I have no fear of public speaking in front of a roomful of children, or adults, well, except for a few tummy flutters beforehand. But nothing was as fearful as being the subject of a video interview.
That’s how I felt when I was in the United States last year and Mark G. Mitchell, an illustrator, author, blogger, interviewer and SCBWI member from Austin, Texas set up an interview between he, his trusty, tiny camera and me .
There we were in the Children’s Section of the beautiful library in Austin with the camera set up on a tripod and all ready to go … scary! But under Mark’s wonderful ability to put people at ease and his great questioning techniques, I forgot the camera was there. As you can see when I tell a few secrets!
Here’s Part 1 in the video Mark made where I talk about the writing of Secrets of Eromanga, and about my journey to being published. And a few other bits and pieces. (I look a bit dorky at the beginning … put it down to shaking legs!) Part 2 will be posted tomorrow.
Check out Mark’s website link to his very successful How to be a Children’s Book Illustrator So many interesting and useful articles, videos etc that will fascinate illustrators, artists and author alike. Mark also runs online classes. Thank you, again, Mark, it was a great experience for this first-timer!
Would you like to know how the inside of a writer’s head works? A good way to show you is to cut open my 480-word short story, AND YET, IT MOVES.
I’m posting as part of a blog-chain hop (a small link, I am) of how authors think and work. Passed on by wonderful performance poet, Zenobia Frost to my lovely friend, author, Michael Gerard Bauer and then on to me. (Yes, I am breaking the rules of procedure a bit here by not answering the set questions!)
Where do the ideas for my short stories come from? It still surprises me, even after 15 weeks in my 52-Week Flash Fiction Challenge, but I’ve learned to trust in the creative process that it will happen. And week in, week out, it does. Here’s how AND YET, IT MOVES came to be.
THE SPARK OF AN IDEA The stimulus word/s that week were CELESTIAL BODY. I usually start with a visual mind-map, scribbling down many thoughts about the topic, but this time I didn’t have to. For me, Celestial body = astronomy = Galileo, the father of modern astronomy, and my life-long hero. I knew lots about his life so didn’t have to research too much. But a short story couldn’t look at his whole life. It had to focus on one small incident – significant enough, or interesting enough to make the story sing. This is where being a keen observer of human behaviour helps.
Conflict is part of every story, especially for the main character. And so it was for AND YET, IT MOVES. I knew the history, I knew what happened when Galileo made a telescope and became the first human to see the pockmarked face of the moon – to work out that no, the sun and the moon didn’t circle our Earth. Therefore, Earth and its ‘made in the image of God’ humans were not the centre of God’s Universe. Galileo couldn’t help himself – he was a man who had to share his beliefs, widely. The Vatican’s black-robed priests of the Inquisition placed him under house-arrest. Would he recant his heresy or die?
Flash Fiction has no room for a cast of characters. There’s Galileo, of course, but who else. That’s when the magic happened … into my head popped the image of a young boy bringing a meal to this dangerous, white-haired prisoner … and my story was born. Young Guido had been warned not to listen to him, not to talk to him. So what sort of boy is Guido? And what impact will he have on the life of Galileo. I scribbled a quick outline, and let it bubble away in my imagination for a couple of days.
SETTING, DESCRIPTION They’re all essential things to get right – without using too many words. It’s set in Firenze, in the 16th Century, at night. I had to use enough sensory images to set the scene, but keep the story flowing.
Flash Fiction needs to end with a twist – ending with a POW! An ah-ha moment. I knew as I wrote the first draft where this story would lead … it wasn’t really a conscious decision, more instinctive story-telling. A gut-feeling of wanting to right a wrong. To see human intelligence and valour work for this great man and young Guido.
Perfect titles are essential in Flash Fiction. They must say everything, without giving too much away. ‘And yet, it moves‘ are the words that Galileo is rumoured to have muttered when he recanted his teachings in front of the Inquisition and the Pope – he was not put to death, but remained under house arrest the rest of his life, continuing his studies and exploring the heavens. He discovered the moons of Jupiter and many more truths we know today.
The thought of this brilliant man holding his beliefs against ignorance, cruelty and superstition will stay with me forever.
I’m a STORY-MAKING ADDICT, a bona fide member of the SMnsA – STORY-MAKERS, not so ANONYMOUS. For this global community of creators, there is no cure. If you are inflicted, your only way to scratch the itch is to make stories … novels, short stories, even plays. It’s not harmful. It gives pleasure (in large amounts) and to others. It drives you nuts sometimes. It can also kick you when you’re down. Hey, just ask my writerly friends … they all agree.
Ideas for stories are everywhere … just keep your eyes and mind open and trust your imagination, they will surface.
I’ve embarked on a writing discipline quest (besides the novels I have on the go) – it’s a challenge to write 52 short/short stories using a set topic word for inspiration. My own 52-Week Flash Fiction Challenge is up to Week 9. A couple of times as a Friday approaches, I fear I can’t do it, but out pops an idea and a story.
Flash Fiction is a great genre to try out at any level of writing confidence and experience. I’ve been a practicing author for fourteen years. I’ve learned that you must trust what is in your head and your heart. It doesn’t matter if that first draft is woeful, it’s what you do with that germinating narrative that matters. It’s where the magic happens.
FlashFiction can be a few sentences to 500 words … in my challenge, it’s 500. That’s an achievable length and long enough to give you a story with guts. You generally write more than 500 and then whittle back until you have left the perfect words. Flash Fiction and poetry have a lot in common.
Why don’t you try it out? If you’d like to join a small, online writing community on Facebook doing just this, get on to the page I set up – it’s a smaller version of my own Flash Fiction Challenge blog. All you need to do is click to join. The 38-Week Flash Fiction Challenge.
Here’re some of the topic WORDS in the Flash Fiction Challenges. Could you make a 500 story using one of them? Try it out. frog / cabbage / atone / autumn / fish / keepsake / mushroom / blue / mushroom / blue / plucky / celestial body / abstract / proof …… etc
TIPS ON WRITING FLASH FICTION
Author, Matt Moore has some great tips on how to use this genre successfully. It’s not as easy as you think, but the results are worth it.
Remember, you’re writing a story. It has a beginning, middle and end. And like all stories, it must have character, settings, plot, conflict. Finally, something must change during the story—a character discovers something about him/herself; a simple event has far-reaching consequences.
Thank you to talented and all-round lovely person, author,Julie Fison who has invited me to be part of the My Writing Process Blog Tour. Julie, along with several other well-known children’s authors lives in my suburb in Brisbane, Queensland. Must be something in the water! I write children’s novels, short stories, chapter books, school plays and flash fiction for adults. Okay, so here goes…. my Writing Process
What am I working on? I usually have several things on the go – like just completing the final edit for new chapter book, The Magic Globe (due out mid-2014), working on my 52,000 word novel, Sweet Adversity, seeing my children’s play, Rosie, hero of Eggstown get published in the Irish kids’ publication, Through the Looking Glass Magazine. I’m also writing an adult flash fiction story a week for my 52-Week Flash Fiction Challenge blog this year. It’s been totally manic, but I love creating these short/short stories around a word theme. This week’s word was ATONE. Tricky, but I’m happy with the result.
My main focus in the first half of 2014 is to complete the final polish of Sweet Adversity– an historical adventure set in the Great Depression in Australia. It’s for 10-13 year olds (and adults who like reading kids’ novels, haha. Yeah, that’s all of us, isn’t it?)
In 2013, this manuscript won a SCBWI International RA/ARA Work of Outstanding Promise award – a generous grant that’s helped me travel to Canberra’s National Library to research the affect of the Great Depression on Australian children.
Sweet Adversity means so much to me – its real-time history flavour; its protagonist, Addie McAlpine, a feisty and talented runaway from an orphanage; her pet galah, Macbeth, a bird with a repertoire of Shakespearean quotes; two twisted adults who’ll do anything in their power to get what they want from Addie, and a quest to the death.
I’ve always loved the language and drama of Shakespeare’s plays – from right back when, as a student, and a troop of Shakespearean actors arrived on a train in my tiny, Queensland outback town. They played The Merchant of Venice. One of them (apparently) was a young Geoffrey Rush. Of course, there are other influences surrounding this work-in-progress. Hope you get to read it in the real one day!
How does my work differ from others of its genre? I write with a slight literary style (I do love the magic and rhythm of words), but I keep in mind the reader’s enjoyment of the story is what matters in the end. Some say I have a great feel of writing the landscape of my stories – you’ll have to read them to see what that means. I’m also an artist, so landscapes have been significant in my life – sensory observation is second nature now, especially of some places that have left indelible impressions on my mind.
I also like to make my stories a little different – like in Secrets of Eromanga, a junior fiction contemporary novel set on a fossil dig near Winton, Queensland. Every alternate chapter jumps back 350 million years to document the life story of a courageous, young female ornithopod called Wintonopus latomorum.
As I wrote, I became as attached to that gentle dinosaur as I did to Ellie, my human character. And like the kids who read the book, deeply felt Wintonopus’s ultimate demise.
How does your writing process work? It depends on what I’m writing. I get ideas all the time – sometimes they cellar like a good wine until formed into a story. Other times, those impulses grow silver wings and off they go. Still, I do edit and rewrite MANY times. I’ve submitted manuscripts before they’re ready. But I’m learning to be patient nowadays. I like to start with a plot plan/outline (so I know the ending, sort of), then let my imagination free reign to think laterally.
I love the editing process – that’s when my brain really fires up. Sometimes I end up with a plotline that is nothing like I thought it would be. Very exciting!
Playing a leadership role in our children’s writing world is like adding grease to the squeaky wheel of authorship.
I’ve met people – other authors, illustrators, editors, publishers and librarians – they’ve helped increase my desire to write the best I can, they give me encouragement in those ‘down times’, they help feed my quest for knowledge, and they’re fun to be with – what more could an author ask for?
Coming up soon … an author and an illustrator I know you’ll love to know more about. Names revealed soon!!