Currents: What I’m working on, by Jennifer Bryce

A couple of months ago I finished the manuscript of my second novel, working title Edith Ascending. Finished? I think we all know that a piece of writing is never ‘finished’. Even after my first novel was published and stacked on shelves within its beautiful cover, there were bits I wanted to rewrite – things I could have left out, things I could have added. But with Edith, I’d reached a stage where I needed to do something more than re-reading and tweaking. Fortunately this stage of my writing coincided with a program of Virtual Literary Speed Dating organised by the Australian Society of Authors (ASA).

Writers are aware that it is extremely hard to get commercially published in Australia if you are not well-known. But I wanted to give it a go. Get a literary agent? There are not many agents in Australia and most of them, it seems, don’t have room to take on new clients. The alternative is to trundle your manuscript around to publishers, hoping that one of them won’t assign your work to the slush pile.

If you are brave, Virtual Literary Speed Dating is another pathway to a publisher’s door. The ASA sets up a three-minute time-slot (on Zoom) where you can ‘sell’ your book to a publisher you’ve selected from a list of about 12 provided by ASA (some of these may not be suitable, for example if they mainly publish YA or children’s picture books). You have to be a member of ASA to participate.

I’d never before done any kind of speed dating, but the similarity with the more usual kind of dating is clear. Is this my kind of match? Do we like each other? Could we get along together?

I found the ASA very supportive. I attended a preliminary online workshop where there was advice about preparing for the three-minute presentation, including a suggested template for structuring your pitch. Spend 1½ minutes outlining what you want to pitch: genre, word count, brief synopsis and a selection of three or four similar books – I tried to select titles from the list of the publisher I was pitching to. Then 30 seconds on why you wrote the book: I was inspired by a particular composer, etc. And finally, 45 seconds about yourself (the most difficult): previous publications, writing courses you’ve taken, other publicity such as radio interviews.

I don’t know how many times I recorded myself practising my pitch, timing the presentation to within a microsecond! I discovered that you can look at the camera on your laptop whilst reading from notes stuck to the side of the screen – better than glancing down the screen to read a document and thus not looking straight at the camera. My colleagues from Elwood Writers were a huge support, both in suggestions for my synopsis and bio, and also in keeping the presentation enthusiastic.

It was all worthwhile. I think I was fortunate that the publisher’s representative who heard my pitch is interested in music and asked to read the whole manuscript, which is the best outcome I could hope for. This doesn’t mean that they will take on the publication, but it’s a step in that direction – a very pleasing result.

Currents

One of the longer pieces I’m currently working on takes a fresh look at the dynamics of ease/unease in online spaces such as those described in ‘Twitch’.

from “The story behind ‘Twitch'” at barryleethompson.com

In Barry’s recent blog about the background to his short story ‘Twitch’, he talks briefly about a story he’s currently writing that shares similar themes. It’d be interesting to hear more about this new story sometime. Come to think of it, it’d be great to hear a little about what other members of Elwood Writers are working on at the moment. But only those who want to share. Writers don’t always like or feel comfortable discussing current work, for a variety of entirely understandable reasons. Oh, hang on just a moment, there’s a call coming in … why, it’s Jennifer Bryce – what a nice surprise! What’s that, Jennifer, you’d love to tell us about a project you’re working on? Well, we’d love to hear about it, so please go right ahead, in your own time. Absolutely no rush.

And now that a forthcoming blog post has been successfully solicited, let’s continue with the current project of spending this wintry Melbourne Saturday afternoon in the warmest way possible, all cosied-up with a good book. The Evenings by Gerard Reve, if anyone’s interested. But first let’s pop the kettle on and open up the cookie tin.

Have a peaceful weekend, everyone.

EW

Writing or Penning?

From time to time we like to share blog posts from our members’ individual websites. This, from Margaret’s blog, is a recent piece that resonates. “Writing is our craft, and we must do it our way. That is in the best way we know how. Sometimes that takes time, space … and reflection.” Hear, hear. You can enjoy Margaret’s post below (including a recording of our latest program on Vision Australia Radio, just in case you missed it). Happy reading, from a wet and grey autumnal Melbourne.

WRITINGS AND MUSINGS OF MARGARET MCCAFFREY

Do people ask you how your writing is going? I’m sure we all get asked that. Who knows what the right answer is. One acquaintance of mine enquired further: ‘But are you penning or writing?’ he said. I didn’t know the difference.

‘Well,’ he replied, ‘ C. (his partner) tells me she’s been writing during the day, though not been “penning”.’ By this she means she’s wandered about the house, begun the cooking even, or taken herself off for a walk. But in her head she’s puzzling over how to better render her screenplay. This, he says, is writing. “Penning” on the other hand, is when C. puts her thoughts down on paper. Or gets cracking on the laptop.

For me his commentary illustrates that we writers can be way too hard on ourselves. We may make excuses about why we are not actually penning. It’s more than likely that…

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ADELAIDE WRITERS’ WEEK 2022 CONTINUES

A session entitled Bet the Farm was an interview with two writers I hadn’t heard of: Gabrielle Chan,  a political journalist, who has written a book, Why you should give a f*ck about farming, and Anika Molesworth, an agroecology scientist, who has written Our Sunburnt Country. Generally it seemed that there was too much to cover in this session. We are living in a time where we are experiencing the convergence of floods, fire and plague. Some areas discussed were: the problem of favouring the cheapest production of food (the neoliberal approach), one-third of the food produced in the world is wasted, the general lack of vision – everything is siloed – the Minister for Agriculture should have the same status as the Minister for Defence – need for a National Food Policy. Anika is hopeful. Farmers for Climate Action has 8,000 members. Yet it is hard to spread their messages – the rural press has closed down. Since attending this session I’ve been more particular than usual about not wasting food.

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A Farewell to 2021

As we reflect on this particularly challenging year, when it seemed we were stymied in many aspects of our lives, we’re surprised by how much we have in fact achieved, both individually and as Elwood Writers, without actually meeting face-to-face.

We’ve attended online seminars, and taken part in literary festivals, panel discussions and readings; we’ve worked on first drafts of manuscripts, achieved publication in a variety of journals and anthologies in Australia and overseas, contributed guest blog posts, judged short-story competitions, and formed relationships with other writers’ groups here and in the US. And throughout the year, our anthology Every Second Tuesday has been selling from a number of independent bookstores and online platforms.

In spite of all that life and the pandemic might have thrown at us, we’ve kept on writing. Putting one word in front of another. We think it’s important to celebrate this.

We look forward to continuing to share our news and progress throughout 2022. In the meantime, we’d like to wish everyone a safe and peaceful holiday season. Here’s to another new year filled with the joy of reading and writing.

Take good care,

Elwood Writers

Reminder: Australian Short Story Festival 2021

The Australian Short Story Festival is back. This year it’s in Adelaide, and it starts this Friday, running for three days. I’m taking part in a couple of sessions, on Saturday and Sunday. More details in the attached post, re-blogged from my site.

Barry Lee Thompson

Only a week to go till this year’s Australian Short Story Festival kicks off in Adelaide. It’s an in-person event, though it’s now been confirmed that some participants, myself included, will have to attend via Zoom because of current border restrictions. If you’re going to be in Adelaide from Friday 5 to Sunday 7 November, why not get hold of a ticket and pop along. It’s a really interesting line up of sessions and workshops. I’m taking part in ‘Masculinity’ on Saturday, and ‘Writing the Family’ on Sunday. Might see you there. Program info here, ticketing here. For a full list of this year’s writers, go here.

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‘How to Maintain a Thriving Writers Group’, by Barry Lee Thompson

Barry has written the October guest post on Lee Kofman’s blog The Writing Life, over on Lee’s website.

‘How to Maintain a Thriving Writers Group’ offers practical tips to anyone thinking of starting a group, or for those who want to inject momentum into an existing group, or shore up their solidarity, or what have you. Maybe you’re curious about how we work. Or you might want to compare the group to your own experiences. There’s plenty in the post to think about. While you’re there, it’s worth checking out the rest of Lee’s website. Have a wander, linger a while.

Thanks to Barry for writing about Elwood Writers. And thanks to Lee for welcoming us to her blog.

Happy reading and writing to everyone!

Closing date extended: Fundación César Egido Serrano VI International Flash Fiction Competition

Originally closing on 30 September, this international microfiction competition has extended its deadline, and is still accepting entries. Maximum two stories per entrant, 100 words per story. Give it a shot if you haven’t already.

Barry Lee Thompson

“”The César Egido Serrano Foundation was created to propose that the word be the tool of coexistence between cultures and religions and against all violence.”

The closing date was originally 30 September 2021, but has now been extended, with the new date yet to be announced. The competition is open to writers from anywhere in the world over the age of 14 years. Two entries allowed per author, maximum 100 words per entry (not including an optional title), in either Spanish, English, Arabic or Hebrew. The competition slogan: “Faced with COVID; Solidarity and Resilience”.

More details, including information on previous editions, can be found here. Contest rules here. Find a participation form here. The language of the page can be changed to Spanish, Arabic or Hebrew from the list at the top-right.

This year sees a twist on the usual judging process: the participants will have the…

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A question of websites: Jennifer answers

What was your original intention when setting up your website?

Although I started my website way back in 2014, I must confess that I still haven’t made a clear distinction between my website and my blog. That is still on a hypothetical ‘to do’ list! In 2014, I hardly knew what a blog was, but like Barry I wanted some kind of social media presence. I had resolved to become ‘a writer’ after many years of working as a musician and in educational research – and this was one way of establishing a writerly presence.

I looked at a few blogs and enrolled for a workshop at Writers Victoria on setting up your blog. I was flabbergasted when the person taking the workshop spent her time talking about recipes and childcare! I think it hadn’t occurred to me that people would want to share these very important aspects of their lives in this way – I’d envisaged blogs as being ‘literary’.

Barry acquainted me with WordPress and my nephew helped me with the initial setting up of a blog, designed with categories covering the various areas I thought I might write about. The six categories haven’t changed over the years (although I haven’t had any travel to write up since 2018). They are: My Reading, Memoir, Comments on concerts, plays, films, Travel, Short stories and Writing.

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