Copyright Clancy Tucker (c)
Quote of the day:
"All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered;
the point is to discover them."
- GUEST BLOG
Today I introduce a guest blog that has featured yours truly and others - Writers' Web. I've always found the site gurus to be most helpful. What does it do? Writers' Web connects writers direct to their reading audience, allows emerging Australian writers to have their work read and places the book directly into the hands of potential purchasers - the reader.
Emma Mactaggart is half of the creative team behind writers’ web, an online platform where Australian writers become authors by having their work read and reviewed. She is also Creative Director, Boogie Books (small press boutique publisher) and Founder of the Child Writes program. Her award winning book; Child Writes: Creating a Children’s Book is Child’s Play underpins the program. Welcome, Emma. How did it all begin?
TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR BLOG’S JOURNEY.
With a flash of brilliance (and then two years of planning and a year in practice) writers’ web emerged. It’s single goal was to bring writers and readers together – allowing the reader to be the gatekeeper, rather than the publisher, and the writer to be the author by sharing their words. Kind of like a farmers markets for words, with the paddock to plate; or a dating service where you get to choose your best match, not someone else tell you who you should date!
WHAT IS THE AIM OF YOUR BLOG?
The blogs for writers’ web are the conversation we wanted to have. They are supposed to be informative, newsy, entertaining and timely. Probably a bit too ambitious to have all criteria ticked off for each blog – but we certainly do seem to hit this over a month. It has been a wonderful medium to practice putting one word after another, especially if my own projects have stalled.
The ultimate aim? To continue a conversation between readers and writers, allowing them to be one community, rather than the two entities which has been the case for a long time. Whilst writers are the most accessible ‘celebrities’ I know; they are often not far from their desk working. The odd insight at a writer’s festival or a workshop is one thing – a lovely chatty conversation is another and it is much warmer.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO CREATE A BLOG?
We actually planned to include a blog as part of our conversation when we were designing the business model for writers’ web. The conversation was to be much like life; where there are pearls of wisdom are offered at the checkout, information sharing when you make a quick call to a friend, or getting to know someone better over a superbly long lunch. Hence Twitter, FaceBook and the Blog.
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
What I find totally exhilarating is seeing what is in my head on paper! These thoughts have gently swirled around, first in a jumble and at a distance, slowly getting closer and closer, clearer and clearer. Then the marks appear on paper and I can share this without making a sound. (If I had practiced drawing instead of learning to touch type, I believe I would have been an artist!)
WHAT IS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
Making the world stop for long enough so I can really let ideas brew and then boil and bubble before needing screen time. I seem to produce work in two stages – the first, ideas like lightning bolts are created whenever I am in a physical situation where friction is created (and I don’t mean friction in a negative way, rather, that when there are two or more people in a conversation, the brainstorming for me creates these ideas). Then, I need quiet time (impossible sometimes!) to let the idea become clearer and more substantial.
WHAT WERE YOU IN A PAST LIFE, BEFORE YOUR BLOG?
The same as I am in a present life, though now with the blog, I am just a little busier. Incredulously, I look at the clock in the evenings and am simply amazed another day has past. Aside from constantly beating the drum for writers’ web, I have been working with children, taking them all the way through the picture book creation process; from manufacturing ideas, through writing and illustrating, all the way to publishing agreements and book launches! This program is called Child Writes.
I am constantly fascinated by watching aspiring authors and what is their starting point. If they are struggling, either socially, physically or mentally, for example, their stories focus on trying to find solutions for their struggling characters. If they are incredibly secure, loved, supported, their imaginations are more outrageous and their characters have a greater opportunity to explore some really interesting adventures!
As the children write stories, they sometimes crystallise something they have been trying to understand and I am sure this is what contributes to an increase in their self efficacy. Well, that and actually working so incredibly hard and achieving the impossible – a 32 page picture book written and illustrated and published in less than a year!!!
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT PROMOTING OTHERS?
Ironically, I find promoting others is incredibly self rewarding. There is an energy generated when you work with someone or are positive about someone else. There is often reciprocation, not necessarily instantaneously, but it does eventually happen.
Besides, it is so boring talking about yourself!
WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON AT THE MOMENT?
I get so excited about the end of the school year – no, not school holidays, not having children filling every corner at home, nor NOT packing lunchboxes and dealing with the grind – it liberates me from Child Writes for a moment. The classroom tuition ceases, the training finished, the books done and dusted and printed, so they are under Christmas trees ready for gleeful grandparents and spoilt cousins.
I have already dug out of the bottom drawer (where it has been brewing for five years) a first draft of a YA novel. I wrote 60000 words in 60 days (before I learnt of The Rabbit Hole by Queensland Writers Centre or Nanowrimo, which is National Novel Writing Month). It was painful at times, exhilarating at others – but the words are there. Editing hundreds of beautifully raw children’s picture book manuscripts as well as attending countless workshops on writing and editing has certainly given me the courage to grasp my editors pen with two hands and attach the manuscript.
(Besides, like a gold fish, I can’t really remember what I did yesterday, so reading this will be like reading someone else’s work. How exciting to be removed emotionally – FINALLY!)
WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
Outcomes and results. This is why I cry at book launches! I know exactly what has gone into the process of creating this simple looking object – a book. It is equally fascinating how that single moment seems to be so definitive, because it is about increasing your self-efficacy, it is about stepping off and finally feeling strong enough to share you work...
ARE YOU A WRITER?
Yes indeed I am. The last time I travelled (did I tell you about New York?) I wrote ‘WRITER’ as my occupation. I also self describe myself as a writer on census forms, taxation documentation, and any other forms, regardless if they are from the doctor or the local hairdresser. I can actually remember the transition from not acknowledging myself as a writer to doing so and what transpired. When I wrote that YA manuscript, I wasn’t a writer. As soon as I described myself as a writer, others did! I get such a buzz when they do, though the pendulum may be swinging the other way... I was with a friend, embellishing an incident which had happened earlier in the day. My children were in earshot of the conversation. One rolled her eyes and said, ‘Oh Mum. That so didn’t happen like that. You made that up. You are such a writer.’
WHAT GENRE DO YOU WRITE?
I love writing children’s books. The audience are the toughest, sharpest, most ruthless readers (and listeners!) If you miss a beat, your rhythm is off or your character has any traits deemed unbelievable, then it is over! Your words will be dismissed.
My favourite project though, is seeing the extraordinary personal journey which is watching someone conceive an idea, get the words on paper and then see it in print. The book is such a comfortable concept for many of us – yet it seems so inaccessible.
If only people realised how easy it is to create using this medium...
You are an expert at something if you do it 10,000 times. Global skills, like drawing and driving mean proficiency is only acquired with practice, practice, practice. In writerly terms, this would mean someone like Kim Wilkins (pens also as Kimberley Freeman) with 2 million words in print has probably already spent 10,000 hours putting one word in front of or after another word... Think about that!
Copyright Gavan Rowe 2012 (c)
DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR NEW WRITERS?
As much as I would love to share tips, I am still absorbing tips first hand! The most poignant one for me right now which is genuinely making a difference to my day is to share your writing. Find a family member, a good friend; send them something, anything, often. Clutching a manuscript, looking furtively to the left and to the right, assuming someone is going to steal the principle idea and take your story... Well, it just ain’t gonna happen. Get a project off your desk and out there, and start the next one. It is the only way to learn.
Oh, and look in the mirror and say to yourself ‘I am a writer’.
The creative process is akin to discovering an interesting rock on the side of a creek. It is covered in mud and moss, but for some reason it attracts you. You give it a rinse in the river, paring it down to mere rock. Even the initial colour which caught your eye has changed. The shape is fascinating, it sits will in your hand. You keep hold of it, but stretch your arm out, ‘look’, giving the person next to you a glimpse. You go to rinse it again, but you drop it and to you chagrin, it breaks. As you pick up the pieces, you discover one side has this beautiful crystal structure within it. You don’t even notice you have discarded the bulk of the stone. You simply can’t help yourself – on this side, one piece is protruding and you firmly grasp it between two fingers. Pull. It separates. You hold it up to the sun and the light refracts through and the person beside you gasps and asks for a look, and then the person behind them leans over their shoulder, interested, curious, reaching for their turn...
It is only now that you acknowledge it as a treasure – yet it was a treasure all along!
DO YOU SUFFER FROM WRITER’S BLOCK?
No, but I do suffer from ‘far out, is anyone going to be interested’ block. It is ridiculous. I talk and talk (and talk) when I am with people – am opinionated at the best of time and am not renown for my tact. Yet when it comes to paper – I honestly think no-one will be interested in reading it.
DO YOU HAVE A PREFERRED WRITING SCHEDULE?
My best solutions, ideas, thoughts are all generated at about 2.30am in the morning. I need to give over to this and simply get out of bed, type madly until the energy ebbs and then go back to sleep.
This probably comes from being so easily distracted, so it is the only way I get any words on paper! Right now, for example, as the kitchen heaves still with the breakfast plates now crawling up the walls because of that insidious combination of high temperatures and the remnants of soggy cereal and milk... I am thinking about the 60 books which still need to be constructed (yes, I am the little bugger’s Child Writes graphic designer as well!) and instead... I am having a lovely time writing to you!
Copyright Clancy Tucker (c)
DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE WRITING PLACE?
When I am on a roll, at home, with a full screen, a supersized keyboard and a large chair which I can cross my legs up upon! When I am creating a character who is in desperate need of some attributes, or a conversation which is wilting, I go to the cafe near my husband’s office. Here, eventually, I will see or hear what I need!
WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST JOY IN WRITING?
Giving something of myself to others.
WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE AUTHOR AND WHY?
Augusten Burroughs. Even though he writes of his own torrid, tawdry childhood, his prose are so intensely beautiful, that just like an object of beauty, they should simply be stared at! He makes me laugh and he makes me cry, but most importantly, he makes me think – not about him, but about myself and my reactions to his thoughts and actions and of those around him.
WHAT’S THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT YOU EVER RECEIVED FROM A READER OF YOUR BLOG?
I actually received a text yesterday... ‘wonderful clever inspiring woman, I loved reading ur piece on writers’ web, what a journey of reading, discovery and understanding.’ It was from a childhood friend – does that count!
WHAT WAS THE WORST COMMENT FROM A READER?
I am steeling myself for that... It is yet to come! Once a student commented in on an evaluation form ‘She waves her hands around too much and uses too many words.’ I am ready for anything from a blog reader – I have been working with ruthless children who can sniff out a weakness before you know you have one!
WRITERS ARE SOMETIMES INFLUENCED BY THINGS THAT HAPPEN IN THEIR OWN LIVES. ARE YOU?
The day a very good friend of mine said (in the context of an event we were collaborating on), ‘Here, you have to do this, you’re the writer,’ and I looked up, startled, because this was the first time I had ever heard the words aloud!
OTHER THAN WRITING, WHAT ELSE DO YOU LOVE?
A long lunch with girlfriends – especially those friends that are like donning your favourite slippers; comfortable and immediately induce as state of relaxation! In this environment, I can gain a little perspective on my other loves (Dave and the girls!) and how I am managing the entire juggling act. I also plan, sound out problems and deal with the micro insecurities which can stymie my writing.
IF YOU HAD AN OPPORTUNITY TO SPEAK TO THE ENTIRE WORLD, WHAT WOULD YOU SAY?
Ladies and gentleman, children all. Thank you so much for this incredible opportunity to share my thoughts with you tonight.
I must say though, it is time I listened...
WHAT ARE YOUR GREATEST ASSETS AS A WRITER?
* That I genuinely believe an ‘overnight’ success is someone who has put in those 10,000 hours or ten years...
* That since missing eligibility for the Vogel Award (I am a long way South now of 35 BTW!) the imperative to finish a project has now gone...
* The ‘I couldn’t give a .... age is nearly upon me (see above), so there goes the pretence!
* I have a talent for bringing out the talent in others... (I just had an epiphany) Soooo If I treated my characters like I treat others I work with, I just might be able to bring out the best in them...
IF YOU WERE STUCK ON A DESERT ISLAND WITH ONE PERSON, WHO WOULD YOU LIKE IT TO BE? WHY?
Haruki Murakami. He is impossibly creative so you could pretend you were anywhere. Plus, he wouldn’t ever run out of bedtime stories!
WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE?
Today, my to-do list looks like this:
Finish this and send to Clancy!
Check the edit on the student manual and the tutor manual for Child Writes;
Continue building books for the 2012 graduates of Child Writes (I am up to 29/63!);
Send one book to web designer – he can convert the inDesign file into one which is compatible to the iTunes store in less than ten minutes
Go through the writers’ web emails AGAIN – there are three new authors ready to have their profiles loaded, books set up for preview
Buy a birthday present for Sarah to take to a party this afternoon
Meet with inDesign guru 5.15pm for training session
Tomorrow? I will see what I do or don’ t get done today!
WHAT FIVE BOOKS WOULD YOU TAKE TO HEAVEN?
Jitterbug Perfume Tom Robbins
The Windup Bird Chronicle (my first read of Murakami’s work)
The Fountainhead Ayn Rand – as my eyes start getting tired, it would take an eternity to read the small print version again!
The Elegance of a Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
Clancy's comment: Wow! I told you Writers' Web was good. How switched on is that? So, to all aspiring, emerging and published writers, check out Writers' Web. Love ya work, guys! - CT.
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