Synopsis Writing for Your Novel – Advice from Senior Editor

Synopsis

Poetry Clipart 13The agony of writing a synopsis!  For writers who find it hard to chop their synopsis down to size, this video from Nicola, senior editor of HarperCollins Publishers, steps us through a seamless 500 word synopsis.  It will grab that attention your manuscript deserves.  And, yes, a synopsis does include plot spoilers.

 

First Page

Poetry Clipart 08Read why the first page of a manuscript is so important.  Anna Valdinger, HarperCollins commercial fiction publisher knows – she reads a tonne of submissions every year.
Click Importance of Manuscript First Page

 

The Banjo Prize

HarperCollins is Australia’s oldest publisher and The Banjo Prize is named after Banjo Paterson, Australia’s first bestselling author and poet.  His first collection of poems The Man from Snowy River and Other Verses was published in 1895.  Who’s up for 2019?

The Banjo Prize is annual and open to all Australian writers of fiction, offering the chance to win a publishing contract with HarperCollins and an advance of AU$15,000.  Submit entries via HarperCollins website.  Entries opened 25 March 2019 and close 5pm AEST on Friday 24 May 2019.  Good luck!

Gretchen Bernet-Ward 


✏  Give it a go!

Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards 2019

This year’s winners have been announced at an awards ceremony on 31 January 2019.

The Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards were inaugurated by the Victorian Government in 1985 to honour Australian writing.  The awards are administered by the Wheeler Centre on behalf of the Premier of Victoria.

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The Winners

  • The Victorian Prize for Literature, and the Prize for Non-Fiction: No Friend But the Mountains: Writing from Manus Prison by Behrouz Boochani (Picador Australia)
  • The Prize for Fiction: The Madonna of the Mountains by Elise Valmorbida (Faber & Faber)
  • The Prize for Drama: The Almighty Sometimes by Kendall Feaver (Currency Press, in association with Griffin Theatre Company)
  • The Prize for Poetry: Tilt by Kate Lilley (Vagabond Press)
  • The Prize for Writing for Young Adults: Catching Teller Crow by Ambelin Kwaymullina and Ezekiel Kwaymullina (Allen & Unwin)
  • The Prize for Indigenous Writing: Taboo by Kim Scott (Picador Australia)
  • The Prize for an Unpublished Manuscript: Kokomo by Victoria Hannan
  • People’s Choice Award: Eggshell Skull by Bri Lee (Allen & Unwin)

The winners of the main suite of awards – fiction, non-fiction, drama, poetry, writing for young adults, and the biennial Prize for Indigenous Writing – each receive $25,000. The winner of the Prize for an Unpublished Manuscript receives $15,000.

The winners of the seven award categories go on to contest the overall Victorian Prize for Literature, worth an additional $100,000.  This is the single most valuable literary award in the country.

Website https://www.wheelercentre.com/projects/victorian-premier-s-literary-awards-2019
Winner https://www.wheelercentre.com/news/behrouz-boochani-wins-the-2019-victorian-prize-for-literature

This could be your book one day!

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Top 10 Cool Quirky Authors with a Difference

When I discover an author with a quirky style, a neo-noir writing streak, I rejoice in their words.  It’s a delight to get away from mundane formats, tired classics and generic phrases so overworked in today’s writing scene.

I can remember when ‘dust motes’ were all the rage, not mere dust, it had to be motes floating in the sunlight.  Goodness knows why, padding perhaps.  I think it’s beneficial for both writer and reader to veer off in another direction occasionally.  Leave those tropes behind!

For bookish readers, I will list some of the absurdist fiction writers who have given me a literary lift and added a bit of sparkle to my jaded memory banks.  These 10 books impressed me with their originality and unique take on adult life, some with remarkable page layouts.

Numbered but NOT rated in order of preference:


Kelly Link Bookcover 04

1    Get In Trouble by Kelly Link

Quote “Richly imagined, intellectually teasing: these are not so much small fictions as windows on to entire worlds. A brilliant, giddying read” said Sarah Waters and I definitely agree.


Zane Lovitt The Midnight Promise

2    The Midnight Promise by Zane Lovitt

John Dorn is a private investigator solving human puzzles.  Complex and beautifully observed characters lead John towards his moment of truth as he strives to keep his promise.


An Uncertain Grace by Krissy Kneen

3    An Uncertain Grace by Krissy Kneen

Speculative erotica showing the best and worst of human nature through Liv as she ages alongside high technology innovation.  The transition to a state beyond age, to transcend the corporeal…


Jasper Fforde The Ayre Affair

4    The Eyre Affair Series by Jasper Fforde

Thursday Next, a fearless woman who traverses a parallel universe inside books.  Created with breathtaking ingenuity, her literary world is more believable than most peregrinations.


A Visit From The Goon Squad

5    A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

Self-destruction with music in the background.  Intimate lives of several characters who reconnect again and again trying to escape the past, delay the future and defy their fate.


Don't Tell Mum I Work On Oil Rigs

6    Don’t Tell Mum I Work on the Rigs…She Thinks I’m a Piano Player in a Whorehouse by Paul Carter

Gritty, masculine and rather shocking true story of working on oil rigs in the ocean.  Horrible, humorous happenings written down in easily digestible form so that you can’t stop reading.


Atomic City by Sally Breen

7    Atomic City by Sally Breen

A stylised contemporary story set on the glittering Gold Coast, Queensland.  Chameleon Jade gets a new identity and with her grifting partner she dares to swindle the Casino swindlers. 


The Godson by Robert G Barrett

8    Les Norton Series by Robert G. Barrett

Les Norton, a red-headed country lad, works in the big city, fights men, wows women, loves the beach, is either an Aussie icon or a yobbo but each adventure guarantees a twist.


The Lucky Galah Bookcover

9    The Lucky Galah by Tracy Sorensen

Lucky, a galah in a remote coastal town, receives transmissions from a satellite dish beaming messages between Apollo 11 and Houston, Texas, which co-mingle with the community psyche.


Dead Writers in Rehab by Paul B Davies

10    Dead Writers in Rehab by Paul Bassett Davies

Foster James is supposedly in rehab but he’s probably dead.  A dystopian must-read, loaded with satire, dark humour, sexual tension and famous writers like Coleridge and Hemingway.


I think my Top 10 list will suffice . . . oops, I just have to add ‘A Dirty Job’ by Christopher Moore and ‘Insomniac City: New York, Oliver Sachs and Me’ by Bill Hayes and ‘Lincoln in the Bardo’ by George Saunders and ‘Human Croquet’ by Kate Atkinson.  I love any book by Terry Pratchett and DBC Pierre and there are further ingenious authors I could name (and so could you!) but I will stop here.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Book Tag: Shelfie by Shelfie #1

This fun tag was brought to my attention by productive book blogger Paula Bardell-Hedley of BookJotter fame.  Originally created by Beth of Bibliobeth the idea is to share a picture (aka ‘shelfie’) of your favourite bookshelf and then answer ten questions related to the titles displayed.

Visit Beth’s blog to see more info, the logo and tag and view posts by participating bloggers.  Then launch your own unique Q&A Shelfie by Shelfie.

I think many readers will find these titles unfamiliar…

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Part of Gretchen’s book shelves.

1.  Is there any reason for this shelf being organised the way it is or is it purely random?

Short answer is ‘subliminally shelved’.  Long answer is there are many bookshelves in our home and until I decided to participate in Shelfie by Shelfie I didn’t realise that most of my books are grouped.  Either when they arrived or over a period of time, I’m not sure.  There are clumps like non-fiction, poetry, humour, crime, fantasy and (not all shown) Australian content.

2.  Tell us a story about one of the books on this shelf that is special to you, i.e. how you got it / a memory associated with it, etc.

Hard to pick just one.  I know some of the authors (or received uncorrected bound proofs to review prior to publication) but my all-time special one would have to be ‘My Beachcombing Days: Ninety Sea Sonnets’ by Brisbane poet John Blight.  His daughter, a family friend, gave it to me as a birthday gift in the same year as disastrous flooding hit the city.  The flood waters also coincided with me securing a glam job in a travel agency which had 12 inches of river mud throughout the ground floor office.

3.  Which book from this shelf would you ditch if you were forced to and why?

No contest!  It would be Tom Keneally’s ‘Shame and the Captives’ a semi-factual diatribe about World War II prisoners-of-war from Italy and Japan who are held in a compound in Gawell, New South Wales, but allowed to work on a local farm.  It does have its altruistic moments but there’s bloodshed aplenty and the ‘uncertainty and chaos’ never worked for me.

4.  Which book from this shelf would you save in an emergency and why?

‘Withering-by-Sea’ written by children’s author and illustrator Judith Rossell.  Young heroine Stella Montgomery is the epitome of someone I would have loved to have known when I was a child.  I did read a lot of British kids books!  Set in Victorian England, the story is both adventurous and creepy.  Apart from dressing up as a mature-age Stella Montgomery for library Book Week, two years ago I had my copy of the book signed by Judith Rossell when I attended her writers workshop in historic Abbotsford Convent, Melbourne.

5.  Which book has been on this shelf for the longest time?

Hmm, that would be a toss-up between Nobel Prize for Literature winner Patrick White ‘The Cockatoos’ and Miles Franklin ‘My Brilliant Career’ both yellowing reprints dated 1974 and 1979 respectively.  I guess Mr White wins.

6.  Which book is the newest addition to this shelf?

Another toss of the coin.  ‘Truly Tan Hoodwinked!’ (Book 5) kids chapter book written by Jen Storer, and ‘Care of Australian Wildlife: For Gardeners, Landholders and Wildlife Carers’ by Erna Walraven, a 2004 revised edition but in mint condition and recently purchased in a second-hand bookshop.  The most adorable teeny tiny Koala baby is on the front cover.  The Koala wins by a nose.

7.  Which book from this shelf are you most excited to read (or re-read if this is a favourites shelf?)

I have a ‘thing’ for DBC Pierre, expat Aussie writer, and admire his off-kilter books.  I own two of his novels (the rest were loans) and love ‘Breakfast with the Borgias’ which I willingly re-read; and I’m usually not a re-reader.  Perhaps the fact that one of the characters is named Gretchen has something to do with it.

8.  If there is an object on this shelf apart from books, tell us the story behind it.

There is a small cardboard cut-out figure of Lisa Simpson from TV series The Simpsons which probably came with a McDonalds meal deal.  Lisa is holding an armload of books and in the show she is the lone advocate of literacy and learning.  I always like to think she influenced a generation of TV viewers to read.  And that she’s happy on this shelf.

9.  What does this shelf tell us about you as a reader?

It doesn’t tell you that I borrow hugely from my local library; or that I read too many e-books; nor that my current audio book is, ironically, ‘The Book Case’ by Dave Shelton narrated by Colleen Prendergast.  It does shout that I’m an Australian reader.

I read most genres and most writers regardless of nationality (translated helps!) but I keep coming back to Australian authors.  In an online book forum, I recall an American reader saying he only read American books because he understood them.  He didn’t mean the language, he meant emotional ties, recognition, connection.  That’s what I get from Australian books, nevertheless, I do think we have to step outside our comfort zone.

10.  Choose other bloggers to tag or choose a free question you make up yourself.

A free question I can make up sounds good.  NOTE I do not activate Comments, you will have to answer it in your own Shelfie by Shelfie blog post.

BONUS QUESTION:  Do you discuss the books you read in a face-to-face situation, online book reviews, or clutch your latest read to your chest saying ‘my precious, my precious’?

Happy reading, blog stars!

Gretchen Bernet-Ward


For modern Australian book reviews I can recommend blogger and bookseller Simon McDonald https://writtenbysime.com/ while this list contains notably mature Australian authors:
Thea Astley
Bruce Beaver
Geoffrey Blainey
Martin Boyd
Christopher Brennan
David Campbell
Peter Carey
Marcus Clarke
James Clavell
Bryce Courtenay
Geoffrey Dutton
Len Evans
John Farrow
R.D. FitzGerald
Miles Franklin
Joseph Furphy
Helen Garner
Germaine Greer
Kate Grenville
Charles Harpur
Alexander Harris
Shirley Hazzard
Xavier Herbert
Dorothy Hewett
A.D. Hope
Janette Turner Hospital
Robert Hughes
Joseph Jacobs
Colin Johnson
Elizabeth Jolley
Henry Kendall
Thomas Keneally
Jill Ker Conway
Henry Kingsley
C.J. Koch
Leonie Judith Kramer
John Dunmore Lang
Ray Lawler
Henry Lawson
Norman Lindsay
Ern Malley
David Malouf
Furnley Maurice
James Phillip McAuley
Hugh McCrae
Colleen McCullough
Les Murray
Oodgeroo Noonuccal
Bernard Patrick O’Dowd
Vance Palmer
Eric Partridge
Hal Porter
Peter Porter
Katherine Susannah Prichard
Henry Handel Richardson
Steele Rudd
Nevil Shute
Peter Singer
Kenneth Slessor
Christina Stead
Alfred George Stephens
Douglas Stewart
Kylie Tennant
P.L. Travers
Ethel Turner
Arthur William Upfield
Morris West
Patrick White
David Williamson
Tim Winton
Judith Wright
Markus Zusak

Sisters in Crime 25th Scarlet Stiletto Awards

The 25th Scarlet Stiletto Awards have been launched – with a body or two in the library – and I have reblogged the exciting news:

Sisters in Crime Australia’s 25th Scarlet Stiletto Awards were launched by Dr Angela Savage at Melbourne’s Athenaeum Library on 27 April, 2018. Almost $10,000 is on offer in prize money.

The event included dramatic readings of three winning “body in the library” stories – “Jane” by Narrelle M Harris (read by Jane Clifton), “Caught on Camera” by Jenny Spence (read by Susanna Lobez) and “Brought to Book” by Kath Harper (read by Leigh Redhead).

Dr Savage (below), the 2011 shoe winner and now Director of Writers’ Victoria, declared the awards “a milestone for Australian crime – at least of the literary persuasion”.

The awards, she said, had “spring-boarded the careers of many writers, including myself. To date, 3084 stories have been entered with 23 Scarlet Stiletto Award winners –including category winners – going on to have novels published.

“Like many of Sisters in Crime’s best ideas, it sprang from a well-lubricated meeting in St Kilda when the convenors debated how they could unearth the female criminal talent they were convinced was lurking everywhere.

“Once a competition was settled on, it didn’t take long to settle on a name – the scarlet stiletto, a feminist play on the traditions of the genre. The stiletto is both a weapon and a shoe worn by women. And of course, the colour scarlet has a special association for us as women. And they were right – talent is lurking everywhere, sometimes in the most unlikely places!”

MASTER-175-LOGO

The success and longevity of the Awards have been hugely dependent on the generosity of Australian publishers, booksellers, the film and television industry, authors and other parties.

Sisters in Crime had been uncertain that the launch would go ahead because, at the eleventh hour, the First Prize Sponsor, Bonnier/Echo Publishing, was closed down by its overseas arm. Luckily, Swinburne University and the ever-resourceful Dr Carolyn Beasley, Acting Chair of the Department of Media and Communication, stepped into the breach.

Sisters in Crime spokesperson, Carmel Shute, said, “We were also lacking a Young Writer Award sponsor because Allen & Unwin pulled out last year after more than 20 years of sponsorship. We were chuffed to get support at the last minute from Fleurieu Consult run by South Australian member Jessie Byrne, who is researching her creative PhD exegesis on Sisters in Crime Davitt Awards for best books.”

There are two brand-new awards on offer this year: Writers Victoria Crime and Punishment Award ($660) for the story with the most satisfying retribution (the winner gets a three-month spell in prison in the guise of a studio residency at Old Melbourne Gaol) and the International Association of Forensic Linguistics (IALF) Award for Best Forensic Linguistics Story ($1000).

IALF President, Dr Georgina Heydon (left) from RMIT, told the crowd that the award was designed to foster understanding of forensic linguistics which uses a scientific approach to language analysis in legal and criminal investigations.

“Typically, a forensic linguist is engaged to analyse the authorship of an anonymous document, to determine what was said and by whom in a covert recording, to identify coercive or oppressive questioning by police, or to determine the need for an interpreter. It’s not to be confused with the analysis of hand-writing styles.”

The full list of awards is:

  • The Swinburne University Award: 1st Prize: $1500
  • The Simon & Schuster Award: 2nd prize: $1000
  • The Sun Bookshop Award: 3rd Prize: $500
  • The Fleurieu Consult Award for Best Young Writer (18 and under): $500
  • The Athenaeum Library ‘Body in the Library’ Award: $1000 ($500 runner-up)
  • International Association of Forensic Linguists Award: $1000 for Best Forensic Linguistics Story
  • The Every Cloud Award for Best Mystery with History Story: $750
  • Kerry Greenwood Award for Best Malice Domestic Story: $750
  • Writers Victoria Crime and Punishment Award: $660 (studio residency, Old Melbourne Gaol) for the Story with the Most Satisfying Retribution
  • HarperCollins Publishers Award for Best Romantic Suspense Story: $500
  • Scarlet Stiletto Award for Best Financial Crime Story: $500
  • Clan Destine Press Award for Best Cross-genre Story: $500
  • Liz Navratil Award for Best Story with a Disabled Protagonist Award: $400
  • ScriptWorks Award for a Great Film Idea: $200

Nine collections of winning stories are available from Clan Destine Press.

Closing date for the awards is 31 August 2018. Entry fee is $20 (Sisters in Crime members) or $25 (others). Maximum length is 5000 words. The awards will be presented at a ceremony in Melbourne in late November.

To download an entry form, pay the entry fee and read the FAQs, click here

Sisters in Crime Awards Judith Rossell 01
Recent winners of the affiliated Davitt Women’s Crime Book Awards https://www.sistersincrime.org.au/the-davitt-awards/

Media comment: Carmel Shute, Secretary and National Co-convenor, Sisters in Crime Australia:
0412 569 356 or
admin@sistersincrime.org.au

Visit the Sisters in Crime website and sign up for their newsletter.
It would be criminal to miss out on this great opportunity!

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Assassin and the Actress ‘Reckoning: A Memoir’

A highly charged and deeply honest memoir, ‘Reckoning’ combines research into the life of assassin and Polish World War II survivor Zbigniew Szubanski , father of Australian actress Magda Szubanski, and Magda herself as she struggles to come to terms with her father’s legacy and forge her own career within the world of television and movies.  This absorbing, eloquently written book contains remarkable revelations of wartime espionage, emotional family ties and facing the truth, and I was enthralled to the very last page.

First published in 2016, ‘Reckoning’ is Magda’s debut novel, and courageously written.  I must admit my initial thoughts were ‘Wow, she’s brave putting that in writing’ but it made me love this book even more.  Definitely a five-star read!  Magda relates one of those true stories from childhood to adulthood which hits the right cord with just about everyone.  We’ve had similar feelings and domestic issues and career changes and sexuality debates and, yes, sadly, the father we got to understand a little too late.

‘Reckoning’ has gone on to bigger things but here’s the first results:
Winner Nielsen BookData Booksellers Choice Award, 2016
Winner Book of the Year, Australian Book Industry Awards, 2016
Winner Biography of the Year, Australian Book Industry Awards, 2016
Winner Douglas Stewart Prize for Non-Fiction, NSW Premier’s Literary Awards, 2016
Winner Indie Award for Non-Fiction, 2016
Winner Victorian Community History Award Judges’ Special Prize, 2016
Shortlisted Matt Richell Award for New Writer of the Year, Australian Book Industry Awards, 2016
Shortlisted Dobbie Literary Award, 2016
Shortlisted National Biography Award, 2016

Website https://www.textpublishing.com.au/books/reckoning
Twitter https://twitter.com/magdaszubanski

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Magda Szubanski is one of Australia’s best known comedy performers.  She lives in Melbourne and began her career in university revues before writing and appearing in a number of comedy shows.  Magda created the iconic character of Sharon Strzelecki in ABC-TV series ‘Kath and Kim’.  She performs in theatre productions and has acted in movies – notably ‘Babe’ and ‘Babe Pig in the City’ – and currently ‘Three Summers’ directed by Ben Elton and ‘The BBQ’ directed by Stephen Amis.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

DBC Pierre Writes at Feverpitch

DBC Pierre Photo Montage 02
Photograph of novelist DBC Pierre by Murdo MacLeod for The Guardian.

“I wrote 300 pages in five weeks,” says novelist DBC Pierre, who made his debut with Vernon God Little, a Booker Prize winner, and delivers writing guidance in his contemporary work Release the Bats.

I enjoyed his gutsy and wildly perceptive advice which perhaps appeals to a ‘pantser’ style of writing rather than a ‘plotter’ but the quotable gems will stick with me.  Wisdom with a 21st century twist and language to match.

“A few pages into writing and find yourself drowning, as I did.”  DBC Pierre.

“When I started to write,” says self-confessed bad boy DBC Pierre in The Guardian interview, “I wasn’t particularly well-read, but I found two things critical. Together they can turn a pile of thoughts into a novel, in case you’re at a loose end next weekend, or are in prison. They’re also helpful if you’ve swum a few pages into writing and find yourself drowning, as I did.”

“The first might seem stupid but I actually found it the main hitch in getting words down and ‘letting rip’, ‘sticking with it’, and all that noble stuff we’re supposed to do. ‘The responsibility of awful writing’ was Hemingway’s twist on his own phrase ‘the awful responsibility of writing’. As the man who also said ‘first drafts are shit’, he pointed to a truth: if the key to finishing a novel is sticking with it, then the main challenge is to face writing crap.”

DBC Pierre Vernon God Little Bookcover

“All I liked after writing the first page of Vernon God Little was the voice. It had things to say about everything. I could feel it wanting to say them. But I went on to write 300 pages that didn’t make a book. I wrote them in five weeks, in a fever, without looking back. And at the end, I still liked the voice – but it hadn’t really said anything. Or rather, it had said plenty but nothing else had really happened. I soon found advantages to having done it that way.”

“Even writing 50 pages of crap gives a sense of achievement.”  DBC Pierre. 

“For one thing, I would usually find it hard to move on to page two if I didn’t like page one. I bet you could wallpaper the planet with books that never got to page two. And it’s a circular trap, in that some of the energy you need to forge ahead and push your page count up is generated by forging ahead and pushing your page count up. Even crap gives a sense of achievement when you get to 10, 20, 50 pages of it. When you don’t get past page one, you lose the spur. After that, the thing spirals into bad feeling and dies while you check email.”

“Half the problem is the expectation that we’ll see finished writing at once, more or less in its place. But I wouldn’t have written what I wrote if I’d thought about structure and form at the time. Obviously, if we’re writing about a boy going to the river, we make him go to the river. I don’t mean write without an idea – just that better ideas will come later. They attract each other and grow. We write crap in the meantime. It can work like a compost.”

“If you watch a dieter breaking their diet, you’ll see that they gobble things before they can stop themselves, before the internal arguments, before the shame. Guiltily and fast: that’s how to approach a first draft. A free writer is not something you are, but a place you can go. To start that climb: speed. Don’t look down. Keep a note of your page or word count, watch it grow like an investment. Amp yourself up. When we do things this way, a phenomenon comes to bear that justifies our approach: art. Some of what we write will crystallise for reasons we can’t explain, and the story comes into a life of its own.”

“If the job gets boring, loosen up…throw in a new character.”  DBC Pierre.

“Eventually, take that feverish pile, bravely or drunk, and read it back. Get over the cringing and find a glimmer, see what sentence or idea intrigues or excites you. Start from there and build out. If the job gets boring, loosen up, take a tangent, throw in a new character. In this process, the work begins to show itself. We show ourselves. When gems have grown into paragraphs, paragraphs into pages, look again. Find the part that works best and lift the rest up to it. This is how it climbs, by following what pleases us most.”

“We can’t compete with Shakespeare or Hemingway, nor should we try. Our particular feeling is all we can bring to this party, and our whole job should be to wrestle it into a story that works for us alone. After that we can dress it for others to read. A different job entirely. Save that for a strong coffee on a Monday.”

One of three different interviews by Chris Wiegand, Dave Simpson and Homa Khaleeli.  Wed 22 Feb 2017 06.00 AEDT “Culture” The Guardian newspaper.
https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2017/feb/21/frank-turner-dbc-pierre-creative-industry-advice
Heading : So You Want To Be An Artist? Then Let The Pros Show You How It’s Done.

You can also read my book review of Breakfast With The Borgias by DBC Pierre.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Australian Editors and Publishers Set Bar Too High

I have come to the conclusion that the Australian publishing industry and its associated editors and reviewers have set the bar way too high for Australian writers.  Emerging authors have a pretty slim chance of being published with huge odds against hitting the big time.

Strong-willed literature-controlling gurus rule our domestic market like school teachers from the 1950s.  They seek perfection, the best book of the year, often cerebral stuff ignored by half the population, and they disregard perfectly serviceable down-to-earth Aussie authors.  Also, when did parochialism creep in, e.g. Melbourne is the hub of all things literary?  Let’s focus on inclusive Australian content.  Oh, and stop changing words to suit international readers, they’re cool, they can work it out.

Publishing houses receive thousands of unsolicited manuscripts each year and the selection process is fierce.  Only a handful of authors are chosen, gather a following, write more books and hopefully make money.  The untried crime writer, for example, may not appeal to the literati judges, but, hey, there’s always that coterie of readers who will love them.  The way it is now, their work may never see the light of day.  Dive deep into that slush pile!

Book Publishing 04
Sure, there’s always the internet, WordPress, e-books, self-publishing, writing competitions (see below) and a gazillion non-traditional ways to be seen but nirvana is a publishing deal with a real-deal publishing house.

 

“Relax,” I say to publishers from my seat of ignorance.  “The shock of ebooks has faded, so forget micro-niche and churn out those books, get those names in print.”  What?  Too much of a risk, not financially viable?  Yeah, I guess that’s right.  Nobody wants risk in business.  I say “Lighten up, people, offer a broader spectrum of books to the general public”.  Stop book snobbery because, meanwhile, mediocre books with typos are flooding in from overseas and I’m getting a bit sick of it.

Did I hear our aspiring authors cannot compete with the overseas calibre?  Our readers are not savvy, interested or sincere enough to try a reasonably good newbie?  Come off it!  Peel back those layers.  An Australian author or reader is as good as the next person but needs the exposure, the push, the shove, the necessary connections and circumstances to make it work.

Chips on shoulders, the need to prove we Australians are well-read, has past. Forget the Cultural Cringe, dismiss ‘benchmark’ literary awards and too perfect prose and embrace the mass production of typically Australian-written and illustrated books and be proud of them.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

FURTHER READING:  https://journals.uic.edu/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/3353/3030  with quote taken from “Non-Traditional Book Publishing” by Jana Bradley, Bruce Fulton,  Marlene Helm, Katherine A Pittner in “First Monday” Journal and, although somewhat passé, it shows foresight.  EVEN FURTHER READING:  https://www.theliftedbrow.com/liftedbrow/2017/11/22/keep-your-eyes-on-the-prize-unpublished-manuscript-competitions-and-you  The Lifted Brow is a not-for-profit literary publishing organisation based in Melbourne, Australia, and Martin Shaw’s article explains an awful lot about the hidden terms and conditions of competition entry.

{NB. Gretchen has reviewed books, worked in the library industry and reads extensively.  As an aspiring writer, she may have shot herself in the foot}

Let Your Heart Be Light

Jen Storer is an established Australian children’s author brimming with imagination and inspiration. This post encapsulates her talent, personality and future plans. Jump into The Duck Pond and start paddling with emerging writers and illustrators!
Gretchen Bernet-Ward

girl and duck

Hello!

I like writing blog posts at Christmas. No one expects much. Do they?

IMG_3967Writing: I finally finished Truly Tan: Baffled! (book seven) and delivered it to my publisher on time (working right up until December 15, the day it was due). Phew! Next year I’ll be waaaay more organised. Ahem.

Finalising: We signed off on Danny Best: Me First! Check out the full cover. Talk about The Best! 😉 Due out in Feb 2018.

DB_MEFIRST_FC2Receiving: I received a Christmas card from a Tan reader. The letter attached said, I know you like wolves. So here’s a card with a fox on it. God, I love my readers.

IMG_3984 2

Planning and: pondering 2018. I have some lovely plans for girl and duck, including a Scribbles Boot Camp in Feb, and an IRL (in real life) Scribbles master class in Melbourne in May. We will also be launching the Girl and Duck…

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Elements of Literary Life

A humorous periodic table illustrating the highs and lows of a writer’s life.  Word choices and re-writing seem to be part of it but if you are a genius with talent, you’ve got it made!  I’ll stick with the hard work and dream my dreams.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Periodic Table of Elements of Literary Life
Literary Theme

One Book at a Time?

I read three books at a time …

Books A-Z
Book Slide

My books are almost in every room.  All genres and categories, all shapes and sizes, new and old, popular and obscure, loved, liked and even loathed.  I will refer to them, quote them, yet perhaps not always re-read them.  I prefer the next book, the next Great Read, something new to me but not necessarily a blockbusting bestseller.

As mentioned, I read about three books at a time, not to show off, but to suit my mood during the day.  The books can be in any format, paper, ebook, large print, audio as long as it holds my attention, sparks my imagination, gets me interested or teaches me something new.  I’ve been through my non-fiction period, my classics epoch, my intellectual stage, my steampunk phase, my romance jaunt and different levels of humour, while dabbling in between with things like sci-fi fantasy and horror, but I keep coming back to perennial crime fiction.

For me, the ‘must have’ is a good strong lead character, someone I want to know about, someone I want to tag along with throughout the day, or night.  On the weekend I read in the garden under the palms with a cool drink but mainly I read at night.  A good crime novel can be detrimental to my sleep!  Apart from a nicely twisted plot, the characters are who I care about the most.  Currently my favourite murder mysteries are written by Australian and British authors.

While I enjoy writing reviews, my ego is under no illusions that anyone would find my reviews earth-shattering or even interesting.  It’s a hobby for me and my suggestion to you, dear reader, is that you should make up your own mind on any book.  Blurb can be misleading!  It would be nice to see more conflicting, controversial reviews and posts by readers who are not looking over their shoulders at freebies/writers/publishers/fans or the next thumbs up.

I recommend books I’ve liked and occasionally pan those I’ve disliked.  My thoughts may differ from yours so if you have never written a review, why not give it a go?  Write a couple of paragraphs and see if it deepens your appreciation of the book.  My thoughts lead me to writing down the key words and hey-presto.  Get along to book launches and author signings for insider information.  And grab a copy of “Francis Plug: How to Be a Public Author” by Paul Ewen.  Kooky, hilarious and factual, it delves into the fan/author relationship with real consequences.

Francis Plug How To Be A Public Author

NOTE:  Reading three books simultaneously for maximum brain gymnastics means, for example, one on public transport, another in a lunch break, and a third at bedtime.  Happy reading!

Gretchen Bernet-Ward