Meet the Author: Glennys Marsdon

Glennys’s top tip for aspiring authors: While it’s nice, and helps, to be professionally published and win awards, there are plenty of books out there that haven’t been, and yet they’ve gone on to make a huge impact on people’s lives. It’s more important to just enjoy the process of writing regardless of the outcome, and if your writing has an impact on you, chances are it will impact others too. So grab a coffee, a packet of Tim Tams, open a Word document and just start typing. Then rinse and repeat. And when doubt creeps in, as it will, seek out other writers for support.

gmIt’s my great pleasure today to introduce the inspirational Glennys Marsdon, owner of consumer psychology consultancy The Customers’ Voice, who has more than 20 years’ experience researching human behaviour. This has resulted in marketing campaigns for clients like HBF and ECU, plus investigation into social issues including domestic violence and drug/alcohol abuse. In 2012 she was nominated for the Telstra Business Women’s Awards and she now sits on several Boards. Her writing life began in the ‘90s as editor of the Australian Red Cross Youth News Magazine. Her first short story won the Stirling Literary Award and her first book, 50 Ways To Grieve Your Lover, received international success after being used in the NZ Pike Mine Disaster. The book also resulted in her being profiled in marketing guru Seth Godin’s worldwide search for people making a difference. Her second book Me Time: 100 Strategies For Guilt Free Me Time won a People’s Choice Award and her blog The Ponder Room was read in more than 60 countries within the first six months. She has a monthly column in a local magazine, regularly writes for the City of Perth and contributes to a number of other outlets. Two years ago she started Personal Branding workshops which apply her business knowledge to uncovering the essence of a person’s brand.

Follow Glennys on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write? For the past 20 years I’ve been writing business reports on anything from ice cream to domestic violence and sewerage pumps. Apart from helping bring new products to market, or ads to the television, the main reason for writing these reports was to ensure my pantry was never bereft of tins of tuna. In the fast paced consulting world, it wasn’t uncommon to have 12 large projects on the go at the same time. In the past as the deadlines accumulated my mind would escape into silly stories which I used to email off to a handful of colleagues who were also working through the night. The stories worked as a kind of release valve from all the heavy thinking. Years on, the advent of blogging has proved an ideal portal for my chattering monkey mind. I love getting caught up in the rhythm of the words and the surprise journeys they take me on, especially when they reward me with a giggle at the end.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? At five foot five and with a middle age spread I guess modelling is out of the question. My genetic composition also rules out artist, musician or sports star and, thanks to an aversion to embarrassment, acting. The ability to feel seasick in the bath limits any water based activities, and the bombardment of ideas constantly penetrating my brain renders mindful Yogi unlikely. Since I draw the line at academia, I guess that leaves me with the corporate world, and spending more time on my consumer psychology work, which brings me back to research and business writing … doh! So short answer, no idea.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? A deep lack of confidence, (spawned out of a high school teacher declaring that I couldn’t read, and a university professor saying I couldn’t write), that made pushing the send button unbearable. That was until I stumbled upon an editor prepared to take a chance. So confidence and the ability to get your work seen.

How involved have you been in the development of your book? Did you have input into the cover/illustrations? My first book was in part a tribute to my artist partner Michael Collins who passed away, so it was important to keep control over how his images were used. As a result, I chose to go down the self-publishing route, which also allowed me to avoid the soul destroying pile of rejection letters. I thoroughly enjoyed the process, and learnt a lot about what goes on behind the scenes, so have continued to self-publish.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? For fiction it’s about getting lost in the rhythm of the words and being entertained by where they take you. For non-fiction it’s realising that a few squiggles on a blank page can have immense power. They can even help people get through the most difficult of times.

—the worst? The perception, among some, that writers can sustain a life when writing or speaking for free; they wouldn’t expect the same from their plumber. That and the endless but necessary editing.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? Read more. Reading teaches you all the essentials, like character, structure, language, tone, setting and more importantly how your writing compares to those who get published. I’d also get out from behind the computer more and meet other writers earlier on in the journey. Trying to work it out yourself is exhausting, especially when there are writing groups out there that teach you the craft, show that you’re not alone, and that published authors aren’t any different to you, although I suspect they eat less tuna.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? Don’t worry about what people think, not everyone will like what you write, some might hate it, and you only need a few loyal readers to start you on your way.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? When the first editor who paid me for my writing retired, I told her that I’d enjoyed working with her and would like to get similar work with other editors, but was too scared to approach them. She pointed out that I’d managed to contact her and added, ‘I wasn’t scary, most of the time.’

BOOK BYTE

50 ways50 ways to grieve your lover

Glennys Marsdon

‘For three days after death, hair and fingernails continue to grow but phone calls taper off.’ Johnny Carson.

After the loss of a loved one, be it the death of a partner, child, pet, or divorce, people experience a 12 month fog, not knowing what to expect. This is not helped by the fact that as a society we avoid talking about death. At 43 Glennys Marsdon suddenly found she was a widow. As a qualified psychologist she drew on more than two decades of experience researching human behaviour to investigate what was ahead of her. A year later when a good friend asked for advice she fired off an email titled ’10 Things I’ve Learnt’. The 10 things grew to 50 and when more people called for advice she realised the emails had to be shared. Written as a series of 50 short light-hearted emails to a friend, the book focuses on the first 12 months after loss. It contains 100 tips, 85 quotes and cartoons from her partner Michael Collins (dec.)

Other books include: Me Time: 100 Strategies For Guilt Free Me Time; Freelance Life: An Action Plan To Become a Successful Six Figure Freelancer; Pondering Life Series

The books are available from www.glennysmarsdon.com

The 50 Ways  E book version can be purchased on Amazon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Meet the Author: Deb Rae

Deb’s top tip for aspiring authors: Believe in yourself.  Everyone writes well some days, and not so well on other days.  Focus on why you’re writing, and what you will produce for your reader. Then write with all your passion and heart.

DRae - Photo - 7 Apr 15My guest today is Deb Rae, bereavement expert and author of Getting There: Grief to Peace for Young Widows. Deb’s learning started through personal experience when she decided to quit her day job at age 36 and travel the world with her husband Stuart. However, Stuart was killed in a road accident in Poland and Deb found herself thrust into a slow, confusing, painful, personal transformation. Everything changed for her. She had to find a new home, a new job, a new country. As a result of her experience she found herself thinking a lot about how life works and the ways people deal with change. Deb’s transformation process took her back to university, out to a little farmhouse and back overseas. She was also invited into the homes and workplaces of many other people looking for better lives, stronger teams and more productive businesses.

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why did you feel there was a need to write this book? I have always preferred to express myself through writing.  After my husband Stuart died, I started writing even more than ever.  I struggled to understand what was happening to me in my grief, and had no idea how to talk about it.  So I wrote.  At first it was just for me to process the confusion and pain, but then I began to realise that my stories would be useful for others experiencing a confounding loss.

After Stuart died, I also looked around for books to help me, but found they were too sentimental, abstract, or just told the grieving person’s story.  I also couldn’t find any books for young widows written by an Australian.  I wanted to get the low-down about grief.  I wanted the raw, honest truth.

I decided to produce a book that was a resource for other young women; that told real stories about what happens when you’re grieving, had lots of suggestions for action and had a sense of humour.  I spoke with many other young widows whose quotes in my book are as real as you can get.

What was your greatest personal challenge in writing it? People often asked me if writing the book was cathartic and maybe at first it was.  But a lot of the time it was actually pretty painful.  To write about what it’s like to grieve, I had to relive many experiences I’d rather forget.

So I procrastinated!  I was also still working full-time and dreaded coming home to have to think about the worst days of my life all over again. There were many nights and weekends when I ate lots of ice-cream and wrote very little. It took years to produce just a few chapters.

Finally I gave myself a deadline.  I sent my family and friends an invitation to a party that was five months away – when I would introduce the first draft of my book.  And it worked!  I gained some momentum and finished the book relatively quickly.

Were there any obstacles to having the book published? I talked to other authors and did a lot of research about how to publish the book. Over the 10 years it took me to finish the book, the publishing world changed quite dramatically.  More books were being self-published and e-books became far more popular.

I eventually decided to self-publish so I could have more control over the layout and marketing of the book.  I also had a mentor who helped me through the process, shared contacts and advised me about potential pitfalls.  There were many decisions to be made and I learned about a lot of things I’d never heard of before.

How involved have you been in the book’s development? Did you have input into the layout/cover/illustrations? I had full control over designing the layout of the book, its cover and the photos that are included.  My book is intended to be an honest conversation between two grieving people – the reader and me.  It’s also resource where a grieving woman will write her deepest secrets and come back to many times over many years.  It therefore had to be inviting, beautiful and make a connection. That’s why the cover shows a group of women holding hands and walking a long road together, all the pages have a beautiful design overlay and the book includes photos of my husband and myself so the reader can really see who I am.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to write your book? Not to take on the whole project as a huge single task. Every time I sat at my desk, I’d think to myself that I had to write a whole book, which was incredibly daunting!

I eventually worked out how to break the book down into chapters and sub-chapters. Each day I would focus on writing a couple of sub-chapters, which seemed much more manageable. Or I would just go with whatever creative flow turned up on a given day and write what appealed to me in that moment. That writing was always the best I did.

If you were writing it now, what would you do differently? I’d doubt myself less and recognise my achievements more. I wouldn’t wait until I thought I was ‘ready’ because that day never comes.  I’d just start. I’d also connect with other writers and get more feedback about my writing from people I trust to be honest with me.

How do you hope your book will contribute to a greater understanding of grief? My intention is that people understand grief more, are aware of the misconceptions we can hold about grief and are more comfortable about talking about death and dying. I talk in my book about the importance of recognising that grief is an individual journey.  We do it in our own time, in our own way.

Social perceptions about how long grief should take, how much we should cry and how we should be strong can actually make dealing with a loss even more difficult. Understanding that we don’t have to have all the answers when we’re supporting someone who’s grieving can be a great relief. You just need to be with the person and give them the space to experience their grief in whatever way it’s happening for them.

My book is honest, real and will make you laugh. I created it this way so people who are grieving, and the people who support them, can really understand what grief is like, and not be so afraid of it. When we have that shared understanding, we can talk about grief more (without relying on misconceptions). That will make life easier for everyone.

What do you think you would be doing now if your life hadn’t taken this path? I would probably be writing policies and procedures for not-for-profit organisations all over Mackay!  My life would certainly not be so fulfilled and I wouldn’t have the same level of confidence I have in myself now.

It wouldn’t even matter if my book was truly terrible – it’s more about the fact that I had a big goal and I kept on going until I achieved it.  I think that, whatever our goal is, fighting to make it a reality is one of the greatest things we can do as a human being.

Because of this expanded confidence, I’ve since taken on many other goals and had many other experiences that wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t written the book.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? The people I get to meet who have read my book. We’ve both been through grief and instantly have a connection. They include young widows, but also people who have divorced, given up a child for adoption or older widowed men. I love having the opportunity to support people in a meaningful way and help them feel understood.

—the worst? Trying to decide what to write about next!  I have lots of ideas and not enough time to do work associated with my current book as well as start writing another one.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I wouldn’t be so hard on myself. I’d understand that some days you get into the groove and produce some excellent work. Other days are more of a struggle and far less productive. You need to keep perspective on the overall goal and have realistic expectations (especially if you’re holding a paying job at the same time).

I’d also develop more of a routine. Having certain habits or routines can get you into a head space that is conducive to creativity and writing. Set up your work space, use a certain pen or computer, and follow a few set activities before you start writing. The routine subconsciously gets your mind ready to jump into the desired activity.

What’s the best writing advice you were ever given? Write from the heart. Whenever I obsessed about whether my writing was good enough, my writing was terrible!  I finally learned to just focus on saying (through my writing) what I really knew needed to be said.  Then my words were authentic, powerful and meaningful.

What do you read for enjoyment? I love to read autobiographies. I also find myself reading a lot about neuroscience, neuroplasticity and the latest theories from world renowned psychologists. I find human beings and our minds fascinating and we’re learning so much more now than we ever knew.

If you could sit down and have a chat with any writer past or present, who would it be and why? Stephen Fry. I love his honesty, authenticity and willingness to talk openly about his life experiences, which may be perceived as successes and failures. This is the way I’d like for all of us to be able to talk about grief. I enjoy Stephen Fry’s intellect and sense of humour.  He also doesn’t pretend to be something he isn’t (or so it appears!) and he fully embraces every experience life offers him.  That reminds me of my late husband.

BOOK BYTE

Getting There - Cover

Getting there: Grief to Peace for Young Widows

Deb Rae

When your world is rocked by disaster where do you go? What do you do? How do you go on? In her words, Deb sucks as a widow.  She kicked, screamed, ran away.  She felt alone, overwhelmed and thought she’d never be happy again. Deb’s husband was killed in a random accident while they were living overseas.  In an instant, she lost her best friend and had to leave behind her home, her job and her dreams.  She gets how horrible life becomes as a young widow, how you wonder if you’re going crazy and whether there’s any hope for a better future.

Her real, honest and revealing words connect with your pain. Then make you laugh. She helps you understand why you feel the way you do and that it’s (almost) all ‘normal’.  And she helps you dig deep into your own strength so you can take another step into your future. All this is backed up with lots of practical survival tips tested by many other young women.

The book is available here.

 

 

Meet the Author: Roslyn Russell

Roslyn’s top tip for aspiring authors: Be critical of your writing and be prepared to knock out sections that are not working – be ruthless, and not self-indulgent. Your writing will benefit from this enormously.

ros-lovely-photo-2Roslyn Russell is a historian and curator who operates a consultancy which undertakes historical and museum projects. Roslyn has written books on Australian history and literature, including Literary Links between Australia and Britain (Allen & Unwin, 1997), Ever, Manning: Selected Letters of Manning Clark 1938-1991 (ed.) (Allen & Unwin, 2008), and The Business of Nature: John Gould and Australia (National Library of Australia, 2011).

Museum exhibition development has taken Roslyn to Barbados, where she has worked on two major exhibitions – the Museum of Parliament and National Heroes Gallery in Bridgetown; and Exchange: A Place of Mystery and Discovery for the Central Bank of Barbados. She collaborated with Alissandra Cummins and Kevin Farmer in compiling Plantation to Nation: Caribbean Museums and National Identity (Common Ground Press, Champaign, Illinois, 2013). Barbados also inspired her novel, Maria Returns: Barbados to Mansfield Park (Bobby Graham Publishers, 2014); and Barbados: More Than A Beach (2011) (free on iTunes).

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write? For two reasons: one prosaic, one not so. I often write books that have been commissioned, for example, High Seas & High Teas: Voyaging to Australia was commissioned by the National Library of Australia, which also published another book of mine, The Business of Nature: John Gould and Australia (2012).

On the other hand, I also write books on subjects for which I have a passion. My first novel, Maria Returns: Barbados to Mansfield Park (Bobby Graham Publishers, 2014) was inspired by my love of the novels of Jane Austen and my experience of working in the Caribbean nation of Barbados, where I gained a much greater understanding of the nature of slavery and its immense contribution to underpinning the wealth of many British families, including the fictional Bertrams of Mansfield Park. I am currently working on a novel about another of my interests – small museums and their collections, and the people who work in them.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? Actually, I can’t imagine not writing – everything I do, in my personal and professional life, involves writing, including books, museum exhibition text and reports on museum collections. I would be an entirely different person if I were not a writer.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? I have to say that I haven’t had many problems, mainly because I usually write commissioned history books, and have been fortunate enough to have had them published by mainstream publishers such as Allen & Unwin, HarperCollins and the National Library of Australia. My first novel was produced by a small publisher, but I have never tried to break into the mainstream of published fiction. That would be another challenge again.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? Being caught up in a subject and enjoying planning and visualising how it should be written. I have spent many productive hours plotting the next chapters of my novels or historical works while on long plane flights or during long-distance car travel. It is the best use of this otherwise ‘dead time’ that I know of.

—the worst? I’m sure everyone says this – writing to meet a deadline.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? Probably not take on as many writing projects at the one time, and learn to say ‘no’ a bit more. But I am not good at taking my own advice – every project sounds interesting and too good to let go.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? No matter how hard you try to encompass all evidence and viewpoints, and how many disclaimers you make, people will always misinterpret you if they want to, and tell you that you should have written your book differently. Don’t be surprised and upset if and when this happens.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? Just start writing – you can always go back and refine it later, but it is important to get those first thoughts down and then it will begin to flow.

BOOK BYTE

High Seas and High TeasHigh Seas & High Teas

Roslyn Russell

National Library of Australia

 

‘The rats I frighten away by throwing books or anything hard at the spot at which they commence their gnawing,’ wrote emigrant Janet Ronald in her journal kept aboard the Invincible in 1857.

Packed in cheek by jowl with fellow passengers and crew, life on board the ships transporting convicts and free settlers from Britain and Ireland to Australia in the nineteenth century was rigidly defined by social class: lower-class passengers dined on homemade concoctions of mutton fat pudding and preserved potatoes, while those traveling first-class enjoyed elaborate multi-course dinners, including fresh meat, slaughtered on board.

Navigating the social mores on these giant floating microcosms was only half the story. Amid the chronicles of flirtations and hijinks, odours and rats, nineteenth-century diaries capture tales of despotic captains, disease and domestic discord. From those sailing under servitude to emigrants seeking a new life, the people who braved the journey changed Australia.

The book is available here.