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Be the hero or heroine of your own story at Lines in the Sand

18 September 2019

Author Melissa Fagan believes we’re all heroes or heroines in our own way but we’re all flawed.

She’ll be presenting a workshop on writing memoir and personal essays and talking about her book What Will Be Worn: A McWhirters Story at this month’s free Fraser Coast Lines in the Sand literary festival in Hervey Bay.

Participants at her workshop should expect to be engaged, challenged and entertained.

“If you are already working on something, expect to come away having made progress, or at least to have gained more insight,” Ms Fagan said.

“If you are thinking about writing a memoir or essay but you’re not sure where to start, the workshop will provide you with some prompts.”

Fraser Coast Mayor George Seymour said people interested in history and vintage fashion as well as aspiring authors would enjoy Ms Fagan’s talk about What Will Be Worn. 

“She delved into the background of her mother’s family to write about McWhirters, the well-known Fortitude Valley department store,” he said.

Ms Fagan said she tried hard to provide balance in her book and her family had been gracious and supportive about it, although there were some grumbles about things she missed or got wrong.

“They respect that I’ve written it from my perspective,” she said.

“I haven’t looked for easy answers or narratives … and I think, ultimately, the book shows the resilience of family – how families stay together despite challenges, or reform and reunite after they’ve broken.”

Ms Fagan encourages writers to follow their fascination.

“Write about the experiences and themes that you feel most passionate about and are most interested in,” she said.

“Be curious. Ask questions of yourself, of others, of the world. 

“If you follow what fascinates, you are more likely to enjoy the journey and readers are more likely to want to come along for the ride.”

Ms Fagan herself has been attending writing workshops for the past 20 years and said while some were more useful than others, “every teacher is different, so you always come away with something useful”.

She said her own approach to writing was fragmented and chaotic at times.

“I did a lot of research and writing that didn’t end up making it into the final pages and got stuck down a few rabbit holes,” Ms Fagan said.

“That’s all part of the process though. 

“Writing the book helped me understand more about my process, what works for me and what doesn’t, which will hopefully help me to write my next book. 

“Then again, every book is different and part of what keeps me interested in writing is the fact that I don’t always know where I’m going, or how I’m going to get there. 

“Getting lost and trusting your intuition to find a way out is really important.”

Cr Seymour said the three-day literary festival from September 27 to 29 was hosted by Fraser Coast Libraries and was designed to inspire readers and writers.

He said Ms Fagan’s workshop from 1pm to 4pm on Friday, September 27 and her talk from 12.30pm to 1.30pm on Saturday, September 28 were free but bookings were essential.

Cr Seymour said Lines in the Sand also included other writing workshops, a keynote speech by prominent journalist and author Kerry O’Brien, guest author talks, publishing tips, a pop-up bookshop and book signings.

“Another author historians will be interested in is Caylie Jeffery who triggered the Under the Lino online phenomenon when she published a photo of old documents she found in her home,” he said.

 “Added to that, artists and arts organisations of all kinds can benefit from the workshops and one-on-one advice appointments being offered by representatives of the Arts Law Centre of Australia.”

Cr Seymour said the festival had already proved popular and Kerry O’Brien’s keynote speech had been booked out but people could check for any last-minute cancellations or hear a brief talk by the Logie Hall of Fame recipient if they registered for a ticket to the welcome reception at 6.30pm on Friday, September 27.

To view the full program of events and make bookings, visit