• 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!

     

     

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)

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: 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 One

Welcome to the first of many Clarion South posts. 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. The recent speculative fiction anthology, Dreaming Again (edited by Jack Dann) included a number of stand out stories from Clarion South graduates, and many have gone on to be published in prestigious publications.

Our first question to the Clarionites was to ask: why do you think Clarion has produced so many successful writers? Or, are successful writers attracted to Clarion?

Sean Williams: I think it’s a combination of several things. Clarion is an environment in which a focussed work ethic is both strongly encouraged and demonstrated to be effective. It provides a strong sense of community, and it also encourages critical thinking and a thick skin. All these things are crucial if you want to be a writer.

Lee Battersby: Clarion produces successful writers because it demands a massive commitment of time, energy, and sacrifice — it’s six weeks away from the world and the people you love, and that can be tough — as well as a significant expense, and that means that anybody who turns up on day one has already shown a huge amount of drive and dedication to their craft before they start the six week schedule. They don’t mess about when they call it a boot camp — it’s tough stuff, and the writers who come out the other side and go on to achieve success do so because they’ve learn to ally that dedication to a whole range of hard-nosed professional advice.

Jason Fischer: I’d say people who want to be successful are drawn to professional development workshops such as Clarion South. I can only really speak for the last course (2007) but Gardner Dozois told us that we were more-or-less doomed and that statistically speaking only three of us were likely to be heard of ever again. I think this spurred several of us onto various successes (with Writers of the Future, and sales to prozines like Realms of Fantasy) just to spite him. 🙂

Paul Haines: I think you need to have some standard of good writing to get into the course, a desire to succeed as a writer (or you wouldn’t be on the course), and a high level of determination to achieve whatever goals you set yourself to survive the bootcamp nature of the course. To answer those two questions: it’s both.

Six more Clarionites will answer the same question tomorrow. If you’d like more info on the Clarion South Writers Workshop, please visit www.clarionsouth.org and keep an eye on the Voyager blog for further posts.

Many thanks to Jason Fischer, author of (among many other stories) ‘Undead Camels Ate Their Flesh’, published in Dreaming Again, for gathering all these answers from the tutors, graduates and future students of Clarion South.

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.