Thursday, 26 February 2015

Five Generations - the Inspiration of a Blanket

The bag contained a red ball of yarn and a partially completed, hand-crocheted blanket. I had been sorting my mother’s possessions, intending to donate her craft items to her friends at the local Craft Club. When I first saw the blanket I considered unraveling the yarn – perhaps someone else would be able to use it?

But when I picked the blanket up, it was warm and soft, and it gave me pause. I saw an image of Mum’s hands holding it as she crocheted. Suddenly the blanket was too personal, almost intimate, and I resolved it had another purpose.

A few days later, I searched for my crochet hook and sat with the blanket on my knees as I worked my way around the edge using a double crochet stitch. I thought about the importance Mum had placed on the simple pleasure of making the blanket, even though she was unwell, and her stitches showed her deterioration. I chose not to unpick those sometimes ragged stitches, instead working them into the final pattern, wrapping my own stitches around them like a hug.

Hooking the yarn, I also thought of my grandmothers who had helped me as I leaned a new crochet stitch or struggled with a doily pattern. I wondered if they knew the skills they taught me would be used on a day such as this?

When I give the blanket to Mum’s great-grand-daughter, my grand-niece, this practical heirloom will wrap together, with knowledge and love, five generations of women.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

How do you know you are ready to publish?

It’s taken forever, but you have the manuscript finished. The big question looms: ‘Am I ready to publish?’ If you think you are, here are 3 things to do next.

1.      Make sure you have edited your manuscript – not just once but several times. It needs to be free from structural errors such as character names, the colour of their hair or the place they live in changing halfway through the story. Ideally the manuscript is also free from typographical and punctuation errors.
2.      Research the publishers who are most likely to be interested in your manuscript. Don’t waste your time and theirs by sending to publishers who do not handle the type of work you have written.
3.      Send a fantastic query letter to the likely publishers. This letter is your (one) chance to make them want to read your work.

For examples of how to write a query letter (and also how not to!) try
as well as

Monday, 16 February 2015

Have a Heart

Stacey slurped slightly, licking the drip that rolled down her arm. She breathed in the sugary smell of ice-cream and chocolate. Her fingers were sticky as they held the treat away from her dress where flecks of chocolate had fallen and melted in the afternoon sun.

She tried not to think about Ginger buried beside the back fence. Grandad had taken the still, little body and his spade. She had followed him.

‘There’ she said, pointing to a spot where the grass grew dense and tall.

Grandad dug a hole. He placed the dead mouse inside before covering it with soil. Stacey held out the cross and watched as Grandad hammered it into the ground. She wondered whether it would pierce Ginger’s heart and she twitched with each thud. But she didn’t look away.

As they stood back, Grandad put his hand on her shoulder. ‘Let’s think about something else’, he said. ‘Ice-cream?’ 

Stacey counted the crosses lined up along the fence. There were three of them now. And three times Grandad had offered to buy her an ice-cream, so she nodded.

Ginger hadn’t struggled. The paperclip, the cheese, the switch; it was over in an instant.

While she nibbled the last of the ice-cream and licked her fingers, Stacey supposed she would have to keep her next mouse alive for a few weeks. It was important to have a heart.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Excuse #23 - Bowling a Maiden Over

When players from Afghanistan and Bangladesh run up and down the pitch at Manuka Oval as part of the Cricket World Cup, I might try to write a pitch for my latest story.

It would not be the first time I’ve whiled away my time at a cricket match. All those Saturday mornings keeping score at junior cricket or the time I got sunburnt at the Prime Minister’s XI come to mind. And filling in a blank scoresheet is a whole lot easier than writing words on a blank page.

Given that junior cricket is a few weeks away, the answer for writer’s block could be a trip to Bowral. Pottering through the Bradman Museum and International Cricket Hall of Fame or having a picnic at the picturesque Bradman Oval is bound to be inspirational. I’ve just got time to dust off the folding chair and fill the esky before the game between Cootamundra and Bowral on 15 February.

Cricket Captains Walk Cootamundra
As for Cootamundra, serious procrastinators would enjoy the Cricket Captains Walk where it’s possible to admire Australia’s cricketing greats, soak up the ambiance and think about statistical probabilities. I have calculated the likelihood of producing a quick 500 words after this kind of nostalgic reflection to be 500 to 1 against, with the usual standard deviation – much like a cricket ball off a crack in the wicket.

Statistically speaking, I might be better Setting Up My Starting XI for success. This is where I channel the Australian selectors online and pick a World Cup Team full of players like World Cup debutants Glenn Maxwell (122 off 57 balls in the warm-up match) and David Warner (127 off 115 balls against England at the SCG). It’s like writing that virtual best-seller where I can be Margaret Atwood and Ursula Le Guin all at once.

To even up the odds, when the Australian Cricket Team plays England at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Valentine’s Day, and my loved one steps up to the remote control, I’ll pick up my pen, and like any good opener, settle in. I should be able to show some resilience, develop a relaxed style, get some runs on the board, and hit a six or two in my allotted overs. If I get drinks as well, I’ll know someone’s bowled a maiden over.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Do You Need an Agent?

This is the question facing all budding authors and there is no straightforward answer.

Before you decide you are willing to share at least 10% of the earnings from your published book, ask yourself: ‘What can an agent do for me?’

Some of the key things an agent can do are:

·         Make sure you only submit polished work for consideration by publishers
·         Pitch your manuscript to publishers (knowing which publishers might be interested, working their networks to bring your manuscript to attention and keeping it out of the ‘slush pile’)
·         Act as an intermediary between you and the prospective publisher
·         Negotiate terms (not only for the book rights, but also potentially for other forms of reproduction as well as add-ons like merchandising and film rights)
·         Help you keep to deadlines and publishing schedules
·         Act as your advocate and help manage financial affairs connected with your writing.

Even if you decide you want an agent, being able to secure one is not guaranteed. You will need to be persistent, shop around, and make sure you know something about the agent, their experience and the types of manuscripts they handle before you approach them.