One of the participants of the recent Getting Published course at Faber Writing Academy with our Publishing Director Sue Hines shares her experiences of the course and what she learned.
My class was as diverse as the front shelves of an independent bookseller; a pediatrician, an engineer, a nurse, a farmer, an IT professional; with some of the group finding their way to Australia from Sri Lanka, Hong Kong and the UK. We were writing high literary fiction, science fiction, family histories, essays and satire; some of us in our 80s and some in our 20s. The common bond of course was writing. That, and the burning desire to see our work in print.
Sue Hines, Group Publishing Director at Allen & Unwin and Murdoch Books was a generous host and teacher, listening with equanimity, guiding at the right moments and asking questions designed to stimulate but not bewilder. She spoke at length about the industry of publishing – and it is just that, an industry. The selling of books is designed to make money for its owners or shareholders like any other business and yet, Sue explained, there was also a responsibility on publishers to produce content that added something to the world, not just pages of paper for money.
From the culture of a publishing house, we moved on to discuss how various authors had made their breakthroughs, complete with insider tips and gossip. We glanced at recommended texts on writing and publishing, and analysed examples of polished prose and why these writers had been successful. From there we discussed the Covering Letter and the Synopsis with time for breaks, informal chats and of course, tea with Tim Tams – because one can never be late for tea.*
Before we came to the class, as a way of preparing ourselves for the world of publishing and I suspect to douse us in the cold waters of commercial reality, we were asked to submit two pages of writing for Sue Hines and as it turned out, the class, to assess and edit.
As a former journalist, I’m accustomed to seeing my words in print as well as attacked with a red pen. However, just like a water polo player who’s suddenly been asked to perform the 800 metre backstroke, I was familiar with the water but floundered around in the pool all the same. My novel’s opening was revised and corrected and I was grateful for the wisdom and input of both Sue Hines and the class. The feedback made me more determined to refine my craft.
What the exercise also highlighted is what a solitary and occasionally thankless task writing is, and I felt many of us were emboldened purely by the experience of sharing our long locked-in words and releasing them to an audience of sympathetic individuals.
Of course one day is not nearly long enough to learn all there is to know about getting published.
It also served as a reminder to each one of us that writing is about tenacity. Attending these workshops reminds us as writers to simply keep writing, to keep revising, to submit our work to competitions, magazines, web sites and publications, to gain that hard earned feedback time after time after time, and like many in the class, to write because that is after all, just what we do.
* We were ably assisted on the day by the ebullient Elise, an Allen & Unwin children’s book editor and weekend caterer extraordinaire. Thanks must also go to Faber Writing Academy staff Emily and Sarah who answered all phone calls and emails with enthusiasm and aplomb.
Sharon O’Brien is a reformed journalist and restaurateur whose preferred pronoun is usually, “Your Majesty.” She shifts between ensuring she’s flossed correctly and writing her satirical novel, The Most Beautiful Lake In The World and is much more fascinating online than in real life.