There’s been a Pinterest image going around on Facebook lately, which shows a Mason jar filled with folded scraps of paper — and I think it came from this website originally. At any rate, the picture, and concept, has gone viral. It goes by various names: ‘jar of memories’, ‘jar of good thoughts’, ‘jar of funny moments’ and it’s a little bit hokey, a little sentimental, but all in all, pretty sweet. No matter what it’s called, the idea is that you write down anecdotes of happy, special, memorable, amusing moments from your year, and at the end of December you read them over to remind yourself of these good times.
This year, there have been so many incredible, life-changing events in my life that I’d be hard-pressed to forget any of them.* But in the spirit of the ‘jar of magical moments’, I’ll spill my recollections of 2012 here, look them all over, laugh, sigh, raise a glass to the awesome times that were, and remember how lucky I’ve been. (Because I’m more than a bit superstitious: there’s hard work involved, of course, but a hell of a lot of luck too, for which I am totally grateful.)
First, I received an Arts SA Project Grant to work on the first draft of The Familiar. I got close to 90,000 words written, most of which will be culled in the second draft, but enough for me to figure out what’s happening in the novel, what’s good about it, what sucks, and what can be developed into something much better in the next draft.
At the same time, Angela and I wrote most of Midnight and Moonshine, wrapped it up in a nice shiny bow mid-year, saw it get a starred review in Publishers Weekly before it was even published, then sent it off into the world in fine style, with not one but two awesome launches.
Bluegrass Symphony made me feel like the luckiest writer ever, winning two Aurealis Awards (for Best Collection and Best Horror Short Story for ‘The Short Go: A Future in Eight Seconds’, an award I was delighted to share with Paul Haines for his incredible story ‘The Past is a Bridge Left Burnt’), getting nominated for the Norma K. Hemming Award, and also getting shortlisted for the World Fantasy Award for Best Collection. Stories were reprinted in Imaginarium 2012: The Best Canadian Speculative Writing and The Year’s Best Australian Horror and Fantasy 2011 and Aurealis and Tales to Terrify, and they earned six nods from Ellen Datlow. (I’m still overwhelmed by it all!)
With the grant money all used up, I went back to teach for Semester Two, and also had the pleasure of teaching at the SA Writers’ Centre — which went so well, we’re going to do it all again in 2013.
Meanwhile, I sold stories to some excellent venues over the course of 2012, most of which will be coming out in the next year:
- ‘Sweet Subtleties’, Clarkesworld Magazine, Issue 75, December 2012
- ‘By Blood and Incantation’, co-written with Angela Slatter, One Small Step: An Anthology of Discoveries, ed. Tehani Wessely (FableCroft Press), Forthcoming
- ‘Morning Passages’, Shadows Edge, ed. Simon Strantzas (Grey Friar Press), Forthcoming
- ‘Endpapers’, Postscripts, ed. Peter Crowther and Nick Gevers(PS Publishing, UK) Forthcoming
- ‘Smoke Billows, Soot Falls’ (Chapbook), ed. Simon Marshall-Jones (Spectral Press) Forthcoming
- ‘Snowglobes’, Chilling Tales 2: In Words, Alas, Drown I, ed. Michael Kelly (EDGE Publishing) Forthcoming
There were so many opportunities to catch up with great friends at writing events this year, including Adelaide Writers Week in March, Continuum 8 in July (even though I got food poisoning and missed most of the con!) and, of course, my first ever World Fantasy Convention in Toronto this November. I had such a fantastic time at the WFC, I cannot wait for next year in Brighton!
Finally, to make an awesome year even more awesome — so awesome, in fact, that I seriously hope I haven’t peaked — in December I earned a lecturing position in the Department of English and Creative Writing at Flinders University! I’ll get to continue my writing and researching, while also sharing my love of all things nerdy with students forevermore. What a way to end the year!
Thanks, 2012, you’ve been utterly fab. Here’s hoping 2013 is as cool to hang out with as you were.
And Happy New Year, everyone!
*I still might have forgotten something here. It’s been a pretty full-on 12 months…
Thanks, Arts SA, for helping me to attend World Fantasy in Toronto this year! This will be my first WF convention, and I’m REALLY excited that I’m getting the chance to go. Three cheers for Arts SA!
This is what my oubliette looks like… No, seriously. I’m not just sitting in my living room writing my book most days, or taking the laptop to bed…
So, it’s been a month since I got my grant. A month of being a full time writer. This has been a completely new experience for me: I’m used to holding down at least three contracts at once, working on my PhD and cramming my writing in on the side. So to have time… Well, it’s been awesome and also a challenge.
The first week of January was a complete write-off. I wrote about four versions of the book’s first chapter, all of which totally sucked, until I finally managed to come up with something I could live with. Some days I’ve achieved as little as 300 words, other days I’ve done over 2,500. I’ve tried to keep the weekends free, but have wound up writing on most days regardless.
All told, this month (well, three weeks) has earned me 26,971 words and The Familiar is well under way! If I can maintain my tortoise pace and make myself comfortable in my gorgeous oubliette, I should have a first draft by May/June… which will give me a couple MUCH NEEDED months to rewrite, edit, delete any crap I’ve written thus far. This, too, is a new experience. I’m used to working on short stories. Agonising over every word. Getting every sentence, paragraph, scene just right before moving on so that, basically, the first draft is pretty much the final draft.
That is so not happening with this book, let me tell you.
Nevertheless, January = 26,971 words.
Let’s hope things keep clipping along like this in February!
Getting this ArtsSA grant has been fantastic for my writing — it has given me the means to take several precious months off work to write The Familiar. But no one ever said that writing was a lucrative business, and being a “writer on a grant” reminds me of my really frugal scholarship days… (Which, let’s be honest, I haven’t quite shaken despite a billion hours of teaching at university level. But I digress.)
My point is that I am a book addict without the means to feed her addiction. And yes, library-lovers, I could borrow books — and I do. But there is something pathalogical inside me that simply covets new books. Paperback, hardcover, graphic, YA, children’s picture books — I want them all, and I want to keep them.
So I’ve decided to pretend that I’ve bought lots of books, and I’m going to share my purchases with you here. (And it doesn’t matter that some of these titles haven’t yet been released. This is imaginary book buying, people. I’ll make up the rules as I go.) Here are a few of the ones I’m most excited about:
Nightingale Songs by Simon Strantzas
Simon Strantzas, master of the subtle and the bizarre, returns with a dozen strange tales and eerie mysteries. From the shores of a remote oil-stained sound to deep within the familiar heart of suburbia, these are the songs of broken people who cannot find a way to fix themselves, who must search the dark for salvation. Like a siren, the nightingale sings them onward to face their end. But it sings for you too. A requiem in your honor. Because, for you, it is already too late. (more…)
There’s been a bit of a lull between Part Two and this final post in the ‘applying for grants’ series. Sorry about the delay – I’ve been putting my Arts SA funding to use, and have been working on the opening to The Familiar since the New Year (and, might I add, ARRRGH. I could do a whole post on the agony of writing beginnings… But that will have to wait for another day!)
The third thing I want to talk about in terms of improving grant applications is being clear. We’ve already covered the basics – like making sure your project meets the selection criteria, and trying to write an application that is engaging and describes an interesting project – but you also need to explain exactly how you intend to make this intriguing project a reality, and why the folks with the cash should fund you to do so.
The level of detail you put into this information will vary depending on how many pages you are allowed per application. As I’ve mentioned before (and as many of you know) Australia Council grants are a measly two pages long, which means you don’t have any room to waste words. Other funding bodies may give you a bit more breathing room. The Arts SA grant applications, for example, require a one-page description of the project, which seems even more restricted than OzCo, but then it also allows additional pages for descriptions of budgets, synopsis of the book, and a timeline for the project. My recent application to Arts SA was 5 pages long, including a two-page list of publications, so the bulk of my proposal was contained to three pages. Looking back at it now, I probably could’ve trimmed about half a page off of this total by being more concise in the project description. But whether you are permitted two pages or whether you have the luxury of five, there are certain features you need to cover concisely and concretely.
Who, Where, What, When, How
I am not unique in breaking the “be specific” element of grant applications down this way – a couple of years ago, I saw an interview with an OzCo Literature grant recipient which argued much the same thing. That is, break it down to the essentials: the who, where, what, when, why and how of your project (we’ll deal with the ‘why’ separately here).
Who: This, obviously, refers to you – the applicant. Now, I can’t prescribe how much you should talk about yourself in your applications; there is no formula for such things. But you should give the assessors an inkling of your notable past achievements (which will also be demonstrated when you include your list of publications) while showing them why only you can complete this project. Have you published a series of best-sellers? Even if they aren’t bestsellers, have you a track record of publications that shows you can complete big projects? Have you won awards for your work? Have you been recognised in some other way for your writing (guest of honour at conventions, etc)? Have you worked in a field relevant to your project? Have you lived for decades in [exotic location A] or [incredible circumstances B] and so your life experience will feed into this book? Have agents shown interest in your work? Are you just starting out, but your idea is brilliant? (And can you prove this brilliance in your project synopsis?) A few lines to convey this information will help to let the assessors know that you are a professional who is building a career in writing. (more…)
2011 sucked. Then it was awesome. Then it sucked again. Then it got better than ever… And so on. This was the rollercoaster year to beat all others, and it often felt like I was the poster child for the proverbial Chinese curse of “living in interesting times…”
At this time last year, I was staring down the barrel of writing the final three chapters of my PhD thesis. I had January to do it, so I became a hermit and wrote and wrote and wrote. After six years, endless hours of agony, a good dollop of joy, and the hardest work I’d ever done, I finished the draft. HUGE YAY! And then I discovered a Danish scholar’s brand new body of work on a topic that was unnervingly close to mine — so my head exploded. Rewriting ensued, as did tears, frustration, more tears — aka HUGE LOW. But as we know it all worked out, so I’ll move on.
At the same time, I was finishing my first collection of short stories, Bluegrass Symphony. Edits, writing, rewriting all happened while I was freaking out about my thesis… and while my lovely sister and her boyfriend were visiting from Canada (HUUUUGE YAY!!!) It all got done — with time to spare! — and suddenly I found myself with a complete thesis AND a complete book! (YAY!)
Thus armed, I applied for my dream academic job (in English and Creative Writing) — but didn’t get an interview (BOO!). But then discovered that nobody had gotten an interview, and so they would readvertise in a few months (YAY!) and so I still had a chance.
Along with my dear Brain, Angela Slatter, I signed a contract for a second collection of stories, Midnight and Moonshine — which we’re co-authoring (HUUUUGE YAY! We had so much fun collaborating on ‘The February Dragon’!)
I was nominated for three Ditmar awards (YAY! and I had a ball at Swancon) and Angela and I won the Aurealis Award for ‘Best Fantasy Story 2010′ for ‘The February Dragon’ (HUGE YAY!)
Had a massive teaching workload this year — four topics, over 200 students, marking marking marking until I thought my eyes would bleed. Even so, teaching was a bit YAY (because I had some wonderful students!) and a lot BOO (see: marking, eyes bleeding).
The dream academic job was readvertised (YAY!) I applied and had an incredibly strong application (YAY!) but failed to get an interview because of a technicality (not going into details, sorry). Saying ‘HUGE BOO’ here would actually diminish how much this experience affected me. This all happened in June right after I submitted my thesis for examination. So after that great high (thesis finished!!) the whole Job Debacle of 2011 was without a doubt the nadir of my year.
What do they say about reaching rock bottom? The only way is up? Well, that’s pretty much what happened in the second half of 2011. Bluegrass Symphony was published to great reviews and was launched by the ever-fantastic Sean Williams (YAAAAAAAAAAAAY!). My PhD thesis passed with two As, so I didn’t have to change a word (although I did change an accent on one of my Icelandic translations) YAAAAAAAAAAAY!
Then another job-related BOO: I quit my non-teaching job after working there happily for 4 years. Again, not going into detail here, but needless to say, it sucked.
But then another HUGE YAAAAAAAAAAY: writing time! And I got the Arts SA grant I applied for, so that writing time continues on, uninterrupted, well into 2012!
Up, down, up, down, up, down… Here’s hoping 2012 is a bit more even-keeled!
To sum up, in terms of dayjobbery, this year has blown. In terms of writing, however, this has been the most awesome year yet:
Bluegrass Symphony (Ticonderoga Publications, 2011)
Down the Hollow
Them Little Shinin’ Things
Fur and Feathers
From the Teeth of Strange Children
The Wager and the Hourglass
The Short Go: A Future in Eight Seconds
To Snuff a Flame
Depot to Depot
Commonplace Sacrifices (first published in On Spec 2009/2010)
Forever, Miss Tapekwa County
‘Gutted’, Shimmer, Issue 13, April 2011
‘White and Red in the Black’, Dead Red Heart, ed. Russell B. Farr (Ticonderoga Publications) 2011
NEW STORIES SOLD
Midnight and Moonshine, co-authored with Angela Slatter (Ticonderoga Publications, collection of original stories) Forthcoming November 2012
‘Smoke Billows, Soot Falls’ (Chapbook), ed. Simon Marshall-Jones (Spectral Press) Forthcoming
‘Snowglobes’, Chilling Tales 2: In Words, Alas, Drown I, ed. Michael Kelly (EDGE Publishing) Forthcoming
‘A Girl of Feather and Music’, Postscripts (PS Publishing, UK) Forthcoming
‘Rapacis X. Loco Signa’, Bestiary, ed. Ann & Jeff VanderMeer, Forthcoming
‘Tiny Drops’, Midnight Echo, Issue 4, 2010 — REPRINTED IN ChiZine, May 2011
‘Soil From My Fingers’, Tesseracts 14, ed. Brett Alexander Savory & John Robert Colombo (ChiZine Press), 2010 — REPRINTED IN The Year’s Best Australian Fantasy & Horror 2010, ed. Liz Grzyb and Talie Helene (Ticonderoga Publications, 2011)
‘The February Dragon’, co-written with Angela Slatter, Scary Kisses, ed. Liz Grzyb (Ticonderoga Publications), 2010 — REPRINTED IN The Year’s Best Australian Fantasy & Horror 2010, ed. Liz Grzyb and Talie Helene (Ticonderoga Publications, 2011)
I started the Tuesday Therapy series here, which I’m enjoying immensely;
Brain and I have concocted the Lair of the Evil Drs Brain, which kicks off in January with an interview we recently did with China Miéville;
Bring on 2012.
Happy New Year, all!
HOORAY HOORAY HOORAY FOR ARTS SA!!!
I got the grant I applied for — not all that I requested (my budget was a bit cheeky), but all that I need to write full time for much of next year!!
Goodbye daydrudgery, hello novel!!!!!!!!!!!!!