Thursday, July 31, 2008

Ah yes...the novel....

So, you ask...WHAT ABOUT THE NOVEL? I can happily report I am half way through and it is not humanly possible to write a novel in a week. However I have written 29,572 words in that time which I think is a pretty concentrated effort and all without CNZ funding. So there you go, surprising what bloody mindedness will do. I am in a mood to finish and yes I have a sugar daddy- my husband. I owe this and all my previous novels to him, because without whose acknowledgement, belief and support I would think it a pretty pointless pursuit.

All that remains now is for me to finish the first draft (ETA mid September- I have a book to finish illustrating in between time) and to interest a publisher. My last three novels have all found homes with one, so maybe there is hope for this one too, and if not, well, it's all a game isn't it? No point in slashing yer wrists about it. But drinking large amounts of that's another matter.

I am giving a literary talk this weekend in the BOP, weather permitting (runway not washed out) and I found in my diaries whilst looking for things to include in my data show a comment about contracts. This by the way has little to do with publishing although some might interpret it that way. I have as a freelancer, been asked to sign all manner of them and I find very few find in anyone's favour except the contractors. ITS ALL A GAME... (she said as a mantra)

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

WOW is all I can say...

It is mad I know but the competition has completely disappeared from Text’s website! I am wondering if I dreamed the whole thing, in which case I have been writing flat out for what? My own self indulgent pleasure apparently.
On the upside, a visual story I have told, a 3 dimensional one, has been accepted for the 2008 Wearable Arts Show. which is a real competition not disappearing anytime soon.
My entry is called ‘The Birth of Velvet’ (guess what materials I have used?) and I am afraid that I am not able to publish any pictures of it until after the show in September, such are the rules. And fair enough, it is pointless, is it not, to show one painting before you display the whole collection.
So as a nice diversion to writing (for which labours I have been at the osteopath today) I am taking a collection of Wearable Art to a school tomorrow to show the kids how something is conceived. Because birthing it is, at the end of the day, as is any creative endeavour. Instead of my WOW comment on high art meeting low, here is a picture of ‘Sophia’s Story’, something I laboured over in 2005.
15 entries over 13 years, 7 times finalist…I must be doing something right.

On the 10th June 1886, Mt Tarawera erupted, destroying the beautiful Pink and White Terraces. Guide Sophia Hinerangi and people of Te Wairoa that sheltered in her whare were spared. This is her story:

'We had not gone very far over the lake before we saw another canoe in the distance being vigorously paddled but never moving. Several said they could see it, but as I looked earnestly the men who paddled changed into dogs and then the whole thing vanished. I said "That was a phantom canoe and a warning that something dreadful is going to happen."
I thought of the old chief who had warned us that God would punish Wairoa for its wickedness- he said that all the Maoris would be killed excepting me. He tapued my whare. That same night the awful eruption of Tarawera took place.'

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Transports of Delight

'So how is the novel going' you ask?

Good question. This link here describes the love affair with the novel more wittily than I could say right now because I am out of love with public transport.

'What has this to do with the writing of your novel 'you ask?

Well, to preface (which I am told is something to avoid in a work of fiction) this morning I did all the hamster things at home that require the attention of ‘she who has no proper job to speak of.’ If I were a lawyer, doctor or policy analyst, I dare say that I would be exempt from cooking, grocery shopping and dry-cleaning pick up duties. But dammit, I foolishly trained in art and therefore must squeeze my profession around the breadwinner of the house. I could of course say a resounding feminist bollocks to that, but we would then starve, because the breadwinner is not a breadmaker and rarely gets home before one has contemplated eating the cat to assuage hunger pangs.

'Yes,' you say, 'but how is your novel going?'

Patience reader… so I did the grocery shopping and obligatory waiting in the queue at the P.O, posting snails, then returned my car to its cosy garage. Bag packed with laptop, mouse, cables, charger, phone, wallet, diary, coffee, lunch, manuscript (1st draft) and playing cards (on which the novel is based) I then waited at what I have come to think of as ‘The Coldest Bus Stop In The World’. I am thinking of doing a Raymond Briggs style book about it; the place where the sun don’t shine; yes, the A-hole of Hataitai, but unless it is a dead polar bear, much much colder.
A heritage style edifice, dating from the early 20th century, lovingly preserved in tongue and groove, it is used mostly as a urinal. Today though, there were two empty cigarette packets and a half dozen broken beer bottles in it. Now that’s class for you.

'Yes, yes, yes' you say, 'but how is your novel going?'

The 12.57 predictably didn’t come as I stood there, icy wind tearing chunks out of my face and frostbiting my earlobes. The Flyer did, but it flew right by because it is the Flyer. A school bus did too- alas I am not a school child. Two 'not-in-service' buses also sailed past for reasons only known to Met Link. The 12.57 never came and as I stood there fairly well snap frozen, I made a snap decision.
Three minutes later I was in my car, petrol prices be dammed, the heater blasting around my feet on my way to the deli, where I bought a Pain aux Raisin and a flat white.
Parking is $4 an hour in Wellington, so working in at the advertising agency was out of the question and so were my 3000 words.

'Yes, we got it, but how is your novel going' you ask?

'Slowly' I reply.

I admit the real reason I have resisted paid employment in favor of the spotty income of a freelancer is because If I had to spend two half hours a day waiting for unreliable buses to turn up, 5 days a week for 40 something weeks a year, I would surely kill myself.
I look at the clock and the main income earner will be home soon. Hmmm, must be about time to put the tea on, perhaps a bit of…

Cordon Bleuch

'What can we have for dinner?'
I heard my mother say,
For some of my youth,
Well to tell you the truth,
Every year, every month, every day.

Why on earth did I need to worry,
About our daily repast?
There was homework to botch,
And the T.V to watch,
Whilst hoping she'd get it cooked fast.

Mum conjured up magic at mealtimes,
We really expected no less,
Then down we all sat,
Ate in five minutes flat,
Then left her alone with the mess.

Thirty years on I'm now staring,
With quiet despair at the clock,
It's a quarter to six,
If I don't feed the kids,
They'll probably go into shock.

The fridge is offering nothing,
But flat tonic water and mould,
Some limp celery,
Olives-just three,
And Shepherds Pie, five days old.

Election to first cook status,
Is not what it's cracked up to be,
I'd give it away,
For a fourteen hour day,
If somebody else would cook tea.

NB: it has to be noted that if I were to do the 14 hour day, and believe me I could, should there be a corporate position available for a four finger typist who is good at drawing olives, it would have to come with a company car park. Thats not too much to ask is it?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

First Week

So late this week at the ad agency having sat, uninterrupted by external invasions of the cat, the washing and moody teens on eternal school holidays, I have averaged 3000 words a day.
Is this normal I ask myself? Am I just a very slow typist (yes I am) or am I actually doing quite well? I’d be interested in your thoughts. Given that I have to think, plot and devise as I write, I’m assuming this is progress. The people around me are intrigued and possibly a little disturbed as I make faces, shuffle playing cards and silently mouth dialogue. There is a reason why writing is done largely by oneself. It is so other people watching don’t think you are mad.
The playing cards are a full set that I made to help me work through the plot. They are based on a set my Scottish aunty had, a fortune assigned to each one.
Today I shuffled, cut the deck five times and turned up ‘a dark man’ (exciting), a ‘fortunate win’ (not CNZ funding) and ‘a surprise.’
I am wondering if I might be gifted with tickets to Lenny Henry’s show in Wellington later this month. That would tick all the boxes and make me laugh to boot; always a good thing. 22,857 words down and the more I write, the more that needs writing. I’m thinking a novel in a week may be a tad ambitious….

Monday, July 14, 2008

A Novel in a Week

I just had to see Text Publishing’s call for entries didn’t I?
Like I haven’t procrastinated over my unfunded novel for long enough?
Coming from a commercial art background I am completely deadline driven and there is nothing like the challenge of a 31st July date to spur me on against the odds. The question is ‘Can I really write a novel in a week?’ Let alone one good enough to pass muster. There was one answer- ‘Google it!’
My search result came up with and an article called the Snowflake Method.
I think the basis of what is being said was very much what Ken Duncum was trying to get me to do when I did my MA in Scriptwriting at the IIML
What I did instead was distract myself utterly by writing a novel, Janie Olive (Scholastic 2005) in the Uni break when I should have been writing my script- avoiding writing by writing. Now I’m re-writing that thesis script as a novel using the CAAF method (Completely Arse About Face…)

Given that I wrote my first junior fiction novel ‘Verity’s Truth’ (Scholastic 2003) in 3 weeks from whoa to go for the Tom Fitzgibbon, it seems perfectly reasonable that I might finish a longer YA for which I have the plot and characters all set up as a TV drama in far less time, other work and socialising willing. A chance encounter last Friday in at an advertising agency (where I was very impressed with the central heating) has resulted in a free (warm) writing space for the duration- amazing what people will offer after a few drinks. I haven’t been lucky with CNZ funding, but the generosity and enthusiasm of others never fails to astound me.

Studying the snowflake method in detail, I realised I have already built my skeleton, put the muscles on, made the internal organs work (mostly) I did all of this work during my MA and now its just a matter of building the skin, hair and fine tuning the brain to flesh my novel out. I will keep you updated as to my progress using the plan! Consider it an interesting experiment and at least might get the bloody thing off my hard drive and out into the world. One needs a reason to write and the lure of $10,000 seems a fine one to pull out all the stops and work my tail feathers off for. A fortune teller told me once: “You won’t come into money easily, you’ll always have to work for it but you’ll just get by.” Bugger.

So said, the following verse addresses her words. Wish me well compatriots! ‘Wild Cards’ the book of the film of the story of 3 teens lives, starts today! Luck doesn't come into it.

Future Shock

I went and had my palm read,
And I really have to say,
What she saw inside the creases,
Didn't really make my day.

She said I'd have five children,
God, I thought I'd done with that,
By having two already,
Plus a budgie and a cat.

When pushed for indication,
Of accumulated wealth,
She merely shrugged a little,
And advised to watch my health.

'Your marriage line is strong',
'But you'll go previous to him',
So widowhood in Paris,
With a Toy Boy, does look slim.

'Watch out for new acquaintances',
'They'll bring you down' she stressed,
Well this was true, to say the least,
She had me quite depressed.

As I thanked her for her insights,
I determined with some zeal,
To reshape my boring future,
With a chemical palm peel.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Agent Provocateur

Well who would have known there was a standard query format to follow when I penned this somewhat tongue in cheek post? The things you learn on the way to fame....

I have a friend who describes herself as Fifi’s Feeder. She doesn’t bring me custard squares or berry friands, which is just as well, because they are my downfall. No, M. finds interesting links for me by which I might become famous. Most recently, she found a New York agent calling for romantic (even erotic) fiction and knowing I am penning a bit of chick lit, passed it on. Well, I had just seen 'Sex and the City' and saw how easy it was to be a writer there. Why one just has to wear Manolo Blahnik shoes, whilst sitting on your bed with an ibook and the rest is easy. I was up for it! Knowing how publishers are inundated with crap neck deep from every would be writer I sent this polite enquiry to submissions@groovyNYagent

Hi there, I am living in New Zealand with a chic lit novel on the go. I am 30,000 words in and writing. I'm a published junior fiction novelist here but this is my first foray into this particular genre. Feedback I have had is positive enough for me to wonder if you might think so too and care to see some pages and a synopsis. Nothing ventured and all that. Cheers Fifi”

Four days later I got this reply:

Thank you for submitting your work to GNYA. While we enjoyed reading your submission, it isn't something that we'd like to pursue at this time. Please keep us in mind for future projects. We wish you the best of luck in your writing career.
Regards, Groovy NY Agent”

So, undeterred and just a little affronted I responded in my own typically diplomatic kind of way which some of you have come to know and love.

But I didn't submit anything yet! How could you enjoy reading it? Wow, talk about jump the 'go away' gun honey. You have no idea what you may have missed.”

Three days back came this:

“Thank you for submitting your work to GNYA. While we enjoyed reading your submission, it isn't something that we'd like to pursue at this time. Please keep us in mind for future projects. We wish you the best of luck in your writing career.
Regards, Groovy NY Agent”

Which leaves me wondering if the agent is actually a real gal in NY at all. Maybe she is a purple rinsed granny in Minnesota pretending to lead a fantastic life in the big apple and writing a blog about it. Or perhaps she is a literary chick in New York, found her own ‘Big’ and married him, and never needed to deal with authors again. What a fairytale!

So on that note, here is a romantic poem for you. I know Bill Manhire will never be reading this (phew), but a whole lot of lovers of doggerel will x Fifi

Bodice Ripper

I thought I'd write a novel;
A really steamy story,
And on the wings of romance,
Would rise to fame and glory.

The heroine I had in mind,
Curated modern art,
Whilst trapped inside a marriage,
To a passionless old fart.

The hero was pure beefcake,
With a body made in heaven,
She met him on a canter,
Down in picturesque North Devon.

With throbbing bits abounding,
Fine art and equine mingling,
They embarked upon a tryst
That set the reader's senses tingling.

Then somewhere in the writing,
I began to lose the plot,
When the hunk fell for her husband
And the butler saw the lot.

Then my love lorn lonely lady,
And the horse both got the pip,
Much like me, when I received
My tenth rejection slip.