Saturday, February 22, 2014

The L-O-N-G. . . L-O-N-G. . . Walkabout


A writing friend, Penelope Cole (Magical Matthew/Mea series), commented today
about the post before this one. She thought my writing was getting even better.

Aboriginal playing a didgeridoo

That got me thinking about how Trial By Walkabout, my latest adventure for boys and tomboys, finally made it to publication. The title is prophetic!  It was the first book I ever wrote. Surprised? Well the original version and the final proof have very little in common - except the title and the fact they were both set in outback Australia.

Let me now begin the way I advise all my critique clients:
set the scene for this tale by adding the time,
the place, and the characters. . .

Long, long, ago, when the personal computer was just a gleam in Bill Gate's eye, and my three kids were still in grade school, I wrote a book about a feisty koala and his Aussie bush mates.  I had always dabbled in writing, but this was my first full length book.  I was sure it would be a winner. Many of the publishers I sent this gem to are now defunct, or swallowed by publishing's current literary behemoths. I was full of hope and excitement. You know, new writer dreams combined with lack of writing and publishing insights. My balloon was soon pricked, and I rewrote the book umpteen times, with similar enthusiasm (?) from each batch of publishers I dismayed.

By this time the Internet was UP and staggering. Writing lists blossomed online, and I discovered Yahoo and all it's satellite writing groups.  I joined the Children's Writers and Illustrators group (CW for short) and began to learn the writing ropes from a few of the original members. These talented ladies helped me enormously. The concept of mentoring and networking was new to me. They helped me polish my natural rhyming talent, and I was off and running - writing picture books in rhyme.  That old flop Walkabout mouldered in a bottom drawer - forgotten.
Then I did something I should have done way earlier, I formed two critique groups, one called RHYMERS and another called OPUS.  There was some member turnover to begin with, but we finally had 2 cohesive groups that I am sure changed the writing paths of ALL the members forever. I discovered that it is amazing what you can learn from reading the work of others.  Plus the comments and suggestions I received on my own writing began to resonate with me.

Manuscripts and time rushed past. I took another look at Walkabout.  Everything I had learned in Opus and from the CW list jelled into one thought.  Scrap the animals and rewrite with kids as my characters. This idea was followed by another. Join SCBWI and become a conference junkie!  No sooner thought than done.  More time, more rewrites.  

Now the Internet sizzled, and Social Networking raises its pushy head.  I dive in boots and books!!  I design a website.  I begin doing Manuscript Critiques - not freebies like before, but PAID critiques. YEA!    THEN MY WORLD EXPLODES. . . I get a contract for one of  my picture books. Then ANOTHER and ANOTHER! I began blogging.

Time to really become serious about mid-grades in general and Walkabout in particular.  You guessed it - more rewrites and fine tuning, with OPUS cheering me along. Between all this, other rhyming picture books are written and published, PLUS my first mid-grade book  - only not Walkabout!
This !@#$% book is earning its title, fair-dinkum. EUREKA, my publisher (GAP) sees the movie Australia and loves it.  So, thanks to a movie, I finally earn a contract for Walkabout.  About time!!

Now I am confident enough to dip my toe into the self publishing arena.  The competition is fierce, if a little short on grammar and writing skills. The Revenge of Thelma Hill and Down Under Calling are polished, cover art done (thanks Awesome Agy Wilson), and finally sit on my Amazon page with my other books. But not without anguish, last minute errors, and a few sleepless nights.  STILL NO PUBlISHING DATE FOR WALKABOUT!  Will it be published posthumously on my behalf, after I go to that great writing room in the sky?

TRUMPET BLAST PLEASE - Walkabout finally made it to the book shelves of Amazon and elsewhere. Lynda Burch, my publisher, must take credit for grammar polish and trimming my mad passion for commas.  Hey, I'm great at plots, cool characters, and terrific pace.  Blimey, you can't expect me to shine at everything!

I am reminded of the old Lucile Ball movie, the "Long Long Trailer" - yeah, I know it dates me.  Only my book was a long . . . long . . . long. . . Walkabout instead.  This book wound through the years with me, gaining strength, power and way better writing.  As I grew in my craft, so Walkabout grew from a trite tale about critters, into a multicultural look inside what makes two very different Aussie teens deal with what life throws at them.


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Manuscript Critiques


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