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.

Why Do You Want to Read ‘The Gift of Life’?

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Recently, I offered my mailing list subscribers the chance to win a copy of The Gift of Life. All they had to do was tell me in 25 words or less why they wanted to read it. I hadn’t expected to be so delighted by reading their responses, and thought I’d share some with you. Maybe you’ll find a good reason in there to add The Gift of Life to your reading collection when it is released into the world next week on 2 April.

The winner of the competition was April Nisbet, who shared “your books are medicine for my soul. I can always connect to your characters, I feel their passions and their fears from page 1.  ”

April also sent me another email telling me how The Tea Chest inspired a total life turnaround for her, fuelling her passion to begin working with tea. She even took her copy of The Tea Chest to Darjeeling for research (see photo), and will be completing her tea blending certificate later this year. April is actually the third person who has shared that The Tea Chest had this affect on her. I can’t tell you what a privilege it is to be a writer and have people not only enjoy my books but actually find meaning in their own life because of them.

Thank you to everyone who entered this competition. There were so many wonderful entries and it was such a joy to read them.

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I have had a transplant and hope to see the emotions of the situation of donor & recipient expressed realistically, sensitively & positively. (Karen K)

I have always wondered if there was a spiritual connection between the donor and recipient of a heart transplant (Delores B)

…life is a precious gift (Sue E)

I often replace your books with my daily meditation practice (April N)

I have been involved in many organ donations aka “the gift of life” as a nurse in ICU (Karen J)

Just read “The Chocolate Promise” for the fourth time. Totally LOVE all four novels so far and can’t wait to read “The Gift of Life”!!! (Ainslie H)

Love all your other books and know I will love this one just as much.  (Corinna)

…sometimes I need a reminder to appreciate all I have and the people in my life (Liz H)

I am waiting for a heart/lung transplant (Heidi D)

Love, love, love all your books. (Chrissy B)

Josephine is my favourite and she is yet to write a book I don’t adore. (Bryannan K)

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If you’re feeling inspired to read The Gift of Life, you’ll be able to get a copy of the book from anywhere good books are sold, Big W, airports, K-Mart, and Target. Or you can buy online at

Booktopia

Get it on audio here (Audible)

Get it at Amazon here

Book Depository (with FREE international shipping)

 

An author, 20 years in the making. Trust me, there’s still time for you.

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Dear (as yet) unpublished writers,

I realised recently that this year it is has been 20 years since I declared I wanted to be a full-time career author. Twenty years! That might have made me feel the teensiest bit old.

(Do you know what else made me feel old recently? My six-year-old came home from school and told me he’d joined the junior choir and they were learning John Mayer’s song, Waiting on the the World to Change. I was thrilled. When I was six years old, I also joined the junior choir and do you know what was the first song I was taught? God Save the Queen!!! I’m not even joking. The second song was Advance Australia Fair. Yep.)

Anyway, back to the writing thing…

I still remember that moment well. It was 1999 and I was in my first year teaching. I had gone to a weekend workshop with the Queensland Writers Centre. I was so inspired that I had a ‘full body moment’ where I decided this is it. This was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I wish I could remember who the teacher was that day. Clearly, she was so inspirational that she changed my life.

I’ve been writing ever since, short stories, poetry, flash fiction, contemporary novels, kids books, non-fiction, newspaper and magazine articles, online articles. Not all of it has been published. Not all of it is good. Most of it didn’t make any money. Sometimes it was exhilarating and sometimes heartbreaking. I made friends, a community. I won some prizes, was shortlisted for some, and on one memorable occasion was ranked in the last (i.e. considered ‘worst’) twenty-five per cent of entries.

It all changed in 2012 when I was signed by an agent. My first book, The Tea Chest, was published in 2014, but it was actually the tenth full-length manuscript I had written.

Sometimes, you’ll hear about a writer who just decided to write a book and it got published. If you’ve been slogging away for years and years at your craft, this can be deflating. But everyone’s journey is so different. A writer might publish one book and never publish another ever again. Another writer might publish a book and it’s a runaway hit, only to never have another book live up to the first one’s sale ever again. Another writer might write twenty books and make the same amount of money as the one with the mega hit, just over a longer time period. Another writer will start with modest sales and then build, and build and build.

There’s still time and space for you too. Perhaps you just haven’t truly found ‘your voice’ yet–that important but difficult to describe quality to your work. Perhaps you’re just not writing in the genre that’s right for you yet. Perhaps the timing of the market just isn’t there to support your work yet. Yet. Most writers I know slogged it out for years before they were published. You’re definitely not alone.

This year, I am blessed to have two books hitting the shelves (fiction, with The Gift of Life in April, and non-fiction with Buddhism for Meat Eaters in July), bringing my list of published books to seven. Seven doesn’t sound like a lot, I know. But writing is a slow game, a long game, and you’re going to need stamina to turn it into a career. There’s no one path to publication and no guarantees of outcomes after publication. It’s a game of luck as much as skill. The thing that keeps you going, the thing that must be there to keep you going, is passion. You write because you have to. You write for love. You write for the bliss moment, the moment when the real world falls away and it’s just you racing to keep up with the story your characters are telling. There is no other way.

Write on!

p.s. the story of my little red typewriter is here

Researching The Gift of Life: Watching a Heart Transplant to Finding the Silent Story

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Research is my happy place. I do extensive research for every book I write and it’s where I learn not just technical information but also start to find my character development, settings and plot points too. I get to travel within Australian and overseas for location research, which is a great gift. I interview people, spend hours on the internet, watch loads of YouTube videos and, inevitably, buy a lot of reference books. It is the phase where anything is still possible, ideas are still forming and excitement takes me back again and again for more.

My forthcoming novel, The Gift of Life, is based around organ donation, specifically, heart transplants. I love anatomy (I studied it for two semesters) and Biology was also my strongest subject at school and I then did another semester of it at uni. As a result, I loved brushing up on all my anatomy and physiology and researching the many causes and treatments of heart failure, some of which lead to the need for an organ donation. I even ended up at the cardiologist myself, as I have a long history of arrhythmias and, as I found out in my research, these can lead to heart failure! (Fortunately for me, the type I have appear to be uncomplicated.) My husband, too, also ended up at the cardiologist, then my mum went… It seemed like every time I turned around, ‘hearts’ were the theme of the day.  One thing I learned through all this research was that we are all vulnerable to heart issues, which can come with a long list of complications, which can also lead to a need for a transplant. I really had no idea how common it was.

The amount of personal testimony I came across (both from the point of view of a heart transplant recipient and also from the family of those who had consented to the donation of their loved one’s organs) is significantly higher coming from the USA than it is Australia. This was both tricky–because the USA medical and legal systems are very different to ours–and also an opportunity to hear different experiences and voices from those who’ve gone through the process.

There is a wealth of videos on YouTube and I even came across one that showed a heart transplant operation. That one was a little tough to stomach, to be honest!

I interviewed two Australian heart transplant recipients, which was a fabulous opportunity to hear their stories firsthand. They were both very different people–he a middle-aged man with a wife, children and career–and she a young woman in her twenties with a long life ahead if only she could get the chance. Their experience of the process was vastly different too. The organ transplant process is a gamble at every stage: the illness, the waiting period, the operation, the recovery, the chances of rejection and ongoing complications.

In the end, I had way more information than I could use in the book, which is normal. The Gift of Life starts two years after Gabby McPhee had her heart transplant; therefore much of what I learned about the difficult, emotional waiting stage (and the ongoing physical rehabilitation and care through that period) had to be cut and left out; however, it’s all there in my mind, forming the basis to the background of Gabby’s psyche.

I also became really interested in the more silent half of the story–the experiences of the family members who make the decision to donate. These stories are harder to find, and understandably so, as their experience is rooted in trauma, shock and grief. But as a writer, that ‘silent space’ is the most interesting to me. The possibility of a new, untold story is the one I want to follow. The wealth of information I found on the other side (the recipient’s stories) served to highlight a gap in the narrative that, when voiced through the character of Krystal Arthur, fleshed out the full circle of life.

I loved researching this book. It was utterly fascinating from beginning to end.