Posts Tagged ‘Author’

Alright. So. I haven’t exactly been blogging recently, what with The Stuff being sort of busy, and as I refuse to become one of those bloggers who only updates to lament their lack of appropriate updates, I’ve basically been keeping my type-mouth shut until such time as I have (a) something relevant to say and (b) time enough in which to say it. By way of relevancy to this approach, I have spent all day working on The Key to Starveldt, and am literally a hairsbreadth away from finishing my edits, which I will read over tomorrow, and thereinafter dance the dance of writerly accomplishment, which I’m pretty sure is code for Eat Curry And Watch Action Movies. But! Tonight, there has been a Thing, in the form of Controversy On Steph Bowe’s Blog, which can be found here.

Now, for those of you who are too lazy to follow that link, or who might appreciate an external summary in any case, the key of the brou-ha-ha is this: that Steph is a 16-year-old author. Her first book is being released in September this year, and, as might reasonably be expected, she tends to blog about it, as well as other things. The above post was sparked by negative comments here, wherein some of her bloggy remarks were discussed sans context, and which, not unsurprisingly, have prompted her to ask her readers for their take on the situtation. Which I have now chosen to do, here, rather than clog up her comments page. Obviously.

The quote that caused the contention goes as follows:

“I’m 16. I got a book deal when I was 15. There are authors that were published at 13 and 14 and I always find myself thinking, God, must I fail at everything I do? They were published younger than me!”

Now, I remember reading this when Steph first blogged it and thinking, ‘Shit! I know exactly what she means.’ Because although I am talking to you from the year 2010, when, as a 24-year-old married woman with one published novel and a second (see above) that I am on the brink of handing over to my publisher, there was a time, readers – not so long ago, even! – wherein I was eleven, writing a fantasy story for children and feeling absolutely convinced that if said manuscript was not on shelves before I turned thirteen, then I was doomed to failure. Because writers are self depricating that way, and in order to get absolutely anything done, we must set ourselves arbitrary – often crazy! – deadlines. Note that this makes us Interesting People, and not at all mad. No sir. *Snorts into wineglass.*

Let me also state, for the purposes of absolute accuracy, that said manuscript was never published. Probably it has been relegated to the farthest reaches of my Documents folder, there to wither and die like a winter mango. But the point is, all writers are intimidated by other writers, and doubly so by the prospect of anyone getting the drop on them, publication-wise. This, ladies and gentlemen, is what we might colloquially refer to as a fact. In this sense, it does not matter if you have wanted to be a writer since you were six or only made the decision on your sixtieth birthday: as in all creative endeavours, we carry around with us the fear that we are not good enough; that someone, somewhere will beat us to the punch; and, worst of all, that someone younger – more untried, with fewer years invested in making such a difficult career work – might land their book on shelves ahead of us. Don’t lie, writers: each and every one of us thinks we’re special, and even though we yearn to meet fellow wordsmiths, there is always that moment of tension, a sizing-up in which we determine the likelihood of their talents surpassing our own, and try to gauge how jealous we should be.

Yes, I can see how, to someone who is in their thirties and as-yet unpublished, the idea of a teenager lamenting that they weren’t signed to an agency at a younger age might read as the punchline to a very bitter, very personal joke. But that same person would also be equally within their rights to land over here at Shattersnipe, assuming they’d ever heard of Foz Meadows – which, granted, is unlikely – and bitch about how unfair it is of me, a twentysomething, to be anything but utterly one hundred percent super-duper all the time grateful for having a book on shelves. But somehow, that resentment doesn’t carry quite as much weight, does it? Because as least I’ve put in the hours. At least I’ve suffered for my art, or something equally Goddam pretentious.

Look: every writer wishes they could be published tomorrow. The publication process is not easy, and it is not always fair. Sometimes, it can feel like creative masochism. But one neither gains nor loses writerly cred contingent upon the age at which they were published. Some adult writers are awful! So are some teens! The envy we feel on hearing of someone younger producing a book has nothing to do with the quality of their work, and everything to do with how long therafter we imagine they will have to ply their trade uninterrupted by such mundane necessities as Other Jobs and Paying The Rent and Everything That Does Not Involve Being An International Writing Superstar. Which is ludicrous, when you consider that the average annual income for an Australian author is $13,000. Thirteen-effing-thousand. OK? I once worked at a cafe for ten bucks an hour washing dishes, and probably earned a better yearly wage than that. Take out the few top earners after whom the rest of us lust, our canine tongues lolling against the hot pavement, and maybe the statistic gets a little better, but ultimately, we write because we love to write, because the words are in us to be told, and if we do not get them on paper, then there is a distinct possibility that we will implode. As my favourite teacher once pointed out during a friendly exchange of ideas, anyone who claims that they would happily do this without pay, forever, is lying – or at least, they are not quite telling the whole truth. If stories are truly a part of you, then the money doesn’t matter. Telling them is just a thing you will do, in odd corners of the day, forever, no matter that the world is slowly eating your soul. But not a one of us would turn down payment for the privilege of doing so, were it offered to us. And, as in all creative industries, writers worry that their Great Work will be kept out in the cold, not because it lacks merit, but because some other upstart, talentless johnny has stolen their shelving space.

Where am I going with this? Oh, right: teenage writers. Yes. The point being, we are all fearful of the Young Turks Usurping Our Dreams. At least in terms of maturity, we feel there must be a cut-off point for publishable works, which is understandable – a point below which there are no junior competitors –  but in reality, that fear is native to our profession, and not to our age bracket. If it were impossible to get published at any age other than thirty, naysayers would still show up on the blogs of their aspirant peers and question whether or not they had, as it were, The Goods. Because tying writerly cred to the age of publication, and trying thereby to dismiss the achievements of younger writers as publicity stunts, is essentially an exercise in ignoring actual talent – perhaps more understandably, it is also a way of coping with the apparently random machniations of the publishing industry. We want to believe there is some reason why our book is not yet a household name, while Jimmy Unknown Teen has been signed to write a trilogy. As a teenage writer, I used to feel an uprising of brute despair every time my considerate and well-meaning father would point me towards a newspaper article lauding the success of some teenage author or other. What he was trying to say was, you can do it, too! but all I heard was, you haven’t done it yet, and what’s more, they’ve got there first, which makes your eventual success seem that much more unlikely. Self-depricating, yes, but also honest. It’s that fear factor, see?

Yes, there are times at which adolescent writers seem to get more media coverage than the rest of us, if only because some parts of public view them as a novetly act. But that does not mean they cannot write, and in cases like this one, it seems to suggest that actually, leaving their age out of it might be the kinder thing to do, as there are few things in the creative world more insulting than the assumption that one has not gained success via any possession of actual talent, but only because of some native and utterly unrelated quality – such as, for instance, youth, beauty and/or pre-existing fame. It is tantamount to an accusation of Selling Out, but as Jane Lane of Daria once made clear, in order for that to happen, you have to have someone interested in buying, which would seem to put a damper on the whole teen-writers-have-no-real-skills argument.

Plus and also? Blogs are for blogging. What that means depends on the blogger. If you want restricted content, go read a newspaper, ‘coz we here on Teh Internets ride tall in the saddle, which is code for Doing What We Find Interesting In the Absence Of A Paying Audience, Which, Like, You’re Not, So Shut The Hell Up.

Here endeth the rant. And now, back to editing! Enjoy your long weekend.

Yesterday kicked off with a trip to the hairdresser’s. My last cut was at least six months ago, with the result that my hair was starting to look like the business end of a witch’s broom. So there was shaping and trimming and layering, and also the addition of a purple streak, which I’ve been wanting for a while, but always forget to ask about, because while I enjoy having someone else massage and shampoo my head, being in any sort of fashionable establishment tends to fluster me into an unnatrual state of awkward, mumbling pseudo-silence. I’ve never had a streak before; I thought it would take maybe ten minutes of salon time, half an hour tops. Instead, it was an extra hour and change. Totally worth it – the purple looks awesome – but seeing as I hadn’t mentioned this part of the plan to anyone else, there was some degree of speculation as to why I was taking to long just to get my hair cut, with the main theories being that I’d either died in the chair, or was getting a perm. (Which of these seems the worse fate, I’ll leave up to you.)

The launch started at 2, but we showed up at Carlton Library an hour early, “we” being myself, Toby and his parents, who (massive thanks!) helped out with the catering. Our alotted section of the library housed the YA and picture book sections. We plonked our stuff down on one of the tables to wait, then said a temporary goodbye as Toby’s parents went to get a pre-launch drink down the road. Toby found a children’s book on 70s rock music to read. I sat and tried to be calm.

After about five minutes of this, a small boy came running in, his father and younger sister following behind. The boy was called Harry, we soon overheard. He was bright, inquisitive and very, very confident – enough so that he made talking to Toby and I his first order of buisness. We had three main conversations. They went like this:

Conversation the First

Harry: Is this the old library?

Me: I don’t know. I’ve never been here before today.

Harry: Yes, you have.

Me: Have I? When?

Harry: Two days ago.

Me: Oh, OK. Well, maybe I was here, but I just don’t remember it.

Harry: Yes, you do. Do you mind if I run around in here?

Me: You probably shouldn’t. I don’t think the librarians would like it.

Harry: Alright. [pauses, walks away, thinks, comes back] Do you know where the old library is?

Me: I don’t know.

Harry: Yes, you do.

Me: Well, maybe it’s here, but we just can’t see it.

Harry: Yes. I think the real library must be hiding in the books.

Me: Actually, that’s probably very true.

Harry: Or it could be behind that broom closet door. Or under your chair. You’ll have to jump up, though, so I can look.

(I obliged, of course, and he inspected. But if he found anything important, he kept it to himself.)

Conversation the Second

Harry: I’ve just turned four, you know.

Me: Really? That’s great. It’s my birthday tomorrow, too.

Harry: How old will you be?

Me: Twenty-four.

Harry: No, you’re not.

Me: No? How old do you think I’ll be?

Harry: I think you’re turning twenty-eight hundred thousand million years old. And then you’ll die.

Me: I look good for my age, then.

Harry: [eyeing me critically] You’re really old.

Conversation the Third

Harry: I really like Star Wars legos.

Toby: Oh? I like Star Wars legos too. They’re pretty cool. Do you have droids?

Harry: I think so. I have lots of different ones.

Toby: Do you have the Millenium Falcon?

Harry: I’m not sure. I don’t know what that is.

Toby: It’s a ship. Does yours fly?

Harry: No, it doesn’t fly. You have to pretend that it does.

All of which was, I thought, a rather wonderful start to the day.

So: we set things up, both sets of parents arrived – as did the amazing Ford Street team – and I started to feel this strange sort of disconnect between the words coming out of my mouth and the rest of my body, which intensified as more and more people appeared. It was great to see everyone, though when Paul finally called a start to the proceedings, I’ll admit to having been just a weensy bit terrified. In a good way.

The fantastic Kirstyn McDermott gave me a warm and lovely welcome. I bumbled into the spotlight, grinned a lot and hopefully wasn’t too incoherent as I tried to explain about my brain being on a different planet, and what Harry had said about the real library being in the books, and how great it was to be there with Solace & Grief and my friends and my family, in a sort of garbled rush that hopefully made more sense to the audience that it did to me as I was saying it. And then it was time for the prologue; I calmed down a bit, and although I spoke too fast at times, as soon as I started to read aloud, I felt confident. My voice changed in my own ears. Everyone writes in a cadence unique to them, and as I narrated, every pause and emphasis felt natural, right. And then it was done, and nobody seemed to mind that I took a bit more than five minutes, and we drank champagne, and I signed books like a Real Author, and posed for photos, and tried not to be ambushed by the Leopard of Falling Over At Inappropriate Moments. Which I wasn’t. Which was good.

The pub followed; we went to the Kent, which was conveniently situated over the road, and had merry drinks with friends – although I am ashamed to say that, in my baffled, joy-oblivious state, I failed to notice that four SuperNovarians were sitting at a different table to everyone else, and so ended up not speaking to them until they came over to say they were heading off, about two hours later. Which I felt guilty about, and which makes me a Bad Foz, but hopefully in an understandable way. (Sorry, guys!)

Eventually, there were just four of us left: Toby and I, plus two philosopher friends, with whom we grabbed an Italian meal. Afterwards, we all trooped back to their place and watched The Lady Vanishes, which was just as much fun as ever, while eating fruit salad and ice cream; we weren’t able to pick up any more wine on the way over, but Borders was still open, and as I’d been given a birthday voucher by some other friends at the pub, I made used it to grab a copy of Justine Larbalestier’s Liar. And then we came home, and that was the Day of the Melbourne Launch. Heartfelt thanks to everyone who gave encouragement, support and helped it to be so great. Which is all of you.

Today – Sunday – was my 24th birthday. My parents, who are visiting from Sydney, shouted us all to a civilised midmorning brunch at a local cafe/restaraunt – I had eggs benedict with salmon on the side, and it was delicious. While other people did other things, mum and I wandered around the city – where I finally found a pair of shorts to call my own, and which, amusingly enough, cost lest than the four pairs of socks my mother bought at David Jones – and then met up with Toby to watch Shutter Island at the Melbourne Central cinemas. It wasn’t a great film: the acting was solid on behalf of DiCaprio and Williams, there were some amazing shots, and the music was beautifully atmospheric, but over all, it left the three of us feeling a bit hollow. Not to be all spoilery, but when you start a Hollywood film with the premise of an outsider investigating the goings-on at an asylum, the ending is almost guaranteed to go one of two ways, and while the whole set-up served to reinforce this fact, I think we’d been all hoping that a Scorsese film would employ some shaper, more deviously satisfying climax than the “oh, of course” fizzle on offer. Still, it wasn’t a complete waste of time – my mother rediscovered the Choc Top.

Finally, the day finished up with drinks and nibbles left over from the launch at my sister-in-law’s place – just the family, which was a nice wrap to the weekend. 2010 is well underway, and though there’s much more still to come, I’ll face it with the successful launch of Solace & Grief and my belt, and the confidence which comes from being another year older.

OMG, people – my first ever author interview is now online, courtesy of the most excellent Steph Bowe! You will find it here, along with the details of my book launch, so if anyone out there is going to be loitering in Melbourne on February 20, please drop by and say hello. There will be nibbles and fun and quite a lot of exuberant geekness on my part, or possibly just some split-the-jaw grinning, but it’s also the day before my birthday, so even if you aren’t interested in procuring yourself a copy of Solace & Grief, your salutations and raisings of the glass will be more than welcome. Although if you did want to buy yourself a copy, it would sort of be a like a birthday present to me, only you get the actual present! Everybody wins!

*blaring of trumpets*

Solace and Grief

Since discovering it yesterday, I’ve been ceaselessly intrigued by Authonomy, an online forum created by HarperCollins. According to boingboing, it’s been up and running since September ’08, and is currently still in beta; nonetheless, there are already hundreds of contributors. The premise is simple: aspiring writers upload their unpublished novels using a shiny new interface, tag the relevant genre/s, and let other site members promote their favourite books. Despite the sophistication of the website, the mechanism itself is nothing new; the real innovation is in holding a monthly top ten, wherein HarperCollins editors will read, comment on and – potentially – publish those books which get the most votes. They’ll also be looking for trendspotters: site members who consistently reccommend good or popular books ahead of the curve, thus strengthening the incentive for writers to spruik work other than their own. In the words of its creators, it’s a search for new talent: filtering the dross through howevermany pairs of eyes and seeing what floats to the top.

Conceptually, it’s a brilliant embodiment of killing two birds with one stone. For the publisher, it decreases the dreaded slushpile: by providing a sanctioned, online outlet for new submissions, they will likely cut down on receipt of unsolicited hardcopy, while simultaneously gaining a free, enthusiastic, slushpile-reading committee. For the aspiring authors, there is a drastically increased chance of receiving feedback or being published, plus a chance to participate in what is, essentially, a mammoth (but extremely well-executed) writing group. And for passive members like myself, there’s the fun of talent-trawling: reading free books, picking the best and pimping them.

Authonomy is such a deviously simple, workable, natural idea that I’m stunned nobody thought of it before; and if HarperCollins really does sign some new talent this way, it could revolutionise the publishing industry, particularly if other companies pick up on the concept. Especially for smaller, more specialised houses, it could be a fantastic way to expand the business without excessive outlay; and thinking of the local Australian market, where there are few dedicated genre publishers, it could help to demonstrate both the presence of new writers and a viable audience for their work. Even more importantly, allowing digital submission erases the barrier of distance: whereas UK-based writers might baulk at submitting hardcopy to a New York firm, there can be no such qualms about uploading to an internationally accessible website run by an internationally recognised publisher.

One of the biggest hindrances as a writer is the dearth of authoritative feedback: without an agent (or even with), it’s frequently impossible to learn why a manuscript was rejected by a given editor, or what might be done to improve it. While amateur criticism is sometimes unhelpful, creating a resource for such is nonetheless positive, especially where levened by the potential for more measured, professional commentary with an eye to commercial success.

In short, I’m excited by Authonomy and what it might achieve – and if its expanding membership is anything to go by, I’m not the only one.