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.

Book review – The Spiral, by Iain Ryan

Title: The Spiral

Author: Iain Ryan

Publisher: Echo/Allen and Unwin, 2021

Be warned: things are not straightforward in Iain Ryan’s third novel. The Melbourne writer, twice a winner of the Ned Kelly crime fiction award, has gone meta in his third novel.

Ryan’s prose is clean, well suited to the genre as he weaves noir grit and fantasy brawn into an intriguing thriller.

As the book opens, academic researcher Erma Bridges has some explaining to do. There’s scuttlebutt about her relationships with colleagues and students, an attack and a suicide, and a stalled research project threatening to destabilise her career. As one might expect of a book called The Spiral, things go downhill from there.

As a counterpoint to Erma’s first-person narrative, Ryan offers the barbarian Sargo, referred to in the second person. Sargo is a figment drawn from the pages of a choose-your-own-adventure style book, sexless, lethal, on a quest to overcome an amnesiac state of being. The barbarian is a character created by a famed writer of choose-your-own-adventures who is at the centre of Erma’s research, a reclusive figure who just may hold the key to Erma’s career success.

Erma’s quest for the writer takes her from the sandstone halls of The University of Queensland to the seedy alleys of Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley to the lush surrounds of a secluded mansion in the Gold Coast hinterland. In the background, there are female students being abducted, crime figures linked to Erma’s colleagues, and the central mystery of Jenny: Erma’s research assistant, a woman with a link to the writer, a handgun and an axe to grind.

As Erma descends into the mysteries, Sargo’s branching narrative intrudes, requiring the reader to choose their own path through the barbarian’s maze that offers insights into Erma’s secrets.

It’s a journey of self-discovery and revelation, for Erma and the reader as Sargo. Of course it ends in blood. Of that, there is never any choice.

Reviewed by: Jason Nahrung, March 2021

Jason Nahrung is Ballarat Writers publicity and communications officer

Writers Corner – travel writing

Image by Dariusz Sankowski from Pixabay

Do you have a favourite piece of travel writing? Has reading stories of travelling inspired you to pack a bag and take to the road, jet set off to strange lands?  What was it about that writing that inspired you?

The discussion topic for our first Writers Corner, on Tuesday 6 April, is travel writing. This creative form of nonfiction is often based on the writer’s encounter with foreign places.  However, it can also take several other forms, which is something we can explore.

There is a practical side to travel writing: tips and advice, the must see’s and do’s, and how to get from one place to another.

In these restricted times travel writing would seem questionable. Writing about travel may fuel aspirations that cannot be achieved, or alternatively make how-to’s and itinerary planning even more critical.

Travel writing is not simply a product of the industrial revolution or the jet setter age; this popular form of writing has been written since Classical times. A couple of early examples include:

· Rutilius Claudius Namatianus (fl. 5th century)  

De reditu suo (Concerning His Return, c. 416) – the poet describes his voyage along the Mediterranean seacoast from Rome to Gaul.

·  Xuanzang (602–664)

Great Tang Records on the Western Regions (646) – narrative of the Buddhist monk’s journey from China to India.

More recent examples would include:

  • Travels with Charley in Search of America by John Steinbeck (1962)
  • The Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain(1869)
  • Wind, Sand, and Stars by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1939)
  • The Sea to Sardinia by D H Lawrence (1923)
  • On the Road is a 1957 novel by American writer Jack Kerouac, based on the travels of Kerouac and his friends across the United States.
  • The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson (2015)

Want more travel writing? Check out this event with Tamara Sheward, being hosted by Ballarat Libraries on 16 April!

event details at trybooking

Travel writing takes many different forms, they might more readily be described as follows:

  • Destination pieces
  • Special interest for types of travel, e.g., hiking, cycling, caravanning, backpacking or something more quirky.
  • Holidays and events – family vacation
  • festivals.
  • Personal adventures
  • Travel blogging
  • Itineraries
  • Travel guides
  • Memoir of personal travel.

Questions to help kick off your thoughts:

  • Why do you want to write about travel?
  • Do you have a collection of tips for other travellers going to a particular destination?
  • Is the travel just a backdrop to another adventure or drama, a setting for a romance?
  • Could Murder on the Orient Express be thought of as writing with a travel theme?
  • How to transport your reader to a new place?
  • Travelling during pandemics?
  • Places to publish – do you have suggestions?

Where, when and what to bring

Bunch of Grapes Hotel, 401 Pleasant St, Ballarat, on the first Tuesday in April: that’s the 6th, at 2pm; the bar will be open. Come along for a relaxed, loosely moderated discussion about the topic. It would be useful to bring a pen and paper in case we decide to get creative.

Click for the Facebook event

Email publicity AT ballaratwriters.com with queries

Book review – From Where I Fell, by Susan Johnson

Author: Susan Johnson

Title: From Where I Fell

Publisher: Allen and Unwin, March 2021

The author

Susan Johnson is a well- known and accomplished Australian author who has produced eight novels, a memoir, and a non-fiction book. She is internationally published and has lived in Europe for periods of her life. She currently lives in Brisbane, Australia.

The book

From Where I Fell is a clever and engaging novel based on two women living completely different lives, continents apart. Pamela Robinson from Australia sends an email to her ex-husband and by mistake the email finds Chris Woods in the United States, who happens to have a similar email address.

The two women continue exchanging correspondence and an unlikely friendship ensues. It is a time of intense change and soul searching for both although their circumstances couldn’t be more diverse. Pamela, a single mother of three boys who chose to leave their father, seeks guidance and support from those around her. Her sons are out of control and she battles each day to be the parent she expects herself to be. Pamela is highly anxious, doubts her own ability to cope and struggles to set boundaries, for herself or her sons. Her ex-husband refuses to have contact with her.

Chris is married to a quiet man who’s almost invisible. They have no children, but Chris’s elderly Greek mother is noisily threatening to return to Greece to die in her home country.  Chris carries the heavy burden of being a martyr, at work, with her friends and at home. She carries disappointment stoically and is kind but stern in her approach to life. She is known for her strong tendency to lend a helping hand where needed, until she oversteps the mark and is oftentimes condemned for her severe remarks and actions.

Pamela and Chris are both on a journey toward personal change. Their emails bounce back and forward progressively revealing current details of their lives. The two individual narratives are poignant in their own right and as the unusual friendship of the two corresponding women develops, so too does the intensity and honesty. A third story is represented in their interactions. Often brusque, apologetic, empathic, at times brutally truthful, beautiful, cringe worthy and pithy.

Reading From Where I Fell felt slightly voyeuristic and yet the compulsion to keep reading was all consuming. The struggles that surround the lives of women in caregiving circumstances, grief and disappointment are subtly identified and to some length unpacked. Cleverly, Susan Johnson leaves Pamela, the sender of the mistaken email, with the last word.

Trent Dalton gave praise to Susan Johnson’s latest book. ‘This is Susan Johnson at her most original, daring bone-deep and deliciously raw. I fell, too, with aching heart and tickled rib, under the spell of this extraordinary book.’

An intriguing and clever novel born of (but not in) COVID-19 times when emailing and electronic communication was and still is substituted for personal contact. The modality of this work replicates and extends our experiences over the last year. Susan Johnson never disappoints.

Reviewed by: Heather Whitford Roche, March 2021

Ballarat Writers Inc Book Review Group

Introducing Writers Corner

Writers Corner is an afternoon get-together of writers to chew the fat, kick the can down the road, or just an opportunity to put in your 2 cents’ worth on the topic of the day.

Held at the Bunch of Grapes Hotel on the first Tuesday of the month, making the first meeting on 6 April.  The session will start at 2pm and finish no later than 4pm. While there is no cost to attend, supporting Bunch of Grapes by purchasing drinks or nibbles would be appreciated.

Open to members and prospective members of Ballarat Writers.

Discussion will be loosely moderated to manage the time and to ensure we stay roughly on topic. The Ballarat Writers website and Facebook page will have posts with ideas, questions, and links for related material. This will be available for reading prior to the event. Please register your interest at the Facebook event or by replying to this email. Questions: hit us up on Facebook or publicity@ballaratwriters.com

Our first topic will be Travel Writing. Travel writing has been around since the early times and comes in numerous styles, from straight itineraries to full-blown adventure thrillers. Travel has been a driver in shaping our modern world, and writing about your experiences can be a great use of self- expression. Come along and share your experiences, ideas and questions about Travel Writing.

Book review – The Left-Handed Booksellers of London, by Garth Nix

Title: The Left-Handed Booksellers of London

Author: Garth Nix

Publisher: Allen & Unwin, 2020

The Author

 Garth Nix is an award-winning writer of fantasy fiction, mostly for young adults.  A full-time writer since 2001 with about thirty titles to his credit, Garth is no stranger to the world of publishing and book selling. He is a 1963-edition Melburnian now living in Sydney with his wife and two children.

The Book

At eighteen, Susan, an art student, is ready to step out into life.  But first she must find out who her father is. Her mother, though loving and caring, is vague and a scatterbrain; perhaps too many drugs in her early days, an excuse for not remembering the details of Susan’s father. Susan’s only clues include a silver gilt cigarette case, a faded library reading room ticket, and a so-called Uncle Frank in London.

The story, set largely in a somewhat alternate 1983 London, opens with the demise of crime boss Frank Thringly at the hands of a young and attractive Left-Handed Bookseller called Merlin.  Frank is a Sipper (of blood), there being no such things as vampires.  The Booksellers are an extended secret family policing the mythic Old World to prevent it intruding into the Modern World. Left-handed family members are action oriented, doing the dirty work in the field, such as eliminating miscreant Sippers. Right-handed members are intellectual.  The family also sells books.

Merlin is caught red handed, so to speak, by Susan, but before she can call the police the two are attacked by a horse-sized bug. Merlin shoots the bug and gives Susan the choice of staying to be killed by Frank’s evil associates or escaping through the open window with him.  Taking her chances, she opts for Merlin and the window, and quickly becomes enmeshed in the intrigues of Booksellers and the Old World.

After the initial escape from danger, Susan is aided by Merlin and his sister, Vivian, in unravelling the secret of her father and her connections to the Old World. The obvious romantic spark between Susan and Merlin smoulders in the background while they escape from attacking monsters and thwart the ambitions for power and domination by evil forces. The trio’s quest for the truth becomes a battle for the future.

Garth has done a great job of putting this story together. He borrows from classic Hollywood chase movies and at one point our heroes are pursued by villains and police, the police at times made to act like villains. 

Read a second opinion

book review by jason nahrung

The underlying themes and metaphors are familiar to this genre, with demons and mythical characters as metaphors for the challenges of life and growing up.  Garth also touches on the ideas of challenging the status quo, and the flow of responsibility from generation to generation.  

The story has an endearing quirkiness, a typical English silliness, perhaps reminiscent of the era in which it is set. There are plenty of  colourful phrases  like “pre-owned mustard-coloured three-piece suit”, “two-inch Cuban heels and “being stuck square on his roseate nose with a silver hatpin”. Adding to the eccentricity are nuances such as the idea of a special safe house run by Mrs London, the use of Black Cabs by the Booksellers referencing the TV spy series of the time, Callan.  One might even wonder if the name Frank Thringly is a nod to the infamous Melbourne actor Frank Thring?

The Left-Handed Booksellers is an entertaining, fun read, well-paced with engaging characters; a light-hearted romp through some of the darker aspects of life. Perfect for idling away a few hours of a COVID lockdown.

Reviewed by: Frank Thompson, February 2021

Ballarat Writers Inc. Book Review Group

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