I’m Sorry, But…

Almost every writer who wants to be published will have to face rejection somewhere along the line. Perhaps it’s not what they’re looking for at that time; maybe they liked it, but other work was of a higher standard.

Last week, though, I was in the position when I had to turn down an offer. I have a friend – let’s call her Alice – who runs community engagement activities for a historic trust. This time, she was running an event for people aged 60 and over to share their memories for a children’s’ book. Unfortunately, one of the participants had fallen ill, but she had an unusual story of World War II that deserved to be told.

Anzacwoundedturk
Wounded soldier (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Alice furnished me with the important points. I considered the offer for six days, but I found it impossible to shape a poem or a story around the facts I was given.

The difficulty with biography is that when you don’t know the individual personally, it’s necessary to conduct a lot of research. There was a Middle Eastern leader some years ago who would carry out an hour of research for every minute he planned to spend with a visitor; inconveniently, my own research has not turned up this guy’s name.

I need to stress that this wasn’t Alice’s shortcoming, but from the information I was given, I felt I’d be unable to do justice to her story. So I made the decision to decline the offer, but not before referring Alice to a tutor friend who teaches life writing. I do hope the participant’s story can be told in a suitable manner.

Of course, if there’d been no requirement to tell a true story, I could easily have taken the available facts and fictionalised the rest. It would have been very different, but probably rather compelling.

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Three Candles, Four Ws.

I admitted in my first entry that I have only been writing for fiction three years. Today marks that third year.

On 29th October 2010, I joined National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) on a whim. A lot of online friends seemed to be doing it. Until then, I had written only non-fiction blog entries, so I can’t explain why I’d already had a book idea kicking around for months before this.

I didn’t initially tell anyone what I was doing,except for the active NaNoWriMo chapter I discovered in Dundee. At their meetings, and any moments I could grab, I bashed out my first novel Chris The Girl, set in the year 2525 when only women exist, and reproduce by the use of technology. I reached 50,042 words; just over the punishing target. I’ve successfully tackled it every year since, and will be starting again in a few days’ time.

Then in March 2011, I heard of a new local writing group. At school, I was forever being marked down for not writing long enough pieces, but after a few weeks, I started to think, “Chuffing Nora. I’m finding this easy.” I don’t know what changed in that ten-year gap but perhaps it was because our focus here was how to make the story flow, not on refining the grammar or making it fit an exam question.

Now I’ve written dozens of stories, and had a couple of them published, my first being with The Fiction Desk, while I haven’t really talked about my second, with FourW. My story The Almost Man will be published in their latest anthology. If you live in Australia, you can go along to one of their launch dates:

Wagga Wagga on Saturday 23rd November 2013 at Wagga Wagga City Library commencing at 2.00pm.

Melbourne on Sunday 24th November 2013 at the Robata Bar in St. Kilda commencing at 2.30 pm.

Sydney on Saturday 30th November 2013 at Gleebooks, Glebe Road, Glebe commencing at 3.30pm.

The one good element of starting late is that I’m not embarrassed by my earlier attempts. There are many people who go through their teenage notebooks and cringe at the clumsy metaphors or purple verse, whereas the worst I experience is spotting rough corners that could do with tidying up.

On the other hand, I’m very competitive and find it difficult to accept that I haven’t written nearly as much as I might have by this age. And that means I’ll forever be playing catch-up.