Saturday, 24 March 2012

At Yellow Lake Ready to Launch

A week from today, I'll be in Minneapolis, Minnesota, for the American launch of "At Yellow Lake"

An event in my mother's hometown, in the company of family members and life-long friends, is the most fitting launch I could imagine for my book. I'm so grateful to my publishers for making this happen, and to the wonderful people who've supported me over the years.And the thought that there will be more events  in the future, with other groups of  family and friends, makes me feel very, very fortunate.

I'll be blogging in future weeks about the real Yellow Lake, and the importance this special place has had in my life.   

But for today, I'd like to paraphrase a point made in November by Frank Cottrell Boyce in his brilliant SCBWI British Isles conference keynote speech. He said that an important part of being  writer is paying things back--referencing the stories and books we've been lucky enough to read, and honouring the places and people we've been lucky enough to know. 

I thought of "At Yellow Lake" when I heard those words. The book. The place. And all the people who've been part of both. 

Thanks, everyone.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Does My Bum Look Big in This Blog?


I'm off in a few weeks to the US for a family visit and a few pre-launch events promoting At Yellow Lake.

Finally, after years of hard work and heartbreaking rejection (followed by even more hard work and much good luck), I've achieved every writer's dream:

Publication!  Woo-hoo!

And my brilliant publisher's amazing publicity department have laid on several exciting events in my home country! 


This is such wonderful news....

I should be wearing a massive smile like this:

Or at least a dignified (and age-appropriate) expression of contentment...

Why then, do I feel like this:

And this  

Funny what happens change occurs, isn't it? Even positive change?

And so surprising (at least to me) the feelings that can emerge.

I don't know if other writers have felt this way (I suspect most of them have) but being nearly-published suddenly feels a little, well, scary. I feel just a tad exposed, a bit anxious. So many questions--what if they (readers, reviewers, my family and friends) don't like my book? What if no one buys it? What if I make a fool of myself at an event, or am revealed (and this is the biggie) as the no-talent hack that I am?

There's also, of course, the "does my bum look big in this" issue. You know. The pictures to be taken.
The fears---no, the absolute certainty-- that at an event you'll be mistaken for the Michelin Man in a dress or for some poor old dear who's become confused and wandered in off the street (while in fancy dress as the Michelin Man in drag, of course).

My guess there's no way around these anxieties, if that's the right word. This is, after all, unfamiliar terrain and what's unfamiliar always leads to both exhilaration and fear.  

So, that emotional roller coaster ride that's involved in writing? The one that has so many highs and lows, so many nauseating twists and turns before reaching (hopefully) the final, thrilling end?

Well, even the fun parts are going to feel like this sometimes.

So you might as well hang on tight and enjoy the ride! 

Friday, 9 March 2012

Gatekeeping? What's That?

I've had a little trouble with gatekeepers this week.

At Yellow Lake is a reasonably gritty book, dealing with some serious issues. It also contains a few swear-words. It makes sense, therefore, that one or two people might disapprove of it or feel that it is unsuitable for their child or the children they're entrusted to look after. 

I get that. Sort of.  

My trouble with gatekeepers is not that parents or schools have the right to make the call about what's suitable for their kids--of course they do, even if I don't agree with the call.

I still feel a bit wrong-footed by this, though, and I've had to do some thinking about why this is...

The only answer that I've come up with is that, although I have two children of my own, I don't have much personal experience of gatekeeping.

I must have kept some gates during the years when my children were in my care. My kids, now 20 and 24 are pretty normal and well-balanced. Both have amazing senses of humour (my son is a stand-up comedian and my daughter is involved in comedy as well as being a film student). Both are kind and considerate. Both have strong moral and ethical convictions. Neither of them (as of this writing) have criminal records, or have displayed any type of anti-social behaviour (after the toddler years, that is...I'm sure some Early Learning Centre employees would beg to differ, eh Sean?)

They don't even swear much.

So, I must have kept them from some harmful material that might have damaged their tender psyches.


I remember a few minor "issues". I was initially anxious about the violence of Buffy when my young girl (about 10 at the time) wanted to watch it.. She watched the first episode on her own and I watched the second episode with her. Needless to say, Buffy didn't get turned off in our house. Not by me, anyway.

That gate stayed open.

Then there was South Park. A different kettle of fish. A funnier kettle of fish, anyway. Inappropriate for my kids? Probably. I remember the first episode I watched with my son, the one that featured Kyle and his dirt-poor family taking part in a humiliating canned food grab on Thanksgiving Day. Hilarious and brutal satire.

Another open gate.

I've just had a chat with my husband about this, and he assures me (and wants me to assure you!) that we actually ran a pretty tight "content" ship. There were a lot of a lot of DVDs or films or TV shows that we watched after the kids were in bed. I also recall a "no" to Pulp Fiction (now a whole-family fave) and I remember turning off  American Pie. But generally speaking, we never really had to play heavy-duty gatekeepers because my kids watched what they liked, but what they liked was generally pretty good.

Of course, I'm mostly talking about films and television. Books were never a problem in our family, because my children weren't really readers until they were much older.

It was different for me...

I read all sorts of age-inappropriate books when I was a kid, from A Clockwork Orange to The Godfather (page 36, anyway, along with all the other girls in my year). Nobody took any notice--not my parents, not my teachers. I was just reading. What harm could that do?


And I sneaked into a screening of Easy Rider with my mates when I was 11. Not much gate-keeping going on at the local cinema either, obviously.

So, did reading A Clockwork Orange turn me into a sociopathic criminal? It might have, if I hadn't been so busy trying to figure out what the hell it all meant (I didn't realise that there was a Nadsat glossary in the back of the book until I finished the damn thing!) And did reading page 36 of the Godfather make me want to don a pink polyester bridesmaid dress and run off to find a brutal and beefy son of a gangster? Only for a moment.

What about Easy Rider? Did that make me want to get on the back of a motorcycle and drive across America with a couple of degenerates while "Born to be Wild" blasted in my ears.





Friday, 2 March 2012

The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of

Several of these beautiful books arrived at my house yesterday--the ultimate World Book Day gift!

I thumbed through the pages, so happy that Peter and Jonah and Etta have found a home in such a perfectly realised setting.

I checked the acknowledgements, hoping that I hadn't left anyone out.

I hadn't, but the list of names I'd included was far too short. When you've been trying to achieve something for as long I have, there are hundreds of people who could have been thanked.

There are the writers and speakers I met years ago at writing conferences and workshops who offered encouragement and praise, who made me feel (momentarily, at least) as if I actually had some ability. 

There are the dozens of friends who listened to me pitch story ideas that would never get off the ground, or whine about my latest rejection, and never--not once--rolled their eyes or glanced at their watches.

There's that obnoxious American tourist in Campo Santa Margherita in Venice who, in  2006,  made me so angry that I started writing again after a five-year block. After I gave him a glorious (to me, anyway) grappa- and spritz- fuelled tongue lashing, he threatened me with gangsterish reprisals: "You picked the wrong town, man."

Well, turns out I hadn't. This was not Palermo or Napoli. And being in that town, in that square, at that time, unleashed something far more powerful than any Venetian vendetta--it re-ignited my desire to write. And for that, sexist loud-mouthed numpty in a fake CBGBs T-shirt, I offer a hearty "Molte grazie."

And so, it all comes together--friends and strangers, dreams and hard work, imagination and life experiences, all combining to create a moment that is wonderful and real.

Thank you--everyone and everything.