My creative writing journey started in October 2014 when I came across a red book called Memento by Michael McQueen. The back cover blurb read: "Memento will require you to invest two of your most valuable assets: your time and your memories. Opening the pages, I found more than 100 questions regarding my life. I was intrigued and started to fill out the pages every night before bed. I soon realised that there were many gaps in my knowledge about my family history, and by the end of the year I knew what I wanted to do. I would start writing about my life in 2015.
But how? As I had no previous creative writing experience, I googled life writing courses and enrolled in a 6-week course with the Australian Writers Centre. More courses and workshops followed over time. I became a member of Writing NSW and the Australian Society of Authors and immersed myself in the writing and publishing world over the years. I visited the Sydney Writers Festival, publisher open days, and connected with other writers and authors. I pitched my story at several Literary Speed Dating sessions and kept working with my memoir-writing group, which emerged from my initial life-writing course. Six years later, I am still part of this group for mental support, accountability, and feedback to my work.
A moment that changed my life
During the past 5 years, my manuscript slowly transformed with each draft I wrote. The final version started forming after a life-changing Kahuna massage on the 31 December 2016. I followed the heat and started real-time writing as the year 2017 unfolded. In 2018, I made another attempt to pitch my story to the publishing industry. Rejection after rejection arrived in my inbox. I started questioning if anyone would ever want to read what I was writing.
Early 2018, I discovered a new passion: ballroom dancing. In the following months I spent more time in the dance school than anywhere else and realised how much joy dancing brought into my life. My writing project receded in the background and my manuscript disappeared in the drawer. I stopped working on my memoir altogether in 2019 when my year was dominated by dance events in Australia and overseas. But I felt deep in my heart that my story would eventually get out into the world.
And sometimes, you just have to be patient and surrender to life's guidance.
Writing during the pandemic
The Universe sent me a sign in January 2020. It was the 4th day of the New Year and I escaped to the cinema, as Sydney suffered under 40+ degrees heat. I ended up in Little Women. In the last scene, the protagonist held her printed book in her hands, the story of her life. In that moment, I knew it was time to take my manuscript out of the drawer and start writing again.
I emailed my writing group and joined the next meeting with a new chapter about the start of my dancing journey.
In February 2020, I submitted the first chapter of my memoir to an international writing competition, hosted by Exisle Publishing, with the title: A moment that changed my life. I sent it in and forgot about it.
In March, after Covid_19 had brought the world to a standstill, the Universe sent me another sign: One morning, I found an email from a publisher inviting me to join their 3-months mentorship program to develop my manuscript further. I signed up a few days later and started to edit my manuscript with the feedback from the publisher.
Milestones in my writing journey
A year later, in February 2021, I got notified that my submission to the writing competition was picked for the anthology The Turning Point, which the publisher released in October this year. I was over the moon, as this marked a significant milestone in my writing journey.
Only a couple of weeks later, mid-October 2021, I found another email in my inbox. This time, it was from a German publisher offering me a contract to publish my memoir Dare to Dance. It was a dancer who I had met in February this year in a ballroom group class who recommended this publisher to me after he had read one of my Facebook posts about the publication in The Turning Point.
I recently signed the contract and can't wait to hold my book in my hands in 2022. My vision for Dare to Dance is to inspire women to celebrate midlife.
Here are the 5 lessons I learned on the journey to becoming a published author:
Lesson #1: Seek professional help
After making the decision to write about my life, I had no idea where to start. Online research directed me to the Australian Writers Centre (AWC) where I enrolled in a Life Writing class with Patti Miller. A good decision, as the course helped me to get from zero to 75,000 words in about 10 months.
If you want to embark on a long-form writing project, I highly recommend enrolling in a course (check out AWC or Writing NSW) or engaging a writing coach to help you get off the ground. Ghostwriting is another option if writing is not your cup of tea at all.
Lesson #2: Establish a daily writing routine
Research found that establishing routines is the most powerful lever to achieve your goals.
The first thing I learned in the writing class was to get into the habit of daily writing by setting a goal to write 500 words a day. You can also choose to write for an hour, for example. The point is to sit down and start writing. Sometimes, the words flowed, other times they didn't and I kept staring at an empty screen for half an hour. The point is to get into the habit of doing it.
From this writing course, a memoir-writing group formed. Seven years later, I am still part of this group for mental support, accountability, and reader feedback.
Lesson #3: Surround yourself with like-minded people
You are the average of the five people you spend most of your time with. So make sure you choose these people wisely!
Apart from a writing group, this support group can also be a networking group, a book club, or any other group of positive people that lift you up and cheer you on.
Who are the five people you spend most time with?
After my initial writing class, I attended the advanced life-writing course six months later. Afterwards, I kept adding more stories to my memoir, and my manuscript evolved. The first draft is never the last one. A good rule of thumb is to write 3-4 drafts before submitting your work to a publisher.
The final version of Dare to Dance started emerging after my life-changing Kahuna massage on the 31 December 2016. As a result, I started real-time writing in 2017. After another year and draft, I pitched my story again to selected publishers, without success. Then, I got distracted by other things that came into my life at the time.
In 2018, I discovered ballroom dancing, which consumed most of my spare time in the following two years.
Lesson #4: Strengthen your mindset
One thing I learned in my Arbonne business is that it takes three things to be successful in any endeavour: belief, attitude, and commitment.
We attract what we believe. I made a decision to show up every day with an attitude of gratitude, to stay positive and to focus on the things that I can change, and to never give up.
In Jan 2020, while watching the movie Little Sisters, I got a sign from the Universe. It was during the last scene when the protagonist holds her printed book in her hands. At that moment, I knew I had to get my manuscript out of the drawer and keep working on it.
I re-joined my memoir-writing group and started adding chapters about my dancing journey. When I got an offer for a 3-month mentoring program with Exisle Publishing, I jumped in with both feet. I also submitted the first chapter of my memoir to an international writing competition called: A moment that changed my life. To my delight, my submission was picked for the anthology The Turning Point, which was released in October 2021.
One of my writing goals in 2021 was to pitch my book to ten publishers by 30 June, which I did. At the same time, I started with daily affirmations that I would find a publishing solution for Dare to Dance in 2021. Once you put your wish to the Universe, it will start working.
Only a couple of weeks after the publication of The Turning Point, I found an email in my inbox with a publishing offer for my memoir from a commercial publisher. I was excited and had to pinch myself that this had happened. MBW Publishing was recommended to me by a dancer friend, who I had met briefly at a group class at Sydney Ballroom (which is not my usual dance studio) in Feb this year. This friend is part of my FB group and saw my post about the publication in The Turning Point. He messaged me to say that his dance partner was a publisher and that he would be delighted to make an introduction.
I connected with MBW Publishing and submitted my pitch in August. In October, I signed my contract with them and my memoir will be published in 2022.
Believe in yourself, show up with an attitude of gratitude, and commit one hundred per cent, even when times get tough. I like this quote from Ryan Holiday's book Ego is the Enemy: Be humble in your aspirations, be gracious in your success, and be resilient in your failures.
Lesson #5: Surrender to life and never give up
Sometimes, the answers to our questions come from the most unexpected places. I would never ever have thought that I find a publisher in my dancing community. But that is what happened. The moral of the story:
Quitters never win, and winners never quit!
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