Getting the backstory on writing and publishing

May 7, 2019

The Cultural Fund has once again funded Express Media’s Toolkits 12-week mentoring program for writers under 30, underway now in three genres, and seeking applications in early June for two further streams: Poetry and Digital Storytelling.

Toolkits helps young writers develop their skills in a unique online environment, with facilitators and guest authors Zoya Patel, Mira Schlosberg,Jennifer Down,Jamie Marina Lau, Rachel Ang, Eloise Grills, Carly Findlay, Jesse Cole, Alison Evans, Alice Chipkin and Tava Tavassoli.

The current writers are being mentored by authors in Memoir, Graphic Narratives and Fiction and several sessions are also open to the public via the Express Media Toolkits Live streaming sessions.

The following sessions are coming up soon:

  • 29 May – Collaborative Storytelling with Alice Chipkin and Tava Tavassoli
  • 13 June – The voice of reason: Dialogue, point-of-view and perspective with Alison Evans

Tamworth (NSW) poet and essayist Fiona Murphy, who was born profoundly deaf in her left ear and since her late twenties has been losing hearing in her right ear due to otosclerosis, took part in the Toolkits program last year.

Fiona’s work has appeared in Kill Your Darlings, Overland and Meanjin, amongst others and she has been awarded many fellowships.

In this Q and A, she says the program was highly valuable in helping her to develop a manuscript.

1) How has the Toolkits program helped you with your writing?

Classroom environments have become increasingly difficult for me to participate in due to my limited hearing. Toolkits was an accessible platform for me to engage in a writing group. This allowed me to focus on my writing without having to waste energy self-advocating for access. As a disabled writer this is a rare experience.

The program focused on developing concrete non-fiction writing skills, which I was able to apply to my work straight away. This included writing craft (pacing, tone, structure), interview technique and research skills.

Having access to industry professionals helped to demystify the publishing process. I’ve applied their advice to my pitches and funding applications, which has resulted in several publications and fellowships. The skills I developed during Toolkits will continue to aid me throughout my writing career.

2) Has anything you written during the program been further developed into a book or other published form?

I started the 2018 Toolkits Non-Fiction program with a long list of ideas and several notebooks of research about deafness. During the program these ideas coalesced into a book outline, which I used as a roadmap to write a manuscript. This manuscript went on to be shortlisted for the 2018 Richell Prize and Highly Commended in The Wheeler Centre Next Chapter Fellowship.

I’ve since been awarded a Writers Victoria Publishability Fellowship, WestWords Emerging Writers Fellowship, Wheeler Centre Hot Desk Fellowship and a Griffith Review Varuna Residency, which will allow me to polish my manuscript before I submit it to interested publishers later this year.

3) Is the Toolkits program valuable for emerging writers? Why?

As an emerging writer it can be difficult to navigate the publishing industry. Toolkits taught me the basic building blocks to develop a professional writing career, more importantly it also gave me access to the writing community. Writing can feel like a lonely pursuit. Toolkits enabled me to meet young writers from around Australia. These friendships continue to form the basis of my writing support network.

Fiona is currently working on a collection of essays about her experiences being a deaf woman working in healthcare.