I don’t have a column to share this month. There have been a few changes with our local papers, so I may have some news next month. Just think, the family can breathe a sigh of relief for a few more weeks for I’m not giving away any in-house secrets. (I’m keeping track of them though, don’t you worry about that.) ;)
Curtis Coast Literary Carnivale
This was so much fun. How wonderful it is to have nationwide and internationally known authors and artists take time out of their very busy schedules, travel to smaller communities like mine and share their expertise and experience. How lucky we are that some very special people take time out of their own busy lives to organise these events. :)
I didn’t attend the artists’ workshops, (my shared ‘attempts’ at birthday cake decorating says it all,) but I did have the pleasure of attending a workshop run by the very talented, vivacious author, Mrs Jacqueline Harvey.
Mrs Harvey, a former schoolteacher, deputy head, and Director of Development, began writing fulltime in 2012. First published in 2006, it was her 2010 success with the story of a young girl - Alice-Miranda Highton-Smith-Kennington-Jones – and the character’s adventures while boarding at the Winchesterfield-Downsfordvale Academy for Proper Young Ladies, which made children of all ages fall in love with Mrs Harvey’s stories. What originally began life as a picture book has over a dozen books in the series. In 2018, channel nine will air an animated series of Alice-Miranda’s adventures.
What an inspiring journey for Mrs Harvey, who has published several other books such as her Clementine Rose series, the latest novel was launched at the carnivale this week. Her picture book ‘The Sound of the Sea’ was an Honour Book in the 2006 Children’s Book Council Awards. She also has a strong on-line presence through twitter, Facebook, and her website, and children will be very pleased to learn she reads (and replies to) everything they send to her. :)
The workshop began with Mrs Harvey’s call story, a little about herself, and some background into the realisation of Alice-Miranda. As she spoke about creative writing, anecdotes of this delightful character were peppered throughout her conversation. Yes, I have pages of notes. Yes, I have so much more to learn, and yes, the time passed too quickly. Mrs Harvey shared that she once did a creative writing lecture for six hours at a university. How I wish we had the same amount of time to spend with her. She is such a giving, generous speaker and there was much furious scratching of pens as she imparted her knowledge.
Mrs Harvey spoke about the publishing industry, writing personal goals and keeping them, making writing time a priority, knowing your publisher / agent, knowing your audience and above all knowing everything about your characters. She also covered the options between writing a series as opposed to writing stand-alone books, keeping yourself challenged with writing exercises, creating interesting characters, finding names to suit those characters, the all-important ‘show, don’t tell’, finding your ‘voice’, and in general, inspired us to follow our dreams.
It was an excellent workshop, so if you have a chance to attend one of Mrs Harvey’s, you won’t be disappointed. :) You can find more on this lovely lady and her books here. :)
When the workshops finished, there was a small reprieve before everyone assembled for a panel discussion. It was there that we met all the authors and artists, which was chaired by the president of the Curtis Coast Literary Carnivale, Dr Robyn Sheahan-Bright, who is an accomplished and multi award winning author in her own right. Author/Artists, Gregg Dreise, Dave Hackett, and Lucia Masciullo shared their publishing stories and their love of their artistic mediums as well as the written word. Then Jacqueline Harvey and one of our local authors, Kathryn Apel, told us what their writing achievements meant to them.
Each had a sage piece of advice to share with the group. While my personal favourite was Ms Apel’s ‘Don’t die with the story still inside you’, we heard other gems such as Mr Hackett’s ‘Always back yourself and have ideas / pitches ready on request’, and Mr Dreise’s ‘Be Passionate, and be driven’. Ms Masciullo’s ‘put yourself out there / be seen, and Mrs Harvey’s ‘fall in love with your characters and allow others to fall in love with them too’, were just as inspiring.
You can learn more about these very talented people here. :)
Ms Kathryn Apel https://katswhiskers.wordpress.com/
Mr Dave Hackett http://www.cartoondave.com/
Mr Gregg Dreise http://greggdreise.com/
Ms Lucia Masciullo http://luciamasciullo.com/
It was a fabulous day, but unfortunately, this is also the last carnivale for the region. And although I understand why, it’s always sad when good things end. Thank you to our guests for sharing their time and expertise. I wish the committee all the best for the future and I thank them for all their hard work behind the scenes in bringing such generous and talented people to our region. :(
My teen is working on character reviews in English class, so we watched the movie – The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and then I borrowed her book. Stephen Chbosky wrote both the screenplay and the novel. While I enjoyed the novel, I preferred the screenplay and my review probably reflects this.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a deeply affecting coming-of-age story that will spirit you back to those wild and poignant roller-coaster days known as growing up.
Charlie is a freshman. And while he's not the biggest geek in the school, he is by no means popular. Shy, introspective, intelligent beyond his years yet socially awkward, he is a wallflower, caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it. Charlie is attempting to navigate his way through uncharted territory: the world of first dates and mix-tapes, family dramas and new friends; the world of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when all one requires is that perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite. But Charlie can't stay on the sideline forever. Standing on the fringes of life offers a unique perspective. But there comes a time to see what it looks like from the dance floor.
I think the issues of Charlie and his life experiences were brilliantly written, (and executed). Not once did I suspect the true reason for his internal pain and the trigger for his depression. When the revelation came in the movie, I was stunned, angry, and found a new respect for Charlie and for the writer. The effect whilst reading the book, even though I knew what to expect, was no less moving. The relationships between Charlie, Sam, and Patrick were beautiful, each with their own heartache, problems, and issues they had to overcome, accept, and grow from. While I didn’t have their experiences, the story reminded me just how much of a wallflower I was at school, always on the outside looking in, content in my own company, but somehow longing to belong just the same. A very heartbreaking and moving novel / movie – and the acting was outstanding too. :)
You can find more about the book and movie here. :)
I also read the first in a self-published trilogy called Dawn of the Dreamer by local author, LJ Higgins. Here’s the spiel.
Dawn of the Dreamer is the first book in the Dreamer Trilogy
In 2023, the innovative MultiMind Corporation (MMC) released a stylish Wristcuff to be worn over a microchip implanted beneath its host’s skin, giving the wearer pleasant dreams. Better sleep promotes a peaceful lifestyle and improved health. At least this is what the MMC have the population believing. There are those for whom this technology fails to work: Dreamers. They’re shunned because of their inability to adapt and evolve like the rest of the human race.
Amelia is a Dreamer, and the veil of ignorance is lifted when she meets someone who helps her see through the lies and secrets of the MMC. With her world shaken and changed, Amelia has to decide whether to fight for the freedom to dream or take the ‘next step in evolution’ with the rest of society at the risk of losing her ability to think and dream for herself.
Join Amelia on this science fiction adventure set in the future.
Warning: Adventure, action, science fiction, relationships, manipulation and mind control.
Whether you’re new to the dystopian genre or it’s one of your favourites, there’s something about this futuristic world and its promise of a better society that will captivate you in Ms Higgins’ debut novel.
In a world where a corporation is ready to solve all your problems thanks to a fancy gadget and a highly evolved microchip, discovering such an incredible gift doesn’t work on her leads our protagonist on a path of self-doubt and insecurity. In a time when it’s bad to have dreams, especially ones that seem a little too real for comfort, Amelia secretly volunteers for a series of tests within the corporation’s laboratories to discover why she’s different. She has little choice. That microchip is in charge of where she can find employment, where she can go, how she can travel and to what social circle she belongs. Being a ‘dreamer’ is a secret to be withheld at all costs. That changes when she meets Joe, another dreamer who’s not afraid of who he is, nor is he convinced the MultiMind Corporation is all they’d have the public believe. And if her increasingly prophetic dreams are anything to go by, Amelia’s afraid he’s right. But how are a couple of dreamers going to take down a corporation that has eyes everywhere and too much invested in their company to let anyone take it away?
I liked Amelia. She grew in strength and confidence as the story progressed. I especially liked the way Ms Higgins wove dream meanings into her story to advance the plot. She also kept me guessing on where the true allegiances of a few of the characters lay. Of course, some of my guesses won’t be confirmed until I read the next two books in her series. An enjoyable read that definitely left me wanting more. :)
Not only did I get to read a great story, I was also lucky enough to score an interview with the lovely Ms Higgins when she generously agreed to answer my Twenty Questions. :)
1. When did you first consider yourself a writer?
A writer I met through a friend suggested that I read, Geoff Goins – You are a Writer, and it gave me the confidence to call myself a writer. I’d finally decided what I wanted to be when I grew up (at 29), so why not just say that’s what I was.
2. Do you have support from family and friends?
Yes, I’m very lucky. My husband is my biggest encourager and my friends and family are my biggest fans. Without their support I wouldn’t have gotten this far.
3. You’ve just released the third novel in your Dreamer trilogy. What inspired you to write the series?
It sounds corny I know, but a dream did. I’d started a blog and a friend gave me a notebook to write my future novel. That night I had a dream, which grew into Dawn of the Dreamer, and then the Dreamer Trilogy. My vivid dreams inspire many of my stories and ideas.
4. What are your favourite story writing genres and authors and what draws you to them?
I love contemporary, dystopian, a touch of Sci-Fi, fantasy… okay I like many different genres. My favourite books are J K Rowling’s Harry Potter Series, Suzanne Collins Hunger Games, Veronica Roth’s Divergent Series, and I just read The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey and couldn’t put it down. I also read many indie writers including, Kayla Howarth (The Institute Series), Michelle Bryan (New Bloods Trilogy), and Michelle Lynn (Dawn of Rebellion Series) to name just a few. Obviously, I love to read, and I think it’s important to read lots of different genres and authors when you write.
5. Where can we buy or see your works?
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/L-J-Higgins/e/B0120ARKFA/
You can also find more info at www.ljhiggins.com
6. Can you tell us what are you working on at the minute?
I’m a good way into my next book, which will be a stand-alone young adult contemporary novel. It’s based around two soon to be sixteen-year-old girls, Mia and Chelsea and how they each deal with the things that come with being a teenager.
7. How much research do you do?
For the dreams in the Dreamer Trilogy, I used Dream Dictionaries to make sure the meanings actually matched up with what I was writing. If I’m covering important issues, as I did while writing, In Their Shoes, I always makes sure I have my facts straight. It’s important to make your fiction believable, which means at least some research.
8. Why do you write?
I just love it. I can’t give a specific reason; I’ve always enjoyed it and have always had a vivid imagination, which never disappeared as I got older.
9. Do you have a writing routine?
No, but I need one. I’m getting better at putting time aside especially for writing, and I even track my word counts now. But until both of my kids are at school, I don’t think I’ll have a strict routine.
10. Do you ever get writer’s block and if so, how do you get through it?
I wouldn’t say I’ve had writers block as such, but I’ve had days where I’ve lacked the motivation or lost direction and writing sprints against another author always seem to do the trick.
11. What book/s are you reading at present?
I’m reading First Life by Gena Showalter and the third instalment of the Dawn of Rebellion Series, Eve of Tomorrow. I usually have a physical book on the go and an eBook at the same time.
12. What do you do to inspire your creativity?
I watch many documentaries about lots of different things. I love to paint and draw, and I keep in touch with fellow indie authors who always help me to find the motivation and inspiration to write. Inspiration is all around us, we just have to take the time to stop, breathe and see it.
13. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Write. And don’t be afraid to show people what you do. So many writers spend years on their manuscript only to sit on them because it isn’t just right. It will never be perfect, but the only way to learn and get better is to put it out into the world and absorb the criticisms and feedback.
14. Do you have a story first and then a title or the other way around?
So far, it’s always been a story first. I find choosing the right title hard and usually go through a few before I chose a final one.
15. What do you think makes a good story?
Interesting characters and an issue that is important to the reader. People want to feel like they are living the story as it unravels; having these two things helps them connect with the story.
16. If you write more than one genre, how do you balance them?
I have a few different ideas in different genres, and I struggle to work on more than one project at a time. So I literally bank up my ideas and work on them in the order they present themselves.
17. Are you a plotter, panster or a combination of both?
For Dawn of the Dreamer I was definitely a pantser, but found it easier and quicker to write Fall of the Dreamer and Rise of the Dreamer with some plotting out beforehand. I think I will always have an element of pantsing because some storylines you think will work just don’t, and characters seem to have their own agenda’s sometimes.
18. What question do you wish someone would ask, but no one ever has?
Why I became a self-published author instead of finding a publisher. Either people seem to assume I tried, failed and then gave up or that I cheated and took the easy route. Neither of which are true.
Being an indie author is neither giving up nor easy. It takes a lot of dedication and passion to grow your business on your own.
19. Any writing rituals / superstitions?
No, I don’t.
20. How did you deal with rejection letters (if you had any?)
As a self-published author, I haven’t had any rejection letters, but I have had to deal with negative feedback and bad reviews. I will always take on board what I feel are legitimate issues and work on them as I continue writing, but although I believe it’s all a part of growing as an author I think it’s important to stay true to yourself and your story.
Thank you so much, Ms Higgins. All the best for your launch of your third book in the Dreamer trilogy – Rise of the Dreamer. For my local readers, the book launch takes place on July 30th at Crowe Street Creative beginning at 6.30 pm where you’ll meet Ms Higgins, be in the running for a swag of prizes, and be able to purchase her books.
As for me, I have notes to type and save from the workshop, new books to read, an author Q&A to look forward to online with the lovely Ms Jenny Schwartz. (I’ve already warned the group that I may (will) be a tad, (very) enthused about our upcoming exchanges. And somewhere in there, I have topic homework and my own writing to tackle. And hubby wonders why the housework is never ‘done’. LOL
Until next month, happy reading. :)