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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

MWF - Chris Morphew & Gabrielle Lord in 'Action!'

Huh. Okay well that picture of Chris Morphew I was copying was a picture of HIM and not his book cover, but I'm cool with a little mystique so I'll stick to the book cover.

Good morning boys and girls!

I sat on the steps way up the back of the theatre for this sold out session with lots of enthusiastic school kids who wanted to know all about writing Action! books.

Chris Morphew is the author of 12 - or is it now 15? - of the hugely popular Zac Power books and has his own YA series the Phoenix Files, in which he's just finished writing the first draft of the fourth book.

Gabrielle Lord has written a multitude of adult books about crime, but you may know her from her series Conspiracy 365 that started in January and each month a new book is coming out. If she hadn't written them all ahead of time, I would have a nervous breakdown at that sort of pace! Eeep!

Anyhoo, Chris and Gabrielle both have different techniques to conducting research for their books, and both agree that explosions are integral to their plots.
Chris's research into blowing things up is conducted on the couch in front of action movies, as he claims he has a pretty good handle on how they work this way.

Gabrielle, however, has experience blowing things up. In what felt a little bit like too much information, now-we're-going-to-find-half-the-boys-in-the-audience-blowing-stuff-up-cos-you-taught-them-how-to, Gabrielle explained that in the past she had blown up bunny rabbits, much to the shock of her audience and she seemed extremely regretful, but in the past she and family had put explosives down rabbit warrens. They may be cute, but they are a pest. Like foxes.

They shared these great tips for how to write an action suspense book.

  • Readers will go along with a complex plot (and they both excel at complex plots) if you have something fun happen too. Like things exploding.
  • Characters need to have a goal, while being chased. In Gabrielle's book, her protagonist Cal has to survive 365 days being chased. 12 books of that would be pretty boring if he wasn't active, and had some goals of his own. Chris added that 'Don't die, is a pretty good motivator'.
  • Suspense writing is about with holding information from your readers. You the author know it, but your readers and characters don't. Will he survive? MAYBE.
  • When your characters manage to solve a problem, that solution should create 5-6 new problems that then need to be dealt with (I hadn't actively thought of this before, and I think it's genius).

Great tips, right? Now go forth and write something thrilling!


MWF - Melina Marchetta "How I Write"

To an audience of roughly 400 high school students, Melina Marchetta gave hope to those struggling with their studies.

'How I Write', a conversation with the author of Looking for Alibrandi, The Piper's Son, On the Jellicoe Road, Finnikan on the Rock was an interesting insight into her practice.

Melina left school in year 10, at the age of 15 (and still turned out okay). She claims that she definitely wasn't a model student, though she did well in English, she was mostly a B and C student in her other subjects.

Personally, I love to hear this sort of story coming from successful people, in the career that they love, and I'm sure there were lots of young adults in the audience, feeling the pressure of school and just not being able to bring in the grades they want that would have appreciated hearing it too. When at school, many kids can get caught up in the idea that your academic performance is going to dictate your future. For most of us, it's not the case.

Sorry - back to Melina. She said that she starts first with character, and she is not one of those people who has a million stories in her head waiting to be written. She has to wait until her characters start talking to her and revealing themselves. It once took several years for a new character to come to her and she hopes that never happens again, but in the middle of writing that book, she had a brand new character, Tom, pop into her head and her life who made concentrating on the original work extremely difficult. There is no balance, clearly. There's too little or too much!

One of the students asked how many books she had written before getting one published, and she told of a novel she wrote before Looking for Alibrandi, which was bad. So, so, so bad. But, it was about a girl who lived in a coastal town and met her father for the first time (which happens in Looking for Alibrandi).

Melina made it clear that she wrote a bad book to begin with, but it taught her something and ultimately influenced how she wrote Alibrandi, her first published novel.

This resonated with me particularly as I am rewriting a book at the moment, in which I essentially kept the characters and their relationships to each other, but have thrown out the original plot altogether. Perhaps this book is my Alibrandi.

What I took away from this session, was to not be afraid of writing bad books. Nothing is a waste, and what I hope some of the audience took away is that how well they perform in high school is not the be-all and end-all. They can still reach for the stars and get them, even if they do get a C in maths.


Melbourne Writers Festival Volunteers

Melbourne, the City of Literature is alive and bustling with writers at the moment, because at Federation Square, The Wheeler's Centre, Town Hall and other venues, the Melbourne Writers Festival is in full swing!

To me, volunteering at the festival is the best way to attend it, and I think even when I have books out I'll still try and volunteer. Wonder what the protocol is there? Anyway, not only do you get to attend as many sessions as you can, for free (if there's room for you) but you get to meet all sorts of book lovers and book makers. I had a fabulous day working on the "Whole Shebang" workshop (I'd say it was more like a day at a conference) and met many of the speakers - editors, agents and writers alike, not to mention the other volunteers and fantastic participants who are so passionate about books, writing and the industry. Like me!

And that night I worked at the Town Hall and nearly collided with Joss Whedon (think the creator of Buffy, Angel, Firefly, Doctor Horrible's Sing-a-long Blog and the upcoming Avengers movie) as he came inside for his sound check.

Being a volunteer at an event is such a different experience to attending, and I have a great time doing it.

Being a young adult fiction writer, I am attending some sessions this week during the schools program which feature young adult authors. This year is the first year I discovered that NON school people could attend these sessions too. Think of all the amazing speakers I've missed out on! But no longer.

In the next couple of posts I'll share what I learnt when Melina Marchetta (Looking for Alibrandi, On the Jellicoe Road, Finnikin on the Rock) discussed 'How I Write', and Chris Morphew (Zac Power, Phoenix Files) and Gabriel Lord (Conspiracy 365) talked about 'Action!'

I still have more sessions to attend, so stay tuned for those!


Monday, August 2, 2010

What I've been doing and stuff.

Hello Blogosphere, it is I. Sarah. I just realised today how very long it has been between posts, because in class we’re working on blogs and I had a quick squiz at mine and *cough*…so here I am.

Interesting stuff, actually. We're looking at digital publishing and as well as setting up blogs for the class, we had to rewrite a short story we had already written, but as 5 text messages, and look at how the different technology changes the way the story is told. And it did change the story. You should try it. Except YOU should use a good phone that doesn't make you swear because it keeps turning off mid-text message and moving the cursor so you're typing in the wrong place. You should use a different phone. Learn from me.

Anyway, that was just today. The whole rest of the time I was on mid-semester break for what felt like forever (not a complaint) and my exam went awesome (thanks for asking) and it’s not like I was just lounging around in my pyjamas all winter holidays (yes you American and British types! It’s winter and cold and rainy and very hard to get out of bed because I don't have central heating and the air outside of my doona is c-c-cold!) and technically that wasn’t much of a lie about spending most of my days in my pyjamas because, well, I was in my tracky daks (track suit) for a lot of it. But I wasn’t bludging. I was WRITING. I finished my first draft of an MG called What’s so cool about Carrie (Working Title) within the first four days (sing hallelujah! Sing it…haaaaaallelujah) and while giving myself some space away from that so I can crack the whip and slash pages, characters and kill all my darlings with no remorse when I’m not so attached to it, I got to work on the second draft of a YA book I wrote two years ago, which is now called The Kiss Off.

Two years was enough time for me to get out my butchers knife and hack the bejesus outta that book and feel good about it. The only problem with hacking the bejesus out of your first draft is you may end up with only about 30 pages that you’re going to keep and a whole bunch of awesome characters who need a brand-spanking-new story.

Which is what I did. Actually, what I’m still doing, I’m in the middle of the big ‘oh no she didn’t’ climax but don’t have the time or energy to finish it just now cos I’m back at Uni and working (hard for the money…so haaaaard for it honey) and this whole not finishing my book thing is frustrating. You know? Cos as soon as I finish The Kiss Off, I can get back to What’s so cool about Carrie? and get something off to my agent. I’m looking forward to finished drafts. Oh yes I am.

In other news, I just recently discovered Australia has an Ice Hockey league so I have found my sport of choice. I am not a sport fan, but I am an ice hockey fan, oh yes. Go Melbourne Ice! Can you imagine what the mascot looks like? I haven’t seen it yet. Do you reckon it’s just like, a snowball? Or a block of ice from the freezer tray?

I’ll keep you posted. If I remember.

Pretty much that’s been my last month. Writing, working and some ice hockey.

Thought I might share a teeny tiny snippet of what I’ve been working on since I’ve been working pretty hard. This is from the YA novel: The Kiss Off.

My protagonist, Poppy and her friend Vanya are helping their other friend Mads get ready for a date.

So we were in Mads’s room, Van and I scrutinizing every top she owned and Mads was kind of pacing, forehead furrowed as she glared at herself in the mirror.

‘I’m hideous.’ She said, throwing her hands in the air in defeat. ‘Why am I doing this to him?’

‘What are you talking about? Doing what?’ I asked.

‘This. Tonight, why am I subjecting Dev to the hideousness that is me.’

‘Oh shut up Mads,’ Vanya said. Mads crossed her arms and huffed.

‘I’m with her.’ I nodded at Van as she tossed another top into the “hell no” pile in the corner.

‘You’re pretty and nice and sweet and he likes you. You don’t have anything to worry about.’

‘And you can hardly notice the pimples anymore,’ Vanya said helpfully. Mads gasped and slapped her hand to her chin. I pulled it away and clasped both her hands in mine, squeezing them reassuringly.

‘And you’ve got us there to help you.’

For a moment she seemed to be settling down, but then she pulled her hands away, strode to the other side of the room and declared: ‘I’m not pretty, I’m horrible, I’m hideous, I’m disfigured!’

‘What are you talking about?’

And that was when she whipped her top off. Just like that. She pointed to her boobs. Her naked boobs. This was new.

‘Um, Mads,’ I started.

‘I like this one!’ Vanya threw whatever top she was holding at the time at Mads’s chest. It happened to be her gym uniform. Mads threw it to the “hell no” pile.

‘Look at them,’ she said. ‘Look at the left one, it’s growing as big as a porn star’s but then look at the right. It looks like my dad’s boobs!’ I didn’t exactly want to, but since she was being so demanding about it, I checked out her boobs. I looked from the left to the right and back again.

‘They look fine to me.’

‘They’re not fine!’

‘What do you think, Van?’

Vanya huffed, shook her head, bent at the waist and squinted at Mads’s boobs.

‘You say the left one’s bigger?’ She asked.

‘It is!’

‘I don’t think you have to worry. The other one’ll catch up.’ Van stood up and crossed her arms with a nod.

‘And besides, Mrs. McCleary said it’s perfectly normal to have one boob bigger than the other.’ I reassured her.

‘You see it too, then?’ Mads looked panic stricken. ‘That the left is bigger?’

‘No!’ Vanya and I both shouted.

‘You don’t?’

‘Your boobs are fine, Mads.’ I told her, picking up a baby pink singlet from the “maybe” pile. I handed it to her slowly. Thankfully, she clutched it to her chest.

Vanya held up Mads’s vintage electric blue MotoCross jacket, and we had a winner.

‘I think that’d look good with some long necklaces, don’t you?’

See you erm…sometime before the end of the year?