My Sisters-in-Crime Membership Card

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I kept the postage stamp but the envelope has been recycled.

How is this for the personal touch!  Sisters-in-Crime mailed a white 9×4 envelope with my address neatly printed on it and a postage stamp stuck in the corner.  The stamp, if you are interested, commemorates 50 years since the moon landing.  Australia had a hand in the Apollo 11 lunar module ‘Eagle’ landing on the moon.

Back to the goodies in the envelope:

A welcome letter from Carmel, Secretary & National Co-convenor.

Diary Dates and information on 26th Scarlet Stiletto Awards.

Leaflet for ‘Murder She Wrote’ Readers and Writers Festival to be held in Tasmania under the title ‘Terror Australis’ .

Bookmark stating all the wonderful things Sisters-in-Crime can offer me.

Info on bookshop discounts, panels, discussions, debates, tours, launches, festivals.

And, of course, my Membership Card!

Every department store in the world wants to give you a plastic card but this is a Crime Card.  Not plastic; written on by hand; the nostalgic beauty of it.

Who or what are the Sisters-in-Crime?  Let me fill you in—

Sisters in Crime Logo 03 2019Sisters-in-Crime is a world-wide organisation but the Australian chapter was launched at the Feminist Book Festival in Melbourne in September 1991, inspired by the American organisation of the same name, which was founded in 1986 by Sara Paretsky (creator of Chicago PI VI Warshawski) and other women crime writers at the Bouchercon crime convention.  Members are authors, readers, publishers, agents, booksellers and librarians bound by their affection for the mystery genre and their support of women who write mysteries.  Chapters currently meet in Melbourne, Perth, and Brisbane.  The Melbourne chapter holds very regular events and partners with festivals, libraries and other organisations.

There are annual crime-writing competitions, the Scarlet Stiletto Awards (big prize money) and the Davitt Awards for the best crime books by Australian women published in the previous year.

I missed ‘Murder She Wrote’, the readers and writers Terror Australis Festival in Huon Valley, Tasmania, from 31 October to 5 November 2019.  It was jam-packed with amazing stuff; panel sessions, masterclasses, Hall of Writers, book launches, Murder Mystery Dinner, etc.  Hear my teeth gnashing…

I am currently reading ‘Dead Man Switch’ by Tara Moss and she attended the Festival.  Quote ‘I would kill to be at the Terror Australis Festival, but thankfully I was invited so I won’t need to.’ – Tara Moss, author.

Maybe next year <sigh>

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Winners Society of Women Writers and Estelle Pinney Short Story Competition 2019

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!


 

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Prizes:

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)

Three Commended:

‘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)


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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

 

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Society of Women Writers Qld Inc

Not So Secret Society of Women Writers

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—

Society of Women Writers Qld IncThe 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.

The Beginning

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.

Postal Magazines

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

Bribie Island Jetty at Bongaree
Bribie Island

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.

Writers Retreat

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

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.

For further information please contact the Secretary
secretary@womenwritersqld.org.au
or visit their website http://womenwritersqld.org.au

My Journey

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 Rose and The Thorn by Indrani Ganguly 2019 01Flash Fiction Virginia Miranda Volume One

Author or Businesswoman? The Story Behind Girl and Duck

Real world experience and advice from a published author with dedication, sincerity and passion for sharing her craft.
Gretchen Bernet-Ward

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Who is this wonder woman? Read on…

girl and duck

This week at girl and duck, we opened The Scribbles Academy. It’s been super exciting and lots of people have jumped on board.

Thank you!!!! I know you’re going to love your Scribbly experience!

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But how did this all begin?

What’s the real story behind girl and duck?

I wrote about this a couple of years back. But, in those early days, I was more interested in talking about the community. How passionate it was and how it seemed to sprout from nowhere.

More time has passed and now I want to go deeper. I want you, dear reader, to know exactly how I began my online business.

How and why I started it. And who was there to help me.

Ding Ding Ding! Multiple Income Streams!

Back in 2011, it occurred to me that I might NEVER make a liveable income from writing. No matter how many books…

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My ‘Commuter Scene’ in The Drabble

Delighted to be Drabbled! Love the accompanying photo, just wish I was as glamorous as this young woman Gretchen Bernet-Ward.

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By Gretchen Bernet-Ward

It’s nauseating. I usually don’t read on public transport. Sentences sway like a line of melting ants. I look out the bus window, watching cars whoosh along one level, trains on another. Soon train tracks swoop down, crossing the road. Ding, ding, ding, shrills the signal. A teenager ducks under the falling boom gate and sprints across the tracks. Impatient, foolish. Two seconds between life and resembling dog vomit. Platform security guards move in. The teenager projects nonchalance then slumps onto a metal seat. The bus moves off and my eyes fall to the formicine words.

           
“The written word has been a big part of my work-life, never for personal fulfillment. The birth of my blog activated the joyous freedom of self-expression. I use public transport and, oh, the things I’ve seen …” – the author

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THAT is a Stupid Word

THAT debate rages on.  THAT is an overused, unnecessary word, a redundant filler which bulks out your manuscript and changes just about anything into THAT nothingness.

Increasingly, ambiguous THAT is being used instead of ‘who’ and ‘which’ or more descriptive words to introduce a defining clause.  This is happening universally in writing today; THAT is slowing and neutralising sentences.

Seven examples where THAT is incorrect or useless, write your own, you get my drift:

  1. She said that it was in her best interest – delete.
  2. They walked down the stairs that are rather grand – use which.
  3. He visits the koala that he sponsors – delete.
  4. Judy thinks Angela is the sort of woman that enjoys tennis – use who.
  5. He assumed that they all wanted to singalong with him – delete.
  6. It takes a minute to realise that Sue is talking – delete.
  7. Tom has to tell her that her dog has been stolen – OK-ish.

A pronoun is a word taking the place of a noun.  THAT is a demonstrative pronoun and used in the right context it has a legitimate reason to exist, e.g. ‘That’s a good idea’.

That Word That Deleted

It is perfectly valid when THAT appears in character dialogue, but when a writer indiscriminately uses THAT in other areas of their work, I find it needlessly clunky.

Of course, you can change a passive voice to an active voice, or use the rule ‘Who is a person, THAT is an object’.  Remember ‘Who, what, when, where, why’ to help you decide.

On the other hand, there’s always exceptions.  Use your own discretion as to where you like or don’t like THAT, and where THAT actually does fit in your sentence.  Once you become aware of THAT, you will probably get rid of it unless you use American English.

CHALLENGE 

  • Read through text or a draft you have written in the last month.
  • Check for how many time you use the word THAT.
  • Are you surprised at your usage?
  • Could you use a more expressive word than THAT?
  • Could you condense your word count by omitting THAT?
  • Read a novel or document and watch for THAT exploitation.

IMG_20190513_111412Like me, not everyone has a degree in English grammar, check further:
https://www.bkacontent.com/avoid-overusing-word-writing/
https://www.thefreedictionary.com/List-of-pronouns.htm
https://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/2012/09/07/that-who-which/

If there’s a ‘Ditch THAT’ campaign running, I will sign up!

Why?  Because current literary exertion is being spent on THAT, an overworked and superfluous word.  What more can I say about THAT?  Or, what more can I say?

‘That’s all, folks’

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

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Scribbles Masterclass 2019

One of my favourite contemporary children’s writers is Jen Storer.  Wise, warm and wonderful, Jen imparts her wealth of knowledge on Girl and Duck online with Scribbles courses, Questions and Quacks videos, Facebook live sessions and a yearly Masterclass.

Here is a letter from Jen Storer


Scribbles Masterclass Logo 2019

Scribbles Masterclass 2019

Dear Children’s Literature Creators,

KidLit Vic is fast approaching and so is the annual Scribbles Masterclass!

  • Scribbles Masterclass
  • 4.1 Hayden Raysmith Room
  • Ross House
  • 247 Flinders Lane (That’s right. Across the street from Brunetti!) Melbourne Australia
  • Friday 24 May 2019
  • 2pm – 5pm

Note: This year we have a SECRET special guest joining us!

If you would like to join me (and my special guest), please CLICK HERE to book your place by Wednesday, 15 May 2019 10pm (AEST).  There are still a few spots left.

IMPORTANT:  You do not have to be attending KidLit Vic Melbourne in order to join the Masterclass.  We are not affiliated, we just time it that way because lots of Scribblers are in town!

Stay scribbly!

Jen Storer
Children’s Author and Chief Inspirationalist at Girl and Duck.com*


Scribbles Masterclass Information 2019*Girl and Duck is a flourishing online community of emerging and established children’s literature creators (authors, illustrators, publishers, editors, designers and enthusiasts) with members from all over Australia, New Zealand, the USA and Europe.

Learn more about Duckies, Scribblers, writers and illustrators:
https://girlandduck.com/

Click to BOOK your Masterclass 2019 place NOW.  I know first-hand it’s a fun learning experience.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Scribbles Masterclass Melbourne May 2019 Panel
Girl and Duck ‘Scribbles’ Masterclass panel featuring Jen Storer, Lucinda Gifford and Judith Rossell, May 2019 Melbourne Australia.

Travel Tribute to H V Morton and Wales

This faded old book jumped out at me.  I believe interconnections exist everywhere in many forms but none so strongly as with books.

I spied this hardback ‘In Search of Wales’ by H.V. Morton, with sixteen illustrations and a map, resting on one of the tables at UQ Alumni Book Fair.  It was published by Methuen & Co. Ltd London in 1932 and purchased by the Parliamentary Library in Queensland, Australia, on 27 July 1932.  My photographs don’t convey the substance of this volume.

Apart from my purchase giving me a tenuous Queensland connection, since I have been blogging I have come to know bloggers from Wales like Book Jotter, and people with ties to Wales, so I guess I was curious to find out some early 20th century history.

There is a city named Ipswich, west of the capital Brisbane, Queensland, and it has Welsh heritage from the founding families, the legacy of coal mines, and street names I can’t pronounce.  It was going to be our capital city but being situated inland away from sea ports (and always hotter in summer) Brisbane took over the coveted position.

When I look at the B&W images in this book, I can’t help but feel strong emotion for those Welsh families, the people who came to Queensland in 1851 and started afresh.  Whether it was out of necessity, assisted passage, general interest or just sheer bravery, it was a long way to come to start a new life in a totally different land.

The three photos (below) are 1. Cornfields, 2. Druid ceremony conducted by the Archdruid at the Gorsedd Stone, 3. Cockle women of Penclawdd on the seashore.  It looks cold!  Throughout there are two-page spreads of dramatic valleys, stoney castles and heartbreaking portraits of mining men and soot-covered boys.

My new old book was deleted from the Old Parliament Library catalogue on 22 October 1996 and I wondered where it had been since then.  ‘Oh well,’ I thought, ‘I am enjoying it now on 10 May 2019’.  Then I saw a small pencilled Dewey notation on the back cover map UL914.29 Mor.  It had probably languished in the University Library.

As yet I haven’t tracked down all the details of author, Henry Vollam Morton, and even though he was a well-known journalist and travel writer, the information in the final pages doesn’t give much away.  There is an insightful personal comment (photo below) which ends with three tiny icons, perhaps foreshadowing today’s social media links.

Further material tells me that the author’s book ‘…is more than a travel book, it is a sensitive interpretation of a country’s people and their history.’  He wrote a series called ‘The Search Books’ and further along it reads ‘Since that time Mr Morton’s gay and informative travels…have gained him thousands of readers.’

At this late stage, a book review would be rather tricky—okay, it would be hard for me to get my head around.  H.V. Morton travels far and wide through Wales and writes in depth.  The voice, the style of that era (nicer than brash Bill Bryson) is easy to read and written in a friendly, personal way with warmth in every chapter.  Allowing for the off-key words we don’t use today, there is factual information and humorous stories, and in Chapter Six he asks the usual traveller’s question and receives a great reply—

“The first village, commonly and charitably called Llanfair, provides the stranger with an impossible task among the Welsh place-names.
Its title is: Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllandysiliogogogoch

This is no joke.  It is only too true!  The full name, however, is never used but it appears only slightly amputated in the Ordnance Survey maps.
The postal name is Llanfair P.G. or Llanfairpwll.

I entered the first inn and said to those who were drinking in the bar ‘I will buy anyone a drink who can pronounce the full name of this place.’
There was an ominous silence until an old man, finishing his beer, stood up and sang it!

‘And what does it mean?’ I asked.
‘It means,’ I was told, ‘the Church of St Mary in a wood of white hazel near a rapid whirlpool and near St Tysilio’s cave close to a red cave’.” 

Sounds magical to me.  Daith yn hapus!

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

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Another beautiful coincidence – it is not springtime in Australia, it is cool autumn weather. Yet these daffodils, a Welsh symbol, were outside my local supermarket the day after I purchased the book at UQ Alumni Book Fair.

Further reading from Niall Taylor, Glastonbury, England, and HVM Society
https://hvmorton.wordpress.com/2019/02/17/great-british-car-journeys/

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!

Why Writers Write

Is acknowledgement a cherished goal?
Is reimbursement the final accolade?
Or will a writer write regardless?

On a writer’s wishlist, there would have to be the thrill of seeing their name in print.  My name under a bold heading on a hardback cover would show that I’ve made it.  Throw in a display stand, a book launch with signing table, coffee and cupcakes, and I would be in literary heaven.  No doubt hell would follow with the necessary writing of a sequel…

Recently a member of my writers group asked the question “Why do you write?” which seemed innocuous enough but there were vastly different answers—-see below.

My earnest reply went something like “Because I think in words hence the title of my blog.  Most things I experience can become a potential story.”  I am always mapping out first lines, or an introductory paragraph, or setting the scene.  This, however, does not mean I will be traditionally published.  I just keep doing it.

I believe a writer’s inner core is made of words and emotions which must be written down.

If I’m undertaking a complex household chore like chopping carrots, I may not jot down a sudden literary gem, but, no matter, I will find myself composing another while out grocery shopping.

For example “See that bloke over there, he’s uncomfortable and he’s trying to get up the nerve to...”

(1) ask the sales assistant out (2) steal that expensive car polish (3) abandon his trolley at the checkout (4) inquire about a job (5) hide behind the refrigerated cabinet to avoid his mother/parole officer/ex-boss or chatty neighbour.

See, I can’t help it!

Gretchen Bernet-Ward


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“All I Need To Write” by Grant Snider – A room with a view, No other work to do, A child-proof lock, A ticking clock, Natural light, A chair that fits just right, New paper and pens, Some animal friends, The right phase of the moon, Ambient tunes, A world of my creation, Or internal motivation – http://www.incidentalcomics.com/


GENUINE RESPONSES FROM 31 WRITERS WHEN ASKED THE QUESTION

“WHY DO YOU WRITE?”

A form of self-expression, the joy of crafting something meaningful.

I write because I can’t imagine my life without writing in it.

I started writing because I wanted to explore my creative side.

Because I can’t dance.

Mostly it’s because I have loads of inspiration and story ideas and I need to write them to get them out of my head!

It sets my soul free and my heart on fire….storytelling is an inextricable part of who I am.

I write because I want to.

I write because ideas, images and words come to me and they seem important to share.

I can’t help it, stories bubble and whirl around in my head all the time.

So I can draw the pictures, to be honest I find writing really tedious – I just want to illustrate.

I do not know why. It just is. And sometimes or often, it isn’t.

Because I like making people laugh and feel other feelings.

I’ve always imagined myself writing one day, but now that I’m finally trying to make it actually happen I’m finding it a lot harder than I expected.

If it’s any help, writing for me is mostly agony.

Starting is great fun…I love cracking the problems.

Because I know how it feels to not create.

Writing is, for me, a personal freedom.

Because I like making things.

Because I think in words, the title of my blog is Thoughts Become Words.

For me it is almost a subconscious act that I’m completely driven to do.

Because I have to, it’s not a want or a need, it’s an in-the-bones thing.

Writing is always there with me, sometimes we’re best of friends, often we’re not.

Cos I have to! I do my best to avoid it, I really do.

Can’t help it.

To put something wonderful out into the world.

It does get easier especially when you get a download in your head.

I think it’s a wonderful form of escapism.

It’s part of me.

At the moment I’d say that writing is a kind of masochism for me.

I love writing and hate it in equal measure.

Because it’s fun and because I find it impossible not to.


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EAGER FOR MORE LITERARY INSIGHTS?
Frank McKinley, author and writing coach, also raised the question—-
https://www.frankmckinleyauthor.com/54-writers-love-writing/

Blogging Pleasure and Pain

I’m reading blog posts which say ‘Posting has become a chore’ or ‘It’s hard to post regularly’ or ‘Feeling the pressure to post’—-stop right there!

Take a break, the earth, the sky and the stars will still be there, the world will still turn.

Conversely there are serious blog posts coercing, er, cajoling the writer into a formula.  Or worse, a winning formula to be the best blogger in the blogosphere.

There’s even a blog ideas generator, how unoriginal can you get!

YOUR WORDS, YOUR WORLD, CREATE YOUR WAY!

Does a technique overcome bloggers block?  Better blogging supposedly comes with strategies, structure, schedules, regularity, planning…bah, humbug I say!  There’s probably enough pressure in your world without adding more via your blog.  If anything, blogging should be

a freedom,

a release from the daily grind,

your little patch of calmness,

a zone of personal creativity,

a focus on what you want,

how you want to say it,

and most of all, don’t worry,

let your originality take over.

The old hippie saying ‘go with the flow’ is appropriate when doing morning pages and you may like writing in the morning or writing in the evening.  Don’t push yourself to write to someone else’s rule, someone else’s timetable.  Free-writing is better than no writing.  You can actually write anywhere, anytime, and I don’t mean social media.

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Self-control up to a point.
Yeah, I know people who have to have a hammer hanging over their heads on a piece of string.  If they stand up, the hammer hits them on the head, they sit back down and do another 500 words of pain.  One famous writer actually tied his body to the chair to write.
Then there’s that annual trial by acronym.
Which does not spell  g-o-o-d  w-o-r-k  to me.

Do you really want a target audience?  Do you personally know anyone who is making a decent living from blogging?  They’re the ones in the pressure cooker.  If you are not commercially selling, I say ‘Do your own thing!’ and that’s exciting.

I speak from experience.  You will find your own rhythm if you truly want to write.  And nobody, least of all me, will help you or hinder you.  You’re on your own, kid.

YOUR WORDS, YOUR WORLD, CREATE YOUR WAY!

‘Work hard to create great content’ if it’s too hard it won’t work.

‘Blog often while controlling quality’we all know quality varies.

‘Find your competition and observe them’nothing worse than a lurker.

‘Write to please your readers’first ask yourself ‘Am I pleased with it?’

‘Improve your blog writing formula’your creativity is not a prescription.

‘What is your target market searching for?’don’t pander to the people.

‘What type of content do readers prefer?’write your content and let them Follow.

‘Start internal link building’in other words Liking but not liking.

‘You need to know the right audience for you’ other bloggers will work that out.

‘Make your blog post titles catchy’why get hung up on headings.

‘Don’t have time to write then reblog or hire a ghost-writer’ha ha ha ha ha.

‘Images are important to highlight your post’keep them relevant, naturally.

Good eye-appeal in formats and layouts’beauty is in the eye of the blogger.

‘Learn basic SEO’because it’s basic but not life threatening.

‘Reply to Comments daily’meaning a proper reply or else deactivate Comments.

‘Bill Gates once said Content Is King’well, hey, that’s a given.

‘Keep wordcount down’there are people who can still read lots of words.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

YOUR WORDS, YOUR WORLD, CREATE YOUR WAY!

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A refreshing nap or agony for hours…

Writers and Their Imaginations

(c) Walker Art Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Walker Art Gallery; The Public Catalogue Foundation

“For a consciousness to be capable of imagining…it needs to be free.”
Jean-Paul Sartre, ‘The Imaginary’.

 

“In a work of fiction, everything is invented, even the things that are not, because once a true event is brought into the realm of the imaginary, it becomes imaginary.”
Paul Auster, American writer.

 

“Things need not have happened to be true.  Tales and adventures are the shadow truths that will endure when mere facts are dust and ashes and forgotten.”
― Neil Gaiman, ‘The Sandman #19’.

 

“Creativity is the brain’s invisible muscle that, when used and exercised routinely, becomes better and stronger.”
Ashley Ormon, writer and poet.

 

“Living alone, with no one to consult or talk to, one might easily become melodramatic, and imagine things which had no foundation on fact.”
Agatha Christie, ‘Murder Is Easy’.

 

“It is only through fiction and the dimension of the imaginary that we can learn something real about individual experience.  Any other approach is bound to be general and abstract.”
Nicola Chiaromonte, Italian author.

 

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Writing Passion Quotation

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

The Year of Living Duckishly

Did you know that?  In the spirit of The Duck Pond, here’s a heads up from author Jen Storer of Girl & Duck.

Exciting times!  Jen’s SCRIBBLES CREATIVE GROUP (writing and illustration) is having a FLASH SALE on 30th September 2018.  Join now!

Yay! That’s 30% off their signature online course – 30% off on the 30th.  Ink it in, okay?

 Then the SCRIBBLES CREATIVE WRITING AWARDS open on 1st October 2018.

Have you got an awesome picture book manuscript or a junior fiction story you think might fly in the competition?  Middle grade?  An exciting storyboard?  There are FOUR categories and I bet you’ve got something creative worth entering!

To read all about the inaugural SCRIBBLES CREATIVE AWARDS plus prizes and how you can win a manuscript assessment and one-hour Skype coaching call with published author Jen Storer of Girl & Duck CLICK HERE.

Clarrie's Pig Day OutJen, creator of Truly Tan series and other children’s books, says “I hope this post flips your lid.  But only in a good way!”

#keepscribbling  #stayinspired
To keep up with all the news (and all the pretty pictures) follow Jen on Instagram.

Visit the website Girl & Duck and ask to join Jen, Zoe, Dulcie, Geek Duck (and me, and the other Duckies from around the world, talking children’s literature and stuff) in The Duck Pond, the most unique and supportive online kidlit group around – then join SCRIBBLES for even more fun!  I will definitely be entering the Awards competition!

All the links you’ll ever need to write and illustrate brilliant kids books:

https://girlandduck.com/
https://girlandduck.com/online-courses/scribbles/
https://girlandduck.com/scribbles-creative-writing-awards/
https://girlandduck.com/online-courses/the-girl-duck-institute/

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

‘The Incredible Book Eating Boy’ by Oliver Jeffers

My picture book review
My bonus picture book lesson
My link to Just Awesome Picture Books


THE REVIEW:

Book Sliced Up on Plate with KnifeHenry is a boy who likes eating books.  He absorbs knowledge as he happily munches his way to becoming the smartest boy on earth.  Everything goes well until there’s an internal rebellion.  Share Henry’s journey as he discovers something better than eating books.

Award-winning Oliver Jeffers’ concept is clever and I found his plot madly appealing.  The illustrations are unique and show creative grunge like an old diary or well-used notebook.  For me, although the story has the potential to be scary, it is handled in an adventurous way with Henry supported by believable characters which adds intertextuality to an otherwise imprudent tale.

I think The Incredible Book Eating Boy is best suited for small group readings or child-and-parent because there’s a lot happening and the visual literacy may need some explanation for younger children.

All in all, a praiseworthy picture book with a good message for 4 – 8 years range to which I give a 5-Star rating.  GBW.


The Incredible Book Eating Boy 01
I discovered this book on Just Awesome Picture Books! Check the website https://justawesomepicturebooks.com/

THE LESSON:

In my opinion, less is more!  Wordy picture books tire the reader and the listener.  The illustrations should highlight the uncluttered wording.  The words push the narrative forward and the child uses their imagination from the visual cues.

It’s a common fallacy that picture books are easy to write.  This is far from the truth because the very minimalist nature of picture books means that every single word has to be perfectly rendered.  Learn more about writing for children from author Jen Storer of Girl & Duck.

As a general guide, here are some basics:

A children’s picture book is 32-pages but 8 pages are used for endpapers and book information.  The story is over 24 pages or 12 spreads of text and illustrations which span two opened pages at a time.  These pages can be half-page spreads, single-page spreads, double-page spreads or vignettes.  A number of vignettes are used in The Incredible Book Eating Boy.

There is symmetrical, complementary and contradictory illustration approaches and I think The Incredible Book Eating Boy is approached in a complementary manner.  Oliver Jeffers plays around with the location of text to good effect.

Board books, pop-ups and novelty may have no words, just illustrations.
Young picture books are aimed at 2 to 5-year-olds with 200 to 400 wordcount.
Trade (general readership) picture books are suitable for 3 to 8-year-old children with 500 to 600 wordcount.
Picture story books for older children 6 to 10-year-olds with 1000 to 3000 words are often non-fiction.
Chapter book fiction over 3500 words are suitable for competent readers, with a sliding age range due to small sketches and quirky touches often added between the pages to enhance the reading experience.
YA (young adult) are the more tailored books suitable for older teenagers.

Something different.  A theatre performance video of the book at The Joan, Penrith’s premier performing arts centre The Incredible Book Eating Boy production.  The cast use song, movement and puppetry to bring Oliver Jeffers’ much loved story to life on stage.

Enjoy eating, er, reading this picture book with that special little someone.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Recipe for Successful Blogging: The Beginners Guide

This guide to successful blogging certainly offers sound advice–

Renee Irving Lee

Blogging has been dubbed the gamechanger of content marketing, and it’s no wonder when you look at statistics like this:

  • Websites that have a blog, get 434% more indexed pages.
  • 61% of consumers have made a purchase based on a blog.
  • 70% of consumers learn about a company through blogs rather than paid ads.
  • Companies that blog have 97% more inbound links.

(Source: TechClient)

I recently had the pleasure of presenting a ‘Blogging for Beginners’ workshop at the PowerHouse Collective, in Noosa to a room full of businesswomen wanting to know the recipe for successful blogging.  For those that couldn’t make it to the workshop, here is the basic rundown of what we covered:

The recipe of a successful blog = MEANINGFUL CONTENT + READABILITY

Successful Blog =

MEANINGFUL CONTENT

The first key ingredient to successful business blogging is that you need to produce meaningful content that will add value to the newsfeed…

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An Unreliable Narrator

Reading Bookstack 08

No x-ray goggles needed because Wayne C. Booth discovered “An unreliable narrator is a narrator whose credibility has been seriously compromised” which exposes the motives and integrity of such a person.  Character issues like faulty memory, deception, deliberate omission or a cheating self-deluded spouse are revealed over time.

A variety of genres use the unreliable narrator device but it’s usually attached to drama and crime situations where the protagonist cannot be trusted.  The trick is when the writer withholds information which only certain characters can know, and vice-versa.  The reader is lead along the wrong path, not exactly kept in the dark but not being told the full (or accurate) story by the narrator.

Unreliable Narrator 02

It’s easy to get into the whole first-person debate, and I wonder if the unreliable narrator is over-done.  Sure, you don’t jump in and out of characters heads but the trend is more towards different characters with different chapters so they could all be potentially unreliable narrators.  Like Agatha Christie’s penultimate “Murder on the Orient Express” or a game of Chinese Whispers, would the outcome of the story be entirely different to reader expectation?  Would that be satisfactory?  In my experience, I would have to say “no” it’s rather a cheap way out.

Two examples spring to mind, they are Gillian Flynn’s “Gone Girl” and “The Girl on the Train” by Paula Hawkins which I didn’t enjoy.  My reason for discontent was because Rachel Watson is an unreliable narrator due to heavy drinking (a literary crutch second only to mental illness) and the other characters overlap with half-truths and lies which muddy the waters to the extent of annoyance.  And lo, I thought the resolution lacked power.

Search “unreliable narrator” and you will see many definitions e.g. Study Academy.com and examples like J D Salinger’s “Catcher in the Rye” and titles like “The Wasp Factory” by Iain Banks, “The Life of Pi” by Yann Martel, “The Three” by Sarah Lotz and “Fight Club” by Chuck Palahniuk.  My thoughts are echoed by Sarah Pinborough of The Guardian Top 10 Unreliable Narrators.

Unreliable Narrator 03

It’s similar to reading a book which is raw and experimental and you find out it is the debut novel of an Honours student who wrote it for a Master’s thesis and was lucky enough to have it published.  Kinda good, kinda not.

“The Last Time I Lied” a thriller by Riley Sager is narrated by the main character, Emma Davis, who is an unreliable narrator but readers like her even though they don’t trust her.  The tale is told in the present with flashbacks.  So, is this story hinging the plot on a memory flaw, selective truth or something else?  Naturally enough the answer can only be in the final reveal; that pause for reflection, that moment when the main character ties up loose ends.

In real life we are mostly unreliable narrators, just ask a policeman jotting down eyewitness statements, however that doesn’t always translate to an enthralling novel.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Read Books 02

I Agree with Herbert

H G Wells House Plaque
Plaque by the H. G. Wells Society at Chiltern Court, Baker Street in the City of Westminster, London, where Wells lived between 1930 and 1936.

“No compulsion in the world is stronger than the urge to edit someone else’s document” said Herbert George Wells, and I know the feels––Herbert is better recognised as H. G. Wells, an exceptional English author, satirist and biographer (21 Sept 1866 – 13 Aug 1946) who famously wrote The Invisible ManWar of the Worlds and The Time Machine.

I can understand how the fingers of Mr Wells must have itched, his brain must have misfired and his breath must have been shallow as he read a paragraph which badly needed editing.  Indeed, I often wonder how some books (or e-books) get into print when it is glaringly obvious they need a bit of trimming and correction.

Just recently I read an e-book with blurb announcing an award, author kudos and high sales.  Undeserved as far as I’m concerned.  Why?  The author had no idea of descriptive body language.  The best he could do was “He frowned”, “She frowned”, and for variety “He scowled”, “She scowled” until I deleted the book at “She wrinkled her brow”.

How did this get loose and launched on the general reading public?  I’m sure Rule 101 is “If in doubt, substitute ‘said’ and let the dialogue do the work”.  Don’t repeat yourself.  Unpublished as I am, I guess the writer can sneer and say “Well, I got the pay cheque and you didn’t” but I can retort with “Have some integrity.”  Or go back to writing classes.

It’s easy to think “Not all publishing houses are that blind” but, oh, many are.  If you haven’t read a book with an error, you haven’t read enough books.  Pathetically, hardly a week goes by without my subconscious editing a typo or tidying a sentence.  I will never know how efficient I am, whether I am always right, but, man, it makes me feel better!

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

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