My first conference in the writing industry


I’ve been a little quiet lately, apologies. I’d like to say it’s all attributed to the second draft of my manuscript, but that would be a lie. I can however say that it has all been in the pursuit of my writing, attending my first Romance Writers of Australia Conference (online). 

Now don’t go making assumptions that I am writing a romance, because that isn’t the case. However the program looked fantastic and it came recommended as a great place to start. That recommendation paid off because it was fantastic! Not only did I build my knowledge and skills but I also met (via text) some lovely authors and emerging authors to share the experience with. It was a little tricky balancing the workshop with the need to read some of these fantastic people’s work, and I still have some workshops I am going to need to catch up on but on the whole all I can say is WOW!

Learning about plot structures, the different types of editing (who would have thought there were so many), traditional and self publication routes, writing blurbs and query letters (this one may have been my favourite), having a go a writing a sex scene, learning how to shoot a gun (yep that’s right) and analyse a crime scene, I saw my brain’s storage drive flash up the image, ‘You are almost full. Please purchase more space.’ Lucky for me the conference gives me access to all the workshops for 3 months, so the ones I missed the first time I will pursue slowly over the next few months. 

One of the tips I accumulated was how to write a brief review of a book from a publisher. So I thought why not put it to practice now on the conference. So here goes….


Romance Writers of Australia 2020 Conference

The RWA 2020 conference ran online workshops across a broad range of genres across writing skills and tools, publishing, broader topics of interest and the business of publishing. It’s appeal to writers beyond the romance genre was evident by the inclusion of crime, horror and fantasy related workshops. 

You wouldn’t have noticed it was the first time the conference was run in an online format only, and I am grateful for the flexibility that has allowed for my attendance. The presenters were engaging, interactive and highly informative. I can’t believe how open, sharing and encouraging the industry is.

Next year I am looking forward to meeting some of the presenters and participants in person, being at a different stage of my writing journey so I can focus more on the publication journey with any luck, and of course not breaking to do the dishes or tend to the never ending needs of family. Of course I fully expect that these needs will bank up while I’m gone and the avalanche will descend upon my return home. 

In the mean time I going to create some more space in that brain of mine and get back to …..writing.

One tentative step for the writer within

I have been thinking a lot lately about how to share some writing with you all, following the overwhelming good wishes and belief you have in me. I can’t share my draft. Firstly because it’s still a draft. Secondly because I need to keep you all in suspense waiting for the published copy!

I am desperate to share some of my other book ideas with you, see if anyone shares my interest and if they would be a hit. It is possible though that my self doubt, the belief you wont like them, are a little louder than my desire to share. Also, truthfully, my husband has me a little worried about sharing any of it electronically in case someone steals my ideas and beats me to publication (His belief in my ability to do this appears to grow stronger everyday and he is somehow louder than my self doubt). 

My other option is to share some of my shorter work with you. I have one away at the moment, awaiting judgement for a competition, so that one is out. Another, which failed to win a shortlisting for a magazine publication has grown into a book idea and I have just, after a little editing, sent it away in an entry for the Faber Writing Scholarship.

This leaves me with just one option, my furious fiction entry for June 2020. While it didn’t win (or rate a mention) I enjoyed working on it, and within the rules of the competition. The rules for this one were: 500 words of less, It must start and end with a word beginning with J, contain a game within it and also the words ‘missed the boat’.  It certainly was a challenge telling a story in so few words but I am happy with the end result and it doesn’t feel like a failure to me that it didn’t win. So please have a look and feel free to leave your comments on what you think. 



I Did It!

For the last three days I’ve been walking around in a little of a daze. You see Monday night, as I was writing my final chapter something extraordinary happened…..I finished my first draft of the book I’ve been working on. Just short of 65k words, and quite a few notes I have around additional earlier chapters and changes that happened later that will result in re writes of earlier chapters, it is a long way from finished, or even second draft completion. Nevertheless, my first draft is complete.

I can hear you all saying ‘Wow. That was quick”. Truth is, it has been anything but quick. The idea for this book has been brewing since 2017. I still have the first five pages of notes I scribbled down as I was on the runway about to take off to the Goldcoast on a family holiday/ work trip. I was well versed in the workshop material I was presenting, sitting separate from my husband, who had a child either side of him I took advantage of the time to myself. 

So not so quick, three years in the making in total. Granted there were large gaps where I didn’t think about it at all, and I really only found the courage to start chapter one in February of this year, but it certainly doesn’t feel quick to me. Now I’m trying to wait patiently the two weeks I have been advised to wait before I rush into the re-writes and editing. It hasn’t been too hard to pull it off, partly because I’m still a little surprised, and thrilled, I managed to get to this stage. Also I am still trying to finalise client reports from my previous career, and it’s school holidays! 

So while I wait I figured I might blog more? Maybe enter a short story competition? Or just get stuck into another good book? I might do them all, why not, I’ve got the time.  

Another detour? 

Yesterday I finished another chapter of my first draft. It was epic, in the best kind of way. The words flowed easily, characters actions, thoughts and words appearing as black text across the white page. It was magic. Ok, so it wasn’t exactly magic, but something about it felt magical to me. 

I have no deadline as such for this book and the closer I am getting to the finish of the first draft I am pondering two questions. The first is ‘Do I want to finish it?’ I love the characters and stories that I am creating and I know when I am finished these last chapters part of me will miss them. It is the same when I come to the end of a novel I am reading. During the novel I become so invested in the characters and their lives that when the book ends my grieving starts. I find myself wondering do the authors feel this same way? Will I feel this way about my own characters? Is this why some authors write a series of books with the same characters? I have a few questions here and I am making a mental note to ask this question to an the author of the next workshop, book launch or discussion panel I attend.

My second question is in direct opposition to this one ‘Will I be so over writing, re writing, and editing that I can’t wait to be done with you?’ Right now I am in the love phase…or maybe it is lust. Everything is new and interesting, and some may say I have my rose coloured glasses on. Eventually this will pass though, I will know all there is to know and the characters stories will come to an abrupt stop. Will the combination of the frustrations of the next stage of the writing for publication and the stagnant nature of the lives of the characters, suspended in the end point, be enough for me to get past any grief I felt rather quickly? In other words will I be happy to see the end of my relationship with them? 

I guess time will tell. If it is grief, it will pass with time…or I’ll write another book about the characters I miss the most. If I can’t wait to see the end of them then that will also take time, at least I hope it does. Time to talk to publishers, get my book released, talk with media and hopefully a stack of fans. Honestly, I’ll take either option, or both. 

Procrastination? Or writing for the love of writing? You decide?

Over the past few months I have been spending some of my rare writing time away from my first novel and dipping my toe into the world of short stories. My earlier post alluded to this being in response to some advice given by respected Australian authors, and also to ease me into the world of rejection. Incidentally (I did warn you about the detours), I received some good advice from a client in my last day as a Psychologist, about rejection. She indicated it would happen frequently in the arts and that it didn’t mean my writing wasn’t good, or that I was barking up the wrong tree, but that it was just the reality of the industry. As she was building my resilience at the start of my new career, it struck me how well we had worked together in my past career, that she could confidently and rightly give me such advice.

Up until tonight I had submitted a total of three, two rejections and one more decision pending. Tonight I pushed it to four by entering the Olga Masters Short Story Competition. I’ve been composing my 4000 word entry for the past 6 weeks, shaping and reshaping my entry with a little help from a trusty friend and adoring husband. With two days to spare the final tweaks were done and the story submitted. 

Whilst I have no doubt that I am competing with writers with more time and experience behind them, I have to say I am proud of myself. Whilst I know it’s the end of the journey for Carly (female protagonist- surprise, surprise), I feel I have done her justice. I can’t share it yet, but after judging and the result is known I think I will post this one for you all to read. Carly deserves some airtime and I need to let her go so I can get back to the novel! 

Speaking of the Novel, I created dialogue for the first time between characters after 56000 words…..sounds interesting you say? Well tune in for another blog post once I’ve finished the chapter. 

You win. I need that book!

You can be in no doubt of my love of books by now. Not just fiction but all books. Ok so not exactly all books, I don’t really subscribe to books about baby growth, pregnancy and child development after a traumatic experience of first time motherhood at the hands of them (ok so this might be a slight exaggeration,  but my husband did dispose of them as I found myself judging my every move as a first time mother and declaring myself a failure each time my son didn’t do something at exactly the right time according to the books). I’m also not a huge fan of science fiction or fantasy, but I am currently trying to work on that and expand my reading library. Brandon Sanderson a lot is riding on your work here, don’t let me down.

At the writers workshop I went to at the beginning of the year (told you it would come up again) I gladly took the time during break to devour the books on display, taking photos of most of them to add to the professional library when I was brave enough to dive in to my new profession. I scoffed at the baby name book, why would I need that? I apologise for that Scoff Fiona and Jaye. Please send me a copy of any baby name book you have, I beg of you. 

I have just spent the last hour pouring through the draft of my first book (just three not so short chapters from complete) digging out all the names of minor characters so that I can follow up on some feedback from a friend who patiently reads my first draft. You see she needs me to be consistent with the names. Apparently when I change someone’s name, otherwise known as forgetting I called them something already, she is struggling to know who I am talking about. She has also suggested not giving two characters who have a relationship a name with the same first letter, it can get confusing. 

This sounded like a reasonable request so I set about making a map of the characters, relationships, families etc. I quite liked it because I got to use coloured pens and create a mind map, which is one of my most favourite activities to do. Imagine my surprise though when I realised that five of my characters had a name starting with T, four with R, three with J, A and S and barley any other letters. Apparently I struggle with naming characters and I desperately need that Baby Name book after all! 

I’ve renamed them all now, even managed to double up again in the renaming process. I’ve decided for my second book (yes I am optimistic)  I’m going to use the mindmap as I go and invest in google to help me name them evenly across the alphabet. Maybe not entirely evenly, I can’t imagine myself using Q, X or V very often. 
    P.s. This was not an attempt to avoid writing those last three chapters……well I am not admitting to that anyway!

Tools of the Trade

My favourite time of the day is when I hear the sounds of my postman’s motorbike as he comes up the hill toward my house. My excitement heightens when he pulls into the drive, his engine stops and I hear him walk .toward my door. The loud rattle of the screen with his knock is quickly answered, as I started making my way to the door as soon as I heard his engine cut out. Opening the door I know what is waiting for me……it’s a book! Well not always, occasionally it is something I’ve ordered for one of my sons birthdays or Christmas presents for others, and before you ask the answer is yes. I definitely have a small online shopping addiction. Trust me when I say though that the way it earns the addiction title is through the amount of books I buy and because of this I see it as a healthy addiction, one to feed!

This week I have had the pleasure of opening not one but two packages. Both investments in tools that will not only build my skills as a writer but also my confidence. The first to arrive was my combined Oxford Dictionary and Thesaurus. I know what you are thinking, you can use the online version. I am old school though and I need to see books, hold them in my hands and smell that fresh parchment. I am pleased to say that when I shared this with my sons, my youngest drank in that smell of the new edition to my book family like he was smelling a newborn baby, or more aptly when it comes to him, a large plate of freshly cooked spaghetti bolognaise he was about to devour. 

My second addition to the family was The Australian Handbook for Writers and Editors: Grammar usage and punctuation by Margaret McKenzie. That’s right, I’m going back to basics. My English teacher from High School would no doubt delight in my excitement of rediscovering nouns, adjectives, verbs, prepositions, conjunction and all the other delights that await me. They are old friends and I am taking my time to welcome them back into my present, instead of them fading into the background of everyday use. 

So let this be a warning to you all, my ramblings now will no doubt be filled with practice and connection with these old friends. It ill be like a reimagined version of an old movie or soundtrack. Unlike other remakes though I am confident that this one will be better than the first! Oh and for all of you who have picked out all the grammar and usage errors in my work in this blog piece, it is just evidence of the need to sharpen my tools. 


Am I a real writer now?

Earlier this year, before Coronavirus I attended a writing Master Class with Jaye Ford and  Fiona McArthur at the Newcastle City Library. At that point I had one idea, 5000 words, and a tremor within my whole body at the thought I might have to write and share my work with not only them but the other people in the group. 

I’m pleased to say that the tremor quickly disappeared and within five minutes I felt like we were old friends and I was an accepted peer to them! There were many great things I learned from both Jaye and Fiona (I will fill you in as each one comes up I promise) but the ones that stuck out the most were write every day, take every opportunity to write and then enter your writing in competitions if you want to publish your work. 

I’ve failed to write everyday, although I am definitely approaching that now, but I have thrown myself into looking for competitions and have put forward three pieces of work now. The first was short, under 500 words, and I don’t expect to hear back until October for that one. The second was up to 1000 words and had to be titled after a crossword puzzle in the Audrey Daybook magazine, for which I earned my first form letter rejection of my work being of high standard but not quite enough to earn the prize, and please try again in the next quarter (I am definitely going to do that – and every quarter after that until they say YES).

The third is under 500 words for the Furious Fiction monthly competition where you get 55 hours and a few rules. I came up with two stories for this and entered the second. I took my time with this one and was quite proud. I would love to say that it doesn’t bother me if I win or lose it’s just about the practice, but if I’m being completely honest that loss will hit harder than the second piece. Maybe though that’s a good thing? If it hurts more I will only be more determined to keep doing it, and each time I write I get better, and it brings me closer to my goal…. published work! 

What Does Little Kel want?


A couple of months ago whilst in peer consultation, in my previous (although currently my dual) professional life, a colleague and good friend asked me if I could give my younger self anything what would it be? My answer was time. I don’t think she really knew what she was doing when she asked me that question, or maybe she did? Regardless it was the question that unlocked years of wondering about my career and what I wanted to do with my life. 

Fast forward two months and some pretty big conversations with my husband, children and friends and here I am closing down my private practice as a Psychologist and taking the time to feed my two greatest loves, after my children and husband of course, reading and writing. 

I won’t say this is the first time I’ve written anything, or blogged for that matter. In that previous career I’ve had the opportunity to do both these things and unlock my creative side. I could have continued to do that and returned to a mix of clinical work, research and project work like I have in the past, but in doing this I would be again struggling to find the balance between work, family and me. It was time to give little kel a chance, I couldn’t ignore the pleading of that six year old self saying ‘ it’s my turn now.’

So for the first time I have left the confines of academic writing, blogging about mental health and writing project reports and I’m turning my fingers and mind towards the creative world of fiction. To say that I have a few ideas to pursue is an understatement. I have a suitcase of them and they are in size 9 font, single spaced and printed double sided. With so many where do I start?

It turns out starting wasn’t a problem. I’m 45K into my first novel, seeking every writing competition I can find to enter in the pursuit of improvement in my skill….oh ok, I’m also looking for some kind of approval, that I belong in this world and that I was right to listen to that six year old self.  I know I don’t really need it though, I love writing and creating stories and characters and it brings me happiness everyday. So rejection be ware – I will not give up!