Monday, March 22, 2010

Streets Ahead

Had lunch with Number One Son today. We made it a little more special than usual, after being cooped up inside most of yesterday afternoon thanks to what will hereby be known as The Big Storm: Macca's and Sesame Street, in order to celebrate our new-found freedom. (Yes, I'm aware that sitting inside in front of the telly may not be using the grander weather to it's full potential, but we were happy enough...)

I am often guilty of tuning out most of the television shows my boys like - I find In the Night Garden particularly conducive to a spot of mental planning, for work or writing - but I sure paid attention to the lady in the lovely yellow shirt when she started to teach my child how to say "humungous". At risk of sounding like the crotchety old cow that I try to keep buried inside (for the most part), times sure have changed since my day...

Number One Son dutifully repeated the word "humungous" a few times, along with Yellow Shirt Lady, until she was joined by a very large (yes, humungous) pink dragon. At which point he turns to me and says, "Wow, Mum. That dragon sure is humungous."

If you happened to click through the handy little link I popped in there a couple of paragraphs ago, you will find two entries for humungous, both of which emphasise that it is slang. I've got nothing against Yellow Shirt Lady teaching my child some commonly used words that may not yet have made it into the standard dictionaries (it's certainly not included in my massive 2005 Collins Australian), but I'm wondering what I might find him saying next? "Kudos for the grouse sangers, Mum"? "Kindy was totally random today"?

Never mind. Big Bird is so gay these days, anyway...

Friday, February 19, 2010

Launching Pads

Last night I had the great privilege of (at last) attending the launch of the latest book by Julia Lawrinson, a good friend and also one of my afore-mentioned "Julia's".

I had been living too far away to attend any of her previous launches, so I was very pleased to finally be able to share this with her, and see what really goes on at a book launch. I had grand visions of sipping champagne, munching on canap├ęs and gaily chatting with the elite of Western Australia's best writers for children and young adults. As it was, I nearly missed the whole thing – having forgotten quite how snarly peak-hour traffic can be – and after an hour and a half of bumper-to-bumper 'Car Invaders' (like Space Invaders, but played with way more expensive toys), I sidled in late, grabbing a back row pew... and a glass of chardy on the way.

Thankfully, I did catch most of a fabulous launch speech by a very well-spoken teenager – he really did make me wonder what the hell I was doing with my time when I was his age – who may just turn out to be our next Prime Minister, so clever was he at weaving just enough of Julia's oft-hidden sassiness into her incredible list of achievements.

Forgive me if I mess this up, for I was still sipping my chardy, but Julia herself did very eloquently put forward the answer to a very important question: What is the purpose of holding a book launch? Apart from reasons that are totally obvious to me – sipping wine and rubbing shoulders, included – she said it was to celebrate the 'coming out' of the story, for one spends months (or years) with one's shoulders hunched over the computer, in a very solitary environment.

Now THAT, I can totally relate to. When I start to wonder what the hell is the point of slogging away, trying to get my characters to speak on the page as they do in my head, or how on earth I will ever think of another 8,570 words to write when the first 31,430 were so damn hard... I shall try to remember that one day I may also have to opportunity to introduce you to my 'other' friends. The ones in my head. And I don't mean that in a crazy psycho way.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Free time comes at a price...

It's quiet in the house right now, which I do love, but I'm getting an attack of the guilts. Mummy Guilt, perhaps, or just the plain old regular kind.

Number One Son is off at his first afternoon Kindy session, which just happens to coincide with Number Two Son's nap time. And so here I sit on the couch, playing Scrabble, checking emails, and playing around with blogs. Already conscious of the fact that next week begins Number Two Son's day care roster, and I will be the grateful receiver of more two-hour sessions of doing whatever-the-hell-I-want. (Technically, I'm supposed to be gainfully employed for at least part of this time, in order to justify the hefty fees, but there's so many more things screaming for my attention.)

Will I be a 'proper writer' and take every available moment I can scrounge to dive head first into my almost-forgotten manuscript? Or will the call of a new business set-up take priority? Or maybe I'll finish reading the bootleg Midnight Sun draft (by Twilight's Stephenie Meyer) that a friend emailed me. Yes, I think that definitely wins. All in the name of research, of course...

(What I can tell you for sure is that unless Julia and Tracy don't stop kicking my butt, I will need to invest a lot more time in Scrabble!)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Firsts and beginnings

Number One Son started his first day of pre-Kindy today, the very first rung of his educational ladder. Got me thinking about my first manuscript, which still hasn't progressed very far, and then to the book I'm reading at the moment, which begins with two introductions, one biography and a foreword. No less than 49 pages before one even begins the story. Hubby is an avid non-fiction reader, so he's quite used to that, but it isn't something a die-hard Fiction Chick comes across too often.

My own manuscript has been reworked countless times, usually starting at the beginning with each read-through (a very good place to start). So if my final chapter has been edited 10 times, then the first chapter has probably been changed hundreds. My first line though, has remained exactly the same as when I first put pen to paper on this, years ago. I don't even need to look it up now, I could probably recite the whole introductory paragraph word-for-word. First sentence is:
  • This past summer was a big one for me.
And it goes on about other 'big' stuff. Boobs included.

Taking a scan of some of the more recent* books I have read, I find first lines such as...
  • I felt like I was trapped in one of those terrifying nightmares, the ones where you have to run, run until your lungs burst, but you can't make your body move fast enough.
  • All our attempts at subterfuge had been in vain.
  • I'd had more than my fair share of near-death experiences; it wasn't something you ever really got used to.
  • Hannah Willis was a second-year law student at Virginia, and everything that lay ahead of her seemed bright and promising – except, of course, that she was about to die in these dark, gloomy, dismal woods.
On reading this list now, and then re-reading my own first line, I am left wanting to change it. It has survived a zillion drafts, and I give it due credit for avoiding the delete button this long, but doesn't have the same 'wow factor' as the ones on my bedside table. Or perhaps I would be better served by not starting at the beginning after all, but by lifting a scene from a later chapter – something right in the thick of the action – and inserting it before my current beginning, to form a more intriguing new beginning.

Actually, it sounds like something that would be quite handy in real life.

*I was going to list my favourite books in this post, but as everything bar the last few months' worth is currently packed away in boxes, patiently awaiting the erection of some fabulous Ikea shelving, I chose to go with the ease of grabbing the most recent reads off the shelf nearby. I've been too slack to add these yet to the monstrous collection in the garage.

Friday, November 27, 2009

More astute readers may note that, instead of the two weeks I estimated it would take me to read my manuscript and notes, and then reappear here with something interesting to say - it has in fact been a whole month. (Even then I'm rounding it down, but cut me a break, okay?)

What have I been doing during the past five - I mean, four - weeks? A lot of internal mind-bending roller coaster rides, I must say. I can't help but think of Number One Son's progression with his swimming lessons.
  1. Prepare to dip toes into the vast expanse of manuscript yawning before me. Very unsure as to the temperature... warm? Freezing cold?
  2. Find it's generally quite icy, but with unexplained warm patches throughout
  3. Freak out manically at the sheer immenseness of it all.
I am comforted somewhat by the knowledge that Number One Son has come a long way since his first lesson, which consisted of 25 minutes of crying and pleading "I need to go to the side and have a rest", five minutes of silent defiance and then a smile and a high-five when the lesson was finished. Six lessons later and he now rushes to the edge as soon as we arrive, waiting impatiently for his turn, then spends the whole half hour grinning and waving proudly to Mummy. So I prepare to undertake my next challenge tentatively, yet with the hope that I will one day be 'high-five'ing too. That challenge is just to begin. Dip one toe in the frigid water that is my novel, and try to warm it some with a few drops of heady inspiration. Where that will be coming from, I have no idea!

On the plus side, I have now allowed myself to go out and buy that new book!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Breaking Dawn

I've achieved a lot this week! Hurrah! Started swimming lessons with Number One Son, hung some pictures for my mum, enrolled Number Two Son in daycare for next year, embarked on a new diet, squeezed in a couple of gym sessions, made some invitations for my brother's 30th birthday and did some research for his present (no clues, Bro!). 

You may note, though, that none of this list has anything to do with working on my manuscript...

I have done some mental planning - does that count? Let's say, for the sake of my sanity and my blog, that it does. My list of things to do, in order to get me into the right 'space' is now:
  1. Finish reading final book of Twilight series (bizarrely enough, there are NO MORE books in my 'to read' cabinet, which never happens. I really want to read The Time Traveller's Wife next, but I'm refusing to allow myself to buy it before I have achieved steps 2 and 3)
  2. Fish out manuscript from the drawer and read it from start to finish
  3. Read all editor's notes on aforementioned manuscript

Yes, I managed to figure all that out in just one tiny week. How brilliant of me. (Not.)

I estimate it will take me no more than two weeks to finish the rather hefty tome on my bedside table, and then the gloves are off. Preparation for my next bout shall begin...

Friday, October 16, 2009

So, I've just returned from a holiday. Which is unusual for two reasons. The first, because I'm a mother of two young boys and the word "holiday" hasn't been part of my vocabulary for the last three plus years. Secondly, because instead of returning with the need to sit on my butt and recuperate, I've come back with a proverbial fire under it. Due mostly, I think, to a cracker of a movie I saw when I was away (in Gold Class, no less...)

I was really hoping to see Up, but due to terrible signposting at the Melbourne Crown Casino, managed to arrive only in time for Julie and Julia. As it turns out, wine, dinner and a Magnum ice-cream seem to enhance any viewing experience...

In this movie, "Julie", an aspiring writer stuck in a thankless job, sets herself a challenge: to cook her way through the entire 524 recipes in Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Childs... and starts a blog to make herself "accountable" for this. Had a chat about being accountable with a Melbournian friend of mine, and thought I might give it a try myself.

I don't tell many people that I have self-published a picture book, for various reasons. For those very same reasons I haven't told many people that I was awarded a mentorship from the Australian Society of Authors, to work with an editor on a Young Adult manuscript I've sequestered away in the cupboard. My babies have severely hampered work on this, and the official mentor time period of one year has passed many times over. I'm just totally thankful that I happened to choose an editor who is a mother herself, or perhaps just a very kind person. Whatever her motivation, she has left the door to her postbox ajar for me to send through my manuscript "whenever it is completed". Unfortunately, "whenever" isn't really working for me. The rest of my life keeps getting in the way.

So I'm going to take a leaf out of "Julie's" book, and become accountable. To myself. And to whomever happens to read this. I now endow you with the ability to have a go at me about how much I've done lately. Okay? Thanks.

Number 2 son waking now. Must go and think more on the next step while I change nappies and figure out how to entertain him in 35-degree heat when Puss popped the paddle pool last night...

*As an aside... I personally know two Julie's and two Julia's... all of whom I admire greatly, for different reasons. Will no doubt be referring to some of these fabulous women in a future post. :-)