The Writing Life

Information, inspiration and insights into the writing life

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.

It’s debatable what’s harder: to produce a piece of creative writing or to find someone willing to read a draft and give authentic feedback. I was pleased and relieved when Jude readily agreed to read my draft crime novella. After all, I argued, not only was he a good friend but also a well-read and incisive member of a bookclub. I could certainly count on him to be objective in his feedback, yet encouraging. If he wished, he could do so over lunch. I’d shout him and we’d make it a social occasion. It should be fun, I thought. Little did I think the day would end as it did.

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

Writers Victoria is thrilled to announce the finalists of the 2017 Grace Marion Wilson Emerging Writers Competitions.

In the Fiction category, of which there were over 100 entries, judges Mark Brandi and Michelle Scott Tucker were impressed by the high quality of the submissions, reporting that they saw "a diversity of form, content, and genre."

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.

Kurdish-Iranian journalist, Behrouz Boochani, detained on Manus Island since August 2013, has been a PEN International case since 2015. The international campaign on his behalf has been spearheaded by PEN Melbourne. Boochani has produced a growing body of work, in a range of genres, exposing the horrors of incarceration on Manus Island. The 900 men, in the prime of their lives, have been imprisoned for four years now.