• 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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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)

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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: What comes first, the successful writer or the workshop? Part Two

Continuing on from yesterday’s post, six more Clarionites answer the question: Why do you think Clarion has produced so many successful writers? Or, are successful writers attracted to Clarion?

Deborah Kalin: I think “serious” writers are attracted to Clarion — and by serious, I mean writers who are not dabbling. They’re interested in rigour and improvement, and they’ve already developed a degree of dedication and perseverance — which are the qualities of success (or the qualities a writer has any control over, anyway). You don’t have to go to Clarion to succeed, and going to Clarion isn’t a guarantee of success.

Bren Macdibble: If you’re a good writer in a speculative genre, I doubt you could find a better workshop to improve your writing, but I think it attracts good writers too, and six weeks is a hell of an investment. You probably wouldn’t go if you weren’t very serious.

Helen Venn: I don’t think many people would want to go to Clarions unless they want to succeed. It’s a lot of money and the pressure is intense.

Jess Irwin: There’s no easy answer to that, but there are several contributing factors: the quality of the tutors, the structure of the critique room, the intensity of six hard weeks with 16+ fellow writers, to name just a few.

Steve Turner: I think its a combination of the two: Clarion hopefuls are vetted by a panel of writing industry professionals in the first place so it all starts with a talented group. The act of applying for Clarion is probably an act by most who are ready to take that next step up in their writing, and actually taking part in the workshop then gives an impetus to those writers just needing that extra bit of encouragement, gives that professional polish and a critical eye applied to each writer’s own work, combined with the incredible interaction of all the other talented writers and awesome tutors that Clarion attracts – pretty inspiring stuff for a struggling writer!

Michael Greenhut: It works both ways.Some of us knew what we were doing on the way in, while others went from rags-to-riches, but all of us improved to some degree.

Christopher Green: My gut reaction is that, of all the people with ability in the world, and all the people with passion, the ones who have both tend to gravitate toward Clarion. It isn’t necessarily easy to put the outside world on hold for six weeks, nor is it a simple application process to get through. Thus, quite a few writers with both talent and passion come out of Clarion.

The Clarion South Writers Workshop is the most intensive professional development program for speculative fiction writers in the southern hemisphere. Previous tutors at the Workshops include Sean Williams, Kelly Link, Jack Dann, Gardner Dozois, Margo Lanagan and Marianne de Pierres. Past and future students of the program have agreed to answer a few questions on the Voyager blog which will hopefully give writers out there plenty of information on what Clarion is all about.

Sound the clarion call …

Make sure you check out the Voyager blog from next week on as we bring you the thoughts and advice of Clarion South graduates, and new students. This is the start of a set of posts that would-be speculative fiction writers should not miss out on reading!

Hear from Sean Williams, Lee Battersby, Angela Slatter, Aidan Doyle, Steve Turner,Amanda le Bas De Plumetot, Ben Julien, Jess Irwin, Helen Venn, Laura Goodin, Christopher Green, Paul Haines, Deborah Kalin, Bren MacDibble and Jason Fischer. You might recognise some of these names from Dreaming Again and other popular sf/f anthologies – because they are published short story writers (and in some cases, long story writers too … er, that is, novelists).

So …

Watch out

Clarion’s about.

Click here for more informaton on Clarion South.