Utterly Frustrating


Below is a copy of the blog post which appears on the 100 Stories for Queensland website.

It is so frustrating and disappointing to have our chance at reaching an audience be undermined by an article littered with incorrect content. I have no idea how what I explained got so completely confused. And sadly, it is obviously confused when you read the text and then the quotations form me in the actual article (which isn’t on line – and for once – perhaps that’s a good thing!) Let’s not ask how real life stories can fall into different genres?!

It again challenges my ability to trust in journalists and makes me wish those who are interviewed and quoted had a chance to vet the article before it went to print.. before they printed a whole heap of things which aren’t true. It makes me question my ability to answer a question (though I at never said anything about the anthology having stories from flood survivors in it?!) and makes me even more weary for any future interviews. Bring on radio, or real time interviews.

What have I learnt from this:

  1. keep your answers simple
  2. write an awesome bloody press release that they can pull directly from – you can usually trust yourself to get the facts correct.

– – –

100 Stories for Queensland appears in today’s Weekend Courier-Mail (Saturday/Sunday 30th April-1st May) in an article entitled “A Flood of stories and all for a worthy cause”.

Several statements were made in the article misrepresenting exactly what the 100 Stories for Queensland anthology is. Below are quoted sections from the article, followed by a summation of the facts.

From the devastation of the January floods comes an uplifting collection of homespun tales, 100 Stories for Queensland, which tells the story of the heart-breaking experiences of those most affected.

Wrong! 100 Stories for Queensland is an anthology of flash fiction (ie. short stories under 1000 words). While there are homespun tales in there from authors living in Queensland, the stories were donated by writers from across the globe, from the UK to Israel, the USA to Malaysia, and across Australia.

There are no stories of heart-breaking flood experiences – this was never the intention of the project – in fact we rejected stories (even if they were uplifting) – if they were set in a flood. The stories are all fiction, in a range of genres, including romance, science fiction, fantasy, literary fiction and paranormal.

Using Facebook and Twitter the books creator’s connected with flood-affected individuals across the state to deliver a collaboration of inspiring stories!

Wrong… on two counts!

  1. While people were connected with via Facebook and Twitter, we never invited people affected by the flood to write and share their story with us.
  2. Writers did not collaborate with each other to write the stories which appear in the anthology.

The truth behind

  1. The project plugged into the established networks created by the anthologies which preceded, 100 Stories for Haiti and 50 Stories for Pakistan, but also into the networks of individuals within and beyond the project. Writers, readers, editors, publishers, and anyone else who wanted to help, spread the invitation for writers to submit a piece of uplifting fiction to be considered for inclusion in the anthology. And while social media was definitely very important, the word was also spread via blog posts and more tradition means.
  2. This is collaboration on the scale beyond what most of those involved in the project, had ever been part of – with 40 people working together behind the scenes to read, vote, edit and proof read the stories which came through.

And yes… the stories are inspiring. They are also funny, though-provoking, poignant and uplifting.

“It was the first time we’d used (social networking) for something this big,” she (Jodi Cleghorn) said.

Wrong! Both 100 Stories for Haiti and 50 Stories for Pakistan, headed up by Greg McQueen relied solely on social networking for spreading the word about the project. Greg made full use of Twitter, Facebook and also YouTube to spread the word, during and after the project.

The truth behind

What we were using for the first time, on such a huge scale, was the SubMishMash online submission platform and management system, where the stories were submitted, read, voted on and which provided a communications hub for all participants.

The project also used closed Facebook groups as forums for the first time to great success.

Many of  the people helping with 100 Stories for Queensland, had helped with 100 Stories for Haiti and 50 Stories for Pakistan and knew how to use social networking for a project like this.

“It was all there (online) so people could read it and vote for it…”

Wrong! It wasn’t online for people to read and vote on. This wasn’t an online popularity poll for fiction.

The truth behind

It was available on the aforementioned SubMishMash, which is an online platform, where stories were read and voted on by a group of volunteer readers.

… all proceeds from the good will go to the Grantham Flood Support Fund.

Wrong! All proceeds from the sale of 100 Stories for Queensland go to the Premier’s Flood Appeal.

The truth behind

100 Stories for Queensland Project Administrator, Jodi Cleghorn, is also the editor of another anthology Nothing But Flowers (published by imprint Literary Mix Tapes). Proceeds from the sale from Nothing But Flowers go to the Grantham Flood Support Fund.

…Local writers are thrilled to have a platform to contribute to the relief effort.

Wrong! It is not just local writers who feel this way. All the writers involved feel this way – especially those from overseas who were not able to help out in a practical way as part of the Mud Army, Baked Relief, or to provide food, clothes, toiletries or emergency accomodation for people displaced by the flood.

100 Stories for Queensland is a community project which is both global and local in its scope.

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Confession


When I was pregnant I read accounts of mothers who confessed it wasn’t love at first sight when they were handed their babes. It took time for them to fall in love, hours, days, weeks and for some, months. I’m glad I read that, because that’s how it happened for me. I had a beautiful pregnancy, an empowering birth and plenty of help afterward but when I held my son, put him to my breast, changed his nappy, held him for hours on end… there was nothing. No spark of the love I was expecting, not even the tiniest inkling of being smitten. I cared for him because he was my responsibility, he was tiny and helpless… and because I chose to bring him into this life. Babies, thankfully, don’t come with a returns policy.

What about the love, I kept asking myself, over and over, in the flicker of the TV late at night as I breastfed, in the few quiet moments I got in the shower and when ever I had the chance to string together a few thoughts of my own. Never admitting it to anyone other than myself.

About a week later, he was lying on the floor and from deep within, up welled the most overwhelming wave of love. It was so powerful it almost physically knocked me down. And I knew everything would be all right. I was head over heels in love… I was where I was meant to be.

100 Stories for Queensland is like that. I can admit it now  because I’ve (as of about 4pm today) held the fruits of all our labours in my hand and felt the overwhelming surge.  Prior to that moment, I’ve just felt numb, going through the motions because I said I would (duty is a damning thing), because I said so… because it was important.

When I ripped open the cardboard and held the book, I wanted to laugh, I wanted to cry and for a while there, I thought I might be able to simultaneously do both.

This project isn’t about me so I’ve kept Mum on it (I totally understand the use of that phrase now). Even now I don’t feel entirely comfortable confessing, yet I feel like I have to come clean. I feel like I’ve done a crap job.

I’ve watched projects collide and my hold on everything go. I’ve neglected my family and myself. I’ve struggled through depression the last six or so weeks, putting on a brave face, trying to do what I do best – edit and produce books – resenting almost every minute. It’s easy to point fingers and lay blame… especially when you’re pointing at yourself. I’ve fought with myself to surrender to the process – to understand that the project chose me, not the reverse. Until now, nothing has really made much sense.

I’ve tried to understand why I feel this way and in all the soul searching I found myself asking the same question I did almost seven years ago: Where was the love? But this time I was asking: why haven’t I fallen head over heels in love with 100 Stories like I have done with every other literary project I’ve been involved in? Where did my passion get way-laid? What the hell was wrong with me?

I’ve been dreading doing PR, fearing the journalists would see straight through me. Worried the absence of passion and enthusiasm I felt inside would be visible on the other side. I didn’t want to be a sham, I wanted to be the real deal! I’m a shocking liar.

I apologise for all the emails I’ve ignored or haven’t replied to about PR.

Right now, and forever forth, it doesn’t matter. I feel it now. It’s been a long time coming, but it’s worth it. I’m enamoured. Thanks for bearing with me (even if you didn’t know you were).

Thank you to everyone who believed and invested in 100 Stories for Queensland, pouring their time, skills, passion and energy in. And thank you to everyone who has supported me in my role as administrator – especially Maureen, Trevor, David and Nick who made up the core management group, my partner Dave and my son Mr D who’ve ridden the tempest with their usual mix of non-chalance and hugs, and everyone on Facebook and Twitter – those who’ve dropped in with sweet, encouraging comments.

I’ve learnt so much about myself through this and I’m charmed to have had the opportunity to get to know a whole new bunch of talented writers – many of whom I hope to work with in the future.

I’m so proud to be part of 100 Stories. And I’m glad I’m drowning in the love! Now to take it to the world…

As it says in the book, just before you hit the first story – on the page where I always place a favourite quote: If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to far, go together.

Release Me

Oh my goodness me… I can almost see the light at the end of the 100 Stories for Queensland tunnel. It’s been a long haul, longer than it needed to be between illness, more natural disasters, personal and business issues, colliding deadlines.

I have in the last half an hour uploaded the files to the printer in the UK and by Friday I should have the proof copy. This means I’m moving from dread to a kind of excited anticipation. I’d like to thank everyone who has been part of the cheer squad and especially Trevor, David, Nick and Maureen who do their stuff behind the scenes to keep things moving – especially Maureen and David for getting the list of authors and staff up on the website.

Until Friday, here’s a few details, including the lovely cover (which I can thank my cousin Michael for converting into a good quality jpeg file) and the blurb.

“One hundred beautiful stories. Our stories. When so much was lost or destroyed, this was created. That’s something that can never recede or wash away.”
Kate Eltham
CEO of The Queensland Writers Centre

100 STORIES FOR QUEENSLAND has something for everyone, from slice of life to science fiction, fantasy to romance, paranormal to literary fiction. Heart-warming, quirky, inspiring and funny the stories between these covers will lift readers to higher ground.

ISBN (Print): 978-0-9871126-2-0
ISBN (eBook): 978-0-9871126-3-7
Pages: 316
Dimensions: 229x152mm
RRP: A$19.99, US$19.99, ₤9.99 €9.99

100 Stories for Queensland will be released worldwide on Tuesday 3rd May. The book will be available as a paperback  via Print On Demand and an eBook downloaded direct fromthis site. The book will also be orderable via your favourite book store as of next week.

For more information email: storiesforqld[at]emergent-publishing[dot]com

B is for “Broken Angel” and “Bondi”

Welcome to my first fiction-retrospective for April.

The two stories I currently have up under my FICTION tab begin with ‘B’. As it turns out – both these stories were written for Christmas and purposely set in Australia.

Bondi appeared on the 12 Days (2009) website and remains the longest piece of short fiction I have penned.  Broken Angel appeared on Literary Mix Tapes website last Christmas and will be published in the combined paperback version of Deck the Halls and 12 Days (2010) later on this year.

Take the time to read both stories and then I’ll share five facts about each of them.

Bondi

  • The original inspiration for this story came from the Christmas Carol The 12 Days of Christmas: seven swans are swimming.
  • Giving up on twee stories about depressed Christmas ballerinas, I sent a message to some friends with the prompt and asked them the first thing to come to mind. A friend in Melbourne returned my shout out for help with, “How about the Sydney Swans?” Immediately I had the image of  seven Sydney Swans football players at Bondi. This gave me a setting for my story and a way to weave in the prompt.
  • Melbourne author Claire Halliday tweeted about the stupidity of the legal hoops her daughter had to jump through to busk Christmas carols. This gave me the idea for the opening scene of the story. All the legal paperwork  detailed comes from Claire’s tweets. To honour this (and with her blessing) I christened the daughter Claire – the only time I’ve ever purposely named a character after someone active in my life.
  • The closing scene was the first bit I wrote. Louise’s voice came to at 11pm as I fell into bed exhausted. It was written in a frenzy of words in over about 50 minutes. It’s the first time I’ve ever written a story backwards.
  • The story was originally about the guilt and grief of losing a baby, but during the writing, the identiy of who  died changed. In the beta reading phase my friend Diane (who is an avid reader, but doesn’t write) said she thought the story was about the grief around the changing relationship between mother and daughter, and the difficultes this brings up for them (and this spans three generations, not just two) This gave me the creative putty to make the whole thing hang together and tempered the expression of the grief through out the story.

Broken Angel

  • This story was inspired from a line in the Christmas Carol Deck the Halls: While I tell of Yule tide treasure
  • It was originally going to be a Christmas episode of Captain Juan – Christmas treasure and all – but the crew of the La Gongoolza were unusually quiet.
  • I specifically chose to set the story in the 1970s because it allowed me to be politically incorrect and to put the Dad in mission brown short shorts and a camel cigarettes t-shirt (my Dad had a t-shirt exactly the same and if he had similar shorts – I’ve blotted that from my memory!)
  • Chris Chartrand suggested the sound of the cement mixer at the end… I had only ever intended for the treasure box to be bricked into the wall! Once it was written it reminded me of a story I read as a kid about a woman who was bricked alive, inside a wall and was discovered several centuries later when rennovations were done to the stately home. It still gives me a chill – what Marcia’s hand may have touched had she reached in further.
  • The year I turned 18 we celebrated Christmas with my mother’s best friend and it was Boney M and mimosas all morning. I’ve waited years to wind this little bit of history into a story.

(Disclaimer: also written on Sunday.. but now I’m on track!)

Original image from Interior Design

“A” is for All About April


I came across the fabulous Blogging from A-Z Challenge in the middle of March – around the same time I faced up to the prospect of a pending meltdown if I didn’t do something about my work schedule. The answer of ‘what do I do?’ was apparent within an hour, amid the mess of tears, shakes and while the echoes of my yelling still echoed around the house – I needed a break – a month. One month away from the rigours and stresses of work. One month to get myself grounded and focused on what I really wanted for the rest of the year. A month to get my home cleaned and tidied. But most importantly, a month to write.

So when I stumbled across the A-Z of writing I knew it was something I definitely wanted to do in April, given also I was taking the entire month of April off. One of the points on my yet-to-be-committed-to writing plan for 2011 is to aim toward being listed as one of the 50 Best Australian Writing blogs. It’s unlikely given the start to the year I have had – but it won’t stop me trying for an honourable mention.

For the next 26 Day (Sundays exempt) I’ll be blogging. What will I be writing about – life, the Universe and everything, most probably. There will be some interviews from my writing fraternity. At the moment I can say there will be questions pointed at Emma Newman and Carrie Clevenger, about their respective projects From Dark Places and Crooked Fang (but that’s only because I’ve really only thought up to “F” in the alphabet – though Carrie’s is likely to fall under “V” for vampire!) There is likely to be reflections on returning to the page to write, possibly some flash fiction and articles about writing, editing and publishing. I’m trying to plan ahead – but I’ll probably fly by the seat of my pants.

April, other being my month of ‘authenticity’, is also mostly given over to the backward tracking of Mercury. To honour this energy I’m returning to read two of my all time favourite books – The Time Travellers Wife and The Handmaid’s Tale. I’ve committed to The Inaugral Sub-date Challenge so I’ll be reviewing my back catalogue of stories and doing what needs to be done to prepare five of them for submission. There is an unfinished letter writing project I started that I’d love to finish (inspired by Mercury Rx in 2009). I’m also aware my thoughts are closer to the surface than normal and as a consequence more powerful. It’s time to really start manifesting what I want.

April is the month I’ll be hitting the footpath in an attempt to return to some kind of regular physical activity. I love this article about Walking as Meditation for Writers by Patricia Fry. Back in October 2007 when I first decided to start writing fiction again, I came across this awesome article on Kim Falconer’s website and it struck an immediate chord. I’ll be back on the caffeine-free, sugar-free and alcohol-free wagon after a month off it and feeling gross as a result. Of all my vices, I’ll miss a beer on a Saturday afternoon the most.

As I’m writing all month, I need to stoke the creative fires – firstly with lots of walking, but secondly with lots of mundane work around the house – cooking, laundry, cleaning etc… to support that inner creative landscape (I love the fact my creativity intended for us all to eat and have clean clothes… but not so interested in us having a clean house!) My plan is also to cull books from my bookshelves – mostly the birth, breastfeeding and early parenting books which I’ve moved beyond. Have yet to decide if I will sell them or just give them away. We have many boxes of books which need homes on shelves. I also have several sewing projects to tackle.

Lastly April is dedicated here in Australia to honouring and recognising Australian Writers. While my novel stack isn’t reflective of this, I have three copies of Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine (including a brand new one which arrived Friday) to read. I might step out of my comfort zone and review some of the short stories. There are also a number of events I’m planning on attending in honour of the release of Anita Heiss’s Paris Dreaming here in Brisbane. Anita is a beautiful soul and I’m looking forward to meeting her in person after months of conversing on Twitter and a quick chat on skype during January and the initial phase of 100 Stories for Queensland.

All in all, April is about me – working out what I want from here on in (perfect to do during Mercury Rx). My plan at the moment is to return to business in May working three days a week and writing the other two. When Paul and I first set up eMergent it was with the view it would open up time and support our writing – we’d be able to work half a day and write half a day. It hasn’t panned out that way so far, but it doesn’t mean that it has to continue like that intot the future. I know I have big plans and the time at my disposal doesn’t allow for all big plans to see the light of day. But I know I can’t keep going on at the pace I have been this year. I also know I can’t keep going, surviving on next-to-no writing. After all, I gave up editing and publishing in 2008 to pursue writing. I must never again lose sight of that.

(Disclaimer: this was actually written on Sunday – compliments of the day from hell on Friday.I just refused to let work stop me from doing something I so desperately had my heart set on!)