Writers’ Journey, Sydney Writers’ Festival Event @ Katoomba

Like many readers and writers I find it interesting to hear how other writers approach their craft, how their interest in writing came about and what their process looks like, not least of all because it is unique to each writer.

And so I jumped at the chance to attend an event about the writing journey as part of the Sydney Writers’ Festival, held in conjunction with Varuna and the Blue Mountains Library. The four people who shared their stories and insights into the writing life are accomplished Australian writers across fiction and non-fiction and their oeuvre crosses many genres. David White, who facilitated the event, acknowledged the endless fascination that readers and writers alike have in the writing process.

The session began with each writer providing a 15 minute overview of their writing life. Malcolm Knox shared the story of his first day on trial with the Sydney Morning Herald in 1994; Catherine Cole spoke of the influences of childhood, of how the joy and pleasure of reading led to a desire to create. Craig Cormick demonstrated his passion for writing the story that demands to be told by passing around a sample of his many published books, ranging across non-fiction, children’s fiction and short stories. Lisa Chaplin, a self-described housewife with an imagination, outlined her transition from romance writer to historical novelist, and shared her approach to writing which includes a hand drawn visual map incorporating the three act structure, soundtrack and scented candles specific to the current work in progress.

The reality and challenges of a writing life were acknowledged by all of the writers. Self-doubt, how your best work isn’t always your published work and how success does not always correlate to talent were some of the points agreed upon. Cormick said that writing exposes your heart and that publishing takes a bite (out of it), but write anyway. A couple of good examples of learning from the masters was provided by Chaplin, who learned the art of editing through the Romance Writers of Australia, and Fiona McIntosh Masterclass. All agreed on keeping drafts of your work, and to remove your darlings to a separate document rather than to kill them off completely – a character or situation which might not fit one piece of work may suit another.

But there are many upsides to a writing life as well. The importance of small things, of celebrating the success of other writers and of keeping in mind the need to engage in the world around you. How the best you can expect is a life in which there is space and scope to write.

Write anyway – this was the overarching message. Embrace the power of creation, and believe in yourself as a writer.

[Photo: Lisa Chaplin, Malcolm Knox, Catherine Cole & Craig Cormick, left to right]

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6 thoughts on “Writers’ Journey, Sydney Writers’ Festival Event @ Katoomba

  1. Fantastic – that Blue Mountain is surely a treasure trove of learning/community.
    I’d say all of the above is part of the upside to any creative endeavor, because it’s all proof of ‘doing it’.
    Are you working on something specific? Some poetry, a novel, short story, etc?

    • Thanks for your comments. It rather feels like life is a work-in-progress! I’m editing a novel as well as writing short stories. Going to events such as these is a great reminder that you need to have content to edit, and that spending time thinking about writing isn’t the same as generating content! The mountains are a very creative and supportive place to be 😊

  2. I really enjoyed this post, lots of interesting things packed into a small space. I really like:
    “the best you can expect is a life in which there is space and scope to write”
    That sounds like a good ambition to me.

    I didn’t know you had written a novel. What is it about?

    • Thank you for your feedback and I’m glad you got something from the post. The line about a writing life resonated with me too, reminding me of the richness and satisfaction (mentally if not financially!) that comes from writing.

      My novel is about four people living in a small country town and how their lives intersect and change as a result. I am still editing it – sometimes it feels like it was easier to write the first draft! I hope all is going well with your recent book.

      • I think that sounds really good and I look forward to reading it. My book seems to be going well. It’s got four good reviews but I feel a bit like I need to keep pushing the marketing but I’m not sure how best to do it. Still it’s all about the learning process!

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