Win a Book Club in Box set of Three Gold Coins + Wine + Snacks!

Screen Shot 2018-04-18 at 8.22.23 amDo you have a book club? Want to start one right now?

Here is a wonderful opportunity to have your next meeting’s event delivered to your door, with 10 copies of Three Gold Coins, two bottles of wine and quality snacks, as well as reading and discussion notes and advice on how to start a book club if you need it.

Good Reading Magazine says: “Three Gold Coins packs a mountain of heart, an abundance of tortured soul and a banquet of mouthwatering food.”

To enter, simply follow this link.

Good luck!

Write Your Own 8 Word Story

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Four books published but there is something rather special about these eight words This is a GOA billboard at Moorooka showing off my 8-word story. Thank you to Queensland Writers Centre for choosing my wee tale.

Such a fun and fabulous program to get art out onto the street. I remember only too well all the days of sitting in traffic and it would have been such a lovely thing to have little fairy drops of literature to feed my soul along the way.

Want to play along? You still have time to enter your own 8-word story! Just tweet it with the hashtag #8wordstory and tag the Queensland Writers Centre. Or go to https://8wordstory.com to enter online by Friday 24 November.

Time is Time… Or is It?

time is time‘I need more time.’

‘I don’t have time.’

‘If only I could find more time.’

Does this sound familiar?

When speaking to fellow creative types, the thing I hear the most is the lament for the lack of time to devote to our much-loved art form, be it writing novels, painting landscapes, composing songs or quilting. Artists of all varieties need access to resources—technology, paints, textiles and education, for example—and included in that list is possibly the most coveted of all, time.

Until recently, I thought of time as a finite resource, and struggled with a year planner to work out how quickly I could write my next book, and the next one after that, and so on. With my fourth novel in progress right now, and further contract discussions at hand, I am forced to squash my creativity (by definition, nebulous) hard up against deadlines. But how can I possibly know how long it will take me to write a novel before I’ve even started?

The tricky thing for me to estimate, which I am sure is true for many other creatives, is ‘brew’ time. That is, the time I set aside for my creative project to marinate, so that when I later go back to it, I am looking at it with fresh eyes and lively new ideas. That ‘resting time’ for a creative project helps it mature to greater depth and richness. But is there a way to shorten the brew time, still get a pleasing outcome, and potentially increase my productive output?

Yes, I now think so.

In my struggle to understand how to do this, I spoke with author of twenty-seven novels, Dr Kim Wilkins (who also writes under the name Kimberley Freeman), and who coincidentally happened to be writing an academic paper on just this topic, and asked her about finding the balance between allowing a project time to brew and pushing forward towards a deadline.

‘I’m still learning, but I think I know instinctively if I’m procrastinating. There are also things I do to make the brew happen, like going for a walk, or sitting with my notebook and gazing out the window. I find if I keep connected to the project, and make time for it (including time to research, read, and think) it usually comes. I never force it. The writing is awful when you force it.

‘The incubation period is an acknowledged part of creative activity across all fields. It’s like an exercise rest day: it feels like you’re getting nowhere but you actually are. It can’t always be forward motion.

Kim’s idea that she can ‘make the brew happen’ piques my interest. I now realise that I have been thinking of my brew time as a completely passive activity, when maybe I could speed up my process by specifically allocating smaller portions of time to focused and active ‘thinking’ rather than having long lengths of amorphous subconscious brewing where I wait for the messages to swim up from the deep.

Possibly to my own detriment, having long breaks may even slow me down in more ways than I think. In Kim’s forthcoming academic paper, Writing Time: Coleridge, Creativity and Commerce, she says that ‘As in physics, the initial energy required to start motion (in this case, writing) is greater than that required once momentum is achieved. Interruptions force inertia, and that initial energy must be found again and again.’

The lesson I am receiving, then, is that smaller parcels of active time done more frequently will get me further than longer periods of action after lengthy stretches of rest. Possibly too, if I constantly see my manuscript with fresh eyes after extended absences I will simply reinvent the piece (creating more work for myself), rather than digging deep enough into what I already have to bring it to fruition as it is.

Kim also reminds us that time isn’t just time. Yes, there are sixty seconds in a minute but we don’t necessarily perceive it that way. I’m sure we’ve all had that experience of a minute feeling like an hour and vice versa. Perhaps if I engage my thinking time more actively I might even trick myself and my creative flow into believing I have more time than I actually do.

Most of us will have also at some point found our ‘bliss point’ in an activity where we reach a sense of timelessness, or time standing still, or time meaning nothing. At varying points in our life, time shape shifts and bends. I am often reminded of that saying that goes around in the circles of new mothers—the days are long but the years are short.

Maybe the answer to my struggles lie in applying this same level of intense attentiveness to my novel as I did to my new born, where the whole world fell away to just leave he and I together, working it through, getting to know every different type of cry and facial expression, the sound of every breath and feel of skin. Every day was a marathon that lasted a week. And yet he has just turned five and it’s all happened in the blink of an eye.

Time is merely a notion. I now believe that it might just be possible to increase my productive output while simultaneously slowing down my experience to something that serves both my novel and myself just perfectly, perhaps simply by being more present with the time that I have.

Artists, you are a human being first

<Trigger warning: contains descriptions of violence and murder.>

I recently saw a one-act play. It was part of a number of one-act plays being showcased in an afternoon. I took a last minute invite into the theatre. Then came the terror.

This particular play told the story of three little girls who’d all been murdered by a depraved man. We witnessed (with fabulously effective lighting and sound effects) his stalking, snatching and killing. The girls relayed to us how they felt–the fear, the intuition, the terror. And we learned what he did to them after he’d killed them.

Even as I write this, my heart pounds, my hands sweat and I feel like vomiting. This was how I felt in the theatre. I desperately wanted to flee but felt trapped. I blocked my ears but could not block out the sounds. I closed my eyes but it made no difference.

At the end of the play, a woman a few seats down from me leapt to her feet and fled. I followed. We made our way out of the curtains and exit doors and burst into the sunshine, stared at each other in horror and burst into tears.

‘That was horrendous!’ I gasped.

‘I don’t want that in my consciousness. I don’t want to hear that. I don’t want to see that,’ she cried. And therein lies the problem: what you’ve seen you cannot un-see; and what you’ve heard you cannot un-hear.

‘Neither do I. I have a four-year-old,’ I said. ‘Was there some kind of rating on that?’

We both fumbled for the program. No, there was no rating or advice about viewing. There had been young teens in that audience (maybe twelve or thirteen). The synopsis gave nothing to indicate the sheer viciousness of what we were to be subjected to.

Assault. That’s what it was. A random attack on our psyche–serious mental and emotional disturbance from out of nowhere.

Obviously I am an artist and I champion the rights of artists to make provocative work. So be it. Make what you like. But what you don’t have the right to do is inflict something so clearly designed to instigate serious affliction on someone else without some kind of warning.

Sometimes a work of art will take us to dark places for the explicit purpose of showing us movement in a story–from dark to light, from despair to redemption, from grief to love. There is a purpose to that darkness. But darkness that is that sophisticated (and it was cleverly written, sure, and it was expertly executed by the production team, certainly) and has no light, not a single shift, not a ray of hope, is just immature, thoughtless exploitation of our most precious resource: our own sensitivity to each other’s pain.

And lest you feel I might be a lightweight when it comes to things like this (which, hand on my heart, I confess I am), I think only someone who lacks a human spirit or consciousness would be unaffected by hearing how this man dismembered these girls and buried their little kneecaps under the staircase of their mothers’ home.

It is not okay.

I feel graphically assaulted, viscerally wounded and I will not bury my distress under the collective artists’ cop-out catch cry of ‘it’s art, you can’t censor it, it’s meant to provoke!’

You might be an artist. But you are a human being first and foremost and your first responsibility is to your fellow humans. Always.

Be the light in the darkness; don’t BE the darkness.

Produce what you like. But make sure you give us choice.

Clare Valley Readers and Writers Festival

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I am super excited to let you all know that I am an invited guest to this year’s Clare Readers and Writers Festival in the beautiful Clare Valley in South Australia. Once again, I have drawn the lucky straws when appearing alongside other authors (and one agent) and am thrilled to share the stage with this year’s list.

The festival runs from 25-26 November and registrations open from 1 September.

I hope to see you there!

Jo x

You can read the official announcement here.

Literary Events for July

Hello!

I have two exciting literary events this month:

Read on…

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So first off, come join me for a literary lunch at the Grand View Hotel–Queensland’s oldest licensed hotel. Here’s the spiel:

Josephine Moon, Australia’s first foodie fiction author, describes her novels as ‘books like chocolate brownies’– rich, inviting and a treat for soul, but with chunky nuts to chew on. She is the author of The Tea ChestThe Chocolate Promise and The Beekeeper’s Secret, all published internationally. Enjoy a two-course lunch with wine while Josephine entertains you with the delightful stories behind her books and readings that will make your mouth water.

Sound good? You can book tickets here.

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Next up is the Burdekin Readers & Writers Festival, 15-17 July in North Queensland.

Three days of wonderful programming and a ripper lineup of Australian authors, including:

Kimberley Freeman, Frances Whiting, Nick Earls, Graeme Simsion, Susan Johnson, Morris Gleitzman, Katherine Howell, Matthew Condon, Annie Buist, Lesley & Tammy Williams, David Metzenthen, and one of my all-time heroes, John Marsden.

I’ll be there for:

Beer & Bubbles on the lawn

Dinner with the Authors (Greek banquet… oh yeah!)

High Tea with Josephine Moon (who could resist??)

Happy Hour with the Awesome Foursome (in conversation with Susan Johnson, Kimberley Freeman and Frances Whiting… and apparently we’re going to share our secrets on how we get that whole work-life-parenting balance thing happening)

In conversation with Lynne Butterworth 

Lunch with the Authors

Wow! There’s a lot of food in this program, which sounds right up my alley! This looks like a really rich program so if you can escape the cold and head north for the weekend, why not come along? Book tickets here!

 

 

Should I quit writing?

I am distressed.

Right now I feel like never writing another book. And I’ll try to explain why as simply as I can, trying to untangle the messy political drama that is about to change the entire Australian publishing industry and how it affects me personally.

The government has proposed and recommended that Australia does two things:

  1. Introduce parallel importation
  2. Drastically reduce copyright protection to just 15 years.

(You can sign the petition to tell the government you don’t want this to happen right here.)

How does parallel importation affect me and you?

  • The first point I want to make sure you know is that our contemporaries, the USA and the UK do not have parallel importation. We would be going against them. (Which doesn’t make sense, right?)
  • The next point I want to make is that New Zealand lifted their parallel importation laws and rather than seeing cheaper books their book prices have risen to approximately $37 a book.

When I was offered my first publishing deal (after a long battle of 12 years to crack into my dream career), I was lucky enough to have three publishers offer to buy The Tea Chest. The two biggest offers came from Allen & Unwin and from Penguin (now Penguin Random House). This was a painful decision. Who in their right mind wouldn’t want to be with either of these stellar publishing houses? In the end, I chose Allen & Unwin, in part because it is Australia’s largest wholly Australian owned publishing house, and because I was a total newbie to the scene and I had seen the merger of Penguin and Random House in Canada not long before, and I wasn’t sure what would happen if the same thing happened in Australia. (An aside, I have also published with Penguin Random House since then and still consider them a stellar publishing house.)

As it turns out, my very choice to choose Australian owned may come to hurt me after all.

Parallel importation of books is exceptionally complicated, but let me give you one example of how this might affect my publisher. Books are published by ‘territories’. Australia/New Zealand is one; the UK/Ireland is another; and the USA is another. What this means is that books sell into those territories, giving publishers the chance to make their money in their own territory, without having to compete with the whole world. It also means that they can acquire the rights to publish books from other territories. So Allen & Unwin, for example, has the rights to publish Harry Potter here in Australia. As you can imagine, that gives the company good cashflow. That cashflow and security is exactly what they use to reinvest in their Australian authors, and gives them the change to invest in (and take a financial chance on) new and emerging authors here in this country. With that guaranteed cashflow taken away? Well, let’s say that if I was an aspiring career author I would be losing a lot of hope of being published at all.

For me? I am lucky that I have a foot in the door, a good sales record and publishing track record. Still, my publisher is wholly Australian owned. It doesn’t have the backing of the multi-billion dollar publishing houses that are internationally owned to help it through the choppy waters of parallel importation.

  • Cheaper book prices for you? Not if New Zealand is any example to go by.
  • The market flooded with cheaper overseas books at the exclusion of our more costly Australian-written books? Highly likely.
  • A destruction of Australian literature? Highly likely.

How do changes to copyright affect me?

 

Right now, copyright laws in Australia are in alignment with the UK and USA, giving authors full rights over their work for the term of their life plus 50 years, which ensures that any royalties owing to their estate will go to the next generation.

The government has proposed and recommended reducing copyright laws to just 15 years, giving us the lowest copyright protection in the world.

The government claims that a book’s commercial life rarely extends past 5 years. They also claim that most authors aren’t motivated to write by making money, and those that do make money earn such an insubstantial amount that protecting their commercial rights is ridiculous.

Okay, firstly, I can name many Australian authors who are making good money from their writing–enough money to support themselves as a full time job, myself included. (And, dear government, we’re paying a lot of tax to you too.)

Secondly, even if we take that as a valid point (which it isn’t, just to be clear), what about our rights in intellectual property? What about our right as an artist to have ownership over the piece of art we created (generally spending years at a time to create)? What about our right to have our name attributed to our work 15 years after it was made?

What about my right to NOT have to stand by and watch someone take The Tea Chest and reprint it as their own work, make money from it AND put their own name to it?

What about my son’s right NOT to have to watch the same? Or to read his mother’s book at school with someone else’s name on it? How in any way, shape or form is this logical, ethical or fair?

What about my right not to have my heart broken by this insane treachery?

Does this all sound far fetched? It’s not. Do I sound panicked? I am.

So, yeah. This makes me not want to write anything again. Because I would far rather quit writing than to see my work end up in anyone’s hands to be done with as they please and have to sit by and watch helplessly while it’s torn apart.

Or perhaps, I should leave this beautiful country I call home to reside somewhere else that will give me intellectual property rights. And maybe all of our artists and thinkers will do the same, leaving Australia duller and with a shrinking identity because its voices have been stolen.

Please, Australia. Don’t let this happen.

Please, at least, sign this petition.

Thank you.