November, 1972: Germany is in the middle of the Cold War, pitting people in the country’s East against those in the West. Teenager Alex lives in East Berlin during a time when it was illegal to read books, paint, sing and do anything else creative that isn’t seen as benefiting the governing dictatorship. Sick of the oppression and the way everyone suspects their friends and neighbours of being spies, he decides to speak out against what he believes is a pointless war and the heavy handed Stasi—the state’s security force. But when he goes too far, a Stasi agent is sent to make Alex conform, or kill him. Alex and his family realise their only chance to survive is in West Germany, but getting close to the wall that divides the country in two, let alone over it, proves to be virtually impossible.
It’s hard to avoid clichéd descriptions like ‘coming of age story’, ‘political thriller’, ‘gritty realism’ and ‘page turner’, so I won’t try. Lovers of historical fiction, especially alternate history, will adore Sektion 20. The narrative is immediate and thrilling; the setting realistic, compelling and well-researched. The result: a piece of historical fiction I highly recommend to mature Young Adults who can stomach the unsavoury aspects of the Cold War, and those who enjoy chapters with cliff hanger endings.
(The novel for this review was supplied by Bloomsbury)
It feels great winning, especially with a story I like and worked so hard on.
So, what exactly went into Time and Time Again?
- An outline on what I wanted the story to achieve
- A year of turning the ideas into legible prose
- Nine drafts (more if you include the line edits)
- Critiques from my writing group
- Two other competitions (one Highly Commended)
- Rejection letters from three publishers
Looking back at the first draft, the voice and plot were there; only the back-story and placement of words and punctuation changed. But what an impact these things have!
The story went from just over 1,500 long-winded words that took a long time to get to the point to 998 punchy ones that demand attention.
What’s the story about? A guy hangs himself in prison and thinks about his life and where it went wrong. As the story unfolds, he goes further and further back in time to an incident of family violence where he wishes he stood up for his mother. The last few paragraphs show how he wanted to live his life and, hopefully, shows that family violence is passed on from generation to generation until addressed.
Where to from here? I hope to submit it to a few of the literary mags that haven't already rejected it. I’ll probably do that until someone picks it up. I’m also considering sending it somewhere overseas—maybe The New York Times.
Wishful thinking, I know, but if my aim is high I might just hit the target that feels so far away :)
The time has come to choose my subjects for next year (2012). This had raised a lot of questions, the most important being:
Q: Do I want my writing carer to focus on fiction, non-fiction, editing or production?
A: All of the above!
If only I had time to do them all ... Well I do, in the long run. But which two subjects should I do next year?
I'm thinking Novel 2 and Industry Overview 1 are musts. A possible third subject is the hard one. It's come down to a choice between Non-fiction 1 and Editing 2.
Editing 2 focuses on producing publications and working as an editor, and is compulsory. But I can do it next year...
In Non-fiction 1 I'll learn to write non-fiction (duh!). Specifically, reviews, interviews, feature pieces and maybe memoirs and a little journalism.
Editing 2 will refine my editing skills and show how a publication is put together - something I really want to see.
Whereas, Non-fiction 1 will be a great opportunity to see if I enjoy writing factual pieces as much as I like writing fiction and can handle the deadlines.
Editing 2 might be the edge I need to sell my novel and the experience I need to put together a book of short stories by local writers.
Non-fiction 1 will give me more experience as a writer, rather than an editor, and should help me to present my ideas in a logical sequence of thoughts. It might lead to a freelance career in reviewing books, games and other stuff, which I can do when I need a break from my novel...
But which will get me into a paid position quicker?
Which will I use in the long term?
And, can I handle studying four subjects next year? :)
It's VCE all over again...
Help me Obi-wan Kenobi; you're my only hope!
*Ghostly voice* ‘Trust in the force, Luke… err… Emanuel.’
I’d love to hear from current, and previous, PWE students, and welcome comments from experienced writers.