As a valued stakeholder of 'Kathryn van Beek: writer', please find your copy of my 2019 Annual Report below. The report is structured as follows: submissions, disappointments, successes, a tribute and a summary.
My goal was to make 100 submissions to journals, competitions, funding bodies etc, and I came close this year with approximately 81 submissions made.
These 81 submissions yielded 9 successes and 38 declines. Twenty-three submissions still await their fates, and I withdrew 11 submissions after the stories were accepted elsewhere.
Of those 38 declines, I would say that 35 were 'oh well' moments, while the other three led to full-blown 'what is the point in going on I should just impale myself upon my pen' crises.
I am also disappointed in myself for not finishing the illustrations for the second Bruce the Cat book (working on them now!).
A tribute to David
Writing the 'Best Book in the World' piece was one of the highlights of my year, and a real testament to the wonderful man behind the series - talented journalist and really nice bloke David Loughrey. Unfortunately David passed away recently. I don't know what to say except David, in the short time that I knew you, you really enriched my world. Thank you.
Summary ... and hopes for 2020
Though I didn't get the exact feather in my cap that I really wanted this year, I did pick up a bunch of other very nice feathers.
In 2020 I hope to publish both Pet and Bruce Goes Outside (my second children's book), and get a little further along on my doctorate of professional practice.
A huge thank you to everyone who has supported me this year. I love Aotearoa's literary scene - everyone I've met has been so generous and kind. Wishing all of you a happy and successful 2020.
Wow - I didn't see this coming! I'm thrilled to share that I'm the winner of the Mindfood 2019 Short Story Competition.
The story, Flotsam and Jetsam, (published in the August edition of Mindfood magazine) is described as the 'unexpectedly poignant adventure of schoolgirl Amy and her mother'.
The competition was judged by Rebecca Thorne (HarperCollins), Jenny Hellen (Allen & Unwin) and Michael McHugh (Mindfood Editor-In-Chief), who had some lovely things to say, including:
"A wonderful example of the power of short stories"
"There's a gradual reveal throughout the story, leading to a complex and heart-rending ending that's perfectly pitched"
"I am looking forward to reading more from this talented writer"
The competition will run again in 2020 and I highly recommend entering.
What a strange, fun and stressful week it's been!
Although it sounds a bit like some kind of swearword, 'Complete MS' is actually an abbreviation of 'Complete Manuscript Assessment'. Being a recipient of the programme means being matched with a literary guru who reads your manuscript and provides feedback on your work.
This year thirteen lucky writers were beneficiaries of the programme - and I was one of them!
The assessment couldn't have come at a better time for me. I was putting the finishing touches on my short story collection, Pet, and it was exciting to print out the full manuscript, get it boxed up and send it off to Auckland, not knowing who would read it or if they would like the cut of my jib.
I included a brief cover letter for my assessor, asking for specific feedback on:
A few short weeks later I received a detailed eight-page report filled with suggestions and advice. I received useful feedback on the above points and many more. I also had a Skype meeting with my lovely assessor where we discussed the feedback in more detail.
As a result of the assessment I have a bit further to go before submitting my manuscript to publishers, but I have an eight-page road map to help me get there.
The changes I have made, or am making, include:
As a result of my Complete MS experience I feel confident that my collection will be stronger and more professional when I do pitch it to publishers. My assessor has also left me feeling hopeful that I am on the right track with my writing.
A huge thank you to my assessor, and to the New Zealand Society of Authors (who run the Complete MS programme) for this opportunity.
Find out more about the Complete MS Programme.
Meet the other 2019 programme recipients.
Over the next little while I'll jot down some of the ideas that the lessons are sparking in me. I am really enjoying being introduced to so many other great works and writers through Joyce Carol Oates. I think this course will also provide a lot of beneficial insights that will form part of my doctoral study.
Lesson one: Introduction
Lesson two: Principles of writing short fiction
That's a lot more homework than we had in the first session!
I am going to give myself a tick for the fifth exercise because I regularly seek feedback on my work.
I'll report back on the rest of the homework in my next MasterClass post!
It's been a delightful two weeks at Eramboo Artist Environment in Sydney Australia's Terrey Hills. I've written the final short story for my collection, Pet, and I've re-drafted a couple more. I put the finishing touches on the stories I co-wrote with Dunedin school children as part of the Little Landers programme earlier this year, and I've also done some work on a Port Chalmers project I'm involved with. So, it's been a pretty productive two weeks!
It's also been nice to have the chance to do some reading. I've read two and a bit books, Billy Bird by Emma Neale (a beautiful, inventively-written novel about a marriage in crisis - excellent), Evie's War by Anna McKenzie (a meticulously-researched young adult WWII novel - also excellent) and I've made a start on The Omnivore's Dilemma (absolutely horrifying, but also excellent).
I would highly recommend Eramboo to any writers or artists looking for a beautiful, affordable and inspiring environment in which to develop creative work. We've had the use of a studio bedroom with a little desk in it, and also the use of 'the teaching space' - a long, sunny room with desks, a couch and a well-stocked bookcase. There's also a gallery space, which I've been able to use as a Pilates space in the mornings. There are wallabies in the garden, along with an incredible collection of birds including kookaburra, cockatoos, magpies and our favourite, the cheeky butcherbird. If you're lucky, the friendly brush turkey might also function as your alarm clock by scrabbling around on the porch with its dinosaur claws.
Several artists have permanent studio spaces here, and everyone we've met has been welcoming and kind.
The township of Mona Vale is a relatively short drive away, and features an art supply shop, a great library (where you can do printing) and an excellent bookshop. Mona Vale beach is worth a visit, as is the glorious Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park. It's also fairly accessible to central Sydney, and we spent a weekend in the city soaking up the art galleries and an opera.
A culture shock warning for fellow kiwis - I've never before stayed at a place where I couldn't just go for a stroll when I needed to stretch my legs. Eramboo is on a fairly busy network of roads with no footpaths, and we couldn't find any walks nearby. Having to get in a car to go for a walk was an adjustment - and the best walking spot we found was the National Park, which has a $12 entry fee. (Totally worth it, but not very sustainable for repeat visits.) Be sure to hire a car, otherwise you might find yourself going a bit stir-crazy.
However, we've still managed to see beautiful sights, have cultural experiences and do plenty of our own creative work - and we leave this beautiful environment feeling thoroughly inspired.
Thank you, Eramboo!
I've popped over the ditch to experience the Sydney winter for a couple of weeks (it's not dissimilar to the Dunedin summer!). I'm staying at Eramboo Artist Environment, which is a wonderful facility in Terrey Hills, near Sydney's northern beaches. I can't get over the incredible variety of birds here - and the incredible variety of creepy crawlies! Apparently the artists share this space with a goanna and a python, along with a magnificent kookaburra, a friendly butcherbird, several intrepid bush turkeys and the ever-present cockatoos.
Find out more about Eramboo Artist Environment.
While I'm here I'm completing what will (hopefully) be the final short story for my collection, Pet. I'll also polish up a couple of older stories, and do a couple of other writing tasks too.
Opening with award-winning story Emotional Support Animal (Sunday Star-Times), Pet is a collection of literary short stories. Each story peels a different layer of meaning from the word ‘pet’, and the collection addresses themes of captivity, animal attraction and pack mentality. The tone of the collection is contemporary and darkly humorous. The stories are not afraid to peer beneath the stone pillars of culture and confront what is wriggling beneath. Stories from Pet have been, or will be, published in Takahē, Fresh Ink, The Sunday Star-Times, Mindfood Magazine, Headland, Bonsai and Pot Roast. Kathryn is the ‘momager’ of one of New Zealand’s most famous pets, Bruce the Cat, about whom she wrote the children’s book Bruce Finds A Home.
A graduate of Victoria University’s Institute of Modern Letters, I am the winner of the Mindfood Short Story Competition and the Headland Short Story Prize. My short stories have appeared in The Sunday Star-Times, takahē, Fresh Ink and Bonsai. My debut short story collection, Pet, will be available from August, and is being released as a podcast. I have also written and illustrated two children's books about my rescue cat, Bruce.