Reflecting on what an amazing year 2022 has been and looking forward to 2023! Thank you for being on this journey with me and wishing you all a wonderful New Year.
I received some wonderful news. I applied and received a grant from Arts Victoria for the development of my memoir. The incredibly talented Alice Pung has agreed to be my mentor in the development of this project and I'm really excited about working with her.
I am especially grateful to have been successful with this grant at this point in my life. Working full time has been challenging and having a mentor will give me some much needed support and impetus to focus on this project.
This project is supported by the Victorian Government through Arts Victoria.
So the anthology is officially launched and it's been getting some good traction with publicity.
It was featured on the Today show with contributor Sabrina Houssami. Sabrina also wrote a piece for the Sydney Morning Herald's Style magazine.
Contributor Alyena Mohummadally was on ABC Breakfast TV, view interview below. She also had radio interviews on Jon Faine here and on ABC Drawing Room hosted by Waleed Aly and talking with Alice Pung here, and Joy radio station here.
There were The Age extracts with Bianca Elmir, Randa Abdel-Fattah, and Irfan Yusuf.
Bianca Elmir was also on radio with Richard Fidler here.
There are two launches. A Melbourne Launch at the Wheeler Centre on Monday 24 February 2014, 6:15PM - 7:45PM, and you can book free tickets here. And a Sydney launch at Abbeys Bookshop Thursday 13 February 2014 at 6 pm, info here.
And I'm very excited to have received advanced copies of my novel for children Amir: Friend on Loan.
I also wrote the teaching notes for Coming of Age: Growing up Muslim in Australia and they can be downloaded from the Allen and Unwin website here.
What an awesome start to the year!!!
Today I have a guest post from my husband Fikret Pajalic with some advice for other emerging writers.
I have been writing for the past three years and recently I finally started having consistent success with my stories being published. Needless to say that before this success I almost stopped writing and questioned myself and my stories on a daily basis. I was sure there was some major flaw to my storytelling. This was, to say the least, very perplexing to me as I workshop and obtain critiques on a number of different levels.
With a wife who is an author and editor, and having belonged until recently to a writing group where all of my stories were critiqued by a number of fellow writers, my stories undertake a rigorous editing process. After this I normally leave the story for a couple of months and then read it again with 'fresh' eyes before sending it out into the world.
My stories have been awarded prizes as well as published in literary journals. In a relatively short period of less than six months I have had 8 publication credits, with two of stories being published in international journals, so I think my technique is starting to work.
I call my technique "The Revolving door technique" and it is a variation of my wife’s approach that she calls "spaghetti on the wall". If you throw a handful of cooked spaghetti on the wall some are bound to stick. Meaning, if you send a bunch of submissions some will be accepted for publication.
I am a fervent follower of this approach but as I said I also practice my own technique which is that as soon as I get a knockback from a magazine, journal, publisher or competition I send that same story to someone else. In fact I have a spreadsheet where I follow all my submissions and I have a plan about what to do with each story in case it is unsuccessful. Hence, the name revolving door. For me it’s worked, so far.
The point is that you just have to keep putting your work out there. The benefits are that if your writing is good, sooner or later you will find a home for your story and with every knockback you're developing the much needed writer’s thick skin.
To put some things in perspective my stories will be published in six journals this year and have placed in two competitions, and this is after seventy submissions. Which means I already received nearly sixty knockbacks (some stories are still 'alive' as I write this).
Fikret Pajalic won third prize in the Banjo Patterson short story competition, was highly commended in the 2013 Ada Cambridge Short Story Competition, was published in Regime journal and has short stories in upcoming issues of Etchings, Aker, Verge Annual, New Zealand journal JAAM, and British literary magazine Structo.
Very exciting day. Had a meeting today with Garratt Publishing to talk about their project Third Space and my novella Amir that is being published by them. I received a hard copy mock up of my book and I've been floating ever since. It looks so beautiful and this is when it all starts feeling real.
This project is about embracing diversity and there are going to be amazing resources available for teachers to introduce these series in the classroom with an integrated curriculum across English, Civics and Citizenship and History.
There will also be author videos available to support the teacher's resources which is going to be great, but boy I'm not looking forward to watching myself on the screen. It will be published early next year so it's going to be soon. Yay. Also excited because it will be aimed for upper primary and lower secondary so a whole new readership for me. What fun!!!
I ran a short story workshop as part of the Brimbank Literary Awards last night and it went really well. There were about 16 participants who were really eager and motivated to learn. I sold some books, had some great conversations about writing, and finally felt the slump I've been in lift.
It has been a really busy first half of the year. I did 3 uni subjects (instead of my usual two) and really found it a strain. Toward the end of the semester I had a bout of illness and a death in the family and for the first time ever had to request extensions for every subject. I only completed my last assignment yesterday and finally felt that whoosh of relief you get when everything is done and behind you.
Part of the reason that I've also been struggling is I had a lot of writing deadlines. One of them I can share now. I was asked by Garratt Publishing, an educational publisher, to write a middle grade story to be published as part of their Diversity series. I had to read the brief, write a synopsis, that was approved, and then write a 10,000 word story to a deadline. It was the first time I had to write to a deadline and I found it stressful, especially amongst all the other stuff going on, but I found it a great experience.
Being pushed outside of your comfort zone really makes you realise what you're capable of. It was such an amazing experience to basically produce a story out of thin air and I loved the creative process and just sitting down and having things happen. I received feedback from the publisher and she loved the story and how layered it was. Such a relief that my instincts are right. So who knows what else I'll produce in the middle grade genre after this. I'm waiting on revisions and publishing details, but suspect it will be published sometime next year.
I'm hoping that the second half of the year will mean more writing time, and that it will be an easier one than the first half. But this might be an empty hope. I have lots of things going on:
Lots of new challenges and experiences. I'm looking forward to stretching myself. Just have to be careful not to burn out the way I have done in the past few months. Fingers crossed I achieve better balance.
Today's guest post is by my husband Fikret Pajalic on a talk he attended by journal editors Blaise van Hecke and Les Zigomanis.
Last night I attended a talk by the publishers and editors of 'Untitled' and 'Page 17' literary journals, Blaise and Les for Busybird Publishing and Design at Caroline Springs library.
Blaise and Les shared with us their enormous wealth of invaluable information on how they got into writing and more specifically into publishing and editing side of the industry. They concentrated mostly (to our collective delight) on how to get published and on editing as well.
In almost two hours they gave us great tips of what to do and what not to do, lots of advice worth in gold (seriously, if you get published you get paid, every writer's dream). They answered heaps of questions with patience and great detail.
Both Blaise and Les were immensely charismatic with great rapport and energy flowing between them and then to us. They sat at our table and presented their stuff in very easy going, easy to understand manner, approachable and precise. I really like that there was none of the preachy attitude, but rather, 'we're here to help you' kind of a talk. It was a wonderful night and I am so glad I made an effort to see Blaise and Les from Busybird Publishing.
If you ever get a chance to attend one of their workshops/talks I strongly recommend you go. You won't be disappointed. In fact I guarantee you will walk away richer for the experience.
I also purchased the last issues of 'Untitled' and 'Page 17' magazines at discounted prices (Thanks Blaise) and am looking forward to reading them.
I would like to thank Blaise and Les for taking time to come to talk to us and to Emily Wark from Caroline Springs Library for organising this magnificent event.
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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