Well, it’s safe to say that 2018 got off to a crazy start! As if I didn’t already have enough going on, the first two months of the year also saw me moving to Sydney, starting several new jobs and taking a whirlwind, life-changing trip to Japan...
Now, before I talk about writing, let’s just take a minute to discuss Japan, shall we? Can I just say, WHAT AN INCREDIBLE COUNTRY! I visited a few smaller ports in Japan in 2016 whilst performing on a cruise ship, but I hadn't been lucky enough to travel to Tokyo or any of the important cultural centres yet. In my ten days in Japan I was blown away by every single thing I experienced. The people, the culture, the food, the architecture, the natural wonder... the whole country is simply BREATHTAKING.
For me, one of the most intriguing things about Japan is that it seems to be one big contradiction wrapped up in exceedingly adorable, polite packaging. I was lucky enough to see many different sides of Japan and its culture, and found it so interesting that one minute I was lined up in perfect order for the train (literally standing on footprints painted on the ground), and the next I’m in a Robot Restaurant with rock music blaring and scantily clad Japanese dancers riding mechanical dinosaurs around me, threatening to knock my head clean off. One day I’m praying at a gorgeous Shinto shrine in complete silence, and the next I’m amongst a horde of squealing, costumed fanatics at Disneyland, who were actually crying over meeting Disney Princesses (as was I). One moment I have girls giggling at me as I walk past them in the street, and the next I’m walking around completely naked at an ‘onsen’ as if it’s the most normal, comfortable thing in the world. And despite the crazy contradictions, every single person I met was nothing but courteous and overwhelmingly generous. I didn’t see a single speck of litter on the ground ANYWHERE. No-one pushed me or jostled past me to get on a train, or cut in line at the theme parks. The whole country seems to function under a heavy blanket of respect, and I have to say, it was incredibly refreshing. All in all, it was a baffling, yet truly enlightening and invigorating holiday.
And as if the holiday wasn’t extraordinary enough already, my boyfriend then proposed to me in front of the Hogwarts Castle, during our visit to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It was one of the most overwhelming, surreal, wonderful and truly perfect moments of my life. When he pulled the ring out of his jacket pocket, the whole world went into slow motion. The rain stopped, the crowds dispersed and we were suddenly standing alone in front of the castle. There were beautiful words said, copious amounts of tears shed, and a more tangible sense of love in the air than I ever thought possible. It was, quite literally, magical. And, of course, I said a resounding 'YES'!
Meanwhile, back home in Australia, simmering away in the background while I was having the time of my life in Japan, were my writing projects...
I finished my millionth round of edits on the Seven Dials manuscript at the end of January, and finally sent it off to my five carefully selected beta readers. The whole beta process is new (and terrifying) to me, so I did a lot of Googling of seemingly obvious things like, ‘what is a beta reader’ and ‘top tips for sending a manuscript to beta readers’. If I haven’t told you already, Google has been a dear friend of mine during my whole writing process. As a complete novel-writing novice, there have been MANY things along the way that I’ve needed to verify with the know-it-all that is the internet. At times it made me feel like a complete and utter fraud (which I kind of still do) but, for the most part, Google has been total a life-saver! At any rate, my Beta Draft is now in the hands of my lovely beta readers, and I’m spending most of my time just trying not to think about them reading it. Japan was a great distraction, but now that I’m back, I often find myself imagining my beta readers sitting at home turning the pages of my draft, sparking instant anxiety in me. It’s impossible not to let the words ‘What if they hate it?’ enter my mind a hundred times a day. I’m hoping that this kind of thing gets easier as I become more experienced, though I have a feeling it won’t... I’m also trying to craft my ‘query letters’ to send out to prospective agents when my manuscript is ready, which also gives me an immediate stress reaction. I obviously need to meditate more...
The Underdog project got off to a great start when we opened submissions in January. We've already had a number of wonderful short story submissions, and they keep on flooding in! It’s so exciting to think that my collaborators and I are going to be able to put together an original compilation of Aussie YA short stories and release it into the world! The #LoveOzYA community has been so incredibly supportive, and it’s wonderful to see writers, young and old, getting excited about an opportunity that we have created out of nothing! We have a SUPER exciting announcement to make in the coming weeks, so make sure you’re following Underdog on Facebook and Instagram to stay up to date! And if you are a budding YA writer, head to Underdog Short Stories for all of the details about the project and how you can submit your short story!
After the success of WOLVES, the second Needle in the Hay collaboration was released in late December, titled Seasons of Discontent. This short story compilation features my YA story The Edge of Winter, along with a bunch of other wonderful short stories by some of Needle’s most prolific authors. WOLVES and Seasons of Discontent are both available for purchase (as paperback and ebook) from the WORKS page of my blog, or from the links below:
Seasons of Discontent
Aside from those major projects, I have a few theatre-related writing projects on the go, and I’ve even started the very, VERY early stages of planning for the sequel to Seven Dials, which is incredibly exciting. I can already tell that as soon as I allow it my full attention, I’ll be completely consumed by the world that I’ve created once more! And I CANNOT wait!
I’ll have another Recent Reads post coming sometime soon, but in the meantime, if anyone needs any Japan travel tips, please get in touch, because I could talk about how amazing it is over there ALL DAY! :)
Happy reading and writing, everyone! x