How I got my book
An interview with
author, Marion Grace Woolley
Marion Woolley recently
secured a publishing deal with a publisher she found in
firstwriter.com's database of over
1,400 publishers. We asked her about her writing, and
how she found success.
fw: Thanks for
taking the time to talk to us, Marion, and congratulations
on having placed your book with a publisher. Could you
tell us a bit about it?
The book is called Angorichina and itís about a tuberculosis hospice in South Australia in the early 1930s, told through the eyes of four patients: Charlotte, Joe, Heath and Sean.
The time period puts it just on the cusp of medical history, before the invention of antibiotics. Being diagnosed with TB was more or less a death sentence for many, one that could take several years to claim you.
The book has a lot to do with how each character copes with the situation they find themselves in. How they deal with their own mortality whilst being miles from home, surrounded by strangers, and with very few distractions.
It could be considered depressing subject material, but Iíd like to think of it more as a testament to human resilience and to the type of relationships formed under extreme conditions.
Where did you get the idea from?
In 2003–4 I spent a year travelling around Australia with my partner at the time. We went all over the place. Starting off in Melbourne, we worked on a fruit farm up near Swan Hill, did the Great Ocean Road, Canberra, Sydney,
then bought a car and drove for two weeks across the Nullarbor to West Australia where we lived in a tent in Fremantle.
Once we made enough money, we decided to splash out on one last adventure. So we sold the car and took a plane up to Alice Springs where we joined a tour down through the centre to Kings Canyon, Uluru
(Ayers Rock) and Coober Pedy.
One of the last stops was a backpackersí hostel up in the Flinders Ranges, just North of Adelaide. This was Angorichina Station, which is still there today. Iím not sure when it stopped being a sanatorium, but I remember feeling a real
sense of history about the place. It just never left me.
So were you inspired to start writing straight away, or
was it something you came back to later?
It took me about four years to decide to actually write the novel, then five months to complete it.
Iíd had a go at writing the first chapter a couple of times before, but it wasnít until I switched to first-person that it really took off. It was as though the characters were sitting in front of me, telling me about their experiences.
This change in style helped me to tap into the part of my psyche that already knew what to write.
I had shockingly bad handwriting at school, so I think I came to rely on computers to communicate effectively. On a really good day, once I know where the storyís going, I can knock out 10,000 words. It just appears on the page.
The downside is that I work in fits and starts. Some days Iíll go without sleep, others I wonít write anything at all.
Have you done any writing before?
Iíve always loved writing stories. I remember reading one to my dad on the train when I was about eleven or twelve. As we approached a stop, the man sitting next to us got up and said ďI wish I didnít have to go now, Iíd like to hear
In 2007 I moved to Africa for a couple of years. It gave me a lot of spare time and thatís when I decided to really make a go of writing. Within a year Iíd completed two novels. My first was shortlisted for the Luke Bitmead Bursary
in 2009, but never actually published. The second, Angorichina, has just hit the shelves. So Iím fairly happy with how itís going so far.
Do you think a track record is helpful when trying to
place a work?
Thatís a difficult one. Ultimately, the piece of work in front of a publisher is the one theyíre reading. If itís what they want, theyíll take it. If not, they wonít.
I think the advantage of building up a portfolio is less important for the publisher than it is for the author. When youíre trying to get published you can get a lot of knock-backs. If youíre not careful, you can find yourself
developing a real downer on your own work.
The worst thing for an aspiring writer is to lose confidence in themselves. A strong portfolio of work is a collection of success stories. Like a scrapbook of good memories that you can leaf through on a grey day. It helps
to remind you that you are good enough, that people have published your work and that you should keep at it.
How did you go about trying to get your book published? Did you start by trying to find a literary agent, or did you approach publishers direct (and did you secure your deal directly, or through an agent)?
I think I did it the long and convoluted way.
Originally I didnít really distinguish between agents and publishers. I started off scouring the
firstwriter.com listings for anyone who accepted
email submissions because, letís face it, printing costs money.
I started an Excel database of who Iíd applied to, what Iíd sent them, when, and what their response was. Rejections in red, still waiting in amber and Ė finally Ė successes in green. My twelfth
"no" was a "yes" from a newly established publishing company.
Earlier on Iíd had a very polite rejection from an agent who entered into an interesting correspondence with me about the market for literary fiction. I hired him on a one-off basis to check through the contract before signing.
I still think this was a good move as I had no idea what the norm was, and he pointed out some useful alterations.
Once youíre published you can join the Society of Authors and they offer free contract services Ė but thatís not much good when youíre just setting out.
How did firstwriter.com help you in your search?
I think firstwriter.com is just a good all-round piece of kit. Iíve used it to enter
Possibly the most useful feature for me was that I could look for those that accept e-mail submissions. In this day and age it doesnít make a lot of sense wasting money by printing out the same work over and over.
And until a book is making money, you donít really want to be spending it.
I also like the fact that people leave reviews of agents and publishers. Iíve left a few myself and Iíve steered clear of those with dodgy reputations.
What kind of approach did you take when submitting to
Fairly early on I ignored the advice of applying to one publisher at a time. Some take between three to six months to reply. At that rate it would have taken me five years to meet my publisher. Itís a bit dog-in-a-manger to say
"we donít want it, but nobody else can consider it
I have to admit, Iíve written just about every type of approach letter itís possible to imagine. Iíve tried following guidelines, and Iíve tried begging.
If I had to pick a style, Iíd go for brevity and professionalism. Mention your previous work in the first paragraph, why this book is marketable in the second, and a brief synopsis in the third. End with a
"thank you for your consideration", hit send and go to the pub. Itís better for your own sanity not to keep reading back through submissions.
Thereís a fairly good Guide to Getting Published by the Rupert Heath Literary Agency. It costs about two pounds and includes a lots of useful insider tips:
Did you receive a lot of rejections?
You really want to tour the hall of shame?
I received ten straight rejections from agents. One sent a lovely handwritten message saying
"but I really liked it, though" – which was very sweet, but all I kept thinking was:
"if you like it, represent it!"
Another agent told me that, had it been ten years ago, he might have said yes. The problem being that I write literary fiction, rather than commercial.
After my lack of success with agents, I then sent off to two publishers. Very quickly I got a reply from one asking for the full
MS, and a couple of days later I was offered a contract.
I have to admit, I never had a nasty rejection. They were all either standard slips or polite replies.
Which publisher signed you in the end?
The publisher that took me on was Green Sunset
Books. Theyíre newly established, but I like that. Thereís a sense of possibility when you join a fresh venture. Everyoneís full of enthusiasm, and thereís a real vibe of camaraderie.
Books specialise in stories about travel. As I travel a lot, most of my stories draw on those experiences. So for me theyíve been a great introduction to the industry. Weíre reading from the same page, as it were.
What tips would you give other writers searching for a
Trust your own instincts. If you think your work is good, then the chances are it is. Remember that rejections are just a marketing decision. It doesnít necessarily mean that your work is bad, just that it doesnít hit that
publisherís particular market.
For instance, Lionel Shriver mentioned at a literary festival that she received thirty rejections for We Need to Talk About Kevin. Which canít have been based on the quality of her story, otherwise it wouldnít have
gone on to become an international bestseller.
I think you have to foster a certain arrogance towards your own work. If youíre really set on running the gauntlet of rejections, then itís important not to lose your
mojo. If you know your work is good, then act like it. You have a product to sell to people who are in the market to buy. First come, first served. Donít deign to give away your own self-worth.
At the end of the day, if you do manage to exhaust every avenue of publishing, take a leaf out of D. H. Lawrenceís book. Nobody would take one of his works, so he self-published it and made a fortune. Amanda
Hocking is another fine example.
You always retain the right to prove others wrong, and never before has the opportunity been affordably available to so many.
And now that you've got your publisher, how are you
finding the publishing process?
The process? It makes writing the book feel like childís play. Nobody warns you about what comes next. Even with an excellent publisher like
Books, thereís quite a bit of work involved in getting it onto the page.
Iíd drawn a lot from contemporary culture of the 1920s and 30s. It gave the story an authentic feel, but also resulted in having to track down some impossible lyric reprint permissions. The total process took
four music companies nine months to complete. The upshot being that Iím now a budding expert on international copyright law Ė not out of choice, mind.
More commonly though, I think itís hard to maintain enthusiasm for your own work over such a long period of time. Stories are immediate and of-the-moment. Unfortunately, I think itís true that after youíve
re-read your work for the twentieth time, youíre ready to let it go; to release it into the wild. Babies are born to grow up and leave home. By the time it finally hits the shelves, youíre more than ready for your next adventure.
So are you already on your next adventure?
Well, Iíve written two other novels since then. Iíd also like to tear apart my first novel, the one that was shortlisted in 2009, and see whether I can improve upon it. The characters and the plot are both
very strong, but it is a little clumsy in parts.
It would be nice to attract an agent, but Iím through trying. Itís a bit like dating, you donít want to settle for the first person who comes along Ė you want to find someone whoís right for you.
At the moment Iím just enjoying myself on retreat in Poland and East Germany. Meeting artistic types and hanging out in post-communist bars, soaking up the atmosphere. Iím supposed to be writing, but right now
real life seems more interesting. Gathering inspiration, as I call it.
Well, good luck with the current book, and all your
For all the latest on the release of Angorichina
visit the author's website at www.authormgw.co.uk.
To search firstwriter.com's database of over 1,400
Canadian Short Screenplay Competition
winner "Rusted Pyre" to Bow at 17th Worldwide Short Film Fest
(left) as Sally and Samantha Somer Wilson (right) as Ginny in Rusted
©Seeing In The Dark Productions Inc. 2010
The Canadian Short Screenplay Competitionís 2008 3rd place script
"Rusted Pyre" written by Daniel Audet will have
its world premiere bow as part of the 17th annual Canadian Film Centreís Worldwide Short Film Festival May 31–June 5, 2011 in Toronto.
Regina, SKó The Canadian Short Screenplay Competition, the most prestigious name in short film script contests, has earned one more honour: a world premiere at the exclusive CFC Worldwide
Short Film Festival.
Selected from more than 4,150 submissions to WSFF, Rusted Pyre, originally a short film script penned by screenwriter Daniel Audet, was first entered as a screenplay to the Canadian Short
Screenplay Competition in 2008, where it eventually placed third beginning its current journey and eventual production.
CSSC founder and producer David Cormican (Minus Lara, Seeing In The Dark), attached director Laurence Cohen (Rocket Man) to helm the genre piece. The team of three, working on Rusted Pyre, also picked up distinction as
recipients of the National Screen Instituteís Drama Prize, where the screenplay underwent additional development in Winnipeg in 2010 before being shot later that Fall in Havelock, SK.
The Alberta team received financial support from the Alberta Foundation for the Arts to shoot the prairie piece, about two girls, Brooke Palsson (Less Than Kind) and Samantha Somer Wilson
(Nurse.Fighter.Boy), who venture out to an abandoned car in the middle of nowhere to endure a right of passage and a night of ghost story telling that turns terrifyingly all too real.
When asked for his reaction to first finding out about the honour of a premiere as an official selection at WSFF, one of only three Canadian festivals accredited by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences,
granting specific award-winners eligibility for Academy Awardsģ, BAFTAs, and Genie Award consideration, Cohen said ďWow. Mazletov. I just did a really big dance while making some, what Iím sure (were), pretty awkward
sounds. This is an amazing honour!Ē
This is the first screening for Daniel Audet, David Cormican, Laurence Cohen and the Canadian Short Screenplay Competition at the Worldwide Short Film Festival.
About The Canadian Short Screenplay Competition (CSSC)
The Canadian Short Screenplay Competition, administered by Year of the Skunk Productions (Regina), and established in 2008, is the premiere script contest for short film screenplays. CSSC is the single-most
competitive, prestigious, short screenplay festival in Canada, winner of the 2010 Canadian Weblog Award for Literature and Writing, a champion for screenwriters everywhere and a launching pad for writersí professional careers.
To search over 140 screenplay, poetry, and fiction
feedback, firstwriter.com has this month improved
database so that it is now not only possible to
exclude publishers that always charge fees, but also those
that charge fees on any occasion, producing a list of only
publishers that never charge authors any fees.
Because we think writers
serious about making a success of their craft should at
the very least start by focusing on publishers who never
charge authors fees, the new option has been set as the
default option. But why might you ever want to see
publishers who ever charge authors fees?
Well, the first reason is
to check up on the kind of company they are. Maybe you've
seen them somewhere else on the internet Ė you can find
them on firstwriter.com to see if they are ever
known to charge fees, and to see if other users have left
any further information about them.
There are also some
instances where self publishing companies have used their
proceeds from self publishing to start up traditional
royalty-paying publishers Ė but you always need to be
careful in such instances that the traditional publishing
wing isn't just being used as a front to attract authors
before passing most of them on to the self publishing
And finally, of course,
self publishing might be what you're after. If you want to
make a few copies of your memoirs, just to pass down to
your children, then there are companies out there that
will do that for you Ė for a fee.
But it can't be stressed
enough that if you're serious about you're writing Ė if
you want to be a novelist, a professional writer, or sell
your book in commercial volumes and make money from it Ė
then you need to look for a publisher that pays you Ė
not the other way round! Since most of our customers fall
into this category, we've made this the default option.
If, for any reason, you do want to see publishers that
charge fees you can just untick the "No Fees"
box on the standard search, or see the Advanced Search at https://www.firstwriter.com/publishers/advanced_search.shtml
for more options.
online writing community to launch soon
WriteSpread is a new online writing
community developed to accommodate all lovers of the written word, and strives to bring writers and readers together.
Writers will be able to publish their work, in draft or as final pieces, while allowing other passionate members to critique what they read. Feedback from others who enjoy reading, or who themselves
express their creativity through the written word, is the cornerstone of developing as a writer.
As a reader, you will find a range of imaginative and interesting work at your fingertips. Your hunger for original, creative pieces of writing will be satisfied as you follow your favourite writers
and become an admirer of others.
You can visit the site at www.WriteSpread.com and register your interest so that you will be kept up-to-date with the exciting and innovative features you can expect to
see on WriteSpread before launch.
After you have registered,
you can follow them on Twitter and like them on Facebook, where you will find the link to
their Facebook group:
For a creative community to thrive it needs enthusiastic members like you who can inspire, encourage and teach each other.
What do I
As I sit staring at the blank computer screen, I ponder: what do I write about? What kind of a silly question is that? I've been writing long enough to know that when writers are
faced with blockage or simply trying to find a saleable idea, we look within ourselves to our own interests. That's where the best stories lie.
We just need to tune out the noise around us and focus on our likes, our dislikes, our interests and hobbies, our jobs – what we love to do in our spare time – things of this nature. Before long,
the answer to our question is right before us, and that blank computer screen starts filling up as our fingers fly across the keyboard non-stop at a pace that makes us look down and see who's actually doing the typing!
There have been so many times during my career that writing was the furthest from my mind when I approached my computer. There have been times that ideas were popping out ninety-to-nothing, but because I wasn't
focused, they didn't end up on my computer screen or paper. Personal and private problems sometimes can deter us from being focused – even physical problems can cause this to happen.
Nevertheless there are ways to get your creative juices flowing, filling up that blank screen word after word.
Whatever your interests are is where we need to start. Follow me. This is how I do it:
My hobby is travel – I long to be on the open road all the time but money situations and work keep me closer to home more than I like. If I were rich (no where near it!), I'd burn up the pavement as
my mother use to tell me. But because my passion is travel, I do afford myself several trips a year to different places for one or two week intervals. And since my second passion (and part of my career)
is writing, what better way to find ideas to write about non other than in my travels.
Since travelling and writing are my passions, I decided to combine the two and become a part time travel writer. There are ideas everywhere! Although my travel writing experiences have only been for my journal,
I can look back and clearly see several article ideas shining forth from page after page of hand written journal entries about the beautiful (and not so beautiful) places that I visited last year on vacation with
I can write about my oldest grand daughter Breanna getting severely sunburned and having to go to the Emergency Room (two big giant blister bubbles popped up on her forearms overnight). An idea for a story here is
'Choosing the right sun block' or 'How to Treat Severe Sun Burn on Vacation without an ER' or 'Why Red Heads Sun Burn So Easily'. The ideas are endless. I wrote a children's story out of that one called 'Breanna
the Red Headed Woodpecker gets a Tan!'
Another series of article ideas are: 'Vacationing with the Grandchildren', or 'Choosing the right tent for families' or '10 Best Vacationing Spots in Colorado' or 'How to pack light for a camping trip'. The list
goes on and on.
Hundreds of article and story ideas are waiting to be transformed here and I don't have to leave my desk – I took the trip and recorded the details and have every kind of brochure and post card possible... I
captured the moments in my journal, in my mind and in my heart. Now, I should put them on paper.
How do I choose what to write about is more like it – there are endless possibilities here just waiting for me to sit down and start writing them. Story ideas are everywhere...
When you're sitting staring at your blank computer screen, and can't figure out what you know to write about, think about your own interests. What do you really feel passionate about? What are some of your
favourite hobbies or pass times? Do you sew, cross stitch, knit, or embroidery? Do you paint? Do you sing or play an instrument? Do you love cooking? Or designing?
Whatever your interests may be, there are hundreds of story ideas just waiting to be tapped. You just have to get your own creative juices flowing and let your creativity be your guide. Write about things that
interest you. Others are interested too and would love to read what you have written.
If you are still blocked and have nothing to write about, try this:
- FREE WRITE for 10 minutes whatever comes to mind. Try this several times until you have written for at least thirty minutes.
- READ, READ, READ. Read magazines for writers such as
Writer's Digest, The Writer, or Writer's
Journal, to name a few. Go online and subscribe to
(you can also sign
up to this free newsletter). Reading these magazines can help motivate you and get you writing again.
- Take a writer's class at the local college.
- Join a writer's group. Make friends with other writers in the group.
- Attend a writer's conference or workshop.
Whatever your interests may be, there's a storehouse of writing ideas just waiting for you to unleash them on paper. Let your creative juices take you to published heights you've never been before.
There's no better time than right now to start writing!
Marcella has been writing for many years and has
hundreds of published credits in several hundred small
press publications. She is working on several romance
suspense novels at this time. She is a member of
the Shreveport Wrter's Group and leader of the Ark-La-Tex
wrtier's group.She is the editor/publisher of the new
magazine Housewives' & Husbands' Writers Network - http://HousewifesWritersNetwork.homestead.com
writers at firstwriter.com
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