Writers Connect Newsletter Issue 40

writing tools in cafe for Writers Connect newsletter issue 40

Welcome to the Writers Connect Newsletter Issue 40.

Writing is a human experience. It’s about connection with everyone and everything around us.

We understand you’re busy. So the newsletter usually has just four or five main items of content. A brief but satisfying read.

In this issue:

  • Write Here, Right Now: What’s Happening in Writing
  • Word of the Day. An unusual or new word to keep your writing fresh
  • Inspirational Quote
  • Writing Tip

Write Here, Right Now: What’s Happening in Writing

Competitions featured in this issue of Writers Connect cater to poets, short story writers and flash fiction writers. Closing dates are from 8—31 March 2021.

For competition closing dates, bear in mind these relate to the time zone where the competition originates, so check the relevant site.

Comp 1: Cambridge Centre for Animal Rights Law – Essay Competition

‘The aim of this competition is to encourage students to explore the fascinating questions that animals rights raise, and to discuss these questions in an original piece of writing that may inspire them to engage further with the topic in the future.’

About: Entries welcomed from various disciplines – not limited to a legal perspective

Open to: International students and researchers who have not yet completed a doctoral degree. Only one entry per person

Word count: 3,000

Theme/Genre: Animal rights and law – ‘Is it lawful to enslave the unconsenting?’

Entry fee: Free

Closes: 8 March 2021

Prize: First = £750, Second = £500, Third = £250

Send: Send essay, as a Word document, and CV to Dr Raffael Fasel ([email protected])

Further details: https://animalrightslaw.org/essaycompetition

Comp 2: Zizzle Literary Flash Fiction Contest

Every week during the submission period, the organisers post one-sentence dialogue writing prompts on their social media platforms. Choose a dialogue prompt that inspires you and write a story that includes the prompt.

About: All entries must be in English and include a dialogue prompt as above. Simultaneous and multiple submissions accepted (conditions apply). Submissions must be unpublished works. The social media platforms are:


Open to: International

Word count: 500—1,000

Theme/Genre: Fiction that appeals to readers from age 11 to grown-ups

Entry fee: $5

Closes: 15 March 2021

Prize: First = $1,000, Second = $500, Three finalists = $150 each

Find out more: https://zizzlelit.com/contest-rules/

Comp 3: Enchanted Forest Publishing – Poetry Competition

Your poem might be about the power of love, lost love or any other take on the theme of love.

About: ‘All about love’

Open to: International

Word count: 50—500

Theme/Genre: Love

Entry fee: £5 per poem

Closes: 31 March 2021

Prize: £10, publication and copy of eBook

More info: https://enchantedforestpublishingltd.com/submissions/

Comp 4: 2021 Horror and Fantasy Short Story Contest

This free-to-enter short story competition is for either horror or fantasy.

About: Work must be original, unpublished and copyright registered (details given at link below)

Open to: International

Word count: 2,000—10,000

Theme/Genre: Horror or fantasy

Entry fee: Free

Closes: 31 March 2021

Prize: First = $50

Further details: https://pressfuls.com/2021-horror-and-fantasy/

Word of the Day

sober curious

This term made the Macquarie Dictionary’s 1 February 2021 blog on New words to watch this month. It means ‘the exploration of a life without alcohol’. You might use this term in your writing for a character who’s a habitual drinker and who habitually ends up with a hangover. Example in sentence: ‘Ronald woke up with a thumping head for the fourteenth time that month but today, through the pounding and pulsating, he was sober curious: what would it feel like to never drink again? he wondered.’

Inspirational Quote

If you are too full of yourself, then just like an overflowing teacup, you leave no room for anything else―Unknown.

Writing Tip

Three ways to hook your reader with a good beginning to your novel.

  1. Use the literary technique in medias res, meaning ‘in the midst of things’ (see blog post In Medias Res and the Three-Act Structure) and start your story/novel in the middle of the story. The events in your story do not need to be chronological. ‘Grabbing’ your reader with an action hook, or the inciting incident of the plot, or a curious observation: it can be anything, as long as it is captivating in some way.
  2. Dialogue. You could have two characters talking about something mysterious. Intrigue your readers by telling them something through the dialogue, but not everything. They’ll want to keep on reading to see what happens.
  3. Introduce the bad guy or girl first. By starting with the baddie rather than the protagonist, you’re sure to capture your readers’ attention.

(Acknowledgement: Masterclass Articles, How to Start Writing Your Novel: 6 Tips for Beginner Novel Writers, by MasterClass, 8 Nov 2020 https://www.masterclass.com/articles/how-to-start-writing-your-novel#6-key-tips-for-starting-the-novel-writing-process).

The Writers Connect newsletter Issue 40 is produced approximately fortnightly 🙂

Gail Tagarro is a Book Writing Coach and Accredited Editor. She works with writers in any genre, fiction and nonfiction.
Her book coaching program Get Your Book to the Finish Line is designed to help writers get their book to first draft stage within 12 weeks. To find out more, book a free chat.

You’ll find recommended writing resources here.


How a Dictionary is Born

When we think of dictionaries, it seems as though they must have existed forever. Yet of course, like everything, a dictionary has a beginning. How a dictionary is born is the subject of Pip Williams’ entrancing book, The Dictionary of Lost Words. This post is a review of her book.

The title may sound like nonfiction, but The Dictionary of Lost Words is historical fiction. It is a book about words: the beauty and power of words, lost words and saved words, misunderstood and taboo words.

A Story About the OED

Williams constructs her story around the people and events surrounding how a dictionary is born: specifically, the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). The first fascicle (separately published instalment) of the OED, containing the words from ‘A’ to ‘Ant’, was published in 1884. Work on the dictionary was progressively published as fascicles over some 43 years. In 1928, it was finally published in full – all ten volumes.

Williams weaves a fictional character’s story into the historical narrative. Esme’s father is a lexicographer (a person who compiles dictionaries). Her father works with the real James Murray, the fourth editor of the OED.

Her Inspiration

The backdrop of this period of English Victorian history includes the women’s suffrage movement and World War I. The author’s inspiration for her novel came from asking herself whether words mean different things to men and women. If so, she wondered if something was lost in the process of defining them.

Her research for the book gave her the impression that the OED was a predominantly male enterprise – male editors, male assistants, male volunteers, male researchers. Yet when she delved deeper, she found that various women had directly contributed to the dictionary work and hundreds of others contributed indirectly to the dictionary in some way.

The author believed that with women underrepresented, this must have affected what words were included. These words, she believed, must have been influenced by older, Victorian-era men.

A Lost Word

Esme, the book’s main character, grows up in the ‘Scriptorium’, little more than a garden shed in the Murray’s garden. Here, the group of lexicographers spend their days compiling the dictionary from words written on slips of paper sent in by volunteers. A motherless child, Esme spends hours under the sorting table out of the way of the lexicographers. One day, a slip drops off the end of the table and lands in Esme’s lap. Instead of returning it to her father, she puts it in her pocket. Esme is too young to understand the meaning of the word. Nevertheless, she is afraid the lexicographers might exclude it from the dictionary because it may not be ‘solid’ enough.

As Esme grows, so does her obsession with ‘saving’ words she believes will be discarded. Grown into a young woman, she begins interviewing women at the market, recording the words they say and their meanings. These are ‘women’s words’, forbidden and sometimes salacious words, and Esme is determined to save them all. She keeps them in a trunk under her maid Lizzie’s bed, until the trunk is full of slips of paper.  

The fate of Esme’s stash of words is bound up in a poignant love story, which is for the reader to discover, not for me to reveal here.

Suffice to say that I loved this beautifully written and meticulously researched historical novel. Author Tom Keneally says of Pip William’s debut work, ‘There will not be this year a more original novel published. I just know it.’

cover of the dictionary of lost words for post how a dictionary is born

The Dictionary of Lost Words  by Pip Williams (2020), Affirm Press, Melbourne.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post ‘How A Dictionary Is Born’. Please feel free to email any questions you may have about your work in progress.

Gail Tagarro is a Book Writing Coach and Accredited Editor. She works with writers in any genre, fiction and nonfiction.

Her book coaching program Get Your Book to the Finish Line is designed to help writers get their book to first draft stage within 12 weeks. To find out more, book a free call.


Questions from a Young Writer

‘Questions from a Young Writer’ came from a writer just out of school who recently contacted me for some feedback on his fantasy fiction manuscript. His questions are around helping him find the best ways to polish his manuscript and then seek publication.

Many of these questions from a young writer may also be helpful to other writers.

How do you get your novel or idea to publishing standard?

Attend writing workshops to hone your technique.

Read quality books extensively.

Read books on writing craft by well-known writers. Below are some recommended writers’ resources:

The Hero’s Journey by Joseph Campbell audiobook

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

C.S. Lewis and the Art of Writing: What the Essayist, Poet, Novelist, Literary Critic, Apologist, Memoirist, Theologian Teaches Us about the Life and Craft of Writing by Corey Latta

Have your manuscript professionally edited once it’s finished, i.e. once you have written more than one draft and got it as close to perfect as possible.

What does publishing entail 

I have covered this question in various blogs. Please refer to the following links: Everything You Need to Know About How to Self-Publish Your Book Download, Options for Publishing Your Book, How to Get Your Book Published.

What is the process of getting a cover or illustrations

Through a graphic designer. You can either choose a local designer or commission a cover through an online services provider like Fiverr. Often, book designers don’t do illustrations so you could look for a local illustrator, or find someone through Fiverr. Make sure you are very specific when you advertise on Fiverr. Think carefully about your ad. Word your instructions carefully and clearly. This is because you’ll likely be working with people whose first language isn’t English.

How can you tell if your ideas appeal to readers 

By using beta readers. You can search for online writing groups, such as Writers Helping Writers or Fiction Writers, and find people who read your genre. They generally provide free feedback.

By joining writers’ groups.

By asking other writers how they have gained feedback.

How to sell to the audience, gather a following 

Today, writers need to be prepared to self-promote. Through Amazon, clubs like Goodreads, through a landing page on your website, by having a book launch at stores (in Queensland, e.g. Avid Reader in Brisbane or BookFace on the Gold Coast), talks at public libraries, talks in front of people who read your genre.

Are there any cost-effective tips or financial assistance to young authors 

First, improve your own writing skills through ideas such as those given in the first question above. Make your manuscript as good as it can possibly be. This will reduce editing costs.

Work with a mentor who will help polish your manuscript. Writers’ centres often provide mentoring services at lower than commercial rates.

Use crowd-funding to pay for professional editing.

Contact your local writers’ centre and ask if they have any programs available to fund or assist young authors.

Can you advise of any groups or book clubs that I may benefit from

The best way to find writers’ groups and book clubs is to Google them in your area. The Queensland Writers Centre (QWC) holds many courses for writers, many of them now online and more affordable (from as little as $49). See my recent newsletter for some of these events.

On a youth membership under 25 years of age, you can join QWC as a member for $55 a year.

Also, keep in touch with events on your local writers’ centre website.

I hope you’ve found this post ‘Questions from a Young Writer’ helpful. Please feel free to email any questions you may have about your work in progress.

Gail Tagarro is a Book Writing Coach and Accredited Editor who works with writers in any genre, fiction and nonfiction.

Her book coaching program Get Your Book to the Finish Line is designed to help writers get their book to first draft stage within 12 weeks. Please phone or enquire here.

Writers Connect! Issue 39

Welcome to the Writers Connect newsletter Issue 39.

coffee notebook pen phone in cafe for Writers Connect Issue 39

Writing is a human experience. It’s about connection with everyone and everything around us.

We understand you’re busy. So the newsletter usually has just four or five main items of content. A brief but satisfying read.

In this issue:

  • Write Here, Right Now: Livestream Writing Events
  • Word of the Day. An unusual word to keep your writing fresh
  • Get Inspired
  • Writing Tip

Write Here, Right Now: What’s Happening in Writing

Writers Connect Issue 39 features several livestream events run by Queensland Writers Centre. The first event is on Sunday 14 February 2021.

For dates and times, the events in this newsletter all relate to the time zone for Queensland, Australia, so check your time zone converter.

Livestream Event 1: Let’s Write About Sex

This workshop is about ‘the craft of writing a sex scene. From the nitty gritty of the act, to how to build tension that leaves your reader wanting more…’ This is both a live-stream and a face-to-face event. Links are given below for both formats.

Organiser: Queensland Writers Centre

When: Sunday 14 February 2021

Time: 1.30 pm—4.30 pm AEST

Presenter: Amy Andrews

Entry: $35—$49

To attend the face-to-face event: https://queenslandwriters.org.au/events/write-about-sex

To attend the live-stream event: https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/live-stream-lets-write-about-sex-with-amy-andrews-tickets-131808415519

Livestream Event 2: Historical Fiction: Don’t Forget The Story

In this workshop, New York Times bestseller, Natasha Lester, takes you through the four key elements of historical fiction – character, research, setting, and plot. You’ll learn how to write ‘a compelling story that sweeps them away to another time and place’.

Organiser: Queensland Writers Centre

When: Saturday 20 February 2021

Presenter: Natasha Lester

Entry: $35—$49

To attend the live-stream event: https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/live-stream-historical-fiction-dont-forget-the-story-with-natasha-lester-tickets-133172204649

Livestream Event 3: Freelance Writing Masterclass

‘Get insider knowledge from an award-winning feature writer on how to get paid for good writing!’

Organiser: Queensland Writers Centre

When: Sunday 21 March 2021

Time: 10.30 am—1.30 pm

Presenter: Christine Jackman

Entry: $35—$49

To attend the live-stream event: https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/live-stream-freelance-writing-masterclass-with-christine-jackman-tickets-136384891883

Livestream Event 4: Kickstart Your Self-Publishing Career

This is both a face-to-face and a livestream event. You will learn to ‘set yourself up for self-publishing success by developing a lead magnet and learning how to distribute and market your work’.

Organiser: Queensland Writers Centre

When: Saturday 27 March 2021

Time: 10.30 am—4.30 pm

Presenter: Kylie Fennell

Entry: $55—$69

To attend the face-to-face event: https://queenslandwriters.org.au/events/kickstart-your-self-publishing-career

To attend the live-stream event: https://queenslandwriters.org.au/events/stream-self-pub

Livestream Event 5: Tight Tense Thrillers

In this workshop, you will ‘learn new skills and approaches to plotting out a compelling narrative from the killer hook at the beginning to landing the big twists throughout’. Sounds thrilling!

Organiser: Queensland Writers Centre

When: Saturday 17 April 2021

Time: 10.30 am—1.30 pm

Presenter: J.P. Pomare

Entry: $35—$49

To attend the live-stream event: https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/live-stream-tight-tense-thrillers-with-jp-pomare-tickets-140616926011

Word of the Day


This Arabic word refers to an intense dust storm carried on a gravity current. Haboobs occur regularly in arid regions of the world.

Inspirational Quote

The most beautiful things are those that madness prompts and reason writes. Essential to remain between the two, close to madness when you dream and close to reason when you write―André Gide (1869—1951), French author and winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Writing Tip

I like this suggestion from a writer on the site Daily Writing Tips. It resonates with what I say to my book coaching clients: ‘Just write, put your internal critic on hold at first, there’s plenty of time for editing later!’

Bill Harper says, ‘Try not to edit while you’re creating your first draft. Creating and editing are two separate processes using different sides of the brain, and if you try doing both at once you’ll lose. Make a deal with your internal editor that it will get the chance to rip your piece to shreds; it will just need to wait some time’ (Daily Writing Tips, 11 December 2007, https://www.dailywritingtips.com/34-writing-tips-that-will-make-you-a-better-writer/).

Writers Connect!

Writers Connect! Newsletter 38

Welcome to the Writers Connect! newsletter.

coffee notebook pen phone in cafe

Writing is a human experience. It’s about connection with everyone and everything around us.

We understand you’re busy. So the newsletter has just four or five main items of content. A brief but satisfying read.

In this issue:

  • Write Here, Right Now: Writing Competitions
  • Word of the Day. An unusual word to keep your writing fresh
  • Inspirational Quote
  • Writing Tip

Write Here, Right Now: What’s Happening in Writing

Competitions featured in this issue of Writers Connect! cater to all types of writers. So you have time to prepare, closing dates are from 12 February 2021.

For competition closing dates, bear in mind these relate to the time zone where the competition originates, so check the relevant site.

Comp 1: Writers’ and Artists’ Short Story Competition 2021

A short story competition for both published and aspiring writers.

About: Short story for adults

Open to: International

Word count: 2,000

Theme/Genre: No prompt; writers are free choose the theme

Entry fee: Free

Closes: 12 February 2021

Prize: First = Publication & Residential Writing Course

Information & Submission guidelines here: https://www.writersandartists.co.uk/competitions/writers-artists-short-story-competition-2021

Comp 2: Hippocrates Prize for Poetry & Medicine

This annual international award is for an unpublished poem on a medical subject.

About: The competition has an open and health professional category. You must choose ‘open’ or ‘health professional’ upon submission

Open to: International

Word count: 50 lines

Theme/Genre: Medical subject

Closes: 14 February2021

Entry fee: £7

Prize: £1000

Rules & entry here: http://hippocrates-poetry.org/the-hippocrates-prize/2021-hippocrates-prize/rules-2021-hippocrates.html

Comp 3: The Puchi Award

This is a publishing project that seeks ‘the most innovative, ground-breaking, vibrant book proposals in any genre, focusing entirely on their boldness and their links with present-day art language’.

About: Open to unpublished books in any genre or form: ‘literary and graphic projects of any kind that stand out by virtue of their premise, literary and graphic quality, originality, unconventionality or mould-shattering conception’

Open to: All authors of legal age from Spain or internationally. You may submit one or more original, unpublished works. Works may be written in any language, although a provisional translation into English of at least two pages must be submitted

Word Count: Check guidelines

Theme/Genre: Fiction & nonfiction, essays, informative literature, poetry, illustration, comics, cookbooks, geography books, combinations of these or any other type of work

Closes: 18 February 2021

Entry fee:

Prize: First = €8,000

Details: http://puchiaward.com/en/guidelines/

Comp 4: First Pages Prize 2021

The organisers ask for the first five pages of a longer work of fiction or creative nonfiction.

About: Must be unpublished. Judges want to receive ‘a sense of a bigger story emerging’ and be ‘hooked’ by your writing

Open to: International, un-agented writers, 18+

Word count: 1,250

Theme: Appears to be open; check guidelines

Closes: 21 February 2021

Entry fee: £20

Prize: 1st = $2,000, 2nd = $1,250, 3rd = $750, = – $500, 5th = $500 (USD) + partial developmental edit. First 3 winners receive agent consultation via Zoom

Guidelines & entry here: https://www.firstpagesprize.com/guidelines-and-termsconditions

Word of the Day


I can almost guarantee this is the first time you’ve heard or seen this word. It’s certainly a first for me! Meaning ‘Something given as a bonus or extra gift’,  lagniappe is a noun, pronounced ‘lan-YAP’. It derives from Louisiana French and its origin is unknown.

Inspirational Quote

Sit here, so I may write you into a poem and make you eternal

― Kamand Kojouri, author, poet, educator

Writing Tip

Many top writers recommend that you put on the blinders – in other words, limit your distractions – to create the ideal writing environment.

Writers Connect! publishing fortnightly!

Famous Authors Series – Elif Shafak

Many years ago, I read The Forty Rules of Love by the author of today’s post ‘Famous Authors Series – Elif Shafak’.

Famous Author photo for post Authors Series Elif Shafak

Elif Shafak (born 25 October 1971) is a Turkish-British writer. Her surname is an anglicised version of the Turkish (Şafak).

Cultural diversity coloured Elif’s childhood and teenage years. She was born in Strasbourg to Turkish parents, returned to Ankara (capital of Turkey), after her parents separated, and spent her teenage years there and in Madrid, Amman (capital of Jordan) and Istanbul. She now lives in London.

Elif writes in Turkish and English. She has published 17 books. Her books have been translated into 53 languages and she has won multiple awards.

The 40 Rules of Love

A beautiful, lyrical novel about the transformational power of love, this is one of those books that stays with you, even many years after reading it. Two parallel narratives reveal themselves in the story, one of them set around the Persian poet and Sufi mystic of the thirteenth century, Rumi, the other around a contemporary reader for a literary agent, 40-year-old Ella Rubenstein.

Dissatisfied and unhappy with her role as a mother and wife, Ella is drawn to Aziz, the writer of the novel she is reading. She intuits a deep connection between them that she cannot explain logically. They agree to meet and fall deeply in love. Their relationship transforms her life – in an unexpected way. I won’t spoil it for you!


Elif has a degree in International Relations, a master’s degree in Gender and Women’s Studies and a Ph.D. in Political Science.

In her writing, teaching and speaking career, Elif is an outspoken critic of anti-intellectualism and anti-feminism. In 2006, she was charged with ‘insulting Turkishness’ for a reference to the Armenia genocide in her famous novel, The Bastard of Istanbul. Fortunately, she was acquitted, but she remains the target of malicious attention on social media. And the Turkish police continue to investigate the content of her books.

Loud music to write by

If there’s one thing that’s a constant among writers, it’s that there are no constants! Speak to 20 different writers about how and where they write, and they’ll give you 20 different answers. They start a book differently. Have different writing routines. Find different times of the day best for their writing. Work best in different environments. Some plan their books in a very structured way; others just write, simply going with the flow.

How does listening to loud, aggressive music on repeat sound? Well, this is Elif Shafak’s ‘thing’ when she’s writing her novels! I like a quiet, soothing environment with the minimum of distractions!

A lift of the heart

Inspirationally, the American political journalism company Politico chose her as one of 12 people who will ‘give you a much needed lift of the heart’.

Istanbul is a city of dreams… but it also has scars and wounds



Elif Shafak, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elif_Shafak, Accessed 22 Jan. 21

Elif Shafak: ‘Istanbul is a city of dreams… but it also has scars and wounds’, The National: Arts and Culture, https://www.thenationalnews.com/arts-culture/books/elif-shafak-istanbul-is-a-city-of-dreams-but-it-also-has-scars-and-wounds-1.927677, Accessed 22 Jan. 21

Worldwise: Turkish-British Novelist Elif Shafak’s Favorite Things, https://www.barrons.com/articles/worldwise-turkish-british-novelist-elif-shafaks-favorite-things-01565190821, Accessed 22 Jan. 21

Photo: Middle Eastern Beauties, https://www.pinterest.com.au/pin/557531628840714969/, Accessed 22 Jan. 21

Hope you’ve enjoyed this post ‘Famous Authors Series – Elif Shafak’.

Not Getting Your Own Book to the Finish Line?

Have you been wanting to write a book forever yet you ‘don’t have the time’, or ‘don’t know where to start’, or ‘don’t know if you can write’?

Work with a writing coach

Haven’t yet begun writing your book? Or have a work in progress and have lost momentum in your writing? The Book Coaching Program ‘Get Your Book to the Finish Line’ will teach you how to find the time and how to start writing. It brings accountability to your writing. You receive support all the way and you will reach the finish line..

Book a free 30-minute call with Gail by clicking on the link and find out if you meet the criteria for the program: https://meetings.hubspot.com/editors4you

Famous Authors Series – Janet Frame

Escaping by a whisker a life that would have been curbed by a drastic psychiatric intervention is one experience that defines the subject of today’s post ‘Famous Authors Series – Janet Frame’.

janet frame with her niece and literary executor for post Famous Authors Series – Janet Frame
Janet Frame with her niece

Janet Frame (28 August 1924 – 29 January 2004) was born in the South Island city of Dunedin in New Zealand.

With her unruly mop of hair, she could have been talking of herself through the character Winnie in her book of short stories, The Lagoon and Other Stories. Winnie thinks how nice it would be ‘to say bother and brush your hair out of your eyes’.

Saved by a book

I seldom use the word ‘literally’, because people so often misuse it. However, Frame’s life – or the life as she knew it at least – was literally saved by that same collection of short stories. Her doctors had misdiagnosed her with schizophrenia and scheduled her for a lobotomy.

How did she escape the jaws of psychiatric intervention that would have irrevocably changed the Janet Frame the world knows?

Her doctors cancelled the lobotomy when she received the Hubert Church Memorial Award. At the time, this was one of New Zealand’s most prestigious literary prizes. “It’s no wonder that I value writing as a way of life when it actually saved my life,” she said.

Nowadays, when we treat mental illness with more compassion (though possibly still with little understanding), we can only imagine the shame and stigma of having a diagnosis of mental illness during the 1950s and 1960s.

Connection to Katherine Mansfield’s family

Frame’s mother Lottie once served as a housemaid to Katherine Mansfield‘s family. Interesting, considering that Frame grew up wanting to be a poet and ended up being a poet and author.

She was the third of five children of Scottish-New Zealand working-class parents. Her entry into the world was an historic moment, as New Zealand’s first female medical graduate delivered her.


Why is it that so many writers and artists experience sad or tragic situations in their lives? I guess the answer is, no one is immune. Frame certainly wasn’t. Two of her adolescent sisters, Myrtle and Isabel, drowned in separate incidents, and her brother George suffered epileptic fits. Frame herself experienced frequent episodes of anxiety and depression, spending several years in psychiatric hospitals.

Not a pudding

Frame is popularly considered reclusive and strange. Even less flattering, her struggles in the mental health system see her continuing to be labelled with some psychological illness or other. Her niece, Pamela Gordon, refutes this in an interview in the Australian Women’s Weekly. She describes her aunt as a perfectly lucid and lovely woman who simply valued her personal privacy.

In Michael King’s 2001 biography of Janet Frame, Wrestling with the Angel, she responds to suggestions that she ‘go out and mix’ with a scornful thought: ‘as if I were a pudding’.

Writings of Janet Frame

Much of Frame’s writing explores her childhood and psychiatric hospitalisation, including her award-winning autobiography An Angel at My Table. Jane Campion adapted this work into a movie.

Owls Do Cry was her first novel. She wrote and published – in her lifetime or posthumously – 12 novels, four more short story collections and two poetry volumes. Her works are available in 25 languages. Frame portrayed a society that refused to come to terms with disorder, irrationality and madness. Perhaps rebelliously, her home appeared to be a metaphor for this disorder (see article referred to below).

Further reading

There’s a lovely article, ‘In Search of Janet Frame’, by filmmaker Jane Campion about her meetings with Janet Frame. You can read it here: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2008/jan/19/fiction5

Also, check out the website of her niece and literary executor.

Writing a novel is not merely going on a shopping expedition across the border to an unreal land: it is hours and years spent in the factories, the streets, the cathedrals of the imagination

Janet Frame


Janet Frame, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Janet_Frame, Accessed 15 Jan. 21

Janet Frame New Zealand Writer, ‘Britannica’, https://www.britannica.com/biography/Janet-Frame, Accessed 15 Jan. 21

Janet Frame’s Private Life, 22 December 2011, in ‘The Australian Women’s Weekly’ on ‘Now to Love’, https://www.nowtolove.co.nz/news/real-life/janet-frames-private-life-6155, Accessed 15 Jan. 21

Image: Radio New Zealand, https://www.ngataonga.org.nz/set/item/564 & Book Depository

Hope you’ve enjoyed this post ‘Famous Authors Series – Janet Frame’.

Not Getting Your Own Book to the Finish Line?

Have you been wanting to write a book forever? Yet you ‘don’t have the time’, or ‘don’t know where to start’, or ‘don’t know if you can write’?

Consider book coaching

Have a work in progress and have lost momentum in your writing? Or haven’t yet begun writing your book? The Book Coaching Program ‘Get Your Book to the Finish Line’ will teach you how to find the time. It’ll teach you how to start writing. It’ll bring accountability to your writing – so that you reach the finish line.

Book a free 30-minute call with Gail and find out if you meet the criteria for the program. Click on the link: https://meetings.hubspot.com/editors4you

Setting Yourself Up For Writing Success

At the start of a fresh new year, it is appropriate to start with a post about setting yourself up for writing success for the year ahead.

Tips for being a productive writer

In this post, I give you tips from my Book Coaching Program ‘Get Your Book to the Finish Line’. Whatever your writing goals are right now – writing a book to support your business, writing a novel, writing for competitions, writing down ideas for a book in a journal, writing a poem, a short story, a play, a song – these tips will help you be productive and keep you accountable.

When to write

  • Pick the same time to write each day if possible.
  • Decide if you will write every day, weekdays only, weekends only, or three times a week. Be realistic to suit your lifestyle and circumstances. It’s better to say, “I’m going to write for one hour three times a week” and stick to that, rather than say, “I’m going to write every day for three hours” if your life is too busy to accomplish such a goal. Set yourself up for success, not failure.

Stick to a schedule

  • Schedule your writing time in your diary or calendar. This is important. If you don’t schedule writing time into your day, it won’t get done.
  • You may want to use Google Calendar or another electronic diary. Set it up as a recurring event, and set a reminder to receive a notification on your computer and phone a few minutes before your writing time.
  • I use Google Calendar for all my weekday business and personal events.
  • However, if you want your ‘creative mind time’ to be away from electronic sources, or you’re not keen on technology, use a diary or physical calendar. You can set a reminder in your phone for 10 minutes before it’s time to sit down to write.

Get the atmosphere right

  • Choose the place you feel most comfortable for writing.
  • It might be the same place every day, like your home office.
  • If home is full of distractions despite your best efforts, go to the library, or a café, or the beach. Wherever the words flow, go!
  • If music helps you get into the writing mood, play your favourites.
  • It might take a bit of experimentation. Just as you need to let your creative mind fly, be creative about what place works best for your writing mind.
  • The important thing is sticking to your schedule.

Follow the masters: just write!

  • Each writing session, just write. Don’t wait for inspiration!
  • Give your internal critic a holiday during your writing sessions. There’ll be plenty of time later for making corrections and refinements.

Avoid distractions

  • Ask your wife/husband/children/colleagues/flatmates to pretty-please not disturb you during writing time.
photo of mum at computer with kids racing around for post Setting Yourself Up For Writing Success
Mmmmm…not this…

Know when to stop: Set the ‘ding’

  • Set an alarm for the time you’ve allocated to your writing session. It doesn’t matter whether it’s 30 minutes or two hours. What matters is continuing to show up for yourself.

Just not getting there?

  • If you’re not making the necessary progress on your own, you don’t have to do it alone! Consider a writing coach. This is particularly valuable if you’re trying to write a book – one that you know will be an endorsement for your business, or your memoir that’s been itching to come out for years. A coach will support and mentor you, provide a safe space for you to write your book and – importantly – keep you accountable. You’ll achieve your goals faster.

One of my biggest thrills for me still is sitting down with a guitar or a piano and just out of nowhere trying to make a song happen.

Sir Paul McCartney

I hope you have found this post ‘Setting yourself up for writing success’ useful.


Image photo by Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels

Find out more about the Coaching Program ‘Get Your Book to the Finish Line’

Have you been wanting to write a book forever? But you ‘can’t find the time’, or ‘don’t know where to start’, or ‘don’t know if you can write’?

Or maybe you have a work in progress but have lost momentum in your writing.

Coaching with ‘Get Your Book to the Finish Line’ will teach you how to find the time. It’ll teach you how to start writing. It’ll bring accountability to your writing – so that you reach the finish line.

To find out more, click on the following link to book a free 30-minute call with Gail and find out if you meet the criteria for the program: https://meetings.hubspot.com/editors4you

Famous Authors Series – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

‘Famous Authors Series – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’ is our fourth post profiling famous authors.

I wonder if Sir Arthur (22 May 1859 – 7 July 1930) knew that his character Sherlock Holmes, created in 1887, would remain popular into the 21st century.

Upon the success of his character, he co-wrote the stage play Sherlock Holmes. This premiered in 1899 and closed after 200 performances. There were movie spin-offs in his lifetime, a radio adaptation starring the inimitable Orson Welles in 1938 after Doyle’s death, and even a musical.

photo of author for post Famous Authors Series - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Wonderful moustache of Sherlock Holmes’ creator

Dear Sir Arthur couldn’t possibly have imagined the countless movies and TV series based on his character that have followed since.

Who was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle?

The creator of Sherlock Holmes was a British writer and medical doctor. He was born in Edinburgh of Catholic parents. His father was an alcoholic, which caused the family to separate when Arthur was only five years old. When the family reunited in 1867, they lived in squalid tenement flats. His father died in 1893 after a lengthy psychiatric illness.

At the age of nine, and supported financially by wealthy uncles, our hero’s creator went to England for his education until 1875. Of his later schooling, he said he had no fond memories of it. The school was harsh, without compassion and warmth, favouring corporal punishment and ritual humiliation. It was run on medieval principles. Further, the academic system could only be excused ‘on the plea that any exercise, however stupid, forms a sort of mental dumbbell by which one can improve one’s mind.’

As an adult, he rejected his Catholic faith and became an agnostic, and later a spiritualist mystic.

A doctor destined to be a writer

Between 1876 and 1881, Doyle studied medicine in Edinburgh. He also studied practical botany and began writing short stories. In 1879, his first published academic article, Gelsemium as a Poison, had a far-reaching influence. Some 136 years later in a 21st-century murder investigation, The Sunday Telegraph considered his article potentially useful.

Upon graduating with a Bachelor of Medicine and Master of Surgery degrees, he became a ship’s surgeon, travelling to the West African coast. He then completed an advanced Doctor of Medicine degree.

At 23, Doyle set up a medical practice in Plymouth with a partner. However, he soon left to set up an independent practice in Portsmouth. He had less than £10 (around £1000 today) to his name. The practice was unsuccessful and he returned to writing fiction. Nine years later, he studied ophthalmology in Vienna and eventually set up in practice in the UK. However, this practice did not flourish either.

Clearly, he was destined to be a writer, not a doctor.

Doyle wrote four novels and 56 short stories about Holmes and Dr Watson. He was a prolific writer. Aside from his famous crime fiction, he wrote fantasy and science fiction stories, plays, romances, poetry, non-fiction and historical novels.

Who was Sherlock Holmes based on?

Doyle partially based Sherlock Holmes on his university teacher Joseph Bell, whose deductive and observational powers clearly inspired him. His contemporary, Robert Louis Stevenson, recognised the strong likeness between Joseph Bell and Sherlock Holmes, writing to Doyle from Samoa, ‘My compliments on your very ingenious and very interesting adventures of Sherlock Holmes … can this be my old friend Joe Bell?’

He almost killed Holmes off

When Doyle wrote to his mother saying he was thinking of killing off Holmes, she replied, ‘You won’t! You can’t! You mustn’t!’

Thank god for mothers.

He even raised his price to discourage publishers’ demands for more Holmes’ stories. However, they were willing to pay so well for them that he became one of the best-paid authors of his time.

His second murder attempt

Because he wanted to dedicate more time to his historical novels, Doyle made Holmes and Professor Moriarty plunge to their deaths down the Reichenbach Falls in Switzerland in the story The Final Problem. This time, it was the public, not his mother, who demanded Holmes’ resurrection, and Doyle featured him in the 1901 The Hound of the Baskervilles.

In 1903, in The Adventure of the Empty House, he explained away the death of Holmes by saying that only Moriarty had fallen. Holmes had merely staged his death to put his other enemies off his scent, he said.


Doyle married twice, his first wife Louisa dying of tuberculosis. His second wife Jean survived him by ten years. Doyle had five children, two with his first wife and three with his second. However, all five children died without issue, so he has no living direct descendants.

Where there is no imagination there is no horror

Arthur Conan Doyle


Arthur Conan Doyle, Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_Conan_Doyle#cite_note-bob-23 Accessed 11 December 2020

Photo courtesy of publishersweekly.com

Hope you’ve enjoyed this post ‘Famous Authors Series – Arthur Conan Doyle’.

Find out more

Do you want to write a book to support your business? But you don’t know where to start? Would you like 1:1 mentoring all the way through?

Book a complimentary 30-minute friendly chat with Gail to find out about her book writing program ‘Write Your Nonfiction Book in 16 Weeks’: https://calendly.com/writedesignpub/30min

Contact us too about editing and our other editorial services. We can help with your book from go to whoa, and anywhere in between.

Famous Authors Series – Isabel Allende

‘Famous Authors Series – Isabel Allende’ is our third post profiling famous authors.

photo of Isabel Allende author

Isabel Allende, the Chilean-American writer born in 1942, wrote her first novel The House of the Spirits (1982) when she was almost 40.

As towering a literary figure as she is, physically she is tiny, just 5ft. She is a multi-award-winning author, and through the Isabel Allende Foundation, a powerful voice for the empowerment of women and girls.

‘Secret chambers of my heart’

Despite having written 24 books which have been translated into more than 42 languages, she says, ‘… the most important things about my life happened in the secret chambers of my heart and have no place in a biography. My most significant achievements are not my books, but the love I share with a few people—especially my family—and the ways in which I have tried to help others’ (isabelallende.com).


Isabel was born in Perú to Chilean parents, and became a U.S. citizen in the early 1990s, where she now lives with her third husband. She has spent 13 years in Venezuela, for her own safety after the General Augusto Pinochet military coup, and has lived in Bolivia and Lebanon.

Isabel’s father was a first cousin of Salvador Allende, long-term socialist politician and president of Chile from 1970 to 1973. This was before the military coup led by Pinochet, followed by his infamous four-decade dictatorship.

She has lived through family and political upheaval, including her parents’ divorce when she was three – she never saw her father again – a military coup and dictatorship in Chile, and the death of Paula, her daughter, at just 29.

Lucky date

When Isabel begins a book, she always starts writing on 8 January. It is for her a lucky date, an important literary anniversary, as on that day in 1981, she wrote a letter to her dying grandfather. She was living in Venezuela in exile and could not go to him. This letter developed into her first novel—The House of the Spirits.

Her books are generally based on her own experiences, and are often classified as magical realism. She says that magical realism was ‘overwhelmingly present’ in The House of the Spirits. However, she finds the rest of her work being categorised that way strange, and considers her novels simply as realistic literature.

About Isabel Allende’s writing routine

She always writes fiction in her native Spanish.

She spends 10 to 12 hours a day alone in a room writing, not talking to anybody and not answering the phone.

When she develops a character, she generally bases it on someone. That way, it is easier for her to create believable characters.

She carries a notebook wherever she goes and is always taking notes. When she starts writing a book, she uses the notes as inspiration and begins to write on the computer. She uses no outline, but writes on instinct.

She feels that the stories she writes choose her, not that she chooses the stories.

The most painful novel she wrote was Paula (1995), about the daughter she lost, widely recognised as her masterpiece. After writing it, she experienced writer’s block for three years.

‘Bandido’ husband

She once hilariously described her second husband as ‘an Irish-looking North American lawyer with an aristocratic appearance and a silk tie who spoke Spanish like a Mexican bandido and had a tattoo on his left hand’.

Isabel Allende’s advice to aspiring writers

Writing is like training to be an athlete – there is a lot of training that nobody sees. The writer needs to write every day. Even if much of the writing will never be used, it is essential to do it.

Write at least one good page a day. At the end of the year, you will have at least 360 good pages. That is a book.

She doesn’t share the process of writing with anybody. Once her manuscript is finished, she shows it to very few people because she trusts her instincts and doesn’t want ‘too many hands’ in her writing.

‘The first lie of fiction is that the author gives some order to the chaos of life … Life is not that way … You are not the boss; life is the boss. So when you accept as a writer that fiction is lying, then you become free. You can do anything’ (isabelallende.com).

Isabel Allende


Australian Women’s Weekly NZ, January 2020, ‘Falling in Love Again’, https://www.magzter.com/article/Womens-Interest/Australian-Womens-Weekly-NZ/Falling-In-Love-Again Accessed 27 November 2020

Isabel Allende, http://www.isabelallende.com/en/bio Accessed 27 November 2020

Star Tribune, 28 April 2013, ‘Isabel Allende on her new book, grandchildren and loss’ by Kristin Tillotson, https://www.startribune.com/isabel-allende-on-her-new-book-grandchildren-and-loss/204852501/ Accessed 27 November 2020

The Guardian, ‘The Undefeated’, 28 April 2007, https://www.theguardian.com/books/2007/apr/28/isabelallende.fiction Accessed 27 November 2020

Image from Sounds and Colours https://soundsandcolours.com/articles/chile/chilean-writer-isabel-allende-a-personal-touch-a-beloved-author-25662/

Hope you’ve enjoyed this post Famous Authors Series – Isabel Allende.

Find out more

Want to write a book, but having challenges? Attend our free 1-on-1 60-minute workshop to talk about our ‘Write Your Book in 16 Weeks’ book writing program. We’ll make sure you get that book written to support your business or your writing career.

Give us a call (number at top of website) or send an enquiry here.

Contact us too about editing and our other editorial services. We can help with your book from go to whoa, and anywhere in between.