Tag Archives: Workshops

Workshop Reminder – How to Use History in your Novel

Just a late reminder that Gillian Polack is presenting a workshop tomorrow at the Gorman Arts Centre. No guarantees that places are still available but if you are interested check the contact details at the bottom of the post.

How to Use History in Your Novel with Gillian Polack

10am-4pm Saturday 9 July

This course takes the concepts and practical advice developed from twelve years of research into how fiction writers use history and condenses it into a single day of intensive learning.

At the heart of using history in fiction is the type of novel and the world it requires. In this course you will examine this, and then look at what kinds of history and historical research work best with what kind of novel. Gillian will discuss the differences between the past the reader sees and the one the historian knows and how writers can bridge this gulf (or choose not to). You will also look at writing techniques you can use to make history come to life.

Learning outcomes

  • An understanding of the relationship between history and the novel
  • An understanding of how the world of the novel impacts on the novel itself and how it can work to carry readers into the story.
  • An understanding of writing and research techniques that can be used to help create novels.


Gillian Polack has five published novels, two anthologies, a co-authored book about the Middle Ages, seventeen short stories, and a historical cookbook. One of the novels (Ms Cellophane/Life through Cellophane) was a Ditmar Finalist, as was one of the anthologies (Baggage). She was awarded the Best Achievement Ditmar in 2010.

She has PhDs in Medieval History and in Creative Writing and advises writers on subjects ranging from grammar to the Middle Ages. She has recently finished a major project on how writers think of history and how they use it in their fiction. Gillian has received two writing fellowships at Varuna, arts grants, and is in demand at SF conventions because she carries chocolate most of the time.

Cost: $130 members, $105 concessional members, $195 non-members (includes 12 months of membership), $155 concessional non-members (includes 12 months of membership)
Venue: E Block Seminar Room, Gorman Arts Centre (formerly ACT Writers Centre workshop room)
Bookings: You can book into this course online or by calling 6262 9191. If you have any queries, please email admin@actwriters.org.au.

Members News – April – May 2016


The Australian Horror Writers Association recently announced the winners for the 2015 Australian Shadows Awards, representing the very best in horror works produced by Australian and New Zealand writers in the calendar year of 2015. CSFG members taking home the incredibly cool Shadow Award statues this year included:

We should also give a shout-out to Marty Young’s Blurring the Lines, which won the Shadow Award for Best Edited Work and includes stories by CSFG members…wait for it…Alan Baxter and Kaaron Warren.

Professional development

Leife Shallcross and Rob Porteous are both pleased to announce this week that they have been accepted into ACT Writers Centre ‘Hardcopy 2016’ professional development program for writers. Congratulations to Leife and Rob, and for any of our local members looking for some assistance with their novel manuscripts in 2017, check out the Hardcopy program.

Games and Interactive Fiction

A number of CSFG members are pursuing non-traditional writing gigs you may not have considered.

Matthew Farrer, Elizabeth Fitzgerald and Rik Lagarto all contributed to Under Quarantine, an expansion book for the Through the Breach roleplaying game from the Wyrd games company.

Felicity Banks  has written several new interactive fiction adventures recently:


Dawn Meredith’s The Boy Who Went to War, a five-year project written in collaboration with 92 year old WWII veteran Jim Haynes, will be launching soon if you happen to be near the Blue Mountains: 2:00 pm on 30th April 30th at Wentworth Falls School of Arts.

The launch of Gillian Polack’s most recent work The Wizardry of Jewish Women has been deferred due to ill health and publication problems. Hopefully it’s no more than a temporary pause. (And get well soon Gillian!)

Workshops and Short Courses

Chris Andrews will be presenting a new short course at CIT Solutions this semester: Creating Compelling Characters. If you need to spice up your characters and turn them into people your readers will love (or hate!), check out Chris’ course.

Craig Cormick is presenting a free session at Gungahlin Library on Wednesday, 27 April, talking about “How to Make a Short Story Better”. Unfortunately the session is completely booked out, but keep an eye on the Gungahlin Library site for similar upcoming events.

2016 workshops

Canberra and Canberra-adjacent members should check out the newly-updated Workshops and Courses page.

You will find details of a number of short courses for writers being offered in the first half of 2016 by CSFG members Chris Andrews, Ian McHugh and Gillian Polack.

Members’ news – October to December 2015

CSFG members have been busy as usual – here’s the latest news. Congratulations in particular to everyone who picked up various awards and gongs! And here’s to a bountiful and successful writing year in 2016!

Short story

Alan Baxter has enjoyed a few publications in an end-of-year rush:

Alan also has a heap of stuff coming out next year:

  • “Under Calliope’s Skin” – SNAFU: Future Warfare anthology (ed. Geoff
    Brown and A J Spedding, Cohesion Press, due Feb. 2016)
  • “Served Cold” – Dreaming in the Dark anthology (ed. Jack Dann, PS
    Publishing, due 2016) (Novelette)
  • “Golden Fortune, Dragon Jade” – And Then… anthology (ed. Lindy Cameron,
    Clan Destine Press, due mid-2016) (Novelette)
  • “Crying Demon” – Suspended In Dusk 2 (ed. Simon Dewar, Books of the Dead
    Press, due mid-2016

Darren Goossen’s “Every Useless Parameter” is coming out soon in Kaleidotrope,

Tim Napper’s short story “A Strange Loop”, which the CSFG critiquing group helped him to polish, will appear in the next next Interzone (#262 – Jan/Feb).

Serial fiction

Kaaron Warren and Craig Cormick have serialised stories coming out over ten days during the Christmas & New Year period on the RiotAct website. This link takes you to Part One.


Elizabeth Dunk (the nom de plume of Nicole Murphy) has the third in her series of contemporary romances Much Ado About Love coming out on 5 January 2016.

Gillian Polack has sold her novel Secret Jewish Women’s Business, to Satalyte. Gillian describes it as “a very Australian feminist Jewish novel with magic and superpowers and bushfires”.


The Wheeler Centre has commissioned new CSFG member Nalini Haynes to write a piece on disability: “Eye and Prejudice: A vision for equity

Chris Large recently interviewed Ann Leckie for Aurealis #86 (the current issue). He also spoke with Trudi Canavan about the release of her new novel Angel of Storms. That interview will appear early in 2016 when Aurealis goes global.

Gillian Polack study of the past decade or so will be going to press sometime in 2016. History and Fiction: Writers, their Research, Worlds and Stories. Several CSFG writers were interviewed in the early stages of this and are quoted.

Awards and Honours

Alan Baxter is going to be the Special Guest at Conflux 12 in October 2016.

Donna Maree Hanson is about to commence a PHD in Creative Writing at the University of Canberra; her topic will be Feminism in Popular Romance.

Nalini Haynes recently graduated with an Associate Degree in Professional Writing and Editing. Her grades were sufficiently high to attract an invitation to join the Golden Key International Honours Society.

Chris Large’s story “Future Me, Future Her” was highly recommended by the SciFi Film Festival and won a Dimension6 encouragement award at the ceremony.

C.H. (Celia) Pearce won the Marjorie Graber-McInnis Short Story Award for a speculative short story titled “Torvald’s Year”.  The ACT Writers Centre will publish the story on their blog and in their magazine early next year.


Gillian Polack teaches creative writing course through Belconnen Community Service every Wednesday morning during term.

Gillian also has a number of courses available through the Australian National University Centre for Continuing Education:

(These will all go on the Workshops and Courses page soon)

Members’ new – August/September 2015

We have comparatively little news to report this month – so little that I suspect we’ve missed something huge – but as usual CSFG members have been busily infiltrating the ranks of the world’s SFFH elite!

Short stories

Tim Napper is continuously his riotously busy writing year with sales of “A Strange Loop” to Interzone and “The Four Deaths of Taylor Ngo” to Straeon Magazine.

David Versace’s“Seven Excerpts from Season One” will appear in the At the Edge anthology from Paper Road Press in 2016. He has also sold a flash fiction piece “Incidental” to EGM Shorts.

Online Fiction

Justin Woolley’s experiment in diarised horror is now appearing online at Listening to the Other Side. New blog entries are appearing regularly.


Craig Cormick’s second book in the Shadow Master series, The Floating City, has been published by Angry Robot Press, and is being launched at Conflux 11 by Isobelle Carmody.

Gillian Polack’s newest novel is out soon from Satalyte Publishing. The Time of the Ghosts will be launching at Conflux 11 as well.


Gillian’s The Middle Ages Unlocked was launched at the Harry Hartog store to much acclaim in August and is now available in Australia. Gillian also has an article on Australian writing and criticism (specifically Indigenous Australian) in the forthcoming issue of Foundation. Finally Gillian has an article on Canberra and science fiction in Aurealis.

Chris Large also continues his contributions to Aurealis, with his interview in Issue #84 with Thoraiya Dyer. They discuss Thoraiya’s award winning story “Wine, Women and Stars” and her recently-announced three-book deal with Tor.


Tina Faulk was recently shortlisted for the Templeberg Writing Award. Congratulations Tina. It looks like a great prize!

Workshops and courses

Check out our page featuring forthcoming courses and workshops being conducted by CSFG members! As usual we have new stuff coming from Ian McHugh, Gillian Polack and others. (And we expect to add new courses soon!)

Conflux 11

Finally, a quick reminder that Conflux 11 is just a couple of weeks away, but there’s still plenty of time to buy memberships and make bookings for special events. CSFG will be launching its newest anthology The Never Never Land on Sunday 4 October at 5:30 pm. We hope we’ll see you there! (So many launches, you guys!)

Reminder about upcoming workshops

Several CSFG members are providing workshops in the next few months through the ACT Writers Centre.

Chris Andrews will be presenting Creating Compelling Novels on Saturday 25 July 2015.

Gillian Polack is doing an introduction to Fiction Writing and History on Saturday 1 August 2015.

Ian McHugh will present The Basics of Fiction Writing on Saturday 11 October 2015.

On top of that, the prolific Gillian Polack has a host of short courses and workshops upcoming at other venues:

Grammar Basics and The Perils of Punctuation at the NSW Writers Centre on Saturday 11 July 2015

From Gildas to the Grail – Discovering Medieval Arthur at ANU from 21 July to 8 September 2015 (Tuesday evenings)

Using the past to build your world – History for writers at ANU from 23 July to 10 September 2015 (Thursday evenings)

Heroes, magic and myth in the Middle Ages at ANU from 21 July to 13 October to 1 December 2015 (Tuesday evenings)

All the details are available on our Workshops and Courses page – bookings are by phone, email or online form.

Setting yourself up for rejection

Guest post by Ian McHugh

If you’re writing for publication, you’re going to encounter rejection a lot. As a short story writer, and even now that I’m selling most of my stories to professionally paying markets, my submissions still get rejected about nine times in every ten. So for my thirty-odd original sales, I have somewhere upwards of three hundred rejections. And it’s harder to sell novels than short stories.

So how do you cope with riding the all-stops bus to Rejection Central? A lot of people try to pretend that rejection doesn’t bother them, or play mental games with themselves to try and avoid the sting. I think that’s a mistake. Rejection feels awful and the prospect of failure is frightening. I think it’s better to be honest with yourself about that. I’ve touched on some of this before, and the basic mechanics of Step 2 for getting published (submit the damn thing), but here’s my rules for surviving as a writer: Read more →

Writing Retreats

Guest post by Donna Hanson

As writers we know that writing is all about the writer and the writing medium, be it pen and paper, keyboard and blank screen. Put in a nutshell, writing is the transferring of ideas from one’s head to the written word—a lonely endeavour that only other writers can understand.

But writing doesn’t haven’t be so isolating and such an endeavour. Other writers can make great buddies. They can talk about writing, critique your writing (in return for critiques of theirs) and write alongside you. What better way to do this than go on a writing retreat?

I’ve been on seven retreats now in different places in Victoria and New South Wales. I even went to one in New Zealand. We call ourselves Fantasy Writers on Retreat. And we are a bunch of writer friends who go on writing retreats once a year.

I find I’m at my most productive at a retreat. Except for one retreat, they have been two weeks in length. The core set of people have been the same, but others have come along to fill in gaps and have become core themselves. That continuity allows us to plan ahead when someone drops out or can’t make it one year.

Here are some tips if you are thinking of starting your own writing retreat group. Firstly, you need to find a bunch of writers and get to know them. If you write speculative fiction, the Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild has a bunch of writers, a really big bunch actually.

Read more →

Giving Writers a Hand

Guest post by Nicole Murphy

One of the great things about being a speculative fiction writer in Australia is the speculative fiction community and the way it supports and encourages writers of all levels.

Here in Canberra, there’s a couple of opportunities for people interested in writing spec fic to gather with others and not only talk writing, publishing, industry, but do courses, workshops and become better writers.

CSFG was established in 2000 and since then has grown to be one of the most active and interesting writing groups in Australia. Whether you write short stories or novels, there’s a part of the group that can help you write and polish your work. The monthly members’ meetings go into various types of writing craft and industry talk with sessions on things such as characterisation, self-publishing, robots and even writing sex scenes. (Ed: Go explore the website to find out more!)

The annual Conflux Science Fiction Convention is another opportunity for writers in Canberra. 9837 Conflux 10 LogoWriters from all over Australia converge to join in panels and discussions about writing, industry and our love of everything spec fic. There’s writing workshops and the opportunity to meet and pitch to editors. As a result of last year’s Conflux, a Canberra writer has signed with Angry Robot Books, one of the most famous publishers in the industry.

Then there’s the two brand new events happening this year which will make Canberra the focus of the speculative fiction publishing industry in Australia.

Read more →

The Elements of Novels

Guest post by Chris Andrews

Eleventeen years ago (clearly too many to count) I decided on a brilliant Get Rich Quick Scheme, or GRQS for complexity.

It involved writing a Number-One International Bestselling Novel and retiring before I’d left my teens.

To a kid without any real-world experience it seemed like a solid plan, but some years into it things weren’t working as well as I’d hoped. Ignorance can be just a little bit heartbreaking (just saying).

Ever the optimist I decided to do some actual learning in order to supercharge my GRQS.

A further three years and a university degree later I figured I knew everything there was to know about writing (you might like to refer back to my comment about ignorance just now).

Real Life also insinuated itself into my GRQS at that time. You know, the usual suspects:

  • girlfriend
  • marriage
  • mortgage
  • kids.

When the dust settled I blew it off the old manuscript and reignited my dreams of an early retirement.

Unfortunately, the manuscript was a mess, and not due to the dust.

Read more →