Good Reading : May 2016
GOODREADINGMAGAZINE.COM.AU GOOD READING MAY 2016 48 Fate. Chance. Kismet. Coincidence. Serendipity. Whatever you call it, many times in my life when I have been facing a big decision or the possibility of change, the stars have aligned to allow me to proceed toward my purpose. But after spending five or six years contemplating my novel-writing dream, I hadn’t done more than wr ite out a list of possible scenes, having awoken one night brimming with ideas and being unable to get back to sleep until I’d wr itten them down. Then, while interviewing an author I admired, I felt twinges of professional envy and knew that if I was serious about wr iting a novel I’d better do something about it. With more than 30 years of journalism exper ience, I knew how to write, but writing fiction is considerably different from writing fact. I wanted to learn the craft and I wanted to learn it well. According to an old saying in spiritual circles, when the student is ready, the teacher will appear ... and through fate, chance, kismet, coincidence or serendipity, I found my teacher. Daydreaming about how to move forward, I logged on to Facebook and the first item in my newsfeed was a shared post from novelist and writing teacher Natasha Lester, who had just one place left in her university extension course, Nailing Your Novel: Why Writers Abandon Books, due to start the following week. I couldn’t waste another minute. I clicked on the link, signed up and knew instinctively that this would be a valuable next step on my writing journey. I learned more about the nature of the novel in that five-week course than I had learned in a lifetime of reading and many years studying literature at secondary and tertiary level. Each week I travelled more than an hour each way to attend the classes, during which Natasha detailed the processes of novel writing, offered practical tips, guidance and inspiration, set exercises to encourage creativity, and used examples from classic and contemporary fiction to reinforce the course content. She reminded her students that writers should also be readers; that we should read the sort of fiction we wanted to wr ite, as well as stor ies beyond our comfort zone. And Natasha urged us to foster a desire to learn more about the writing process by attending other classes, joining a writing group, reading books by experts in the field and, most importantly, by writing at least a little bit every day. WRITER’S LIFE g g Thene ophyte no velist This month Perth-based journalist MAUREEN EPPEN tells how signing up for a course kick-started the novel-writing process.