MENTORSHIP AND THE FUTURE ME

IMG_3157For NatCon2013, I was invited to sit on a panel about mentorship alongside Kaaron Warren, Jo Anderton and Kimberly Gael. My first response to the invitation was: are you sure? I don’t think I know anything about mentoring other than that bit of youth mentor training I did back when I worked in behaviour management? (and I was pretty sure that I was the only one who knew about that a decade on!)

If it were possible to attach a good-hearted chuckle to an email, the reply would have come with it, plus: you’ve been mentoring writers for years, you’ve just never seen it as mentoring. It made me look at (and appreciate) my business and creative practices in a whole new way.

GRASS ROOTS

I came from a grassroots publication where it was the people who mattered most. I spent three years as a magazine editor seeking out, collating and publishing the most personal stories: those of birth and early parenting. Part of that job was belonging to and participating in a small but incredibly strong community. That same community sustained, educated and supported me throughout my pregnancy, birth and early years of parenting.

When I left Down to Birth and started eMergent Publishing with Paul Anderson in 2008, I took what I knew of community building and peer support and wove it into the foundations of our new business. It was less a conscious decision of this is what we will do and more an intuitive approach of what I knew, where my comfort zone was and how it melded beautifully with Paul’s worldview.

It also had a lot to do with what both Paul and I really wanted to do – we wanted to create publishing experiences for authors who were keen to collaborate because, at that time, collaboration between authors was rare, even rarer as a large group, and most of the collaborative efforts were published online. And while we were able to begin because of the digital revolution and the low overheads that came with it, we were able to show a few years later, in dead-tree print, complex collaboration and high-concept ideas were absolutely possible in publishing.

A VERY HUMAN TWIST OF FATE

When I began editing fiction, I came to it with a false notion it was just about the best arrangement of words on the page to convey the most powerful story. I had no idea at the time that the role of editor (especially in long projects) was also that of best friend and most sworn enemy, harshest critic and most exuberant cheer squad, confidante, life coach and magician. The relationship between author and editor is synergistic. It’s the most human element of publishing, one I find equally challenging and fulfilling in its frustrations and intimacies.

A COOPERATIVE ROLE CALL

As an editor, I’ve had the honour of giving dozens of writers their first publication credit and for many of those it was also their first paid publication. For other writers it was the first chance to work closely with a professional editor or to work with other authors. My preference has always been to work with new and emerging writers.

As a publisher, I’ve been lucky enough to create projects that facilitate collaboration and creative exchange, opportunities for writers to connect and work with each other, in a way traditional models of anthology collation do not make possible. I’ve always been more interested in working with a group of writing to develop and publish the best stories each individual could write rather than opening to public submission and publishing the best individual stories from there. Because of this very different model, new writers have left projects with a support network they didn’t have when they started.

As a workshop facilitator, I’ve had the fortune of interacting with (and learning from) an ever-broadening group of people. For the past three years I’ve delivered the highly sought after self-editing and critique seminar through the Queensland Writers Centre. Alongside hints and tips on how to edit your work, I’ve also been sneaky enough to transform the impersonal seminar space into a personal one that pushes writers our of their silence to talk and connect with each other.

As a community builder, I’ve had the joy of building and facilitating spaces (in and beyond eMergent Publishing’s boundaries) where individuals or clusters of writers have come together to help and support each other, to foster new and enduring relationships and friendships. Last year I wrote about the experience of accidentally building an online community of writers. The article was published in IF:Books and Editia press’s n00bz.

A RECIPROCAL CONNECTION

As a writer, I’ve seen the importance of peer support and encouragement, and been lucky enough to find other writers and industry professionals who’ve been able to help me. From the people who took me under their wing and introduced me around at Cons and literary events when I knew no one, to others who have offered advice or guidance over the years.

And there are others, those with whom I have written shoulder-to-shoulder with over the years, in collaborative arrangements, as beta readers, as fellow travellers, as members of online writing groups and community, who have challenged me to be the best writer I can be. They have been there with me through good times and bad.

I have always tried to pay it forward because I am everything I am today, not just because of the hard work I’ve put in, but because of the hard work my writing colleagues have put into me.

THE BIRTH OF A MENTORSHIP PROGRAM

I’m not the only one who hungers for connection, for support and for the confidence that comes when others invest their belief in you.

I’m also not the only one who is constantly looking to upgrade their skills, deepen their creative connection and seek innovation in story telling.

And surprisingly enough, I’m not the only one looking for creative and sustainable ways of building an art-commerce model of income to support myself – in this case it’s the double whammy of not just funding myself as a writer but also a small press that wants to pay  authors well.

This has culminated in the conception of a mentorship program that draws on my own experiences, skills and accumulated insights. My vision is to be the curator of a supported creative space with the benefits of one-to-one personalised attention and small group interaction.

FOR THE ASKING

For The Asking is a hybrid program combining direct mentorship, a writing course and elements of creative exploration. It has the flexibility to accommodate different goals while at the same time providing a shared space to connect with (or hone) the craft of writing through experimentation in style, form, voice, genre and different creative modalities, combined with thoughtful critique, self-reflection and peer interaction. Each mentee will also have the opportunity to pursue one or two writing related goals.

The first 12-week mentorship block begins Sunday 13th September.

The program is open to all writers 18 years and over. Places are limited to FOUR and are via an application process. Successful applicants will be notified by Sunday 6th September.

Investment* is A$250.00

Additional information and the application form can be downloaded here.


*The proceeds from this mentorship block will fund the publication of ‘The Heart is an Echo Chamber’ (the follow up to ‘No Need to Reply’), the second Pandora’s Paradox novel and eMergent Publishing’s website redevelopment. 10% will be invested via Patreon into my favourite podcast, Tea and Jeopardy, created by Emma and Peter Newman.

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I’m Not Afraid of my Big Bad Manuscript

…so what the hell’s wrong then?

I have been thinking a lot about fear the last week or so. I’ve been trying to understand why I can’t begin the second draft of my novel. I assumed I was afraid, after all, it’s fear* that usually roots me to the spot and renders me incapable of forward momentum. When I burrowed under ‘fear’ to try and find out exactly what it was that was holding me back, I came up with nothing. (And no, honestly, I wasn’t deluding myself!)

THE ART OF DISSECTION

Confused, I started to look at the problem from a different angle. I know a lot of what I wrote is last November is crap, but I also know there are some awesome gems in there, I know the story absolutely has legs and I know you have to start somewhere. I know the manuscript is riddled with plot holes and half-baked characters but I know with time, research and patience, I’ll work out how to fill the holes and round out the characters. In summation I know its going to require a lot of work to get it up to speed. I also know I have done it before and I will do it again.

BEYOND KEEPING IT SHORT

When I read through Dalhousie, the first thought was: oh shit I’ve done it again. Thrown words at the page in record time and now I have to make sense of it. Just as I did with Elyora. Sheesh, you don’t learn, woman! Six drafts is what it took to get Elyora up to standard. The idea of six drafts of a 80K length novel is absolutely daunting.

The moral of the story, which I pointed out to myself, is: I’m not lacking in a track record or the skills. I did it with Elyora and followed it up with Post Marked:Piper’s Reach. I have no doubts whatsoever the PMPR manuscript got at least six passes over it. Yet it never felt difficult, or arduous or consuming. I always came out of an editing session filled up, rather than emptied out. It came out better for all the rewriting.

So honestly, what the hell is my problem?

NOT DROWNING… MUCH?!

Screen Shot 2014-03-18 at 7.05.32 PMI’m overwhelmed (not scared) of what awaits me. There’s 79K crappy words and just me to get it tidied into a solid second draft. No one has my back. There will be no kooky Skype sessions. No-one but me will leave humourous or insightful comments in margin bubbles. While I have friends like Rob Cook to assist in untangling things, it’s just me and the manuscript right now.

I want to work smarter, not harder this time. I don’t want to have to do six drafts (but you know, if that’s what it ends up taking, so be it!) For a start, I want to somehow have it all straight in my head when I sit down to do this next draft to expedite the process; understand the characters and their motivations intimately, know how the clockwork mechanisms and the house works. I don’t want any more huge gaping structural holes at the end of this draft.

Consequently I’ve been kind of floundering. And as I’ve floundered I’ve let myself drift into any form of procrastination that will keep me safe from having to front up and sort out the mess. I’ve blamed it on fear, but fear has a new name. It has the correct name: overwhelming.

BEYOND THE NAVEL GAZING

What does this change? I’m still overwhelmed. A novel is big, really bloody big and I might not be able to fix everything right now. But… I can incrementally stick plot holes and characters in my head and mentally masticate them into shape.

Indries Shah’s said: Enlightenment must come little by little – otherwise it would overwhelm. Oh damn, don’t I know it! So I welcome enlightenment to come slowly and I’ll be ready for all it drops.

Then there was the wisdom of a midwife friend almost ten years ago: How do you eat an elephant?

I can take small, mindful bites at the manuscript. Not choke, trying to force more than I can cope with down my throat. I will do what I can, something small every day, until the momentum picks me up, my home life settles and my confidence bolsters. I’ll be the consummate nibbler and know, sooner rather than later, the second draft flow will be upon me, replacing this horrible sense of being buried alive by my own words! Then nothing will stop me.

*Thank you Adam for your article today, prodding me to articulate what was swirling in my head!

Recalibrate

or how a new plan usurped the pity party of The Year of the Snake

The moon slid into her new robes late last night, in the sign of Virgo. Kim Falconer wrote in her New Moon newsletter:

The New Moon in Virgo is perfect to bring more ritual into the daily routine, amping up both ‘heart’ and ‘production’. Virgo is about skill development, and the rituals in life that are constantly creating and re-creating our experience of reality. You start creating habits that make life better.

As it turns out, I was already leading myself to that very place. I like to think of writing as recreating the experience of reality and I was ready to start writing. Properly. Again. I jokingly said, when my serpent medallion arrived last week, that the Year of the Snake could now begin for me. Better late than never!

TIME TO RECONSIDER

Weedy Typewriter

(c) Jodi Cleghorn 2013

This week, in a closed writer’s group I belong to, the topic of goals was bandied around. My first instinct was to comment it is all too hard at the moment, with home schooling still in flux, my health only just on the mend (after being slammed with glandular fever for three weeks) and a puppy who is still fitting into the family. The idea of trying to shoe horn anything in, seemed mad. Destined to fail. The best I could do was try and find time to write and to continue editing Post Marked: Piper’s Reach. That was an almost goal, right?

That afternoon I ended up in a cafe without my computer and without my phone. I had my Sony and a notebook. I started to flick through what was written in my notebook. That was enough to inspire me to reconsider my whiny comment.

There are four months left until the end of my creative year, I said to myself. What could I achieve in that time, rather than bemoan all the missed opportunities that have already passed.

NEW GOALS

One thing about goals is they need to be specific. The other is to attach a time frame to them.

A piece of mousse cake and a pot of tea later I had two pages of possibilities downloaded into purple ink under a variety of sub-headings: everything from the short stories in progress or pitched, to novella possibilities, the editing and submission process for Piper’s Reach broken down. The stories had markets and deadlines attached to them. So did the novellas, along with possible windows for writing. The editing schedule went month by month.

On the start of the second page I wrote down some new habits (albeit, new rituals!) I wanted to foster.

NEW HABITS

The three most obvious for the readers here are:

1. sit at my desk five mornings a week for one hour

2. blog reguarly

3. submit every month

I think the new habits will go a long way to helping facilitate success. If I achieve a quarter of what is on that list, then I will be happy. If I manage to sit at my desk five mornings a week, I’ll consider the entire goal setting initiative a win!

Watch this space!

What new goals are you willing to kickstart this new moon.

One Month Down, Twelve To Go

So we come to the end of another month. For those who are running off to check their calendars, I’m talking about the lunar month. This morning the moon clicked over into a new lunar month–the month of watery, dreamy Pisces.

Looking back, I remember the trepidation I felt waiting for the new year to start a month ago. I was afraid for so many reasons, the biggest one by far: would I fall apart again? I did a hell of a lot of soul searching, deconstructing what was left of myself before the year began, thus  started with a better understand of how the wheels fell off last year and knew what to avoid at all costs. Walk the middle path between imbalance and depression.

Unconsciously I made a commitment to be gentler with myself–to stop forcing demanding deadlines on myself. In light of this, I organised with Paul to have a part-time re-entry to work. And while the first week was pretty messy and hectic, with the imminent roll out of two new writing initiative at Write Anything, and I did work stupid hours, including well into the night, once February clocked in, I took it slower.

The Writing Round Up

In the last month I’ve written more than I have since November of any year in the last five:

  • completing a vignette entitled Intersected and submitted to Vine Leaves Literary Journal. Fingers crossed my first sub for the year is a successful one.
  • completing two brand new short stories for the Form and Genre Challenge: the crime short What I Left to Forget and a contemporary romance Thirty-Eight Degrees South. Thanks again to Laura Meyer and Stacey Larner, as well as Adam Byatt who bought the virtual pom poms.
  • writing two articles for Write Anything–The Secret Project/BirthPunk Mashie which details the two writing projects I am working on in the first six months of the year and Get Me to the Page on Time which is my search to find the best time to write, and how a routine can actually free you.
  • adding two new installments to #thesecretproject with Adam Byatt. This project is pushing all kinds of boundaries with me. I don’t think I have ever been this up close and personal with a character. The nature of the project means I can’t stand back and observe from a far–it is intense and has an immediacy which isn’t apparent (or expected) because of the structural framework, which includes delayed gratification between each installment. I’m so grateful to Adam for saying yes and believing in the project. At this point we have five installments and still have a tentative launch date for Easter.
  • re-wroting my author page and giving the blog the first of several make overs –the most important of which is a new name, 1000 Pieces of Sky, reflecting where I am in life now.
  • completing the first six days (of 30) for the First Draft in 30 Days book. Writing shorts took over and distracted me from the research I’d set myself up to do.
  • writing at least one haiku every day since the start of February for the haiku challenge with Tiggy.
  • completing the first article in a multi-part series on beta reading. The articles  will form the basis of an online course at some point in the not too distant future.

Many thanks to Chris Chartrand, Laura Meyer, Adam Byatt and Tiggy Johnson who have all beta read for me (some multiple times) in the past month. And a special thank you to Stacey Larner who did the final line edit and proof read for me on Intersected and Thirty-Eight Degrees South.

The Reading Round Up

My reading list was a short, just two books (and a half-read Poe novella).

  • Jessica Bell’s beautiful and brutal debut novel The String Bridge (which I devoured over a week in the shelter of a dodgy tent awning as it poured rain) and it’s equally haunting soundtrack.
  • M.J Hyland’s This is How which moved and disturbed me in equal measures.

The Movie Round Up

My watched list is a healthy one for the first time in a very long while:

  • District 9
  • Oceans 11
  • Abduction
  • Ghost Writer
  • Hanna
  • The English Patient
  • Crazy, Stupid Love
  • The Good German
  • The Descendent
  • The Texas Killing Fields

Devin Watson  publicly launched Literary Mix Tapes: The Movie Project today so it’s go. There will be movies from LMT/eMergent and a bunch of emerging filmmakers this year. Very exciting.

Hello/Good-Bye

In addition to that, we bid good-bye to [fiction] Friday and launched my two babies, The Form and Genre Challenge (2012) and PROPMTed at Write Anything. The Form and Genre Challenge is helping to rebuild the community of writers which once existed  via [fiction] Friday and has driven a lot of the old writing crowd out of their  funk and back into their stride, including myself. Chris Chartrand’s help administering the first week of the Form and Genre Challenge Judging helped to put it all into administrative order and meant I got to hang out with him twice in a week on skype.

Sadly, my workshop for the QWC didn’t reach minimum enrollments and I received word lunchtime Monday that it was cancelled. I’d lie if I said it wasn’t a blow but the timing was spot on. My energy bottomed out yesterday and with the stress of the pending workshop removed, I took a slower and gentler approach to this week.

New Writing Partnerships

Teaming up with new writing partners Laura Meyer and Adam Byatt is doing wonders to kick start my story writing again. I feel utterly at home in their creative confidence and not surprisingly, it’s having a flow on to my own confidence. Laura penned the heart-tugger Son Esprit Noir for the 3rd Person Challenge and Adam The Photographer’s Concerto, a prequel to my What I Left to Forget.

A Return to Editing

Last week I completed my first week of editing since last October and managed to edit and write with little problem. The only real trouble was dragging myself away from writing to concentrate on editing Deck the Halls. One story is day is a very doable amount. The hard work in releasing my old thought processes and welcoming new ones in, has wrorked wonders. I’m still on track to have all the editing done in time for Easter, at a pace which accommodates all aspects of life.

In Summation

All in all, the month fleshed out better than I could have hoped; the pieces slowly, but surely, finding a good fit and life in turn, continues to develops a resonating rhythm. I’m looking forward to being able to say the same (or better) this time next month.

#33 New Office Space

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This morning I dropped Dylan and my Dad at kindy, Dave to work in South Brisbane with his esky full of bugs and the like from his field trip to Roma so I ducked around the corner to The Three Monkeys cafe in West End before I had to pick up something for lunch and collect Dylan and Dad from kindy again.

There is something almost magical about writing in a space like The Three Monkeys – exotic.  The Arctic Fire tea was superb, as was the lemon tart (one of my favourites). What I loved most was the lamp in the background.  The place has a unique ambience and without a power point easily found it ws a race against the battery in my lap top.

In just under 90 minutes (and with battery to spare) I edited Gargoyles’ Revenge ready for writers group on November 12th.  It wasn’t my intention to work on this – Summer Girl was my intended target, but when I came across GR in my document list – it seemed like a good place to start on a day when there wasn’t a whole lot of time.

I’m very excited to (almost) have four stories ready to send out by the end of the year.

Budding

A New Leaf by canonsnapperI was intending to title this post “Turning Over a New Leaf” but there is something almost sad and pathetic about it.  What I decided upon yesterday is not about getting rid of bad habits or making dramatic new starts (though I should point out I’ve cut sugar out of my diet again so any uncalled for bad behaviour is a consequence of that!) Instead it is about fostering old habits which served me well – or instilling again old interests into evey day life. No surprises it’s Mercury Retrograde.

This morning I got up to discover my iPod didn’t sync like it was meant to last night, so fussed about getting it sorted and enjoyed a morning meditation.  Not quite what I expected but I was definitely on a better plane at the end of the 15 minutes and I think for the rest of the day.  I’m intending on listening to the evening one before I go to bed (shortly!)

There is a single chair on my mother’s balcony, which over looks the court my sister lives in.  The morning sun was warm and bright, but not too much of either that it was torture to be out there.  With my fountain pen filled for the first time in months, and a new folder full of loose leaf I started back to the journey which is the morning pages – meditation on the page.  I’ve missed it and glad to have it back in my life.  Plus it gave me something to photograph for my first day of the 365 Day Challenge.  Part of the reason I fell completely out of habit with mornings pages back in June was we were staying here and I couldn’t find a spot to write at (my Mum doesn’t have a table upstairs in her Nanna Flat and the table down on my sister’s patio isn’t the right place to be when small children are eating.)

All day I looked forward to a chance to sit and write … and walk.  As it turned out the walk didn’t happen, but instead of getting lost on the internet and blowing my downtime on mostly irrelevant stuff, I opened up my “unfinished folder” and started editing Lea and Jude’s story.  Decided to go back with the original title, from the original short story “Second Chance”.

While it would be lovely to write for an hour every day (would be brilliant to write for multiple hours every day – but baby steps!) I decided as a fall back if I can’t write for an hour, to write a minimum of 250 words.  While I didn’t get to “write” 250 words tonight I edited almost 400 words – paring down the word count from well over 600 words.  Using the advice given over numerous blogs in the past few weeks – if the word, sentence, paragraph doesn’t progress the story it doesn’t have a place in your narrative.

The pared down style of writing I’ve had to adopt to participate in Fourth Fiction seems to have stood me in good stead to attack the editing and rewriting process. Another one of those beautiful gems bestowed when you take the risk of trying something new.

By the end of the week I should have edited the 2500 words I currently have. I imagine quite a few of them will be discarded in the process.  But I’m definitely getting better about not being precious.

And I did resign last night from my Breastfeeding Editor’s position with Type A Mom. There are so many unproductive reasons to stay there balanced by a few good reasons, but it was time to move on. Now there are no excuses for not spending more time writing fiction!

Image found at Conjuring Sunlight

Fiction Friday Hiatus

books on mobileIt has been more than six weeks since I participated in Write Anything’s Fiction Friday.  It has been an unofficial break to date – with my son’s birthday party cutting in the first week, a trip to the Bunya’s the second, a prompt I couldn’t make work the third, then two weeks away on holidays.

The break has made me realise I need to take an official break from writing new fiction and concentrate on the overfollowing folders of old work which needs revising, editing, critiquing and writing.

All of a sudden I seem to have a bee in my bonnet about getting some work published.

It seems as if the start of the year was about starting and the end of the year is about finishing.  There seems to be a balance in it.

The Griffith review is publishing a special summer edition of fiction this year. The deadline is the 5th August and the premise is to show something new about ourselves beyond the political and market rhetoric.

The My Sandals story (which I’m thinking of retitling something like “Perspectives from the Sand” or “Perspectives of Sand”) is a potential starter. It was entered it in  EditorUnleashed/Smash Words flash fiction competition with no luck – but I think it is suitable for the Griffith Review. The hard message beneath the veneer tells us we’re often wrong as parents and subject our children to pain and anguish in our quest to keep them safe. I just need to check the word count for GR.

I’m also working on the fourth and final section of Graceville. I had considered putting it up for critting for my QWC course but the time frames don’t merge in a good way. So will ask some friends to look over it for comment and submit it as well. I”m aware it is a highly experimental piece and may not be to everyone’s liking. And thus – need to find something of an ‘alternate’ publishing outlet for it.

Once those have been submitted – I’ll be looking at rewriting Light Years and also the unnamed long short story which I guess I should just refer to as Lea and Jude’s story for ease of mention.

I have the fun of putting up the Fiction Friday prompts in August – meaning I will possibly return to writing some Fiction Friday entries in September or October – or earlier… if the back log of rewriting and editing goes faster than expected.

I’ll be back later on with some ideas on the Blog-a-thon and Hartog.

Image from  Blog @lla tua biblioteca