A Workshop Review

Last month the Lazy River Writers hosted a writing workshop,‘Writing for Middle Graders’, with Archie Fusillo as tutor. This was made possible thanks to the support of Writers Victoria and the Grace Marion Wilson Trust.

Archie opened the event with questions from participants, thus ensuring expected areas of interest were covered from the beginning. This was also a good way to ‘break the ice’, setting a relaxed atmosphere in which to work through the range of activities he had prepared for us.

Archie shared his journey to getting published and told us about strategies he continues to apply that we can, too. We were heartened to learn it is possible to make a living from writing; Archie has been a fulltime writer for fourteen years. He takes a business approach to his writing, asking questions like, “How am I going to make money for my publishers?”

Australian authors are highly regarded overseas, he told us, and there’s lots of competition; but it can be done if you write a good story, be proactive and persevere. Archie recommended the genre market as a good entry for becoming a published author. He suggested putting everything aside to do it, if an opportunity arises.

Readers go through stages of reading and will follow a favourite author from Aussie Bites to Junior Novel to Young Adult books – if the writer has provided books at all these stages.

We spoke about the difference between boys and girls as readers and the importance of role models. Archie asked us about what boys see men reading. Then the conversation turned to the benefits of writing a series.
· Male readers, in particular, collect them like baseball cards.
· Also great for family members to know which book they want next so they can give it at gift giving time.

If you don’t have a series, perhaps you could sell the books as a collection of stories with the same covers and typography. We were instructed to research and pick our market carefully as publishers have different approaches.

Prepare well, says Archie. Success breeds success, so have the next thing in progress and be ready to present the concept to the publisher. Preparation is important when doing public engagements in schools and libraries, too. In fact, it is best to over-prepare, says Archie.

The talk turned to thinking like our middle grade readers. Then Archie got us to do several exercises to take us back to remembering what it was like when we were the age of our target audience. Most involved writing, many involved sharing and there was a little improvisational acting for those who were brave enough perform at the front of the room.

Archie’s workshop plan was well structured with each step moulding us to successfully tackle the next activity.

I highly recommend Archie Fusillo to other groups and organisations as a tutor who provides an inspirational and useful workshop in writing fiction for the middle grade market. He was very professional and well prepared, yet the workshop had an informal atmosphere that was conducive to learning and the safe sharing of experience.

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