Ep 96 The life of a Hallmark card writer, how to write a press release, and meet author Hazel Edwards.

Share on Pinterest
Share with your friends










Submit

podcast-artwork In Episode 96 of So you want to be a writer: What was left out of Seven Little Australians, the life of a Hallmark card writer, fewer vs less, and how to write a fab press release. Also check out the the book Wordburger: How to be a champion puzzler in 20 quick bites by David Astle and meet author Hazel Edwards. Plus: become a word-nerd like Valerie by browsing the Online Etymology Dictionary.

Click play to listen to the podcast or find it on iTunes here. If you don’t use iTunes you can get the feed here, or listen to us on Stitcher radio.

Show Notes

What was left out of Seven Little Australians

Here’s what it’s like to be one of the 24 greeting card writers at Hallmark — a $3.8 billion company that makes 10,000 cards a year

12 writing mistakes nearly everyone makes

How to Write a Press Release that Gets Results

Wordburger by David Astle

Writer in Residence

Hazel Edwards

Author Hazel EdwardsBest known for the children’s literature classic There’s a Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Cake series, Hazel Edwards writes for children, teenagers and adults.

With over 200 books published, Hazel runs non-boring writing workshops and mentors aspiring writers online. An enthusiastic Reading Ambassador, Hazel has a range of resources for teachers and children to encourage reading and writing within the classroom. Hazel’s online store offers e-books including Authorpreneurship: the Business of Creativity.

Hazel’s recent releases include f2m: the boy within, and Trail Magic: Going Walkabout for 2184 Miles on the Appalachian Trail co-written with her THRU walker son Trevelyan who completed the 6 month trail ( In Bill Bryson’s film A Walk in the Woods they took a taxi part-way). Hazel’s memoir Not Just a Piece of Cake: Being an Author is gaining 5 star reviews. Hijabi Girl out in early 2016.

Find Hazel on Twitter

Web Pick

Online Etymology Dictionary

Working Writer’s Tip

How do you capture ideas for future projects in order to use later?

Answered in the podcast!

Competition

Monty and Me by Louisa Bennet

Your hosts

Allison Tait

Valerie Khoo / Australian Writers’ Centre

Connect with us on twitter

@altait

@valeriekhoo

Email us

podcast at writerscentre.com.au

Share the love!

ep 96 artwork

Interview Transcript

Allison

 

Best known for the children’s literature classic, There’s a Hippopotamus on our Roof Eating Cake series, Hazel Edwards write for children, teenagers, and adults. She has had more than 200 books published, and has recently written a memoir of her life and work, called Not Just a Piece of Cake: Being an Author. Other recent releases include F To M, the Boy Within, co-authored with Ryan Kennedy. And Trail Magic: Going Walkabout for 2084 Miles on the Appalachian Trail, co-authored with her son Trevelyan Quest Edwards. Coming out this week is Hijabi Girl, co-authored with Ozge Alkan

 

Welcome to the program Hazel, you have the most amazing CV, I think, of any author that I’ve spoken to so far. But, let’s start right back at the beginning, when you worked as a high school teacher before publishing your first novel, General Store. What brought you to write the novel, and how did it come to be published?

 

Hazel

Well, I was told, as most aspiring writers are told, to write about what you know first of all, because then it sounds authentic. Well, I’d grown up as a teenager in a general store in Gippsland. So what I did was I used the setting of the general store, it’s not really auto-biographical, the central character isn’t me. But I thought that would be my practice novel, using a familiar setting.

 

Otherwise, I would have changed the name of the story, because I think General Store is a particularly boring title. And a lot of people have assumed that general meant a rank, and store was the surname. At that stage, I wasn’t as aware of the importance of titles. I’m very much aware of that now.

 

At that state I wrote it as a first young adult novel, expecting to have to write three. And then it was unexpectedly accepted on the first reading by Hodder & Stoughton.

 

What I’d done was I compiled a list of ten of the top publishers, and I thought well, “I’ll work my way through them. And while I’m doing that I’ll get on with the second and the third novel. And then maybe I’ll crack it by the third.”

 

The reason I was writing then, I was about 26, I was about to have my first child, and I had a couple of months where I could control the time in my life a little better, the baby hadn’t arrived yet. And I thought, “Well, in the first year…” and I wasn’t a full time mom because I worked as well, I would experiment, because I wouldn’t ever have this sort of time/flexibility again. That’s why I started then. Anyway, it was the birth of a baby and the birth of a book together.

 

Allison

Fantastic. I saw on your website, which is a fantastic resource for writers…

 

Hazel

Well, that’s due to the what was baby, now my daughter of nearly 40, and my marketing manager. We’re very much a family, as I was asked the other day, “Is writing your family trade?” Well, anyway I’d co-written with my son with the challenging name, and also, he hated that name as a kid, he loves it now as a writer. But, Trevelyan Quest Edwards is quite a mouthful. But, my daughter has helped me very much, because in her real job she’s a marketing manager.

 

I’m just format challenged, I don’t think it pictures and shapes, which is partly why I have a lot of different types of collaborations, because I work with people in different fields. It’s wonderful to work with someone else who imagines with different skills from your own. I think in abstract, and that’s why I can work with, say, a picture book illustrator or a puppeteer, or a co-writer in crime, because they think differently. And putting together two different types of thinkers means that the eventual book works much better.

 

Allison

That’s really interesting. I do want to speak to you more about co-authoring down the track, because I think it’s something that people might think about, but they’re not entirely sure what the practicalities and pitfalls of that might be.

 

Just going back to that, I saw on your website that you wrote your first novel in sixth grade, you’re one of those authors who started very young.

 

Hazel

Yes, that’s right. Read-o-holic.

 

Allison

Had you written all the time before that, so you attempted that first novel? Or was it just a case of, “I’ve got the time, I’m going to have this baby, it’s now or never. I’m going to see if I can get this book out.”?

 

Hazel

No, I’d always known that I wanted to be an author, but I didn’t actually know any authors. When I was growing up authors didn’t visit schools in the way which I tend to do or others do these days. Although I came from a household that read very widely I’d never met an author, but I knew that’s what I wanted to be.

 

My father suggested I get a real job first.

 

Allison

Which is good advice, I think.

 

Hazel

Yes, that’s right.

 

I was actually a primary teacher first of all. Primary teaching and writing are actually very similar in that they’re to do with ideas and personalities. What partly attracted me to being a long-term author was the variety of acquiring different sorts of skills, but being able to continue to learn in different fields. That’s what I have done, and that’s partly one of the reasons I mentioned to you before about the collaboration. One of the ways you can continue to learn is when you work with an expert from some other field and you learn in the process of doing that book.

 

Allison

Speaking of collaborations, the classic picture book, There’s a Hippopotamus on our Roof Eating Cake, which I bought for my nephew, who’s two, for Christmas, was your third published work.

 

Hazel

That’s right.

 

Allison

Now, it’s slightly different to writing a YA, how did you come to a picture book, and did you ever imagine it would prove as lastingly popular as it has? Really.

 

Hazel

The Hippopotamus on our Roof Eating Cake, which is actually 36 years old, written 38 years before, but published 36 years ago came about as a result of something going wrong, and that is a roof leak. We still live in the same house and I get people who knock at the front door saying, “Is there a hippopotamus on this roof?” And I say, “Have a look, you can’t say yes and you can’t say no.”

 

I mean it was a genuine problem with the roof, and it dripped. My then 4-year-old son, that was Trevelyan, with the challenging name, whom we actually called ‘Velyan’ at the time, he said, “Oh, that’s the hippo up there that eats cake that’s making the noise on the roof.” It was a family story, the way in which many families have stories about imaginary friends…

 

Allison

Yes.

 

Hazel

… in that four-year-old age group.

 

What was different in our case was that I captured it in words and the children were involved in writing it too. We wrote it originally just as a family activity. But, at that stage I’d already been published by Hodder, General Store had been published and a second book had been accepted for junior readers. And so I showed it to them and they took it immediately. That was why it doesn’t always work that way.

 

Allison

No, no.

 

Hazel

I wish it always did, but this is one of those things.

 

They matched me with Deborah Niland, because Deborah Niland was in their stable of illustrators. What they did at that stage was traditional publishers would link a known with an unknown. So, a known illustrator in this case, Deborah Niland, with an unknown writer, who was me.

 

That is probably quite a successful combination, of putting the known with the unknown, in lots of different fields. And, because originally we wanted to use the children’s own illustrations, but that wasn’t viable. So, that was how that came about.

 

I think I knew it was a special story, but I never expected it to travel as far as it has. It’s gone into Chinese translation. This year it’s touring as a musical, Hippo Hippo. It’s gone into AUSLAN signing and intro braille.

 

Allison

It’s extraordinary.

 

Hazel

It really has been — it’s been extremely comforting to some children who are sick or incapacitated in some way. I mentioned some of those and some of the fan mail in the memoir, because some of those stories are extremely poignant. That’s where I really think the value of a book like this, The Hippopotamus on the Roof Eating Cake, which I don’t actually consider as mine anymore. I think the book actually belongs to the reader’s imagination once it’s published. So many claim ownership of that book in the sense that it’s been their favorite childhood book. That is a wonderful thing, but it goes on in its own rite. It’s not really my book — do you understand what I mean?

 

 

Allison

I do, I can completely understand.

 

It’s interesting, isn’t it? Because it’s — what? 400-odd words?

 

Hazel

Yes, that’s right.

 

Allison

Yeah.

 

Hazel

Which also points up one of the reasons why I used that title on the memoir and not just a Piece of Cake, because often people consider that writing for children is easier, and they tend to think that fewer words is of less consequence. I have written in lots of different fields and I have to share with you that getting picture book text right and getting subtext, the things going on underneath choreographed well is technically more challenging than writing 100,000-word adult book.

 

Allison

Interesting.

 

Hazel

And I think it’s a bit unfortunate at times that people assume that a writer’s IQ is commensurate with the age of their readers, because it is actually more challenging to do that, and that’s one of the things I’ve tried to share, the candid feelings about the areas of writing, particularly in relation to writing for children.

 

Writing for children is not just a piece of cake. I don’t say defensively, “Oh, I write for adults too,” because it sounds like a put-down, and that’s no so. Every form of writing has its own challenges, but, for me, writing for children is like the Rolls Royce in the sense of the books that you write and you read when you’re very young have a much longer impact.

 

Allison

It’s so true.

 

Hazel

And you feel more affectionately about them. And people are more inclined to keep them. And so now I’m reaching the stage with the third generation…

 

Allison

Wow.

 

Hazel

… saying to me, “Oh, that’s my favorite book.”

 

Allison

That’s amazing.

 

Hazel

I have a couple of grandsons and now they’re contemporaries see it as their favorite book.

 

Allison

It’s amazing. I love the longevity of it. I just think it’s an incredible thing, to have created a story that is so immediate across so many generations. I think it’s an extraordinary achievement. So, well done, Hazel.

 

Hazel

The reason for it, and you can’t give a recipe for that sort of thing.

 

Allison

No.

 

Hazel

I’ve been asked a number of times why I think it survived. Well, I think one reason is that it’s a universal situation. It appeals to people, to children, but also share those sorts of books. It has a rhythm to it. I choose the words very, very carefully for a picture story book, it has a rhythm to it, but it’s really a universal situation. It’s the reassurance of a large friend who’s got all of the answers — and let’s face it, as an adult we’d like one of those too.

 

Allison

Yes. I’d like one of those.

 

You’re clearly an author with a lot of ideas. You’ve had 200 books published, that’s a lot of ideas.

 

Hazel

Yes, that’s right.

 

Allison

How do you decide which idea to write next?

 

Hazel

Well, I think a commercial writer, in the sense that I have made a living from writing, I’m 70 now, I was published first in my late 20s, being consistently published, in various fields and various ways. But, having an educational background has given another dimension for me. So, that meant that often I’d been able to write something about the how to aspect as well.

 

One niche area in which I’ve been involved, although I’m not a genealogist, is Writing a Non-Boring Family History. I’ve run workshops on that. That book is very, very popular because a lot of people are interested in the how to aspect. Often I’ve written a story in more than one format, so it might have been a play script or a film script as well, or a classroom performance, as well as being a story. Or it’s a how-to book that has advice in it for other people.

 

Often those books were commissioned, so the entrepreneur book that the Australian Society of Authors published, which is probably one of the most useful for your audience, is about the concept of the ways in which being published has changed, very much now, and that a creator also needs to be entrepreneur in the sense that they have to look at the market possibilities of that idea, and how they might craft it in a way that it is appropriate for a particular audience.

 

I think that’s the big difference for a long-term author, to be conscious of your reader and to craft your material. I think there’s a couple of stages, at first you write because you want to write and something grabs your attention. As you become a bit more experienced you look at the best way in which that format could be explored.

 

Our most recent example is the Hijabi Girl, which is coming out next week. Originally, I’m co-writing that with a Muslim librarian, Ozge, originally we had conceived that as a picture book, because then it would be possible for it to be read by, perhaps, older readers too, although the character is about 8, a very feisty young girl who’s a sort of new Pippy Longstockings, she just happens to be in Hijab, and she solves all problems.

 

Originally we conceived that as a picture book, because we thought it could be used by many for who English was a second language as well. But, because of the political implications at the moment of the word Hijab we had a lot of difficulties with that in a chapter book, which is what it is now, junior chapter book, was easier to get out than a picture book, which is much more demanding in terms of illustrations and so on.

 

We’ve been very lucky in that Serena Geddes has done the artwork for this one, and it works.

 

Pitching an idea for a particular audience, for example, the other potentially controversial book is F to M, which I think you mentioned in your introduction.

 

Allison

Yes, I did.

 

Hazel

Which F to M: The Boy Within, which is a young adult novel on a character who transitions gender. Well, my co-writer, we knew there would be mixed reactions to a subject like that, but it’s a coming of age novel.

 

My co-writer has been in that situation and is a family friend between the ages as my adult children grew up with them.

 

With that one, the reason that we decided to make it fiction and young adult fiction so that the characters would be around the 17-year-old age group, but the readership to be 13 upwards was that a photo id is incredibly important when you’re transition gender, and that affects all of your documentation everywhere. So, someone who is about to go for a driving license, which is a 17-year-old age group and the friendship issues.

 

We concentrated that, but this book has been used by many, many families with gender diverse combinations, or fluid gender is term I learned recently too. It’s been used by readership who aren’t necessarily 13-17, because a work of fiction is a way of distancing a little from your situation and looking from the point of view of living as that character for the length of that book and maybe beyond and a little more tolerance.

 

We don’t write propaganda, we write stories, there’s a big difference.

 

Allison

Do you work on multiple projects at once? Or, are you strictly on one at a time?

 

Hazel

I used to have about five running concurrently, but the last year or so I concentrated mainly on writing the memoir, Not just a Piece of Cake. There were health reasons for that, because I had a bit of a heart scare and I couldn’t fly for a year. I was a bit worried about my literary clutter and what I might leave my daughters to sort out.

 

I thought that I would work my way through slowly, because I was always being asked for autobiographical content, which I had avoided until then.

 

Allison

Yes.

 

Hazel

But, I thought, “What I’ll do is I’ll declutter my literary life and look,” because people often ask about the techniques you use as a long-term author. Being a long-term author who’s also had a family is a very different situation from a lot of the autobiographical accounts that you read of earlier writers, who were often single, who were often from wealthy families, who often didn’t have other bills to pay.

 

Allison

Yes.

 

Hazel
Who had servants.

 

 

Allison

Yes.

 

Hazel

I often think of Virginia Woolf’s situation, where she describes of needing a room of your own and five hundred a year is fantastic, but she happened to be married to the publisher, and she didn’t cook.

 

Allison

Oh, wouldn’t that be nice. I dream of that.

 

Hazel

She was part of the Bloomsbury group. But, her quote is very relevant to everybody who is aspiring… so, I’m often asked about those things. I thought, “OK, what I’ll do this time is I’ll write something that I may not publish and I will experiment with the idea of being completely candid about the challenges, and I’ll try to answer the questions that people ask me.”

 

There’s one chapter in there that I think your people might find particularly interesting, it’s called the Plateau of Boredom, and why you write and how you work your way through this plateau of Boredom.

 

But, I also put in completely different chapters, like some of the fan mail is really poignant. Some of it is really funny.

 

I thought, “I’ll do it in a completely unconventional way. I’ll write about the things that I’ve been most asked about, even though they’re very diverse.” So, there’s one chapter there, what I’ve done… I suppose it’s literary speed dating. I’ve used the questions that are most often asked of my characters, such as the hippo, but I’ve answered them, so I’m on both sides.

 

Allison

On both sides of the… I found it a really interesting read, the memoir, because it’s a very conversational book.

 

Hazel

Yes.

 

Allison

And it’s like fragments… it’s like we’re having one long conversation, but we’re kind of coming back to it and we’re dipping in and out of it. And it is a lovely read and I recommend it to anyone who’s looking for a long term career as an author. The reality of it is right there in front of you.

 

Do you have a strict writing routine, do you write every day.

 

Hazel

Oh, yes. Very self-disciplined. I think that’s the other idea I’d like to get across in the memoir. There are a lot of people who talk about being a writer, but you actually have to do it. One of the things that I found most interesting as I was decluttering and looking back over projects that had been initiated and perhaps have died or moved sideways and so on, in the past when I have been asked about what was the success rate on the projects that you did I have always said that a freelancer probably gets about one and ten up, about ten percent, even if you pitch a project before you started and you’re pretty organized and you look at the market and something you’re passionately involved in and so on. I’d always said, “Oh, it’s about one in ten.”

 

The reality when I went back and looked at almost 50 years of writing was it’s about one in 40, which is even less. But, what happened was, and this has happened to many long term writers, and it may be of a little comfort, is that something that hasn’t worked you put on the backburner for a while and it might be that it didn’t work because the timing was wrong. It could have been — a very good example is our F to M book, which came out five or six years ago, and it was the first book of its type on that subject.

 

But, now there’s a lot of material around with that subject matter, but we just happened to be ahead of it.

 

It might be the wrong timing, it might be the wrong format, it might be the wrong length. They might have had something like that recently. There might be a whole lot of factors that are nothing to do with the quality of what you’ve written.

 

On the other hand it might be that it just wasn’t good enough. It wasn’t thought through sufficiently and that you might have to go back and do it again.

 

What I found was when I looked at these, it might have been a 1 in 40 success rate, but a lot of the other 39 were fed into other experiences later, and helped shaped later projects. An example would be something like film or animation. The first time you’re offered a film option or an animation option you race out with the champagne and you celebrate the news.

 

Allison

Yes.

 

Hazel

But the reality is a lot of those really, really big projects, where you’re talking millions of dollars, don’t happen.

 

Allison

They never get up. I know.

 

Hazel

A lot of them don’t.

 

But, you know next time some of the things that you need to safeguard, to increase the chances of something really working well.

 

I do talk in there about those sorts of realities. And I do talk about the importance, if you’re a long term writer, of not writing the novel about the novelist who’s writing a novel who writing a novel about the novelist who’s got a writer’s block. I don’t believe in writer’s block.

 

I do talk about the need for participation, that is going and doing new things in order that you can write realistically about it afterwards, Antarctic expeditions and Nepal and so on.

 

A lot of people don’t know about all of that stuff. I’m known as the hippo writer.

 

Allison

The hippo lady.

 

Hazel

Yeah, the ‘hippo lady,’ and when you’re someone of my size and weight is a mixed blessing.

 

But, the importance of continuing to grow in terms of ideas and experiences and not being totally introspective. And so that’s another reason why for a long term writer collaborations are important, because you’re forced to learn new things in new areas.

 

So, I’ve collaborated with psychologists like Dr. Helen McGrath in the book Difficult Personalities. We freaked out when we lost the chapter on anxiety. But apart from that it’s gone into Russian and Polish and Korean, and American. I don’t know whether that indicates where difficult people are, but it’s traveled much, much further than our Friends book.

 

I’ve collaborated with my son on his two adventure memoirs, one of which is Cycling Solo: Ireland to Istanbul and the other one is the Trail Magic one, of the Appalachian Trail you mentioned. Now, he did the physical stuff of it. I didn’t actually walk the Appalachian Trail, but he did. And he finished it, which is more than Bill Bryson did in his book.

 

But, continuing to be open to other possibilities. So, when you ask me about how many projects you do a year, I try to have at least one which is a new area for me, so I’m learning new skills and new worlds and write about it.

 

In the past I investigated pokies gambling, because I was interested in the maths of that. In the last year or so I’ve found out quite a lot in connection with Hijabi Girl about Islamic religion. So, learning new — both geographic experiences, but also mental challenges as well.

 

One of the reasons for writing mysteries, both for adults and for children, is it enables you to use a variety of settings, but with the same characters. It enables you to continue to grow too.

 

Allison

Just to go back slightly, when you do coauthor with somebody, what do you think is the biggest single challenge of writing a book with somebody else?

 

Hazel

Well, the first thing is you need a letter of agreement. Even if it’s your son.

 

Allison

Right.

 

Hazel

The Australian Society of Authors, and I strongly advise people to look at the Australian Society of Authors resources there, have a contract for co-authors. But, to decide between you who is going to be doing what and who will defer to whom on different aspects.

 

My relationships with different collaborators has varied in that it depends on what they’re bringing to the project and it depends on what I’m bringing.

 

Often I’m bringing the writing expertise and perhaps the business expertise or the entrepreneurial aspect, they may be bringing specialised knowledge.

 

So, for example, in Hijabi Girl, Ozge checked all of the cultural aspects and we had to make sure that our central character of Melek, her sleeves were long enough to be modest. And the food was right for Halal and things like that.

 

But, we actually co-wrote it together.

 

When I worked with Ryan Kennedy on the F to M book, that was one of the most interesting collaborations for me, because he was in a different country. He was in New Zealand. So, we actually collaborated on Skype, which sounds a bit weird.

 

Allison

Wow.

 

Hazel

But, it wasn’t just talking to each other, we actually typed stuff as well, because we found that we could save the plotting queries if we typed them…

 

Allison

As you went.

 

Hazel

… as we went.

 

What I found interesting, he’s Australian, but his New Zealand accent became more pronounced as the years progressed.

 

Allison

Oh, that’s funny.

 

Hazel

We wrote a detailed synopsis to start with. We pitched the concept and got a contract from the publisher before we started serious writing.

 

Allison

Right.

 

Hazel

We developed our central characters. We really plotted it very, very careful, that one.

 

What would tend to happen is that Ryan would write something each week, which would come across to me on a Sunday night, and I would work on it until we discussed the next stage and so on.

 

But, in his case he had experiences, experience, that he could bring to that subject that would have taken me five years of research to find out. So, I always deferred to him on all gender matters and anything to do with the process, and he deferred to me on the structuring of the story and the sort of business side of it as well.

 

I think that was actually was a really good collaboration, but he was also extremely high-tech. I’m learning a new digital skill everyday type person. I have to tell you the fact that he had naming rights on our character, who we called Skye, who became Finn, and Skye and Skype are pretty close when you’re typing, it was a bit of a nightmare for me.

 

But, his high-tech skills meant that was the first trailer we had for a book.

 

Allison

Oh, right. Yep.

 

Hazel

We did a webchat launch linked up between a New Zealand bookshop and here. They left me talking to myself on the wall while they went off and had a drink.

 

And we have a YouTube clip that a studio did of an interview of the two of us, and why we wrote that book and the sorts of questions that people asked us and how we handled things like the English teacher who threw the book in front of me in the bin in front of her students at a literary conference and said, “Don’t read rubbish like that,” which guaranteed they all read it immediately.

 

Allison

Everyone went and bought it.

 

Hazel

But, that sort of where you have, perhaps, a controversial subject, but we haven’t written about it in a controversial way, but where people condemn something unread, it is a real worry.

 

One of the reasons that I continue to take on some subjects that others might not… Hijabi Girl is a fun book. She’s a terrific character, she just happens to be in a Hijab. That means that some people will have a reaction to that book, and even more the title of that book is deliberate. We played around with a lot of titles before we wrote that one.

 

But, we hope that she would eventually be a serious… but she’s got some pretty fantastic mates, including Zac who’s a soccer fan, who’s got a reading rat called Ratus-Ratus, other people have a reading dog, he’s got a reading rat in the classroom.

 

Allison

A reading rat… lovely.

 

Hazel

We’ve got two or three other characters in there. So, we just hope that people will look at the universality of characters and see things from somebody else’s point of view for a while.

 

Allison

Excellent. Well, just to wrap up for today. We always like to ask our author, our writers in residence, for their three top tips for new writers. So, given your experience, Hazel, I’m expecting big things here, no pressure. No pressure at all.

 

Hazel

No pressure? OK.

 

Well, they sound fairly simple, but they’re actually really important. The first one is to consider your reader, who is your potential reader or audience and craft your story for them.

 

The first thing is audience or readership.

 

Allison

Audience — yep, OK.

 

Hazel

The second one is to rewrite. Don’t assume that the first version is good enough. I would say on average I rewrite at least ten times, sometimes 30 times. It depends on how controversial it is.

 

Allison

Wow… wow.

 

Hazel

But, expect to have to write it many times to get it right. And don’t judge it by the length nor the length of the words.

 

Allison

Yes.

 

Hazel

So the first one is audience.

 

The second one is expecting to rewrite.

 

The third one is choose a subject that you actually care about, if you don’t it’s going to show through. I do not believe hack writers can survive. I do not believe that writing what everybody else wants or everybody else is doing because you want to make a million is going to work, it just doesn’t work. You need a unique voice on something that really matters to you.

 

If we say audience first, or readership. Secondly, rewrite. But, the third one is the choice.

 

I’ll put along with that that the title really, really matters. The title should be the first clue to what is inside. And that’s why Not Just a Piece of Cake: Being an Author was about the tense title. In fact, more in tune I think, it was really, really difficult coming out…

 

Allison

That’s really interesting, because it seems like such a given, do you know what I mean? Like, in a sense of… like, when I look at it now I think, “Yeah, of course, what else could it be called?”

 

Hazel

Well, for example, on the cover now, ‘Being an Author‘ is in larger font than ‘Not Just a Piece of Cake,‘ but, for me, it was ‘Not Just a Piece of Cake‘ was the major title…

 

Allison

The major point?

 

Hazel

… and ‘Being an Author‘ was the second bit.

 

Allison

Yep.

 

Hazel

But, from the publisher’s point of view, being an author…

 

Allison

Was the thrust of the story?

 

Hazel

… ‘being’ is a continuing state…

 

Allison

Yep.

 

Hazel

… was more important.

 

So, I think in that last bit of subject, but that the title should be a hint of content, but also in the style of what’s inside. So, Not Just a Piece of Cake is actually… I mean there are funny stories in there, the joys of travelling in the outback as an author and things that happened and so on, but it’s also poignant, you know? It’s genuine that one, it really is a candid account.

 

Allison

Well, thank you so much for your time today, Hazel. It’s been an absolute pleasure. I could probably… I think I sent out a tweet just before we spoke saying that the biggest difficulty of this conservation would be not turning it into a two-hour podcast special.

 

I appreciate your candid answers and I do recommend the memoir for people who are wanting to be a long term author. It’s a great read and it’s a great insight from someone who has done it and is still doing it.

 

Thank you again for your time, and good luck with all your current projects.

 

Hazel

My pleasure, Allison.

 

I think for aspiring writers the page on my website with the link for aspiring writers is probably the most useful resource.

 

 

Allison

Yes, yes. And that’s at www.hazeledwards.com

 

Hazel

That’s right.

 

Allison

Thank you, Hazel.

 


Comments