Sunday, November 21, 2010

What I'm reading/have read/am about to read

Note to self: don't take photos in front of curtainless windows.

The books:

Line of Sight, David Whish-Wilson
Broken Glass, Adrian Stirling
Wintergirls, Laurie Halse Anderson
Girl Saves Boy, Steph Bowe
The Three Loves of Persimmon, Cassandra Golds
Equator, Wayne Ashton

And on the train this week, people read: Zambezi/Kathryn Fox/Jodi Picoult/Blood Born/Star Seeker/Persuasion/The West/Time.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Moments of grace

* This week I struggled with the beginning of the junior novel.  On the train I wrote opening lines, scenes, dialogue.  They clunked, or were brittle.  The words didn't go together.  Nothing worked.

Eventually, demoralised by my scrappy notes, I stopped struggling.  And then, as you might guess, it came.  A beginning.  Maybe not the beginning, but a beginning I can work with.  For me, having a workable beginning is like a composer deciding on a key signature.  If you pick the wrong one, it's never going to sound right.  Like using a minor scale to write a happy song.

*  I did two whole-day workshops this week with the Youth Literature Days run by the fabulous Fremantle Children's Literature Centre.  I love doing these workshops, although somehow discussion of the battles of writing doesn't come about - maybe because for most of these kids, they're so full of words, images and snap, crackle and pop that struggle is a way off.  But the students did great work, concentrated work.  I so wish they'd had programs like this when I was 14, 15. 16 - the luxury of guided writing, the value of hearing what your peers have done, knowing there are others like you out there. 

*  At the end of the last Youth Literature Day, a girl came up to me.  She told me about her friend, who had had a terrible home life, had really struggled with some serious, serious problems.  'Your book Skating the Edge was the only thing that stopped her from killing herself,' she said.  'My friend just wanted you to know.'

*  My old touring buddy Bill Condon was one of the winners of the Premier's Literary Awards (on which subject, you really must read this).  Really and honestly, it couldn't have happened to a nicer bloke.  Bill is one of those people who has just been getting on with writing gritty, real, funny books for teenagers without fanfare.  Excellent stuff all round.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Chained to the wheel

So here's this week's thing: every week's thing, come to that.  As I may have mentioned once or twice, I work full time, which leads to a very fragmented writing life.  I'm trying to rewrite the beginning of a junior book, and the more I rewrite, the more I delete.  I pick apart every sentence the moment it's on the page.  But the main problem is that I don't know where I'm going.  With the book.  With writing generally.

Maybe I should write and not think.  Maybe I should have done NaNoWriMo (when?).  Maybe I should give up this thing.  Maybe I should have become a lawyer.  Maybe I have run out of things to say. 

The usual.

And then I find this picture.

It's my great-grandmother, Isabella.  Behind her is the house she lived in for nearly forty years.  When her daughter Freda (now 95) gave me the picture, she said she couldn't believe the house was in the photo: it was shameful to be that poor, it still made her cringe to look at it.  As a young woman Isabella went to the Boer War, apparently to find her brother, and nursed on the ship on the way home. Then she married a rural widower 28 years her senior, was spurned by her husband's first family, took in washing to help, walking for miles over the hills near Roelands with baskets filled with other people's dirty laundry.   She died at 65, exhausted. 'She had a hard life, my mum,' says Freda.

And here I am, worrying about a book I don't have to write.