A few years ago, I was lucky enough to have Margo Lanagan as a tutor at Clarion South. Rumours of Margo’s famous “words not to use” list were proven true (the list included things like ‘crystalline’ and ‘iridescent’, and now I can’t see either of these words without thinking of Margo) and her passion for writing was (and still is) infectious.
This year, Adelaide Writers Week has been dedicated to Margo, which is not only incredibly exciting but also completely deserved. Reading even a snippet of Sean William’s dedication explains why:
Her body of work is extensive: fifteen novels, fifty short stories, and four highly acclaimed short story collections, White Time, Black Juice, Red Spikes and Yellowcake. She is the winner of multiple Aurealis, Ditmar and World Fantasy awards, as well as the 2004 Victorian Premier’s Award for Young Adult Fiction. Her work has been nominated for the Sturgeon, Stoker, Tiptree, International Horror Guild, Locus, Shirley Jackson, Children’s Book Council, Hugo, Nebula, Commonwealth Writers Prize, alongside the Queensland and New South Wales’ Premier’s Awards. It is a list that aptly describes the diversity of her readership.
On top of all this talent, Margo is an absolutely lovely person and generous with her time and advice. For this week’s Tuesday Therapy, she shares some tips on fostering ideas and letting them grow:
Let your idea cook. I make notes for short stories on sticky notes or in notebooks. Each note is maybe an attractive halfof an idea – for example, “People buying silence in a can, jar, pill, or just downloading some.” Usually I still need a central character and situation. Having chosen a story to begin on, I carry this half-idea around with me, and it becomes my daydreaming material. I escape to it, idly look at it and like it, toss it from hand to hand and push it around whenever I’ve got a spare minute. Then when other business takes over, I move on from it, but at the next daydream opportunity, there it is with all its possibilities coming to life around it.