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PCWC Emerging Writers Program – Manuscript Editing Workshop

Hello, we are Steph and Antonella, year 12 students from Sacred Heart College, and we are completing 55 hours of work experience at the Peter Cowan Writers Centre located on the ECU Joondalup campus. We have been invited to write an article about the Manuscript Editing Workshop being held by the centre. There are four facilitators who have been requested to guide three candidates each. Michele Drouart, Annabel Smith, Natasha Lester and Laurie Steed are the four writers/editors that accepted the centre’s invitation to mentor these candidates who are wishing to gain further knowledge of proofreading, copyediting, and any information relevant to cleaning up a final copy of a manuscript before it is submitted to publishers.

Each mentor has a different background and is able to offer a different insight into the world of preparing a manuscript for submission.

Michele Drouart was born in Sydney. She lived overseas for several years before returning to Australia where she settled in Perth. Her memoir Into the Wadi, a winner of the WA Premier’s Book Award, tells of the year she spent in a Muslim Arab village in Jordan. Michele manages her own business teaching courses in Creative Writing (beginner to advanced). She is also a freelance editor, with focus on assessments and editing for aspiring writers.

Annabel Smith is the author of US bestseller Whiskey & Charlie, digital interactive novel/app The Ark, and A New Map of the Universe. She has been an invited guest, as panellist and chair, at Ubud Writers festival, Melbourne Writers Festival, Perth Writers Festival, Sydney Writers Festival, Australian Short Story Festival, Scribblers and regional festivals in Albany and Margaret River. She holds a PhD in Writing from Edith Cowan University, and is an Australia Council Creative Australia Fellow. She teaches creative writing for the Australian Writers Centre, and regularly run workshops at libraries and writers centres including Writers VIC and KSP Writers Centre.

Natasha Lester is the USA Today bestselling author of The Paris Seamstress, as well as Her Mother’s Secret and A Kiss from Mr Fitzgerald. Her fourth historical novel, The French Photographer, will be published on 26 March, 2019 in Australia and on 17 September, 2019 in North America, where it will be called The Paris Orphan. She is published by Hachette Australia, Grand Central in America and Little, Brown in the UK. Natasha lives in sunny Perth, Western Australia.

Laurie Steed is the award-winning author of You Belong Here, published in 2018, and the editor of Shibboleth and other stories, published in 2016. His fiction has been broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and has appeared in Best Australian StoriesAward Winning Australian WritingThe Review of Australian FictionThe AgeMeanjinWesterly, IslandThe Sleepers Almanac, and elsewhere. He currently teaches short fiction for Writers Victoria and has previously worked in advisory roles for the Small Press Network, The Emerging Writers Festival and The Australia Council for the Arts. He also mentors through Westerly, The Centre for Stories, and The Peter Cowan Writers Centre, and teaches at The Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers’ Centre.

The morning of the workshop began at 10:30 with both mentors and mentees arriving at the centre for morning tea, which consisted of cakes, coffee and tea. In the meeting room, each participant introduced themselves, their writing genre of choice and provided some background knowledge of themselves. After the meet and greet, Keith, who is the acting president/treasurer, brought the participants across to Building 21 where they were shown their assigned spaces to work with their mentors. Morning tea was once more provided during a short 15-minute break which ended at 12:00. After the break, participants commenced working on their manuscripts for one and a half hours after receiving direct feedback from their mentors. During this time mentees were able to ask their ready and waiting mentors any questions they had. The participants later enjoyed a half hour lunch break in the building which was BYO.

The workshop group discussion commenced around 2PM. This allowed the mentees to speak about what the most valuable thing they learnt was and how this was of use to them. Participants learnt important factors in writing such as: the balance between over explaining and under explaining, structural notes and examples of filter words, grammar and punctuation overviews and plot and pacing. Mentees felt extremely encouraged and inspired by their mentors as they gave both positive affirmations and relevant feedback that will improve their work. Mentees expressed that they did not only want reassurance and gentle feedback, but they were there to be informed of what needed to be fixed and what could be changed. There was mutual trust and respect between mentors and mentees, showing acceptance and welcoming throughout the experience. Candidates were then given the opportunity to ask questions regarding anything they wished. Such as, writing schedules and timetables, success in foreign countries, publishers and editors and the outcome of publishing audio books.

This experience of witnessing writers and editors mentor participants was fulfilling and helped us gain an understanding of the workshops that are held by the Peter Cowan Writers Centre. We were able to see what work goes in behind the scenes and the time and effort put into ensuring the day runs smoothly and something is gained by each candidate. The mentors and mentees were lovely and were very easy to get along with, ensuring to include us in the group discussion at the end of the day.

Overall, this was a rewarding experience for both of us and we thoroughly enjoyed sitting in throughout the workshop.

  • Steph Fernandez and Antonella Puntel (Sacred Heart College)

This workshop is a part of the Four Centres Emerging Writers Program, supported by the State Government through the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries.