Monday, 23 July 2018

StoryFest & Markus Zusak

Milton, a little town just south of me is holding a StoryFest next year (June 2019) - a festival of stories. So not just books and writing, but film and poetry, all forms of storytelling. As a fundraiser, they had an author talk on Saturday night with Markus Zusak, of The Book Thief fame.

The Book Thief was a book I read early in my writing for publication journey and it smacked me in the head. It was the first book where I went, "Holy cow, this guy has crafted every single sentence in this book." Now, I don't know if he had done that right through the book because somewhere I got swept up in the magic of the story and didn't notice anymore. At the start though, when I was finding my way into the world, it was incredibly obvious.

So I went to hear him speak to see if he did craft every sentence, if he did pay so much attention to words, his work, writing.

Yes.

A resounding yes. He is meticulous. An absolute crafter of stories and of words. A writer who is passionate about his work.

He was incredibly inspiring.

His new book, Bridge of Clay, will be out in October. It's been 13 years since his last book. He told us this equated to him writing 1.9 words/day. Which made everyone laugh, especially when he lamented that it wasn't even 2. But...I bet those 1.9 words/day are perfect. I bet they've been gone over and gone over until each words sings - or at least those at the beginning before we'll all get lost in his story!

He spoke of the rhythm of words and how even commas impact that as well as word choices, insertions and deletions.

He said his aim has always been to make the next book better than the last. Although he was told just to write something different to The Book Thief, he decided he didn't want to go back on his original career goals, to make the next book better.

I loved hearing that. I loved hearing that you could have phenomenal success and still want to improve. I loved that he still had the passion to tell stories to the very best of his ability.

The Book Thief has sold 16 million copies. 16 million copies! It's almost unbelievable. It sat on the NY Times bestseller list for 10 years. Yep, ten years. You could stop after that if it wasn't your passion. If telling stories wasn't what drove you.

Markus Zusak hasn't stopped writing. He hasn't stopped perfecting his craft. He seemed like a humble, hard working writer who loved his work.

It could not have been a more inspiring night. I can't wait to read Bridge of Clay.

Monday, 2 July 2018

Workshop #2

Yesterday I had the absolute pleasure of running a workshop for the South Coast Writers Centre and Shellharbour Library. It was my first romance writing workshop, so I wasn't sure what to expect...or if anyone would attend.

We had 9 participants and they were the best! The discussions started almost immediately, although I don't think too many of the people knew each other beforehand. They all loved writing so there was a bond which developed throughout the afternoon.

There were questions and answers, discussions with everyone sharing their experiences or hopes or dreams. We wrote. Read that out. Discussed what had been written. Loved each others' work.

We talked about publishing, point of view, genre fiction, pitfalls, sales, promo, subgenres, sex, horror, memoir, feminism, true crime, journalism, #metoo, strong heroines, werewolves, AI (artificial intelligence), authors, writing, our love for words, reading, writing, video games, movies, books, software, rejections, voice, studies, jobs, writing tools and techniques.

The three hours went like 5 minutes, and yet, looking back we covered a lot of topics, we did a lot of learning and sharing, and most importantly, I think we all went away enthused to write more.

The venue, Shellharbour's new library, was spectacular. If you haven't seen a great modern library space, check it out. Curved shelving with wide spaces. Muted, earthy colours. Spaces for different activities. Noise reduction. You're able to eat and drink within the space. A magnificent balcony in the fresh air, getting the afternoon sunshine. Armchairs that wrap around you. Beanbags. Miles and miles of space. A cafeteria. It was such an inspiring venue.

I've found that workshops can be hit and miss. They depend on the participants' interaction and enthusiasm. I was so incredibly lucky to have the best bunch of writers come to this workshop.

Even if people didn't read or write romance, they were open-minded enough to be at the course, to want to learn and discuss, to accept the genre.

And yes, I'm so very pleased to say that there were men as well as women in attendance.

Thank you to everyone who came for making the workshop a fabulous afternoon. Thank you to the South Coast Writers Centre and Shellharbour Library for the event. I loved it!

My Recently Read List

  • Eliza Henry-Jones - Ache
  • Catherine McKinnon - Storyland
  • Sarah J Maas - A Court of Thorns and Roses
  • Anne Gracie - Marry In Haste
  • Emily Larkin - all her books
  • Sarah Schmidt - See What I Have Done
  • Lisa Ireland - The Shape of Us