Courses taken at AWC:
Advanced Fiction Writing Techniques (Novel Writing Essentials)
Graci Kim has worked as a diplomat, cooking show host and even made kids' toys – but it was when she sat down to reread her favourite childhood novels that she discovered her passion.
“It hit me – none of the books I read and treasured as a child had people like me in them. All the books I’d loved were about white people. I had been invisible on the page my whole life,” Graci says. She signed up for a course at the Australian Writers' Centre and started writing books about Korean diaspora kids having magical adventures.
Graci’s debut middle-grade novel, The Last Fallen Star, has now been published by Disney Hyperion (Rick Riordan Presents) and the trilogy has been optioned by the Disney Channel for a live action television series.
Connecting with the writing community
Graci had just returned home to New Zealand after a decade abroad and felt like she wanted to try something new.
“And that’s when I realised I needed to write. I needed to write to fill the gap, so that Asian (and specifically Korean) diaspora kids who looked like me could see themselves alive and thriving on the page – seeking magic, going on adventures, and being the heroines of their stories,” Graci says. “I needed to write because we had a voice too; and that our stories also held value that demanded to be shared with all people.”
But first she had to learn how to write! As a longtime listener of the So you want to be a writer podcast, Graci had heard of the AWC’s courses. She enrolled in Advanced Fiction Writing Techniques (now called Novel Writing Essentials) and started on her writing path.
“The most useful part of the course was the community with whom I got to share the learning journey,” Graci says. “A small group of us stayed in touch following the course, and became critique partners for one another. At the early stages when the obstacles to writing were greater than the milestones, having a community of fellow writers was invaluable, and probably one of the main reasons I didn’t throw in the towel!”
From Tweet to publication
Graci’s first manuscript was a YA contemporary novel with speculative elements, which she used to query agents. Although she wasn’t successful with that manuscript, she learned a lot about the publishing industry. She then started on a new manuscript and pitched it in a Twitter contest for historically marginalised writers. Her pitch tweet was a huge success, garnering 200 likes from people in the publishing industry.
“From there, I made a shortlist of agents from that group to query with my new manuscript. Three weeks later, following a partial Revise & Resubmit request, I ended up signing with Carrie Pestritto from Laura Dail Literary Agency [based in New York],” Graci says.
Working with Carrie, Graci started submitting her manuscript to various publishers before it was picked up by Rick Riordan Presents, Disney Hyperion. It was an extraordinary moment for Graci, who was having a prenatal appointment at the time!
“I had just gotten my blood taken that day, and was already feeling a little faint. But then to be lying on a clinic bed getting a 12-week scan on my pregnant belly when the message came through that my manuscript was going to be a real book… and one edited and presented by Rick Riordan no less… What can I say? It was a rather emotional moment!!”
The Percy Jackson author is glowing in his praise. “Graci Kim does such an amazing job of blending Korean mythology into the modern world, I am now wondering how I ever lived without knowing all this cool information,” Rick Riordan says of Graci’s debut. He even appeared at one of her launch events in Houston, Texas.
The Last Fallen Star is a mythology-inspired middle grade adventure about Korean witches in LA, forbidden spells and one adopted girl’s search for belonging. It is the first in the Gifted Clans trilogy, with the other books due to be published over the next two years.
“Doing the course, learning the tools, and having an experienced teacher guide me through the foundations made me realise that despite there being a mountain ahead of me, it was one I could navigate if I just put in the work,” Graci says. “It made me realise my dreams were perhaps not as impossible as I once had thought.”