Diving into Fiction with Kathryn Heyman: Workshop

Whether you’ve long been imagining the beginnings of a novel or have already drafted several chapters, Kathryn Heyman’s half-day workshop Diving into Fiction is sure to inspire you. Her carefully developed exercises and discussions will motivate and enthuse writers of all stages, with insight into structure, storytelling, scene building and character creating. You’ll leave having formed a clear vision of the how to bring your story to fruition!

And who better to hold the workshop than Kathryn? She is the author of several novels, including her latest Storm and Grace, which she will refer to during the workshop (so be sure to have read it first). She has also written for stage and BBC Radio, and has taught writing for many years she is currently the Fiction Program Director for Faber Writing Academy and Director of the Australian Writers Mentoring Program. We caught up with Kathryn to discuss her approaches to writing and teaching…

Was there a particular light bulb moment for you that really got the words flowing?  

I’ve written six novels, lots of short fiction pieces and about twelve theatre and radio plays – and each book, play, essay or story has required a slightly different ‘light bulb’ to get to that place of flow. I’ve learned there are things I can do to help it along – finding silence, for instance, helps me get to the place of stillness and depth that I need to hear my own voice. With Storm and Grace, that came after a week in the Shoalhaven Gorge, listening to the water and the cicadas. With this novel, I had a guide in the form of the water. When I was stuck, or lost, I could return to the memory of the ocean.

Could you also give us some insight on the joy you experience when writing?

What a lovely question. Joy is so much at the heart of writing – which isn’t to say every day is skipping through fields of daffodils. Joy is more complex than happiness – more meaty – and it comes with work, with muscle. For me there a few different types of writerly joy. One is the pure, visceral, pleasure of being alone, silent, waiting for the right words to appear. It’s a quality of being present which I find hard to emulate in most other spheres of my life (where I’m always thinking about the next moment, the next task). Another joy is the moment of fluency, the almost blissful, trancelike state of words and images and scenes pouring out. The third, a quite different joy, is to do with editing. There’s a particular pleasure in crafting and sculpting words, finding the true shape of the story. I’ve come to love that part of the process more and more.

And, finally, can you tell us a bit more about your writing workshops in general, with the Faber Writing Academy and the Australian Writers Mentoring Program?

My starting place with most of my teaching is that craft can be taught, and it can be practised. Talent can’t be taught – but it can be coaxed and coached. My Faber classes are about crafting that novel, and providing opportunities for it to be the best novel you can write. I love that it’s part of Allen & Unwin, that students get to have input from the best publishers, agents and industry leaders in the country.  Mentoring is a one-to-one process, so a little different. In that process the mentor (we have eight mentors at the moment – screenwriters, YA writers, memoirists and novelists) works with the emerging writer side-by-side, focusing on the work in progress.

Book your place soon tickets for Kathryn’s workshop are selling fast!