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Yesterday I spent the day at the Penguin Publishing headquarters in central Melbourne. I had enrolled to attend their inaugural ‘School of Popular Writing’, a full day workshop designed to give aspiring authors a better idea of what they need to do to get their manuscript published as well as an opportunity to meet people from the industry and two hugely inspiring and successful authors.

There were four speakers across the day. The first was Ali Watts, an Assistant Publisher at Penguin. She talked about what she looks for in a manuscript and in a submission/pitch letter, the sorts of things she expected from the author when a manuscript was acquired, the edits that were usually needed and lots more. She was a fantastic speaker, she was passionate about her job, about finding the next talented author.

The second speaker, Anne Gracie, is an accomplished historical romance writer. She’s won awards and gained wide recognition both in Australia, her home, and in the US where the genre is huge. She talked about herself, her process, and about how conflict is central to a riveting story. Anne was humble and grounded but somehow still larger than life. She did give out hand-outs which she said were a hangover from her days in teaching.

The third speaker was Fiona McIntosh, an author who had conquered both fantasy and historical sagas, also Australian she divides her time between Adelaide and Tasmania. Fiona talked about her process, about creating tension, and about the myth of writers’ block. Her energy and enthusiasm were contagious and her fly-by-the-seat-of-yours-pants style made her process sound easy, although I’m sure it isn’t (nor is it as chaotic as she seemed to imply)!

The last speaker of the day, Carol George, is a publisher with Destiny, a subsidiary of Penguin specialising in romance ebooks. She talked about all the hard work required from authors after they get the coveted book deal to publicise their work. She spoke about interviews and promoting yourself and her excitement about the industry was clear. In Carol’s opinion, while ebooks have challenged the bookstores and the publishing industry, they also open up a huge range of exciting possibilities, they give authors global markets, and most importantly they get people reading! She said it was a very exciting time to be a writer, a sentiment with which I’m sure all of the attendants at yesterday’s workshop would agree.

I was incredibly inspired and reassured by the passion and positivity of these four women. I left the sessions feeling like I had a piece of work which was worth working on and putting forward, that I had done a lot of the right things, and I learned a lot more things that would make getting my work out there easier. I was also given copies of Anne and Fiona’s new books along with some other Penguin goodies, so I will have to have a read of them.

I feel like I’ve been reinvigourated to continue writing. All of the speakers emphasised that it takes a lot of hard work to get there, but we’re all writers and we all deserve to call ourselves that. I know I have a long way to go still but I feel like I’m well on the way and that if I just keep pushing through I’ll get there one day.

I took lots of notes throughout the day, if anyone is interested in seeing them please let me know, I am happy to share the love!