Kickstart My Art

Here I am trying to be all Zen and Pollyanna-like in a brand new year and someone has to come along and upset my apple cart. For the first few years at Nick’s primary school I used to hang out with a group of the other mothers. We had quite a close-knit group going there for a while and used to meet regularly. However, as is usually the case in a group of women there is someone who likes to stir the pot. Jane was that person. All barley-sugar, fluffy bunny motherly goodness on the outside and black, shrivelled, take a bite out of my poisoned apple badness on the inside.

Jane and I had a competitive thing going there for a bit. We both wanted to get our books published. We came from totally different backgrounds – Jane was upper crust, private school all the way, marry a barrister and have 2.5 children what ho! And me, well, you know what side of the tracks I was on.

I read some of Jane’s stuff back in the day and it was good. Not the kind of stuff I would normally read – all that woman finding herself  type of thing while throwing in as many references to classical literature as possible and using words like ocelot and obelisk and oleaginous (it is too a real word) and setting it in a university or a think tank so the characters can appear all contemplative and self-important. It was not my flavour, but it had potential.

Jane wrote several drafts of this intellectual, highly stylized novel of hers and ended up getting an agent. I was pleased for her especially as at the time I also had an agent and a pending book deal on the table. It kind of felt like a level playing field until the deal I almost had went kaput. I also fell out with my agent. Jane swanned about a bit but for many years had trouble getting a deal too.

Fast forward to today. Jane rang me. She has written another book which she says is totally different from the first one, although she did use rosaceous and rook in the one sentence while describing it, so I’m not so sure if much actually has changed. The good news for her and if I’m honest, slightly irritating news for me is that she has a deal with Random House and her book is coming out in April.

I’m glad for her, really I am, but it irks me. She knows people in publishing. She plays tennis with them. Has cocktails with them on her boat. Her kids go to one of the top schools in Sydney with their kids. I know I shouldn’t be so uncharitable but I can’t help but think that all that schmoozing has paid off for her.

The thing that really got on my goat was that she has just completed a Master of Arts in Creative Writing and believes that is why she got published. Apparently, I will never get published without a Master’s degree.

I’ll show her.

It may not have been her intention but Jane has given me a massive kickstart. I am going to prove to her that writing a novel is not just about who you know and what you know. Nor is it about using exotic, egregious and epicanthus in the one sentence.

It is about telling a story.

Game on, bitch.

40 thoughts on “Kickstart My Art

  1. Well, I found that using long words like ‘wheelbarrow’ tended to put editors off!

    I get all annoyed when I see the travel pages of the newspaper … not one professional writer among ’em. If you want to get published, it seems, play football, act, read the news on TV, get elected to the House of Commons … or marry someone who does!


  2. lol – well, we know that it doesn’t take that. And Selma, satisfy yourself with the fact that there are LOTS of books out there published that are on the bargain rack.

    Not hoping that for your “friend”, but with words like that, the general public probably won’t read it – just a sign of the time. Can you believe I saw on fb where they were encouraging people to read New Moon because it would INCREASE their vocabulary, and people were AGREEING. My mouth dropped open, it really did. What a stupid, stupid society we live in. Not only do you need a publisher, but you need to know what your public WILL READ.

    You’ve got what it takes – but I’m glad she upset your cart if that gets you motivated. I need something stronger than the pull of doing what I’m already doing to get me focused. 😛 Let me pull out my pomm poms again…. GO SELMA! GO SELMA! GO SELMA! WHEEE!!!! 😀


  3. It irks me too that those with a Masters in Creative Writing seem to have certain things given to them on a plate, but i actually think that is changing and more and more it will be real talent that wins through. Keep writing and good luck!


  4. Game on girl! It’s just the kind of thing that would motivate me too.

    Anyway, the only people who like to read books littered with pretentiousness are those who have a need for the pretentious part – story isn’t probably much a factor. Pick up any book by any great fiction writer today and it will be filled with the simplest language possible. Using too much ostentatious language in fiction is like using too many adjectives, it reeks of amateur.

    Vocabulary is a beautiful thing and we have a world of wonderful words at our disposal, and occasionally an uncommon, long or obscure word is just the ticket to say just that thing. But it’s like cooking – too many spices in the sauce just overpower the sauce and you can’t taste it anymore.


  5. I like Pretentious Jane. If Jane gets Selma to get her book published, Jane is my friend.

    Very honest Selma. I try to beat back my jealousy. I have a writing friend who was a friend but suddenly became fabulously famous and decided I was her enemy- who I can’t even mention for fear my jealousy will pour out and drown us all. You are very brave.

    Now go and write that book and show Jane the Pain who’s the man! (woman)


  6. Fabulous. My first reaction to these things is often jealousy, I have to admit, but then I beat myself up about it. But you’re right….let’s turn all that negative junk to energy. As you so aptly put it — game on!


  7. yeah, selma! rock and roll! fuck jane and her “o” book and now fuck her and her published “r” book! i quote bill murray in “rushmore”: “get the rich kids in yr sights and open fire”. yeah, selma!


  8. Because originality is NOT on my plate today, AND because Lauri said what I was going to say anyway, I’m simply going to second Lauri’s comment.

    Verbatim. Ok, except for the famous friend part, but that will come later…when you’ve hit the best-seller list for the 2nd year in a row…and I PROMISE to not be jealous. Much.

    Seriously, I’m DELIGHTED that you have found your…um…boot to the butt and will soon be gracing us with your BIG-PUBLISHING-HOUSE-PRODUCED-BOOK-OF-AWESOMENESS, SO THERE, JANE!



  9. It IS ..all about the story Selma. And..You have written many, many great ones .
    Good Luck, although I don’t think you’ll need it.


    Oh, don’t get me going on the celebs who write books. I succumbed to the lure of reality TV over Christmas and watched ‘What Katie Did Next’ about that awful glam model, Jordan aka Katie Price. She has written a book called Sapphire. Apparently she comes up with the titles based around what she wants to wear to the launch. She had on a sapphire bodysuit and tutu. Her book hit the bestseller lists in three days. I have no idea what it was about but I wouldn’t expect too much because she was cooking dinner on the show, wanted to add some herbs and couldn’t say ‘oregano.’ Strewth 🙄

    Hi TEX:
    You are the best cheerleader ever. That is funny about Facebook. People really have no idea, do they? Oh, I’m focused all right. They say success is the best revenge. We’ll see who has the last laugh!

    I was talking about that the other day with a friend of mine who is a published playwright and she thinks the same thing. Originality, talent and persistence does win out in the end, I think. I hope.

    I really value your comment because I know you know what you’re talking about. It’s true. The more obscure the vocabulary the more tiring the book is to read. I don’t want to have the novel in the right hand and a dictionary in the left. It’s exhausting. Thank you for your insight.


  11. So this is what it takes to get you motivated?!
    Pull your finger out because its about time you put it all down. Plus wheres the rest of the brilliant petit bateaux story? Remember that? It was excellent.
    I challenge you to have a novel finished by the end of the year.
    Dare ya!


  12. Hi LAURI:
    I try to beat it back too, but sometimes it’s hard. However, it is not up to me to decide who is worthy and who isn’t in the publishing world; I just have to get in there and beat them at their own game. I like how you call her Pretentious Jane. That has really tickled me!

    Hi SUE:
    Oh, I know. Jealousy gets you nowhere in the end. Rechannelling it is the way to go because then you might just end up with something positive. That’s the plan, at least!

    Hi JASON:
    Yeah – eat the rich. Power to the proletariat. We can write, we just use our own sweat mixed with dirt as ink. Your comment has made me laugh so much I can barely write. You are an absolute gem. Thank you XX

    Hi KAREN:
    Well, there’s no need to be jealous because you’ll be right there with me. I am not going to give up on you – no worries there. It’s going to happen for both of us!

    Hi MAMA ZEN:
    I’m going to give her an aerial sideswipe to her solar plexus followed by a bushido flip kick and finished with a butterfly stomp (my sister has a black belt in karate and I used to help her with her training). That’ll show her!

    Thank you so much. Your support means more than you know…

    Hi NAT:
    And there’s the rub – there is no guarantee of big sales or any acclaim at all. It’s OK to hope that a little bit, isn’t it?


  13. Hi KATE:
    It’s shameful, isn’t it? I fart around all year and this is what gets me going. ‘You need to take a good long look at yourself, my girl,’ that’s what my grandmother would say. Dare accepted XX


  14. I have read many blogs featuring short stories over the last several years. Selma, your stories have been by far the cream of the crop. You get that book finished and published and let me know so I can be first in line to by at least 10 copies – I have friends who I want to impress with the knowledge I know the author! Kick her ass Selma!


  15. Sel, I think it’s great that you get motivated by your anger — that you can take it and transform it into something good. I can’t wait! BTW, love the new look and your new photo!


  16. Hi CRICKET:
    You are so kind. I have been writing all day. I may collapse in a heap by the end of the month but at least the book will be done!

    Felt like a new look. Something kind of clean and fresh. I have learnt over the years that internalizing stuff doesn’t help me mentally, hence the rechannelling. Here’s hoping….

    Hi PAUL:
    Ain’t it the truth. Sheesh.


  17. game on, indeed. i like that this made you move and not stagnant. there will always be the people that know the people, that seems to be what they do best. i went to school with a load of them as the girl on scholarship and i learned so very much from them, but one very salient point i took away is that i shall never want to be one of them.

    our fires get stoked in many different ways. and it sounds like her book would be one i would never read. yours? let’s see you bring it. 🙂


  18. I just received an email about the BBC’s short story competition. I didn’t pay too much heed, because I don’t really do fiction. But, apparently, the short-listed competitors get to appear on TV to talk about their story …

    Pity is, it’s restricted to UK residents … but maybe, if it’s successful, Aussie TV might follow suit?


  19. Hi MAMIE:
    You are absolutely right. I wouldn’t want to be one of them, either. It’s just not me. I appreciate your support very much. Thank you.

    You just never know. It sounds like a really good idea. I hope I get the chance to see it on TV. Or via the BBC website. I always like to hear how people come up with their stories!


  20. People have said the same to me…go on a writing MA…it’s the way to get contacts and all that (and certainly there are plenty of success stories to back that up). I haven’t done one yet though…it just hasn’t been the right thing for me so far.


  21. Game on indeed. GO YOU. Do not even think of her while you’re writing, either.
    I’ve been tossing around the idea of writing a book but the closest I’ve gotten is the Little Series on my blog. I’m lazy.


    I’ll keep an eye on it. I really enjoy things like that. Thanks for the link!

    Hi RACHEL:
    The same thing has been said to me, that an MA is fantastic for networking and all that but that just doesn’t sit right with me. It would take away the pleasure of the writing. It’s not the right thing for me, either.

    Hi KAREN:
    I don’t think it’s laziness, I think it’s more to do with lack of free time. Writing really is a full time job and not many of us have that much time to spare. I really like your Little Series, by the way. Very well written!

    Hi BRE:
    Thanks so much, hon. You are so kind !


  23. I know two things:

    People who incorporate “rosaceous and rook” in a single sentence are not to be trusted.

    The second thing? That you have talent, Selma. Real talent.

    The chips will fall where they may, but that won’t change my opinion none.

    I hope the coming year comes festooned with blessings!


  24. You my friend are a far better writer than ANYONE I’ve ever read, Masters Degree or NOT.

    It does kind of sting when sometimes in life people gain success because of the other people they know.

    However, I am THRILLED this news – has lit a new fire under your ass, in getting your OWN book published .


  25. Where can I get me a kick-start like that too, please! You’re a fine writer, Selma, and I hope you find a good agent and get published soon.


  26. Hi JONAS:
    Oh, absolutely. I can’t even think how those two words would work in a sentence. Sounds like a lot of showing off to me. Thank you for your lovely comment. I do so appreciate it XX

    Hi MELEAH:
    It does sting. I am trying really hard to be glad for her but well, my inner bitch is coming out and I’m stomping around the house like a three year old. It’s lit a fire all right. A big one. LOL.

    I absolutely love your new avatar. I have two words for you:
    MACS RULE !!!!

    Hi ROWE:
    Aww, thanks, hon. It has been the kickstart I have needed. Quite an unbelievable response on my part. Who would’ve thought?


  27. OMG…I could not read a book with those ridiculous words in it. I’d have to swallow the dictionary first and who wants to do that. I’m not ashamed to be immature…I hope Pretentious Jane falls flat on her Gucci clad ass making way for our Sel to take all the kudos of the publishing world and book buying public. So there.


  28. “I know I shouldn’t be so uncharitable but I can’t help but think that all that schmoozing has paid off for her”. -Selma

    Jane’s schmoozing may have gotten her manuscript read by someone with influence at Random. But it would have been her talent as a writer that saw that MS be considered for publication.

    Random House publishes some of the biggest names in Aus Lit*. I doubt that it would risk its professional literary and business reputation on account of schmoozing.

    “and if I’m honest, slightly irritating news for me is that she has a deal with Random House and her book is coming out in April” –Selma.

    Hmmm, that seems pretty fast. April is only four months away. Novels, especially first novels, usually go through a years worth of substantive editing once the decision to publish has been made.

    “Game on, bitch” -Selma (Aussie Big Brother quote?)

    Could this be the start of a great literary rival ala Capote and Gore Vidal and Truman Capote or perhaps Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Mario Vargas Llosa?

    Gore Vidal, “America’s premier man of letters” on Truman Capote on-truman-capote-the-other-bitchier-one/

    Best of enemies: The truth behind a 30-year literary feud …
    Why did Mario Vargas Llosa punch Gabriel Garcia Marquez, his rival for the title of Latin ….. Capote and Vidal began their lifelong feud in the 1940s. …

    David M

    *“Authors published under local imprints include Deborah Abela, Anita Bell, Georgia Blain, Richard Branson, Peter Carey, Matthew Condon, Susan Duncan, Keith Fennell, John Flanagan, Richard Flanagan, Peter FitzSimons, Janet Frame, Leah Giarratano, Bradley Trevor Greive, Wendy Harmer, Robert Hughes, Kate Jennings, Susan Johnson, Gail Jones, Tom Keneally, Christopher Koch, Joan London, David Malouf, Roger McDonald, Susan Mitchell, Drusilla Modjeska, Frank Moorhouse, Judy Nunn, Elliot Perlman, Deborah Robertson and Don Watson”


  29. Hi GYPSY:
    You are a character. Thank you for your constant support. It is fabulous XX

    Hi DAVID:
    I know, I know. You are right. I am just a jealous lunatic. Look, the woman can write, there’s no disputing that.

    Your comment re. the literary feud made me chuckle. I wish I could be a good enough writer to engage in such a feud.

    I hate to admit it but I got the ‘Game on, bitch’ quote from Australia’s Next Top Model. Yes, I know it’s sad that I watch it. Maybe I should watch less T.V. and do more writing or read something really literary like Ulysses by James Joyce which might rub off on me. Oh, wait, the replay of Top Chef Las Vegas is coming on. Ulysses will have to wait 😆


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