On Treating Writing as a Form of PlayA guest post by Eli Glasman, author of The Boy’s Own Manual to Being a Proper Jew

For years before my novel was published, I felt insecure about whether or not I was a ‘real’ writer. I don’t think this is a unique anxiety amongst unpublished authors and I responded to this anxiety in the way I think many people do: I romanticised the act of writing.

I told myself that the burden of writing fiction was thrust upon me and I had no choice but to sit each night and delve into the unknown to produce works of genius. Writing like this didn’t flow easily for me. And as a result, it was hard to read. The prose were pretentious and calculated. It was clear that everything I wrote was me begging the reader to think of me as a genius.

I told myself that if it was easy to write it meant that it wasn’t any good. Good fiction needed to be sweat over. If it was hard, it meant I’d worked at it and it was worthy.

This attitude to writing was one I’d been carrying around in my head since I was a kid. On my weekends and days off, I wrote all day. It was all I thought about. I’d obsess over the stories, especially the syntax, running through sentences over and again in my head until I’d memorised them.

I have a habit of over analysing myself, but I think I obsessed over writing as a childish way to simplify things, as I was not in an emotional position to take on the complexities of life.

It felt safer to focus on this alone, as it meant I didn’t need to focus on many of the pressures we all face, such as finding a job and becoming financially independent, or worrying about the things that may have been more specific to me, such as the Crohn’s Disease and my recent decision to no longer remain an orthodox Jew.

As I’ve spoken about previously on my blog, when I started socialising and earning my own money, I found that writing didn’t need to take on the task of carrying my entire sense of self and keeping at bay my anxieties. I felt more comfortable with my life and could relax and have fun with my writing.

As a result, my writing immediately improved, because I was treating it as what it really was, which is a form of play. In not romanticising it, I could allow myself to be crap for a little while and acknowledge that it was something I needed to learn to do, rather than some pure expression that flowed flawlessly through me.

The first short story that I had published was one that I’d ‘let go’ for and allowed myself just to enjoy the writing process. Yet still, even knowing that the healthier approach was to try and enjoy it, I still fell back into old habits.

Shortly after my first short story was accepted for publication, I needed to have a small procedure due to the Crohn’s Disease, which required that I spend a few nights in hospital. Before I began the bowel prep, I received an email from the editor of Voiceworks with the final track changes on my story.

Before I started drinking the solutions, even though I’d been fasting all day, I did the edits on my story. In my head, I marked this as my commitment to writing fiction. It showed how important this was to me, how I would overcome any obstacle to pursue this craft.

In retrospect I see this as deluded and pretentious. I should have just said I was in hospital and asked for a few more weeks on the edits. I’m sure they would have been more than happy to oblige.

I now see that occasion as a lesson in what not to do. I will never force myself to write.

Now I write every few days, while thinking of my stories every day because I want to, not because I feel I have to. If I write until two in the morning it’s because I’m having fun, not because I need to validate that I’m a real writer.

I figure if I want the reader to stay up until two in the morning reading my book, I should be able to enjoy writing it until that time. I realise now that a reader will enjoy reading the novel half as much as I enjoy writing it. I need to glow as I’m writing to know a reader will feel this as they’re reading it.

I find that writing obsessively, telling myself it’s work, a burden that was thrust upon me, snuffs out that sense of fun. And I will produce a novel I wouldn’t even want to read.

More from Eli GlasmanOn How Getting a Novel Published Isn’t Just About Persistence

Eli Glasman is a Melbourne based, Jewish author. His writing has appeared in Voiceworks magazine, the Sleepers Almanac and in 2013 he placed second in the Josephine Ulrick short story competition. His debut novel, The Boy’s Own Manual to Being a Proper Jew (Sleepers Publishing), about a homosexual boy in the Melbourne orthodox Jewish community, is available now from all good Australian bookstores or online 

 


Man Booker Prize 2014 - Richard Flanagan and Neel Mukherjee

The winner of the 2014 Man Booker Prize will be announced in London next Tuesday. This was the first year that books by writers from all nations have been permitted to enter the prestigious award, leading to speculation that the field would be dominated by American authors. Instead, it looks unlikely that the prize will be awarded outside the Commonwealth. If the latest odds from bookmaker William Hill are accurate, either Australia’s Richard Flanagan or Calcutta-born Neel Mukherjee will be taking home the £50,000 prize.

When the thirteen book longlist was announced in July, Mukherjee’s The Lives of Others immediately become a hot favourite among commentators and bookmakers alike. David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks was also popular among many pundits but the English authors’ sixth novel failed to make the shortlist. Flanagan’s The Narrow Road To The Deep North has been top seller is his home country but the book missed out on the Miles Franklin Award, the country’s most prestigious literary prize.

The Man Booker Prize 2014 Bookmakers’ Odds

A total of 154 books were considered by the Man Booker Prize judges this year, 145 of which were submitted by publishers with a further 9 called in by the judges. William Hill’s odds for the six novels still in contention are:

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Horation Nelson Fiction Prize 2014

The Horatio Nelson Fiction Prize is awarded each year by Black Balloon Publishing. The winner of the 2014 prize will receive US$5000 and a publishing deal with Black Balloon.

The prize is for a completed, unpublished, original fiction manuscript over 50,000 words. Writers can be from any country and there are no citizenship restrictions. Both novels and short story collections may be entered.

The 2013 Horatio Nelson Fiction Prize was won by Iowan author Mike Meginnis. His novel Fat Man Little Boy was published in this month.

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The Times Childrens Fiction Competition

The Times / Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition is now open for entries. The winning writer will receive a worldwide publishing contract with Chicken House with a royalty advance of £10,000 (US$16,000), plus representation from a top children’s literary agent.

The Times / Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition began in 2007 and has launched the careers of a number of new authors. To enter, you must have written a completed full-length novel suitable for children aged somewhere between 7 and 18 years. By full-length the organisers suggest a minimum of 30,000 words and ask that manuscripts entered do not exceed 80,000 words in length.

The competition is open to writers around the world, regardless of nationality or residency status. To enter, writers are asked to submit the full manuscript in hard copy, accompanied by:

  • a one page synopsis of the story
  • a chapter-by-chapter plot plan
  • a cover letter including a brief biography and an explanation of why you believe the work would appeal to children.

All entries must be accompanied by a £15 fee. If you have entered this competition before, please note that this year the rules have changed so that previously submitted manuscripts can be re-entered.

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Daria Morgendorffer's Reading List

“Okay, look, I’m not going to rewrite this paper for you, but I will give you a couple of tips that will help you rewrite it. First, the book title Sons and Lovers does not have an apostrophe in it . . . anywhere. Second, unless your ex-boyfriend is an authority on D.H. Lawrence, don’t base your thesis on something he said while making out.” – Daria Morgendorffer

Much-loved animated sitcom Daria screened on MTV in the United States for five seasons, beginning in March 1997. A spin-off from Mike Judge’s hugely successful Beavis and Butt-head, the series centred on Daria Morgendorffer, a smart, disaffected teenager with a caustic wit.

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 Ballymaloe International Poetry Prize 2014
Entries are now being accepted for one of the world’s richest poetry prizes, The Ballymaloe International Poetry Prize. The winner of the 2014 prize will receive €10,000 (approximately US$12,750), with three runners-up to receive €1,000 each.
The Ballymaloe International Poetry Prize is for a single, original poem that has not been published in any form (including being self-published or published online). The prize is open to all poets, both established and emerging, and there are no restrictions on nationality or citizenship.
Entries will be judged by Michael Symmons Roberts, a past winner of the  Forward Prize, the Costa Poetry Prize and the Whitbread Poetry Award.
The Ballymaloe International Poetry Prize is managed by Irish quarterly arts & literature magazine The Moth. The Moth publishes poetry, short fiction and pictures, with each issue also featuring two interviews with writers or artists from Ireland or living in Ireland. The Moth happily accepts unsolicited submissions – please check the submission guidelines for further details.
Entries for the Ballymaloe International Poetry Prize 2014 close on 31 December. The winning poems will be published in the March 2015 edition of The Moth. Visit The Moth website for full entry conditions.
Teju Cole's Rules on Writing
In this guest post Emmanuel Iduma, co-publisher and creative director of Saraba Magazine, shares some inspiring and practical advice from Teju Cole.

Eight Letters to a Young Writer evolved as a fictional exercise addressed by Teju Cole to an imaginary young Nigerian writer. With the encouragement of Molara Wood, the editor of the series, Cole tried to move from discussions of simple writing precepts to more complex things like voice and calling. Those pieces, first published in the now defunct NEXT newspaper, were made available by Cole as a single downloadable PDF file. From that PDF I have gleaned 20+ tips/lessons on writing. I consider the letters one of the most important resource on the art of writing fiction that has come out of Nigeria in the last five years. And I share in Teju Cole’s aspiration that young writers in Nigeria and elsewhere find the tips useful.

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