This article was originally published in March 2019 on our ‘Writers on Writers Vic’ page, for our 30th year of operating.
Toni approached Writers Victoria with her first manuscript and since then she has published several novels and has been widely published in newspapers and magazines. The international best-seller Addition was longlisted for the Miles Franklin award. Fall Girl was published internationally and has been optioned for film. Nine Days was awarded Best Fiction at the 2012 Indie Awards and shortlisted for the ABIA Best General Fiction award. Our Tiny, Useless Hearts was shortlisted for the 2017 Voss Literary Award and longlisted for the International Dublin Literary Award in 2018. Her most recent novel The Fragments was published in October 2018. Toni, who is a molecular biologist, also teaches creative writing and has facilitated several workshops at Writers Victoria.
Tell us about your involvement with Writers Victoria.
My first interaction with Writers Victoria was a manuscript assessment with Alison Arnold for my first novel, and it gave me so much confidence. It was the most fantastic assessment I’ve had before or since—a really in-depth analysis of the manuscript. It gave me the confidence to send it out. I also worked as a mentor when I was starting out, but I don’t do that anymore.
What does being a tutor mean to you and how does it help you and your own writing?
It’s an important thing for me. I don’t have a family and I’m by myself all day. I become a bit ‘not myself’ when it’s all about me, all the time. I think there’s a tendency to get very tied up in your project and very precious about it. Being able to talk with other people and think about other people’s manuscripts is really great. That, together with the writing, is the perfect mix for me.
Helping emerging writers is the most important thing that any established writer can do. That’s really your job, because it is perceived as a hard world to get in to. It isn’t hard, actually, but that’s the perception. If you’re already in the room, then it’s your job to open the doors and let other people in. I’ve been writing and thinking about writing and reading with respect to writing for over 15 years, and I’ve worked so hard to get the skills that I have now. I feel that if I can help other people learn those very hard lessons then that is what I should be doing.
What’s the best advice you can give to emerging writers?
They all probably need to read more. Reading does really help with the way stories set in your brain. I think that is the most important thing, to read more.
The thing about emerging writers is: when they don’t know where they sit, they quite often overestimate their skill level, and that’s not good when you’re learning. I’ve taught for Writing NSW, Writers SA and the Tasmanian Writers’ Centre, and it’s the same kind of story across the country. When emerging writers start realising the possibility of sentences and the possibility of stories, it’s a really exciting thing to watch.
Anything you’ll like to add?
I tell everyone to join Writers Victoria, it is just fantastic!