On Writing

Writers, editors, agents, publishers and more share their thoughts, experiences and stories.

Business Writing program logo

Effective report writing is a key skill in business, government, and the non-profit sector, yet even experienced staff can struggle to keep a report engaging and concise. In the leadup to her half-day Business Writing workshop on Clear and Concise Reports in September, Kyra-Bae Snell shares insights from her years as a teacher, editor, and corporate trainer. 

One of the most interesting areas of change in literature over the last fifty years has been in non-fiction. Creative non-fiction is a term that seeks to encompass its shifting boundaries. Much of the excitement in literature is happening at the intersection of fiction and non-fiction, so that what the writer invents, with the reader’s cognisance, becomes integral to the narration and creates a wholly satisfying whole, where ‘satisfying’ involves some aspect of engagement that spills over into enjoyment.

I come from a long line of self-deprecators, a large family in which every sibling has gained some measure of success in their chosen field but none has ever been allowed to trumpet that success without being pulled back into line. Pumping up your own tyres, flying your own kite, blowing wind up your own arse, whatever the euphemism employed, the intent has always been to make sure you stay humble.

Annabel Smith

Authors really have to dig for the meaning of ‘success’. That’s never been truer than in this less-than-golden age of publishing, when the question ‘How’s it selling?’ from your mates is more reviled and feared than ‘How could you do that to your parents?’ from an interviewer.

There are words from other languages that cannot be easily translated into our own beautiful bastardised English. One such word, that comes from the Finns, I think encapsulates everything that we, as emerging writers, need to have. The Finnish concept of sisu can be defined as an ‘extraordinary determination in the face of adversity’. The English words ‘grit’, ‘perseverance’ or ‘resilience’, according to Finnish speakers, do not come close to describing the inner strength encapsulated in their native term.

As an aspiring writer many moons ago, my goals were clear. I wanted to write realistic fiction for children and young adults and I wanted to be published in the traditional trade market.

My manuscript is a little boat.

When asked how she is, my mother-in-law is fond of replying that any day she wakes up and can get vertical is a good one. I wish I could say the same about writing. That any day I get up and still know how to use words and create sentences, well, that’s a good day and therefore, a successful one. But it’s not true. Just because you can use words and out of them make sentences, doesn’t mean you’re a good writer or, at best, a successful one. The notions of ‘good’ and ‘successful’ are always up for grabs anyway… aren’t they?

Part 1

July 2016, Jerusalem

I am sitting on a bench, in the park in Jerusalem, watching mothers pushing children on swings. I am eating an ice-cream, alone.