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This annual international award is for an unpublished poem on a medical subject.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About: Open to unpublished books in any genre or form: ‘literary and graphic projects of any kind that stand out by virtue of their premise, literary and graphic quality, originality,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 You may submit one or more original, unpublished works.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.

Famous Authors Series – Roald Dahl

‘Famous Authors Series – Roald Dahl’ is our second post profiling famous authors.

Best known for his hugely popular children’s books, Roald Dahl was a British author who was born in Cardiff, Wales, in 1916 to immigrant Norwegian parents. He died in Oxford, England in 1990.

The themes of his children’s books are usually unsentimental and macabre, with a dark sense of humour. The stories feature villainous adult characters pitted against child heroes who ultimately prevail. Think Charlie and the Chocolate FactoryMatildaThe WitchesFantastic Mr FoxThe BFGThe Twits ... One of his well-known adult works is Tales of the Unexpected.

Roald Dahl was one of the authors whose stories our daughter grew up on. We read the book and watched the movie Matilda so many times she had the script memorised. I’m pretty sure that as an adult, she still remembers many of the lines.

Dahl also wrote short stories, poetry and screenplays. Furthermore, he was an ace fighter pilot during World War II, eventually moving into intelligence. He was a tall – 6ft 6in (1.98m) – and dashing figure, much sought-after by the ladies. His affairs with glamorous older ladies in the US gleaned him much useful information for his own and his host country.

Mouse in the gobstoppers

When the young author was at primary school, the headmaster caned Dahl along with four friends. Their crime? Putting a dead mouse in a jar of gobstoppers in the local sweetshop. The owner was a ‘mean and loathsome’ old woman. This mischievous act mirrors some of the mean tricks that Mr and Mrs Twit play on each other in The Twits.

Family life

Dahl had three sisters. Sadly, an older sister died from appendicitis when he was only three years old, and his father died just a few weeks later of pneumonia at the age of 57. Dahl’s mother remained in Wales instead of returning to Norway, as her husband had wanted their children to attend English schools.

Dahl married Patricia Neal, an American actress. They were together 30 years and had five children. Tragedy struck both their only son, and their seven-year-old daughter. Their son was injured as a baby when a taxi hit his pram in New York. The inventive Dahl commissioned a friend to make a valve that helped clear Theo’s brain of fluid, leading to his partial recovery. Then Olivia died of measles encephalitis. Dahl dedicated Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to Theo and The BFG to Olivia.

His second marriage was in 1983, lasting until his death.

Strong sense of justice

From the age of 13, Dahl attended Repton, a public school in Derbyshire, where he endured the infamous cruelty often portrayed in depictions of such institutions. Older boys and masters lorded it over the younger students. Dahl abhorred the cruelty and almost committed suicide. His sense of justice and his disgust at the excesses of authority or dominant figures comes through in his books. Bullying of the defenceless by the powerful and stupid always results in unflinching payback.

Schoolmasters don’t know everything

It appears that Dahl did not exhibit great writing talent at school, or at least, one of his English teachers didn’t think so. He said of him, ‘I have never met anybody who so persistently writes words meaning the exact opposite of what is intended.’ One can only imagine the deep shade of beetroot that man would have blushed when many years later, he was proven so, so wrong.


Dahl grew up on Norse folktales told to him by his parents. Other influences include writers Charles Dickens, Rudyard Kipling, William Makepeace Thackeray and Frederick Marryat.

Ian Fleming adaptations

Two famous screenplays that Dahl wrote were both adaptations of novels by Ian Fleming: the James Bond film You Only Live Twice and the children’s film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Roald Dahl’s eight main rules

The eight rules that Dahl applied to his children’s stories:

  1. Just add chocolate
  2. Adults can be scary
  3. Bad things happen
  4. Revenge is sweet
  5. Keep a wicked sense of humour
  6. Pick perfect pictures
  7. Films are fun…but books are better!
  8. Food is fun!

Other interesting stuff about Roald Dahl

He invented more than 500 new words and character names. Oxford University Press created a Roald Dahl Dictionary with almost 8,000 real and imaginary words he loved to use.

Famous Authors Series – Roald Dahl photo of girl reading Matilda
Roald Dahl’s Matilda (qz.com)

He wrote in a special garden shed based on Dylan Thomas’.

The first children’s book he wrote was The Gremlins, which later become the inspiration for the blockbuster film Gremlins produced by Steven Spielberg in 1984.

Death and legacy

Dahl died of myelodysplastic syndrome, a rare cancer of the blood. Buckinghamshire is his burial site. Considered one of the greatest storytellers for children of the twentieth century, he has named after him a gallery in Buckinghamshire, an asteroid, a plaza in Cardiff and a literary prize. His widow has continued his charitable commitments to neurology, haematology and literacy through Roald Dahl’s Marvellous Children’s Charity.

Hope you’ve enjoyed this post Famous Authors Series – Roald Dahl.


BBC Newsround, ‘Roald Dahl Day: Seven fantastic facts about the author’, 13 September 2020, https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/36824907 Accessed 13 November 2020

Independent, ‘Once Upon a Time There Was a Man Who Liked to Make Up Stories…’ 12 December 2010, https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/commentators/once-upon-a-time-there-was-a-man-who-liked-to-make-up-stories-2158052.html Accessed 13 November 2020

Roald Dahl, ‘About Roald Dahl’, https://www.roalddahl.com/roald-dahl/about Accessed 13 November 2020 (Please note: reference only; no material has been used from this site)

Wikipedia, Roald Dahl, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roald_Dahl Accessed 13 November 2020

Acknowledgements for Photos: Hindustan Times and qz.com

‘Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it’

Roald Dahl

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Famous Authors Series – Katherine Mansfield

photo of katherine mansfield for Famous Authors Series - Katherine Mansfield

This is the beginning of a series of posts about the lives of famous authors. Just how ‘regular’ these turn out to be will depend on other content I have to post, but let’s kick off today with the Famous Authors Series – Katherine Mansfield.

Katherine Mansfield was a New Zealand author who lived only to the age of thirty-four, yet she produced an oeuvre of some twenty collections of short stories and poems, and sixty-five short stories.

Mansfield was small, slim and attractive. She had short, dark hair and mostly wore her fringe cut straight across. Her eyes were brown.

‘The only writing I have ever been jealous of’

Virginia Woolf, contemporary, friend and fellow member of the Bloomsbury Group

Early life

Katherine was born Kathleen Mansfield Beauchamp in 1888, in Wellington. She always wrote under the pseudonym Katherine Mansfield.

In 1903, Mansfield’s father sent his daughter to finish her education in London at Queen’s College, a liberal girls’ school. Mansfield studied music, English, French and German. She edited the school magazine, contributed short stories and read widely.

She returned to New Zealand in 1906 and began publishing short stories, but she was restless, found the lifestyle too provincial and longed for the London world of art and literature. In 1908, she departed for London, never to return to the antipodes. In her later years, she expressed both disdain and admiration for New Zealand.

Personal life of Katherine Mansfield

Mansfield had two romantic relationships with women, the first with Maata Mahupuku (also known as Martha Grace), a wealthy young Māori woman whom she first met at school in Wellington and then again in London in 1906. Her second same-sex relationship was with Edith Bendall, between 1906 and 1908. She also had several lovers, both male and female.

Mansfield’s life was a whirlwind. In Europe, she met a musician in Paris and joined a touring opera company to be with him. Becoming pregnant, she married a singing teacher, George Bowden, in 1908, but left him after the ceremony. Her mother sailed from New Zealand in 1909 to see what her wayward daughter was up to. She whisked her off to a Bavarian spa and away from her friend Ida Baker, with whom she thought her daughter had a lesbian relationship. Mrs Beauchamp disinherited her daughter. Happily for Katherine, her father continued to pay her an allowance. Being in Bavaria had a significant effect on her in a literary sense, especially the works of Anton Chekhov.

Productive writer

Mansfield began her first collection of short stories in Germany, In a German Pension.

After experiencing a miscarriage in Bavaria, taking a Polish lover and running out of funds, she returned to London in January 1910 with financial help from her friend Ida. There, she published more than a dozen articles in Alfred Orage’s socialist magazine The New Age, becoming a friend and lover of Beatrice Hastings, who lived with Orage.

John Middleton Murry

Around this time, Mansfield met the man who would eventually (in 1918) become her second husband, the writer and critic John Middleton Murry. They soon became lovers and collaborators. Theirs was a stormy relationship, and they often lived apart.

Mansfield and Murry became friends with D.H. Lawrence in 1913. Along with his future wife, Frieda, the two couples became close friends.


​Mansfield wrote of her feelings of alienation in New Zealand, and of her disillusionment with the repression of the Māori people. Māori characters are often portrayed sympathetically in her later stories, such as How Pearl Button Was Kidnapped. However, her work took a nostalgic turn towards New Zealand childhood memories after the death of her younger brother, Leslie, at the end of 1915, killed during grenade training in Belgium at the age of twenty-one.

She wrote a poem about a dream she had soon after her brother’s death:

By the remembered stream my brother stands
Waiting for me with berries in his hands...
‘These are my body. Sister, take and eat.’ (acknowledgement per Wikipedia)

Illness and final years

When she was twenty-nine, Mansfield was diagnosed with pulmonary tuberculosis.

Accompanied by Ida, she travelled to Switzerland in May 1921 to investigate tuberculosis treatment. Murry joined her a month later and they stayed until January 1922. Mansfield was highly productive during this time, fearing she did not have much time left. In Switzerland, she wrote At the Bay, The Doll’s House, The Garden Party and A Cup of Tea.

She spent her final years seeking unorthodox cures for her tuberculosis. Between June and August 1922, she and Murry returned to Switzerland, where she finished her last short story, The Canary. She wrote her will. After a short trip to London, she moved with Ida to Fontainebleau, France in October 1922.

In January of the following year, she suffered a fatal pulmonary haemorrhage, after running up a flight of stairs, dying within the hour. She was buried near Fontainebleau.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post ‘Famous Authors Series – Katherine Mansfield’.

Complete works

Search on Google for the complete works of Katherine Mansfield. There are various collections in ebook form at ridiculously low prices! – e.g. here. There are also hard copy editions available for Mansfield connoisseurs, e.g. here.


Sonin, Adam, Heritage: Katherine Mansfield – The turbulent love life of a ‘very serious writer’. In ‘Ham & High’, 27 April 2013 https://www.hamhigh.co.uk/news/heritage/heritage-katherine-mansfield-the-turbulent-love-live-of-a-very-serious-writer-1-2167030 Accessed 31 October 2020

Wikipedia, Katherine Mansfield, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Katherine_Mansfield#Works Accessed 31 October 2020

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Clichés, Dead Metaphors and some Alternatives

In a recent blog, we looked at clichés and overused (or dead) metaphors and their origins (see https://editors4you.com.au/cliches-and-overused-metaphors/). In this blog we look at the same topic, but with a twist – clichés, dead metaphors and some alternatives.

As mentioned in the above blog, clichés and overused metaphors can negatively affect the impact of your writing. Using alternatives should help to improve your work.

Orwell’s Rules

When thinking of clichés, dead metaphors and some alternatives, George Orwell’s rules – from his 1946 essay Politics and the English Language – come to mind. These rules can be applied to a variety of genres and writing styles. The main rule that ties into this blog is the first one.

  1. Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech you are used to seeing in print
  2. Never use a long word where a short one will do
  3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out
  4. Never use the passive where you can use the active
  5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent
  6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

Love the last one!

Considering the first and fifth rules, clichés and dead metaphors can easily be replaced by everyday language.

Starting with clichés, you’ll find below some alternatives to the examples from the previous blog that you could consider using.

Bite the bullet

Instead, you could use: endure, face, bear with. Here are some example sentences.

Example with cliché: Jamie decided to bite the bullet and go to the dentist.

Alternatives to that sentence could be:

Jamie decided to endure her fear and go to the dentist.

Jamie chose to face her fears and go to the dentist.

Jamie made up her mind to bear with her fears and go to the dentist.

Turn a blind eye

Alternatives to this cliché you could use include: pretend/choose not to notice, purposely ignore, neglect, overlook, refuse to notice.

Example with cliché: Belinda turns a blind eye to their wrongdoings.

Alternatives to that sentence include:

Belinda pretends not to notice their wrongdoings.

Belinda purposely ignores their wrongdoings.

Belinda neglects to notice their wrongdoings.

Belinda deliberately overlooks their wrongdoings.

Paint the town red

Alternatives to this cliché include: celebrate, have a good time, party, go out.

Example with cliché: Last night, Alice and her friends painted the town red.


When Alice and her friends went out last night, they celebrated.

Alice and her friends had a good time out last night.

Last night, Alice and her friends partied.

Alice and her friends went out last night.

photo of red buildings for post cliches, dead metaphors and some alternatives
Instead of painting the town red, go out and party, have a jolly good time, celebrate!

By and large

Alternatives to by and large you could consider using are: everything considered, as a whole, generally.

Example with cliché: The poor were, by and large, hard-working people.


Everything considered, the poor were hard-working people.

The poor were, as a whole, hard-working people.

The poor were generally hard-working people.

Give the cold shoulder

Alternative wording you could use instead of give the cold shoulder include: ignore, avoid, disregard, dismiss.

Example with cliché: All week, Gavin gave his co-workers the cold shoulder.


All week, Gavin ignored his co-workers.

Gavin avoided his co-workers all week.

All week, Gavin disregarded his co-workers.

Gavin dismissed his co-workers all week.

Ball’s in your court

Alternative phrases you could use instead of ball’s in your court include: it’s up to you, it’s your choice.

Example with cliché: The ball’s in your court now.


It’s up to you now.

It’s your choice now.

Can of worms

Instead of using can of worms, alternatives to consider include: problematic, unpleasant, difficult.

Example with cliché: The situation opened a can of worms.

Alternatively, you could use:

The situation was problematic to talk about.

It was an unpleasant situation.

The situation was difficult to talk about.

Now, let’s take a look at alternatives to overused (dead) metaphors.

Life is a journey

Alternatives to consider: many (different) experiences, ups and downs.

Example with overused metaphor: Life is a journey.


Life consists of many different experiences.

Life has its ups and downs.

Love is a battlefield

Alternatives to consider include: ups and downs, can be difficult.

Example with overused metaphor: They had always been told love was a battlefield.

Alternatively, you could use:

They had always been told love had its ups and downs.

They had always been told love could be difficult.

Laughter is the best medicine

Alternative phrases to laugher is the best medicine to consider include: laughter improves your mood, laughter helps with healing.

Example with overused metaphor: Her parents used to tell her laugher was the best medicine.


Her parents used to tell her laughter would improve her mood.

Her parents used to tell her laugher would help her heal.

Time is money

Instead of time is money, alternatives you could use include: don’t waste time, use time wisely.

Example with overused metaphor: Their boss tells them repeatedly time is money.


Their boss tells them repeatedly not to waste time.

Their boss repeatedly tells them to use their time wisely

Achilles heel

Alternatives to Achilles heel you could consider using include: weakness, weak spot, vulnerability, vulnerable spot.

Example with overused metaphor: His fear of heights was his Achilles heel.

Alternative sentences:

His weakness was a fear of heights.

His fear of heights was a weak spot.

One of his vulnerabilities was a fear of heights.

His fear of heights was a vulnerable spot.


Instead of laughing-stock, alternatives to consider using include: joke, object of mockery, target.

Example with overused metaphor: Fred had always been the laughing-stock of the school.


Fred had always been the joke of the school.

The object of mockery at school had always been Fred.

At school, Fred had always been the target of jokes.

Naturally, the examples in this blog, Clichés, Dead Metaphors and some Alternatives, give only some of the possibilities you could use. It just takes a little thought and a little awareness when you’re writing to avoid overused phrases. Go a bit crazy. Be creative and experiment. Just remember to keep in mind George Orwell’s rule about breaking rules: ‘Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous!’


Collins Dictionary 2020, A Can of Worms, https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/a-can-of-worms

Kwan, M 2020, Examples of Dead Metaphors, https://examples.yourdictionary.com/reference/examples/examples-of-dead-metaphors.html

Lepki, L 2019, The Internet’s Best List of Clichéshttps://prowritingaid.com/art/21/List-of-Clich%C3%A9s.aspx 

Wikipedia 2020, Politics and the English Language, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Politics_and_the_English_Language


Red building photo by Artem Saranin from Pexels

Black and white photo Pixabay

Credit for this blog goes to my intern from the University of the Sunshine Coast, Hannah Daylight. Thanks again, Hannah!

Learn more ways to improve your writing with ‘Ten Ways to Super-Charge Your Writing Skills’. It’s a fun, easy to follow eBook – I promise! Enhance your writing technique and skills!

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How Can Writer Coaching Help Me?

Whether or not you have read the previous blogs on writer coaching (see links at end), you may still be asking yourself, how can writer coaching help me personally?

I thought it would be helpful to tell you some stories (anonymously, of course) about several clients I’ve worked with, their reason for wanting coaching, and some of the work we did together.

Some writers find that one session is enough to get them unstuck. Others like to work on the issues/points raised in the initial coaching session, and are then ready for a second, third and sometimes a fourth session.

From their stories below, you’ll find it easier to know whether writer coaching would be helpful for you.

This post draws on coaching sessions to answer the question How can writer coaching help me? (Photo by Marcus Aurelius from Pexels)

Client 1

Client 1 was around 10,000 words into her memoir when she contacted me. She needed help improving her writing technique, she said, but she had also reached a point where she was stuck and didn’t know how to continue.

As for many clients, we worked on a chapter structure and tried to write a synopsis. I say ‘tried’ because once we began, we realised it was difficult to express what the story was about, other than that it was based on a period from her youth when she’d travelled overseas. We discovered there were no outstanding experiences that could have good dramatic impact to capture a readership.

So I asked her, ‘Do you read a lot?’ and she said that she did. ‘What’s your favourite genre?’ I asked her.

She said she loved biographies of well-known people.

I asked if there was any fiction genre she enjoyed and she said, ‘I love thrillers!’

I then asked her how she felt about fictionalising her story and making it into a thriller. There was one ‘character’ she’d met during her time overseas who I’d thought could be developed into a shady character, which helped me suggest this genre. Bingo! That suggestion resonated with her completely. We ended the session with her brimming with enthusiasm and going off to reread her favourite authors such as James Patterson before embarking on her own thriller.

Client 2

When Client 2 called to say he needed help to progress his writing, he had written a few chapters of his life story – which he wanted to fictionalise.

When you’re so close to your story, it can sometimes be difficult to articulate what your actual issues are. After having a chat about this, we ascertained that the main problem keeping him ‘stuck’ was the lack of a structure for his book, as he was somewhat randomly populating chapters with content without first having a framework for it.

Pitch and Synopsis

To address this, we first wrote a pitch and then a synopsis for his book. After that, we worked on the chapter structure. Although we couldn’t finalise the structure during the initial coaching session – because he hadn’t yet decided on all the material he wanted to include – we achieved three-quarters of it.

We also realised that although he’d initially said the story was based on his own childhood, which had been traumatic, in fact, there was going to be very little based on his own experiences. The genre he was writing was crime fiction. We discussed how best to intersperse childhood events throughout the story – whether real or fictionalised – and decided the flashback technique would work very well for this.

As he had only written about 6,000 words, it was the optimal time for ‘professional intervention’! We spent some time discussing the importance of ensuring the reader was engaged – kept right in the story – at all times. It can be easy, as the writer, to forget that the reader isn’t in your head, so isn’t privy to things you as the writer know. While elements of mystery and intrigue are necessary, naturally, in crime fiction, that is different from putting the reader in the position of not having a clue what is going on.

Having had one coaching session so far, he has happily gone away to work on his book. He feels more confident now that he is working to a structure and has a clearer idea of where his book is going.

Client 3

This client initially contacted me mid-2017. We have continued working together, with breaks in between, until the present moment. Initially, over a period of four months, she had three coaching sessions to help her piece together her mystery novel. Her main problems were that as a first-time writer, the writing was self-conscious and tentative, lacking in confidence. The beginning of the book was not strong enough to capture a reader’s attention from the get-go, and the book needed more dialogue to break up long paragraphs of narrative and help bring the story to life.

However, the biggest issue was that it was not clear what the story was really about. One of the outcomes of our initial coaching session was for her to write a synopsis, which forces a writer to be concise and absolutely clear on the characters, especially the protagonist and any other major characters, what the main storyline and events are, and how the story will end.

Working on the Protagonist

Some of the other suggestions I gave her were making readers care about her main female character, who was not particularly likeable. In the context of her story, it was necessary for readers to empathise with this character (which isn’t always the case); tips for creating fictional characters; showing rather than telling; and using fresh expressions rather than cliches (more about that here: https://editors4you.com.au/cliches-and-overused-metaphors/).

After working on the outcomes from the first session for a month or so, she requested a second coaching session. During that session, we worked on fixing head-hopping and point of view; making the writing more emotive – so readers would feel what the characters were feeling; the overall chapter structure; and strong chapter openings and endings.

After she had implemented those suggestions, in the third and fourth coaching sessions we worked on some recurring grammatical issues including using active voice rather than passive voice, and simplifying the writing rather than over-embellishing and overwriting. This took us up to the beginning of 2018. She then spent the rest of that year, and all of 2019 (her time permitting) working on her writing. In mid-2020, she had finished writing and requested a manuscript appraisal for the novel. As of now, she is finalising the manuscript for the edit.


My experience over the years has been that most writers who approach me for coaching find that one initial session is sufficient to get them unstuck and able to forge ahead with their writing. However, other writers need more help and coaching as they progress through the chapters.

I hope that this post has helped you answer the question, How Can Writer Coaching Help Me?

In addition to this post How Can Writer Coaching Help Me? take a look at the following links for more on writer coaching:

Book Writing Coach: https://editors4you.com.au/book-writing-coach/
Writer Coaching to Develop your Writing: https://editors4you.com.au/writer-coaching-to-develop-your-writing/

Writing Coach and Editor

Gail has recently nurtured through writer coaching and editing:

Award-winning author, Bianca Williams, of the Sidelined trilogy. In 2017, she won the USA Best Book Award and was a finalist in the National Indie Excellence Awards for Book 1 Sidelined: The Draft.
cover of sidelined the draft for blog post how can writer coaching help me
Award-winning author, C.C. Harris, who won the 2020 American Fiction Award for her novel The Psychs of Manhattan in the Psychological Thriller category.