I’ve just returned from an amazing time at the QWC/Hachette Development Program. This program is run each year by the Queensland Writers’ Centre in conjunction with Hachette and gives selected applicants the opportunity to meet one on one with a publisher and receive feedback on their manuscript.
There were so many highlights over the five days it’s hard to know where to start. The friendly and supportive staff from QWC (thanks Aimee, Kate and Sara) organised a welcome dinner where the 9 participants were able to meet each other in a relaxed environment before the “real” stuff began. The meetings and workshops were held in the Writers’ Centre itself, a calm space in the beautiful Library where we could go to recover, research or write when the formalities of each day were over. The short walk from our accommodation to the Centre over the river and the Kurilpa bridge was a great start to each day, passing the blooming poinsettia trees while pondering what the day would bring. It was a great walk home too, either after the day’s sessions or our group dinners, when we had the opportunity to share our writing experiences, thoughts on the program and life in general.
Connecting with other writers is always so important and even though all of us were writing in different styles and came from a variety of backgrounds our common writing experience drew us together and allowed us to really gel over the weekend. Hearing excerpts from each other’s work helped us get a grip on everyone’s writing and allowed us to get a much better idea of the range of writing the program covers.
Left to Right Back Row: Nicole Cody, Pamela Cook, Nicola Alter, Carolyn Daniels. Front row: Ross Davies, Fiona Balint, Alethea Kinsela, Susan Johnson, Inga Simpson
Of course the one-on-one session with the publisher was both nail biting and exciting. Our manuscripts had been divided between the publishers – Vanessa Radnidge, Bernadette Foley and Jon Appleton – according to the genre they generally work in. It was a relief to discover that publishers aren’t the scary monsters we writers sometimes perceive them to be. They are very human and keenly interested in publishing quality manuscripts from emerging writers. Like us they have to work within the constraints of the publishing industry and are feeling the impact of shrinking fiction sales and bookshop closures. It was wonderful to actually find out what’s working in my manuscript and what’s not rather than receiving the standard rejection letter with zero information. We now all have the opportunity to work on our manuscripts guided by feedback from an industry professional.
There were a number of really useful sessions: Digital Publishing, by Simon Groth from if:Book (www.futureofthebook.org.au), a think take on the future of the book; Inside the Publishing Industry which included the role of the agent by Sophie Hamley from Cameron Cresswell Agency – another great demystifying session (thanks Sophie); Writing Workshops from Sci Fi writer Trent Jamieson (www.trentjamieson.com). Trent has had three books published by Hachette over the last year and had plenty of useful tips. The QWC staff filled in the gaps and were able to answer any questions we had about the industry, the writing life and where to go from here.
Overall it was an immensely valuable experience, one which I would recommend to any writer aiming to improve their manuscript and who wants to find out more about how the publishing industry operates. It’s a time of enormous change in the industry but people still want good stories and still want to read great books so for me it’s back to the manuscript, pen in hand, for further revision.
For more information on the program go to:
Queensland Writers Centre http://www.qwc.asn.au/
Hachette Australia http://www.hachette.com.au/