A work in progress (or two)

Bookstack LoveOzYA challenge

Day 7 in the latest #LoveOzYA challenge on Instagram

Hmm, the blog posts are getting further and further apart. But I am still here, still writing, and mostly present on Bookstagram, my happy place of books, authors, readers and bloggers. It’s not a coincidence that many of the accounts I follow post gorgeous and/or funny photos of their animals alongside gorgeous photos of book recommendations, events or just life. A nice place to be, most of the time!

Anyway, there’s now just six weeks (arrgghh!) until I take up my residential fellowship at Varuna in the stunning Blue Mountains outside Sydney. My manuscript Ella, which got me the fellowship, has gone out to two beta readers so far and initial reports are good. Phew! It’s definitely a work in progress, one where I know what I want to achieve and feel that I am on the right track. I am happy with the idea that it will take lots of revising and drafting to get it to publishable stage, and that two weeks of intensive work at Varuna should help with this.

Elvie and Hermie on bed

More animals? I think they’re glad they’re fictional

Meanwhile I’m using the time to work at two lighter, younger manuscripts, one of which is YA (young adult) and the other more MG (middle grade). I am having fun with both (strangely, they both involve lots of animals again – there are a few in Ella as well) and I think I have finally forced myself to come up with plots that may not be perfect but they will lead me into finishing a first draft in a lot less time than my first three manuscripts (ie: maybe even under a year – WOW!).

My wonderful friend and very successful author Alison Evans told me recently about this lovely lady Rachael Stephen, who talks about a thing called the Plot Embryo. As Rachael says herself, she didn’t come up with the idea, but she sure knows how to use it, manipulate it and give extremely helpful advice to authors struggling with plotting and just generally getting that damn manuscript finished. Added bonuses – her Scottish accent, no-nonsense attitude, lots of swearing and bloopers 😀

Oh – my YA manuscript Inside Out is on hold for now after going out to ten publishers and aaaaaaalmost hooking one. So close! But yes, it’s not quite ready for publication in our very small Aussie YA world and it’s harder to push a debut author unless they already have a name for themselves, so I’m concentrating on taking Ella to Varuna to continue our battle (she’s my toughest character yet).

YA Day 2019

YA Day, Melbourne, Feb 2019

So the long road to being published (traditionally) continues between lots of reading, author events, bookclub, workshops and fun writing sessions with friends (eh, so, the last one involved much coffee, laughs, advice and very little writing, but it was worth it!) 🙂

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Happy New Year and all that

Spoilt pets

The animals have had a slow year too

It’s been a slow year on the blogging front, but I’m happy to say I’m doing a lot more work on my manuscripts instead, so that evens things out in my opinion. While I don’t have any solid news about the manuscript which went out to publishers this year, one of them has shown interest in working with me in the future, so that is a happy dance right there!

Also I am pleased with the progress I’m making on Ella, the manuscript I’ll be working on during the Varuna residency next year, where I’m booked for two weeks at the start of May. So it’s been a good writing year all up 🙂

A few books read

A few books read

I’ve managed to read 119 books so far this year, according to Goodreads… I set the bar low at 90, it seems. A few were audio books (which take me forever to listen to but are great when cooking or doing my stretches) and a number were middle-grade, which don’t take long. The majority were YA by Australian authors, and adult fiction or crime fiction by mostly female authors – I seem to gravitate that way. I used to be reluctant to read too much, thinking it would interfere with my writing, but now I’m back to my childhood reading habits of picking up another book as soon as I’ve finished one, or alternating between two books. And it feels like a good influence on my writing style and ability – finally, it’s all soaking in!

Other than that, dropping back to part-time work has helped my health and energy, even if the budget has had to shrink a bit. I’d rather be working on my writing and spending time with my animals and great people rather than spending money on the latest technology fad or an overseas holiday or fancy wardrobe.

I’ve started with TreeProject again, and have planted most of the seeds already to grow indigenous seedlings for a farm out in Gippsland (a region east of Melbourne). Hopefully I’ll be able to provide the farmer with over 300 young trees, shrubs and grasses to help re-vegetate his property in autumn next year.

Adani protest 2018

The Adani protest outside Flinders Street Station in the heart of Melbourne.

On that environmental note, I marched in the Climate Change rally in Melbourne on December 2nd. Thousands of people of all backgrounds, ages and politics turned out in four cities to march against the building of the gigantic Adani coalmine in Queensland. This is a mining company with a poor history of environmental and human rights in its own country – if they build this mine, it will severely affect not only the area around it, but also the endangered Great Barrier Reef.

Anyway, I digress, but you can see what has been worrying me and millions of others this year. It seems that the health of our environment is slipping through our fingers, along with hundreds of species of precious, unique flora and fauna, while our politicians play power games of who can last the longest in the top job (1-2 years seems to be the going rate).

Okay, I’d better get off my ranting soap box and get back to my writing! I wish everyone safe holidays and a very Happy New Year – take care and enjoy your reading and writing or whatever else keeps you creative and well 🙂

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Varuna

Some exciting news! I’ve won a Varuna Residential Fellowship for 2019 🙂

This is an amazing opportunity for Australian writers – basically it’s a writing retreat in Katoomba, in the beautiful, mystical Blue Mountains just west of Sydney.  It’s two weeks given over to writing, reading, thinking and talking to other writers, all in an amazing old mansion called ‘Varuna’.

Imagine that! No cooking or cleaning or work or any mundane thing that provides a writer with their usual procrastination tactics 😉

Varuna, the mansion and the property around it, was donated to the writers of Australia by Mick Dark in memory of his parents, Eleanor and Dr Eric Dark. Both his parents were extraordinary people – writers and environmentalists with a strong sense of social justice. Fellowships are given for manuscripts which are judged blind, on fifty pages and a 200 word synopsis (I can tell you the synopsis was the hardest part of the two!)

I’ll be working on a manuscript that’s still YA but on the older side, with a strong female main character, set in country Victoria this time:

When Ella’s cousin drowns, their small town is divided about the odd circumstances. A year on, trespassers on their farm trigger events that unearth family secrets.

Ella is a farm girl who takes no prisoners – in fact, I’ve just realised that she reminds me of a modern-day Norah from the classic Billabong series by Mary Grant Bruce – a girl who’s grown up on horseback, knows how to use a gun, lives and breathes animals and the environment around her… I love writing her and her physicality. And this book will have a strong environmental lean as well.

Anyway, that’s my exciting news for the week – hopefully I’ll be able to get up to NSW in autumn next year. My lovely husband will meanwhile be keeping the home fires burning, looking after our menagerie. Missing them all will be the hardest part, I feel 🙂

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Spiderwebs of contacts

1524467769058I used to hate the idea of networking – to me, it was just another buzzword, and involved people having drinks, swapping business cards and earnestly talking at each other about their work, without really connecting personally.

In my early writing years I didn’t understand how this could possibly help me. Isn’t writing all about working on your own, getting the thoughts out of your head and onto the page? Hopefully in a form that actually communicates those thoughts to other people.

So I spent too many years not going to events or launches or workshops. Strangely, that was despite the fact that I’d spent several years studying Professional Writing and Editing part-time, and enjoyed learning from other students as well as the lecturers. I just couldn’t seem to force myself to attend things during the time when I might have been relaxing or, well, actually writing.

But then a few years ago I took the dive into various forms of social media, mainly to promote my YA book – Twitter, a Facebook writer page, Tumblr, this blog, and then Instagram. Slowly and awkwardly I made friends with other writers and YA readers in the ether, even joining in a competition for ‘first chapters’ and a Twitter chat for YA fans. Then I ventured out into the world of book launches and a few events, and started meeting some of those people in real life.

Networking involves social contact with strangers, talking and making sense, and probably trying to juggle a glass of wine and a cupcake covering in a disturbing amount of squishy icing, all without looking like someone just out of a hundred days of isolation.

That pretty much sums up an author’s life – and says loads about why not all of us are fabulous networkers. However, the good thing about getting together at events is sharing stuff with people who quite likely enjoy the same stuff.

Social media is the stepping stone for this. I can’t count the number of times I’ve tentatively approached someone who looks familiar, because they have their photo on Twitter/Insta/Facebook, and we’ve exchanged handles and then proper names if necessary.  I now always introduce myself as “Carolyn Gilpin – carolynswriting” and 95% of the time get the response “of course, yes, we follow each other!”

Being quite shy, I used to have my book cover as my profile pic, until a lovely author (Sarah Epstein) suggested I change to a photo of myself, to make it easier for people to recognise me. I finally felt confident enough to do so, and it’s been nice.

I have found that despite my shyness, clumsiness and ability to embarrass myself with amazing ease (*note to self – make sure your phone’s camera flash is turned OFF when taking photos of authors while sitting in the front row at a bookshop talk), I CAN get out there and make contacts and even friends.

1520501698523

Two lovely authors I’ve met via social media then in real life – Eliza Henry-Jones and Emily Gale at the launch of Eliza’s YA book P is for Pearl in March this year.

This has led to great exchanges of book recommendations, writing tips, publishing tips, all sorts of handy information and juicy gossip, and in some cases friendships which I hope will last forever.

It sometimes leads to people searching out your writing, and even to those tiny, sometimes unrecognisable connections which may end up with you chatting to your future publisher/editor/agent 🙂

Now in my head I see spiderwebs of connections with people dotted here and there, all connected in different ways to various people.

Hopefully these people aren’t all injecting an anaesthetic venom into their contacts/prey then sucking the life-juice out of them! (Okay, there might be a few like that, but I digress)

Ha ha, no, hopefully these people are having a nice chat about shared likes and learning new things, making new connections. So next weekend I’ll be heading to a free event at a local library with four Aussie YA authors, one of whom I’m already friends with, because we met via Instagram, then introduced ourselves at a book launch, and now we catch up at events and for coffee and chats about writing and life in general. How good is that?  🙂

 

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It’s all about you… or me… or us

sky can litter coca cola

Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

Australia’s in the middle of a campaign right now to cut out single-use plastic bags, straws, bottles, etc. And it’s making me think about human behaviour.

How often do you ignore something wrong, something as simple as a discarded can lying in the gutter? Simply because you didn’t drop it there, or you didn’t have time to pick it up and find a rubbish bin, or you didn’t want to get your hands dirty. Fair enough.

It happens. We all feel that way at times.

But what would happen if you took a different view? If I took a different view? What if we all think from the ‘I’ point of view. First person, in writing terms. As in, “What can I do to help? What can I do to make it better?”

I know this can be turned on its head and people could just say ‘But I didn’t do that, so why should I have to clean up the mess.’ Or from the perpetrators’ point of view: ‘I can’t be stuffed walking two metres to the bin, I’ll drop my rubbish here.’

It’s too easy to go down that path, and we’ve all been there. But it would be nice to think that we, as humans who are apparently meant to be the superior beings, could collectively say, ‘I will do it. I will put my rubbish in the bin. I will help. I will pick up that bottle and put it in recycling. I will decide not to buy a plastic bottle of water today – instead, I’ll remember to take my reusable water bottle, to save money and the impact of packaging.’

Do you see what I mean? If we all decide personally to do something positive, every day, it could create a massive impact. Start simple, work your way up. Pick up that rubbish; don’t buy the takeaway food in all its throwaway packaging; help your neighbours move something; tell the people down the street that their poor dog barks for hours on end when they’re out; call the police if you hear a disturbance next door; ask authorities to investigate if you think something terribly wrong is happening to that child.

Okay, the last couple are dramatic examples and I don’t wish for anyone to have to face things like that. But they do happen, and often they keep happening because people nearby prefer to stay out of it: “It’s not my problem. Not my fault.”

Well, it may not be MY fault, but I can be part of the change, by doing something good every day.

ground group growth hands

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

YOU can be part of  the change, by doing something good every day.

WE can be part of the change, by doing something good every day.

Collectively, we’d all end up much better off. And really, most of it’s not that hard 🙂

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Agented

Love OzYA collection

My Aussie YA collection – I hope to add my own (traditionally published) book!

Is ‘agented’ even a word? I don’t think it is, but I like the sound of it! I am now agented; I am with agent; I have an agent 😉

Basically, I’m very excited to announce that my YA manuscript Inside Out is now being represented by the lovely Sally Bird, of the Calidris Literary Agency. Sally has been an agent for over 21 years, and has a wealth of experience, so I’m really looking forward to working with her and learning so much more about the publishing industry!

A couple of people, on hearing my news, have asked when my book will be published. Oh, I wish it were that fast and simple!

Basically, Sally first read Inside Out (working title) around October last year. She was After four weeks of waiting, she responded to say that she liked it, but she didn’t feel it was quite ready, so she suggested I make some changes and try her again, if I wanted to do so. Well, readers, that is a rejection but a really positive one in publishing-speak! Mind you, I had to seek reassurance from author friends on this account 😀

So I worked (and worked and worked) on it over some four months, and got three lovely teenagers to read it for me, too. Luckily they all enjoyed it (and made some very relevant suggestions!) and I finally sent it back to Sally. And waited again 🙂

When she emailed to say that she liked the changes and now felt she could send it out into the publishing world, it was incredibly exciting! It was somewhat dampened by some sad family news, but still a thrill, and something I’ve really wanted for many years.

The next step is to work with Sally on a proposal for publishers (all that marketing stuff that I am really not good at!) like why this book will sell to teenagers, and what it can be compared to on the market. Once that is put together and we work out which publishers to approach, Sally will send my manuscript out… and we’ll wait. Again.

There is always the chance that we won’t find a publisher for Inside Out. That is relatively common, and it’s a very competitive market out there. But having an agent gives you more opportunities and someone with the contacts, skill and knowledge to give your manuscript the best chance. And it may also fall down to luck and timing in the end!

Despite those incredible stories about the latest BIG novel that’s doing the rounds, “sold into fifty countries within a year of the author deciding to write a book”, the publishing world mostly moves very slowly. This is a good thing, really, as it means that books are not being rushed out, most of the time. But don’t ever go into writing thinking that you’ll have an agent or publisher or book deal within weeks of sending out your work. That’s not to say that it might not happen to you, of course! But it’s a minuscule chance that it will, so be prepared to sit back and wait.

Meanwhile I’ll keep writing and reading and working away while I wait, and hopefully one day I’ll have more news to pass on, about Inside Out or perhaps another manuscript being published. So watch this space 😀

 

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YA Day

YA day

Alex and authors Michael Pryor, Shivaun Plozza and Alison Evans

At the end of January (I know, I haven’t blogged for um… quite some time), I was lucky to attend a brilliant Young Adult book event. YA Day was organised by two lovely girls who have been stalwarts of Melbourne’s #LoveOzYA community for a couple of years now.  Sarah and Alex of @TheYARoom started by organising monthly bookclub picnics and enthusiastically supporting Aussie YA. This year, they moved to new heights with YA Day and its ‘Teens to the Front’ theme.

Yep, YA is so popular with adults we need the catchphrase ‘Teens to the Front’, so they can actually have their say about the books aimed at their readership. There’s nothing wrong with us adults liking, writing and especially buying YA, but we must ensure teens aren’t scared off at events like book launches, or nervous about having their say on social media.

When YA Day was first announced, I was keen to attend but concerned about taking seats from teens. Luckily interest was so high, Sarah and Alex decided a bigger venue was required and ran a Kickstarter project. So we adult fans were able to pledge money as support and attend without feeling like we’d shoved a kid out of the queue!

They hired a room at the Wheeler Centre, housed at Victoria’s State Library, and despite the 40 degree heat outside, over 80 people attended. It ran so smoothly that it seemed Alex and Sarah had been event organisers in past lives (I believe they’re still officially teens themselves, if not far off it).

There were four panels, the first being actual real-live teenagers! Book bloggers 😀 (Sam @marbledlibrary, Anisha @sprinkledpages & Lissa @joysofbookworms) reminded us to not drown out teen voices; that teens are not the teens we were growing up; and it’s really important for them to see themselves in the books they read. Diversity is the key, people!

The second panel was BookTubers (using YouTube to talk about their favourite books – Piera @pieraforde, Chami @isthatchami & Lily @LilyCReads). One is still a teen and the others not much older. They talked about how to start in booktubing; how welcoming and supportive the book community is, across social media; and how they’d gained friends and a community IRL* from being online.

Tin Heart

Shivaun’s second #LoveOzYA book was launched in Feb – teenagers + cupcakes = perfect combo!

The third panel was authors of varying ages (Michael Pryor, Shivaun Plozza & Alison Evans).  They discussed getting into writing (Shivaun commented that you have to write a book in order to learn how to write a book – love that!); ignoring bad reviews (reviews are for readers, not authors, although Alison believes sometimes people may have good points to make); support other writers – #LoveOzYA is a small community, so don’t be a jerk! And read Aussie YA – if you can’t afford it, ask your library to buy it 🙂

The final panel was industry professionals (Danielle Binks, Nadja Poljo, Kate O’Donnell & Catriona @littlebookowl), who spoke about the varying paths they’d taken to get into publishing (apparently you do various degrees which you then don’t use!); and the honest truth about the good and bad of the industry. They all spoke about needing far more diversity in publishing – through management, marketing, editors, authors and the characters they write. We need more than just privileged white men at the helm (AGREED: a worldwide change please across ALL governments, business, education, etc).

(A massive thank you to the fabulous Jes @ageekwithahat for her typically amazing live tweeting during the day – you can find her thread on Twitter under #YADAY #LoveOzYA)

Looking around during the day, I had combined feelings of real excitement and being totally at home. I don’t often feel this, especially as I can be quite reserved in public. And I realised that it was partly because this kind of book community was not around when I was a teen, so I was finally getting to experience somewhere I truly belonged 🙂

In my early years, we didn’t have even a tenth of the Aussie (or any) YA that we have today (NB: calculation may be wildly inaccurate; maths was never my strong point). And we didn’t have social media *gasp* we didn’t even have mobiles! Now, there are many drawbacks about being online, but social media is ideal for book nerds of any age to discuss books with people around the world, no matter how shy they may be IRL.

I loved being able to hear teens talk about what they like and dislike in YA, and their utter passion about what they want: more diversity of all kinds, adults to listen, and to treat them with respect. Remember this, authors!

*

LoveOzYA books

Some of my collection of #LoveOzYA books

In a different aspect of age, recently I broke through my shyness by confessing my own* on Twitter, in a response to something another YA author, Emily Gale had re-Tweeted. It raised the question – does age matter when writing YA? Do teens care?

I’ve been very nervous about telling people, because it feels like I’m ‘too old’ to be breaking through into writing, especially for teenagers. Which is odd, because you can write brilliantly or badly no matter how old you are! Oddly, no-one seems to question the age of kids’ picture books and middle-grade authors.

Thinking over it now, I don’t believe teenagers care about an author’s age, as long as they can relate to the books and like the writing. And more so if the author communicates with them and isn’t condescending. A joy of social media is readers and authors being able to chat so easily.

But as Emily pointed out, having young writers around is also great for teenagers, inspiring those kids who want to write – ‘I don’t need to wait until I’m really old to do this!’ It works both ways 😊

Basically, young readers mostly just care about the book (okay, also maybe the cover, for Instagram purposes). And I love being immersed in this community, online and IRL, which promotes and celebrates reading!

*In Real Life  (for those who don’t live on Twitter etc)

*47 😉

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