January 29, 2012

Another reason to love Amanda Palmer

Not only does Amanda Palmer have a fine appreciation of Duran Duran, but she also wrote this fantabulous tribute to Judy Blume. I may have shed a tear in the chorus...

January 24, 2012

How I talked my way out of writer's block

Writer's block is not new to me, but Little Sister brought with it the worst case I've ever had. For almost two months I was pretty much paralysed. Every morning I'd turn on my laptop, read the pitiful amount I'd managed to write the day before, delete it and stare once again into the void.

I knew that I'd come to a standstill because there was something wrong with the direction the story was going in, but no matter how many times I re-read what I'd already written, I couldn't see what it was. I read every blog post I could find about plotting and story structure and ways to break through writer's block but - aside from legitimising my procrastination - they didn't help. Not that they weren't full of useful information, they just couldn't tell me where I'd gone wrong.

Today I guest blogged on Dee White's blog about the frank conversation that finally broke my block.

January 17, 2012

Ah, so that's what it's about

I finally found out what the author-reviewer brouhaha that's got the Goodreads/YA community in a tizz was about, thanks to an article in the Guardian by Julie Bertagna. As Bertagna concludes, "Whose book is it anyway? The hardest thing a writer has to learn is that once you publish a book, it's no longer truly yours – even though it's got your name on the front and it lives inside you. It belongs to the readers now. All you can do is steel yourself as you push it out into the world, stay gracious, and get busy with the next one."

Wise words.

January 10, 2012

How to respond to a negative review: just don't

This is a post that’s been on my mind for a year or so but for one reason (laziness) or another (laziness) I haven’t gotten around to writing until now. Although the actual incident/s have passed without my noticing, rumblings in the Twitterverse suggest that in the last couple of weeks there have been more reader-reviewer/author run-ins online, and I can only assume it’s because an author has taken offense at a negative review and responded by leaving a (probably vitriolic) comment of their own. Whatever happened, it’s had the effect of making a number of people whose blogs or Goodreads reviews I follow say that they are considering giving up reviewing, which makes me Very Sad Indeed.

As a reader who suffers constantly from too-many-books-not-enough-time and has a book-buying budget of one book per month,* following reviews from people whose taste is close to mine has helped me to find books and authors I absolutely adore that I probably wouldn’t have come across on my own. I also search Goodreads for books I’ve heard mixed reviews for, to help me make up my mind whether to track down a copy and decide for myself. If someone has given the book a rave or a panning I’ll often look at the rest of their blog/Goodreads shelves to see what they’ve enjoyed in the past and decide from that whether our taste is likely to be similar. It’s not a failsafe technique but so far I’ve had more hits than misses. (This is also an excellent procrastination technique – I can attest that the hours positively fly by when you’re stickybeaking comparing bookshelves.)

All books have their share of fans and detractors, this is a universal truth. For every person who loves Pride and Prejudice there is someone whose loathing for it cannot be expressed vehemently enough (i.e. me). Likewise, I have had to accept that not everyone loves My Family and Other Animals as passionately as I do (but they should, dammit!). The beauty of a community like Goodreads is that these views can sit side by side; we can all have our say and everyone’s opinion is equal. The beauty of having a book blog is that it’s your own space to express yourself. But some authors seem to think that this is precisely the downside to online reviews and are unable to resist arguing with less-than-glowing reader responses, a reaction that, frankly, befuddles me.

As a writer one of the things you have to get used to is accepting criticism (constructive or otherwise) and choosing whether to take it on board or let it go. For most of us it’s obvious whose opinions we should pay attention to (our critique groups/beta readers/agents/editors/others with the goal of helping us to produce the highest quality book we are capable of writing) and whose to accept as their right to an opinion but not take to heart. If you can’t differentiate between the two, you shouldn’t even make your writing available for public consumption, let alone hang around Goodreads (or Amazon or any other consumer review site) or Google your reviews.

(And if you choose to take things personally, for pity’s sake don’t vent your hurt feelings online! Seriously, have we learnt nothing??)

Got hurt feelings? Tell a friend, not the interwebs.

ETA: Just as I was about to hit the Publish button I read Veronica Roth's post on the author/reviewer relationship on YA Highway - a very balanced and sensible discussion of the issues, with some insightful comments from bloggers.

January 9, 2012

Resolution, singular

After thinking on it some more I decided to only make one resolution for 2012: I signed up for the Australian Women Writers Challenge, pledging to read at least 12 books and review at least four of them.
The reading will be the easy part, especially since some of my favourite authors have new releases coming out this year (including CathCrowley, Fiona Wood, Gerry Bobsien and Leanne Hall – it’s a bumper year for Aussie YA!). Reviewing is not my strong point, as I learned in Nanoremo 2010, but I shall do my best.

The best part of this resolution is not its (almost) guaranteed success, or even supporting and promoting other Australian women authors, it’s the fact that I’m actually looking forward to it. (Something I can’t say about flossing.) Roll on 2012!

January 4, 2012

Hello 2012

It's the start of another shiny new year and I'm such a procrastinator that I still haven't decided whether to even make any resolutions in 2012, let alone what they might be. Part of what's holding me back is that I failed most of last year's rather modest resolutions spectacularly.

In 2011, I didn't learn how to draft my own sewing patterns; there were months when I couldn't do my back exercises because of the pain in my right arm that made it virtually unusable for 10 months; I did floss more, but not every day. My most embarrassing fail was my reading resolution: read more non-YA. Even with some great reading recommendations from people whose book taste I trust, my YA to adult fiction reading ratio was about 80:20.*

Looking back over my list of resolutions makes me feel like 2011 was one big timesuck of failure, but then I remembered some stuff that I did do during the year that could be seen as small achievements:
  • I had a novel and two picture books published (okay, that's a moderately big achievement, but all the hard work on them was done in 2010)
  • I went to my first YA conference - the most excellent Reading Matters - and met some ace librarians and bloggers and a few of my fave authors
  • I had a most excellent time teaching writing workshops and doing the occasional school visit
  • I discovered that, for me, having the time to write all day every day will not make the words come any faster,** and
  • on a related note, got a part-time job that uses my web content skills while indulging my interest in/adoration for libraries (and as a bonus I get to work with a superace team)
  • I found out that my application for a May Gibbs Creative Time Fellowship in 2012 was successful
  • I learned how to meditate (sort of, I'm still learning how to make my brain shut up, but meditation is a journey and all that).***
 So the question is, do I bother making resolutions and then deal with the shame of probably not keeping them, or do I puddle along all year without any concrete goals and hope that I'll manage to inadvertently achieve a few things along the way? Decisions, decisions...

* To be fair, this is not entirely my fault: if my local library didn't insist on putting the YA section at the front of the building I might occasionally make greater inroads into the adult section. As it is, by the time I get to the grown up books at the back my book bag is full.
** A painful lesson but better to learn it after a few months than a few years, I suppose.
 ** If you're at all interested in learning to meditate I can heartily recommend the free guided meditation podcasts from Meditation Oasis - not too much woo woo new ageism and the host regularly offers the reassurance that "if your mind has wandered, it doesn't matter".