I'm back from Fiona McIntosh's Commercial Fiction Masterclass.
You'd think as a writer, I'd have plenty of words to describe the intensive 5 days. There are many words but none of them seem adequate to encapsulate the experience.
Leaving my family to spend the longest time I've ever been alone in 14 years was quite a commitment. Let's not pretend it was all sad. There may have been some fist-pumping as I approached the airport. Reading a book, on my own? Hallelujah!
My husband managed the four kids, all their activities, school paperwork and assorted dramas, just fine. He may have even enjoyed moments.
I got to be in a room with 15 other aspiring novelists. Some further down the track than others, but all of us nervous, excited, insecure about our abilities, hopeful of one day having a book on a shelf (other than our own bookshelf), and ultimately all of us had an overwhelming desire to write.
It took all of five minutes in Fiona's company to feel at ease. She was self-assured, driven and enthusiastic but she was equally kind, compassionate and supportive of where we all sat. For she, 17 years ago, sat in the same place, being instructed by the brilliant Bryce Courtney.
We learnt technical writing skills - plot, character, emotion, pace - things we probably all knew in some form already but Fiona's delivery and explanations were full of humour and practical application. It wasn't simply her knowledge and experience over 34 books that made this class different, it was her genuine care, as though we were all orphans she was trying to find a home for! Or perhaps the manuscripts are the homeless ones... looking for a family to call their own.
I left after 5 days, almost sad to leave, but fired up. I know how to fix my novel now. The hard works begins but I have an arsenal of ammunition to attack Draft 1.
I was humbled by Fiona's generosity and her genuine care for each and every one of us. She was like our personal cheerleader when we had to pitch our stories to a commissioning editor. I felt like I should have packed a spare pair of pants that day ...
If there's only one course you do, I'd say this is the one. It doesn't come cheap (and I was super fortunate to have been awarded the scholarship by Fiona & Dymocks which I will forever be grateful for), but it is worth every cent. To get the best out of the experience, you need to know that commercial fiction is what you want to write, and have a manuscript, or at least the beginning of one, to work on.
Can't wait to sink my teeth into my novel!