I first met Fiona McIntosh at my local library where she was giving a talk about her novel The Lavender Keeper. It had been chosen as part of Get Reading’s “Top 50 Books You Can’t Put Down” for 2013. She was a dynamic speaker and I was enthralled as she detailed her process of researching and writing The Lavender Keeper, keeping the audience often in stitches.
But what really caught my attention was when she spoke about Bryce Courtney. She said that he had run, for a good part of his career, commercial fiction masterclasses where he taught beginner writers everything he knew about the craft and the industry. Fiona had been one of his students and had taken all of his advice and put it into her breakout novel Betrayal.
When Bryce was diagnosed with terminal cancer, she told us that he had handed the masterclass baton to her, asking her to carry it on. It sounded so incredible, my gut instinct said “I have to go to that masterclass!”
I contacted Fiona via her website and was able to secure a spot in the September 2014 masterclass (a year from the time I had booked) and a long wait ensued.
By the time September came around again, I had a first draft of a manuscript written and was full of enthusiasm not only for the class but for my visit to South Australia (I had never been before).
Basically, the masterclass was the best five days of my life and worth every penny! I met other passionate writers from all over Australia who were kind and encouraging. Fiona covered everything in the class from character and plot to pitching and the current state of the publishing industry. There were many writing exercises which we were encouraged to read aloud (which I did, but with my heart fluttering in my chest). It’s not easy to read aloud something you’ve written in ten minutes and not been able to edit at all! But I did it.
We were given to opportunity to pitch our novel to a publisher and Fiona read our opening ten pages of our novel and gave critique (both priceless opportunities!)
I went away feeling validated, encouraged, championed and that anything was possible, as the Masterclass mascot Buzz Lightyear would say, “To infinity and beyond”.