Bundaberg WriteFest 2016 – a recap

Friday, October 14, 2016 Permalink

Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending a local writers’ festival. It was a bit of a last minute thing as I only discovered it was on a week or so before, but this year Bundaberg WriteFest – usually held early in the year – was incorporated into that city’s October Crush Festival.

One of the authors in particular drew my attention, as I recently reviewed Rachael Johns’ latest book and have talked about her on the blog before. And one of the things I enjoyed about the Problogger Event I attended in September, was being around like-minded people… so figured I’d make the day-trip to nearby Bundaberg to join the fun.

The event included a couple of masterclasses, some workshops and some presentations as well as the chance for a one-on-one discussion with an editor from Harper Collins publishers.

I decided to skip the Masterclasses, attending a couple of workshops – including Rachael’s morning session about getting published:

From good to sold: 6 key elements for telling your story

Rachael offered up a number of pointers and I’m loath to divulge all of her secrets, but here’s a snapshot. Literally.


Most of these are self-explanatory…

  • All books need conflict of some sort – our characters need to overcome obsctacles and grow. In some way.
  • Books need to make us feel. Something.
  • Characters should be unique but relatable.
  • Rules are there for a reason. And to occasionally be broken.

And as for the grandmas… we shouldn’t worry about what they’re gonna think!


Very importantly, and something I guess I’ve never really considered before was the notion of the ‘reader promise’. In Romance: the girl gets the guy in the end; and in Suspense / Thrillers / Crime Fiction: the crime gets solved and baddies punished.

Getting published

The Queensland Writers’ Centre Chief Executive Katie Woods was also in town and gave us an abbreviated version of one of their popular courses.

She reminded us of the many many different options for publishing, including self-publishing and indie publishers.

And like Rachael, Katie talked about ‘rules’ – recommending we stick to those set by publishers and agents – particularly when submitting manuscripts and the like.

Most importantly she reminded us.

Writers write. Authors finish.

Setting matters: Evoking setting without tripping up your detective

Angela Savage, Melbourne-based crime novelist, ran sessions on settings… which she described as ‘where we need (readers) to be – imaginatively’.


I knew this session was going to be a challenge because – in my minimal creative writing – it’s something I don’t do well. Indeed, I rarely even consider ‘where’ my characters are as I put them through their paces. I also have the bad habit of ‘skimming’ through settings as I read… looking for the next piece of dialogue or action.

I’ve had to do an exercise in a writing class before which involved describing settings and struggled.

The same thing happened this time around. Angela’s session was very interactive and she gave us tips and handouts and had us do exercises. It was a small group so we were all able to read our work aloud. And yet I refused and was the only person to do so.

I’ve been the same when I’ve done other courses. I’ll ask questions or provide input but I will not read stuff I’ve written.

I blog – obviously. I know people read the shite I write, but seeing them do it or having someone judge it is just not something I’m comfortable with. Indeed, that very day a book review I’d written for a newspaper chain (APN) was in the local Bundaberg Weekend newspaper insert. And yet…

I felt bad for being so precious but… I. Just. Couldn’t. Do. It.

Despite my lack of participation in the critiquing side of things I got a lot out of the session.

We talked about opening lines and Angela challenged us to orient a reader in time and place via an opening sentence or two. From that we talked about ‘how’ to develop a strong sense of time and place; and how the setting and our characters interact.

It’s something I seriously need to work on if I’m ever to finish one of the manuscripts I’ve started.

The day finished with a Q & A session. I guess I would have liked to ask each of the guests for a quick tip each but I was tired by then and a bit annoyed by a few inane questions. I suspect the guests felt the same way.


Overall it was a great day. I got to meet some nice people and chat with some writers who DO ‘finish’. Regularly.

Sadly I’d forgotten my program (and notebook and pen, but that’s a whole other story!) and the guests weren’t introduced so I wasn’t sure who was who but just being around people passionate about writing (and reading) meant the day was most certainly worth the drive.

Do you like ‘local’ writers’ festivals? Am I the only one who’s bizarrely self-conscious about sharing my ‘creative’ writing?

As it’s Friday I’m flogging my blog With Some Grace.

  • Stormi D Johnson
    October 14, 2016

    Sounds like an interesting event!

    • Debbish
      October 14, 2016

      It was Stormi – and I know those who spent all of Saturday in the Masterclass really enjoyed that as well!

  • Shauna 'Round the Corner
    October 14, 2016

    I can understand why you’d not want to share your creative writing. Totally. No one should ever be forced to do something they’re not comfortable with so good on you for standing your ground. There are other ways you can get feedback to grow and learn without having to do it publicly.

    I’ve never been to a local writers festival. Might have to look into it because I have much to learn and it sounds really worthwhile. Thank you! 🙂

    • Debbish
      October 14, 2016

      I’m keen to attend a big one next year – maybe Sydney or Melbourne (or Byron Bay). I’m keen to hear more from authors as I haven’t gotten to many author events of late (none this year really, other than this one) and miss that.

      And thankfully Angela was fine re me not reading my stuff out. I mostly felt bad cos the young high school boy next to me was happy enough to do so!

  • toniazemek
    October 14, 2016

    I can relate to your feelings re: not reading out your work. Many years ago, I took a drawing class and we were encouraged to share our sketches with our classmates but I resisted because I was doing the course purely for my own enjoyment — not for public appraisal. All this aside, it sounds like a great Festival. Like you, I love workshops and conferences where like minds collide!

    • Debbish
      October 14, 2016

      Yes… I almost skipped Problogger this year Tonia and went to the Brisbane Writers’ Festival, but I knew that – though I’d hear authors speak – I wouldn’t really get to ‘hang out’ with people there, so went for the Problogger option, but I’d love to attend some more writers’ events next year and hopefully organise to meet up with people there.

  • nicolethebuilderswife
    October 14, 2016

    Sounds like a great festival for a smaller one. I’ve not been to one before, but it’s sounds like something I would enjoy.

    • Debbish
      October 14, 2016

      Yes, definitely some great authors and I met people who were attending from several hours drive north to several hours drive south… so they had a good roll-up!

  • Emma
    October 15, 2016

    This sounds interesting.mi’m not big on sharing in public either though getting better at it. Will remember the Grandma next time I do.

    • Debbish
      October 15, 2016

      Yes, Rachael talked about wondering what her grandmother would think of what she was writing – particularly sex scenes and the like (not to mention, friends etc) and said that – on the whole they’re all really supportive!

  • HandbagMafia
    October 15, 2016

    I don’t know if I’d like to read my work out load either, Deb!

    • Debbish
      October 15, 2016

      For some reason it’s completely different publishing something to the masses! (I guess that’s why trolls feel it’s okay to write some of the crap they do online!)

  • Janet Camilleri (@middleagedmama1)
    October 15, 2016

    I haven’t really been to any. I’m not interested in writing fiction, poetry, plays etc … as a strictly non-fiction gal (magazine articles, and now blogging) I always got the feeling they didn’t really cater for me. Maybe I’m wrong but I read the program for the Brisbane Writer’s Festival each year and there’s very little that I’m actually interested in.

    • Debbish
      October 16, 2016

      It’s probably the case at a Writers’ Festivals Janet cos they are usually all about ‘publishing’ etc… but the Qld Writers’ Centre used to have some ‘freelance’ writing type courses (as does Australian Writers’ Centre) as I’ve done a few. I’m still struggling with the confidence to ‘pitch’ to paid sources, but working on it.

  • Sarah Bown
    October 17, 2016

    I am super self conscious about sharing my more creative or fictional writing…in fact I don’t think I’ve really even written anything like that for many years, it’s all blogging and articles these days!

    • Debbish
      October 17, 2016

      I think I’d get a bit nervous even reading a blog post to someone… writing it and pressing publishing seems far less personal!

  • mamagrace71
    October 20, 2016

    I LOVE that bit about Grandmas. Haha, so true! I’ve only been to the Sydney Writers Festival which isn’t really ‘local’ but in the recent writing course I did we had to critique each other’s work. I couldn’t do it either! I let the other participants take over on that one!

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