2019 Writers Retreat, Gold Coast

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Calling all writers at all stages of the writing journey!

I am thrilled to be joining the 2019 Nash Agency Writers Retreat in February, alongside Rachael Johns, Haylee Nash and Alex Adsett. This inspiring and informative retreat is being held at the Cedar Creek Lodges in the rainforest of Tamborine in the Gold Coast hinterland.

The retreat includes writing masterclasses from myself and Rachael, publishing and pitching guidance from Haylee and Alex, as well as critiques of your work and assistance to polish your pitch to an industry professional, all while enjoying three-night’s individual accommodation with fireplaces and all meals.

This will be a supportive, fun and challenging space to allow you to grow as a writer.

The retreat runs from 11-14 February.

I can’t wait and hope to see you there!

P.S. I’m bringing chocolate and tea to my masterclass! 🙂

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The Nash Agency 2018 Writers Retreat

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I am thrilled to be a part of this exciting retreat, offered by my literary agent Haylee Nash of The Nash Agency.

The Nash Agency Writer’s Retreat 2018

When: Monday 3rd September to Thursday 6th September

Where: Cedar Creek Lodges, Mt Tamborine, Gold Coast Hinterland, Queensland

The Nash Agency is pleased to offer our first writers’ retreat.

Open to aspiring, self-published and traditionally published authors, our writers’ retreat offers the chance to hone your craft through sessions with bestselling Australian authors and experienced literary agents, one-on-one consultations with principal agent and owner, Haylee Nash, and engaging and challenging group workshops, as well as offering the space to focus on your writing in the perfect setting.

Here is just some of what you can expect from The Nash Agency Writers’ Retreat 2018:

* Masterclass with top ten bestselling Australian author, Rachael Johns

* Masterclass with international bestselling author, Josephine Moon

* Learn from Alex Adsett about the role of an agent, the importance of copyright and how to understand a publishing contact

* Hear from Haylee Nash about the state of the Australian book market, current trends in publishing and what publishers are looking for

* Polish your pitch to give your manuscript the best chance of snagging an agent and/or publisher

* Partial manuscript appraisals (on three chapters and synopsis), including a one-page report and 15-minute consultation with Haylee Nash

Click here for more information on ticketing, accommodation and more details about the presenters.

I hope to see you there!

Jo

Literary Luncheon, Surfer’s Paradise, 26th May

Hello lovelies,

If you find yourself within driving distance (or hey, maybe even flying distance!) to Surfer’s Paradise next month, you might like to join me and fellow author Jenny Old at a literary luncheon at the Hilton hotel. Better yet, you can now make a weekend of it with a special discount package for accommodation if you’d like to stay over.

And best of all, the luncheon is hosted by VIEW, who funnel their fundraising activities into supporting the wonderful Australian charity, The Smith Family, whose aim is to ensure every child in Australia is able to access everything they need to have a quality education, regardless of their family’s financial circumstances.

I happen to sponsor a child through The Smith Family so I am delighted to be appearing here at this event.

We will have a chance to chat, books will be on sale and Jenny and I will be happy to sign them of course.

All the details are contained in the images below. Click on them for a larger view. Get your mum, sister, bestie on board and come and join us.

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How to Throw a Tuscan Feast This Easter

Last Easter weekend, we decided to treat ourselves to a night we’d always remember: a Tuscan-inspired feast, right in the Sunshine Coast hinterland in Queensland. Everything came together to create an evening in which it felt as if a huge magic bubble of wonder and love had descended on our house and infused us all with a lifetime of memories.

The heart of a Tuscan-inspired feast is, of course, family and friends. The joy comes from sharing your home, your beautiful produce and cooking, and most of all your love. So invite as many people as you think your time, energy and budget can handle.

As far as the menu goes, Tuscan-inspired food is rustic ‘peasant’ food. The produce should be so fresh and bursting with flavour that it speaks for itself, rather than having to be fussed over and ‘dressed up’.

From my experience travelling to Tuscany, and my research for my novel, Three Gold Coins, I’ve learned that Italians by nature are incredibly regionally focused and fiercely proud of the food their local area produces. As they should be! What better way to honour a community’s history and culture and look after our planet at the same time?

For our feast, we chose cheese from our local cheesemaker and fresh fruit and vegetables direct from our local farmers. The result was scrumptious!

Here are my top ten tips for throwing a Tuscan-inspired feast.

  1. Keep your menu under control. Although Italians are known for their dining experiences to go on for five (or more!) courses, three great course (antipasto, secondi, and dolce) should do it. Trust me, you’ll still be fit to bursting.
  2. Try to set up your long table outdoors and under trees, if you have great weather. Otherwise, you could do was we did and bring the outdoors in with potted citrus and olive trees and plenty of terracotta pots filled with herbs.
  3. Buy as much of your produce locally as you can—it will have loads more flavour and freshness. Save your food miles for special items, such as prosciutto, which might have actually come all the way from Italy.
  4. Style your space with simple yet elegant finishings, such as wood, branches, leaves and candles, and don’t be afraid to use the food itself as table settings. Fresh honeycomb was a huge hit for us, a gorgeous feature and talking point and it was all gone by the end of the feast.
  5. Consider a separate eating table for the really young children and indulge them with their own special activities and treats. Hire a nanny if you can.
  6. Be flexible with your menu. We decided on tiramisu (naturally) for our dolce (dessert) option, but in the end only four of twenty-three people actually wanted that, instead choosing a far more English option of strawberries and cream!
  7. Flowers and cuttings will make any space feel more welcoming and can give an instant Tuscan feel. Think about the colours of Tuscany—blues, olives, greens, purples, maybe a splash of red. Depending on what’s in season, look for lavender, rosemary, geraniums, olive leaves, roses or perhaps even sunflowers for a big statement. Bunches of herbs of sage, thyme or oregano can look beautiful too.
  8. The right music will add another powerful layer of atmosphere to your feast. Unless you’re lucky enough to have musicians and singers in your family who are happy to serenade you, the easiest thing to do is to create a playlist with your favourite music provider and let it run on random repeat throughout your event.
  9. Remember the red wine, your camera and fairy lights (you can never have enough). Forget checking your phone, clothes with belts or tight waists.
  10. After all is said and done, the biggest thing you can offer to bring this feast to fruition is your love, joy, tenderness, generosity and sense of fun. That’s what will make it a night to remember.

Clara, the no-longer-unsung-hero

Dear readers

 

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(Okay, it’s not actually Clara; but it could be. Image copyright ‘minoir’, Flickr)

 

This is Clara Finlay, who shall forever henceforth no longer be an unsung hero. Clara is one of the very rare breeds of professionals who work under completely unrealistic timeframes with nearly always unreasonable demands, with a near-zero error rate, who isn’t paid nearly enough and almost never gets any credit. What’s worse, it’s really difficult for these people to argue for a pay rise because when they do their work at their absolute best… No. One. Can. Tell. They leave no trace; they leave no calling card. They are the ninjas of the publishing industry. They are our editors.

How do I know this? Because I used to be an editor. A good editor, yes, one, worth her weight in salt. But Clara here is a great editor, worth her weight in saffron. I specifically asked (okay, begged) my publisher if I could work with Clara again after working with her on The Chocolate Promise and said, “She will make me work like a sled dog and eat kilos of chocolate but my book will be so much better for it.” And I’m confident to say that during the edit for The Beekeeper’s Secret, both the former and latter came true, and my book is a much, much better novel because of Clara’s nimble ninja fingers.

I’m not talking about picking up typos, spelling mistakes and punctuation errors. This is not what editors do. (Well, yes they do but it’s only a tiny portion of what they do. There is also a proofreader who comes after that who takes a last sweep for those things.) No, what a great editor does is to get inside your mind as an author and somehow know what it is you were trying to say and then help you say it better; get inside your character’s mind and help your character say it better; provide you summaries of reflection, analysing your characters and plots and then showing you what it looks like to a reader (which might be probably is totally different to what it looks like to you as a writer).

A great editor will ask literally hundreds of questions of you. Questions like:

  • Did you realise that you used the word ‘disquiet’ on page 86, 134, 257 and 301? Did you mean to do that?
  • On page 33, Alice shrugs. Why? Is she annoyed, bored, or rude? To which as an author I might think, actually I have no idea why! And then I have to have a conversation with Alice to find out why she is shrugging. And Alice might tell me she is bored, or she might tell me that she is remembering when she was five years old and … a new scene is born that gives an entirely different depth to Alice and infinitesimally more satisfaction to the reader.
  • This here, where you reference legal document XYZ and you say it means ABC… I looked it up and to me it meant XXX. Which is it? To which, I need to go and research the document again and find clarity, or I might decide to remove it altogether and rewrite the paragraph around it.
  • I think you have a timeline problem. In 1975 Mary was 6, but on page X in 1984 she is 23, and then a decade later on page XX she is 35 and her sister, who was 8 in 1974 is now… Could you check throughout? OMG, I hate these questions! There is a lot of chocolate eating over these ones as I pull out my calculator to start all over again and search the ENTIRE bloomin’ document to find EVERY instance where this could be wrong! (Cocktails may also ensue.)
  • I’m not sure you can say this? I think it might be copyright. Oops! Lucky!
  • Do you think George would say this? He seems a bit more conservative to me.
  • Do you think Marcia would think this? She seems a bit more enlightened to me.
  • And my favourite: NQR?.. which is editor shorthand for politely saying, “not quite right” or sometimes written more bluntly as, “recast?”. For a blunt interpretation, it means: I think you’ve been a bit lazy and could work a bit harder here and make this a better sentence. Having a bad day, were we? Would you like to try again?

A great editor lets you, the author, solve all the problems yourself, and be in charge of your words and intentions at every step, and yet you would never have gotten there if they hadn’t probed you and asked the difficult questions in the first place.

And on and on we go, for 100,000 words, or around 320 pages. If your editor has worked on hard copy, by the time you’ve gone through and accepted/ rejected/ changed/ added/ expanded/ explained your way through with your red pen, your pages look like a murder scene.

If it’s been done in Word with ‘track changes’, it will be so colourful you’ll think mardi gras has arrived in your document and you’ll barely be able to read the words for the highlighting, colour and added notes.

But when it’s all cleaned up and it’s sparkling white and shiny again, there will be no sign of the ninja whose swift, sharp knife had cut up those pages.

She will have done her job and disappeared once more into the night.

But I want you to know, Clara (and all editors whose diligence graces my books’ pages), that I see you. To me, you are heroes.

I know how hard you work.

I know that you are almost always the last person to touch a manuscript before it goes to print and therefore countless others before you have missed their deadline and pushed the timeframe further and further behind until someone slaps it on your desk and tells you that you can have two days to do two weeks worth of work and it has to be your best work ever, despite the fact that it might take you two days just to read the blasted manuscript, let alone touch it with a pencil!

I know that you’re financially undervalued. I know that it’s near impossible to argue for your worth when the only time someone notices you is when you’ve missed a typo on page 98 and a reader phones the publisher to complain. They didn’t see the four thousand and sixteen things you did; they just saw the one thing you missed.

I know that most people have no idea how skilled you are, how much breadth of general knowledge you need, how sensitive you are, what a great sense of humour you have, or what value you actually add other than picking up spelling mistakes.

I know that when a book does well that you might miss out on the awards and the travel and the publicity and cocktails.

But you will never miss out on my gratitude and deep love for the great work you do. Plus actual gifts. If no one else gives you gifts, I will!

From the bottom of my heart, thank you!

 

Filling the Well in 2016

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Hungry unicorn

To keep myself accountable to my unicorn for providing her with input from which to draw inspiration for new work, this year, I am keeping a list of everything I’m feeding her. She’s a hungry magical being–an insatiable appetite for creativity–and does tend to get stroppy if I neglect her.

I’m excited about what’s on there already, and looking forward to seeing this grow. If you have any awesome events you know of in the Sunshine Coast, Brisbane or southeast Queensland area, I’m keen to hear them. 🙂

So far, I have:

Books Read (completed, or at least half way, not including the hundreds I read to my toddler). Don’t be alarmed by the brevity of this list. As I’ve said many times, I’m a very slow reader.

  • Hester & Harriet, by Hilary Spiers
  • Fall of the Beasts (Spirit Animals), Immortal Guardians, by Eliot Schaefer
  • Diamond Spirit, by Karen Wood

Theatre Productions/Music

  • Australia Day (Noosa Arts Theatre), February
  • 2016 Season of One Act Plays (BATS, Buderim), April
  • Educating Rita (The Events Centre), April

Speakers

  • Elizabeth Gilbert, February

Workshops/Courses

  • Cheesemaking, Brisbane, March

Travel (research, inspiration)

  • Melbourne, April
  • Writing Retreat, June
  • Burdekin Writers Festival, July
  • Bundaberg Writers Festival, October
  • Tuscany, September

Movies

  • Under the Tuscan Sun

Nappies and Vomit Do Not Romance Writing Make

Let’s face it, there isn’t much that’s either romantic or sexy about motherhood. If it’s not the pervasive stains (and odour) of regurgitated formula, or the endless repetition of This Old Man playing knick-knack-paddywhack (what on earth is that anyway?), or the continual sense of chaos in the house, or that you ran out of facial scrub a month ago and keep forgetting to get more, it’s the fact that through sheer exhaustion and the fact that you have five minutes before your baby needs you again that you can’t even manage to wash your hair.

How then does a girl live the writer’s dream and conjure up images of romance and sexiness when the only fantasy she harbours is for four hours (let’s not be greedy) of uninterrupted, deep sleep?

I plan to take my bedraggled self to the Queensland Writers Centre this Sunday for a Masterclass in romance writing with prolific romance author, Anna Campbell. I’m hoping Anna’s expertise can help me contact my inner romantic woman, who is currently helping my characters, Leila and Lucas, strengthen their compelling storyline.

The littlest man romance

Anna, your timing couldn’t be more perfect. But please know that if I yawn the whole way through your masterclass it has nothing to do with you and everything to do with the littlest man in my life with whom I’m having a romance of an entirely different kind.