Saturday, 27 December 2008

Now and then

With all the christmas rush behind me, I'm hoping to become organised again. Organised enough to get some lists going and to stick to them. I think the only lists I managed in the last month involved shopping and/or finishing up any christmas related things I had to do. (And I almost finished all of them. Almost.)

Like everyone else, I've been reflecting on 2008 lately. It's hard to judge whether it's been a successful year or not, but I think I'll go with believing it was.

While I didn't get a lot of new writing done, I did manage a few stories and poems. Most still need redrafting, but one story will be appearing in the April issue of Island. And of course, my story collection 'Svetlana or otherwise' (Mockingbird) was launched way back in February.

I am looking forward to 2009 and have already planned to 'buddy up' with a writing friend, L. The aim is to keep each other motivated and to work together to set (and reach) monthly goals. We each plan to write a novel, although not sure yet whether the plan will be to start and finish all in one year. We're actually starting early, tomorrow, when we meet to start on our first set of goals. I have an idea now what my first month's goal/s might be, but I might hold those thoughts until after tomorrow, when I have committed it/them to ink.

I am also running a workshop with Vicki Thornton at the Victorian Writers' Centre on Sat 14 February. The workshop, Overcoming Writer's Block, offers a great way to start the new writing year. I might have to sneak in a few moments of my own to jot down ideas.

Other than that, 2009 is pretty much open for plenty of surprises. I'll be looking forward to them, and I hope you get some too. Good ones, of course.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008


I'm back from Wagga and pleased to say I had a great time being away for a few days. I enjoyed the fourW launch and got to meet some of the people who put it together as well as chat to some of the people who didn't. Have started reading it and so far, I like.

Coming back to email can always be a little troublesome though. Catching up on replies, especially with the page seventeen issue being so new, as well as sorting through all the spam that doesn't automatically disappear forever. But there's good news in there too.

Like that my poem 'Minutes', originally published in Tamba, has been given a second life on the kipple poetry site. You can go here to check it out.

If you go to the very first post on the kipple site, you'll find their submission guidelines. Enjoy.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Road trip

Well, the launch last Saturday was a blast. The cafe was so full there weren't nearly enough chairs for everyone. People stood, or sat on the floor as they listened to the readings, and there was a real buzz. I got to catch up with some people I haven't seen for a while, as well as to meet many writers I'd been keen to meet for some time, and others who had only learnt about page seventeen recently.

If you don't have a copy yet, you can order from the site via paypal. Or download an order form and post with payment.

But it doesn't end there. I am heading north tomorrow on a bit of a road trip. Mainly to go to the fourW 19 launch in Wagga, but also to have a few days away from home. Hopefully what I bought at the chemist this afternoon will help keep my head clear enough to drive fair distances at a time. If not, lucky I'm taking my mum ;-)

Hopefully when I get back I might have some other news to share too. Ciao.

Friday, 7 November 2008

Book launch

Days have been creeping up on me in the last couple of weeks, and it is hard to believe that the page seventeen Issue 6 launch is tomorrow. Wow.

If you don't already know, we're kicking off at 2.30pm at the Queen of Tarts cafe in Belgrave (eastern Melbourne). It's right near the station and easy to find, being on the roundabout.

We'll be announcing and presenting the prizes to this year's short story and poetry competition winners, listening to poems and story excerpts, drinking great coffee and/or chai, eating fabulous cake and/or tarts, mingling with others we haven't seen in a while or haven't met yet, and all with special guest Lee Kofman.

The launch is one of the things I love most about putting the mag together: meeting/catching up with everyone, listening to contributors read from their work, especially those reading publicly for the first time and, of course, just having a day out and that sigh of relief when I get home that it is all over for another year. Well, maybe not all over, but certainly the busy part.

For those of you who really can't get to the Queen of Tarts, the competition results should find their way onto the site by Sunday evening.

Hope to see you there.

Monday, 27 October 2008


It's a fair call to assume that going to a writing workshop will inspire new ideas and new writing. But what about other times? I have always been amazed by how many people ask writers where they get ideas from, as if it's some big secret. Sure, I found inspiration at the workshop I attended on Saturday, and in fact, have an idea for a whole new novel. Another crime one that could find a home in another of my study's drawers perhaps.

But more than that, going to such an event inspires me to write, full stop. Whatever ideas are most pressing, seem more interesting when I scour my journal, or, yes, something that came out of the day.

So, today I am writing. A short story that was originally inspired by a fight my next door neighbours had back in May. The story has been half written, half notes, in one of my journals since then. Although I haven't finished it. The ending seems elusive. mainly because the story took a slight turn that I had not anticipated. But it's all good, because I have faith that the ending will come in the next hours/days/weeks.

Still on insipration, the poem I mentioned a while back was inspired by another writer's excitement about their own idea...when they asked a question about my past, it brought back a memory that seemed worth writing about. The poem I wrote before that was also inspired by something someone said, and focussed on something from my childhood.

As for the new novel idea, now I am torn between what to focus on next year. The non-crime novel I was planning to write, the crime novel inspired by this recent workshop, or a rewrite of the crime novel lining my drawer? And, while I think I know the answer, do let me know if you happen to come across a three-sided coin.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Crime workshop

I am very excited about this coming Saturday, as I have been invited to a crime writing workshop with Jarad Henry. Every year, a local writers' group, the Lazy River Writers have a writing workshop on the last Saturday of October. I am lucky enough to have been to the last two workshops as well, last year's with Sheila Hollingworth and the year before that with Liam Davison.

But this year is that little bit more exciting. Because it is crime. I am a fan of crime fiction. To read and to write. I love Robert Crais and Harlan Coben, and have a crime novel of my own keeping one of my drawers good company. I've never quite 'got' how a short crime story might work effectively, so hopefully I'll come away with a better feeling about that, and some ideas for one or a handful.

And it will be nice just to spend the entire day thinking about writing.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Getting back into it

I wrote a poem today. Probably not a very good one, but it means I am getting back into it. Yay.

The best bit about it was that the idea came to me, in complete form, at about 4.30am as I lay in bed. Sure I should have been asleep, and probably I should have written it down then. But, I can't really use my bedside lamp at the moment, so I figured it could wait til morning. A risk, I know, but I did remember it.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

A great day

It is a great day when the forthcoming issue of page seventeen goes off to the printer. As it has today.

Quite a few bits and pieces were only finalised in the last few days, so I am very pleased to be sticking to the original schedule. It's great to know there is so much support out there for the mag, which is why I was able to send it off on time, ready.

Now it's time to look forward to the launch.

Which will again be at the Queen of Tarts cafe in Belgrave. From 2.30pm on Saturday 8th November. Special guest Lee Kofman.

Copies are available at a reduced rate at the launch, or by pre-ordering. See the website for details, and print out a pre-order form or use Paypal. Or even better, come along to the launch and meet some of the writers who help make this mag a success.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008


I got to do some writing the other day. Unfortunately it was assignment writing, which just isn't as good as the real thing. But on the plus side, having written two assignments means I'm going to be able to get stuck into some stories sooner rather than later.

Of the ideas waiting in my journal, there is one that I am particularly keen to get stuck into, inspired by a fight my next door neighbour had one 3am. It was one of those times when I couldn't be bothered getting up to write notes, but when I woke in the morning, the words were still in my sentences. And when that happens, well, you've just gotta go with it.

Although maybe I'll rewrite one of the stories waiting for my attention first...just to help me get back into the swing of it.

Friday, 3 October 2008

Writing cycles

One of the great things about being a writer is that all the different stages of a piece of writing create a cycle. First stage might be to come up with an idea or to get straight into the writing. You might then leave it a few days and then possibly even workshop with other writers. One or more rewrites later, you might have something ready to send out. If you're lucky, you'll hear back within a couple of months (or less), and either chalk it up to a success, or send it out to someone else.

One of the reasons I like this cycle is that it means something can happen while I am not actually writing. Whether this means I spend some time rewriting a story, or allocate time to send pieces out, or, even better, find out an editor loves one of my stories or poems so much they want to publish it.

Despite my recent lack of writing, and even to add that I have been rather sporadic about sending work out, I had two pieces accepted in the last month. A poem and a story. The story acceptance was received only a couple of days ago, and was from a publication I have been keen to be published in for some time. This has inspired me to get on with the study I need to finish before I can get back into writing, and to finish it quickly. At worst, it needs to be finished by about Oct 20, but maybe I can get it done sooner and start scratching away at some of those ideas waiting in my journal.

Monday, 29 September 2008


I have been making slow but steady progress getting the next issue of page seventeen ready. Last Thursday I finished editing the stories, and made a good start on the layout. That was mostly finished by lunchtime Friday, although I hadn't written the foreword or started on the contents pages. Not to mention several other fiddly bits and pieces.

I am still getting there slowly, although today hasn't been a good day for getting anything done. There have been way too many distractions. I hope to spend some solid time on it tomorrow morning though, and have Thursday as backup. I definitely look forward to printing off a copy to deliver to the proofreader on Friday.

Then I will be able to start thinking about the launch on Saturday November 8. Not to mention get on with the study I have only 4 more weeks to complete.

Friday, 19 September 2008


While I am still on a self-imposed writing ban (until the editing and layout for page seventeen Issue 6 is done, ready to go for proofreading), I have managed to find ways to organise my writing. I know that may sound rather odd, but with so many things to do and only little slots of time to fit them into, my writing time definitely needs to be organised.

The novel I am keen to write, that I have mentioned a few times here, is the current focus. A writer friend, L, is also keen to make waves on her own novel and is currently doing a lot of the (historical) research she needs to do before getting started. Meanwhile, we have made semi-plans to buddy up to keep each other motivated, inspired, honest, and all those things that help a writer to keep on writing.

We're going to meet first up in January to make plans that we will stick to throughout the year. Of course, the one thing we already know is that each month we meet, there will be muffins. Unless there's cake. And coffee.

So now, all I need to do is to make a good start on my background work (read planning, character development) before then so I'll be able to make a cracking start come January.

Monday, 15 September 2008


Here I am again after a little break from everything. Well, everything writing related. And back I will have to full swing, as there is an absolute heap of work to do for page seventeen before I need to get Issue 6 off to the printer. But I'm not going to go into that today.

Rather, I was pretty chuffed the other day to come up with a second sub-plot for the novel I am scheduling to write in 2009. Well, at least to begin writing. I will see how I go before making such bold claims. I'm not so thrilled with the way the idea came to me, as it required a friend to experience a tragedy, but I am pleased to have a good idea.

Not that I will use what happened to my friend. I am loathe to do that kind of thing, but her experience affected me in its own way, and my own feelings led to an idea that is again, off on a tangent.

I even wondered, as I was making notes of the new idea, whether it might be a better place to begin the novel, as it means beginning with my protagonist in quite an emotional state, but I suspect it might be more effective if I leave it until her character has been established. Either way, there is no need to make a hasty decision...surely I will change my mind dozens of times anyway, such is my nature.

Monday, 1 September 2008


Well, another Writers' Festival is over, and unfortunately I wasn't able to get to anything this year. Not a single event. But I knew that would be the case, so I'm coping fine.

And anyway, all is not lost completely. I've had reports about various events from several friends and even through email, their excitement has inspired and motivated my thoughts, and I am keen to get back into my own writing...soon...soon.

Meanwhile, I hope to hear more reports from excited festival-goers.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

U's and Z's and other crazy stuff

It is true I am not a fan of American spelling. Although I agree it has its place. Like America, for instance. Not in submissions to Australian journals.

Even worse than American spelling from an Australian writer in a submission to an Australian journal is a submission with half Australian spelling and half American spelling. Do writers not know or just not care? Sure, a stand alone 'z' could be treated as a typo, no worries. We all know software can change the little blighters. But not when the text is riddled with them.

As an editor, I change them all. Of course. And add the odd 'u' here and there as appropriate, although that seems to be less of an issue. I have no qualms about making these changes. Because I believe that, aside from thinking an Australian publication should be in Australian writing, any publication should have its house style, and hence consistent spelling. (This excludes intentionally misspelled words, which are part of the style of a particular piece and should remain as intended by the author.)

Not everybody agrees. I know people who think spelling choices, whether American vs Australian, or something like ice cream, ice-cream or icecream, are part of the writer's style and it doesn't matter if there are different versions within one publication (so long as each piece is consistent...presumably. We won't mention how many submissions come in with inconsistent spelling, even of the protagonist's name).

But what happens when it might be feasible that American spelling is part of the style of the particular piece? For example, in a story set in America. Obviously set in America. Or, when the submission is from an American? As a writer, I would do 'the right thing' and (cringe while I) changed my words to American spelling if I was submitting to an American publication, or at least expect the editor/s to make the changes. So, does an American writer expect the same, in reverse? Does the writer of the story set in America expect it? Does the story itself lose anything?

Does it even matter?

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Selecting content

Well, the content for page seventeen Issue 6 is almost decided, and given there were six people's opinions to consider, it all went very smoothly. More smoothly than I could have anticipated, for sure. Aside from my own poor adding, that is. Qualified to teach calculus, but unable to count to 180!

Not that it is necessarily a problem. Every issue, we hold a few pieces as stand-by in case there is extra space, so we're currently deciding which of those to include. It is almost impossible to know exactly how many pages each story will occupy in the issue, particularly those from the competition and/or the ones that come in via Aussie Post. Before the selection meeting, it comes down to educated guesswork as far as this goes. And, since then, we have also 'lost' a story as one of the authors has had it accepted elsewhere first. A 'new writer', which is fantastic news for him, having two journals want the same story at the same time.

A story I mentioned a while back, the one I loved so much I had to stop reading for the day, didn't seem to have the same effect on the rest of the editorial team. Well, it was generally agreed it was strong, and certainly one of the strongest, and was hence slotted in very early in the piece, but it wasn't the absolute favourite of anyone else. Another story, that I had considered average, and thought would only just make it in (or just miss out) was the favourite of two others. This is one of the aspects I find most interesting and is something all writers should keep in mind.

Without doubt, some of the stories and/or poems that go into each issue come down to a matter of the editorial team's personal taste. And I doubt this is restricted to page seventeen. There is always more than enough poetry and prose to fill the pages that is well written, or at least competently written, and hence, good enough to publish. So, it has to come down to something else. Even as far as competent writing goes, we didn't all agree, so it's also fair to say that different editors look for and/or notice different things. Just as one example to make the point, one or two stories that some loved were pointed out by others to have flaws like changes in point of view, or in tense, when they shouldn't have. And so, were dropped.

Then, the last two or so pieces to go in almost came down to popularity. Once we had a list of 'maybes' to choose from, the next bests to go in, flaws or no flaws, we just voted. So, if I wanted to preach, here's where I'd suggest writers check out the journals they are sending work off to, for style. (But we all know that some writers do, and most don't, regardless, so I won't bother.)

PS. Printer cartridge did arrive yesterday...yay.

Monday, 18 August 2008

Slow August

It would be fair to say that not much has been happening in my writing life lately. The ideas being jotted into journals are slow, if existent, and I have not been able to get to any of the many events on in Melbourne during this month. Nor will I get to the MWF, which is a massive disappointment, given there are several events that are definitely worth attendance. Including this one.

But I will have to get over it, as I am sure I will.

Meanwhile, I am still trying to send some of my work out, although this too is happening slowly. Even more slowly since I discovered, the fun way, that I needed a new printer cartridge. But I have my fingers crossed that I will have one in today's mail. To be honest though, this has caused more of an issue as far as sending out notifications to page seventeen contributors than it has been for my own personal use. But I remain confident that everyone will still be notified before the end of August. Well, except for those whose eemails have already bounced and those that will in the next week or so.

Bring on September.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Competition results

It's always exciting when the competition results come back from the judges. I love pulling out the relevant entry forms to see who has won and whose work will appear in the next issue. There are two things that stood out as exciting for me this year (I should point out that I am saying this before having finished reading the actual stories and poems...I'm sure some of them will be exciting in themselves).

One, from each of the poetry and short story shortlists, there are three new writers.

Two, some of the writers who made previous shortlists appear again. Not sure if this says something about their own consistency, or something about the judges and/or judging.

The shortlist will be available here in another week or so. I think it's fair to give the shortlisted entrants an opportunity to find out themselves first before telling the rest of the world, so if you haven't got an email, you'll have to wait just a little longer.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008


There's no such thing as a good time to get sick, of course, but I suspect now is probably the worst time that it could have happened to me. For various reasons. Not least of all that there is much editing work to be done for page seventeen. Much of which needs to be done before the end of August.

I am sure it will all work out just fine, as it always has in the past, but it does mean there's not a lot to say here, right now. Except that it's back to the steam bowl for me.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008


I've had an idea for a novel for some time now, although it so far exists only in my mind and in the A4 exercise book I bought especially for its notes. Actually, I have also written the first three chapters (which already need changes, but we won't go there...yet).

A novel is the kind of writing I plan, being anal and all, and I have had a rough chapter outline in the book for longer than I care to admit. I have been grappling though, with the main subplot, trying to figure out how to do the research I need to do without actually doing the research. Not because I'm trying to avoid doing the research for the heck of it, I actually have good reason (this time). If I engage in the research I need to do, it is more than likely I will get hooked in and waste many many hours, not to mention develop anti-social behaviours.

In the car a few days ago, where many of my good ideas come from, the subplot all fell into place, in a way that won't really require any research. Now, that's the kind of idea I like. And now it's recorded safely in my A4 book, waiting for more notes to keep it company...

Wednesday, 23 July 2008


Something else that happens every year while reading submissions for page seventeen happened yesterday.

I came across the most fabulous story. The kind that you can't put down. The one that breaks your heart/makes you laugh/insert appropriate response. The kind that forces you to stop reading submissions for the day because you couldn't possibly stop thinking about this one for long enough. The story you just know you're going to fight for to make sure it finds its way to the pages. Not that there'll be any fighting necessary, because it's just so damn good I know the entire editorial team are going to love it too.

Monday, 21 July 2008


Every year I go through some of the same issues while reading page seventeen submissions, and in thinking about whether I'd like to publish each piece, I wonder what is okay to edit and what is okay to not. And every year it seems the same things drive me nuts.

My favourite thing to loathe is the exclamation mark. Or, more precisely, the dozens of exclamation marks that appear per page in some stories. Not that I'm suggesting I enjoy loathing them. Perhaps just that they always feature top of the list.

It has been said that the use of exclamation marks is a sign of a beginning writer, and that one single story should never contain more than one exclamation mark, and even then, that it should be absolutely necessary.

I am not sure I agree that the use of ( more than one) exclamation marks is necessarily a sign of a beginning writer. Especially as page seventeen publishes several pieces from new writers in each issue, and it is true that the bulk of submissions are not riddled with them. Anyway, many new writers are good writers, just without a publication history.

No, I suspect that it is more accurate to suggest that 'good' writers do not need to use them, so don't.

However, this doesn't help me decide whether to include a piece or not. Some stories with excessive !!! are otherwise very good, and indeed worthy of publication. But I cannot bring myself to leave all those !!! in. I have mixed feelings about whether, as editor, it is my place to 'play' with this. In the past, I have both rejected pieces based almost purely on this, as well as having published pieces after removing a hearty portion of them, if not all.

In reading this year's lot, it seems some things are not destined to change. One story I just read must have at least fifteen on every double-spaced page. Not only that, in most cases, the writer has used language that expresses the exclamation competently, and so it seems to me a matter of both showing and telling the reader (another no-no).

So what do you think? Is it okay for the editor to delete as many !!! as they feel is appropriate, or is this part of the writer's style that should not be touched?

By the way, I love a good use of !!! in an email...they do have their place.

Friday, 18 July 2008

Naughtiness. And raspberries.

The idea of writing a story feels naughty. The kind of naughty associated with a double serve of Nigella Lawson's Chocolate Raspberry Pudding Cake (not that I suffer this, but I have heard...).

July and August, and perhaps some of September have become part of a forced sabbatical from writing stories, poems, and anything really, aside from notes in my journal, and, well, lists (and now this blog). I'm too busy reading other people's stories and poems, trying to work out which pieces should go into page seventeen. And then doing all that's associated with getting them in there. With assistance, of course.

The time off works well. Without doubt, before I let myself write properly again, I am itching to get to it. Usually not this early, but that's not something to complain about. Not if I am good about maintaining notes in my journal.

Although I must confess to writing a poem a few days ago. Not the same as writing a story, either in time commitment or in personal satisfaction, but maybe it was what spurred on this creative energy that has me reaching for the journal to note down bits and pieces that may find their way into a story another day. Sometimes it's difficult to avoid writing the actual story, or part of it, but it's all about keeping that excitement there and letting the story brew.

And of course, if I need a proper distraction to make sure I write only notes for another day, other than reading more submissions, I can always turn the oven on and check that I have a stock of raspberries, eggs...

Thursday, 17 July 2008


I think I started writing lists back at uni, when, on my day off, I needed the discipline to study. Especially in the colder months. I'd make a roast every Wednesday, just so I had an excuse to have the oven on for most of the day, and I'd settle in at the kitchen table with the books.

Back then my lists used to include things like showering, eating breakfast, and on days when I needed a particular boost to get started, maybe even making a cup of coffee. Very sad, I know, but it worked. I'd have at least two things on my list ticked off before I even got started, and an amazing feeling that I was already well on my way to the end of the list.

Now, my lists don't include the silly stuff, but they do help me organise myself. Not sure if it's because there are so many things that need organising, or if my brain is breaking down with age. Probably both.

There are many lists. Separate ones, for different tasks, and then the ones I need to have for the days I have time to be productive. The 'to-do' list. All the lists are kept in a little book, kind of like another writing journal, except the shopping list, and I have found the key to good list writing is to write the list the day before you plan to attack it. True, it sounds kind of obsessive, but I will put off worrying about that until I start the list that helps me keep track of all the other lists.

I have been wondering though, why I have never created a character who is list-obsessed. Maybe I should add that to the 'story ideas' list?

Friday, 11 July 2008

It's taken some time, but...

I'm finally here. Yes, I've been arm-twisted into the world of the blog, and perhaps I would have made it slightly sooner, but for the difficulties of coming up with a title.

So much for creative writing!

Although I do believe that titles are by far the most difficult part of a piece of writing. It's great when a title jumps out at you after you've finished a story or poem, and you just know it's perfect, but when that doesn't happen, it can be agonising.

And worse with a blog, as at least with a story or poem, I know what I have written about already. Anyway, hopefully I've chosen well. Too bad if I haven't.