This blog was written by mentee Agustina Harris about her experience hearing Justine Larbalestier’s craft talk at our workshop on suspense fiction.
Justine Larbalestier is a YA suspense fiction writer from Sydney, Australia living in New York with many feats under her belt such as a short film, a radio show, and many eloquent novels. With a background in academia, Justine was the speaker at the October Girls Write Now afternoon workshop and has written books such as Liar and My Sister Rosa. During her talk, I became enveloped in her words. Justine wasn’t what I had assumed a successful writer would be, she was even better. She was humble, genuine, inspirational. She had such a warm and calming aura, a big smile on her face. She was open and engaging, cracking jokes, trying to make us laugh; it worked and kept us interested. Justine was one to speak her mind. Every so often she’d slow down to gather her thoughts, looking as if she was a lost in them. Her childlike sense of wonder was showing; it was wonderful. She was charming, which is a great trait to have, as it really pulls an audience in.
It didn’t seem like success tainted her. Justine very clearly still had that spark in her eyes, showing her passion for what she does. I noticed her continuous reference to other authors and inspirations in her life, making it clear that many people influenced her own writing. Something that shocked me, and further revealed her humility, was when she started tearing up in the middle of her talk. I believe the topic at hand was research she had done on child abuse. In that moment she was just… human. Listening to her was like listening to an old friend. It felt as if we were her equals, like we were just as capable as she is. It was weird to think that influential people still admire others.
It was amazing to see how passionate she was about her work, putting in so much effort and research before actually writing her novels. Especially with the novel My Sister Rosa, going in-depth to learn about psychopathy and sociopathy before writing it. What surprised me was that she stated that she didn’t really plan out the entire story before writing a book. That’s something that I don’t do either. I always thought that I couldn’t succeed as a writer if I didn’t plan everything out beforehand, but I guess that’s not the case. It was definitely a confidence boost hearing a professional say something like that.
The workshop was an amazing experience. Hearing from a writer who I could actually relate to was eye-opening. She seemed to really want every single girl in that room to succeed in anything that they did, and when you think about it, we all can succeed. One thing to really take away from all this is the importance of having passion for what you do, something all members of the GWN community have. We must remember that the drive to do what we love will take us further than we could ever imagine.