It’s been a busy few days. It began on Friday morning when I sat bolt upright at 3am and realised the year was drawing to a close and my annual carbon footprint was altogether too small.
Happily, this was easily remedied. I rolled out of bed and drove immediately to Perth airport. I flew across the country and all the way up to Brisbane. Then I drove to a hotel, stayed overnight, and at the crack of dawn, flew home to Perth again. And just like that, I was back on track.
While I was in Brisbane, a ridiculous thing happened, and it looked a bit like this:
A Single Stone was announced as the winner of the Griffith University Children’s Book Award at the Queensland Literary Awards!
… of 2012, in order to move hopefully into this new year. Last year got a little crazy for me and many things fell by the wayside. In hindsight, perhaps I should have seen it coming. I had two new books out here in Australia, two books coming out for the first time in the US, and a third in the pipeline to do the same. Lots of people wanted me for lots of things. They were all good things, useful things, things it made absolute and perfect sense for me to do. And so I said ‘Of course!’ and ‘I’d be delighted’ and ‘Thank you for asking’.
Last year, it felt like I reached a tipping point of some kind. There were simply too many things pulling on me for to do much but keep paddling madly and try and keep my head above water.
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.
So this appears to be the fourth in the three-part blog-a-palooza I embarked on recently with Sally Murphy and Anna Branford.
Yes, I am aware that makes no sense.
I’m adding this coda simply to say that although it was fun, I doubt I’ll be doing something like that again. I have no idea how anyone keeps to a regular posting schedule and still manages to keep up with all the regular aspects of work and life and writing and all of that. Impossible.
I really enjoyed thinking about all those topics, and there’s a satisfying discipline in committing to setting my thoughts in order for public consumption. But when writing time is at a premium, I’d rather be chipping away at stories than composing blog posts.
The last couple of months have been a busy time for me. As other writers will attest to, Book Week seems to have turned into Book Month somewhere along the line and I’ve only just finished a steady stream of school and library visits. I could give you a bunch of stats here but I’d rather sit down and get some writing done, so instead I’ll just say that I drove a lot, talked a lot, listened a lot, and laughed a lot. It was energising and exhausting, all at once. And bookings are coming in for 2012, which is lovely, but also a little alarming.
I am always amazed by the creative and insightful ideas kids come up with. There was a great wealth of these this year, but I have to say that my favourite comment from a student was: “Meg, you are the most expiring author I have ever met!” Coming at the end of a long day, this was at once motivating and accidentally apt.
It’s been a crazy season – of eleventh-hour renovations and far-flung family and 18 people and three dogs under one sweltering roof for the craziest Christmas ever … and in the midst of it all, copyediting and layout and proofreading and all the associated insanity that goes with sending a book (or two) to press. The endless quest for less looking and staring and gazing and all of that. The growing realisation that a proofread completed in the midst of all of the above is not the thorough proofread a book needs. The last-minute panic of trying to change things I should have changed earlier – much earlier – approximately 5 minutes before (after?) we should have gone to press.
Well, I did warn you this would be the title of my next post. It’s prompted by an email I received recently from a writing friend, with the subject line “Business”. And by the last couple of months, which seem to have been incredibly busy somehow with a bunch of things which, while writing-related, are not actually writing itself.
A couple of weeks ago, frustrated with my slow progress through the various WIPs, I decided to take a good hard look at where my days are going. Of course there is a slew of other bits and pieces crammed into my day – house, family, exercise and so on – but here is the graph that represents how the time I had available for work was divided over a two-week period.
So I’ve finished the marking and the copyediting and the translating and the accounting and most of the extension planning (take that, grout colours!) and some of the other random bits and pieces that were clamouring for my fickle attentions. And I’ve cleaned my desk. Not completely, but the thing is, despite my many friends who emailed me to say “Call that a mess? This is a mess!” it was never really about the mess anyway. It was about the fact that there were just too many different things in there, too many disconnected and sometimes competing demands on my time and increasingly limited brainpower. I can take the mess, as long as it’s not pulling me in too many directions at once.
But that’s not the point of this post. The point of this post is this:
In partially cleaning my desk, I found the leaf – whole and flat and entirely unbroken despite the chaos of its surrounds. That has to be a symbol of something, surely?
It’s the return of the writing desk and it’s just in time for the school holidays, of course, but that’s okay. It seems to be how things work around here, but when there are novels brewing, they will make their way into the light, school holidays or no.
There is other news on the horizon too, which is the current source of both excitement and blind panic. But I can’t tell you about that, not quite yet.
Is a picture worth a thousand words? This one, sadly, is worth very few, at least not the kind of words I’d like to be generating. Incredibly, the photo has the effect, at least to me, of making the desk appear less chaotic than it is in real life. The piles look smaller some how, and less likely to topple and swamp all in their path.
If you knew what you were looking at here, you would be able to recognise:
* Pile #1: the marking pile from hell. This pile has curious magic pudding-like qualities, something I would applaud in any other context
* the slanty writing board which makes working my way through Pile #1 marginally less painful (at least physically).
* Pile #2: the copyediting job from hell, “almost finished” for about five weeks now.
* a Japanese-English dictionary I’m using in some ongoing translation work (from 地獄). There should be a pile for this job, too, and its absence is worrying…