Once, there was a girl called Meg. She was a reader and a collector of fragments – pithy observations, random snippets of stuff. She liked scribbling things down, twisting words about, but she was not a writer.
One day she was driving with her four-year-old daughter and her daughter’s same-aged friend, “E”, in the back. She was driving E home after a sleepover and she started messing about, being silly. Is this where I turn, E? Or the next corner? Wait … are we on the right street? Oh, no! I think we’re lost!
Because everyone knows that four-year-olds love whimsical play. But E rolled his eyes and said, in a world-weary tone, “You know where my house is.”
Meg thought it was a shame for a four-year-old to be world-weary, so she tried again, with this: “Well, I know where it was yesterday, but who’s to say where it will be today?” Continue reading
You may have noticed that my 2014 goals did not include blogging. However, I break radio silence to report some report-worthy news:
I have a contract for a new book.
It’s a book I’ve mentioned here and there over the last couple of years, including, most recently, here.
When I was writing it, I thought it was YA, but when I finished it, I realised it’s junior fiction – in a similar sort of pocket to my 2011 release, Surface Tension (Below in the US). I’m not sure how that works, but it does.
I worked extremely hard drafting and re-drafting this manuscript before finally submitting it. This means I only have approximately another 27 drafts to do before it approaches a publishable state. For me, this is an excellent result.
I’ve just learned that the book is tentatively scheduled for an April 2015 release, which means that all 27 drafts must be completed by October-ish this year. It’s totally doable. I just have a gazillion tons of backstory and world-building to stuff into the seams of the action.
I have a new cover.
I’ve liked all my covers well enough – some more, some less, as is the way of things.
But this cover? I love it. And in a curious kind of reversal, in some ways the cover is responsible for the book.
I wrote this book in 2009 and it was a bit of a mess. I would probably have given up on it but for the fact that I had a grant from the kind people at the Department of Culture and the Arts, and felt beholden to actually produce something.
I wrote it and rewrote it and moved scenes around and moved them back again and deleted them altogether and stepped away from the manuscript and started over – again and again. I tore out metaphorical chunks of hair and really thought the whole thing was dead in the water.
I am still in the trenches. Last week, I said I would pop my head up again, “all things being well”.
That may be something of an overstatement. The novel goes slowly, more slowly than it needs must (is that an actual sentence? It sounds like it should be. I guess this sort of digression has something to do with why the novel goes slowly. If I’m having to ask what constitutes a sentence, I am clearly in trouble).
But today was better than yesterday. There is progress. And that is a good thing, on a Thursday, when the book is due on a Monday.
I’m deep in writing mode at the moment. I’m also deep in re-writing and proofing and a range of other things. And reading, always reading. I’ve been reading Eireann Corrigan, an author I discovered by accident when I inherited the Writing for Children course at Curtin University from Georgia Richter. Readings from the course’s previous incarnation included a short excerpt from one of Corrigan’s books (a YA poetry memoir titled You Remind Me Of You) – just a few poems but enough for me to immediately see that this was great stuff, and wonder why I hadn’t heard of her before. I haven’t managed to track that book down yet but I did find Splintering – a YA verse novel – and was reassured that Corrigan is as fiercely talented as those first few pages – even the first line, which made me stop in my tracks – had me believe.
Here is that rarest of things – a verse novel which doesn’t sacrifice the focus and richness of language poetry demands in the service of narrative, which achieves, effortlessly it seems, that precarious balancing act or fusion in which both elements pull equally together.
The writers reading this are smiling their wry writerly smiles right now. Because they know exactly how much effort goes into effortlessly.
In my ‘Writing’ folder there is a ‘Junior Fiction’ folder. In my ‘Junior Fiction’ folder there is a ‘Duck for a Day’ folder.
This is all well and good. This is the sign of an organised mind, an organised computer, a manageable filing system.
But what is inside the ‘Duck for a Day’ folder?
So I’m writing these duck books. Because I love ducks. But it seems that with duck-love comes responsibility. It seems that if you love a duck, you must not feed it Belgian chocolates. My eagle-eyed editor reads my manuscript and informs me that chocolates are not good for ducks and can actually be fatal. This is not good for my story-duck, Max, who is very fond of them. And whose fondness for said chocolates is very important to the story.
When my editor tells me of this unfortunate fact, I take a moment to pause. I say “Damn you, facts! Why must you always get in the way of a good story?”
Apparently, ‘unco’ is no longer a word. I have had to pull it from The Big Dig at the eleventh hour, having been confronted by a sea of blank faces when I tested it out on some readers.
The closest one of them came was a very tentative, ‘Umm, uncool?’
Come on, people! Save this word! We need unco. How else am I going to describe my dancing?
(also no longer meaningful – ‘tanktop’. Eh, no great loss there).
I’ve just sent back what I think are the final revisions on my next junior novel. Going for Broke (one world record, 52 tiny bones) will be out with Walker Books Australia in May next year.
In a curious twist, I have actually done an illustration for the text (although once my editor sees the extent of my artistic skill, she may well place a panicked last-minute call to an actual illustrator).