Zoë Writes

An Australian author living in Norway

Category: Behind the Curtain (page 1 of 4)

One year on . . .

One year ago today, my life exploded. On that day, I didn’t know what to do, where to go, or what would happen next. Friends urged me to look forward without worrying about how I’d get there—to look to the light at the end of the tunnel, not at the road beneath my feet. But I like details. They make me feel safe and in control. So, I concentrated on the details, and bit by bit, I built a new life.

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Return to Djerassi

Two years ago I cracked the sads when I had to leave Djerassi. On my return home, I was bereft. Looking back, I think a lot of it had to do with the state my life was in at the time, but it was also due to the fact that it was the first time since I’d started seriously writing that I let myself be only a writer, one hundred per cent, if only for a week.

I started my first novel before I got pregnant, but at the time I was working full time as an IT project manager; writing was just something fun to do when I was stuck on an aeroplane or in a hotel room and didn’t feel like preparing for my next meeting. Then, I pretty much stopped writing for a year and a half after I found out I was pregnant, and when I picked it up again it was only for one day a week. The first time I went to Djerassi, I didn’t know anyone and spent most of my non-workshop time alone in my studio, revelling in artistic freedom and inspiration. Leaving was hard.

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Swallow, swallow, little swallow…

. . . will you not stay with me for one night and be my messenger?

The Happy Prince by Oscar Wilde is one of my great pleasures. I love it the way you love anything that set you on your path.

As a child, I had a reading of it on cassette that I listened to every night to fall asleep. I loved (and still love) the other stories—The Selfish Giant, The Devoted Friend and The Birthday of the Infanta among others—but nothing quite touched my heart like the plight of the Happy Prince and his little swallow. It is a love story in its purest form. The prince’s love for his people, and the swallow’s love for the prince, are selfless, and tragic, and painfully beautiful. I don’t remember now who the voice on the cassette belonged to, but it was a lovely reading, slow and musical—the way I always hear the story in my head when I read it.

I’m sure there are millions of writers the world over who have been inspired to pick up a pen by Oscar Wilde for more than a century. He was, and remains, incomparable. I am no different to those millions, I suppose, but it was specifically the story of the prince and the swallow that made me want to write. The way the words flowed like water, the way each character, no matter how insignificant—and Wilde is a master of tiny yet complex cameos—pulled at my heart. Even as an eight year old child, I knew I wanted to create beauty like this through words of my own. I wanted to write.

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Fighting the Inner Impostor

“You don the disguise long enough, and you can’t even recognize that you are acting. That you are behaving inauthentically, from a place of fear and insecurity. That you can’t figure out how to reconcile the real you with the pretend you.”

So writes Facebook’s Product Design Director, Julie Zhuo, in her article The Imposter Syndrome. She talks about the insecurity and fear she used to feel while she studying and working in software development. It spoke to me because not only have I felt that way working in software development myself, but because even after a change of career paths, I still worry that I don’t belong, despite feeling all the while like this is what I was born to do. And I’m not the only one; so many of the writers I’ve come to know have these thoughts all the time.

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YA and Proud

When an author says, “I write children’s books”, the reaction is often one of approval and respect. After all, what more noble pursuit in literature could there be than creating the foundation for future generations of life-long readers?

But when a writer says, “I write young adult books” the reaction can be, sadly, quite different. And the more I talk to other writers of young adult fiction, the more I discover how many of us are still having to defend our choice to write it.

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NaNoWriMo. Again.

It’s November again, and for the second year running, I’m attempting NaNoWriMo. That’s the thing where you write a whole novel draft in thirty days. Okay, technically you only need to get to 50k words to “win”, but we call it a novel. Last year I wrote daily throughout November and December and completed the fourth book in my Eidolon series, but this time I’m attempting something completely new. And something I’m keeping completely under wraps until it’s finished, my agent has had a look, and we decide what to do with it. All I can tell you is that it’s contemporary (i.e. no dead people walking among us like those cheeky eidolons), and that I’m very excited about what it might become. For the first time, I’ve decided to write about something I’m personally passionate about—which is kind of terrifying.

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Retreating

Last weekend, two of my best friends (also writers) and I went up to a cabin in the ski resort town of Hemsedal, about three hours north of Oslo for a mini-writing retreat and jentetur (girls’ weekend). I had a plan to finish revising one of my novels, Audrey had some school work to do before heading off to a “real” writing retreat in the States the next week, and Chelsea just needed some inspiration to get started again.

Chris had generously offered to drive us up there, and his ears were likely throbbing by the time we arrived due to the incessant chattering and laughter that made the four hour journey (we stopped for lunch and grocery shopping) seem so much shorter. We talked about everything from inadvertent climbing expeditions to a nine-year-old boy’s fascination with googling pictures of butts.

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Sabine: Creating a Monster

My current work in progress is one I’ve been struggling with for almost two years. Given that the first two books took a collective thirteen months and the third only two months, this has been a source of constant frustration for me. However, I am nearing the end now, with almost 70,000 words down (and a rough target of 90,000 to finish this draft) I begin to see why it has been so tough.

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Uncomfortable truths

In the flurry of stress and activity that has been the pulling together of the second Oslo Writers’ League anthology, I almost forgot to contribute a piece myself. In the end, I ran so short on time I had to dig through my short story stock and find something already written, then repurpose it. In this case, where the themes were “Identity” and “Crossroads”, I decided the best fit was a non-fiction piece I wrote under pressure from a former colleague who was fascinated by my discomfort with all things Australian. Being homeless—in the sense of never having really felt “at home” anywhere—is a sensitive subject for me, and writing the piece was both unsettling and revealing. Even when it was complete, I didn’t know what to do with it. I couldn’t very well submit it to Australian journals, not when, to my mind at least, it was unpatriotic to the point of being insulting. But would foreign journals understand it? Or, more importantly, care what it was saying? I doubted it (as I often doubt myself—it’s a writer’s prerogative). So I put it away and tried not to think about it.

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My Writing Process

My participation in the My Writing Process Blog Tour is thanks to Djerassi YA Workshop pal, Susan Crispell, who writes magical realism for both young adults and the adult market. Her book, Love and Cupcakes came out in January this year from Swoon Romance, and I had the pleasure of reading and critiquing the opening her very recently completed new YA novel, How to Take a Life. I loved what I read of her work, and am sure the new book is destined for big things. I also have to thank Susan for tagging me in this tour, because my blog has been sadly neglected since my return from Djerassi, and it’s high time I got back to it.

This particular blog tour is a really good way to find out about new authors and their books; you can follow the blog tour on Twitter via the #mywritingprocess hashtag.

And now for my answers to the questions… 

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