For me, August is very much a month of talking about writing. Term three ramps up as CBCA Book Week approaches and I have a full dance card of author visits and a festival appearance to finish off.
Of course, what with a podcast and an online writing group, I never really stop talking about writing, so I thought I’d write a little post to answer some of the questions I’ve been asked over the past few weeks.
What advice would I give myself as a new writer?
I was recently interviewed by Ky Garvey for the Totally Lit podcast.
In a very chatty interview, I reveal my writing and podcasting secrets, including my tips for productive procrastination, the inspiration for The Wolf’s Howl, how to choose the right idea, the most difficult aspect of writing, and the key to podcasting success.
Ky also asked me what the advice I would give myself if I could go back to the start of my writing career.
My response (spoiler alert) was that I would tell myself to develop patience.
After spending most of my life working to deadlines as a journalist and then a freelance writer, I was all about pushing forward, moving on to the next thing. Hurry up and write.
I quickly learned that book publishing is more a ‘hurry up and wait’ proposition but it has taken me years to work out how to live with that.
To be fair, I did have excellent people around me who tried very hard right back there at the beginning to help me understand. But I think it’s a bit like having kids – you think you know what it’s going to be like and that you’re entirely across the process, and then you bring them home…
Why should I read?
This one came in a quiet moment at the end of a recent school visit, and I don’t mind admitting that it stopped me for a moment.
A year seven student approached me, very earnest, wanting to discuss the fact that she didn’t read much.
“Okay,” I said. “Is there a reason you don’t read? Do you find it boring? Is it difficult? Would you prefer to listen to an audio book or consume stories in a different way?”
“I’d rather watch documentaries on television. Can you tell me why I should read?”
One thousand answers ran through my mind as we shared that moment. “When you read, you have a direct line to the way someone else thinks,” I said, grasping to articulate the joys of reading. “You are given their perspective on the world, their language choices, their experiences, even as they are filtered through the veil of characters and story.”
She didn’t look convinced.
“Words,” I tried again, looking for tangible benefits. “The gift of words directly into your brain. The kinds of words that will help you so much as you work your way up through high school.”
Again, she was doubtful.
“Even graphic novels?” she said. “I’ve read a couple of those, but they’re not real books, are they?”
Relief flooded through me. “Yes,” I said. “Yes, they are. Read those if you like them. Read as many as you can and then ask your school librarian for other books that are similar.”
She smiled. “All right, I’ll give it a go.”
And she walked away, leaving me to pack up my things and hope that I’d said enough that she would give it a go.
How do I get author photos that I’m happy with?
My monthly Access Al Areas Zoom Q&A with Write With Allison Tait, my online writing group, is such a joyous part of my routine and the perfect excuse to talk about all aspects of writing.
This month, we got into the nitty gritty of author headshots, specifically how to make sure that you’re happy with any you get taken. I had three main tips:
Research the kind of look you’re after.
This will very much depend on what you’re writing and your personal style, but the best way to find out is to visit a whole bunch of author websites and make a list of the images you like. You’ll start to see a pattern – whether you’re drawn to black-and-white moody shots or crazy, zany shots, keep notes and examples so that you can show your photographer.
Get a word-of-mouth recommendation if you can.
The key to a great photo is feeling comfortable with your photographer and getting a recommendation from someone you trust makes the process easier.
Take at least two outfit changes.
Professional photos are an investment, so you’ll want to get a few different options from your shoot. Take at least two outfit changes – even if it’s just a different shirt – unless you want to see yourself in the same blazer over and over for the next few years. And ask your photographer to do a range of images – landscape, portrait, headshot – in each.
If you’d like join WWAT and ask your own burning questions every month (or at any time in the Facebook group for a written response), you’ll find more details here. In coming months, Industry Insider guests include Annabel Barker (literary agent), Kate Forsyth (bestselling author), Anna Spargo-Ryan (award-winning author and memoirist) and Natasha Lester (bestselling author).
And so into the breach of school visits I go. If you’re trying to figure out how to manage the Book Week costume this year, you’ll find a terrific list of ideas from Australian authors here.
For South Coast NSW readers – or those looking for a day trip from Sydney – I’m appearing at the wonderful Bundanon 2022 Writers’ Festival on Saturday 3rd September.
Young writers and illustrators can attend a writing/illustration workshop with me and Dale Newman, and I’ll also be In Conversation with international bestselling author Kate Forsyth. Details and tickets here.
Are you new here? Welcome to my blog! I’m Allison Tait, aka A.L. Tait, and I’m the author of two epic middle-grade adventure series, The Mapmaker Chronicles and The Ateban Cipher, and a new ‘almost history’ detective series called the Maven & Reeve Mysteries (you’ll find book #1 THE FIRE STAR here).