When Heather Smith graduated from the Australian Writers Centre’s online course in Magazine and Newspaper Writing in 2010, little did she realise that she would become one of our most published graduates. She is now an author of six books and has been on the business bestseller list for several weeks.
As a chartered certified accountant, Brisbane-based Heather has worked in the accounting field throughout her career. However, she got a taste for writing after submitting a story to the online business site, Flying Solo, which features articles about entrepreneurship and small business. That was in 2007.
After writing for a few years, in 2010 Heather decided to develop her skills as a writer and completed the online course in Magazine and Newspaper Writing at the Australian Writers’ Centre. “I think a huge part of being able to write is confidence,” says Heather. “The course at the Australian Writers’ Centre really consolidated what I was doing; I learnt so much. In fact during that five-week course, I learnt more than I’d ever learnt in English at school!
“The audio lessons in the course were excellent, I would even listen as I walked the dog. In fact, I’ve been through the course in its entirety three times now,” laughs Heather. As a strong advocate of education and self-development, Heather has simple advice for new writers and bloggers: “Doing a course at the Australian Writers’ Centre gets you to the position you need to be at as a writer so much faster.”
Balancing the books
Through her many published articles and her obvious expertise in the fields of accounting and business, Heather caught the eye of Kristin Hammond from publishing house Wiley. Kristen asked Heather to put together a book proposal. In 2011, Heather’s 55,000-word book, Learn MYOB in Seven Days was completed.
Heather caught the writing bug big time. Before she even finished writing her first book, Heather had submitted her next book proposal, also published by Wiley. The result was Learn Small Business Start-up in Seven Days, released in 2012.
By this time, Heather’s writing caught the attention of Rob Drury, CEO of Xero. Rob approached Heather via Twitter and asked her to write a book on accounting package, Xero. Heather submitted a proposal to Wiley, who agreed to publish it as a For Dummies publication. At this point, Heather hit the jackpot with a contract to write four more books simultaneously.
“Writing a For Dummies book is very structured and modular,” says Heather. “Because the For Dummies series is global, the review and editing process was very thorough and involved many people checking for technical accuracy as well as use of language for the different audiences.” Each chapter was reviewed as Heather wrote the next one.
“As I’m a business person and accountant, I actually already have expertise in the content. But then it’s about having the confidence to write it, and working with an editor to polish it. I’m always open to feedback,” says Heather.
Xero for Dummies was released in June 2013 and is selling strongly in the Australian, US and New Zealand markets.
“I’m a writer”
Heather admits that her first ever article took her over two weeks to write, whereas now she can write a story in much less time “I have really honed the skill of writing for that particular genre,” she says. “Writing is a muscle that you exercise. And by exercising it, you build on your ability as a writer.”
Heather also cleverly uses social media in promoting her brand and herself as a content specialist. “I use Twitter to generate anticipation and excitement about my books. My followers feel they have contributed to the books and have become ambassadors for my writing.”
Today, Heather continues to write while still running her accounting consultancy business full-time. She has now written and published six books since completing the course at the Australian Writers’ Centre in 2010.
“I love writing and it complements what I’m doing in my business,” says Heather. “When I am writing my books, I work long hours and write everyday. I record points while I’m out walking, I stick ideas on my fridge and edit while I’m cooking. I talk into my voice recorder while driving, or tap out segments on my iPhone and put them all together later. I rarely have time for long, luxurious writing sessions. I always have something half-written lying around somewhere.”
Heather is now catching her breath after such an intense period and diversifying into business feature writing as well as planning a fan fiction novelette. “I still can’t believe that I can say to people that I’m a writer,” she laughs. “I pinch myself when I see my books in a book store. It’s a really nice feeling.”
“Valerie Khoo from the Australian Writers’ Centre has a gift of being able to clearly articulate practical advice to push me through each chapter of my writing career. Finding someone who believed in me has helped me believe in myself.”
This profile was written by Australian Writers’ Centre graduate Lisa Schofield.