I’ve been thrilled to have Candlewick Press pick up some of my work for US publication over the last year. There are all sorts of reasons why this is a good thing for me professionally, and those probably go without saying.
Lately, though, I’ve been on the receiving end of some more unexpected benefits. Letters! Actual letters coming to me from kids in the US. I get a bit of mail from kids here in Australia, but contact often tends to come via email. I’m not sure why that might be; perhaps there’s something exciting about the idea of picking up an actual pen (or texta) and sending a letter across the world. I know I’ve been having lots of fun writing back.
Today, an unexpected thing has happened. For the first time in weeks I have a couple of clear hours in which to get some writing done. I’m going to get right on that. There is a novel to finish, and then rewrite from the ground up.
But because it’s a shock to be suddenly presented with writing time, I had to settle my nerves by doing a little procrastinating first. So I decided to make a word cloud for No Bears. I thought it would be amusing. I thought I would simply get one giant word – BEARS – blocking out everything else.
Instead, I got this …
Huh. Turns out that book really isn’t about bears after all. I guess sometimes the writer is the last to know.
I do like word clouds. They’re fun. But also kind of pointless. Which is why I have allowed myself just one. And now I am off, to get.this.elusive.novel.done.
… where I tell you I’ve been busy.
And where I use the cunning technique of splitting the first sentence in order to form a pointlessly catchy title for the post. A title that tells you nothing much at all. A title that if it tells you anything, tells you that this is going to be one of those shapeless, formless catch-up posts that people who are fond of articles with titles like “Ten Top Tips For Terrific Blogging” are so appalled by.
So I’ve been busy – busy being hard on myself for not having finished the novel I began so-called ‘fast-drafting’ at the beginning of the year. Apparently for me, fast drafting means an average of about 12.6 words a day. Which are then thrown out the next day, to be replaced by 12.6 possibly better ones.
But then I’ve been busy remembering that I have three books coming out in the US this year (No Bears, Duck for a Day, and Surface Tension, now known as Below, about which I shall write a vastly more terrific post at a later date), and two in Australia (Ten Tiny Things, Wreck the Halls, about which, terrific-ness, also later). And that I have in fact been occupied rewriting and copy-editing and proofreading and visiting schools and libraries and conferences and answering interview questions and doing promotional stuff here and there and everywhere and the many, many other bits and pieces associated with what it means to have five books coming out in the same year.
If you are a regular reader of this not-at-all regular blog, you will know that I’ve written before about my fascination with ‘creative coincidences’, the way in which writers will sometimes alight upon the same idea at the same time for no apparent reason, or a rash of books with similar themes or settings will appear within a short space of time.
Those original posts were prompted by my then-recent discovery that a book covering ground similar to my junior novel Surface Tension had just come out in the US. As is the way of these things, I’ve more recently discovered that another book with the same setting – of a town ‘drowned’ to make way for a reservoir – came out late last year in Canada. I became aware of this while idly Googling the phrase “The Town That Drowned”, which was high on my list of possible titles for the US publication of Surface Tension, scheduled for later this year. Yes, that sound you hear is the gnashing of teeth. Yes, the title of the Canadian book, which looks absolutely gorgeous and has been shortlisted for a slew of awards, is The Town That Drowned. On a blog I read while surfing around gnashing my teeth, someone even commented that the ‘drowned town’ idea is ‘becoming something of a theme in Canadian literature’.
My friends, you cannot escape the zeitgeist.
Two bears, actually. On the CBCA Book of the Year Shortlist.
I was out when the announcements were made, and I’m not a smartphone kind of girl. So I found out via text message and slightly garbled phone calls (Frané Lessac, I’m looking at you!). First, someone told me that both Surface Tension and No Bears had made it onto the Notables list. I was thrilled by this.
Later, other texts started coming in. No Bears had made the Shortlist too. Wonderful. Amazing.
In two categories. Early Childhood and Picture Book. What?
So while I was off in my head musing about curious connections and astonishing alignments, I managed to overlook something kind of important.
It’s here! Or there! It’s in bookstores! And other places!
Ever had this happen? You’re working on a project, or thinking about a project, or you’ve just sent something off to a publisher. And it’s so distinctive. It’s an idea that’s specific to you, emerging from your own personal history, and you’ve attached to it all the other little bits and pieces that accumulate during the writing process, bits and pieces which, again, are idiosyncratic, part of your own subjective experience.
And then all of a sudden you see something similar in Bookseller+Publisher, hey, I’m working on this thing and they look at you oddly and say but *I’m* working on that thing or oh, you mean like that book by suchandsuch.
My fondness for ducks is no secret. Neither is my tendency to find spurious reasons to write books about them. I’ve talked here before about how Duck the First is out in the world, Duck the Second is on is way, and Duck the Third is pecking at the thin walls of my writerly sanity, begging to be next.
Now I can officially announce that Duck the Second really is on its way. That it has a contract and an illustrator and pencil sketches and a projected publication date and all of the things that mean it is really, truly, going to be a book.