Yesterday was the last Readings By The Bay for 2016. It was also the last Readings for me as coordinator of the Mordialloc Writers Group – after 21 years, I’m spreading my wings like a fledgeling duck and wobbling off for new adventures – in particular, my love of travel.
I’m spending term two next year away from teaching and will be travelling to more places on my bucket list. Definitely moving from my comfort zone by going to Mongolia and Russia and hoping the talent of so many Russian writers I admire will inspire me as I indulge in another love – history.
It was great yesterday to not only have a guest author, Jennifer Scouller, to share her writing journey to publication but to reflect on other guest writers this year: Maria Katsonis and Isobel Knowles and Cat Rabbit.
We also had Mordy Writer, Glenice Whitting attend to share her good news about her latest novel, Something Missing, to be launched soon. (Read all about this on Glenice’s blog!)
On Saturday, at Mentone Public Library, Glenice was the guest local author and I was asked to introduce her:
Introducing Glenice Whitting
It is a privilege to introduce my dear friend Glenice Whitting to you today, although looking around the room no introduction is necessary for so many here, who are already aware of Glenice’s writing ability and talent.
Glenice has been a valued member of Mordialloc Writers’ Group since 1999, and we were lucky to workshop her writing, and later publish early excerpts from both her novels in our anthologies:
Pickle to Pie first delighted us in the story Grossmutter And Me published in 2000 in the anthology Casting a Line and we gleaned the first hint of Glenice’s latest novel, Something Missing, in 2004, with the story What Time is it There? in the anthology Eleven O Four.
Over the last two decades nurturing and teaching local writers, I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard: ‘I’m writing a novel’ ‘I could write a book’ ‘I want to write a novel.’
Sadly, few follow through with the task or achieve their goal. They may give up by choice or circumstance, or they don’t put the work into the manuscript to realise publication, the traditional or even non-traditional way.
Having a published book in your hand is no mean feat – the journey is not for the faint-hearted. You need dedication to the craft, incredible determination and effort, as well as talent. Networking and luck such as serendipity can play a part, but overwhelmingly it is sheer hard work and a belief in self that finishes the book. And if you are looking for success you need to write a story others want to read.
Glenice ticks all the boxes: she has created recognisable characters and interesting worlds we can identify with – both novels are mainly set in Australia and span historical periods many will recognise. However, they also cover universal themes of family relationships, love and grief, desire, disappointment – real life! Her storytelling style sweeps the reader along and we turn the pages!
Glenice has worked tirelessly at being the best writer she can be, her personal learning curve an inspiration. She went back to school as a mature age student, onto university studies that culminated in a PhD in creative writing.
She has drawn on her own life experiences for her novels, which makes them resonate but has added that infinitesimal quality that good writers possess – imagination!
Enjoy her presentation.
And we did!!
2016 Guest Authors at Readings By The Bay
I want to thank Kristina Rowell for arranging these author presentations – each one so different. I also thank the writers’ for their generosity in sharing their journey and experience. The three presentations worthwhile, inspiring, and the detailed talks gave new insight into the publishing world today, and the various paths writers must take to achieve their dream.
We had a unique opportunity for an intimate discussion with author, senior public servant and mental health advocate Maria Katsonis as she talked us through the publication of her novel: The Good Greek Girl.
This life-changing, heartfelt memoir about her mental breakdown after graduating from Harvard, the ramifications on her family life and high-level job in the public service and the long road to recovery and acceptance of living with a diagnosed mental illness is riveting reading.
Maria’s story also covers being part of the LGBTQIA community and what that meant to someone within the Australian Greek community. Her honest presentation to our group kept everyone spellbound and I wasn’t surprised all the books she brought to the session sold!
In Australia, like many countries, mental health and gay rights are two very hot topics! Throw in the multicultural nuance and this is a book you want to read, and a book that adds value to what it means to be human.
The personal financial commitment Maria made, taking writing courses, getting a mentor from Victorian Writers’ Centre, going on a writers’ retreat, paying for editing and publicity – all before finding a publisher – was important information for writers to hear.
Her acceptance of critique, changing the title and now promoting her work all part and parcel of a modern writer’s life.
Earlier in the year the two young author/artists Isobel Knowles and Cat Rabbit, delighted us with their presentation creating the crafty, innovative and unique children’s books Owl Know How and Too Much for Turtle.
These two young writers/textile designers/artists/animators shared their journey of being asked to turn their visual art exhibition and soft toys into children books.
Tech savvy and brimming with ideas, they also have a strong social justice conscience. Their books bring up difficult issues like homelessness, refugees and global warming but are delivered in a sensitive child-friendly way.
As you can tell, I have a preference for books that deal with real life issues, contribute to peace and tolerance and help us understand that universal theme “the human condition”.
My Last Readings
I only met Jennifer Scoullar yesterday, but recommend everyone check out her website. A wonderful short story there kept me engrossed, as well as a lot of other information she generously shares with her readers, as I researched for my intro speech!
Jennifer is another writer I admire because she cares deeply about the environment and it shows. In fact, as she stated yesterday, the environment is always a character in her books. She is a proud rural Aussie writer and her love of ‘the bush’ evident in her work.
Jennifer is a best-selling author of rural fiction with her genre advertised as eco-romance.
I searched for a snippet from her website to introduce her and the first paragraph on her ‘About’ page revealed why it would have been difficult for her not to be a writer or a committed environmentalist (I said I’d let her fill in the romance obsession… )
“Writing is in my blood. My grandfather was editor of the newspaper at Wood’s Point in its heyday. My mother, Alice, was a great story teller. My great aunt, Mary Fullerton, was a novelist and poet, and a friend to Miles Franklin. But a greater influence was my father, Doug Scoullar, who had been a jackeroo in Queensland. Later on he began a nursery specialising in native plants, long before it was fashionable to do so. Dad was a man ahead of his time. He passed on to me a lifelong love of horses and the bush…”
Jennifer has a love affair with the wild …. again check out her website and blog where there are many examples of beautiful writing…
“When I was a child I lived in suburban Melbourne. Our house backed onto a railway line, and I could tell the time by the trains. Our back gate opened onto a broad, shady laneway and wild paddocks lay between it and the tracks. A canal, where I wasn’t supposed to play, flowed past the end of the lane.
That was decades ago now, and the overgrown paddocks and canal are long gone…
The heartfelt connection I formed with the natural world has lasted me a lifetime. It caused me to seek out wild places, and for the last thirty years I’ve lived on a hilltop overlooking the beautiful Bunyip State forest.
As a keen amateur naturalist, I’m fascinated by the notion of rewilding – restoring flora and fauna to their historical range. The theory has gained popularity after conservation success stories such as bringing wolves back to Yellowstone National Park and the large-scale return of Europe’s apex predators like lynx, bears and wolverines.”
As I mentioned her genre is Eco-romance and her first novel was published in 2008, others followed in 2012,2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 (Another almost ready to be released with the manuscript at the publishers!)
What a pattern and what amazing output … we sat spellbound and indeed did learn many useful tips!
Like the other writers mentioned, she worked hard to be the best writer she could be –
- She reads in her own genre and moves out of her comfort zone and reads other genres – she does what I tell my students: read write read write read write…
- She established a blog and engages with her readers.
- She writes 1000 words a day
- She finishes the first draft before editing – but rewrites and rewrites!!
- She does her research – not just Google, but visiting settings, always including the senses
- She checked the acknowledgement pages of other books to learn where to seek help when she was looking to publish (libraries and bookstores your best friends)
- She joined her local writers’ centre (the Victorian Writers’ Centre)
- She bought the Australian ‘bible’ for writers – the Australian Writers’ Marketplace an invaluable resource to help find agents and publishers
- She blitzed both agents and publishers
- She got used to rejection (6 publishers, 6 knock backs)
- She learned to pitch at a writers’ conference – and 3 minutes with a Penguin representative produced interest and an eventual deal
- When she was rejected she resubmitted after rewriting but never abandoned her integrity or forgot the aim of the story
- She deals with the major issue of mankind’s damage to the environment, the fragility of the earth and the animals are her themes, but she always has optimistic endings!
For those who attended Readings By The Bay in 2016, it’s been a year of exposure to successful writers but also regular listening to each other – the reason I started the writers’ group and the public readings.
All writers need nurturing and encouragement and someone to listen to finished stories and poems and say well done!
Thank you to everyone who has joined me for 21 years of reading and writing – good luck for the future!