Best Australian Blogs Competition

BB2013_NomineeI’m pleased and excited to announce that this blog has been nominated for the Best Australian Blogs Competition! Thank you to whoever nominated me. The competition is an initiative of the Australian Writers’ Centre. It’s designed to celebrate, showcase and support the power and diversity of the writing that’s happening in the Australian blogosphere. You can follow the centre and the competition on Twitter. The hashtag is #bestblogs13.

The 2013 competition launched on Thursday 28 February, with prizes including cash, writing courses and books to be won. This year the national competition has received more than a thousand entries. Coordinator Rose Powell says: “We’re looking forward to another big competition as the Australian blogosphere has grown and strengthened considerably in the last year.” The 2012 winner, Eden Riley, is now a full time blogger and regularly speaks about blogging at conferences, and with marketers and media.

So, if you feel like voting for me, or for one of the other nominees, now’s the time! Just click on this People’s Choice link.  Readers, followers, friends and family can vote in the competition until 5pm on Tuesday 30 April 2013. Although entrants need to be Australian, people from any country can vote. Okay, I’m off to do a bit of blog housekeeping …

The 2013 competition features:

  • Five category winners each with an excellent judge
  • A People’s Choice Award round
  • Five special awards for outstanding posts or potential.
  • The five categories are:
    • Commentary to be judged by Greg Jericho, author and social commentator
    • Personal/parenting to judged by author and blogger Kerri Sackville
    • Lifestyle/hobby to be judged by veteran editor and publisher Marina Go;
    • Words/writing to be judged by Brandon Van Over, managing editor and Random House; and
    • Business to be judged by Flying Solo founder Robert Gerrish

The 2013 winner  will receive:

  • $1500 worth of writing courses at the Australian Writers’ Centre
  • $1000 in cash
  • A one-hour mentoring session with Brandon Van Over, managing editor at Random House, to discuss publishing a book based on their blog or any other writing projects the blogger wishes to discuss.
  • $500 worth of books from Random House.

What Makes a Good Story?

Currawong Creek is all set to be published in June. I’m now 20,000 words into my new novel, and have been dedicating a fair bit of thinking time to the deceptively simple question of what makes a good story?

Tell me a storyFor me, the most important thing is that a writer needs to have something to say. Now this might appear to be self-evident, but think about it. Have you ever been bailed-up by someone who can talk and talk and talk, but really, has nothing to say? You begin to look for escape routes, ways to politely excuse yourself. It’s easier than that for readers. For if a novel isn’t animated by a powerful theme, then the reader can just close the book.

Writing from the heartA good writer in my view, writes from the heart. And an interesting novel must in some way take a stand. It must confront its reader, by presenting conflicting values and beliefs. Think of your favourite books, and consider for yourself, whether or not this is true. For me, writing that lacks a point is lifeless, full of ornamental adjectives and decorative imagery maybe, but lifeless just the same. Readers won’t waste their time on sentence after sentence without meaning, BUT If the writer believes, that whatever he or she has to say, MUST be said, that passion will come through the pages and grip us, as readers. We’ll care about the characters, we’ll suffer with them, we’ll hate them and love them. So my advice to all budding story tellers is to honour your convictions, whatever they are. Let them power your story. Let them challenge your readers, and make your story worth the telling. Care a lot about the subject of your writing and it will show.

Writing the breakout novelI’d like to finish with nine gems from Donald Maass, legendary New York literary agent. His seminal work, Writing The Breakout Novel has long been my bible.

  1. Think writing tools, not rules.
  2. Emotions are what connect us to the characters of a novel. What engages your heart will engage your reader. 
  3. Create interiority. Create an emotional landscape that the characters travel through–your story’s interiority.
  4. Reveal yourself through your fiction by writing from a personal place, a place of passion, a place of experience, a place that matters. Give these emotions and motivations to your characters.
  5. Genre categories have become a palette from which writers may draw from to create unique hybrids. Great fiction will not be bound by conventions.
  6. Surprise your readers. Don’t just write about the emotions that they expect. Think about the strongest emotions that you have experienced and then think about the underlying ones, the subtle ones. Write about those emotions instead of what the reader would expect from the scene/plot. Again, surprise your readers.
  7. Write your stories like they matter, and they will matter. Powerful fiction comes from a very personal place.
  8. Readers read to make sense of the world.Your reader wants some kind of insight into the antagonist. Who looks up to your antagonist? What does he have to gain? To lose? Why must he reach his goals? How much will he lose to meet his goal? What will he gain? Help your reader view life through the villain’s motivations and perspective. Make your antagonist multi-dimensional.
  9. Beautiful Writing + Commercial Writing (page turners) = High Impact Writing.


Happy Sustainable Seafood Day!

Sustainable Seafood DayMost people know that today is St Patrick’s Day (a shout out to all my Irish friends, by the way) But many people might not know that last Friday 15th March was Sustainable Seafood Day. Started by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), this day is about celebrating and rewarding certified sustainable seafood fisheries, retailers and champions. It’s about empowering seafood lovers and showing them how their choices can make a positive difference in the world’s oceans.

Our ocean habitats face massive and multiple threats: warming temperatures, mining, pollution and over-fishing to name a few. How can you help? The idea of Sustainable Seafood Day is simple. Only buy seafood bearing the blue MSC ecolabel.

There are seven Australian MSC certified sustainable fisheries. These include; the Northern Prawn Fishery (NPF), Mackerel Icefish, HIMI Toothfish, Macquarie Island Toothfish, Spencer Gulf King prawns, Lakes and Coorong fisheries and the Western Rock Lobster; which was the first MSC certified sustainable fishery in the world and is the first to be re-certified for a third time.

There are now more than 200 canned and frozen seafood products bearing the blue MSC ecolabel available at leading retailers across the country. To view the list of these products visit the MSC’s online Sustainable Seafood Product Finder. The other important thing is to check out the Sustainable Seafood Guide, print version or online, courtesy of the Australian Marine Conservation Society. You can even get an Orange Roughy 1IPhone app now, featuring Greenpeace’s Canned Tuna Ranking. So much to learn. Orange Roughy for example (also known as Deep Sea Perch), live for 150 years. They are slow-growing and late to mature, resulting in a very low resilience. How can we justify trawling for fish that don’t even start breeding until they are 25-40 years old?


Every Little Bit helpsAnd for those who despair as to whether or not our small contribution makes a difference, let me assure you – it does. Every little bit counts. We must celebrate even small advances towards a better future for our planet. Let me share the story about the boy picking up stranded starfish and throwing them back into the sea to save them. A man says to him, “This beach goes on for miles, and there are thousands of starfish. Your efforts are futile. You can’t make a difference!” The boy looks at the starfish in his hand and throws it into the water. “To this one,” he says, “it makes all the difference.” We fix the world one day at a time, one person at a time, one action at a time. Let’s work together for a future full of fish!


The Quiet Literary Achievers

introvertWhen I first began this writing gig, it seemed a perfect fit for my personality. I’m a bit of an odd-one-out, an introvert. I don’t much like crowds, or noisy parties, or even busy shopping centres. I’d rather be out in the bush, or talking to the animals … or writing. Writing is a solitary profession, and most writers are to a greater or lesser extent, loners. It can be no other way and this suits me just fine.

MeThen I became published, and read the endless advice all over the internet about the key to writing success. Publisher publicity wasn’t enough apparently. No, I had to become an authorpreneur, a juggernaut of self-promotion. I needed thousands of Twitter followers and 5,000 Facebook friends. I needed to strategically comment on high-traffic websites that targeted my audience, organise mega-blog tours, approach book stores and libraries, juggle daily posts on every form of social media. That’s when the collywobbles set in. The idea of flagging down readers and pushing my work on them was about as appealing as a kick in the head.

But do you know what? I discovered that, as with all things in life, there is a balance. You don’t need to be loud and flashy, with a sales pitch set at full volume, to succeed as an author. But you also shouldn’t be reluctant to join in the conversation, to link with other writers and experience that gorgeous sense of literary community that’s out there. I’ve discovered that I like Twitter and Facebook. I enjoy talking occasionally about my work, and most of all, I love connecting with readers.

quiet achieverSo I’d like to remind all of the shy, self-contained writers (including my niece!), not to be discouraged. There are plenty of quiet literary achievers out there. I’ve met them. Frenzied self-promotion is not the only path to success. First write an amazing book, one that says something important, one that showcases the vivid world living within your own imagination. Next, find the level of engagement that suits you, and be open to new people and experiences. It can be fun! Lastly, allow your genuine passions to shine through. Folk tales, science fiction, conservation, children’s literacy – it doesn’t matter, as long as the subject is close to your heart. Be authentic, and people will engage with you. It’s true!

P.S. Can’t wait to reveal the cover of Currawong Creek – coming soon …


AC Flory – Fab New Indie Author!

Meeka 2It’s great to welcome a terrific new indie author to Pilyara. AC Flory has recently published an intriguing new science fiction novel – Vokhtah. And the wonderful thing is, it will be free on Kindle from March 1st through to March 5th! As a teenager, my brother and I were actually very strong on science fiction. Classic authors like Asimov, Wyndham, Bradbury and Heinlein are still favourites of mine today. AC Flory is a master at world building, and also at telling stories from a non-human point of view. I like that very much! So now it’s over to my guest …

Thanks for inviting me to your blog Jennifer. We write in very different genres, you and I, but one of the things we have in common is a deep passion for the Australian countryside. It seems to go with us wherever we go, and whatever we do.
When I first began writing Vokhtah, back in 2004, I was focused on the main characters, who are all aliens. I needed to create people who were obviously not human, and differed from us in almost every way, from biology and language, to ethics and culture. Yet at the same time I had to find points of overlap.
While I was struggling with my honourable, but sociopathic aliens, I began seeing the world in which they lived as a massive influence on their racial and social development. I began to see Vokhtah as a harsh and unforgiving planet, a crucible for natural selection where only the strong thrived, and the weak became food.
Australia is not quite as unforgiving as Vokhtah, but there are parts of it that come close. There is aching beauty here, but Australia is far from tamed. It is not safe, and it is not forgiving of the complacent.
When my parents and I arrived here, we were refugees from the Hungarian Revolution. To Europeans, used to a tamed, green land, Australia was a… shock. I was only four at the time but I still remember peering out of the tiny window of that propeller plane and seeing nothing but brown and gold. It was summer, of course.
We did find an oasis of green in Wagga Wagga though, and all this time later, that first year in Australia is still fresh and clear in my mind. I was a city kid let loose in a wonderland of grass and trees, and a sky so big you could get lost in it.
Much has changed since those halcyon days in Wagga. I’ve learned to fear Australia as well as love it. Not surprisingly, many of those feelings sneaked into the creation of Vokhtah. Even some of our animals sneaked in while I wasn’t looking. The akaht are flightless, bird-like creatures with fur instead of feathers, but they do bear a striking resemblance to emus, and the aquatic pakti are like six-legged crocodiles with very long tongues!
Something few people know is that the cover of Vokhtah is based on a photograph taken here in Australia. With a slightly purple filter, and some clever Photoshop magic, my wonderful designer transformed a slice of Australia into Vokhtah. I was gobsmacked because the cover matched the image in my head so perfectly.
I did not consciously set out to write ‘about’ Australia, but I believe that even in fiction, we draw on our passions. I think that’s important for all writers because drawing on what we know, gives authenticity to what we write, even when the genre is as alien as science fiction.
Thanks for allowing me to ramble on Jennifer, and best of luck with Currawong Creek. I’m looking forward to reading it.

Many thanks for proposing that interesting connection. I hadn’t made it before. If you’re in the mood for something out of this world, do yourself a favour and take advantage of this great free offer. See blurb below:

‘Vokhtah is not a gentle planet. Ravaged by twin suns, it tests all living things in the battle for survival, but none more so than the iVokh.

Intelligent, and clever with their hands, the iVokh [literally meaning ‘small Vokh’] live in eyries under the protection of their huge, winged cousins, the Vokh. However when the Vokh battle each other, the first casualties are always the small creatures who serve them.

The only place on the whole planet where iVokh can truly be safe is in the Settlement, an eyrie ruled by the Guild of Healers rather than a Vokh. Yet even there, change is coming, and not for the better. Thanks to the healers’ obsession with abominations, even the Settlement may soon become a battle ground.

As one of the few healers not terrified of abominations, the Blue is determined to save the Guild from itself. It leaves the safety of the Settlement with a caravan of Traders, intent on manipulating the Vokh into dealing with the abomination themselves. However life, and iVokh politics, are never simple.

Aided by just one reluctant ally, the Blue struggles to survive in a savage landscape where even the elements are vicious. If it dies without completing its mission, the Settlement could well die with it. Yet what can two, frail iVokh do in a world where the predators are all starving, and iVokh are very much on the menu?

Time is running out, for both the Blue and the Settlement.’