It’s ace to see Mage of Fools getting good love in some rave reviews, so I guess it’s no biggie to stretch a bit and give back to the community.
What I’d love to do for youse is fire up a barbie, throw a rack of lamb, sweet potatoes, veggie burgers on it, even pass around cold ones in a tinnie or a bottle, platters of smashed avo on toast as aperitifs.
But the pandemic is a bummer, covid cancels plans and we get all suspicious real quick about tucker and booze from bloody strangers, especially ones from Woop Woop.
So what I’ll give are not elbow bumps, boot touches or random ciggies but bouncy tips someone might crack the shits about. Bloody oath, these are my truths, hey, not yours.
A good writing community is like a choccy bikkie you can dip in your tea and feel safe and at home with all its sogginess. A lot of lone wolves out there, and iso is not confined to the pandemic. But collaboration and participation are vital elements that introduce worthwhile tensions that can add merit to your work and writerly state.
A good community offers support through wise readers, wise cracks, tips to awards or publications that are open for submissions, and supporting networks, including on social media.
But it needs to be the right community of practice for you, members open to giving and sharing, earnest in their critiques that are not aimed at wounding or maiming you, butchering you from ever wanting to touch a quill again.
If you’re dealing all the time with mates that have brooms up their whatsits, and you’re chucking sickies to stay away from the community, even on Zoom, well then!
Mate, know when to bail.
Not everyone is your friend. Seek the right ones.
Agents are a bit overrated, methinks, but hey, maybe I’m just yet to meet the right one. Some are up themselves or make you feel like a chook for their bloody dinner.
The right literary agent is a love match, they flutter your heart and fill you with trust. Before your personal experiment goes public, a good agent is a safe space to share your ideas, interrogate your non-drafts, ride shotgun all the way on the road trip with the characters of your story, smelling their rawness, tasting their normality in such otherworldliness, touching the rise and fall of their chests…magnified by silence.
The wrong agent is defo, as in definitely, a bad marriage, the kind that puts a tomb in your gut, fills you with discontent and much devo, as in devastation. Sometimes you want a publisher not because of how much dosh in advance they can pay you but because they’ll give you quality and the kind of earnest you won’t be getting from a big house—unless they think Hugh Jackman’s your uncle, sponsor or mate, and they mark you up as a commercial success for marketing.
In publishing today, you can get a good publisher without needing a bloody agent—just look right, network, like a bit, and see who’s being published, and where.
Commissioned stories for an antho can be bloody hard. Writing them, I mean.
The first time I was commissioned for a serious anthology paying SFWA qualifying market rates, bloody hell, I was gobsmacked. But writing a theme on someone else’s muse can bring out a beggar’s feast.
I’m not a bludger, even if the pandemic and WFH means you might find me crafting in Uggs and trackie dacks, giving the story a damn good go. What I don’t want is to go headless chooking, looking around for a bloody story I think I’ve got right in me head, but the story says, “You reckon?” And does a bloody uey.
I mean, it’s not kindy for writers. An invitation to write a commissioned story for an anthology is serious business, mate. You don’t want to be a larrikin. So who wants a story that decides on its bloody self to do a U-turn?
The secret is to leave it a bit, let the idea simmer in the noggin until someone else’s muse becomes your muse. You write at your best, invent your best stories, when you believe in your characters, their motives, their relationships and the events you’re creating.
Spend some time with the story in your head, do the hard work, and maybe you can write a story that’s such a whopper, you’re just about ready to take a selfie with it.
Don’t mix business with pleasure
Now and then a publisher or an editor in your community or who you think is your friend might rock up and invite you to contribute a story to an antho. And you’re bloody stoked about it, thinking sweet as, piece of piss, I see no probs.
Mate, see probs.
Don’t take people you know for granted. You might send a story and they are not exactly over the moon about it.
Don’t be an ankle biter (grow up) and don’t come up with some aggro, roaring in or spewin hate.
But hopefully—because they know you, and because you’re not a sook or anything like that —they might give you a chance when you come up honest and say, “I’m really tryna make it work.”
Who knows, you might get, “No wuckas. Let’s do Facey and see what we can come up with…”
Even if they still reject the story, you’ll be right, mate. What you need is the right home for it, hey?
Events and conferences for writers and artists are a bloody ripper. An event or a conference puts you in the same space with others in your community of practice.
You get the chance to yabber at people about you and your work, what makes you tick. That’s how people start to know you, and maybe even read you. If you’re an Aussie and the audience doesn’t ask you about roos, wallabies or Crocodile Dundee, or tell you how much they loved Sound of Music, that’s just ace.
You might meet your future publisher there, get an impromptu op to chuck them a quick elevator pitch, so when you send in that sub, it doesn’t go straight to spam because they bloody well already know your name.
Make time for the right events even if you’re flat out or are petrified of crowds—don’t be a wuss… Dip your toe in, you can do it.
Rejections are not personal, but sometimes they feel like it.
If a rejection shoots back on a story you’re still thinking to write, it’s not on your screen and you haven’t submitted it yet, yeah, mate, that’s kinda personal.
But don’t keep a shrine of rejections.
A story comes back: review it, refine it, submit it—all it needs is to find the right damn home.
Eugen M. Bacon is African Australian, a computer scientist mentally re-engineered into creative writing. Her novella Ivory’s Story was shortlisted in the 2020 British Science Fiction Association (BSFA) Awards. Her work has won, been shortlisted, longlisted or commended in national and international awards, including the Foreword Indies Awards, Bridport Prize, Copyright Agency Prize, Horror Writers Association Diversity Grant, Australian Shadows Awards, Ditmar Awards and Nommo Awards for Speculative Fiction by Africans. Bacon’s creative work has appeared in literary and speculative fiction publications worldwide, including Award Winning Australian Writing, BSFA, Fantasy Magazine, Fantasy & Science Fiction, Bloomsbury and The Year’s Best African Speculative Fiction. New releases: Danged Black Thing (collection), Saving Shadows (illustrated collection), Mage of Fools (novel). Website: eugenbacon.com / Twitter: @EugenBacon