July Writers Corner – social media

Writers Corner is back! With the June event having been cancelled due to Covid restrictions, July will pick up where we left off with a discussion of social media for writers.

Do you have followers or are you a follower, perhaps a blogger or a vlogger, tweeter, snapper, and or a chatter?  Maybe you just enjoy a surf, virtually speaking from a digitised reality. 

Is it a matter of sitting in front of your keyboard and tapping away, word after word, sentence after sentence – taking the words straight to the world wide web? Is social media the ultimate in self-publishing – do it anytime, anywhere, put it out there? Well, maybe not.

Building content is difficult. Reaching and keeping followers (audience) is not easy. Just because you have built it, they may not come.  But you should come to Writers Corner and tell your social media story.

Come along on Tuesday 6 July at 2pm at the Bunch of Grapes in Pleasant Street, Ballarat, and join the Writers Corner discussion about social media and putting yourself out there in the digital universe.

Book review – Klara and the Sun, by Kazuo Ishiguro

Title: Klara and the Sun

Author: Kazuo Ishiguro 

Publisher: Faber and Faber, 2021

The author

Kazuo Ishiguro is a Nobel Prize-winning author who was born in Nagasaki, Japan, and has lived in Britain since the age of five.  This is his ninth major work of fiction.  He is also a screenwriter, musician, and a short-story writer. Ishiguro was knighted in 2018 for services to literature and has been honoured in France and Japan.

The book

What better way to comment on human behaviour than to see it through the eyes of a non-human, in this case Klara an AF (artificial friend). AFs are replicants or, for the old fashioned, robots, designed to act as friends for teenagers. Klara is an exceptional AF, highly observant and keen to learn about the world around her.

Klara and the Sun is set in a near-future America, fractured and riven with elitism, fascism and probably every other “ism” there could possibly be.  Identification with America, though, is not absolute, and the countryside could be English or even Australian. Privileged children are “lifted”, schooled remotely until college (university) years; AFs compensate for limited social contact.

Read an interview with Ishiguro about Klara and the Sun

at the guardian

At its core, the story revolves around the relationship between Klara and Josie, a sickly child living with her high-ranking mother and a housekeeper.  Her sister is dead and her father lives elsewhere. Josie has been “lifted” but her childhood friend and neighbour Rick has not.

Gradually Ishiguro introduces us to other important characters in Josie’s life and reveals a perverse twisting of human emotions, especially love and fear and their interplay in human relationships.

Ishiguro has written this story in a style as Japanese as bonsai or pop-culture anime – in a word, with restraint. Klara and the Sun is a masterful piece of writing, picking up on the notion of artificial intelligence and the dystopian extrapolation of current societal developments, making it a unique and, in some ways, a frightening reading experience. I can thoroughly recommend it.

Reviewed by: Francis Thompson

Ballarat Writers Inc review group

June Writers Corner – social media

Gutenberg and his moveable type printing made it possible to spread ideas
and stories on a large scale. The written word became a commodity. Internet platforms such as blogs and social media are an amplification of the Gutenberg effect. In the 21st century everyone can be a writer, putting their ideas and stories on the internet.

What does social media/ the internet mean for you the writer? For a start,
you are reading this on a social media platform. Is the internet and writing a match made in heaven? Or is social media a trivialisation of a noble art?

Writing is communication, and communication is at the heart of the internet.
Anybody with a Facebook account can write down their ideas, tell a story and post them to Facebook, making them available to a potential audience of millions. But that’s the rub – it’s a potential audience. As someone once remarked, “it’s all about eyeballs on the screen”. Just because it is written and “published” doesn’t mean it will be read – you need ‘presence’.

Certainly, social media is where you establish presence. You know you have presence when you have followers, the more the better; if you have enough you become an influencer.

If you write to be read then you should put it out there – Facebook, Twitter, SnapChat, blogging, commenting – just press send. If you don’t tweet, blog, snap and chat, if you don’t put it out there, what’s the point of writing! Hmm … maybe not!

Agree or disagree, come along on Tuesday 1 June at 2pm at the Bunch of Grapes and join the Writers Corner discussion about social media and putting yourself out there in the digital universe.

Book review – Ariadne by Jennifer Saint

Title:           Ariadne

Author:       Jennifer Saint

Publisher:   Wildfire, 2021

The Author: Jennifer Saint read Classical Studies at King’s College, London. As an English teacher she shared her love of Greek mythology and creative writing with her students. Ariadne is her first novel.

The Book: From horror to the exotic, the court of Minos, king of Crete, is a world of mystical beasts, human sacrifice and incestuous Greek gods who meddle wilfully in the lives of men.

Into this world comes Ariadne, beautiful princess of Crete and granddaughter of Helios, the sun god. In Ariadne’s palace, a specially designed dancing floor is her solace. Saint weaves delightful visions of the dancing princess throughout the narrative. 

Beneath the palace roams Ariadne’s monstrous, blood-thirsty brother, the minotaur, imprisoned in a labyrinth from which there is no escape.

Defeating Athens at war, King Minos demands a cruel tribute – fourteen Athenian youths annually to be fed to the minotaur. When Theseus, prince of Athens, arrives in Crete as a sacrifice to the minotaur, Ariadne falls in love with him. She is torn between loyalty to Crete and her passion for the handsome prince. Love wins and Ariadne helps Theseus escape. He takes her to the island of Naxos, makes love to her and disappears in the night.

Ariadne’s brother Deucalion, now king of Crete, believing Ariadne dead, makes an effort to repair his father’s cruelty. He gives Theseus, now king of Athens, Ariadne’s younger sister’, Phaedra, as his wife. But Ariadne is very much alive. She learns too late that the sister she loves is now queen of Athens and married to the man she adores. Will this drive a wedge between the two powerful sisters? Or will men’s treachery strengthen their bond?

Ariadne is fantasy for adults…a story of tragedy and triumph. With fertile imagination, characters from Greek mythology and their relationships with each other are brought to life in intimate detail. The gods, it seems, were forever coupling with mortals – the Biblical notion of a virgin becoming pregnant to a god was not new at the time of the evangelists.

While not quite a feminist manifesto, Ariadne reflects on woman’s eternal struggle for equality before the law and in society, and makes great sport of “his-story”. Saint’s protagonists, Ariadne and her sister Phaedra, are not simpering females enthralled by male heroes, but self-sufficient women weary of men’s boasting. They are metaphors for the two paths most commonly chosen by women: one as homemaker, mother and wife; the other wielding power in the world. 

There is a touch of bitterness in the themes: all men lie, all men betray you, and women always pay for men’s misdeeds. For the reader there is shock, as twists of the plot undo what we expect.

Review by: Maureen Riches, May 2021

Ballarat Writers Inc. Book review group

Writers Corner – the tools we use

May’s Writers Corner saw a relaxed group of six engage in an afternoon of discussion about favourite writing tools and techniques. Some of us brought along tangible examples of the things we use in our quest to get words onto the page: dictionaries – rhyming or otherwise – style guides, the trusty thesaurus (not just shift F7), even favourite CDs for wooing the inner muse.

Surprisingly (or not) there was little discussion on word processing.  Most of the techn discussion was around the use of search and research; techniques and sources occupied a goodly amount of time.

The topic of Pantser Vs Plotter also got a reasonable airing.

An Australian Writers Centre survey suggests that the PANTSERS have delivered the writing world a clear victory – winning a decisive 64% of the vote. In doing so, they have established a clear mandate for writers to continue to “make it up as they go along” with true creative abandon.

PANTSERS: 64%        PLOTTERS: 36%

Hmmm….. What do you think?

Any way here are some Links and references.

Tools other than mainstream word processors list from Reedsy link above:

1. Reedsy Book Editor

2. Draft

3. LibreOffice

4. Mellel

5. Milanote

6. Evernote

7. Ulysses

8. Scrivener

9. Ommwriter

10. To Doist

11. Marinara Timer

12. Cold Turkey

13. Freedom

14. Noisli

15. Hemingway

16. Cliché Finder

The Most Dangerous Writing App

Even its creators call this app sadistic. If you stop typing for more than about three seconds it deletes everything you have written up to that point. It could force you into completing your work before that looming deadline, or it might just make you destroy your laptop in a fit of rage.

Next Month

Social media: love it or hate it – Is presence all that matters? Let’s invade the Twittersphere, freshen up Faces, Snap up a chat and talk about leveraging social media. Writers Corner is 1 June, 2-4pm, at the Bunch of Grapes hotel, Pleasant Street, Ballarat

100 Rejections – April update

Rebecca Fletcher shares her progress on her plan to garner 100 rejections in 2021.

I wrote this blog at the end of April, figuring it was time to check in on how the 100 rejection project is going.

The most important thing to report is that I’m miles behind. There are a few reasons for this, which I’ll discuss here, but also, I’ve had two failed rejections (that is, two stories have been accepted, yay!).

1. Rejections take a while to come back.

The joke when I started this project was that you could just get one piece of writing rejected 100 times. But honestly, I think you’d struggle to find 100 publications that could get back to you within a week.

When you submit a piece of writing for consideration, you usually only submit it to one place at a time. If you’ve ever looked at submission criteria, you may have seen ‘no simultaneous submissions’ on the page — that means that they want you to submit to them and no one else.

The problem is that, if you’re following the rules, that piece is then tied up awaiting assessment. And it could be months before they get back to you (I’ve waited seven months for a rejection before). So even if you have three or four pieces that you’re submitting, and you send them all off in one day, it might be a month before you can do anything with them again.

You could scout for publications with nicer submission criteria (i.e. quick responses or that allow simultaneous submissions), but you’re probably compromising on the publication. Consider this: if you’re waiting four months for a rejection, wouldn’t you rather be rejected by Overland than the Online Potato Enthusiast?

My advice? Swing big upfront and practise patience (but read the rest of this blog first).

2. You need to know what you’re really writing

Don’t panic – I mean in terms of your writing! Let me contextualise: I’ve just come out of six years of tertiary study in writing. Both of my universities had a heavy focus on Australian literature, which I don’t write. The problem is that when you go looking for publications in Australia, most of them are literary, and even the ones that don’t look like they’d be quite as literary (Scum Mag comes to mind) still are.

I’ve had to learn to stop attempting to justify the literary elements in my writing and instead ask myself what the story is and how it works. Looking critically at the work that I was happiest with, I’ve decided to stop trying to write anything too serious and just stick to humour/satire. This changes the publications I’m looking at completely. You also get better results from googling ‘humour publications’ rather than ‘kind of literary but with a few jokes and a dumb take on something important’, which helps.

If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, go and do some searching on different genres of writing, then search for some publications that print only that kind of work. You’ll get an idea of what kinds of places are printing the kinds of things that you’re writing, which brings me to my next point.

3. Finding the right publication is hard.

Finding publications to submit to was probably the biggest problem I had. I knew the big ones in Australia, and I knew some of the more interesting smaller publications (and I’d seen plenty on the comps and opps page on the BWI website).

But realising that those publications weren’t right for me, I needed new options. Enter Submission Grinder. What’s that, you ask? Submission Grinder is a free website that has a searchable database of publications and websites that are taking submissions. You can filter by genre and submission type (poetry, fiction, non-fiction) of various lengths and use it to keep track of your submissions. It counts up how long it has been since you submitted and compares it to the average rejection/acceptance time for that publication. I’ve found some great new opportunities through Submission Grinder, including both of the places that are publishing my stories. If you follow the link above you’ll be able to sign up for an account for free and see if it works for you.

In the next few months I’ll probably look more closely at Submittable, which is a platform that makes it easier for publications to manage submissions. It also makes it easier for you to manage your submissions to these publications. After that, I’ll have a closer look at Duotrope (another platform) and report back.

4. On finding inspiration in rejection

This project was meant to encourage me to write more, and so far I’ve been feeling a little lost. I had a slow start, and rejections were slow to come back.

In March I hit some kind of stride though, and in the process of looking for places to submit, I found some really great online publications that I now follow. Not only do I now have a stream of the kinds of things I like to read coming to me, but I feel inspired reading the different things that people are doing. Sometimes you get so caught up in details and making things bigger that you forget how simple a piece of writing can be. It makes me think about writing different things than I would have written in isolation.

I’ve said before that I believe the best thing for a writer is a community of like-minded, sympathetic people, and sometimes that means going out and looking for it in the places where you need it. These new publications have reinvigorated me, and in the last few weeks I’ve dug through my ‘works in progress’ folder and uncovered some writing that I’m finally happy to go back to. I expect May to be a busy month!

Stats as of 30 April

If you’re just scrolling down and looking for numbers, here they are:

16 submissions total, made up of:

8 rejections

5 pending

2 failed rejections (i.e. accepted (+1 pending revisions))

So that’s where it’s at. I’ll write again at the end of June (March was a bit of a mess), and say if I managed to catch up to where I need to be (at least 50 submissions) and see if I’ve managed to get any more failed rejections. I’m posting monthly updates at my website saltyturnip.com if you want to keep up, and I’ll link my published work when it goes up. 

Until then, keep writing, and keep submitting!

Rebecca Fletchers is chair of BWI

Writers Corner – tools of the trade

Do you use pen and paper, dictionary and/or thesaurus, laptop and/or desktop? Are you a fan of Word or Scrivener?  Does technology get in the way of the creative moment?

Tools of the Trade: this deceptively rich topic should give us a couple of hours of interesting discussion at our May edition of Writers Corner, a casual, loosely moderated discussion group for BW members and prospective members.

There are research processes and resources – Trove? Your local library? Others? How about eavesdropping on the morning commute or the local coffee shop? Note taking and filing, and the good old Post-it note, all tools of the trade!

Love them or hate them, it is time to talk about them. Humans are renowned tool makers, and we all love a good tool.

Never mind the vagaries of Microsoft Word or the richness of Scrivener.  Who has a favourite dictionary or thesaurus with well-thumbed pages showing the ravages of overuse; checking those subtle nuances to give your writing that special edge?

You might be writing a couple of hundred words for your local community newsletter (hint) or the ultimate Rocky Horror saga of speculative fiction with a romantic twist; perhaps you are in the middle of your dissertation on the finer elements of the decline of neo capitalist empires; keeping track of notes, ideas, context and continuity can benefit from good processes, indexing, filing and search routines.

Image: Pixabay

Come along on 4 May at the Bunch of Grapes, 401 Pleasant St, Ballarat, from 2pm to 4pm and share your ideas for the tools you like, or gripe about the tools you dislike – whether it be pens, pencils, coloured biros, quill and ink, a filing cabinet or a shoe box or simply the art of observation. 

Questions? Contact BW or hit us up at the Facebook event.

Pamela Miller Prize to open

It’s time for our first Ballarat Writers competition for 2021 … and this one is open only to members of Ballarat Writers!

The Pamela Miller Prize was first run in 2015, in memory of Pamela Miller, who was a very active and productive member of Ballarat Writers. She was a writer of short stories and poetry, and won the Murder at MADE short story competition in 2014. Early in 2015, Pamela wrote a very popular poem called ‘Bronze Heads—The Prime Ministers’ Walk’ as part of a Ballarat Writers project run during the Begonia Festival.

The winner of the Pamela Miller Prize will receive a certificate and $100 first prize, as well as publication in the Ballarat Writers newsletter. The winner will be announced at the Ballarat Writers June Members’ Night. 

Entries open: Saturday 1 May
Entries close: Tuesday 1 June

Ballarat Writers is accepting fictionalprose entries of up to 500 words on the theme A New Start. Entry is free.
All entries must be:

  • Original and unpublished
  • Written by a current member of Ballarat Writers
  • Engage with the theme A New Start, and be less than 500 words in length
  • Sent to ballaratwriterscompetitions@gmail.com with the subject line, ‘2021 Pamela Miller Prize Entry’

As the competition will be a blind judging, please do not include your name or contact details on the entry.

Happy writing!

Karen Turner to be guest speaker at April meeting

Karen Turner, author of the Torn series

For the April meeting, we are thrilled to welcome Karen Turner as our guest presenter. She will be talking about the role of research in historical fiction as well as general writing tips, and will be available to answer questions.

Karen, born in Australia to an English mother and Italian father, discovered a passion for historical fiction after twenty years in the financial services industry.
 
As an escape from corporate writing, Karen began writing short stories and, in 2009, published her first collection All That and Everything. Many of the short stories won awards, including the Society of Women Writers Victoria, Biennial Literary Award and the Free XpresSion Literary Award.
 
Her first novel, Torn, was followed by its sequel, Inviolate.
 
Karen’s latest, Stormbird, was written as the final instalment in the Torn series, but can also be read independently. Shortlisted for a national award, Stormbird was published by FisherKing Publishing, UK.
 
Karen is currently working on her next book, Fever, set in the Victorian goldfields.
 
Additionally, Karen writes for several financial magazines, speaks at public events and facilitates writing workshops.
 
She lives in Victoria’s Riverina region with husband Stuart and rescue cats Katie and Panda.
 
In her spare time, Karen volunteers at an animal shelter, enjoys running and drinks too much coffee.

Meeting details

Where: Bunch of Grapes, 401 Pleasant St South, Ballarat

When: 7pm, 28 April, 2021

Cost: Free

Please feel free to arrive from 6.30pm for a meal and general socialising before the meeting.

Writers Corner – looking back at travel writing

Thank you to all those who came along to our Writers Corner session on 6 April to discuss the intricacies of the various forms of travel writing. In general, we concluded that travel writing is a more complex and richer genre than one might think. 

We easily filled to the time between 2pm and 4pm with relaxed conversation and a brief writing exercise. 

The discussion was reasonably diverse, touching on the ethical issues in travel writing, cultural appropriation, outlets for writing and social media.

We also explored the role of travel writing as a means of improving the understanding of diverse human culture.  Even the simplest forms of writing such as letters to family and friends can be valuable, enabling others to share experiences of new places.

While travel writing has many specific features it also shares many common features with other genres – good writing is good writing.  The ability to enliven a reader’s senses with the aroma of the coffee, the bustle of the marketplace or the tranquillity of a meadow pond is important in all sorts of writing.

Outlets for writing are not confined to books and maps; the hip world of social media and the common practice of video logging or vlogging benefit from those same skills of storytelling, assembling the information, setting out the scene context for the reader or viewer and taking them on that journey.  There is an evolving world of communication and travel documentaries that can be at the street level of detail.

It was also noted that there are opportunities to submit articles to a wide range of publications that use travel writing of some form or other (e.g., see https://www.thattravelblog.com/blog/10-publications-that-will-pay-you-for-travel-writing/). 

There is even a travel writing association https://astw.org.au.

So, whether it is a letter (or email) to the grandchildren, or the script for a documentary on the cultural imperatives of a lost Amazonian tribe, good writing about one’s travels, especially when done in creative and engaging styles, helps make the world a better understood place.

Image by Pixabay

Next month’s Writers Corner topic is tools of the trade. Everything from dictionaries to word processors to research resources will be on the table; processes and practices, tips and tricks … what are your favourites?  Come along to Writers Corner with a view to share or a question ask on 4 May, 2pm at the Bunch of Grapes, 401 Pleasant St, Ballarat.

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