Flash Fiction is very short fiction, generally between around 50 - 1000 words.
North and South magazine recently ran a flash fiction competition, and I'm thrilled to have been given an honourable mention for my entry Paperwork.
You can read my story, and the other winning and shortlisted entries, online.
Read the 2018 North and South flash fiction stories.
A long time ago in a land far away, I used to write plays. Then I went and wrote songs and played in bands for a while. Then I got a job and did all that stuff. And over the past few years I've been getting into writing short stories, writing articles, and most recently, writing and illustrating a children's book.
But every now and then one of those plays pops up, and I was contacted recently by a young woman who is studying my play Indiscretions (published in Playmarket's No8 Wire) as part of her high school coursework.
Then yesterday another play of mine, Painted Lips, was mentioned in an article about the fabulously talented Michelle Langstone and Caroline Bell-Booth.
It's kind of nice to get a reminder of my old work, at a time when my new work is starting to take off.
Dunedin Writers and Readers Festival write-up: Zine Scene, Introduction to Gecko Press, Picturing Words and Wording Pictures, It’s Personal
What a weekend of fan-girling and inspiration! It kicked off at Friday’s Zine Scene where one of my niece’s zines (about a boy trying to hold in a fart) had been shortlisted by Kate De Goldi and Paul Beavis. Although the event was aimed at kids I got heaps out of it too. Paul said, “Work small, work fast and don’t be afraid to throw things out,” and Kate talked about the importance of noting down all those moments you experience and thoughts that come to you and referring back to them for writing ideas later. Paul also told the story of getting Mrs Mo’s Monster published. It took him seven years and involved many, many rejection letters and re-workings. He managed to make this terrifying story funny and inspiring!
Saturday was a glorious Port Chalmers morning, made all the better by Julia Marshall of Gecko Press who gave a talk at Port Chalmers Library. It was wonderful to get better acquainted with Gecko books, which are primarily translations of the best of the world’s non-English books. Julia talked about the difference in tone in tenor of books that come from other countries, including trends towards more ambiguous endings and heavier themes. Julia is a fan of the ‘triple twist’ in a story – neatly illustrated by a deliciously pared-back book about a girl following a line that is being drawn by her older brother. (Gecko is currently running a PledgeMe which you can check out here.)
Then it was into town where I picked up Rants in the Dark by Emily Writes (promptly devoured and already lent to a mum friend) and Can you Tolerate This by Ashleigh Young which I cannot wait to read.
Picturing Words and Wording Pictures featured three writer / illustrators: David Elliot (who happens to live just down the road from me and who was gracious enough to let me visit his studio a while back), Paul Beavis (who had really impressed me at Zine Scene) and Sarah Laing (total goddess). These three giants had some excellent tips to share. Paul talked about 'three' being the magic number. He said you could break almost every spread down into a ‘beginning, middle and end’. He also spoke of the power of using a triangle as a composition device. David said he gets intrigued by characters and keeps drawing them as he develops them. Sometimes the characters hijack his story ideas and he follows them where they want to go. Sarah recommended working in a cinematic style – letting the images tell as much of the story as possible.
Today I went to It’s Personal featuring Adam Dudding, Ashleigh Young, Sarah Laing and Hera Lindsay Bird. Adam said he admired first person journalists and he believes that intimate or quirky details make writing interesting and honest. He also said that divulging some less-than-flattering secrets about yourself can make you feel better about sharing other people’s stories.
Key takeaways for me – keep up the journal work... and consider getting some graphic design training!
They say not to work with children or animals, but I worked with both during the making of my Kickstarter video last weekend and all of them (one cat, two kittens, and four kids of various ages) behaved and performed exceptionally well.
I’m not exactly a natural in front of the camera but for the sake of my (AMAZING) videographer I tried to say my lines with a minimum of self-consciousness and faffing about.
With the exception of one kitten having a little “accident” the shoot went without a hitch and I can’t wait to see the final video in a week or so!
The kittens were courtesy of The Animal Rescue Network, a local charitable trust dedicated to helping stray and abandoned cats and kittens. The Bruce Finds A Home Kickstarter rewards include the opportunity to purchase books to donate to the Network, who can then use them for their own fundraising. With the help of Bruce’s supporters, hopefully I’ll be able to donate a nice big stack of books to the Network to help them care for other kittens in need.
Over the past week my Digital Content Coordinators (formerly known as ‘interns’) have really smashed it out of the park. One DCC has out-of-this world graphic design skills. She’s created a beautiful image of the Kickstarter rewards to include on our profile page, and she’s also made a version of the cover that we’ll use as the basis of a colouring-in competition. Meanwhile, my other DCC has a real writing and marketing bent. She has filled in a gigantic spreadsheet with the names and contact details of blogs that might help us promote the Kickstarter – and now she’s working on a blog post of her own. They are on fire!
As for me, I’ve been feeling a bit tired this week and I’ve had to remind myself that even though I have an epic to-do list, this Kickstarter is a long game (three weeks to go, four weeks of campaign and then the reward fulfilment… and finally a book launch!) so I’ve been trying to balance taking it easy with being productive (haven’t quite nailed it so far though, I must admit).
Over the next week I’ll be organising the launch event and cooking up some Kickstarter promotional activities such as book readings, competitions and giveaways.
I’ll update you next week in my Three Week Kickstarter Countdown post!
Follow my journey here:
5 week Kickstarter countdown
4 week Kickstarter countdown
I'm mocking up potential covers for my children's book, Bruce Finds A Home, which is based on the true story of how I found my famous cat. I'm going to whittle these down a bit more and hopefully a front-runner will emerge... Let me know if any of them are jumping out to you!
The National Writers Forum
17 – 18 September
University of Auckland Business School
I arrived at the inaugural National Writers Forum (NWF) with a sheath of beautifully printed pitch documents and visions of pressing them into the open hands of delighted publishers.
By the end of the first session I knew I would be doing no such thing – but I also knew I was in for an enriching, enlightening two days. The NWF had a practical focus on improving your writing, placing your writing, building your reputation and finding an audience. A collegial tone was set by keynote speaker Chris Cleave (UK), who spoke of the importance of storytelling and supportiveness in our turbulent times. (You can read Chris’s full speech here. It’s well worth your time.)
During most time slots there was a choice of three different sessions. I’m currently finishing the illustrations for a children’s picture book I’ve written, so I choose the sessions that related to publishing. I wanted to find out more about how to pitch to traditional publishers, and how to self-publish. Below are the key messages I took away from the sessions I attended.
The Perfect Pitch
Melanie Laville-Moore (Allen & Unwin), Duncan Greive (The Spinoff), Kevin Chapman (Upstart Press), Harriet Allan (Penguin Random House), Scott Pack (Unbound).
Copyright and Contacts
The Future of Publishing
Scott Pack (Unbound), Dominic Hoey (Boosted)
Publishing 101: Making a book
Kalee Jackson (Kalee Jackson Design), Karen McMillan (Publicity), Malcolm Nell (Kobo), Martin Taylor (digitalpublishing101.com), Jenna Todd (Time Out Bookstore)
Elizabeth Heritage, Publicist
Support, sustain, survive
Siobhan Harvey (Writer), Malcolm Nell (Kobo), Anne O’Brien (Auckland Writers Festival Director), Rachel Jean (South Pacific Pictures)
I wish I knew when I didn’t know…
Patricia Grace, Stephen Daisley, Kate Pullinger, Chris Cleave, Paula Morris
Along with these notes I also took away new ideas, new confidence and new friendships. The NWF was superbly well-organised and well worth the time and money.
I have a famous cat. (It's a long story - I'll write a separate blog post about it some other time.) My cat has over twenty thousand followers on Facebook now, and people love to hear how we hand-raised him into the handsome hell-raiser he is today.
I've decided to turn his story into a picture book for children. In the book a young girl called Kate finds a kitten, takes him home and names him. I've written the text and now I'm developing some working sketches.
My plan is to send the manuscript and the sketches to some publishers. It will take a while for the manuscript to get around all the publishers I've identified, and while that's happening I'll complete the final illustrations. That way even if no publishers are interested I'll be ready to self-publish by the time my proposal's done the rounds.
I'll keep you posted about my journey - and in the meantime, if you have any tips for me please let me know!
We reassembled our couch. We hung our pictures on the walls. We started our new jobs.
We filled a wool sack with weeds from the front garden. We planted hydrangeas. We made an edging from paua shells.
We screwed towel hangers into the bathroom walls.
We walked down Back Beach Road and saw a seal. We got unpasteurised milk from a nearby farm. We bought bay leaves from the kids next door.
We went to a fashion show. We went to a street party. We went to the pub.
We went to the beach. We went to another beach. We said “it’s not that bloody cold.”
I found a chair and a small table under the house.
I hauled them into the spare room.
I put an inspirational picture on the wall of the spare room.
I bought a scented candle for the spare room.
I renamed the spare room ‘the study’.
I potted some succulents and put them on the bookshelf in the study.
I sat down and stared out at the sea.
I vacuumed again.
I skyped my writing group.
I wrote a list of things to do.
I wrote a social media update.
I updated my LinkedIn profile.
I made some toast.
I listened to the ship horns.
I listened to the church bells.
In an unexpectedly brilliant end to the year I've won the 2015 Headland Prize for my short story Frangipani. This comes hot on the heels of my story Flotsam and Jetsam receiving highest honours in the NZ Writers' College Short Story Competition, so I am a very pleased writer indeed.
I haven't done much creative work over the past six weeks as I've been caring for my rescue kitten Bruce, so it's great to feel re-energised about my writing just as he's becoming independent. And summer's here! I hope you have a great one.
My short fiction has been published in Headland, Hue and Cry, Pot Roast and Aerodrome. I'm an award-winning playwright and zine creator, and my play Indiscretions was published by Playmarket. I have contributed articles and creative non-fiction to The Spinoff, The Sunday Star Times, The NZ Herald and more. I also manage the social media for my cat Bruce, and I wrote and illustrated a children's book, Bruce Finds A Home, based on his exploits.