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Helen Hagemann: Expect the Unexpected With Your Writing

As part of the Fellowship Program, I opted to include a workshop during my two week residency. I conducted a *Crime* Workshop titled “So you Want to Turn to Crime”. Six participants were all into the crime genre and there was much discussion about the fascinating (and sometimes spine chilling) side of genre. We also talked about Agatha Christie, Hercule Poirot, and contemporary crime writers such as Robert Galbraith, Candice Fox and Peter Temple.

As a class we also shared our love of crime audio books especially being able to listen freely to the abundance of Christie’s crime thrillers read by Hugh Fraser. With the choice of ten story exercises we had dead bodies all being found in interesting places. I believe the writers went away feeling glad they attended, especially since we went over time. This was a good indication of their enjoyment while we continued to discuss each other’s crime writing.

I attended Mardi May’s poetry group. I have known Mardi a long time, since the Peter Cowan Writer Centre’s days. We had a laugh when I said in class to the group on Sunday, ‘that I used to be a poet.’ Mardi quickly told me that there’s no such thing, to her I’m still a poet! Voila! Of course, I still love poetry and write the odd prose poem now and again.

During the residency, I was fortunate to meet my two October writing fellows, Ashley & Narelle for friendly chats, dinner and coffee on Katherine’s veranda.

My ten best tips for an enjoyable and productive stay would be:

1. Expect the unexpected with your writing. 2. The best laid plans often “do” go awry. 3. Write during your best productive hours. 4. If the muse is not happening, try writing in your journal first. 5. It is often said, but taking time out to read often inspires ideas. 6. Try using Text-to-Speech. This is a function on Kindle and also in Word. Often you hear your mistakes when read by someone else, if only a computerised voice. 7. Be like Charles Dickens and talk to your characters out loud. This helps to distinguish voices and personalities, so that they don’t all sound the same. 8. Exercise – a healthy mind needs a healthy body. 9. Take coffee breaks. 10. Reward yourself with snacks, especially chocolate.

Written by Helen Hagemann about her stay at The KSP Writers' Centre 17-30 October


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