Category Archives: Writing

How I got shortlisted for the Hazel Rowley Literary Fellowship

Hi fellow writers

Hope your writing is going well.

It’s hard to believe it has been six months since I last posted. In my last post ‘Pitching to the Market’ I mentioned a few tips for helping you to get your book published. Today I wanted to report on how I got a little closer to that goal myself by, of all things, following my own advice (not something I often do!).

In  ‘Pitching to the Market’ I mentioned an excellent workshop I attended given by Meg Vann, CEO of  the Queensland Writers Centre. Meg talked about how important it is to develop an author’s platform, including building an online presence. Reluctantly I followed her advice and opened a Twitter account (to me it all seemed like superficial time-wasting. I just wanted to get on and write.). Anyhow I started following on Twitter people who interested me – other writers, authors, publishers, anyone tweeting about my passions of writing (and reading).

Then one day, a tweet popped up from one of my new twitter-aquaintances – a literary agent in Victoria, Australia, called Virginia Lloyd. In this tweet she mentioned the Hazel Rowley Literary Fellowship. As it turned out, the late Ms Rowley’s work had been a key resource for my writing project. My book is about the love lives of philosophers, and she had written an amazingly well-researched and gripping book called Tête-à-Tête about the love lives of Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre. The Hazel Rowley Literary Fellowship had been set up to further the legacy of this great author by providing up to AUD$10,000 for emerging or established writers writing biography. I thought I might as well have a go.

So I submitted my manuscript to this Fellowship, and just found out two days ago Lovers of Philosophy had been shortlisted, as recently announced on the Writers Victoria website.

I hope my story inspires you to reach out and share or submit your work to one or more of the large number of fellowships and competitions out there. I’ve submitted my work to other comps and fellowships and had mixed success. The key is getting your work as good as you can get it (including by running it by beta-readers for feedback-more on that in a future post), and persevering.  Joining your local writers’ organisation is a great way to hear about the many opportunities that are available.

I’d love to hear your experiences of whether tweeting, blogging and what I still consider as other necessary evils that distract me from my writing (if I’m honest I’d always rather be writing!) has helped you to further your writing aspirations in any way.

Please leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you.

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Pitching to the market


books (Photo credit: brody4)

In my last post I reported on a blogging workshop I went to at the Reality Bites Writers Festival in Cooroy. I also attended another great workshop called Pitching to the Market. This was delivered by Meg Vann, CEO of the Queensland Writers Centre. Meg had lots of great advice about how to get your manuscript published. The publishing industry is going through an interesting and difficult period right now, with fewer and fewer people reading books, and more and more people writing them. Many publishers won’t accept unsolicited manuscripts. I’ve certainly been disappointed to find, on visiting my favourite publisher’s website for information about submitting my manuscript, words to the effect of: ‘such-and-such a publisher no longer accepts manuscripts.’ What is the poor budding writer to do?

Well, some of the major publishers have pitching days every week or month when they do accept manuscripts. Examples include Penguin’s Monthly Catch, Pan Macmillan‘s Manuscript Monday and Allen and Unwin‘s Friday Pitch. As Meg highlighted in her workshop, a good pitch should include not only a pithy and enticing few lines capturing what your book is about, but where it would sit in the market, and a little bit about yourself as a writer/author.

Remember, publishers need to make money by selling your book, and along with the book they need to sell you as an author. So building an author platform, including an on-line presence, is important to help your prospective publisher place you in the market. More about building an author platform in a future post.

But in terms of your pitch, it’s important you create opportunities for yourself to meet publishers, agents and other people in the ‘book industry’. You can do this by attending writers’ festivals, conferences and events. I’ve certainly found this to be a useful way to meet publishers and editors whose submission link on their websites may be closed but whose minds may open up a little bit if you present them with a sellable publishing opportunity. That’s where the so-called ‘elevator pitch‘ is needed when a publisher or agent you meet at one of these events asks you ‘So what is your book about?’. This is where it’s best if you don’t stammer or turn pink but say something clear and engaging about your book. It’s important you don’t bore the potential publisher with the whole story of your novel. You just need to whet their appetite and engage their interest, and help them to see there might be a market for your ‘product’.

If you want to learn more about pitching to publishers, I highly recommend you consider doing what I did and join your local writers’ centre, where you can get a wealth of support, advice and opportunities to publish your masterpiece. If any of you have any experiences with pitching to publishers, both good and bad, that you’d like to share, please leave a comment. I — and I’m sure other new writers who read this blog — would love to hear from you.

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Reality bites in Cooroy

reality bites festival header


It’s Sunday afternoon and I’m sipping on a latte in a cafe in Cooroy after spending the last four days attending the Reality Bites nonfiction writers festival. For those of you who don’t know Cooroy, it’s an unspoiled hidden gem of a town in the hinterland of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia. Wind back four days to Thursday morning as I drive into this sleepy rural town, and I am welcomed by the sight of organic grocers, massage therapist signs, op shops and very relaxed and happy-looking people walking around very slowly in the crumpled and colorful clothes you often see on tree-changers and middle-aged hippies. I pull up and walk into the newsagent where the lady behind the counter seems genuinely pleased to see me, and as I leave, wishes me a good day in a way that indicates she really means it, not something I’m used to in the throbbing cosmopolis of Briz Vegas (Brisbane) where I come from.

The first workshop I went to at the Reality Bites festival was on blogging, delivered by Rhonda Hetzel who has a very popular award-winning blog, Down to Earth, about her daily experiences of trying to live a simpler life, where she makes everything herself from soap to butter and ice-cream. Her blog eventually resulted in a book deal with Penguin. Rhonda pointed out, as have many others, that blogging is an almost obligatory requirement for writers who want to ‘build a platform’. To be honest, industry phrases such as ‘author platform’ leave me a bit flat. As a writer I prefer just to write. But of course as writers we all want to connect with our readers and blogging is a way of doing that.The key suggestions I took away from Rhonda’s talk were:

  • develop a disciplined routine to posting on your blog
  • include photos in your posts
  • be generous in your blog in what you give to your readers
  • end each post with a question to encourage readers to interact with you

So on that note my questions for you at the end of this post are:

What would you like to see on this blog? More about the continental philosophers? More about these philosophers’ relationships and love lives? Or perhaps you’d like to hear more about writing resources and processes that I and others have found helpful? I’d love to hear your comments…

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Listening to the language


Martin Heidegger came up with a radical notion that has enabled a whole new way of seeing ourselves and the world. This notion has since gained wider acceptance, and is especially prevalent in European contemporary philosophy. The notion is this: that language speaks us rather than we speak language. Or that we are constructed by the language. As Heidegger put it, if we listen we hear the language before and as we speak it–the words come naturally to us and shape what is important in the world.

Language can also help us to uncover, to unveil, to reveal the truth. Thus words, through speaking or writing, can help us to see the truth. Words can show us what is there.

The above ideas might not seem so strange to those of us who have tried creative writing. Just as the sculptor chips away at the marble to reveal the figure that was waiting to be revealed, writers have often commented how their stories unfold despite the writer. The writer’s worst-kept secret is that they didn’t write stories; the stories write themselves.

A Stephen King described in his book On Writing, the writer is like the palaeontologist who brushes the dust off to reveal the fossil (writing–the story–the creation–the work of art), perfectly formed  underneath (that was always there).


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Dostoyevsky on truth

Photo of F. Dostoevsky Русский: Фёдор Михайлов...

Photo of F. Dostoevsky Русский: Фёдор Михайлович Достоевский Suomi: Fjodor Mihailovitš Dostojevski Svenska: Fjodor Dostojevskij (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“To make the truth more plausible, it’s absolutely necessary to mix a bit of falsehood with it.”

Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Demons

I love this quote for two reasons.

Firstly, Dostoyevsky has always been my favourite author – he is a masterful storyteller.

Secondly, although my current writing project is non-fiction and based on historical research, I am looking for the story amongst the facts. And so it reminds me I must use a little imagination to make the truth more plausible


March 9, 2013 · 10:24 pm

Mind Mapping

One tool I have found useful in the conceptualisation phase of my writing project was mind mapping. A mind map helps you to ‘see’ the conceptual framework for your book or other large project. The free mind mapping app I used was Simplemind Free which can be found at the Mac Appstore. Using this app I created a mind map for my book which you can view by clicking on LOVERS OF PHILOSOPHYmindmap.

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