Finding North: September 2022
Issue No. 1
Note: The recording above is a reading of this newsletter — there’s no different content, and it’s not produced, so you’ll hear the occasional stumble, or sounds of daily life in the background. If you’re someone who needs or prefers to hear their news, then I hope it’s helpful.
Hi, my friends.
I’m so glad you’re here.
I’ve been thinking for a while about the fact that I want a direct line to my readers. I don’t want to worry about you missing out because an algorithm didn’t show you something important — but more than that, I’ve been thinking about long form communication lately, and why it matters.
I write books that run to a hundred thousand words or more. I write letters to my friends, stuffing the envelopes full of pages and mailing them around the world. I record long, chatty episodes of my podcast, Pub Dates, talking about life. And I want a way to communicate with my readers that has room to stretch its legs.
I’ve been thinking, like the word nerd I am, about the word newsletter. I want this to be both — a place where I can share my news, and a letter to you. A place where I can reflect, and share what I’m up to. What I’m thinking about. What matters to me.
I named the newsletter Finding North because I want it to be an ongoing letter — over many years, I hope — about finding my way. Through publishing and through life, figuring out what matters, and choosing a path that’s true to who I am.
I want to use this series of monthly letters to let you know what I’m working on, perhaps in a way I wouldn’t talk about in public. I want to share the stuff I’m enjoying, and of course I want to let you know when I’m going to be in your town, or when I have a new book coming out. If my publisher has a special preorder offer, I want to be sure you hear about it, and if I have a cover to reveal, I want you to see it.
My goal for this newsletter is that it will be conversational, full of stuff that made you glad you opened it, and a way for you to get to know me a little better. It’s a sort of inner sanctum, and though there’s room enough inside for everyone, I want to offer some special stuff to those who have chosen to walk through the door.
What I’ve Been Up To
As I write this, I’m just back from a writing retreat. This particular retreat has happened every year — barring lockdowns — for nearly a decade now. It’s at a big house in the country in July or August, and I head there with a group of writer friends to get some serious work under our belts. During the day and after dinner, everyone’s got their heads down, tapping away at whatever project they brought with them. Sometimes two or three will break away to another room, to help each other brainstorm on a plot problem.
At meals, we talk reading and writing and publishing, we brainstorm even more, we offer mentoring and ask advice. The process of simply immersing yourself in that setting for days without interruption is magical, and the creative energy in the air recharges my batteries every time.
For me, getting away on retreat was more important than it’s ever been. Back in mid-June, I came down with Covid, and it turns out I’m one of those cautionary tales you hear about. My recovery has been long and slow, full of one step forward, and then a quick fall back. It’s been uncertain, and frustrating, and at times quite frightening. I’ve become accustomed to my daughter, who’s only three, appearing at my bedside to ask what’s become her habitual question: “Mama, are you feeling a little bit better today?” What she really means is “Mama, are you able to get up and come and play with me today?”
I’ve hated saying no, and dreaded her giving up, and stopping asking. Finally, finally, I feel like I’m taking more steps forward than backward, though, and the days feel a little brighter. Finally I’m saying “Yes, kiddo. Let’s go build something with your Lego.”
I’ve got lots of good stuff to look forward to on the horizon. September marks the start of spring, here in Australia, and I feel like I’m unfurling alongside all the green shoots and leaves I’m seeing on my gentle daily walks. When they first appear they’re coiled up tight, but slowly they’re beginning to open and stretch, and so will I. Many of you know that one of my most prized possessions is our campervan — scene of many solo retreats and beachside writing days. This coming week, I’m heading off with my family for a week away in the van, exploring all over our state, and spending some time together away from the hurry of daily life. I’ll have an update for you on how it went when I write again in October.
What I’m Writing
My great piece of writing progress over the last month was on the sequel to The Isles of the Gods, which is my next book, due for release in May 2023. The sequel won’t be out until 2024, but it’s time to get started on the first draft. I’ve felt deeply stuck with it over the last few months, unable to cudgel my tired brain into action — but on retreat, a few simple conversations with other writers suddenly unlocked what needs to happen next. And not only that, but I’m actually going to set about a third of the story in one my favourite parts of this huge world I’ve created — one I didn’t think I’d get a chance to visit until the spin-off books I like to daydream about.
I’m sure I shouldn’t be telling you about my 2024 book before my 2023 book is already out, but this particular setting — it’s the greatest library in the world, full of vaulted ceilings, rare manuscripts and hushed reading rooms. In my mind, it’s inspired by Trinity University in Dublin, by the domed reading room at the State Library of Victoria here in Melbourne, and a hundred others I’ve visited over the years.
I’m also waiting on my pass pages for The Isles of the Gods, which will arrive this month. Pass pages are the first time an author sees the book properly typeset — so they’re the first time it looks like a book, instead of a Word document. I’ll go through those pages with a fine tooth comb, looking for any small changes or corrections, before they’re off to be printed as advance reader copies. I’ll have one of those to give away in a future issue.
What I’ve Loved Lately
At the urging of my friend Susan Dennard (whose book The Luminaries comes out in November — I truly cannot wait to read it) I picked up Oliver Burkeman’s Four Thousand Weeks. The title comes from the fact that if we live an average lifespan, then this is about how long most of us get. Doesn’t feel like much, does it?
Burkeman’s argument is that this knowledge should not be distressing, but rather liberating. We simply can’t do it all. We don’t have time. So we can stop trying — and that might just give us room to forget the minutiae, and do more of what truly matters. It’s helped me solidify my thinking in this area, and helped me pull some things to the front that deserve to be there. Which is why I’m about to take off with my family for a week, and run along a beach with my daughter.
My other recommendation this month is a newsletter I love, from my friend P.M. Freestone. It’s called The Greenhouse, and reflects the intersection of their interests in plants and gardens, and writing. Each issue takes you on a lovely, leisurely tour through the garden, and what’s happening there this month (with lots of lovely flower pics like the one above, and the next one below) and then features an interview with an author on the way they feature plants and growing things in their writing. One month soon you’ll see me in there, talking about everything from the Ra’haam, to greenhouses on Mars, to supernatural swamps.
You can check out The Greenhouse, and subscribe by clicking here. And here’s one more picture, because I think sea holly is spectacular and we should all admire it.
News and Updates
If you’re in Western Australia, then I’m going to be at Scribblers Festival on September 17 and 18 — and I would love to see you there!
I’ll be at The YA Collective on Saturday September 17th, and at the author signing afterwards. You’re welcome to bring books from home — I’ll sign as many as you’ve got — though I encourage to to support the onsite booksellers on the day as well. The sessions are free, but you do need to book — click here for more info.
On Sunday September 18th I’m teaching a YA workshop, and I have a session for younger readers on The World Between Blinks. I’ll be signing on Sunday as well. All the info you need to book in is right here.
If you’re a podcast listener, you should make sure you’re subscribed to Pub Dates. It’s a fortnightly podcast that offers a backstage pass as my co-host Kate and I count down to the release of our two books, Nightbirds (coming in Feb!) and The Isles of the Gods. We talk about all the steps along the way — if you’ve enjoyed this newsletter, you’ll enjoy Pub Dates.
That’s where I’m going to wrap up for this month — I’d love to know if there’s more that you’d like to hear about in future newsletters. If so, leave a comment, and I’ll add it to the list. If you use gmail, you’ll also find it helpful to drag this email from its place in the ‘promotions’ tab at the top, across to the ‘primary’ tab, so it doesn’t get lost among the advertisements.
If I can ask one favour before I go, I’d love it if you’d add The Isles of the Gods on Goodreads, if you’re a user. Numbers like this are so valuable in demonstrating reader enthusiasm to publishers, so it’s a solid thing you can do to support an author, which costs nothing!