“I undertook Mark’s course ‘Writing the Real’ at the Centre for Continuing Education at the University of Sydney. The lectures were inspiring, and I was fortunate enough to have him agree to mentor me. It is a privilege to work with Mark: he takes me to places I simply couldn’t arrive at on my own. It might, for example, be altering a word/s or punctuation; restructuring a sentence, or a paragraph, or a chapter; advising me about what to cut and what to add; suggesting when to say things more lyrically and when to state them more plainly; or helping me to plot out the manuscript. Also, usefully, he has a very broad general knowledge.
Any criticism is pretty much painless because it is both constructive and delivered kindly, and always leads somewhere better. Essentially Mark combines a fine mind with a generous heart, and he is both analytical and emotionally resonant. I can’t think of anyone I’d rather be mentored by.”
Jane Lennon, mentored by Mark Tredinnick, 2017
For Kevin Smith, mentored by Mark Tredinnick in 2017, the experience has provided more than he expected. Kevin writes:
“I’m thinking about this kind of transformation that’s taking place in me. Well, in my writing. I’ve been working on a new poem, trying forms on it like opshop clothes, hoping something will fit. It’s been a joy – this constant play – chaperoning the dance taking place between content and its form. Some things you’ve said – some you’ve shown me – are really sinking in. Each time I’ve shifted to a new form, that form makes demands on the text – precisely as you’ve said – and the text is better for it. To watch that take place in my own poems is a marvel.
I’m hearing the beats more, too. A friend asked me if I’d write an occasional piece for her, for an Australia day event next year. I told her all the reasons why I’d find that difficult. So I sat at the desk that night and drafted a poem. It was rough, but there was something in it. I finished it the next morning. And its a sonnet – blank verse, bar the rhyming couplet. Where the hell did that come from, I wondered. But not for long. All this to say thank you, and that this mentorship with you is an experience rich beyond what I might have imagined!”
Kevin Smith, mentored by Mark Tredinnick, 2017
“Kathryn Heyman is a revelatory teacher. I love her directness, her honesty, her clarity and her humour. There is always laughter, sometimes an epiphany – literally I feel like I’ve heard the slud and slide of pieces/words/stories falling into place. She is brilliant, and each time I have gone away with the confidence to know what to do.”
Miranda Landgraaf, A Book of Untruths (Faber & Faber June 2017) mentored by Kathryn Keyman
“Kathryn’s experience in pinpointing issues for further work and suggesting new ways of looking at characters and plot points was incredibly helpful in my final drafting process. Reviewing and reworking scenes that we discussed added extra layers of richness and depth to the manuscript and her line edits helped me to present a much more professional manuscript to the publishers. Thank you again, Kathryn, for your wonderful insights and encouragement.”
Lisa Bigelow, We That Are Left (Allen and Unwin, 2017) mentored by Kathryn Keyman
“Being mentored by Toni Jordan played an invaluable role in me receiving a publishing contract for my writing. Toni was able to see the gaps in my work – in the voice, the pacing and the beauty of the sentences – that were letting it down. Her enthusiastic encouragement gave me renewed confidence in my ability to grapple with a major revision and her practical advice was instrumental in ensuring I was able to deliver the best possible manuscript to the publisher. I can’t thank her enough for her generosity, her constructive feedback and her thoughtful advice.”
Susi Fox, Mine (Penguin Random House, Jun 2018) mentored by Toni Jordan
Expressing gratitude seems a rather pale sentiment in comparison to what I would like to do for the mentoring provided by Kathryn Heyman of the Australian Writers Mentoring Program. I came to her with a mess of ill-fitting words and wild ideas, and she worked with me, on a monthly basis, to help me produce Dustfall. Not only was the process incredibly valuable to me as an emerging writer, it was also a whole lot of fun. It felt like psychotherapy for my characters and bootcamp for my structure. I could not recommend the process more highly, particularly for the writing of a first novel. I know I have Kathryn to thank for getting me ‘on the road’.
Michelle Johnston, Dustfall, mentored by Kathryn Heyman 2016, winner Hachette/QWC Manuscript Development Award, published by UWA Publishing (Feb 2018)
“Anyone working with Toni Jordan, who is prepared to listen and work hard, is giving themselves the best chance to get published. Toni immersed herself in my novel and was clear in her guidance on character, plot and structure. Her approach was structured, professional and always responsive. Most of all, Toni inspired and encouraged me. I’ve since secured a 2-book deal with Penguin Random House.”
Glenna Thomson, Blueberry (Penguin Random House) mentored by Toni Jordan
“I signed up for the Australian Writers Mentoring Program to force me to become disciplined with my writing, specifically finishing my first novel. Kathryn’s guidance was very valuable: pointing out character flaws, plot holes, and pace issues. Her experience with novel writing has provided me an infinite number of tools to help my book become polished and hopefully publishable. Kathryn was always warm and enthusiastic throughout our sessions. Whilst she provided honest and constructive feedback, she was always conscious that us writers can be very attached to our book ‘babies’, so she treaded firmly but considerately when she provided suggestions for improvement. After six months, I have a complete first draft written and now have the tools to edit and hopefully achieve publication!”
Kylie Orr, author of 4 children’s books published by Lake Press, mentored by Kathryn Heyman
“Ross Grayson Bell has been my screenwriting mentor for the past several months as part of the Writers Mentor Program. During that time Ross has given me the benefit of his professional knowledge and expertise. He has a long and respected history in the industry from which to draw, having worked successfully in the US, England as well as in Australia. While his level of first-hand experience is impressive, Ross has also directed me to other experts-and I have enjoyed and benefitted from reading and discussing their ideas with him.
Ross has encouraged a wider knowledge of the film-making process through discussion of films, directorial and production styles. I didn’t expect that and I’ve found it both enjoyable and very useful.
Ross provides a positive role model, involved and active in the industry. His enthusiasm is palpable and creates an environment in which creativity can flourish. At the end of every session I saw possibilities for and progress on my project.
His feedback on my original draft was constructive: his comments and questions honest and insightful. He has a capacity to ask challenging questions. Yes, the sessions have been intense, but never overwhelming. I believe this is because Ross is generous and respectful in the attention he gives the work. He also listens intently and can ‘read’ his mentee. I am currently writing my third draft – one with a much greater chance of ‘success’ – whether that success be measured in personal satisfaction or critical acclaim. Without Ross, I’m sure that first draft would have been the end of the process!”
Maggie Connors mentored by Ross Grayson Bell
“I have been lucky enough to work with both Kathryn Heyman and James Bradley and can’t recommend them highly enough as mentors. I went to Kathryn with the beginnings of a first draft novel, ‘Thirty-Seven Letter’, but without the confidence or a plan to complete it. With expertise, humour and insightfulness, Kathryn shepherded me through my first draft, honing in on my strengths and weaknesses and forcing me ask the difficult questions about my work. She told me that writing was a layered art and: “to capture complexity, narrative has to somehow generate several dimensions of sub-text”, then she helped me see how and where in the draft I could achieve this. I thoroughly looked forward to our meetings when she would always be enthusiastic and encouraging, even if it was one of those days when she would have to give me a sandwich—explaining what was working well before revealing what wasn’t and then finishing on a high! I am extremely grateful to Kathryn for being such a warm and generous mentor and for starting me on my novel writing journey.”
“I was also fortunate enough to be tutored by James Bradley on my second manuscript, ‘Maggie’s Kitchen’, and although I felt better equipped with a few more tools and more confidence, James showed me how to value writing as a craft and how to practice it. With a truly impressive breadth and depth of knowledge, he even managed to get me enthused about a genre that I wasn’t even a fan of! Through his generous and sensitive teaching approach, I discovered how you learn as much from reading as you do from writing, and that to be a better writer you need to be a better reader. It helped me to become a forensic reader and writer, and by encouraging me to trust my instincts, James also helped me to find my voice.”
Caroline Beecham, Maggie’s Kitchen mentored by both Kathryn Heyman and James Bradley
“Ross was my screenwriting teacher at the Australian Film, Television & Radio School (AFTRS) in 2009, where he taught me key screenwriting fundamentals I still use to this day. His lessons in structure, both within a scene and over the course of the screenplay as a whole, were particularly useful and have guided my subsequent professional writing on such shows as Packed to the Rafters and Home And Away. I would heartily recommend for anyone to take Ross’ advice on writing – it has certainly helped me for many years now.”
David Lawrence, mentored by Ross Grayson Bell
On graduating, David was awarded the inaugural Channel Seven/AFTRS Drama Internship and within 6 months was writing for their flagship drama, the award-winning Packed To The Rafters.
“I came to Kathryn Heyman with a complete but flawed draft of a narrative nonfiction book. Any qualms I had about handing my nonfiction over to a fiction writer were quickly dispelled. Kathryn’s incredible understanding of characters and what drives them and her insightful analysis of structure were just two of the many ways she guided me towards a final draft. Our discussions helped me in my presentation to NewSouth Publishing, who signed me up. They will be releasing ‘A Tear in the Soul’ in October this year. Without Kathryn’s help, I doubt any of this would have happened. She was completely professional in her approach, has a great sense of humour, and was a joy to work with. To my mind, in writing, the learning process never stops. I’m eager to sign up with Kathryn next time round to tap into more of her extensive understanding of our craft.”
Amanda Webster, A Tear in the Soul mentored by Kathryn Heyman
“James is a smart, insightful and compassionate coach whose breadth of knowledge about fiction—in all its forms—is hard to beat.”
Deborah Biancotti, co-author of Zeroes, taught by James Bradley.
“A nonfiction writer, I’d already published a book and was well into a second manuscript… But I was struggling with how to bring real people to life on the page. Kathryn showed me a whole new way of looking at my interview subjects, and gave me great advice on overall structure. She’s a brilliant teacher–original, enthusiastic, and generous–and now I have a final draft in my sights.”
Amanda Webster, author of The Boy Who Loved Apples
“Kathryn coupled an unfailingly positive encouragement with a keen, constructively critical eye.. she is passionate about the work of those she guides. She is a fantastic teacher, a methodical organiser – I cannot think of anyone more qualified as a mentor. I would not have published my short story collection, nor won my BAFTA, without her influence. I owe her big time.”
Raymond Soltysek, BAFTA winner and author of Occasional Demons
“Mark sets the highest literary standard, for his students as well as for himself, and he makes it seem attainable. His professionalism is expressed in rigour and discipline and, combined with his compassion and generosity of spirit, supports his students at whatever stage, from experienced writers to raw beginners, of which I was surely one. In mentoring, Mark brings these same qualities to a more personal learning environment. He suggests, offers alternatives, values, listens, critiques, with clarity and firmness. Mark’s reassuring guidance in my tentative transition from prose to poetry encouraged me, giving me the confidence to stretch beyond my reach, and succeed.”
Anne Rimer, mentored by Mark Tredinnick
“James is an amazingly eclectic and insightful reader. He understands story in all its forms and is unafraid to draw observations about popular culture, emerging media and marginal genres into the most academic analysis of the writing craft. I believe his lack of pretension and genuine openness to the role of fiction and its capabilities puts James at the forefront of writing teachers and mentors working today. He not only offered me the technical guidance on structure and narrative arc my novel needed, his encouragement undoubtedly gave me permission to write the book I wanted to write.”
Jo Riccioni, The Italians at Cleat St Corner Store (Scribe Publications, Australia and UK)
” I owe success in a new writing genre entirely to a mentorship with Kathryn Heyman. Kathryn taught me to be tough, disciplined, brave and rigorous, to hone to an end point and be strict with material. Each month, Kathryn digested and critiqued 10,000 newly-written words, always locking on to what had gone before. Her suggestions and ideas were invaluable in drilling deeply into the story. She was a demanding partner on the journey, raising questions that begged answers and stopped me ducking for cover. She was clear, sharp, focused, direct and uncompromising – but generous enough with praise to keep me striving higher and further.Kathryn spoke of the need to slow down, breathe deeply and meditate. She summoned Aristotle and Atwood, made me believe in myself and develop my strengths. She urged me to push through fear to tell the truth, strip away barriers and to show feelings. Kathryn taught me to turn episodes into scenes with objectives, reactions, conflict, dilemmas, resolution and reflection. I owe it to her brilliant guidance that “Through The Farm Gate” has been picked up by Allen & Unwin and is due for release in December.”
Angela Goode, Columnist and author of Through the Farm Gate (Allen & Unwin)
“I’ve slogged away at this manuscript on my own for years. It is so much a part of me that I cannot see what it looks like from the outside. And being my first, I had no idea where to go with it. As the manuscript neared completion, I felt lost. So to receive guidance from one who has successfully journeyed through this terrain before me has been invaluable. Mark’s detailed knowledge and experience of writing and editing have provided direction….his recognition of the strengths of the writing and sensitivity to the vulnerability of the authorial ego has made it possible to hear the feedback without feeling criticised or inadequate. And on reflection and rereading the work, much of his feedback made very good sense, hard as it had been to hear. His suggestions for certain structural changes have definitely made for a better book. Not that I have taken up all his suggestions. I have been in control of the process, free to pick and choose what to take on board and what to ignore. And through the process I have learned so much about the discipline of this craft that I would not have discovered without Mark’s input.”
Paul Morgan, mentored by Mark Tredinnick
“I started mentoring with Kathryn with nothing more than a flimsy first draft. Her attention to every word, rhythm, and motivation made me accountable and that, more than any course or book, turned me into a writer. Less than a year later, I had a powerful manuscript, an agent and a three book deal.”
Paula Tierney, author of Jamie Reign, Spirit Warrior (HarperCollins)
“Her intuition for character and guidance regarding structure helped to give Invisibles a solid foundation … at the same time her enthusiasm and sensitive feedback gave me great confidence in my growing voice. Kathryn’s encouragement and sharp creative insight were vital to the shaping of my debut novel, and it was a great pleasure and privilege to be under her wing.”
Ed Siegle, Invisibles, Myriad Editions, UK
“Kathryn and I made a plan, set deadlines to keep up the impetus and – with wonderful brio and humour – she encouraged e to be brave, to put aside sentence by sentence fiddling until I had tackled the larger structure of my novel. The focus on plot and structure was just what I needed and, with her consistent support and guidance over the months, I grew confident enough to cut away great chunks and rearrange others, and to keep pushing on. At each stage, with clear thinking, infectious energy and enthusiasm, she provided detailed verbal and written constructive criticism, mixed with praise, and she was particularly skilful at prompting me to ask myself questions, about each character and their role in the narrative, about tension and the ordering of scenes. Kathryn is an inspirational and charismatic teacher. With her trademark energy, humour, and a profound understanding of story structure, she encouraged me to ask the hard questions. With her help, within my target year, the novel was out there in the real world, with an agent. It was exactly what I needed.”
Jane Rusbridge, author of The Devil’s Music (Bloomsbury, London), Longlisted for Impac International Award
“I came to Kathryn Heyman with a sprawling first draft and its complex cast. The mentorship helped me clarify critical plot issues, sharpen the writing word-by-word and produce a taut, toned manuscript that gained me a first-class agent and a short-listing for a Varuna fellowship. Kathryn’s acuity in both the technical and aesthetic aspects of writing is a marvellous thing, but her ability to bring such warmth, respect and humour to each session means she can tell you the truth without breaking your heart! And on the long, lonely road of writing, this kind of truth is indispensable.”
Sally Colin-James, on signing with the Naher Agency
“Kathryn Heyman has been a fantastic mentor to me. Her gifts of insight, clarity and focus suffuse all her reading and feedback. Her handle on my strengths and weaknesses is a sure one and she often seems to ferret out my intentions even before I quite know myself what they are. Our conversations are full of warmth and good humour and she just keeps spurring me on. My clearest words of recommendation: if I had the chance to do it all over again, I would do so in a heartbeat.”
Joel Graham, shortlisted for the John Dryden Award for Literary Translation.
“Kathryn Heyman is a superb reader and engaging mentor – experienced, supportive and effective. In short, she is a consummate professional, bringing considerable authority and skill to her subject-matter. “
Suhayl Saadi, author of Psychoraag, longlisted for Impac Award, shortlisted for National Book Prize (Pakistan)
“What I needed was a successful writer who would actually read my manuscript and give me objective feedback, so I was thrilled when Kathryn Heyman took me on. Always enthusiastic and encouraging, she swooped on faults from structure to punctuation and enabled me to write a much better novel. I’m so grateful to be shortlisted for the Impress Prize for New Writers and it’s all Kathryn’s doing!”
Bernadette Williamson, Shortlisted for Impress Prize UK
“I highly recommend Kathryn Heyman as a writing mentor. Her advice in re-structuring my manuscript as well as focusing my story was instrumental to my success in finding an agent and publisher. Kathryn showed great sensitivity when approaching my memoir and was a pleasure to work with.”
Ondine Sherman, author of Miracle of Love (Murdoch Books)
“Kathryn Heyman is an intelligent, astute, and compassionate teacher. Her hard-won insights about giving depth and balance to characters and plot will galvanise my writing from now on. Her group masterclass sessions were perfectly tailored, egalitarian, witty, probing, and responsive. Her one-on-one session was revelatory. I arrived with questions and left with answers.”
Emma Ashmere, author of The Floating Garden