Rhys Tate, one of my creative writing ex-students has written a short novel for boys that had me laughing aloud.
This short chapter book for children (mostly boys) aged 8-11 is a guide to Aussie Rules football and Australian slang. With plenty of humour, sport and action, it is written to appeal to reluctant readers.
In the first week of Grade 6, average schoolkid Davey Grant has to deal with one furious teacher, two new nicknames, three psycho chickens and his Mum nearly going into full-on, please-run-screaming-from-the-building meltdown mode – all in time to beat the invincible Port Blue in the first game of the Aussie Rules football season. Can he make it? A book about nicknames and Aussie Rules. And chickens.
A small percentage of my students have managed to hang in long enough to get published. Good on them, I always say because they had the gumption to keep on trying. As any artist,musician, or actor will tell you, it takes more than talent to succeed. Timing is important and for writers, careful editing. So if you are feeling downhearted because you have just had another rejection, put that work away and start something new. Sometimes a ‘novel’ idea for a novel takes time for it to jell to submission editors. Sometimes even a decade. I also suggest that you write the word PERSEVERANCE in large letters above your desk or where wherever you work.
THis review appeared on’ Good Reads’. Most grateful to the reviewer.
Ever held a shell to your ear? This effective cover portrays the conch as a sea shell entry to other worlds including cyberspace. E-side means the layers of electronic worlds where the characters have a series of imaginative adventures. Could be a great class serial as there are several stories within a story and lots to discuss.
Even the names like Hecate have symbolic links to other mythology. Initially set within the cafe, which gives it a ‘foody’ base, Goldie Alexander knows how to keep the plot moving and the characters involving.
Helen Garner gave a terrific speech at the Stella Awards lamenting the consequences of awarding prizes to some books and not to others. She talks of the difficulties committees have in trying to arrive at consensus.
Publishing is a business, and when a book wins a major prize it sells in alarming proportions while other books that might be are just as good die a quiet death. So in the end it is all about economics.
I have formulated the idea that LONG books tend to win, as if the more the writer creates the better it is. Can I coin a new term, ‘the pinch test’ for novels? Surely less is usually best. The hardest things to write are haiku and children’s story picture books. All has to be said in so few words. Thank goodness the novella is coming back into its own.
It is too often assumed that children’s books must be easier to write because they are shorter. Can I suggest that any book written for kids that spends too long on description and analysis without a good narrative flow will usually lose readers? If only the same could be said for many novels written for adults. I have been bored witless by too many recent books that have won major prizes. In the main they are repetitive, overly drawn out, and if they are historical fiction, too much research is on display.
What about placing overweight books on a diet? Limit the number of pages and words. Force the writer to read it with a stranger’s eyes, a stranger that only has a limited amount of time.
My advice to emerging authors, for what it’s worth, is PRUNE!
I am thrilled that my latest book for young readers has had its final proof completed. Though Samantha( Sam) and Melody travel through cyberspace, in a way this is an old fashioned fantasy in that it contains a horrid witch, a clever magician, a magic Good-Luck Conch, and some strange lands where the laws of physics can be overturned.
In case dear reader, I have made you curious, this is what it’s about:
“Sam and her single mother Kate live in the rear of the Conch Café, close to Sam’s best friend Melody and her dog, Billy. The building is owned by greedy witch Hecate Badminton who will do anything to own the café’s Good-Luck-Conch. After Hecate steals the shell and the café burns down, the girls have a series of remarkable adventures inside ‘eSide’. Because digital graphics create unique scenarios, the girls travel to dangerous places and overcome some of their worst fears before they can recover their conch and go home.”
Though I am mostly known for my historical fiction, this book is dear to my heart as it contains messages about not allowing oneself to be bullied and how tyrants can be overcome. My other enjoyment is that I was able in so few pages to say all this without overpowering the reader with too many words. I call it the ‘pinch test’ as I am becoming tired of books that win prizes but in my opinion need pruning.
If anyone would like to buy ‘eSide’, please contact www.fivesenses.com.au
or any bookstore that features books for middle school kids.
1. Can you tell me a bit about your inspirations and what drew you to writing in the first place? In one word: reading. I learnt to read when I was three and I have never stopped. Books take me far away from my present reality, and take me to other worlds. When life is tough- as it was this year after a major accident which left me disabled for months- they proved my salvation. I bought a Kindle and downloaded over a 200 books. As for what inspires me: what I read, what I see, what I hear. I am one of those strange people who actually enjoys listening to people talking on their mobiles. In a word, the world around me is my inspiration.
2. Is having a book published exclusively as an ebook a different experience to having a book in print? Do you prefer reading either format? Do you think the print book is on the way out? I adore my Kindle. Without it I would have spent most of 2012 going quite mad. Ultimately what format a book appears isn’t all that relevant. What matters are the words, the characters and the narrative drive. I think hardcopy might gradually disappear. What will remain are story picture books for little readers, and maybe elegant coffee table books. Of course this is a time of transition and who can predict the future with any accuracy? The monks who illustrated all those wonderful bibles must have felt the same way when they first caught sight of a printing press. ‘Never catch on,’ they must have told each other. Same as when Penguin decided to produce soft covers. Enough said.
3. What tips do you have for other writers? I have a blog where I post lots of tips, both for very beginning writers, and those that are trying to promote their work. Social networking is important, so I recommend using facebook, tweeting, and logging into other blogs. Promoting on You Tube is useful though I have to confess I’m technologically too stupid to do this. My major piece of advice is to never give up. A book may be rejected many times before it takes off. Sometimes it can take many years, and of course this has happened to me many, many times. After I lick my wounds at yet another rejection, I remind myself that it might be the wrong time, the wrong publisher, and probably needs another draft. Now the book revolution is on us, perhaps it’s useful to think of self publishing. But be warned: too many self published books are badly edited or frankly, need more work.
4.. Your latest YA novel ‘Dessi’s Romance’ features Schoolies celebrations. Why did you choose to write about Schoolies? Did you do any specific research? And what do you think of the Schoolies culture? I am much too old to attend Schoolies Week but have read a lot about it and talked to youngsters who went. Schoolies Week is a rite-of-passage for youngsters: the child turning into an adult. It seemed an ideal setting for these young women and men to question the adherence to their friendship and their search for identity. Apropos the ‘culture’ of Schoolies Week, we read and see a lot on the media about the negatives. but I think this is an ideal way for youngsters to celebrate without parents or supervisors. They have to learn what is and what isn’t appropriate. Some seem to find this hard and that’s when the media latches onto an unfortunate incident. In ‘Dessi’s Romance’, Dessi and Emma, who have been as close as sisters since they were babies, have to sort out their feelings for each other when a new man comes between them.
5. What is the most important thing to remember when starting a new work? In my opinion, a character must become a living breathing person easily recognizable. I always recommend writers create a character profile to start with. Once your character is living at a specific time and you know his/her likes dislikes/conflicts/ family etc. you already have half your plot. I can’t emphasize this enough. In ‘eSide’, a contemporary fantasy for 9 to 12Year olds my major evil character is the witch Hecate, and hopefully, she is as scary as any horror movie.
6. What other advice can you give beginner writers? Perseverance is what counts. It’s said that inspiration is only 10% and hard work 90% . I am often approached by people who tell me they ‘have a book in them’ as if I can give a magic tip. Wish I could.
Roaming through my website I came across the following warnings for authors. I’m not sure if I originally wrote them, or found them elsewhere. Whatever… I think they are relevant.
1. Never write ‘too close to home’ or family and friends
may be upset, disown or sue.
2. Keep your author photo within 5 years of your real face and shape.
3. Murphy’s Lore- the cost of Bank exchange fees to convert from foreign sales may exceed your income from obscure currencies with lots of zeros.
4. Readers often assume fiction is autobiography, especially the sexual parts.
5. Ex-lovers consider their love life private.
6. Use different signatures for autograph and credit cards to avoid being scammed.
7. A ‘thesis’ does not a book make.
8. Beware of pirates, of the on-line intellectual property kind. IP can also mean International Piracy.
9. ‘Prolific’ is a put-down. If you use a pseudonym, remember it.
10. Back up! Your computer will crash on deadline and the technician
will earn more in 15 minutes than your entire royalty period.
11. Be wary of flattery! What have you written? Anything I might have read?
Are you famous? Or – I loved your book. I got it for 10 cents from the op-shop.
Despite these warnings, the creative health of most authors is enriched by the imaginative satisfaction of their work. Retirement is only an option when your brain goes’funny. Or you are dead!
I have been writing for kids for over two decades. In that time I have had periods of flood and drought, feast and famine. There were wonderful years when everything I wrote was picked up immediately. Others, when it took more than a decade to find a publisher for a particular ‘orphan’.
This meant I had to ask myself if I had sent out that ms out at the wrong time, or to the wrong place, or in the wrong format? Perhaps the market wasn’t ready for it. Sometimes, on rereading, I realised that the ms needed more work, and then I would rewrite and resubmit. I certainly kept redrafting until that ms was finally sold. The synopsis and opening pages were vital. If I couldn’t attract a submissions editor, I was in trouble. Sometimes changing a title, or even cannibalizing the ms, could prove fruitful. Thus several lengthy stories were condensed to join my three short story collections. I never sent out an ms without first checking if it needed cutting, fleshing out, or more on line editing.
These days with so many publishers either combining or going under, it would seem as if we have returned to a time of famine. Except for the ebook. So an agent might more willing to pick up an ms and a publisher happier so if s/he knows that s/he won’t have the added expense of printing, paper and storage. The ebook also allows the creator to bypass the agent and publisher completely. However, the question still remains; how to market this work? Once this was done by professionals. These days it is up to us. And what’s more, we have to do this without spending lots of money on a professional marketer.
My primary technique is through my website. I regard this as my ‘shopwindow’ and of greatest importance. As it has been updated by a young webmaster into a completely new design, I feel he knows what will appeal to other young people. Other creators have helped promote my latest YA novel as many have blogs and seem happy to interview me, particularly as I make it easy by always emailing a list of questions and answers they only have to ‘cut and paste’. I write articles for the better ezines which keeps my brand, AKA my name, in the public eye, and I feature other writers on my blog.
I have decided that I am reallydumb. All day I had been trying to log into GOOD READS to update my profile, add covers to books that don’t have them and talk about some of my recent reads. I still haven’t succeeded
Am I the only author who finds writing a full length novel easier than tackling other people/ company’websites?
Who creates them? I have just completed ‘The Rosie Project’ ( highly recommended as very funny light reading about a serious topic) and wanted to say something about it. After trying in vain to upload my profile, I decided that much like the character Don in this novel, the site had also been constructed by someone with severely autistic.
So much for that!
A couple of other books I strongly recommend though far more serious stylistically, are Scott Gardner’s YA novel ’The Dead I know’; and the adult Wallace Stegnar’s ’Crossing to Safety’, a wonderful meditation on friendship and ageing, plus every other book on the reading list for my adult book club. A quarter way through the year, I seem to have read everything on it through the wonder of owning a Kindle- everything except ”Merival: a Man of his Time” by Rose Tremain. But as I have also read a number of her other novels, I’ll get to it eventually.
What was lovely was receiving a number of emails about the craft of fictionalizing history from young readers and would be authors.
I keep hoping that my latest YA offereing,’ Dessi’s Romance’ also about friendship is being read. In case I haven’t mentioned it often enough???the Amazon site is filed under Children and Romance.
Also “eSIDE: a Contemporary Fantasy” should be out very soon. This novel is aimed at upper primary school readers. I am looking forward to seeing the final copy very much indeed.
Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.
I’ve moved house over 60 times and have lived in four different countries.
What is your nickname?
Tan. And I really love it! (Pity I don’t have a nice tan to go with it.)
What is your greatest fear?
I don’t have many fears at all. Maybe the rapid evaporation of time?
Describe your writing style in ten words.
I strive for an original, quirky, unique voice that inspires.
Tell us five positive words that describe you as a writer.
Dedicated, diverse, original, multi-tasking, kid-centered.
What book character would you be, and why?
Too many to choose from! Right now, I wish I could be Eloise so I could let loose in the Plaza Hotel in New York.
If you could time travel, what year would you go to and why?
La Belle Époque in Paris (1871 – 1914) – for the art, literature, music, theatre, beauty, fashion, glamour, scientific discovery – and the peace.
What would your ten-year-old self say to you now?
I’m so happy you followed my dream.
Who is your greatest influence?
People: too far-reaching to mention. Things: travel, nature, photography, kids.
What/who made you start writing?
It’s in my blood – my grandfather was a journalist and historical author – and writing is just something I’ve always done. I had my first poem published when I was 8 and from there, I never really stopped. It’s like oxygen to me.
What is your favourite word and why?
Originality. Because like most precious and rare things, I’m obsessed with it.
If you could only read one book for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?
The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis.
Tania is an author of both adult and children’s books. Her latest titles include Australian Story: An illustrated timeline (NLA Publishing) and Riley and the Grumpy Wombat: a journey around Melbourne (Ford Street). She has three books out in 2013 – Eco Warriors to the Rescue! (NLA), An Aussie Year: twelve months in the life of Australian kids (Exisle) and Riley and the Jumpy Roo: a journey around Canberra. Check out www.taniamccartney.com for more.
I received this email from one of the participants in last week’s Writing Memoir class. What a lovely message to receive:
“Thank you so much Goldie for all your help over the 3 sessions we had with you. I realise that we have just skimmed the surface & there is so much more to learn. However your book & the short time I had with you has more than motivated me to keep on writing. I was too emotional on the last day to add comments on the survey form & to express my gratitude. The ladies in the Memoir group are in the process of organising to meet on a regular basis. The 1st meeting is in early April. All this is happening because of the inspiration we got from attending your classes.”
My publisher at www. indrabooks.com, who is convinced that all books will eventually go on line, decided to publish my latest YA novel only as an ebook- though he intends using P.O.D. (print on demand) sometime in the future. Many of my readers and friends tell me this is too hard to access. I’m not too surprised. There’s another ‘Goldie Alexander’ on google and Amazon who happens to be a black rap singer. I don’t know why he’s called Goldie. Perhaps he wears a lot of gold? Or has gold teeth? The other drawback is that there are lots of books on Kindle that have nothing to do with me. They merely happen to have ‘Goldie’ somewhere in the title.
What I do know is how hard to it is to find a particular book when there are so many thousands on line pleading to be read. So if anyone is still interested in my latest YA novel which happens to be about friendship, and other contemporary issues, you can access it by double clicking on:
Amazon has set authors some interesting challenges. It seems that if you write in a particular genre or for a particular audience you are forbidden to review a book if that book happens to fall into your area. This is intended to stop friends, who are often fellow authors, from adding their reviews. However, those readers are often the most likely to want to assess your book. We all know that reviews are often written by folk who know something about that particular genre and want to learn more. So I really don’t know why Amazon has suddenly set itself up to become the ethical watchdog of a practice that has been going on for years. Newspaper reviews usually come from experts in the same field. As for Amazon… given that much of the reading population still prefers hard copy to ebook, it seems that unless one is famous, or writing erotica, it’s enormously difficult to get an ebook reviewed. But it’s those very same reviews that will tempt readers to buy that book. This is one of the best Catch 22’s I have ever come across.