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.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...