Sunday, April 9, 2017

Rejection


Even when you suspect it might come, it has way of getting a kick into your guts before you have time to put up defences. My latest rejection arrived just as I’d finished uploading a lovely selfie of my husband and me at the airport on the way to a concert in Napier to see the Dixie Chicks. The email came in on my phone. I was excited to hear from my agent. But before I could arm myself, the blow of his ‘they don’t want it’ hit me. Hard. Followed closely by the hot blanket of disappointment.

I had been mindful during all of this past week that a shadow of waiting was hovering in the scary rooms of my mind: rooms I have labelled ‘Doubt,’ ‘Poor self-esteem,’ ‘Billy no Mates aka No one loves you and you will never be good enough.’ Those rooms have plenty of boxes of disappointments.

What did I do? Told hubby, who worried. (He got his tissues from his pocket – he is an old hand at this). Then I contacted a couple of writing buddies. They too have trod this well-worn writing/creating path of hill tops and troughs and said just the right things. No dismissing the disappointment but an acknowledgement that rejection ‘sucks…and blows.’

On the plane, an hour later, I thought about the others in my writing life who may also be affected by the sting of this rejection. Firstly, my agent who got the news before me so he’s had to sit with it longer. (We probably mutually hate having to be the cause of letting each other down. I feel bad that I’ve failed him; he probably feels a bit like that too but I would hazard that, just as I would tell him not to be silly, he would say the same to me.)

Secondly, my beta readers who have given up lunchtimes to sit around school desks to enthusiastically discuss and argue the merits of why Charlie must, should, could say/do/believe something. I feel I have let them down, too.

Finally, fellow writers who look to me as a beacon of hope. As an exemplar of how persistence and hard work get you there in the end. I hate having to show them that, no matter how many times there are wins, there are always gut dropping losses.

Currently, many of my students are working on assessments. Some of them are doing everything I’ve asked of them, and I know they will do well; some of those still won’t gain the mark they want. One or two have not paid attention in class, have not been engaged with the learning, and/or have clashed with me. And yet, despite this, will do well with little study or effort. Most writers I know confess to holding a small seed of resentment toward people like this who seem to do little toward the hard, physical labour of constructing a beautiful narrative and yet everything they touch blossoms and wins ‘best in show.’ My attitude toward these writers, like those students of mine who succeed in spite of me, is to acknowledge that not everyone has to struggle to achieve success. That natural ability is a gift. Lucky them.

Thankfully, I’ve been around the traps long enough to eventually wear each publishing rejection with pride. I’ve only ever had one novel ‘accepted’ straight away. Every single novel, bar Bastion Point, has garnered at least one rejection. Some of these initially ‘rejected’ novels have gone onto be best sellers and win awards. I remind myself that a rejection slip is no measure of my worth or the worth of my characters. They are in good company. So am I.

Thank goodness for writers like Chuck Wendig who provides 'comic' relief for such times. Read his post on dealing with rejection. Warning about language because it IS Chuck.

It still hurts. I gave my very best and I love what I wrote but someone else did not love it as much as me. I don’t yet know the details why but that won’t change things now. I will do what I tell my writing students to do – write it down. Use my words to make sense of my feelings and thoughts and then share it with the world. Oh, and keep writing my novel. It’s a good one. Promise.





Sunday, April 2, 2017

Birthright is (re) born!


I'm very pleased to finally announce that, Birthright, the third installment of A Crown of Blood and Honor, is available in both kindle and paperback editions.

You can go here (US folks) or here (Aussie folks) or here (UK folks) to get your own copy.

It's been a long wait for some and I share your frustrations at having to wait for 'the next episode' in a story. I suppose that's why I like watching Netflix programs which allow me to go to the next episode without having to wait a week - or, like a number of really good series (Stranger Things, Glitch, for example) having to wait until the next series is finished being filmed before we get to see even the first episode.

The cover of Birthright is beautiful (as are the covers for books 1 and 2) and I hope it is as warmly received internationally as it was here in New Zealand in 2013.

Although some of the characters still linger in my mind (Bree and Henry in particular), my writing time is now spent other worlds with other (as delightful) protagonists.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Waiting for news

I'm not sure how I survive being a writer because a great deal of time is spent waiting for news of some kind: of reviews for the latest novel, editorial feedback on the current novel, rankings on lists of already published novels, whether you've got an award nomination or been successful for funding, or the results of a submission to a new publisher. Currently, I'm waiting for news of almost all of the above.

I think I'm one of the least patient people I know, ironically given this writing lark, and I'm not easy to live with. I do not enjoy this waiting period and I try not to put my life on hold as the news filters back because once the work has left my hands, it is out of my control.

I have two daughters. Grown up now. At home, during their childhood, there were occasional tantrums and arguments and comments of 'I can't stand you!' shouted around the house.
I always apologized to them for my behavior afterwards. 😉
Don't feel sorry for them. They gave me back attitude twice as tough many a time.

I worked hard, however, to ensure that they presented themselves to others with their best behavior - not insincere but with a genuine kindness, a willingness to work hard, and a desire to help others. They may not have kept their rooms tidy but they were always helping out in the wider world. People said nice things about them. I did not find raising daughters (especially intelligent, articulate, strong willed and big hearted daughters) easy. But I worked damn hard to learn how to be a good mother and learn how to mother them both. Didn't get it right all the time (see tantrum comment above) but the determination to do the very best by them has paid off. They survived childhood and are now (mostly) independently making their way in the world (though me taking them shopping trips to buy underwear is still allowed, apparently).

I think my relationship to my stories is very similar. I apply the 'bum glue', read books about writing and language, read great stories by great writers, talk to writer friends, go back and work and re-work my writing. When my girls were young, I ensured that before they left the house, they were wearing tidy clothes,  had eaten a good meal, been reminded of manners, and their faces were free of smeared marmite.

That checking to make sure everything is the best is can be is what I do with my story: I pat it on the bottom and send it out into the world to be judged.

This Wednesday, 1st of Feb, my new novel, My NZ Story: Bastion Point, is out into the world.
In a few weeks, the third novel in my international edition of A Crown of Blood and Honour, will become available.
By May, I will know the results of all the other things I am waiting for. I tell myself that I've done the very best work I am capable of and now it is out of my hands.
And, while I wait, I might as well write.

Monday, December 19, 2016

5 lessons I've learned in 2016

Kāore te kūmara e kōrero mō tōna ake reka
The kumara (sweet potato) does not say how sweet he is


One of the tensions I've found being a writer is the expectation to (self) promote versus the (Kiwi) cultural attitude of avoiding exactly that. I've been more in line with the American habit for 'saying it how it is' or, more to my ears 'talking myself up'.

This year, as I've continued on my journey into te ao Māori (the Māori world) through language learning, practising tikanga (correct protocols) and reading and researching mythology and whakataukī (proverbs), I've found myself less and less incline to say 'hey, look at me. Look at ME. Look at all the good things I can do!'

The explanation of the whakataukī above is self-evident. I shouldn't need to tell you how good my books are. If you read them, and like them, you'll say - if you are so inclined. And, you might tell others. Which is good. In te ao Māori, you can't give yourself status (mana) - it has to be bestowed upon you by others. And, only because you use your particular gifts and talents to aid/assist others in their need.

In the beginning, I was encouraged to blog and tweet and Facebook to 'get [myself] out there.' I put a lot of effort into writing what I thought 'my' audience would like to read but I'm uncertain if I have done that. The story of Fleance has lived, then gone to sleep, been awoken only to be forgotten again. I have wanted to walk away from him because, although I think of him as a wonderful friend, he and the other characters just have not quite given me what I expected.

2016 has been a year of many changes; some wonderful, affirming moments; a few crushing disappointments. Like many others doing this writing/blogging gig, I  will take a moment to reflect and, although I have not done nearly a thorough job of reflecting, these things I know to be true for me now:

1) I love teaching. Nothing else has ever lit my fire, stirred my heart and soul like a room full of 15 or 16 year olds who ask questions, provide such fresh insight, who show me the parts of the world I did not think to look at. My students give me more than I can ever give back to them even with how much I try.

2) My job is more satisfying when I focus on one class at a time; one kid at a time. I can't fix them all; I can't help them to learn everything. But I can take the time to see the job through, one student at a time. I have enjoyed watching many successes this year for my students and not necessarily because of them winning awards. Things like finishing a book, loving a story, writing an amazing account of something that matters, completing a task, being brave - these things make me smile and puff out my chest with pride.

3) Be kind. Always. And apologise quickly when you're not. Own your own behaviour.

4) I wish I wasn't a writer - most of the time. I feel guilty when I'm reading because I should be writing; I feel guilty when I'm watching tv because I should be writing; I don't like that I feel I should be writing because many great writers have told me that writing is a passion. For me, it's a condition that I don't think I will ever be free from.

5) I am called to write stories. Dammit. The above understanding is tempered by the knowledge that I now believe I'm not doing it (this writing gig) for me - there are stories needing to be told and I've been given the terrible privilege of being the one to tell these particular stories.

All the best for the summer celebrations (if you are southern hemisphere like me) or the winter holidays (for those in the northern hemisphere).

Kia korowaihia koutou katoa e te aroha, e te manaaki, ahakoa e haere koutou ki hea.
(May you all be draped by love and by support, no matter where you go).