Review Blog

Aug 22 2011

Chrissie Michaels guest blogger

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Chrissie Michaels reflects on her year of writing since the publication in 2010 of her historical YA crossover novel, In Lonnie's Shadow.
The publication of In Lonnie's Shadow by Ford Street in 2010 was a very exciting time for me. I had spent quite a few years researching and writing this particular novel, which is set in 1891 Melbourne and was inspired by the archaeological digs that took place in Little Lonsdale Street and its surroundings, most specifically in Casselden Place. I am so pleased it is on the YA list for the Sisters in Crime 2011 Davitt Awards.
Always when a book comes into being, it is exciting and a little nerve-wracking. I must say that I am thrilled every time I read a good review (fortunately, they have been fairly numerous for Lonnie) and even more so, when contacted by a reader who has enjoyed the story. I think the most satisfying response for me was when I got a phone call from a woman whose elderly mother had lived in Cumberland Place, a laneway that features in the novel. She thanked me for writing about Little Lon. Her mother's remembrances had contributed as source material for Museum Victoria's 'Melbourne Story' exhibition. Apparently her mother had related strongly to the storyline in the novel because it fit in with the life experiences of some of the local residents that she knew during her own childhood.
Since Lonnie's publication, I have mainly devoted my time to writing commissioned educational texts. Two are now published and two manuscripts are in the post, a few weeks earlier than their contracted date of delivery.
I must admit I am finding it more and more difficult these days trying to fit in the 'time' part of my life as a part-time author and part-time teacher. The signs of early spring are here and as I strive to fit in some - indeed, any - time to add a new layer of soil, manure and mulch to the garden, I wonder why I still have this calling to go inside and sit at my computer and write . . . and write . . . and rewrite. Where is the time I once had to walk, garden or take a holiday? My free time, of late, seems to have diminished to the point of non existence.
Of course, it's all about the deadlines. Deadlines for manuscripts, for rewrites, for gathering illustration ideas, for checking proofs. Then there are the deadlines for lesson plans, for report writing, for meetings. My life has turned into one long mapping of time as I strive to adjust and readjust schedules.
I guess it explains why I have been so preoccupied of late with reading time travel novels. I have just finished The Map of Time and The Time-traveller's Wife and thoroughly enjoyed reading them both.
Deciding to write commissioned pieces rather than whatever is boiling on the pot calls for a different mindset. I have a fairly organic approach to writing, which doesn't always fit in well with the planned approach required by educational publishers. However, my commissioning editor has been extremely supportive, all the while gently steering me into plotting out a scope and sequence and numerous lists of headings for each chapter. Somehow we have come to an understanding and four manuscripts came into existence without too much angst.
With the final manuscript posted and on its way, I can breathe a little easier. Next week I will have no time constraints. I may do a bit of digging in the garden, or I may work on my next novel, and there's a poem that I have been mulling over . . . Life is sweet!
Chrissie Michaels

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