Monday, 10 October 2016

My Pitch Wars 2016 mentee journey


I've extracted myself from my writing cave to write a quick update on what's been happening over the last few months. It's been such a whirlwind! If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you'll already know I was chosen as a Pitch Wars 2016 finalist for my new manuscript, working title: THE MURDER DISK.

Pitch Wars is an amazing competition for authors hoping to be published. All you need to do is submit a query letter and the first chapter to 4 mentors (or 6 if you donate to the competition) of your choice. The participating mentors are either published/agented authors, editors, or industry interns who kindly offer their time to help polish your manuscript ready for agents.

Each year I've wanted to enter Pitch Wars but the timing wasn't right, and again this year I was hesitant as I felt my WIP wasn't ready, however, I couldn't give up the opportunity so I decided to take the risk and send my submission to 6 mentors - all who I would've been thrilled to work with. Half an hour after I submitted, I received my first full manuscript request, by the next morning I had another. Cue excited dance routine!
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I ended up with 4 requests out of 6 submissions, which is the best response I've had in my querying experience. To say I was excited was an understatement. And so I waited and hoped and waited and hoped...

When I received the news I got into Pitch Wars, I flipped out. This book was so new, so fresh and there was so much still to do! But lucky for me, I have two mentors to help me through the next two months. My wonderful mentors are Joan He and Mara Rutherford of #TeamPusheen and we were prepared to battle!

I'm now half way through Pitch Wars revisions and it's been the most amazing experience. Not only have I connected with other authors aspiring to be published, but my book feels stronger and more fleshed out than I could have hoped for. My mentors are my rock, reassuring me whenever I have doubts and their revision notes and suggestions could not be more spot on!

Writing is such a solitary pursuit and it's often hard to explain why I devote so much of my time to friends and familyespecially during the harder times of rejections. But for me, writing is a kind of therapy, which brings much joy, and to connect to others who feel the same has been a wonderful part of this experience. I'm so thankful to have been chosen to be a part of Pitch Wars 2016!

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So what's next? Well, I'm currently waiting to hear back from my mentors on my revised manuscript and then I'll dive into more revisions for my 31st of October deadline. On the 5th of November, my pitch and the first 250 words will go up on the Pitch Wars website for participating agents to peruse. If they're intriguedwhich I hope they will be!they'll ask to read more.

While this is not my first rodeo, I'm hoping this will be the book to land me an agent!

Friday, 1 April 2016

The sparks of inspiration

The process of writing a book is different for all writers. Some begin with a character or a voice which begs to be written. But for me, it’s the whisper of a concept—either the idea of fictional world, or an impossible scenario my characters will find themselves in. And concepts never arrive full formed—how useful that would be!—but rather are fluid, morphing from one thought to another until something sticks.

This process of brainstorming, or daydreaming, can take months before I put fingers to the keyboard, making it difficult to remember exactly when or where an idea first struck. But for my latest book, I remember the light bulb moment with great clarity.

Around two years ago, my father and I were driving from Sydney to Melbourne when we passed a forest which had been destroyed by a bushfire. The gum trees were now black splinters against the blue sky, the earth turned gray, no life in sight. I couldn’t help but worry how many animals had lost their homes or perished in the fire.

And the devastation looked so fresh; the black of the bark still ink-dark with no emerald buds of life to be seen. I was sure I could smell smoke as we drove by, but my dad informed me the bushfire had been years ago. I was shocked and saddened that the trees would never regrow—branding the incident onto the landscape for all time.

This idea of a land striped of life sparked a story within me. A story which wouldn’t let go. And for the remainder of the trip, the concept unfolded in my mind. I began wondering what circumstances could’ve led to such a dry and desolate land. And, most importantly, how such a lifeless environment would impact a society forced to endure it.

And so my YA fantasy was born!

Monday, 21 March 2016

Don't judge a book by its map!

Ever since I was a child, I've loved maps. They weren’t merely a tool for visualizing a fictional land, but something tactile to help transport me into the world I was reading about. The maps further connected me to the story, allowing me to imagine how I would traverse the environments myself.

I mostly read adventure novels where kids would explore distant countries, different eras and far-off locales. The illustrated maps were my favourite part. I would study each and every detail carefully until the world felt as real as my own.

And often I would recreate the maps, so I could roll it into a scroll and carry it in my bag like a real adventurer. Below is a map I made around 8 years old based an Osborne Puzzle Adventure book. I honed my technique, including scrunching, ripping, burning edges and expertly spilling coffee so not to wash away the drawings.

My map masterpiece!

During my travels over the years, I've collected every single guidebook or pamphlet if there was a map inside. My favourites were the Disney Park maps. And though the park doesn't tend to change significantly from year-to-year, I add to my collection upon each trip. For it seems, one can never have too many maps of the same park!

Disneyland's 50th anniversary map has pride of place in my home.

As I got older and began reading fantasy, I was thrilled to discover many included illustrations depicting the imaginary worlds. Many are undeniably works of art; such as the maps in the Grisha books by Leigh Bardugo (drawn by Keith Thompson). In fact, I’ve been known to buy a book simply due to the gorgeous map inside!

The Grisha books are as wonderful as the stunning maps!

I dream of the day when I'm to open a book and find an intricate map designed around the worlds and words I've created, combining two of my passions: fantasy novels and maps.

Are you a collector? What are your prized trinkets? Please let me know in the comments.