How did you get published? Interview with author, Rosanne Dingli

Rosanne Dingli

Author, Rosanne Dingli

Today, I’m talking to author Rosanne Dingli. Rosanne’s first novel, Death in Malta, and her newest thriller, According to Luke, are both published by BeWrite Books, a global publisher with offices in England and Canada.

Rosanne is also the author of two collections of short stories and a poetry book. She has worked as a journalist, feature writer, editor, manuscript assessor, slush pile reader, editor-in-chief, literary editor and book reviewer.

Rosanne is based in Perth, Western Australia.

Rosanne, you’ve obviously been involved in the publishing industry for some time. Can you tell me how you first came to be published?
It’s a very long story that can be summarised in this way – praise for my letters home after emigrating to Australia got me thinking. In 1985 I read a book by Elaine Fantle Shimberg (which I still have) about being a homebound writer, and also the introduction to the Penguin Book of Australian Women Poets.

The two pieces gave me the first impetus. I wrote a lot of poetry and short fiction, and was successfully published in a number of journals and anthologies in a reasonably short time.

After that, it was easy to move on to freelancing for magazines and newspapers, so I established myself as a professional, which got me a teaching position at TAFE, and soon after, a lecturing job at ECU.

I take one or two ideas to the breakfast table on a Sunday, and by about 11.00am we have a fully plotted novel!

Did you have a deliberate strategy to develop your career as a writer? How did you go about achieving this? Were the short stories and poetry part of this strategy?
It was deliberate, but if you can call it a strategy … I don’t know!  It was a bit haphazard and random, but well directed in the main, and because it showed a modicum of success, I stayed encouraged. I am easily motivated by success, and because I got some, I kept going. Winning literary competitions can be quite motivating.

Do you ever encounter obstacles in terms of craft when writing for publication?
They were always obstacles that could be overcome with a measure of purpose, discipline, and a sense of humour. I always did work seriously and professionally, but never took myself too seriously – after all, this is a fickle industry, and one must keep at it in order to succeed. I have gone through phases of dejection, and I have given up about 20 times. It’s par for the course.

How did you go about plotting your puzzle thriller?
Plotting is a family affair! I take one or two ideas to the breakfast table on a Sunday, and by about 11.00am we have a fully plotted novel! All the family have something to contribute, and it can be fun and quite boisterous. I take it with a pinch of salt, but never discount even the most outrageous suggestion.

After a month of this, the scribbled plot is written out, and I start seeking jump-words to set me off. I am most inspired by actual words. Invariably, the vital ‘twist’ that really makes the story comes as I am actually writing. It is always a revelation, even to myself.

How do you find switching between different forms of writing, such as short stories, novels and poetry? Does working in one form help with working in another?
I have not written any poetry since 1993. I find I do get the mental rhythms that I used to work on, but I am a novelist now, and need bigger things to work on. Besides, poetry does little to promote me within the market I want for myself.

I used to find short stories very easy to write, and did write an enormous number of them, mostly based on atmospheric places in Europe, food, art and music. They can be fun, but do limit the writer in terms of background, because of the length restriction.

I rarely write short fiction now, but am trying to republish the out-of-print collections I have as eBooks.

Do you do research for your fiction? How do you tackle it?
Sometimes I feel I do more research than writing! I research a lot on the internet and our personal home library. We have fiction and non-fiction, lots of art and European literature, and guide books to all the destinations we have visited.

I immerse myself in the atmosphere when we travel, and take in important things about how the locals live. This filters back into my writing. It is an invisible thing that makes a reader feel I know what I am writing about, I hope!

I read very widely within my genre, and also non-fiction books about art and interiors, and map and reference books without which it would be impossible to write what I write. For my latest book, I even used the New Testament!

The vital ‘twist’ that really makes the story comes as I am writing. It’s always a revelation.

How do you research settings?
Nothing beats being there. Luckily, my husband and I have travelled quite widely, even with the children, and I make sure that each opportunity finds itself included in a book.

I am blessed with a good memory, so I remember things like street names, cafes, museums, churches,  and so forth. I have often stood somewhere – such as a bridge in Venice, a wharf in Malta, a square in Belgium or a narrow street in Amsterdam, for example, and imagined some character of mine standing there in my place.

I take that feeling home, and without even thinking about it too much, it finds its way into my work.

If a piece is accepted for publication, do you often have to rewrite or rework material?
Re-working is very often part and parcel of what writers do. This is less about the quality of the work, or the actual language, but more a matter of tone or voice. It must be compatible with the periodical or publishing house.

Professional writers do not take it personally: they come to a point of agreement with the editor, and the published work is better as a result.

I have often stood somewhere — a bridge in Venice, a wharf in Malta, a square in Belgium or a narrow street in Amsterdam — and imagined some character of mine standing there in my place.

Have you ever done a book proposal for one of your books? If so, was it helpful for yourself or your publisher?
Book proposals are generally required for non-fiction rather than fiction. But yes, I have made a book proposal once: I was editor of a local history for the Bi-Centennial of the Shire of Narrogin here in WA. It’s a long time ago, but I do remember the care and attention that went into such a proposal. It was hard work.

The discipline and attention to detail required for a proposal teaches you a lot about what goes into a published work of any kind.

Do you have an agent?
Whether you have an agent or not is less a matter of choice than people think. I have approached a number of agents in Australia, the US and in the UK. I got a moderate level of interest at the initial stages, but I found that none wanted to represent the manuscript I had at the time. Agents must feel they can sell what you have, so I got no offers. I did get several invitations to approach with another future manuscript though.

I’ll post the second part of my interview with Rosanne later this week. In it, Rosanne talks about working with her publisher, the writing community in Western Australia, and how she promotes herself as an author.

In the meantime, click here to check out Rosanne’s blog.

Advertisements

How do you promote your work? Part 2 of an interview with rhyming poet, Jackie Hosking

Today, I talk to poet Jackie Hosking about the ways she promotes herself and her work.

Poet, Jackie Hosking

Rhyming poet & Pass It On editor, Jackie Hosking

Jackie, do you have an agent?

No I don’t have an agent but then again I haven’t really looked for one. I actually enjoy the submission process, though I imagine that an agent would be extremely useful if you found yourself strapped for time. As I tend to write short and sweet, my time is not as scarce as it might be for others.

Have you spoken on radio?

Yes I have – I did an interview with Elaine Harris (ABC Tasmania) a few years ago and a local Melbourne radio station.

Have you performed your poetry in public?

I’ve done a few public readings of my poetry and as far as I’m aware, they went pretty well. I get very nervous at the prospect of reading my work aloud in public but once I get started you can’t stop me.

Have you spoken to school groups?

I have spoken at small local primary schools, usually because I’ve been invited – I don’t tend to seek out this type of work but am happy to do it if asked. My talks so far have been about the art of rhyme and rhythm where we use a rhyming dictionary. I’ve also taught children how to write limericks.

My poetry has been described as old fashioned but not outdated – I like that description.

Do you market yourself to teachers, librarians or any other groups?

This is my next big challenge. I’ve not taken this road yet I think because my internal editor is being too strict. I’ve started to look at designing some workshops but the perfectionist in me is being very restrictive. I need to put it in a box and leave it outside for a while.

Tell me about your online strategy. How did you decide what components to use?

I used to have a website though GeoCities but they closed down this year so now I use a WordPress blog. For me it’s all about networking, getting your name out there and connecting with like minded people. I think of the ones you’ve mentioned above, I use Facebook the most. I only really tweet once a week to let people know that I’m editing the next issue of PIO. Facebook is a bit more casual and very friendly. It is full of useful information and allows you to befriend people in the industry that you may not be able to otherwise. Like all online sites though you have to be careful what you choose to share – once you’ve hit the send button it’s out there for a long time.

These things can also be big time thieves if you’re not disciplined – I like to have them buzzing in the background as I work because being a writer can be a very lonely profession and they remind you that you’re not the only one staring at a computer screen.

I use the internet to promote the newsletter, to ask for news, to find things of interest, to search for artists to profile, to research – the list goes on and on.

Do you target different audiences with each of the online channels?

No not really. The children’s writing/illustrating industry is mostly where I spend my time and my blogs reflect this. The wordpress blog gives information about PASS IT ON, my writing and my rhyming manuscript editing service. The versatility blog gives examples of my poetry and the CBI blog showcases children’s illustrators. Facebook covers everyone, while Linkedin acts as more of an online CV.

What method have you found to be most effective in promoting yourself as a writer?

Well I guess having a list of publications is helpful – I have a page on my blog that shows where I have been published and the type of writing that I write for both children and adults. When I get an acceptance I like to share it with my colleagues – it’s always nice to have your work validated. And like I said earlier, if I’m asked to give a talk or something similar, I usually do.

I get very nervous at the prospect of reading my work aloud in public but once I get started you can’t stop me.

Are you a full-time writer? How do you structure the days that you write?

I think most writers are full time, in that they are constantly thinking of things to write about. My days however are pretty unstructured except when I’m editing the newsletter. Entering competitions is a good way to keep me writing or editing things I have already written. I definitely have a one track mind – if I have to do the accounts for hubby’s business then I can’t work on my writing. I’m very black and white – all or nothing.

How would you describe your ‘brand’ as a writer?

I am a rhyming poet. My poetry has been described as old fashioned but not outdated – I like that description.

If you could travel back in time to the moment before you sent off your first manuscript, what advice would you give yourself?

Knowledge is power. This advice will save you lots of time and money. Be sure that you send your work to the right people. Be informed.

Thank you, Jackie!

Bio

Jackie has been writing for children for about 5 years. She likes to write in rhyme and runs a manuscript editing service where she helps others to  write in rhyme. She is also the editor/publisher of PASS IT ON, a networking newsletter for anyone interested or involved with the children’s writing/illustrating industry. PASS IT ON has been in circulation for over 6 years.

Links

For information about Pass It On and Jackie’s Rhyming Manuscript Editing Service, click here.

VersaTility – Rhyme & Rhythm: Jackie’s blog about poetry for children (including samples of Jackie’s work).

Children’s Book Illustrators – A Showcase. This blog showcases the work of children’s illustrators who have appeared in Pass It On.

This weekend, I’ll be posting a list of resources for beginning writers. The list was compiled by Jackie with the assistance of Pass It On subscribers.