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Monthly Archives: September 2013

Praise Junkies

Having a full bodied koala suit in the house can provide all sorts of unexpected entertainment. I hired one for a book signing a few weeks ago and was aghast on unpacking it to find the face was downright creepy. The black eyes sagged, the miserable mouth drooled. Not exactly the cuddly koala look I was hoping for.

IMG_0877I managed to convince my teenage daughter to try the outfit on. Mostly to judge if it was indeed a nightmare creating monstrosity. She duely donned the suit. Disaster. Our fears were correct. She looked like an extra in a horror movie.

‘Dance around a little bit,’ I said. ‘Wave. Look friendly.’

And that’s when the hilarity began. Miss Eighteen started crumping and twerking in that koala suit in a manner that would have made Miley Cyrus proud. We wanted her to stop, but we couldn’t. We were laughing too hard. Of course we videoed her on our iphones and she posted it on Facebook, checking her likes as soon as the suit was slipped to the floor. Next was my brother’s turn. No twerking, but a hilarious dog stalking koala act, also posted on Facebook. Who would get the most likes?

So here’s the point. As I watched these two compare the responses to their videos, I realised we have become a society of praise junkies. Who had the most likes? How quickly? What funny comments did their friends say? And it’s not just Facebook. A friend recently won second prize in a writing competition, and after finding out she got a score of 98%, was most worried about why she’d lost the 2%.

Praise junkie!

Sam reading Smooch and RoseAnd then I turned to myself. Look who was talking. My first book, Smooch & Rose has been on the shelves only 2 months and I worry constantly about why it’s not in that shop, or that one. Is it an okay book? Did I do a good job? And then I read it to the intended audience and I see their shining faces, eyes wide, edging forward. Of course it’s good enough. The kids love it. And yet, that great bookshop just down the road doesn’t …

So what’s with this praise junkie thing? Are we so uncomfortable in our own skin that we must constantly look to others to tell us we’re okay?

I wonder, if, in our strive for praise, we avoid things that might make us fail. For kids, this might mean not putting your hand up in class in case the teacher doesn’t praise you. It might mean as adults we don’t speak up for our wildlife and our environment, in case people think we’re weird greenie types.

So, I’ve been wondering. Maybe we could turn this praise thing around. What if we were to praise failure? What if we tried saying ‘Well done honey, you tried something new today, and you failed. Good on you!’ We would encourage risk taking, speaking out, not conforming. We’d nurture thinking outside the box. I think it would be a great way to use our addiction to praise.

You tried today, and you failed? Three thousand likes!

Book Launch

Don’t forget, a very important date in the life of Smooch & Rose! It’s book launch week, and we’re looking forward to seeing you on Wednesday night at Riverbend Books, Bulimba. Come and join UQP, Michael Gerard Bauer and me to officially send Smooch & Rose on its bookie journey!

Launch Invite

On Being Edited

Samantha Wheeler's Blog

Image credit: 123RS.

So you need something drop dead gorgeous for the ball? Something to really impress? You don’t go shopping with hubby … he’d rather be watching the footy right? And you don’t take your mum … she thinks you look great in everything. The reverse is true for your teenage daughter. She thinks you look terrible in everything. The best person for the job is …your fashion conscious, honest to a tee, girly best friend.

Together you’ll wade through the junk. Discard anything that shows off your nasty lumps and bumps or hides any assets you have left. You pull out the gems from the murky clothes racks and accessorise till they shine. Not too much bling, just enough. By the time the two of you finish, you’ll look divine. You’ll be so proud of yourself, you’ll start to wonder why you had doubts in the first place. And when it comes to the big night, you’ll be divine!

And so it is when you work with an editor.

Unlike your mum, she doesn’t love everything you write. Unlike hubby, she doesn’t get distracted and wander off to check the game score. And unlike the teenager (and some more ruthless critiquing groups), she’s kind and tactful with her comments.

Book with writing

Image credit: 123RS.

That’s not to say at first her comments don’t hurt like hot wax ripped from your upper lip. Sharp and painful, instantly swelling to red. But when the pain settles, you realise – wow, she was right! I do say ‘gasp’ and ‘hug’ and ‘smile’ a million times in one paragraph. And I do have too many physical reactions all centred around the heart.

And like your girly best friend who just told you your boobs looked flat in that, you need good advice. Just as you don’t want to arrive half baked at the ball, you don’t want your book to arrive in the hands of your readers half written.

Personally I loved being edited. Smooch & Rose was a much longer book when I first showed it to the publishers at UQP, and with their help I cut it virtually in half. That meant not only half the word count, but half the characters and half the sub plots too.

But what I loved the best was finding out about my habits and micro-writing style. Not using the same word again in the next sentence seems so obvious, but is something you miss when editing yourself. Using repeated physical reactions is another habit I was glad to have corrected. And then those movements and feelings that seem obvious to you, but aren’t to anyone else. Like where is that character now? Is she still on the floor, or has she got up? She’s been down there an awfully long time!

So if you’re wondering what it’s like to work with an editor, just think of the ball. Wouldn’t you rather be wearing the perfect gown? And really shine when your moment in the spotlight arrives? That’s a big fat Greek wedding dress ‘Yes’ from me!

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