My clients’ books, out in the world

There are few things  more satisfying than seeing your book published at last. Holding a hard copy in your hands, seeing it on the shelf of a bookshop, or listed with a thumbnail cover image at an online store – there’s no taking away the enormous achievement of creating, revising, and finishing your own book.

Almost as thrilling is seeing my clients’ books published. I’m so happy to see these three new books out in the world in 2017, because I know how hard each author worked to get to this point, and in different ways I helped each writer get there. In the case of Ashley Hay’s A Hundred Small Lessons, I copy-edited and trimmed the manuscript; for Fleur McDonald (pictured below with her novel The Missing Pieces of Us), I worked closely with her on structural and line editing; and for ABC television journalist Jane Hutcheon (bottom right, with her new book China Baby Love), I provided a manuscript assessment on an early draft of her manuscript that helped her develop the work before submitting a final draft to her publisher.

And while each of these writers is experienced, the same principles apply when I’m working with writers who are yet to land their first publishing contract. The same sorts of questions arise in drafts by inexperienced and professional writers alike.

While I do a lot of editing for publishers, I’m also a published author. And because of that, I know what it’s like to struggle to write a book. The editing process is both necessary and fraught, dredging up all sorts of questions – ones that you thought you’d already answered, and ones that you hadn’t even thought of.

See these testimonials for more information about what writers like about working with me.

Or if you’ve already submitted a manuscript to an agent or publisher and are not getting anywhere, consider my ten-page review service.

Call for submissions: Growing Up Aboriginal In Australia

Dr Anita Heiss (photo: Amanda James)

Wonderful news from Black Inc Books: calls for autobiographical accounts of growing up Aboriginal in Australia for an anthology aimed at high school students, to be published in 2018.  This is a timely and brilliant idea – have we really not had such a collection before this?

Dr Anita Heiss, lifetime ambassador for the Indigenous Literacy Foundation and author of Am I Black Enough for You? will edit the anthology, Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia.

Submissions must be between 800 and 3,000 words, and are due on May 1st. The publisher states:

The pieces can be written in a wide range of styles, voices and tones, as long as they are original, honest and reflective; we are not looking for abstract or sociological treatments. The anthology will be aimed both at high school students and general readers. The submissions can deal with any aspect of growing up as a Blackfella, and must be engaging while providing insight into the diverse lives of Aboriginal people in Australia today. We are looking for voices that defy, question or shed light on the usual stereotypes.

A few more details are available on the Black Inc website.


Writing fellowships from Australian Book Review – applications open

Under the leadership of Peter Rose and the generosity of individual donors, the venerable Australian Book Review has expanded both the number and quality of its writing fellowships and prizes in recent years. Here are some application deadlines to note if you have something to say and the time in which to craft it.

2017 ABR Gender Fellowship – $7,500 – closes 1 February, 2017
The ABR Gender Fellowship is a new addition to the Fellowship program. ABR seeks proposals for a substantial article on gender in contemporary Australian creative writing in all its forms.

2017 ABR RAFT Fellowship – $7,500 – closes 10 March, 2017
Australian Book Review welcomes applications for the second RAFT Fellowship, comprising proposals for a 6,000 to 8,000-word article on any aspect of the role and significance of religion in society and culture.

2017 ABR Eucalypt Fellowship – $7,500 – closes 10 March, 2017
For the third ABR Eucalypt Fellowship, ABR seeks proposals for a 6000 to 8,000-word article on the Australian eucalypt in all its forms, with reference to history, literature, science and natural history, Indigenous subjects, the arts, or politics. This Fellowship article will appear in our 2017 Environment issue.

Before you apply, make sure you read the Fellowship guidelines.

2017 ABR Calibre Essay Prize – $7,500 – closes 15 March, 2017
The ABR Calibre Essay Prize is one of the world’s leading prizes for a new essay, open to anyone in the world who is writing in English. We are seeking essays of between 3,000 and 7,000 words on any non-fiction subject. Judges: Sheila Fitzpatrick, Peter Rose, Geordie Williamson

More information here.

2017 ABR Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Prize – prize pool $12,500 – closes 10 April, 2017
The ABR Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Prize is one of the world’s leading prizes for an original short story (2,000 – 5,000 words), open to anyone in the world who is writing in English. 

More information here.

My second book, Girls at the Piano, will be published in 2018

Auguste Renoir, Two Young Girls at the Piano, 1892
Auguste Renoir, Two Young Girls at the Piano, 1892

I’m extremely happy to report that GIRLS AT THE PIANO, the book I have been writing, on and off, for the past seven (gasp) years, will be published in Australia by Allen & Unwin in early 2018.

While it’s good news for me personally – the second book is notoriously challenging for many writers – it’s also good news for my clients, who can feel reassured that I might actually know what I’m on about when I read and respond to their work.

If you’re interested in working with me to complete your manuscript to a publishable standard, please get in touch.

I firmly believe there are no stupid questions, and I would love to hear from you.

Nature writing and nonfiction for women: trends from the Frankfurt Book Fair 2016

According to a roundup of rights sales at the book industry’s biggest get-together, the Frankfurt Book Fair, psychological thrillers are going the way of wizards, but nonfiction about the environment is in, in, in.

What’s the Frankfurt Book Fair?
Each October, the world’s largest annual trade fair for books draws thousands of publishers, editors and agents from around the world, who are all attempting to buy or sell rights in books that have sold strongly in their respective home territories. For example, many Australian publishers and/or their foreign rights managers attend Frankfurt in order to interest overseas publishers and editors in books already published in Australia, for which the Australian publishers hold world rights.

According to book industry newsletter Australian Bookseller & Publisher (subscription required), which interviews Australian publisher representatives at the industry event, international publishers are looking for narrative nonfiction for women readers (a genre that describes fact-based storytelling, for example memoir, travel or personal history, or some untold story of a specific group of people). They’re still strong on crime fiction, but less enthusiastic for the psychological thriller – unless, of course, it’s the next global phenomenon (think Gone Girl or The Girl on the Train).

What do these trends mean for authors?
While any publishing professional will tell you that a ‘great story, well told’ will always be publishing’s holy grail, it’s useful for aspiring authors to be mindful of the business realities of the industry. Some subjects and genres do get saturated (zombies, anyone?), which means that it’s that much more difficult to interest an acquiring agent or publisher in your manuscript. If you’re concerned that your subject is too similar to what’s already been published, then you should listen to your instinct and revisit one or more aspects of your story – whether it’s location, historical period, characterization, plot twists, and so forth.

On the other hand, because publishing trends do come and go, I do not recommend that a writer changes his or her project based on a trend that might prove short-lived.  If you happen to be writing nonfiction about the environment, then feel encouraged at increasing interest from those who acquire book manuscripts. If you’re not, just continue with your project – but do your homework about potential audiences for your subject matter. Agents and publishers want as much proof as possible that there are lots of  potential readers out there for what you’re writing about.

A personal example
A book titled The Lost Pianos of Siberia by British journalist Sophy Roberts was one of the most talked-about books of this year’s book fair. Apparently it mixes memoir, travel and nature writing to explore Siberia, including its involvement in the history of piano production. It was acquired in a pre-empt by Transworld (a division of Penguin Random House) before the festival, an example of the kind of literary-commercial nonfiction crossover work that is very tasty to publishers these days.

This was interesting to me because I’ve just completed a nonfiction manuscript titled Girls at the Piano, for which I will soon be seeking a publisher. My project could not be more different from Roberts’s (not the least because one has a publishing contract and one does not!), but at the most superficial level, both cover aspects of the piano’s history. Is that good news for me – Roberts’s book might tap into a hunger for piano-related stories – or bad news, in that her book might obviate the need for anything that seems too similar? From the little I know about The Lost Pianos of Siberia, it seems very different from the hybrid personal-literary-musical history that I’ve attempted in my manuscript. But I’ll have to wait and see. Either way, I’ll let you know how I go.

Let me know if you have any questions – I really want to hear from you.