Friday, March 18, 2011

Writing Workshop by Jackie French

On Saturday 12 March I had the opportunity to attend a writing work shop with beloved Australian children's author Jackie French. This had been scheduled for February originally however due to a little thing called Cyclone Carlos the event was cancelled.

Jackie took us through the basics of writing a novel. There was nothing revealed here that you couldn't learn through researching the net. But it was good hearing it again, and she presented it by getting the group to make up a story using the tips she gave.

What was valuable, were her insights into the publishing industry and her own personal processes for writing. She admitted her advice will be different from another authors. She also recommended for future writing classes only do ones provided by senior editors and successful authors.

She read from her books Matilda and Diary of a Wombat. Jackie has a wonderful reading voice and the stories leapt from the page. I almost wanted her to just keep reading and forget about the course.

I enjoyed her stories and experiences as a struggling author and as a published successful author. One particular story I found hilarious was the censorship in the United States of her book Diary of a Wombat. In the copy released every where else in the world, there is a line that says "humans are dumb". This is because the wombat is a little bit on the cranky side. However when released in America the line was removed as the publishers decided a wombat cant be a cranky wombat, and it certainly can't call humans dumb.

She also had a cute story about Diary of a Wombat in Palestine being called Diary of a Not Kangaroo because in the Palestinian language there is no word for Wombat.

The main points I took away from Jackie's workshop were:
  • Thinking about your book is most important.
  • The first chapter is the most important part of the book, and hardest to write.
  • Writers block is just your brain's way of saying you haven't thought about your story enough, or it isn't working.
  • You have to be disciplined about writing.
  • How your book starts, may not be how it finishes. For instance you might have a protagonist who will be a hero and by the time you are finished the protagonist is now the comedy relief.
  • Be open to changes, criticism and changes to your story.
  • Dump rubbish from your story.
  • Completely immerse yourself in the world you are writing about.
It was a wonderful workshop and a great opportunity to be exposed to an international best selling author. Her workshop was only two hours so as you would expect it is not super detailed, however it was still valuable. I thoroughly enjoyed the course and would attend another by her.

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