Inspiration is a tricky thing. It comes and goes, and mostly, its habits are unpredictable. If I knew how it all worked, believe me, my second novel would’ve been out by now. Usually someone in front of me has to do something stupid, or something horrible has to happen to me, and when I stop whingeing long enough to laugh and think, ‘Gee, that’d make a great story…’ – inspiration happens, and the words aren’t far off.
I’m not one of those gushing author fanboys who runs up to authors saying, ‘Wow, you inspire me so much.’ In fact, I was saving that baby up for when I met Terry Pratchett for the first time… but I found myself saying it to an author I’d only just met, and whose work I hadn’t read (obviously, since then, I’ve given it more than a glance, and it’s pretty awesome). That author was Patrick Ness, and that was Tuesday.
But our story begins on:
Monday: Melina Marchetta and The Piper’s Son Sydney launch
Book launches are great. They’re inspiring. I haven’t been to many (in fact, I’ve been to two, my own – which was pretty darn inspiring – and Melina Marchetta’s). It wasn’t being surrounded by peers in the industry (and making an awkward spectacle of myself as I was introduced to authors I’d been a fan of for a long time, and was trying to remain calm as I told them about a little blog I wrote for) that inspired me.
In fact, blame for inspiration rests solely on Melina Marchetta.
I haven’t known Melina very long. I met her a year ago. I was on a panel with her, scared to death of how I was going to introduce myself to the Melina Marchetta when the closest I’d ever come to reading her books was watching five minutes of Looking For Alibrandi on Channel Ten. So, I approached her, ready with a rehearsed and completely fake, ‘Whoa, your writing shaped my youth!’ (You know, the stuff she hears all the time.) Before I’ve started the spiel, she calls me by my first name (I haven’t introduced myself) and says how much she loved a short story I wrote in high school, and that she used to show it in class when she taught English. Cut to me thinking: ‘Melina… likes… my… writing?’ over and over and over. In fact, before our session, she didn’t even give me time to spew out the spiel. She just kept talking about me. I was struck by how normal, and humble, and nice, someone whose success can only be measured with ‘mega’s could be.
And Book Launch Melina was no different. Someone told me once, you’re not measured by how you handle the bad times, but the grace and humility you exhibit during the good times. There’s no doubting that, with her current career position, Melina is experiencing the good times. And you would never guess it. Having, since the panel, read all of her work, and knowing how successful she’s been (on account of my not living under a rock), I don’t know how someone can be as level-headed as she is.
Her writing inspires me as a writer (I hesitate to use the word ‘fellow’), but her personality, her warmth, and general Melinaness inspires me as a person.
Congratulations, Melina. Everybody here at Boomerang Books wishes you all the best with The Piper’s Son, and we’re already anticipating Book #5.
Tuesday: Patrick Ness speaks at Sydney Uni
To say Patrick Ness is popular would be to understate the fact considerably. I’d never read any of his work, but a lot of you have emailed me about him, so I thought I’d go along to see him speak (my class in the adjacent building finished at 6, he started at 6 – it was practically fate). I went expecting a room filled with teens, but what I found was a room filled with peers, authors I recognised, publishers, editors, and, granted, some teens.
He was a little late. The air was thick with anticipation – you could cut it with a [insert horrible pun with book title here]. Then, showtime.
“I think a reader can tell if the writer is joyous.”
After considering how daunting a task speaking without a topic is, he settled on establishing his own topic: joy. He said he never liked talking about author stuff, and proceeded to talk about his process: joy, joy, joy. To write is to write free of the mechanics of writing, and to just write joy.
It was great to hear such an acclaimed writer (he won the Guardian Prize), talking about writing for young adults like I do, albeit, with more flair, and more experience to back him up. It made me almost feel like I knew what I was talking about…
Namely, if you’re writing for kids: don’t write “lesson” narratives, with “issues” tick-boxes to work your way through, because they don’t equal good novels.
“Write for the teenager you were. If you think you were atypical, well, the point of being a teenager is being atypical.”
He emphasised not worrying about the genre and the audience. Cue the subtle glances from my editor – she was in the row in front, and had told me that exact thing about a bajillion times in the past year.
Just focus on joy.
“Write with joy, everything else will follow.”
The words made me want to whip out my pen and pad right then and there – well, my pen and pad were out (I was taking notes for Boomerangers), so I wanted to turn the page and plough through my new book then and there. He was really quite sensational to hear speak, and judging by what I’ve read of his work since, he has the words to back him up.
He made me want to write again, and not write to get the novel done, but write for joy.
Fans of both Patrick Ness and Melina Marchetta should keep their eyes on the blog, we have some really great prizes for you coming very soon. Signed prizes.