QUT Creative Writing Gala & Meeting Susan Johnson!

Friday night was a super special occasion. The annual QUT Creative Writing Gala is an exclusive do held at Avid Reader Bookshop and Cafe in West End. At first I felt pretty out of place – I arrived early and found myself teeter-tottering in high heels near a group of my ultra-suave tutors and lecturers. Finally, the venue filled with other final year undergrads and postgrad students. Never before was there a bunch of kookier or more awesome people in one place.

The Avid Reader venue is ideally suited for book events. We walk through the bookshop out onto a terrace set up with a mic for our guest speakers and an open bar. We were well-fed all evening with trays of finger foods.

The gala is the night that the winners of the QUT Undergrad and Postgrad Writing Prizes are announced. My friend Katerina Gibson’s short story, ‘Nesting’, was shortlisted for the undergrad prize. When her name was called as the winner, the crowd exploded with applause. As well as $1000 in prize money, her work is soon to be published in Kill Your Darlings literary journal. This is a big break for an emerging writer, and I am so glad she’s receiving this recognition.

The final highlight of the night was getting to meet author, Susan Johnson. I read her novel, My Hundred Lovers, earlier this year. It came at a perfect time of my life to challenge me to think and feel deeply about myself. I’ve been desperate to meet her, but I narrowly missed out twice since she’s been busy with the launch of her new novel, The Landing. When I saw Susan among the crowd, my heart fluttered before I second-guessed myself. The only picture I’d seen of her was a photo on her book’s back cover. It doesn’t prepare you at all for actually standing face to face with her. Her eyes and smile hold an intensity that a posed author pic can’t capture.

You might relate to the feeling of wanting one of your favourite celebrities to really notice you. I keep forgetting that writers aren’t like most celebrities. Instead of experiencing constant harassment from screaming fans, writers have quiet and isolated existences, struggling alone at a laptop or note pad and even forgetting sometimes that there’s a bigger context beyond. I was humbled by the gratefulness and sincerity with which Susan Johnson greeted me. I didn’t have the words to express how much My Hundred Lovers means to me, but I was glad to have at last met her.

So there you have it. Watch out for Katerina Gibson’s story in Kill Your Darlings in the near future! And if you haven’t already, please seek out Susan Johnson’s books and treat yourself to her confronting but beautiful writing. Don’t forget to add me as your Writing Buddy for National Novel Writing Month!

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Meeting Meg McKinlay at the Queensland Literary Awards 2015

At this year’s Queensland Literary Awards at the State Library of Queensland, I had the pleasure of meeting children’s author, Meg McKinlay.  Meg’s latest novel, A Single Stone, won the Griffith University Children’s Book Award.  During her acceptance speech, I was thinking to myself how amazing it would be to go up to her and say hi.  But then what after “hi”?  I was feeling nervous already.  

After the ceremony, I raced out, bought a copy of A Single Stone, and then began the mincing dawdle of someone who prefers to wait awkwardly nearby a celebrity rather than interrupt them.

Screen Shot 2015-10-11 at 11.06.11 pmWhen Meg noticed me star-strickeningly clutching her book, she offered to sign it for me.  I needn’t have been nervous.  We ended up sitting down to chat about our mutual love of The Silver Chair from The Chronicles of Narnia, a book that resonates deeply for us both.

It was amazing to have such a natural, down-to-earth conversation with an author that I admire.  I felt humbled.  Meg McKinlay was so open to share about herself and expressed sincere interest in my passion to be a children’s author.  She wrote a kind note to me inside A Single Stone which I will treasure.

I can’t wait to read A Single Stone.  You can expect a review when I do.  What an amazing experience!

If you haven’t already, don’t forget to check out the other Queensland Literary Award winners.  You can even read the short story finalists of the State Library of Queensland’s 2015 Young Writers Award.  My earlier post has all the links you need to check them out.

Important Links:

Meg McKinlay

Queensland Literary Awards

Queensland Literary Awards 2015

I was honoured to be invited to this year’s Queensland Literary Awards.  The ceremony took place last night at the State Library of Queensland to celebrate outstanding writers over a range of categories.  Being in the same room as some of Brisbane’s (and Australia’s) most prestigious writers was way too exciting!  It was like author I-Spy, which is perhaps the dorkiest and coolest thing ever.

A Bit of History

After former premier, Campbell Newman, scrapped government funding for the Queensland Literary Awards in 2012, a passionate, not-for-profit association of volunteers rallied community support.  The I Love Literature campaign was born.  

May this year, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszcuk brought back public funding for the awards, even creating a new category for a work of state significance, mentorship for writer’s development, and doubling the support for the young writer’s category.  Isn’t that really something?  It’s incredible to look back on how much support the awards have received from a community that realises their importance.

The Winners

Queensland Premier’s Award for a Work of State Significance (Prize: $25,000)

Winner: Warrior, Libby Connors

University of Queensland Fiction Book Awards (Prize: $10,000)

Winner: The Golden Age, Joan London

University of Queensland Non-Fiction Book Award (Prize: $10,000)

Winner: The Bush: Travels in the Heart of Australia, Don Watson

Griffith University Young Adult Book Award (Prize: $10,000)

Winner: The Pause, John Larkin

Griffith University Children’s Book Award (Prize: $10,000)

Winner: A Single Stone, Meg McKinlay

University of Southern Queensland History Book Award (Prize: $10,000)

Winner: ANZAC, The Unauthorised Biography, Carolyn Holbrook

University of Southern Queensland Australian Short Story Collection – Steele Rudd Award (Prize: $10,000)

Winner: Merciless Gods, Christos Tsiolkas

State Library of Queensland Poetry Collection – Judith Wright Calanthe Award (Prize: $10,000)

Winner: Waiting for the Past, Les Murray

Queensland Premier’s Young Publishers and Writers Awards (Prize: $10,000 Each)

Winners: Megan McGrath and Rebecca Jessen

Unpublished Indigenous Writer – David Unaipon Award (Prize: $10,000)

Winner: The First Octoroon or Report of an Experimental Child, Andrew Booth

Emerging Queensland Writer – Manuscript Award (Prize: $10,000)

Winner: Aurora, Elizabeth Kasmer

2015 Queensland Writers Fellowships ($15,000 Each)

Winners: Inga Simpson, Krissy Kneen, and Karen Foxlee

The Courier Mail People’s Choice Queensland Book of the Year (Prize: $10,000)

Winner: On the road…with the kids, John Ahern

SLQ 2015 Young Writers Award

8-218642-Logo-280x210-2Now, you may ask, why was yours truly invited to go along to this event in the first place?  I was one of four highly commended entries in the 18-25 category of State Library of Queensland’s 2015 Young Writers Award!

I only found out a week ago that my children’s short story ‘Eyes and Ears’ had been shortlisted.  It was surreal seeing my name projected up onto the same screen as some of Australia’s great writers.

All of the highly commended and winning entries are available to read online.  Please go check them out!  My fellow finalists are all beautiful writers and so deserve this recognition for their work.

15 – 17 Category 1,500 Word Short Story (Prize: $2,000)

Winner: The Washing of Iniquity, Rosie McCrossin

Runner up: Cher PereClara Harin Lee

Highly commended:

18 – 25 Category 2,500 Word Short Story (Prize: $2,000)

Winner: Surface, Grace McCarter

Runner up: January Days, Faith Mudge

Highly commended:

So there you have it!  There are so many books I need to add to my to-read list after hearing about the finalists.  Several of my lecturers and tutors at QUT had shortlisted books, which I can’t wait to get my hands on.  

Expect another post soon all about some the ceremony and the people I had the honour of meeting.  It was an amazing night.  

Important Links:

Queensland Literary Awards

State Library of Queensland

An Afternoon with R.A. Spratt at Brisbane Writer’s Festival

I went to the Brisbane Writer’s Festival for the first time ever today!  There were so many amazing events I would have loved to have gone to, but I managed to fit in one masterclass between uni and work.

rh3BWF is an annual event held in the State Library of Queensland.  Writers and publishing industry professionals flock from all over Australian to share their experiences and knowledge in panels, seminars, and workshops.  The festival also offers great volunteering opportunities that students and emerging writers can take advantage of to network and gain experience.  Check out the BWF website here to see what’s on offer.  It’s running until the 6th of September so you still have a few days left to get in on the action.

The masterclass I attended was led by bestselling Australian children’s author and television writer, R.A. Spratt.  She’s the adult responsible for the Friday Barnes and Nanny Piggins series.   She talked about how to plot a novel and come up with interesting characters through several interactive workshopping exercises.

My favourites of her advice for writing characters were:

  • Remember that everyone has something wrong with them

So make your characters flawed and interesting!  What might be a quick character hook?

  • Borrow qualities from people you know

Basing your character on a real person makes it easier to imagine what your character would say or do in a particular scenario.

  • Ask yourself how and why each of your characters think differently

All of your characters are unique, so figure out how their minds work and why.  This will decide what your character says and does, and how.

R.A. Spratt’s great sense of humour made the masterclass fun and comfortable.  Not to mention she brought chocolate to inspire us (getting a sugar rush is her version of putting on a thinking cap)!  She was bursting with hilarious anecdotes about how she finds ideas and runs writing classes in primary schools.  I’m now very excited to get my hands on one of her books.  Please check out her website here.  You can also follow her on Twitter!

I hope you have a great week, full of inspiration and exciting new learning.