January 22, 2015

Made It Moment: Chris Allen

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 9:42 am


Wow! Have you ever read a Moment where you felt as if the author was writing expressly for you? I hope you have–that’s one of the purposes of this forum, to make us all feel a little less alone in our journeys and struggles as writers. Another purpose is to lead readers to great new books. Chris Allen’s Made It Moment, or rather, his perspective on the phenomenon of “moment-ing,” hit both nails for me. I found solace in his words as I work toward the release of my own third novel. And I found a new book to try in Defender. I hope the following words do as much for you. Enjoy your Moments, every one.

Chris Allen

Where do you start on a topic like this?

I think many authors understand and often share the soul destroying frustration of rejection. Writing is such a deeply personal thing, you are literally sharing yourself, your thoughts, your imagination – committing it all to the page and then laying it bare for all the world to see – and criticize. The hardest thing, I think, is accepting that not everybody is going to like what you do. But that’s OK. That’s life. We’ll never all agree on everything. So, you dust yourself off, remind yourself about what made you decide to become a writer in the first place and step off the cliff again.

Like many of us, I’ve been through the rejection phase, but I’m a pretty impatient person so there’s only so much of it that I was prepared to put up with. I had confidence that there was a market for what I was writing and so I focused on that: the reader (what a concept!) Besides, I have an innate disregard for gatekeepers. So, when I finally managed to put the finishing touches on my first novel, my wife Sarah and I decided to take control and self-publish. We’d done all the research, including our own market research on my writing, and one day (after having received an offer from an independent publisher to publish my book) we stepped off the cliff and we’ve never looked back.

My ‘made it moment’ has so far lasted about four years.

It began with the successful launch of the first book of my INTREPID series Defender of the Faith in late 2011. With a solid commitment to engaging with reading communities online, we built a groundswell of support from hundreds of people we’d never met all across Australia. Every one of them was incredibly supportive and encouraging and have remained loyal fans (Defenders!) to this day. On the strength of Defender of the Faith’s success, I was subsequently signed by Pan Macmillan’s new (at the time) digital imprint Momentum, which led to a redrafted version of the first book, released as Defender, and a second novel, Hunter. It was at this time that my INTREPID series came to the attention of a US film producer who read my self-published version and subsequently optioned the entire series.

Over the past two years I’ve done the writers circuit of festivals and writing groups, attended film and TV production meetings in the UK and US, and completed the third book in the INTREPID series Avenger, which will be released by Momentum on the 22 of January. Right now I’m working on the fourth book, Helldiver, and planning a new crime series.

I guess my point is that the moment hasn’t just flashed by. It’s been steadily building up steam over a number of years with the odd explosion of heightened activity here at there. I feel like I’ve lit the end of a very long fuse and I’m happily watching it burn.

A former paratrooper, Chris Allen served in three Commonwealth armies across two decades and four continents. He left the military due to injuries, retiring at the rank of Major. In addition to his military career, Chris has served with three law enforcement agencies in Australia, led security operations for an international aid agency in East Timor during the emergency in 1999, and was headhunted to take over the protection of Sydney’s most iconic landmark, the Sydney Opera House. In 2008 Chris was appointed Sheriff of New South Wales, one of Australia’s most historic law enforcement appointments. Today, he continues his career as a writer and government senior executive. Chris and his wife, Sarah, live in Sydney. They have two small boys, Morgan and Rhett.

January 9, 2015

Made It Moment: Diane Cameron

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 10:33 am

Out Of The Woods

This Saturday at 1pm, Diane Cameron and I will join another former Moment-er, Sandy Hutchison, at the public library in Troy, NY. We’ll be talking about three different approaches to publishing today, and after reading Diane’s Moment, I have to say that I am even more excited for our conversation. I mean, Diane actually has a sentence in her Moment that opened every single one of my college essays! (“I started writing before I could write.”) If that’s not a sign of a kindred spirit, I don’t know what is. But even if you never penned that particular cluster of words, I think you’ll all feel a certain kinship with Diane as she writes about the struggle every writer faces when beginning to own this passionate pursuit. What makes us writers? When do we become such a precious beast? And how, in the end, do the words mark us–and we them?

Diane Cameron

Writing all those years. Like being locked in a dark room. Keeping my writing a secret until I sobbed for an hour in a therapist’s office, “I want to write. I want to write, and I think I can do it.” Snot running down my face, crying so hard I was choking. The secret was out. I dared to think I could write.

In fact, I had been writing for years. Many years. I started writing before I could write. I wrote a fake newspaper in fake cursive script when I was five. My parents read three newspapers a day; I knew what was important: words on paper. And then little poems and longer poems, a novel that made no sense and had no plot. In the Sixth grade a play that was performed.

But I couldn’t call myself a writer.

Years later the therapist told me that she had no idea whether I could write or not. She suspected not, but she figured she had to get me past this sobbing fantasy so we could get on to what ever was inside of me. So she said, “So why don’t you write a little piece for the local newspaper? What do you feel strongly about?”

At that time I was being torn apart by my experience as a stepmother, and it was early May, so I wrote about the pain of step mothering and I sent it to the local paper for Mother’s Day.

Two days later the OP-ED editor called me. He spoke to me as if this was no big deal. “I’d like to use your piece about being a step-mother. We can pay $50.00. Would that be OK?”

Somehow I channeled this other self, and calmly said, “Oh yes, that is fine.”
And the editor said, “Great, and send me any other pieces, any time.”

And I said, “Thank you so much.”

And then I laid on the floor and cried so hard my husband thought that someone had died.

Diane Cameron is a writer, speaker, teacher, development consultant and advocate for family caregivers. She has a long career as a newspaper columnist and writing teacher. Diane’s columns are published in the Albany Times Union, Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun, San Francisco Chronicle, PIttsburgh Post-Gazette and many more. A selection of the most popular pieces are collected in the book, Looking for Signs. Diane is also the author of Out of the Woods–A Woman’s Guide to Long-term Recovery, and Never Leave Your Dead–War, Trauma and Family.

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