1. Can you tell us something about your history to do with writing and publishing?
I have always loved creative writing and I have been writing poetry and stories for my own amusement from a young age. In 2014, I decided it was past time to start sharing some of my writing with others and I polished up a number of radically retold fairy tales I had written.
Beyond the Briar: A Collection of Romantic Fairy Tales is a collection of ‘novelettes’ (stories of about 10 – 16 000 words, longer than short stories but shorter than novellas) for young adult and adult readers. As it is typically difficult for emerging writers to find a traditional publisher for a collection of their short fiction, I decided to independently publish the collection on Amazon, as an experiment with the self-publishing industry. It has been a really interesting experience in building my platform as an author and has taught me a lot about the industry.
Over that time, I have also published several short stories in anthologies and other places, including in an annual Indie Author’s Advent Calendar, and I have independently published a few short stories on Smashwords, the world’s largest distributor of indie ebooks. It has all been something of a fun exploration while I plug away (very slowly!) at several more demanding novels.
2. You are putting out a collection of modern fairy tales called WISH UPON A SOUTHERN STAR. Can you tell us something about them?
Wish Upon a Southern Star is a collection of radically retold fairy tales by 21 New Zealand and Australian writers. It is a young adult collection and I like to think it holds something for everyone — the anthology brings together stories which are dramatic and heartfelt with those which are tongue-in-cheek and mischievous. As the blurb describes:
The Southern Cross shines high above a fairy tale wood. Come step inside. Drink dew from the leaves with tiny Tommelise. Eat egg sandwiches with a toothy young troll. Escape with Rapunzel. Trick Rumpelstiltskin. Shiver in the snow. Climb the beanstalk. Pray to the Piper. Be a cat. In and out of the wood, whether in this world or another, these stories will take you to new places. Explore how far you can go in this anthology of twenty-one fairy tale retellings by New Zealand and Australian authors.
3. Why did this genre interest you?
Fairy tales have interested me for a long time. I loved reading fairy tales as a child and watching the Disney reinterpretations of some of those tales. I have also been a reader of fairy tale retellings for a long time, starting when I was a teenager with Robin McKinley’s Beauty.
When I was writing my PhD in young adult fiction at Macquarie University in Sydney, I read a number of critical analyses of fairy tale fiction, and this deepened my interest in the genre.
While fantasy is my favourite genre, there is something very satisfying about fairy tale archetypes, whether they appear in fantasy or other genres. I love the familiarity of common tropes and I love to see how authors play with those tropes and reader expectations.
4. Can you please describe the process from beginning to end of how you collected these stories and how you intend publishing them?
The idea of editing a collection of fairy tales by a variety of authors developed when I was running a fairy tale workshop for the Christchurch Children’s Literature Hub, an adjunct of the New Zealand Society of Authors.
I decided that the collection would showcase South Pacific writers only, so I put out a call for submissions to writing groups across these countries and writers submitted their work to me electronically by the deadline. Over the reading period of several months, I selected stories for the collection and began the process of editing the stories, in collaboration with the contributing authors. Several proofs later, the anthology is now nearly ready for release.
The collection will be published through the Kindle and Createspace platforms, which are the ebook and paperback platforms for Amazon. They will be available for purchase through Amazon and their expanded distribution networks.
5. How are you planning to PR this collection? ( mention the launch)
As most authors, I think, will agree, marketing is the most difficult part of independent publishing. However, there are many pathways available to get the message about a new book out to the public. For Wish Upon a Southern Star, I have been maximising the message about the upcoming release of the anthology on my website and Facebook author page by interviewing each of the contributing authors and giving readers a sample of their stories. We will be having an official book launch on Saturday 2nd September at the South Library in Christchurch, and a number of the authors will be in attendance to meet and greet readers and sign copies of the book. As part of the celebration, I am also running a fairy tale poetry writing competition for Canterbury high school students, with the winner to be announced at the book launch.
Although the anthology is a Pacific endeavour, we hope that a range of young adults across the globe will enjoy our radically retold fairy tales.
6. Anything else you want to add?
Readers are sometimes more reluctant to try independently published books than books distributed by traditional publishers – and this makes sense. They know what to expect from traditional publishers who have established their brands with the publication of multiple books over a period of time. Each new indie author offers readers a whole new brand to sample – readers don’t know what they are going to get and whether the brand will meet their needs. I hope readers will be adventurous and give Wish Upon a Southern Star a go – and in doing so, I hope they will discover some new favourite fairy tales.
Shelley Chappell is a writer of fantasy fiction and fairy tale retellings. She is the editor of Wish Upon a Southern Star (2017) and the author of Beyond the Briar: A Collection of Romantic Fairy Tales (2014) and a variety of short stories.
Shelley’s PhD, Werewolves, wings, and other weird transformations (2011), explored shape-shifting in children’s and young adult fantasy literature. She has worked as a university sessional lecturer and tutor, a high school English teacher and a tertiary student advisor. She lives in Christchurch, New Zealand.To find out more about Shelley and her writing, follow her on Facebook or visit her website, http://www.shelleychappell.com/
It’s been some time since I last wrote a blog. My excuse is that I was busy completing a trilogy. More about that later.
Presently, the following is on my mind: I recently offended someone in a writing class by pointing out that there is a vast difference between an amateur who creates a few poems or a few short stories and a ‘professional’. Also, that if this person is writing for children, that the difficulties multiply. People often assume a children’s author only writes texts for story picture books, often unaware that these are as difficult to produce as a perfect haiku. Some still believe with the aid of a computer that they can write a publishable text for their children/grandchildren. I wonder if those same people who will one day ‘write a book’ could claim to be able produce a saleable painting, or play an instrument in front of an audience without years of practice and experience?
They often seem unaware that children’s authors produce work for differing age levels, though movie makers use books aimed at a young adult audience for their terrific plots and characters.
All this leads me to comment on how little children’s authors are respected. How many names – apart from JK Rowling – can even a dedicated reader come up with? Note how very little space is devoted to critiques of children’s books in newspapers and ezines. Children’s books are often placed at the back of a book store, and too many are an imported series. Yet when overseas book sales are studied, books aimed at children head the list.
But my reason for this rant is the vast number of schools presently turning their libraries into computer rooms. Reading encourages a child’s imagination and an ability to see beyond the immediacy of an illustration or a photo. I watch too many toddlers being distracted with pads and mobiles, the same children who should be listening to someone reading aloud or playing with actual toys. Without fostering the imagination of our youngsters from the very start, we will lose our future creators, and that includes those that work in technology. It seems that we are transforming children’s brains in ways we can’t foresee and we can no longer predict the consequences. If we don’t want to breed a generation of kids who think all knowledge and imagination can be found via Mr Google, we’d best do something very quickly about it.
The HNSA 2017 Conference in Melbourne is being held on 8-10 September 2017 at Swinburne University, Hawthorn.
Here are some Q and A’s that appear on their website. Readers might like to look up other authors as well
What is the inspiration for your current book?
I have written seven historical fictions. In the last few years, the most interesting to me were The Youngest Cameleer about the finding of Uluru, My Holocaust story: Hanna set in the Warsaw Ghetto. But for the purposes of this blog. I will concentrate on the YA That Stranger Next Door published in 2014 by Clandestine Press.
Is there a particular theme you are exploring in this book?
Yes. The plot has as its background the 1954 Petrov Affair. I was intrigued by how that anti-communist push was used politically to reinstate PM Menzies and was aware of how it was replicated by Howard in the Children Overboard’ incident.
Which period of history particularly interests you? Why?
Right now I am exploring the Weimar Years in Berlin. Again I see political parallels to the present.
What resources do you use to research your book?
Everything I can lay my hands on. Friends who work as historians. Books, articles and newspapers of the time. If the period isn’t too far back, I interview people who remember those years.
What is more important to you: historical authenticity or accuracy?
Both. I don’t think they can be separated.
Which character in your current book is your favourite? Why?
Young Ruth and her attempts to unravel herself from her mother’s expectation as a ‘good Jewish’ girl’.
Are you a ‘plotter’ or a ‘pantser’? How long does it generally take you to write a book?
Basically, I think I am a pantser, though I do have an idea of how the book will progress and then how it will end. Once the character takes hold of me, I go where he or she takes me.
Which authors have influenced you?
I read so widely I don’t know how to answer this. Probably the last historical fiction I read. When it comes to kids, I am a great admirer of Marcus Zusak.
What advice would you give an aspiring author?
To read very widely. To make the historical background quite normal and to avoid the trap of inserting too much detail that will hold up the narrative. The characters should live in those times and behave as naturally as in the present.
Tell us about your next book or work in progress.
I am halfway through a time-warp presently titled HISTORY CHANGER where my protagonist is miraculously transported from 2016 Melbourne to Berlin 1928, a time of remarkable innovation and freedom of speech. If the Great Depression hadn’t hit the world in 1929, perhaps WWW2 might have been prevented? Who knows?
In 1954, Melbourne is still reeling from WWII, the Cold War sees suspicions running high and the threat of communism and spies are imagined in every shadow. 15 year old Jewish Ruth is trying to navigate her own path, despite her strict upbringing and the past that haunts her family. A path that she wishes could include her first love, 17 year old Patrick. But the rich, Catholic boy is strictly off limits.
When a mysterious woman moves in next door in the dead of night, Ruth becomes convinced that she is none other than Eva or Evdokia Petrov, a Soviet spy and wife of famous Russian defector, Vladimir Petrov.
My Holocaust Story: Hanna can be bought through Go Books.
Thank you for sharing your journey with us, Goldie!
HNSA 2017 Conference in Melbourne is being held on 8-10 September 2017 at Swinburne University, Hawthorn.
This is a follow up to my previous article on writing romance.
My latest is EMILY’S GHOST. It has just appeared, and the setting is also on the South coast of Australia. Some of the previous characters appear, if less significantly.
Q. What is Emily’s Ghost about?
“When Billie Hatchman inherits a bed & breakfast from her estranged great aunt, she’s not prepared to be haunted by the well-intentioned ghost—or to be set up with her sexy but very much unavailable next-door neighbour.
Q What were your reasons for writing this?
I was interested in the situation a lonely and overworked single mum might find herself in when she unexpectedly inherits a dilapidated B and B with a single sexy chef as her neighbour. There’s nothing like a ghost to hurry a romance along.
Q Have you written anything else for adults?
A. My adult crime novels, now up as ebooks, have been grouped together under the title of The Grevillea Murder Mystery Trilogy’. I have written many adult short stories. Some have won prizes. And both my ‘how to write’ texts, the latest being Mentoring Your Memoir.
Both romances are published by Boroughs Publishing House, and appear on all standard e-book sales sites including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Apple, Diesel ebook store, Baker & Taylor’s Blio, Aldiko
for Australia Amazon: https://www.amazon.com.au/Emilys-Ghost-Goldie-Alexander-ebook/dp/B06XBBTBZZ/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1488207561&sr=8-4&keywords=emily%27s+ghost
This advice was given by Anastasia Gonis, well known reviewer and writer for those who hope to write for young readers.
I thought them splendid enough to place on my blog.
1.Attend as many workshops/writing classes for beginners/emerging writers so you can fully understand the rules and demands of a writing life, if this is the new path you have chosen. This is imperative!
2.U3A has many of them and you need to look into what’s available. There are also Community Houses that run writing lessons, and so does the CAE (Council for Adult Education) state writer centres and other worthy organizations.
3.Buy a Style Guide, the latest edition, so you can learn about how to structure sentences, paragraphs, grammar and the rest. You can refer to it for hyphenated words, capital letters, punctuation and all the style of correct writing.
4.Read the age group and genre that you are writing for. This is the best research. Learn about Australian Children’s Writers’ lives. This will give you important information that you can apply to your own life. It will also teach you how difficult but rewarding, perfecting this craft can be. Go into their sites. Quite often, they have writing tips and advice available.
5. Be patient with yourself. You’ll learn that nothing is right the first time. Redrafting and perfecting any type of writing is a lengthy process. See it as a challenge.
6. Show, don’t tell, is the cardinal rule of writing. You will learn what this means in the workshops, along with the endless list of Dos and Don’ts in writing that will form your work.
7.Regulate your computer for Australian English if you haven’t already done so, and let the Spell Check be your best friend, but the dictionary should always be at hand.
8. Cut back on the adjectives and metaphors. Find an original way of using language so that you stand out from the crowd.
9. Watch your tenses.
10. Number your pages, so that when you are redrafting, you can note where you need change.
Q. You are best known for your middle grade and young adult fiction. What made you turn to writing adult romances?
A. Many of my young adult novels have a love story somewhere in their plot. These include Lilbet’s Romance, and the follow up Dessi’s Romance. Even my latest: That Stranger Next Door features a broken romance between a young Jewish girl and a Catholic boy. In Hades, my verse novel, brings a street boy and a wealthy girl together. Tackling romance novels was taking the concept one step further.
A. Can you give us some tips on successful writing romance?
Q. 1. Read. A surprising number of people who think they can write a romance don’t read romances much less do they read anything else. Good reading equals good writing and it’s impossible not to follow this most important rule.
2. Here’s what a romance reader expects from a romance:
A hero she loves and a heroine she sympathizes with.
A believable conflict. Something must keep the hero and heroine apart, and it can’t be anything cleared up too easily and quickly.
A happy-ever-after ending. The couple don’t have to get married or vow undying love but it should be clear that they’ve resolved their differences and are mutually committed.
3. Emotions. Readers read romance because they want to feel. Romances can have any number of dark moments but at heart they are life-affirming and the ending is always positive.
4. Action: Although romance is about feeling, characters need to be doing things: having conversations, going to work, throwing things, etc etc. The plot is important.
5. Points of View. Don’t jump between points of view. Most romance is written in the third person, and in the past tense. You can change that if you like, but you might make things more difficult for yourself.
6. The love relationship is most important. Your reader wants to see your hero and heroine falling in love. And remember: the ending must always be positive.
7. Physical attraction. Romances are about sexual love relationships, even if your characters never do more than kiss. Physical attraction and desire are important parts of your characters’ love journey, and your readers want to experience them. URST is alos important. Unresolved, sexual tension.
Unless you are tackling something tremendously literary and innovative, you must be aware of these basic rules before you dare throw them out.
Q. Can you tell us about Penelope’s Ghost your first romance novel? What is it about?
A. “Fleeing a humiliating end to a passionless marriage, Lisa Harbinger seeks refuge in a posh summer retreat on Australia’s lush South Coast.”
Q. And your newest romance?
A. Emily’s Ghost will appear in late January, the setting is also on the South coast of Australia. Some of the previous characters appear, if less significantly.
Q. What is Emily’s Ghost about?
“When Billie inherits a decrepit house from her unknown aunt Emily, she hardly expects neighbour Sam, to be so attractive, so helpful, yet so elusive…”
“Have you written anything else for adults?
A. My adult crime novels, now up as ebooks, have been grouped together under the title of TheGrevillea Murder Mystery Trilogy’. I have written many adult short stories. Some have won prizes. And both my ‘how to write’ texts, the latest being Mentoring Your Memoir.
Both romances are published by Boroughs Publishing House, and appear on all standard e-book sales sites including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Apple, Diesel ebook store, Baker & Taylor’s Blio, Aldiko
I once found these words of advice about writing a synopsis and they hang above my desk:
They might be helpful to other authors because no matter how experienced we are, we are always being reminded of basic rules and learning, learning, learning…..
· WHO WANTS WHAT AND WHY OR WHAT HAPPENS?
· WHO IS YOUR STORY ABOUT
· WHAT DO THEY WANT
· WHY DO THEY WANT it
· WHAT IS THE TRRIBLE ‘OR ELSE’ THAT WILL OCCUR IF THEY DON’T GET WHAT THEY WANT.
I have now written 2 adult romances. However, for one reason or another, it has taken two years between them appearing. So I thought I might put up a first chapter of Penelope’s Ghost as a foretaste of what Emily’s Ghost might be about. Both books are set on the Mornington Peninsula in Australia and overseas readers might be interested in what they also say about this environment. Both are published by Boroughs Publishing Group as eBooks and can be found on Amazon and every ebook reader,
Here is part of the opening of Penelope’s Ghost:
As I looked up at the house, a shiver ran down my spine. The tremor was small, but it was definitely there—much like a malicious waft of air or a jarring note in a piece of music.
I took a deep breath and dismissed it as nerves. It had been too long since I last applied for a job.
Across the courtyard, stairs led to a carved door surrounded by stained glass. On one side was an electronic buzzer. I pressed it. When no one answered, I pushed it again.
This time the door flew open so quickly I took a step back.
The guy on the other side was in his mid or late forties. Maybe because of his colouring, I had the impression of an older Jude Law, only not nearly as handsome, not quite as picture-perfect.
He stared at me for a good half minute as if equally startled at finding a stranger on his doorstep. “Lisa Harbinger?”
Looking at him, I felt a tingle of awareness and I had a sudden hunch that this man would be important to me. The knowledge was certain and frightening. I swallowed hard before saying uncertainly, “Mr. Prescott?”
“Yes.” His tone was abrupt. “I’m Richard Prescott. Please come inside. Hope you don’t mind being interviewed in the kitchen.”
“Course not.” I stumbled over the step. Something about his intense gaze turned me into an awkward teenager.
He led me into a huge entrance hall, the walls lined with wooden wainscoting and grey and blue flock wallpaper. A flight of stairs curled to an upper floor and a magnificent chandelier glittered like a frozen fountain. Every surface shone as if recently polished and the air smelt of lemon and lavender. It all reminded me of an old-fashioned hotel; everything seemed too large, too grandiose for ordinary people.
I followed Richard past the stairs down a narrow passage into the kitchen. Part of this room was taken up by a long table scored by decades of use and flanked with bentwood chairs, the seats covered in colourful cushions. Everything here also seemed oversized—from the double bank stove to the industrial refrigerator, long marble counters and sinks. I later was to learn of a walk-in pantry, shelves stacked with preserved fruit and vegetables, and a cellar filled with expensive and often irreplaceable wine.
It all spelt money, lots of money.
Richard gestured at a chair and waited for me to settle. “Tea or coffee?”
My throat felt as parched as after a heatwave. “Ahh… Just water, thanks.”
He filled a glass from a ceramic vat and placed it in front of me. I swallowed the contents in almost one gulp. It tasted cold and sweet.
He sat opposite me. “I’ve read your references.” His tone was abrupt. “One refers refer to you as Lisa Wall. Are you married?”
Though half expecting this, I paused before saying, “I was. I’ve now gone back to my single name.”
“Hmm.” He frowned as he thumbed the pages. I wondered if he was prejudiced against divorcées.
“I note you have no formal experience with kids.” His voice was dry. “But you have two years college, and you worked seven years in real estate.” For a second he looked puzzled. “What led you to that?”
If only I had a dollar for how often I’ve been asked that same question. I said, “During a uni vac, I took a job organising rental properties and found I was good at it.”
His eyes narrowed. “So why throw it in?”
His tone was so patronising, I was half ready to walk out. Only needing this job kept me seated. Anyway, this wasn’t the time to explain that I was sick of mean landlords and rude whiny clients, tired of prattle about an erratic real estate market—and fearful of meeting more ghosts.
I cleared my throat before saying. “I needed a fresh challenge and, anyway, I wanted to get out of the city.”
He sat back and stared at me quite openly. “So what’s your experience with kids?”
“Nothing formal,” I was forced to admit. “I used to babysit for the neighbours through high school and uni. We got on well. There was never any trouble—” My voice trailed away. But as this didn’t seem enough, I lamely added, “Kids and animals seem to like me.”
Convinced he was about to send me away, I was astonished this answer seemed to satisfy him. Possibly because it was honest. I had already concluded that he was a terrible snob—he had to be. But he could recognise truth from lie. That, at least, was in his favour.
The slight resemblance to the actor was emphasised by brown hair streaked with grey flopping over a high forehead, thick eyebrows, and the kind of dark blue eyes that catch people’s attention. Smudges under his eyes could be due to stress or maybe lack of sleep. Weathered skin told me he worked outdoors. Add to that paint-spattered jeans and a washed-out T-shirt. I glanced under the table. His boots were dusty. His nose had a slight kink as if it once was broken and that cleft chin hinted at a stubborn personality. The backs of his hands seemed strong though the fingers were long and slender, the nails slightly grimy, his right thumb covered in a bandaid. They were rough hands but sensitive. Those fingers looked as if he knew exactly where to touch—
“So”—I woke up to what he was saying—“you need to know what your duties will be.”
I almost blushed. What had I been thinking? Instead, I leaned forward to show he had my full attention.
“My brother, Thomas, and his family will be staying here over their summer vacation. The children are Mitchell and Willow, aged five and seven.”
No babies or toddlers. I hoped he doesn’t notice my shoulders subside.
“Their mother, Anna, insists on a break from childcare.” His mouth gave a slight twist as if he didn’t quite believe this. “It will be up to you to look after the children and keep them outdoors as much as possible. Think you’re up to it?”
I swallowed, still finding that piercing gaze disconcerting. “Yes.” I hoped my voice sounded firmer than I felt. “I’m sure I can. Kids like the sort of things they can do here in summer: surfing, swimming, exploring the beach. I noticed horses in your paddocks.”
His eyebrows lifted slightly as if implying, what would someone like me know about horses? “You ride?”
Hating his condescending tone, I said tersely, “I’m no expert. But yes, whenever I can find time.” I didn’t add that this was a hobby I could no longer afford.
He rubbed his chin as if remembering he’d forgotten to shave. Then he got up to refill my glass before returning to his chair. “I suppose we need to discuss wages and hours.” He cleared his throat. “As we’re offering room and food, how about—” He named a sum I considered generous. “We’re paying well as it’s a six day week. You can let us know when you want time off. That okay?”
“Sounds fine,” I assured him, though I had no idea of what conditions other nannies worked under.
He stood up. So did I. I was so close to him, I could feel the warmth of his breath. The top of my head barely reached his chin. I felt myself softening toward him, but he broke the spell, saying, “If you take this job, you need to see where you and the children will sleep.” And with that, he led me out the back door into the courtyard.
My lovely group who reads children’s books.
I am often asked questions about my writing career. Here is one I filled out earlier this year. Perhaps emerging authors can learn something from it, even if not to make all the mistakes I have made in the past,
When did you know that you were a writer? I only became serious about becoming a professional author when I was in my forties. But I was a very serious reader from the age of three. I believe this is what creates the writer, apart from imagination and perseverance.
When did you first read your writing aloud or give it to someone to read and what was their reaction? How did it impact on you?I had a cousin who was a famous writer and I gave him one of my short stories. He was totally scathing abut it without being helpful. I might have been totally put off except I decided to ignore him. But it’s wise to keep in mind how vulnerable inexperienced writers can be. The cousin’s attitude never changed, no matter how many of my books were published. He always pretended I was that novice.
What and when was your first acceptance? How did you feel? Tremendously excited. I was fortunate enough to be commissioned to write four ‘Dolly Fictions’ and because the instructions were very precise they taught me a lot about the craft. Back then there were no creative writing classes. I wrote those 4 novels under a pseudonym so when the first book under my own name ‘Mavis Road Medley’ appeared that was a great cause for celebration.
What is your favourite genre to write? Why? I’m a jack of all trades. I write in almost every genre (except horror, eroticism or film scripts) for both adults and kids of all ages. I like to float between genres, viewing each new take as a challenge.
How long have you been writing? And what have you written? I have written over 85 fictions and non fictions, many short stories, scripts and about a million articles. Just kidding! If anyone is interested most of longer works are on my website. These include 3 collections of short stories amounting to 30 stories condensed from longer work I wrote when the market was down and publishers taking very little. The secret is to be adaptable.
Of your own work – do you have a favourite? Why is it your favourite? The last thing I wrote. Then none of it because I never feel that anything is quite good enough.
What is your favourite genre to read? Why? I am a voracious reader. However, I tend to stick to literary work these days. I’m probably the last of a dying species. I belong to 2 bookclubs, an adult and a children’s and both meet monthly. That means 4 books every month, plus whatever others recommend. I have become lazy about finding hardcopy and read just about everything except picture story books on my kindle. It’s soooo easy to just download!
Do you mentor others? What do you do? I taught part time Creative Writing at Holmesglen TAFE for fourteen years. I have also over the years mentored young authors for the Australian Society of Authors and I run classes for adults in memoir writing.
Do you write full time? Most writers write full time even if they don’t sit at their computers. We constantly mull over possibilities and observe our surroundings for inspiration. Does that man on the tram look as if he takes good care of his kids? Does that bunch of schoolboys bully others? Using public transport is an excellent way of creating convincing characters. At my age I have become invisible. If age has its drawbacks it is also very useful for observing people’s idiosyncratic behaviour.
What are your other jobs? Boring housework. Is that still considered a job? My family are all grown and where my contemporaries are babysitting grandchildren, ours are either grown or live interstate.
Have you ever won an award/s or been shortlisted? What was it for? Yes. Please check my website for details. My awards in 2015 are for the verse novel ‘In Hades’ shortlisted for an Aurealis Award. And a 1st prize for the Rolfe Boldewood short story literary award.
Do you belong to any professional organisations? What are they and how do they help you? These days I only belong to ASA, SCBWI, Writer’s Victoria. They tell me what is going on, provide legal protection and have me knowing I belong to a fellowship. Writing can be a very lonely game.
Do you participate in writing workshops as a student? Which ones were memorable?No, I ran them. I had wonderful students. Some became well known and celebrated authors
Do you run writing workshops? What do you include? Yes I do run workshops on all aspects of writing for young readers. In particular, fictionalising history, writing science fiction and fantasy, writing mysteries and creating convincing characters. For adults I run writing memoir workshops that are extremely popular.
How might you be contacted in relation to running workshops or for school visits? I do this quite frequently and happy to be asked. I can be emailed on firstname.lastname@example.org
We all know that would be writers should read and write as much as possible – do you have any other advice? In one word: perseverance. Don’t let anyone or any situation put you off.
This is a conversation about political correctness and the Lionel Shriver affair. If you haven’t heard of Lionel Shriver, she is a well-known established author who was invited to give the keynote address at the Brisbane Writer’s Festival. In her speech, she bemoaned the push by certain academics and less well known authors to ‘only stick to what you are’ in your books. In short, to never try to fictionalise anyone of a different gender, ethnicity, religion and, we assume, age.
Apparently she got into trouble with some hardliners by writing about a black woman with dementia and the novel was viewed as racist. She also caused an enormous upset at the festival by not sticking to what she was told to talk about. Other, lesser known writers walked out. Do I dare suggest that this is an excellent way for them to get media attention because it sure worked!!! What is most upsetting according to all reports (but as I wasn’t there and only gleaned this from the media} the festival organisers were uncertain how to handle the situation.
If this swing to what and what characters we can create is taken seriously, it doesn’t leave much for authors to write about. The whole point of fiction is to get into someone else’s shoes. The challenge is to see the world from a different point of view.
I suppose that over the years I have sinned in many ways. My novels for young readers include a fourteen- year old Moslem cameleer, a first fleeter, a badly disabled young woman, a street kid teen, a girl dying from anorexia, several dragons and monsters (if these characters are made up are they ok or am I impinging on Disney?) a Chinese boy, even aliens, and lots and lots of young people of both genders whose lives I only dreamt up. In the 80 plus books I have written only three can be levelled as truly belonging to my own life: ‘That Stranger Next Door’ where the protagonist’s life style is based on some of my early memories of that affair, ‘My Holocaust Story: Hanna’ though I was never a victim and certainly never lived or fought in the Warsaw Ghetto, and ‘Mentoring Your Memoir’ self-explanatory as it is a memoir of my first thirty years. What a load of poppycock. But the resultant flurry is exactly what Shriver was talking about and in this way her point is fulsomely made.
But I should add that it is only too easy for writers to get unwittingly into trouble. I have done so at least twice. The first time when I made a joke about a Canadian singer also called Goldie Alexander, the second when I wrote an article about my early days as a music teacher. In a way it’s good to know someone is reading what I write, if only to get angry with me.