Catherine Rodie never thought she would become a writer. This limiting belief, coupled with her experience with dyslexia, meant that she hadn’t considered that writing could be a real career for her. But after completing a course at the Australian Writers’ Centre, that all changed. And now, she’s not only become one of the most prolific freelance writers in Australia, she’s laid the foundations to pursue a career in publishing, recently scoring a coveted part-time role at Bauer Magazines.
The first step
“Before I did the course at the Australian Writers’ Centre I was on extended maternity leave,” says Catherine. “I'd had my first child and then, 19 months later, had another one and decided to spend some time at home with them. And then I started a blog about my experience of motherhood. I got lots of good feedback about my blog and my writing style. Lots of people said, ‘you’re good at writing, you should do something with this’.”
However, Catherine recognised that writing feature articles for magazines and newspapers is very different to blogging. And that’s when she discovered the course Freelance Writing Stage 1 at the Australian Writers’ Centre.
“The course was recommended to me by fellow blogger Kelly Exeter. She had done the course and written a post about how great it was. I knew that I could write, I just didn’t have the tools for how to put together a pitch, or how to take myself out of the story and stop writing about my own experience and start writing about other people’s.”
Catherine says the course taught her how to structure a feature article properly, how to use transitions well and move from one subtopic to another. It also taught her how to write a good hook. She says: “The biggest thing was [learning about] how to approach editors. And how to put together a pitch that would get a response – and not just be met with silence.”
Since doing the course, Catherine has been published in magazines like Good Weekend, Sunday Life, Australian Women's Weekly, marie claire, Practical Parenting, Mother and Baby, MiNDFOOD and also in The Sydney Morning Herald’s Life and Style, and extensively at Essential Baby and Essential Kids.
“A dream come true”
“Before I did the course I would never have dreamed I’d be in the position I’m in now, being regularly published in some of my favourite magazines,” she says. “The best thing is that it’s something that I’ve always wanted to do, it’s a dream come true. I’m doing my dream job and that feels so good to say.
“But then secondary to that, it's so flexible. I get to work for myself, set my own hours, I can get on with work after my kids have gone to bed, or first thing in the morning if I get up before them. I can fit it around all of the other responsibilities that I have with them… taking them to school, their sports activities and playdates and everything else that comes with having small children. I was talking to a mum at a swimming lesson recently and she was telling me about this brilliant article that she had read that had really made her laugh. I said ‘oh I think I wrote that’, and it felt so good.”
Catherine has always lived with dyslexia and was told by her teachers that she would never become a writer because of it. “My experience with dyslexia has been that I have grown up with a bit of a chip on my shoulder,” she says. “I was told at school I would never be a writer because my spelling was so appalling and I’ve really carried that with me.
“Through doing the course, what I’ve found is that the content is the most important thing and yes, I have spelling mistakes, but as long as I get someone to proofread my work first before I file it, then the spelling doesn’t have to hold me back.”
Freelance Writing Stage 1 gives you all the skills you need
Even though the course is only five weeks (and students commit about two to three hours a week), it’s designed as a practical course that ensures students get results.
Catherine says: “The course is so thorough that if you go away and you follow your notes – and you do exactly what you’re told to do – then you will be successful.”