Sunday, August 27, 2006


Five launches in seven days. Must be some kind of record (outside of conferences and book fairs, of course, where they happen every half hour). It's a record for me anyway. A combination of Children's Book Week and the Melbourne Writers' Festival. Launch 1 last Sunday was "Ebi's Boat" by Claire Saxby (ex-student of mine) and illustrated with beautiful water colours by Anne Spudvilas. A quiet, wistful story with plenty of room to enjoy the pictures and add your own thoughts.
Launch 2 - the online journal Divan which is created by Box Hill TAFE students and teachers and IT people. The site is not quite up yet, but we saw it on the screen. I have a poem in the new issue and read three poems at the launch, which was part of the Box Hill TAFE's writing festival at the Victoria Hotel. The Vic seems to be the favourite spot for writing things at the moment - the SciFi/Fantasy convention a couple of weeks ago was held there.
Launch 3 - the Society of Women Writers' anthology, launched by me. A lot of familiar names and faces and a lovely collection of poems and stories.
Launch 4 - Saturday afternoon - "India Vik" a collection of short stories by Liz Gallois (another ex-student - by ex- I mean they've finished studying the Diploma I teach in -wonderful to see they have gone on to be published). "India Vik" contains stories set in India, and is published by Transit Lounge, a new small publisher filling a niche in the market very effectively. Liz's stories are evocative and thought-provoking - and not too obscure and clever - a pleasure to read.
Launch 5 - a little later that day - "The Music Tree", a picture book by Catriona Hoy, illustrated by Adele Jaunn. Catriona organised a great launch at a primary school, and some of the kids played music to go with the story. Sorry to say that publisher Hachette (who bought out Lothian, the book's publisher) made a point of saying they did not support book launches. Is that corporate-speak for "we don't give a stuff about our authors"? We had a wonderful time all the same, and the book is lovely.
Today I went off to my master class with Kate Thompson (who assured us she is not the Kate Thompson who writes chick-lit). Many in the class were beginners but were brave and read out their work. It was a very interesting experience for me. I'm used to workshopping student writing where the first thing I do (because I can't help myself and because so many still are pretty hopeless at punctuation and grammar) is grab the pen and start correcting stuff. Today all I could do was listen. No pages in front of me. And it was so much easier to focus on the story, the action, the characters and what was or wasn't happening. True - we couldn't offer in-depth critiquing, but for most people that wasn't what they needed. They needed to know what was and wasn't working in the story itself. It gave me much food for thought.
I read most of the first chapter of a novel I have been struggling with. Struggling in terms of getting it to say what I wanted, and also to work out what I was really saying. I've had other comments that have indicated the whole thing is confused and has too much in it. I just got to the point where I no longer knew if was any good, if it was worth rewriting yet again. Now I think it is. Some of the comments showed me what I already knew but hadn't got to grips with.
I've been reading a blog or two recently that have said things like "If you think editors or publishers might be reading your blog, that last thing you should be doing on it is saying how badly you are writing, or what problems you are having". So here I am, breaking the rules. I'm not writing this for publishers. I doubt any publishers would take the time to read this. I'm writing this for other writers who grapple with the stuff I grapple with - that we all grapple with. (All that grappling conjures up awful images!)
And I write it for myself. Like a sounding board. I hear what I say, and I move onward and upward.

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