Fiona McIntosh's Commercial Fiction Masterclass .. in 13 sleeps!

I have been working on a commercial fiction novel for almost two years. The process has been equal parts inspiring and deflating.

I was originally approached by Haylee Nash when she was a commissioning editor at Pan Macmillan. She liked my writing style and wondered if I had any "gems" lying in my bottom drawer. I set to work writing one of the gem ideas and submitted the first 20,000 words to her. She liked it but there were some definite plot issues and character development problems. Unfortunately, Pan Macmillan was unable to offer me anything at that time.

I was crushed. I thought that was going to be my big break into the novel world. I rocked in a corner for a while, wondering if I would ever be good enough to call myself a published author.  I had no idea how to fix the issues in my novel.

Once I shut down the pity party, I decided I needed to finish that novel, for myself. I needed to prove I could write it to the end. I wanted to believe I could make it work, that I could find a way to get the story out. So, I applied for a mentorship with Kathryn Heyman. For six months Kathryn helped me find my voice. She guided me through the first draft of my novel, 85,000 words bleeding onto the pages. Some great words, some awful words, some just plain boring words. But that is what a first draft is: the bones; bare and exposed. Now I had something to work with.

Midway through my mentorship, my sister-in-law sent me an email promotion from Dymocks & McIntosh Books, putting the callout to aspiring writers to submit 10 pages of their novel to win a scholarship to Fiona McIntosh's Commercial Fiction Masterclass in SA.  Seeing as I already had the first 10 pages written, I spent some time polishing them and even more time trying to squeeze an entire story into a 400 word synopsis. That was a challenge! I sent it off and crossed every part of my body, hoping I may be the chosen one. 

When Sue from Dymocks called me, she asked, "Are you sitting down?" I cried, somewhat hysterically, when she said Fiona had chosen my novel as the winning entry for the scholarship. She must have thought I was a maniac. It was unbelievable news. I felt validated by an industry that is notorious for its steel doors that make us emerging writers feel locked out.

We all thought [your novel] was utterly compelling and we can’t wait to read more. It was a unanimous decision among our internal panel and overall judge Fiona McIntosh. Fiona said it was the most commercially ready manuscript of any submitted to the competition. Well done! 

The Masterclass is finally within reach. I have been looking forward to it for nine months, like a baby due to be born. The scholarship win was the final piece in the puzzle that confirmed this book, my very own novel, is worth writing. It is a story worth telling and I believe I am the one to tell it. I cannot wait to inhale and absorb Fiona's enthusiasm for writing, and her business-focused direction to get us all writing, as a fulltime profession. To sit in a room with a group of other, equally nervous yet hopeful writers, will bring a buoy of support to all of our insecure writing heads.

I can finally see a pinhole of light at the end of an extremely long tunnel. I feel so close to living the dream...! 

I always hated the title "Mommy Blogger" and now I know why

I just read this by an American chick called Josi Denise. I've never heard of her and given her stats on traffic to her site etc., it looks like I've been living under a rock.

I'm glad I've just found her though. Seems like she's had an epiphany about this whole "blogging industry". 

Image: acommonblog.com

Image: acommonblog.com

I always hated the title "Mommy Blogger" but I never quite knew why.

Mommy/Mummy bloggers write. Mostly about their lives and their kids. There are as many of them as there are opinions and arseholes. The range of interest and quality is far and wide.

I write.  And I'm a mum. Does that make me a mummy blogger?

I write for many publications, the majority are around parenting, because that's where I'm at right now. That doesn't mean I can't apply my brain and my skills to many other topics, (I've written about design, immigration, employment, relationships, tourism and a trillion other varieties) but people like to label and zone and put you in a nice neat box. I write about kids, therefore I must be a mummy blogger, right?

The first time someone said to me "you're just one of those mummy bloggers" I nearly vomited in my own mouth. At first I thought, why am I so offended by that? I wasn't sure.

It is true: I am a mother and I write about mothering.

Do I "blog"? Well, I guess so.

Do I think anyone is reading my verbal diarrhoea on my personal website? No.

Do I try to cater the content to attract marketing and PR giants so they shower me with free gifts? Clearly not. Given my underwhelming pay check, maybe I should? 

Then it dawned on me: blogging and writing are two separate things.

Blogging is a "web log". A place to keep a journal or thoughts or share information with a readership, if that's what you choose. Some people are great at it, some people should find another day job based not only on their grammar but their ability to make watching a cow pat dry out more interesting than reading their daily diatribe. But maybe they don't blog for others, maybe it is something for them and they are happy to make it public?

For me, a blog is a place to keep track of articles I've written and to throw some thoughts out into the world. Mostly, the blog is for me. I don't write it for anyone in particular. It has to be interesting to me, first and foremost. Without interest and passion, you fall into that net of beige. Maybe someone will come across my blog and agree with my passion, or be inspired or enraged or amused or hell, even moved. Maybe they won't. It doesn't change what I write about because I don't have anyone looking over my shoulder telling me it's not going to sell a product if I say it that way.

Then, there is writing. And this is where the two worlds blurred when that person accused me of mummy blogging.  The reason I was offended was because she said the title like it was a dirty word and it downplayed and patronised what I do for a living.

What I needed that person to know is: I am a professional writer. I write and get paid for articles for a specific audience. It is a real job. I choose the topics myself, they are not orchestrated by a PR company or a marketing campaign. Sometimes I am asked to write about a product, and I will only do so if I like the stuff. I'm not going to spin shit about something I'm never going to use because people can see through that thin veil of complete and utter crap. I have a honed bullshit meter - I don't want to read other people's puppetry of marketing, and I certainly don't want to write it and expect others to read and believe it. 

Honesty and authenticity are all I have. Once I give up those, I've sold my soul.

So, go you, Josi Denise (is that your real name?). You seem to have made a lot of money and achieved successful status in that world of blogging and marketing. I'm sorry it took you so long to realise you weren't being true to yourself. But I'm ecstatic that you've shared it because there are many lessons to be learned here.