Tag Archives: Queensland Writers Centre

Quests and voyages

It’s a truism that we travel, not only to encounter magical places and astonishing people, but to encounter ourselves anew – to deepen our understanding of who we are. Travel is always an exploration of the self, as much as the world.

I’m delighted to be collaborating with Createplace and the Queensland Writers Centre to run a workshop on travel memoir, as part of the Writing for Wellbeing series. I’ll be introducing techniques that I use regularly as a memoirist and travel writer, and encouraging participants to delve more deeply into their own stories of travel and adventure.

The workshop is called ‘Quests and Voyages: Writing about where we’ve been and what we’ve learned’. It will be held in Brisbane, at the State Library of Queensland, from 2-5pm on Sunday 8th October. You can book, and/or check out the other workshops in the series, here.

Wishing you all the best on R U OK Day? 2017.


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Beautiful white bunny rabbit sitting in front of burrow in ground

Queensland Writers Centre periodically offers a ‘Rabbithole’ – a weekend where you pack up your notebook/computer/clay tablet or whatever you write on, head in to QWC headquarters, sit round a nice big table in air-conditioned comfort with a bunch of other writers – and write! I love the studious atmosphere, the sense of support, and the general feeling that writing is a valuable activity to which it is entirely legitimate to devote uninterrupted time – loads of it.

This weekend I wasn’t able to score a seat at the table, so I took myself off to lovely lively Grange Library and participated from a distance. The event gives you permission to shirk all other responsibilities and social commitments, and just write. It doesn’t matter where you are in the world – you can link in via Facebook, and enjoy a sense of connection with other writers while you get on with manifesting the people in your head.

I managed about 10,000 words on a new MS, and a detailed outline of the story. As an inveterate plotter, I was thrilled with the experience of writing 10,000 words by ‘pantsing’ (writing by the seat of your pants, without a plan to follow).

Can thoroughly recommend the Rabbithole as a way to stop procrastinating and put your Work In Progress first. Most of us, in our busy lives, seem to need that permission and encouragement. Many thanks, QWC!


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Article out

On the subject of WQ, I have an article on blogging published in this month’s edition. If you’re a Queensland writer, I recommend joining the Queensland Writers Centre – lots of useful information in the newsletter each month, including competitions and opportunities, as well as thoughtful and up-to-the-minute articles. Happy reading!

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You’re the voice

There’s an article by Tim Kroenert in this month’s WQ magazine, about audio books. Tim recommends thinking ahead about the possibility of your novel being recorded, and taking steps to retain creative control over this form.

The article reminded me of an experience I had last year, listening to authors read their own works aloud at the Griffith Review Christmas party. These were stories I’d already read on the page, but hearing them read created a whole new relationship between the text, the author, and me. The stories became more immediate, more alive.

As writers, we’re often advised to read our work-in-progress aloud, particularly to check whether dialogue sounds authentic. But it’s not just dialogue that needs to be tongue-friendly. The process of reading is essentially one of talking to ourselves – “reading aloud silently”. When reading aloud, I run out of breath if a sentence goes on too long without a comma or full stop. Silent reading doesn’t physically dictate to the breath, but psychologically I’ll still lose the thread of a poorly-punctuated sentence. Similarly, when reading aloud I’m likely to trip over a phrase with too many incompatible consonants too close together. When I’m reading silently, a phrase like that feels clumsy, and will distract me from its meaning.

Some people write by speaking the story aloud into a recorder, then coming back and turning it into written text using voice-recognition software, a transcriber, and/or their own transcription skills. They edit as they transcribe, and/or edit the transcription. I can’t imagine myself writing like this – maybe it’s a technique for extroverts. But I certainly find reading the draft aloud is a valuable tool when rewriting. It’s much easier to hear when I’m repeating myself, or giving more information than is needed.

I once arranged for a group of actors to read my husband’s draft screenplay, while he listened and took notes. He also recorded the reading so he could listen again later. This technique has obvious advantages for a screen or stageplay, which will eventually be performed by a number of people. I suspect that, even with fiction, having someone else read your work aloud sharpens your editorial ear. Like most people, I cringe at the sound of my own voice, but recording and playing back your own work is another option in the absence of a willing “performer”.

And if all these sound like good ideas you’ll never actually get around to using, consider that when you win a competition, you may be asked to read aloud from your work at the awards ceremony. Why not get in practice now?


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“The Internet is our friend”





On Wednesday I attended the Queensland Writers Centre presentation “To Market To Market: Pitching to Publishers”, at the Somerset Celebration of Literature (thanks Amy for the tip!)

The Celebration is geared towards young people interested in literature and writing, but there are also various sessions and events for adult writers of children’s and YA literature.

Wednesday’s session was facilitated by Sarah Gory from QWC, and featured children’s author Tristan Bancks and YA author Belinda Jeffrey.

The authors talked quite a bit about their redrafting processes, how they choose test readers to give them feedback, and what kinds of things happen during redrafting (eg. changing from third person to first person POV, or vice versa, might unlock a number of problems at once). There was discussion about what an agent does, how to approach publishers, the need for researching your specific niche in the industry, dos and don’ts of submission, and author platforms.

What interested me most were the questions asked by some seminar participants, to which answers are readily available online, through a plethora of resources. I don’t mean to sound supercilious about this – I’m no digital native myself. But I was surprised to find writers unaware of the online resources available to them with just a click or two.

For example, appropriate word lengths of books targeted at specific age groups. Guidelines are readily available on the websites of major publishers (eg. Pan Macmillan, Penguin, Scholastic, Allen & Unwin, Harper Collins – see Links page). You can also find advice and discussion through any number of blogs and forums just by Googling the topic. I looked up “word count age groups”, “word length age groups”, and “novel length”, and got similar sites each time (eg. Literary Rambles, Kidlit, Novel-Writing-Help). Most of these are blogs by authors, agents or publishers, or specialist resource sites for writers, so the advice is up-to-date and useful.

Then there was a question about how to write a query letter. Sarah offered the QWC Writers Guide on this topic. There are many of these Guides on the QWC site, very helpful, and not Queensland-specific so they should be useful to any writer (certainly any Australian writer). But there are also many other sites where you can learn the accepted structure of a query letter, dos and don’ts of querying, even have your query vetted by an agent (the amazingly generous site QueryShark, for example).

Why are so many writers seemingly unaware of these resources? Are many people still intimidated by the internet? Is it the sheer volume of available information that seems overwhelming? Or are writers wary of wading into these deep waters, knowing they’ll be tempted to swim around all day when they really should have stayed on the island keeping their notebooks dry and writing? (I know – me too).

I have to recommend Writers Digest’s Best 101 Websites for Writers. They make a new list annually, it’s divided into handy categories, and I’ve been delighted to find many sites on there that I’d already discovered through trial and error. I do try to add new links to my Links page if I think they’ll be helpful to others, but I can’t always keep up. The Writers Digest list is a good starting point.

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