A Sydney Smith Masterclass

sydney-smith_regularToday, Sydney Smith, author of The Lost Woman, visits Pilyara to talk about her love for plotting and structure. I attended one of Sydney’s masterclasses last year and cannot speak highly enough about her talents as a writing teacher. And now, it’s over to Sydney …

“Plotting and structure are two of my favourite aspects of narrative. I play plotting games with several of my writing friends, where we think up new and amusingly outlandish – or movingly dramatic – things for their characters to get up to. At the moment, I am writing a romantic comedy thriller called GUNS AND ANGELS, which arose out of one of these plotting games.

I have found over the years, both as a writer and as a reader, that certain things must be present if a plot is to involve the audience and create the forward momentum and dramatic highs that readers love. When a writer uses them, their story leaps off the page in a way it hadn’t before. It has a new energy, a new drive, a new depth. Writers feel it as we discuss these principles and how they relate to their particular story. I can see them feeling it – they write copious notes as we talk.

While I teach certain principles of plotting and structure, and give examples from the texts I set, my aim is always to show people how they relate to their own particular writing project. My approach is always hands-on. Theory is important, but theory only makes sense to me, and is most useful to the writer, when I show it in action in the writer’s own work.

Some writers come to me because they are stuck with their novel or memoir and don’t know how to unstick themselves. It is one of my most exhilarating tasks as a teacher to help them find ways to unstick themselves. This nearly always happens – either in class or in the one-on-one interview that is part of the package when people apply for one of my classes. The reason it nearly always happens is because the block the writer experiences has something to do with their plot and how character shapes plot. On the rare occasion that a writer can’t work through the block, it’s because the block lies somewhere outside the imagination. As long as the block lies within the imagination, it is related to plot or to character in their relationship to plot, and yields to the kind of attention the writer and I bring to it.

I am interested in good story. I accept writers of commercial and literary narrative in my classes because my focus is on good story – how to create it, how to maintain it. I can help people who have written a draft or two of their novel or memoir, and I can help people who have a few ideas about the story they want to write but haven’t put much on the page yet. The only requirement is The Lost Womanthat they have a fair amount of experience as a writer already. My classes are full-on.  Participants will benefit most when they have some writing experience under that belt. But since the criteria for this can vary from writer to writer, I put in place a selection process so that I can judge who will be able to make the most of my class.”

Thank you, Sydney. You are indeed a master plotter. I can’t wait for your next book! For those interested, Sydney’s next masterclass will be held in Melbourne 25th – 27th January. For more information you can contact her at wayland@vicnet.net.au.


Foster’s Little Bookshop

Our independent bookstores are national, cultural treasures! I’m doing a series featuring some of these gems. What better way to start than with Foster’s Little Bookshop, the brainchild of Jan Bull and Bob Morris. They hosted the regional launch of Brumby’s Run last Friday as part of their Twilight Talks. There’s a stellar line up of authors still to come – Helene Young, Margareta Osborn and Sydney Smith. Foster’s Little Bookshop is widely considered to be South Gippsland’s premiere book store, and is a vibrant contributor to local community life.  And now, it’s over to Jan!

Jan and myself at the launch

We opened on Saturday 22nd July 2006 to much amusement and bewilderment from the locals.  Family and people who knew us well said, great idea, you’ll do well, go for it!!  Folk who didn’t know us said “what? a bookshop?”  Other traders said we’d need to rely on visitors during the holiday season.  We didn’t agree, believing the local community was our major market and that’s where we put our emphasis.  Becoming involved in the community meant spending more of our time than our money, and developing not just good customers, but good friends.  These are the people who’ve continued to support us over these six years.

Signing books!

We’ve developed a following from Melbourne requesting books for when next they visit. People from interstate and overseas, with families in this area, make purchases for birthdays and at Christmas via our website. We hold events each month for both children and adults. Our customers are encouraged to write reviews on any proof copy books we get from publishers, and these are submitted to the ‘book review’ page on our website.  We’re involved with book club members from the local College and are invited to primary schools to participate in events.

Our radio program on the local community station 3MFM has been going for over three years and we have a load of fun each Sunday morning. We write a regular piece (The Book Nook) in one of the lifestyle magazines that cover South Gippsland, and provide the local paper, The Mirror, with a monthly column and many articles.

The last six years have been hard work and fun work and we are both pleased that we took (what the locals saw as) the chance to build this business.  Our little bookshop is becoming well known in some unexpected places!

Do you have a favourite independent bookshop? Tell me what makes your store special and it might feature here in the future. And congratulations to Shirley Forrest and Carol Toogood who are the lucky winners of the Brumby’s Run giveaway! I’ll be in touch very soon. (JindivickWildlifeShelter – you’re the winner of the giveaway on Cathryn Hein’s blog)

Foster’s Little Bookshop, 4 Station Street Foster, Victoria  3960

Ph: (03) 5682 2089

Email    flb@virtual.net.au

Website http://www.fosterslittlebookshop.com.au/

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/#!/FostersLittleBookshop

Release of Brumby’s Run

With the release of Brumby’s Run just a few hours away, I’ve decided to give this blog over to some shameless self-promotion. For those of you in south-east Victoria, the regional launch of Brumby’s Run will be at the Stockyard Gallery in Foster on Friday 6th July, courtesy of Foster’s Little Bookshop. The launch will be held as part of the Twilight Author Talks series, and I’m in fine company! The other three authors in July are Helene Young (popular romantic suspense author), Margareta Osborn (fellow rural author) and Sydney Smith (well-known writing mentor and debut author of a fine memoir)


July 6th – Jennifer Scoullar’s first novel ‘Wasp Season’ had its regional launch at one of the first Twilight Author talks we ran.  It is with very great pleasure that we also launch Jennifer’s second book ‘Brumby’s Run’.  Jennifer is an author of rural and environmental fiction.  She lives on a property overlooking the Bunyip State Forest in West Gippsland and has always harboured a deep appreciation and respect for the natural world. Her first novel ‘Wasp Season’, an environmental thriller was officially launched at the Melbourne Writer’s Festival in 2008.  In May of this year she was writer-in-residence at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Ireland.  ‘Brumby’s Run’, her second novel will be released by Penguin July 2nd.

Bookings can be made at Foster’s Little Bookshop by phone 5682 2089 or by email flb@virtual.net.au .  Cost is $22 per head which includes a glass of wine and finger food.  The Twilight Talk sessions are held at the Stockyard Gallery from 5.30pm to 7.00pm each Friday evening in July.  Numbers will be limited so book early

Brumby’s Run will also receive a grand metropolitan christening.

Acclaimed novelist Andrea Goldsmith will launch Brumby’s Run at the Melbourne Writer’s Festival. The venue is The Cube at 2.30 pm Saturday 25th August. All welcome!


I have received some lovely early reviews. Here are the links!