May Writing Workshops

Due to fog and flight delays the Friday evening sessions were switched around. Our sincerest apologies for any inconvenience. Fortunately, Plains Fm recorded both sessions and have provided pod casts! Click here if you want to hear Selina Tusitala Marsh and click here to listen to Peter Simpson. Thanks Plains Fm!


Friday Evening, from 5.30pm

Tala Tusi – The Teller is the Tale

with Selina Tusitala Marsh!

Storyteller in Samoan is Tusitala. The matai (chiefs) gave this title to the beloved writer Robert Louis Stevenson when he lived in Samoa. In this session we will explore its inversion, Tala Tusi – that the teller is the tale. Pasifika poet-scholar Selina Tusitala Marsh will share how her grandfather’s name has been an ‘ala’, a pathway, in her writing journey, leading to the top of the Sacrarium Steps at Westminster Abbey when she wrote and performed a poem for Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, on behalf of the Commonwealth.

Followed by…

How to Tell the Story: Reflections on a Non-Fiction Narrative

with Peter Simpson!

Photo credit: Marti Friedlander

The best non-fiction books tell a story, only more potent for being factual. The elements of strong narrative are not reserved for fiction. Non-fiction authors wield structure and language in such a way that their books prove as addictive as any page-turner paperback. Learn from Ockham New Zealand Book Awards finalist, Peter Simpson, author of Bloomsbury South, about how he pulls together a story, crafting non-fiction narratives.


There’ll be a light supper between the two sessions and these will be more like seminars than workshops. You won’t need to be a writer to get something from the Friday evening sessions.

On the Saturday, however, you’ll need that special madness that comes with the territory, and also pen and paper, or a laptop, maybe even a few pages of your writing. These are serious workshops, people, for serious.

Saturday, from 9am

Bright and early, we start with…

Finding the Voice of your Character

with Carl Nixon

In this session, playwright and author Carl Nixon will share his methods (and madness?) for finding the voice of his characters. In theatre, of course, the entire story hangs upon the dialogue, but one might argue that the same is true of many novels, short stories and even poetry. Voice is not limited to the words between the speech marks, after all. But the words between the speech marks can make or break your story. Come along and learn from a master of this craft.

This will run at the same time as…

So you have your Beginning… or do you?

with Anna Mackenzie

In this hands-on workshop Anna Mackenzie will look at the perfect beginning… and where to from there. Anna writes contemporary, historic and speculative fiction for audiences from 9 to 90 (and possibly a little older). She knows how to lure a reader into her world, make them care about her characters, and keep them there through thick and thin. A strong opening to your story must do all of this and more. Come to this session with a beginning or two, and together we will sharpen up those writing tools.

After a short morning tea break…

Crafting a Tight Tale

with Ray Berard

Getting your novel to stand out in the big bad world of publishing relies on some key ingredients. In this session, 2016 Ngaio Marsh Debut Novel prizewinner Ray Berard will take us through his own method, from first draft to finished product. Ray worked with some top New Zealand literary people during the revision process and will pass on his experiences, focusing on…

  • The importance of editing and integrating others’ vision into your story without losing its integrity.
  • Getting your plot, dialogue, detail, and structure as close to technical perfection as possible.
  • Some realities of modern publishing and backing yourself in the current marketplace.

Inside the Dark Horse made its way onto The Listener’s top 100 books of 2015, and has been long listed for the Dublin International Literary prize for 2017, proving its worth in a competitive market. This session is designed to equip writers as they prepare their manuscripts for publishing.

This session runs from 11am till 12.30pm, at the same time as…

Suspending Disbelief

with Rachael Craw

Fiction can be the ultimate escape, and often times takes readers to places totally unlike the world we live in. In fiction we can break the laws of physics, change history, defy nature, but we mustn’t leave our readers behind. How does a writer make the unbelievable utterly believable? How do we charm readers into suspending their disbelief so that they’ll follow us (and our characters) no matter how far-fetched the story, how far-away the world?

Rachael Craw engenders fierce loyalty in her readers, in part because her books are so immersive, so convincing, despite, or even because of, their other-worldliness. This session will be of interest to any writer asking their readers to accept the unlikely.

And then, after lunch, we have…

Ready to Launch?

with Amy Paulussen, Mel Dixon and Adam Hayward

Writing is often seen as a solitary task but to send our work out into the world we need other people. In this session we will look at two different ways of launching our writing into the world. Amy Paulussen and Mel Dixon will focus on pitching to international literary agents and editors. Amy found interested publishers via a Twitter Pitch competition, and this led to her working with a New York literary agent. Mel won a mentorship with an Australian editor through a similar competition. But the traditional route is not for everyone, and we will have Adam Hayward from BOOSTED talking about the increasingly popular and effective route to publication: crowd-funding. Unlike other crowd-funding sites, BOOSTED is specifically for the Arts in New Zealand and offers great support to their artists, with an incredible success rate.

Regardless of how you hope to publish, this session has something for you. We will look at the nitty-gritty of crafting a succinct pitch, and at the broader picture of how best to share yourself and your work with those who might contribute to your journey as an author.

This runs from 1.30pm till 3pm, at the same time as…

Plotting with Intent to Murder

with Vanda Symon!

Who doesn’t love a well-woven mystery, a treasure-hunt, a chance to play detective? But pulling together all the threads of a good mystery takes some serious planning and plotting. Who better to learn from than Murder Mystery writer Vanda Symon? At this session we will craft motives, means and opportunities, plant clues and follow trails. A good mystery can give your narrative a back bone, almost regardless of genre and category, so if you want to keep your reader guessing and enthralled, come along to this workshop!

We’d like to take this opportunity to thank Marianne and Rachel at WORD Christchurch Writers and Readers Festival for their help and support with ticketing and promotions. You guys are the best!

Then What?

The workshops will be followed by the New Zealand Society of Author’s National AGM. Free entry, all welcome, and we promise to put on a stellar afternoon tea which, after all those writing workshops, you’ll have earned! The meeting won’t be lengthy, just a few formalities and a quick run-down of how things are going around the country, a bit of reporting, a dash of democracy, if you agree say ‘aye’, that sort of thing.

And then—and then!—for a cherry on the top of the whole shebang…

The Dinner!

This year’s feasting and festivities will be held at Formaggio’s Restaurant, just a hop, skip and a jump along Colombo Street from The Malthouse Theatre.



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