A lot of people have asked about the mentorship I did with Christos Tsiolkas. First off, it was amazing – Christos is one of my favourite people in the world and I was totally blown away that someone of his calibre would read my work, let alone discuss it with me.
Before we started, I’d not read any of Christos’ work, but I was aware of him, because of the film ‘Head On’ – an adaptation of his debut novel ‘Loaded’ (also, Christos had provided a cover quote for the Australian release of Fight Club, which I owned). Awarding of the mentorship came down to me and one other guy, and Christos chose me. And I was ecstatic – it not only meant I’d get the invaluable opportunity to pick his brain, but it also validated my work – I was actually an okay writer, I was on the right path.
The process was basically this:
* In our first meeting Christos said he’d read through the whole thing and he highlighted a few chapters which he thought might need more work.
* Christos then asked if I could nominate a few chapters I thought needed work, and each week or so we’d meet up and go through each of those segments, one by one.
* We’d both read each the chapter we were working on that day out loud (you’ve probably read this, that you should read your stuff out loud, and, like me, you’ve probably been like ‘I’m not doing that’ – it’s a massive help, trust me) then we’d go over each sentence that stood out and discuss ways to fix them.
* In all of this, Christos only ever tried to highlight areas to me – he never suggested wholesale changes or even whole lines – he highlighted the segment and acted as a sounding board for me to help improve my work. This was massive, as, for one, a highly respected author was talking shop with me, but also because Christos never came across as ‘this is how you should do it’. This is crucial to all mentors of any creative pursuit, as it’s the creator’s work. Christos was hugely influential in helping me solidify my ideas and processes, without dictating how it should be done. He helped me more than I can explain here, just by being there and listening and helping me sort the segments out.
At the end of our time together I had a much more solid manuscript, and everything moved from there.
(Also, one time Christos told me about how he was working on this novel about a parent who slaps someone else’s kid at a party. When he told me, I was like: ‘yeah, that sounds really good’, but in my head I was thinking: ‘how is that going to be a whole novel?’ Proof, once again, that Christos is a genius and much more of a visionary than I)
One other note I would add in here is on writing courses. I did a Professional Writing and Editing course at Box Hill TAFE and while no writing course can spell out how to become a published author – because there is no definitive path to achieving that dream – my personal writing course experience was massively beneficial. Just being among like-minded people, talking about writing, talking about publication options, hearing different perspectives and experiences, this is crucial info for would-be wordsmiths. I met some amazing people in that writing course and I learned not necessarily the ‘how’ of being a writer, but where to look, where to start, what to read – it focussed me on my goals and gave me inspiration, which is really all you can ask for from an arts based course.