Giving Advice

I had a fantastic time at the Emerging Writers Festival in Melbourne. I was so pleased to be one of their ambassadors! Which, incidentally, fulfilled a childhood dream. I mean, I can now call myself Ambassador Do Rozario, right?

Yes, I stole away for a latte at Starbucks (guilty pleasure) and the barista drew my Erstwilder brooch on the cup.

Well, at least I got a badge that said ‘Artist’.

The panels were varied and fascinating. I popped along to as many as I could manage and always came away with new thoughts to ponder. It was particularly thrilling to see a couple of my former students on panels themselves – Tegan Elizabeth Webb talking about zines and other forms of hybrid storytelling, Eliza-Jane Henry-Jones talking about writing trauma. They were both awesome in their undergrad. and Honours years and have only become more awesome now!

I was on a couple of panels myself. I think the most terrifying panel was 5X5 Rules of Writing with some of today’s most amazing authors, Anna Krien, Melina Marchetta, Michelle Law and Inga Simpson. Yes, that includes the author of Looking for Alibrandi! What on earth was I going to say on a panel that included such incredible women? But they were all so lovely that I didn’t feel at all out of place in the end. My 5 pieces of advice? They are largely based on my own experiences as an academic writer, but also as the writer of the odd bit of fiction. It’s actually not so different between genres. Here’s my advice in brief:

  1. Readers and writers are a community – engage with that community, even if its just online or in some other form. You can learn a great deal from other readers and writers. You can take comfort and encouragement from their experiences.
  2. Write things to annoy people or to make them laugh. In essence, write to provoke thought. It’s a bit like poking a bear. However, keep in mind that you have to earn the right – don’t take the easy route to baseless, ill-founded aggravation and cheap laughs.
  3. Write to add to happiness. Show readers how the world can be better.
  4. Own those rejections. This is where I stole a quote from Michelle Gomez, currently playing Missy in Doctor Who. She discovered that someone called her ‘the roach’:
    “And I said: ‘What, like cockroach?’ They said: ‘Yeah, because you’re out there, you get rejected day after day, you get crushed like a bug but you keep coming back. You’re indestructible.’” (link to interview)
  5. Don’t look to a university to teach you to be a writer, or to improve your chances at a book deal – look to a university because you have thoughts about our work as writers and you want to study writing as well as produce it.

That last piece of advice may sound odd coming from someone who works with creative writing students, but I think it’s so important for writers to go to university for the right reasons.

I was also on the beautifully named Once Upon a Time panel with Marisa Pintado and Steven Lochran. You should absolutely check out Steven’s books – there are dinosaurs! I managed to sneak in some references to fairy tale – I may also have managed to disparage the Grimms once more – ooops. I was asked about the mistakes I see students make in writing fantasy. I honestly hadn’t thought that might be a question, but it was such a good question! The truth is, the biggest mistake I see students make is that they write to the tropes of fantasy, rather than tell a story. In particular, characterisation suffers. You may be sending a character on a quest… but why that character? Is it the most interesting character for the quest? Also, think the story through. If characters are walking long distances every day, for instance, do their shoes wear out? What do they do about that? Basically, my advice is that while you can be a little hackneyed in your early drafts, the important thing is to really dig into your story and be conscious of why you’re making the choices you’re making in the telling. Don’t just accept and replicate the tropes – think about them and what they mean for the story you want to tell.

The other question that came up quite often during my ambassadorial duties was about getting over imposter syndrome. Easy answer there. I haven’t gotten over imposter syndrome myself! I’m not sure anyone really does. I’m not sure I altogether trust anyone who says they have. But I think you can own imposter syndrome and make friends with it. You can embrace the doubts you have about your work and allow those doubts to keep you honest. We’re all learning. It’s okay to think you’re crap at things sometimes. Just remember, sometimes you will get it right and that’s a wonderful feeling.

Speaking of which, I’m currently doing final edits for a book chapter on Australian fairy tales and I’m feeling like such an imposter that I decided it would be better to write this blog post. So, I should perhaps embrace my doubts and return to work!

However, if you are an emerging writer, look at going to the 2018 festival! They cover such a wide range of writing – screen writing, food writing, freelance, non-fiction etc. I learned so much about everything from the experience of deaf writers (Ross Onley Zerkel) to the wide range of publishers in Australia and how they take on writers ( Kate Stevens, James Read, Marisa Pintado, Enza Gandolfo). The festival team is also the best – they are incredibly helpful and friendly. I can absolutely attest to that!


Salons to Sydney

It’s been a busy few weeks! The Alice Salon at the Glen Eira Storytelling Festival was fantastic fun. My co-conspirators put together the most wonderful tea party and publication displays and we had a great selection of music and papers.


I loved learning about Alice’s many media manifestations, her influence on Japanese fashion subcultures and the history of playing card people. Louisa John-Krol as always led us in amazing song, bewitching us with images of flowers! She was joined by her merry, colourful band including a rather intrepid white rabbit child and a surprise appearance by a bunyip! Copious invited us down into Wonderland with wonderful, dark melodies and lyrics. We were exhausted, but happy by the end of the day!

Soon after the Alice Salon, I headed to Sydney for the Australian Fairy Tale Society’s second conference. It’s a fantastic opportunity to re-engage with my peers in fairy tale! And this time I didn’t have the ‘flu! I gave my first paper on Australian pantomime, pantomime rapidly becoming one of my research interests. There’s such fabulous material. This time I focused mostly on Djin Djin.


We had papers from a number of academics and non-academics interested in the field, including my honours student, who gave a great interview for the Sydney Morning Herald. We also heard from a range of authors, including the keynote speaker, Sophie Masson. Louisa John-Krol was there too and she sang us into each session, which was the best treat. I was especially thrilled as she premiered her new song, ‘Glindering,’ based on my short story, “The Death of Glinda.” What an honour! She knows me so well, too, since there is spindling and swindling in the song! You can find more on the conference in the coming weeks at the society’s website.

I popped down to Sydney a little early, too, because I really wanted to visit the Undressed exhibition at the Powerhouse Museum. Yes, there’s references to underthings in fairy tales, so it was all research! Plus, I did get to see a pair of Queen Victoria’s knickers! I didn’t know this, but the Powerhouse Museum also has the most amazing shoe collection. If you have an interest in shoes, I can’t recommend it highly enough and may have had a little ‘shoe comma’ afterwards. So many red shoes, too!

The Inaugural Australian Fairy Tale Society Conference

The one thing I hate about writing conference posts? There are so many great papers and you want to discuss them all, but you also have a pile of marking to catch up on, papers to review, feedback to provide in your normal day to day life… so I’ll do my best with a quick post!

Reilly McCarron and Jo Henwood put together an incredible day, bringing together storytellers, authors, academics and artists of all sorts. As our fabulous MC, Jackie Kerin, said, we’re now ready to take on the world with our tales!

I was particularly thrilled to finally meet Kate Forsyth, whose Bitter Greens deals with the Rapunzel tale. It’s a work of historical fiction featuring one of my favourites, Charlotte-Rose de la Force. I think we were a little like excited school girls on the final panel, both enthusiastically speaking to the tales of French women like La Force, d’Aulnoy and Lhéritier! And Kate mentions Basile, too, in her novel! Can’t get better than that, right? Do read it!

It was also great to hear Danielle Wood, author of Rosie Little’s Cautionary Tales for Girls and the forthcoming Mothers Grimm. I was a little suspect of Mothers Grimm, I admit. I always get slightly squinty-eyed when the topic of motherhood and the Grimms comes up! But I love Danielle’s take on the ‘good mother.’ It’s wicked, in more ways than one.

Carmel Bird gave a terrific keynote that spoke to the ‘great lie’ that informs Australian Fairy Tale. I’ve dealt with the topic before and I know how difficult it is to address and she did an amazing job.

It was so great to hear about early attempts at an Australian fairy tale tradition, too. Belinda Calderone, who steers the Monash Fairy Tale Salon, raided the Monash Library’s rare books collection and uncovered some notable gems. I think she inspired a few people to go and explore their libraries and rediscover the tales hiding away there. Robyn Floyd gave a marvelous account of one of those early fairy tale pioneers, Olga Ernst, wearing a period-inspired ensemble that sort of distracted me because her puffed sleeves would have been the envy of Anne Shirley! Teena Hartnett then performed one of Ernst’s tales about the fire elves and she injected a good dose of vernacular that I think is the trick of bringing these tales back to life. Indeed, I think there were a few fire elves in the building… there may have been a small incident with flame! Jo Henwood also gave a performance of a tale about an Australian Thumberlina that had some terrific references to local Sydney locations and botanicals. It’s fantastic to hear the storytellers do what they do best! It’s one of the ‘treats’ of working in the field that we get an excuse to listen to wonderful storytellers. Tobby Eccles did a great job of speaking to just this issue and how important it is to recognise and catalogue these oral tellings.

Sarah Gibson also expanded on her work on the Re-enchantment project. It’s still growing! There’s an e-book now that you can download on iTunes. I was particularly enthused by her take-away that there is no single way of interpreting tales. I have to admit, when you’re wound up in trying to make your own stand, you do sometimes forget that other people will see things differently! (Her enthusiasm for Shaun Tan also made me happy!)

It was something of a privilege to be on the final panel, even if Jackie was mischievously encouraging me to spark debate by being pro-Disney!! We were discussing cultural editing and I think that panel could have gone on the whole day if you had have left us to it!

All in all, it was a brilliant day and if I’ve forgotten to mention anyone or anything, it is only because I’m in a rush and it’s all still sinking in! Plus I very cleverly left my conference pack with Belinda, because I didn’t have room in my overnight case… so I don’t have all my reminders with me! However, the new AFTS website will be up soon and I’m really looking forward to keeping in touch with everyone and continuing about fifty different discussions that were begun.

PS: Apologies if I did pass my cold on to the entire Australian fairy tale community. Of all the times to come down with a cold…

June is for fairy tale!

There’s a lot happening on the fairy tale front in June!

The Australian Fairy Tale Society is having its first conference in Sydney on the 9th. I’ll be there giving my paper, Baroque in Oz: From Giambattista Basile to Shaun Tan. Notice the little Beauty and the Beast nod? I’ll also be on a panel about fairy tale in Australia – I’m really looking forward to that!

Then on the 29th, our Monash Fairy Tale Salon is holding a symposium, Transporting Tales. It will be run as part of the Glen Eira Storytelling Festival and everyone is welcome. The call for papers has just gone out – it’s a bit of a tight turn around, but we’d love to hear from everyone!


Transporting Tales – Fairy Tale Symposium
June 29

Australian Fairy Tales by James Hume-Cook; with illustrations by Christian Yandell

As part of the Glen Eira Storytelling Festival, the Monash Fairy Tale Salon will be hosting a day exploring fairy tale migrations, with a special focus on Australian tales. Fairy tales cross oceans and continents. How do people carry their tales with them? How are tales transformed by migration? In particular, how have fairy tales come here to Australia and how is our own fairy tale tradition based on migration?

This Melbourne event explores many of the ideas that will be raised at the Australian Fairy Tale Society conference to take place on June 9 in Sydney.

The day is open to academic papers as well as fairy tale readings and performances. For the bold at heart, come dressed as your favourite fairy tale character and be in the running to win a prize! This event is open to anyone who has a love of fairy tales, and will take place at the Theatrette, Glen Eira Town Hall, on Sunday June 29, from 1pm-5pm.

We are looking for interested participants who would like to present original work and/or papers on fairy tales. Preference will be given to material dealing with or inspired by Australian themes, but other material will certainly be considered.

Areas of interest:

– Scholarly analysis of fairy tale (incl. literary studies, translation studies, film & TV, drama studies, gender studies)
– Live performance of fairy tale (incl. new & established fairy tales)
– Fairy tale readings (incl. new & established fairy tales)

Please send a 100-200 word summary or abstract to by May 10.


At the Australasian Children’s Literature Association for Research’s conference in Geelong, June 30 – July 2, there’ll also be a fairy tale panel. I’ll be on the panel to give my paper, “Between Princesses: Fashion, Pleasure and the Gaze.”

After all that, I’ll be taking off to Tuscany where I’ll be teaching fairy tales at Monash’s Prato conference! Phew. It’s going to be busy!