Writing Partnerships & Collaborations

It was inspirational to discuss the ins and outs of how to create successful writing collaborations, with award winning authors Geneve Flynn, Jay Kristoff, and Mykaela Saunders at Genre Con 2023.

Most of the audience had little experience of this, and were curious to learn more, especially about the personal qualities to look for in potential collaborators and the mechanics of managing a writing partnership.

We examined this from the point of view of writing partners, collaborating editors and creating publishing opportunities to bring collectives together to have a voice.

Jay’s first meeting with his writing partner, Amie Kauffman, was over their difficulties in navigating overseas taxation for individual books they had coming out, and came about because of a suggestion from a third party who said they could help each other out. They then had a breakfast meeting which led to a cowriting friendship, now spanning eight years and two series Illuminae and the Aurora Cycle.

Geneve met one of her co-editors by bravely introducing herself to Lee Murray, at a previous years Genre Con. Lee was a writer she greatly admired, and it turns out also had much in common with. Lee suggested they collaborate on editing an anthology. Geneve said, ‘How could I possibly have said no’ to an offer like that. Geneve has a professional editing background but Lee (who is also a professional editor) knew more people to approach to contribute to such a collection.

Mykaela gathered her contributors from a combination of personal networks and emails to people whose work she had long admired, such as Alexis Wright. She also did wider community call outs, and combined both well known authors, and emerging authors. University of Queensland Press took on her project to create Australia’s First, First Nations Speculative anthology, but of course there had been speculative writers around before that, who may not have been fully acknowledged.

The panellists shared that for them an essential element of partnership is .. to want what is best for the work

The panellists shared that for them an essential element of partnership is for all involved to want and focus what is best for the work, and this means having excellent communication free of ego, and producing an agreed outline of how work will be divided at the beginning of the process.

I shared the example of Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, who had a wonderful writing partnership, which Neil has written about.

This is how we wrote a novel together. I’d write late at night. Terry wrote early in the morning. In the afternoon we’d have very long phone conversations where we’d read each other the best bits we’d written, and talk about stuff that could happen next. The main objective was to make the other one laugh.

From Neil Gaiman, Terry PRATCHETT AN Appreciation

The audience wanted to know whether writing partnerships can be maintained through online communication, to which Jay said, “Amie and I always meet in person for planning” and then he explained they continue through electronic communications.

Both Geneve and Jay, have developed synergies with their collaborators where each brings different strengths to their projects. Geneve with several anthologies now collaborated on, with different co-editing partners, showed an enthusiasm for this form. One of these, Relics, Wrecks and Ruins, she did with one of the collaborating editors now passed on and includes Neil Gaiman as one of the contributors.

Jay’s writing partnership, led to both Amie and him, being able to write full time, due to the immense success of their cowritten series Illuminae Files.

‘Collaboration has been life changing.’


Jay explained their joint processes in some depth. He explained that in a planning session, nothing is too crazy for a suggestion in such sessions. It’s no holds barred.

The panel delved into how editors make choices.

For instance sometimes writing teams, as well as anthology selectors, have to make tough decisions at times, to ensure the best and most relevant work is included in their final work or collection.

Sound communication and compatibility is key to making tough decisions . . .

For all of the panellists sound communication and creative compatibility (this does not mean being the same, for it is often complementary and different strengths that make collaborations work so well) in teams is key. Mykaela needed submitted work to be to a reasonable level so she would not have to heavily mentor the writing of her contributors, but more collate it and order it with other selections.

Jay, who never argues with Amie, does neverthless have robust discussions where each puts forth their best argument for why something needs to stay, go or be changed. He will go with whichever choice is the most convincing, and listens carefully and respectfully to Amie who is also an expert in conflict resolution.

The book began with a list. “We wrote down all the things we love and whenever the other said ‘Oh, I love that, too’, we noted the crossover. One of the things we both loved was the ‘character out of time and place’ idea. “Auri is a character who doesn’t know where she is or why. On a structural level, it’s great to have this character that can explain the world to readers. She’s our Arthur Dent or Ellen Ripley,” says Kristoff. Aurora Rising is also about found family, finding your squad and what it feels like to be an outsider.

Kristoff quoted in ATKINSON,  Faye. 2019, SMH

Mykaela feels that its important as an editor, once selections have been made to treat writers respectfully. Both she and Geneve prefer to use question based approaches to their editing processes. Mykaela described editing as ‘learning to walk on the snow,’ of the manuscript gently, and in her ‘Overture’ – introduction to This All Come Back Now she says:

I did not want this to be an anthology full of pan-Indigenous, written to teach white Australia a lesson about itself stories that could be mistaken for coming from other cultures. . . I wanted to collect the best of our spec fic writing together in this basket of like-minded genres, so that the stories could all be read in their proper cultural context, side by side with their siblings.

Mykaela This All Come Back Now (p. 11)

Both Geneve, and Mykaela, have created anthologies reflective of diversities within cultural communities which avoid stereotypes. This is very important in the acknowledgement of diverse communities within Australia and globally. Mykaela pointed out there is immense diversity in the First Nations of Australia, and the importance of understanding of that interculturality. She herself is Koorie/Goorie, and Lebanese.

 We’re not a kingdom or a tribe. No chiefs here. We’re not apex predators at the top of any food chain. We don’t go around thinking we own the place. We’re all guests here, part of a diverse community – a complex network of relationships

Nan Jack In Mykaela’s short story , ‘Terranora’, IN  THIS ALL COME BACK NOW, p. 254

The Foreword to Black Cranes is a useful reference point for Geneve’s concerns.

What does it mean to be an Asian woman? The whole world thinks it already knows what we are about.  We are usually reduced to one of two stereotypes.  Sometimes we’re seen as Geishas, the beautiful desirable woman who is trained to bend herself to the will of another (usually a man).  She exists only to give pleasure.  Other times, we’re the Dragon Lady, manipulative and dangerous (but, here too, sometimes with a tinge of the erotic). 
Above all, Asian women are supposed to be submissive.
… We can be many things. The only thing we can’t be is defeated.

Alma Katsu Foreword to Black Cranes

I highly recommend this funny, warm, generous, and sensitive panel of authors, who between them cover spec fic, horror, fantasy, science fiction, horror and fantasy poetry. I immensely enjoyed reading their books in preparation for the panel.

The audience at the end enthusiastically indicated they would love to find writing collaborators, and or contribute to anthologies and tandem tellings (we had storytellers in the audience): who knows that might even happen from making friends at Genrecon.

Many thanks to the Queensland Writers Centre, Genre Con and all sponsors for this event as well as to my Australian Fairy Tale Society colleagues for their nurturing and collaborations.

Interesting Links For Further Exploration

Writing Community!

Writing has truly enriched my life.

This year there were a number of panels, with The Australia Fairy Tale Society, Diaspora sisters, joining Vacen, Kathryn and Tasha for second Comic Con panel, as well as a guest panel for social justice, can great writing change the world, hosted by School of Social Work and nursing at the University of Queensland.

I loved the experience of preparing and presenting on the panels, particularly for the AFTS conference, as this was a brilliant conversational and thinking journey that will see future projects.

There was lots of service to the QLD writers centre with management committee meetings every two months, plus subcommittees, and attending wider community events to spread the word and learn more about what others are doing. Particularly the women’s ethnicity network of the ECCQ, who my friend Sharon invited me to attend.

The QLD Writers Centre hosted an amazing genre con dinner, with solving mysteries on the menu and it was a thrill to meet Garth Nix, plus the wonderful end of year Christmas party presenting the Johnno to Tess Rowley, as well as meeting resident writers and alumni. It is brilliant being inspired by other creatives, and hopefully they feel support as well.

I loved catching up with SCBWI friends in person for the first time in a year at least, and making an international workshop on poetry novels.

One day will I make it to picture book publication, or will it be middle grade or YA? I sure hope to progress beyond short stories into a full book.

And the most exciting thing of all, writing is happening… whatever else is going on, although I have slowed the progression of my masters in teaching just a little.

It is good to be having a break from the hustle and bustle of the year, to have a few weeks to read, write and relax! I’ll be having a break from the blog as well.

So see you all in January or February!

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