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I have just spent a lovely weekend at the Perth Writers Festival, which was held on the grounds of the University of Western Australia, a great spot. I’ve only ever been to the odd event here and there at writers’ festivals, but this time I went for the whole three days. There was a great mix of sessions from emerging and established authors, as well as some more thought provoking and ‘political’ sessions on religion, food and ethics.

The writing sessions I enjoyed most came courtesy of writers Rohan Wilson, Favel Parret, Janette Turner Hospital, Craig Sherbourne, Craig Silvey, Jo Nesbo, Johan Harstad, Charlotte Wood, John Birmingham, Eliot Perlman and Cate Kennedy.

I also went a particularly harrowing session by Nigel Brennan, a photojournalist who was kidnapped in Somalia, and a more delightful and hunger-inducing session on good food by Matthew Evans

The only down sides? The 15 minute wait for coffees, and the very rare Perth rainshower during Women of Letters which meant a move from the beautiful outdoor venue to a tent! And of course the amount of money I spent on a huge pile of new books…

If you went along, I’d love to hear your thoughts…

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I am thrilled to say that today, I signed a contract with a literary agent: I am now represented by Benython Oldfield of Zeitgeist Media group. I was lucky enough to meet Benython when I attended the Hachette/QWC manuscript development programme in November last year, and sent him my completed manuscript a couple of months ago. Benython also represents two of my favourite Australian writers at the moment: Craig Silvey (of Jasper Jones fame) and Benjamin Law (The Family Law) so I’m in good company.

I think more than anything, it’s great to know that an industry professional sees enough merit in my work to think that it can be published. I must admit that I had a glass or two of champagne to celebrate…

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I am thrilled today to be interviewing Phillipa Fioretti, author of ‘The Book of Love’ and ‘The Fragment of Dreams’.

Phillipa was born in Sydney and studied Humanities, Visual Arts and Museum Studies and went on to work and exhibit as a printmaker, as well as teaching part time at tertiary level. She currently writes fiction full time and was selected for participation in the 2008 Hachette/Queensland Writers Centre’s Manuscript development programme . (I have blogged about my own experience of this in 2010 here)

Her first novel, The Book of Love, published by Hachette Australia in April 2010 and the sequel, The Fragment of Dreams, has been released in May 2011. When Phillipa is not writing or reading she’s cooking or watching films, cleaning out the chook shed or walking, travelling, looking at other people’s beautiful gardens and enjoying time with family and friends.

1.Your manuscript for ‘The Book of Love’ won you a place on the Hachette/QWC Manuscript Development Programme in 2008. Do you think that ‘The Book of Love’  would have made it to publication without this opportunity?

Now that’s a tricky question! I never submitted it to anyone before entering it in the Development program so I can’t get a feel for whether it would have sunk or swam. It is a good story and it had a very light edit, so it was ready to go into the world at that point, but so much of publishing is subjective. Someone has to love it, really love it, to get it through the acquisitions meetings. I was incredibly fortunate that it fell into the hands of a publisher who did love it, but others – had they seen it – might have loved it but had no room on their lists. There are a thousand other reasons for a mss not getting through to publication so it’s hard to say. What I can say is I think it’s a good story and compares very well to its peers. It’s sold to Germany and Romania and done very well in Australia and I’m quite proud of it.

2. What has been the most enjoyable part of the publication process? Has anything surprised or disappointed you?

The most enjoyable part and the most painful part are one and the same – the structural and copy edits! It’s a rigorous and confronting process, but the thing you have to keep reminding yourself is that the editors want the best for the book, we all do, and that’s what we are working toward. I guess what I love the most is nutting out problems with people who understand and love the characters as much as I do.

3. ‘The Fragment of Dreams’ is a sequel to’ The Book of Love’. Did you find writing a second novel easier or more challenging that the first?

The Book of Love was easy to bring into the world. I adored the little universe I’d made, loved spending time with my characters, took my time with the dialogue, polished and polished and was immersed in it all the way through, it had a very light edit, a beautiful cover, great reviews, sold internationally and then POW! I had to write another one, and I had to do it to a schedule and it had to be good, even better than the first, and I had no idea if I could do it or not. It was as painful as the first was pleasurable.

I had a severe case of Second Book Syndrome and nearly crashed the whole project, but I pulled that damn rabbit out of the hat at the end, with my publisher calling it a ‘beautiful novel’ (and she does not give praise lightly). I really earned my writer’s stripes with this one, but I’m not complacent. Every book is hard to write, every creative endeavour is hard and you start from a position of fear and self doubt, always. When I received my first copy of The Fragment of Dreams in the mail I got a little misty eyed – all that agony and triumph packaged down to a pretty blue package.

4. Do you have any tips for emerging writers?

Another tough question. Read all the time, work harder than you’ve ever worked in your life and cultivate a group of like minded souls as companions for the journey. Only other writers know what it’s like and they can be a great comfort along the way.

5. What does the future hold for you as a writer?

I really want to get better at it! At the craft side, I mean. I want to tool up so I can tell the stories I want to tell without being too handicapped by technical issues. I have three books that are taking shape in my head now, plus some distant projects as well, but let’s face it, this is the leisure/entertainment industry and subject to the vagaries of the market.

I don’t know what the future holds because one is only as good as the last book. It could all go pear-shaped with the next, of course I hope it doesn’t, but you have to be psychologically prepared for it. A writer’s career is not like signing up for a tenured position. Getting published once, twice does not guarantee third and fourth, and I don’t think many unpublished writers really understand that. I’ve tried to learn from and enjoy these publishing experiences as they are. I hope for more, but try to be in the moment!

You can find out more about Phillipa at her website http://www.phillipafioretti.com.au


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I am thrilled today to be interviewing Favel Parrett, author of ‘Past The Shallows’ which will be published in May 2011 by Hachette. In 2008, Favel won a place on the Hachette/Queensland Writers Centre’s Manuscript development programme (I have blogged about my own experience of this here), and then she subsequently won an Australian Society of Authors mentorship. ‘Past The Shallows’ is already receving fantastic reviews and Favel has kindly given up some of her time to answer a few questions…

 

Where did the idea for ‘Past The Shallows’ come from?

The south coast of Tasmania had a huge influence on me when I was young. It is isolated and wild – a place I will never forget. The story grew out of my memories and feeling for that place.

Where did Harry and Miles come from? I wish I knew. It feels like they were some kind of wonderful gift. I fell in love with them and they will be in my heart always.

 

Your manuscript won you a place on the Hachette/QWC Manuscript Development Programme and an Australian Society of Authors mentorship. Do you think that ‘Past The Shallows’  would have made it to publication without these opportunities?

I would love to think yes, but it would have be so much harder without these opportunities. The Hachette /QWC Development Programme gave me the confidence to keep going and believe in my writing. It also gave me a very supportive contact at Hachette Australia (Vanessa Radnidge). The ASA mentorship allowed me to work with the wonderful editor Julia Stiles. She has an incredible talent for seeing the big picture. By moving a few scenes around, she gave me a concrete outline to follow.

It is so incredibly hard to get published, but it is possible!

 

What has been the most enjoyable part of the publication process? Has anything surprised you?

Seeing the beautiful cover of my book for the first time is a moment I will never forget. Reading the first reviews and being so surprised that people liked my book – that they found something moving in the words. That has been lovely.

 

Do you have any tips for emerging writers?

Keep going. Keep writing. Be the hardest working writer you know. See yourself as a professional. Say ‘I AM A WRITER’ – because you ARE a writer, published or not.

 

What does the future hold for you as a writer?

I am back at the beginning. I am writing a new novel, finding a new voice. I am at the start, with all the unknowns and all the unanswered questions. I am problem solving.

That is all we can do as writers. Turn up and do the work. I will continue to do that for as long as I can.

 

You can find more information about Favel and ‘Past the Shallows’ at her website (www.favelparrett.com)

Thanks for your time Favel, and I look forward to reading ‘Past The Shallows’!

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I am on the third draft of my novel manuscript now, and this is the draft that I submitted to the Hachette/QWC program, the version that they will give me feedback on.

When I was writing the first draft, I allowed myself to write in an uninhibited fashion, happily telling myself that the most important thing was to get something down on paper and get to the end of the manuscript. Then, I thought, I can fix it all up later! Easy! Unfortunately it is now ‘later’, and having to fix it is a far bigger job than I anticipated.

For my second draft, I simply tried to rearrange my scenes from the chronological order in which I had written them, to one which made more sense, or increased tension, or somehow made the structure more interesting. I also discarded huge chunks of writing which I had thought at the time were pretty good, but on a second reading were pretty bad. These were things like paragraphs of explanation or details about backstory that really didn’t need to be spelled out for the reader. Now, I thought, I simply have to go through each scene and tidy it up and I’m done!

Hmmm. Not quite. I went through notes from the Year of the Novel course that I did at QWC where Kim Wilkins gave us some excellent editing tips, and I also read Browne & King’s Self Editing for Fiction Writers. It started to look better, but as I read more and more of my manuscript, I saw more and more issues. Because of timing issues and life getting in the way, this was the draft that I submitted to Hachette, and luckily I was still chosen.

I don’t want to change anything from this draft at this point until I get feedback from them, but I am trying to organise myself before then. I have just completed a summary of my scenes as they stand, with characters, viewpoints, settings etc, so at least I have an overview of the manuscript and an easy reference tool to find specific scenes/characters etc. In doing this, though, I have cringed at the amount of errors, continuity issues, typos and underdeveloped aspects that are through this draft. ‘They’ say that you should put your manuscript away for weeks or months before working on the next draft, and I completely agree – I can’t believe that I didn’t pick up on all these issues until now, when looking at it with fresh eyes. I also have two friends reading my manuscript (one writer, one avid reader) for their opinions, and I am making a list of things to do before the retreat which includes items to research (especially for my police and court scenes), nailing my timeline (which at the moment is more like science fiction!), and reading more books like mine to see how to handle backstory and flashbacks. And none of that allows me to touch the manuscript with anything other than a highlighter, red pen and notebook at this stage. Typer no typing! (OK, my 16 month old has been watching too much Dora…)

My hope is that I will then be in a position to take on board everything that I can at the Hachette/QWC retreat and be ready for a major edit in December, just before my second baby arrives in January 2011! I’m exhausted just thinking about it…

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