Tag Archives: jodi cleghorn

More Collaborative Poetry

I wrote another haiku yesterday, posted it to twitter and copied in Sean (@SeanBlogonaut) to see what he could add to form a tanka.

fading amber leaves
blown into the courtyard corner
lovers’ forgotten kisses

Sean added the final lines:

fading amber leaves
blown into the courtyard corner
lovers’ forgotten kisses
would that my love return
like the green leaves of spring

He also played with the second last line

fading amber leaves
blown into the courtyard corner
lovers’ forgotten kisses
how I wish my lover would return
like the green leaves of spring

We were playing around with this on Facebook, on a private page for our small group of writers, and after reading through Sean’s ideas, I added my own versions.

fading amber leaves
blown into the courtyard corner
lovers’ forgotten kisses
I wait for my love’s return
with the green shoots of spring

*****

fading amber leaves
blown into the courtyard corner
lovers’ forgotten kisses
I wait for my heart’s return
with the green shoots of spring

This is the fun of collaboration, learning with each other the intricacies of a new art form.

Into the mix Jodi Cleghorn (@JodiCleghorn) added her own version using my original haiku and added her own final lines to form another tanka.

fading amber leaves
blown into the courtyard corner
lovers’ forgotten kisses
left to decay
with the memory of you

As she said, “Thank you for new ways to play and collaborate.” 

Ultimately, this is what it is all about: new ways to play and collaborate. The apparent simplicity of haiku and tanka reveals a deeper, more sophisticated art form that while simple to learn is difficult to execute and takes years to master.

But the evening’s fun continued. Jodi wrote two haiku while out at the shops and posted them for us to add two final lines to form a tanka.

an autumnal drift
shedding selves compost
buried beneath

*****

frost-bitten feet
walk from the place
I forgot to leave

I took the haiku and added my own final couplet

an autumnal drift
shedding selves compost
buried beneath
resurrection of the dead
in someone else’s life

*****

frost-bitten feet
walk from the place
I forgot to leave
in the hope
your heart will thaw

frost-bitten feet
walk from the place
I forgot to leave
in the hope
your heart would thaw

In the last two, the change of a single word, “would” for “will” creates two very different meanings and both a valid.

Here’s a challenge: take my haiku and write two final lines to form a tanka.

fading amber leaves
blown into the courtyard corner
lovers’ forgotten kisses

First To A Hundred – A Blackout Poem

The short story, First To A Hundred, by Jodi Cleghorn, appeared in Issue 8 of Tincture Journal. After writing Post Marked: Piper’s Reach together, and after many times making Jodi cry, she had not succeeded in making me reach for a box of tissues to wipe away the tears.

But she did it with this story.

I read early versions and drafts, and it languished for ages without finding a publication until Daniel Young of Tincture took it on.

I strongly recommend you go and buy a copy of Tincture and read the story as it is so beautiful. Then drop in here to read this version. As I was creating it, the voice of Dougie came through, almost unconsciously. It wasn’t until I was half way through that I heard the voice more clearly and channelled it for the remainder.

It’s a long story, but well worth the read.

Below is the poem. You will need to read it as a two-panel cartoon (L-R) then down the page.

Enjoy.

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New Poem Published in Tincture Journal

I have the pleasure of announcing a new poem, Folded Peace, will appear in Issue 8 of Tincture Journal (out today), an Australian based literary magazine edited by Daniel Young and Stuart Barnes.

Tincture Journal Issue 8

Table of Contents

  • Editorial, by Daniel Young
  • Inferior Bedrooms, by Meg Henry
  • Crazy Town is a Happy Place, by Deborah Sheldon
  • Post-mortem, by Elizabeth Allen
  • Delicious, by Elizabeth Allen
  • Looking for Links, or: On Imagining What I Would Talk About If I Met Stuart Barnes (Elizabeth Allen, interviewed by Stuart Barnes)
  • Red Flowers of the Exodus, by Amy Ward-Smith
  • Folded Peace, by Adam Byatt
  • One Small Step, by Matt Smith
  • What I Write About When I Write About Dance, by Sophie Pusz
  • Teddy Bears’ Picnic, by Emily Craven
  • Ms Robyne Young requests the pleasure of the company of Ms Janis Ian to dine, by Robyne Young
  • Shepherd Mourning, by SB Wright
  • First to a Hundred, by Jodi Cleghorn
  • Barn Burners, Fire Vans, by Stephen Koster
  • inevitability, by Ashley Capes
  • Simmering, by Katelin Farnsworth
  • On the skin, by Rebecca Howden
  • Bringing Experimental Text to the Mainstream: Kirsten Krauth’s just_a_girl, by Julie Proudfoot
  • The Monologue, by Nicholas Lawrence
  • Live Cam, 42nd Street, Times Square, by Francine Ruben
  • One Bronx Morning, by Patrick Fogarty
  • Hunting With Masai, by Charles Bane, Jr.
  • Knock Knock, by Edoardo Albert
  • A Night Inside, by Kathryn Hummel
  • The House of Little Things, by Grant Tarbard
  • 11 Months in London, by Tony Walton
  • Oh, La, La! by Barbara Donnelly Lane
  • Reply Hazy, Try Again, by Kevin Brown
  • The Moth, by Abhishaike Mahajan

This will be my second appearance in Tincture, following on from my short story, The Cicada Clock, published in Issue 6.

I also have the pleasure of sitting alongside compadres Sean Wright (@SeandBlogonaut), Jodi Cleghorn (@JodiCleghorn) and Emily Craven (@TheMadelineCain).

I am looking forward to reading Emily’s new work, one I have not read before. I am in awe of Sean’s poetry as it embodies the rural aspect of Australian life with a very deft touch of a modern perspective. Jodi’s story, First to a Hundred, made me cry when I read early drafts of it. It is poignant, beautiful and uplifting, especially in the light of the loss of Australian cricketer, Phillip Hughes.

There is lots more to read. Click the links below.

Tincture Journal website | Facebook | Twitter

Buy A Tincture

Daniel Young (editor-in-chief)

Stuart Barnes (poetry editor)

Support small presses and the literary fabric of our culture.

Remixing is the New Creating Part 2

Earlier in the month I mentioned I had a piece listed on the if:books Australia Open Changes project titled The Storm. It was a remix of a previous work, Jodi Cleghorn’s poem, ‘Later.’ I took the line, “born up on the cicada chorus.”

In good news, I have another piece featured in the last week. You can read ‘The Naked Rosehere.

I took inspiration from Jodi Cleghorn’s piece, ‘She Would Be Grass.’ In particular, the line “On the ninth day, green patches of turf appeared.”

Now the project is closed, it will take the form of a story tree. I will let you know when it is up for you to have a goosey gander at.

Do You Want Story Time?

My collaborative writing partner, Jodi Cleghorn (with whom I wrote Post Marked: Piper’s Reach) has just released a new collaboration with Claire Jansen.

She explains the process here.

Let me give you the blurb.

Three days before Christmas Amber lands in Australia to celebrate the festive season with Ben. But he’s not expecting her or the news she brings. Her presence sends radial fractures into Ben’s life and those close to him, from his sister to his lover and beyond.

Told across a single day, through the eyes of five characters, ’24’, delves into the complexities of the relationships closest to our hearts.

This is not a long read, 12 episodes of approximately 500 words each, criss-crossing between blogs. What hooked me was the multiple narrative points of view telling different aspects of the story, but more than that, in such a concise word limit and narrative time frame, the characters are wonderfully fleshed out.

I can see the possibilities of this being developed further into a longer short story, even a collaborative novel. Dare I say it, a TV miniseries. 

This is a great read and well worth your time with a cup of tea or coffee and your favourite biscuit.

The first instalment of your reading journey starts here with “24” – 06:00.

Understanding Alchemy – My Writing Process

I suspect many readers, and indeed if conference questions are anything to go by, are mystified by the process writers have of hunting down, killing and skinning an idea and presenting it as a story. It’s like the medieval alchemists who attempted to combine elements and transform it into gold.

I was reluctant to write this post, tagged by another writer, my collaborative writing partner Jodi, but realised if I believe everyone can be creative then it behooves me to explain the process and guide new writers into the mystery.

Please don your robes and grab a doughnut; the initiation is about to begin.

There are many pithy quotes by writers about how to write but they are only relevant if you have immersed yourself in the craft of writing. Experienced writers nod sagely and ironically at the pithy wit and wisdom of those they admire but it doesn’t let the novice into an understanding.

The focus of the My Writing Process tagalong was to ask writers 4 questions. Here are the 4 questions asked and my attempt at an answer. Particularly #4 where I will attempt to show how I work and see if it helps novice writers on their journey.

1. What are you working on at the moment?

Too many things. Here are the most significant projects.

a. Post Marked: Piper’s Reach is a collaborate epistolary novel written with Jodi Cleghorn. It was hand written in real time and sent through the mail.
We are now at the stage of finalising our synopsis and getting it ready to submit to a variety of avenues.

b. The Java Finch (novella – working title) This is the logline I developed in my planning:
When Jack displays his finches at a bird breeding convention he meets Takashi who is painting the birds. They form an unlikely friendship and begin to come to terms with their experiences of World War 2 that shaped their lives, discovering that the very things that trap them are the things that give them the most freedom.

c. The Broken Chord (YA verse novel – working title) The (very rough) logline: Caitlyn-Rose is a gifted musician in her final year of high school, and having lost her mother in her first year of high school, struggles with her identity and purpose on the verge of graduating, afraid of the future and who she is.

d. I am also working on Degenerate Dictionary, Post It Note Poetry and a non-fiction book on creativity.

2. How do you think your writing differs from that of other writers in your genre?

I honestly have no idea. I am a newbie author so comparisons to other writers is unfounded.I do not have a substantial body of work to hold up for scrutiny. What I do have is an interest in authors who writing I admire: Tim Winton, Marcus Zusak, Craig Silvey. It is from these writers that I take inspiration in terms of style. I like Winton’s poetic prose, Zusak’s voice and Silvey’s humour.
My own writing infuses elements of all three, but it is my voice. I do not intend to be a slavish copyist but to speak articulately in my own voice. I love how the minutiae of life is a smaller version of the bigger thematic concerns of a work.

3. Why do you write what you do?

I remember watching an indie film with an old friend when we were growing up called ‘The Saint of Fort Washington’ and it was a couple of lines of dialogue that stuck with me.
“What’s your story?”
“I haven’t got one.”
“Everybody got a story.”
At the heart of it is a desire to know people’s story; how often do you hear someone say, “My life is uninteresting” or “I’m so boring” but that is the point of intersection where I want to ask the person about his or her life and listen to the stories that are important to them (I have plans for a project to take this idea a step further).
I write what I do because it’s the little things in life that interest me. For example:
* who decided it was a good idea to share a bed with someone?
* why does it take so long to hang out socks and underpants on the washing line?
* how long should you let someone walk around with their fly unzipped?
* is falling in love better or worse than getting gravel rash when you fall off your skateboard?
I wrote a manifesto some time ago, to articulate my vision for why I write.

I am a writer.

I write because I want to tell a story, but not just any story.

I write because I want to tell the story of those who are not heard.

I write because I want to tell the story of those who cannot speak.

I write because I want to tell the story of those who are disempowered.

I write because I want to tell the story for those who cannot.

I write because I believe that telling a person’s story is integral in understanding who they are.

I create art to speak into the darkness, that I may be a light for others to ignite their own flame and walk clearly.

People’s lives are not boring; writing is an exploration of how and why the everyday variables and events impact a person.

4. What’s your writing process, and how does it work?

Process assumes a regularity of work habit. Yeah, about that. Nope. Doesn’t work for me.
I know writers who can park their backside in a seat for an entire day and churn out 2000 words, 5000 words or even 10,000 words. Others I know work in small chunks of time, half an hour or an hour while others write until they have 1000 words.
For me, I work in bite-sized portions of time, snatching words in paragraph fashion. I have, in the past, written in chunks of time and written to 1000 words. It is always dependent on the workload of my day job.
I can go days or weeks without substantial writing yet still manage to scrawl words here and there. And I write slowly.
I also don’t have a regular process because I also write poetry and short stories. What I am working towards is a more consistent pattern, say 2-3 times a week of set aside time to write.
There is no formula to writing; you simply write.

How you create stories is another matter.

When I first started writing I knew a story needed a beginning, a middle and an end; a complication, a series of events, a resolution. But how to put these into a cohesive piece was what I needed to learn. I read as many blogs as I could about the writing process and how to craft a good story. I wrote 1000 word pieces of flash fiction and posted them to my blog, linked them to others and sought feedback to improve my work.

You learn to write by writing and reading. A writer is the sum of their reading influences and their vision and perspective on the world. You tell stories for myriad reasons but at the heart of it for me is the power of story to transform the individual and also a love of words and language.

Find a pen, a piece of paper, and write a story. Find your voice.

Tears in the Writer, Tears in the Reader

It has been 2 years this month since Piper’s Reach (an epistolary novel hand-written and posted in real time) was conceived, written, finished, and now, the end of the editing process.

And I am emotionally spent.

Here is the premise: 

In December 1992 Ella-Louise Wilson boarded the Greyhound Coach for Sydney leaving behind the small coastal town of Piper’s Reach and her best friend and soulmate, Jude Smith. After twenty years of silence, a letter arrives at Piper’s Reach reopening wounds that never really healed.

When the past reaches into the future, is it worth risking a second chance?

How We Edited Collaboratively Via Distance

Last night my collaborative writing partner, Jodi Cleghorn, and I sat down via Skype to put the final pages of our novel, Post Marked: Piper’s Reach through the edits.

As we live in different cities in Australia (I live in Sydney, Jodi lives in Brisbane) the process of editing involved reading through the document and making changes, and posting the main document to Dropbox for the other to work on. Track changes is an awesome function.

The novel was divided into 3 ‘seasons,’ natural climaxes in the story’s developing plot, each approximately one third of the novel’s length. At the end of editing each season we forwarded it on to our friend Toni, who gratefully offered to edit for us.

We then sat down via Skype and read each of the letters aloud to the other, taking on the persona of the character we wrote (I wrote the character of Jude, Jodi wrote Ella-Louise) while accepting or rejecting edits.

Editing is, by and large, a clinical process where as the writer, you are looking for inconsistencies, errors, character motivation and analysis. You are not looking to be engaged by the story although you are aware it’s there.

However, during our various editing sessions throughout the latter half of 2013 we found we became entangled in the story again, its emotional push and pull, often stopping after a letter to talk about it, or even pausing at the end of a paragraph mid-letter to comment on how we felt the characters were reacting, or our reaction to a particularly visceral and emotional paragraph.

Along the way we overcame our fear of reading aloud. By reading it aloud as we edited, we were coming to the story as writers, and as readers. There was laughter, titters, nervous giggles as we read certain parts, and there was uncomfortable silence while we read others when the tone of the letters was angry and aggressive. 

At the beginning of Season 2 there is a section of juicy, saucy letters  but we read through them with nary a titter or giggle or sense of awkwardness (there’s no way my Mum is reading what I wrote). What gutted, and surprised, us more was the letters that followed where the characters’ anger was evident and pronounced after we rearranged some paragraphs. There were moments of quietness as we contemplated the passion and aggression our characters had found in their words.

We posted hash tags via twitter during our Skype editing sessions. For example, there was a time back when we were editing Season 2 when the content of the letters was a little bit racy so we called it #cigarettesession. Which leads into last night’s final editing session and the accompanying hash tag.

Jodi put the call out early and I suggested #iamnotcrying. It was a little tongue in cheek as firstly it was the ending of the editing sessions, the ending of the novel (a grieving process in itself) and because we knew how the story finished.

Throughout the writing process Jodi was determined to make me cry as I had made her dissolve into tears on a number of occasions. She texted me one afternoon after a specific letter I wrote: “That was one f**king awesome letter. Have read it four times now and I cry and shake and the whole full body emotive experience.”

I can’t remember which letter it was now, but I loved the reaction. There had been moments when I *almost* cried, but had yet to succumb to full on tears. Even at the end of the writing process when I was reading the final letter, I did not cry, which upset and confused Jodi. 

Fortuitously we ended up writing the final letters across my dining room table during Easter 2013 after having spent the previous 16 months sending the letters via Australia Post. I was blindsided by the ending that I laughed, somewhat nervously. I couldn’t comprehend what Jodi had done; I hadn’t seen it coming. I was gobsmacked at how it ended (it would be another 3 months before our online readership experienced the emotional roller coaster). 

Admittedly, I approached each letter as if I was the character, not trying to predict the development of the plot. And in conjunction with the No Spoiler Policy (meaning we didn’t discuss potential plot ideas), neither of us knew how it would all end, nor where the plot would take us.

In the mean time, she’s at the other end of the table blubbering as she reads Jude’s last letter knowing what she has written and paired with what she was reading from Jude.

It took me a while to come to terms with how it all ended and its emotional impact on me. 

But last night was something different.

It had been almost 3 months since our last editing session (due to life’s constraints) and we were approaching the last 50 pages of our manuscript with a little mix of trepidation and hesitation. We knew, as writers, how our story ended; that wasn’t a problem. It was knowing we had to come to The End.

The hash tag #iamnotcrying was good to go and off we went.

And there were certainly tears.

Below is a couple of screen shots from my twitter feed (you will need to read the  feed from the bottom up). You can see I was beginning to lose it when I said there were 10 pages to go. The emotion was threatening to overflow and I could hear Jodi begin to lose it a little.

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I’ve included Jodi’s stream via my Connect screen. There’s a line in Jude’s last letter where he mentions David Bowie’s song, “Heroes,” and I knew that was going to be the line to make me lose it. Jodi referenced it below. 

In the lead up to the last letters, we could both feel the surge of sadness threaten to overwhelm. 

As I read Jude’s last letter it became harder and harder, and when I hit the Bowie line, the pauses between sentences became longer, the silence more weighty and the voice cracking. Even now it still has an impact just thinking about it.

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There were a few more letters to read, and during the very last one, read by Jodi, there was no clicking of the mouse as changes were accepted or rejected. It was simply read aloud.

And it was bloody hard to listen to. I can only imagine how hard it was for Jodi to read it. I was crying, Jodi was crying and when we reached The End, there was only silence save for the sniffling of noses and scrunching of tissues.

By way of conclusion, Jodi was triumphant in that she had made me cry. We were both mentally and emotionally spent; the investment in our characters over the past two years coming to fruition.

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The adage of “tears in the writer, tears in the reader” was true last night. As Jodi says below,  the last three letters were all choke and pause and the struggle to keep reading. It was a really humbling experience to experience the text as a reader. I commented below that the emotion was magnified when read aloud (maybe we’ll do an audio version of the book).

While we were editing, Toni our awesome editor chimed in.

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And speaking reactions, a friend of Jodi’s read the online version before we took it down for editing last July. When he met up with her at conference, he said, “I hate you.” It was done playfully and without malice but in response to his reaction to the end of the book. 

Read the texts referencing @_Lexifab

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You can read Jodi’s reflection on last night’s editing on her website 1000 Pieces of Blue Sky and follow her on twitter @JodiCleghorn

Jude and Ella-Louise had the lighthouse at The Point as the focal point for understanding their relationship. It served as invitation, warning, refuge, security. I feel like I am there, under the lighthouse, watching the light sweep out over the ocean, waiting for the return of our characters.

We can’t wait until we can get this story into the hands of readers because we think we have a powerful story.

The First Pitch

Yesterday my collaborative writing partner, Jodi, gave her first pitch for our novel, Post Marked: Piper’s Reach before the commissioning editor of a large publishing house.

I was not able to be there because the pitch was in Brisbane and I live in Sydney. I posted this comment on Facebook yesterday: 

In a little under an hour Jodi will have pitched our collaborative novel Post Marked: Piper’s Reach before a commissioning editor. Feeling nervous and anxious and excited for her. Wish I could have been there. Will see what happens.

Jodi responded:

Sitting in a character arc workshop feeling horribly nervous. Might vomit!!

But after it all went down Jodi’s reflected:

Update. I did not vomit on the commissioning editor from ******** (company name redacted). I was however terribly nervous. I wasn’t asked for the first 50 pages but ****** (name redacted) took down the website address to look at it further and my email address to contact me if he was interested. 

Regardless of the outcome I am glad for the experience and what it adds to what we need to do next. 

I don’t know how I would have performed if it was me having to pitch but I’m sure  the time will come.

While at the con, a reader of Piper’s Reach found Jodi, and expressed what a lot of readers have intimated when they get to the end of Ella-Louise’s and Jude’s letters:

I had a random reader moment where I got my first good natured: ‘I hate you! I can’t believe you did that!’

We’re going out for a beer later to talk about it. Very excited.

We are very close to finalising edits on Season 3 of Piper’s Reach and waiting on return edits from our editor on Season 2. 

From here it’s a case of developing our queries, synopsis information, character arcs and work out where we pitch next. It’s a very exciting time as we see the fruits of our writing building momentum.

What started out as a fun collaborative writing project has become the vehicle for pushing our writing forward, individually and collaboratively, and seeking publication for a story we have faith and belief in.

How Do You Write An Epistolary Novel?

How do you write an epistolary novel?

Easy. Follow these simple steps:

  1. Find a writing partner.
  2. Brainstorm an idea.
  3. Pick up a pen and paper and write a letter.
  4. Seal it in an envelope and post it.
  5. Wait for the response.
  6. Read it.
  7. Reply.
  8. Repeat until the story is complete.

I co-wrote Post Marked: Piper’s Reach with Jodi Cleghorn (@JodiCleghorn) and we are now in the middle of editing the story.

Of course, you could write the letters yourself from the perspective of different characters but you don’t get the anticipatory Pavlovian response when you’re waiting for the sound of the postman’s motorbike (as they use on my street). Delayed gratification was something we had to deal with as we waited for each letter to arrive; 2 or 3 days can be an agonising wait.

You’re waiting on the newest letter to reveal the next part in the narrative, to learn more about the other character, and learn about your own character too (we both dropped in parts of each other’s character’s history – it’s how I found out Jude busted his knee skateboarding prior to Ella-Louise’s stage debut in “West Side Story”).

We wrote it for fun with no pressure, no constraint, no limitations or time frame. It was for us; writing for the pure enjoyment of it, and indulging in the lost art of letter writing we both had long since neglected.

For the first 3 months we wrote for ourselves yet knowing we would post them online eventually. Once it started online we began to gain a  following. It grew to a small, but core, audience we dubbed the “Posties.”

Something positive changed. I realised I was writing for more than an audience of one. No longer was I writing with Jodi in mind (she was always my primary audience as the writer of Ella-Louise), but a wider readership who were invested in the lives of Ella-Louise and Jude. It gained traction and I saw the potential for this beyond the online community we had established.

After 16 months of writing, 52 letters and 85,500 words we wrote “The End.” It has only been in recent months that I realised I have written a novel. Surprising, really. Still shocked by it. Happy, certainly, but quite pleasantly surprised we did it (Jodi said she could never write a novel and I never thought I’d manage to write one – experience has made liars of us both).

This is what I wrote as a reflection when we had finished: What Happens When You Reach ‘The End’?

And now we ask the big questions and dream the big dreams.

How far can we take this epistolary narrative?

It is a question yet to be answered; in due time it will come to fruition.

While we wait for that day to come, we are hard at work editing the letters and smoothing out the roughness. Writing a web serial can allow for minor discrepancies and inconsistencies but a novel cannot. 

For example, the character of Marion, Jude’s mother, became a very different character than when she started. This is the down side of the No Spoiler policy meaning we didn’t talk plot – originally Jodi’s suggestion was a character who was suffering from early onset dementia, but I missed the clue. Instead she became a far more complex character. It meant retconning the opening letters to reflect who she had become.

We have edited Season 1 and sent it off to our editor, Toni. Meanwhile we plough on through edits on Season 2.

Does this narrative have an audience beyond the core readership? I wrote back in July about the relationship between writer and reader: Piper’s Reach – The Writer and the Reader.

Jodi came across a site, First Impressions, hosted by Marcy Hatch and Dianne Salerni, offering a critique on the first 350-400 words. We bounced around the idea and decided to  give Piper’s Reach a road test with an unknown audience to see if it engaged them and what reaction we’d get.

We spent a week or so writing and rewriting Ella-Louie’s first letter. Jodi wrote about her experience here: How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count The Ways.

I was too caught up in school work to stress about it all but I was very keen and a little anxious to see what other people thought about a project I have invested very heavily into. Even though the opening words are not mine, they are Jodi’s; we had input into each letter in the editing phase so they become our words to an extent.

The first letter is critical to engage the reader and make them want to read on.

So, how did we do?

You can read the critiques and comments here:

Dianne Salerni and Marcy Hatch

They both praised the opening letter highly.

Marcy said, “This is an interesting beginning. I don’t think I’ve ever read an adult epistolary novel and I’m curious to see where this goes. This first page/first letter tells me quite a bit. Like the fact that Jude and whoever is writing the letter were probably once lovers, that they were close but that for some reason Jude didn’t come to see our narrator off, and that Piper’s Reach has some shared meaning for them. What’s great about this first page is that it sets up lots of questions about the past between these two people but also suggests a question about the future. Why is the narrator writing to Jude now, twenty years later? I want to know what happens next!

Dianne commented: “First of all, I have to say that I’ve never heard of a novel being written this way before, especially in today’s world of instant communication. It’s quite original – and because I’m a pantster who also lets stories develop organically, I’m intrigued! The voice of the first letter writer (Ella-Louise) comes through strongly in this opening, and the premise is clear: She is trying to re-connect with a close friend (possibly a lover) whom she hasn’t spoken to in twenty years via the medium they used in the past. Letters.

There’s not a lot of things I can critique in this passage, because it’s pretty smooth. There’s just the right amount of past and present mixed together, and enough places mentioned to provide a clear image of setting without being confusing.”

What did readers have to say about Post Marked: Piper’s Reach?

A couple of readers stumbled on the colloquialism “pashed,” an Australian term for kissing, but other than that, the response was overwhelmingly positive.

Farawayeyes: “I’m intrigued, and completely hooked. I love the idea. It’s so different and refreshing. I will certainly read on.”

Kittie: “There’s no middle ground with epistolary writing. It either hits or misses. This one hits!”

Liz: “I love all of the little hooks and mysteries you managed to get in just one short letter. I was worried you were going to answer all of my questions too fast, but you didn’t – you held back and gave me a taste of an answer and then more questions, which is perfect. Great start :)”

Alex: “That simple letter says a lot. The authors nailed so much in just a few paragraphs.”

Jodi has a great write up on her blog: First Impressions for Post Marked: Piper’s Reach

For me, it shows we have an engaging narrative. We are on to something. Let’s see how the rest of it bears out.

Meanwhile, back to the edits.

Piper’s Reach: The Writer and the Reader

Piper’s Reach – The Writer and the Reader

A writing adage you see on various blogs is to write for your ideal reader, the audience you want to read your work. You create in your mind an image of a specific person, male and/or female, the type of person you imagine will enjoy reading your novel. The specific reader in mind, may in fact, be you.

When Jodi Cleghorn (@JodiCleghorn) and I sat down to write the epistolary serial Post Marked: Piper’s Reach (now being edited as an epistolary novel), it presented an interesting dichotomy. The instigation of the No Spoiler Policy (we did not discuss the plot or character development, but rather let the narrative form as an organic process) meant we were thrust into the role as simultaneous writer and reader.

It was unique as Jodi wrote as the character of Ella-Louise and I wrote as the character of Jude; two high school friends reunited by letter after 20 years of silence.

Click here to read about Piper’s Reach – The Project

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As each letter was written, posted and received, we had no idea of its content in regards to plot or character. It was the perfect balance between writer and reader. 

We wrote as authors, read it as readers. 

With each letter we would read and reread from different perspectives:

As writers:

  • Looking for the momentum and motivation in the character’s actions and how it moved the plot forward
  • Contemplating different permutations of plot for both characters
  • Establishing back-story and history for each character, events significant to both characters and how it affected the present day.

As readers:

  • We became caught up in the lives of the characters; how their past and present intertwined, split, became a messy entanglement and how they tried to sort it out.
  • We read the voice of each character, how Ella-Louise and Jude articulated their thoughts, what they wrote about and how they expressed it; what they revealed and what they kept hidden.

Jodi asked if I read the letters as the character of Jude or as myself because I was both catalyst and consumer, the writer and the reader. It was hard to separate myself from the narrative of Ella-Louise and Jude, to be solely the reader as each new letter was a revelation of character, plot, motivation and secrets.

There were times when I deliberately distanced myself from the character of Jude to read a letter, to be the reader and not the writer. I let myself be absorbed into the world of Ella-Louise as she revealed it, taking it at face value, rereading it again to further my understanding of who she was and what she wanted.

In the same way there were letters I read intentionally read as the character of Jude to feel the impact of the letter as Ella-Louise wrote to her dearest and most-loved friend.

Engaging with the letter as either writer or reader produced strong emotions, even to the point of tears.

Now we are in the editing phase, we get to experience the narrative of our characters all over again, this time solely as readers. After we have made our notes and compared them we will return to our role as writers and continue fashioning the narrative and our characters.

It lead me back to a question I have asked myself over the last couple of years in regards to writing and reading: Is a reader more interested in the story or the writing?

Is it an either/or, both/and dichotomy? Is the reader more interested in being moved by the story than the power of the words? Or is it the power of the words the more important aspect for the reader?

The power of storytelling versus power of writing with which there is no clear answer. The answer will not be a “Yes” or “No” response but a sliding continuum of responses. For some readers story will trump the writing and for other readers the power of the words will enhance the story and be the focus.

As a writer I aim to balance the power of the story with power of the word. I use words to convey the power and strength of the story, and I want you to be engaged as a reader with the story, drawn in by the power of the words.

Keep an eye for updates on the progress of Post Marked: Piper’s Reach and I hope you enjoy the story.