Friday, July 19, 2013

Breaking up is hard to do

So, this is a difficult post to write. If you received my newsletter earlier this week, you'll know that I'm making some changes. The website is having a makeover next week - new look, new feel, new fun. For no other reason than that a change is as good as a holiday. I'm pretty excited about that.

One of the things I'm doing (or, actually, the lovely Kelly from Swish Design is doing... because, as we all know, I am technologically inept) is integrating my blog into the website. A little housekeeping, just to make things a bit more streamlined. Part of my whole 'work smarter, not harder' resolution for this year.

But that means, deep sigh, that the Fibro is going. Not so much a renovation, as a complete knock-down and rebuild.

When I first started blogging and had to name my blog, I thought for all of five minutes about what I would write about (life) and then thought, 'okay, that's boring, add more' (in a pink Fibro). Write what you know, they say. And it all worked out beautifully for two and a half years.

Then I moved house. And was no longer in a pink Fibro. But my reasoning was that, well, it didn't really matter - though I did confess that perhaps I should have put more thought into naming my blog.

Fast-forward another year and I've realised that it's time to let go of the Fibro. Much as I love it.

I'll still be writing about life, and writing, and ... whimsy...  but my blog will simply be part of the Allison Tait website, out there under my name, probably much as it should have been from the start. Over the next week, all the content will be migrating its way over to the new space, keeping it all together and under one roof. Cosy.

I hope you'll all still come and visit (it should all be up and running again by July 29).

I'll leave a light on for you.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Social Media for Writers #4: Google+

When I first visited Google+, I felt as though I was wandering down empty hallways, bleating to myself. It was hard to work out who to follow, who to talk to, what the whole circle thing meant and how it worked.

In essence, why would a person bother with this?

But the more I read about it, the more it seemed to me that it's worth persisting with Google+ because... Google. If you want people to find your books, your blog, your...self, it makes sense to make friendly with the biggest search engine on earth.

Around about that time, I began discovering the Google+ communities and, after a few false starts, I wandered into the Writer's Discussion Group (current membership: 13,116) and suddenly Google+ began to make sense. As a place for sharing resources, information and ideas, Google+ communities are amazing.

But can a writer best use Google+?

Who better to answer that question than John Ward, manager of the Writer's Discussion Group, as well as a community devoted to the Urban Fantasy genre. John hosts two podcasts for his communities and is a frequent guest on a third podcast devoted to self-publishing.

Will Google+ help me to sell books? How?
JW: "There are thousands of books published every year. Regardless of your genre, you are facing a lot of competition. Forget about your blurb, your cover, and whether your book is written well or not. Ask yourself this question, "What are you going to do to get someone to even be aware that your book exists?"

I'm not talking about buying your book. I'm just talking about communicating that the book is available. You can hope and trust in Amazon's algorithms if you like. Perhaps you're going to spam Twitter every half hour with a "Buy My Book" tweet. Maybe you will have a launch party on Facebook. There have been authors who have succeeded by using all of those methods.

I believe that Google+ offers a better chance of success because of the way it allows you to identify the interests of different members. Are you writing a romance novel that is similar to a book or series written by Nora Roberts? Google+ allows you to do a search for Nora Roberts. Unlike other platforms that will restrict that search to the names of individuals, Google+ will also provide you with a list of results for people who have posted about Nora Roberts. In this hypothetical situation, they would be good candidates to circle.

I don't think that Google+ will help you sell books. I do believe that Google+ can allow you to connect with a target audience who will at least give your book a chance. If you use the platform well, I believe that you can at least get people to read your book description, look at your cover art and maybe try a sample of your book.

I believe Google+ can help you overcome the discoverability obstacle that faces every author."

How exactly do I set myself up to make the most of G+?
JW: "The most important thing to do is to fill out the About section of your profile. This is the area that people read when they are trying to determine if they want to follow your profile or not. The second most important thing is to decide on a few topics and post about those topics on a regular basis. The reason this is important is because after someone has read the About section of your profile, they will then look at the type of content that you are posting. If you limit the type of material to a few topics, it allows people to quickly identify your interests. After you have done that, look for people who interest you. Start participating in their posts and take an interest in what they have to say. Google+ is different from most social media platforms in that people really value engagement and conversation."

Do I need huge numbers of friends/followers for it to work?
JW: "A huge number of followers is good, but not necessary. If you are able to connect with someone who already has a large number of followers, then that person may plug your books. Obviously, they will have to enjoy your book. Sometimes, having a stranger sing your praises is much more effective than anything you could say about your own work."

Top three tips for making the most of G+
JW: "Follow at least 250 people. The big mistake that many people make on Google+ is that they will follow only a few people. Restricting the number of people you follow will make Google+ a boring place because it doesn't provide enough variety in your stream, it limits your reach, and it doesn't expose you to the people who are really using the platform well.

Connect with other people. Choose 5 people every month and read their streams on a regular basis. Comment on their posts and really take the time to get to know them.

Search for people based off of shared interest rather than their name. Google+ really clicked for me when I realised that I didn't have to know the name of individuals that I wanted to connect with. I could just do a search for "Writer" or "Author" or whatever term I wanted to query and if that word or phrase appeared in their About section, they would show up in the search results. This is extremely powerful because it allows you to target specific groups of people. You don't have to restrict it to occupation either. You can do a search for science fiction or romance or whatever term you feel would help you identify the demographic with which you are trying to connect."

Biggest mistakes authors can make on G+
JW: "The biggest mistake I see authors make over and over again is that they don't post their content on Google+. Instead, they will simply post a link to their blog and assume that people will just visit it. That doesn't work.

If you absolutely insist on holding your content hostage on your blog, then, at least take the time to write a lengthy (300- 500 words) introduction to that blog post. This introduction should be a teaser to tempt people to click on that link to read what you have to say.

The absolute best thing to do is to simply copy and paste your full blog post into Google+ and post it here. If you do that, people will comment on your thoughts and respond to your message. The question that authors fail to ask themselves is whether they are trying to get people to be a fan of their work or a fan of their blog.

If you post your content directly on Google+, it allows people to read it who would never visit your blog. Some of those people will enjoy your message and become a fan of YOU. Once they are your fan, they may very well become a fan of your blog as well, but it has to start with being sold on you and your message. That can't happen unless they see your message. The best way to get people to see that message is to post it on Google+."

Five authors you think are doing G+ well – and why
Lacerant Plainer is a science fiction author. He uses Google+ to connect with individuals who are thrilled by the latest in science news. He has developed an enormous following of people who share his passion. Is it any wonder that many of those same individuals may be intrigued by the stories he writes based on those scientific articles?

Ben Guilfoy loves film and episodic storytelling. He channeled his love for these areas into a ten part serial he wrote called The Weirdo Company. Each installment reads like a monster movie. He uses Google+ well because he frequently shares his thoughts on movies and books that strike his fancy. People who enjoy those type of movies or books will also enjoy his series.

Chris Reher is another science fiction author who uses Google+ to connect with like-minded individuals. However, she does so with a twist. Whereas, Lacerant shares articles and science-related news, Chris uses Google+ to connect with actual scientists and frequently taps into their collective knowledge to make her books stronger and to ensure that the ideas in her books are scientifically sound. What a great way to use this platform!

Mike Spinak is a photographer. He has self-published one book of his photographs and is working on several others. He uses Google+ well because he is very generous with his knowledge and experiences. Some people may argue that simply sharing your knowledge with others won't help you to sell books, but I believe that this attitude is short-sighted. When sharing his knowledge, Mike shares his experience. That allows him to talk about his successes and his failures. Making that knowledge available to others allows people like me to single him out as a resource for other authors. That helps him connect with people who would not otherwise find him. Once he has connected with them, he has a chance to turn that person into a fan of himself and his work.

Aaron Crocco uses G+ well because of the way he will crowdsource attention. He has an on-going series of posts devoted to the topic of Authors Helping Authors. By involving several authors in his posts about helping indies, he generates excitement and attention. This interest comes not only from the authors themselves but also from the public at large because he is able to get so many people talking about the event. This causes many people to take interest in his initiatives and as a result, it draws attention to his books.

Get to know John Ward at Google+, say hello on Twitter or check out his website.

If you enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy Social Media for Writers #1: Blogging; Social Media for Writers #2: Twitter and Social Media for Writers #3: Facebook.

Are you on Google+? How do you use it? (Say hello to me here!)

Monday, July 15, 2013

Last day of the holidays

It's the last day of the holidays. Already my thoughts have moved from lazy, slow mornings and meandering afternoons to an overflowing To Do list and a slew of deadlines.

It's the last day of the holidays. We are baking a cake. An oozy, gooey, chocolate cake. The boys are supposed to be helping me - which means they are watching Batman DVDs and emerging infrequently to lick the bowls and spoons.

It's the last day of the holidays. The school shoes have been tried on - and found wanting. Sigh. Little boys have feet with a habit of growing bigger and bigger. Judging by the size of my sock-matching pile, little boys also have about 100 feet each. I am living with a family of centipedes.

It's the last day of the holidays. Part of me can't wait to see them head back to school. Part of me is missing them already.

It's the last day of the holidays. I wonder what the next term will bring.

Is it the last day of the holidays at your place? Are you excited or ambivalent?

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Weekend Rewind... now playing at Maxabella Loves

Have you met Maxabella? You'll love her. I do. The fact that we're related is entirely coincidental...

Anyhoo, the fabulous Weekend Rewind now has a new home with her. New look. New feel. New blogs to visit. New fun to be had.

It's even easier than before - you can simply link up your favourite post from the past week. How simple is that? The aim is to create a linky that brings together all the best blog posts into one spot. To make reading and visiting blogs a pleasure.

I'll be linking up each week and visiting as many blogs as I can. I'm looking forward to reading all your blogs - and finding some new ones too!

I do hope you'll join me over there!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Social Media for Writers #3: Facebook

Love it or hate it, there's no doubt that Facebook is an integral part of our lives these days - which is why writers can't really afford to ignore it (much as we may wish to do so).

I've had a complicated relationship with Facebook over the years. I got on to it just to see what it was all about - and then promptly lost interest. When I started my blog, however, I received a lot of 'friend' requests from other bloggers and readers - and had to make a decision about how much I wanted to share with the world.

The answer, in my case, was 'not much'. So I made another decision (phew, so many!) to set up a page for the blog so that I could connect with my cyber-friends there and keep my profile page set to 'so private it's hard to find'. The trouble with the page, however, was that it was a Life In A Pink Fibro page... which made it hard for people who were looking for 'Allison Tait' to find it.

Cue: the Allison Tait Facebook page was born.

For several months I faffed about with both, but it became increasingly hard work. So I made one final decision (please, let it be over soon) to consolidate onto one page - Allison Tait - which was agony because I had built a lovely number of likers at the Fibro and had to, really, start all over again.

The pain.

But I'm still there at Allison Tait, feeling comfortable, loving the fact that I can 'chat' to people about all manner of things, from writing to tv shows to, well, one of my most popular comment threads ever was about washing in cold water, but we won't talk about that.

Anyhoo. To me, Facebook is about the 'club' vibe that you get when a whole lot of people come together. And I love that. But I thought I'd ask an expert about the best way for writers to use Facebook to actually, you know, sell books.

Nathan Bransford is the author of Jacob Wonderbar and the Cosmic Space Kapow (Dial, May 2011), Jacob Wonderbar for President of the Universe (Dial, April 2012) and Jacob Wonderbar and the Interstellar Time Warp (Dial, February 2013). He was formerly a literary agent with Curtis Brown Ltd. and is now the social media and programming manager at CNET. He lives in Brooklyn - and, you know, knows his stuff.

Fortunately for me, he's also very friendly - and happy to answer random questions!

Will Facebook help me to sell books? How?
Nathan Bransford: "Yes, definitely. Facebook (and social media in general) isn't going to be the difference between selling zero copies and being a bestseller, but it is a very good avenue to help readers feel more connected with authors and for people to discover new books."

Do I need an author page as well as a 'profile'?
NB: "This really depends on whether you want to keep your presence as an author completely separate from your presence as an individual. Authors can either choose to have a totally separate Facebook page, which can be a little challenging because you have to get people to like it, or allow people to follow your public posts on your personal profile. I personally chose the latter. I find it easier to manage one presence.

"One thing I would recommend, however, is having a Facebook page for your individual books. When people will like these they will show up in people's list of likes, which is a good way of spreading the word about your books."

Do I need huge numbers of friends/followers for it to work?
NB: "It certainly helps, but in order to find a huge number of followers you have to start somewhere!"

What kind of content should I be posting?
NB: "This is totally up to you, but I find that the things that work best are the types of content and announcements that your friends and followers find genuinely useful. Yes, occasionally you have to self-promote to get the word out about your work, but otherwise it's better to think about what you can do for your friends and followers and not what they can do for you."

Top three tips for making the most of Facebook
1) Be authentic
2) Don't ever make people feel spammed
3) Have fun with it

Biggest mistakes authors can make on Facebook
NB: "The absolute biggest mistake is viewing it as simply a way of blasting out your books and your reviews. If all you're doing are self-serving announcements people won't find much value from your feed and they won't feel connected to you personally. Instead, look at it as a way of providing value and interacting with people."

Five authors you think are doing Facebook well – and why
1) Tahereh Mafi: She does a great job of providing a mix of behind-the-scenes looks of her tours along with great images and personal updates.

2) Cynthia Leitich Smith: Cynthia is an example of an author who provides incredible value for her followers. Her Facebook page is a mix of blog posts, events and things that any aspiring author would find valuable.

3) Gretchen Rubin: Gretchen really "gets" Facebook. She asks questions and engages with her followers with a mix of links and photos.

4) Kami Garcia: Kami does a great job of mixing it up with advice, news, photos, and much more.

5) Nicholas Kristof: Nicholas Kristof is more of a journalist than a traditional author, but he sets the gold standard for a Facebook presence. It's a terrific mix of commentary, interesting links, and glimpses into his travels.

You can find out more about Nathan and his fabulous books for kids on his website - and you should definitely say hello on Twitter and Facebook!

If you enjoyed this post, don't miss Social Media for Writers #1: Blogging and Social Media for Writers #2: Twitter.

What are your thoughts on Facebook - love or loathe?

Monday, July 8, 2013

Does anyone understand Linked In?

John Birmingham, whom I admire and enjoy greatly as a writer, shared a piece this morning about Facebook - specifically, about how he's breaking up with it. Because it used to be cool, and now it's not. And because it's stalking him. Sending message after message. And he can't really see the point anymore.

Well, I feel the same way about Linked In.

Only I can't really even begin to pretend my relationship with Linked In ever even got started (and, seriously, it was never cool, was it?). I signed up (why?), put up some basic work info (why?) and then promptly forgot the whole thing.

Except I can't forget it. I can't. Because Linked In takes up more room in my Inbox than anyone (or anything) else. People who want to connect with me. People that Linked In thinks I should connect with. Random emails about other people's jobs. Occasional emails to let me know that someone has changed jobs. Endorsements and connections and who knows what the heck else. It's like being at one of those awful business networking evenings where people throw business cards at you and then run off to talk to someone more interesting.

To me, Linked In is that annoying guy in the open plan office. You know. The one who constantly pops his head over the partition for an inane conversation about something you have absolutely no interest in. You want to hit him over the head, but you know that, somehow, it might be a career-limiting move. And so you don't.

Why am I there? Why are you there?

How can I break free?

Are you on Linked In? Can you explain it to me?

*In other news, the new book for the Pink Fibro Book Club has been announced. This month, we're reading The Death of Bees by Lisa O'Donnell. Join in the fun!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Weekend Rewind #7 (limited edition): Blogging

It's the end of week one in the school holidays and I'm feeling slightly shell-shocked - as, I'm sure, is every other parent in the land. I'm squeezing this post in while Mr9 watches Superman on DVD and Mr6 creates comics in the other room, whistling the Batman theme the whole time.

Lot of super-hero action round these parts at the moment. Lot of super-hero action.

So I've decided to keep it simple this week. The theme for the Weekend Rewind is: Blogging.

Any blog post you've ever written that mentions the word blogging, is about blogging or has overtones of blogging will do.

The rules, such as they are: Link up an old post for some new comment love. Visit other links in the Rewind to share the comment love. And if we're not already friends on Facebook, come and say hello.

Next week, the Weekend Rewind will be receiving a little shake-up, designed to keep it fun, fresh and interesting. Intrigued? Stay tuned.

In the meantime, ready, set... Rewind!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Social Media for Writers #2: Twitter

I love Twitter. I do. And that is why it is featuring in this, the second in our series on Social Media for Writers. When I started this blog three and a half years ago, I joined Twitter almost immediately. I'd been told it was a great way to meet other bloggers and get my posts 'out there'.

So I signed up, opened it up and... ran screaming from the room. How was I ever supposed to do this? Who should I follow? How would I get anyone to talk to me? I ended up following a whole lot of celebs, most of whom tweeted inane things at me, and nobody wanted to talk to me.

So I left.

A few months later, under pressure from friends who know about these things, I went back in there. This time, I looked for people whose blogs I'd been reading. Then I looked to see who they were following and followed them. I followed people who tweeted great links about writing. I followed writers. And I, timidly at first, got involved in their conversations. I learned the lingo and I learned to love hashtags. I still love hashtags. Hashtags are a fine art.

One of the people I met on Twitter in those (second) early days was Kerri Sackville. I could see straight away that Kerri was good at Twitter. She had a great mix of witty, pithy tweets that could be (and were) retweeted easily, along with conversation, humour and general, well, Kerri-ness. I take great pride in the fact that one of our Tweetversations led to the publishing of her first book (When My Husband Does The Dishes...).

Today, Kerri is writing her third book, along with countless columns, articles and blog posts. She is a lively speaker (we have appeared together on several panels, so I should know...), has been on the tele a lot (Sunrise, Mornings on Channel 9, The Morning Show on 7) and is currently a regular panelist on The Daily Edition (Channel Seven). She also teaches social media courses at the Australian Writers' Centre.

So, there was no-one better to ask here today to answer some questions about Twitter for Writers.

Will Twitter help me to sell books? How?
Kerri Sackville: "Yes, absolutely. It is HARD to sell books these days. It's not just enough to have a great book. There are hundreds of great books out there. You need publicity. Every author gets assigned a publicist for about six weeks for every book release (unless you're a huge name author, in which case your books sell themselves anyway). The more you can do to promote yourself the better. Developing a Twitter following helps to get you name (brand) recognition so that a) people will notice your name in a bookstore and be more likely to pick up your book, and b) people will be aware of your book from Twitter and may take steps to seek it out themselves."

Do I need huge numbers of followers for it to work?
KS: "Obviously the more followers you have the better. But no, you don't need huge numbers. Books sell by word of mouth. Even if you have a few hundred followers, they can spread the word to their friends and followers, who will spread it to theirs etc etc. It's essentially pyramid selling online."

Top three tips for making the most of Twitter
1. Be funny, interesting, opinionated, or, preferably, all three.
2. Respond to EVERYONE who engages with you.
3. Get chatting to people - break in on conversations, reply to strangers, add to conversations. It's all about the words!

Biggest mistakes authors can make on Twitter
KS: "The biggest mistake ANYONE can make on Twitter is to try to sell their product before engaging with people. It is fine to give your books a plug, but you can only do this when you already have an engaged audience. So build a loyal following THEN plug your books, not the other way around."

Five authors you think are doing Twitter well
Kylie Ladd
Anita Heiss
Tara Moss
Kate Forsyth
Caitlin Moran
Fleur McDonald

Kerri Sackville is the author of When My Husband Does The Dishes... and The Little Book of Anxiety. Find Kerri at her blog Life And Other Crises, say hello on Facebook or, of course, on Twitter!

If you enjoyed this post, you might also like Social Media for Writers #1: Blogging, and check out my list of 50 of the Best Australian Writers and Authors to follow on Twitter.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Fibro Book Club: The Rosie Project

It's fair to say that The Rosie Project is one of those word-of-mouth novels for good reason. There's a lot to talk about! For me, the book had the stamp of screenplay all over it, and not to the novel's detriment. As author Graeme Simsion revealed in his Facebook chat with the Fibro Book Club last week, the story began as a screenplay, morphed into a novel and has now been optioned as a screenplay again. Personally, I'd love to see it played out on the big screen - though we might need to have long conversations over who would play Don.

I thought the dialogue in the book was one of its absolute cornerstones. As a reader, I really enjoyed the interchanges, the different patterns of the voices, the zing of it all. As a writer, I just want to know how Graeme does it (I asked him in the chat whether he read it out loud, but, alas, he told me that after many years of screenwriting it just comes as second nature now - at which point I made a note to do a screenwriting course...)

It's a lovely, lovely book on so many levels - gentle humour, terrific pacing - but at the heart of it all is, of course, the inspired character of Don Tillman (who has his own Twitter handle if you'd like to say hello). For me, it was all driven by Don - what would he say next, what would he do next - and that made a relatively fanciful story feel real.

I'm happy to join in the general babble of happy, positive word-of-mouth that's driving this novel's success. I look forward to reading everyone else's thoughts here or over at the Fibro Club Facebook page (if you haven't joined us, come and say hello!)

PS: What do you think of this cover from the UK version of the book? 

Who do you think should play Don in the movie?

Friday, June 28, 2013

Weekend Rewind #6: Short

Well, what a week it's been. Down here on the south coast of NSW, we've experienced torrential rain, flooding, and that cold, heavy chill that permeates all your clothing. In Canberra, there's been fierce battle and political blood spilt. In Texas, Senator Wendy Davis stood on her feet for hour and hours and hours while the world watched via YouTube.

You might say it's been a long week.

Which is why the theme for this week's Rewind is: Short. A short post. A post about being short or short skirts or short haircuts or animated shorts or short tempers. Whatever works best for you.

I'm going with a short post. As a blogger, I think it's important to realise that you don't have to say everything all the time. Some of the most popular Fibro posts are just a few paragraphs long. Sentences even.

The rules of the Rewind are also relatively short, so that works well. Link up an old post for some new comment love. Visit some of the other links to share the love around. Oh, and like my Facebook page, if we're not already friends, because that's where I offer the first heads-up each week about the Rewind (Limited Edition).

Thanks, as ever, to everyone who linked up last week. I very much enjoyed reading all your posts about growth. The thing I love about the Rewind is the different approach to the theme that everyone takes. It's a great opportunity to visit new blogs and find new friends. Keep 'em coming!

Okay, that's it.

Ready, set... REWIND!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Social Media for Writers #1: Blogging

"Why do you blog?"

It's a question I get asked a lot, usually by other writers who are wondering how in the world to manage a blog amongst all their other writing commitments.

My answer has varied over the years.

As most regular readers know, I started this blog on a dare. Then I became consumed by it. Then I realised that it was cutting into my writing time in a big way. So I cut back. But I'm still here, for a variety of reasons - love, community, habit, sheer bloody-mindedness.

But it got me thinking.

These days, most writers know that they need to build a 'platform' - that elusive beast from the back of which they will launch their books and other projects to the waiting world. They must, they are told by experts, 'get into social media'. But social media can be a bewildering and unwieldy premise, and they are left trying to tweet and Facebook and Pin and Instagram and YouTube and blog and ... basically run around like headless chickens.

So I thought I'd start a new series and get a few experts in to answer some questions and... well, clear a few things up.

The first person in the hot seat is Jane Friedman, talking about blogging. Jane is the web editor of the Virginia Quarterly Review, an award-winning national journal, where she leads online and digital content strategy. She also teaches digital publishing at the University of Virginia. Before joining VQR, Jane was the publisher of Writer’s Digest (F+W Media) and an assistant professor of e-media at the University of Cincinnati.

She's also very good at answering questions.

Will blogging help me to sell books? How?
Jane Friedman: When done correctly, blogging directly reaches your target readership and helps develop a community around your work. When done authentically, with good content, you'll will develop loyal fans who keep returning for more, plus generate word of mouth and reach new readers. Your blog content is rarely about directly selling books (with the exception of big launch campaigns), but about building an audience who is interested in your work for the long-term (and of course do buy your books when available).

How exactly do I set myself up to make the most of blogging as an author? What should I blog about?
JF: Blog about what obsesses you. Blog about what makes you weird. Blog about what's fun, or what's unique about you. Most importantly, blog about something that you're passionate about and won't become boring within a few months' time. The only way to make the most of blogging is by being persistent and consistent over a very long period of time, and that requires writing about something you truly care about. If you're unsure what that is, practice literary citizenship, as outlined here by Cathy Day.

Do I need huge numbers of friends/followers for it to work?
JF: No. A small, targeted, loyal following is best (the 1,000 True Fans concept).

Top three tips for making the most of blogging as an author
JF: 1. Make sure people can subscribe via e-mail and RSS. This functionality is built in to most platforms, but not everyone uses it or makes it available to their readers. Don't expect people to keep visiting your site to see if there's new content.
2. Wherever else you're active online, be sure to point people to new blog posts.
3. Writing for online is not the same as writing for print. Your headlines have to be clear, literal and descriptive; your copy needs to be broken up for easy reading. If you're new to online writing, spend 1-2 hours reading the most popular posts at CopyBlogger to start learning best practices.

Biggest mistakes authors can make with blogging
JF: 1. Lack of focus. You blog about anything and everything. Your audience doesn't know what to expect, and you don't become known for any particular type of content. If your blog title is not self-explanatory, make sure you have a tagline that explains what your blog is all about and who it's for. If you can't express that in roughly 10-20 words, you probably need to rethink your blog.   
2. Lack of consistency. You don't have a regular schedule, regular series/categories, or regular themes.   
3. Lack of patience. It takes time to build a following. It also takes time to get good at blogging and understand what people respond to. Many authors abandon their blogs too soon or too early, before they've reached the point where blogging offers benefits and opens up opportunities.

Three authors you think are using their blogs well – and why
1. Joanna Penn. Strong focus and consistency, with multimedia elements. (AT: Read Joanna's Fibro Q&A about self-publishing here.)   
2. Chuck Wendig. Strong, unmistakable voice, not afraid to offend people who aren't part of his audience to begin with.   
3. Chris Guillebeau. He was able to develop a strong following in under a year by being super-focused on his mission and audience.

Like to know more about blogging for writers, follow Jane on Twitter (@JaneFriedman) or visit her blog for writers.

So, tell me, what do you blog about? Why do you blog?

Monday, June 24, 2013

Nice weather for ... talking about the weather

Every conversation I have had today has involved the weather. Every single one. The boys and I woke up and had one of those 'gosh, gee whiz, it's raining' kind of conversations.

I dropped them at school and called The Builder. We had one of those 'good grief, how wet is it?' kind of chats.

I went to a cafe, and was asked if I'd removed my flippers at the door.

I ran into a friend I hadn't seen for ages. Opening gambit: "Nice weather for ducks!" (Yes, really.)

I called a contact from the car. "Is it pouring in your neck of the woods?" (Sorry, I can't help it.)

I went home and decided I would not post a Facebook update about the weather. And I didn't. Well, not really...

Then I went out into the backyard. And discovered a river running through it. And a frog pond that had grown to Olympic-pool-sized proportions.

So I gave up immediately, took the image you see with my little duck friend, and decided if you can't beat them, join them.

How about this weather???????

*Just a reminder to all friends of Fibro that we are holding a live Facebook chat with the fabulous Graeme Simsion, best-selling author of The Rosie Project, tomorrow night (Tuesday 25 June) at 8pm. All questions about writing, reading and books welcome. Come one, come all! Details here.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Weekend Rewind #5: Growth

Hi everyone!

I can't quite believe it's Friday again already. I had so many things on my To Do list this week and Friday is here and I haven't actually done any of them.


Thanks to everyone who shared their Lesson posts last week. I'm pretty sure there was something in there for everyone!

This week's Weekend Rewind theme is: GROWTH.

Personal growth, plant growth, child growth, fungal growth... any kind of growth you like.

The rules for the Rewind remain the same: link up an old post for some new comment love, then pop around and visit as many other blogs as you can. Remember to leave comments! Comments are what makes the Rewind go round. Plus, keep track of the Rewind each week by liking my Facebook page. 

Okay team - ready, set... Rewind!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Can you whistle?

So, can you whistle?

It's easy, remember? All you do is just pucker up your lips and blow*.

Except I can't. Whistle, that is.

Oh, I make this kind of pathetic, hideous, high squeaking noise. Nothing tuneful. No control. Just wispy squealing.

The boys think it's hilarious.

Mr6 can whistle. Boy, can he whistle. Theme tunes from Harry Potter, Star Wars, Young Justice League. Lovely, tuneful LOUD whistling reverberating around the house.

It drives me crazy. Particularly when, as now, I'm trying to concentrate and he's feeling particularly joyful because he's home from school, in his dressing gown, having a sick day. His joie de vivre cannot be contained and spills over in outbursts of uncontrolled whistling.

Some might say I'm just jealous.

Those people have not lived with an enthusiastic whistler.

So, can you whistle? Or do you too live with an enthusiastic whistler?

*Actual quote: "You know how to whistle, don't you, Steve? You just put your lips together and... blow" - Lauren Bacall, To Have and Have Not

Monday, June 17, 2013

The rhythm of (writing) life

I was going to post a blank page today, just to show you where my writing life is at, but I thought that might be a bit extreme and ... needy. So I resisted.

I am going through a pottering stage. I have finished Big Things in the not-too-distant past and have spent the last month or so crossing a whole lot of smaller things off my list. Articles, blog posts, websites, corporate projects... tick, tick, tick.

My earth, it is not shattering. But it continues to revolve and that's the rhythm of a working writer's life.

There are Big Things looming in my future. I have a manuscript awaiting redrafting. I've got another idea that won't go away and so clearly needs writing. I'm waiting on other things. Always waiting.

But for the time being, I'm happy enough to potter. Ticking things off.

How's the rhythm of your writing life?

PS: Congratulations to Cheryl M, winner of the copy of Kirsten Krauth's just_a_girl - email me your address and I'll send it out to you asap.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Weekend Rewind #4: Lessons for us all

Can you believe it's Friday again? Already? I admit it took me a few days to get round all the links last week, but I hope to do better for this week's Rewind. I don't have much to report today, so I figure we'll just jump straight in.

The theme for this week's Rewind is: Lessons.

Your lessons, other people's lessons, tutorials, whatever.

The rules remain as always: link up an old post for new comment love, then go visit a few other blogs and lay a little comment love on them. The last point is actually really important because the more we all comment, the better the Rewind is for everyone.

You might also want to join me over here on Facebook, where I'll post notification each week when the Rewind is live. One lesson I think we can all take from previous weeks is that the earlier you get in, the more action you'll get...

Okay. That's it. Love your work.

Ready, set... Rewind.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Fibro Q&A: Pippa Masson talks about the role of literary agents today

What do agents want? Do I need one? How do I get one? Where are they hiding?

I'm often asked these questions and my answer is usually "I have no idea" (well, not really, I point people here and here and even here, but that's not a good story opener, now is it?)

The truth is that the best way to find out what an agent is looking for is to ask them. So I invited Pippa Masson, who has been with literary agency Curtis Brown since 2001, and represents writers such as Kerri Sackville, Kylie Ladd, Hannah Kent, and many other fabulous authors, to pop in for a chat. (That's her, on the left - see how friendly she looks? Not scary at all.) Pippa represents a comprehensive client list of adult fiction and non-fiction, illustrated titles and children’s books and is currently Treasurer of the Australian Literary Agent’s Association. So she knows her stuff. 

Given the changing nature of publishing, what do you think the role of the agent is today?
Pippa Masson: "The role of an agent is constantly changing and evolving. Things are a lot more hands-on than ever before for agents and some agents are now acting as publishers themselves – this is not something Curtis Brown Australia is doing but it gives you an idea of how the agency is changing. Today we have to be more strategic than ever before, more on top of the trends than ever before and experts in all models of publishing – of which there are new ones every month it seems!"

How many manuscripts do you see a year? How many new clients do you take on?
PM: "I see probably about 100 fully completed manuscripts a year and probably take on two to three. But then I probably see more like 1,500 – 2,000 sample manuscripts a year and I’d probably only take on the same amount as the fully completed manuscripts! That, of course, doesn’t take into account the manuscripts I am reading that my existing clients are sending to me."

How long does it take you to realise you're reading something that you'd be willing to represent? What is it that speaks to you?
PM: "I know I am going to take something on if I can’t stop reading it. If I take off my professional hat and just wear my readers hat I know it’s something for me. Voice is probably the key thing for me – but also the ability to tell a great story incredibly well."

What happens if you can't place a manuscript, despite your best efforts? Has it ever happened?
PM: "Sadly it does (and has) happened. We would always encourage the writer to put the unsold manuscript aside and focus on a new one."

Will you work with a writer to get a manuscript to publishable standard if it's almost there? Or do you reject outright if it's not right?
PM: "Yes, if we see a diamond in the rough we’ll always work with an author if we think it’s nearly there! There are not many manuscripts we take on that we feel are fully formed and ready to send out straight away."

You'll find more information about Pippa here, or you can follow her on Twitter. If you'd like to know more about what Pippa is looking for at the moment, sign up for my next newsletter (out June 15).

Are you looking for an agent?

[image: Nicholas Purcell]

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Pink Fibro Club: Book of the month

Thanks to everyone who participated in the discussion of our last Book Club selection, Burial Rites. Most people chose to participate through the Facebook Group, so I'm thinking that's where we'll focus our Book Club efforts from now on. I'll post the book of the month here, and will also post my thoughts here on the first of the month and we'll go from there.

This month's selection is a complete change of pace from the bleak Icelandic winter. The Rosie Project, by Graeme Simsion, is one of those books that has generated every author's dream - word of mouth. It was the winner of the 2012 Victorian Premier's Literary Award for an unpublished manuscript and was published soon after in January 2013.

Also, I love the cover.

And in great news, Graeme has agreed to visit our Pink Fibro Club Facebook Group at 8pm on Tuesday June 25 for a live 'chat' about reading, writing and books. It's a great opportunity to ask any questions you might have about the book or about writing in general. Also, a fabulous opportunity to have a glass of wine with your fellow Fibro Club members. Like a real book club. Just saying.

Anyway, full details to come, but mark it in your diary and keep an eye on the Facebook group for further updates.

Do you judge a book by its cover? What makes a great cover?

Friday, June 7, 2013

Weekend Rewind #3: Focus on family

Hello team!

As we stand on the cusp of a long weekend here in Fibrotown, I can only say "thank heavens". It's been a frantic few weeks around here and I'm looking forward to a little bit of cooking, a little bit of entertaining and a lot, make that a LOT, of weeding.

Mostly, though, I'll be hanging with my boys, all three of them. Which is why I'm making the theme of this weekend's Rewind: FAMILY.

The drill remains as per previous weeks of this, our limited-edition comeback of the world-famous Weekend Rewind linky. Pop up an old post (theme: family) for some new comment love, visit some of the other blogs to share the love, and... actually, that's it.

I'm looking forward to reading your offerings and sharing my favourites with the Fibro community.

Ready, set... REWIND.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Fibro Q&A: Kirsten Krauth on voice, reviews and choosing a publisher

I first met author Kirsten Krauth a few years ago via her blog Wild Colonial Girl. She had moved from Sydney to Castlemaine, Victoria, and was eager to connect with other 'treechange' bloggers. We soon discovered that we had more than distance to the Big Smoke in common - as the editor of Newswrite, the newsletter for the NSW Writers' Centre, Kirsten's work lobbed into my mailbox every month! (If you are an aspiring writer and you haven't joined your state writing centre, I heartily recommend that you do so.)

This week, she launched her first novel just_a_girl, and I invited her to the Fibro to share her thoughts on writing a teenage voice (in an adult novel), whether being so immersed in the publishing world is inspiring or intimidating for her, and why she chose to go with a traditional publisher.
Given that key voice in your novel is teenage girl, why is this book published as 'adult fiction' rather than YA?
Kirsten Krauth: "When I was writing just_a_girl, I never really thought about the final readership or the genre of the book. I guess, starting out, I was just enjoying exploring characters and seeing where they took me, and revelling in the chance to play with language. As I started to redraft and realised that perhaps I had a chance of publication, it was important to me that it was an adult novel. I wanted the freedom to be able to put a 14-year-old girl (Layla) in some challenging situations, to explore her sexuality, without censoring myself. 
There are also two other characters in the book, Margot (Layla's mother) and Tadashi (a Japanese-Australian man she encounters on the train). Their narratives are quite adult in theme: Margot is in an evangelical church, battling ongoing depression; Tadashi, too shy to initiate relationships, purchases a love doll to talk to. UWA Publishing were terrific in that they understood that it was a contemporary adult novel immediately - but this doesn't mean YA readers and teens won't be interested in reading it."

What were the biggest challenges in using a teen voice as the key voice? 
KK: "The teen voice was the one that came most naturally to me and it was always going to be the main narrative voice. I think teenagers are full of contradictions and this can be challenging to relay because the narration can jump from one opinion to another that doesn't quite match. Also, Layla is quite precocious in many respects. I understand that as I was like that myself. 
There is a lot of diversity when it comes to girls around 14 years. Some are keen to have quite adult relationships, others still want fluffy toys on their beds; many fall in between. I wanted to explore what it's like to be a teenage girl today - with the impact of digital technologies, how many are exploring and experimenting with sexuality in a world where the public/private divide is being eroded. The challenge is doing that in a way that doesn't patronise or talk down to girls, and yet looks at some of the issues."

Do you find your work as editor of the NSW Writer's Centre newsletter and reviewer of books for various publications to be inspiring or intimidating? 
KK: "Inspiring! Editing Newswrite is the perfect job for me right now. Commissioning authors to write articles on all aspects of writing and publishing is enormously helpful when you are embarking on your own writing career at the same time. Often as I edit the articles I have noted down tips and advice (from how to do in-depth research to how to write a love poem!). We also have a regular column, Writer on Writer, where authors choose the writer who has had the most powerful impact on them. I love these kind of articles and my favourites have been Benjamin Law on Zadie Smith and Emily Maguire on Graham Greene (there have been many others!). 
"I only recently did my first book reviews for Sydney Morning Herald and the Australian and, while I have been freelance writing for 15 years (and blogging on books too), I was a bit daunted. I spent a long time writing those reviews, and I got someone to double check the tone. But it's such a rush to see your articles in the paper. I recently saw James Wood speak at the Sydney Writers' Festival and I'd give anything to be a full-time literary critic (writing novels too, of course)."

Given your submersion in the publishing world, what made you choose to go with a 'traditional' publisher rather than self-publishing your book?
KK: "This is a great question. I actually had made a deal with myself. I would try for two years to get the manuscript published and if that didn't pan out, I would go the self-publishing route. Really, I wanted to hold the book in my hand. I am passionate about books and, while I'm quite happy in the digital sphere and will read ebooks too, I wanted to see my work in book format, with a cover; something I could hold. 
"I was lucky that Teri-ann White at UWA Publishing read a few versions of the novel, saw its potential, kept encouraging me while I fleshed it out, and then was keen to publish ... UWAP have always been terrific in promoting the work of new writers, and are not afraid to experiment a bit and take risks (increasingly rare in traditional publishing these days). 
"It was also really important to me, as an editor, to go through the editing process with someone else. I saw myself as a beginner (this was my first novel) and I wanted to learn more about structure and characterisation in particular, and going through an edit with a publisher gives you a crash course in that...It's also good to have someone help you with the marketing and promoting process."

Do you think it's important for an author to utilise social media? Is it something you enjoy?
KK: "Increasingly the pressure is on authors to promote their own work and most will take this on, because they want to sell their books! Sometimes I find it fun, other times it is hard slog. I blog at Wild Colonial Girl and I've really enjoyed that because I tend to write about various subjects (film, TV, motherhood, other writers, books I've loved, digital space, writing mothers series). I think if the blog was just about promoting my book and writing, I would find it exhausting and dull after a while (that said, this month, as my novel has just been published, that WILL be the focus). 
"I think Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Goodreads, all have their place, but as a mum of two small kids, more and more I feel like I want to focus on one thing at a time, and not be continually distracted. So I've banned myself from social media when I'm looking after my children, and try to do it all on my working days (which, of course, means limited time). 
"The best thing about social media and blogging is the connections you make with other people. The comments on my blog posts have always been positive and often profound, and it thrills me to find out what other people are thinking about certain issues, to connect with people who still love to read, and even meet those people in the flesh and form lasting friendships."
Visit Kirsten at her blog or on Facebook or Twitter
To win a copy of just_a_girl, leave a comment below sharing your favourite memory of being 14 years old (closes Friday 14 June, 2013, 5pm).

Monday, June 3, 2013

Fibro Book Club: Burial Rites

As head prefect of the Fibro Club, I now declare this meeting open. Everyone have their glass of wine and their thoughts in order? Excellent.

I've had several actual, real life conversations about our book, Burial Rites, over the past week. We all agreed that we knew from page one that it wasn't going to end well. When the book is about the last person executed in Iceland, you know you're not looking at a happily ever after. But somehow that didn't seem to matter.

The reason I chose this book as our first selection was that it is one of those books. Debut author. International two-book deal worth $1 million. This book had something going on. Everyone said so.

There is no denying that there is a lot of grim in Hannah Kent's book. A lot of cold. One of the people I spoke to this week didn't feel that there were enough words to really convey the sense of place, but I really enjoyed the sparse nature of Kent's prose. To me, the sense of place built, word by word, page by page, along with the intimacy as the inevitability of the story inched forward, revealing itself under all that snow.

"Slow" was another word that came up a lot. It is a slow tale and, yes, a bleak one in many ways, but I found it intensely interesting. Strong female characters. An otherness in the setting. Historic detail. And, always, that slowly unravelling story.

Ultimately satisfying - for me, if not for Agnes.

What did you think? Share your thoughts here or pop over to the Fibro Club Facebook page to join the discussion.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Weekend Rewind (Limited Edition) #2: Writing week

I'm going in early with the Rewind this week. I have a house to clean. In high heels (long story, but I'm going to a ball tomorrow night and will be wearing heels for the first time in ages, so I'm practising... as you do). So, here I am.

Thanks to everyone who linked up last week - it was SO good to see so many familiar faces, and to meet some lovely new ones too. This week, I thought I'd mix things up a bit (you know how I love a mixed tape) and rather than going with February as our theme, which might be a little ... expected ... (after January last week), we're going to do something else.

The theme for this week is ... WRITING.

So, you can give me a post about writing or some of your best-ever writing, you choose. Try to keep to the theme though, just because I get such a jolt when I visit the next link and it's not following the vibe.

Usual schtick applies: pop up your old post for some new comment love, then (please) visit some other blogs to leave some comment love, and like/follow me on Facebook or Twitter just so you can keep up with the Rewind notifications. If I can't comment on your post due to technical issues (as per last week's Disqus/iPad fiasco) I like to say hi in Twitter or Facebook to let you know I've visited, so make it easy for me (please).

All right, must go, the vacuuming awaits (oh, my glamorous life).

Ready, set...


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Community Service Announcement: Fibro Book Club Facebook Group

Just a short post tonight to let y'all know that the Pink Fibro Club (Books & Reading) has a new and exciting home on the web. It's here.

Would love to see you over there. It's a friendly place to talk about whatever you're reading, get some recommendations and generally hang out when you're looking to procrastinate. I'll announce the book club selection each month over there, as well as in my newsletter.

And now I must go. Need to finish, Burial Rites, so I can write my June 1 post.

Any minute now.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Dealing with The Block

Do you ever suffer from Blogger's Block? It's not a common thing for me, but when it hits, it hits hard. To the point where my mind looks something like this: [                                 ]. Not pretty is it?

There are a few tricks I use when The Block rears its ugly head. One is to simply start writing. About anything.

To whit, the opening line of this post.

Usually, if I'm working on a book or an article or some other form of writing, I simply switch projects. My good friend Allison Dobell is currently working on her second novel, and I find that to be a nice distraction when a heavy, research-based feature story, for instance, is not coming together.

Blogging is somehow different. It doesn't seem to matter what I distract myself with, the blink-blink-blink of the cursor remains. Perhaps it is because blogging is so personal. If your brain is blank and you're essentially writing about yourself, you know you've got problems.

Another trick I try is a good, long walk. This has the benefit of both clearing my mind and shrinking my butt. Walking around the block usually clears The Block. (As does weeding, but we won't bring out my gardening/writing metaphors today.)

I'd like to be one of those bloggers who has a list of ideas at the ready at all times. But the truth is that I generally sit down with little to no idea of what I'm going to post that day (unless it's a Q&A, of course... have I ever mentioned how much I love Q&As?). This leaves me to be all footloose and freewheeling on a good day.

And leaves me stuck in quicksand on the bad ones.

Like now.

Time to put my shoes on for a walk...

How do you deal with Blogger's Block?

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Weekend Rewind: It's ba-a-a-a-ck (limited edition)

I was reading Maxabella's post the other day about her new World Blog Tour, an innovative new way to visit more blogs.

"She's right," I thought to myself (or may have actually spoken out loud because I'm that kind of girl). "I don't visit enough blogs."

My blog roll kind of disappeared during the Fibro renovation a while ago, I started writing three books at once and... well, reading blogs disappeared off my daily To Do list.

So I'm going to make it easy on myself (and you, hopefully) and bring back the Weekend Rewind for a limited season. I'm even including the circa-2010 image that Maxabella created for me. Isn't it cute?

If you haven't been part of the Rewind before, it's a simple linky thingo with few rules. You link up an old post for some new comment love. You visit a few other blogs to say hello and make them feel loved. We all sing kum-bayah, come back next Friday and do it all again.

But it's so much fun! It's an opportunity to dust off those posts that you felt really didn't get the attention they deserved, and an opportunity to find some new favourite reads.

I wrote this post once about the importance of having your blogging neighbours over. Sometimes I feel that, since those halcyon early days of blogging, we've all neglected that idea a bit.

But I digress...

To keep it interesting, I do like to have a theme (otherwise, seriously, how do you choose a post???). To make it easy, I'm going to make this week's theme JANUARY. So, you can link up any blog post that you wrote in ANY January of ANY year in which you have been blogging.

I have three years' worth of posts to choose from now... Including four Januarys... Which is about 21 years' worth in real terms (blogging years are like dog years as far as I'm concerned).

Okay, that's it. If we're not already besties in some form or other, like me on Twitter or Facebook simply to keep up with the notices of when the Rewind link is up (gives you a better chance to get in early!)

And... REWIND!

(As an aside, I've just realised that I've set the life of the linky for one week. Usually I close off at around 8pm on Sunday night - for two reasons... one is that if you get in any later than that, you generally don't get too many visitors and, two, is that I forget to check it after Monday... So, let's pretend it closes at 8pm on Sunday May 26, okay?)

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

This one time, at Jedi Training Camp...

So Fam Fibro took a little random holiday over the past week or so. We had to head waaa-aaa-ay north for a family function, so we took the opportunity to build in a mini-break. Mind you, with many hours of driving built in, it wasn't so much a break as an opportunity to spend a lot of time together.

We fit a lot into a car journey. The boys have portable DVD options, so The Builder and I like to plan our small talk to coincide with the times of peace. We covered off our metaphorical trip around the world, what we'd do with $600 million if we won the US Powerball (you think you know someone, and then the enormous, crewed yacht comes up in conversation), the relative merits of different forms of transport, why we didn't have a map of NSW when we had maps of all the different parts of NSW except the part we were actually going to be visiting... You can see why we had to eke this stuff out to ensure we weren't blown away by the enormity of it all.

When the boys were not immersed in Star Wars/Ninjago/Batman, we played I Spy. It has to be said that the quality of our games has improved now that Mr6 can actually spell a bit. No longer does everything begin with L. Which is not to say that he didn't attempt a few furphies. Like not realising Lego began with L. Cue much head shaking on Mr9's behalf.

Mr6 also instigated (or tried to) several games of 'Toyota'. Apparently this game involves trying to be the first person to spot a Toyota. All well and good, unless you are on a dual-lane freeway between Newcastle and Taree with not another car in sight. Even he could see that was going nowhere.

When we got to our destination, the boys were thrilled to discover that we had rolled up to a Jedi Training Camp. And I had to agree that the rather dilapidated cabins in which we were staying did seem to have come from 1976 and there were potentially Wookies hiding in the woods. But apart from a preternaturally aggressive possum with a liking for cheese and crackers (had to be shoved off the verandah with a broom light sabre several times), there wasn't so much as an Ewok to see.

There was, however, an amazing stretch of beach over the bridge (that's it pictured), and lots of friends and laughter and fun all around. The Force, she was with us.

On the way home, after another discussion about the lack of maps in our lives, we treated ourselves to a night of luxury at The Pinnacle Apartments in Newcastle. I mention it by name because we've stayed there before but could not remember what it was called - we had to call them from out the front to see if they had room for us because we could not look up their number. Now we will just be able to check the Fibro. Genius, or what?

We love Newcastle. The boys love the long stretches of unspoilt scooting potential along the waterfront. The Builder and I love the possibilities for beers in the same location. We lost 90 minutes of our lives in the most fabulous antiques shop and came out with the coolest 1930s bakelite desk lamp ever.

Something for everyone.

Today we're back at work and school. Already our little break is a memory. But we have plans. Big plans.

We just need that $600 million to pull them off.

Monday, May 13, 2013

The parenting handbook needs updating (again)

Mr6's hoarding tendencies may have reached their zenith. I hope. In not-unrelated news, he is also delighted to be - at last - Big.

"Look, Mum!" he shouted, running across the playground after school, waving a small yellow envelope at me. "I lost my tooth!"

Thank heavens. Said tooth had been hanging on by a sliver of root, dangling from the front of his mouth for days.

"Terrific," I said, putting it in my pocket. "We'll leave it out for the tardy tooth fairy tonight."

Fast forward about four hours. He is preparing for bed - AKA running around in Ninja Turtle pyjamas practising his roundhouse kicks. Very relaxing.

"Get your tooth," I instruct. "We'll need to put it in a glass for the fairy."

He leaps off (flying front kick, apparently) and returns moments later with the yellow envelope. And promptly bursts into tears.

"What's the matter?" I ask, kneeling down to be eye-to-eye with him.

"I don't want to give my tooth away!" he wails.

Good grief.

"But you have to give the fairy the tooth - you don't get cash for nothing, you know," I reason.

He wails louder.

"But it's MY tooth," he blubbers. "Not hers."


"Um. Do you want to, er, think about it for a while? You could hold on to the tooth for a few days and just, you know, get used to the idea."

He nods, tears vanishing like magic, and smiles his (gappier) little smile.

"Great idea Mum! We'll leave it in the envelope so that she can't see it and take it by mistake."

And so, five days later, the tooth, still in its little yellow envelope, remains on his desk. Each night I ask him if he's ready to 'let go' and each night he answers 'not quite yet, Mum', despite the cash inducement.

Seriously, this stuff is not in the handbook.

Did your kids give up their teeth happily?

PS: Winner of the copy of Into My Arms, signed by author Kylie Ladd, is Linda Nathaniel for her romance-novel-worthy description of first love. Please email me your postal address, Linda!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Fibro Q&A: Liane Moriarty on inspiration, secrets and writing 'funny'

 Liane Moriarty is one of those rare people who can write 'internationally best-selling author' after her name. Her warm, family-centric novels have staked a claim to some prime real estate on my bookshelf, and her book What Alice Forgot has been optioned by Fox Pictures. In short, she gives great novel.

So I was thrilled when she accepted my invitation to pop into the Fibro for a chat. Liane's fifth book The Husband's Secret was published recently, opening the door for conversation about inspiration, family and managing social media as an author.

I love the inspiration behind The Husband's Secret – an article about deathbed confessions. Are you the kind of writer who always knows what her next book will be about, even as she's writing the current one, or do you wait for the quiet time, once a book's finished, to flail about with a net for inspiration?
Liane Moriarty: "I normally have a few ideas at the back of my head, and sometimes I’m positive that I know what my next book is going to be about ... until I sit down to write it. I put aside another idea to write The Husband’s Secret, and actually, I’ve just shelved that same idea yet again. I don’t know why it keeps getting shelved, because it’s an extremely brilliant idea involving a suffragette, a pole dancer and ... look, it may be one of those ideas that only sound brilliant when they remain in your head. That particular character might have to stay at the back of my mind forever, pole dancing sadly away."

When you began your writing career, social media was almost non-existent – now it seems that authors must be 'engaging' at all turns. How do you feel about that aspect of being an author today? Are you active on social media?
LM: "Yes! You’re right! There was no Facebook! And we all survived, didn’t we? In one respect I can’t stand social media, because I’m very bad at it. I only went on Facebook at the insistence of my publisher and I am always behind answering comments, and I rarely do status updates, and I never update my blog, and I whinge constantly about the expectations, and how I don’t have time for this because I only have such short periods of child-free time to work.

"On the other hand, I also LOVE it, because I receive such lovely, generous comments from readers, and that precious feedback is available so quickly after a book is released.  I greatly admire authors who do social media properly, twirling effortlessly about the Internet, linking and tweeting. One day I will be just like them. And one day I will be very thin and punctual, too."

You experienced almost instant success with your first novel Three Wishes - do you think that made it easier or more difficult for you as a writer? Do you feel a weight of expectation with each book?
LM: "The Husband’s Secret is my fifth novel, and although you are kind to say I experienced almost instant success with Three Wishes, it was quite modest, manageable success if you know what I mean. It was published around the world, which was fantastic, because it meant I could become a full-time writer, but sales weren’t quite up there with 50 Shades of Grey. So I haven’t really felt that huge weight of expectation that I know some authors feel.  I feel like my readership has been growing at a nice steady rate but I don’t feel any pressure to stick to a certain formula. I just feel very lucky each time I have a new publishing contract."   

Two of your sisters (Jaclyn and Nicola) also write. Are you competitive with each other? Inspired by each other?
LM: "We are very competitive when it comes to material. For example, there was much outrage when I announced that I’d made use of a beloved family anecdote in The Husband’s Secret. I’m the eldest, so as I was here first I obviously enjoy first right of refusal on everything that has ever happened in the history of the Moriarty family...

"I am definitely inspired by both my sisters. I always say that I would never have published my first book if I wasn’t inspired by Jaci’s success with her brilliant YA novel, Feeling Sorry for Celia.  My sister Nicola, is one of the authors I mentioned above; she is very adept with social media, so much so that she and her graphic designer husband are my social media consultants. They set up my website, Facebook page etc. and answer my moronic questions, and I am eternally grateful to them."

People often praise the humour in your books. I saw it described in a review as "so delightful, it's wicked and empathetic and intelligent and smiley and it just nails it, every time". Do you set  out to write 'funny', do the characters drive your humour, or is it just a part of your natural voice?
LM: "Who wrote that review? I love and adore that person. I definitely don’t set out to ‘write funny’.  I think you’re right that it’s normally the characters and the situations driving the humour. Humour is such an odd, subjective thing.  Some people don’t find my books funny at all. I’ve seen some reviewers write, ‘What? This book wasn’t funny at all! I never laughed once!”  Which always makes me laugh, for some reason."

Visit Liane at her website or say hello on Facebook. In joyous news, I'll be giving away a signed copy of The Husband's Secret via my next newsletter, out on May 15. Sign up (via the box on this blog) for your chance to win - and to find out exactly how Liane writes about family without upsetting her own family members.

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