Brisbane Writing Workshops, May 2019

How do you find ideas for stories, and what do you do with them once you have them? How do you write a bestselling novel? This year, I’m delighted to be running two writing workshops in Brisbane in May at Twelfth Night Theatre.

Do you…

  • Have an idea that’s been hanging around that you’d like to bring to life somehow?
  • Struggle to find story idea, or have the opposite problem and have too many ideas?
  • Struggle to work out what format to put your idea into or what to do with it once it’s finished?
  • Have a burning desire to write a novel?
  • Have a half-finished (or quarter-finished) novel that you need some help to finish?
  • Want to have fun, feel creative, meet up with other creatives?
  • Just want to escape the family and the Brisbane heat for a weekend, eat some chocolate and maybe make a new friend?

I can help!

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Workshop 1: Bringing Your Ideas to Life. How do you find ideas for stories and what do you do with them once you find them? Josephine will guide you through the process of discovering ideas for stories, accessing research and resources, breathing life into words, and then pulling them into some sort of order to get them onto the page. She’ll also help you to work out what sort of writer you might be, which will help you know what to do with your ideas. She’ll cover different types of structure to suit different outcomes and foundational skills in the requirements of a good story.

Workshop 2: How to Write a Bestselling Novel. There isn’t one single way to write a bestseller but there are definitely common elements you can learn. Bring your idea for a novel and Josephine will show you how to plot it out to keep the pages turning, build strong characters and guide you through the foundations of self-editing. This interactive day will see you leave with a bounty of information to set you up for success.

You can book in for either event or attend both for a discount. As well, I’ll give everyone who comes along a complimentary copy of The Gift of Life to take home!

Click here for bookings.

My First ‘Food in Story’ Writing Workshop

Food in Story, Writing Workshop:

 

 

Are you writing a novel? Writing memoir? Writing for blogs or social media?

Food connects us all.

Everyone has stories in their memory and in their heart that include food. Days spent in the kitchen with your mother or grandmother making biscuits. Afternoons wandering the apple orchard, picking fruit with your brothers and sisters. Maybe brewing some cheeky cider with your dad in the back shed. The first time you tasted seafood. The warm, hearty stews that kept you going through a difficult winter. The endless lasagnes left on your doorstep after a bereavement. Every day, we eat. Every day, we create more memories.

Perhaps you would like to take some of those memories and get them onto paper. Maybe you would like to channel your passion for food into writing for magazines. Maybe you would like to know how to enhance your fiction writing with the joy of food.

This workshop is for you.

Join with me to discover diverse ways to use food in story. This one-day course gives you a raft of new writing tools to approach food in your writing with more fun, depth and elegance. Bring your pages to life with mouthwatering descriptions and tantalising facts to hook your reader and keep them reading till the very last bite.

To find out more about the workshop, go to my WORKSHOPS page.

Sunday, 5 November, 9am-4pm, Cooroy (Noosa hinterland, Qld)

To book, follow the link here.

I hope to see you soon!

 

Where Do Characters Come From?

Right now, I’m looking for characters. I have a new, delicious novel a-brewin’ and I’m looking for people to fill the pages. But where do they come from?

Main characters I have known and loved…

Kate Fullerton, the main character of The Tea Chest, arrived between the time it took for me to sniff a selection of teas in a tea shop and the two hours it took me to drive home. Her personality was pretty easy to pin down, which made life simple.

Maria Lindsay, the main character of The Beekeeper’s Secret, was such a strong ‘force’ that she pushed aside the novel I was trying to write and instead demanded a whole novel all to herself. She was a dream character, always on my shoulder, always ‘there’ in the space, waiting to talk. She made writing that novel the easiest of all my novels so far.

Tansy Butterfield, the other main character of Beekeeper’s, was based on a woman that sat opposite me on a ‘coast to airport’ shuttle bus I once took. I sat on that shuttle for several hours and she was diagonally opposite me and I had so much time to observe her that I created Tansy around her. The woman was tall, with long limbs, a long nose and dark hair, and she looked like a runner or a ballerina. She was around the right age (29) and I jotted down notes on my phone as we zoomed the highway.

Christmas Livingstone (main character of The Chocolate Promise), on the other hand, took a lot longer to come into ‘view’ and was in fact the third iteration of that character for that book, although she chose her own name very strongly when, one day, I asked her, ‘What is your name?’ Quick as lightning, I heard “Christmas Livingstone” in reply. I said, ‘Really? That’s your name?!’ But it had been delivered so decisively that I couldn’t tell her otherwise.

Supporting characters I have known and loved…

Supporting characters are generally my favourite ones to work with. They tend be the most clearly defined, often larger-than-life, and bring humour, or deep pain, or great adversity. I find that it is often the relationships between my main characters and supporting characters that allow us to see extra dimensions and great truth in our heroes, who will often speak of the unspeakable with a supporting character when it’s too difficult to do so with a close family member, for example. In my first draft, my supporting characters are generally a bit quiet, but start to really find their stride around the third draft, bringing so much more depth and richness to the story.

Often, supporting characters just ‘turn up’ as I’m writing, with little to no forethought at all. Caesar, the Golden Retriever in The Chocolate Promise was a great example of that. I was writing a scene between Lincoln and his father when suddenly I ‘heard’ a scratching on the back door. I thought, ‘What is that?’ So I sent Lincoln over to the door to open it to find a hungry, unloved old dog there. It was as though I saw it happening in the same time zone as Lincoln did. Caesar was a total star character, one who stole every scene he was in, I think.

One of the greatest joys I have with supporting characters is that, as they often turn up unannounced, I might not know why they are actually in the story at all until I’m halfway through the book, or later, and then all the threads come together and I have a truly satisfying moment of thinking, ‘Ohhhh, that’s why you’re here!’ I had that moment recently, while writing the first draft of The Tuscan Feast (to be published April 2018), with Sven, a young Swedish man who turned up unannounced and then later earned his place in the story so perfectly.

Lulu Divine, a fierce and fabulous nursing home character in The Chocolate Promise, was actually sixteen years old and a trick rodeo rider last time I’d ‘seen’ her. She was a character in a Young Adult novel (set in 1958) that I wrote many years ago (but was never published) and one day just popped up in a scene I was writing, surprising me greatly, both because she had walked so unexpectedly into a different novel but also because that wasn’t how I’d ever imagined her life would turn out!

So where do characters come from?

In short, characters come from anywhere and everywhere. They might pop out of the ether, like Maria Lindsay did, or they might be awkwardly wrangled out of thin air and onto the page and then worked and worked until they are ‘real’, like Christmas Livingstone. They might be someone on a bus who catches my eye, who I then take a mental picture of, like a template, and then build from there, like Tansy Butterfield. Writers always have troves of stories that have never made it to print and these can be absolute diamond mines of fully formed characters just waiting their turn for the right story, as was the case for Lulu Divine.

And then there is this man.

old man

I found myself walking behind him in the streets of Rome on my way to the Trevi Fountain and there was something (something!) about him that made me pull my phone out and take a photo. A week later, sitting under the trees out the front of a sixteenth century villa in Tuscany, the memory of this man came back to me.

Samuel.

Samuel was the way into the story of The Tuscan Feast for my main character, Lara Foxleigh, who finds herself following him on her way to the Trevi Fountain.

But that’s as far as my journey and Lara’s journey went together. After that, it was up to Lara to lead the way out of Rome, and a whole novel rolled out in front of me.

 

 

 

How to Write a Book (for those who want to, but have a hundred excuses not to).

Consider this post both a gentle, supportive hug, and also a loving butt kick. I’ve had too many conversations in the past month with beautiful, talented, creative women that go something like this:

  • “Yeah, I’d love to write a book but I don’t want to do it and have it be bad.”
  • “I don’t want to write a book and have people criticise it.”
  • “I’d love to write a book but I know it’s so hard to get anything published [and therefore why would I bother].”
  • “I really want to write a book but I know hardly anyone makes money out of it and I need to be able to support myself… I can’t give up my day job.”

Look, to be blunt, none of this is new. All of this has been said before, by me and every other person with a creative wish. As Elizabeth Gilbert says, “your fears are boring”. (Ouch! Hurts just a bit, doesn’t it?)

People get so messed up in their heads thinking about the outcome of their creative project that they fail to even start it.

And in my experience, what happens to your book  after it is finished is largely out of your hands. You have very little control over it after it leaves your laptop and flies off into the world.

Maybe it will sell, maybe it won’t. Maybe it will start a revolution across the world, or maybe it will change a single person’s life and help them through a difficult time. Maybe it will make you really rich, or maybe it will pay a phone bill, or maybe you’ll end up in debt.

Like bringing a child into the world, there is only so much you can do to protect, shepherd and guide her where you want her to go. She has her own journey.

Is this poking at your deepest fears? Can you feel your stomach knotting and your breathing constrict?

Here is something terrifying.

That fear never goes away.

I emailed my lovely fairy godmother, Monica McInerney, not long after getting my contract for The Tea Chest and The Chocolate Promise and asked her how to deal with the paralysing fear that was stopping me writing. She laughed (lovingly) and told me it wouldn’t ever go away and she was going through it right then too, on her tenth novel.

Julia Cameron, master of living a creative life (and famed author of The Artist’s Way) confesses in her book, The Creative Life, that as time goes on, the mind’s tricks, which it plays to stop us from writing, only get trickier.

Please, beautiful people with creative dreams, don’t be a slave to the ego’s fear.

You are stronger than that. You are wiser.

Accept it.

Name it, if you like. (My creative monster, my ever present fear, is called Maureen. Julia Cameron’s is called Nigel.) It is like an unwanted relative. You can’t get rid of it. It will always be at the table, eating your food.

Give it a job if you like. Many years ago, I listened to my saboteur tell me that everything I wrote was crap, turned to the corner of the room and said, ‘Really? Thanks for that feedback. Now go do something useful and find me a book contract.’

But please, write.

Please write.

Write.

Write for the sake of writing. Write because you want to. Write because in this hour, this day, that is what your soul calls you do to. Write because you love it. Write because you have something to say.

What happens to it after that?

It’s irrelevant. The important thing is that you wrote.

Much love,

Jo x

 

 

The Little Red Typewriter

Following, is a special memory and story for me, one that makes up the intricate tapestry of my creative self. And I’m wondering if you have any similar memories like this.

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Do you believe that kids often know what they’re supposed to do in the world from a very young age? In my case, I think I did. I have a very strong memory from when I was around three years of age, the timing of which my mother was able to verify based on where I described we were living at the time.

photo-3On this particular day, my parents took my sister and me out shopping and we ended up in a toy store. I wandered around and was interested in many things, including a plaster of Paris kit, with figurines of Paddington Bear. But then, I saw a little red typewriter. I was struck with an all-encompassing need to have that typewriter. Soon after, my parents announced it was time to go. I began to cry, real tears of utter pain that I would be leaving without that typewriter.

‘What’s wrong?’ my mother asked, kindly. But I couldn’t articulate what the problem was. I’m not sure I even had a clear idea of what a typewriter did, yet I knew for some reason I desperately wanted it.

‘Do you want the typewriter?’ Mum asked, clearly confused. Then, ‘Or do you want the Paddington Bear kit?’

Now, here is where it got interesting. I can’t remember for exactly what reason–whether it was because I knew the typewriter was expensive, or whether it was because I didn’t think it was reasonable that a three-year-old should want a typewriter (I remember thinking both of those things, but am not sure which argument won out)–I pointed to the Paddington Bear kit and said yes I wanted that.

We took it home and I remember spending many happy hours out in the backyard under the trees making and painting those plaster moulds. I did love it.

But what my heart and soul really wanted that day was the typewriter.

For some completely inexplicable reason, I knew that I was here to create stories and bring them into the world, and at that time the way you did that was on a typewriter.

I was telling my mother this story on the phone recently and I choked up. The pain of leaving that typewriter behind was a strong as it had been when I was three. So when I hung up the phone, I searched ebay to see if there might be a similar one out there. And there was ONE. Just one. Sitting there for sale in England. So I bought it. And now it sits beside my laptop in my writing room and reminds my inner child (and therefore my inner artist) that I am a writer. That I’ve always been a writer. That I deserve to be a writer. That I hear that calling and I acknowledge it. My mission in life is there as a very real, tangible object–a realised dream.

If you’re a creator of any kind, I’m wondering if you have any memories like this? Or if you have any symbols around you  in your space that affirm your dreams? Or have you noticed something like this in your own children? I’d love to hear these if you do.

A Writer’s New Year Resolutions, 2015

New Year 2015 formed from sparking digits over black background** Is your new year’s writing resolution to go on a writing retreat? You can join me in October on the Sunshine Coast! **

Each year I set specific new year’s resolutions just for the writing corner of my life, so it’s once again time to do that. The thing I find interesting about these lists is that once I’ve written them down, I don’t think I look at them again until the end of the year when I wonder what I wrote and how far I went towards achieving them. But it’s always fascinating to me how much of them I do unconsciously throughout the year, just because I’ve listed them.

So, for 2014, I set three goals:

  1. Stay calm and have a cup of tea. (I think I did this pretty well for the most part, bobbing up and down on the waves of my first year in publication. There was stress, sure, but I actually have a written plan now for how to handle ‘the things that went wrong’ in 2014 so I feel more prepared to greet 2015.)
  2. Turn guilt into gratitude. (I got better at integrating the working mother stress as I went along and I feel much more settled now that my toddler is in a good early learning centre two days a week. Though I had to work through a lot of guilt to get there, both he and I look forward to those days so that makes everyone happy.)
  3. Protect the creative process. (Again, I think I got better at feeding my unicorn through the year, and my most recent efforts to do this include my weekly challenge of Creative Tuesday.)

I also said I’d throw in some writing room decorating, and I had a big breakthrough with that in 2014 and am still enjoying my new relationship to my room, actively thinking about nurturing it so that it can nurture me in return.

So, for 2015. Here goes:

taxing-solutionsI only have one resolution this year, and it’s a big one. It’s the one that scares me the most, that challenges my brain, and pushes me into spaces I don’t like to go.

Numbers.

Tax!!!!! GST. BAS. IAS.

Blech!! That’s how I feel about it now. But by the end of this year, I want to feel like, Pft, it’s nothing. More than that, it’s my friend.

The whole tax stuff around writing is huge, difficult stuff, especially if you are a Word Person. A non-number person. The very gifts that make you a good writers, well, they kind of let you down a bit with the whole number crunchy stuff.

I will write a whole post about tax and writing sometime this year to share with you what I’ve learned. But for now, let me summarise by saying that if you have another job where you’re earning a salary, and then you get a book deal, then you really need to get on top of this tax stuff because writing income can shoot you over into a new tax bracket and, trust me, that can leave you with a nasty tax surprise. Also, after they’ve cleaned you out of money to pay that nasty tax bill, then you’ll then be asked to pay tax in advance, almost straight away. And that might be scary as all hell too.

And of course the rub here is that if you earn money from royalties, YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW MUCH YOU WILL EARN!! It could be $10 or $10million. There’s a big bloody difference between those numbers.

I am going to enrol in a bookkeeping course. (My stomach actually plummeted as I wrote that.) I don’t ever want to feel disempowered about my numbers. I don’t want to have to rely on an accountant to tell me absolutely everything. (But, oh my, I still need an accountant.) I need to understand the basics; I need to HAVE THE LANGUAGE to even be able to TALK about money. And I need that before I can fill out crazy ATO forms.

And my accountant and I are going to check in each quarter and try to estimate the numbers as we go.

I’m thinking this will take me all year to get on top of this. And so, that is it. My one resolution. The very opposite of what you would think would be a ‘writing resolution’ and yet I have to do it because I have become afraid to earn money because I am afraid of tax bills. And that’s just ridiculous. That’s not a signal I want to send to the universe. So I am declaring it. This time next year, I’m going to feel confident about the money. I’m going to shout, ‘Bring on the book sales, people! I can handle it!’

Bring on 2015.