Writing Historical Fiction

  Historical fiction author, Nerida Newton, inspires workshop participants.

  Historical fiction author, Nerida Newton, inspires workshop participants.

During a recent workshop run by the Queensland Writer’s Centre on Writing Historical Fiction, award winning author, Nerida Newton, offered valuable advice and strategies to assist aspiring writers and State Library’s Queensland Authors Librarian, Dr Leanne Day, showcased resources in the John Oxley Library. It was a lively session and Nerida used practical exercises to unlock some mysteries of writing. Plenty of interest was shown in the displayed collection, which included:

  • almanacs that told if it was a full moon on that particular night at Roma in 1881 when the murder occurred
  • a travel writer’s detailed description of Brisbane when he visited during the 1895 building boom that caused him, ‘at first, a feeling almost of embarrassment, as a guest might experience upon arriving at an entertainment before the preparations were quite completed’.
  • the recorded voice of an old digger telling his story of growing up on an outback station and his time in the war
  • photographs of early cottage gardens, kitchens and menus
  • a Captain’s handwritten entries in his ship’s log book
  • descriptions of place and attitudes of authors of period Queensland and Australian fiction
  • maps that showed who owned blocks of land and how far they travelled to do their shopping and go to work – illustrated with modes of transport
  • newspapers that provided day-to-day action of a particular place in time that novelists could embed their characters in
  • examples of how illustrators used visual resources in the collection to illustrate historical picture books

By the end of a fabulous day shy participants were transformed into inspired writers.

Nerida’s two historical novels are held in the John Oxley Library’s collection. The Lambing Flat (2003) won the Emerging Author category for the Queensland Premier's Literary Awards and was shortlisted for the The Australian/Vogel Literary Award and the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for the Asia/Pacific region (Best First Book) and One Book One Brisbane. Her second novel Death of a Whaler was published in 2006.

  State Library’s Queensland Authors Librarian, Dr Leanne Day, showcases resources in the John Oxley Library’s collection.

  State Library’s Queensland Authors Librarian, Dr Leanne Day, showcases resources in the John Oxley Library’s collection.

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What a great resource we have in the State Library!When I was a child growing up in regional Queensland, I marvelled every time I received my parcel of books wrapped in brown paper and tied with string. It arrived by train and it was courtesy of the State Library's Country Children's book service.Forty years later, I am still marvelling at what wonderful things the State Library brings us. This workshop opened the door to a wonderful array of resources for writing - thanks to Leanne's knowledge and enthusiasm - and combined so well with Nerida's experience and practical insights into writing historical fiction.Thank you for continuing to keep the wonder of books and writing alive!

I thoroughly endorse Gail's enthusiasm for the wonderful resource which is our state library. The workshop conducted by Nerida and Leanne was inspirational and expansive in the ground covered on the day.Thank you to Gail - the previous writer - as well for her story about the the State Library's Country Children's Book Service.