The year 2012 has been a big year. It's been mostly positive. I've undertaken challenges that have pushed me out of my comfort zone and my confidence has grown in leaps and bounds. While there have been disappointments, I've been able to put these into context. To learn from them and bounce back relatively quickly.
The biggest lesson has been to follow my muse. To believe in myself more and to push harder. Up until I've only worked on one book/project at a time. If I had ideas for other things, I would push them away and just keep trotting along with the one thing. This would make motivation hard to come by at certain points as inspiration waned and writing would become hard work.
My new work method has been to have a few things on the go. Then depending on my mood I would always have something I could dip into. I've been experimenting with this for a few months now and it seems to be working for me. When I get tired or hit a brick wall I move onto the new project, and then come back revitalised.
My greatest concern with this was that nothing would ever get finished, and I still don't know if this is a valid fear or not. What I do know that regardless of what happens I'm writing a lot more consistently and it's such a lovely process clearing the ideas out of my head.
Some achievements this year have been:
And next year I have some general goals:
I wish you all a Happy New Year. I hope 2013 is kind to you and that you look back on the year that was with a fond sigh.
The Friendship Matchmaker by Randa Abdel-Fattah
Randa is on my must read list and I make sure I read everything she writes. In this new book she has written a junior fiction novel. I was really interested to read this because junior fiction is the 'it' genre at the moment.
I really enjoyed this book about Lara who's life work is to find friends for others. Lara's advice is suspect and there is quite a bit of fun to be had there. There is depth and heart in this novel as we find out what has shaped and influenced Lara and her life's ambition to be a friendship matchmaker.
I can see the appeal of junior fiction for readers. This reminded me of The Babysitter's Club which was my fiction of choice when I was an adolescent. Parents are noticeably absent, unless they are performing valet duty, and the protagonists dream big and live almost grown up lives on one level. The conflict is all related to the friendship groups and the main difference to young adult fiction is that there isn't a big coming of age turning point in the end. Whilst the protagonist has a realisation, they are still in the same mindset. Ideas are swirling.
Courting Samira by Amal Awad
This is a debut novel by Awad and it's in the chick lit genre. Awad has a great voice and has created a well-rounded character in Samira who is searching for love while coming to terms with what she wants in life.
Her novel is best described as an Austen-esque romance in the Muslim world and gives great insight into the courting rituals of an arranged marriage.
There is humour and a love triangle that kept me guessing to the end.
Her Father's Daughter by Alice Pung
I read Alice's memoir Unpolished Gem when it was published a few years ago and loved it. When I saw she had a second book out it instantly moved onto my must read list.
With this new memoir Pung is exploring her father's life in the killing fields of Cambodia and how this has shaped his over-cautious nature and influenced his children's life.
The memoir is written in third person and shifts between the two points of view of father and daughter. Pung has a beautifully lyrical style, but the real revelation was the way she was able to capture the brutality that her father lived through with a delicate hand. There is a scene where she visits the field where her father buried the dead. She reflects on the fragility of the human body and what happens when a body starves to death. She doesn't attempt to recreate the scenes her father lived through, and yet through this reflective process she makes the reader so aware of the brutality of the regime he survived.
Was very impressed with this memoir and there were some lessons for me and my writing process. Sometimes I automatically turn to shock value to make a point. But the reader doesn't need everything in their face to feel the emotion you're trying to create. Sometimes less is more.
I watched this movie in the cinema and it made me laugh, cry and green with envy that I haven't written a young adult novel with such depth and beauty. It is absolutely a must watch!
I'm going to track down the book and read it because I just want to immerse myself in that world again.
American Horror Story is in its second season. I loved the first season with it's themes of ghosts and horror. It was so cool and gave me such a chill.
Somehow they have ended up making an even better second season and I am addicted. It freaks me out, yet hooks me at the same time. The best part is that the same actors who were in Season 1 are back in Season 2, but in different roles and I'm loving it. You don't have any problems believing them in their new roles and it adds great depth to the show.
So today I've got two posts out there in the world. One on Dee White's Writing for Kids blog about my Young Writers Newsletter, and I'm also participating in a meme that's been doing the rounds titled The Next Big Thing.
And here are the 10 questions:
1) What is the working title of your next book?
I am horrible with titles. It’s the bane of my writing life and I am in awe of writers who have that magical gift of plucking out an artistic title.
I had a meeting with my literary hero, Cate Kennedy earlier in the year when she invited me on her one hour feature with Books and Arts show on ABC Radio National. Afterward when we had lunch we spoke about our writing projects and I told her about my memoir.
‘You should call it ___,’ she said.
‘Can I use that?’ I asked.
And she said yes.
So this is a rather long winded way of saying that the title is so precious and top secret that it won’t be made public until there’s a book contract.
2) Where did the idea come from for the book?
I had what you could describe as a tumultuous childhood being parented by a single mother who suffered from Bi Polar. This meant I developed the gift of observation from an early age and became a confidante to the adults in my life. As a result I’ve collected a lot of amazing stories that are desperate for a home.
3) What genre does your book fall under?
4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
Naomi Watts as my mother because she’d capture her fragility.
A young unknown girl who has an interesting face and presence like Saoirse Ronan who played Briony in Atonement to play me.
5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
My mute child’s curiosity and unnatural stillness was like a balm to the wounded adults in my life and I became their confidante as they poured forth their heartache and pain, believing that their confessions would be lost in a child’s short-term memory, but I never forgot.
6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I am represented by Curtis Brown agency.
7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
I wrote three chapters in the first half of the year and an additional rough draft of 50K during Nano. I am now developing this rough draft into a manuscript.
8)What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
The raw honesty of In My Skin by Kate Holden and the cultural insights of Unpolished Gem by Alice Pung.
9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?
The women in my family who didn’t have a voice and were victims of the times they lived in.
10) What else about the book might pique the reader's interest?
At heart it's the story of a girl (me) growing up way before her time and being exposed to a lot of stuff that a child shouldn't, but that ultimately shaped me as a writer.
Here are some other awesome authors who have participated in this meme.
Tor Roxburgh wrote about her awesome young adult novel.
Sheryl Clark will be posting on the 3rd January but in the meantime you can check out her awesome blog about her Masters in Fine Arts in Writing and great writing tips.
Amanda Wrangles will also be doing a meme.
Simmone Howell will be posting on the 17th of December.
If you're also participating leave a comment with your link so we can check it out.
There is this moment before I embark on my new project. I have some writing behind me. Some ideas, sketches, but now I'm about to start the real work. The craft of writing and where I work on a draft that resembles a book.
This moment where it is perfect in my head and I imagine all the amazing things that will happen when I finish it. I plan how I'm going to write, where things will go, how it will begin and end and what is the journey that the reader will be taken on.
Then I begin, and the minute I do every word is already hard and heavy. It doesn't float out of me effortlessly, instead I'm engaging in an internal battle with myself as I reconcile my fantasy book, with the one I am producing.
Eventually the momentum takes over, and it's not so hard. Things begin flowing and I can see light at the end of the tunnel. I know this. I've been here before. But right now I'm in a funk. I have to get through this hump where I accept the reality of how hard it is to produce a good book. I have to accept the fact that it won't take five minutes. Instead it takes sweat and tears to keep digging deep.
The quote that writing is 10 per cent talent and 90 per cent perseverance is so true. So I will persevere. There will be days when it's hard, and there will days when it's easy. Today is hard. Hopefully tomorrow will be better.
Amra Pajalić is an award-winning author, an editor and teacher who draws on her Bosnian cultural heritage to write own voices stories for young people, who like her, are searching to mediate their identity and take pride in their diverse culture. She writes memoir, young adult and romance under the pen name Mae Archer.
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