MARCH MEETING ROUND-UP

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MELINDA TOGNINI

At our most recent meeting, we were lucky enough to have Melinda Tognini talk to us about her writing and the evolution of her book, Many Hearts, One Voice: The Story of the War Widows’ Guild in Western Australia, which was published by Fremantle Press last year.

Melinda told us of her long journey to writing. For those who missed out, here a few key points from her talk:

1. Use any available time to write. Melinda used to write while her children napped, and now they’re at school and she has all day, she’s not sure she accomplishes any more than she did then. The point being that we can always squeeze in time to write, no matter how small that window is, and when we only have a little time, we somehow use it more efficiently.

2. ‘Trick yourself’ into writing. If she was tired, Melinda used to tell herself she only had to write for ten minutes and then she could stop. She found that once she started, she didn’t want to stop. The key was to make a start.

3. We must take our writing seriously and prioritise it.

4. No writing is wasted. Everything is writing practice. Melinda wrote a YA novel and won a mentorship for it. It was eventually rejected by six publishers and still sits in a bottom drawer, but she believes if she hadn’t written it, she wouldn’t have learnt the skills necessary to write Many Hearts, One Voice, the book that did get published.

5. Melinda has a personal interest in empowering people to tell their stories and be heard. Many of the war widows she interviewed for her book believed their stories were boring and unimportant, when in fact they were full of courage. Most of us believe our lives are boring, when the opposite is true and there’s much power in telling our story.

6. The power of perseverance. It took Melinda eight years to research and write Many Hearts, which she did as part of a Masters Degree. Many times over that period she wondered why she’d ever taken it on and wanted to give up. However, she persevered and the book was published.

7. While researching Many Hearts, One Voice, Melinda used Trove extensively, and found it an invaluable historical research tool. It’s an online record of most/all newspapers published in Australia up until about 1954. She also used the Battye and National Libraries.

8. Lastly, Melinda had a message about not comparing yourself to other writers, especially prolific authors! Your writing takes as long as it takes!

Thanks, Melinda, for being so generous with your time and talking to us. We hope to see you again at future meetings.

WHAT’S ON AT THE FAWWA

Creative Conversation with Meg Caddy, author of WAER, on Sunday 10 April (10.30am – 12pm). Tickets $10 FAWWA/KSP members, $15 non-members.

World Building Workshop with Meg Caddy, on 17th April (2pm – 4.30pm). This workshop will teach you a ten step process aimed at building functioning, realistic fantasy worlds. Tickets $35 FAWWA/KSP members, $45 non-members.

Creative Conversation with Natasha Lester on Wednesday 4 May (7pm – 9pm) for a Creative Conversation with Natasha Lester to discuss her third novel, A Kiss From Mr Fitzgerald (Hachette). Emerging writer Emily Paull will be our interviewer, with audience Q&A to follow. Wine and nibbles will also be provided! $10 FAWWA/reciprocal members, $15 Non-members. More details to come.

Workshop with Natasha Lester on Sunday, May 15: How to Get Started (And Stay Motivated!) Writing a Book. This course will take you through the 5 key steps that will help you make a commitment to your writing and finally fulfil your dream of finishing a book! $35 FAWWA/reciprocal members, $45 Non-members. More details to come.

Creative Conversation with Michelle Michau-Crawford on Sunday May 29, author of short story collection, Leaving Elvis and Other Stories (UWA Publishing). Audience Q&A will follow. Drinks and nibblies will be provided. $10 FAWWA/reciprocal members, $15 Non-members. More details to come.

Workshop with Michelle Michau-Crawford on Sunday, June 12: ‘Creating Place’. This workshop will teach strategies to enhance your writing and enrich the sense of place, and by drawing from the five senses, memories and emotions, we will undertake practical exercises to develop a more textured sense of place in a piece of writing.$35 FAWWA/reciprocal members, $45 Non-members. More details to come.

WRITE NIGHTS 

Every Tuesday fortnight at Mattie’s House between 6 and 8pm, our very own Belinda, Emily, and Mikhalina facilitate two distraction-free, forty minute writing blocks. So come along! The next session will be next Tuesday, 5th April.

MEMBERS’ BOOKS:

We welcomed Bruce Willett, who has already written a children’s book, ‘The Adventures of Milly Wheatseed’, and Susan Preston, who has published a series of Christian historical fiction. Click on the links for more information about their books and blogs.

NEXT MEETING

Sunday, April 17th, 10am-12pm.

We’ll start with a presentation on Dealing with Feedback. It goes without saying that if we want to be read, we must show our work to others, and at some point we have to hear feedback. We pour our hearts onto the pages of our manuscript and metaphorically strip ourselves naked, and we then ask others what they think of it. It can be hard to cope with criticism, but it’s important to be able to and not to take it personally.

After the morning tea, we’ll talk about any issues you’re having with your WIP and we always love hearing people read from their work.

I’ve lined up a few very interesting guest speakers for future meetings, so please stay tuned!

Until next time,

Happy writing!

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AUGUST MEETING ROUND-UP

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Once again, it was a warm and lively gathering of the BLPG at Mattie’s, and we welcomed two new writers to the group—Gill and Jyoti, who are both writing fiction.

We discussed returning to writing after setting it aside or stepping away from a project for a lengthy period. Most of us seemed familiar with this as family and work often intrude on writing time. Suggestions on how to return to our work-in-progress included:

1. Printing the draft-to-date, and reading it to refresh our memory and hopefully revive our enthusiasm for the project. Also, sometimes after setting work aside for a period, glaring plot holes jump out.
2. Summarising the novel, chapter-by-chapter, which not only reintroduces the story, but highlights details that might be missing or unexplained.
3. Planning the novel in advance might alleviate some of these issues, as you can see where you left off and always know where the story is heading.

Please feel free to add to these suggestions in the comments.

I have two major killers of my enthusiasm for a project: when I don’t like what my characters are doing, and when I don’t know what should happen next. When I don’t like what they’re doing, it’s often because their behaviour isn’t in keeping with their character, or they’re doing boring things that just aren’t interesting. When I don’t know what should happen next, it means I’ve written myself into a corner! Sometimes, a bit of time away from the work is helpful, and the remedy usually comes—often as I’m driving and can’t write it down, and it often involves deleting and backtracking!

We also talked about how hard it is to avoid clichés when writing. They’re the first words that come to mind, and it’s sometimes hard to think of something new and original. It can be especially difficult when describing things that have been written about since time immemorial, like skies and sunrises and sunsets, for example. Yet, these descriptive details take the reader into the scene, and are evocative and create mood. The most helpful solution to this, I’ve found, is simply to start describing the scene using sensory details—visual, auditory, olfactory, gustatory, and tactile.

Sometimes, I re-read a passage in a novel that described the particular object or scene in a way I liked. I don’t copy it, of course, but I use it for inspiration. Sometimes, too, I visit the website Descriptionari. Many of the descriptions here aren’t unique or particularly well-written, but they give me ideas from which I can generate my own description.

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Another useful website is the ‘Reverse Dictionary‘ , for when you have the description, but not the the word. The ‘Flip Dictionary‘ by Barbara Ann Kipfer is another reverse dictionary which can be purchased from Amazon.

I’ll also let people know about a writing group, The Writing Connection, run by Rosemary Stevens and is held in Fremantle. Each Tuesday fortnight, Rosemary gives us a prompt and we write for about half-an-hour. Afterwards, people share their writing. It’s a very safe and encouraging group in which to write. If anyone would like to know more, please email me and I can forward Rosemary’s contact details.

Also, Barbara Turner-Vasselago is running her Freefall Writing Workshop in Perth from November 9-14. I did this workshop about two years’ ago, and it really helped my writing. You can read more about what I thought here, and more about Barbara and Freefall here.

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Lastly, tomorrow (Sunday, 6th September) at 3pm, FAWWA is hosting another of their Creative Conversations at Mattie’s House. The writer is Andrew Burke, in conversation with Dennis Haskell, and the topic is ‘Imagination, Inspiration and Intellect’. You can read more details about the conversation on the FAWWA website.

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That’s all. Our next meeting will be Sunday, 20th September, 10am. Until then, happy writing.

Louise

April Meeting Round-Up

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Well it was a small, intimate gathering this month, no doubt owing to a combination of school holidays, beautiful end-of-summer weather and the Western Derby.  The BLPG was without the guidance of our fearless leader, Louise Allan this month and her presence was certainly missed.  I (Emily) convened the group in her place, and it was my pleasure to welcome two new attendees, Lynda and Robert, to our group.  We were also joined by FAWWA’s current Writer-in-Residence, Steven (SJ) Finch.

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We began our meeting with a talk from SJ Finch about his current work-in-progress.  In 2009, Steven was the creator of Perth’s own dotdotdash magazine which ran for a number of years and was available at a lot of great bookshops and venues.  (This was when I first came into contact with Steven’s work, and indeed dotdotdash was one of the first places where I submitted by work as a young and inexperienced writer!)  But working on dotdotdash got in the way of Steven’s writing and so he hung up his editor’s hat and began work on his PhD, a study of the way novels use Kierkegaard’s concept of cultural anxiety, looking in particular at Dostoevky’s The Brothers Kamazarov and Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest.  Steven demonstrated not only extensive theoretical knowledge of his subject but also an intense commitment to what sounds like a lot of work on a creative project,, a novel, and we wish him the very best of luck with his studies.

A round table discussion of the group uncovered what the rest of us were working on, and as usual, we were faced with a diverse group, all with varying approaches to craft.  It is lovely to be able to share ideas and offer support, and so I offer my thanks to Lynne, Lynda, Robert and Steven for sharing their writing news with me today at the group!

Next month’s meeting, Louise will be back in the captain’s chair and hopefully we will be able to continue with our planned topic of Memoir Writing, so if anyone has material they would like to bring along that would be wonderful.

Creative Conversations at FAWWA

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Creative Conversations, a new initiative organised by FAWWA, will run over the next nine months at Mattie Furphy House.

Each session has three parts: a conversation and a workshop, followed by a manuscript assessment for five writers.

In the conversation, the featured author discusses his or her creative process with another author or creator. Topics discussed will range from dreaming up mystery novels which persuade readers to follow the whole series, to entry into a poet’s creative world.

Audience members will be encouraged to become involved in the conversation.

The conversations will take place on the first Sunday of each month, at 3pm. (Entry: $10)

A week after the conversation, the featured writer will lead a workshop on an aspect of their work or the creative life. The workshops are aimed at introducing new skills to emerging writers, whether they be honing the perfect sentences or bringing the past to life. (Cost is $30 non FAWWA members, $25 FAWWA members.)

In the following fortnight, by arrangement, the featured author will provide manuscript assessment of a short excerpt (5-6 pages) to 5 writers and give feedback.

The first conversation is this afternoon, 8th March, at 3pm, and features crime writer Alan Carter in conversation with Georgia Richter from Fremantle Press.

Alan will talk about creating a Crime Fiction Series—heroes, villains, and the zeitgeist. 

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Alan was born in Sunderland, UK, and immigrated to Australia in 1991. He lives in Fremantle with his wife Kath and son Liam and works as a television documentary director. His first novel, Prime Cut, was shortlisted for the UK Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger Award in 2010, and won the Ned Kelly Award for Best First Fiction in 2011. The sequel, Getting Warmer, was released in October 2013. The third book in the Cato Kwong series, Bad Seed, has just been released by Fremantle Press.

Next Sunday, 15th March, also at 3pm, Alan will run a workshop. He will cover topics such as: crime scene investigation; creating the characters—creating heroes, villains, and an ensemble cast that your readers will not only want to stick around with for a book, but for a series; points of view; a sense of time and place; plots, subplots and red herrings; cliff-hangers and resolutions; and practical tips for the perfect crime.

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NEXT MONTH 

Next month’s author is Moira McKinnon.

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Moira was born in Western Australia, one of six children. Although she was drawn to writing, she became a general practitioner then an epidemiologist, with an emphasis on infectious diseases. She spent her early working life in the outback, mainly with Aboriginal people. In 1992 she wrote a short story, Toyota Dreaming, which won the Harold Goodwin short story prize at the Henry Lawson festival. Many years later, she started writing again, and her essay, ‘Who Killed Matilda?’, was a co-winner of the National Calibre essay award in 2011. Her novel, ‘Cicada’, set in the Kimberley, was published by Allen and Unwin in 2014.

Moira will be in conversation with author Marlish Glorie on Sunday, 12th April, at 3pm about ‘Writing across the cultural divide – can a writer be true to both sides?’

The following week, Sunday, 19th April, at 3pm she will run a workshop on ‘The power of the sentence’. The workshop will examine tools and methods to create great sentences, looking at the rhythm, balance and suspense of sentences of master writers.

More information:

For more about the Creative Conversations series and to see the list of upcoming authors, download the booklet Creative Conversations, or visit the FAWWA website.