Sunday, February 26, 2012

In Which Doris Gets Her Oats.

Phase one of the Jack Dann workshop at Writers Victoria kicked off yesterday morning.

There was a wide range of experience amongst the attendees, from those who may have scribbled down the occasional paragraph and have a few ideas, to those who have a publication history. It was great to see Gitte Christensen again and to trade tips, ideas and war stories with her.

It took me back to when I was starting out, three or so years ago. I'd written two quick, short stories - just to see if I could write, and then had no idea what to do with them. I signed up for a Sean Williams workshop with no real idea of what to expect. We had to sub 1,000 word sample to Sean, which in my naivety I presumed was only so Sean could see what our writing was like. I had absolutely no idea about manuscript formatting. And, I had absolutely no idea our work would be critiqued.

I was embarrassed by my writing, and very, very reticent to show it to anyone.

Yesterday, it was interesting to see those who are just starting to write. Some of the attendees were unsure of even how to start that first paragraph, and a couple seemed to find 5,000 words over the next month or so a little daunting. Me, I'll knock out something and sub it without too much worry, and look forward to the critiquing.

I must admit after the Sean Williams workshop, it took me a long time to find critters I could trust. I was confused by the range of comments, some from clearly inexperienced writers. I rewrote that story, trying to incorporate all the ideas - only to discover that I'd sucked all the life and soul from it. I threw that out and returned to the previous draft.

It's about discernment. By all means, listen to all critters - realising they are all potential readers, but also understanding that inexperience and enthusiasm may limit their critique value. Select carefully the comments you pay heed to, and then decide whether, and how, to incorporate any changes.

And it's always valuable to have critters who are either at a similar level to yourself, or somewhere you want to be. After all, I have a much better understanding of what makes a good story than I had three years ago.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Chronos Awards.

The awards season is upon us and I've just heard that both Kaaron Warren (for writing short fiction) and Jack Dann (for an anthology he edited) have been shortlisted for the Stoker. Congratulations. They would both surely deserve to win.

I'm eligible for a coupve been conle of upcoming awards. I'sidered for the Aurealis Awards, but it will take a little while before the shortlist is announced. And I'm also eligible for the Chronos and Ditmar Awards, both of which will be presented in June.

I truly believe last year was the breakout year for me. I stepped up my writing practices and skills and sold a number of stories to quality markets. So Sad, The Lighthouse Keeper is the first of those stories to be published, and I am very proud and honoured to have had it included in Keith Stevenson's fantastic anthology, Anywhere But Earth.

Since publication it has received excellent comments and reviews. If you have read the story and enjoyed it, (and are so inclined to do so) please consider nominating it for the Chronos Awards here.

If you haven't read it, then you should consider purchasing a copy.

I promise I'll name my first-born after you.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Next Level.

This week has been fantastic. In a single 24 hour period I had five amazing things occur that really made my day. And, therefore, my week.

Little of it had to do with writing. In fact, during that time period I also received two rejections - one of them from a market that continues to call me with its siren song and yet manages to elude me every time. But neither of these rejections bugged me like the ones I referred to last week. (And yes, I'm slowly getting over those.)

I managed a sale - a minor one in the scheme of things, but it was a story that I really liked and yet it had received flat rejections everywhere I subbed. It's the only flash piece (sorry, Cat) that I've ever written. I must admit I was starting to despair of it ever seeing the light of day.

My rejections these days are frequently personal, with notes  complimenting my writing but then adding there's something that didn't quite work for the editor. And there's a lesson to be learned from that.

I've decided it's time to ramp it up, and proceed to the next level.

And so in two weeks time I commence Jack Dann's writing course. And this week I start my new writing regime. And then I have further plans for later in the year once my Uni assignments are over. On top of that I'm committed to keep all my available stories out in circulation until they are sold or dead. Everything I have currently completed is either awaiting a minor rewrite or subbed at markets.

Watch out for me. I'm determined you'll see a lot more of my work.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Rejection And Success.

The rejections are mine. The successes are not.

I recently had two stories rejected from markets that I thought were a sure thing. The stories are good, the writing sits squarely amid the best I've ever done, and both stories fit the guidelines like a well worn glove. Unfortunately, the editors / slushreaders disagreed.

It's been a very long time since I felt down about a rejection. I usually just cop it on the chin, send the story straight out and forget about it. But these two stories were with markets that I really want to break into. And I've suddenly realised these rejections are bugging me more than I should let them.

One of the markets I find frustrating, as they usually have a rapid rejection process but this time took four weeks. I take this to mean they weren't initially sure - but I received no comments back so I don't really know. (And yes, they are rapid - my best ever effort with them was 17 minutes! - which I thought said more about the slushreader than me. Especially since the critique (two words) made little sense.)

The other market I at least received some comments from (even if I disagree with them - hehehehe), but I find that market a little frustrating too, as the last time I was rejected there they then published stories which were clearly outside their own guidelines thematically.

Still, they can choose whatever they want to buy. For some reason my story didn't grab them, and I just need to accept that.

On the other end of the spectrum, I continue to publish reviews with Dark Matter. (simply email 'subscribe' to Elsewhere I have a story on hold, my friend Gitte Christensen has a story on hold at a pro-market, and a whole bunch of Australians and New Zealanders made the Locus recommended reading list for 2011. In fact, we're proportionally over-represented, considering our population.

Lucy Sussex for "Matilda Told Such Dreadful Lies"
Kim Westwood for "Courier's New Bicycle" 
Kaaron Warren for "Mistification" 
Alison Goodman for "Eona" 
Karen Healey for "The Shattering" 
Jo Anderton for "Debris" 
Margo Lanagan for "Yellowcake"
Tansy Rayner Roberts for "Love and Romanpunk"
Jack Dann and Nick Gevers for "Ghosts by Gaslight"

and the following short stories:

‘‘Dying Young’’, Peter M. Ball

‘‘Catastrophic Disruption of the Head’’, Margo Lanagan
‘‘Memories of Chalice’’, Peter M. Ball
‘‘The Shaddowwes Box’’, Terry Dowling
‘‘Breaking the Ice’’, Thoraiya Dyer
‘Mulberry Boys’’, Margo Lanagan
‘‘Boumee and the Apes’’, Ian McHugh
‘‘The Patrician’’, Tansy Rayner Roberts
"All You Can Do Is Breathe’’, Kaaron Warren

Ah yes, Spec-Fic is very healthy down under.  That doesn't mean I can't wallow in self pity though.