Alex Sarkis had enjoyed writing on the side as a hobby from her day job working in accounts. But after ten years of dabbling on her own, she decided it was time to look for guidance by enrolling in a writing course with the Australian Writers' Centre.
“I was staring down the barrel of a new year, and was determined to try something different, so I signed up!” Alex says.
That course was Write Your Novel with Bernadette Foley, and Alex immediately felt the impact of her decision.
“It did wonders for my confidence as a writer and gave me a sense of purpose week to week when it came to my manuscript. Having that routine and needing to meet deadlines was a great motivator.”
And now, just a few years later, Alex has released her debut novel Something Blue, published by Ultimo Press.
“I imagined being a published author quite a few times but I was speechless when it actually happened!” Alex says.
Gaining invaluable feedback
Like a lot of new writers, Alex was initially hesitant about sharing her work. She had always written for herself and the idea of participating in a workshopping environment was daunting.
“I’d been really guarded about my writing up until that point, and so when I realised I’d be sharing whole chapters of my work with a group of strangers I almost backed out!” Alex admits. But the risk paid off. “The Write Your Novel program was a big leap into the deep end for me – but it was absolutely worth it. My tutor, Bernadette Foley, took to my writing immediately and was so encouraging and helpful. She believed in its value right from the start and always gave great constructive feedback (and sometimes a bit of tough love!).”
Alex also appreciated the feedback from her fellow writers on the course.
“I was really lucky to have an amazing group of peers in my Write Your Novel program,” she says. “They were from all walks of life and very talented, so being able to workshop my novel alongside them, and to listen to their feedback week to week was invaluable. You’re essentially seeing your manuscript from a whole bunch of different perspectives and learning what works for the reader and what doesn’t. It was daunting to begin with, but it made a world of difference to the quality of my writing, and they were all so lovely!”
Following Bernadette’s advice, Alex signed up for the Australian Society of Authors’ Literary Speed Dating event and pitched to a few publishers via video link. That led to a successful discussion with Ultimo Press.
“When I found out they wanted to publish my book I had so many crazy emotions that week! I couldn’t believe it.”
Enjoying the publication experience
Something Blue tells the story of 26-year-old Nicole Najim, who is struggling to find herself after a painful breakup. Working a dead-end job in the family car dealership and at a loose end, she picks up her camera and returns to the melting pot of Sydney’s West to rediscover her roots, but finds herself drawn into the shadowy underworld of her childhood friend, Danny.
In the novel, Alex writes with warmth, humour, and a spot-on eye for the characters and suburbs of the world she grew up in.
It’s a long way away from her job in accounts, but Alex is relishing her new reality as a published author.
“I’m also working on my second novel and just enjoying this time, and the whole publishing experience,” she told us.
Alex feels that doing a course like the Write Your Novel program is a great way for writers to get out of their comfort zone.
“I’d recommend it to any writer,” she says. “It’s the best way to be around like-minded people and get insightful feedback from other writers, not to mention the invaluable guidance you’ll get from your tutor – not just on your manuscript but also on the different ways to get it published.”
Courses completed at AWC: