Monday, 22 February 2016

Notes from Perth Writers Festival (2)

The dot points in this and the previous post are offered as thought starters and possibly useful bits of information. Obviously there was more said about each of them but I couldn't write a full report on each of the 20+ sessions I attended. I haven't attributed quotes to particular authors in a lot of cases because I felt it was the idea that was important, not who said it.
  • Donna Ward of Inkerman and Blunt publishing distributes her books through New South Books, which is also a publisher. She also uses a printing broker to get the best price for her printing;
  • Ward said radio stations are only interested in hearing about and interviewing authors about six weeks before the release date;
  • I watched 13 would-be authors pitch to three publishers. It was clear the publishers wanted to hear that the book was something new and different. They weren't interested in hearing what it was about in detail;
  • The three publishers were not interested in books over 150,000 words and preferred  60,000 to 100,000;
  • They also wanted to know who the protagonists were - looking for interesting, different characters;
  • A large percentage of the authors presenting at the Festival were young mothers in their 30s and the big topics appear to be the problem of difficult husbands and children and parental responsibility. This seemed true even in crime novels with women detectives. Obviously women in that age range are a major target audience;
  • A lot of these women writers are doing or have done PhDs in creative writing;
  • All characters should have flaws. It's what makes them real. The flaw can be lack of action when it is needed as well as something they do;
  • Rainforests and former hippy communes appear in a number of novels. Rainforests can be mysterious, hiding things as well as exotic. Former hippy communes symbolise the loss of a previous idealism or feeling of place, even loss of a friend or child;
  • Effective symbols often expand from the local to the global. An example given was a small boy riding a bike in figure of eight patterns in the sand which became the symbol for infinity;
  • Emma Viskic recommended writing some scenes twice from different povs or with other changes to see which worked;
  • Several authors had found their publishers by first winning awards, some with novels and some with short stories. It appears publishers watch competition results;
  • Principal characters should be on two journeys, one physical and one emotional;
  • What characters notice is always important. In tells about their character and can also set the tone for the novel;
  • Perth writer Sarah Foster's latest novel uses first person pov only for the character of the mother to show how mothers can often be isolated from what is happening around them;
  • Most of the presenting writers did not plot heavily and if they did found the story changed as they were writing it;
  • Crime writer Alan Carter went to Shanghai to write the scenes set there in Bad Seed. He walked the streets getting the feel of the place and wrote the scenes there, out of sequence with the rest of the novel, while he had that feel of place fresh in his mind;
  • Carter gave a format for crime writing - In the first 10% the murder and first suspects are established; at around 25% the focus is on one main suspect or another body is discovered; at around 50% there is a significant event which changes the course of the story; at 75% there is another major change and the sub plots start to converge; around 95% it starts drawing to a conclusion;
  • In a session on the Dorothy Hewett Award the judges said they were looking for a literary novel, by which they meant one that paid close attention to language;
  • All judges said they did not read the precis accompanying a submission but shortlisted by reading the first ten pages
  • Judge Lucy Dougan said she was looking for a sense of the world the novel inhabited and whether the writer convinced her of the existence of that world. The voice had to be assured, indicating that the author knew what he or she was trying to find out;
  • Judge David Carlin described the writing process as having a flag set up in as maze. You knew reaching it was your goal but you had to find your way to it;
  • Judge Terri-ann White said she was looking for a distinctive voice that says "I am telling this story and I have a particular way of doing it".
  • White, who is a publisher, said if a submission said the ms had been professionally edited she was less interested in it because that was the job of her own editors;
  • All judges said they were put off by unusual page layouts and fonts. It should always be the traditional presentation recommended by publishers in their submission guidelines;
  • All said an ms with too many typos was not acceptable. It should always be proof-read;
  • Iain Pears' book Arcadia comes with an App that can be downloaded. By following different paths at points in the story the reader can change the course of events and produce a different story.