Monday, 30 March 2009

I write when sober

That's the way I write stories and poems. They often start off on paper in a notebook, often messy to start with. I write in my notebook anytime of the day or night -- well, when an idea comes.

It's safer to write on paper when I'm still coming down or drunk. And if you're drinking shots at the same time as writing down the new ideas -- dudes, it's fun.

Quickly I type it up in words and build up each line with the right words (I hope) when sober. Not when I'm drunk or coming down -- that's when the ideas come to me.

Once the story's ideas have been typed into words, more ides come -- some as I'm typing or reading what I have written. The words just come from nowhere.

A poem could take 30 minutes or 1 day or 2 days. Often I'm thinking about the poem or 5 poems or 10 poems I'm often working at the time. When I'm doing something else better, ideas often come when I'm away from the computer.

It's the same with the novel -- I write each paragraph as if it's a short story or a poem. So far there's 21405 words I have written.

The ideas have changed a few time since class has started. I have fianlly come up with a better ending and desires for each characters.

That's how it's with me.

Steven Clark

Friday, 27 March 2009


Most of my writing emanates at night. Rarely do I find myself typing away during the day. If I ever do, it's editing the work from the night before. I find myself in the zone when I'm alone in the living room, at 1am with the television and lights off, relying only on the light emanating off the screen. I find myself easily distracted otherwise.

Getting through high school, I realized fairly early that I had a strong desire for writing, especially fiction. I find that writing has great power: for the duration of any read, the writer takes you on a journey that eventually, regardless as to whether it was the ending readers hoped for or not, has been decided on by the author. As much as I enjoy the power aspect of it, I also enjoy the responsibilities of writing. The responsibility of presenting something that is realistic within the bounds of the story that is entertaining and gives the reader a great feeling of satisfaction upon completion. Possibly my favorite quote comes from Spiderman, "With great power comes great responsibility". I truly believe in this.

Some of my greatest ideas come at night as I try to sleep. One night I just developed this awesome concept for a story. First, I developed a main character and at least one other character that would help my main to survive. Then I decided on the character(s) that I wanted to be the offender(s). Strangely, in relation to story, I usually develop the ending first and from there spores the rest of the characters. Then I can finally begin to plot out the events that lead to the final confrontation. From there, I begin to picture the settings for the story, the key places needed withing my world (the cemetery, the town centre, the government building, etc). Then, I get caught up in the world I have created. I create my first major scene, and the direction is set. If I decide on something I want to happen in the middle of a story, I write it down with a list of other events I wish to take place. Suddenly, I have built everything and it's just a matter of linking everything together. I find the process so exciting.

I'm currently started on my second draft of this story (26,000 words). The first draft was 37,000, and using my first draft as a cross reference, I have developed even more ideas on top of the original. (I expect the finished draft to reach 80,000 with ease.) There is this one scene at the moment I'm extremely eager to get into. But I use this as motivation to get there -- I can't write out of linear time. I feel I have to get "A" done before I can move on to "B", but this is what drives me. I just hope that anyone who reads my finished drafts in the future can experience the thrills I get as I write. At the stages where I really can't wait to arrive at that one motivating scene, I can only hope that the reader can't wait to find out what happens next.

At this time, I currently have two other stories that I want to create, that I have already conjured up in my mind, and that I have written down. But I can't even begin to work on them until I completely finish the story I'm on now. And this story is so far from finished it's not funny. But it's one big adventure, full of great anticipation and excitement. My writing process is really just one big adventure, an adventure that won't end for a very (VERY) long time. I just can't wait to find out what happens next. :P

Yours truly,

aka Meady

Thursday, 26 March 2009


Hi, everyone,

You've probably all seen this in your student emails by now, but in case you've missed it: Sue has forwarded an invitation to you all to attend a guest lecture with the Higher Ed Professional Writing students. It should be fun, so you might like to go along.


Catherine Deveny comes to St Albans

Age Journalist and Author Catherine Deveny will be guest lecturer for Introduction to Creative Writing next Monday, March 30. Take your pick from one of two lectures: 2 to 3pm in 4C436 or 5:30 to 6:30 in 4C404.

Catherine is well known for her courageous in-your-face, sit-up-and -think-about-this style. A wonderful person who doesn't know how to take a backwards step.

Michael Hyde.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Platform 2 is calling for student submissions

Hi, everyone,

Bruno is calling for student submissions for Platform 2. (Platform's aim is to encourage or inspire struggling secondary school students, particularly in the later years, so you could put something in about your own experiences, or your ideas about school and schooling, learning -- whatever.)

Here's what he's said:

Send us pieces please-
recounts of formative experiences
tributes to mothers, fathers, teachers, admired mentors
turning point moments
and the list is ENDLESS.

500 copies of Platform 1 have gone out.

Remember, you should all be trying to build your CVs while you're studying with us, so why not have a go? I've sent something in for this issue!

Email your pieces to Bruno ( And if you're not sure what to send, go have a look at all of the examples from Platform 1, which are on the main noticeboard near room 10.220A, or have a chat to Bruno.

Tracey Rolfe

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

My writing process

I'm a fairly organic writer. I don't spend too much time plotting in advance, but I do have a reasonable idea of where the story is going and how it's going to end, and if I get stuck then I will sit down and plot things out. (I do do a lot of character work though, and world building before I start.) If I feel like I'm floundering and don't know where the story is going (which doesn't happen often), I'll use "what if?" as a way of exploring my options. This works best for me if I can get a solid day to myself without interruptions, and I'll get wildly excited by some of these options and then dump them later when better ones come along. (It pays to have an understanding partner who can pack kids up and take them out for the day. I might be able to write with distractions, but for plotting I need clear headspace.)

In my day-to-day writing, I work best when I'm writing every day. There's no getting around this. If I'm only doing a couple of days per week, even for longer blocks, I'm not as productive: the cogs aren't oiled and the wheels aren't spinning as smoothly. It takes me too long to get back into the story.

What I like to do is start each day's writing with reading over the previous day's work. Copyediting this eases me back into what I was thinking and feeling and intending when I left the work off. If I'm forced to leave and the juices are really flowing -- i.e. if I'm dragged, kicking and screaming, from my computer -- I may leave myself a note to say what I was about to do, because I do forget. Yeah, getting old, I know! Usually, though, I don' t have anything but the white page. I'll sink back into the story, reimmerse myself in some character's head, pick up his sword and the reins of his horse and go.

I'm a fast writer, a splurger, and usually I can churn out 1000 words in an hour, easily. Not always. But usually. Some days, though, it's tough going, and I won't get anywhere near this. Can I tell the difference in quality on the days I struggled? No. So it's worth perservering. I know that, and keep reminding myself on those difficult days: bum on seat. Write. Write.

At the moment, I'm in the middle of a big edit. My story is long (currently 182 k, but I'm trying to cut this back) with lots of characters and multiple storylines, and because I've done a number of drafts, I forget sometimes what I've put in and what I've taken out. The broader elements, I know, but it does make it so much more critical to keep plugging away at it and keep myself "in" the story. If I haven't been working on it for a couple of weeks, it can take me a full day's reading to find where I'm at, and this is enormously frustrating because all writing time is precious.

I do have to say though, that I like having written more than I like writing. There are plenty of writers who love that first draft, the white-hot surge of creativity, but I'm not one of them. I love the reworking, the reshaping, paring back the language and fleshing out the action, making small changes to my characters and observing the flow-on effects. That's when I'm truly in heaven!

Tracey Rolfe

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Rotunda Rocks

Rotunda nights are a must! Get yourself to the next one and the one after that – hell, just go to them all. March 6 Rotunda was as entertaining as ever and excellent food and a great bar were nicely on hand. The fabulous, Bruno Lettieri provided the audience with his usual enthusiastic intro to guest speaker, Portland Magazine Editor and American writer, Brian Doyle. Brian was amusing, intelligent and generous with his time, even stopping halfway through to reflect on the recent bushfire tragedy we Victorians have suffered.

For any writer/editor with serious aspirations, you really need to come along to events like this. It’s a chance to listen to those more travelled who are willing to share insight and motivation to those of us far less travelled. It’s also a chance to get your name firmly in the mindset of those who matter within the industry, provided you’re prepared to stand up and put yourself ‘out there’. (Sometimes this means making a bit of dolt of yourself, as I did by giving the James Button, Age reporter and now Speech Writer for the Prime Minister, a deadline to submit for Platform. But, hey, at least he’ll remember me.)

Mingling, with respect and openness, has afforded me some great contacts in the writing world. As a student, I’ve made sure I’ve put my name down for everything, gone to every event possible and above all, treated everyone: teachers, peers and industry heavyweights with the value they deserve.

It’s easy as a fledgling student to feel slightly dismissive of these sorts of writing events. But therein lies your first mistake. If you are someone serious about being a writer/editor, you can’t afford to pass up any opportunities that could make the difference to your career. Submit to every uni publication going, attend every event and get out into your local community. Find out what you can write/edit for and send it in.

Confidence is everything in this game and the more faith you have in what you do, the more likely you are to succeed. Listen to your teachers, (they actually know what they are talking about) and take on board the advice given from the many invaluable sources our course provides.

Good luck.

Megan Green

News from the trenches

Well, the Novel 2 class (or at least selected members) is busy reading stories for the Ada Cambridge Award, which is an award for a piece of short biographical (or autobiographical) writing, and is part of the Williamstown Literary Festival. (If you click on the name, you'll go to their website and can have a look at what they're offering this year.)

In the meantime, we've just heard that Megan Green, one of our students, has had a request from the State Library of Victoria (in association with the National Library of Australia) to include her articles on the recent Black Saturday bushfires for their bibliography database. The articles were published in a newspaper, but one of the library's researches found them online and decided they had "cultural historical significance", which was what they needed for inclusion -- so, as Megan says, it pays to have a blog and website! And I guess it also shows that you just never know where your work might end up.

Friday, 6 March 2009

Novel 2 comes online

Each year I ask my Novel 2 class to respond to F Scott Fitzgerald's quote: "All good writing is swimming underwater and holding your breath." They have just ten minutes to think about and write their responses. Here's what this year's class have made of it.

First of all, I would never compare writing (especially good writing) to swimming. Why? Simple. I hate swimming and I love writing.

I suppose, though, that some aspects of writing can be compared to swimming through murky water. Sometimes you have no idea what's in front of you; other times you can make out some things but not the whole picture. When I think about it, holding my breath is something I do figuratively as I write. No matter how sure I am or how planned the work is, I write hoping that, when I reach the end, it will be a story someone else will want to read. Finishing a story is like letting out that breath, like a huge sigh of relief that it's over and that it actually exists.

Being struck by inspiration is a lot like holding your breath too. Wanting to get it out, but not being able to write fast enough can be physically painful. But I love it. Seeing the finished product is worth the pain.
-- Marie

For me, who has had experience in writing and swimming underwater, these can both result in having to hold your breath. For swimming, the phrase can be regarded by its literal meaning, but when writing, it comes across more figuratively. I suppose when writing, you need to "hold your breath" during the whole process: from the first word to the final draft. We all take a leap of faith for the paragraphs we construct, and we need to have an unconditional devotion to our work. Sometimes that involves cancelled plans, loss of sleep and an endless amount of stress and exhaustion. We give up a lot for our writing, but at the end of the day, we can take in that long deserved breath, sit back and how we got to be so clever.
-- Hayley

It is about looking at life from a different angle, being disciplined and prepared not to give up.
-- Hugh

The quote to me is about perspiration and patience. Bad writing is rushed, overlooked, and never given any thought. Each sentence should add value to the story, either setting-wise or plot-wise. Therefore the author should be aware of what they are writing.

And if words aren't coming to mind, or you are stuck: patience. Patience. Patience. Patience. Of course this is just my opinion and I could be horribly wrong.
-- JJ

It's all about taking risks, and this refers to bad writing too. But with good writing, these are the pieces that are published. Holding your breath is about taking your time and hoping that what you write will succeed. All you need to do is swim under water (work your best) and never give up.
-- Anon

This quote shows us that writing is a difficult task, one which is always heavily scrutinised by peers and critics. It tells us that the difference between good writers, good writing [and bad] is distinguished by the applause or criticism received; therefore, we are constantly holding our breath, waiting for that judgment while we are in the dark -- or under murky water.
-- Tom Pinchen-Hogg

Groping for air as you try to propel yourself forward and knowing that the agony won't finish until you get to the end -- that is the essence of the line. That is the pain of writers.
-- Daniel

Writers take great risks when writing. When we first put our ens to paper we are swimming underwater, searching for the perfect sentence. We then have to distance ourselves, separate ourselves from the work. When we eventually bring it out into society, we hold our breath hoping it will be accepted. But sometimes it is rejected. So we delve back underwater.
-- Anon

To write is to submerge yourself in a world of your own creation, where the light bends and changes, and everything flows around you and into your ears and eyes and nostrils. You cannot live there indefinitely because you have to surface every now and then to breathe; you can only stay there for as long as you can fill your lungs and plunge in.

Sometimes you have only a mouthful of air, enough to glimpse a coral forest, or the mouth of an underwater cave; sometimes the air fills your longs and spills over into your bones and heart and feet, so you have enough to carry you beyond the coral fast and deep into the watery dark of the labyrinth that lies beyond the cave.

On a bad day, you might emerge choking with seaweed between your fingers, and sand in your hair; on a good one, you might climb out onto the beach with your arms full of treasure.
-- Fiona Price

The good writer goes through lots of pain before the good stuff rises from the mind to the paper.
-- Steven Clark

I agree in some ways with the above quote, in that writing can show you many wondrous things, and yet still feel like you're drowning. However, not all good writing can support like buoyant water. It more often feels like climbing a rock wall to me -- physically and mentally tiring, but when it's over there is a great feeling of relief at the thought that you've done something to be proud of, before the insanity of finding the next wall to conquer kicks in!
-- Andrew Ellis

It’s true that writing is like swimming -- the water is all of your ideas melded into a body that continues to swirl and change, and you, the swimmer, must explore the depths while still finding a way to come back up to the surface to take a break and suck air back into your lungs before diving back in.
-- Luke

A well-written story can leave you breathless? A well-written story can make you want to go swimming? In order to write well, first you must learn to swim? In order to be published, first you must master deep-sea diving?

Who knows what crazy old F Scott was on about. I know I don't. Besides, how can you write under water? I think I'll stick to writing badly, on land, whilst breathing, and you can quote me on that.
-- John King

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Welcome to our student blog

Hi, everyone,

And welcome to the student blog. We're only three weeks into the semester and already it seems like everything is happening.

A couple of weeks ago, Sherryl and I attended the launch of Scribe's new publication New Australian stories, edited by Aviva Tuffield. It's always exciting to see a new book come out, particularly a short story collection, but this one was more so than usual for us because one of our past students, Demet Divaroven, has a story there. (And it was one she workshopped in one of Sherryl's classes!) Demet's story sits very well alongside those of authors such as Margo Lanagan, Carmel Bird, Cate Kennedy, Max Barry and Michael McGirr, and it was terrific to see her up on stage as a reader on the night. It was also lovely to see another of our students, Karen Sertori, there, supporting Demet. Friendship groups, which often become workshop groups after the course has finished, are one of the great benefits of doing a course. Keep a watch out for photos of the night -- if I can find the cord to upload the photos! In the meantime, keep an eye on Demet. She was shortlisted last year for the Vogel Award, and we just know there are lots of exciting times ahead for her!

Sherryl and I have also been out and about to the poetry reading at The Bank in Yarraville, where Margaret McCarthy, one of our PWE teachers, read along with Paul Mitchell, Lisa Gorton and Jillian Pattinson. This reading, which was part of the Yarraville Festival, was also the first of our Rotunda events for the year and was very well attended.

Our next Rotunda event is this Friday night -- The Age writer James Button in conversation with US essayist Brian Doyle. If you regularly attend Rotunda nights, you'll know how great these are, but just be aware that this one is at a different venue to usual: it's at the Terrace Restaurant at the Footscray Nicholson campus (the campus is on the corner of Albert and Pilgrim Streets). It's almost booked out, so if you do want to come, you'd better respond to Bruno pronto ( Admission prices are still $10 or $5 concession.

If you're looking for something a bit different, there's the poetry bus tour with poets Kristin Henry, Paul Mitchell and Lisa Gorton (to be confirmed) on Friday 27 March at 6 pm, departing from the Footscray Nicholson Campus. The bus will be visiting a range of venues including piers and rotundas in the Williamstown, Altona and Westgate Bridge areas. Tickets are $15 or $10 concession, and you'll need to book with Bruno. BYO picnic basket, torch and wine bottle!

Tracey Rolfe

Karen Sertori and Demet Divaroven at the launch of New Australian Stories