Meet the Author: Erin Rhoads

The Photo Studio Fitzroy; Fashion; Hana Schlesinger;Erin Rhoads

Erin Rhoads has been been writing about her zero waste life since 2013, sharing how she reduced plastic and her rubbish, leading to a happier and healthier life. Through Erin’s pursuit to live plastic-free and zero-waste, she learnt to eat real food, discovered new skills, cut down her exposure to harmful chemicals, found joy in moments over things and simplified her life, while saving money. Erin is on a mission to engage with individuals to redefine what is waste and how we can create less of it. She was a consultant on ABC’s War on Waste; shares skills and practical help to hundreds at workshops, talks and forums; helps organise and assist environmental action groups and co-founded Zero Waste Victoria and Plastic Bag Free Victoria. Her first book Waste Not: Make a big difference by throwing away less was released July 2018. Find out more at her website here.

AUTHOR INSIGHT

What motivated you to start your blog, The Rogue Ginger, and did you have any idea it would lead you to become an author and prominent commentator on zero-waste living?

My blog began in January 2013 with the intention to document my new life in Melbourne as I had recently moved to the city. Six months later I watched my first eco documentary The Clean Bin Project which I shared on the blog. For those who haven’t seen it, the documentary follows a couple from Vancouver as they battle it out to see who can produce the least amount of rubbish over one year. The movie had a profound impact on me, soon after I couldn’t stop seeing plastic everywhere in my life and decided I needed to reduce too. I signed up for my first Plastic Free July, documenting it along the way, and haven’t stopped! I never once expected someone who was once a climate change denier that spent her spare time buying fast fashion and a lot of fast food to be writing a guide book on how live zero-waste..

Your new book, Waste Not Everyday, offers 365 ways to reduce, reuse and reconnect and offers daily inspiration for a year of zero-waste living. What do you consider the most important first step for a family wanting to live a life with less waste and more meaning?

Up to 40% of what we are putting into our bins is organics, like food waste. That’s almost half of our bins. If we started reducing the amount of food in our bins then our landfills would also halve in size. Looking at our food, especially how we shop, is a great first step. Halve your bin today by becoming a better food shopper. Our bins are made up of up to 40% food waste. Before leaving the house make a shopping list and don’t forget to look inside your fridge and fruit basket, so you’re not buying more of what is at home already. Writing a list and sticking to it helps us avoid reaching for food we don’t need. Look for recipes that will encourage you to use up the whole vegetable and try using up scraps for making homemade stocks. For any remaining food waste start a compost or worm farm. Your council might even take food scraps in the green organics bin, so double check. If you don’t have space for a compost or worm farm sign up with ShareWaste.com, to link you with people in your neighbourhood that will accept it. Our food scraps don’t break down in landfill properly because therE is not enough of oxygen and microrganisms to help. It becomes a sludgy liquid while creating methane gas. By composting our food waste we are also putting nutrients back into our soil and food.

How much of your time is taken up with research and keeping up to date with the latest environmental findings?

A lot less these days as there is so much more being reported by the media compared to when I started on my zero-waste journey. The information is much easier to navigate, which is great! Of course this also means we all need to be critical and make sure the right information  being released by say a scientific journal is not being watered down in the wrong way by larger media outlets.

What would you be doing if you weren’t writing books and promoting awareness about our need to think about the future of our planet?

Most likely I would be working as a graphic designer which is what I was doing until I had my son. I imagine I’ll return to this field at some point in the future, but maybe for an organisation or not for profit in the environmental area. Writing books has been a lovely adventure but it doesn’t cover the rent or put food on the table.

Were there any obstacles on your path to publication?

The biggest obstacle was trying to figure out what to include in both books. I wanted to make the information easy to understand and accessible no matter where you live. I hope this was achieved!

How involved have you been in the development of your books?

My publisher and editor at Hardie Grant were very supportive and we worked closely on the books from development through to the printing. Together we looked at ways to keep the production as low waste as possible.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life?

Being able to help others and the environment is the best aspect.

—the worst?

 Trying to find the time with a vivacious two year old!

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it?

 I have the opposite! There are too many ideas in my head and sitting in draft documents ready to be put into the world.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer and speaker?

 I wish I had done a class on public speaking. I get so nervous wondering if how I’m delivering information is actually the best way. It’s still on my list to do. As for writing, I’m not sure what I would do differently. Probably just write more because I enjoy it so much.

What’s the best advice you were ever given?

 Don’t compare yourself to others. Whether it’s writing or if you are making eco changes in your life. Everyone is different and just because someone is doing it one way doesn’t mean it will suit yours.

How important is social media to you?

Depends on the social media – I love Facebook because of the communities that can form through Facebook groups. I’ve watched fantastic initiatives spring up to become helpful tools used widely not only in Australia but across the world. There is also the support Facebook communities can offer too.

What do you read for enjoyment? Favourite books/authors?

I recently finished Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (which I loved!) and am currently reading Island by Alistair MacLeod. This has been hard to put down. Unfortunately when I try to read anything my son will want me to read his books instead. His current pick is Truck Truck Goose.

What is your top tip for anyone wanting to write a non-fiction book?

Plan, plan, plan! Remember you’re writing to help your audience understand a subject so think back to how much you didn’t know before becoming an “expert” on the subject. I constantly asked myself what kind of book I would have liked at the beginning.

Now for a little light relief – If you were stuck in a stalled lift for several hours, who would you choose to share the experience with you and why?

 Scott Morrison – hopefully by the end of the experience he would be a waste warrior and ready to turn Australia into a circular economy!

BOOK BYTE

Waste Not Everyday

Suited to those who are interested in taking their first steps towards a zero waste lifestyle, this book is a lighter, easier approach to Erin’s first and more in depth book, Waste Not. Also makes a great gift for friends and family looking for a simple introduction to the concept of zero waste.

Would you like to throw away less? Do something for the planet? But not ready to dive straight into composting or go totally plastic-free yet? Waste Not Everyday is your step-by-step guide with 365 easy changes that will not only influence what you throw out but also have a genuine impact on the future of our planet.

Split into four easy-to-follow parts, Waste Not Everyday features simple tips that will lead to a real shift in thinking and action and show you that a zero-waste lifestyle is actually achievable – for everyone, every budget and every schedule. With tips ranging from actions and inspiration to recipes and resources, Erin takes you on a gentle journey towards a life with less waste and more meaning.

It is available from the following links:

https://www.booktopia.com.au/waste-not-everyday-erin-rhoads/prod9781743795552.html

https://www.dymocks.com.au/book/waste-not-everyday-by-erin-rhoads-9781743795552

 

 

 

 

Meet the Author: SL Lim

S L Lim was born in Singapore and moved to Sydney as a child. They don’t eat animals. They hate heterosexuality, the gender binary, the energy industry, other industries, racism, sexism, progressive politics as an aesthetic/lifestyle signifier as opposed to a material engagement with injustice and power, including in one’s own life; getting up in the morning, the requirement to exchange one’s labour in return for a wage, and people who casually mention they are better than you. They like stickers, food, pretty yet inexpensive stationery, mathematical approaches to vegan baking, direct action, quiet people with an ironical yet wise approach to life, noisy apparent assholes with good hearts, queerness, tendentious takes, mutual care, mutual accountability and mutual aid. They like to read blender reviews online where the reviewer obviously had totally insane expectations for the blender. Sunsets are beautiful. Borders are violence. Vaginal orgasm is a mass hysterical survival response.

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write? I would like to create beautiful things of lasting value which is independent of my existence as a person.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? The pleasure of naming a phenomenon, concept or experience that went previously unarticulated.

—the worst? Oscillations between megalomania and self-abnegation.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? Start earlier, work harder.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? In terms of the writing: there is no secret. Do the work and keep doing it. In terms of getting published: treat this as its own skill quite separate from the writing itself.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? Regard human systems as comprehensible and problems as solvable.

What’s your top tip for aspiring authors? Write. Read very carefully. Hang out with dead people. Keep writing. Be hard on your own work. Find persons whose judgement you trust and make use of their intelligence and kindness.

How important is social media to you as an author? I regret cruelty and loss and time and holding on to friendship and to love as it curdled into indifference but I regret NOT ONE SECOND of the time I have spent on the internet.

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? By reminding myself the obstacles that exist to prevent me from writing today will still exist tomorrow so if I don’t write today I probably won’t write tomorrow and this will go on for a while and then I’ll die.

How do you deal with rejection? Lying face down on the carpet. One aspect I struggled with during years of feeling like a waste of space, a pool of sentient mush dissolving on the bathmat, was the realisation everyone gets rejected, a lot. If I were a brilliant misunderstood genius I would probably be getting a lot of rejections. And if I were a self-deluding hack… the exact same thing would be occurring. There was no way of evaluating which particular universe I was living in.

Come to that, I still don’t know. Am I any good? Are you? Is what? Are unicorns hollow? Just because a question can be formulated grammatically doesn’t mean it has an answer. The trouble with this approach is it tends towards the conclusion literally nothing means anything. This isn’t untrue, exactly, but it doesn’t help you get out of bed, and I need all the help that I can get.

So maybe a better approach is to remember publication is not the only market of merit; there is a huge amount of structural unfairness and just randomness. But there are also ways you can improve your chances, like getting better at your craft and submitting your work to lots of publishers and agents.

My advice, if you were asking for it, is: do the thing you’ve got to do, because you do, and… well, that’s it, really. Good luck.

In three words, how would you describe your writing? It’s getting better.

If you had the chance to spend an hour with any writer of your choice, living or dead, who would it be and what would you most like them to tell you about living a writing life? Kim Stanley Robinson. I want to go hiking with him and either talk about Buddhism or not talk at all but simultaneously look at things like lichens and go ‘hmm’ so we understand we both appreciate this sublime phenomenon and are experiencing it in a manner both collective and solitary.

BOOK BYTE

Real Differences

by SL Lim

This is a story of a friendship so connected that without it one is not whole but lost.

Middle-class, clever and white, Nick is a child of privilege while his best friend Andie is the daughter of Indo-Chinese refugees. Despite their very different backgrounds, they share a conviction they can change the world for the better.

At the outset, Nick is pushing papers in a dead-end job while Andie is embarking on a secular crusade against world poverty. This generates conflict with her white husband Benjamin, who feels that Australians should come first. Meanwhile, Andie’s cousin, the teenage Tony is burdened by his parents’ traumatic past and impossible expectations. To their dismay, he finds solace in  radical faith.

S.L. Lim acutely captures the dreams and disaffections of a millennial generation. Real Differences is an emotionally resonant novel about idealism, ethical ambition, and love, filled with unforgettable characters. It ultimately asks us the most important question of all: What is our life for?

Sales site link

https://transitlounge.com.au/shop/real-differences/

Author website

https://twitter.com/slwritesbooks

 

 

 

 

#Books On Tour – Blog Tour -Tea with Mrs B: Teena Raffa-Mulligan

It was my turn to be in the spotlight this week as part of the online blog tour for When the Moon is a Smile. Tea with Mrs B was a treat.

Mrs B's Book Reviews

tea with mrs b v2.jpgWelcome to Tea with Mrs B, an author interview series. Here to share a pot of tea and to chat about her brand new book, When the Moon is a Smile, is Teena Raffa-Mulligan.

030519_teena promo_02 big.jpg

Teena writes tales to entertain children of all ages and her publications include poems, short stories, picture books and novels. Her first published picture book was a stranger danger tale about an elephant and a tiger (You don’t Know Me?, Darelle Publications, 1981) that brought her five minutes of fame and introduced her to the joy of sharing her passion for writing with children. She has been presenting talks, workshops and seminars for children and adults ever since and all her presentations have a strong focus on inspiration and encouragement. Teena has also had a long career in journalism, writing for and editing magazines and newspapers. She lives near the beach in a coastal city south…

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Meet the Illustrator: Amy Calautti

AMY’S TOP TIP FOR ILLUSTRATORS: You are on your own journey. Don’t look to the side, just keep working and win your own race.

Amy Calautti has loved to draw from a young age and often made up games based around drawing to entertain her younger brother and cousins. Her artistic talent was noticed and she was accepted into fashion and textile design in high school and TAFE.

When she became a mother, she fell in love with picture book illustration and realised what her true potential could be. Amy has developed a few distinct styles and is always playing with new techniques to expand her repertoire.

Visit her website here.  Amy is also on Instagram: @amygorgeousness and Facebook: www.facebook.com/amyillustrates

ILLUSTRATOR INSIGHT

When the Moon is a Smile is your debut picture book. How did that project come about? I’ve been illustrating for a couple of years with the intention of illustrating for picture books, and just started submitting my portfolio to publishers while I posted all my work regularly on social media and had made lots of arty FB friends along the way. Jennifer, our lovely publisher, friended me on FB, and once I had finished my Inktober project, she asked me to illustrate a book for her.

What were some of the challenges in creating the illustrations? I feel like the first draft is the trickiest because that’s where you use your imagination
the most. Sometimes I can come back to an idea and expand on it more. Once that’s done the rest is easy!

Walk us through your creative process. Once you have an idea, what’s the next step? First I thumbnail a storyboard. This is mainly stick figures and page layout. Next I make more detailed drawings to send off to the publisher.
Then I go through any changes and redraw which spreads need to be done.
My favourite part is next – PAINTING! Then I add any coloured pencil outlines or tonal values.
Once the artwork is done I scan it, and then add digital touches to bring it up to professional standard.

How much time do you spend on creating each illustration? Not counting the drawing time, painting a double page spread takes from four to nine hours. Nine hours has to be a very specky painting.
Do you have a favourite medium? My favourites are watercolour, coloured pencil, ink and digital.

Is there any area of art that you find especially challenging? Not overly, now that I’ve learned about preparing files for printing. I think my
technical side is improving. But I would like to be quicker so I can say yes to more projects.

You have two more picture books coming out next year. Can you tell us anything about them? I can’t really share anything about them although I am almost through my first round of drafts with both of them. Needless to say it’s been hectic at my house. Surprisingly I haven’t had any offers to help me out with all the neglected cleaning jobs around the house.

What’s the best aspect of your artistic life? The best aspect is that I get to do what I love. I can’t think of a better way to spend my day!

—the worst? In the beginning it was learning computer programs. I’ve climbed the mountain now! Just over a year ago, I had never owned a computer of my own or did any classes in the digital realm. Not even a typing class! Once I figured out it was holding me back, I took the plunge! now look at me go. Ha!

What is your creative dream? Gosh, so many dreams! I would love to illustrate a funny book. I really value humor in my life, so it makes sense to me to illustrate a book in that genre. Also I dream every day to be a full-time Illustrator, creating illustrations for picture books and junior fiction and provide an extra income stream for my family.
Other than that I would love to go on a painting tour around Europe. I don’t know if they exist, but they should!

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an illustrator? Nothing I could have been told, but something I would’ve loved to have studied is graphic design instead of fashion design back when I got into both courses (despite never touching a computer in my life, ha ha).
What’s the best advice you were ever given? There’s so much I’ve heard but I’ve not been told specifically. One off the top of my head is, ‘Illustrate, don’t decorate’.

Now for a little light relief – If you were going to be stuck in a stalled lift for several hours who would you choose to share the experience with you and why? Probably my husband, he would Macgyver our way out of there. Ain’t nobody got time for that!

BOOK BYTE

When the Moon is a Smile

Written by Teena Raffa-Mulligan, Illustrated by Amy Calautti

 

“Don’t go, Daddy!” It’s the plea that tugs at the heart of every loving father whose child no longer shares his everyday life due to a relationship breakdown.

For a young child, accepting how things have changed once parents live apart can be difficult. When ‘Daddy time’ is occasional instead of constant, saying goodbye for now can be the hardest part of spending time together.

In this gentle story about the special bond between a little girl and her father, the fun of sharing a day imagining everyday activities into extraordinary adventures turns to sadness when it is time for him to leave.

Tears turn to acceptance with the promise that Daddy will soon return — and there is a special way to know when that will be.

A heart-warming family story from the author of Who Dresses God?, True Blue Amigos and Friends.

When the Moon is a Smile is available here from Daisy Lane Publishing and also from Amazon and other online retailers.

 

 

 

 

Meet the Author: Paul Russell

Paul’s top writing tip: Be honest. Your stories are yours alone, find what it is that makes you unique and use that to make your stories the same.

Paul Russell is a primary teacher, artist, playwright and children’s author with five previous titles including Grandma Forgets, which made the CBCA list of notable picture books in 2018.  He is passionate about the place of imagination and daydreaming in children’s learning. He has a daughter who would rather be a princess or a dragon than a regular school student and he is grateful to teachers who embrace this in her education.

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write? I can’t help it. When I was younger I always claimed it was the only way I could get to sleep, if I didn’t write stories down they would keep me awake all night playing in my mind.

I think I have finally accepted now that I am just never going to fully grow up. I still have the imagination of an eight-year-old child and still see the world for what it could be, might be or will never be, making stories such an important part of my life.

How has your childhood influenced you as a children’s author? Every day and in every way. I had a joyous childhood filled with great adventures and the freedom to play. We never had a lot of money but my parents always had time for me. I had school holidays with notepads filled with stories, games and visits to local libraries.

I still see one of the greatest joys of parenthood is being able to have a second childhood through my own children.

You teach in a primary school. How much inspiration do you draw from your students? Do you test your early drafts on them? I hate coming up with character names and often steal student names, especially in first drafts but I don’t always find more inspiration in them than anywhere else. I think as an author you have to always be on the lookout for ideas. Sometimes they come in a student but other times it is an odd fact, a piece of rubbish on the side of the road or a comment a passerby says (or should have said). Inspiration is weird, it is the noting down when inspired that is important because you will never be inspired the same way twice and it is very easy to dismiss and too easy to forget.

I’ve tried running drafts past students but found they were always reluctant to be brutally honest, which is often what drafts need. My first novel I lied and told a student that one of my friends wrote it and I didn’t like it, to try to get some better feedback. Didn’t help, she still loved it.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? When you think you have something amazing but you can’t convince anyone to even read it. I submitted my first manuscript to a publisher when I was 17 and continued to send manuscripts regularly and wasn’t published till my mid-thirties. Half a lifetime of rejection makes you resilient and a better author.

However, I still think that some of those early works are really good and with the right timing would have made great published works. Timing is always out of your control. The greatest manuscript on the same topic or in the same style as a book a publisher just signed isn’t going to be signed and sometimes a not so great manuscript is going to hit the right desk on the right day.

How involved have you been in the development of your books? Did you have input into the illustrations? Different illustrators work differently. With my first picture book Nicky Johnston was incredibly generous with her artworks, she shared roughs, asked for input and showed me everything. Most of my input was just WOW! but I was still very involved, I even got to choose the number plate on the blue car.

Aśka on the other hand was completely independent, she tells her own story with the artworks and they work independently and totally harmoniously but I didn’t really see anything until big sections were completed. We did chat a lot back and forth about colour palettes in The Incurable Imagination but in the end you just have to learn to trust the experts in their area.

I have learned that words are my skill and although I have an art degree and am prone to a bit of doodling, I could never be an illustrator.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? The last full stop in a piece. Signing a contract or seeing a finished book is great but finishing a piece of work, regardless if anyone else will ever see it, love it or publish it, is the greatest feeling in the world.

—the worst? When you know you have a great idea but you can’t quite get it to work. Or a rejection letter on a script you really like.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I would join writing groups and talk to other writers. When I started my writing, and honestly too much now, I just live in my own bubble and write. I have found writers incredibly generous with their time, knowledge and experiences and always willing to share. I wish I had learnt this earlier.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? Do it. I always thought it was an impossible goal, even now I pinch myself just to make sure. The more you write the better you get. Don’t write to be published, write to be a writer and to bring your stories to life, the rest will happen eventually if you don’t stop.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? “You really have a talent, you know if you get good enough you can pay someone to fix your spelling.”

How important is social media to you as an author? I only started social media five years ago when my publisher told me I had to get onto Facebook. I use my Facebook page and Instagram account like a scrap book of photos and reviews of my books and am really quite poor at adding rich content to my page.

However, it’s the best way to meet other people like yourself. I have loads of people I only know thorough Social Media, I watch people who I want to be or people who want to be like me. I see ideas for launches or get to experience them. Social Media creates networks of authors and illustrators that was impossible only a short time ago and honestly makes everyone so approachable, I love it.

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? No. Never. Only a lack of time in my life to write. In my mind writer’s block only occurs if you are trying to force something. I will always be working on a number of different writing ideas at any one time. If I get a bit stuck for one or feel like it is getting sluggish and forced I will move to something else.

Writer’s block is a thing for people who are not busy enough with the rest of their life. I’ve never sat in front of a page or screen and not known what to write, my life is busy enough that when I have the ideas I try to find the screen or page.

How do you deal with rejection? I don’t think anyone is immune to rejection, nothing hurts more than when you put your heart totally into a script and no one else can see what you can.

Take a day. Eat a block of chocolate. Start the next one.

I am still convinced that one day I will be able to pass all those rejected scripts onto someone who will see what I saw in them but until that day you just keep going. Rejection is the building blocks for success, and rejection is only ever final if you give up.

In three words, how would you describe your writing? Imaginative, childish, passionate.

If you had the chance to spend an hour with any writer of your choice, living or dead, who would it be and what would you most like them to tell you about living a writing life? I grew up on English television and I think Ben Elton is the writer I would most like to sit down with. I would want to just sit there and hear him talk Young Ones, Blackadder and novels.

I think the greatest thing I have discovered in the past couple of years is lots of the children’s authors and illustrators who I thought I would never have a chance to meet or spend any time with I have met. I have met so many amazing and generous authors who share their time and stories with such passion.

It really is the most incredible community to belong to.

BOOK BYTE

The Incurable Imagination

Written by Paul Russell, Illustrated by Aśka

Audrey has the worst case of ‘imaginitis’ her teachers have ever seen! While other children paint their families, Audrey paints the ogre who lives under her bed drinking tea. Instead of singing about a black sheep, she writes her own song about a desk with legs that runs away. Her alphabet turns into soup. It’s clear that her ‘imaginitis’ is incurable. What’s worse, her condition is contagious and soon the other kids in her class start showing symptoms of an equally incurable imagination! As ‘imaginitis’ spreads, the teachers are horrified and the parents begin to protest too. But perhaps imagination isn’t such a bad disease after all? It might even be useful if it makes learning more fun.

Buy the book:

https://ekbooks.org/product/the-incurable-imagination/

 

 

Meet the Author: Sallie Muirden

Sally’s top tip for aspiring authors: If you haven’t already, do a creative writing course at a reputable institution. It isn’t just what you learn from a writing teacher. You will receive feedback from your peers in the workshopping setting and you will make writing buddies that will support you on your journey.

 

 

Sallie Muirden is a writer who lives in Melbourne. Her first novel, Revelations of a Spanish Infanta, won the 1996 HarperCollins Fiction Prize. Her second novel, We Too Shall Be Mothers, was published in 2001. Her collection of poetry, The Fable of Arachne, was published in 2009. Her third novel, A Woman of Seville, was published in 2009. And her new novel Wedding Puzzle is published this month. She has a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Melbourne and she taught creative writing for a long time. She has also worked for many years as a teacher of English language to migrants. She grew up in East Malvern and South Yarra but she has lived in the suburb of Northcote for more than 28 years. She loves surf beaches, zumba, swimming, reading, meditation, cats and watching Australian rules footy.

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write? When I started writing at 19 and 20 it was to record my thoughts and understand my feelings in a diary. Nowadays writing is a habit and I almost exclusively write for pleasure and to relieve tension. I always feel much better after a good writing session. It is a mental exercise in make-believe, but it is better than daydreaming because you make an art object with your thoughts.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I would probably be teaching English to migrants, as this has been my main professional occupation over recent years.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? In the early days it was finding my own voice and writing fiction that didn’t sound like Virginia Woolf. With my last three novels it has been the painful realisation that it is going to take many drafts before a manuscript wins the admiration of publishers.

How involved have you been in the development of your book? Did you have input into the cover? I have been involved all the way with Transit Lounge, since I first signed the contract. I have been allowed to keep the novel I wanted. With the cover a designer created a number of possibilities and fortunately the publisher and I both liked the same cover the most.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? The best aspect is when I feel I am breaking new ground in early drafts. Redrafting is also deeply satisfying when I see my novel becoming a cohesive whole.

—the worst? The humiliation of a nasty personal review in a major newspaper can ruin your fragile confidence and stop you taking creative risks.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I would spend more time writing and less time teaching and not worry about money as much because in the end the writing is invaluable and I can live on a small income and still be okay.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? Don’t listen to the stories of authors who write a novel in six months. It can work for some but for most writers it is a long and painstaking endeavour. Taking time can only improve your novel and bring it closer to perfection and/or publication.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? Listen to your editors.

How important is social media to you as an author? It’s absolutely crucial to boost interest and tell people about your work. However, I really admire writers who can get along without it.

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? I’d call it ‘writer’s time out’ rather than ‘writer’s block’. I have gone for long periods when I’m not writing because I am prioritising other things such as employment. I end the ‘writer’s time out’ by quitting work and getting up very early and sitting at my desk. When I have the house to myself and my mind is brimming with energy the writing starts to flow again.

How do you deal with rejection? I just remind myself how many attempts it took J K Rowling to get published the first time with Harry Potter.

In three words, how would you describe your writing? Musical, intelligent, nostalgic.

If you had the chance to spend an hour with any writer of your choice, living or dead, who would it be and what would you most like them to tell you about living a writing life? I’d like to spend time with Margaret Drabble because I met her at a book launch once and she seemed a lovely person. I’d like her to tell me how she came to write her first three amazing novels. I’d like the honest truth about her own life at that time.

BOOK BYTE

Wedding Puzzle

Sallie Muirden

 

 

On the morning of her wedding, 24-year-old Beth Shaw drives
down the peninsula to the Portsea Hotel. She is uneasy and
confused because she has just learnt something devastating about
her fiancé, Jordan, that completely changes her view of him.
As Beth’s old schoolmates and her relatives arrive for the big day
at the bayside idyll, Beth contemplates her childhood in suburbia.
She worshipped the school relay runners, one of whom was Jordan’s
high school sweetheart. Painful memories of earlier disloyalties
and betrayals resurface. Her dreams and wedding threaten to spin
out of control. Will the truth ever be known? And must she make a
fateful decision about more than just her wedding arrangements?
Award-winning author Sallie Muirden deftly evokes the
contradictions of human behaviour, and growing up in the ’70s
and ’80s. With its Austenesque feel, Wedding Puzzle is an astute,
entertaining, and often tense comedy of manners, that considers
our choice of partner and the decision to marry as the key
moment in our lives.

The book is available here.

 

 

Meet the Author: Amra Pajalić

Read, read, read. Write, write, write. Submit, submit, submit. Repeat. -Amra Pajalić

Amra Pajalić is an award-winning author, an editor and teacher. Her memoir Things Nobody Knows But Me will be published by Transit Lounge in May . Memoir extracts have been published in Meet Me at the Intersection (Fremantle Press, 2018) and Rebellious Daughters (Venture Press, 2016). Her debut novel The Good Daughter (Text Publishing, 2009) won the 2009 Melbourne Prize for Literature’s Civic Choice Award and she is co-editor of the anthology Growing up Muslim in Australia (Allen and Unwin, 2019) that was shortlisted for the 2015 Children’s Book Council awards. She works as a high school teacher and is completing a PhD in Creative Writing at La Trobe University. To find out more about Amra, visit her website at www.amrapajalic.com

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write? I write because writing is a compulsion. When I am writing the birds are singing, the days are bright, I feel light and floaty. When I’m not writing life is grey and so am I. It is my outlet and my saviour. I always feel like I’ve got my characters with me, keeping me company and I’m never alone or lonely.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I am a high school teacher by day and write at 6 am and on school holidays, so if I wasn’t a writer I’d be doing exactly the same thing and loving it. I’m very lucky that I love my day job and working with young people.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? The fact that I felt like there weren’t any books that represented my background and story made me feel inadequate. I didn’t think anyone would be interested in reading a book about a girl from the Western suburbs of Melbourne, about being Bosnian and from a Muslim background, and about having a mother who suffered from Bi Polar.

How involved have you been in the development of your book? Did you have input into the cover? I have been so happy with the development of the book and the covers that were proposed. There wasn’t really any cover I didn’t like. In fact I liked too many of them and struggled to decide. In the end I used my students as my market research team and showed them the covers and asked them which one I should go with. They picked the one that I had initially thought was the one, then I got confused by asking too many people. So in the end I have my students to thank, and of course the amazing cover designer at Transit Lounge.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? When the words flow and I feel like my characters and world are coming to life.

—the worst? All the time spent throwing words down like stones on a road until the flow starts.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I wouldn’t have spent years attempting to work on a sequel to my debut novel, as opposed to forging a new path and trusting that I had new stories and characters to write about.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? Write what your heart feels, not what you think will lead to commercial success. You can’t control what will happen once or if your book is published. All you can do is focus on writing the story that means the most to you so you don’t regret the time you spent writing.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? First comes the draft, then comes the craft. Which basically equates to get something down so you can polish it into something readable.

What’s your top tip for aspiring authors? Read, read, read. Write, write, write. Submit, submit, submit. Repeat.

How important is social media to you as an author? This is a really interesting question. We spend so much time on social media and so it feels important, and I know that I have bought and read a lot of books because of social media, but then I also sometimes wonder if it IS a good use of my time, and whether time spent equates to books sold. That’s why I only post on social media things that I feel I want to share. I don’t want to think about it as curating myself or selling myself.

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? Usually writer’s block for me is fatigue and an inability to create. I don’t usually have any time when I don’t have ideas – because I work full time my struggle is to find time to write so ideas are always percolating. When I’m feeling fatigued and spent I take a time out and read books back to back. This gets me back to why I write in the first place – my love of stories and the escapism and joy they bring.

How do you deal with rejection? With difficulty. It is very hard to be graceful in the face of rejection – which is why it’s important to avoid social media at these times. I usually have to retreat from life, figuratively lick my wounds, get my gumption back and submit again. The most important thing about rejection is being able to rebound back. My memoir was rejected by five publishers. I took a few months off, revised it again, conducted research about where to submit and submitted to another five publishers. I received immediate interest from the next five, and as soon as I got an offer I withdrew from the rest. I call this the scatter-gun approach. You keep shooting until it hits a target.

In three words, how would you describe your writing? Raw, gritty, confessional.

If you had the chance to spend an hour with any writer of your choice, living or dead, who would it be and what would you most like them to tell you about living a writing life? I would love to meet Sylvia Plath. She is a poet and the author of The Bell Jar, one of the books I read as a young teenager that resonated so much with me as it was inspired by her own bouts of clinical depression until her suicide at age 30. I would like to ask her about which events in the book were autobiographical.

BOOK BYTE

Things Nobody Knows But Me

Amra Pajalić

 

 

When she is four years old Amra Pajalić realises that her mother is different. Fatima is loving but sometimes hears strange voices that tell her to do bizarre things. She is frequently sent to hospital and Amra and her brother are passed around to family friends and foster homes, and for a time live with their grandparents in Bosnia.

At 16 Amra ends up in the school counsellor’s office for wagging school. She finally learns the name for the malady that has dogged her mother and affected her own life: bipolar disorder. Amra becomes her mother’s confidante and learns the extraordinary story of her life: when she was 15 years old Fatima visited family friends only to find herself in an arranged marriage. At 16 she was a migrant, a mother, and mental patient.

Surprisingly funny, Things Nobody Knows But Me is a tender portrait of family and migration, beautifully told. It captures a wonderful sense of bi-cultural place and life as it weaves between St Albans in suburban Australia and Bosanska Gradiška in Bosnia. Ultimately it is the heartrending story of a mother and daughter bond fractured and forged by illness and experience. Fatima emerges as a remarkable but wounded woman who learns that her daughter really loves her.

 ‘Brave, compassionate, searingly honest and funny, this is a memoir in a voice like no other. Amra Pajalić’s love letter to her mother is a book that grabs at your heart and doesn’t let go until the final  page.’  ALICE PUNG

Buy links:

Amazon Paperback

Amazon preloaded digital audio player

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