fostering, developing and promoting writers and writing

The Art of Lyric Writing

By Emily Davis

In general I’m a bit of a communic-a-tard. This is kind of like being a lactard (allergic to milk), but perhaps with slightly more serious connotations and consequences. I can assure you I can write, and read and speak, and I’m not too bad at a boozy dinner party when I’m tasked with spinning a bawdy yarn (*NB as a slight aside I’d like it noted that having just completed a Facebook endorsed ‘Right Brain Left Brain’ test and I’m a confirmed right brain thinker, which apparently means I enjoy creative story telling; I think best when lying down and I’m meant to be good at Geometry. WTF?!


‘…lyric writing is the salve; the litmus test to happiness.’

Ahem… anyway when one boils down the essence of true communication I’ve always struggled to authentically convey things that I’ve seen in my brain (an image, revelation or something that’s moved me) into a succinct, accessible neat little package of words. The frustration I’ve experienced when I realise I’m unable to explain what I really mean has led to me give up on my quest for a sash-and-tiara placement in the art of eloquent conversation pageantry. (See?…What a wanker, I mean ‘conversation pageantry’ says it all)

What the hell does this have to do with the price of eggs?

Lyrics. That’s what. The art of song writing is something that has taken me many years to comprehend, and I’m by no means an overly successful lyricist. Well not by the usual measures. I’m not famous for it, I don’t earn much money from it, and I’ve never had an affair with one of my dancers because of it. I don’t even have dancers. On the upside, my lack of commercial success has allowed me to approach song writing with a highly personal agenda; and writing lyrics seems to be the most glorious part of the process.

When you’re nostalgic, affected, romantic, easily amused; when you dream every night and have forever, in colour; when you like booze, read poetry for FUN and you like music, and you’re a communica-a-tard, lyric writing is the salve; the litmus test to happiness. You become the grand poo-bah of your own inner insecurities and quirks because suddenly you have a tool to freely and deliciously speak your mind. You can, through the course of a single verse, convey an aesthetic, mood, or an entire life story. You can finally connect with others without having to explain at length in conversation, that which made your cogs turn or your head spin, or your heart sing, or your stomach churn.

I can’t tell you how many songs have been love letters; how many verses have been film trailers to dreams I’ve had; how many choruses have been self-help mantras that have gotten me out of an existential pickle; how many opening lines have been eulogies to the ones I’ve loved.

So now you know. Lyric writing gives my thoughts and visions and dreams and feelings a mouthpiece. It lets me nail down those things that govern me, and confuse me, and it lets me place them side by side; a series of neat little vignettes that line the shelves and cavities of my mind and heart. And this is something that I’d like to share with you, because once I learned how to trap the montages of my mind and bed them lyrics, I suddenly found that I needn’t bother with failed conversation; rather I should just open my mouth and let the song say the rest.


Emily Davis; troubadour; conjure woman; ritual maker and story weaver. Emily has performed at WomAdelaide and PeatsRidge Festival and supported Clare Bowditch, The Audreys and Kate Miller-Heidke. Her two solo albums have been played on Triple J, Nova FM, and the ABC. Davis is currently writing her third solo album due for release in Spring.

Emily will be holding a half day workshop called Trapping the Montage on lyric writing at the Centre.




Writing Prompts and Inspiration

Here are some great writing prompt sites to help you bust through any moments of writer’s block (or just keep you in an internet spiral all day long):

 Writing Prompts on Tumblr

Creative Writing Prompts

 Awesome Writing Prompts

Daily prompts sent to your inbox

 200 Fantasy Writing Prompts

 Spec Fic writing prompts  (don’t forget to come to our Members Monthly on Spec Fic this week).

Random Lists of Things

1000 Awesome Things

List of Fictional Things

Pinterest board of pictures to inspire writing

Share yours below!

John Griffin Obituary

By Mike Ladd

Born: July 5, 1935, Boleroo Centre

Died: September 9, 2012, Adelaide.

Poet, playwright and short story writer John Griffin grew up at Hammond in the mid-north of South Australia, the son of a farmer and shop owner. The family farm was often in the grip of drought – John used to joke that Goyder’s line ran “right through the middle of our dining room.” The landscape of the Wilochra plain and the realities of its starve-acre farms are a strong feature of John’s writing. At Hammond primary school he was taught by the Jindiworobak poet Flexmore Hudson, a lucky event which helped begin his lifelong love of poetry and story-telling. The family sold the farm in 1950 and moved to Adelaide where John was already attending Sacred Heart College. John went on to teachers’ college and began a thirty-six year career as a high school teacher. Later he taught at Adelaide College for the Arts in the professional writing course.

John published two books of poetry in the 1970s: A Waltz on Stones (Makar,1974) and Menzies at Evening (Angus and Robertson, 1977). He was also an accomplished radio playwright, penning many plays for the ABC. One of his most successful was One Tango With Juan Peron, starring Robyn Nevin in the lead role. It was about a housewife who had such a vivid fantasy life she actually believed she had an intimate relationship with the famous Argentine president. John Griffin’s stories and radio-plays were often about ordinary people who had a secret somewhere, or a strange fantasy, revealing unexpected depths.

John was one of the driving forces in the early days of South Australia’s long-running Friendly Street poetry reading, and for a brief time was poetry editor of The Advertiser. Along with Peter Goldsworthy, Peter McFarlane, Barry Westburg and me, John was a member of the Hot Seat Writing Group which met at the Left Bank Cafe, long-since demolished. The members of the group helped to edit each other’s work, and despite forthright commentary, stayed good friends.

John’s last book Backyard, was published by Wakefield Press in 1997. Dedicated to his Italian father in law, it’s a collection of humble, illuminating memoirs and poems about a lifetime of gardening. John himself was a humble man. He was the last person to self-promote, though he could be quietly assertive. He leaves behind a significant contribution to South Australian literature.

In his final years John suffered from Lewy Body Dementia and was admitted to Tappeiner Court Nursing Home. He died there just two months after the death of his wife Tina. John is survived by his daughter Emma, and two sons, John and Andrew.

If I don’t finish that story, I will not be able to pay the mortgage…

By Mark Dapin

I started my writing day at six o’clock this morning, when I printed out and proofed the first chapter of my upcoming military history book. I’m already weeks behind schedule with the book, which has to be in the shops in November. I must complete another chapter before the end of the day, otherwise I simply will not make the deadline. Unfortunately, tomorrow is my deadline for a 2600-word magazine feature story about a Scandinavian author, whom I visited a couple of weeks ago at his home in southern Sweden. If I don’t finish that story, I will not be able to pay the mortgage (perhaps not this month, but in a few months’ time). dapintall

I was supposed to fly to Melbourne tomorrow to interview a philosopher for a newspaper but, thankfully, the job was cancelled when the paper decided it couldn’t afford the flight (it needs its budget to pay the salaries of all the executives who are running the company into the ground). I would’ve had to complete that 1800-word story in 48 hours, which would’ve meant staying up most of tomorrow night. I’m also working on the second draft of my latest novel. It isn’t urgent – I’ve been paid the advance and I don’t need to deliver for months – but it’s the work I love the most and I can’t wait to see it finished, so it’d be fantastic to get an hour or so done today. But if I don’t write at least 2000 fresh words of the military history book this afternoon, I won’t be able to get the first 50,000 words off to publisher on Monday, one moth late.

So what’s my plan? Well, I’m going to finish this blog post, inviting you all to join me at my masterclass on April 5-6, in which I’ll explain to you how I manage to keep sane and keep writing, and then I’m going to the gym…


Mark Dapin’s CV is one of the most diverse in Australia. Mark was nominated for the Miles Franklin Award for his novel Spirit House and won the Ned Kelly Award for his novel King of the Cross. He has done time as the editor-in-chief of men’s magazines, a bestselling travel writer and beloved newspaper columnist in the Adelaide Advertiser and Good Weekend.

Mark will be holding a two day workshop at SAWC 5 and 6 April, 2014.

Writers’ Forum Wrap Up

By Johnny von Einem

For the last three years I’ve been working away at a journalism and creative writing degree, essentially straddling a line between two seemingly similar, but in practice starkly different worlds. Tight sentences and a strict adherence to hard facts are the main tenets of (good) journalism, whereas beautiful, descriptive and immersive language is what makes reading a (good) novel so addictive.

Where journalists and authors meet though, is a almost unnatural love for words, a strong desire to make a living from them, and (if discussions at the SA Writers Centre’s forums are anything to go by) then a collective uncertainty about how to exist in the digital age.

It’s not a topic that comes up often in creative writing tutorials, most classes are spent flexing your writing muscles, but the rise of social media and the prevalence of online content is having an effect on how writers are being discovered and how they perceive themselves.

There are masses of self-published works by unknown authors available through well-known companies like Amazon and iTunes, as well as hundreds of other obscure sites, and in a lot of cases for free. Where once these works were dismissed as already-considered-and-rejected writing, publishers’ attitudes are slowly changing and they’re now seeing a slush pile worthy of sifting through for elusive diamonds.

…exposure is something you can die from…

While this seems like a positive step, the abundance of free online content has done journalism no favours. The value of news content has dropped in the eyes of readers, who expect a lot for nothing, and in turn, media outlets are sourcing content from young writers willing to work solely for experience. It is a great way for students like myself (who haven’t quite learned the value of our skill set) to gain exposure and have our work tested at a professional level, but as D. W. Wilson pointed out, ‘exposure is something you can die from’, and at some point it’s going to stop looking like opportunity and look a lot more like exploitation.

So tread carefully aspiring authors, and learn from your journalistic cousins: it’s a great feeling to be read, but don’t sell yourself short.


Johnny von Einem is a final year journalism and creative writing student, music writer for Sleigh Ride and XXIV Magazine, and a shameless self-promoter via Twitter (@johnnyanonymity)

Connecting the unconnected – ideas, creativity and storytelling at Adelaide Writers’ Week

by Rose Hartley

As I fumble my way through the second draft of my novel, writers’ guides call out to me from every corner of my bookcase, claiming to be able to help me craft a story that someone might want to read. The latest one I’ve picked up is Lisa Cron’s Wired for Story, which uses brain science to try to explain why stories are so necessary to humans, and why we crave to know what happens next.

Of all the Adelaide Writers’ Week sessions, Telling Stories seemed the most likely to open up the craft of storytelling and explore how to develop an idea into a powerful story. Rachel Kushner (The Flamethrowers) and Fiona McFarlane (The Night Guest) did their best to pick their own brains and lay out how they work as storytellers.

Rachel Kushner unravelled the stories within her stories, that is, the way her characters use story in order craft their own identities in front of others. She explained it as similar to being attracted to someone: making yourself hostage to a person in order to hear their self-created story. Even if the story is a lie, you’ll suspend your disbelief if the person is a good storyteller. And that’s what her characters do.

“There’s an essential truth to the way that people lie about themselves,” Rachel said – and sometimes it’s so strong that we dupe ourselves. “For instance, when I’m saying something that I believe is earnest, I experience myself being earnest.”

The moderator asked, “So are our lives shaped by our perceptions?”

Fiona McFarlane’s response was a simple yes, and she used her protagonist as an example. Ruth’s brain, mixed up by the beginnings of dementia, “is telling her a new story, and she must figure out which world is the most likely,” since her sensory perceptions are lying to her. Fiona went on to talk about the “anxious gap” between perception and reality, and how as a writer that gap enabled her to create the character of Frida, who co-opts and manipulates Ruth’s story.

It’s all very well to hone in on the details of how characters experience story, but what about the writer who’s creating a whole, novel-length story with a beginning, a middle and an end? Rachel touched on this when she began talking about her novel’s themes.

“I enjoy putting two things into play that don’t necessarily relate to each other, and seeing how things turn out, without forcing them into some kind of logical continuity,” she said. Sometimes, of course, the unconscious mind connects them naturally. And this, to me, seems the definition of creativity: connecting two things that were previously unconnected.

“My unconscious is smarter and more interesting than I am”

Rachel described herself as an intuitive writer, saying she doesn’t always think about what she’s doing. “My unconscious is smarter and more interesting than I am,” she explained.

It reminded me of something that Isabel Allende wrote in Paula: that she doesn’t write a word of a new novel until she has the first sentence, and then she just writes, almost without thinking, tapping into something that’s lurking in her subconscious, just waiting to put itself onto the page. It’s a good reminder to put the writers’ guides away and just get on with the thing.

Rose Hartley is a writer and copywriter whose first novel is currently shortlisted for the Varuna Publisher Introduction Program. She blogs at and her short fiction will feature in the upcoming Right Now anthology, to be launched on May 29 as part of the Emerging Writers Festival.

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: