Writerly Links

Kate Forsyth has written a beautiful account of her great-great-great-great-great-grandmother, Charlotte Waring, who migrated from England to the Australian colonies as a young woman and who would later go on to write the first children’s book to be published in Australia. Kate talks about the mysteries of creativity and how a small, brown pebble plucked from an English garden in 1826 would eventually inspire her own fantasy series for children, The Chain of Charms:

I believe a writer takes everything they have ever seen and heard and felt and longed for and been disgusted by – they pour it into the crucible of the imagination and transform into something quite different. It is alchemy. It is magic.

Brandon VanOver talks about the relationship between author and editor over at the Random House blog:

Sometimes I encounter the misconception that authors are alone on an island of creativity, and editors are simply drab sticklers who take a manuscript and tidy it up by applying the laws of grammar and usage, laws as predictable and inscrutable as gravity. The truth is that there are few more intimate and dynamic relationships in publishing.

Molly Ringle of Seattle was the grand prize winner of the 2010 Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, an annual competition to compose the opening sentence to the worst of all possible novels. This competition honours the memory of 19th English century writer Edward George Earl Bulwer-Lytton, who famously opened his 1830 novel Paul Clifford, with the much-quoted, “It was a dark and stormy night”. Molly Ringle won with the following truly cringeworthy sentence:

For the first month of Ricardo and Felicity’s affair, they greeted one another at every stolen rendezvous with a kiss — a lengthy, ravenous kiss, Ricardo lapping and sucking at Felicity’s mouth as if she were a giant cage-mounted water bottle and he were the world’s thirstiest gerbil.

The full list of winners across all categories can be found on the official Bulwer-Lytton website.

Finally, an oldie but definitely a goodie: Neil Gaiman’s pep talk to NaNoWriMo authors. Witty and inspiring, Neil’s advice is the perfect pick me up for any author sunk hip-deep in the Novel Doldrums:

You write. That’s the hard bit that nobody sees. You write on the good days and you write on the lousy days. Like a shark, you have to keep moving forward or you die. Writing may or may not be your salvation; it might or might not be your destiny. But that does not matter. What matters right now are the words, one after another. Find the next word. Write it down. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Hmmm. Think I might need to go read the whole thing again myself.

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Writers on Writing

Australian writer of “rollicking adventure fantasy”, Rowena Cory Daniells, has written a lengthy and entertaining overview of the fantasy genre for the Australia Literature Review, with an emphasis on Australian authors. She includes several thought-provoking quotes from notables in the field, of which my favourite is from Ursula Le Guin on the function of fantasy in contemporary society:

Fantasy is a literature particularly useful for embodying and examining the real difference between good and evil. In an America where our reality may seem degraded to posturing patriotism and self-righteous brutality, imaginative literature continues to question what heroism is, to examine the roots of power, and to offer moral alternatives. Imagination is the instrument of ethics. There are many metaphors beside battle, many choices besides war, and most ways of doing good do not, in fact, involve killing anybody. Fantasy is good at thinking about those other ways.

“Imagination is the instrument of ethics.” That is simply awesome. I think I need to get it tattooed somewhere.

Meanwhile, David Barnett of The Guardian has penned a column concerning the “ongoing endless war between ‘literary’ fiction and ‘genre’ fiction”, sparked off by the Neil Gaiman’s introduction to Stories — the anthology Gaiman co-edited with Al Sarrantonio. Worth a read for its musings on story, plot and character, as well as its reminder that “literary” fiction is indeed a genre in itself. If you have the time, make yourself a cup of tea and peruse the lengthy comments section. There’s a fascinating discussion going on there.

And just the other day, in his acceptance speech for the Carnegie Medal (awarded to The Graveyard Book), Neil Gaiman himself spoke about the role of libraries — those made from bricks and mortar — in the digital age:

We’re now in an age of ‘too much information’. Libraries and librarians are more important than ever. . .  Children want stories. They want information. They want knowledge about the strange world they’re in. Saying that the internet can be that is like setting a child free in a jungle and expecting them safely to find things to eat.

Yes indeed, there has been many fine words of wisdom from the interwebs the month. Mmm, crunchy.