2017 Toolkits: Fiction

Learn about story structure, character, setting and everything in between.

Express Media presents Toolkits: Fiction, a step-by-step online program combining theoretical approaches, practical exercises, group workshopping, and one-on-one mentorship to guide young writers through the development of new works of fiction.

Over a 12-week intensive, participants will explore storytelling and ethics, learn how to craft characters, plots and plans and how to polish work for publication. Toolkits is first and foremost a practical initiative and young writers will be encouraged to write, workshop and edit their writing throughout the course.

In 2017, Toolkits: Fiction will be facilitated by Jennifer Down, author of Our Magic Hour and Pulse Points (released August 2017). Jennifer will facilitate the online sessions and workshops, providing one-on-one mentorship and individualised feedback to each writer.

Participants will also have the chance to learn from some of the best working writers in the country, with guest artists Omar Musa, Tony Birch and Elena Gomez presenting online sessions for the next generation of Australian writers.

Tuesday June 27 | Week 1: A Very Good Place to Start

How do you hook a reader from the start? How can your first paragraph inform the structure of your story? We examine some of the best beginnings in literature to unpack what constitutes a successful beginning to a story before crafting your own – then we’ll talk about where to next.

Tuesday July 4 | Week 2: You’re the Voice (Try and Understand It) with Omar Musa

Whose story are you telling? How are you (or your characters) telling it? What makes dialogue sound real? Join Omar Musa – poet, spoken-word superstar and author of the Miles Franklin-longlisted novel Here Come the Dogs – to look at strategies for crafting an authentic, strong narrative voice. Challenge your understanding of the ethics in storytelling and get in tune with sounds of your story.

Join the conversation and livestream this Toolkits Live event.

Tuesday July 25 | Week 3: It’s Character-building

Character is a key element of successful fiction writing. What makes a memorable character in fiction? Do we have to be able to relate to all characters as a reader? How can you get inside your characters’ heads– when they came from yours? This week we’ll look at the notion of ‘flat’ versus ‘round’ characters and explores strategies for creating believable, fleshed-out figures in your own work.

Tuesday August 8 | Week 4: Ready, Get Set(ting), Go with Tony Birch

Setting is about more than just a story’s location – it’s the time period, environment, climate, landscape and culture of your writing. How can we create a sense of place without physical descriptors? How can we write about places we’ve never seen, or make up our own locations? Can we write place as its own real and convincing character? Join Tony Birch, award-winning author of Ghost River, Father’s Day and Blood, to discover the intersections between between setting and environment, and their relationship to place.  

Join the conversation and livestream this Toolkits Live event.

Tuesday August 22 | Week 5: Sentenced to Life

What does it mean to have control over your writing? How can you fine-tune your writing to ensure every sentence is as forceful or as graceful as possible? We’ll delve into the nitty-gritty of fiction – pulling apart stories at sentence level and discussing rhythm, imagery, tone and clarity to discover what makes good writing great.

Tuesday September 5 | Week 6: Editing and Submitting Your work with Elena Gomez

Now that you’ve finished a draft of your story, what do you do with it? Join poet, essayist and book editor Elena Gomez to break down the nuts and bolts of fiction and learn how to edit out the guff and bring out the detail you need to make a story sing. Learn how to self-edit, refine and revise your work, the dos and don’ts of submission processes, and how to approach your favourite publications.

Join the conversation and livestream this Toolkits Live event.

Applications to Toolkits are free for Express Media members. If you’re not already a member, you can sign up here.

Express Media is committed to access, so if you would like to sign up and are experiencing financial hardship, please contact us via info@expressmedia.org.au to be awarded one of our sponsored memberships.

The only other things you’ll need are motivation and internet connection, so don’t miss out on this exciting opportunity to refine your craft and be mentored by some of Australia’s best literary talent.

Applications are now open and close Wednesday May 31.

Have a question? Need help with your application? Send an email to Fiona Dunne, Express Media’s Creative Producer at creativeproducer@expressmedia.org.au.


Omar Musa is a Malaysian-Australian author, rapper and poet from Queanbeyan, Australia. He is the former winner of the Australian Poetry Slam and the Indian Ocean Poetry Slam. He has released four hip hop records, three poetry books (including Parang and Millefiori), appeared on ABC’s Q&A and received a standing ovation at TEDx Sydney at the Sydney Opera House. His debut novel Here Come the Dogs was published by Penguin Australia in 2014. Here Come the Dogs was long-listed for the International Dublin Literary Award and Miles Franklin Award and he was named one of the Sydney Morning Herald’s Young Novelists of the Year in 2015. He is currently working on a novel that is set in Malaysia and Indonesia.

Tony Birch is the author of the books Shadowboxing (2006), Father’s Day (2009), Blood (2011), shortlisted for the Miles Franklin literary award,The Promise (2014) and Ghost River (2015). His new short story collection, Common People, will be released in August 2017. Both his fiction and nonfiction writing has been published widely in literary magazines and anthologies, both in Australia and internationally. He is currently the inaugural Bruce McGuinness Research Fellow within the Moondani Balluk Centre at Victoria University.

Elena Gomez is a poet and book editor, currently at Text Publishing. She has published poetry, criticism and essays at Overland, The Lifted Brow, Cordite, Mascara Literary Review and Scum Mag, and in 2015 she was a Firstdraft Writer-in-Residence. She is the author of a number of chapbooks: Per, with Eddie Hopely (Make Now Books), A GLAZED WINDOW W/FAT BORDERS//[TAUT & DISCOLOURED] (Stale Objects dePress) and CHILL FLAKES, and is currently completing an MFA at UNSW Art & Design.

Jennifer Down is a writer, editor and translator. Her debut novel Our Magic Hour (Text Publishing) was shortlisted for the NSW Premier’s Award for New Writing and commended in the 2017 Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards. She has been published in The Age and Sydney Morning Herald, The Saturday Paper, Australian Book Review, The Lifted Brow, Kill Your Darlings, Overland, The Big Issue, Sleepers Almanac, The Stinging Fly and New Mexico’s Blue Mesa Review. Pulse Points, her short story collection, will be published by Text in August 2017.​

Toolkits is generously supported by The Copyright Agency Cultural Fund