Coming to Bundaberg: How to Write Popular Fiction


Queensland Writers Centre and Bundaberg Writers Club will be hosting a two day workshop covering the A-Z of Writing Popular Fiction.

These interactive workshops suit beginners and emerging authors, or experienced writers who feel they need to refine their technique.

Venue: BWC Meeting Rooms, 80A Woongarra Street, Bundaberg Central.



On Saturday, May 18

10.30am – 4.30pm

Learn how to pace your novel so that a reader won’t want to put it down.

Develop and  improve your writing skill-set through practical exercises and group discussion.

  • Create compelling hooks and story questions
  • understand the different pacing required in different genres
  • understand pacing needs to vary within a novel
  • learn how to slow or speed the pace of your story
  • recognise the boring bits, and have the courage to leave them out
  • learn how to ratchet up the tension in each page
  • understand how structure affects pacing

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On Sunday, May 19

10.00am – 4.00pm

Everything you need to know about writing commercial fiction, in a nutshell

Explore key areas using practical exercises.

  • how to generate ideas and turn those ideas into a workable premise
  • investigate voice, and how voice relates to genre
  • Understand conflict, and how it generates plot
  • What is ‘classic story structure’?
  • Learn to develop a framework for your story
  • Learn about character arcs and how to show character growth and change.
  • Understand the commercial fiction market and pathways to publication


Book Now


Short Story 2016 Update

Meg Vann

Meg Vann

Meg Vann has agreed to be our final judge this year. She says she reads too much – loves crime and thrillers – eats too well, and is perpetually ready for adventure, which is undoubtedly why she is taking on our short list, which this year numbers eight.

For writers who may not yet be familiar with Meg Vann, she was for many years a core member of the Queensland Writers Centre, taking on the role of Chief Executive Officer for three of those years but always, always, always encouraging writers to dream of growing sustainable careers; to be valued and respected and enjoyed.

Meg is a writer, a digital experimenter, writing tutor, lecturer (now at University of Queensland) while studying criminology at Griffith, and convenor of Sisters in Crime (Brisbane Chapter).

We expect that we’ll be finalising the winner and runner-up by mid May, 2016, at the latest.

Good Luck to our final eight.


Is there a difference between Landscape and Setting?

I think there is.

But what I think doesn’t matter. On May 21, BWC will be hosting T M Clark, a writer born in Zimbabwe, now calling Queensland home (having also lived in England) to help us understand how writers need to be Inspired by Landscape, rather than settle for using setting as an atmospheric backdrop.TMClark

Bookings are Essential through the Queensland Writers Centre.

As you can imagine, setting features strongly in TM Clark’s books, which are described as African Suspense. Some might think Tina Marie is ‘lucky’ to have first hand knowledge of a landscape we Australians probably consider exotic.

One point might be that we are all living our own exotic lifestyles. We just don’t notice any more.

The other point might be that Landscape is much more than a location, exotic or otherwise. Landscape isn’t a relief painted with broad brushstrokes. It’s not an accessory. It is the living world your characters find themselves in.

Elizabeth George, American Queen of Crime, a writer of mysteries set in England (you might know the Lynley Mysteries), has this to say in her book, Write Away.

On the surface, it would appear that landscape and setting are the same creatures, identical twins given different names just to confuse the beginning writer. This, however, would not be the truth since setting is where a story takes place–including where each scene takes place–while landscape is much broader than that…Landscape in writing implies much the same as that which is implied by the word when it’s used to refer to a location in a country: It is the broad vista into which the writer actually places the individual settings of the novel, sort of like the canvas or other medium onto which a painter has decided to daub color.

“You need to think about the landscape of your book because if you’re able to make the landscape of place real, you can make the land itself real, which gives you a leg up on making the entire novel real for the reader.”

If you want TM Clark’s take on the Inspiration Landscape can lend to your latest MS, make sure to book early.

It’s All Good for Today’s Authors

Which ever way you intend to publish –Justin_Sheedy
Whether e-books have peaked and readers really are re-committing to paper –

No matter what your publishing route, it’s all good news for today’s author.  The reading world is your oyster, assuming you have the tools to crack it.

Meet Justin Sheedy.

He knows his oysters, and he’s either built, borrowed or taught himself the tools he needs to get his words out to the world.

As he says, ‘I’ve gone solo, and am still flapping my wings.’ As publishing models continue to change, he’ll have to keep flapping, and we’ll all be there with him.

Justin’s wing flapping has seen him host six sell-out book-signings during 2015, including his last for the year at Dymocks George Street, Sydney (arguably Australia’s Premier Bookstore) with more event planning underway in 2016.

His first book, Goodbye Crackernight (2009), failed to interest publishers – it’s a memoir – yet Justin continues to secure feature spots in broadcast media, most recently  on 7 News Sydney and Radio 2UE.

He’s currently 60% through his fifth book, No Greater Love, Part Three of an Australian historical fiction trilogy begun in 2012 with Nor the Years Condemn, followed by Ghosts of Empire (2013).

He’ll share what he’s learnt at WriteFest 2016

Lovin’ & Genre Fiction

I’m not deep into the romance genre but I have to admit all my favourite reads contain aspects of romance – all the way from Homer to Lord of the Rings to the Jack Reacher novels of Lee Child.

Here I was thinking all I needed to do was master the art of the chilling clue or the perfect sword thrust when the unavoidable conclusion is that appropriate lovin’ also needs to be attempted.

Homer’s romances were responses to lust or to loyalty; Middle Earth’s  love affairs burned bright, but were seldom spoken of; Jack Reacher enjoys the meeting of physicalities driven by the practical requirements of ‘no baggage’.

One type of romantic interlude does not suit all and I’m hoping that at WriteFest 2016, to be held this year in October, Rachael Johns will be able to give this romance klutz some insights into creating an (appropriately weighted) romantic buzz between characters.


Rachael Johns

Rachael is an English teacher by trade, a mum,  an arachnophobe and a writer the rest of the time. Her greatest reading loves are for romance and women’s fiction.

She has 15 published books to her name, including both digital first novellas and traditionally published novels. She writes as she reads, in the genres of rural romance, contemporary romance and women’s fiction. 

Rachael has a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Writing/English and a Graduate Diploma in secondary education. She teaches high school English and Drama, she has presented a wide variety of workshops, for example, at KSP Writers Centre and the Clare Writers Festival, and now at WRITEFEST.

Death is Peace. Life is Love



Beneath the garlanded stamps, invisible if you don’t stop to see, are the skulls. Long dead. Dinosaurs. Witnessed only through the absence they make, catching an eye, so you must stop. And see.

~ Di Esmond

Having just completed a course of Identifying the Dead and currently reading Forensics by Val MDermid, the word ‘skulls’ sent my mind to thoughts of death.

~ Lorraine Heyes


The breakers pound against the rocks
‘Neath grassy slopes, white horses play
And I will steer by Southern Star
As shadows lengthen at close of day.

Beyond the dawn of spangled skies,
Through the mists of death’s dark veil
By moonlight I will come to you
On ghostly ship with silver sail.

Without the mists and moods of time
I feel you wait with ice cold breath
And watch me toss on troubled seas
With steel blue eyes in pools of death.

But there’s a time outside of time
Where death is peace and life is love
And though Hades gate should bar the way
Someday my soul will soar above

On seeing an art work

And then I stop and stare.

There is a painting above the old fireplace. I don’t know what it is but it seems to be something made especially for me. It is a muted landscape and at the top is a shining gold sun. Some of the gold seems to have worn off, giving the sun a distressed look. The sun is poking into the border of the painting, which isn’t framed.

coymoonI stand and stare.

There is a good chance that my mouth is gaping wide open. I’m having trouble breathing and my heart is thumping hugely. I keep standing there staring.

After a while I look around and realize that everyone is nearby too busy eating drinking and talking to pay much attention to me. That’s fortunate because I must look really dumb.
I look away from the painting. I look back. I can’t help it. I seem to need to keep looking at this beautiful thing. I understand it. It is speaking to me. I have no idea what it is saying but still I understand it. This is really stupid, but I can’t stop looking.
I feel someone standing close beside me. I look and it’s Avril.

“You seem to be enjoying the art,” she says.
At first my voice doesn’t work. I close my open mouth and I open it again in an attempt to speak like some demented goldfish. “That painting, it’s beautiful.”
“Yes, it’s only small, but I like it too. It’s made by painting with beeswax, with the color in the wax.”
“Small but perfect. It’s amazing. I need to buy it. How do I buy it?”

This painting could not be expressed in poetry. I have never found that to be the case before. I ventured into the scary (for me) area of prose and plotting and it became the inspiration for a novel. Girl meets boy artist, who is a Las Cruces nice guy over here as part of the exchange — not the actual artist, Susan Hutton, as I have taken some licence with the facts. 

~ Jan Sullivan


Blue Sky Talkin’

   #Blueskytalkin'FB copy CRUSH FESTIVAL FINALE

During the final days of CRUSH, club members were privileged to be given an opportunity to stand back and really look at the place we call home.

Thanks to the Bundaberg Regional Art Gallery, we had our own little part to play in their Wide Bay High Desert II Exhibition, an international exchange project between two countries involving twelve artists responding to the unique culture and landscapes of the Wide Bay in Queensland and the High Deserts of New Mexico.

Club members added an extra dimension with their words, and a little music.

First words to Vance Palmer

Back in the day, one of Australia’s most respected wordsmiths, Vance Palmer, was born (1885) in Bundaberg. He spent his early years here before being educated in small towns across Queensland – his father was a teacher. After that, Vance travelled the world learning his writing craft. He’s known for his poetry and essays, and for his journalism, but wasn’t against writing pot-boilers (eighty-one during a nine month stint in London), serials and music-hall sketches.

He was in France when the First World War broke out, and came back to Queensland. He said of the country: 

Beyond the horizon, or even the knowledge, of the cities along the coast, a great, creative impulse is at work — the only thing, after all, that gives this continent meaning and a guarantee of the future. Every Australian ought to climb up here, once in a way, and glimpse the various, manifold life of which he is a part.

And of Bundaberg:

By night Bundaberg reminds one of a coastal town in the Southern States of America, the wide streets, with their heavy foliaged trees the smell of tropical fruit in the air, the sense of open doors and windows-all these things suggest Carolina.

There is a faint restlessness abroad. Voices echo dimly from shadowy verandas and balconies and there are the thousand little sounds and movements that speak of heat.

So what is it about Bundaberg and the Wide Bay…


A curved stick in the middle of the road moves to become a live being. In another time the goanna could have been king on his world without any fear.

Red sand blowing creates new
blue haze laying above the tree tops
sand scraping against itself
leaves rustling into gullies.
The scent of sandy wind meets the aromas of the bush.

~ Jenny Addicoat

RiverFBThe slow, deep, muddy river approaches the city from the west, widening into a respectable, significant waterway traversed by long, important, busy bridges – both rail and road.

It skirts the CBD, refuge for fishing boats and pleasure craft, moving on past the mill – ever-widening as it reaches the port, the large bulk sugar ships and over-crowded marina.

Ever widening, still muddy, on it goes until at last the river merges, disappears, in the vast South Pacific Ocean.

~ Angus Gresham

Coral seaFB
The soft breeze coming off the Coral Sea whispers through the leaves of the majestic she-oaks.

A turtle raises its head and takes a gulp of air, letting out a whoosihng sound that seems to reply to the oaks, and then disappears beneath the clear waters of the Baffle.

It’s calm waters gather momentum as the Baffle reaches out through the estuary mouth and tumbles headlong into the mighty ocean.

~ Lorraine Heyes

Cane green against a blue sky. PalmsFB

Perfect tips flop, carefree in the gentle breeze, and thrash, wilding, in the wind.

I succumb, like an addict, to the freedom it promises.

Skimming. Ducking. Diving. I glide inside my imagination.

I see across the breadth of the earth, feeling the desert heat before the sea envelopes me in its coolness.

~ JenLi

Prep for Workshops

How to Get the best out of your workshop.Writingdownthebones

1. Make sure the workshop will suit you. Many workshops are aimed at beginner writers but some are more advanced. If you’re at all concerned about your skill level, contact the course organiser.

2. Arrive on time. If you can’t help but be late, enter the room as quietly as possible.
3. Come equipped with your favourite writing tool.
4. If you wish to record the session make sure you ask the presenter.
5. If you have any specific needs let your tutor know. If you have hearing problems, forgot your glasses, have a sore throat and can’t speak up – whatever it is – let your tutor know.
6. Remember, everybody’s nervous. Don’t be afraid to join in.
7. Expect anything. Writing exercises can sometimes seem unusual. Nobody expects perfection.
8. Remember you’re there to learn what tutor have learned from their own writing experiences. Ask questions, but try to avoid arguing points of philosophy. Each writer is different.
9. Make sure you understand when is the best time to ask questions.
10. Even if notes are given out, remember to take your own.
11. If you’re popping out for a one on one with an agent or an editor, make sure your tutor knows in advance.
12. Be prepared to make friends, be tested and have fun.
13. A couple of days after the workshop go through your notes and flesh them out a little. This gives time for you to fully absorb the experience, and ensures you deal with your notes while you remember the workshop clearly.

Jason Nahrung: One foot on the bitumen…


Jason Nahrung grew up on a Queensland cattle property and now lives in Ballarat with his wife, writer Kirstyn McDermott. Jason works as an editor and journalist to support his travel addiction. His fiction is invariably darkly themed, perhaps reflecting his passion for classic B-grade horror films and ’80s goth rock. He has an MA in creative writing from QUT and is in his first year of a PhD in creative writing at The University of Queensland. His most recent long fiction title is the Gothic tale Salvage (Twelfth Planet Press), with his outback vampire duology Blood and Dust and The Big Smoke due out later this year with Clan Destine Press. Read it first: Pre-release Taste Test Teaser for vampires in The Big Smoke here.

 Mouse: You’re country born and bred, from Queensland originally. Spent time in Melbourne, currently studying in Brisbane.

Jason: I am indeed in Brisbane at the moment, tackling the opening stages of a PhD at The University of Queensland – the creative work will use Brissie as a case study in a near future of climate change.

M: I could say something political here, but I’ll resist the temptation and go on to an obvious question instead. What took you to town in the first place?

J: One of my strongest childhood memories of Brisbane city is the stink of it: the raw, choking stench of the air as I walked up Wickham Terrace. It was a hard, grey place, crowded and loud. I never imagined living there. And yet I did, because life is like that. It took a while, but the air did not stink as it had (most days), and it was not as hard as I’d imagined. Adaptation in action. From a cattle property and a one-teacher school, to Maryborough and a high school of 600-odd kids, to university in Rockhampton (leafy, quiet, not crowded), then working in the ‘Borough, and back to Rocky, then finally to Brissie to answer the lure of culture and entertainment on a grand scale – and specifically subculture (not that you couldn’t be bashed for wearing black, mind you, but I never had any hassles). Then to Melbourne (for lurve, baby) and recently to Ballarat (for the property prices, but it has turned out to be much more than that). It is much easier to downscale: fewer roads; less traffic; easier, cheaper parking. Enough restaurants and theatres. The Big Smoke, spires in the murk on the horizon, is close enough we don’t have to go without.

M: Wait a minute. Culture took you to Brisbane. Love took you to Melbourne. Then Property prices… Maybe it’s my imagination, but does this have all the ingredients of a Once Upon a Time story – the goat herd who accepted a quest, saved a princess then built a country house/castle – in Ballarat.

Available now: .Salvage brilliantly fuses the sensitivities of mainstream fiction with the sense-of-wonder spinal chill of the genre : Jack Dann

Available now:
Salvage brilliantly fuses the sensitivities of mainstream fiction with the sense-of-wonder spinal chill of the genre
: Jack Dann

J: No Princesses were saved in the making of this fairy tale! When I look back at the shifts in my life, I suspect I’ve been the one rescued from the ‘Tower’ by strong, independent heroines. [Tweet this!] You know, there’s a saying that wherever you go, there you are, but it’s also true that where you are changes you: it either opens you up or closes you down, maybe both in different ways. I was running to, not from, I think; an explorer, not a refugee; one of my biggest regrets is not being able to be a farmer. To be honest, I’m still not sure what I am, but it has been shaped by all these places. The things I remember most about the places I’ve lived are the friends I made there, even the ones I left behind: the ties that unwound as well as the ones that stayed. I know what they’ve given me; I’ve got no idea what I’ve given them, other than bad puns.

M: I’d like to think our roots give us certain advantages. My bias is showing, I know, but do you see any advantage in having a background in the bush, any way a rural writer can value add.

J:Are country folk – outsiders – any better at cutting through the artifice and distraction of the urban environment, of balancing virtue against vice?

M: Maybe. More than one novel’s been built around that idea. There was a time when country meant vice and city meant virtue. But I think all writers need to find an edge to sharpen. A point of difference. Do your country roots give you any edge?

J: When I was a kid, the city was vice and the country virtue – it’s one of the Australian myths, isn’t it, that the ‘real’ Australia is in the outback (or on the beach). As it happens, I was back in the country last week, a get together of the rural community in which I grew up, one district removed. An old school mate said I hadn’t changed, for all my gallivanting. That axiom of not being able to take the country out of the boy, I suspect. I don’t know if he was right. Seems (has always seemed, since high school at the least) I’ve got one foot on the bitumen, the other in the dirt: Janus in the rural-urban divide? It’s probably not an accident that my vampire duology (Out Soon: Mouse) is called Blood and Dust and The Big Smoke. Maybe that’s where my value-adding is to be found.

M: You’re chatting about Horror at WriteFest, and I know you like shades of black. I could rather brusquely label you as Goth. Would that be fair? Or do you just have trouble with light.

J: LOL It’s true I’m not a big fan of sunlight, and the feeling’s mutual, and I certainly have a Gothic sensibility, although the days of black hair dye and eyeliner are probably over. The music collection and t-shirt drawer, and the gargoyles in the front yard, would lend the label some credence, too!

M: Your school mate said you hadn’t changed. So you’ve worn black for a long time. How did that play out for you?

J: Strangely enough, it is storytelling that has helped me fit in. In the bush, as a kid, being able to string a sentence together (without being a smartarse) was actually appreciated. My parents’ generation didn’t get much schooling, after all; my folks sacrificed to make sure I got the opportunity they hadn’t. Just the other day I got a Facebook message from a high school classmate reminding me of the (what we now call flash fiction) stories I wrote in typing class (learning touch typing: best thing ever) and passed around. The outsider from the bush found his place through academic achievement and participation (and dodging bullies – they know when you’re alone). I was certainly different to the city kids who’d come up through the same primary schools together and were talking (and not just talking) sex and music and exercising clique politics. Uni was similar: playing Dungeons & Dragons (communal storytelling) and discovering literature and developing a personal taste in music, exploring writing (but curiously not literature, I don’t know why I didn’t take lit classes).

 M. So dark doesn’t have to mean dastardly.

J: Certainly not. It was the music that led me to black – Sisters of Mercy, Siouxsie, The Cult, The Cure, et al. From there to the Gothic community, largely non-existent in Rockhampton where I was working at the time. Wearing all black was a good way to cop a shoulder in the local pub, even though I kept it toned down – it’s a blue jeans kind of town. I used to wipe off the nail polish before leaving Brisbane, where I’d trawl for music and lurk in the shadows at the Goth clubs on weekends away.

Where you are changes you: it either opens you up or closes you down, maybe both in different ways.

I really don’t understand why people find a threat in black, or punk, or whatever – some sense of the unknown or the Other, I guess; constrained minds struggling to deal with something not like them, insecurities manifesting in aggression or dismissal. Which is what we try to address in our literature, isn’t it? Break down barriers, fight the lowest common denominator, explore, empathise, challenge the majority in the name of the minority. The black I wear at work is different to the black I wear at home or when I go out; that’s my concession to a company preference for professional attire. I’ve not noticed any negative feedback – my workmates in Brisbane used to call me the Black Knight, which I quite enjoyed! – but then, I guess boy writers are almost expected to wear black, aren’t they? Stoopid stereotypes.

M: Languishing in Attics – in Paris, not Ballarat. Moody. Brooding.  Vulnerable. What’s not to love about boy writers.

J: I really need to polish up my absinthe-drinking skills, don’t I? It was when I embraced writing as a serious interest (in Brisbane, through the Vision writers group) that I found a community in which I felt comfortable. I certainly feel different to the mainstream, if we can pinpoint that, because of my role in the creative industries – it’s not nine to five, bank managers hate me, it feels under-appreciated in our culture whose values and priorities increasingly puzzle, frustrate and disappoint me (I am not the ultra-conservative country kid I once was). There is an uncomfortable friction between art and business and the expectations of reward from both. Many of my most valued friends are creative types now; it’s a wonderfully supporting and welcoming community. Read More