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.
I’ve written a children’s book, illustrated it, decided to run a Kickstarter to fund the book’s production through Mary Egan Publishers, and even got some seed funding confirmed. Now what?
Over the last week I’ve been determining crowd funding rewards for backers, planning this weekend’s Kickstarter video shoot, and getting tricky with Trello (and other project management tools).
The most common reward is usually the product itself. Backing the Bruce Finds A Home Kickstarter will enable people to pre-order the books. Some creators also offer merchandise (bookmarks, t-shirts, plush toys), but the blogs I’ve read have advised against setting rewards that are expensive to post. So along with books and a few flat things (magnets, stickers, cards) I’m offering digital rewards (such as the opportunity to get a custom video of me and Bruce reading the story just to you), signed and ‘pawtographed’ books, and the chance for people who might not want the book themselves (but still want to support the project) to donate a book to Dunedin’s Animal Rescue Network.
Other advice I’ve gleaned is to offer a range of rewards at different price points, and to include a custom image of the rewards that’s a more visually appealing than the default Kickstarter reward list. My fabulous Digital Coordinator is whipping up a gorgeous rewards image as we speak!
Here are what other people have to say about determining rewards:
Optimising rewards and perks
Choosing rewards for your crowdfunding project
9 habits of highly effective Kickstarter rewards
This weekend we’re shooting our Kickstarter video! Crowdfunding projects with videos on their pages are more likely to succeed, so most people view making a pitch video as a key part of the process. Over the past few months I have watched a LOT of Kickstarter videos. The videos that work are the ones that are personal, have decent sound quality, keep things snappy, and clearly explain what the project is about.
When it came to writing my script I choose a video I liked and used it as a template to help me get started. It’s morphed a lot since then because I’ve added quotes, kids… and of course, cats! Luckily I know an amazing videographer who’s kindly agreed to create the video for me. (In return, my husband and I are helping him paint his kitchen cabinets!) There will be both children and animals in the video… so I’ll let you know how filming went in next week’s post!
Here’s what other people say about crowdfunding videos:
5 must-read tips for your first Kickstarter video
How to make an awesome video
Project management tools
Knowing that I’m the kind of person who writes things on bits of paper and then loses them, and that I wanted to be able to collaborate with people living in different cities, I needed to find online project management tools. I’ve gone with using Trello for writing up all my tasks and assigning them to people (Planner, part of the Office 365 suite, is also good for this). I’m also using DropBox (OneDrive in Office 365) for sharing files. These tools seem to be working out pretty well so far.
See you next week in my Three Week Kickstarter Countdown post!
Thank you to everyone who has expressed support for changing Section 69 of The Holidays Act so that those who experience miscarriage are entitled to take bereavement leave. I have talked to a very supportive local MP who may submit this as a Members’ Bill.
Along with gathering your support, I’ve also reached out to organisations:
I will wait a few weeks to hear back from these organisations and will keep you in the loop. In the meantime if you would like to lend your support please get in touch or comment at the bottom of this post.
I have also written a letter for the publishers of The New Zealand Pregnancy Book asking for more information about miscarriage to be included in the upcoming new edition. Sands may also be interested in supporting the letter, which you can read here.
I’ve been trying to get some action on both of these issues since December. What I’ve learned is that the wheels of bureaucracy turn slowly – and that just when you think you’ve found the right person to talk to, they tell you that the right person to talk to is someone else!
I listened to a great Freakonomics podcast with Trevor Noah yesterday, in which he said that trying to make change when you're angry is not effective. It was a great reminder to take a deep breath and play the long game.
I’ve also discovered that even submitting a Members’ Bill is no guarantee that anything will change. The Bill might not ever get heard in Parliament. At the very least though, it may influence further changes to the Holidays Act in the future. Based on the advice I’ve received, submitting a Members’ Bill seems to be the best way to proceed. I think it’s worth a shot!
Sometimes (ok most days) I hear something on the radio or read something in the paper that makes me really cross. But the other day something made me so cross, I decided to do something about it. It was the beat-up over Ministry of Justice spending on staff development. I've worked in the public sector and I know how hard it is to do your job properly when you're under constant surveillance from social media warriors who don't always bother to dig into the issues before commenting. So I wrote this post about it... and it was published on The Spinoff! Super exciting for me... and I hope it gave some Ministry of Justice employees a smile.
On the occasion of what would have been her 107th birthday, I chatted to actress Alex Ellis about the experience of portraying one of New Zealand's greatest adventurers - Jean Batten.
“If you have an ambition you should go for it, even if it sounds ridiculous,” says local actress Alex Ellis. “Jean Batten was an Auckland teenager who, in 1930, decided she would sail to England, learn to fly a plane and be the first person ever to fly all the way to New Zealand. Ridiculous."
Read the full story on the Glory Days telegraph.
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.
I'm a writer and my colleague Matt is an editor. We put together these 10 writing tips to help you quickly and easily improve your business writing style.
1. Start before you start
If you don’t know what you’re trying to say, your reader won’t either. Before you get started, ask yourself:
2. Make it easy for your reader to care
Make it easy for your reader to understand what’s in it for them.
You could say:
"We are implementing a new standardised three-bin system for household organic waste."
But who cares? Why not say:
"Our new compost collection will make recycling easier."
Ah, now I get it!
3. Pucker up
KISS: Keep it simple, stupid!
It’s harder to write clear, concise copy than it is to write paragraphs of waffle, but your readers will thank you for it.
4. Invest in pyramid schemes
The ‘inverted pyramid’ structure is a good format to apply to any business writing. Put the most important information at the top and the least important information at the bottom. In between you can include quotes, facts and figures and background information.
5. Know how to write for the net
Readers scan online text in an ‘F’ shape as they search for interesting information. Use headings and subheadings to help direct your reader’s attention. Be meaningful and specific – people want to know what they’re going to be reading.
6. Use active voice
Need to get your word count down? Want to do a better job of engaging your reader? Try using active voice.
Passive voice: "Six coffees were drunk by you."
Active voice: "You drank six coffees."
Passive voice: "The plan was reviewed and the changes were approved."
Active voice: "We reviewed the plan and approved the changes."
7. Zhush, zhush, zhush
Not all communication is inherently interesting, but you can liven things up with some zhushing. Give your piece a show-stopping headline, try a bit of humour, include a great photo or source a quote from an expert.
8. Be a headline act
The headline is the most read part of any article. It should get your reader’s attention and make them click the link and/or read the article, and – best of all – share it with other people.
When you’re writing emails, treat your subject-line as your headline. Let your reader know that your communication is interesting and important.
Writers and editors at Upworthy and Buzzfeed are required to submit at least 25 headlines with every story – that’s how important a great headline is.
9. Avoid capital punishment
In modern writing the trend is to use fewer capitals – but people tend to use them a bit randomly, so try to be consistent. Use capitals when you’re writing specific proper nouns (words that name specific people, places or things), titles of people and documents in full.
When Prime Minister Jane Smith attends a meeting with Chief Executive Susan Brown, the capitals show you’re referring to them by their full titles. But if you’re writing about the prime minister meeting chief executives from across the city, you don’t need capitals.
10. Don’t be a comma comma comma comma comma chameleon
Here’s a quick tip for using commas with titles. In this case, commas = brackets. For example, instead of writing:
"The representative, Basil Scott attended the meeting."
"The representative, Basil Scott, attended the meeting."
To test that you’ve done it correctly, cut everything between the commas out, and check if the sentence still makes sense:
"The representative attended the meeting."
Now that you’ve followed our 10 easy tips, it’s time to get your work signed off – and get it out there!
I want more!
Here are some of our favourite websites for writers and editors:
The Writer’s Diet
The Paramedic Method (for concise writing)
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.