Tamar Valley Writers Festival 2016

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Last weekend was the Tamar Valley Writers Festival – two days (well, for me – there were other events on other days too), of non-stop panels and book-signings and networking!

Those of you who’ve been following my blog for a while now, may remember that around this time two years ago I attended the Festival of Golden Words, in Beaconsfield, Tasmania. This is that festival – rebranded, and I have to admit I was a little disappointed with the name change.

Unfortunately I missed the opening of the festival, arriving just in time for the second time slot of the day, with two talks of interest to decide between. With three sessions for each time slot, there were a few clashes over the weekend, which make it hard to decide what session to attend!

The first couple of sessions of the day (Saturday) were sparsely attended, and I worried that the festival wasn’t going to draw the same crowds as the first time around, (a big concern as this is the closest writers festival to me, and I want to be sure it continues!) but by the third session of the day there was standing room only in the sessions I attended, and the atmosphere was bustling, though some of the panelists seemed to lack confidence speaking to such large groups. Sunday continued on much the same as far as attendance was concerned, though the panelists seemed to be much more comfortable and relaxed, with more banter occurring between panelists.

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Petrarch’s Bookshop was in attendance, and with authors signing their books I spent up…

There were some fascinating discussions, and so much to think about – I ended up with seven pages of sometimes-barely-readable scrawl in my notebook! I won’t retype the whole seven pages here – just a few snippets from the weekend.

  • In ‘Mosaic Australia: words and cultural voices’, Ellen van Neerven (author of Heat and Light, which I read just recently – look out for my review soon!) commented on the use of the word ‘myth’ in regard to Aboriginal stories, for these stories are real and current for the Aboriginal people, and are held in the land itself.
  • In ‘Lost Voices: recreating historic characters’, Historian Michael Cathcart stated he was interested in confronting the mythologies of the past, that ‘they are not us’, and his interests lie in the differences between now and then. He said it was useful to look at the strangeness of the past, that we find the story in the difference.
  • In ‘Questions and Lessons from our History’, someone (my apologies – I didn’t jot down who!) commented on how stories from history are never actually finished, there are always ongoing discoveries. When asked about choosing the stories of ‘minor players’ of history, Steve Harris, author of Solomon’s Noose (a story about a hangman in Hobart during colonial times and now added to my TBR list!) commented that unless we acknowledge our own stories of the past – good and bad, we can never expect anyone else to.
  • ‘The Rich Tapestry: diversity in life and literature’, introduced me to Erin Gough, who spoke of her experiences growing up as a gay teen, and the lack of gay characters in any of the books she read. ‘We read to find our place in the world’, she said, and she wanted to write stories for teens today, so they can see themselves reflected back in fiction. (Seeing yourself in fiction is so important on so many levels and there’s a website ‘Visibility Fiction’ which promotes diversity in fiction – not just regarding sexual identity, but also colour, and disability, and any other way people may be different from each other).
  • Historian Patsy Cameron gave me goosebumps in ‘First Voices: Our Indigneous past’, when she spoke of trekking to a cave where thousands of years ago her ancestors left their hand prints on the walls. And later, in the session entitled ‘Our Island Home: issues in Tasmanian history’, my views on the past were re-arranged yet again (it’s happened quite a lot over the course of my research for my current WIP), when Patsy commented that she sees the war between the Tasmanian Aborigines and the white settlers as the ‘White War’, not as it is more commonly known, the ‘Black War’, because it was the whites that caused the war, not the original inhabitants of the land.

I’ve come away from the festival with so much to think about, not only from the panels and discussion, but from personal conversations with people – friends and acquaintances and those I only just met.

I have no doubt what-so-ever that my novel will be much stronger from the changes I’m making, due to what I learnt over the two days, and I’m so inspired and encouraged to continue with my writing.

Looking forward to the next one!


Beloved Books: or, what to save in the event of a bushfire…

Earlier this year our house was threatened by bush fire. (A fire that, sadly,  is still raging; devastating some of Tasmania’s most amazing forests).

Now when I say ‘threatened’, the fire was 25-30 km away as the crow flies. It never got close enough for us to see any flames, but it was almost unbearably smokey for a week, and for a day or two we had ash falling from the sky. We even lost sight of our Mountain.

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Enough smoke to turn the sun pink (not that it’s clear in this shot): followed by so much smoke it’s hidden our mountain… 😦

Pretty scary stuff, especially for the children who were convinced for a while there that we were going to lose our house.

It was this threat of burning embers that led the fire service to enact the ‘Watch and Act’ alert –  in other words, pack your most precious things and be ready to leave if the situation gets worse.

We packed an overnight bag, gathered our important documents and photo albums, packed teddy bears and special keepsakes.

But what about our books? The older kids picked their favourite half a dozen in their suitcases, and I managed to narrow down my 18 month old’s books to about the same number of favourites, before turning to my shelves.

Nine bookshelves. Not all full, but pretty close. How to decide, from nine bookshelves, which to save?

I limited myself to a box and set some rules: only signed books, and books that had sentimental value. In the end, it wasn’t that hard – after all, most books are still available to buy either new or second hand, without too much trouble.


Beloved Books

The books that made the cut:

Pastures of the Blue Crane by H F Brinsmead

Heidi by Johanna Spyri

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

Books 1 and 2 of the Obernewtyn series by Isobelle Carmody

Books 1 and 2 of The Dark Tower series by Stephen King

The Tale of Murasaki by Liza Dalby

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

Blackberry Wine by Joanne Harris

It’s interesting (now, after the threat has passed) to see how easy it was to pare back the bookshelves (and other belongings) to the bare necessities. Though I won’t be reducing my bookshelves by choice I know I could if the need arose. (Fingers crossed it never does!)


Season’s Greetings!

Merry Christmas, Happy Solstice, etc etc to all my readers! Hope you all have the opportunity to gather with loved ones and celebrate.

This year has been amazing and I am thankful for so many things: First and foremost, of course, is my family – my partner, who supports  and encourages me  in all things, and my beautiful children, whose smiles brighten my day. I’m thankful also for my writer’s group without whom I would NEVER have been motivated to get this far!! I’m grateful for all the editors who’ve read my work, those who’ve accepted my pieces for publication, but also those who did not, yet gave me words of encouragement to keep writing, and try again.

I’m grateful to Allen & Unwin, from who I have won numerous prizes this year, (they have filled my bookshelves! Alif the Unseen by G Willow Wilson, Unholy Night by Seth Grahame-Smith, Sharp Shooter and Sharp Turn both by Marianne Delacourt, The Boy Under the Table by Nicole Trope, The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton) and had some great opportunities – joining in the blogging read-along of The Unfinished Journals of Elizabeth D by Nichole Bernier, and another great opportunity I’m really excited about – The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult. The book was delivered by my very friendly Australia Post lady today, and I was so excited about it I’ve put my current book aside (Cloudstreet by Tim Winton) and started on it already. (The Storyteller is due for release next year – look out for it – I only started it an hour ago and I’m already a quarter of the way through. It is brilliant! Jodi Picoult certainly does not disappoint with this one – the way she manages to delve so deep into the complexities of human emotion, and the human condition (I think that really is the best term for it), is absolutely amazing!!)

Oops – I seem to have digressed somewhat! I am thankful for you too – my readers and followers. It’s a bit strange sometimes – sometimes this feels a bit like a journal, a place to offload the random thoughts I occasionally have. So thank you for reading, liking, and commenting!

Again… I hope you all have a beautiful day where-ever you are and whatever you’re doing.

Blessed Be!

Beloved Books

If I had one wish, it would be for the ability to freeze time as I pleased so that I might stop and enjoy a book – whether an old friend or new adventure – whenever I felt the urge.

I compiled a list of my most beloved books to add as a page here on my blog. I imagined it would be a brief list, but I found I couldn’t  pick favourites! In the end I have come up with three lists: Most Beloved Books, Other Favourites, and Favourites from my Children’s Collection. But in the process of browsing through my bookshelf I found I wanted to read them all again! And I still have an ever growing list of books I haven’t yet read once!  And lets not forget the stories I have simmering away inside me, waiting to be written!  People say they would not like to live forever! How else will we have time for all these stories, if we don’t ! (Note: anyone out there with either the secret of immortality or the ability to pause time, feel free to contact me!)

And before I forget. I have also added a new page (a few weeks ago now) of my publications. It’s only very short at present – with a bit of luck it will soon grow!

How to get good? Write 10 novels.

I have read several times over that the best way to become a successful author is to write 10 novels. Not publish – write. After 10 novels, the story goes, you are practiced and proficient enough to get it right. One author said she never bothered editing the first 9 – she just reread them to see where she’d gone wrong, and aimed to fix that problem in the next one. By the 10th novel she felt satisfied it was a good one and sent it off with virtually no editing at all and it was published and became a best seller.

So – from that understanding – how far away am I from being published?

Lets see:

Novel #1 Sacred Circle – YA Fantasy – started in college and finished during the holidays between my first and second year of uni( 2001) just over 50,000 words

Novel #2 Discovering Sarah’s Story – YA – Nano 2008, my first Nano! just over 50,000 words

Novel #3 Sarah’s Story – a historical novel – 2009 –  based on bits of what I wrote for the above, just over 50,000 words

Novel #4 Your Charity Pray – horror – Nano 2009, 62,000 words

Novel #5 Holle and Eogann – fantasy – Nano 2010, just over 50,000 words, though after a few edits it has ended up being around 60,000.

Novel #6 Sad Sunshine – fantasy – Nano 2011 – 100,000 words

Novella #7 Faery Dream – fantasy – 2012 – 16,000 words

Novel #8 Red Sky – historical fantasy – Camp Nano 2012 – 50,000 words

Two to go!! lol.

The first few on that list I doubt will ever be published, though Sarah’s Story is one I hope to get back to one day, once I’ve managed to do more research on Sarah and her life (and hopefully I’ll come up with a better title in the process…). Holle and Eogann has been submitted, Sad Sunshine is massive – one that will require a significant amount of editing – before I would be happy to share it with others (on saying that – I have not yet read back over Sad Sunshine – maybe it will be better than I think). Faery Dream is going through the editing process as I write, and Red Sky is going through it’s period of fermenting – I finished it about 3 weeks ago, so now it will sit awhile before I return for the read through. But I have a good feeling about Red Sky – there’s something a little different about it – I like it.

With August Camp Nano coming up in only a few weeks, and of course regular Nano in November – I could well have finished writing my 10th Novel by the end of the year… hmm….