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 (see below) “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 (see above) 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.

 

  • The following 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 SWWQ, 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? Recently I had 385 Followers but I culled the spammers and that number dropped back drastically.

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 (two Third Place awards and shortlisted) 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
SWWQ http://womenwritersqld.org.au/

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

Goodbye to Facebook Again

Facebook Poke 02

After taking one year off to immerse myself in the art of writing, my time is up.

New Year’s resolution: I will no longer be posting regularly on Facebook because it is the most all-consuming part of my day and ultimately hollow.  Eight years ago I dropped out, as evidenced by the snapshot of this unanswered Poke.  Author Jen Storer of Girl & Duck, The Duck Pond and Scribbles creative groups can be pleased she was the one who drew me back into social media to nurture my writing dream – you light up my life – thank you.

My unFacebooking is not due in any way to the calibre and overall enjoyment of the wonderful ‘friends’ I made, I will miss virtually following your daily journeys in writing and illustration.  Conversely, we all are living two lives, the one on Facebook and the real one.

My departure is due to the links, Likes, highlights, comments, feeds, Facebook layout and general entanglements with people whom I do not know on a real level.  It may feel personal but it is not; and I need to grasp reality, my home, my family and my proper writing.

A visit from a little red hen named Took got me back out into our overgrown garden and I realised the computer screen is destroying my creativity rather than enhancing it.

My WordPress blog will continue https://thoughtsbecomewords.com/

“Year’s end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instil in us” – Hal Borland, American author.

Happy New Year 2018, everyone, and much fulfillment!

Gretchen Bernet-Ward



Postscript
: According to the 2017 Deloitte Media Consumer Survey, daily social media usage in Australia is down from 61 percent to 59 percent in 2017, and 20 percent of Australian social media users say they are no longer enjoying their time on the platforms.  Likewise, almost one third (31 percent) of survey respondents said they have temporarily or permanently deactivated one or more of their social media accounts in the past year.  Fake news is killing the media star with 58 percent of respondents agreeing that they have changed the way they access online content given the prevalence of fake news.  So, folks, I am not alone!

Proof-reading Style Errors

IMG_20171225_204232
Breaking the proof-reading rules?

The style guide reads: Below are errors in style due to inappropriate or poor choices of language which can lead to boring, imprecise and inaccurate writing. In some situations, they may be relevant and suitable, but they are usually best avoided––

  • Clichés, over-used phrases, e.g. bed of roses, pretty as a picture.
  • Vogue words and trendy expressions, e.g. proactive, meaningful dialogue.
  • Colloquialisms in formal writing.
  • Parochialism in documents intended for a wide audience.
  • Jargon in documents intended for a general audience.
  • Euphemisms, e.g. pass away, upwardly mobile.
  • Overstatements, e.g. fabulous, incredible, fantastic, amazing.
  • Archaic words, e.g. herewith, thereby, hereinafter.
  • Sexist terms, e.g. man-made, nurseryman, waitress.
  • Tautologies, e.g. totally unique, completely empty.
  • Ambiguity, e.g. maybe I would if I could.
  • Unnecessary use of foreign words and phrases.

This information was retrieved from my older Word.doc files with no acknowledgements attached.  As a touch of humour, I wrote the short profile of Aunt Belinda.  I can only suppose such formal advice is for non-fiction writers.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Australian Editors and Publishers Set Bar Too High

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

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

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

Am I Sharing With The World Or Just Getting Stuff Out Of My Head?

Please Shut The Gate Sign

Writers need to write but do readers need to read?

From early on I made the decision not to Like a post unless I had read it.  As you can guess, its hard to do.  Every day millions of posts circulate around the world on countless blogging platforms and social media sites to such an extent that most of them will NEVER be read.  At least, not fully.  I think I am pretty safe in saying that.  We are doing the modern equivalent of shutting the gate after the horse has bolted.

Which brings me to the heading of my post.  I will answer my own question.  It is preferable to get things out of your head and onto a page for personal satisfaction rather than thinking you are making a useful contribution to the world.  Plenty of specialists are making useful contributions but I guarantee they are writing to a niche audience, not the world.

Another decision (note I use the word ‘decision’ because we are given choices then have to make one decision) I made is not to seek Likes and Followers and not to maintain a prolific output to pursue a high profile.  I have not activated my Comments because the majority of blogging sites appear not to have worthwhile comments or replies and, if they do, the bulk of them are from fans bordering on sycophant behaviour.

I’m not a tortured genius nor do I have a singular agenda so I am way down the favourites listicle.  I am happy doing my own thing and don’t pine for kindly Likes.  However, I am very grateful for those Likes and Followers I do have because I feel confident they have actually read my blog posts.  You can tell by my Home page that I am not going to stick to a theme, although I do have Photo Of The Week and I’m loosely hung up on the importance of literacy.

Why did I write this post?  I will probably feel differently tomorrow but today I wanted to get it out of my head.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Feathered Fraudster or Duped Duck

Duck KSSS 02
Duck No: 4938

As I left the local gym, a rat scampered towards me waving a crumpled envelope.

“You’re Bertha East, right?” he squeaked. I started to explain I was Bertha West but he let the envelope flutter to the footpath and raced off. I scooped it up and saw on the back that it was from Duck No. 4938, a nodding acquaintance at the gym. The letter had been scribbled with a quill and Duck No. 4938 explained that she was currently behind bars at Critters Incarcerated. According to her letter, she was blameless of the charges levelled against her, while remaining tight-billed about her true intentions.

I was puzzled until next day the story became public knowledge. This had prompted her lawyer Henny McCluck to state that her client Duck No. 4938 was nowhere near The Duck Pond on the afternoon in question.

Apprehended with a plastic bag of crumbs under her wing, proceedings are currently underway to determine if Duck No. 4938 gobbled all the dry bread crusts before other ducks had a chance to exit the water. The Duck Pond is a popular picnic spot, a prominent sign warns Do Not Feed The Birds, and investigators are urging the child who dropped the bread crusts to come forward.

“My client pleads not guilty and hopes for early release,” said McCluck. She added that the Duckolympic champion held the coveted title of Paddling Fury and should be respected for her sporting prowess. I realised that this would not help her cause. In a photograph released today, Duck No. 4938 appeared rather haunted, her feathers askew. Lawyer McCluck can be seen loitering in the background.

Meanwhile, the letter I received from Duck No. 4938 hinted that she believes lawyer McCluck is pecking through what little grain savings she has left and asks for my support. I decided against sending a 2kg bag of cracked corn to the address she nominated and considered the letter to be some sort of scam.

The arrest had caused a flurry in the catering industry and representatives were standing in readiness to take stomach content samples.

By now social media tweets were going viral, ruffling large flocks of the feathered fraternity with #stuffedduck #duckdiving and #whatsitallaboutduckie.  Television news coverage focused on the issue of slim pickings for underprivileged water birds. Dramatic press headlines read “Feathered Fraudster” and “Dead in the Water” with an inflammatory byline from an angry drake.

“She snatched it right out from under my webbed feet!”

A shiver ran up my spine. The drake has engaged the services of Paulo Dingo, known in legal circles as ‘Hungry’.

Undisclosed sources close to The Duck Pond were striving to gain access to security camera videos which could prove Duck No. 4938 was not in the vicinity of the water’s edge at the time of the incident.

“Video footage won’t prove a thing,” said ‘Hungry’ Dingo in his scathing report on the inadequacy of the wildlife penal system. “Judge Cassowary wouldn’t know one duck from another,” he howled.

My after-lunch doze was unsettled by thoughts that blackmail and swamp weed may be at the root of the allegations. At the very least Duck No. 4938 may have been duped and become ensnared in a network of fowl crime. But why come to me? Why doesn’t she tell the truth?

The phone rang and I discovered that local Constable Steve Brolga was conducting enquiries. He said he would be undertaking a nest-to-nest search and interviewing anyone who may have seen or heard Duck No. 4938 acting suspiciously in the surrounding area.

“Keep your ears tuned for me, Bertha,” he said.

My ears twitched and I pondered the fact that Duck No. 4938 may have a secret hiding place. Unexpectedly I had the answer. A clutch of ducklings, safely hidden from the likes of ‘Hungry’ Dingo.

A guilty verdict would certainly hinder her parental responsibilities. She had to plan, she needed someone on the outside, someone who lived nearby and could go to the address in the letter. Someone she could trust to protect her family.

I confided my swirling thoughts to young Joey.
“I guess I can help,” I mused, “What’s 2kg of cracked corn anyway?”
He was dubious and thought it may have been a trap. “Or we might be followed.”

But the more we talked, the more I thought about food relief. “Maybe we could scrounge some stale bread rolls from the back of the supermarket?”

This proved to be a difficult task and I scrambled over enough plastic bags and wasted food to last me a lifetime. A couple of crows helped by flicking slices of bread out of a half-opened skip but maintained their image by cawing loudly every time one hit me on the head. Joey laughed until a mouldy slice hit him.

Next day I alerted Constable Brolga and planned to meet him at the location specified by Duck No. 4938. Joey and I set off mid-morning and arrived earlier than intended. I stopped at a rusty wire gate to confirm the address.

“This is it.” The only noise was the rustling of eucalyptus leaves.

Before I could stop him, Joey bounced out with the bulky package and pushed through the gate.
“Let’s blow this case wide open!”
I sighed and shoved the letter back in my pouch.

We hopped up a set of shallow steps to the wooden door of an old shed. Heat radiated from the corrugated iron cladding and we strained to hear any sound of ducklings from within. Flies buzzed around us, the smell was overpowering and Joey wrinkled his nose. I knocked forcefully, rattling the door.

There was scuffling and very slowly and carefully the door slid open. Suddenly we were engulfed in a tide of fluffy yellow pinfeathers and eagerly quacking bills. Joey moved forward as bright little eyes scanned our food parcel.

He held up his paw. “Who wants to be first in line?”

I felt comfortable with our decision. Whatever truths the trial may reveal, the innocent must not suffer.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

 

Let Your Heart Be Light

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

girl and duck

Hello!

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

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

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

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

IMG_3984 2

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

View original post 518 more words

Can Listicles Rot Your Brain?

Listicle List 04

Is a listicle clickbait, fun facts written for readers with short attention spans, or an orderly way to write information?

First of all, the word listicle is comprised of two words, list and article, and features numbered sentences.  The salient content is brief, frequently light on facts, often humorous and has an almost hypnotic quality.  There is a compulsion to read a listicle to the end but this can leave a feeling of dissatisfaction.  Yet, as time and the internet marches on, readers can’t get enough of them.  Accordingly, listicles have transcended dot points and editorial shortcuts to become the layout of choice for everyday writers and bloggers needing a quick and easy-to-read solution.

Listicle List 01

You know what to expect by the heading of a listicle, usually important nonsense, so opinions are divided on their usefulness.  Are they ever meant to be taken seriously?  Many people think so, but that’s probably because they are writing a how-to manual.

Back when a listicle in a magazine was called a Guide or Questionnaire, and had titles like “Ten Ways To Find Out If Your Boyfriend Really Loves You”, the format was short, numbered sentences and had ten boxes to tick ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and ended with your score.  Listicles have morphed into a more sophisticated version of this ‘filler’ yet still pretend to be useful data, advice or handy hints to enhance your lifestyle.

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So, does this glossary format, this amusing fad with the cute name, continue on or can it be classed as nouveau 21st century literacy?

It doesn’t affect my reading ability (heck, I’ve re-blogged them myself) and I tend to treat a listicle as an expurgation, a beguiling and abridged version of real reading.  Just type in ‘listicle websites’ and have a look at the content.  Hardly literature at its finest even allowing for sentences stripped bare.

There are as many ‘for’ and ‘against’ stories as there are listicles.  Here are 3 of my favourite takes on listicles with apologies for not making it 10––

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(1)  Excerpt from “What Is A Listicle?”
https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-a-listicle-1691130
From Richard Nordquist comes this Garrison Keillor slice of the Darker Side Of Listicles, an interview with the writer who popularised listicles (or did he?) and asks him––

Q: Do you have any idea what damage you’ve done, Jim? You’ve made people more stupid. Some of your readers now find it hard to read paragraphs that aren’t numbered.
A: How many? A lot?

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(2)  Excerpt from Mark O’Connell “Ten Paragraphs About Lists You Need in Your Life Right Now” The New Yorker, August 29, 2013
https://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/10-paragraphs-about-lists-you-need-in-your-life-right-now
“The rise of the listicle obviously connects with the internet’s much-discussed effect on our ability (or desire) to sit still and concentrate on one thing for longer than ninety seconds. Contemporary media culture prioritises the smart take, the sound bite, the takeaway––and the list is the takeaway in its most convenient form. But even when the list, or the listicle, has nothing really to do with useful information, it still exerts an occult force on our attention––or on my attention, at any rate. (’34 Things That Will Make ’90s Girls Feel Old.’ ’19 Facts Only a Greek in the U.K. Can Understand.’ ’21 Kinds of Offal, Ranked By How Gross They Look.’) Like many of you, I am more inclined to click on links to articles that don’t reflect my interests if they happen to be in the form of countdowns. And I suspect my sheep-like behaviour has something to do with the passive construction of that last sentence. The list is an oddly submissive reading experience. You are, initially, sucked in by the promise of a neatly quantified serving of information or diversion….Once you’ve begun reading, a strange magnetism of the pointless asserts itself.”
Note how Mark O’Connell has numbered all his paragraphs.

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(3)  On the flip side, here is an excerpt from pro-listicle website “Five Reasons Listicles Are Here to Stay and Why That’s OK”
https://www.wired.com/2014/01/defense-listicle-list-article/
Rachel Edidin talks about ‘active progression’ and ‘lane-markers’ and her opening comment launches straight into battle “Lists are everywhere. They’re the bread and butter of sites like Cracked and BuzzFeed, and regular content or sporadic filler at dozens more. (Yes, even WIRED). From the multimedia gallery to the humble Top 10, list-format articles – listicles – are rapidly becoming the lingua franca of new-media journalism…” and later says “… listicles are just another tool in the box.”

Listicle

Listicle List 06

Listicle List 07

If you are a listicle fan, you won’t be reading this blog post.
For those who have struggled this far, here is a bonus extra:

On a scrap of paper, I’ve just written my higgledy piggledy shopping list––or is it?

1.     Bread, flour.
2.     Milk, butter, cheese.
3.     Coffee, green tea.
4.     Apples, oranges, pears.
5.     Potatoes, carrots.
6.     Basil, thyme, rosemary.
7.     Eggs, chicken.
8.     Gnocchi, penne, ravioli.
9.     Tuna, salmon.
10.   Basmati, paella.

Did you read to the end?

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Run Rabbit Run

The yellow rabbit picked his front teeth with a twig and contemplated what it would be like baked in a rabbit pie. He remembered a tune the tone-deaf gardener used to sing “Run rabbit, run rabbit, run, run, run, something, something, he’ll get by without his rabbit pie…” Stupid song but with a happy ending for the bunny. The yellow rabbit didn’t have to worry about ending up in a pie because he crept among the marrows and hid in the sunflower patch or in buttery dandelion clumps and the gardener couldn’t see him. There were so many things to hide in, or on, or against when you were yellow. He remembered the nerve-wracking time he stopped on a double yellow line so a council truck wouldn’t run over him. The driver wasn’t going fast but that’s beside the point. The yellow rabbit nearly hopped out in front of the vehicle. Of course, stopping still on the yellow line made him invisible. His paws were a bit shaky once the truck had driven passed and he’d vowed then and there never to cross a road again. He looked up at the back verandah of the old homestead and continued his contemplation. There was a big yellow tablecloth fluttering on the railing which meant plans were afoot to eat outside. He had already spied the plump yellow cushions on the cane chairs. The big glass jug was frosting over, filled with ice and lemon nectar. Rabbit 09The yellow rabbit always thought it strange how the humans ate with tools. They doled out piles of food and delicious salads with forks and scoops and ladles. Then they sliced succulent pineapples with large knives and chopped it into chunks. The strangest thing he’d ever seen was when they would cut the sides off mangoes and grid the luscious inner flesh before turning the skin inside out. At least the young human consumed large portions of her meals with her fingers. This meant that the female of the warren would continually wipe the fingers and face of the little fluffle. The yellow rabbit was now watching for this small fluffle, a young girl who always wore a yellow and white striped dress. She strolled outside holding a glass bowl, spooning egg custard into her mouth without watching the spillage. Her bright eyes were scanning for him. It didn’t take long for her to see him crouched down in a tray full of marigold seedlings. He twitched his long ears. She brushed a curl out of her eyes. He wiggled his nose. She gave a wiggle of her fingers then turned away, disappearing back inside.  Out came the male and hung a wire cage on a fancy hook. The canary inside the cage started singing. The male started to set the table with yellow spotted plates and serviettes with sunbeams on them but seemed more interested in taking long swigs from a bottle of amber liquid he had left on the open window sill. The little girl reappeared and behind her trailed several yellow balloons on long shiny strings. She was wearing a cardboard hat decorated with sprigs of wattle which tangled in her blonde hair. The female emerged from the kitchen door with a bunch of daffodils in one hand and an empty honey jar in the other. She put the flowers in the jar and placed it in the middle of the table while talking to the male.Scribbles The Yellow Rabbit 02 The yellow rabbit shuddered and averted his eyes from the hot metal plate where the male had just thrown raw meat. Even the smell of fresh lettuce couldn’t stop him feeling slightly nauseated. After a few minutes, the little girl looped the balloon strings around the handrail and skipped down the verandah steps. She was coming straight towards him. Instinctively he shrunk low into the cool earth and tensed his muscles. She was swinging her arms casually and appeared to be looking over his head at a light catcher made from shimmering pieces of tinfoil clipped to a branch. The yellow rabbit blinked in surprise. She walked right by. However, quick as a wink, she flipped something out of her pocket and into the seedling tray. It was a carrot! Joy swelled in the yellow rabbit’s heart. He snatched up the fresh carrot in his big front teeth and leapt out of the seedling tray. He landed on the grass and bounded for the back fence. He knew it was ungracious of him, but he didn’t turn around to acknowledge the young girl. Biting hard on the carrot, and with a bit of pulling and tugging, he managed to crawl under the fence without getting stuck. He hopped off across the paddock with his tasty prize. The young girl trailed slowly back to her parents. They had soft smiles on their faces. With a happy nod, the young girl sat down at the table where a chunk of pineapple was waiting. As the sticky juice ran down her hands, she listened to her parents tell the familiar story of how they had been shown the nearby rabbit colony when they were her age. The yellow rabbits were a family tradition but nobody knew why they were yellow. Strangely, most of the bits and pieces in the homestead were the same colour, a shade her grandmother called sunshine. Legend says the yellow rabbit always appears on bright sunny days.

The above story was written as a free-write, a freefall stream of consciousness, and I had no idea where it was going or how it would end.  It’s a fun technique!  To find out more, click  Jen Storer Girl and Duck Scribbles

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Don’t Thrash Around

Highs and Lows Graph 01
A short story about life’s ups and downs…

My friend and fellow writer Maud Fitch tilted her head at me and said “Everything is fine for the first three months then the rot sets in and the wheels fall off.  Or, for a modern analogy, your reception drops out.”  She checked to see if I was listening.  “You are left high and dry and feeling cheated, let down, out of sorts, tired, jaded or basically unmotivated.  The first three months of anything are the best, then comes the worst three months.”  As she took a breath, I gave her a querying look.  “Why?” she responded, “Well, who knows?  This is my take on human nature.”

I was perched on a wooden stool while Maud had settled herself down in an easy chair, cardigan wrapped tightly and slippers wedged firmly on her small feet.  She coughed delicately and adjusted her spectacles before continuing.  “A new career, a new car, exercise workout, bonsai class, creative writing, artistic pursuit, second marriage, an extended holiday, all seemingly wonderful for those crucial three months.  Then, bam, a total train wreck.  Worse, it’s a total bore!  Then you wish you had never started.”  I opened my mouth to protest but she ploughed ahead.  “Of course, this phenomenon can work in reverse.  The first three months of a new baby, the first three months of post-operative surgery, or worse, the first three months of giving up smoking. Two words – mindset.”  I stifled a laugh.  “Okay, one word.  But keep an open mind because nothing stays the same for long.”

Uncomfortable, I stretched my shoulders.  “Don’t thrash around,” Maud shouted, startling me.  She waved her arm dangerously close to her favourite cat figurine.  “Look up, look ahead, search for those footholds and handholds to help move you forward again.  Work your way out of the slump, not by changing direction (although you might, she hissed in an aside) but by forging through the undergrowth on that overgrown path until you reach a reasonable destination where you can relax, regroup and start again – when you are good and ready!  It may not be the perfect spot to wait, nevertheless, it will do until you reinvigorate.”

Maud slumped back.  “Do you think that’s too strong for them?”  I laughed.  “Maud, I am sure the ladies luncheon committee has heard stronger things than that.”  She eyed me dubiously, unsmiling, the inference being that she knew them better than I ever could.  I was sure her delivery would win them over and if it didn’t, just like seasonal change, there was always another one.

After some shuffling, Maud pulled out a crumpled sheet of paper from down the side of her chair.  “I was going to reference motivationalist Julia Cameron when she says ‘Sometimes these U-turns are best viewed as recycling times’ but I’m going to read this genuine job advertisement first and say ‘Ladies, be thankful you are relaxing here today’ then launch straight into my talk.”  Maud cleared her throat and read loudly:

“About you – Highly motivated, you possess excellent listening and strong customer service skills. You have proven ability to build rapport with customers, key partners and management. You possess strong problem solving and resolution capabilities. Resilient, flexible, literate, you have the ability to work under pressure, deal with rapid change and work to strict time frames. Self-motivated, available at short notice, you are currently looking to embark on your next career challenge and add value to a growing organisation. If this sounds like you APPLY today! Previous exposure dealing with print/sales/retail is desirable however not essential.”

With a snap of fingers on paper, Maud whooped “Burnout dead ahead” which I thought was a bit unfair.  “Oh, Maudie” I said, a nickname she disliked, “you make me want to grab a coffee and start scrolling endless, mindless amusements across my screen.”  I picked up my phone.  I don’t think that was quite the incentive she had in mind and may have misinterpreted my gesture.  She frowned and started flipping through the pages of her speech, obviously keen to memorise more text.  “Look.”  I offered her the phone.  On the screen was an old Gary Larson “The Far Side” cartoon.  Now, that really did make her laugh.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Primative Resumes
Pressure put on us from the dawn of time…

Mystery, Mayhem & Magic adventures for young readers!

The Ten Penners, a children’s author collective, launched their blog tour to coincide with the release of their exciting new anthology Mystery, Mayhem & Magic.  Follow the tour, read about Julie Baythorpe, book giveaway and more—

Mystery, Mayhem & Magic is an anthology of amazing adventures for young readers!

Take a path through the forest of imagination into mysterious journeys filled with mayhem and a kaleidoscope of magical creatures.

From the authors of Shock! Horror! Gasp! and Fan-Tas-Tic-Al Tales emerges Mystery, Mayhem & Magic, a new anthology written by The Ten Penners, a paperback novel-size book which is jam-packed with thirty-six stories, poems and novellas suitable for children aged 8 to 12 and early readers.  Stories can be read to younger children too …

… So come and explore!

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The Ten Penners children’s author group

The Ten Penners Profile Photo 02


Follow the fascinating Mystery,
Mayhem & Magic
Blog Tour any time—

DATES

15/10/17
Sunday
 – Marion Martineer – https://marionmartineer.wordpress.com/
Dimity Powell – author “The Fix-It Man” – http://dimswritestuff.blogspot.com.au/
Content : Marion Martineer

16/10/17
Monday
Yvonne Mes – www.yvonnemes.com
Content : The Ten Penners
Elaine Ouston – author “Mystery of Nida Valley” – https://elaineoustonauthor.com/ 
Content : Lindy Standage

17/10/17
Tuesday
 – Jill Smith – https://authorjillsmith.wordpress.com/
Candice Lemon-Scott, author – https://candicelemonscott.com.au/
Content : Jill Smith

18/10/17
Wednesday
– Kate Russell – https://katharinerussell.wordpress.com/
Teena-Rafa Mulligan – In Their Own Write – https://intheirownwrite.wordpress.com 
Content : Kate Russell

19/10/17
Thursday
 – Julie Baythorpe – https://juliebaythorpeauthor.wordpress.com/
Gretchen Bernet-Ward – Thoughts Become Words https://thoughtsbecomewords.com
Content : Julie Baythorpe (see interview below)

20/10/17
Friday
– Robin Adolphs – http://www.robinadolphs.com/
Content : Louisa Wright
Artelle Lenthall – www.journeygirlontheroadtopublication.com
Content : Sharron Alexiou

21/10/17
Saturday Gold Coast Writers’ Association meeting to announce book launch
The Ten Penners – https://thetenpenners.wordpress.com/
(Library book launch Gold Coast Libraries Calendar of Events poster below)

23/10/17
Monday – Aleesah Darlison – author of “Fox and Moonbeam”
Greenleaf Press – http://www.greenleafpress.net/
Content : Elli Housden

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The Ten Penners launch their children’s anthology

PLINKO
The Ten Penners Plinko Colouring Comp 2017 02
Check out Plinko, official The Ten Penners mascot, on their website under Media Kit.  The Plinko-Colouring-In-Competition-2017_Booklaunch has closed.

“But wait,” says Plinko, “there’s more!”

  Scroll down for further INFORMATION—

The Ten Penners August 2017
The Ten Penners ready for Mystery Mayhem & Magic

BE THE LUCKY WINNER … 

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SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT  –  BOOK GIVEAWAY COMPETITION CLOSED!

There will be a giveaway of a copy of Mystery, Mayhem & Magic!
At the end of the blog tour, those who have left a comment on this page, or on any of the other hosts’ pages during the blog tour, will be in the running to receive a free copy!
The announcement of the winner will be at our book launch at Broadbeach Library on Saturday 4 November 2017.
So, please make a comment below to be in the running.

Q & A  

Today I am delighted to welcome one of the authors, Julie Baythorpe, who has kindly put her literary thoughts into words:                                              

The Ten Penners
Julie Baythorpe
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Julie at her book launch

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Julie Baythorpe was born in Sydney and moved to Brisbane where she attended Brisbane Central State School.  She loved every minute of school life so much so she never left the education system.  In 1985 she moved to the Gold Coast.  Julie has written all her life.  For many years, she taught creative writing, both as a Teacher and Principal in classrooms across Queensland.  When she retired from teaching she started writing full-time.  She has written and published numerous short stories, poems, journal articles and has developed many Curriculum documents for Education Queensland.  She is currently organising and presenting writing workshops for the Gold Coast Writers’ Association.  Her books include the Reid Devron murder mystery series and several short story anthologies.  Julie also enjoys creating watercolour paintings … when she’s not writing!


Q1.
When did you start writing?

A.  I started when I was very young … five or six years old.  I loved it.  I had a vivid imagination (still have) which transported me to mystical and magical places.  As I grew older I began writing poems and stories for the children I taught in primary school. I also wrote strategic documents … curriculum documents, behaviour management programs and planning outlines for Education Queensland.  I started writing fiction full-time when I retired from teaching.

Q2. Which genres do you enjoy writing?

A.  I enjoy writing in most genres, however, I feel most comfortable writing novels in the murder mystery category.  As a member of The Ten Penners writing group, I’ve dabbled in short story writing for children again.  It’s been a while since I did this, however, I enjoyed creating the character ‘Plinko’ and I loved the adventures of Jock, Davo and Birch in ‘Birch the Dinosaur and the Bogan Penguins’.  A lot of fun!

Q3. Have you published any books?

The Ten Penners Julie Baythorpe 03A.  Yes, I’ve published three books in the Reid Devron murder mystery series. ‘The Lavender Principal’, ‘Silo Deadfall’, and ‘Under the Fig Tree’, all set in schools where I’ve worked.  In collaboration with the Southern Short Story Group (another sub-group of Gold Coast Writers’ Association) I wrote a number of fictional short stories.  The title of that book is ‘Love, Lies, Laughter and a Few Little Tears’.

Q4. Have you won any writing competitions?

A.  Only one … when I was about nine years old.  They asked me to read it to the whole school.  I’ve been traumatised ever since!  But it didn’t stop my love of writing!

Q5. Do you have a plan/schedule for your writing?

A.  Early in the morning is a great time for my writing sessions.  I fade by the afternoon.  I usually collect ideas in my head and jot down notes … Firstly, in a scribbled, illegible mess.  To tidy my ramblings, I develop a timeline for two or three pages then add chapters and scenes.  For example, Chapter One … a body is found, police arrive, description of setting and some characters.  In a rough outline, I write down scenes in each chapter.  I use a scrapbook for pictures and details of my characters.  Lastly, I organise a folder for research, the book cover ideas, similes/metaphors, poems, and editing notes and pages.  Then it gets cracking!

Many thanks, Julie, for your time and inspiration.

The Ten Penners July17
Smiles all round for The Ten Penners

The Ten Penners Bookcover 03The Ten Penners Library Booklaunch Poster 4Nov2017

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The Ten Penners sub group of Gold Coast Writers’ Association

Don’t forget!  Post a comment below (or on any one of the blog tour sites) to be in the running for a giveaway copy of The Ten Penners new anthology Mystery, Mayhem & Magic!  IMPORTANT:  THE BOOK GIVEAWAY COMPETITION HAS CLOSED.

The Ten Penners Logo by Starla

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

The Ten Penners Book Launch 02
Plinko dropped in for the book launch!

Postcards Postcrossing the World

Postcards are alive and well and received by countless friends, family and complete strangers around the world.  Complete strangers?  This is where Postcrossing comes into the picture.

I first learned about Postcrossing, a postcard exchange group, from a quarterly Stamp Bulletin and joined free-of-charge.  The five-step guidelines are easy to follow, the website makes it simple to set up a profile and tweak your settings.  Navigate around and check out the stunning and prolific cards received and uploaded by Postcrossing members.  Everyone abides by the rules so things flow smoothly between more than 69,000 members in over 200 countries.

Postcard 017SEND: There’s pleasure in finding and choosing suitable postcards and stamps uniquely representative of your own location.  Clever members can match a postcard to followers hobbies.  It took a couple of weeks for the first postcard to hit my letterbox but I could start mailing out straight away.

RECEIVE: The beauty, variety and quantity I received, often from places I’d never heard of, was impressive.  English is universal although you can specify countries and language.  Handwritten, never laser printed, it takes a certain skill to describe something about yourself and your town on the back of a small piece of cardboard!

Postcrossing Logo

The Postcrossing project was created in 2005 by Postcrossing Founder Paulo Magalhães as a side project when he was a student in Portugal.  From 2008 to 2017, 40 million postcards have been sent.  Naturally Paulo loves to receive postcards and finding one in his mailbox always makes his day!

Postcard 007Right down to the different shapes of the stamps, and in some cases, distinctly long addresses, I was hooked on the fun.

The Postcrossing website has stats and charts to follow the progress of your postcards and I only had one go missing in action.  I think the British postcards were the quickest to arrive and I’ll be diplomatic and not say which was the slowest.  Larger countries sometimes lagged, perhaps because of sheer volume – or misguided postal cuts.  In Australia, there’s an infinite variety of unique postage stamps and supply doesn’t look like declining any time soon.

This world-wide concept stands strong, despite the challenges of internet and social media.  Stamps are still stuck on postcards, timeless messages are still written on the back, and they are still physically mailed to a real address.

Postcard 016Postcrossing friendships are possible via their blog, forum and meet-ups.  Due to work commitments, I closed my Postcrossing account and gave many of my postcards to a collector.  I kept a few colourful ones to wistfully gaze at on a quiet day.

Post a postcard!

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

 

Want more? The Snail Mail mega toons postcard edition