Designing a handout (Australian Gothic Stories edition)

I’ve rambled before about workshop handouts as a structuring principle. I’m hoping these posts will gather into a bigger idea!

In the meantime: I’m continuing to think about handouts. This is driven by two considerations: confidence and personal convenience.

  • Confidence, because I like knowing that whatever else happens in the workshop the participants will leave with A Thing. 
  • Convenience, because a functional, contained handout can take the place of a script — I can talk to the booklet and the slides.

It’s possible for handouts to take over a workshop, usually through quantity. But once an idea is strong enough, I think a useful handout choice can be felt — it starts to push back against the structure of the workshop plan and direct the flow into a physical, logical format. (It’s also a bit of a visual cue for timing.)

My current process:

  1. Worry for a while without writing. (This collects and distills what I already know.)
  2. Abruptly, put all thoughts in place on paper.
  3. Sketchy trial arrangements.
  4. Drop into actual format.
  5. Let prior thought and the boundaries of the page answer outstanding questions.
  6. Print and work with that format.

Here’s the process for the three-hour Australian Gothic Stories masterclass I gave at the Brisbane Writers Festival last weekend.

  1. In notebook:
    • Drop all ideas onto a notebook page and then start roughing out an order. Is it a flowchart? Is it a mindmap? Is it a plan? None and all. (I’ve done this outlining process several times in the observation journal, doing rapid-fire designs of hypothetical workshops.
    • Work out what might be a reasonable progression, and where whirlpools form. (Do description exercises belong in genre, ideation, writing, or editing? These questions can be solved by careful and then pragmatic thought — but the shape of the handout also suggests answers to the gnarlier problems.)
      • (Doing this on paper highlights those little gnarls and feedback loops in a way working digitally doesn’t.)
    • Consider format and scale.
      • I’ve used a one-page table handout for related, smaller workshops, but it’s not an object on its own, and doesn’t give a lot of room for writing.
      • What’s feasible? The zine format created a lovely reference guide for the map workshop, but it’s too small for this long a workshop.
      • This needed something larger. A little A6 (or smaller) booklet is a very pleasing object, and harder to crush in a bag. But I wanted to workshop attendees to leave with a solid collection of reference imagery, techniques, ideas, structures, story treatments, and writing towards one of those stories, and that needed more page real-estate!
  2. Fold a blank A5 mockup, label sticky notes with topics/exercises, and rearrange them. I didn’t develop this step to a final layout. This exercise is mostly to (a) confirm this format should work and (b) get a physical feeling for the page size and limitations.
  3. Set up a document (I used InDesign) and continue the rearrangement there. Some workshop-order decisions are made at this stage, based on previous thought, yes, but also influenced by what sits on the opposite page. At this point I’d committed to the format. I was mostly going back and forth on whether it should be slightly too few pages (squashed) or slightly too many (a bit of extra writing room).
  4. Write on it in the workshop, as variations and timing adjustments suggest themselves — for example, there was a fun mini-exercise I added in because I thought the class would work well with it.

BWF and BAD — sketches and recovery and too many zines

Little sketches with simple marker backgrounds of people with coffee, badges, etc

My festival weekend is done! I only got a very little sketch done at the Brisbane Writers Festival, mostly because (with a short break to raid the zine market*) I was talking all the time — either on the Haunting History panel (with Angela Slatter, Shelley Parker-Chan and Chloe Gong, chaired by Jo Anderton), chairing the Toil and Trouble panel (Angela Slatter, Trent Jamieson and Malcolm Devlin — somewhere there is a photo of us all with fans), or giving a three hour workshop on writing Australian Gothic stories!

And on the Friday — as part of Brisbane Art and Design — I gave an artist floor talk at the QUT art museum, about the art I did for the activity space for the Spowers & Syme exhibition, which is still on and is a delight.

But I was very in everything, which was energising (and energy-demanding), which leaves little time for sketching, even though there were some wonderful crowd scenes (these are hungry authors in the Green Room). After I finish the PhD (and a few other things), I need to get an artist-at-large gig again somewhere. (I think that might have been the first thing I ever officially did at a Brisbane Writers Festival!)

Tiny sketch of a group in the green room, talking and making tea, with simple blue marker colour

*”Zines are like, $3 each,” I told myself, cradling a sick headache. “How bad can it get?”
I bought so many.

Events: BWF and BAD

The next few days are full of events, with the Brisbane Writers Festival and Brisbane Art Design having started.

Here are my whereabouts:

  • Panel: Haunting History Thursday 11 May 2:30pm (Angela Slatter + Kathleen Jennings + Shelley Parker-Chan + Chloe Gong + Jo Anderton) — SLQ
  • Artist Floor Talk Friday 12 May 12:30pm— QUT Art Museum (Gardens Point)
  • Panel: Toil and Trouble Sunday 14 May 11:30am (Angela Slatter + Malcolm Devlin + Trent Jamieson + Kathleen Jennings) (I’m a ‘contributing moderator’) — SLQ
  • Workshop masterclass: Australian Gothic Stories Sunday 14 May 2-5pm — SLQ

Here’s the workshop description:

Do you love the creepy and strange, the howling and mysterious, the disturbing and shadowed (or sun-bleached)? Do you want to distil and brew your own range of Gothic tales? Writer and illustrator Kathleen Jennings teaches a crash course on harnessing the delights and terrors of the Australian Gothic. You will mine the visuals and themes of the Gothic for ideas, twist them into new shapes, experiment with shifting place and motif, and begin outlining short stories. 
This workshop is suitable for new and emerging writers who want to try writing Australian Gothic stories, and also for established writers who would like to try some rapid idea generation and variation in the Gothic mode. This version of the workshop focusses on writing techniques; however illustrator-artists are welcome to attend and draw their notes and stories. 

Gympie workshop: bad drawings, good stories

At the end of this month, I’m giving a workshop in Gympie!

Illustrator and writer Kathleen Jennings will teach a light-hearted, earnest approach to building your own infinite creative reference.

  • Date: 28th April 2023
  • Location: Gympie Library 8-14 Mellor St, Gympie, QLD, 4570
  • Cost: Free (bookings required)
  • Time: 10:00 – 12:00

Last Friday Social Club – Bad drawing, Good Stories with Kathleen Jennings

Gympie Library – Friday 28 April 10-12noon

Do you want to play with pictures and stories? Or is it already your job, and you want to lighten up and find the joy in it again? Illustrator and writer Kathleen Jennings will teach a light-hearted, earnest approach to building your own infinite creative reference. Guided by an internationally published and awarded artist and author, you will mine your favourite story types, learn tips for fast bad drawing, and start building new images and tales. This workshop is suitable for aspiring illustrators and writers, and for established creators who want to have some fun with what they already know.

Bookings are essential: phone 54810859 or visit here to book online

Brisbane Writers Festival 2023

Art by Brent Wilson

The Brisbane Writers Festival is on in May! It’s a great (and great-looking) program. You can see the full line-up here:

I’m giving a workshop and on two panels:

  • Panel: Haunting History Thursday 11 May 2:30pm (Angela Slatter + Kathleen Jennings + Shelley Parker-Chan + Chloe Gong + Jo Anderton)
  • Panel: Toil and Trouble Sunday 14 May 11:30am (Angela Slatter + Malcolm Devlin + Trent Jamieson + Kathleen Jennings) (I’m a ‘contributing moderator’)
  • Workshop: Australian Gothic Stories Sunday 14 May 2pm

Silhouette Bookplate Workshop — 2 June 2023

On 2 June, I’m giving a silhouette bookplate workshop at the QUT Art Museum! (This is in addition to the artist floor talk on 12 May.)

Developed in response to the current exhibitions ‘Spowers & Syme’ and ‘A Matter of Looking: 20th century works from the QUT Art Collection’, join Kathleen Jennings to explore the principles of silhouette art, cutting techniques, composition and design to create a bookplate in a style of your very own!

Date: Friday 2 June
When: 10AM-12PM
Place: QUT Art Museum
Free, bookings essential, registrations via Eventbrite, link in bio.

‘Spowers & Syme’ is a National Gallery Touring Exhibition supported by Visions of Australia, Major Patron David Thomas AM, and the Gordon Darling Foundation. ‘Spowers & Syme’ is a Know My Name project.

Here are some rather better photos, courtesy of the QUT Art Museum, of the illustrations I did for their activity space, to accompany Spowers & Syme (a National Gallery Touring Exhibition), and the companion exhibition from the QUT Art Museum’s collection, A Matter of Looking.

I’ll also be giving an artist floor talk there on 12 May as part of the Brisbane Art & Design festival.

Illustrations and a talk! Spowers & Syme / A Matter of Looking at QUT Art Museum

Two new exhibitions have just opened at the QUT Art Museum at QUT Gardens Point, Brisbane (alongside the City botanic gardens) — Spowers & Syme (a National Gallery Touring Exhibition), and the companion exhibition from the QUT Art Museum’s collection, A Matter of Looking.

They are both warm and vivid and generous exhibitions. I highly recommend checking them out, particularly as many of the fragile works in Spowers & Syme — with all their interwar energy — may not be on exhibition again for some time.

And, accordingly, I was thrilled to be asked to design illustrations for the activity space, getting to spend time staring at all these works and distilling them down to a tumble of black-and-white energy. (I love playing in others’ worlds, whether artists or authors, trying to see through their eyes and then again, anew, through my own.)

Table and wall in art gallery covered with many small silhouette images of

AND the museum has just announced that they are part of the Brisbane Art & Design festival this May! As part of that, I will be there for an artist floor talk!

Join QUT Galleries and Museums Engagement Officer, Renae Belton in conversation with local illustrator and writer Kathleen Jennings who has been commissioned to design an activity space where people can explore pattern making, drawing and creative play whilst visiting our current exhibitions, ‘Spowers & Syme’ and ‘A Matter of Looking: 20th century works from the QUT Art Collection’.

Date: Friday 12 May
When: 12:30 -1:30PM
Place: QUT Art Museum
Free, bookings essentials, registrations via Eventbrite.

‘Spowers & Syme’ is a National Gallery Touring Exhibition supported by Visions of Australia, Major Patron David Thomas AM, and the Gordon Darling Foundation. ‘Spowers & Syme’ is a Know My Name project.

BAD logo — smiley face of BAD in black on bright yellow

2022 in review: Workshops, Panels and Presentations

Mock-ups of a book of map making instructions

2022 was a year of quite a few workshops, presentations, and panels, after the relative quiet of the preceding years!

Workshops (writing, illustration, writing/illustration, creativity)

  • Creative writing workshop (three-mood short stories) for Global Change Scholars Program, University of Queensland, February
  • Observation Journal Workshop, Brisbane Writers Festival, May
  • Gothic writing workshop, Kelvin Grove State College, August
  • “Bad drawings, good stories”, Gympie LIbrary, September
  • “The Art of Illustration” guest lecture and workshop for WRIT7090 (Writing and Publishing for Children and Young Adults), University of Queensland, October
  • “The Three Mood Approach to Writing Short Fiction” (online), World Fantasy Convention, New Orleans, November
  • “Feeling for the Edges — a bouquet of techniques for recombining, rediscovering and writing with what you already know” — workshop for the Departing Radically in Academic Writing summer school, Brisbane, December
  • Map Illustration Workshop (one hour version):
    • LoveYA / Wordplay / Brisbane Writers Festival, May
    • Indooroopilly Library, December
    • West End Library, December
    • Banyo Library, December

Panels (as panellist and as moderator, which I very much enjoy)

  • “Writing the Familiar as Fantasy” panellist — OzComicCon, March
  • Brisbane Writers Festival, May:
    • “Debuting in a pandemic”, as chair, with panellists Jacqueline Maley, Sophie Overett and Lyndall Clipstone
    • “Sweet, sweet fantasy” panellist, with Lynette Noni, C.S. Pacat, and MC Samantha Baldry
  • “Fairytale and fantasy. The art of pinning magic to the page with Kathleen Jennings and Trent Jamieson” panellist, with Trent Jamieson and MC Jess Yates, Oz ComicCon, September
  • “Keynote: Australian Fairy Tales: Flesh or Fossil”, keynote panellist, with Alan Parsons, Jo Henwood and MC Bettina Nissen, Australian Fairy Tale Society conference, October
  • “How We Do the PhD Here: An International Roundtable of PhD Candidates”, panellist with Hannah Ascough, Ovie Jack Matilda Eyituoyo, Brisa Smith Flores, Iris van der Wulp, and MC Mathias Orhero, Canadian Association for Graduate Studies conference, (virtual, Montréal), November
  • “Combining Outlooks: Artists Who Are Authors”, MC/panellist, with panellists Akua Lezli Hope, Terri Windling, Iris Compiet and Ursula Vernon, World Fantasy Convention, New Orleans, November
  • “The Artist as Visual Storyteller”, MC/Panellist, with Irene Gallo, Nikki Rossignol, Iris Compiet, and Penelope Flynn, World Fantasy Convention, New Orleans, November

Papers, interviewing, and others

  • Q&A live (remote) for CRWR3001 (The Epic), Flinders University, Adelaide, April
  • Reading at VICFA (first Virtual International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts), October
  • Pulp Fiction/Brisbane Square Library, launch of Angela Slatter’s The Path of Thorns, in conversation with me
  • A Room of One’s Own: Trent Jamieson’s launch of The Stone Road, in conversation with me
  • Academic paper, “Three Moods — A Novel Approach to the Short Story”, Work in Progress Conference, University of Queensland, Brisbane, November
  • Reading at World Fantasy Convention, New Orleans, November


Interested in what’s up next?

Follow me here, on Twitter and Instagram, and/or sign up to the brief and infrequent but erratic mailing list: Mailing List Sign-Up

Availability for workshops, panels, etc

My contact details are here:

Summer Map Workshops

Photo of whiteboard with very scribbly fairy-tale map on it

This summer, I’m giving a speedy map-illustration workshop at four Brisbane libraries! It’s a 1-hour pocket-sized version, just right for an afternoon activity and a shot of ideas to build your own fantasy maps with. The workshops are ideal for ages 9-16, and are free (bookings required).

World Fantasy 2022 timetable

Screen shot of World Fantasy Convention 2022 header. New Orleans, Louisiana, November 3-6, 2022.

I am in New Orleans, after a very long (and somewhat delayed) series of flights. I’m still travel-crumpled, and haven’t quite steeled myself to see the state of all the art I packed for the exhibition, but I’m here. And here is my schedule (for more details, see the convention website and program):

  • The Three Mood Approach to Writing Short Fiction — a one-hour online workshop on Wednesday at 11am CDT.
  • Art show (throughout)
  • Panel: Combining Outlooks: Artists who are Writers – Friday at 11:00 am
  • Reading – Saturday at 4:00 pm
  • Art reception – Saturday at 8:00 pm
  • Panel (moderating): The Artist as Visual Storyteller – Sunday at 11:00 am

More details (rooms, etc) can be found on the convention website: