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Posts tagged ‘Kelly Hunter’

First Monday Mentoring for August – as a writer, what kind of role model are you?

A meme that’s been around since the cave days – i.e. before Facebook – says if you can’t be a good example, you’ll have to be a horrible warning. Like it or not, we are all role models, but especially as writers and custodians of our society’s stories.

This week I served as the first Writer-in-Residence at Young Library and I found myself talking about the role models who influenced me as a writer. The first, of course, were my parents.

Valerie at Young NSW Library July 2015. Photo by Maree Myhill, used with permission.

Valerie at Young NSW Library July 2015. Photo by Maree Myhill, used with permission.

Few of us think of our parents as role models. Mostly we think they were the worst people ever to have children. It takes many years before we can admit they have a few virtues. And whether they were role models or horrible warnings is seldom clear. Usually we come to accept – particularly if we’re parents ourselves – that they did the best they could.

Mine gave me the means to become a writer. First, they introduced me to the library before I was even school age. Borrowing books, reading them, being read to were a natural part of our family life. As I began to create my own stories, again very early, I was never told it was “bad” or “a waste of time” to make things up. My father was dead set against lying, yet he was untroubled as long as it was clear I knew the difference between lies and stories.

This aspect resonated with the audience at Young Library. Many people came up to me between talks and said they would pass this information on to their children or grandchildren. Most who had a creative child in the family, had seen that child told to do something more “useful” or to go outside and play. Good advice in its way, unless you have the writing gene.

My father taught me to think before speaking, a habit still with me decades on. And by extension, that thinking itself was a skill worth mastering. How many of us get impatient with ourselves for daydreaming? Yet daydreaming is a vital precursor to writing, and while working on a story or novel.

I encourage new writers not to go with the first idea jumping into their heads, but to explore more story possibilities, and then still more, until they arrive at something excitingly original. You can’t do that without spending time staring out a window.

Member of the Order of Australia medal

Member of the Order of Australia medal

If you’ve visited my website, you know that in this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours List, I was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM). While overwhelmed by that recognition, I was delighted that the citation referenced my work as a mentor to emerging writers.

Mostly done through the Valerie Parv Award, run by Romance Writers of Australia, mentoring is about the most satisfying work I do. I’ve just finished reading the finalists for 2015, to choose my new “minion” – what previous entrants dubbed themselves long before the movies. I mentor the minion while they hold the award. The VPA has existed in its present format since the year 2000. http://valerieparv.com/award.html

It’s a joy to see each minion blossom throughout their year. One former minion, best-selling author, Kelly Hunter, said she was pleased I hadn’t tried to change her voice. My job, surely, is to help them make the most of their voices and considerable talent.

Writers are also role models through story. What kind of morals and ethics do you share via your characters and plots? I aim to make the good guys noble. This doesn’t mean perfect, but at least striving to be better than they are.

My villains do bad things, but I give them reasons (motivation) for their evil, so they’re understandable, rather than simply evil for my convenience.

As a writer, what kind of role model are you? Do you describe yourself as hard working, or “lucky.” Luck may come in when submitting work to a publisher or agent, in that you may have just what they’re looking for at that time.

Inborn talent also needs luck, to win the genetic lottery. But do scientists or mathematicians call themselves lucky when their talent leads them to some great discovery? Not in my experience.

Likewise, luck seldom comes into play in writing. You may be born with the talent but without commitment, application and hard work, the talent stays hidden, like unmined gold.

What kind of role model are you and the characters in your stories? Share your thoughts in the comment box below. It’s moderated to avoid spam, but you can have your post appear right away by clicking on “sign me up” at right. I don’t share your details with anyone.

Valerie

http://www.valerieparv.com
on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook
Check out Valerie’s online course, Free the Writer In You
At http://www.valerieparv.com/course.html

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The writing blog that almost made me cry

I’ve blogged recently about the Valerie Parv Award as it’s dear to my heart, not least because Romance Writers of Australia saw fit to carry it on in my name. I thought that sort of thing only happened when you’re no longer around. Or am I  mixing this up with street names? Thankfully, I didn’t have to drop off my twig for this honour, and after more than a decade of mentoring the winners, the award is an important part of my writing life. Personal life, too, as the winners – affectionately known as minions – are now friends as well.  The Minions’ Breakfast is a fun part of the RW Aust conference each year, when we catch up and welcome the newest winner. You can spot us by our tiaras.

This year’s VPA opened on April 23, restricted to a maximum of 80 entries for the first time. By the I posted this, all 80 openings were taken in under 24 hours. Today’s blog by Anna Cowan about her experiences as a minion moved me almost to tears.  http://annacowan.com/2012/04/23/the-valerie-parv-award-a-minions-tale/

The (in)famous Minions' Breakfast with tiaras

Knowing that you’ve been part of someone’s creative journey is rewarding and humbling.  Many winners are successfully published. Among them are Kelly Hunter, Mel Scott, Bronwyn Clarke writing as Bronwyn Parry, Rachel Robinson writing as Rachel Bailey, Erica Hayes, Kylie Griffin winning a prestige award from Romance Writers of America and seeing her first and second books published this year. This month,  Barbara Jeffcott Geris writing as Barbara de Leo was contracted to Entangled. Others are breathtakingly close. Yes, I’m looking at you, Anna and Michelle de Rooy.

The VPA started life as a contest run by the one-time Australian chapter of Romance Writers of America. In 1999 the award was renamed and placed on Romance Writers of Australia’s calendar in 2005. This year, RWA set a limit on the number of entries because the judging was getting out of hand. My work begins when I receive the final entries, and I guess statistically, your chances of reaching the finals this year are higher than ever.

It’s a rare year when one final entry doesn’t leap out at me much as a singer on The Voice grabs the attention of one or more of the judges within a few bars. Star quality is instantly apparent, and while I give every other entry a fair reading, that quality is usually unbeatable. In the acknowledgement to her first novel, Shadowfae, Erica Hayes even quoted me “wanting so hard for [her book] not to win.” She’s right, I didn’t want to spend a year living in her demonic worlds, but the quality of her writing couldn’t be ignored.

Have you entered or won an award that impacted on your writing? I’d love you to share your experiences by commenting here.

Valerie

http://www.valerieparv.com

Proud Friend of the National Year of Reading 2012

Established Writer in Residence at Katharine Susannah Prichard Centre, Perth July 2012

On Twitter @valerieparv and Facebook

Mentor as anything – how to get the right writing help for you

Critique partners and groups can be a great encouragement to your writing but by and large, the members share a similar level of knowledge and skill. Where do you look for help at a more professional level?

The answer is mentoring. At their best, a mentor will be your guide through the minefield of completing your first or subsequent books, provide answers to your questions, help you through the “stuck” periods when the screen stays stubbornly blank, and be there for you through the ups and downs of professional life. At worst, a mentor could try to shape your writing so it sounds more like theirs, or create a dependency that does neither of you any long term good.

When Romance Writers of Australia took over the Valerie Parv Award http://www.romanceaustralia.com/vpa.html from the Australian chapter of Romance Writers of America ten years ago, I was pleased to continue as final judge and mentor the winner for the year they hold the award. This involves a learning curve for both of us, as each winner has different needs and expectations from the process. Some want to work on their winning manuscript, others to explore issues such as working with agents and dealing with contracts, usually it’s a mix of the two.

Breakfast of champions, past Valerie Parv Award winners welcome 2011 winner Michelle de Rooy, far right, alongside Valerie.

One of the greatest compliments I received came from Kelly Hunter http://www.kellyhunter.net/About%20Kelly.html , a rising star among Harlequin authors, who said in the time we’d worked together, she appreciated that I’d never tried to change her voice. Given that her voice is unique and special, that would be a crime anyway. But it’s key that your mentor doesn’t expect you to write as they would.  H.G.Wells notoriously observed that the greatest drive in all the world isn’t love or sex, but the desire to change someone else’s copy. It takes a strong person to recognise when changes would make your work different, not necessarily better.

Nor do you want a mentor who nitpicks. Spelling or grammar can all be fixed later. The main focus should be on the writing. What story are you telling? Is it coming across as you intend? Are the characters consistent and likable? Do we share their emotional journeys?  How can you fix these elements if they’ve gone off track? I encourage my mentees to specify the areas they want to work on. Being a mentor is about giving a service. My satisfaction comes from seeing them blossom and grow, and sharing their joy when they finally get “the call” from an editor offering a publishing contract.

Apart from winning the VPA, how can you find the mentor for you? I work with a very few promising writers through my MentorXpress program via my website http://www.valerieparv.com You can check with your state writing centre, as many offer mentoring programs. Then there’s Writing Australia, a new umbrella organisation of writing centres. Their recently announced Unpublished Manuscript Award offers a $10,000 first prize and $2,000 toward a mentor of your choice. Together with distinguished literary figures, Mark Macleod and Peter Bishop,  I’ll be judging this award which closes on October 13, 2011. Enter at the Writing Australia website http://writingaustralia.org.au/events/event/unpublished-manuscript-award/

Who was or is your greatest writing influence? What tips on this do you have for other writers?

Valerie

@valerieparv on Twitter

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