going to be doing quick edits (slash and burn, I call it) and handing it back for her to decide whether I've done it the way she wants.
I finished the 'Rise and Fall...' book - interesting but ultimately depressing. I wonder what teens think of it. The main character seemed so conflicted and unable to work out who she was, and the depressing part for me was that I didn't feel she'd made any progress by the end. In fact, I thought the ending was fudged - not really resolved in terms of character growth and a bit too neatly resolved in terms of plot. Left me feeling uneasy, as if the author had tried to make life simple and failed.
Then I started 'Sea of Trolls' by Nancy Farmer, which I had been looking forward to after 'House of the Scorpion' and haven't got past half-way. Found it very disappointing - the main character feels shallow and slight somehow, and I just haven't been able to involve myself in the story. Is this HP hangover, I ask myself? So I've put it away for a while.
And moved on to crime - Kathy Reichs - 'Cross Bones'. It reads like a clone of the Da Vinci Code - same religious stuff, as in did Jesus really die/live/whatever, except this is about bones and tombs and ossuaries. Yawn. It's just interesting enough to keep me reading, but she falls into the 'As you know, Bob' thing of using tons of dialogue to provide a mountain of information.
Maybe I need to pull out my Annie Proulx (That Old Ace in the Hole) and try that for a complete change of pace.
For an addicted reader, there's nothing more frustrating than not being able to find a book that I can totally sink into.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

I'm slowly but surely working my way through the various rewrites, edits and polishes. Looks like the fantasy novel has got the go-ahead from the series editors (fingers crossed) and then it will go the publisher's editor. Can't wait to see what kind of cover the book will have - fantasy covers make great T-shirts!
Finished Harry Potter VI last night and, despite a slow beginning, I totally enjoyed it and was very sad when it ended (sad because of the ending but also sad because there was no more to read). I understand why kids finish it and turn around and read it again straight away. I saw a documentary about JK Rowling and she talked about how she created the world and she has piles of notebooks where she has worked out every little detail - names for everything, how the Houses work, who is related to who, books and plants and animals and spells - no wonder the world feels so real.
I did the adverb scan a few times and yes, she does use lots (writers are always being told to kill their adverbs) but I kind of think she gets away with it, and she does use strong nouns and verbs so that in a way the adverbs add rather than detract. No doubt others will disagree! I did think No. 6 was better than No. 5, and she has certainly set it up well for No. 7. It would seem that in No. 7 Harry will be out in the world, dependent only on himself (and possibly Ron and Hermione).
Gossip says JK is concentrating on family for the next while and No. 7 will be written when she's ready and not before.
Now I'm reading (for a complete change of pace!) "The Rise and Fall of a 10th Grade Social Climber". Opinion reserved for now.
My big campaign to clean up and clear out junk around my house continues at a slow rate of knots - have been sorting books and throwing some out or giving them away. Amazing what you keep just because it's a book and you can't bear to part with it. But I really feel that now I can toss some of the older novels (Barbara Taylor Bradford, for goodness sake!).
Can't wait to get back to "real" writing. First draft, running away with words, excitement on the page stuff. Instead of corralling, cutting, refining and controlling. But you can't have one without the other. That's writing!
I am halfway through a short novel and now that I have solved (I think) a big sticking point that had stopped it short, I can go ahead and write the rest.
Oh, if only I didn't have to go to work... but for some strange reason, bills keep arriving in my letter box, demanding to be paid.