Writer’s Awakening- Helen Patrice

Moonlake: Hi, I’m Moonlake Ku and welcome to the second episode of Writer’s Awakenings. Today, we have author Helen Patrice with us. Firstly, tell us about yourself and your journey into writing, Helen.

Helen: It started with me loving being read to as a little girl, and then once I learned to read, starting to soak up books. I laugh now to think that I was put in the Remedial Reading Programme, because it was thought I couldn’t read, when in fact, I was just too shy to read out loud in class, even to the teacher. But I first wrote a story at age 10, I think, when I saw the movie PLANET OF THE APES on TV, and both loved it to bits, and thought there was a lack of women in it (what a proto-feminist, Bechdel tester I was, even in 1974). So next day, I sat down and rewrote the story so that the female astronaut lived and was much smarter than Charlton Heston. From there, it wasn’t much of leap to try my hand at my own version of ‘Wuthering Heights’, followed by ‘The Great Houdini’ telemovie. I soaked up TV, and turned it into what I wanted. I didn’t know this was fan fiction.

Moonlake: When did you actually find out, about the term fan fiction?

Helen: I discovered fan fiction proper age 16, through a Star Trek fanzine called SPOCK, and wrote for it until about age 30, I think. Issues 21-60 anyway. It was a great place to practice storytelling, and iron out a lot of my narrative hiccoughs. Eventually, I wanted my own characters, so I moved on from fan fiction. I’ll never regret those years though. I had the time of my life as a fan writer, and in fandom in general.

Moonlake: Is that all of the writing you’ve been doing in that time?

Helen: No, I was first professionally published in The Age, in 1981, age 17, and just shy of my last HSC exam. Ms Bighead Helen was convinced she’d be running The Age by 1985, and nearly failed her Politics exam as a result of ‘not needing to study’. I didn’t get published again until 1984 (rather sobering), and my first pro fiction not until perhaps 1986.

I had a steady rate of publication in literary journals after that, until 1989, when I became a mother, and it blew my writing career out of the water.

Moonlake: How long did the motherhood hold up your writing career and what was the recovery like?

Helen: How long? That’s a debatable answer. On some levels, I’d say a few years. On others, it’s still ongoing. Certainly, post-natal depression exacerbated what seems to be a tendency to depression anyway. Possibly a genetic predisposition, as I think my mother was depressed, and quite possibly my grandmother. Certain female members of my extended family have also suffered repeated, or occacional bouts of depression. Post-natal depression segued into chronic ongoing depression, as I wasn’t diagnosed until 2008, and had my first baby in 1989.

Moonlake: Oh, that’s a long period! But I guess your recovery didn’t take that long? You did come back to writing before 08?

Helen: Those early years with small babies are tough on every parent, but I felt I’d been totally denatured, down pas the cellular level and into sub-atomic particles. Who I was prior to December 1989 disappeared into a sea of nappies, and who I became was a long process of re-discovery. I was so shattered in 1990 and 1991 that my best friend and mentor Rosemary Nissen (later Rosemary Nissen Wade) suggested that I write haiku, just as a way of keeping touch with myself. I did try that, and started keeping a journal around 1993 I think. I wrote some articles then for Mother And Baby, and Melbourne Child, which were well-received.

Moonlake: I see, well short prose like haikus keep you in touch with writing and it’s a good thing that Rosemary suggested it. Same with article writing. So, what happened next?

Helen: Later, I enrolled first in the Myths and Symbols class at Holmesglen Tafe, as a way of…I dunno…I said it was a way of feeding my non-existent writing, but really, it was somewhere to go once a week that didn’t involve children. I started saving my own life, and mind. I started a post-apocalyptic novel set in Melbourne, but it never went beyond a few thousand words. I had a lot to say, but it wasn’t going to be science fiction. My daughter was diagnosed with a severe-profound hearing impairment and I entered the world of disability, hearing aids, ears, and Taralye Early Intervention Centre.

My son was diagnosed with a hearing impairment at 5 months, so by the end of 1992, I was totally immersed in this strange, foreign world of disability. I enrolled in Short Story Writing after Myths and Symbols, both with legendary tutor Mike Slusher, and he helped me keep my writing alive for a while.

I wrote some short stories, some of which were published in Aurealis and ASIM. I guess I could continue going through the long litany of what I wrote, and when, but I’m not sure that’s called for. I have eked out a writing life along the edges of survival. I’ve raised two kids as a single mother. My daughter is now 27, my other adult offspring is 25. I have three grandchildren by my daughter. My other child also has autism, and a mild intellectual impairment. I’ve written a memoir about raising the younger one, but that’s on hiatus. It’s difficult to write and revise a memoir about something that you’re still living.

Moonlake: Helen, I think the next part of the interview is already partially covered by your previous answers. But to delve into things in more specific details, I’m going to ask you what are the circumstances in which you first decided to pursue writing in a serious way?

 

Helen: A question that makes me squirm a little. In my arrogant youth, I was all about publication, and went about it in an almost robotic fashion. Write the story, rewrite the story, send it out, send it out, send it out, bingo, publication. The rejection slips didn’t bother me. It was just part of the business.

Once I became a mother, and suffered pretty severe post-natal depression, it was like that tough dinosaur hide was torn off me, and these days, it’s much harder for me to send anything out into the world. If I’d kept going the way I was, I dunno, maybe I’d be a Carmel Bird, or a Marge Piercy by now. Who knows.

But I didn’t, and in a lot of ways, I’m still a beginner. My yoga practice helps me constantly return to beginner’s mind.

Of late, and by that I mean the last six months, I’ve been following Angela Slatter online, since reading her excellent book VIGIL. I am enamoured not only of her talent, but her business-like way of going about her writing. She’s a ‘write every day’ author, and far-seeing in terms of her plans. Even as her second book is coming out, she is well into the third, and still submitting stories, as well as appearing at science fiction and fantasy conventions. She’s inspired me to finally, at age 53, get serious again, and decide that if I want even a quarter of the success of an Angela, a Carmel, a Marge, then I need to get my arse into gear.

It hasn’t hurt, either, that various tarot readings in the past four years, and a couple of tea leaf readings recently have all shouted ‘get your arse in gear, woman!’ either.

Moonlake: Now, looking back, would you have done anything differently, and what?

Hmm, that’s a tough one, because so much of what I did revolves around my mental state, and if I hadn’t become a mother, then I wouldn’t have had all that incredible life-at-the-coalface experience, I wouldn’t have my two great children, nor my wonderful grandchildren. Sure, I wish I hadn’t copped post-natal depression. I wish I didn’t have depression, and anxiety, and fibromyalgia. But I do, and that’s that.

I wish perhaps I’d kept up my storytelling short fiction, and been braver there. I wish I’d written through those early years as a mother and gotten serious much sooner. But I didn’t, and I’m here now, and if I’m lucky, I have another 40 years or so to go full tilt at my writing, and see where it takes me.

Moonlake: Overall, how far do you think you have progressed from your initial point?

Helen: How long is a piece of string? I’m no longer writing little fan fictions and keeping them in a school suitcase under the bed, so that’s something. I made quite a name for myself as a fan writer in the 80’s, and was nominated for Best Fan Writer a few times. I dabbled in Harry Potter fan fiction in that long period between books 4 and 5, and had a lot of fun on fanfic.net for a while. I had a very big following in Scandinavia, with fans begging for new stories that messed with all the beloved fan tropes. Oh, I do love messing with tropes.

Moonlake: Wow, a Scandinavian fans base!

Helen: Yeah, I’d get the most entertaining and bizarre feedback on my fan fiction stories from that part of the world. I had quite the following of people waiting for my next story. I dunno. Maybe with all those long cold dark months, there’s not much else to do but read fan fiction? I also had a bundle of fans in the States. They liked my actual writing more, but didn’t so much like me sending up their beloved tropes.

Moonlake: Think we went off base a little, we were talking about your overall progress from the initial point.

Helen: Well, I’m not as successful as I’d like to be, but I’ll get there. I think it’s a continuous journey without an end point.

Moonlake: Yep, it’s definitely a journey as life is a journey. I love this way of conceptualising things. So that brings us to the conclusion of this interview. Thank you for your time today, Helen. Readers, see you all till next time

Writer’s Achievement Diary- 25 June 2017

Mon 19/06/2017

  1. Decided on how to proceed by switching pace of alternating narration

Tue 20/06/2017

  1. Amended scene 2 of chap 20

Wed 21/06/2017

  1. Removing 2 chapters’ worth of scenes from chaps 11-20 to fix up timing bug

Thu 22/06/2017

  1. Completely restructured sequence of scenes by switching the order of narrative alternation
  2. Scene 1, chap 9

Fri 23/06/2017

  1. Scene 2, chap 9
  2. Main gist of chap 10

Sat 24/06/2017

  1. Scene 1, chap 10
  2. Chap 10 done

Sun 25/06/2017

  1. Scene reorganisation between chap 10 and 21
  2. Expanded scene 1, chap 21 (but stuck)
  3. Noted down crucial plot points for chaps 21-25, 31-35 and early ideas

Some time between last recorded period and this one, I encountered a major stumble block which was the events were occurring out of sequence in the book. So basically this entire week was spent correcting this.

Week Goal: 1 achievement on average on weekdays and 2 on weekends. Up to Chapter 20 outlined (1 chapter).

Week Tally: 1.4 achievement on average on weekdays and 2.5 on weekends

Sum story progress: a bit over 2 chapters (redid one chapter from last week)

Against last week: Got rid of cold so speed picking up again.

Writer’s Awakening- Renee Wiseman

Moonlake: Hi, I’m Moonlake Ku and welcome to the first episode of Writer’s Awakening. Today, we have author Renee Wiseman with us. Firstly, tell us about yourself and your journey into writing, Renee.

Renee: My journey into writing was a twisted one, because I actually started as a kid. My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer, and I started writing to escape my life, especially as things grew worse. As my mom’s condition deteriorated I poured a huge amount of energy into creating a science fiction universe. It was an escape from a reality where the person who meant the most to me was failing and preparing to leave the world. She passed away when I was 14, and by that time I had a novel about half written (I thought.) I finished the novel and tried sending it to some publishers with a query letter I found online. This was in the 90s when the internet was still relatively new, and resources scarce.

Moonlake: How was this first novel received by publishers?

Renee: I got personal responses back from several of the publishers. In hindsight, I should have framed those! One in particular I remember just asked me to expand it by a few thousand words and resubmit. But I was a fragile kid who had just lost her mother and was suffering from low self-esteem. I gave up and poured my writing energy into online roleplaying games instead. I created new worlds that way and spent hours a day on them. They really honed my characterization and world building skills. My interests also shifted from Science Fiction to the fantasy genre. About two years ago it became more difficult to find other players and many of the games I was in closed down. I was left with time on my hands and found an old copy of my manuscript from when I was 15. I cringed when I read some parts of it, but got a niggling idea that maybe I should try it again.

Moonlake: Wow, this sounds amazing, Renee. Just so you know, I’ve recently become a player in a dedicated weekly gaming group but I’m not a Game Master (GM) like you, just a player. But really, it amazes me that as a teenager, you already recognize that being a writer is what you want to be enough that you would actually query agents/publishers.

Renee: I remember it took me over 4 hours to print my book on an old fashioned dot matrix printer. I enclosed the envelope so they’d return the manuscript because it cost so much money for me to produce it. I spent more time on those queries than I spent on my college admission essays.

Moonlake: Oh okay, so you were about 18 when you did the querying? But still amazing.

Renee: 16. I started querying at 16.

Moonlake: Oh, you stuck at querying for 2 years?! Wow, you were very persistent back then.

Renee: My dad always told me I was stubborn.

Moonlake: Lol, stubborn is good when it’s for a good cause. So what eventually happened to this first project?

Renee: Well, eventually I gave it up. I got enough rejections I decided it wasn’t good enough, especially with those around me telling me the same. I put it away. That novel was lost in a hard drive crash years ago, though I still have a paper copy of the manuscript.

Moonlake: Have you looked through this first manuscript since you gave it up just to see how far you’ve come since then and maybe plan about giving it a re-write?

Renee: I did actually. Most writers cringe when they look at something they wrote years ago. I didn’t cringe when I read that one, I fled in terror! That book had its place, but it’ll never see print in anything close to its current form. It helped me confront life issues that I was much too young to deal with. I confronted death in that book, and doing so helped me come to terms with what was happening in my real life. I know now that the world was underdeveloped and many of the characters were superficial. I’m not saying I’ll never rewrite it, in fact my husband wants me to, but I’m much more interested in the fantasy genre now, and I have no shortage of stories there to tell.

Moonlake: On looking through old work, actually I’m someone who routinely goes through old writing of mine just to see them with fresh eyes.  But I can see that if that initial project was just a means for you to deal with your real life situation at that specific time and like you said, the core ideas are under-developed and your interest had moved on, then it’s best to just keep it as a memorandum. So when is it that you first decided to pursue writing in a serious way and what are the circumstances?

Renee: I’ve always wanted to be a writer. Ever since I was a kid part of me knew that I was supposed to be doing this. For the past 15 years or so I was content to just share it with a small group of my friends in the form of those online games, but about 2 years ago something in me changed, and I wanted to do something more serious, and more lengthy than a play by email post. I’ve always constructed massive storylines in my games and I just took that to the next level and began doing it largely for myself. Something inspired me, and I began making the time and pouring my energy in that direction instead. Now I have a completed 125K word novel to show for it, with plans for a second book.

Moonlake: Just out of personal curiosity, you said earlier you’ve sunk a lot of your energy into gaming, would you be able to describe more specifically how much time you spent on it?

Renee: At one point I was playing in 22 games, and GMing 5. I spent a ridiculous amount of time on those online games, really. Even now, a group of those friends and I are gaming together in the world I’m creating in my novel. They’re all really excited to read it. Three of them already have.

Moonlake: So I guess the gaming also gives you some natural fans to begin with?

Renee: Yes, it seems I do! And I make sure to put references to those games throughout my works. They are subtle, and things only those involved in the games or plots would recognize. Names of characters or places, or events that happened. As a matter of fact, the plot for my new novel is a plot I ran in one of my RPGs about 10 years ago. I just repurposed, redeveloped and expanded it tremendously.

Moonlake: Ah, additional benefit: recycling of story elements. I’m always fond of recycling too. Now, looking back, how would you have done things differently or would you have done things differently?

Renee: Looking back I would have slapped my teenage self and told her to expand that novel and get it out! I truly regret the time I lost, though I can’t say I fully regret my online gaming years. I have many good friends and great memories that came out of that experience, and working with many characters in one scene taught me how to juggle different voices and points of view. Putting together plots for the games taught me about making plots for books. My settings, descriptions and characterization are all stronger from the input I got from those amazing friends. Looking at my writing then and now I can see how much those skills benefited me. I’m a stronger writer for it.

Moonlake: So overall, how far do you think you have progressed from your initial point?

Renee: More than I can easily quantify. When I was a teenager writing that first book, I was learning so much. That was really the first fiction I ever wrote. As part of my Master’s degree I had to write a nonfiction book on history, and doing so taught me many of the technical aspects of writing a book, but holding my work in hard bound form also taught me a feeling of pride and accomplishment that made my gaming experience pale in comparison. That was really my ‘ah hah!’ moment when I said “I love this!” I’m now a far more experienced and sophisticated writer than when I wrote that first book as a teenager.

Moonlake: In terms of your foray into fantasy, how far have you gone in terms publishing? And maybe share your WIP?

Renee: Well, I’m proud to say I have a short story in the upcoming Monsters Vs. Zombies anthology from Stitched Smile Publications. That is due in October. I’m currently putting the finishing touches on my novel, tentatively titled “Ayneria’s Call”. This one is about a girl who was born a slave in an empire resembling our historical Rome. She is selected by the Goddess of the Fae to lead the tribes, which leads to a conflict, since she was born and raised among humans, she only wants to be human. But Goddesses aren’t easily turned down, now are they?  I’m currently looking for an agent to represent my novel.

Moonlake: Sounds great, those developments. Now, if we want to follow you on social media, how can we find you?

Renee: https://twitter.com/ReneeMWiseman

https://www.facebook.com/ReneeMWiseman/

Moonlake: Okay then, best of luck for the novel. I think that about wraps up the interview. Thanks for your time today.

Renee: My pleasure.

Moonlake: That’s all for today. Thanks to all of those who read this through.

Writer’s Achievement Diary- 18 June 2017

Mon 12/06/2017

Long weekend plus still down with cold so took a day off.

Tue 13/06/2017

  1. Scene 1, chap 20

Wed 14/06/2017

Doc appointment day, took it off

Thu 15/06/2017

Resting at home to recover from sickness

Fri 16/06/2017

  1. Relocated part of a scene to later

Sat 17/06/2017

  1. Chap 20 done

Sun 18/06/2017

Took a day off, indecision over how to proceed after catching a bug in timing of events.

Week Goal: Up to Chapter 20 outlined (1 chapter).

Week Tally: 0.4 achievement on average on weekdays and 0.5 on weekends

Sum story progress: 1 chapter

Against last week: Still recovering from cold so don’t expect much progress. But did manage this week’s goal so that’s fair progress.

Writer’s Achievement Diary- 11 June 2017

Mon 5/06/2017

1. Chap 17 done

Tue 6/06/2017

1. Scene 1, chap 18

Wed 7/06/2017

1. Chap 18 done

Thu 8/06/2017

1. Expanded scene 2 of Chap 18, tagged on a little more events to fill it up so that it can stand on its own
2. Scene 1, chap 19

Fri 9/06/2017

1. Rough gist of rest of chap 19

Sat 10/06/2017

1. Refinement of scene 3, chap 19

Sun 11/06/2017

Down with cold. Took a day off.

Week Goal: 1 achievement on average on weekdays and 2 on weekends. Up to Chapter 20 outlined (3.5 chapters).
Week Tally: 1.2 achievement on average on weekdays and 1 on weekends
Sum story progress: 2.5 chapters
Against last week: The cold interfered with my progress but it’s still fair, didn’t reach the assigned week goal but moved ahead compared to last week.

Writer’s Achievement Diary- 4 June 2017

Mon 29/05/2017

  1. Settled on ages for 2 main male characters
  2. Re-order a bunch of scenes between chaps 12-15
  3. Readjusted content of scenes in chap 13
  4. Idea seeds on chaps 16, scene 1 of chap 17

Tue 30/05/2017

  1. 20 grids filled for Chan Lok
  2. Vague idea for scene 1, chap 16

Wed 31/05/2017

  1. 22 grids filled for Si Ma Gun (out of goal of 20)

Thu 1/06/2017

  1. Scene 1, chap 16

Fri 2/06/2017

  1. Chap 16 done

Sat 3/06/2017

  1. Sorted out the ‘ending’ of chaps 16-20 block
  2. Working out the rough gist for chap 17
  3. Scene 1, chap 17

Sun 4/06/2017

  1. Started on list of easily pronounced Chinese characters to be used for naming (sizable surname list and 2 full names, first names to be done)
  2. Joted down notes on chap 18/19 (floating scene for now)

Week Goal: 1 achievement on average on weekdays and 2 on weekends. 5 Chapters outlined

Week Tally: 1.8 achievement on average on weekdays and 2.5 on weekends

Sum story progress: 1.5 chapters and fair progress on 2 main characters

Against last week: Now that I switched to the other plot-line I feel a little stuck as I needed to get back into it.

Moonlake’s Progress as a Writer

Random reminder: there’s now the option to receive new posts of this blog via email. It’s located at the bottom of the blog for anyone interested.

This blog has now been up for exactly two and a half years (as of the time of writing) and just prior to the creation of this blog, I started dipping my toes into fiction. So I thought it’s high time that I do a post on my own progress as a writer since then.

What I’ve Done:

  • Dipped my toes in novel writing and
    • Fully outlined up to book 2 of a quintet and partially all the other books in the series
    • Written up to chap 15 for book 1 out of a planned 21 chapters
  • Tried my hands at short story writing through a multi-author anthology
    • Co-authored one short story
    • Written a solo piece- A Thread of Chance that I’m converting to a novella right now
  • Creating a new novel series right now
    • Outlining book 1 as I type now- round 1 almost concluded

What I’ve Learnt:

  • Signed up for James Patterson’s Masterclass, a course crash on all aspects of the writing and publishing process. What I took away from this was mostly the idea of doing comprehensive outlines based on the provided sample outline from JP
  • Learnt a lot about myself as a writer and a person from the epub venture
    • Fine-tuned/refocused myself on novels rather than short stories
    • Learnt what makes me tick versus what doesn’t as a writer and a person

What I’ve Achieved:

  • I’ve made the important mind change to viewing writing as a hobby to thinking about turning it into my career. I’m still doing a FT day job at the moment and planning to make the transition slow but the mind change is the important thing
  • I’ve broadened my social network and gained on board a lot of writer friends through social media
  • I’ve expanded my reading horizon slightly and taken on board historical fiction as a new genre
  • Last but not least I’ve made this blog which isn’t much now but can be leveraged to build an author platform for myself

 

Writer’s Achievement Diary- 28 May 2017

Mon 22/05/2017

  1. Scene 1, chap 46 done
  2. Scene 2, chap 46 outlined very roughly

Tue 23/05/2017

  1. Scene 1, chap 47 partially outlined

Wed 24/05/2017

  1. Scene 1, chap 47 changed completely
  2. Chap 47 done
  3. Scene 1, chap 48 done

Thu 25/05/2017

  1. Changed ending of scene 1, chap 48
  2. Scene 2, chap 48
  3. Scene 3, chap 48 in main gist
  4. Rounded out scene 3, Chap 48 done

Fri 26/05/2017

  1. Vague idea of a subsequent happening

Sat 27/05/2017

  1. Cleared out floating scenes that belong to book 2
  2. Scene 1, chap 49; 3. Chap 49 done

Sun 28/05/2017

  1. Scene 1, chap 50
  2. Chap 50 done

Week Goal: 1 achievement on average on weekdays and 2 on weekends

Week Tally: 2.2 achievement on average on weekdays and 2 on weekends

Sum story progress: 5 chapters.

Against last week: Taking it leisurely after ‘big push’ last week but still making good progress.

Writer’s Achievement Diary- 21 May 17

Mon 15/05/2017

1. Finished off scene 2 of Chap 27
2. Figured out main gist of scene 2, chap 28
3. Made decision to relocate another side-plot section
4: Sketched out scene 2 of Chap 28 from scratch

Tue 16/05/2017

1. Decided on general shape of events for Chap 29-30 (equivalent of 4 achievements)

Wed 17/05/2017

1. Tidied up chap 29-30 in comprehensive form (equivalent of 4 achievements)

Thu 18/05/2017

1. Came up with an important flaw in Sin Sin’s character
2. Came up with rough idea of book 1 end
3. Rounded out scene 2 of chap 30
4. Fleshed out scene 1 of chap 41
5. Very rough idea on what goes into scene 2, chap 41; 6. Ironed out gist of main event in chap 42

Fri 19/05/2017

1. Relocated one scene as floating scene
2. Fleshed out new scene 2 of Chap 41 from scratch
3. Scene 1, Chap 42 done
4. Scene 2, Chap 42 done
5. Scene 1, Chap 43 done
6. Chap 43 done

Sat 20/05/2017

1. Scene 1, Chap 44 done
2. Scene 2, Chap 44 rough gist done
3. Fleshed out Scene 2, Chap 44
4. Scene 1, Chap 45
5. Chap 45 done

Sun 21/05/2017

Took a break since finished monthly goal already!

Week Goal: 1 achievement on average on weekdays and 2 on weekends

Week Tally: 4.8 achievement on average on weekdays and 2.5 on weekends

Sum story progress: 8 Chapters!

Against last week: Speed really picking up this week on weekdays!

Writer’s Achievement Diary- 14 May 17

Mon 8/05/2017

1. Fleshed out the empathy scene b/w Sin Sin and Lok for potential future incorporation
2. Identified key decision points for the outline as a separate doc

Tue 9/05/2017

1. 10 grids filled for Ip

Wed 10/05/2017

1. Came up with rough idea on scene 2 of chapter 26

Thu 11/05/2017

1. Come up with rough idea on Chap 27
2. Made rough decisions on some of the floating scenes
3. Progress on scene 2 of chap 26

Fri 12/05/2017

1. Finalised scene 2 of chap 26
2. Finalised scene 1 of chap 27

Sat 13/05/2017

1. Rough outline of scene 2, Chap 27
2. Rough outline of Chap 29

Sun 14/05/2017

1. Joted down idea on round 2 outlining concerning plot relocation in early 10 chapters following received feedback
2. Plotted out scene 1 of Chap 28

Week Goal: 1 achievement on average on weekdays and 2 on weekends
Week Tally: 1.8 achievement on average on weekdays and 2 on weekends
Sum story progress: bit more than 1 chap, abt 1 chap worth of rough outlines.
Against last week: weekdays almost catching up to weekends! Sum story progress also going nice.