Creators! Are you feeling fragile? This might help

Melbourne, Australia.

May 2018

Weather? Yeah, right.

Big weekend for the children’s book industry.

Kid Lit Vic.

Scribbles Masterclass.

Book launches (Jess Racklyeft, Lucinda Gifford).



I cooked roast lamb. Himself cooked parsnip soup.

As I said, BIG.the bride and groom IMG_5196


The Scribbles Masterclass. That’s me in the middle. Learning.
With Zoe Collins, Graphic Designer and Group Agitator here at girl&duck.com

Following the ruckus, there have been heaps of posts and comments and ruminations flying around the Duck Pond (our private Facebook group).

Reviews of the events, favourite takeaways, who said what and did what and who came away happy and invigorated and who came away crushed and teary.

Who ate too many bombolinis at Brunetti’s.

Brunetti Cafe, Flinders Lane, Melbourne

Enough with the custard donuts. What about writing?

This is a long game.

It will bring you to your knees.

None of it’s personal.


Yadda yadda

It’s hard to hear this. We think we hear it. But we don’t really.

Not when it applies to us.

This year, as with every year, there have been some post-Kid Lit tears. Even if only tiny they have been shed—shed over manuscript assessments/publisher feedback/editorial comments/sideways glances.

Which got me thinking.

If we changed our focus we could spare ourselves a lot of grief.

I say, we should all be wearing L Plates. Put them on. Get used to them. Embrace them and be proud.

Change your focus to learning. Lifelong learning.

Reframe your thinking. Instead of thinking, I want to get published, I want to be an award-winning, bestselling, internationally acclaimed Doobley Doo, think of it this way: I want to learn. I’m on a learning curve. I’m committed to learning. Learning will enrich my life and the lives of everyone around me.

Learning might also get me where I want to go. It will definitely get me there with grace, humility and gratitude.

About five years ago, I wrote a screenplay. It’s an adaptation of my novel, The Accidental Princess. I spent an entire summer, my break between writing books, bashing that thing out. Sometimes I worked twelve hour days (I also have a degree in film in case you think I was coming at this cold…without Prior Learning).


A bit later, I sent the screenplay away for a manuscript assessment. To a reputable assessor. Pull no punches. Give it to me, baby.

This week (yep, that’s years later) I finally got back to it all. I want to enter my screenplay in a prestigious competition in the States. So I have to pull my finger out. Get focussed.

It has to be ready by December. Holy shizzle!

There is SO MUCH work to do.

And SO MUCH learning.

Sit up straight!

The Hot Date

Yesterday evening, I took my screenplay (hard copy) and my assessment (also hard copy)  out to a cafe where we could spend quality time together. Stare at each other through dodgy tealights.

Where to from here?

How the hell can I crack this open, dismantle it and put it back together in a coherent, entertaining and vaguely original way?

I reread the assessment, ticking everything I agreed with.

I agreed with  all of it. (Except the bit about The Secret Life of Pets. That film has some serious problems and I will NEVER model my work on it. Never. Ahem.)

Aside from the pet movie and that shitty scene with the sausage factory (WTF were they thinking?), I wanted to kiss the woman who TORE MY SCREENPLAY APART. Kiss her, I tell.

Her assessment, her insights, the trouble she went to in order to give me SOMETHING TO WORK WITH, her polite but brisk approach. All of it. I wanted to smooch her. Take her on a hot date. Buy her a martini.

When it comes to screenwriting, I’m a learner. I look for teachers everywhere.

I wear my L plates with pride. And they’re long term L plates.

I’m here to learn. For as long as it takes.

I’m up the front with a shiny apple, GEEK stamped on my forehead

I know for a fact that—

by learning I will do better.

And better.

And better.

I will improve.

I don’t expect to gain a place in the screenplay comp. Zero. Zippety do dah. Nuthin. It’s laughable to even consider it.

But that’s not the point.

I’m entering the comp for the experience. The challenge. The learning.

I know that by doing the verk, by committing to my edookation, I’m moving closer to my dream. It’s the only way to move forward.

Do the verk duck_NONAME

The criticism, the red pen, the ‘I bring your attention to page 35’ stuff. None of it’s personal.

A good assessment should make you squirm. It should make you groan with embarrassment.

It should also help you improve your work. It should expose the potholes,  the glitches and the, erm, blatant stupidity. By fixing these things you become wiser. Possibly even… wily.

Wily is good, yeah? Especially if you’re an artist.

Which we are.

You learn by doing.

By doing all of it.

Sometimes it’s painful.

Sometimes it’s a big, ugly, shit fight and you want to stab someone.

But only if your expectations are too high or misguided.

Only if you’re looking for a golden ticket.

Forget that.

Embrace your inner geek.

Learn to love learning.

It will sustain you, nurture you, inspire you.

It will also make you a better writer.

Quite possibly a better person.


Jen Signature_web

High on learning? Lol!






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11 Replies to “Creators! Are you feeling fragile? This might help”

  1. Thanks so much for your timely words of wisdom, Jen. I thoroughly enjoyed your Masterclass and it went by way to quick.

    I also attended KidLitVic and had an assessment on my manuscript. I went in prepared. I know the only way I will get better is to put myself in those situations and have my work pulled apart. And pull apart the first chapter of my first novel she did. It was wonderful. She was kind about it, yet at the same time, she showed me ways how I could improve. This was gold. She only had two positive things to say about my manuscript, yet it was enough for her to invite me to submit down the track.

    My mum always said that you should aim to learn at least one new thing a day. I wholeheartedly agree. I think I’ll be going through Scribbles Course again, and signing up for a Writing Chapter Book course in the near future. I need all the help I can get to make this story the best it can be, and every subsequent story. Thanks again. And it was great to finally meet you.

  2. A truly, insightful post, Jen, filled with words of wisdom and positive ‘tudes that should be like a lighthouse in the dark for us all. Love! ♥

  3. Love it!
    And, being from the US, I had to Google ‘L plate.’ I was thinking it was some sort of cricket gear (like big shin guards???). Live and learn. Live and learn.

  4. Thanks so much for this pep talk. I loved it and will go back to the top and read it again! I really need to hear (read?) this over and over again. So much truth and wisdom all wrapped up and tied with a beautiful big bow. Thank you!!

  5. Thank you Jen, I’m a newby ‘girlandduck’. So pleased to at long last to dive into the pond, float, splash and swim alongside this lovely network of writers.

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