Reading James Roy's Town was a breathtaking experience. It was beautifully written with a firm handle on Australian teens with a nice dose of humour and pathos. His newest title, Anonymity Jones will be released in Australian this year.
It’s the end of the year. A new year -- a new decade, in fact -- has begun. Globally, it’s been a fairly bleuch kind of decade. Terrorist attacks, tsunamis, eathquakes, drought, George W Bush, foreign wars, and a global financial meltdown, just for starters. Oh, and vampires, of course. But personally it’s been a pretty good decade, especially in terms of my writing career. In that regard, I’ve managed to tick several boxes, not least of all being able to call myself a full-time writer, and letting my nursing registration expire. And it feels good.
As is customary at this time of year, I thought I might set out some of my New Year’s resolutions, or at least those which relate to me as a writer for young people.
1. Read more books. It’s critically important that writers not only read a lot, but read a lot of different kinds of writing. Ideally, we’ll read within different genres, but even if one genre is favoured in particular, we should different writers within that genre. I know that in my own experience, when I’ve been reading a lot of books by the same person, my writing begins to take on the tone and style of that writer. Which mightn’t be such a bad thing if it’s someone … you know … good. But even then, I think it’s better if I read read various styles, which will enable me to broaden my skills without sounding like a copy-cat.
2. Read more fiction. Truth be known, I love non-fiction. I find that the weirdest things happen in real life. Did you know that when James Cook sailed into Kealakekua Bay in 1779, his arrival coincided with a festival in which the local people were invoking the presence of the god Lono, who would, in their mythology -- wait for it -- arrive in large canoes? Neither did I, until I read the outstanding Farther Than Any Man by Martin Dugard. Non-fiction is wonderful. But again, I consider diversity to be important. So a bit more fiction for me this year.
3. Don’t feel too guilty about taking a break from writing. I set myself a word quota of 2,000 words a day. It helps me to remain disciplined, and lessens procrastination. It also leads to a fair amount of prolificacy. It’s easy to feel that I need this, when I’m surrounded by peers who churn out such quailty and such volume. But the two don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand. Plus it’s easy to burn out, and I don’t want to do that. So perhaps this year I need to set myself gaols which I can achieve without having to pull all-nighters. I did enough of those as a registered nurse.
4. Come up with something new for my workshps and schools presentations. I spoke at over seventy schools in 2009, plus festivals and conferences. And to be honest, I sometimes bore myself, which isn’t a good look. So this year I’ll be trying to come up with a few fresh ideas, for myself as much as for the kids.
5. Write a picture book. I’ve written a couple, but couldn’t ever get them picked up by a publisher. Some people say picture books are easy to write. Others, like Mem Fox, say they’re incredibly difficult. I feel fairly sure that the truth lies somewhere between the two. So this year, I’m going to do it. I’m going to have a serious crack at a picture book text.
6. Remind myself, daily, that I’m living the dream. This is all I’ve ever wanted to do, and I’m doing it. Some days, when I’m about to start my fifteenth or twentieth identical presentation in a week, in a town that’s a very long way from home, it’s tempting to think that it’s a bit hard. But then I remind myself that no matter how large or small the group, no wonder how disinterested they might seem, no matter how many surly teens are sitting in the back row desperate to unimpressed by anything I’ve got to say, it’s never going to be as bad as a Saturday night shift in the Emergency Department of a large public hospital.
Have a great and prolific -- but not too stressful -- 2010. And as I always say, read until your head hurts, write until your fingers bleed!
A big thank you to the reflective James Roy for his guest blog. Hunting Elephants and Town are available in Australian bookstores and also through the variety of online stores you can find here. You can find out more about this gifted author by visiting his website.