Category Archives: Writing

Guest Post Links

In the last six months, I’ve popped up as a guest on a couple of writerly blog sites. Just in case you missed my appearances, here are the links:

 

“Generally, my work explores one or two central emotions over a big idea or dilemma. My writing is, above all else, character focused.”

https://kirstydummin.com/2017/06/25/the-writers-room-jodie-how/

 

“If there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s persistence. I’m the tortoise who takes one slow step at a time until eventually, I cross the finish line.”

https://louisejallan.com/2017/10/30/jodie-how-writer-or-tortoise/

 

I hope you enjoy these reads :o)

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Getting a Grip

It’s been some time since I’ve blogged, mainly due to a lack of vision and direction for my site. I haven’t written much of anything in general, due to poor health on a variety of fronts. I had to loosen my grip on writing for a while in order to ‘cut myself some slack’ and concentrate on getting better. So I guess you could say I found myself in a prolonged writing slump.

When I was rushed to emergency back in July, I left the early stages of my novel and research at home, along with everything else. I haven’t picked up my novel length project again because the thought of committing to such a huge goal remains overwhelming. I couldn’t afford not to do anything either, because hearing ‘critical Jodie’ berate me for not writing was crippling. My lack of progress was also depressing me.

So last month, I got back on the riding bike; it’s been a slow, wobbly ride. I started tinkering with a short story a few times each week and wrote the odd poem. I had to do something but I didn’t really know what to do.

Still in recovery mode and needing to be kind to myself, I started thinking about what I was doing with my writing and where I’d like to go with it in the near future. I wrote a short list of specific writing tasks to carry me through to the end of the year. This downsizing of my viewing panel to a one inch frame (coined by Anne Lamott in Bird by Bird) has been helpful. I feel like I can achieve the tasks I’ve set myself; they’re within my ability to grasp.

I needed to encourage myself more than ever. I printed out all my poetry (no matter what state it was in) and put each poem in one of two new display folders. I grew delighted at discovering just how many poems I’d written over the past five years; having a file full of my work made me feel great. Here was proof – I hadn’t been so lazy, after all.

I printed out all my short stories (no matter what stage each was in) and put them in the second display folder, along with notes and feedback with the relevant piece of work. I discovered I’d written loads of words. Now I had all these stories to work with and they felt more real than when they were just saved files on my laptop.

I also printed out all evidence of my writing achievements and filed them to look at as required; the email offering me a place at the KSP Short Story Retreat, the letter which announced I’d won a flash fiction competition, etc.

The third thing I did that helped me find my mojo: I created a work log. In the log I wrote down all the work I’d had published, including online. I also sorted out my writing files (ideas, notes, handouts etc).

The affect all these activities had on my psyche was so helpful. I created a tangible reference of my hard work and threw out all the crap.

So if you’re in a slump like the one I found myself in, I encourage you to make your work tangible. Maybe you’re not in a slump but feel overwhelmed; do what I did and reduce your ‘viewing panel’ by narrowing your goals to a specific list of tasks. Whatever you do, just don’t give up.

 

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14 thoughts on “Getting a Grip”

  1. I really enjoyed reading your post. In particular, love the sentiment that you left your reader with. Look forward to reading your next post.

  2. So beautifully put!
    Tangible evidence of your hard work and creativity, passion and commitment. Sometimes just holding these things in your hands can make you feel the value and worth that others see in you.
    Thankyou for the encouragement!
    Time to look into my own cupboards…

  3. Well done Jodes! Your strength and determination is inspirational. And what a wonderful way to be able to reflect on your achievements and have a starting point when you feel at a loss on what to work on. Can’t wait to read some more of your work. X

  4. That sounds like quite a clever re-invention of a ‘to-do’ list! I’d never have thought of doing something like that.
    Small steps are still progress. I’m glad you’ve found an approach that works so well.

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KSP WEEKEND

I was given an amazing opportunity, by the Katherine Susannah Pritchard Writers Centre (KSP) and Laurie Steed, to join Bindy Prichard and David Allan-Petale at the Short Story Retreat held last March at KSP in Perth. Why? Because the third winning writer of the competition pulled out and a space opened up for me.

I didn’t realise, when I accepted the offer, that I’d have to overcome three challenges if I was to get the most out of the retreat.

Challenge number one was the medical cum political saga I had to deal with the week of the Short Story Retreat. If the medical powers that be hadn’t finally allowed me to swap malfunctioning medical equipment with new equipment, before I was due to leave on the Friday, I wouldn’t have been able to attend KSP. It was a hard week on a number of fronts but thankfully, I left home with working medical equipment in tow.

Challenge number two was overcoming the anxiety of separation from my husband and son for two nights after a stretch of bad depression.

Challenge number three was the dreaded ‘imposter syndrome’. Maybe because I was initially not offered a place. Maybe because I was the only ‘officially unpublished’ writer in the group. Maybe because I didn’t feel my writing was literary enough. Or maybe just because I’m hypersensitive and often feel unworthy of rewards like this.

Had I earned my place at this KSP Retreat? Apparently I had and boy did I soak up every blessing poured out to me that weekend – just like a crusty sponge.

For the first time, I was privileged to receive one-on-one feedback with an editor. And not just any editor – the one and only Laurie Steed. (What an absolute gem he is, particularly within the WA writing community.) Laurie, who also often climbed to a higher step on his career ladder via ‘lucky opportunities’ that landed in his lap.

The weekend was intense for me, not just mentally, but also emotionally and physically. I had become so unaccustomed to taking so many study sessions in such a short amount of time. By Saturday afternoon I think all I was giving back to Laurie and my peers was a questioning stare with a mouth slightly agape.

We had a lot of fun over meaningful conversations, food preparation in the tiny KSP kitchen and a few too many glasses of red wine. Dave even broke a chair as we watched the sun set from the gorgeous KSP grounds – haha!

By the time Sunday rolled around and we had read our stories in front of a small audience, I felt like I was saying goodbye to family. I was the last to pack up my cabin, hand in my key and as I waved goodbye to KSP, it was with much reluctance and a tear in my eye.

Thank you Laurie, Dave, Bindy and KSP for your wonderful company and this amazing, once in a lifetime opportunity. I will never forget it and I’ll never forget you all and everything you gave to me so willingly from hearts of true generosity.

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12 thoughts on “KSP WEEKEND”

  1. Jodie, you are an inspiration. The fact that you continue to get out there and follow your writing dreams after having to deal with so much is a testament to how deserving you are of these opportunities. Enjoy every minute, my friend! x

  2. What an amazing opportunity Jodie! Feeling very envious, but so happy for you. I’m glad you were able to overcome the medical and separation issues, and I would say that the weekend was truly deserved and that in no way are you an imposter 😊

  3. What an awesome opportunity! I’m so glad you are able to overcome your obstacles and make it for the weekend. Sounds like it was a fantastic experience.

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It’s Official – Mystery Mail is Published!

After months of emails flying to and fro between me and Raging Aardvark Press, an ultimatum supplied by me (marinated in a splash of dispirited annoyance) and a fuckload of waiting, the anthology Twisted Tales 2016 is finally here, IN PRINT!

My gut is misbehaving badly today and I woke with the blues. Add to that the frustration of trying to order thirty copies of Twisted Tales from the states and I’m only now sitting back to take in the good news.

I don’t even know how I feel about my first story being properly published, on paper, in an actual book. There’s definitely excitement but I’ve waited so long for this anthology to be published that the actual win feels rather like a lifetime ago.

My emotions are all mixed up with disbelief. I feel disconnected from today’s amazing news. Hopefully, the feeling of joy and a sense of achievement will catch up with me. How should I celebrate?

This morning, I created an author account on Amazon – because now I have a published story to my name. That was a surreal experience. I sure don’t feel like an author yet.

If you’d like a copy of Twisted Tales 2016, you can order it here: https://www.createspace.com/6652118 or here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/0994525206 .

Or I can send you a copy for $15AUD (I gain no profit) to anywhere in the world. I’ll even sign it for you, if you like.

Thank you, again, for following my writing journey. I can’t wait for you to read Twisted Tales 2016 and tell me what you think of my story, “Mystery Mail”.

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12 thoughts on “It’s Official – Mystery Mail is Published!”

  1. For anyone still waiting for their copy to arrive, I can confirm it’s an excellent story and a great book (although I may be slightly biased) – well worth the investment!

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Most Twisted Tale 2016

The month of August brought me a pleasant surprise. As I untied the bow on the unexpected gift and peeked inside the box, my heart thudded with equal measures of excitement and disbelief. Could it be?

Earlier this year, I made the goal of getting a piece of my work print published by 2017.

The small Australian publisher, Raging Aardvark Publishing, was running a flash fiction competition called Twisted Tales. I heard about the opportunity from a friend. It dawned on me that a particular story I had on the back burner would fit the bill. So I redrafted it, got feedback from friends and polished it up. I submitted the story just before the competition closed.

I was attached to the story that I entered. It had been living in my subconscious for well over a year, after all. I had an empathy for my mentally unstable female protagonist and wanted to know how this ‘moment in time’ would play out for her. I called the story Mystery Mail.

I was pleased with the finished version of Mystery Mail but I hardly thought it winning material. So when I learned that I’d won both the People’s Choice Award and the Judge’s Choice, I was shocked. I even considered replying to the email of notification with, ‘Are you sure?’

I didn’t feel my story deserved first place. I was invested in Mystery Mail but not the competition (I’d learned early on in the writing game that you really can’t hang all your hopes on getting published or you’ll be nothing but depressed).

Interestingly, I didn’t spend as much time with Carrie as some of my other protagonists and I didn’t spend as much time working on Mystery Mail as I had on other stories.

Holding this surprise box of kudos in my hands, it dawned on me that I’d achieved my goal for the year. What was I going to do now? I thought.

I’m so glad my story was so well received by a publishing house. Mystery Mail has that ‘aha’ moment that I’ve found infinitely hard to achieve in writing a great story.

The 2016 edition of Twisted Tales will be out soon and I can’t wait to hold a copy in my hot little hands.

Thank you to everyone who voted for my story and consequently won me the People’s Choice Award. You guys are the best!

 

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NOW IS THE TIME TO WRITE

The famous Liz Gilbert says you can always make time for your creative work, no matter how busy your life is. I believe her. Experience has taught me this much.

A writer friend of mine asked me, quite puzzled, how I find time to write. The answer is that I make time – like every writer. Making time to write is a constant choice and commitment.

 

No excuses

You don’t even have to be at home to create. The beauty about the art of writing is that you can do it anywhere. Nowadays, you can even write without pen and paper.

There are lots of ways to find time, to make time, to write. Use your travel time, your lunch break, snatch any amount of time from your day to play with words. Or set yourself fixed writing dates.

 

Anything is something more than nothing

Rome wasn’t built in a day, or so the saying goes. All the little fragments of writing you get done will create a final, finished piece eventually – much like a jigsaw.

There’s a thing called the pomodoro technique which might help you get acquainted with writing in short bursts of time. This technique requires only a timer and your commitment to sit and write.

Even if you produce only one sentence in, say, fifteen minutes, that’s more than you would’ve achieved if you hadn’t sat down to write in the first place.

 

Take the pressure off

Kristy Acevedo reminds us that succeeding isn’t about how many words you produce each time you write, but about creating a habit of writing, through daily commitment. (By the way, I’m still perfecting the ‘daily’ bit.)

I don’t find word counts helpful, but you might. I never meet them and always feel discouraged as a result. It’s better to just achieve a daily writing session (that’s hard enough, after all). Sit yourself down and see what comes of a short session – you can always set yourself word count goals later, once you’re on a roll with the habit of writing.

 

Making time

Writing definitely requires sacrifice, but it’s a sacrifice worth making. You’ll believe me once you keep at it and see the results.

Writing is no lazy form of art, it’s true. But it’s more satisfying than watching TV or indulging in any other number of uncreative activities. Making a commitment to writing regularly doesn’t mean you don’t get do other things you enjoy. You just need to prioritise writing above recreational activities.

Maybe you need to give something up in order to clear some space in your life and brain to write. It could be another activity, a bad habit, a perfectionist mentality, poor self-esteem or laziness. Maybe you simply need to commit to this thing you love, writing, and really push yourself to stick with it.

Many things can arise to prevent us from writing. Think about what stops you and make the changes necessary.

 

The time is now

Don’t wait for the perfect conditions to start writing. Like everyone, you’ll always be busy and if you’re not busy, something else will become the obstacle.

If you’re really serious about getting somewhere with your craft, then you’re going to have to steal as many snippets of time from your schedule that you can, and just write. A lot can be written in five, 10 or 15 minutes.

And I’ll tell you something else I know (because I’ve been there), you’re going to have to make a deliberate decision to stop making excuses for not writing. Excuses displace responsibility and prevent progress.

Whatever you need to do to find time to write – do it! Now is the time to write, not tomorrow, not next week or next month. And for goodness sake, stop saying ‘one day’. One day never happens.

 

Now go and write, courageous one!

 

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Literary Idols

Literary Idols

During a recent conversation, a friend asked me which authors inspire me the most and how. Here’s the answer to that question…

When I was very young, Enid Blyton captured my imagination with her Magic Tree tales. So fantastical and brilliant were her creations that I lived in these bizarre worlds for days on end. I loved to escape into the magical places she’d crafted. For me, Blyton’s enchanted tales were so adventurous and so believable that it was easy to tune out to everything else around me.

As I grew a bit older, I became interested in Roald Dahl’s tales. His unusual stories, where the main child character was always the champion, amused me no end. I found his writing was funny and a breeze to read. The antagonist was always someone so wretched that I wanted to get to the end to discover his or her horrible demise. By the time I grew out of Roald Dahl stories, I had read everything he’d ever written for children.

I then moved onto Paul Jennings. The quirkiness of this author’s plot lines and his bizarre characters completely drew me into his strange tales. In every one of his stories, I was compelled to solve the mysteries, and I loved discovering their answers.

By late primary school, I was enjoying a phase of horror fiction. My Goosebumps binge lasted for a while. The hardly-scary children’s stories by R. L. Stine appealed to my interest in terror and all things grim.

A. Montgomery was another favourite author at this time. I frequently ‘chose my own adventure’ and went on multiple versions of discovery within a single story. The mystery and novelty of these stories kept me hooked for some time.

As a young teen, I found myself engrossed in the works of Isobelle Carmody. Her Obernewtyn Chronicles had me charmed with the dystopian fantasy / post apocalyptic genre. (I also began to appreciate huge-arse books!) Carmody creates such believable fantasy worlds, deep characters with multiple dimensions and gripping plot lines. Her stories explore philosophical notions and the very soul of humanity.

In high school, I also discovered John Marsden. I found myself easily able to connect with his Australian stories and characters. Marsden’s tales deconstruct harsh realities and plunge right into human chaos. It was from reading this author’s books that I began to form a real attachment to characters in stories generally, and I grieved if they died.

As an adult, I’ve read countless novels and am inspired by numerous authors. Gillian Flynn is high on my list of revered artists. I love her gritty, crafty plots and her sharp, evocative writing style. She writes scenes with such efficient use of language. Scenes that make you want to throw up while simultaneously keeping you transfixed, turning page after page until the end. I know of no other author that can delve so deeply into the mind of such disturbed characters and write them with such accuracy.

So where do these inspiring authors leave me? They leave me with a hope of creating my own excellent stories. Stories that transcend the ordinary standard out there and soar to heights yet unreached.

If I can convince my readers to suspend their disbelief, no matter how absurd my story world is… If I can take my readers on a magnificent adventure full of mystery and discovery… If I can infuse my own quirkiness and make my readers smile… If I can create multidimensional characters that stand the test of time… then I will be a happy writer.

If I can shed light on, and create hope about, harsh realities… If I can make the boring old familiar topics of thought fresh and interesting again… If I can write with grit and precision… If I can keep my readers hooked and wanting more… then I will consider myself a successful writer.

Now that’s a long bill to fill, but I wouldn’t want the challenge to be any easier.

The best novels are always the result of the hardest challenges. I know, because I’ve been lucky enough to meet a couple of the literary heroes I’ve mentioned here.

 

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Greyscale

I

The air is thick with it.

 

Not exhaust fumes

or factory emissions.

Not bonfire, barbeque

or cigarette smoke.

 

Not anything that

speaks of life.

 

These are the flames,

the sparks,

the vapours,

of death.

 

Death

to the material world.

 

Death

to the great

Australian dream.

 

Death

to sense of place

and belonging.

 

All is burnt,

Burnt to the ground.

 

Annihilation

of beloved homes,

long held dreams

and tangible memories.

 

 

II

So helpless they stand

and watch –

their life’s work

going up in smoke.

 

Everything now lost to

the raging firestorm.

 

What will they do and

where will they go?

Homeless, destitute… survivors.

 

III

Not a single soul stirs.

 

All hues of colour erased,

the landscape; desaturated.

 

Everything…

now grey scale.

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A Love for Cyberpunk

Guest Post by Christian Cölln

The first thing that comes to mind when I think about cyberpunk is the 1982 movie Blade Runner by Ridley Scott. Its iconic style shaped my view of this genre and influenced numerous books, TV shows, movies and video games.

But what makes this movie special? When it first came out, it was poorly received. Now, it’s a classic of science fiction and the prototype of cyberpunk. Many critics regard it as one of the best sci-fi movies ever made.

You could say it was ahead of its time. Its dark and gritty style revolutionized the genre and was a contrast to the more optimistic, even utopian, movies of earlier decades. Blade Runner’s depressing world is dominated by huge corporations. Everything looks dirty and gritty. So-called Blade Runners hunt down rogue androids, called replicants, who were originally produced as work force for the Off-World colonies. They’re not allowed on Earth. The punishment is death. And in the middle of it is our lone hardboiled hero Rick Deckard played by Harrison Ford.

At this point, I should confess that I haven’t read much cyberpunk, not even Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the book Blade Runner is based on. Believe me when I say I feel horrible about this.

In my defense, I’ve watched a lot of cyberpunk movies such as Minority Report, A.I.: Artificial Intelligence, Strange Days and the 2012 version of Total Recall. That was more than enough to spark my interest in this genre. In fact, I fell in love with it. As a writer with a fascination for crime thrillers and science fiction, cyberpunk is the perfect playground to let my imagination roam and tell my stories.

I don’t claim to be an expert, especially when it comes to literary genres and their trademark elements, but I do love movies and everything sci-fi. So I’ve picked up a few things over the years.

There are a few themes which are distinctive of cyberpunk. It deals with social, economic or ecological problems and reveals a dark glimpse into our immediate future, populated by powerful mega corporations, hackers and artificial intelligence. There’s a heavy focus on technology and the atmosphere has a certain noir feel to it, also typical of detective novels and crime thrillers.

However, don’t confuse cyberpunk with the post-apocalyptic genre, where basically no proper society exists anymore, or stories like The Hunger Games, where you have a dystopian society of some sort. Cyberpunk could feature a normal democracy or a society run by a conglomerate. But it’s generally no dystopia.

The creative possibilities for writers of cyberpunk are pretty much endless. Once you’ve decided on a setting, you can tell all kinds of stories. I’ve just started to explore this genre, but there’s so much more to discover. I only know that I love every second I spend in these intriguing and highly fascinating worlds.

 

Christian Cölln is a German wordsmith with a passion for books and movies. He’s haunted by a wild bunch of characters who won’t leave him alone until he’s told their story. Besides the occasional short story and poem, he’s primarily working on his first novels Bloody Tears, Lost Dreams and No Man’s Land.

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The Road to Self-Publishing

Guest Post by Tania Park

One of the hardest challenges for a writer these days is to get their work published. It appears that if you’re well-known, publishing houses welcome your manuscript. They’ll even contact you and ask you to write a book. Even if the celebrity doesn’t actually pen the words but uses the services of a ghost writer, the publisher’s arms are open wide. A huge amount of money is spent on promoting those types of books. There is only one reason why: money. Publishing houses are in it to make money.

So if you’re a nonentity, even with a literary masterpiece, it’s very difficult to get a publishing house to consider your manuscript.

So where does that leave the newcomer? How many brilliant manuscripts are gathering dust in forgotten drawers with twenty or so refusal slips attached?

There’s one solution: self-publishing. But this has pitfalls and many mistakes are made.

It will cost a certain amount of money – how much will depend on the printer you employ and what sort of expert advice you seek in order to have a professionally finished product. Then there’s the cost of getting your ISBN and barcode, which is a legal requirement.

I self-published a non-fiction book by doing all the work myself. It was the cheapest option. I found a printer who did the layout as part of the production cost. I hired a graphic artist to design the cover. This is a must if you want your book to look professional, unless you have those skills. A professional design will set you back anything from $250 for a basic cover. For a classier cover the cost will be higher.

You must have someone with excellent editorial skills to edit the book. An outsider sees errors you’ve missed even though you’ve read your work a hundred times. My eyes have skipped over simple misspellings repeatedly in my work. Spell check will not find things such as ‘the’ instead of ‘there’ and your brain skips over these simple typos unless you’re diligent in checking every word of every sentence. A professional editor will cost you at least a thousand dollars but it will be money well spent.

I recently read a self-published book that was edited by a ‘friend.’ The grammar is atrocious and the lack of proper punctuation is mind-boggling. The author paid an overseas publishing house to publish the book. So the publishers did what they were paid for – they published a raw manuscript. Some less than ethical publishing houses don’t care what the standard is like, for they received a substantial sum of money. Be very wary of these cowboy outfits that will publish your work for a one off payment of only $7,000.

My first book was successful and we managed to sell all copies. It looked professional but still I found at least four errors in the finished product. These were errors I’d missed repeatedly and so had other people who checked it for me.

I was involved in producing an anthology of short stories using the same method. The book was first class. But then we come to a major issue with self-publishing – selling.

Marketing a self-published book is harder than writing it and even harder than getting it published. Never make the mistake of thinking it will be a breeze. We had 300 copies of the short story anthology printed at a cost of around $10 a copy. It doesn’t sound like a large number but the books take up a lot of room and we still have at least 100 copies stashed in boxes – gathering dust.

I have just self-published my first novel, Mistaken, but this time I’ve used the services of a professional group. I’ve received advice from professional editors and technical producers, a cover designed by a professional that receives nothing but positive comments and every detail of book production is explained. The book is printed by a company that has outlets all over the world. The beauty of this method is that the books are printed on demand. I don’t have to order a print run of a certain number, which is the traditional method. I can order a single book if I wish or as many as I think I can sell. Of course the more you order at any one time, the cheaper each copy is. My initial order was for 100 copies. They were on my doorstep within ten days. I sold them all so my second order was for the same number. This doesn’t leave you with boxes of un-saleable books. The cost of my book being uploaded to more than one e-book supplier is included in the single up front fee. I don’t have the hassle.

I own the book. I own the rights to printing. I make the decisions for every single aspect of production and am responsible for the marketing, although I am amazed on how many websites my book is advertised. And it didn’t cost me anywhere near $7000.00. Even better, it is a local company that has a world-wide customer base. Everything is done by email. I didn’t even personally meet anyone from the company until I hand-delivered the first copy of my book.

I am so ecstatic with the completed product that my second book is now in the throes of production. I need to now market my book. All I need is a marketing company and ideas on how to sell it. Any offers?

 

Tania lives in Busselton, WA and has been writing for 10 years. Her second novel, Retribution, will be available soon.

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