Pro-active (not the margarine)

After encouragement from my blog followers and facebook friends I’ve decided to gird my loins, lower the visor on my helmet and venture out into the scary world. In other words I got a little more pro-active. I sent off an email to publisher #1 and requested an update on my submission. That was last Monday and I’m still waiting for a reply. I picture a harassed dust-covered filing clerk, hidden away in a subterranean basement, desperately asking his/her colleagues: Does anyone remember this woman? Anyone? Anyone? Several weary, care-worn faces peer around towering stacks of manuscripts. They shake their heads. One says: Just tell her the usual, ‘It doesn’t suit our list’. She’ll never know you lost it. Today I found two publishers who let you submit via email and who are actually, at the moment, open to unsolicited submissions. This is almost as rare as finding a pink diamond. Come to think of it, I think it’s rarer! (More rare? Dang; as an editor I should know that one!) I followed their instructions to the letter, prayed I didn’t get muddled between the two seeing as they wanted different things, and with fear and trepidation hit the Send button. I then ran to the loo and spent a few unpleasant moments. (Anxiety has a nasty effect on my bowels.) I tell myself – so as not to raise my hopes – that at least I’ll get the major publishing houses out of the way early so I can concentrate on the little “boutique” ones. I thought I’d find an agent first but of the two or three that are still accepting clients only one was interested in fantasy. I don’t understand the disinterest when fantasy is one of the highest selling genres for children and teens. Oh well… their loss. When I realised there were more publishers willing to have a look at my work than there were agents, I decided to cut out the middle man. Perhaps, once I’ve got my best-seller and Dreamworks wants to talk film rights,the agents might decide to reconsider. (I wish) So…I solicit your prayers, good wishes, kind thoughts, crossed fingers and any fairy dust you’ve got to spare. I promise I’ll let you know the good news if and when it turns up. One day you’ll turn to your wife/husband/partner/pet and say: What is that strange, high-pitched screaming? Is it a jet with engine failure? Are the machines finally taking over? Has the bearing gone on the roller-door? And you will be told: No, that’s Wendy. Someone’s agreed to publish her book. And you think I’m exaggerating....

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Hope rises

It’s spring here in the Antipodes. The trees are straining to pop out little buds of promise. The blow flies have emerged from their winter hibernation and are now hanging around, rather noisily, near my desk. (I don’t know why they think they’ll find food here. Really, I don’t.) And the other day, on the way to the doc, I saw Mr and Mrs Drake herding their little flock of ducklings along the side of the road. At first it was an “aww” moment, and then an angst-filled hour or so as I worried that the little family would all be skittled as they tried to cross over the busy road. I’m happy to report that on the way home I saw them all safe on the other side, eating the newly-sprouted grass. So, when spring is sprung what does a young (ish) woman’s fancy turn to? Well, for me it’s a renewed enthusiasm for getting my latest book in print. (Yeah, I know…that shows I’m either too old to think of the things you were thinking of – shame on you – or I’m too obsessed…or both.) During the dark winter months I was happy to slave away editing other people’s manuscripts. After all, the money is always handy. But now there’s a buzz in the air; new life is bursting out all over; the sun is warmer and the sky is bluer. Once more optimism is stirring in my blood. Hope is rising in me like the sap in the fruit trees. (Oh cruel Nature, to tease me so!) My dilemma: my manuscript has been sitting with a publisher all winter. Do I ask them what’s happening and run the risk of annoying them and thereby losing what teeny-tiny edge I have? Do I submit to others, with the risk that the original mob will then want to take it up and I upset everyone? I don’t know what to do. Any suggestions seasoned authors? I have plenty of experience with magazines and journals, but the book world is still a bit of a mystery to me. The trouble is, the longer it all takes, the more my confidence dwindles. I begin questioning my ability, the standard of my work, the quality of my story-telling… Arrrggghhhhh! Here we go...

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Thoughts on a sad anniversary.

As I’m sure you all know, tomorrow is the tenth anniversary of the tragic events of 9/11. I remember watching the first footage of the attack on the World Trade Towers, my hand on my mouth and my eyes nearly popping out of my head. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Then it got worse. There was also an attack on the Pentagon. The Pentagon! Then there was the plane that crashed before it could reach its target. Some said they were going to hit the White House. What the flamin’ heck was going on? I remember seeing the footage of people walking out of New York, covered in dust, heading home as best they could. I had a weird, trivial in the circumstances, thought: How are the women going to walk so far in their high heels? I saw the firemen and police running into buildings that everyone else was running out of: so brave. Then, of course, there was the mind-numbing thought of so many people – not just Americans, but people from many foreign countries including Australia – who were lost under all that rubble, or dead from jumping out of the buildings from a terrible height. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that day. Will you? I ask myself: what were the terrorists’ objectives? Does anyone know? They killed a lot of people, including muslims and people from their own country, but what else did they achieve? America is still America, but more determined not to be pushed around. They (with our help) have invaded Afghanistan, in search of Al Quaeda, and given the Taliban a thumping in the process. I (sort of) get that. They (with our help) invaded Iraq, but I’m still not sure why that happened. (I have a sneaking suspicion Mr Bush just had to be seen to be doing something, and finishing what his Dad started was one option.) Surely Al Quaeda didn’t want a war on their doorstep? But then, I don’t understand the mind-set that produces such behaviour. The same question applies with suicide bombers. Has it ever produced any positive outcome? I don’t think so. I think the world has become a more fearful, more distrustful place. Refugees used to be people in need that we were obligaged to help. Now they’re ‘queue-jumping potential terrorists’. We have to wear shoes without laces on airplanes, and the good Lord help you if you absent-mindedly forget to remove the nail-clippers from your toiletry bag. I’ve noticed a change in literature as well; especially the ‘spy’ adventures. The regular ‘bad guy’ (for our part fo the world) used to be a Russian, or some form of communist. That was getting rather old once the Berlin Wall came down. In the late 90s, it was usually an Asian of some variety and drug lords from Hong Kong still feature quite strongly. But the present-day ‘baddie’ is now a generic Arab, or muslim fundamentalist, or Iranian, or Iraqi terrorist. They eat goat meat kebabs while planning to blow something up. I wonder who it’ll be in another 10 – 15 years time? 9/11 was a monumental tragedy on so many different levels. It showed us the extremes of human behaviour: we saw the depths of wickedness and the heights of bravery and self-sacrifice. If it doesn’t cement our resolve to be better, braver, more compassionate, more moral, more loving human beings, then the terrorists will have won. Don’t give them the...

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Father’s Day

It’s Father’s Day here in Oz, so I wish all fathers who may read this a very happy day. Father’s (and Mother’s) Day brings mixed feelings. Both my parents are dead now, so I’m sad they’re no longer with us. I find myself looking a little wistfully at those who still have their father, or at images of happy dads playing, talking with or hugging their children. My dad was a funny old fella in lots of ways. He had an awful childhood, a difficult teens and a tough adult life. He was illegitimate in an era that didn’t forgive such things. He was deaf (due to a nasty bout of measles when he was a little tacker) and didn’t receive a hearing aid until he was a married man with children. He wasn’t allowed to fight in the war and received white feathers from strangers as well as scorn from those who knew him. Yet, in spite of his disability and his dysfunctional up-bringing, he loved his family and did his best to provide for us. He taught me his love of literature, music, fine wines and silly jokes. Some people have awful memories of an abusive, manipulative, alcoholic or absent father. I know people who can only describe their fathers as (and I’m being kind here) complete dropkicks. I know people, just like it was for my dad, who have no idea who their father is. Yes, for some people, Father’s Day is at best just a day like any other, and at worst a day to be endured with gritted teeth and maybe a little drinky-poo to help them forget. We need more good dads. We need men who’ll be there for their children, whether they live with the mother or not. Men who’ll give their attention to their offspring. Men who will listen to them, validate them as people, show them affection but not be afraid to say, “no”, when they need to. Men who will provide for them as best they can, and consider their children’s needs before their own. Men who will be good role models for the next generation. On that note, I’ve thought about fathers in literature and tried to think of some examples of a good dad in books I’ve read. I’m shocked to find I can’t think of many. There’s Mr Ingalls in Little House on the Prairie. There’s Captain Sam Vimes in Pratchett’s Disc World. There’s the highly organised dad in Cheaper by the Dozen. And the step-dad in The Book Thief is okay. Now I’m starting to struggle. Any suggestions, people? I’m sad to think that in the books I read many of the fathers are either tyrants; or physically or sexually abusive; or emotionally or physically absent. I guess it’s not fashionable (or entertaining) to write about men who love their families, have a job and are decent citizens. Hmmm. Is it art reflecting life, or life reflecting art? My head hurts. Happy Father’s Day to my father-in-law; a thoroughly decent gentleman who did a pretty good job raising his son. And, happy Father’s Day to the Old Boy; I couldn’t have asked for a better father for my...

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