SSPDA 2020 Program Overview

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Mastering Plot Structure

Mastering plot can be one of the most challenging aspects of a story. This workshop will teach you how to structure your novel with a riveting plot that calls to the readers’ feelings.
Students learn:

  • The key elements in every successful plot
  • Common plot structures and how genre authors use them
  • Using the internal structure of each scene to drive your plot forward
  • Building structure that winds the tension up to an epic story climax
  • How to use plot devices to add life to flat story lines

The Business of Writing

How to move from hobbyist to professional without spending a fortune
Students learn:

  • Income models and how to choose one that works for you
  • Practical considerations for becoming serious about your writing as a business
  • The five pillars of free marketing

Personal Legends

Use stories from your own life as inspiration for your writing
Students learn:

  • How to recognise your own stories
  • Sensitive approaches to incorporating family myths
  • How to mine pub talk for urban legend


Creating Deeper Characters

Bring your notebook and character! We’ll go through a development process during this workshop that will take your character from idea to fully-formed “real” person, with flaws and all. You will explore all of the elements of creating deeper characters, character psychology and motivation, and the all-important back story.
You can bring a character from your novel along to work on, or simply come with an idea of a character and see where it leads. Lots of writing and delving deeper promised. Suitable for any novel being written for any age and any genre.  Book Now

Story Structure for Longer Works

Structure is not formula. It’s a useful tool that many writers don’t understand, and don’t know how to apply to their novels and screenplays. If you’re struggling with tension and pacing, a sound understanding of structure will help you work out dramatic scenes, turning points, high and low scenes and how to make the climax and ending work better.

We’ll look at the most commonly used structures (there are many variations) and how to apply them to your story. I will also provide examples that you can follow up later for “homework”. Once you understand the way structure works, your stories will grow and develop the best possible bones to hold it all together! Book Now


Comics, comics and more comics!


How to Write a Villanelle: an ancient poetic form, ideal for songwriters for writing poetic lyrics.

Hands-on workshop for poets and songwriters. Creating a 19-line villanelle and examining how it can be adapted to song

Creating Songs from Poetry – NOT Setting Poems to Music. (Big difference!)

Hands-on workshop for poets and songwriters. Any composer can set a poem to music – you just put the musical notes under the syllables and ask someone to sing it. Most are unmemorable because most classical writers do not understand the basics of songwriting. In this class, we will look at what constitute a memorable song: melody, emotional theme, simplicity, meaningful words – and transform a poem into a song. The goal is: if you have never heard the poem before, you will understand it from listening to the song.  Book now

Fingerpicking Acoustic Guitar

Hands-on workshop for musicians. Basic acoustic alternative thumb fingerpicking. Also, how to use the capo the lift the guitar accompaniment into a higher (or lower) range, than your singing voice – so the frequencies don’t cancel each other out. This important step creates separation clarity between the vocal and the accompanying guitar.

Blues Harmonica

Hands-on workshop for musicians. Basic first position (melodic: the way Bob Dylan plays) and second position (blues: the way Little Walter plays) blues harp technique – isolating single notes, playing two-note chords, rhythm parts, how to back up a guitarist and more.

Using simple classic poetic structures to focus your writing skills

Hands-on 5 workshops for writers and poets, with the following structures: Haiku, Blank Verse, Rhymed Verse, Limerick and the Villanelle. Book separately for each class

Understanding The Difference Between Writing Song Lyrics and Poetry – and How to Create A Single Work That Can Do Both!

Hands-on workshop for poets and songwriters. What makes the difference between a poem and a song lyric? There are a lot of different theories about this. My class will teach the principle I use: A poem is something that exists on the page, independent of performance. Something understood, alone, in silence in the quiet of the night. A song is something meant to be sung. A song lyric is also a kind of guide for a singer – from which he can freely interpret the performance. The performance aspect, of both, however, is a completely different art-form than the writing aspect.


Hands-on for songwriters. The basics of writing a song: melody, backing and lyrics.

Writing Counter-Point for Your Existing Songs

Hands-on for songwriters. Many of the most memorable themes written by JS Bach were actually counter-point themes to existing hymns that he arranged. In today’s music counter-point is not used much but we will look at how George Martin, producer for the Beatles, encouraged counter-point in their arrangements. We will take existing songs of yours and create exciting counter-point arrangements.


History of Music – 6 week course

  • Art Music v. Popular Music.
  • Music and Society.
  • Medieval Music.
  • Baroque Music
  • Classical Musical
  • Romantic Music
  • The last 120 years

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World Music – 6 week course

  • What is World Music?
  • Why is it not just a record label?
  • The Music of Indonesia
  • Classical Indian Music
  • Pygmy Music
  • Australian Aboriginal Music

Book now

Basics of Musical Theory – 6 week course

This course introduces the basic building blocks of western tonal music, and gives student the chance to work with them to discover some of the ways this music functions.
Week 1 – Reading music on the treble and bass clef. C Clef.
Week 2 – Scales and keys.
Week 3 – Intervals
Week 4 – Chord building
Week 5 – Chord labelling.
Week 6 – Analysis project.

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Basics of Musical Composition – 6 week course

This course introduces the basic elements of composition and the kinds of media a composer inhabits. Students will have the opportunity to write some short compositions and to receive feedback from the teacher and other students if applicable. All concepts will be illustrated by musical examples that draw from multiple genres.
Week 1
What is composition? Is it only on paper or are there other methods and media? The problem of genre. The role of repetition. The concept of development.
Week 2
Augmentation, diminution and transposition, retrograde. Rhythmic manipulation
Week 3
Pitch and rhythm. Consonance and dissonance. Pitch manipulation.
Week 4
Methods we have looked at and how to use them to develop melody. Melody and singability.
Week 5
Harmonising a melody. Textures
Week 6
Counterpoint and contrapuntal writing, Invertible and non-invertible.
Book now


Creating accessible events

Writing disabled characters

Writing inclusive literature


Introduction To Play Writing – A Practical Approach – a 4 week course.

  • How does drama work?
  • What are its essential elements?
  • What are the traps to avoid?
  • Introductory exercises, including feedback.

This series of classes is aimed at late teens / young adults.

It is a PRACTICAL approach to writing, not academic or theoretical. Book Now


Writing New Worlds: Getting Started in Science-Fiction and Fantasy Writing

This workshop is designed for everyone who’s ever loved reading science fiction or fantasy (or both!) and wondered if they, too, could write stories of marvels and wonders. It covers what components go into an effective, compelling science-fiction or fantasy story, and how to turn your ideas into stories for yourself, for your friends, or for publication.  Book Now

Intermediate Science-Fiction and Fantasy Writing

This workshop is designed for everyone who’s ever loved reading science fiction or fantasy (or both!) and wondered if they, too, could write stories of marvels and wonders. It covers what components go into an effective, compelling science-fiction or fantasy story, and how to turn your ideas into stories for yourself, for your friends, or for publication.  Book Now

Advanced Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing

This workshop is all about you. You will provide a short piece of your own fiction in advance, to be distributed to all participants. During the workshop itself, you will offer your critique of each piece, and receive your colleagues’ and instructor’s feedback on your own story. While courtesy and respect will be paramount, you should be prepared for lots of constructive feedback. This is your chance to get the kind of intensive, unbiased scrutiny your work will receive from editors and readers, and to raise your writing to new levels of artistic self-awareness and professional practice.
Prerequisite: Intermediate Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing or equivalent coursework or experience.
Book now

Research Skills for Writers

Research has never been more crucial to the writer. The internet makes everyone a potential expert – in other words, the writer has nowhere to hide. But you can turn the internet to your advantage as you learn, fact-check, and seek deeper understanding of both the real world and the worlds you create in your writing. This workshop will give you tools and strategies to determine your own research needs, identify credible sources (and, by extension, untrustworthy ones), choose keywords that get you useful results, locate and use the resources you find in your searches, keep track of your research activity, and use what you find in a fair and legal way. Book Now

Powerful Dialogue

Good dialogue is the power source of fiction as well as drama: it’s the writer’s main tool to work with the energy of the story and keep readers immersed in the characters’ lives. You’ll learn and practice techniques for writing crackling dialogue, and practice applying them to your own writing. Book Now

Academic Writing

Do you need to know what a thesis statement is? An analytic framework? A methodology? Can you structure an essay? Are you baffled by all the different referencing systems? This workshop can help! While it won’t write your essay or dissertation for you, it can take some of the mystery out of the process. Book Now

Writing Powerful Poetry

For beginning, would-be, and hopeful poets: this workshop gives you skills in word choice, rhythm and sound, theme, metaphor, symbolism, and originality to create poetry that effectively communicates your unique insights and perspectives. You’ll experiment with techniques and forms to start building your poetic skills and finding your own voice. Book Now

Writing for Performance I: Scripts

Writing scripts for actors to bring to life can be both thrilling and challenging. Nothing sharpens a writer’s skills in any form more than writing for live theatrical performance. This workshop will give you the basics of how to write a script that actors will love to perform, and a brief introduction to producing your own plays (a necessity in the straitened circumstances of today’s theatre world). Book Now

Writing for Performance II: Lyrics and Libretti

Whether you write your own music or collaborate with a composer, writing lyrics and libretti (the words to operas) poses particular challenges. This workshop will give you the tools to write powerful, meaningful lyrics and libretti that consider composers’ and performers’ needs, and make them excited to set and sing your words. Book Now

Writing for Performance III: Performance Poetry

Performing poetry out loud is an art as old as humanity, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. In this workshop, you’ll learn how to write poetry that’s uniquely suited to spoken performance, and how to perform it effectively yourself. You’ll also find out the secrets of slamming (competitive performance poetry) and how to get started getting your poems out to the world through riveting and electric performance. Be prepared to get on stage during the workshop!  Book Now

Worlds that Work: World-Building for the Science-Fiction and Fantasy Writer

Creating a consistent and satisfying fictional world a skill that you can learn and use to make your stories vivid and engaging. This workshop will teach proven techniques for devising worlds that make sense and provide a robust background for your characters’ adventures. Book Now

Getting Out There: Readings, Launches, Media and Interviews

If your dream as a writer is to give readers the sort of joy you’ve had from the books you love, first you need to reach them. This workshop will teach you how and why to hold a reading, what a book launch is and why people hold them, and how to work with the media to find and engage with the people who will enjoy your writing and come back for more. Book Now


Writing for the Primary Education Market

The primary school education market is an often-ignored area of publishing, but it can be a great way into the children’s writing industry. Text books are specialised and written by experts in the relevant field; but school readers, primary school non-fiction books, chapter books linked to the Australia curriculum, and other educational resources are a great opportunity for children’s writers. But writing for the Education Market is quite different to writing for the trade. Find out all about it in this class.
You will learn:
·       The scope of the education market.
·       The requirements of the education market.
·       The do’s and don’ts of writing for the education market.
·       How to get a foot in the door. Book Now


Life and Times in the Middle Ages (6 Weeks)

Week 1: Reading and writing; Literature and language
Week 2: Entertainment, music, plays, games other ways of making merry
Week 3: Made objects (from dresses to boxes)
Week 4: Food, cooking and etiquette
Week 5: Worldview: religion, science and magic; time and space
Week 6: What makes a life? Famous people and the everyday. What we know and how we know it.
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Using History in Writing (6 weeks)

For writers – from Dr Polack’s  History and Fiction, each session develops a skill and understanding – the whole series is an advanced course for novelists and creative non-fiction writers. This is a brand new course,and Dr Polack’s own research and publications are at the heart of it.
Week 1- The past, history, historians and novelists – an introduction and overview
Week 2- Constructing the world of the novel – how history and fiction work together
Week 3- How to research and what to research. Different types of research for different types of novels
Week 4 – What does the reader see? Credibility, accuracy and other critical questions
Week 6 – Tools and techniques – some examples of excellent writing and explanations of how they were done
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Comics, comics and more comics!


Writing Art History into Fiction

Art history is generally written by professional historians, but writing art history into fiction is a challenge for any writer with the imagination and daring to take it on. Over the four, hands-on, sessions of this course we will look at various ways to write ‘art’ into your work: from small pieces, to short stories and ideas for novels – who doesn’t love a good mystery?     Book Now