Helen Edwards had spent her life pursuing various careers, including social work, charity and interior styling, but what “beat inside her heart like a thousand tiny wings” was her desire to be an author. After completing her PhD in Psychology, she felt the time was now. She signed up for an Australian Writers' Centre course and immediately began work on her first manuscript. Fast forward a few more manuscripts, and Helen is excited to announce that her debut middle grade novel The Rebels of Mount Buffalo has been published by Riveted Press.
“When I got the news that the book was going to be published, I screamed. Then I ran up and down the hallway shouting to my 23 year old who was studying at home at the time. And then I cried. It was an incredible moment indeed,” Helen told us.
The confidence to become a writer
Growing up with English teacher parents, Helen had always had a love of books and writing. But like a lot of young people, she didn’t believe that creative writing was a viable career. Instead, she worked in child protection and later founded an online counselling service for people with diabetes. Despite being a prolific blogger during this period, Helen refused to call herself a writer.
“I remember tentatively putting ‘writer’ in my Twitter bio a few times and then deleting it as I felt like a liar. I called myself a blogger but never an author or even a writer. Self-doubt, self-doubt, self-doubt…”
Even after self-publishing two books, Helen suffered from imposter syndrome. Until the moment she signed up for her first AWC course, Writing Children's Novels.
“From the day I met [my tutor] Sue Whiting and the other group members, my thinking changed,” Helen recalls. “I decided this was what I was going to do and nothing would stop me.”
Fueled with her new-found confidence, Helen began networking in the writing community, attending workshops and events and joining professional industry groups such as Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, Children's Book Council of Australia (CBCA) and Australian Society of Authors. Most importantly, she continued writing until she had completed several more manuscripts.
“I attended KidLitVic in Melbourne, followed by the CBCA conference in Canberra. I had submitted my first manuscript prior to this and had either no reply or rejections. But after re-working it during my time away at these conferences, I was accepted by my literary agent, Debbie Golvan, for the first manuscript and a planned memoir about my life with type 1 diabetes,” Helen says. “This was a huge turning point for me as I no longer had to pitch myself and many more doors were opened. Debbie has also been a constant support, someone I can ask for advice and seek input on my work from, and someone who believes in me. I am constantly grateful for having her as part of my team and my life.”
Helen’s debut middle-grade novel The Rebels of Mount Buffalo is out now with Riveted Press (an imprint of Yellow Brick Books). It's an Australian historical fiction time-slip adventure, set at Mount Buffalo in Victoria, in which 13-year-old Clara Wilde works through insecurities and anxiety about her life and herself, while a mountain and a maiden call her towards courage.
As someone who lives with multiple chronic conditions, as well as anxiety and ADHD, Helen is keen to include characters with these conditions in all of her stories.
“In this particular book, Clara has ADHD and anxiety and her mother has type 1 diabetes. Clara is not ‘diagnosed', nor are these the focus of her story. They are simply a part of her.”
Mount Buffalo national park and the Mount Buffalo Chalet make for an imposing backdrop to the novel, which has been inspired by and features real historical figure Guide Alice Manfield. Helen found the Historical Fiction course especially useful as she was writing the story.
“The Historical Fiction course was extremely comprehensive and, as it is a course you do at your own pace, I was able to stop and start sections, based on where I was at with my manuscript. I am now writing a new historical fiction, inspired by events in Australia during World War II, in particular the bombing of Darwin and the secret Catalina Flying Boats base in Lake Boga and the pigeon corp. I am sure I will delve back into some of the course content as I work on this one.”
With the publication of her debut middle-grade book, Helen is no longer afraid to call herself a writer. Indeed, she is now working full-time as a writer and author and proudly states this in all her profiles. She also completed the Presenting to Kids course, and immediately put her new skills to work during a number of Book Week talks.
“I truly believe that if I had not taken that first class, I would not be sitting here now with a published book. That decision cemented for me that perhaps, even after all of these years, I could be a fiction author. It gave me not only skills, but feedback and input that drove me to continue on this path and to grow my confidence and self-belief. It set me on a course that has led to so many wonderful connections and friendships and opened me up to the literary industry in Australia.”
Courses completed at Australian Writers' Centre: