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


I Only Need This To Write 01
“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.


Pen Paper Clipart Boy Holding Pencil

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.

IMG_20180611_104547

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!

Typewriter 15
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

Reflections on WAM Writers’ Festival

An enlightening literary look at events on the Victorian/New South Wales border; interesting books and even more interesting authors, and a bookshop with the perfect name.

Life after Sixty-Five

Having written the first draft of my Memoir for my own need to make sense of the estrangement from one of my sons and subsequent personal upheaval, I was in the middle of a couple of years of therapy in 2016 when I attended the WAM Writers’ Festival. There was a focus on Memoir Writing and one of the published authors, Helena Pastor, had experienced this situation with her eldest son. I wanted to hear what she had to say about her book “Wild Boys: A Parent’s Story of Tough Love“, and how she found the words that were past the raw pain and confusion, which no-one would want to read. I came to realise at that time, I was still too immersed in my own recovery.

It was the previous year when Jessie Cole was featured in an interview by Jason Steger, formerly of the ABC’s long-running…

View original post 649 more words

‘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…

View original post 453 more words

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

Proofreading Copy Editing Banner
Proof-reading is the first step, make it count…

Exquisite Corpse Parlour Game

Scribbles Masterclass Melbourne May 2018 05
Test your memory and see if you can name any poets from the lines I picked randomly during a timed exercise. “Like gold to airy thinness beat” is from Valediction, Forbidding Mourning by John Donne (1573–1631)

This game can be adapted for writers, artists, poets and movie fans!

 

  • There are two versions.  The version attributed to the Surrealist Movement is when the weirdest possible head, torso, legs of the Exquisite Corpse are drawn by three different players, each folding over the paper so the next person can’t see the results until it is unfolded at the end of the game.

 

  • “Consequences” is the original name of this literary pen and paper parlour game which has been played since the 1800s Victorian Era.  A random sentence is written near the top of the page.  The paper is folded over then passed to several other participants who add to it and fold until it reaches the last person, or the bottom of the page.  The paper is unfolded and the whole “story” is revealed––often with hilarious results.

 

  • Alternatively, photocopied lines from classic poems can be cut into strips and jumbled into a bowl.  Each player blindly chooses nine strips but uses only seven to form a poem.  The mind takes over, sorting and assembling into a reasonably cohesive format.  The verse pictured above is what I put together in a recent Masterclass during a timed exercise.  My Exquisite Corpse earned the comment “feels Gothic and dark”.

 

  • To quote Academy of American Poets: “The only hard and fast rule of Exquisite Corpse is that each participant is unaware of what the others have written, thus producing a surprising—sometimes absurd—yet often beautiful poem. Exquisite Corpse is a great way to collaborate with other poets, and to free oneself from imaginative constraints or habits.”

 

  • Minor changes have been added to Exquisite Corpse over time, from using a single word to including famous lines from books and movies.  For example, you can jot down your favourite movie quote, fold over the paper then pass it on.  See what you can pitch with Arnold Schwarzenegger or Hugh Jackman.  In book mode, an amalgamation of Germaine Greer and Nora Roberts could prove interesting.

 

  • This formula for fun was kindly supplied by WordPress blogger Life After Sixty-Five who wrote––“Here is my favourite version of Exquisite Corpse, though I have played the version where a human body is drawn”––

    He (male name, fold) – someone we all knew, or someone famous
    met She (female name, fold) – could be someone famous, or someone playing the game etc.
    at (place, fold)
    He wore (description of clothes, fold)
    She wore (description of clothes, fold)
    He asked, (question, fold)
    She replied, (answers question, fold)
    And along came (person, fold)
    And so they decided to (decision, fold)
    And in the end…(finish, fold)
    “…the gales of laughter at the silly stories…”


Language Is A Virus
website has the history of Exquisite Corpse and suggested books on the subject.  They started a poem which has been running since 2000 and you can add to the silliness.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Exquisite Corpse Quill and Inkpot

 

Giant Wallabies

Wallaby 01

My short story mentions a rural event known as a show.
Alternate names can be exhibition, county fair or agfest.

Looks of disbelief washed across the children’s faces.  Robbo’s face shone with a self-satisfied smile.  Next to his work boots lay Dugger, his Labrador dog, who raised an eyelid then went back to sleep.
A snort came from school teacher, Miss Evelyn, and all eyes turned to her as she gathered up her patchwork squares.
“What a lot of nonsense,” she said as she stuffed sewing material into her carrybag.  “Brookfield Show eve and you’re going to fill their heads with fantasy.”
One of the younger children put his hand up.
“Did it really happened, Robbo?”
Robbo said “Yes” at the same time Evelyn snapped “No” and the young boy retracted his hand in disappointment.
“Can you prove it?” asked Angela, an older girl with jet black hair and thoughtful eyes.  She was one of many third generation Brookfield students whom Miss Evelyn had known from babyhood.
“Hmm,” Robbo said thoughtfully.  If he had a beard, he would have stroked it in contemplation.  “I reckon I can try.”
Robbo was a well-known local figure, a carpenter by trade who could turn his hand to any odd job around the residences in the area.  He and Dugger were a volunteer Story Dog team at the local school.
Today they had veered off topic and instead of the slow readers reading, Robbo had tantalised them with an opening salvo to his tale.
“Start from the beginning,” Miss Evelyn sniffed “so we can get into the right mood.”
The children chuckled nervously and settled themselves back on the kindergarten cushions.  Some of the older boys had objected to being in the kindy room but the seating arrangements were more comfortable than their classroom, currently overflowing with paintings and craft waiting transfer to the Show pavilions.
Miss Evelyn settled herself down again like a kookaburra shuffling her feathers.  A couple of the young ones inched closer to her, hoping for motherly support should the need arise.
“Okay,” Robbo rubbed his hands together.  “Here goes!”  He leaned forward and rested his elbows on his knees.  A security thumb or two was popped in, soft toys were hugged and someone let off a smell.
“It wasn’t a dark and stormy night, in fact, it wasn’t dark but there was a rain cloud,” began Robbo, lowering his voice, “and two small brown wallabies grazing in a paddock near the Showgrounds.”  His eyes roved the attentive audience.  “A large crow was sitting high in a nearby gumtree when––”  Robbo clapped his hands and everyone jumped.  “A bolt of lightning struck the gumtree and the crow flew away.  The lightning had ignited the tree and fire was crackling fiercely through it branches before someone in the general store rang the fire brigade.”
Everyone wriggled then settled again, eyes just that bit wider.  “The flames had reached the ground and were burning towards the Brookfield Showgrounds at a furious pace.”  Robbo looked around.  “Where are those two wallabies?”
A hand shot up and the timid voice of Frederick of the smells said “They ran away to safety.”
Robbo shook his head.  “No, they were still there.  And you know what?”  He raised his calloused hands high in the air above his head.  “They had turned into giant wallabies.”  Then, for extra emphasis, he stood up and reached for the ceiling.  His fingers almost dislodged a butterfly mobile but it added to the atmosphere as they fluttered wildly around his uncombed hair.
“These were energised wallabies, they had super powers and were big enough to roll the Ferris wheel away.”
The group froze; Frederick crouched ready to run.
An older boy scoffed “Yeah, but what can they do about the fire?”
Nodding heads inspired him to add “Maybe the crow flew to get help?”
Robbo pulled a face and told them the crow was another story.  Sitting down, he attempted a sage storyteller voice.
“They bounded over a fence to Moggill Creek and began drinking lots and lots of water.  It tasted a bit like dirt and leaves and stuff but they guzzled until they were full.  It was difficult for them to walk so they sort of rolled back towards the outer fence.  It flattened and they put themselves right in the path of the oncoming blaze.  With puffed cheeks and one big blast like a wall of creek water, they hosed over the flames until they went out.”  He cleared his throat.  “Of course, the smoke made them cough and they had to wipe their eyes but all in all they didn’t even get their fur singed.”
“What happened next,” shouted two girls in unison, grabbing each other’s hands.  “Did they get a medal?  Or a free pass to the Show?”
Miss Evelyn pursed her lips and shushed them.
Robbo’s expression sobered.  “Not that simple, I’m afraid.”
Dugger shifted position on the floor and put his bony jaw on his paws, the seams of his orange vest creaking beneath him.
“The two giant wallabies heard a sound,” continued Robbo, “and turned to see that stray sparks had ignited inside the main Showground and were crackling and spitting across the dry leaves, past the arena, towards the agricultural buildings and meeting hall.  Oh no, historical buildings.”
Nobody saw Miss Evelyn trying to swallow a laugh and regain her composure.
“Surely the local fire brigade would have arrived by now?” she said.
“Their siren could be heard in the distance,” said Robbo, “and the general store had put up makeshift road blocks to stop traffic.  The store owner was hosing down the store and the giant wallabies knew if they were seen by him, their cover would be blown.  After one mighty spurt of water, they shrunk and hopped off into the distance, far away, up towards Mount Elphinstone.  There is a cave high on Mount Elphinstone where, legend has it, two wallabies sit and keep watch over the dry land.”
Robbo surveyed his listeners.  “The paint had been blistered off some buildings, and a palm tree was sooty but it survived and a quick paint job fixed the rest.”
“Phew, that’s a relief,” said one of Angela’s younger siblings and everyone laughed.  Apparently they shared similar thoughts – the cake pavilion housing their entries sitting under cling wrap on paper plates.
“And sideshow alley,” thought Miss Evelyn.
“However,” Robbo spoke at full volume, causing several children to squeak, “whenever there is lightening in Brookfield, or a barbecue out of control, you are wise to stay away from the flames because the giant wallabies will activate.”
“But,” said Frederick gravely, “they are our friends and they would protect us.”
“True, true.”  Robbo was momentarily fazed.  Even asleep, Dugger thumped his tail in encouragement.  Robbo rallied “Just don’t get in the way of giant wallabies at work.  Like flood waters, giant wallabies could unleash a wave of water which would wash you off your feet and into Moggill Creek.”
Miss Evelyn puckered her brow.  “Robbo, please.  No more scary stories.”
Robbo avoided her gaze, patting Dugger and adjusting his leather collar.
“Show’s over, kids.”
Determinedly, single-minded Angela spoke up.  “You said you had proof.”
Judging by the looks Miss Evelyn saw on the younger faces, caps nervously twisted between little fingers, they did not want proof.
“Sure,” replied Robbo with an airy wave of his hand. “If you go into the pony club grounds near the Brookfield Cemetery, you’ll spy a bleached eucalyptus tree trunk.  That’s the one which got struck by lightning.”
“Also,” piped a helpful voice from the sidelines, “I’ve seen wallabies.”
The collective chatter was enough to wake Dugger.  He got to his paws, shook his furry head and looked around.  He let out a sharp bark and ran to the open door.  With a slight pause to sniff the air, he bounded out of the room.
The space Dugger left seemed suspended, a motionless void.
“Wallabies,” whispered Frederick.
The electronic school bell sounded, breaking the spell.
“Lunch time, children.”  Miss Evelyn rose and smoothed her tartan skirt.  “After lunch we have choir rehearsal for the opening ceremony.”
As the children helped stack cushions in the corner, Miss Evelyn turned to Robbo.
“Was Dugger motivated by the aroma of tuckshop pies or something bigger?”
Robbo shrugged.  “That dog has a great sense of theatre.”
She wagged her finger.  “Giant wallabies or not, the Show must go on.”

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Wallabies Ferris Wheel

AUTHOR NOTE:  This short story is dedicated with love and respect to Kookaburra Kat of KR, a long-time friend who supports and encourages my literary endeavours and is a passionate wildlife warrior, nurturing and caring for all creatures.  GBW.

 

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

Monica McInerney’s Writing Regimen

Monica McInerney Bookcover 02

An interview extract on the writing regimen of Monica McInerney, best-selling Australian-born, Dublin-based author of twelve novels, Monica was voted into the top ten of Booktopia’s “Australia’s Favourite Novelist” poll 2014, 2016 and 2018.

The following quote is from Books+Publishing Q&A and Monica mentions two of her earlier novels which I can highly recommend:


Q:  Could you describe your approach to writing and your working regimen?

A:  “I spend about six months plotting in my head before I sit at the computer and start writing.  There’s usually an overlap between my books.  I had the idea for ‘At Home with the Templetons’ about three months before I finished ‘Those Faraday Girls’.  Similarly, I had the idea for what will be my next book halfway through writing the ‘Templetons’.

I aim for 2,000 words a day minimum in the early stages of writing, getting very attached to the word-count button.  A day always comes when the word count is irrelevant, when all I want to do is be at the desk writing.

The final six months are usually seven days a week.  I edit as I write, and also show the manuscript to two people in the early stages, my husband, who is a journalist, and my younger sister, who is an editor.  I completely trust their feedback, and their encouragement keeps me on track until the manuscript is as polished as I can make it before sending it to my publishers.  I also love deadlines.  They terrify me into finishing.”


Monica McInerney Author

Author http://www.monicamcinerney.com/
Interview Books+Publishing https://www.booksandpublishing.com.au/
Booktopia https://www.booktopia.com.au/

 


Synopsis of Monica McInerney’s latest novel ‘The Trip of a Lifetime’

“I always thought memories were unchangeable. Set in stone, shaped by the years. But there are always others too, ones you haven’t let yourself remember ...”
The wilful and eccentric Lola Quinlan is off on the trip of a lifetime, taking her beloved granddaughter and great-granddaughter with her.  More than sixty years after emigrating to Australia, she’s keeping a secret promise to return to her Irish homeland.  But as she embarks on her journey, the flamboyant Lola is still hiding the hurtful reasons she left Ireland in the first place. What – and who – will be waiting for her on the other side of the world?
Books by Monica McInerney:
  •    The Trip of a Lifetime
  •    Hello from the Gillespies
  •    The House of Memories
  •    Lola’s Secret
  •    At Home with the Templetons
  •    All Together Now
  •    Those Faraday Girls
  •    Family Baggage
  •    Alphabet Sisters
  •    Spin the Bottle
  •    Upside Down Inside Out
  •    A Taste For It

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

My Elusive Career as an Aspiring Writer

Attention span of a puppy? Pushed for time? “Publishing is a long game. As they say, you have to be a stayer if you want to be a player. Even if your book is only 500 words!” said Jen Storer, children’s author and chief inspirationalist at Girl & Duck.com when discussing the pitted path to publishing.  I intended writing a three-part posting on my literary travails but here they are in one glorious chunk.

Kids Storytime 02
PROLOGUE After reading countless children’s picture books for Storytime in a public library, it became obvious to me what worked and what didn’t with a live audience. I thought it was about time I tried to write my own children’s book.

WARNING – THIS IS A LONG BLOG POST WHICH RAMBLES OVER EIGHTEEN MONTHS OF MY WRITING LIFE – CAFFEINATED BEVERAGE RECOMMENDED.

 

CHAPTER ONE The Plan. Work up slowly with a picture book maximum of 500 words for age 0-5, step into small chapter books for age 6-8 with 20,000 words, graduate to a decent sized book of 25,000 for teenagers then launch myself into young adult. Well, perhaps not young adult, could get a bit messy in the emotions department. Hopefully, maybe, I could consider penning a series. Something humorous and fun, with a good plot and memorable characters. An attention-grabbing theme, a zany bookcover and before you can say Harry Potter, I’m flying high, riding the wave of published author!

Er, right.  The truth of the matter is that I knew full well I had no experience.  Career shattered before it began?IMG_20170531_184235

In steps the many writer’s workshops and online courses available to the newbie.  Or as they say in the trade “emerging author”.  Plus a local writer’s club, State writers centre, Facebook groups and a conference or two.  (List of website links at end of page). Not forgetting the self-help books – anyone who’s ever written a book and had it published with moderate success seems to qualify as an adviser on the subject of literary rules. The do’s and don’ts, the routines, the voice, the need for originality, the best way to grab an editor’s attention, grammar, plot structure, plotter or pantser, show don’t tell, how to sell yourself, and the list goes on.

CHAPTER TWO First up, I enrolled in an expensive online course which certainly got me motivated but not by the moderator or the tutor. The other participants were withdrawn and really didn’t share. And the course notes were a little outdated. Yes, I know “Where The Wild Things Are” is a classic but hundreds of good, if not better, books have been published since then, with far more appeal. And I don’t really like the artwork.

Ah, artwork. You can write the words for a picture book but you can’t have it illustrated by an artist of your choosing. The publisher does that. And we all know we have different ideas when it comes to imagination and imagery. If you write and illustrate your own picture book, it has to be of exceptional standard. I can do pen and pencil drawings but they wouldn’t cut it. I’m much better with basic colour-in stuff. Which doesn’t sell.

Click link Saving

Tree Without Leaves 09

Grandpa’s Tree

Then came the face-to-face classroom workshops which were fun. Lots of buzzing people with buzzing ideas and questions. Isn’t it surprising that when it comes to reading out your own work, people clam up? Not me. I always read out my stuff and one story was later fleshed out into a decent read “Saving Grandpa’s Tree”. However, it hasn’t attracted anyone’s attention yet.

CHAPTER THREE The big thing among creatives is to attend a yearly conference or festival in another State, necessitating a weekend away. I think a conference is meant to be more serious than a festival with serious lectures, serious note-taking and serious editor appraisals.  I have a small green notebook riddled with notes. A festival has all manner of literary people chatting on stage, with microphone feedback, showing wonky PowerPoint slides, supplemented with drinks and nibbles and a lot of networking.

Daily Things Egg Bookmarks Kookaburra (3)
Just like anywhere else, unless you are seen as someone who has “made it” you are not worthy of a business card exchange. And bookmarks, phew, I could wallpaper my room with all the industry bookmarks floating around.

 

IMG_20171228_193003

At these displays of verbose literary knowledge (excluding The Duck Pond – see below) I always wear my name badge. Nobody remembers my name and I don’t remember theirs but we compare notes, likes and dislikes and complain about the way the event is organised and the length of the queues. Usually the food tastes as good as it looks.  Of course, the better the quality, the quicker the goodies are consumed. Never cram your mouth because someone will ask you a question, and never spill anything down your front because you will be asked to step up the front to speak.

I’m going to pen a small piece on the Judith Rossell weekend writers retreat I attended at historic Abbotsford Convent in Melbourne, Victoria.  Amazing vibe!  We don’t have many older buildings in Brisbane with such history.  I have organised, promoted and hosted author talks and, believe me, not all are created equal.  Will save that story for another time.

CHAPTER FOUR For well over a year, I submitted children’s picture book manuscripts to a myriad of publishers in Australia and overseas and have received only two rejections. I think the silence is worse than those two polite rejection letters. Surely, in this day and age, it wouldn’t take two seconds for the office junior to email a rejection to the poor, desperate writer at the other end.

RequiremeManuscripts.nts Of Submission occasionally want physical copies and I’ve gone the old A4 paper route, Times New Roman (no glitter in the envelope, big no-no) with clean easy-to-read layout and still not heard a word. Does that mean I’m no good or the publishing houses are totally swamped? Harking back to that office junior, who didn’t send me an email, I could get bitter. They are the first readers of unsolicited manuscripts which forces me to cry “What do they know? My literary reading is decades ahead of theirs.” Sadly, they know the trends. A new writer cannot predict trends. Nor can they single-handedly make them.

The scariest thing I’ve done (apart from hosting an avant-garde Shakespeare theatre troupe and judging a YA writing competition) was Literary Speed Dating; five minutes of torture in which you have to sell yourself and your manuscript.  A bell rings and, if you haven’t collapsed, you go to the next editor’s table.  And the next...and the next...A woman in my queue was eight months pregnant and the summer heat was ferocious but she coped better than all of us.  A book contract?  I hope the others were successful.  At least that woman has a baby now.

CHAPTER FIVE After becoming thoroughly disenchanted with the children’s book industry, I started up my own WordPress blog and thought “I’ll just do what I like and if anyone notices, that’s okay” but I didn’t hold my breath. Prepare to be amazed – 409 million people view more than 20.8 billion pages each month on WordPress, and users produce about 77.0 million new posts and 42.7 million new comments each month, an estimation of six new WordPress.com posts every second. Those stats have probably changed while I type, but it’s still a shedload of competition. It takes a lot to shine. Who’s going to read me and my miscellaneous Blogging Image 04ramblings? To date, I have 215 followers to whom I am very grateful.

I’ve discovered that personal stuff gets the most hits but specialising is not my thing.  Although I blog about many things, I still like the idea of kidlit. Notice that term? I’m getting good with the industry terms. Copy edit, structural edit, narrative arc, protagonist, antagonist … I subscribe to the newsletters of publishers, book stores, State organisations, libraries, writing groups, children’s literary charities and other book-reading bloggers like Paula Bardell-Hedley (see below). So far, I’ve come across a lot of WordPress book reviewers and enjoy their commentary. Personal opinion is a great thing, just not something I always agree with when it comes to books. Honesty compels me to admit that my leisure reading is not nursery rhymes, it’s a good crime novel.

CHAPTER SIX In between life, I volunteer at special events and displays at State Library and offer my free time closer to home in a charity shop bookroom. What an eye opener! Certainly a book for every customer, young or old; and quite a mixture of clientele. The shelves are browsed with all the fervent devotion of a high-end bookstore in the city. Without the price tag. And a few bent bookcovers and rusty pages thrown in. Behind the scenes, the staff are just as interesting. Again, will save that story for another time.

“But what of your picture book career?” Glad you asked. Confession time. Deep down my literary urge begins to lean towards writing for adults BUT I join Creative Kids Tales, an online group for emerging authors which specialises in children’s literature.  By this time I was doubtful that this was my true calling (after all, one can only take so many unsent rejection letters) and was oscillating between adult works and the perfect kids book.  I hung in there.

Truly Tan BooksEach month CKT features a different aspiring writer with a successfully published author. One author captured my imagination, Jen Storer of Girl & Duck.com An Enid Blyton lover, Jen shows an intelligent, vibrant nature, an honest, straight forward approach to writing and I like her children’s books, especially Truly Tan series.  Jen was starting a Facebook group The Duck Pond, inviting kidlit creatives to join, and the rest is magic.

CHAPTER SEVEN I’m pretty much a founding member of The Duck Pond and recently their creatives group Scribbles was added which I also joined. Membership grows weekly, and Jen does weekly Q&Q (questions and quacks) videos on YouTube. Apart from sudden Facebook drop-ins on screen, Jen does one-hour Scribbles Live Rounds and members tune in from around the world. Kidlit help is always at hand and the expertise of members is far-reaching.  The slogan “The rule is there are no rules” is true to its word. Jen says “Do the verk”.  Immersion is the only way and I’ve learned so much about writing books and the book industry generally.

Scribbles Live Round Participant 2018

An author/illustrator, Jen Storer believes is having fun and being messy, “Mess creates clarity”. The Scribblers course is for writers and illustrators and it encourages everyone to work without restrictions.  Quell that inner critic!  There are set Modules with exercises which you do at your own pace but following the easy guidelines so that your words just flow. I’ve experienced writing freely and unfettered and being surprised and pleased with the results. Honestly, with Jen’s prompts, I’ve had so many ideas I could be writing for years. Of course, submitting a manuscript isn’t messy, it has to be refined and polished. Jen is ex-publishing house so she know those ropes.

Now, the cruncher. I adore The Duck Pond group camaraderie and "doing the verk" but I am not a fan of the circus called Facebook. Nor do I participate in other social media like Twitter, Google, Instagram, etc. “Click this, view that, Like page” get lost. In a short space of time I have witnessed two great bloggers over-extend themselves to the detriment of their output.  I like to think I am not spreading myself too thinly!

CHAPTER EIGHT I’m loving my WordPress blog, the layout, the posts, changing photos, the full control I have over my content. Which reminds me, in the past I have submitted reviews and editorials to organisations who have edited or altered my work without my prior consent, which is apparently their prerogative, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. I don’t – especially when they muck up a sentence to make it shorter or change paragraphing. So, dear reader, this leaves me in literary limbo.

Star Twinkle Twinkle 01CONGRATULATIONS – IF YOU REACHED THIS POINT WITHOUT SKIPPING BITS.

What is next in my literary journey? Will I shine? Over 18 months, and varying lengths of commitment, I have happily entered writing competitions (3rd place once) and completed a magazine writers course, travel writing course, children’s writing, crime writing, romance writers workshop, non-fiction-fest, lampooned the Australian publishing industry, and still don’t know what genre I want to pursue. I know it’s too late to become a ‘proper’ writer, contrary to what dear Jen Storer says in her passionate YouTube video A Slap Down For An Ageist Society I think I have missed the boat. I am passed my publishable prime. It’s no good lamenting the fact that I represent Gustav Freytag’s five-part story structure. I had a younger life to live and it didn’t include lonely, lengthy periods sitting at a keyboard. It does now.

EPILOGUE Sure, I can happily write to my heart’s content but who’s interested? Don’t answer that, please. Suffice to say I will dabble, making my miscellaneous Thoughts Become Words for my own pleasure because I can’t stop writing. Basically, that’s what it all boils down to, in the end we are doing it for ourselves. If someone else likes it, that’s a hefty bonus.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward


Paula Bardell-Hedley WP Book Blogger IN APPRECIATION – This post is dedicated to WordPress blogger Paula Bardell-Hedley for her great reviews, ideas, encouragement and super organisational skills
https://bookjotter.com/
https://thoughtsbecomewords.com/2018/04/02/dhq-dewithon19/
and I get a mention in Winding Up
https://bookjotter.com/2018/04/06/winding-up-the-week-13/


RELEVANT GROUPS AND ORGANISATIONS:
CKT https://www.creativekidstales.com.au/
AWC https://www.writerscentre.com.au/
QWC https://qldwriters.org.au/
BCC https://www.brisbane.qld.gov.au/facilities-recreation/libraries/opening-hours-locations/brisbane-square-library
CYA http://www.cyaconference.com/
KLV http://www.kidlitvic.com/
ILF https://www.indigenousliteracyfoundation.org.au/
SD https://www.storydogs.org.au/
FF https://www.fantasticfiction.com/
BWF http://uplit.com.au/
G&D https://girlandduck.com/
A&U https://www.allenandunwin.com/being-a-writer/getting-published/advice-from-a-publisher

Freytag’s Pyramid Challenge Part Two

Recapping on my Freytag’s Pyramid Challenge Part One to write a punchy 500 words (or less) short story using exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, denouement, with a dog and cat as the two main characters.

I did the Freytag’s Pyramid Challenge myself – because I had just at that particular moment made up the whole idea! Apologies if some smarter person has already done this.  The following short story is my effort featuring an evening in the life of an unruly family.

You can participate in Freytag’s Pyramid Challenge in your own time by posting on your own blog.  Add your wordcount and use the name ‘Freytag’ in your catchy title.  I would love to see your work, your words or illustrations.  NO prizes, no follow-up, just the satisfaction of completing an exercise.

Let’s see what drama your dog, cat and the Pyramid created – here’s mine!

“Hey Freytag, Look What I Wrote”
DANGEROUS DINNER

The house and garden were big enough for Claudia and Doug to avoid seeing each other during daylight hours.  Evening meal times were another matter.  When Mr Owner came home at nightfall with Mrs Owner and all the young Owners, tempers flared and teeth were bared.
‘Such an uncivilised family’ Claudia thought.  She was civilised enough not to hiss and spit, even when someone trod on her tail.
‘Nice manners, nice manners,’ she purred, rubbing against various legs.  Her eyes searched for unattended food and her nose twitched at the delicious aromas from cooking pots.
Creating his own maelstrom, Doug ran in excited circles around the farmhouse-style kitchen.  He drooled on the tiles and whined hopefully at the oblivious family.  Usually Baby Owner was good for a glob or two of mashed potato.
Meanwhile, Claudia prepared to take advantage of pre-meal morsels already on the pine table.
While human mayhem raged about the room, the benefits of salad fiercely debated, she crunched her dry fish-shaped pellets and prepared her muscles for some feline action.  With legs bunched, and nice manners forgotten, Claudia was ready to spring.  A quick leap onto the chair, then up and over onto the table.
Thump!  She landed in a dish of cooked pasta.
Whoa!  The dish slid across the table with Claudia clinging on top.
It was speeding towards the edge.  Too shocked to miaow, she imagined herself crashing to the floor and thought “What a waaaste.”
The edge arrived and disappeared and she was flying off the table.
Below her, Doug leapt up and clamped his huge jaws on the rim of the dish.
Of course, the dish stopped dead, but Claudia and the pasta continued to fly across the kitchen, headed straight towards the big white bulk of the refrigerator.
Someone caught Claudia in mid-flight.  She was saved!
“Eew,” said First Teenage Owner as pasta squelched between her fingers.  Second Teenage Owner laughed.  Claudia felt cheese squash against her long, luxuriant fur and shuddered.
Doug dropped the dish and began slurping up bits of mangled pasta.  “Not wasted after all,” she thought with an angry flick of her tail.
Mr Owner praised Doug for his good catch; First Teenage Owner was praised for her quick thinking; and Claudia?  Well, Claudia was chewing on a juicy piece of steak she had snaffled from Doug’s bowl when his back was turned.
Supervision was tightened, orders were given; no fighting, no talking with mouths full, pets dine separately.
Stiff-legged with indignity and cheese, Claudia felt she had received the harshest penalty – being cleaned up by dog-breath Doug and his rough pink tongue.  Slurp!
Everyone sat down to a fine dinner and calmness descended on the kitchen.  Pasta was now Claudia’s least favourite meal but Doug grinned with satisfaction.

♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2018 
Wordcount: 462

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Freytag’s Pyramid Challenge Part One

Conceivably Gustav Freytag, novelist and playwright of the 19th century, would shake his head in wonder if he watched a 21st century movie.  His Pyramid 5-part plot structure still rings true today.

The Pyramid of Gustav Freytag (1816–1895) is seen in various formats now but the basics of drama stay the same.  He based his Pyramid on Greek tragedy and Shakespearean drama and it has been copied by scholars and followed by writers ever since.


Gustav Freytag 5 part Plot Structure Pyramid

https://www.quickbase.com/articles/an-online-resource-guide-to-freytags-pyramid

 


Read a book, watch a film, or listen to someone telling a story.  Notice the pattern: an introduction, the build up, intensity peaks, a gradual resolution and the final scene.  My writing teacher demonstrated with a coathanger.  It had baubles and beads hung on it but underneath the basic structure remained firm.

I bet Herr Freytag would have a good laugh over the continued consistencies of human nature.  He wrote the novel ‘The Journalists’ (1854) which is still regarded as one of the most successful German comedies of that period.

Okay, kiddies, dust off your keyboard.  Your Freytag’s Pyramid Challenge is to write a punchy 500 words (or less) short story using exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, denouement, with a dog and cat as your two main characters.

Fighting Cat & Dog

Harder than you think?  Tip: Denouement is not the same as an epilogue.

I am going to do Freytag’s Pyramid Challenge myself – because I have just this minute made up the idea!  Apologies if some smarter person has already done this.  I will post my speculative effort under my blog heading Freytag’s Pyramid Challenge Part Two and my sub-heading ‘Hey Freytag, Look What I Wrote’.

I would love to see your work, your words or illustrations!  NO prizes, no follow-up, just the satisfaction of completing an exercise.  You can participate in Freytag’s Pyramid Challenge in your own time by posting on your own blog.  Add your wordcount and use the name ‘Freytag’ in your catchy title.

Let’s see what drama your dog, cat and the Pyramid create!

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