Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Writing Life

After work today I went to a talk by Melina Marchetta, an Australian writer of young adult fiction who is probably most famous for her novel 'Looking for Alibrandi' which was turned into a popular Australian film in 2000. The talk was at my small local library and was packed with students and other teachers, excited to have a real live author in our small town.

I have read (and taught) 'Looking for Alibrandi' and have an affection for its very accurate portrayal of teenage life in inner-city Sydney, however I haven't yet read 'Saving Francesca' or Marchetta's new novel 'On the Jellicoe Road'. After the talk I am really looking forward to 'Jellicoe Rd' as it sounds like a big departure from the other two novels which were fairly straightforward, dealing with issues and characters rather than complex plot. The new novel is a mystery set in a rural Australian boarding school.

However the most interesting aspect of the talk was hearing Marchetta's comments on the writing process. She works full-time as a teacher as well as writing. I asked her how she manages this and she said that it is difficult (all her first drafts have been written in the summer holidays) but that being in school has kept her around the voices of the students that she writes about. I am really impressed by her self-discipline, having tried to write myself and never really getting beyond half-baked ideas before term begins and I have no time to think again.

Another interesting point Marchetta made about her novels was that 'Looking for Alibrandi' was rejected many times before she found a publisher. After each rejection, Marchetta rewrote the novel before resubmitting it. That must have taken incredible resolve and a thick skin, something that nearly every writer seems to have to develop. It must be so disheartening after the first couple of rounds!

Anyway, Marchetta's talk was a very civilised way to end a day of English teaching that, up until that point, had had sadly little to do with writing or reading.

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