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Thursday, 28 March 2013

Guest post by Kristen Lamb

This is part of an inspiring blog post by a well-known writer/coach I thought might keep you going!
Endurance Matters

Why we need to learn to toughen up is this—thick skin is vital for us to keep pressing even when we’re bloody, wounded or discouraged. Being a career writer isn’t a sprint. It’s a mega-marathon-mountain-climbing-Iron-Man. Many writers will fail not because of lack of talent, rather lack of staying power.

Appreciate that Training Often Involves “Other” Activities

Join a boxing gym and just expect to do a lot of jumping rope, running, sprinting, bag work, and you’ll get hit with a medicine ball…a lot.

Yet, at no time during my tenure “boxing” was I ever attacked by a jump rope or a medicine ball. Those “other activities” weren’t actual fighting, but they trained fighters for the endurance necessary to win in the ring.

Winning is frequently tied to staying power. Writing is no exception. Your mind, fingers and muse strengthen with focus, time, training and pain.

We’ll do a lot of things (I.e. blogging) that might not directly have anything to do with writing fiction…but it trains us to  1) meet self-imposed deadlines 2) build an audience with our writing voice 3) hook early 4) ENDURE.

I blogged for almost two years before I passed 50 hits a day. I blogged even when it felt like no one was listening, because I viewed it as part of my author training. Even if no one EVER listened, I was a better, faster, cleaner, more disciplined writer and I was investing in the long-term.

New Writers are Vulnerable

A boxer who’s been in the game for ten years, has a wall of title belts, has already been through the fire and gotten outside validation? It’s easier for that guy to jump in the ring. There’s a psychological advantage this guy earned with blood, time and pain.

For the newbies? Everyone thinks we’re nuts. They forget that even that title champ was a once a green pea tripping over the jump rope, too.

Becoming a writer is easy. Staying a writer is another matter entirely.

The beginning is a delicate time. It’s easy to get discouraged, but remember this:

Every NYTBSA, every Pulitzer-winner, every literary legend was once just an unpaid amateur with a dream, too.

Learn to keep going no matter what, and you cannot imagine the edge you’ll have in this profession (ANY profession).

Keep training. Keep blogging. Keep writing books, even bad books. Keep reading. Keep studying. Learn from everyone you can. It’s how we grow. How we learn. We can’t learn from the sidelines. We need to get into the fray even when we know it’s going to hurt because that’s what gives us staying power. And, as the great coach Vince Lombardi said, Quitters never win and winners never quit  ;) .

Have you dealt with nasty people who tried to undermine your dream? What activities do you use to train as a writer-artist? What area do you need help? Where do you feel you’re weak? What’s your plan for strengthening that area? What activities do you think might help writers with endurance training?

Kristen Lamb

Read the entire article and many other helpful blog posts by Kristen Lamb here


Friday, 22 March 2013

Mairangi Writers latest seminar 18 March 2013

Our group’s seminars are becoming a tradition that many local writers and readers look out for. Monday’s event, partly sponsored by NZ Book Month, drew a good crowd from the Shore and beyond to the Browns Bay RSA to hear Graeme Lay, Rae Roadley and Roger Hall talk about their work.

Graeme Lay kicked off proceedings with a spirited account of his historical publications and how he came to write them. As with many authors, access to historic family documents and photos provided inspiration for his first foray into biographical fiction with the story of Alice and Luigi in 2006. He has just published a novel about the life of Captain Cook, where he imagined Cook’s inner life and his interactions with shipmates. The Secret Life of James Cook is currently at the printer and should be on the shelves in a week or two.

Rae Roadley is an author, journalist, writing tutor and columnist whose memoir, Love at the End of the Road, published by Penguin, tells of her life after she fell in love with a farmer and swapped city living for life in an historic villa on a Kaipara Harbour peninsula. She has worked in public relations and has attended countless creative writing courses. She explained how she came to write the book and described her career as a rural writer.

Roger Hall was brave enough to share with the audience four of his plays that failed to live up to the successes of his other works. It became clear that the failures were generally due to circumstances beyond his control – undeserved poor reviews, badly-directed performances, and other bad luck events that can scupper any dramatic production. As a theatre person I found myself wondering how to right these injustices!

We may have a chance to help. Maureen Green is going around local schools to promote books by our group’s writers and is taking two of Roger Hall’s titles with her – The Three Little Pigs for the littlies, and A Way of Life – his play about NZ farming. We may yet be able to expunge those failures from the record!

(If you’re interested in ordering either title contact )

And if you have any suggestions or requests for future seminars, do leave a comment here. By next year we might feel like organising another one!


Bev Robitai
aka Officer in Charge

Friday, 15 March 2013

Writing Social History – Vicky Adin

On a recent holiday my husband re-read Albert Facey’s A Fortunate Life.  Stopping now and then to talk to me about various sections and phrases, he reminded me of details I had forgotten.  Facey portrayed a moving story of a life of poverty and hardship, of neglect and, at times, abject cruelty and of sheer hard work.  His book became a best seller, but the Afterword by Jan Carter (author of Nothing to Spare: Recollections of Australian Pioneering Women) put the story into perspective and resonated with me.

Carter likened Facey to John Bunyan, author of The Pilgrim’s Progress,  which in itself is a fascinating comparison. Her reasoning was that both men were uneducated ‘with similarities in their backgrounds and parallels in their writings.’ They wrote of life as it happened, like a journey leading them forever on to whatever awaited them, they wrote as they spoke, they introduced characters as they saw them – warts and all – and whilst they had vastly differing religious beliefs they were both keen observers with an understanding of the natural rhythms of speech making them great story tellers. Neither sought nor expected recognition for their stories yet both have achieved a level of fame that many authors can only dream about.

Facey was in his eighties when he completed the book and in 1981, its first year of publication, he was nominated as Australian of the Year. His stories touched people who either remembered similar events in their own or their families lives, or by people who came to realise that the life of a child in the late 1800s and early 1900s was a distinct contrast to anything our modern children would understand and expect.

What Carter pointed out was that Facey was not famous, biographers and historians did not seek him out, he was simply an ordinary man with an extraordinary story to tell. The fact that he called his life fortunate is impressive and says a lot about the man. At the end of his life, he saw his time in two parts. The first as a child and young man alone in the world and struggling against the odds; the second part as husband to the woman he loved dearly and a father to sons and daughters he sought to protect, still struggling through hardship but no longer alone.  His story is now seen as a social and political history of Australia of the times.

At the same time, I was reading a novel –The Misremembered Man by Christina McKenna. The chapters alternate between a funny, nearly farcical, lonely hearts story of two forty-year-olds finding each other, and the portrayal of life in an Irish orphanage with its horrific history of abuse and neglect. That part of the book was based on fact and was difficult reading - just as difficult as some of that in Facey’s book.

However, McKenna’s technique of weaving two stories in one - the comical, modern (1970s) near romance with a twist with the sad story of a boy in the orphanage - provided relief from the reality her words painted. It wasn’t until well into the book that you realised the author was in fact writing a social history of the times. Orphanages such as those did exist for far longer than they should have. Look it up.

For me, as a social history writer, the success of these books is inspirational. Whether they are autobiographies or history lessons wrapped up in a novel, these stories of times past are something that makes us think.  It helps us to understand the times we live in better, be thankful we have modern information and can make  decisions about what happens in our country, in our community and in our small lives. It makes our ordinary lives seem much more important.

Vicky Adin



Friday, 8 March 2013

Erin McKechnie is Writing about Sex

I must confess right now, I am a beginner – not about sex, but about writing about it. So I’m not intending to sound like an expert – about sex, I mean, not writing about it, either.
I’ve written one and a half books before my present enterprise; one about a virginal teenager, who, if he ever had any impure thoughts, certainly didn’t disclose them to me as he floated in my head while we worked our way through his imaginary spiritual crises. The other is about an abused woman, so although there is some sex, it’s not the sort I want to write about now.
Presently I am writing a love story, which for me means there must be at least a little sex. I want to write about wonderful enriching sex during which the participants shed all inhibitions and are filled with joy and well being. But what a difficult thing it is to do. For a start, in my other books it is apparent to everyone that I am neither a sixteen year old boy, or an abused woman, and so no one will ever read those books and speculate on how much of what I’ve written is based on personal experience. But if I write any steamy scenes into my love story, everyone is going to look at me speculatively;  that is – if they don’t ask outright if I’ve ever done those things. And what would I say to my mother if she was still here? I know she knew I knew, but should I be writing things I couldn’t show my mother?
Sex is just about the most important thing on the planet, it’s the natural culmination of love (or lust) between any mating couple. Birds and bees and animals and humans all do it and yet, it is the thing we stutter and stammer and use euphemisms about more than anything else.  My writing friends manage their sex scenes with an amazing collection of obfuscations ranging from simply not acknowledging anything took place except when the imminent arrival of a baby is announced, to ‘he closed the door with a soft click’.
Writers write with elegance and grace about all manner of things, with passion and dramatic effect about others, but it’s difficult to even find alternatives to sexual language in the thesaurus on my computer.  In the books I’ve read (for research purposes only) male writers seem to write their sex scenes with blunt accuracy and little finesse, and women write a great deal about the decor or the sunset and not a lot else.  I’ve even checked out the 50 Shades phenomena  (to be honest I only got up to about six, couldn’t stand the heat). 
So here I am, holding in one hand the thought that sex is natural, wonderful and fun, and in the other the puritanical overlay that inhibits writing freely.  But I will do it - it will create an intimacy my readers may not be at ease with, but I know they know. There will be no reason to blush.

Friday, 1 March 2013

Readers Have the Power!

It’s March – New Zealand Book Month, and a chance to celebrate the rich variety of titles appearing in and about this fair country. I am increasingly delighted by the range of excellent books produced by our independent publishers working without the safety net of mainstream companies. With the advent of digital technology and international distribution channels, our authors and indie publishers can access a worldwide market, selling their books in print or as ebooks to anyone anywhere. The only barrier to fame and fortune is discoverability, and this relies on READERS.

Yes, you, gentle reader, hold the power to raise an author from obscurity to success.

When you find a book you enjoy, tell the world. Review, retweet, recommend! Post a link on Facebook. Write it up on Goodreads. Add a review on Amazon (no matter where you obtained the book) and it will slowly but steadily push the author upwards into being discovered by other readers.

It won’t cost you anything but time, and it will help an author you love to write more books for you to enjoy! Now that’s worth investing in, isn’t it?

Our group’s contribution to NZ Book Month is a seminar on March 18th, where three big names in NZ literature will be speaking at Browns Bay RSA from 9.30am – 12.30. Graeme Lay will talk about his new novel about the life of Captain Cook, Rae Roadley will speak about romance writing, and Roger Hall will admit to his failures – ‘the ones that got away’.
Everyone welcome - come and see some of the excellent titles from independent publishers that will be on display.

See you there!