Posts Tagged ‘writing workshops’

Today I thought I’d share some opening lines:

‘Someone’s coming,’ Taji yells. I reach Taji first. Not because I’m the fastest. I’m good at many things but running isn’t one of them. (Samuri Kids by Sandy Fussell)

‘Stay with Aunt Kat!’ Ash looked at his mother in disbelief. ‘No Way!’ (Crazy Kat by Marg McAlister)

It’s so quiet. I don’t know what the time is, maybe two o’clock, three o’clock. I think I’ve been asleep for a couple of hours; I’m not sure. (Checkers by John Marsden)

The previous body shop manager at Marcus Ford- ‘The Best Deals in Dixie’-was fired for wearing a coffee-stained shirt to work. That the stain hadn’t occurred until after he’d been on the job for two hours didn’t matter. (At All Costs by John Gilstrap)

Ryan was nearly killed twice in half an hour. He left the taxi a few blocks short of his destination. (Patriot Games by Tom Clancy)

At liftoff, Matt Eversmann said a Hail Mary. He was curled into a seat between two helicopter crew chiefs, the knees of his long legs up to his shoulders. (Black Hawk Down by Mark Bowden)

True love came to me one crisp late autumn morning when the sky had lost the faded blue of the long hot summer and taken on the deeper colour of winter yet to come. (WHITETHORN by Bryce Courtenay)

Ok. Don’t panic. Don’t panic. It’s only a VISA bill. It’s a piece of paper; a few numbers. I mean, just how scary can a few numbers be? (Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella)

I love opening lines in books, and often it is the first page that determines if I will read more. During my school writing workshops, one of my favourite activities is to read an opening paragraph, and get the students to re write it with their opening lines showing three ways of starting a story. Speech, action, description.

Do you have a favourite opening line of a book?


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It is an honour to be the Ambassador and promotor of the Armadale Young Writers’ Award.

Last year (2011), after conducting more than 50 writing workshops in schools and libraries in only 3 months, entries were received for the inaugural Armadale Young Writers’ Award. At the end of the 3 months, I was exhausted. But I knew the first year would require a lot of work, and I was satisfied that I’d done as much as I could to promote the writing competition.

This year, I conducted 26 writing workshops over the 3 months – which was a much more manageable exercise. These workshops where entirely funded by two Rotary clubs – both outside the City of Armadale. So last week I was asked to speak at the Mill Point Rotary Club, to explain about the award and how I used their funding.

To say that I was dreading the event would be an understatement. I’d never spoken to just adults before. And the fact that they were highly educated business people… who was I in comparison?

Boy, was I in for a surprise. It was the most fun event I’ve been to all year! As soon as we arrived we were caught up in the hilarity of the group. Everyone was happy, greeting each other with hugs and handshakes (kisses for the ladies). These grown men and women seemed to take immense pleasure playing tricks on each other – and the ‘Fines Master’ was a hoot! He was dishing out fines for wearing flowery ties, to fines for dobbing in others. I spoke for  20 minutes, and it was not long enough. I read out three very short stories that had been produced in my workshops, and explained what I did in a writing workshop. There was so  much more I could have shared. They were so impressed that there is talk of more funding for next year.

And what did I learn? That they were just regular people like me! Would I do it again? You bet! I can’t wait for my next invitation. And we are now looking for a Rotary Club to join :)


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My unexpected blessing of a rejection letter in 2007.

When Lothian Books turned down my manuscript, Operation Tango Two-Two, I was probably more excited and relieved than when they accepted the first three manuscripts offered to them in 2001, 2002 & 2003.

You see, a lot had changed between the time of posting the 4th m/s to them, and the rejection letter. I immediately started securing unconditional copyright for all my work. Once copyright had come back to me for the first three books, and with their rejection letter of book 4 in my hot little hand, I was free to seriously look at other options.

1. I was now free to negotiate with the film producer who had come calling and was patiently waiting till I had full unconditional copyright for all my work – Negotiations are still in progress with the film producer.

2. I could seriously look at creating my own publishing company and getting the first three books back in print with new covers and adding book 4, to the series – Books 1, 2, 3, have fabulous new covers. Books 4 & 5 have been added, with book 6 due out next year.

3. I became a public person. This was not something I particularly enjoyed, but as the years have passed, I am eager to talk about writing with anyone who will listen – I have conducted 79 writing workshops/school visits in the last two years and my picture has been in the paper about a dozen times.

Do I have any regrets about that 2007 rejection letter? No… not one :)


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Today I thought I’d share my top two favourite short stories that have come out of my school writing workshops. We have some creative kids out there :)

1. I gave them this task: Write a story from the point of view of an apple, sitting in a fruit basket on your kitchen counter, observing life around it.

Yr 5 boy who hardly ever attended school, was there for each of my 4 school writing workshops. He wrote: I am a green apple. I don’t like being a green apple. I want to be a red apple. One day someone put some strawberries in the fruit bowl. One got squashed on me and now I am red. And I am happy.

2. Yr 9. I had the students create a class story using their senses. This is what they came up with:

It was a dark moonlit night. The crickets cricked in the tall grass. The front door slowly creaked open and I went inside. At first the house smelt damp and musty. Then smoke from a fireless fire-place filled the lounge room. To escape the smoke, I headed upstairs. The banister felt gritty with a layer of dust and I wiped away the cobwebs that fluttered against my skin. The staircase opened out into a huge room with a single door in the far wall. I crossed the floor and gently pushed the door open. A white cat shot out the door and raced across the room and disappeared down the stairs. The door closed behind me – trapping me. Inside the room was a glass casket with Snow White inside. Beside the casket was a skeleton down on one knee holding up an engagement ring. Beside the casket was a box of Turkish delight. I took one. I took a bite. It was sweet. Suddenly I turned into a white cat…

Aren’t they great?

For those who are following the progress of my first picture book (due out in September) I’ve uploaded a couple draft illustrations at https://www.facebook.com/authordjstutley

Take care,





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