• Fiona McIntosh: Voyager Author of the Month

    Fiona McIntosh was born and raised in Sussex in the UK, but also spent early childhood years in West Africa. She left a PR career in London to travel and settled in Australia in 1980. She has since roamed the world working for her own travel publishing company, which she runs with her husband. She lives in Adelaide with her husband and twin sons. Her website is at www.fionamcintosh.com.

    Her latest book, The Scrivener's Tale, is a stand-alone and takes us back to the world of Morgravia from her very first series, The Quickening:


    About The Scrivener's Tale:

    In the bookshops and cafes of present-day Paris, ex-psychologist Gabe Figaret is trying to put his shattered life back together. When another doctor, Reynard, asks him to help with a delusional female patient, Gabe is reluctant... until he meets her. At first Gabe thinks the woman, Angelina, is merely terrified of Reynard, but he quickly discovers she is not quite what she seems.

    As his relationship with Angelina deepens, Gabe's life in Paris becomes increasingly unstable. He senses a presence watching and following every move he makes, and yet he finds Angelina increasingly irresistible.

    When Angelina tells Gabe he must kill her and flee to a place she calls Morgravia, he is horrified. But then Angelina shows him that the cathedral he has dreamt about since childhood is real and exists in Morgravia.

    A special 10th Anniversary edition of her first fantasy book, Myrren's Gift, will be released in December!

     

     

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And the results are in … 2008 Aurealis Awards

What a spectacular night it was! Apologies for how late this entry is, but your awards correspondent was busy flying to and from Brisbane for much of the weekend 🙂 and then distracted by Australia Day.

The full list of winners:

best science fiction novel: K A Bedford, Time Machines Repaired While-U-Wait, Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing

best science fiction short story: Simon Brown, ‘The Empire’, Dreaming Again, Harper/Voyager

best fantasy novel:Alison Goodman, The Two Pearls of Wisdom, HarperCollins

best fantasy short story: Cat Sparks, ‘Sammarynda Deep’, Paper Cities, Senses 5 Press

best horror novel: John Harwood, The Seance, Jonathan Cape (Random House Australia)

best horror short story: Kirstyn McDermott, ‘Painlessness’, Greatest Uncommon Denominator (GUD), #2

best anthology: Jonathan Strahan (editor), The Starry Rift, Viking Children’s Books

best collection: Sean Williams & Russell B Farr (editor), Magic Dirt: The Best of Sean Williams, Ticonderoga Publications

best illustated book/graphic novel: Shaun Tan, Tales From Outer Suburbia, Allen & Unwin

best young adult novel: Melina Marchetta, Finnikin of the Rock, Viking Penguin

best young adult short story: Trent Jamieson, ‘Cracks’, Shiny, #2

best children’s novel: Emily Rodda, The Wizard of Rondo, Omnibus Books

best children’s illustrated work/picture book: Richard Harland & Laura Peterson (illustrator), Escape!, Under Siege, Race to the Ruins, The Heavy Crown, The Wolf Kingdom series, Omnibus Books

Peter McNamara Convenors’ Award for Excellence: Jack Dann

I also strongly recommend reading the judge’s reports – the link to each category’s report is here, as it gives a further insight into the process.

There will be more blogging to come on the weekend, but for now, we’re extremely proud of Jack, Simon and Alison, and congratulations to all the winners, and shortlisted authors, because you really are all fantastic. Alison Goodman was also co-host of the night alongside a very amusing Simon Higgins and looked gorgeous in red. Stephanie Smith (Voyager Publisher) was there (and almost impossible to extricate from the post-Awards party so we could go to dinner! And lovely Voyager authors Karen Miller and Kim Westwood, who were both judges in the awards, also took part in the weekend.

The awards were fantastic (it was my first one) – there was a great slideshow in the background introducing each category – and the intro for the hosts was especially clever! There were also vids of the convenors talking about their experience of judging the awards and their feelings towards spec fiction in general – and I was very amused by Beau from Pulp Fiction when he was talking about how he got roped into the awards!! (Working with Ron must have that effect!)

Of course we were tremendously proud of Jack being awarded the Peter McNamara Convenor’s Award – and forced Jack to open his ribbon-wrapped box before dinner so we could admire the award (which is very snappy looking and made of concave glass – Jack promised not to break it now that he knew what it was). Melina Marchetta’s speech was particularly moving — Finnikin of the Rock is her first move into speculative fiction and she talked about the process of writing it, and what she called her ‘ten year mini-break’ from writing!

And as mentioned above, Alison Goodman looked gorgeous and -was- gorgeous, even when Simon Higgins was trying to give her ideas to make the sequel to The Two Pearls of Wisdom better, involving enterprising ideas if ever I heard them! And her acceptance speech for her award was very funny – she was lost for words.

Stephanie and I had dinner with Jack Dann, Karen Miller, Kim Westwood, Cathie Tasker (who judged the fantasy novel award) and her partnet, Alan, as well as writer Angela Slatter and her fellow Clarion South classmate, Lisa, and upcoming Voyager author, Will Elliott. We had a good time, although both Karen and I were suffering from early starts, having flown in from Sydney that morning. I got to quiz Karen on Empress of Mijak (amazing book), and there being four Aurealis judges at the table, we had a good chat about the whole process, too.

Anyway, there’s plenty more to blog on from the weekend, so keep an eye on the Voyager blog this week!

And one more thing to add – a link to Cat Sparks Flickr photo album of the night – Cat‘s short story ‘Sammarynda Deep’ won the Aurealis for the short fantasy category.

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Clarion South: Working with the big bad bold … tutors

This post continues our series by the graduates and future students of the Clarion South Writers Workshop. There will be more from them later this year and the next Clarion South workshop is on right now!

The question: What was it like working with Jack Dann and the other tutors, all of whom are well known and successful writers?

Lee Battersby: I think if you have the opportunity to spend a week in close proximity to guys like Jack and Gardner, and you’re serious about following a writing career, it’s something to which you need to give serious consideration. These guys have seen it all and done it all, and I know that the Clarion South students I tutored came away from their time with Gardner with a massive fillip to their confidence and know how.

Angela Slatter (there right now!): At this stage, I don’t know! I’m doing Clarion in 2009, so it’s all ahead of me. I’ve worked with Jack on the Dreaming Again anthology – that was easy!

Steve Turner (hanging out with Angela at the current CS!): I am really looking forward to it – I had the first Dreaming Down Under book edited by Jack and I have always loved it, and have always enjoyed his short stories. I was already a fan of Sean Williams and have a half dozen of his books so was very excited about that. I am also a Marianne de Pierres fan and am proud of the fact that she is also from Brisbane. It’s also amazing to look at the credits of Margo Lanagan and Kelly Link and I have since read their award winning short story collections and it only makes me feel so privileged to work with World Fantasy, Ditmar, Aurealis and Nebula award winners of this calibre.
Amanda le Bas de Plumetot: I’ve actually worked with Jack in a workshop run by the Victorian Writers’ Centre a couple of years ago. I really enjoyed it. He doesn’t pull his punches and I like that in a workshopping situation.

Jess Irwin: It’s really great to get advice and insight from such prominent writers and editors – I mean, unless I kidnap her I’ll never have another week with Kelly Link devoted to the craft and industry of writing. (Don’t kidnap people, folks!) It’s okay to get nervous, but remember: if it bleeds we can kill it… um… I mean, they’re all human beings, they love speculative fiction, and they’re here to help you. They’re your peers and colleagues. You don’t need to be nervous. But playing a few rounds of Mafia is a pretty good cure, too

Helen Venn: Stimulating and a little intimidating until it sank in that they were there to help.

Christopher Green: Jack Dann, as well as the tutors of Clarion South ’07 (Rob Hood, Lee Battersby, Kelly Link (with guest appearance by Gavin J. Grant), Gardner Dozois, Margo Lanagan, and Simon Brown) are all incredible to work with. One of the main things that struck me about them was their passion. They are tireless, seeming to have limitless energy when it comes to sharing their knowledge, offering advice, etc. I was honoured.

Paul Haines: Each tutor brought something new to the table, in the way they approached stories, or how they responded to the group. Jack Dann arrived in week 5, a tough time for most of us as everything was starting to fray and exhaustion had crept in. He was invigorating for the entire class, with his approach, his ideas, and most of all his energy. David Hartwell was also interesting, in particular for letting us in on his vast experience as an editor in the business, more so than his critiquing of the work.

Deborah Kalin: I didn’t work with Jack Dann or Gardner Dozois – my tutors were Sean Williams, Michael Swanwick, Ellen Datlow, Margo Lanagan, Ian Irvine, and Scott Westerfeld. Every single one of them was inspiring, encouraging, daunting, and incisve — in short, unforgettable!

Brenn McDibble: I studied and read a few works of each tutor before I went to Clarion so it was an interesting exercise to match their advice and creative processes to their work. Maybe I figured that if I knew what made those six people tick I might figure out my own tick. It was a shock to me if one of them actually asked me to explain myself and my response was probably another exercise in creativity.

Jason Fischer: Amazing. There’s nothing quite like this course. To be given the chance to work with professionals you’ve admired for some time, with the view to becoming a professional writer yourself. Others have spoken of the “paying it forward” aspect of the SF community, and it’s alive and well in courses like Clarion South.

Check out the earlier posts about Clarion South

For a full list of the Clarion South tutors, click here

Find out more about Clarion South (intake is closed for the next Australian session, which is taking place now, in Brisbane, from Jan 4 to Feb 14)

Everything I need to know, I learned at Clarion South by Laura E. Goodin

by Laura E. Goodin, Clarion South 2007

There’s always someone who agrees with you.

There’s always someone who disagrees with you.

There’s always someone who writes better than you do.

You can always write better than you do now.

Learning hurts, but not as much as not learning.

Late nights are another dimension.

A Bollywood movie makes food taste better.

You can say a lot in two minutes.

A small room can contain universes.

Sometimes you need to shed some blood for the cause.

When you’re exhausted and discouraged, sing to strangers. Loudly.

What’s Clarion South?

Read more from Clarion South graduates, and future students

And with that fab advice, it’s off into 2009 for all of us. I am sure the last line of Laura’s advice will be employed widely throughout Australia tonight, although not necessarily due to those reasons!

Have a great New Year’s Eve, whether you stay in, go out, party, watch tv, admire the fireworks, have dinner, read a great book or wake up the next morning wondering if you’ve been transported and dehydrated by aliens and whether those are your* clothes strewn all over the floor.

*And if they aren’t, whose are they?

Clarion South: Quality over quantity – Part Two

This week’s question was: How many short stories would you recommend being published prior to applying for Clarion?

Christopher Green: I don’t think it matters how many stories you’ve published prior to Clarion. I think your ability, drive, and passion for what the art (as pretentious as it sounds) matter far more than how many stories you’ve sold at the time of your application.

Paul Haines: I don’t think you need any published. You need to have written short stories, and the more the better, unless you’re naturally brilliant, and you of course need to submit work to get into the course. It helps if you understand short stories, what they do, how they work, how to write them.

Brenn McDibble: A few successes would help. I think the main thing is to have had a reasonable amount of feedback from peers etc prior to Clarion and to have your writing reach a high quality and a point where you have no idea how to improve it. The principle behind Clarion, as I understood it, was to take the good writers and give them that last final push over the finish line to where all the publishable writers are battling it out for those few prizes.

Margo Lanagan: Nah, you don’t have to have had any published – I hadn’t. Oh, okay, a novel here and there. But it’s more about how Clarion aligns with what you want for yourself, than how it aligns with what you’ve achieved so far. You just need to have banged your head against a brick wall or two, writing-wise. You need to have seen an illusion or two crumble, probably. If you come in cocky, you have to crumble in public. You don’t want that.

Deborah Kalin: I had a grand total of no published stories. Others I know go to Clarion with a slew of publishing credits under their belts. Like so much of writing, it’s very individual, and basically a case of whatever path you take gets you where you’re going. Clarion is not for those just starting out and, by the same token, you can be at a place in your writing where Clarion can’t teach you anything you don’t already know.

Jason Fischer: It doesn’t matter. If you’ve got talent and the desire to improve yourself, apply. From what I understand it goes against the quality of the sample writing you include in your submission. You gotta be in it to win it.

Tune in for more next week from the Clarion South crew.

Check out the earlier posts about Clarion South

Find out more about Clarion South (intake is closed for the next Australian session, which will take place in Brisbane from Jan 4 to Feb 14)

Clarion South Writers Workshop: Quantity versus quality – Part One

There’s much more to come from our Clarion South bloggers. This week’s question was: How many short stories would you recommend being published prior to applying for Clarion? First part today, second part tomorrow.

Ben Julien: Actually, this is a question best answered by the individual. The more publications you have obviously the more practice behind you, and practice is the key. Publications are by no means a requirement in any case, just good writing.
I haven’t written short stories per se, at all – I do have three young adult novels under my belt though which for me roughly equates to three years of practice, and most of my remaining hair. My novels switch from one character to the next and are essentially interwoven short stories in any case.
My advice to any writer, myself included, is to write real characters. Not over-the-top heroes or evil masterminds, but real personalities pushed into strange circumstances. Characters we can all relate to. Throw in your own voice (whatever words come from you easily and naturally) and a desire to connect to the reader and to entertain, and I think you’ll find a readership anywhere.

Lee Battersby: It makes absolutely no difference. Clarion is about refining and sharpening the skills you already have, as well as providing you with the strategies and disciplines necessary to consider a career as a professional writer. Only two questions matter: Could I be better? and Will I benefit from this experience? Clarion South 2007 had one student with several novels under her belt and at least one who had never sold a story before, and I’d wager anything you like that they each drank the experience as dry as they possibly could. All that matters is that you want to work hard, improve your craft, and apply the lessons.

Jess Irwin: It’s not about the number of publications – we had people with several publications and people with none at all. You’re all equal in the crit room. The quality of the writing, and a desire and willingness to take it to the next level, is more important. Publications can be an indicator of good writing, though obviously some publications are more prestigious than others.

Angela Slatter: I have about 20 stories published so far, and about 10 reviews and a few articles. I don’t know if that’s ideal – it’s just what I have!

Steve Turner: I have not had one published – I was accepted on the strength of a plot synopsis and first chapter of my out-of-control epic fantasy novel, so please don’t let a lack of short story credibility dissuade any would-be Clarionites, just submit some damn good writing (keep in mind that the Clarion workshops are about short stories though, so don’t apply if you don’t like to write them). I have been experimenting with short stories for most of this year, combining both science fiction and fantasy in one, and one of my aims is to produce some of my best writing in short story format from my Clarion South experience.

Helen Venn: I think it’s more a question of having learned your craft to a reasonable level than having stories published.

Amanda le Bas De Plumetot: Crikey, I don’t know. I’ve never counted how many I’ve had published. Does it really matter? Maybe there are some in the group who haven’t been published at all, but have that edge that makes them worthwhile. Maybe they’ve got some real gold on their hard drives, but never had the confidence to submit them anywhere.

Check out the earlier posts about Clarion South
Find out more about Clarion South (intake is closed for the next Australian session, which will take place in Brisbane from Jan 4 to Feb 14)

Clarion South: Getting Creative AKA the physics of unicorn horns … Part 2

We asked: Were there any exercises to stimulate the creativity while at the Clarion South workshop? As with yesterday’s posts, there’s some hilarious stuff here. Fridge inspections, yes, I can understand that, practical physics of unicorns, NO!

Lee Battersby: I would have loved to have done some formal exercises, but with the massive workload the students faced, there really wasn’t time. That said, we did play around in informal settings (I have a particularly vivid memory of discussing the practical physics of unicorn horns with a couple of the lads, complete with on-all-fours demonstrations around the floor….).

Steve Turner: I’m yet to find out at Clarion South – personally, I actually got into short stories just this year as a break from writing the heavier sections of my novel. The short stories were used to stimulate the creative juices but I don’t have any exercises except that I come up an interesting story, think it through to its logical conclusion, then tell myself that will be predictable garbage, and go back over the more important bits to see how I can reverse, twist or shock by changing the predictable to something even I didn’t expect.

Jess Irwin: I brought things along, but didn’t end up using them. Just being among 16 like-minded individuals was enough. Talking out your plot problems with fellow Clarionites at 2am is a great cure for writers’ block :). There was also the late-night fridge inspection. Whatever kicks the plot forward.

Christopher Green: Drink a lot of ice tea, nap from 2pm to 6pm, stay up until 3 am, get up and shower prior to 9 (And breakfast. Must have breakfast, preferably French Toast and pineapple juice. To be honest, though, the most creatively stimulating part of Clarion was the ability to wander to another floor, open the door (knocking is for people who write romance novels) and demand a story intervention.

Paul Haines: Mr Dann suggested collaborations, and Claire McKenna and I jumped on it, successfully too. The resulting dark sf story appeared in Agog! Smashing Stories. Both Jack Dann and Lucy Sussex praised the story, so we were chuffed.

Helen Venn: Not that I recall but that could just be exhaustion.

Poor Helen! Perhaps it was the Christopher Greens and Jess Irwins of the group walking around at 3am and barging through the door that meant less sleep all around! Clearly, coffee as well as ice tea should be a prerequisite. The overly-awake Clarionites will be back with MORE – including their thoughts on what you need to do before you get to Clarion, why they decided to go to Clarion and who their fave authors are …In the mean time, click on any of the authors’ names to go to their blogs or websites.

Clarion South: Getting Creative … Part 1

We asked: Were there any exercises to stimulate the creativity while at the Clarion South workshop? The answers came free-flowing and prompted a lot of LOLZ from this blog maintainer – seriously! Smutty collaborations, stationery, haikus and inspiring movies (ha!), physics (see Lee Battersby’s response tomorrow re: unicorns), the necessity of french toast (Christopher Green, tomorrow). I toyed with calling this post ‘getting stimulated’ in the spirit of the answers below, but had an eleventh hour change of heart. Read on!

NB. Margo Lanagan attended Clarion West, which is one of the US counterparts of Clarion South, and was then a tutor at Clarion South.

Margo Lanagan: At Clarion West we had a high-speed progressive story-writing session with Gwyneth Jones that pretty much undid me with laughter. Gwyneth seemed to realise how far we’d regressed in the 5 weeks before she arrived. She let us have our heads and get silly. Apart from that, who needed stimulation? Talking story for hours a day was quite stimulation enough.

Deborah Kalin: One of Margo’s first acts was to send around prompts — an image, an opening line, I forget the third — and asked us to write the start of a story based on each prompt. I remember being terrified, imagining we’d have to read them aloud or hand them in (clearly, I have assessment anxieties!). When we’d finished, she told us: you have three more weeks of Clarion and now, if you can’t think of anything else, you have three stories you can work on. It was so amazingly simple and sweet I fell in love with her then and there.

Brenn McDibble
: Well, I think the most stimulation came from sitting around the table with a bottle of wine after class. The whole chatter was wild and far out science, memes, extrapolations and revolved around writing, books, movies and occasionally stationery. Stationery is important to writers, and you can see what I mean. It was full on immersion in all things speculative 24 hours a day with like-minded individuals… although we’d all been assimilated into a kind of single-minded entity by the end.

Jason Fischer
: We played a lot of Mafia, which is basically a bluffing game involving cards and secret identities. Some people got WAY too into that, but it was great fun. Another exercise that came about were some round-robin stories, where you write a sentence and pass them around. I hate to say that I sabotaged several of these masterpieces with my grotty sense of humour, but this was good for unclogging the creative process.

Michael Greenhut: Occasionally, some of us got around a table and did some round robin writing; Each of us contributed one sentence at a time to a Frankenstein story. Some these became interesting, while others became runaway smut.

Sean Williams: I encourage my Clarion students to write a haiku a day. I also buy them pizza and make them watch “Throw Momma from the Train”, since everything you need to know about writing is in that movie. Well, maybe not, but it does stimulate the two most important things to come out of week one: frank discussion and bonding (even if the latter is against my poor taste in movies).

Tune in tomorrow for the second set of answers from the Clarionites.
Check out the earlier posts about Clarion South
Find out more about Clarion South (intake is closed for the next Australian session, which will take place in Brisbane from Jan 4 to Feb 14)