May your New Year be a breath of fresh air
♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward
To assist the modification from page to screen by meeting the market half-way, writers are chasing the more lucrative side of wordsmithing by hammering out books which have the actions, expressions and dialogue of movie characters.
If you are dreaming of seeing your work as a major motion picture, professional screenwriters can adapt existing books, hence the words ‘based on’ when you view a book-to-movie deal.
Read on for my thoughts on the situation…
Good news for the future of the film industry but what about the book industry?
Should a writer write a novel similar to a filmscript? I guess if you are determined enough you can learn, but what are you sacrificing along the way? Formatting is important; not too much, not too little. Your characters will be noticeably shallower, the scenery will be sketchy and the action will be like every TV series you have ever watched.
Bend to a market whim? What makes the difference is being different! With or without a movie contract, if you write in a hybrid format, your novel has less chance of standing amongst the notables of your decade. I’ve read several amalgams in the last month. Believe me, it shows.
In my opinion, there is a market for the TV-ready book/screen blend of writing but it is light-weight and not the same as solid, descriptive, memorable words which feed a book reader’s imagination.
And herein lies the problem. There are eager new readers just the same as in the past, but now they are looking for ‘movie action’ because they have grown up with on-demand screens. Substance is not as favourable, skimming is the name of the game.
Again, I say this is a disservice to the reader as well as the book industry.
It’s a long haul and immediate gain for the primary writer is unlikely. Say a director/producer likes your work, every page you have written means extra money is needed in production and, as we know, the financial aspect rules. Gone are the days of blockbuster world success—think LOTR or J K Rowling’s Harry Potter.
Durability is the name of the game. You can find countless info and advice on writing a screenplay or TV script and if you want to do it you will—bearing in mind that any formula has restrictions, your manuscript will not resemble the finished product.
Look closely at Michael Connelly and other writers who have made the transition, in particular their previous jobs. They will have ‘connections’, they will move house ‘to be closer to their work’, they will have ‘legal advice’, an abundance of ‘good luck’, an ‘understanding family’ and other clichés but not the words ‘smooth sailing’.
Write with your heart, write something strong and original, write a standalone which shines with your own unique qualities.
♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward
Congratulations to the successful writers listed below. I am still dazed at my accomplishment, a double dip! The two short stories I submitted have been close to my heart for some time and it is truly wonderful to have them recognised.
The Estelle Pinney Short Story Competition is Australia-wide and I am the only member of Society of Women Writers Queensland to win honours this year. Such a privilege!
1st Prize: ‘Baby’ by Jean Flynn (Victoria)
2nd Prize: ‘Tram 86’ by Melanie Persson (Western Australia)
3rd Prize: ‘Remnants of Miriam’ by Gretchen Bernet-Ward (Queensland)
Three Highly Commended:
‘One Hundred Year Old Feet’ by Margaret Ogilvie (South Australia)
‘Mero in the Library’ by Gretchen Bernet-Ward (Queensland)
‘Not Everything is Cut & Dry’ by Maree Gallop (New South Wales)
‘Portraits’ by Megan Hippler (Queensland)
‘The Lies of Love’ by Jo Mularczyk (New South Wales)
‘The Birthday Present’ by Lynne Geary (Victoria)
(Award certificates below)
The competition judge, Lauren Daniels, is director of the Brisbane Writers Workshop. Lauren is a qualified editor, author, mentor and trainer of professionals, academics, writers and editors.
I would like to thank the President and Committee of Society of Women Writers Queensland Inc and acknowledge author Estelle Pinney for her ongoing encouragement via this competition. It is a morale boost to have my work recognised and financially rewarded.
In the spirit of giving, I have donated my prize money back to the Society. It may help a new member, or go towards a workshop at Bribie Island Writers Retreat, or perhaps an event with cake!
♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward
Sunday morning dawned bright and clear. First, Jasper Fforde ‘Book Club’ up close and personal on the River Deck at State Library of Queensland, commencing at the civilised time of 10am. I only managed one rather dull photograph because I didn’t feel comfortable breaking the reverent atmosphere. Other times, it’s just not polite.
I waited with a friendly group of fans (all with different favourite books) as savoury snacks, cheeses, fresh fruit and small packs of mixed nuts were being put on low tables between an eclectic selection of chairs. I watched the bar staff setting up with wine and soft drinks. Scatter cushions were put on long low bench seating and I had my eye on a nice cosy corner.
Guest-of-honour Jasper Fforde talked about his 20-year career working in the film industry with some big names before he decided to write full-time. He has 14 books under his literary belt. These books are called post-modern, sort of parallel universe crime novels; he takes our world and tweaks it. For example, Spec-Ops Thursday Next lives and works inside books, and in ‘Early Riser’ the Welsh population hibernate throughout winter with strange dreams and unsettling encounters. Have a read of this New York Times review. Jasper discussed his writing style, his books, and forthcoming standalone ‘The Constant Rabbit’.
Unfortunately I do not remember the name of our moderator, I know she taught creative writing. She kicked off the Q&A session for us but we were a rather sedate bunch so no fierce debates ensued. I asked Jasper about the gender ambiguity of Charlie Worthing in ‘Early Riser’ and how it was questioned on social media, adding it must have been difficult to write but it works. The closest example mentioned was Virginia Woolf and ‘Orlando’ which contains gender androgyny.
As we sat and snacked and sipped, the view across Brisbane River towards the city was ever-changing. CityCat ferries, a police patrol boat, the Kookaburra Queen paddle wheeler, and a jet boat or two cruised by, almost like a continually scrolling film.
Time was up! All too soon it was over and I was smuggling a packet of mixed nuts into my bag for later. I decided to get serious with the bookshop and purchased the items you see below.
Last item on my agenda, last but not least, was the Closing Address ‘This Way Humanity’.
Soon evening and 5.30pm arrived, as did the audience who piled into The Edge auditorium to hear Jasper Fforde’s closing words on a pretty heavy topic. He delivered a personal 40-minute speech, going straight to the heart of the matter, raising pertinent questions on our future. He gave examples about past, present and Little Daisy as yet unborn but what of her future. Thoughts on where humanity is headed and the universal importance of literacy and book-reading and how we must dare to ignite and explore our imagination.
To be honest, I couldn’t absorb all of the closing address, a thought-provoking mixture of insights and humour, and I’m hoping it will be available online for everyone to read.
By now I was getting hungry. After a stroll through South Bank Parklands with family, we dined at the delightfully casual South Bank eatery Hop & Pickle where I had a super-duper fresh fish supper.
On the walk back to the bus station, we bought sweet treats from Doughnut Time. Yum!
As you can see, I attended morning and evening events over the four days. I travelled by council bus to and from each event. That adds up to 10 bus trips of approximately 45 minutes duration each. Yes, tedious, but I saved on parking fees and had a relaxing read during the journey. Sometimes the bus was almost empty and on the last night it was packed so I stood up the whole way.
My visits were concentrated on one author (as you would have deduced!) yet each event was varied in presentation and content and I am very happy with the outcome.
I started my journey in the early morning with a smokey orange sky over the city. Here is the same spot four days later looking twinkly in the late evening as I say goodbye to Brisbane Writers Festival for another year. Safe travels, Mr Fforde.
♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward
This morning dawned an apocalyptic orange, heavy with outback smoke and dust. Gone was the bright blue of springtime. As I neared the city, gusty winds swirled around, making it difficult to know whether earth particles were coming in or being blown away. Blinking dry eyes, I photographed the pallid light which struggled to illuminate the city skyline.
I was pretty annoyed at the weather’s bad timing. With thousands of people, both local and international, converging on South Bank for the Brisbane Writers Festival, it made outdoor conditions uncomfortable. I spared a thought for the farmers and those suffering terribly as bushfires rage across Queensland. We need our wet season now!
I was trying not to hurry. I could taste the dust as it rasped in and out of my lungs. Nerves and excitement made me shallow breathe, this was the first morning event at Brisbane Writers Festival. After a quick swig from my water bottle, I headed towards State Library. “Slow down”, I chided. “Take a photo of the whales”.
After my paper ticket was beeped, I entered the Queensland Writers Centre rooms, oh, the joy of filtered air. I settled into a well-designed (and comfortable) white upholstered chair ready for “Writing Futures”. Placed in front of me was a bowl of sweets to fortify and information to read. Two people were already standing beside a whiteboard. One was the QWC spokesperson and the other was UK author Jasper Fforde. He was about to give us a three-hour almost non-stop workshop based on his “narrative dare” principle. Pens, paper and iPads were certainly worked overtime!
On arrival next day, a more pleasant day, I turned the corner and there was the solid, colourful comfort of Angel’s Place, a 7.5metre high dome structure which features a print of an original artwork created by artist Gordon Hookey. Angel’s Palace is a multi-disciplinary collaboration that represents the voice of Indigenous Australia and celebrates Aboriginal storytelling and literature in a powerful experience for audiences.
While I was photographing Angel’s Place, I heard a cultured Englishman’s voice behind me, asking a question about the dome. I recognised that voice! Sure enough, when I swung around I saw author Jasper Fforde walking past, heading towards Gallery of Modern Art with others on the “Dream Worlds” panel. A fanfic moment rushed over me. Before I knew it I was following the VIP group. Walk, click, click, walk and they disappeared inside. The audience was ushered in shortly afterwards and we took our seats in Cinema B for some serious (and silly) stuff on sleep and dreams.
Official link to ABC Radio National audio recording https://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/the-book-show/dreams-bwf/11506864
Had lunch at home prior to returning for “Early Riser: An Evening Conversation” with Jasper Fforde and hosted by John Birmingham in The Edge auditorium, State Library of Queensland. Tough words, Jasper doesn’t swear but John does, and there were jibes, a bite to their conversation. Jasper talked about the creation of his current book and John advised him not to give away any spoilers.
Below is what the queue looked like while I was waiting for Jasper Fforde’s autograph. And I stood with an old work colleague I met quite by accident. Jasper kindly signed my copy of “Early Riser”, stamped it “This book has been declare SKILLZERO Protocol Approved”—an author/reader joke—and tucked a postcard inside. I asked him what his favourite pet would be, Dodo or Quarkbeast, and he said Quarkbeast (from “The Last Dragonslayer” series) so the family was happy.
You may have noticed that I do not describe the full content of each event. This is personal preference, I don’t want to divulge things which may be copyright.
The organisation and facilities for this experience are first-class and everything ran smoothly. As a past volunteer at other literary occasions, I appreciated the knowledge and friendliness of the current volunteers. Their fluorescent aqua t-shirts stood out!
Another day draws to a close. I looked forward to tomorrow and perusing more free activities, strolling around the abundant bookshop, then chatting at author “Book Club” with drinks and nibbles, sitting on cushions in the sunshine on the River Deck at State Library. It’s not difficult to appreciate the luxury of it all.
Ciao for now!
♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward
I’ve been asked if I belong to a writers group. After reaching saturation point with courses and workshops, I decided to get serious and join a writers group. Currently I am a member of two organisations, Girl and Duck.com and The Society of Women Writers Qld Inc. One real and one virtual, both offering the interaction and motivation I crave.
I also belong to two book clubs, one leaning towards the literary and the other crime, but that’s a whole new blog post. Today my information flow is about—
The Society of Women Writers Qld Inc (SWWQ) which provides an invaluable support network for women writers. Members share comments, feedback, achievements and encouragement, or listen to guest speakers at monthly meetings.
In 1925 the Imperial Press Conference Sydney hosted a conference for Visiting Writers and Journalists from the United Kingdom. At that time women were excluded from the all-male journalists’ club. This led to the wives of the delegates and the invited female delegates forming their own group which became The Society of Women Writers. Thus (Dame) Mary Gilmore, Pattie Fotheringham, Mary Liddell and Isobel Gullett became the four Vice Presidents. Zara Aronson was Honorary Secretary; Agnes Mowie and Blanche d’Alpuget were Honorary Treasurers. Abigail Clancy was one of the founding committee’s fifteen members. In 1982 The Society of Women Writers Queensland was incorporated and Mocco Wollert became their first State President. Di Hill is the current State President.
In 1975 Bridget Godbold felt inspired to start her own group of writers in Queensland. While in Sydney for the Society of Women Writer’s Fiftieth Commemoration, she was asked by their Federal Executive to produce a Queensland postal magazine, based on the success of a Victorian experiment called MURU.
Bridget, with four women from Townsville, Boonah, Kingaroy and Burleigh Heads, created MORIALTA. This Aboriginal word means ‘everflowing’ and epitomised their motto to Keep Thoughts Everflowing into Creative Writing. The first edition of MORIALTA was produced in 1976.
Postal magazines are ideal for isolated writers or those who find it difficult to attend meetings. An electronic newsletter is also available.
The Alice Award
Every two years, since 1978, the Society shares the privilege with other States and awards a non-acquisitive bronze statuette, The Alice, to an Australian woman writer who has made a significant contribution to Australian Literature. Well-known past recipients include, among many others, Nancy Cato, Ruth Park, Kate Grenville, Margaret Scott, Dame Judith Wright, Dame Mary Durack, Jill Shearer, Christobel Mattingley, Susanna des Vries, Dr Claire Wright and Sally Odgers.
Ring of Bright Water
SWWQ’s newsletter Ring of Bright Water is compiled monthly and sent to members either electronically (preferred) or via Australia Post, keeping members updated on upcoming events, competitions, publishing opportunities, members achievements, writing and more.
The Society organises an annual retreat, held in October on Bribie Island, north of Brisbane. Here writers can dedicate quality time to their works-in-progress; join structured workshops; begin new work; discuss writers, writing and books and generally share good times with like-minded people.
Competitions for Short Story, Article and Poetry categories are held each year for members and the Estelle Pinney Short Story Competition is held annually and is open to Australian women writers over the age of 18.
The Society publishes anthologies of members work occasionally and supports many other literary events in Queensland. SWWQ is affiliated with Society of Women Writers in WA, VIC, NSW, TAS.
I have entered two short stories in the Estelle Pinney Short Story Competition which closes Wednesday 31 July 2019. At the moment, I am reading The Rose and The Thorn written by member Indrani Ganguly. After attending a meeting with guest speaker Virginia Miranda, author of Flash Fiction Volume One, I enjoyed the writing exercise she set with picture prompts and I’m all fired up on the joys of flash fiction.
♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward
The 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.
Read 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! ✏✏✏
Her invitation to participate offers a change from THINKING to DOING if that suits your purpose but my TBR is backing up and I need to list seven of the books I desperately WANT TO READ—which, er, goes over the Three Things limit. I just want to blab about these great books 😃 GBW.
These two books are side-by-side because they involve food and drink.
has written a humorous memoir of his escape to the country. I did hear him at an author talk but he didn’t divulge the full story. ‘Thirty Thousand Bottles of Wine and a Pig Called Helga’ is sometimes sad, sometimes gruesome but I’m hoping it’s an uplifting story of the joys of living on the land.
set her novel ‘The Chicken Soup Murder’ against the backdrop of real events in 2012, a time in Michael’s life when everything is turned upside down. Cricket, football and the seaside are woven through the story as he strives to make sense of the changes involving death, suspicious neighbours and a school bully.
This is a mixed bag of goodies sharing the same photographic background.
has golden wattle on her bookcover (I’m allergic to pollen) but the inside of ‘The Geography of Friendship’ greatly appeals to me. The blurb reads ‘We can’t ever go back, but some journeys require walking the same path again’. I won this novel at UQP behind-the-scenes publishing event.
is an Australian icon. I couldn’t begin to details his many and varied works here but his poetry is brilliant. The ‘An Open Book’ flyleaf reads ‘Malouf reminds us of the ways poetry, music and creativity enrich our lives . . . about the dynamics of what escapes and what remains’.
lives in my city of Brisbane. He has written two novels about war and its devastation. ‘The War Artist’ . . . ‘tackles the legacy of the Afghanistan war and the crippling psychological damage of PTSD’ and follows the shattered life of Brigadier James Phelan when he returns to Australia.
writes the most adorable children’s picture books. I have been a fan of Squish Rabbit since his first appearance and assisted Katherine at one of her library book launches. Forty children were expected and 140 turned up! ‘Squish Rabbit’s Pet’ is my favourite so far; profound and endearing.
I love bold bookcovers which alone tell a tiny bit of the story.
was recommended to me by a librarian with hair dyed pink, orange and green. A reader of quirky books like me (although my hairstyle is more conservative) she advised that this book is a bit different. And, yes, he’s the brother of John.
I have to say I have no idea what is in store for me with ‘An Absolutely Remarkable Thing’ so I will just leave you with the quote ‘In Hank Green’s sweeping, cinematic debut novel, a young woman becomes an overnight celebrity when her YouTube video goes viral . . . but there’s something bigger and stranger going on’.
Right, that’s it, the seven books I’m going to read—not counting those on my ereader—now comes the wait until I post my book reviews.
Ciao for now!
♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward
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:
♥ 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.
♥ 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.
♥ 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…
♥ 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.
♥ 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.
♥ 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.
♥ 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.
♥ 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.
♥ 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.
♥ 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 and ‘Himself’ by Jess Kidd. 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