Black cat tattoos

6 Weird and Wonderful Things

Category : Personal

Instalment 6 of my journey with Clusterfluff the brain tumour

So, about the anti-seizure meds: they are reputed to sometimes cause hallucinations. Hmmm did this stuff really happen?

BTW: no spider pics appear here – some of my mates have phobias – but there’s spidey talk, so just preparing you.  Jo B. some of this may be your doing.

Interesting fact: The arachnoid (as opposed to an arachnid) is the fine, delicate membrane – the middle one of the three membranes, or meninges, that surround the brain and spinal cord – situated between the dura mater and the pia mater.

Spidey bench demarcation

Yesterday, I took a break from editing at the library, went for a stroll to the local shops, bought a nectarine and parked my butt on a bench amidst some Australiana bush. I was immediately joined by what looked suspiciously like a redback spider. I jumped. It jumped. Man, can those things move FAST! It bolted under the bench slat. I looked underneath, trying to discern if spidey had the telltale hourglass, when out it popped again. Closer this time. Did I mention how FAST they can move? A blur, I tell you. I thumped the bench. It ran away. Then came back. This was repeated a few times, until I decided to let it have the damned bench. Enjoy, my selfish arachnidan friend. Back at the library, Kathryn suggested it may have had an egg sack close by. I suspect, since I was wearing white, it may have thought I was its egg sack. Nevertheless, its affection will remain unrequited.

Spidey tattoo

Last week, another friend suggested that, after my surgery, we should both go get a tattoo. I mused on this for a while, and being the chicken I am, decided I could do a trial with a cheeky temporary tattoo first.

Black cat tattooI ordered and received some super-cute kitty tattoos from Ebay. My first foray was this little baby, which I applied last night. And ever since, I’ve been having the crap scared out of me, cos I keep thinking there’s a spider on my wrist. (Thanks, Deb A., for this brilliant idea!)

 

 

 

Cuddly jumper

Aaaaand, today, on another break from editing, I took my coffee outside to the deck and was joined by my real black kitty (who bit me this morning, little cow). And guess what? Another jumpy spider decided to work its way across the table, down the table leg, across the deck, up the leg of my chair and onto my arm. Seeing as it was a cute-looking spidey, I gently encouraged it back onto the deck. It promptly headed for my chair leg again. A thump or two and it scarpered below deck. A few minutes later, I felt a tickle on my arm.

WTF? Am I a spider magnet this week?

I let it have the whole bleeding deck.

Someone tell me spiders are good luck, else I’m staying inside for the rest of the year; nature seems to have it in for me.

Nice stuff

And in other news, a lovely friend (thanks Babe) brought me a whole freakin’ baked cheesecake!!! It may have taken me only two days to demolish it, or it may not. I will never tell.

And another beautiful soul (thanks Deb V.) sent me some heartfelt writing about recovery.

Sigh. Still feeling blessed. As Maria sang: “I must have done something good.”

Brain News

In other, other news. I’m booked in for a pre-clinic appointment for more tests and brain scans on Mon 27 Nov.

PS: I have the best hubby in the world.

xx


5 Sausage Dogs and Teletubbies

Category : Personal

Instalment 5 of my journey with Clusterfluff the brain tumour

We have lift off. Woot!

My “W. Stealth Guided Craniotomy” will be on Tuesday 5 December, 2017.

Tuesdays rock! I was born on a Tuesday. Hopefully, I won’t die on one. Mwah ha ha. Do I sound a little manic? I am!stealth_brain

Said auspicious occasion will take place at Monash Neurology, Clayton. Op will be performed by the head of neurology, Mr Andrew Danks. Be gentle with me, Andy, it’s my first time.

Once Clusterfluff has been excised, and my right hemisphere eases on back down the road, supposedly my intelligence or creativity (both?) will expand exponentially and I will be able to interpret all episodes of The Night Garden and Teletubbies.

Before that, there will be more tests, scans etc. etc., which is good, because I know there’s New York Cheesecake in the hospital cafeteria. Is it bad I want to sit and eat a whole tin of Milo?

sausage_dogFor now, all is still well. I’m functioning and working from home, from the library, from the loo (that’s where I wrote my #8WordStory), and I’m scheming ways to milk sympathy: A Go Fund Me page for a house made of chocolate, more kittens, a sausage dog.

Take care. Tune back in soon for more craziness.

xxx

 

 


4 Bunnies and Brownies

Category : Personal

Instalment 4 of my journey with Clusterfluff the brain tumour

I want you to know I’m not scared, and I don’t want you to be scared for me. It’s surreal, yes, but on the whole, I’m balanced, calm, positive. I’m also getting out of doing step classes because of my current fuzziness. Do I need an excuse? Nah.

bunnyBunnies are cute. Enough said.

Ooh!
I just found out that my #8WordStory was selected by Queensland Writers Centre to be a part of their billboard campaign. Excitement! Spewing I missed getting a pic. Here’s a replay: “Mondays were reliable, always showing up. Unlike Thom.”

Gratitude
I’m breathing, breathing and absorbing all the healing energy people are sending me. But this week, one incredible person made me cry big time. Ciera, a US edibuddy  I’ve not actually met in person, offered to cut off her stunningly long, luxurious hair and send it to me from across the seas, so I could have a fabulous wig after my operation. OMG! Who does that???? Of course, I couldn’t accept – I’d rather witness and enjoy that beauty in its rightful place – the same way I admired a couple of white butterflies flitting amongst nasturtiums, on my morning walk today. Fragility is stunning. The unbearable lightness of being.

I’m finding it easy to be blown away. When the internet and our televisions inundate us with bad news, ugly news, and suddenly we’re brought face-to-face with something so beautiful as the human spirit, it’s sometimes hard to process. Overwhelming. But it’s there. Always. We need to remember that. Especially when it involves friends dropping in with giant plates of freshly cooked brownies. Thank you, Sue M.

Sheesh!
If I’m honest, I’m occasionally feeling teeny tiny bits of angry, for no apparent reason. (Tip: don’t ever try to hide my Peanut M&M’s, bitch!). I suspect this is just me constantly fighting the meds to stay clear-headed.

Comfort
Someone else (looking at you Sean ) sent me a loving message suggesting I didn’t need to focus on comforting those around me, to place that energy in self-care. I know this is true, but honestly, comforting others, is ultimately comforting myself. And I’m down with setting boundaries when I’ve had enough.

So it’s okay. Sometimes there are no right words, and a heart emoticon is the perfect message to send.

Hearing success stories from others who have been through, or know someone who has been through, similar situations, has also been a huge comfort.

Cool stuff
I’ve been watching more brain surgeries on YouTube. Ewwww? Not at all. It’s fascinating how simple it looks. Shave, cut, bust that sucker with ultrasound, pull it out, stitch, staple. Job done.

I think the hospital food will be the worst part. That and the need for Coloxyl. TMI?

For now
On a figurative level, nothing has changed: I’m not any different today to how I was last week, last month. The initial (over)reaction has passed. If a fuzzy head is my only obstacle, I’m winning.

On a literal level, I have the best possible scenario. And even if things don’t go to plan, it will be beyond my control, so I’m just letting life roll – today with wine, cheese and music at the gorgeous Vines at Helen’s Hill, Platters on the Lawn. Come along, if you’re free and enjoy the divine views.

I am fine. I will be fine.


3 Hairy Stuff and Dragons

Category : Personal

Instalment 3 of my journey with Clusterfluff the brain tumour

Today I got new hair and my very own fabulous poem from my clever bro-in-law Peter Collins. The anti-seizure drugs are kicking in and making me drowsy but I managed to fight through to get my mailer subscriber list happening.

Annie's hair cut

 

New Hair: My gorgeous friend and hairdresser of many, many years, Lucia Motta Miko, came over to my house and gave me a cute short cut, to pave the way for the big shave. I love the new look, and I’m thinking I can probably even do a comb-over to cover the scar, LOL!

 

 

 

PLUS: How awesome is this poem, personally scribed for me by my bro-in-law Peter Collins. Again, I’m feeling overwhelmed by the amount of love and support I’m being given.

CLUSTERFLUFF THE MAGIC DRAGON
Clusterfluff the dragon,
In CSF he swam,
Housed within a cranium –
Didn’t give a damn.
One day a passing MRI
Found where old Fluff ought
Not have been; in the dark,
Eavesdropping on thought.

Clusterfluff the dragon
Lived in a head
Frolicked in meninge mist
On brain juice he fed…
Little Neuro Surgeon
Said that you’re in luck
Haircut here, small hole there;
And off Cluster can fuck.

Peter Collins is a social activist and published poet. His poems are regularly featured on the Blackfulla Revolution Facebook page.

 


2 Not a Nutter Yet

Category : Personal

Instalment 2 of my journey with Clusterfluff the brain tumour

Today Chris and I met with the neurosurgery department.

Not too encouraging to arrive and find they weren’t expecting me at admin. But one look at my referral and they said, ah yeah, don’t worry, we’ll make sure we fit you in. Apparently big Clusterfluffs bring benefits. Only had to wait an hour. Goodo. And my case will be handled by the head of the neurosurgery department. That’s service for you.

The session went seamlessly – the doc had received my scans digitally (so you really weren’t expecting me?). He was very patient and explained things well. Did some simple perception tests – close your eyes, what’s this object I’ve placed in your hand? What numbers am I drawing on your hand? All good. Tested the strength in my arms and legs – both good.

Annie & Chris – a bit bored waiting for our Monash neuro appointment

We then examined the scans. He said the tumour was fairly large (er yeah, I can see that) and I’m at risk of seizures happening at any point due to the buildup of fluid and pressure it’s creating – it’s taking up about 1/8 – 1/4 of brain space that should bounce back once the tumour is removed. It’s in the right side of my brain which affects the left side of my body – more good news, since I’m right-handed.

He talked us through the risks: 1-2% of dying or other horrible things happening (who’s listening with those low odds?), up to 10% risk of stroke. When those stats didn’t scare us off, or the fact I’d have a complementary funky new hairstyle – 1/2 steampunk skinhead – he registered me for a Category 1 scheduled surgery – which could be anytime within the next 30 days. I’ll know the date within a week.

The scariest thing is the anti-seizure drugs I’ve started today. Side effects are anything from emotional upheaval to hallucinations. If I started yelling, weeping or laughing uncontrollably, you’ll know I haven’t become a peanut, it’s just the drugs. I’m not sure I believe Mr Garrison. Drugs are goooooood, right? I’m to wean myself off the steroids over the next 5 days – good because they make you fat. Priorities right? Ha!

If all goes well, the post-surgery hospital stay at Monash Clayton will be between 2-5 days. Then there will be a  recovery period of between 2-3 months. No driving for next 4 months. Poo! But screw brain fog (apparently brains don’t appreciate things being poked about inside them), I’m counting on returning to work as soon as I get home. I’ve decided I’m going to recover quickly and that’s that. Who’s brain is this anyway?

The idea of bringing Clusterfluff home in a jar was knocked on the head. OH&S boring stuff. The bits they don’t send away for testing to ensure it is actually benign,  and to determine its rate growth, have to burn baby burn. Hurrumph! Maybe I’ll hold a wake for it instead.

The growth rate is important, as there are areas around the meninges that looks a bit iffy – the tumour may also be tied up in a large blood vessel, so there’s a chance they may need to leave a little in there. And they won’t know if it has adhesions underneath it into the brain matter, until they start digging around. This will be followed up with regular brain scans and radiotherapy if necessary.

I’m now chatting with my current clients about how they would like me to handle their manuscripts – wait and see what happens or organise a backup editor for them – all sorted by the lovely Jo Burnell if need be. And Kathryn Moore is my personal taxi for now. Bless you both xx

I’ve had such wonderful support from my friends and family, it’s quite overwhelming. I think I’m more teary from the outpouring of love than the shock of the tumour.

Some crazy hat wearing will be in my near future – once the scarring has healed (risk of infection if cat-eared hats are worn too soon.

Overall, feeling VERY positive. I have an excellent prognosis and have been watching lots of relevant brain surgery clips on Youtube. It all looks pretty straightforward, and lots of people have been telling me success stories of people they know (oops nearly typed knew LOL) who have been through the same procedure.

The best part is, it’s not going to interfere with our planned January beach holiday. Yay! The blessings keep coming.

Let’s do this!


1 Ice Cream in My Head

Tags :

Category : Personal

Instalment 1 of my journey with Clusterfluff the brain tumour

This year, for my birthday, the universe gave me an unusual present. Yup, kind of unique as presents go. Not the type of gift I’d normally (well, ever) choose for myself, but as brain tumours roll, it’s the best brand available: Meningioma.

Meningioma MRI Scan

Meningioma MRI Scan

While I’m digesting this news, I’m hanging on to the knowledge that this big fat gift has three big positives: it’s got a return policy at the best neurosurgery centre in Australia, Monash; the tumour location is easily accessible; and it’s benign. I’m not a religious person, I’d call myself spiritual, but, yeah, blessings.

I got the news late yesterday, after an MRI. The radiologist said the official report wouldn’t be ready for a few days, and I couldn’t get an appointment with my own GP for a week, so of course I opened the scans. And sat there thinking, I’m pretty sure that Motherf#cker shouldn’t be in my brain.

That, by the way, has been the response of most of my friends. The word F#ck has it place in times like these.

At that point my phone rang. My doctor telling me she was holding her office open to see me tonight. I’m now on steroids to reduce the fluid putting pressure on my parietal lobe The what?

Humour is going to be featuring majorly in dealing with this period of mental adjustment, and my future recovery. I just typed ‘the recovery’, but that’s distancing, and I need to take ownership of this so ‘my recovery’ stays. Ever the editor.

So friends, I welcome puns galore.

The best I can offer at the moment is: if I get my sense of smell back (it disappeared around 5-6 years ago), I might have to stop farting in my own presence. Bummer.

Chris has already suggested we come up with a pet name for this thing – meningioma is a bit of a mouthful. What? I can’t use Motherf#cker?

I laughed at his idea, but being a writer, I also thought, ooh, no, that’s an attachment technique. This Motherf#cker is an antagonist, not a protagonist. But then … Alan Rickman … Dexter. What’s not to love?

Feel free to make name suggestions.

Right now, I’m thinking something like Clusterfluff (my fave Ben & Gerry’s ice cream). Something so sweet and fluffy (there’s marshmallow involved) feels like taming the beast. And in the MRI pic, it does look kinda like a big scoop of creamy deliciousness. A friend asked if I was going to keep the tumour in a jar, at home. I’m picturing jars of Futurama talking brains. Is it a Mini Me?

So, how did this all come about? Headaches – ones that we have all the time and usually ignore, because we don’t want to be a complainer or a wuss. That, plus am I super efficient at avoidance. Nah. Don’t be stupid. It can’t be serious.

Then, sometime around February this year, I was at my writers’ group when I thought someone behind me had grabbed my hand. Nope. My thumb and forefinger were gripped with tingles and numbness, and there was a little tingling in my cheek. The hand numbness went away after twenty minutes or so. Nothing to worry about. I must have been imagining the tingly face thing.

The next six months brought frequent tiredness, more vague headaches, and stronger ones down the back of my head, which I thought were due to the bad positioning of my computer screen. Yoga and stretches helped.

September, the hand and face thing happened again. This time my hand spasmed. Again it went away quickly. Thoughts: Meh. I’m not going to be a hypochondriac.

Then a week ago, same again, only this time the face tingling and numbness was stronger and longer. Time to deal with.

They say, when you’re faced with a possible life-changing event, your priorities change. I’m looking at the dirty dishes on the sink and the cat fluff balls floating under the kitchen table. Do they matter anymore? To be honest, yes, they still shit me. We’ll see if that changes after I’ve met the neurosurgeon tomorrow.

A moral if you care for one:

Take care of you. And don’t be an avoider, like me. An MRI (in Australia) is free if you have constant headaches. You’re not a wuss.

 

 

 


Picture of writing in a book

Writers Vic Competitions & Opportunities

Looking to get your work seen by those in the know? Entering short story, unpublished manuscript or poetry competitions is a great way to firstly, get your writing chops moving, and secondly, get your name circulating where it counts – within the world of readers, writers, editors and publishers.

Whether you’re new to the game or have been doodling away for years, if your words are staying hidden on your computer or smart phone, in your bottom draw or journal, you’re never going to know the satisfaction of being published.

Of course, before sending off any submission, you’ll want it to be the best it can be: polished and proofread. Workshopping through a writing group, engaging a beta reader or a professional editor will increase your chances multi-fold. If a judge spots errors in your first few paragraphs, or they can see you have no idea about point of view, character development and story arcs, I can assure you they won’t read any further – and why should they? If you can’t be bothered to put in your best effort, why should they give you their valuable time?

So go to it!

Below is the link to Writers Victoria current list of competitions and writing opportunities. Good luck and remember:  Rejection is not failure, but a step closer to your goal. 

Writers Victoria – Opportunities and Competitions

 

 


Editing: A Strange Life

Editing Is A Strange Life

Editing is a strange life

Any writer knows that the creative mind is a tenuous friend, given to disappearing just when you need it most. You think you’ll never speak again, that the relationship has desiccated into a hot crumbly mess you could use as chili flakes. But then, like a cool fifty bucks you find in the pocket lining of your favourite jacket, your friend, your motivation, creativity, angel, muse — whatever you like to call it — comes sneaking up from the land of who-knows-where and suddenly you remember why you’re a writer. Editing is seen as different — the sobre part of the process. But it’s just as easy to lose yourself.

Freelance Editing is solitary. You forget the time and day. You forget what you did yesterday, what you did this morning. The only thing you never forget is there’s chocolate and coffee in the kitchen (red wine anyone?).  And since I’m an adult, how I take my breakfast caffeine is my business.

Being trusted with someone else’s work is also strange. Editing isn’t the black and white, right or wrong, clickity-clack straight railway line job people often perceive it to be.

‘Really? You’re an editor? What do you do? Fix spelling and grammar and stuff?’

‘Sure. But there’s also syntax, and voice — the personality of the author or narrator that shines through the text. There’s meaning — what are they trying to say? There’s arcs — story and character. For non-fiction, there’s flow and fact. How does it all hang together? And there’s the author themselves to consider: how you communicate with them without breaking their spirit.’

*pause to check the person is still awake*

‘There’s a subtlety involved. It’s subjective and rule bendy. It’s a tightrope walk: you’re dealing with someone else’s energy, their hopes, their passion. Sometimes a manuscript is akin to a first child.’

‘Zzzzz.’

‘Hello? You still there?’

Chops are tough. Not the meat kind, the Kill Your Darlings kind. Cut, cuts, cuts. Even though you know words have to go because they’re repetitive, or misused, or misplaced, or they drag the pace into a pit of no return, the process can be uncomfortable. Yes, cuts make the text and story tighter, and therefore give the manuscript a better chance of getting published (and that’s what we’re paid to do), but there’s also a chance the cuts are going to whack a sensitive author’s ego over the head with a wet fish. A large, smelly, heavy tuna fish. The upside is, if you handle that fish gently (perhaps fillet it before serving) the author will get over it and on with it, and show their appreciation.

Handling authors gently is a talent in itself. In my first year of study, I thought it would be fun to insert some humour into my feedback comments on an author’s manuscript. I didn’t personally know the author I was assigned to, and as it turned out she took great offence. It made me stop and reflect how I would’ve felt receiving that kind of feedback in my early days of writing. I subsequently apologised, several times. Luckily she’s a gracious person and we’re still friends. Lesson learnt. Gently does it.

Clear Communication: I’m probably an over-communicator. I need to know the author understands exactly what I’m doing for them. Even if it’s not what they’ve initially asked for — because I’ve had to extrapolate what they actually need done. My worst nightmare is a client getting their manuscript back and going WTH????? To avoid this, I respond to each client in writing, laying out exactly what we’ve verbally agreed on: the type of editing required, the word count, rates, expected completion dates and response times. It’s a fail-safe for down the track, especially if the direction of the project changes along the way.

Don’t Hide. When I was starting out, my first project was a piece of cake: fiction with a clear story that only needed a light line edit, plus a tad of structural editing. My second project was enormous and I accepted it not realising the time frame I quoted was way out of whack with the amount of work required. Apart from giving a fixed price and doing myself out of quite a few hundred dollars, I was feeling stressed because of the time it was taking me — it was a clever and complex story but with an unusual and inconsistent voice that required nearly every line to be edited. To counteract my fears of ruining my reputation (by missing the deadline and disappointing my client), I kept in constant contact with him, being honest about the work I was doing and the time it was taking: I wanted to be thorough and not rush through. Being honest paid off and his appreciation for being kept in the loop meant there was no annoyance. This took an enormous pressure off me.

Boundaries. I have a setting on my phone that cuts off communication between certain hours. It’s easy for an author who’s in a panic to forget what time it is, or what day it is (sound familiar). I tell them my hours of availability, my response time, and I stick to them. Sometimes it takes a bit of training, on both sides … I’ll just check my emails after dinner … wham! I’m thinking about my client’s curly question all night. Occasionally, I need to send a gentle reminder when a client is persistent. If I’m clever I can give them a distraction to keep their ferreting brains, or need for approval, at peace — a research project, or clarification of something unclear in their text.

Content is a personal decision. Sometimes a project might go against the grain of your beliefs, knowledge or advice. I once turned down an edit on a manuscript because I felt the content appeared to be misogynistic. It surprised me how strongly I felt about it. I pondered whether to be honest with the prospective client, or make up an excuse as to why I couldn’t do it. I chose honesty. Luckily, the author was an intelligent person and went away to reconsider his angle. He came back to me with a completely different manuscript and we developed an open, on-going working relationship (insert happy sigh here).

So it’s a strange life I’ve chosen. And if you’ve chosen it too, whether you’re a writer or an editor, like most creatives, you probably doubt yourself daily, or wonder where your next job will come from. When things are rolling along nicely and you have a mountain of work, you allow yourself to smile, to love what you do. When things are uncertain and you feel like a fraud, tell yourself:

Be patient.

Be brave.

Be yourself.

Strange is good.

 


negative_reviews

Ouch! Negative Reviews and Criticism

Or Dealing with Other People’s Poo

One of the realities of becoming a published author is that people outside our supportive circle of friends and family will read and publicly comment on our work. Fabulous! Isn’t that why you write? To affect people? To make them think, to stir their emotions?

But what happens when those comments are constructions of uninformed bile or troll fodder? And all you want to do is stab yourself in the heart? Or better still, stab the reviewer in the heart? How satisfying would that be?

As writers, we know not everyone will fawn over our work, and that’s okay. Potato Potarto. But when we come across a review that’s absolutely stinging and deliberately misconstrued, it can stick in our writerly craws for weeks, months sometimes wiping out every good review we’ve ever read about our work (so sometimes we’re drama queens). Damn it! I hate that. Get out of my head!

Logically, we know this person doesn’t know us, and probably doesn’t know our work well, so it’s not personal — it’s NOT — even though it may feel like an attack. A very, very personal attack. But unless we’re prepared to line ourselves up against a social media firing squad wall, we often have no recourse against these kinds of attacks apart from bitching to the only other people who understand — our writerly buddies. We have no voice to share our pain, to defend our work, or educate someone who thinks they’re in a competition to read fifty books a month and spew forth bile rather than read a book carefully, absorb its subtext and story arc and only then give a considered, informed review — even if they don’t like it (the word is subjective here, not personal).

The only action we can take is to MOVE ON. Block the person from our feeds, our social media, our minds. Don’t go giving them emotional real estate. While you’re stewing and fuming, they’re not even thinking about you. They’re probably sitting in their tracky dacks and stained T-shirt, stuffing their faces with peanut M&Ms and coke, illegally downloading crap movies. It’s the way of the digital world.

Move on! The moment we think about trying to defend ourselves, we’re at risk of falling on our own sharpie pens (or bashing our heads in with our keyboards). Want we really want is an apology, and a troll is never going to apologise, never going to understand the days, months, years and risks you took to wring those words onto the page, or the humungous effort it took to get published. (Have they written a book? Have they been published? Probably not.) So there you are stuck with the bitter taste of powerlessness in your mouth and a broken heart.

Or are you? Perhaps you were smart enough not read those reviews in the first place? Or you arranged to have friend vet them for you first? It’s not such a stupid idea. In fact it’s a brilliant idea. What’s the point of crazily poring over someone’s vitriol, line by line, over and over, trying to understand why they don’t like your book? Why they seemingly don’t like you?

Are we, as artists, drawn to punishing ourselves? Why is it we can have fifty fabulous reviews but that one, uninformed piece of hate is the only one that sticks in our minds, haunts us into sleepless nights and sometimes smashes our confidence? What is it we’re looking for when we insist on reading, then rereading negative reviews, continually churning the words over in our minds, dissecting and seeking to understand? Perhaps we’re looking for fault in our own work. Perhaps we feel we deserve to be shot down. Maybe our own lack of belief in ourselves is seeking a slap across our literary faces.

How do we stop? How do we deal with our fragile egos? I think Elizabeth Gilbert of Eat pray love fame nails it when she says:

I don’t look at it, and I don’t look for it.

I will not put those words in my head. I will not put those images in my head. To do so is an act of violence against myself, and I do not commit acts of violence against myself anymore.

That’s smart. But is it smart to completely ignore all criticism? Probably not. When we’re too close to the trees who’s going to help us see the plot holes in our paper forests? People we trust of course. Here’s Elizabeth’s take on it again:

I DO listen to negative criticism about my work, however — but only from certain people, and only at a certain time.

The people who I listen to about my work are people who have earned the right to offer me criticism. There aren’t many of them, but they are precious. They are a few of my closest and most trusted friends, family members, and colleagues.

 As for WHEN I listen to criticism? I only listen when there is still a chance to fix or change the work. After the book is published, THERE IS NOTHING MORE I CAN DO ABOUT IT — so why would I go digging for criticism after the book is already printed, and it’s too late?

But what about the good reviews? Should we be avoiding reviews altogether? Of course not. We deserve to hear some happy news. We’ve worked bloody hard to get where we are, and that work never stops. Enjoy the moment. Roll around in it like you’re a sparrow enjoying a dust bath, like a puppy who’s found a roll of toilet paper, a chook that’s found worm. Go for it. You earned it! Every little bit of it.

Just don’t trawling through Goodreads, looking for that negative review to counterbalance how good you feel before moving onto the next project, putting yourself on the line again. And if you do accidentally stumble across a piece of poo, well, look away. LOOK AWAY! QUICK!. It’s not your poo, it’s theirs. You don’t own it.

Of course, it’s impossible to avoid negativity entirely, but understanding why we feel the way we do, and being able to control our reactions to it, goes a long way to padding our fragile egos.

Here’s the link to Elizabeth’s article. I highly recommend reading it: Elizabeth Gilbert – Dealing With Criticism

 


Elderly person's hand

Wringing Pain into Writing

Wringing Pain into Writing: Many writers question whether they should take advantage of witnessed pain by incorporating their family or friends’ stories into their writing. Helen Garner is famous for it in ‘The Spare Room’. Lee Kofman has just released a glaringly honest account of her personal relationships in ‘The Dangerous Bride‘. I’ve been facing this dilemma recently with my own work, even though in my case I write fiction.

For my family, it’s a time rife with guilt, helplessness, yet humour. Guilt because we’re wondering if we’ve given up too early, helplessness because we simply don’t know what else could be done, humour because it’s the only way to cope.

Today, my father and I are transferring Mum, my step-mother, to a hospice. She won’t be coming back home. She has dementia. This is my father’s third marriage (my natural mother and first step-mother both died of cancer.) Current Mum has survived cancer too, only to succumb to this insidious disease.

The hospice is as nice as any modern, fresh, spacious and clean hospice can be, but it’s not home. Mum stalls outside her room. ‘No. No.’ It’s not hers. She doesn’t want it. Dad points to the picture of a collie dog on her door. Mum used to have a collie, Jordan. There’s a hint of recognition. Kathy, the hospice manager encourages Mum to come inside and look out the window — there’s a koala statue just outside, in the garden. Child-like, Mum shuffles in, coos at the window, then walks back out to the corridor.

While Dad retrieves her clothes and belongings from the car, I lead Mum outside to a grassy fenced-in garden. I’m grateful she’s distracted by the chicken and kangaroo statues. But her attention span is short and, tired of exploring, she wanders back inside to roam the corridors, eyes wide and mouth constantly working. ‘Where’s Dad?’ she asks. She no longer recognises that she has a husband.

We sit at a dining table with Kathy. Two other elderly residents sit across from us in the lounge, one inert in a recliner the other shifting her eyes between the television and us newcomers. There are plastic placemats with pictures of animals and birds. I move one with horses in front of Mum. In broken dialogue she manages to convey she used to ride horses on the sheep station where she grew up. Dad and I joke that I may be causing an upset if the residents come to dinner and find their placemats have been shifted.

We drink instant coffee while Kathy explains the admission procedure. She assures us that Mum will settle in after a week. It’s heart-breaking watching Mum stand up, sit down, stand up, sit down, pick at things, wander the halls, ask to go home, stand up, sit down, grimace, wander the corridors again, ask to go home, try to open doors too heavy for her. Her mouth still works, her hands wring each other. Her expression is one of confusion and … panic? It’s hard to know what her damaged brain is processing.

Kathy is softly spoken. She offers us sympathy. ‘It’s a difficult time for you all. You’ll be feeling a lot of emotions, including guilt. Be kind to yourselves.’ At this point, I grit my teeth, force my face to freeze and picture my heart as a small, solid, steel box. Don’t be nice to us or I’ll cry. I swallow and ask about the DNR form she mentioned earlier. Practical. Be practical. Be strong.

The discussion dwindles to awkward glances of ‘do we leave now?’ We sneak away so as not to panic Mum. We’re heavy with a fusion of relief, self-loathing and sadness mixed with a clutching hope that we are doing the right thing. And if we are, why do we feel like cowards?

Conflicting emotions

What does a writer do with this emotional miasma? I’m doing it ‘write’ now. I’ve known this day was coming: years, when it was an early prognosis with a distant, inevitable end; months, when the insidious symptoms were too obvious to ignore; weeks, when I kept hoping for a reprieve from this horrible looming moment.

I experienced first-hand some of the cliches of Mum’s disease — the trembling hands and body, the half-formed sentences, the child-like tantrums and sudden joys at delusional imaginings. But from my father, I heard of more awkwardly embarrassing moments like pants being dropped in supermarkets, or unsettling yelling matches with ‘the people in the mirror’. I’m thankful I didn’t witness that; it would have touched some deep element of fear in me — is she seeing people from the ‘other side’? Or is it a basic symptom of brain malfunction? Either way, it’s confronting and terrifying.

So I observed, I stored away details, I derailed my emotions by incorporating them into the written word of my manuscript (an older YA fiction novel currently under submission). In the final stages of writing, it stunned me to know that life had handed me the missing pieces — the bits that coalesced the story, that solidified the characters and their relationships like an egg binds the ingredients of a cake, like the surface tension of a drop of water retains the liquid in one, whole, complete form. It was up to me to be brave enough to incorporate this ugly gift.

So I’m here now, with Dad, facing what we fear. And while I feel like a twig, offering miniscule support, my father is somehow surviving this constant tide of unfair crap life has handed him. And I see him as a sack of steel bearings: on the outside, he’s soft, malleable, worn down, world weary. On the inside, he’s intensely resilient, smiling for those of us that need it, placing one foot in front of the other to push through the shit life is throwing at him. Again. And Again.

And it’s only now I realise that this one day I’ve been dreading, the day I thought was the end, is only the beginning. For, like Noah Calhoun in The Notebook, my father will now have to sustain visits with a woman he loves dearly, a woman who will break his heart a little more each day, a woman who will swim in and out of reality and eventually lose whatever recognition she has of him.

Capitalising on Pain

And so it is for the teenage protagonist in my book: I gave Lauren’s mother dementia too. That’s a powerful, yet scary thing to say. While it’s not the core of the story, on one hand I feel like I’ve capitalised on my parent’s misfortune; on the other, I feel like I’m honouring their lives by sharing the deep ache of their lives.

Yes, there’s a risk that I may upset some family members by exploiting this horrible situation, but like many writers before me, I take a breath and move forward with unease. I steel myself by recognising that it’s a necessary step to making my writing resonate, and to perhaps showing other people who are suffering similar family tragedies that they’re not alone. That it’s okay to be frightened, to sometimes drop the ball, to ask for help, to learn and not fear the moment at hand. To know that you will survive and grow stronger than you think you are.

Otherwise, what’s the point of all this pain?

*Image source: Pixabay, Sabine van Erp, Nederland

AJ Collins Facebook Feed

Geraldine

My approach to beta reading: To ask—does the book achieve what it has set out to do? Does it speak to its target reader? Are there any loopholes/developmental issues that will cause the reader to not suspend their disbelief? Are the characters rich and layered—and real? Does the prose flow, does it show and not tell?
Formal Qualifications: BA (Hons) English Literature with minor in Creative Writing; MA Publishing and Communications.
Favourite Genres: YA, literary fiction, crime fiction, true crime, academic non-fiction (literature, history, art).
Genres I’m also happy to read: N/A.
Genres/material I won’t read: Military history.
Favorite authors: Jane Austen, Neil Gaiman, Alice Munro, Haruki Murakami, Milan Kundera.
Am I an author? Yes.
Hobbies: Painting, Writing (poetry, short stories, plays), Soccer, Music, Yoga, Hiking.

Jacalyn

My approach to beta reading: Most of my working life has been training or assisting writers with their work. So I believe it’s so important to give feedback and guidance that encourages growth, not causes them to doubt their abilities. I don’t so much focus on rules; I focus on how writing makes me feel.

Formal Qualifications: Bachelor of Arts (Professional Writing), Bachelor of Creative Arts (Hons).

Favourite genres: General fiction, YA, sci-fi, drama, thriller/suspense.

Genres I’m also happy to read: Historical fiction, fantasy, chick lit.

Genres/material I won’t beta read: Child abuse, sexual violence.

Favorite authors: Please don’t make me choose!

Am I an author?: I write short stories but I haven’t been published.

Hobbies: Reading, painting and watching my stories.

Anne-Marie

My approach to beta reading:

I’ve worked with many first-time authors, so I know that trusting a stranger to read your work can be daunting. But the aim of beta reading is to nudge your book a little bit closer to publishable, and hopefully that is what I will do. I will highlight what works with your book, as well as what doesn’t work.

Formal Qualifications: Proofreading modules 1 and 2 (Society for Editors and Proofreaders), copyediting modules 1 and 2 (Editorial Freelancers’ Association), Diploma in Editing and Proofreading (New Zealand Institute of Business Studies), Postgraduate Diploma in Journalism (Massey University), Bachelor of Arts majoring in social anthropology and religious studies (Massey University).

Favourite genres:  Religious/spiritual, self-help, philosophy, memoir, creative non-fiction.

Genres I’m also happy to read:  Politics, history, finance/business, art, travel.

Genres/material I won’t read: Fiction.

Favorite authors: I tend to read by genre rather than author, but some I’ve enjoyed are Nimue Brown, Emma Restall-Orr, Bill Bryson, Brene Brown.

Am I an author?: As a former journalist I’ve had my work published many times.

Hobbies: Reading, swimming, cooking, gardening, Scrabble, pub quiz.

Fiona

My approach to beta reading: I go with my first instinctive response. I think about what’s working and keeping me there, and what can be improved. Then I think about the most useful way to convey this to the author.

Formal Qualifications or Training: MPhil (Creative Writing), MA (Writing, Editing and Publishing), BA (English)

Favourite Genres: Literary fiction, crime, thriller, YA

Genres I’m also happy to read: Memoir

Genres/material I won’t read: Horror, MRA

Favourite authors: Randolph Stow, Ursula Le Guin, Tom Franklin

Am I an author? Yes. Short fiction and creative non-fiction.

Hobbies: Bushwalking, reading, cinema, amateur field naturalism

Margaret

I read widely and constantly. I would read manuscripts with an eye for originality of voice and approach, and an ear for a delight in language the writer wants to share.

Formal qualifications: Diploma of Social Science in Librarianship and RMIT Associate Degree in Professional Writing and Editing

Favourite genres: Literary fiction, short stories, murder mysteries, creative non-fiction, books for children from birth to twelve.

Genres I’m also happy to read: Romance

Genres/material I won’t read: For adults: None. For children: Gross out humour (poos, wees and falling down)

Favorite authors: Mohsin Hamid, Penelope Fitzgerald, Margo Lanagan, Rebecca Stead

Are you an author? Yes. I’ve co-written three books for babies, and I write about books for literary journals.

Hobbies: Patchwork and crane-watching

 

Melanie

I value transparency and will offer my thoughts honestly but with optimism. Character development, authenticity of voice and motivations behind character action interest me, and I’m always looking for solid storylines and fresh perspectives and style. Genre matters little when a story is told well by engaging characters.

Formal qualifications: Graduate RMIT Professional Writing and Editing.

Favourite genres: Literary, Paranormal, supernatural, YA and general fiction.

Genres I’m also happy to read: Thriller.

Genres/material I won’t read: Historical fiction, self-help, religious.

Favorite authors: Christos Tsiolkas, Maxine Benebe Clarke, Glen Duncan, Markus Zusak, Hugh Howey, Laurell K Hamilton.

Are you an author? Yes. YA, literary, paranormal, poetry.

Hobbies: Writing, reading, movies.

Robyn

My approach to beta reading: Growing up, I was known as the girl who was always reading. I recall walking to the local library on my own at five years of age. I love a good story, be it true or fiction, especially when it resonates in some way.  But more than that, I love coaching/guiding an author to make their story something special.

Formal Qualifications or Training: Cert IV Training and Assessment, B Ed (Upper Primary/Lower Secondary), Grad Dip (Ed Counselling), Post Grad Cert Editing and Electronic Publishing.

Favourite genres: Creative nonfiction and science fiction.

Genres I’m also happy to read: Autobiography , memoir.

Genres/material I won’t beta read: Pretty open to considering all genres.

Favorite authors: Thea Astley, Andrew Miller, Geraldine Brooks, Richard Flanagan, Tim Winton.

Am I an author? Yes

Hobbies: Writing children’s stories, learning Spanish, travelling, enjoying time with family and friends.

Merridy

My approach to beta reading: English literature studies gave me an excellent grounding in book structure, language use, tone and genre. A lifetime of incessant reading means I quickly gain a feel for a work, its characters, plot pacing and integrity. It’s a pleasure to use these skills to help other writers develop their books.

Formal Qualifications: BA Hons (English Literature), Dip Ed, Grad Dip Psych Studies.

Favourite genres: General fiction, children’s and YA, fantasy, humour, creative non-fiction, poetry.

Genres/material I won’t beta read: Violence, forensics, gore, horror.

Favorite authors: Ursula Le Guin, Alexander McCall Smith, Alain de Botton, Michael Bond, Lian Tanner, Jandy Nelson, TS Eliot, AA Milne.

Am I an author? Yes. I write and publish humorous novels about guinea pigs.

Hobbies: Books, yoga, upcycling, travel, swimming, photography, guinea pigs.

Mary

My approach to beta reading: Each author is different – each manuscript, therefore, can’t be compared with another. However, the character development, the ‘page-turning’ effect of the narrative, the prose, dialogue and descriptions should all, in turn, keep the reader satisfied and this is what I’ll be looking for. I enjoy reading new authors and particularly debut authors; currently, I’ve read three this month.

Formal Qualifications: HBD Nursing, BN, BA Hons, Diploma of Editing and Proofreading (ECU).

Favourite genres: History, memoirs, non-fiction, crime, adventure.

Genres I’m also happy to read: YA.

Genres/material I won’t beta read: sci-fi, alt history, fantasy, porn.

Favorite authors: Tolkein, Hillary Mantell, Stieg Larsson, Peter Fitzsimon, Paul Ham.

Am I an author? Yes. Non-fiction and academic writing, currently compiling.

Hobbies: reading, knitting, gardening, walking, glamping, birdwatching, history and writing an oral history project for Bridgetown’s 150th anniversary of its gazettal.

Margie

My approach to beta reading: As a writer I know feedback is invaluable. It should, though, be couched in a supportive, constructive manner. Writers’ egos are usually fragile and writing is a very personal business; we bare our souls. I’ve learnt a great deal from having others read and comment on my own work.

Formal Qualifications: TAFE editing. Numerous editing and writing workshops.

Favourite genres: Literary fiction, memoirs, autobiographies, some chick lit, the classics.

Genres I’m also happy to read: Sci-fi, poetry.

Favorite authors: Sebastian Faulks, Ian McEwan, William Dalrymple, Donna Tartt, Tim Winton, Amitav Ghosh, Kate Grenville, Geraldine Brooks, Liz Byrski, Hanya Yanagihara, Jane Harper.

Genres/material you won’t beta read: None.

Am I an author? Yes.

Hobbies: Reading, yoga, walking with my dog, films, talking.

Lainie

My approach to beta reading:  I always keep a notebook beside me, day and night, so I can jot notes on queries or thoughts that come to me as I read. I’m passionate about books and stories and I’ve never failed to finish reading a book I’ve begun!

Formal Qualifications or Training: Bachelor of Science (Australian Environmental Studies), Postgraduate Diploma in Geographic Information Systems and Graduate Certificate in Environment (specialising in Education for Sustainability). Short courses in writing, editing, etc.

Favourite genres:

Genres I’m also happy to beta read:  Medical reference.

Genres/material I won’t beta read: Erotica, overly religious or spiritual self-help, horror.

Favourite authors: Rachael Treasure, Rachael Johns, Kate Morton, Fleur McDonald, Fiona McIntosh, Di Morrissey, Monica McInerney, Freda Lightfoot, Nick Earls, Nikki Gemmell.

Are you an author? No, but I write, edit and produce newsletters, etc.

Hobbies: Reading, recycling/repurposing, arts and crafts (painting, papercrafts), photography, producing goods and information for others.

Kelsey

My approach to beta reading: I like to give honest but sensitive feedback on how events and characters made me react, focusing strongly on believability and offering suggestions that may have come to mind during reading.

Formal Qualifications: BA Hons (English and Linguistics); Subbing and Indesign course w/ Alliance/Walkley Foundation Training for Journalists; Professional Editing and Proofreading Course w/The Sackville Academy.

Favourite genres: Fantasy, science fiction, paranormal erotica, YA

Genres I’m also happy to beta read:  Traditional romance, chick lit, literary fiction

Genres/material you won’t beta read: Crime, horror, biographies, non-fiction.

Favorite authors: Robin Hobb, Terry Goodkind, Gena Showalter, Nalini Singh, JR Ward, Paullina Simons.

Hobbies: Reading, fitness, yoga, writing.

Are you an author? Journalist.

Kat

My approach to beta reading: My job as a beta reader is to give authors an overview of what is working in their manuscript and what is not. I am friendly, honest and constructive in my responses, helping authors to look at their manuscript in depth and improve it.

Formal Qualifications or Training: Diploma of Professional Writing and Editing, Bachelor of Professional Writing and Editing.

Favourite genres you are solidly familiar with:

Genres I’m also happy to beta read:  Women’s fiction, literary fiction, spirituality, new age.

Favourite authors: Louise Cooper, Robin Hobb, Raymond E. Feist.

Genres/material I won’t beta read: Evangelistic manuscripts.

Are you an author? No.

Hobbies: Learning (anything I can!), reading, writing, cooking.

Imelda

My approach to beta reading: I aim to give the author genuine feedback, including any emotive response, in a nurturing, supportive fashion. I like to note areas of brilliance as well as the disparities and areas for improvement. These can be in relation to plot, character, setting, pace, point of view and authenticity of voice.

Formal Qualifications: Assoc Degree Professional Writing and Editing, Dip Mgmt, Dip Bus Admin, Cert IV TAE, Cert III Small Bus Mgmt.

Favourite Genres:

Genres I’m also happy to beta read:  science, agriculture, travel.

Genres/material I won’t beta read:  Erotica, medical, self-help, abuse.

Favorite authors: Jackie French, Markus Zusak, Miles Franklin, David Metzenthen, Jane Austen, Le Ly Hayslip, Thomas Keneally, Tom Clancy.

Are you an author? Yes.

Hobbies: Bushwalking, photography, reading, films, art, genealogy.

Alix

My approach to beta reading: I’m honest and communicate the manuscript’s positives as well as its drawbacks. I try to articulate how I felt as I read the manuscript, how I wish I’d felt and whether the two align.

Formal Qualifications or Training: Ba App Sci (HMS), Ba Bus (Accy), MTax, CPA, CTA, MArts (completion Nov 2018).

Favourite genres: Romantic comedy, cosy mystery, young adult, science fiction, action, easy reading in general.

Genres I’m also happy to read: Memoir, biography, technical.

Genres/material I won’t beta read: Erotica, horror.

Favorite authors: LM Montgomery, Ursula leGuin, Tim Stevens, Denise Grover Swank.

Are you an author? No.

Hobbies: Reading, running, baking, crochet.

Beth

My approach to beta reading: Because there’s vulnerability in letting others comment on your work, I look for things to praise as well as to query. I consider the pace of the story and its context. I also ask whether a particular action feels authentic for a character — would they really act as described?

Formal Qualifications: (Hons) in Political Studies, Diploma of Professional Writing and Editing (in progress at RMIT), short courses by Editors Victoria including structural editing. Member of the Institute of Professional Editors and the Australasian Medical Writers Association.

Favourite Genres: Historical fiction, women’s stories, mysteries, drama.

Genres I’m also happy to read: Young adult, memoir.

Genres/material I won’t beta read: Sci-fi, horror, erotica.

Favorite authors: Diana Gabaldon, Liane Moriarty, Paullina Simons, PG Wodehouse, Jane Austen, Lian Hearn, Kate Grenville, Julian Fellowes, Julian Barnes.

Are you an author? Yes. I write reports, grant applications and web content. Most of this is in the health field. I particularly enjoy translating complex medical information into plain English. Why refer to ‘unanticipated mortality events’ when you mean ‘sudden deaths’?

Hobbies: Reading, swimming, kayaking, bushwalking

Evelyn – 20

My approach to beta reading: I like to fully immerse myself in the narrative and try to constructively identify details that hinder that experience, in the most encouraging way I can.

Formal Qualifications: Currently a university student. Year 12 Certificate.

Favourite genres: Memoirs/biographies, YA fiction, romance, drama.

Favorite authors: C.S. Lewis, Agatha Christie, Nicholas Sparks, Dale Carnegie, Jodi Picoult.

Genres/material I won’t beta read: Horror, Fantasy, Erotica.

Am I an author? No.

Hobbies: Reading, cooking, sewing, going to the gym.

Chloe – 14

My approach to beta reading: My approach is to be open to what the author is trying to create with their writing and to assist them in finding the best version of their work they can. I believe that listening to feedback is a crucial stage in producing something with potential.

Formal Qualifications: Year 6 English Award, distinctions in English (Years 7 and 8)

Favourite genres: YA, dystopia, action and adventure, romance.

Genres I am also happy to read: Science fiction, mystery, fantasy, drama.

Favorite authors: Scott Westerfield, John Green, Veronica Roth, Melina Marchetta.

Genres/material I won’t beta read: Erotica.

Hobbies: Photography, netball, reading, makeup.

Millie – 18

My approach to beta reading: I believe beta readers should be honest and give true opinions of the book, though they should also be mindful of the fact that they may not be the intended readership and that there are multiple ways to interact with the text.

Favourite genres: Literary fiction, YA.

Favorite authors: Alice Pung, Helen Garner, Dodie Smith, Virginia Woolf.

Genres/material I won’t beta read: erotica.

Are you an author? No.

Hobbies: reading, playing guitar, riding.

Ari – 19

My approach to beta reading: I give authors honest feedback. I like to help authors who are planning to publish by giving my opinions on what worked for me and what didn’t, in their work. I enjoy such a broad spectrum of fiction and have read many styles of writing. I can always find feedback to give.

Formal Qualifications: Currently studying graphic design.

Age range: 18

Favourite genres: anything LGBT, young adult, literary fiction, poetry, thriller, and speculative fiction (incl. science fiction, fantasy, etc).

Genres I’m also happy to read:  Horror.

Genres/material you won’t beta read: Graphic sexual abuse (especially children), blatant homophobic or transphobic material.

Favorite authors: Donna Tartt, Margaret Atwood, Megan Abbott, Benjamin Saenz, Gillian Flynn, Cassandra Clare, Elliot Wake.

Are you an author? Yes but mostly unpublished (except for some poetry).

Hobbies: Reading, creating art and graphic design, playing video games, watching films, music.

Carly

My approach to beta reading: I feel it’s important to leave any personal agenda at the door and figure out what the author’s own vision is. I use a combination of general impressions, assessments of the strengths and weaknesses and suggestions for improvement to form an honest evaluation of the story.

Formal qualifications: Graduate certificate editing and electronic publishing; Graduate certificate food writing; Certificate professional editing and proofreading; Structural (fiction) editing for editors.

Favourite genres: General and literary fiction, memoir, comedy, historical fiction, YA, dystopian.

Genres I’m also happy to read: Science fiction.

Genres/material I won’t beta read: Nothing.

Favourite authors: Jeffrey Eugenides, Tim Winton, Elizabeth Gilbert, Liane Moriarty.

Am I an author: No.

Hobbies: reading, writing, weaving, embroidery, gardening

Lauren

My approach to beta reading: is to provide clear, considered and constructive feedback that will give the author an insight into the reader’s experience and help them to achieve their writing aims.

Formal qualifications or training: Graduate Certificate in Editing and Electronic Publishing (Macquarie University, 2016, won course prize for outstanding achievement), Bachelor of Laws with Honours (University of Adelaide, 2011).

Favourite genres: Adult fiction, literary fiction, historical fiction, non-fiction history, biographies and memoirs, crime and mystery.

Genres I’m also happy to read: Fantasy, science-fiction, YA, true crime, self-development, educational.

Favorite authors: Graeme Simsion (and Anne Buist), Anthony Horowitz, Lemony Snicket (Daniel Handler), Alan Bradley, Jane Austen, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Richard Fidler, Alexandre Dumas.

Genres/material I won’t beta read: Horror, erotica, romance.

Are you an author? No

Hobbies: Cooking, reading, dancing and watching classical ballet, listening to classical music, visiting art galleries and museums.

Kellie

My approach to beta reading:  It’s not about my preferences, but about how the book will play with target readers. A writer myself, I try to give feedback that covers aspects of writing craft, which can affect the reader’s experience, while remaining constructive, encouraging and kind.

Formal Qualifications: I am in my final year of studies for a Certificate IV in Professional Writing and Editing at Victoria Polytechnic. My Diploma in PWE is also underway.

Favourite genres:

Genres I’m also happy to read: relationship-based or character-driven fiction, young adult, memoir.

Favorite authors: Kate Canterbary, Eve Dangerfield, Penny Reid, Kylie Scott, Barbara Kingsolver, Tim Winton, Vikram Seth, Kerry Greenwood, James S A Corey.

Genres/material I won’t beta read: horror, violence, child abuse.

Are you an author? Yes, I’m a writer and online-published fan fiction author. I’m yet to publish original fiction.

Hobbies: writing, sewing, reading.

Connie

My approach to beta reading: I love to offer insights and productive feedback to authors. I’m not a critical person by nature and will always see the best in someone’s work whilst making honest suggestions for improvement. I know the struggle authors face and the considerable contribution constructive feedback can make.

Formal Qualifications: Diploma of Professional Writing and Editing (RMIT), Bachelor of Social Work (Monash University).

Favourite genres:

Favourite authors: Melina Marchetta, Jane Harper, Alex Miller, Ellie Marney, Jane Austen, John Green, Jennifer Donnelly, Cath Crowley, Maggie Stiefvater, Louisa May Alcott, Jandy Nelson, Harper Lee, Liane Moriarty.

Genres/material I won’t beta read: Extreme graphic violence, paedophilia.

Are you an author? Yes. Emerging author.

Hobbies: Reading, keeping fit, paddle boarding, eating chips and watching Netflix.

Jo

My approach to beta reading: I love snuggling down to enjoy the luxury of being a reader. I note anything that strikes me – what’s absolute gold and compels me to keep reading or what jars me from the story.  I then put the manuscript aside to allow the narrative settle in my bones before writing my report with deep respect for all that the author has achieved. I’m passionate about story in all its forms and love to support fellow writers as they create their unique brand of narrative.

Formal Qualifications: Assoc. Degree Professional Writing and Editing, RMIT.

Favorite genres:

Genres/material I won’t beta read: Gratuitous violence, horror, sexual abuse.

Favorite authors: Margo Lanagan, Ellie Marney, John Green, Cally Black, Lian Tanner, Kate DiCamillo, Tamora Pierce, Katherine Paterson, Martine Murray, Linda Sue Park, Moya Simons, Jen Storer, Mo Willems, Bob Graham, Maxine Beneba Clarke.

Are you an author? Yes. Currently represented by Jacinta di Mase Management. I have two manuscripts under submission – a memoir and a picture book.

Hobbies: reviewing children’s literature and interviewing authors for KBR, curating SCWBI newsletter, reading, writing, editing, walking and swimming.