This could be you
Meet our Creative Writing graduates
Graduate of Australian Writers' Centre, freelance writer and author of Ribbit Rabbit Robot.
"This lamp is enchanted and I am the genie. I'll grant all your wishes, but don't be a meanie... "
When a friendly frog, a greedy rabbit and a robot with a short fuse discover a magic lamp, chaos follows...and friendship is found.
When she was a child, Victoria MacKinlay assumed she would grow up to be an author. And now, with the release of her picture book Ribbit Rabbit Robot and more on the way, Victoria’s dream has come true.
“I’m so happy to be able to tell my four-year-old self that yes, she will be a published author,” Victoria says. “My younger self would be jumping for joy, before getting her head down and doing more scribbling!”
It’s a far cry from her former job at Google where Victoria was leading an international team of account managers. Yearning for a creative outlet she googled (of course!) what creative writing courses were available and enrolled with the Australian Writers’ Centre.
“I’d studied languages and literature at uni and wanted to use those parts of my brain again,” Victoria says. “I’ve always written for pleasure and dreamed of becoming a published author since I was very young. I thought that taking one of the Australian Writers’ Centre’s courses was a positive first step towards making that dream come true.”
Although she had read hundreds of picture books with her daughter, Victoria didn’t really know where to begin to write her own. Having already taken some courses with the Australian Writers’ Centre, she decided to enrol in Writing Picture Books. After the first week, her mind was blown.
“When I took that course I knew very little about picture books,” Victoria says. “Basically, I learnt all the practical essentials about picture books from that course, as well insights into how the industry works and how to get in front of publishers.”
For Victoria, the level of insight she gained from the presenter was invaluable.
“The tutor had worked in the industry for years, and she just had a wealth of knowledge,” Victoria says. “She was a very well respected publisher and editor It was just amazing to pick her brains, really. And she was very generous and sharing.”
When Laura discovers an old photo of her grandmother, Lillian, with an intriguing inscription on the back, she heads to the sleepy seaside town of Banksia Bay to learn the truth of Lillian’s past. But when she arrives, Laura finds a community where everyone seems to be hiding something.
Welcome to the Banksia Bay Beach Shack, where first love is found and last chances are taken.
Nicole has left her city life for the sleepy town of Rosella Cove, renting the old cottage by the water. She plans to keep to herself – but when she uncovers a hidden box of wartime love letters, she realises she’s not the first person living in this cottage to hide secrets and pain.
Welcome to the cottage at Rosella Cove, where three damaged souls meet and have the chance to rewrite their futures.
For Hattie, the café has been a refuge for the last fifty years – her second chance at a happy ending after her dreams of being a star were shattered. For Alice, the café is her livelihood. After Hattie took her in as a teenager, Alice has slowly forged a quiet life as the café’s manager. For Becca, a teenager in trouble, the café could be the new start she yearns for.
One small town. Three lost women. And a lifetime of secrets.
Although Sandie Docker always imagined she would be published one day, she knew it required a lot of self-belief and determination. But after studying at the Australian Writers’ Centre, Sandie finally found the confidence and passion to keep going until she reached her dream of becoming a women’s fiction author. She has now published three books with Penguin, including The Banksia Bay Beach Shack, The Cottage At Rosella Cove, and The Kookaburra Creek Cafe.
The road to publication was not always easy. Sandie had written two manuscripts and had sent out a lot of queries, but landing a publishing deal remained elusive.
“I was getting some nearly yeses through the querying process, but wasn’t getting over the line,” Sandie says. “And I thought, ‘there must be something missing from either my writing or my approach’. And that’s when I decided to do some courses.”
Sandie’s first course introduced her to social media, before moving on to the course Plotting and Planning, and then learning more about the publishing industry. It was this key insider knowledge that was crucial when she started pitching again.
“Having so much knowledge about the industry, and understanding publisher expectations, was definitely massive when I met with Penguin before they decided to sign me,” Sandie says. “There was a level of professionalism I was able to convey that I wouldn’t have been able to do without the knowledge I’d picked up on the courses – knowing how to talk about where my stories fitted into the market, being able to discuss my online presence, understanding what Penguin were talking about when they mentioned ‘acquisitions meetings’ and other industry specific jargon, and having the confidence to talk about my stories with a publisher and not sounding like a bumbling idiot!”
From that initial two-book deal, Sandie has now published three books with Penguin, and The Kookaburra Creek Cafe has even been translated into German.
Immersed in the writing world
Being an internationally published author is a far cry from her days as a stay at home mum and casual swimming teacher. Sandie is still first and foremost a mum, so she fits her writing life around her family.
“My writing tends to fit in around school hours and then some very, very late nights when a deadline is due,” Sandie says. “I’m nearly full-time with my writing. A little bit of casual work on the side to make ends meet. And with four books contracted with Penguin, and an international book as well out, it is pretty much my full time job. Which is fantastic. I love being surrounded by the writing world.”
That writing world includes writing articles, doing interviews, appearing on the radio, and going on tours to promote her books. All that while continuing to write! Her fourth novel, The Wattle Island Book Club, will be released in 2021.
Grit and perseverance
Sandie has finally reached her goal of becoming a published author, but it required a lot of perseverance to get to this point.
“When those rejections keep on coming, in a seemingly endless flood of stomach-kicking horror, it can be very hard to maintain the self-belief that one day your book dream will become a reality. There were times when I really did doubt that I was going to ever get published,” Sandie says. “But that was when I knew I was really a writer – the easy option, in the face of all that rejection, would have been to walk away, pat myself on the back for giving it a red-hot go, and put my pen and paper away. But I couldn’t. When I was at my lowest in my rejection journey, I just knew that I couldn’t walk away. That no matter how long it took, even if it was never, there was no way I could ever give up writing. Six months after that lowest of low points, I signed my first two-book deal with Penguin.”
Tempe scavenges below the waves of her water-covered world, trying to earn enough Notes to revive her dead sister. For only Elysea knows why she killed their parents - but what other secrets will be revealed?
Four dead queens. Three days to catch a killer. Two forbidden romances. One shocking twist you won’t see coming.
Lofty ambitions pay off
Astrid Scholte had always hoped to be published. In fact, she had the lofty goal of being published before she was 18. “I was a little ambitious! While it took me a lot longer I’m so happy to have achieved this dream of mine. I cannot wait to hold my book Four Dead Queens in my hands early next year, I’m sure there will be plenty of tears!” says Astrid.
“Without the AWC courses, I don’t believe I would’ve ever finished writing a novel, let alone three! It gave me that spark of inspiration and determination to finish my first book and seek publication. While I didn’t end up publishing that particular novel, it was an integral step towards being published.”
Astrid had been overseas working in production at visual effects company, Weta Digital on James Cameron's Avatar and Steven Spielberg's The Adventures of Tintin and District 9. She had an idea for a YA novel but found it too hard to fit in any writing time as she was working an 80-hour week.
“I've always been a daydreamer and found a productive use for this vocation when I learned how to write stories as a child. Initially, I wanted to write and draw picture books. Later in life, I discovered my passion for young adult (YA) fiction. I love YA because of the story. That's what we're always told is important in writing fiction: story, story, story, and YA books are jam-packed full of story. They take risks, meld genres and push boundaries. Restrictions and rules are made to be broken in YA. They zip along at a breakneck speeds, are thrilling and unputdownable. That's what I love to read, so I thought, why not try to write a YA novel?
“It turns out, it's harder than it looks. I could never get past the first 15K words, my ideas would peter out and my motivation would fade. I knew I needed help. But from where?”
The need for accountability, motivation and inspiration
“When I returned to Sydney I had a new job with more sane hours, which gave me more free time. I Googled writing courses one day and discovered Australian Writers’ Centre. It was in a handy location and the hours were doable after work, so I signed up for Creative Writing Stage 1. It was the best decision I made for my writing career!” she says.
One Thursday morning, Lexie Parker dashes to the shop for biscuits, leaving Bella in the safe care of the other mums in the playgroup. Six minutes later, Bella is gone.
Petronella McGovern came to the Australian Writers’ Centre hoping to prioritise her fiction writing. She had always wanted to publish a novel but was struggling to find the time and motivation to keep writing. Now, her debut novel Six Minutes has been published by Allen & Unwin, and she spends her mornings writing fiction, working on her next novel.
“I’d always wanted to write fiction and have my own novels published… When Allen & Unwin made an offer, I was home alone in my study and I literally jumped for joy! It was so validating to have others believing in your story.”
When she took her first course at the Australian Writers’ Centre, Petronella had had success in professional writing and ghost writing, but her dream to become a published fiction author was getting lost in the business of everyday life.
“I work from a home office as a professional writer and editor… I was writing a manuscript in my ‘spare time’ but it was hard to find ‘spare time’ with the juggle of work and children in primary school. The necessities of everyday life had overtaken my writing routine. I felt that doing a course, face-to-face, would help me to carve out the time I needed for writing my novel and prioritising it once again.
“The first course I did at AWC was Crime and Thriller Writing with LA Larkin. My aim was to write a psychological thriller so I wanted to find out more about how to create tension, set up suspense and drive the action.”
After that short course, Petronella enrolled in the Write Your Novel: 6-month program with Pamela Freeman. “I signed up to the Write Your Novel: 6-month program to kick-start my novel… We had deadlines for chapters, we had deadlines to workshop and give feedback and it really helped give you the support to write a really long piece of work. When you sit down to look at writing a novel of 100,000 words, it’s a large task and the classes really supported me all the way through that process.
“The six-month course created the space for me to focus on writing. I could say to my kids, ‘I have to do my homework’ and they understood that! It showed my commitment to my writing and, I guess, validated it in a way.
“The workshopping process and editing was particularly useful, in terms of looking at a novel as a whole. That always feels daunting but reading other people’s manuscripts and having feedback on your own provided different perspectives on how the story was working.”
Bonnie is an unlikely contestant on dating show The One. Producer Darcy is floundering in her long-term relationship. And viewer Penelope is simply trying to escape into a new life. Before cameras finish rolling, all three will discover what they're willing to do in pursuit of the one.
When Kaneana May, a stay-at-home mother living in regional NSW, took a trip to Sydney to do a creative writing course with the Australian Writers’ Centre she came away inspired, motivated with new ideas and a new direction. Today she is a published author and her debut novel The One has been published by Harlequin.
It was a stint doing work experience during her third year at university in the script department of Home and Away that cemented Kaneana’s love for writing.
“My mind was blown away; I got to sit around a table and talk characters, plot points and story arcs. I knew at that point that I wanted to earn an income writing. What a life!” says Kaneana.
“In saying that, it’s definitely easier said than done. I was able to break into the television industry straight after university but once I started a family, I felt like my career took a huge backwards step. I had been working on my own book manuscripts for years, and it was while my babies were young that I became serious about it.
“I knew the story I was working on was within the genre of ‘commercial women’s fiction’. I also knew that a course was likely to give me inspiration and direction for when I got back home and had to fit writing into my life with small children.”
Kaneana’s insight from the creative writing course
“During the course, we looked at examples of how successful women’s fiction novels started their stories, something that took me a long time to decide on when writing The One. I was regularly unsure about ‘where to start my story’ and two scenes that were originally in the opening chapter ended up much later in the book. This activity was great in analysing why they started with that scene and what information the author offered to hook the reader in.
“We were also prompted to experiment writing in first and third person, which was particularly worthwhile as I had three female characters within my story. It was easy to see how another style/approach could change the whole feel of the story.
The year is 2040. The world has been divided by war and disease. Now Agent Noah Williams is being sent over the barrier to investigate a rogue scientist. Hunting for answers, Noah will have to confront a fundamental question: In the fight for survival, can our humanity survive too?
Arranged to marry, Nala and Rajan begin their new life together on the on the eve of Ceylon’s independence from Britain. As the country descends into a bloody civil war, they must decide which path is best for their family; and live with the consequences of their mistakes.
When Shankari Chandran took time out of her career as a lawyer to have her fourth child, she turned her hand to writing in between baby feeds and family demands. This pastime has turned into a new career and Shankari has now released her first novel The Barrier, a futuristic fast-paced thriller that has been compared to the works of Michael Crichton and Matthew Reilly.
Upon hearing the big news
Shankari says: “When I heard that I was going to be published I was at Officeworks because I find buying stationery really therapeutic. Whitney Houston’s Shoop song was playing and there was a message on my phone from [the publisher] Tara telling me the news. I was in the personal organiser aisle and I put down my stationery and cried.”
It has been a dream come true for Shankari who has always wanted to pen her own novel. “I’ve been imagining that since I was 10 and Mrs Vandermark gave me my first journal,” she says. “For many years, being published felt like an impossible dream – like something that happened to other people.
“I struggled because for the first time in my life I wasn’t earning an income. The ‘excuse’ of an extended maternity leave to look after four children had run out. The pressure to return to paid legal work and park writing in the ‘hobby’ category of life was significant. I felt like writing wasn’t even considered a real job by others. The majority of my professional communication with the external world was to thank publishers for their rejection emails. Writing gave me immense pleasure but it wasn’t enough – I really hungered for the validation of being published, even though I knew I shouldn’t.”
Then Shankari did a course at the Australian Writers’ Centre
Shankari knew that she needed some help to break through. “I read the manuscript through and realised something was wrong but couldn’t work out what.”
That’s when she enrolled in a course at the Australian Writers’ Centre. “I knew the manuscript was missing key elements. I read more thrillers, I studied books on the genre, I listened to author podcasts and I trawled the internet for insights. I still couldn’t fix it. I didn’t want to linger in anxious uncertainty anymore.
“When I was a lawyer, I always used specialists to help me. I knew I needed a specialist but opening myself up to help was daunting. I was afraid to be told that the manuscript needed a complete overhaul or a shredder. I called the AWC before I could change my mind.”
The arrival of handsome vet Finn threatens the serenity of Jemima's life at Horsehoe Hill. As the past begins to cast long shadows, Jemima and Finn discover that a kiss can bring worlds together-or tear them apart.
Miles is a successful lawyer who moonlights as a romance writer. But her secret alterego is at threat of being uncovered by handsome publisher Lars. Sometimes a girl just has to turn the page.
When enigmatic UN diplomat Tor Amundsen starts to investigate Golden's family, she is drawn back into a world she had escaped. As they fall deeper into the murky world of dirty money, Golden's small, quietly ordered life will change beyond recognition.
Harriet Scott's life is turned upside down when she is rescued by Norwegian Commander Per Amundsen while on expedition in Antarctica. To achieve her ambitions, Harriet will need to cooperate with the handsome naval officer. Can polar opposites attract?
After more than 20 years as a solicitor and legal academic, Penelope Janu thought it was high time she finally followed her creative impulses. She completed a short course at the Australian Writers’ Centre (AWC), which gave her the confidence to pursue a creative writing degree – and led to her first novel, In at the Deep End, being accepted for publication.
“I write romances about clever and adventurous women who don’t mean to fall in love, but do, and I like to write about characters who have interesting careers, passions, and backstories. Family relationships and friendships are all a part of that. On the Right Track let me explore a few other things as well—I more or less grew up on a horse and, purely because of the horses, I have an interest in thoroughbred horses. And I have a legal background—money laundering, horse racing, a mystery…were all elements that developed as I wrote the story.”
Penelope now considers herself a full-time writer – and in many ways, she has her daughter to thank for the turn of events. “My daughter Tamsin* took a weekend course at AWC a few years ago and sent me a link,” she recalls. With the link was a quick note – “Mum, this might be good for you.”
Penelope enrolled in an AWC creative writing course run by author Lisa Heidke and instantly loved the supportive environment. “I had never written creatively before that – I was nervous. But Lisa was really encouraging to all of the course participants, whatever stage of our writing journeys we were on. I guess it gave me the courage to think, ‘gee, this is something that I can do.'”
The course also gave Penelope the drive to do a Masters of Arts in Creative Writing. “Lisa’s can-do attitude, got me thinking about it as a serious possibility.”
That confidence yielded results with the news that Penelope’s contemporary romance novel, In at the Deep End, would be published by Harlequin MIRA.
“I actually pitched the novel to them at the Romance Writers of Australia conference. They loved it and wanted to take it to acquisition. I wasn’t popping champagne quite yet, but I knew that there was a likelihood that Harlequin MIRA would support the novel and publish it.”
After a busy year of editing, her first book was published in early 2017. “I don’t think I would have done it unless I had done that weekend course,” admits Penelope. “Certainly some of the things I learnt there just gave me the encouragement to think I could start.”
The publisher offered Penelope a two-book deal – and once the ink dried, the reality and celebrations could finally kick in. “The two-book deal was a real bonus,” she says. “It demonstrated Harlequin’s commitment to me as a writer.”
Her books have been such a success, she’s now gone on to publish even more.
Happily ever after
The biggest adjustment in her new writing career has simply been trying to fit it into all the other pieces of her life. “I love the writing process, but it is hard and time-consuming work – a challenge I am really enjoying. I’ve always had a busy schedule, working full-time as a solicitor, and then as an academic. My husband and I have also raised six children who are quickly growing up. But writing takes time and from a career point of view it is now my first priority.”
Liz Dawson's lifeline to the real world is her window. Watching her neighbours, she is drawn in particular to young Delilah and her baby. When the mother and child go missing, Liz is determined to uncover the truth.
Everyone thinks there's something strange about Mary's new flatmate, Rachel. But Mary soon discovers that they have more in common than she ever could have imagined. In fact, Rachel seems to know more about Mary than she knows about herself…
Ingrid’s tenacity and stubbornness to keep at it no matter how many rejections were thrown at her have paid off with the launch of her psychological thriller The New Girl published by HarperCollins imprint Avon Books UK.
Investing in skills
“I’d recently graduated university and was working full-time and living out of home for the first time. I’d written a couple of books at that stage, and there’d been some interest from agents, but I was unable to get much further than that. I knew from consistent feedback that I had some issues with plotting and pace, so I decided to invest some time in working on those skills.
“I also wanted to improve my writing skills, finish the book I was working on and make connections with other writers and people in the book biz. My ultimate goal was to land a publishing deal with a major publishing house.
“Taking an Advanced Fiction Writing Techniques course at the Australian Writers’ Centre helped me learn to look at my own work more critically and to let go of emotional attachments to parts that weren’t working. It’s still quite shocking to realise that’s happened now!”
It was during the course that Ingrid also met her critique partner/beta reader Sarah Epstein and says having the chance to critique and be critiqued by other writers proved the most valuable.
“Writing can be quite an isolating career so finding other like-minded people was pretty amazing and I ended up with the wonderful Sarah Epstein. We helped each and several years later after doing the course, we both got a publishing deal in the same year which was pretty cool.
“When I found out that I was being published I had a new baby just a few months old, and so I was juggling so many things. There was a lot of waiting with a lot of sleepless nights and not just because of the baby. I was lying there waiting for my phone to ping with emails from overseas. I think it was about 2am and my baby was sleeping so I was silently screaming!”
Writing is a craft
Ingrid highly recommends taking a reputable course that’s suited to your writing goals, whether you’re striving to get published or just want to finish that book you’ve been thinking about for years.
“Writing is a craft and, while some may be lucky enough to have a natural talent for it, ultimately I believe it can be taught. But you need to be open to criticism, and be prepared to look at your own work critically. Vanity will get you nowhere fast!
Graduate of Australian Writers’ Centre, freelance writer, author of The Second Cure
Charlotte Zinn works to find a cure for a pandemic sweeping the world. Journalist Brigid Bayliss tries to uncover dark truths behind the outbreak. As the world splinters into left and right, Brigid and Charlotte find themselves with unexpected power to change the course of history. But at what cost?
Thanks to the Australian Writers’ Centre’s Write Your Novel course, and the subsequent publishing of her first novel, The Second Cure (Penguin Random House), Margaret Morgan now proudly calls herself an author.
“I’ve just had my first novel published and I’m already working on my second. Writing is pretty much everything for me outside my family. I can’t imagine not writing any more. I can’t imagine not writing novels. I love it. I love the whole world of writing. I love the people I‘ve been meeting and working with and I love the whole industry. I am here for the long haul now.”
Margaret was studying biology at Macquarie University and was working as a research assistant and sessional ecology tutor, and it was while she was on a field trip that the initial idea for The Second Cure struck her. So she began writing.
“I had started writing the first draft of the novel and a friend told me about Australian Writers’ Centre’s Write Your Novel course and introduced me to Pamela Freeman. It seemed to be an excellent way for me to get organised and motivated to write it.
“The best aspect of the course was learning how to critique and prepare a structural edit. By applying those skills to each other’s manuscripts, we learned how to use them to improve our own work.
“Also, meeting up with like-minded aspiring novelists was invaluable. I still meet regularly with the writing group we formed after the course ended.”
Margaret had been earning income from creative writing for screen, short stories and librettos for over three decades, but had never written a novel.
“It is now delightful to be earning from a novel, which is really different to any other writing I had done.”
Margaret was prompted to take the course specifically because she wanted the kind of encouragement and support that a six-month ongoing course would give her.
“It gave me the confidence to imagine that my novel might one day be published, and also opened up connections with the industry.
“I am now writing my second novel and am in talks with producers about adapting my first as a miniseries.”
When Evelyn's husband goes missing aboard the Golden Sunset, she sets off to search every part of the grand ocean liner to find him. If only she could remember the events of the night before as clearly as she can recall the first time she met Henry and fell in love.
Pensioner Peggy Smart fears that as a woman of a certain age, she has become invisible. But a chance encounter with an old school friend, the glamorous Angie Valentine, sets Peggy on an unexpected journey of self-discovery.
An unexpected incident led Joanna Nell to the Australian Writers’ Centre and the subsequent publishing of her feel-good debut novel The Single Ladies of Jacaranda Retirement Village (Hachette Australia).
“I enrolled in Creative Writing Stage 1 when I was wrangling a full-time career as a GP, as well as a taxi service and personal assistant to two teenagers. I was in my mid-forties and like every busy parent, simply trying to get through to Friday without crashing. I did very little for myself and had few hobbies beyond reading and ironing.
“However, my life changed in a split second when I did the actual splits in the middle of a Ten Pin Bowling alley. To add to the considerable physical pain, was the humiliation of leaving the parent-student social night at my son’s new school in an ambulance.
“There was, however, a silver lining to lying flat on my back for six weeks after the surgical reattachment of my hamstrings, in the form of some valuable thinking time. I saw a message written in the cobwebs hanging from the ceiling fan. Not only was the universe telling me I should do more dusting, but that now was the perfect time to get round to all the things I’d been putting off in life, and writing for pleasure was at the top of the list.”
Joanna says she devoured the Creative Writing Stage 1 modules during her recuperation and never regretted signing up for that first course.
“Having completed Creative Writing Stage 1, I immediately enrolled in Stage 2 – Advanced Fiction Writing Techniques. By now I’d gained enough skill and confidence to write and submit a couple of short stories. I also began work on a novel around this time, which subsequently led me to the Novel Writing Essentials course with Pamela Freeman.”
What did Joanna learn from AWC?
From the outset, Joanna says she felt as though Creative Writing Stage 1 was written just for her!
“The course was the absolute nuts and bolts approach I was looking for. I loved the logical step-by-step approach to the craft of writing. It sounds strange but although I’d been a voracious reader all my life, I’d never stopped to consider how a book was actually written, or even that it was divided into a series of scenes with a defined structure. It’s obvious now, but at the time I thought I’d discovered radium.
“The most useful part of that first course was also the most terrifying, and that was submitting a piece of writing for critique. Learning to give and receive feedback is fundamental to improving as a writer, and the way this was handled was both safe and encouraging.
“I also enjoyed meeting other aspiring writers, both online and in the case of the Novel Writing Essentials course, face-to-face. In fact, I’ve kept in touch with several other writers from Pamela’s course and we have continued to support each other on our individual writing journeys.”
Detective Sergeant Gemma Woodstock investigates the murder of a teenager and his missing girlfriend, desperate to forget her own tragedies. As the mystery deepens, Gemma is haunted by a previous case. Can she trust herself again?
When a movie star is killed on set, Detective Sergeant Gemma Woodstock and her partner Nick Fleet have to put aside their differences to unravel the mystery. Noone involved in the case can be trusted, not even the people closest to Gemma...
The body of a beautiful young teacher has been found in the lake. Detective Sergeant Gemma Woodstock is assigned to the case, concealing the fact that she knew the murdered woman in high school. As the investigation digs deeper into the victim's past, other secrets threaten to come to light.
Winner of two coveted literary awards in 2018, the Ned Kelly Award for Best First Crime Novel and the Davitt Award for Best Debut Crime Book for her first novel, The Dark Lake, Sarah is proof that following your passion and dreams IS achievable.
We all like to daydream about finding success with our writing, but simply wishing for something tends to be an unreliable strategy. Advertising executive Sarah Bailey was one such daydreamer, but she found a way to devote more time to her writing and ultimately land her first book deal.
Sarah’s job deadlines and demands often didn’t leave much time for anything else – resulting in sporadic writing attempts. “I loved my job in advertising, but was increasingly finding myself desperate to have more time to write,” she says. “At work, I was distracted by my own ideas. And I was in danger of becoming the Master of Starting Things … not so good at finishing them.”
Sarah started writing short stories to give herself a sense of completion and flexibility that fit with her busy lifestyle. Words flowed, and it help cement for her that writing was something she wanted to pursue. She was keen to hone her skills and hear from professional writers on the fundamentals to writing a good story. This is when she checked out Creative Writing Stage 1 at the Australian Writers’ Centre.
“I’d heard really good things about the Australian Writers’ Centre course, the reviews were always really positive and people were always providing really good feedback on social media, so I just thought that was a really good place for me to start.”
Simply allowing herself the opportunity to follow her passion was a huge first step for Sarah.
“I think it was a little bit about permission. When you are not a professional writer I think you become convinced that any time you spend writing is self-indulgent, even selfish. I think structured courses can help you feel a bit more purposeful and you meet other writers which helps to legitimise the cravings!”
Sarah learnt a lot in just one weekend. “It helped me fall in love with narrative all over again. It made me really think about writing as a discipline and in some ways as a science,” she says.
“I found Nicole Hayes [the tutor] really inspiring, really down to earth in her teaching style… She had such a passion for narrative and structure and she sparked really great discussion within the class… Being a published author at the time, she had some really practical advice and knowledge to share as well.”
The course also reminded Sarah that there was a real psychology to writing. “While you always want to write something original, you want to do it in the safety of a proven framework. This course helped me to map out a clearer vision for the story that was starting to kick around in my mind.”
The course was a turning point for Sarah. “I walked away from the course feeling incredibly determined. I went from wanting to write a novel to deciding to write a novel. It helped me to feel like I had a right to spend more time writing. And most importantly, I think that it inspired me to create my own world and get the words down.
Rocket through the solar system in this funny, fact-filled whirl around the planets with two junior astronauts.
A baddie is on the loose and only you can catch him. He's going to have you looking for him everywhere until the very last page!
Five sweet rhyming picture books that celebrate early childhood in all of its wonder and curiosity.
Shelly Unwin was a stay-at-home mum with a young family when she decided to take the leap of faith and try her hand at writing picture books. “I was reading to my daughter one night and suddenly I knew 100% that was what I wanted to do,” recalls Shelly.
She decided that she needed to do a course – fully prepared to admit that there was in fact a huge amount to learn about writing picture books that she didn’t know. “I wanted to give myself a solid foundation so that when a story idea came to me, I would be able to execute it well,” she says. “I also wanted to learn about the picture book market and how to approach publishers. I was very eager to get going quickly, but in the right way.”
After searching online, the idea of a short five-week course with the Australian Writers’ Centre appealed – as it only required a few hours commitment each week and fitted in with her busy life with a baby and a three-year old. She enrolled in the aptly titled course, Writing Picture Books.
What Shelly learnt from AWC:
“If it wasn’t for this course I would most likely have started submitting and wondering why nothing was sticking,” admits Shelly.
But thanks to the guidance of course presenter Cathie Tasker, she was able to understand the “big picture” to putting together a picture book.
“Cathie’s knowledge of the picture book market was fantastic – she’d worked in the industry for years and years. We learnt so much about the conventions of structuring a story, and identified the patterns in successful stories. We looked at pace, rhythm and cadence, voice and characterisation. It was all tremendously valuable. I am naturally drawn to writing in rhyme and without this course I would have been writing everything in rhyme because I liked it, rather than because the story demanded it.”
The course gave Shelly the fundamental building blocks and from there it was all about practice, dedication and imagination. “If it wasn’t for this course I think I would have wasted a lot of valuable time writing long texts that missed the mark and that would have driven editors and parents mad!”.
It's Fleur the flamingo's birthday and her friend Bo the hippo is sending her a present. Can you use Bo's clues to guess what it is?
Junior scientists Augustine, Celeste and Oscar know they're in for a week they'll never forget when they are accepted into a science camp. But things at Quark Academy are not quite what they seem, and they'll need to put their heads together if they're going to get out alive.
Catherine Pelosi dreamt of becoming a children’s book author and, after completing a course at the Australian Writers’ Centre, has now released her first novel – with more already on the way.
Catherine was living in London working at a “dull office job” when she first realised she wanted to write children’s books. “I remember sitting at my desk and looking out the window when I had lightning-bolt moment – I wanted to be a children’s book author!” she recalls. “As soon as I returned to Australia I decided to find a course about writing for children. I found the Australian Writers’ Centre (AWC) course, Writing Books for Children and Young Adults, and signed up straight away.
“I turned up and it was brilliant from the start, it was just like entering this whole new world of magic and happiness and I’ve never left because it’s so great learning about writing and children’s books.”
What she learnt from AWC
Catherine says that course helped her really understand younger readers. “The language, sentence structure, themes and length of the story will depend on the age group you are writing for. During the course, there were also many opportunities to write and share our work. To me, this was the most useful aspect of the course. Receiving feedback from peers and the presenter was incredibly helpful in figuring out what I was doing well and what areas I needed to work on.”
In fact, Catherine loved the course so much, she ended up doing it twice – the first time face-to-face, and the second time online – a couple of years later. “I remember after one of the exercises where we were asked to write about a childhood experience, my presenter said to me: ‘I strongly encourage you to keep writing’. That one sentence coming from someone I truly respected fuelled me many times over the years. Writing can be a tough gig! Remembering those encouraging words really helped me to keep on going and not give up.”
Catherine’s first novel is Quark’s Academy, a middle grade novel for readers aged around eight to eleven. While she was writing her manuscript, Catherine made sure she kept on learning and also understood the importance of networking in the publishing industry.
It was at a Children’s and Young Adult Writers’ Conference, where she attended a “pitch session” with editors and agents, that she pitched to the woman who would eventually become her agent, Alex Adsett.
Alex loved Catherine’s pitch for Quark’s Academy and pitched the book to publishing giant Hachette.
Lotte has big dreams for the future but as the war turns against Germany, her life of privilege and comfort begins to collapse around her. As the country struggles to find its future, Lotte questions everything she has fought for – love, duty and freedom.
After enduring the horror of Nazi Germany, Lotte Drescher and her family arrive in Australia in 1956 full of hope for a new life. After years of struggle, their sacrifices finally seem worth it. But when dark shadows of the past reach out, Lotte's life reaches a turning point.
A debut historical novel kicking off a two-book deal with a major publisher seems a million miles from life as a lapsed physiotherapist and stay-at-home mum. But that’s exactly the journey that Tania Blanchard has undergone over the past few years.
Tania had enjoyed writing ever since she was a child, but it had become more the product of daydreams in adulthood while working as a physio. She decided to pick it up again when she had her children – writing stories for them at first, before developing one of them into a YA fantasy novel. She worked on it for some time, but as a self-taught writer, she reached a point where she felt she had done all she could on her own.
“I needed to learn more about writing techniques and find the best way that I could improve my writing,” she recalls. And so, with her children all at a school age, it seemed the perfect time to take the plunge. An Australian Writers’ Course in writing for children and young adults seemed ideal.
What Tania learnt from AWC
As a mum, getting to evening classes simply wasn’t going to work. So she grabbed at the chance to get the same classroom experience from one of Australian Writers’ Centre’s online courses – complete with online tutor and other classmates.
“I found the audio lectures great. Valerie has a great presentation style that is engaging and easy to listen to. I could listen to them anytime and could go back again and again months after the course to refresh my mind on particular topics and writing techniques.”
Tania also loved the idea of weekly homework as it reinforced what that week’s tutorial had been about and transferred it into real writing and practicing new skills. “I found that really useful. I was able to use these new skills and techniques immediately with the book I was writing.”
Another key for her was being able to bounce her story off an audience of peers. “The feedback on each assignment was gold! I think that’s when I learnt where my writing was really at and what I needed to do to improve. It was both encouraging and positive and it always got me thinking about what I needed to do with my story to get it to the next level.
“The courses made the world of difference. I understood so much more about structure, characterisation, dialogue and all the techniques of good writing. I was able to use these new skills to improve my writing and the novel I’d been working on. I was able to move forward in my writing journey and because I had enjoyed the courses so much, I realised how much writing had become part of my life. It was after these courses that I decided I wanted to write as a career.”
Lottie has always wanted a sister and is excited when Blossom arrives on her doorstep. But Blossom isn’t like other kids. She doesn’t speak and is obsessed with her flower. When Blossom gets sick and she is taken away. Lottie must do whatever it takes to rescue her.
Figgy and her friend Nana leave behind the village and family they love to go to Hope College in Ghana's big city, Accra. But Nana begins acting strange, disappearing on the weekends. They will both learn what family means and learn that sometimes change is not so bad.
Figgy and Nana wonder what they will be when they grow up. Nana wants to be President of Ghana. Figgy thinks she'll be an actress and gets a part in a film. Disaster strikes when the two friends are separated and Figgy is determined to help.
Figgy's grandmother is ill, so Figgy determines to leave Ghana and go to America to find medicine. Out in the wide world with Kwame, her special goat, Figgy will meet some bad people, but she will also find good friends.
Tamsin Janu published her award-winning book Figgy in the World after completing a course at the Australian Writers’ Centre. After taking the book world by storm, she followed up with a sequel, Figgy and the President and Figgy Takes the City.
And it all started when she enrolled in Writing Books for Children and Young Adults, a course that would change her life. “On the second day of the course I remember that’s when I came up with the idea for my first book!” said Tamsin.
Not only did the course give her a good insight into the publishing industry and what children’s book publishers were looking for – but it was also a very practical learning experience. “Basic craft things like how to write good dialogue, how to create a likeable character, things like writing voice that I’d not really known that much about.” Tamsin was introduced to a range of other children’s books that she was able to further learn from.
From student to award-winning author
That first book became Figgy in the World – about a little girl named Figgy in the west African country of Ghana. Tamsin had previously volunteered in Ghana so it was her experience there, as well as her time working in the remote Northern Territory community of Lajamanu (approximately 700km from Alice Springs and 650km from Darwin) which helped to shape her stories.
Figgy in the World saw her named the joint winner of the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards (Patricia Wrightson Prize for Children’s Literature), shortlisted in the CBCA Book of the Year (Younger Readers) Awards and shortlisted for the Readings Children’s Book Prize. Quite an impressive line up!
For Tamsin, who also works at a legal centre and as a youth worker, it was a pleasant surprise. As a debut author, she was unsure of what to expect. “Seeing it in bookstores was definitely a thrill, as was other people telling me they had bought or read it.” And it didn’t stop there. “I still receive emails from kids telling me how much they liked the book and asking really detailed questions about the story. It is great they are so interested!”
“I still feel kind of overwhelmed seeing my name listed alongside really great and established Australian children’s authors.”
The story continues
In her next book, the sequel Figgy and the President, Figgy and her best friend are thinking about what they would like to do as a career. First her friend wants to be the President of Ghana, but then maybe an actress. Meanwhile, Figgy can’t decide.
Luckily the decision has been easier for Tamsin to continue writing. “How much I get done, or whether I get any done at all, varies widely from week to week,” she admits. However, she is grateful for the guidance that her course gave her – including which age group her own writing would be best suited to. “I thought I was writing Young Adult novels, but through the course I learnt that my voice was very much more junior fiction. That really helped in pitching it to the right people and to knowing where to place my language and the story.”
But for Tamsin, the best thing was the supportive community – being around people who wanted to write and hearing feedback from others. “It helped me sort through my ideas and figure out what I wanted to write, and gave me the motivation to try out things that were a bit outside the box.”
Tamsin was listed in the 2018 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards shortlist for her third book, Figgy Takes the City.
Generations after the Spirits abandoned the world, two mortal empires stand on the brink of a final battle to end a centuries-old conflict.
Not long ago, Carmel was stuck in a non-creative role at work. “I had no time to work on my book and not much motivation to make time,” she recalls. “It was stagnating in a folder on my computer with a long to-do list and in much need of some TLC!”
That TLC was provided by AWC. When her husband finally convinced her to get serious about her writing, Carmel enrolled in a creative writing course at the Australian Writers’ Centre. “The course was really great in that the tutor was an expert within the area. Bouncing ideas off like-minded people really gave me the inspiration to go home and do something about the book.”
The course helped Carmel develop her characters, the world, and the tone of her book – as well as introducing her to valuable feedback via other members in the class. “Just being surrounded by so many people who are also trying their hardest to succeed, it’s so inspiring and it motivates you.”
Taking the next step
The course taught Carmel guidelines on how to approach a publisher, and the new avenues available in the publishing industry as a whole.
“I knew the industry was changing rapidly with the rise of ebooks and I needed help understanding the ins and outs,” she explains. Those ins and outs were subsequently found through two courses at the Australian Writers’ Centre on how to get published.
“It seems strange that only a couple of years ago I considered writing just a hobby. The suite of courses I did thoroughly motivated me to take the manuscript further, develop it into something I was proud of and enlightened me as to how I could publish!”
This rollicking rhyming story tells the tale of a boastful pirate who thinks he is the roughest and toughest, but his crew know otherwise!
These delightfully playful books encourage little ones aged 1-4 to be thankful for everything God provides.
Christmas is a time to celebrate … but why do we celebrate a baby born in a manger thousands of years ago?
It wasn’t so long ago that Sydney mum Penny Morrison would have laughed off suggestions that she could be a published picture book author. She never thought of herself ever writing books. However, now with half a dozen books to her name, including an industry recognition, she has no plans to stop anytime soon.
Like many mums, Penny had been ‘drawn’ to the idea of writing picture books – however, a lack of knowledge had held her back. “I assumed that you would need to illustrate it and I can’t draw and i didn’t know any illustrators personally so it didn’t cross my mind to write my own books,” she recalls.
It wasn’t until a friend recommended the Writing Picture Books course at the Australian Writers’ Centre that things began to take shape. It was during the course that Penny discovered that needing to have your story illustrated upfront was a myth. She also learnt at the same time that her eldest child had been diagnosed with Aspergers – and writing became a welcome relief to the distress she was feeling.
“The course came at a good time because I could express all my emotions through what I was writing. I wrote a lot of stories about mums and young children and going through different struggles, and I found that really helped me.”
Writing and publishing
Something Penny realised almost immediately was that she didn’t really know the basics to writing picture books. Sure, she was familiar with some of the concepts but didn’t know how to apply that to her own stories. The course helped illuminate this.
“I learned a lot more about point of view, how to create a compelling character and how to improve the language in the story. I also learnt about how to give feedback and look at my own text critically and think about how it needed to improve.”
The course touched on publishing and approaching publishers, but Penny decided to learn this important step a little deeper by completing a separate short publishing course with the Australian Writers’ Centre. “I did my courses in Sydney, but there are online courses which would be great, especially if you can’t get babysitting, can’t make it at that time or live too far away.”
And with everything she learnt, her first book – Captain Sneer the Buccaneer, was accepted by Walker Books. “It was very exciting!”
Meet our Freelance Writing graduates
When Jo Hartley took Australian Writers’ Centre’s Freelance Writing Stage 1 course it totally changed her life. Today she calls herself a freelance writer and says she can’t imagine her life without writing.
“It’s part of who I am and it’s given me a definite outlet from being just a mum. If it wasn’t for the Australian Writers’ Centre I don’t know what I would be doing now – probably working in an office and certainly not as happy as I am now.”
Before the birth of her children, Jo was working in recruitment for a big engineering firm hiring blue and white collar staff.
“I had worked my way up from a trainee recruitment officer role but I had done the same thing for over four years and was definitely fed up.
“Prior to doing the course, I had never done any writing other than dabbling in writing a blog when my son was born. I started to find that writing the blog was becoming a mental and creative outlet for me, and I started looking forward to writing it more and more.”
Jo’s life-changing AWC course
“Then I signed up to the life-changing course Freelance Writing Stage 1 which had a HUGE impact on my life.
“I’d never done any kind of content writing or copywriting and definitely nothing for magazines or articles but now thanks to Australian Writers’ Centre, I am writing for multiple publications online and in print.”
A comprehensive guide to using the fabulous online accounting system Xero
A comprehensive DIY program to work with you to develop a business plan
This book arms you with the knowledge you need to navigate your way through MYOB Accounting software and frees up your time to focus on your business.
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.
After a 15-year career as a history teacher, Brad Kelly was ready for his next challenge. With a keen interest in the world of writing, he completed a course at the Australian Writers’ Centre. “I had always been drawn to long form journalism and features, and I wanted to learn the nuts and bolts of the trade,” says Brad.
Before long, and with ongoing support and mentoring from the Australian Writers’ Centre, Brad transitioned out of teaching and is now a full-time writer. “I do a variety of work for corporates, for content writing, for book publishers and for private contracts and commissions.”
Brad has completed several courses at the Australian Writers’ Centre. “My first course was Magazine and Newspaper Writing – and it opened up my mind to how many ideas and opportunities are out there,” he says. “My involvement with the Australian Writers’ Centre has given me lots and lots of confidence to approach clients.”
A brilliant return on investment
He says that the course paid for itself two or three times over BEFORE he got to the end of the five-week course. Brad now writes for many clients including AIA Insurance, Singtel, JLL, McDonald’s, Alibaba, various Universities and government departments, Yahoo, Toll, DBS Bank and many more.
Even though Joy Adan dreamt of becoming a writer, she initially didn’t have the confidence to pursue this passion. “I had a recurring voice in my head – that sounded a lot like my mother – that kept telling me that the only people who could call themselves writers were either really lucky or really poor. That I should do the responsible thing – and set aside my creative ambitions in search for a secure, well-paying job.”
So Joy forged ahead with a successful corporate career – but that itch to write never went away. And, after several courses at the Australian Writers’ Centre, she is now living her dream … as a writer.
The turning point
“When my eldest son was about 18 months old, I was back at work full-time (in the same communications job) and hating the fact that I was spending so much time away from my family in a job that I didn’t find fulfilling,” says Joy. “My role had evolved and demanded long hours and involved more people politics than actual communication or writing. I knew it was time for a change, but I didn’t know what to do with myself.”
Joy enrolled in the course Freelance Writing Stage 1. “I decided to enrol in the Magazine Writing course because I wanted to give freelance writing a shot,” says Joy. “I wanted to understand the process of getting published, step-by-step. It didn’t disappoint!”
“I wanted to learn from people who’d worked in the industry and I wanted to understand the steps that it took to come up with an idea, write a pitch, find a publication to get published in – and then submit it and get published! During the course, I got all of that feedback, all of that education and I remember the pitch that I workshopped as part of the course I submitted to Practical Parenting a few weeks afterwards and it got accepted and commissioned and that was my first commissioned piece.
“I was so pumped, I was so excited by that and I realised I could do it. It was great as part of the course to get feedback straight away and to learn from what others had submitted as well.”
Jennifer Johnston is living proof that you never stop learning – in fact, she has built a career on it. Having completed a postgraduate certificate in creative industries, she realised that while she had a lot of theory, there were many gaps with regard to practical skills. On the long-time recommendation of a friend, she chose a short online course in Travel Writing at the Australian Writers Centre – and wished she had taken her advice sooner!
What Jennifer learnt from AWC:
“It’s just so practical, the information was great, the feedback was from Sue White, who was the online tutor for the Travel Writing course, was invaluable. I just loved the fact that after you graduate you get into a closed support group, over the years that has been extremely beneficial to me and my writing.”
She went on to add courses in Profile Writing and Copywriting Essentials – further strengthening her skills. “The most useful information from the courses are their relevance in this day and age. Through the Australian Writers’ Centre I discovered my passion is real and it can actually be recognised out there.”
Initially, Jennifer thought blogging was the only place where she could share my stories – unpaid and with limited exposure. However, by improving her craft, she discovered that people were willing to pay for her freelance articles, which in turn reached a larger potential audience. “I’ve got a lot out of it and it’s really enhanced my writing.”
When Lisa Schofield worked in the banking industry, she never imagined that she would one day become a freelance journalist and corporate writer. But she’s now been successfully published in countless magazines and newspapers – and is in demand as a writer contracting to the corporate world she was once a part of.
The course opened a new world to Lisa
This transition began when she completed a course at the Australian Writers’ Centre. “Before I did the course, I would never have imagined myself being in this situation,” she says. “I wouldn’t have known how to have got to where I am now. I’ve gone up a level of professionalism in my writing and that would not have been possible without doing the course.”
Lisa says that the practical nature of the course – Magazine and Newspaper Writing Stage 1 – meant she was able to acquire and hone the skills she needed. “What I learnt from the course was all the elements I needed to be able to write,” she says. “I didn’t actually know how to write – or how to start. I didn’t know the technical aspects of writing and I felt like I needed to go somewhere with some experts who knew how to do it and to train myself up – just like you’d train yourself in any job. I knew I had the passion, I knew I had the ability – but I didn’t know how to do it.”
Rob Grant loves travelling. But it can be hard to satisfy your wanderlust when you’re consumed by a nine-to-five corporate career. That’s exactly the position Rob was in until he discovered the Travel Writing course at the Australian Writers’ Centre. Now he’s swapped his corporate job for his new path in life – working part-time as a travel writer and part-time as a marketing consultant.
The course gave Rob a new path in life
“Before I did the course I would have had absolutely no idea how to become a travel writer,” says Rob. “My assumption was that most of the writers were staff writers working for newspapers and magazines. I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of travel writing. When I heard about the course, I was a veteran traveller and someone with a fascination with words – and it was just something I wanted to know more about. I had no idea how I would start to become a travel writer, so I was keen to just find out all the information I could.”
The course opened the door to new possibilities for Rob. “I was working at a nine-to-five corporate office job … and I was certainly happy, but it ultimately wasn’t that fulfilling for me,” he says, adding that it was the course that showed him how to get started in the exciting world of travel writing.
A shortcut to success
“It gave me some ideas for stories … but ultimately it’s all about [learning about] pitching to editors. [We got] advice from seasoned professionals about how to get through to editors, what to say, the right way to go about things – that was just invaluable. There’s no way I would have worked that out for myself.”
Then Rob hit the ground running. His first travel article was published in the travel section of The Australian newspaper. “It was a story about my home county in North Yorkshire in England which I’m very proud of, and it was published on my birthday so that was a great one for me, the family and my friends.”
Since then, Rob has written for The Weekend Australian multiple times, Vacations & Travel magazine, the in-flight magazine for Tiger Airways and many other publications.
One new year’s day, Susannah Hardy made a decision that would change the rest of her life. She decided she wanted to earn money from writing. Already working as an actor, Susannah then enrolled in a course at the Australian Writers’ Centre. That set her on a path where she now has dual careers – as an actor, as well as a successful freelance writer, published in Australia’s top magazines and newspapers.
“I had been working as an actor and I always loved to write,” says Susannah. “I’d reached this decision where I thought ‘I’m going to earn money from writing’.”
A big decision for the new year
“I just got up one day, it was actually a new year’s day, I woke up somewhere up from the North Coast, and went ‘I’m earning money from writing’. I just had no idea how I was going to go about it and if it was at all possible.”
That’s when Susannah found the course Magazine and Newspaper Writing Stage 1 at the Australian Writers’ Centre. And it was a decision that changed the direction of her life.
A successful new career
It was a five-week course, where students commit to a two-hour class each week. Susannah says: “The course taught me how to get out there and pitch a story, get commissioned, write it, all the nuts and bolts – the practical side of writing. After that, I got published pretty quickly. So it got me going, it gave me the push I needed to get out there.
“I have been published in The Sydney Morning Herald, Herald Sun, Practical Parenting, Cosmo Pregnancy, MyChild, Notebook Magazine, Country Home Ideas, Modern Home, Backyard Landscaping Ideas, Kitchen and Bathroom Ideas.”
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, 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.
Libby Hakim had a simple goal: to see her byline in a magazine or newspaper. After completing a course at the Australian Writers’ Centre, she not only achieved that – she’s now been published in many top publications.
Working as a part-time lawyer, Libby first completed a five-week online course in Magazine and Newspaper Writing Stage 1. That changed the course of Libby’s life. “Before I started the course I actually had the goal of getting published, I wanted to see my byline in a magazine or a newspaper,” says Libby, who was working part-time as a lawyer.
An action-packed course
Though the course was only a two to three hours week, and she says learnt an incredible amount. “I learnt so many things – it was action packed, it was information packed. I learnt how to analyse a publication, to really understand the audience that the publication is speaking to and to be able to craft stories to suit the particular magazine or newspaper.”
Since then, Libby has been published in The Sydney Morning Herald, My Career, Body+Soul, MiNDFOOD, Jetstar, Practical Parenting and many more. Libby says the course taught her practical skills she could use immediately. “I also learnt how feature stories are structured. They may appear quite simple but there’s quite an art to it … And, of course, I learnt how to approach editors; how to get an editor to say: ‘Yes, I want you to write this story for me.’”
Deadlines. Celebrities. Breaking stories. And a growing audience of women who are clamouring for more digital content. That’s the world of Avi Vince, Managing Editor of iVillage Australia, which is part of the Mamamia Women’s Network. Both iVillage and its sister site Mamamia have carved a firm niche in the Australian publishing landscape, driven by magazine-turned-digital-publishing supremo, Mia Freedman.
So it’s safe to say that Avi has landed herself a plum job in publishing. But it wasn’t that long ago that Avi was working in an entirely different career and industry – the charity sector. “It was always a pull between my love for helping others and my love for writing,” she recalls. “But I figured there was no way I could be a writer – I just didn’t think it was an option.”
Discovering the Australian Writers’ Centre
Then Avi discovered the Australian Writers’ Centre. “I figured that I could go to a couple courses, fill that void, and if nothing came of it, no one would ever have to know,” she says.
She completed Creative Writing Stage 1 and Freelance Writing Stage 1, both five-week courses at the Australian Writers’ Centre. To top up her skills, Avi also completed Grammar and Punctuation Essentials (a one-day course) and History, Mystery and Magic (a weekend course focusing on writing genre fiction).
Time for a career change
Before long, Avi realised that it was time for a career change. “I’d done everything that I wanted to do in that [charity] sector and I decided to think more and more about writing,” she says. “I’d always thought about writing so when I found the Australian Writers’ Centre I had a look at all of the courses online.
“My first course was the Creative Writing Stage 1, because I really was interested in fictional novels and seeing if that was something I could write. And then I went on to do the Magazine Writing course and really liked that as well. After I finished the course, I honestly didn’t think about it again. I thought that it would be a great idea that I could one day do but I never thought it would be a possibility for someone like me, who had never written, had never been published.”
After becoming a first time mum, Megan Blandford, then 34, surprised herself. She didn’t feel compelled to return to her human resources role in the corporate world.
Her company wanted her to return to work full time. “I remember sitting in front of my computer one day and thinking: ‘what do I do?'” she says. “I always wanted to try writing since I was a little girl and I got caught up in this sort of sensible path of the mainstream thing people do. So I sat there and thought, right it’s now or never.”
A great blog – but then what?
Megan was first drawn into the world of blogging. Her writing and photography skills were quickly rewarded with Megan being recognised as a Kidspot Top 50 Blogger several times.
“My blog was the first step away from my corporate life and it amazed me when people wanted to read what I had written,” says Megan, who is based in Beechworth, on the outskirts of Melbourne.
But it wasn’t clear to Megan how to take that next step in order to build up her business as a writer. And this is where social media and online networks worked their magic. Well known writer Allison Tait read between the lines of Megan’s blog posts and saw that Megan was confused about what to do next. Allison approached Megan and suggested a plan, which included enrolling in a five-week writing course at the Australian Writers’ Centre.
This was the turning point for Megan. And she completed the Australian Writers’ Centre Freelance Writing Stage 1 online course.
“The course gave me the confidence to start writing and to make a business out of it. I learnt what to do as a writer, how to pitch, how to work with editors and it took away my fears that I was going to do the wrong thing,” Megan says.
“It gave me the confidence to write.”
And that’s just what Megan did. “I had two goals,” Megan says. “First was to make an income from writing so I didn’t need to return to corporate work. And second was to write for the magazines that intimidated me. I had to prove to myself that I could do this.”
As a blogger, Michaela Fox was already loving being able to write while at home, but it was almost too comfortable. The idea of working as a freelance writer and earning a living really appealed.
“Being able to freelance from home is just the ideal situation for me,” she says. “I get to still be at home with my kids, which is really important for me. I want to be involved in their lives – they’re only young.”
And it was the discovery of the five-week Freelance Writing Stage 1 course through the Australian Writers’ Centre that really got the cogs turning.
The learning curve
Do you know that warm fuzzy feeling when you know you’ve made the right decision? For Michaela, being on the course, she knew that she was where she needed to be. In fact, she quite literally couldn’t wait to get started with her new skills.
“I was really excited during the course, and impatient,” she recalls. “So I started pitching to editors before I’d finished the course!” To her delight, Michaela’s first pitch was successful, allowing her to work on it “live” as part of her course homework/assignment across the five week course duration. “Because of that win, it gave me the confidence to know that I could do this.”
The course also taught Michaela how to approach editors. “That was something I didn’t have any idea about how to go about doing,” she says. “So that was important to me to know exactly what was expected in the pitching process.”
But it wasn’t just industry knowledge and advice that she gained. By completing the course with other writers, she had immediate access to a new community also sharing a similar journey.
“I think when you’re pursuing a creative passion like writing, you really need to find your tribe, and it gave me access to people like me who are writing and trying to do it as a career. It’s been really inspiring to see what other people are doing.”
“Eighteen months ago, if someone had said to me you’re going to be doing freelance writing, I probably would have brushed it off and said ‘no way’…”
And yet today Josefa Pete, busy mum to two boys, proudly calls herself a freelance writer, without a moment’s hesitation. So what changed?
Busy and bogged down
“Before I started writing, I was doing everything except what I wanted to do,” explains Josefa. Sure, she loved being a mum to her two endless bundles of energy, but she was also a research scientist by trade and was spending her time working in her father’s boutique construction company. By her own admission, she was doing a million things at once – “juggling all the balls all the time” – and yet, writing wasn’t one of those things.
With writing, it was an all-too-common obstacle that stopped her every time. Fear of the unknown, through a lack of knowledge. “I wanted to be writing,” she says. “The reason I wasn’t writing was because I felt I didn’t know how to write.”
But sometimes all it takes is seeing someone in a similar position to you to finally get you over the line. And for Josefa, that motivation came in the form of a blogger she’d been following online. Catherine Rodie had completed the Magazine and Newspaper Writing course at Australian Writers’ Centre, and mentioned it in one of the posts that Josefa read.
And suddenly Catherine’s name was popping up on almost every publication that Josefa would read. It was a classic case of cause and effect – it seemed that the reason for this success was worth investigating. And suddenly the very idea of being a writer was within the blurry realm of possibility.
“I thought ‘wow, you can do this’… and ‘I WANT to do this!’”
Lindy Alexander was working as a social worker two days a week when she decided to take the course in Magazine and Newspaper Writing at the Australian Writers’ Centre. She says it’s the single most important thing she’s done in her life to turn her dream of becoming a writer into reality.
At the time, she was also six months pregnant. “I’d always wanted to write. And I found the course and wanted to do it immediately,” she says.
Lindy hit the ground running and has now been published in a host of magazines and newspapers including The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald, Sunday Life, Essential Kids, Essential Baby, Practical Parenting, Jetstar magazine, Dumbo Feather and Modern Farmer, an American publication.
The course fast-tracked Lindy’s career by 15 years
“I think one of the most valuable things that I got out of the course was I felt like I jumped a lot of years and a lot of steps very quickly in four or five weeks; that I’d got all this knowledge about how to break into this industry, how to pitch to editors, how to formulate your ideas and how to write up a story very quickly. And I think if I had done that by myself it would have taken me 10 or 15 years to harness that knowledge,” says Lindy.
It’s not just the skills she learnt in the course that Lindy found valuable. “The graduate community that exists has been such a fantastic support at recognising what people are doing.”
The Australian Writers’ Centre graduate community is a dynamic place where graduates help each other, providing information and support on opportunities available in the writing industry. “People are incredibly generous within that community and that’s been wonderful,” says Lindy.
Although Lindy’s course was only five weeks, it was packed with practical information about how to get into the industry. Lindy says: “It’s been a bit of a shock actually to have achieved what I have … So I’m not sure what the future holds really, but that’s quite exciting for me, just watching the landscape change at the moment and knowing that it’s possible.
“I think that’s the real thing that’s changed for me, knowing that whatever you want to do, if you want to be published, you can do it. If someone was thinking about the course I would say ‘go for it’. It has been probably the single most important thing in my life that I’ve done in terms of getting me from dreaming about being a writer to being a writer.”