Kat Muscat Fellowship

In 2019, I was lucky enough to be chosen as the Kat Muscat Fellow, an annual award given by Express Media to a writer under the age of 30 to support an editorial project or work that embodies Kat’s legacy of feminism, defiance and empathy.

More information about the Fellowship here

I was also invited to speak at the Blue Breakfast, an annual breakfast in partnership with Beyond Blue to raise funds for the fellowship and to tackle stigma and discrimination and promote good mental health.

Blue Breakfast Speech

[Transcript]

My name is Liana Skrzypczak. I am adopted from Korea into a Polish-Australian family, hence the incredibly long and confusing last name. I want to stress that my writing has always been influenced by this mixed cultural heritage. AndThe Lore of Jeju, the project I have been working on with the assistance and support of this amazing fellowship, is no different.

The Lore of Jeju seemed ambitious on the outset. I wanted 1) an all-Korean 2) female cast, existing in a world where 2) sexual fluidity is the norm and where the 3) magic system was not based on the well worn paths of euro-centric mythology. Some would say ambitious, other would say stupid. But I believed all the above stated aims were incredibly important. And so I pushed ahead and began to consider how I might pull off this story.

I’d recently been inspired by the way writers like Naomi Alderman who wrote The Power managed to create a world where a female dominant power system was the norm. Other novels which manage to create their own micro-cultures within them were island novels like Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater or Sea Hearts by Margo Lanagan. In these books, the literal boundaries of an island allowed the author to create societal rules and beliefs that pushed the readers conception of ‘normal’ in whichever direction the author wanted.

So, I began to look for likely island cultures on which to base my East-Asian, matriarchal, all-female, kick-ass cast on. And it didn’t take too long before I was reading all about the history of Jeju-do, a rugged volcanic island off the south coast of Korea, which, while known for its abundant waters and fertile soil, has a fascinating history. It was used for political prisoners during the Joseon Dynasty (1392 – 1910). It was the place of brutal mass killings of communist sympathisers in 1948 leading up to the Korean War. It’s where the infamous Haenyeo ‘sea-women’, free-divers of Jeju are famous for risking their lives to dive the rugged coastline without oxygen tanks in search of seafood to provide for their families. Jeju-do is known for its matriarchal legacy because of this.

So, I had my potential setting. Next, I needed an inciting incident: a profound circumstance that would drive the plot. I was dwelling on this problem on a 9-hour drive from Melbourne to Adelaide where my family lives and saw a fallen tree. It was the strangest shape, hollowed, looked like a piece of windswept driftwood. I began to think, driftwood –> Island –> imagine if the driftwood arrived on the island but was not a piece of driftwood at all but a vessel for carrying something… or someone. A person –> An exile –> A prisoner exiled on a one-way current to a treacherous island of women who’ve been exiled for the same thing. But what?

Murdering men? Yes, I thought. I can do something with that. Then, I thought, what if this particular piece of driftwood contained a man? The first to set foot on the island since its inception. What would happen to him?

So, this became the basis for my premise as follows:

On an island of women exiled for the crime of killing men, one of these women, Shin, wants nothing more than to escape and reap revenge for those who wronged her. When a Prince rocks up in a magic driftwood casket, exiled for pissing off his father, King Suro, the one responsible for the women’s exile, he must make a bid for his life. Will Shin be able to forgive Jae-Sun for the wrongdoings of the men who took away her people’s freedom? Will Jae-sun be able to prove that he’s not his father? Will they be able to conjure a plan of escape? Will they fight for a revolution? Together.

So already, I had a premise which involved two characters whose desires and beliefs are in direct opposition. But it quickly became apparent to me that this skeleton outline was missing a heartbeat. Which led me to my application for this fellowship, which involved money to fund a research trip to Jeju Island to visit the locations I had in mind for key scenes within the novel.

As soon as I set foot on the rugged volcanic coastline, I realised in all my research, I hadn’t even begun to scratch the surface of what Jeju has to offer. Everything I needed to embellish this brutal and beautiful world was right there in front of me.

Yes, I was that suspect tourist running around gathering all the sensory details one can’t get from online research. Yes, I was the one hanging off the side of a cliff just to get a photo of an interesting fungi growing from a rotting tree carcass. I spent an entire day in the Natural History Museum using google translate on my phone to decipher information on traditional earthwork, stone masonry, thatching, food culture, boat building, herbal medicine, flora, fauna everything there was to know about geography, geology, cosmology, weather, folk lore, clothing, music, customs etc. Yes, I was the one telling everyone to shush while I made voice memos of bird songs. My friend really thought I’d lost it when she turned to see me saying “Anyeonghaseyo!” to a nest of ants and asking them to identify themselves because I couldn’t find them in the guidebook.

I am a writer whose themes have always been deeply connected to setting and place. Without this fellowship, how would I have knownthe sheer force of buffeting winds on Mount Hallasan’s volcanic cone. The smell of rotting clumps of miyeok on the foreshore, or the specific cadence of the Haenyeo “Leyeo Leyeo Leyeodo Sana”work song.

How would I have come up with the saying: “She is suffering from a single cloud rain” to describe a passing sadness if I hadn’t experiencedthe Jeju phenomenon of a torrential downpour that lasts only handful of seconds?

How would I have come up with the saying: ‘She is like a splintered rice paddy in drought’ to describe the condition of ‘yearning’ for freedom if I didn’t see the effects of rice farming on the soil due to a lack of fresh water or irrigation options.

This fellowship allowed me to engage all five senses authentically and to ensure Shin-young’s story wasn’t a skeleton without a soul. 

Thank you:

To Roz, Maddy and Michael—from the moment I met you at lunch just prior to embarking on my trip, your warmth, generosity and genuine passion for this project was invigorating. I can’t tell you how much it means to have that. And also, you guys give the best hugs. To the rest of the committee Tracy, Shawn, Elizabeth, Jo, Jessica, Zoe and the Express Media team Lucy, Beth, Ronnie, I know I have only met some of you, but I have heard of all of you and I feel as though I know you guys so well. Thank you for your tireless work in the arts community and for those of you at Express Media and the Wheelers Centre, thank you for running such amazing institutions.

To Beyond Blue—thank you for the work you do with changing stigmas around mental health in so many areas. From the arts, to, for example, education, which happens to be my day job. I recently attended a professional development workshop where one of your representatives left us with the timely reminder that: “Everyone has mental health needs. Mental health is a spectrum and we are all included in it.” Thank you for the work that you do.

Finally, I wanted to say thank you to Kat for founding a legacy of feminism, empathy and defiance—a mantra I am holding close while drafting this work. It’s a powerful thing to be able to ignite a community of creatives around important themes like these and I have felt that power around me from the momentthis fellowship was announced on social media by the Wheeler Centre. Immediately, I was flooded with support from writers I’ve admired, but whom I’ve never met. From agents and publishers who reached out and showed that these themes matter on a larger industry scale. And from readers who told me this is the kind of book they’ve been searching for. That the lack of books that contain narratives about powerful East-Asian women, representation of LGBT romances, and fantastic worlds of a non-eurocentric origin isn’t a niche frustration, but a shared feeling amongst many.

NYWF – Implementing Professional Advice and Feedback

Interpreting and implementing Professional Advice and Feedback­

*Fact sheet prepared for National Young Writers Festival, Sydney, September 2016

Downloadable PDF

Reading is highly subjective and so finding the right set of eyes to give feedback on a new piece of writing can be both instructive and detrimental, making the process of interpreting and implementing feedback daunting for any writer.

Listed below are sources of feedback a writer might expect to receive:

Writing mentor:

One of the most valuable and accurate sources of feedback can come from a writing mentor (see blog post ‘Professional Mentorships’ for more information on sourcing a mentorship). This process guarantees personalised and targeted feedback from a professional in the field who may be working in a similar style and genre for a target audience. Forms of feedback can include industry, structural, copy or proof as well as general personal support (as outlined in next section).

In-house editor / publisher / agent:

If you’re at the stage where you have gained the attention of an in-house editor or publisher, some agents and publishers will request a ‘revise and submit’ from an author before signing them. This is as much to identify how well an author receives feedback as it is to determine how successfully they can integrate that feedback into their manuscript.

Critique partner / critique group / beta-readers:

This is a great way to ‘cast the net wide’ and collect the opinions of a sample of readers. Sometimes the collective opinions of a group can help a writer better identify any weaknesses / trends in their work. Formal critique partners can be sourced through most writing institutions such as state writing centres, Australian Society of Authors and through writing memberships such as Romance Writers of Australia.

Freelance Editor:

Freelance feedback services are available from most writing institutions (State Writers Centres, Australian Society of Authors) and come at a cost. Rates vary depending on the editor and the type of service (structural or other). The South Australian ‘Society of Editors’ has a list of registered editors on their website and the kinds of services they offer. Registered means that each editor has undergone and passed state standards to receive qualification. http://www.editors-sa.org.au/

Manuscript assessment services:

Manuscript assessment is usually a combination of industry, structural, copy advice on a manuscript, with a focus on the big-picture—content, voice, tone, style, plot pace, characterisation, setting, dialogue, market, audience, theme. More on these categories outlined below.

Types of advice that may be contracted or received:

Industry advice:

  • Will the story idea appeal to the market in which it’s intended?
  • Does the story idea identify a target audience in tone, theme, voice, plot, character?
  • Does the story idea hold its own in the current marketplace? (Has it been overdone? Does it offer something new? Is it following a trend?)

Structural advice:

  • How does the work read as a whole?
  • Are events logical and consistent?
  • Are there any obvious plot holes?
  • Does the world/setting/characters work? Do the characters and relationships work?
  • Does the book begin/end in a satisfactory manner?
  • Does the author’s choice of tense and voice work?

Copy advice:

  • Is spelling, grammar consistent and accurate?

Personal advice:

  • Personal advice, usually given in an informal fashion (through mentorships, discussion panels). May include advice on how to handle rejection, stress, career pressures. This can be just as important as craft, industry and career advice to some writers.

Some thoughts on interpreting and implementing feedback

It is important to be open to feedback in order to learn and improve. However, being too influenced by feedback, or making uninformed changes based on mixed feedback can confuse and water down the intended effect of a particular work. It is important to develop a strong sense of intention before approaching feedback so that subjective opinion may be strategically and implemented or considered and, sometimes, disregarded.

Remember, as Neil Gaiman stated:

“…when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.”

https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/477087-remember-when-people-tell-you-something-s-wrong-or-doesn-t-work

NYWF – Professional Mentorships

Sourcing and Engaging in a Professional Mentorship

*Fact sheet prepared for National Young Writers Festival, Sydney, September 2016

Downloadable PDF

Why should I get a mentor?

Mentorships aren’t for everyone. Some writers may not feel the need to engage with a mentor in a formal sense—the advice, encouragement and support of trusted advisors, friends, colleagues might be enough. But in some cases, a mentorship may be a way to access specialised/in-depth/targeted advice on a specific area of interest or difficulty. In these cases, a professional mentorship might be worth considering.

What kind of advice can I expect to gain from a writing mentor?

There are many different kinds of mentorships available to writers, from project development mentorships to industry advice. Perhaps you are working on a science-fiction manuscript and want to improve the world-building elements, or you have a polished manuscript and want to know where to send it. Whatever the area of interest or difficulty, there are knowledgeable people out there who are willing to help.

Where can I source a mentorship?

Mentorships can be privately sourced (see info under ‘how do I approach a mentor?’), or sourced through professional institutions and awards. See list below:

  1. Australian Society of Authors Emerging Writers’ and Illustrators’ Mentorship Program supported by Copyright Agency Cultural Fund

https://www.asauthors.org/asa-mentorships

Professional advice for emerging writers and illustrators on strengthening a manuscript to publication standard for an elected number of hours over an agreed time period.

  1. Hachette Mentoring Program

An opportunity to work with an in-house editor at Hachette Australia on a manuscript

South Australia: https://sawriters.org.au/2015/05/19/south-australian-hachette-mentoring-program/

Western Australia: http://www.writingwa.org/programmes-services/hachette-mentoring-program-for-writers/

Northern Territory: http://www.ntwriters.com.au/news/hachette-mentorship-program/

Tasmania: http://www.taswriters.org/tasmanian-writers-centre-and-hachette-mentoring-program/

  1. Valerie Parv Award

1-year mentorship for a romance author to work with award-winning writer, Valerie Parv

http://www.romanceaustralia.com/p/110/Valerie-Parv-Award

  1. Affirm Press Mentorship award

http://www.varuna.com.au/varuna/index.php/programs/residential-programs/pathways-publication/item/342-the-affirm-press-mentorship-award

  1. Writers’ Centre Programs

South Australia – https://sawriters.org.au/mentorship-program/

Victoria – https://writersvictoria.org.au/support/mentorships

New South Wales – http://www.nswwc.org.au/support-for-writers/mentorship-program/

How do I approach a mentor?

Before applying for a mentorship or choosing a mentor, the applicant should identify what they want to gain from the process. A mentor will want to know that they are the best person for the job and that they will be able to provide the kind of advice being sought. Mentorship programs won’t consider an application unless they believe a specific outcome can be successfully achieved.

For privately sourced mentorships, the success of an application can lie in the strength of the query letter. Some authors will make it very clear on their website that they are not available for mentorships. It’s always good to do your research and find out if they’ve taken mentees before—which can be a positive indication that they would be open to doing so again.

What should I include in a query letter?

  1. Identifiable and relevant details about yourself
  2. Clear explanation of why you’ve approached the mentor including examples that express an understanding of the mentor’s strengths and expertise
  3. A detailed mentorship plan including SMART goals (measurable outcomes, timelines, mode of correspondence). More on SMART goals here: https://www.projectsmart.co.uk/smart-goals.php
  4. Details on how you’re going to recompense the author for their time and expertise. Rates can be found on the Australian Society of Authors (approximately 100 per hour).
  5. Should you be considering applying for a grant to cover the costs of the mentorship, details of grant should be supplied so that mentor can prepare relevant support letters and references. See more information about grants and funding opportunities below.

How do I fund a privately sourced mentorship?

Sourcing the right mentor is one thing, but finding a way to recompense them for their time and expertise can be the tricky part. Below is a list of grants that are specifically designed to support authors with mentorship opportunities (Apologies in advice for the South Australian focus of this blog post. Similar funding bodies can be found in each state):

Arts funding bodies in SA include:

  1. CARCLEW:

https://carclew.com.au/Funding-Program/ProjectandDevelopmentGrants

https://carclew.com.au/Funding-Program/fellowships

https://carclew.com.au/Funding-Program/quickstart-loans

  1. ARTS SA:

http://arts.sa.gov.au/grants/emerging-artists-mentorships-impp/

http://arts.sa.gov.au/grants/professional-development-imp/

  1. Copyright Agency Ignite Career Fund:

http://copyright.com.au/culturalfund/career-fund/career-fund-guidelines/

  1. Quick Response Grants:

http://www.adelaidecitycouncil.com/your-council/funding/community-development-funding/

https://www.countryartswa.asn.au/our-services/funding/quick-response-grant/

  1. Local council grants (eg: City of Salisbury):

http://www.salisbury.sa.gov.au/Council/Grants_and_Awards/Grants

  1. University Alumni grants (eg: Flinders University):

http://www.flinders.edu.au/research/researcher-support/grants-contracts/

So, you’ve successfully secured a mentorship, now what?

Now it’s time to move on to my blog post on interpreting and implementing professional advice and feedback, which will outline what to expect when working with a mentor, editor, publisher on a manuscript or project.

Mentorship with Sean Williams thanks to Carclew PD grant

It’s official – 2016 is going to be a good year!

I just found out I have been awarded a $3000 grant to develop a YA fantasy novel under the tutelage of New York Times best-selling author, Sean Williams, commencing January next year. Thank you to Carclew for their constant and enduring support of the creative arts and for backing my proposal.

Now to morph into the biggest knowledge sponge over the new year.

For all those looking for a dependable funding body for their creative pursuits, I definitely recommend Carclew.

See information on their project development grants here.

For a full list of the 2016 round 1 recipients click here.

 

Feature image: Assisted by the South Australian Government through Carclew.

Thank you SA Life Magazine and SA Writers Centre

Was very excited to get a text message from a workmate last week saying: “Your photo is in the latest issue of SA Life! Page 44.” Lo and behold I went and bought myself a copy and found this!

SA life article SA Life article 2 SA Life cover

It’s an article about the South Australian Hachette mentoring program I received with in-house editor Sophie Hamley for my YA speculative fiction manuscript, Gold. A big thanks to Vanessa Jones at SA Writers Centre for making this happen. It’s lovely to get an acknowledgement in such a fancy magazine!

cited to

Hachette Mentoring Program Announcement!

I’m so stoked to be able to finally spill the beans. I’ve been chosen as a joint recipient of SA Writers Centre’s 2015 Hachette Mentoring Program alongside writer friend, Rose Hartley for my YA speculative fiction manuscript tentatively entitled Gold. Here’s what ran through my head after finding out the news. *See SA Writers Centre Press Release for full article.

Hachette Logo

“When I found out I’d be commencing a mentorship with Sophie Hamley from Hachette, I spent a good hour just hyperventilating from excitement. It was clear that this could be the most important learning opportunity in my writing journey so far.

To me, writing has always been a solitary process – highly creative, subjective, and extremely hard to contextualise within the realities of the publishing industry. Who’s my market audience? What’s my brand? These are not typically the questions running through my mind while I’m at home, alone, lost in a fantasy world, shooting my characters with ice arrows.

But the more I’ve learnt about writing and reading, the more I’ve come to realise that craft and industry go hand-in-hand. Sometimes the difference between a highly ‘creative person’ and a ‘novelist’ can be the mere integration of these two skills. This is why the chance to work with an industry professional from an established brand with a target audience in mind will be invaluable to my learning. It will give me the clarity and confidence to take my writing to a new level and bring me one step closer to my goal of sharing my stories real-life readers.

I can’t thank SA Writers Centre, Sophie Hamley and Hachette enough for this invaluable opportunity. It’s safe to say I’ve never been so eager to work so hard!”

An interview with Liana Skrzypczak

DUBNIUM

Liana Skrzypczak is an emerging fantasy fiction writer whose first novel, White Horse, was shortlisted for the Impress Prize for new writing talent. She has since commenced publication with Harlequin and is now working on a sequel to this work, The Zoo, which she hopes to complete by the end of 2014. When she’s not shooting her characters with ice arrows, she’s confusing people with her mixed heritage (being adopted from Korea into a Polish family living in Australia). In what little spare time she has left, you can also find her surfing, relief teaching, talking to herself in Spanish, running around after children at her local OSHC and answering phones for her dad’s kitchen business. More on her adventures at her blog and on Facebook.

She took the time to have a chat with one of our editors, Sam Prior.

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