Home Bookselling Megan Dunn on her ‘absolutely horrible’ writing moment

Megan Dunn on her ‘absolutely horrible’ writing moment

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Megan Dunn will judge the Under-25 category of the Sunday Star Times News Contest.

Mark Tantrum / Supplied

Megan Dunn will judge the Under-25 category of the Sunday Star Times News Contest.

Megan Dunn is familiar with the ups and downs of writing.

The author of Tinderbox and What I learned in art school undermined his personal life for his very funny essays, but the realization that his best work was directly related to his experiences did not come easily.

“I needed to surrender. I needed to stop trying and start being. It was a strange and painful experience, but I recognized that when I gave in to it, that’s when things started to happen, ”says Dunn.

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The judge of the under 25 category of 2021 Sunday Star-Times Short Story Awards says his thoughts immediately go to the struggles and setbacks young writers have encountered to find their voice.

THING

The Sunday Star-Times Short Story Awards are now open.

“If you hate to write and it’s torture, you could be a writer,” Dunn says. “I took part in the short story awards and never succeeded in anything. Already, my heart is with all those who do not win.

It’s fair to say that none of Dunn’s books would have seen the light of day without some significant setbacks. In the case of the 2018 meta-memoir Tinderbox, she talks about a triple failure: the failure of her attempt to rewrite Ray Bradbury’s work Fahrenheit 451 from the perspective of female characters, the failure of his first marriage, and Dunn’s testimony to the collapse of the giant Borders bookstore chain while working in his stores in the early 2000s.

By writing the recent What I learned in art school, the rejection of a first draft by her editor and agent inspired a reflection that was crucial to Dunn’s arrival in the final product, even if it was an experience she would not gladly repeat.

“It’s one of those clichés that writing is what happens when you make other shots. I feel like I’m writing a book born from the failure of another book, ”says Dunn.

What I Learned in Art School from Megan Dunn.

Provided

What I Learned in Art School from Megan Dunn.

The book was originally intended to talk about women around the world who work as mermaids, many of whom were inspired by Ron Howard’s 1984 box office classic. Splash.

“I had interviewed over 60 people on Skype, (but) I was really struggling to bring this research to fruition. (The publisher and the agent) both said it was terrible, ”Dunn says. “This moment was absolutely horrible. Writing a successful book about failure is not the same as experiencing failure. “

Dunn’s response was to look to his life and the result was a deeply personal but still funny memoir featuring his mother, smurfs, a chainsaw-wielding performance artist, a stripper jumping from a cake and some, but not as much as originally expected, mermaids.

Megan Dunn has delved deeply into researching mermaids around the world while writing her new book Things I Learned At Art School.

Nichelle Media / Supplied

Megan Dunn has delved deeply into researching mermaids around the world while writing her new book Things I Learned At Art School.

Dunn is pragmatic about the bumpy road to What I learned in art school, admitting that without the initial abandoned concept, she might not have received her publisher’s support to move forward.

“Present a book about mermaids and people are immediately interested, but say you write about yourself as a middle-aged woman with no special means, and you’ll get a few blank stares.”

Now faced with the task of judging the work of others, Dunn says she has few preconceptions about what will be served by participants.

“The under 25s are an excellent category. I’m going completely open, just wanting to see thick whips of humanity in up to 2000 words.

Megan Dunn is the author of Tinderbox and Things I Learned At Art School.

Mark Tantrum / Supplied

Megan Dunn is the author of Tinderbox and Things I Learned At Art School.

Dunn is excited about finding the winning story, but felt the competition’s wider benefit was to encourage young writers to fully engage in their creative process. She wants to encourage other writers to develop the perseverance and stamina to find their voice and create the conditions in their lives that would allow their inspiration to lead to something great.

“What matters is not a colossal push for pricing, but the way you write to last the distance of your life,” she says.

“It’s tough and demanding. I get lost in the process, but it’s like a cold swim – you have to break the ice and get in. In the end, the circumstances will reveal themselves and shape you. Giving yourself to profit and engaging in the creation process is part of the secret key.

How to enter

Registrations for 2021 Sunday Star-Times The news contest is open and ends on October 22. Now in their 38th year, the awards are among New Zealand’s most prestigious and established writing awards. In association with the Milford Foundation and Penguin Random House, this year’s prize pool is $ 9,000, with $ 6,000 awarded to the winner of the open category. The award for Under 25 and Emerging Maori Writers is $ 1,000. It is also an opportunity for writers to receive critical comments and to publish the winning story in the Sunday Star-Times and on Thing. Judges this year are acclaimed writers Patricia Grace, Rosetta Allan, Megan Dunn and Amy McDaid. Go to bit.ly/sstshortstory to enter.