Sunday, 3 May 2015

Maurice Saxby Mentorship Program - Week 1

As part of the Maurice Saxby Mentorship program all the mentees have been asked to keep a journal of the experience. Thought I would share my first week with you. I've tried not to gush too much!
Day 1
Wowsers! Such excitement, nerves and anticipation driving to Melbourne for the first author presentation. I have been looking forward this mentorship so much and want to make the most of every opportunity. I'm scared I might miss something! I'm looking forward to getting to know the other participants and learning about their writing. I'm keen to learn more about the authors and how they got to where they are. I have lots of wonderings about the writing world that I hope might be discussed over the next two weeks. The program is jam packed with so many things to look forward to and I can't wait to begin.

Neridah McMullin was so lovely to meet and offered us lots of tips and advice for the two weeks ahead. These were particularly useful as she was in our position just a couple of years ago. Neridah entertained the kids with the background of her stories. All researched and historically factual. The kids were enthralled as were the adults. Neridah's passion and love of stories really shone through.

I also had a meeting with my mentor, Rosalind Price. She was so generous with her time and gave me exactly what I was looking for, constructive criticism. Rosalind talked me through the questions I needed to ask myself as the author to make the storyline stronger.

Two of the main things we discussed were character and setting. What were the driving forces behind my two main characters? What was their motivation? Did their actions reflect the traits they each needed to portray?
As the MS is a post-apocalyptic novel there were many considerations I had to decide for the setting. We talked through this and ways to incorporate these things into the storyline and how these things can add value and move the story along. Landscape? Technology? Clothing? Homes? Transport? Communication? Jobs? Authority?

Rosalind called my story ambitious and I'd have to agree. I never meant for it to be that way. I just wanted to have a new challenge with writing. Step out of my comfort zone. Well I have created a soup with lots of ingredients and flavours. My new challenge is to get the broth just right. My head is spinning with possibilities and I can't wait to get rewriting.

Day 2
Today's author workshop was with the very talented Jeanette Rowe. Her presentation was similar to Neridah's in that she gave some background to her writing journey. She shared how her ideas came about for some of her stories, including the treasured picture storybook, Scallywag! We got to see some tips for creating character illustrations. The kids were heads down, bums up and loving it! Jeanette joined us for lunch afterwards and gave some insight into her very long experience in the PSB industry.

Next up was the fabulous Books Illustrated where the delightful Ann and Ann were so friendly and accommodating. The exquisite illustrations housed there were something I could have looked at all day. These two women were so inspiring with their passion for literacy and illustrations and the wonderful work and exhibitions they create. Then to my embarrassment and surprise I realised Ann was the illustrator, Ann James, of Penny Pollards Diary! A book from my younger years I borrowed repeatedly from my local library. Ann showed us the process she went through for her recent PSB, I'm a Hungry Dinosaur. Her tools? Magic pencil, cake mix, icing and sprinkles. Unbelievable talent from this woman!

Helen Chamberlin (CLAN committee member and editor extraordinaire) took us out for dinner and we had time to just talk and get to know each other better. Helen shared some of her editorial background and experience which was great to hear. The launch of Books Alive was that evening where the extremely talented Mark Wilson launched his new book, The Horse Soldier from Windy Hollow Books. Again he shared the background to his story and the research it involved. We also got some background into this extraordinary opportunity we have been given as part of the Maurice Saxby Mentorship program. During the evening we had the opportunity to meet so many lovely and talented people including Kevin Burgemeestre and Virginia Lowe. Both spent time talking to us about the experience we were embarking on.

This day gave me so much to take in. The silent drive home did little to drown out my excitement as the day's events played on repeat all the way.

Day 3

On the drive up I had no idea of the treat I would be in for with the morning’s author workshop. Anne Stewart is one woman I could listen to tell stories all day long. She has such a passion for oral storytelling and she had the children leaning forward wanting more. Her use of string to create an image to go with the story was terrific. I've not seen that before. Her final story left ghostly goose bumps along my skin. Afterwards she took us for coffee and shared her rich background of storytelling.

A couple of things have struck me in these few days. Firstly, every person along this journey has been so friendly and generous and interested in our mentee experience. Secondly, the talent of everyone we meet is overwhelming! But the thing that shines through the most. The thing that I just want to soak up is the passion for literacy that is shared by all involved. It is so inspiring and so infectious and I want to be part of that.

Day 4
Coffee with Shaun Tan. Pinch me now. This man is brimming with talent! He offered such great advice and things to consider when telling our stories. It was humbling to hear he goes through the same self-doubt and questions about his work. His passion for staying true to his concept came through when he spoke and I found this the most inspiring.

We walked into Penguin and it was hard not to be overwhelmed with their office space. So shiny and spread out! I do feel that It was very cool to visit. Amy was so obliging with our questions. She gave me a better idea of the editing process and the team involved to get one book into publication. She shared her editorial approach and what she looks for. It was nice to hear the work an editor does and the pride they feel when working in collaboration to bring a book to a publishable standard.
What's to come?
This week has been the most amazing experience. To be immersed in the literary world, surrounded by knowledgeable and passionate people is such a terrific learning opportunity for me. Can't wait to see what next week brings! Stay tuned ...


  1. So excited for you, Melissa. Thanks for sharing all these awesome details. I can't wait to hear what you do next.

    1. Thanks Kaye. I can tell you all about it when we get around to that coffee catch up!

  2. Sounds a wonderful experience and as if you're making the most of every second.

    1. I couldn't have fit another thing in Alison during the two weeks!

  3. Congrats Melissa,
    What a fabulous opportunity for you.
    Go Girl!
    Cheers, Karen Tyrrell :)

    1. Thanks Karen! The whole experience was so amazing. I didn't want it to end.

  4. Congratulations. Sounds like an amazing experience. Thanks for sharing it with us.

    1. Thanks Sally. It was such a fun experience and the group I was with were fantastic!