Getting Author Talks: How to Pitch Your Book

In 2020 I was lucky enough to win a place on the Fremantle Press/Four Centres Emerging Writers Program which gave me a year-long pass into some incredible workshops and opportunities in the Perth writing community. One of those was being a fly-on-the-wall at the Fremantle Press Breakfast, an annual event where recently published (and upcoming) Fremantle Press authors gave their pitch to an assembled room of event planners, booksellers, school reps and librarians.

Last time I was wearing my writing hat.  This year when I attended, I was wearing my bookseller’s hat.

The article I wrote in 2020 covered some of the lessons I took away as a writer on how to pitch your book – and yourself – in a limited time. The authors were given only two minutes to create a compelling story about why they should be hired for author events. As I watched another cohort of authors present their novels, I took away some new lessons, and this is the updated article.

Given that the ASA recommends a rate of $300+ for a 60-minute school or public appearance, this fee can be the equivalent of selling 100 books. For picture book authors like myself, who share royalties with an illustrator, that can be the equivalent of selling over 170 books.

It’s clear why authors are keenly interested in author talks and school appearances.

These are some of the lessons I took away:

  1. Be funny.

There is no better way to get people on your side than to make them laugh. Not only does it tell people you’re comfortable in front of a crowd, it also tells potential bookings that you won’t bore them silly.

2. If you can’t be funny, be memorable

Sometimes the subject matter of your book means it’s not appropriate to tell gags, but you can still grab people in other ways. Tell highly emotive or personal stories about yourself and how your book came into being. Make them remember you, even if they can’t remember your specific book.

3. Be authentic

If you’re not a funny person, don’t try and tell jokes. If you’re not 12, don’t do cartwheels to get to the front of the room, if your natural style is to be serious and quiet, then be serious and quiet. It’s important to be authentic in your pitch – while you might be able to sustain a high-energy, joke-a-second style for a two-minute pitch, you will quickly be found out if you can’t replicate it for an hour-long talk.

4. Pitch yourself as well as your book

The most successful pitches were those where I learned more about the author than the book. It’s possible you will have another book next year, but you – the author – are still the same. It doesn’t matter how amazing your book is, if you haven’t sold yourself as an interesting speaker.

If you are bilingual, pitch in another language. If you are dual-heritage, make it known. If you have a disability, share it with the audience. Won a major award? Don’t be shy. What makes you unique? Why will people remember you?

5. Tell a story about your story

Personally, my favourite pitches were those that started with the story behind the story, where the author launched into a personal account of how the idea came about, how the book came to be. I was immediately captured. It’s one thing to say what your book is about, an entirely different thing to explain why it is the way it is.

6. Talk in themes

If you only have two minutes to grab someone’s attention, you don’t have time to explain the plot in detail. A number of authors took the approach of talking about the book’s themes rather than its plot – ‘it’s a story of love, it’s a story of societal expectation, it’s a story of challenging authority…’.

Trying to tell the audience your entire synopsis can easily backfire. A two-minute pitch is not the right place to go into the detailed backstory and relationships of a cast of thousands and can come across as boring, even if your book is the best thing to be published all year.

7. Be mysterious

Some presenters chose not to talk about the plot at all. Not a single hint of what the story might be about, just a plea to read the book and an invitation for the audience to make their own mind up. This only works in certain circumstances and when other information has been provided, but done authentically, it certainly piques the audience’s interest.

8. Go beyond the book

Some of the more established authors took the approach of mentioning the bigger topics they liked to discuss. These were not tied specifically to their latest book, but were topics they had been researching and involved with over their writing career and felt passionate about. These pitches seemed particularly aimed at festival directors who might engage authors to moderate or be involved in panel discussions.

9. Make your book relevant

Some of the best pitches did not just focus on the book as a finite product, but placed it into the larger context of current affairs such gender diversity, reconciliation, environmental concerns, disability, LGBTIQ issues and humanitarian matters. Broadening your book’s appeal by placing it into a larger context would automatically increase the range of events you might be asked to speak at.

10. Name Drop

This obviously won’t work for every writer or every book, but if your book is about someone famous, or they were involved in the writing, or they’re your second cousin’s next-door neighbour, drop their name and watch the heads start nodding in the audience.

11. Locate your book’s audience

One small thing I notice lacking from some pitches in 2020, was explaining exactly who the book’s audience was. I could see from the cover it was a children’s or YA book, but could not tell exactly what age group the book was for. For someone interested in booking a school talk, I imagine this piece of information would be very relevant.

The authors in 2023 nailed this element including being very direct and saying ‘this book would be excellent for Baby Rhyme Time’ which I thought was particularly clever.

12. Locate your book’s characters

As writers, we are often asked to say where our book would sit in a bookshop, but until this year, I hadn’t heard any of the pitching authors do this in their two minutes. Particularly useful for novels, referencing well-known literary figures is a great way for the audience to instantly locate your book and know what to expect.

13. Appeal to other writers

Some of the authors specifically pitched to writerly audiences, barely mentioning their books but instead talking about some of the topics they would be happy to discuss at workshops and writing events. Some of these might be researching specific topics, writing for particular audiences or writing in a distinctive style.

14. Fake it til you make it

Writers that stood up and looked calm (even if they were dying inside) and sounded unrehearsed (even if they’d been practicing for weeks) gave off a more confident air than those who read from notes. I can only assume that the people who book author events are looking for writers who don’t need to spend an hour staring at their notes. Practice practice practice. It doesn’t need to be word-perfect, just know the main messages you want to get across and then pretend you’re chatting to a friend.

15. Weddings, Parties, Anything

As obvious as it sounds, you need to make clear the range of events you are available to speak at. There’s more out there than just school and library talks. Some writers mentioned business and motivational events, book clubs, running writing or illustrator workshops, mentoring and more. Specifically mention writing festivals and panels if that’s what you want. Also be explicit about the things you don’t do, such as running workshops.

More and more, writers are using some of their pitch time to give an abbreviated CV, mentioning relevant jobs BW (before writing) such as if they had been a teacher, a journalist or had personal experience of the topics and themes of the book. If your job gives you experience with public speaking, definitely mention it. This all acts to reinforce and reassure event planners that you will be able to do a good job of teaching/informing/entertaining your audiences. Similarly, if you have experience talking at Writer’s Festivals and speaking on panels, mention this, as people will know you’re a good hire.

If you’re brand new to this with zero experience, see #14.

Many thanks to Fremantle Press and Dymocks Subiaco for inviting me to this event.

Sold a Story – Podcast Review

Sold a Story: How Teaching Kids to Read Went So Wrong is a six-part podcast series from American Public Media, hosted by Education Reporter Emily Hanford. It is a fascinating history of the hugely influential and widespread reading theory developed by New Zealander Marie Clay.

You might recognise some of the programs her theory has spawned: Reading Recovery. Guided Reading. Leveled Literacy Intervention. Programs that have made their founders – and the publishing company – millions of dollars.

More than 125 people were interviewed as part of the podcast which is available for download here: Sold a Story: How Teaching Kids to Read Went So Wrong | Podcast ( but Clay was not one of them. Hanford repeats a few times that she was unable to reach or convince the four women on which the series focuses, to be interviewed for the podcast.

The podcast starts during the pandemic in the US, when for the first time, parents were listening in to their children’s school lessons as they did them online. And some parents were shocked by what they heard. Their children were being encouraged to guess words based on strategies such as looking at the picture, looking at the first letter of the word and thinking about words that might make sense in the context.

When the children were confronted with a novel word without those cues and strategies to help, they could not read it. Forums of concerned parents sprang up across the country – why were their children’s schools not teaching them to read?

We are then introduced to Marie Clay, who was undertaking a doctorate at the University of Auckland in the 1960s when she designed a study to try and understand what was happening with children who were struggling to read. Not only did she study poor readers, but she studied strong readers and she was convinced that the one thing these good readers didn’t do was get stuck on letters, or sound the words out. Instead, she thought they used a whole language approach, looking at cues in the text – skimming the word, using the pictures, studying the context and syntax of the sentence, noting the starting letter – before confirming the meaning of the word, and hence ‘reading’ the word.

So in 1976, Marie Clay developed a reading program based on her study, teaching struggling readers the cues that strong readers used. She called it Reading Recovery.

By 1984, Reading Recovery had caught the attention of professors in the United States and before long, teachers across the country – and the globe – were being trained in Clay’s program. By the end of 1990s, it was being used in one in five schools in America, and early results seemed promising; 95% of struggling readers given the Reading Recovery program in Year 1 would get up to the average reading level of their class.

But at the same time, as scientists were using new tools such as brain scans and eye-tracking, other researchers were testing Clay’s theories – in particular, the idea that good readers merely skimmed the letters in a word, and that they were not using them in a meaningful way when reading. And the result of that research? It was becoming very clear that Clay’s theory of reading was wrong.

The podcast talks about Bruce McCandliss’ 2015 study, which looked at how different teaching methods affected the outcome of learning a language. A completely new written language was invented for the project and one group were taught the relationship between the symbols and sounds (phonics) while the other group were taught to read by looking at the whole word and asked to memorise them. They then mapped what was happening in the brains of people using the different methods of reading.

How a person is taught affects what areas of the brain they use to read. And you want to use the parts of your brain that are going to be most efficient and effective at helping you map words into your memory. Because that’s how you become a good reader. You’re not using your brain power to identify the words. You’re using your brain power to understand what you’re reading. And that’s the goal. (Emily Hanford)

What was happening in effect, she claims, was that teachers were being trained to teach children to read using the same strategies that poor readers use. Clay was wrong when she said that it was skilled readers who used cues in the text. She was actually describing the way poor readers try to determine words, and so her Reading Recovery method was training teachers to reinforce these inferior strategies.

But the program was almost universally taught in universities and by 2000, Hanford reports there were still only two phonics programs in the US that were based on scientific research. One of these was Reading First, initially developed during the 1960s. The idea that you had to teach children simple sounds was considered very old-fashioned and unpopular, but there were a handful of powerful supporters of the method, including US President, George W. Bush.

In 2001 the President was filmed when visiting one of the few schools in the US teaching the Reading First program. You’ve probably seen the video without realising it, regardless of whether you’re interested in reading instruction or not. The video shows the President sitting in front of a group of children when one of his advisors leans in and whispers something in his ear. The President looks stunned, shocked – it is clear he is no longer listening to the children read. He’s just been told the World Trade Centre has been hit by an airplane.

The podcast goes on to introduce the enormous funding program that Bush announced, for reading programs backed by science. Dame Clay flew from New Zealand to ask if her Reading Recovery would be eligible for funding and when told not unless she modified her program to include training for decoding, allegedly replied “We will not change a thing in our program. But we will modify our description of Reading Recovery to comply with the law.”

The podcast also introduces Clay’s successors, names that are well known to a generation of teachers – Fountas and Pinnell.

Gay Su Pinnell and Irene Fountas were two Professors who further developed Clay’s theories into a new program. One major difference was that the new program did not limit itself to first-graders as Reading Recovery did, but taught the cueing system for all year levels. It was called Guided Reading and their first book about the new approach, published in 1996, was a bestseller.

The other name which has become synonymous with the whole language approach is Lucy Calkin, a Professor at Columbia and founder of the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. Picking up where Clay left off, her approach is used around the world and it is estimated more than 170,000 teachers have attended one of the weeklong programs at the teaching training institutes she has developed.

The podcast introduces us to the publishing company that all four women have used over the years to publish papers and books about their approaches to reading: Heinemann. By the early 2000s, Heinemann didn’t want to be limited to professional texts, it wanted to move into more traditional products – reading texts for struggling readers – one of which was called LLI, Leveled Literacy Intervention.

In the US, an LLI kit costs almost $4,000 and arrives in ten boxes. Podcast host Emily Hanford ordered one for her research, and it took her more than three hours to unpack.

She began calling school districts in the US to find out how much money they had spent on these levelled readers. She says: “from the 83 school districts that we have records for, we calculated that Heinemann received at least $215 million over the last 10 years.”

There are more than 13,000 school districts in the USA.

But despite its popularity, as Hanford reports, the overwhelming evidence being produced by research was that Reading Recovery, Guided Reading and LLI were not working.

She explains: “Teachers in the US were learning the ‘Balanced Literacy’ approach, which was another name for what Calkins, Fountas and Pinnell were selling. The basic idea with leveled books is that if kids are moving up levels, they’re learning how to read. [But] a child’s ability to read a particular book has a lot to do with their background knowledge. Take for example, a struggling reader who loves baseball. Maybe her dad reads her a lot of books about baseball. So she’s seen certain words a lot – words like “ball” and “bat,” and maybe even “field” and “diamond.” Give her a level C book about baseball. She recognizes most of the words. And she understands what the story is about, no problem. But give her a Level C book about something else, like farming, and she’s lost.”

The podcast reports one study found that the Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System, used for identifying whether a child was good or struggling, had a success rate of 54% – about as accurate as flipping a coin. When the system was used for 100 poor readers who definitely needed assistance, the assessment tool only picked 31 of the kids – which is worse than flipping a coin.

Sold a Story: How Teaching Kids to Read Went So Wrong is an enlightening look at the history and people behind the powerful whole language reading theory, the early (albeit flawed) research on which it was based, and the good intentions that started it all.

But by focussing only on the history, Sold a Story admittedly didn’t take into account any changes made to the programs more recently. After listening to the first five available episodes, I was chatting with a friend who is doing a doctorate in Education, and far wiser in these matters than me. She pointed out that some of these programs had evolved over the years, something the podcast hadn’t really touched on.

And then the final episode of Sold a Story dropped.

Hartman includes an interview she had with Lucy Calkin in 2021, who finally admitted she realised there were errors in her cueing approach. It’s awkward to listen to. She has since released a new edition of Units of Study for Teaching Reading – one that recommends access to decodable books.

Hartman also spoke with one of the senior execs from Heinemann and asked about the publisher’s position on the fact that one of their star authors was pulling away from the cueing theory while the others – Fountas and Pinnell – were sticking with it. “Both of those things can’t be right,’ Emily points out. The executive left the publishing house a few months later.

I have heard of ‘Reading Wars’ before in many contexts but never understood the genesis of the term, nor the history of the whole language theory. It’s staggering to think that some people believe that reading is simply making meaning from a story regardless of the actual words.

As a writer, I think the actual words we use are rather important. As the mother of a dyslexic child, I believe learning how to decode words is essential. Picture books and graphic novels might have illustrations that help a child understand the story, but out in the real world that scaffolding disappears.

The six episodes are currently available online, each between 30-50 minutes long (transcripts are also available). Sold a Story: How Teaching Kids to Read Went So Wrong | Podcast (   

Lessons Learned from my Book Launch

A couple of months ago I surveyed a group of writer friends and asked them about holding a book launch. They were full of good advice, some of which I followed, some of which I should have followed.

My launch for Brilliant Minds: 30 Dyslexic Heroes Who Changed Our World was on Sunday October 30 and a great success. In all the pictures I am smiling, the table is heaving with food, the line of people wanting books signed stretches the length of the room.

My daughter signed as many books as I did

It was a fabulous party, due in large part to the generosity of friends and family who supplied an epic feast, cases of bubbly and decorated the room beautifully. It was the highlight of the year and a dream come true for someone who has always wanted to be a published author.

There were a couple of things I would do differently if I had the chance, and I’m chalking them up to learning experiences.

Just some of the beautiful food provided by friends and family

Here are some brief thoughts on holding a book launch:

  • Think in advance what you will want to write in various books. Will you personalise messages or are you going to write something generic in each. Will you just sign your name? Coming up with an articulate, thoughtful, personal message when you are chatting to someone at the same time is hard, especially if you’re used to writing in silence. My book was for kids so lots of people were buying copies to donate to schools. I wish I had thought in advance of something clever to write in those copies, rather than just winging it on the day.
  • Practice your speech but still take notes, especially so you don’t forget anyone when you are doing your thank yous. I followed Laurie Steed’s wise advice and just looked out at the faces in the room before I began talking. Over a hundred faces looked back at me – friends, family, writers, neighbours and it was honestly such a special moment. I do wish I had taken my camera with me so I could have taken a photo of the room from my perspective.
  • Get a big plate of food before everyone arrives. You probably won’t be hungry at all during the launch – they’re like weddings and you will spend your time ‘working’ – but afterwards you might kick yourself, as I did, that you missed out on all the fabulous food.
  • Practice your signing signature and get yourself some good pens. Don’t sign books like you would a bank deposit slip for obvious reasons.
  • Make sure you have a few people taking pictures. Unless you’re paying a professional (and we’re writers, so who has the money for that?) you will probably ask a friend to take pictures. But not everyone feels comfortable taking pictures of people they don’t know, so you might find you miss out on photos of some people. Lots of people will probably ask to take photos with you when you sign their books. Ask them to send them to you or tag you on socials.
  • This was my daughter’s idea and I love it – she got people to sign a book for us. While I was signing the books that people bought, she asked them to sign a book for us. Some people left messages, others just signed their name, but it was a wonderful memento of the day that I will cherish forever.
Our signed books – now a treasured keepsake

For more good advice from people who are far more experienced than me, check out this earlier post here.

More photos of the day thanks to my wonderful photographer, Kathryn.

Author – and fellow mum of dyslexic daughters – Sara Foster kindly launched the book and gave a heartwarming speech
Me with the owner of Dymocks Subiaco, Tim, store manager Izzie and Affirm Press/Hachette sales rep Nicky
Me with the jelly brain (which then became an awesome Halloween prop at work the next day)
Lots of people wanted to buy books to donate to their children’s schools, so a clever friend made this ‘Donation Board’ as a record
My daughter decorated cupcakes with little rice wafer book covers
My set-up crew. I couldn’t have done it without them
The food proved irresistible during the speeches
Artist Mia Laing and her daughter Ishbel (front), social media guru Amanda Kendle, author Melinda Tognini, editor Jess Gately, and authors Brooke Dunnell and Esme Lee Wilmot
Jade Wheeler (Student Crusader and the final profile in the book) and her mum Mel were special guests at the launch
Writers Maria Papas, Khai Virtue and Molly Schmidt
There are million more pictures I wish I could share, of my family, my Mum’s Group and Dinner Club, writing friends, neighbours, friends from school, teachers and all the other amazing people who support me, but I will just finish with this – someone figured out Brilliant Minds is an anagram (almost) of IS MINT BRAIN LOL

How to Hold a Book Launch (from 10 published authors who have done it before)

In less than 6 weeks I will be launching my book Brilliant Minds: 30 Dyslexic Heroes Who Changed Our World. Although my publisher, Affirm Press has been very supportive, this is pretty much an independent launch since they’re over in Melbourne and I’m here in Perth. It’s like planning a wedding but without the husband or fluffy, white dress.

Perhaps it’s a good thing that a few years ago when I went to a career counsellor to determine which direction my post-motherhood life should take, the two options I was presented with were Writer and Event Planner. It’s all finally coming together!

But considering pre-motherhood I used to work in academic research, I decided the prudent thing to do would be to approach a dozen of my published author friends and ask them about their book launches. I asked for their tips and advice, what they’d do differently, and what they loved the most.

Who pays for your book launch?

Most of the time you will be paying for your own launch. Most of the people I surveyed spent up to a couple of thousand dollars on their launch, a small minority were funded by their publisher or supported by a library and ended up spending less than $100, but they seemed to be the exception, not the rule.

Most publishers rarely contribute financially to book launches – unless you’re a prize winner. It’s not personal, it’s business. Even if you sell 100 books on the night – or 200 books – they’re still not going to break even. So most authors agreed it was best not to think about a book launch in terms of profitability.

“Think of this as a personal party to celebrate. If you’re lucky, you’ll get some sales, but launches are not the best selling vehicle,” says Sasha Wasley, author of Spring Clean for the Peach Queen and A Caravan Like a Canary. This sentiment is echoed by Karen Herbert-Whittle, whose latest book is The Castaways of Harewood Hall: “Treat it as a party. It’s not a sales exercise, but a celebration of your hard work in getting to publication.”

And while most people wouldn’t blink at spending tens of thousands on a wedding, or a big birthday celebration, there seems to be the expectation that writing books makes you money, rather than costing you money (but we know better, don’t we…).

I will leave the final word on money to David Allan-Petale whose country B&S-themed book launch at a heritage town hall for his book Locust Summer was memorable for all the right reasons: “It was my party, and I was happy to serve it up. I wanted to hold a launch party people would talk about for years afterwards, or curse that they didn’t go.” He nailed it.

Time and Location

The majority of the launches were held on a weeknight. Friday and Saturday tend to be the busiest nights of the week when guests are more likely to have conflicting engagements (especially towards the end of the year). Sunday afternoons or evenings and weeknights are seen as more chilled (and probably easier to find a venue).

Some people had their dates chosen for them by their publishers, but there seemed to be a general consensus that the date doesn’t really matter, because people will try and be there to support you if they can, regardless of when it is.

Venues fell into three main categories: a private space in a pub or bar, libraries and bookshops, and other function spaces such as sports clubs, function centres and town halls.

The main things to consider when it comes to the venue are (apart from cost):

  • An open space where people can see the stage/festivities
  • Room size appropriate to the expected crowd
  • Centrality, accessibility and parking
  • Facilities – bar, seating, stage, PA

A big part of this decision is if you’re planning to DIY with the catering. Most pubs and sporting clubs have kitchens or caterers onsite who can organise food. All you have to do is pick your favourite platter. The flip side, of course, is that you’re paying extra for the service, they might have a minimum spend and often you aren’t allowed to bring your own food in.

Some of the authors have launched books at libraries and bookshops, which tend to be free. Rebecca Higgie, author of award-winning The History of Mischief was approached by a large library to host her book launch, which was billed as a ‘Words with Wine’ event. She says “The advantage of doing it through a library or bookshop is that they will do their own promotion that will attract local library or bookshop patrons who would otherwise not come to such an event. They come because they like to come to interesting events at their local library or bookshop.”

Other advantages of launching at a library or bookshop are that they tend to take on a fair bit of the organisation for you – arranging ticketing, seating, book sales and (often) decorations. As you’d expect though, libraries and bookshops can be averse to food, so catering is less likely to be an issue. She says that if you are considering a bookshop or library as a venue, it’s best to choose one where you already have a relationship – so start making those connections now.

The grazing table at the launch of Miniatures by Susan Midalia

Food and Drinks at your book launch

There’s no rule saying you have to provide refreshments at your launch, but everyone I surveyed had food and/or drinks at their book launch. Besides, people need something to do while they wait eagerly in line for you to sign their newly purchased books.

Focussing on the writers who organised their own launches, there were two ways of doing the food – either DIY or supplied by the venue.

If you’ve hired a venue that does in-house catering, you’ll be paying a bit more and be restricted to what’s on their menu – but you can assume they will have a range of crowd-pleasing platters, canapes and finger foods; things they know will work. And you won’t have to lift a finger.

Emma Young, whose first novel The Last Bookshop was shortlisted for the inaugural Fogarty Literary Award has done it both ways – having her book launch catered but then doing a DIY for a recent birthday: “Having recently hosted a self-catered 40th birthday party I would not recommend the level of stress that entails. You want to be celebrating with your loved ones and not worrying about the catering, even if you end up just ordering a thousand sandwich platters from Subway. Nothing wrong with that.” 

Grazing tables are hugely popular – and almost anything goes. At Susan Midalia’s recent launch of Miniatures published by Night Parrot Press, the grazing table was a delightful concoction of deli meats, bread and crackers, cheeses and dips, dried fruits and nuts, squares of pizza, fresh fruit and (my favourite) bowls of lollies and chocolates.

If you’re DIY-ing the catering, then chances are you will be calling in favours from friends and family to help. This is what David Allan-Petale did, with a huge spread including sandwich platters, nibbles and cheese, sausage rolls and quiche, all beautifully interspersed with native flowers and fairy lights (he really did hold a launch that people will talk about for years!).

Maria Papas at her launch of Hungerford Award-winning Skimming Stones at a pub in Fremantle supplemented the platters provided by the venue with homecooked dishes made by her family: “I come from a family that always thinks there is never enough food… so my mum made a few extra bits and pieces.”

Regardless of who is doing the catering and organising, it’s important not to take too much on. You have an army of supporters, so call on them. “Let people help so that you’re not stressed and can actually enjoy the evening,” advises Emily Paull, author of Well Behaved Women.

Food should be manageable with fingers, either served on a paper plate or serviette. Anything requiring cutlery is probably a bad idea – the exception being cake.

Emma Young’s book made into a delicious cake

Almost every launch I have been to over the past two years has had either a large slab cake or cupcakes decorated with the book cover in edible icing or wafers. It’s easier and more affordable than you’d think and provides the ultimate in Instagrammable pictures so your book can live on forever.

How much food do you need? The accepted rule for cocktail parties is between 5 to 8 pieces per person per hour. But this isn’t a cocktail party, and you’re probably paying for it out of your own pocket so you can probably drop the ‘per hour’ from that equation. If your launch is running over a meal time, then expect that your guests will be hungrier than if it’s an afternoon event or starts after dinner. If you’re serving alcoholic drinks, then you will need more food on offer than if it’s just tea and coffee.

Should you serve alcohol? Everyone I surveyed did – either with a cash bar at the venue (guests bought and paid for their own drinks) or by supplying beer, wine or sparkling. As I said before, this isn’t a cocktail party so it’s perfectly acceptable to limit what’s on offer.

Selling Books

It goes without saying that you will be selling books at your launch. If you’ve self-published you will have to organise your own stock, cash floats or an EFTPOS machine. Otherwise, a bookseller will usually be engaged to sell on your behalf. In Perth, we have a number of fabulous indie and franchised bookstores that support local authors, and everyone surveyed was very happy with their booksellers including New Edition, Dymocks and Beaufort Street Books.

Authors sold anywhere between 20 and 150 books on the night of their launch, and most said they easily spent an hour signing books.

Maria Papas said the only thing she would have changed about her launch was “the signing table. I would have loved to walk around and chat with all the people who were there, but I was off in my corner just signing. If I had to sign again. I would place myself more centrally.” She also adds: “Have a piece of paper handy to spell people’s names before you write them into the books. It’s easy to be so nervous you end up forgetting. Also, practice signing your name in something other than your formal signature.”


You will be expected to give a small speech on the night, but the consensus is that 5-10 minutes is sufficient. Everyone also advises that someone else officially launch the book and introduce the writer. Writers tend to be too modest, so find someone who really wants to celebrate you and your book.

“I think it’s good to have someone introduce you and say all the lovely things about your book and your journey that you’re not going to say about yourself. Ask someone who really knows you and your book to speak; a friend might be better than a publisher or an author who may not know as much about you,” suggests Rebecca Higgie.

Whether you ask a family member, a friend or a fellow writer to help launch your book, the rules tend to be the same. Keep it short and sweet. The writer’s speech often has two parts: the origin story and the thank you’s. You might do some readings from your book – especially if it’s flash or short stories – but keep them under 10 minutes and if possible, always be witty and memorable.

As Brooke Dunnell, winner of the Fogarty Literary Award for The Glass House, and planning her own launch for later this year says: “My speech will probably be a hilarious and heartwarming anecdote followed by a long list of thank you’s. Followed by enormous applause for many minutes…”

David Allan-Petale says the speech is actually a story itself: “I think for speeches, tell the story of the book – what it means to you, and why it’s important. Then thank everyone who was involved – but not in a laundry list style. Tell us why it’s good, and what they did. In a way, a writer’s speech is a story too. And have the attitude that this may be the only chance you have (though I’m sure there will be more!) so make it as loud and proud and rage, rage against the dying of the light as much as possible. Oh, and keep it under 5 minutes. Any longer and people’s glasses go dry!”

Locust Summer cupcakes at Dave Allan-Petale’s launch

Laurie Steed, author of You Belong Here reminds us that the speech is a special time to take stock of what is important: “Be proud, now. Look out at the audience before you start your speech, taking in that warmth from the crowd. The book is the gift. Everything else is just a beautiful bonus.”

Ticketing and Marketing

Without exception, all the authors used one of the online ticketing platforms (such as Eventbrite) to ‘sell’ tickets. All of the debut book launches were free, though libraries/bookstores sometimes charge a small fee to attend.

Most authors recommended sending personal invites (either by email, via social media or actual paper invitations) to close friends and family first and then promoting the event publicly on social media or via local writing organisations.

People started promoting their launches anywhere from three weeks to three months out. Attendance numbers varied from 30 to 150 but as Sara Foster says “engagement is more important than numbers.”

If you’re promoting your book on social media, don’t forget the 80/20 rule: 80% of your posts should inform, educate and entertain (ie. be about other people and things) and only 20% should be about you. Don’t be that guy who spams everyone’s feed with self-promotion. If everyone’s blocked you, how are they going to hear about your launch?

Last words

“Don’t worry about too many bells and whistles especially if you’re really busy; just go for a lovely simple celebration of you and your work.” Sara Foster.

“Don’t skimp on celebrating this; it’s an investment and you have worked bloody hard for it.” Emma Young.

“Think of ways to make it a unique event; it doesn’t matter what, you just want people to feel invested, appreciated and involved as part of the launch experience.” Laurie Steed.

“See it as a party where you and the people you love can celebrate this remarkable achievement. Have fun! The best launches are the ones that are chill, with lots of mingling, and a party vibe.” Rebecca Higgie.

With thanks to Emma Young, Karen Herbert-Whittle, Sara Foster, Laurie Steed, Maria Papas, Brooke Dunnell, Emily Paull, Sasha Wasley, David Allan-Petale and Rebecca Higgie.

Life imitating art

She and Melissa had made an agreement that one of them had to eyeball their parents every day, regardless of protests they were being over-protective. Katharine had been to visit a few times since their initial KFC lunch, each time peering at them through the front window after dropping off a box of groceries.

She would study their faces for a change in colour, listen to the way they spoke through the glass, trying to hear if they were more breathless than usual. She was well aware that they studied her back through the glass, observing her for fatigue, trying to get a look at her tiny bump. Her mother would quiz her on her diet, her sleep, even her toilet habits.

Pat showed her a wooden doll’s cradle he’d been making for the baby. What if it’s a boy? she had asked. Boys become fathers, was her Dad’s philosophical reply.

This is an excerpt from a book I wrote in early 2020 during the early days of the pandemic, before we knew how COVID was spread, before vaccines and masks, before we knew how it would disrupt our lives for years to come.

It shows a scene where one of my characters, Katherine, visits her elderly parents who are quarantining at home after being exposed to the new coronavirus.

Although the book is fictional, it’s hard not to use elements of real life, so when I wrote the scene two years ago, it was my own parents I was visualising. It was their home I was picturing when I described a large front window, and as I wrote, I was considering how it would feel to be so helpless, where your parents are trapped on the other side of a pane of glass and you cannot hug them or touch them, even though it’s something you would do every single time you see them.

Today life imitated art.

Unfortunately, both my parents (in their 70s but hardly elderly) have COVID. As I walked up their drive with an esky of groceries, I was aware of how I had written this exact scene. I placed it by the front door and turned to see my parents had opened their curtains and were standing in the large front window. We attempted a conversation through the glass, made difficult by the fact we’re all half-deaf, so we shouted platitudes, all the while scrutinising each other – me wondering if my Mum’s cough was likely to worsen into something more dangerous, them watching me to see how I’m coping with my own personal issues (NOT pregnant like Katherine, in case you’re wondering).

It was the ultimate déjà vu.

It wasn’t the only thing I predicted in the book, though.

I wrote the following scene in May 2020, about four months before POTUS was infected with coronavirus.

‘Roll yourself in here,’ he said with a grin. He patted the bed next to him. ‘Did you hear Boris Johnson has tested positive for the ‘rona?’ he called. ‘First Prince Charles, now BoJo. It’s taking out the world order.’ He grinned. ‘Maybe Trump will get it. He doesn’t believe in masks.’

How to assess the readability of your book

New year, new project – that’s how it goes right?

I finished 2021 on a high, as the end of the year coincided with typing the final words on the first draft of my mid-1800s suspense. This is the fourth novel I have completed* and the fifth book altogether.

I imagine it’s how runners feel when they cross the line at the end of a marathon – exhausted, elated and already thinking of the next race. I’m going to let that book simmer for a while I get stuck into my next project and then in a couple of months when I am at my fellowship at the Katharine Susannah Pritchard Writers Centre, I will get stuck into the next draft**.

They say that people who write down their goals are more likely to achieve them than those who don’t, but that people who share their goals are even more successful.

My 2022 writing goal

I’m attempting something very radical (for me) for my next project. No more historical or contemporary novels for adults. This time I’m writing for kids. But not just any kids, special kids like my youngest daughter who struggle to read.

I’m attempting a Hi-Lo book.

A Hi-Lo book is one with high interest levels (ie. appeals to older kids) but with low readability (ie. lower reading level). By the time a kid is in Year 5 and 6, when all their mates are reading Harry Potter, a struggling reader (or dyslexic like my daughter) doesn’t want to be seen with a skinny little picture book – they want a meaty looking book, with chapters and a cool cover.

But they want to be able to read it by themself.

So my goal is to write a chapter book suitable for kids ages 9 to 12 years old but who have a reading level of between 6 to 8 years. 

When I sat down to start, I was immediately facing a bunch of questions:

What should my word count be?

How long should the chapters be?

How do I know if I am hitting the correct reading age mark?

I began to research readability and it turns out if you’re working in Word, you can get Flesch Reading Ease Scores and Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level ratings through the editor, two of the most common ways of determining how easily a piece of text will be understood [instructions below].

Flesch Readability Scores

Flesch Reading Ease was developed back in the 1940s and is now used by everyone from schools to policy writers to journalists. Readability scores are based on the average number of syllables per word and words per sentence. Protracted and verbose morphemes and terminology are onerous and inflate the laboriousness of comprehension.

Long words and sentences are harder to understand.

The Flesch Reading Score gives you a rating out of 100: the higher the score, the easier the document is to understand. A score of 60 or lower is college level and considered more difficult to read. A score of between 70 – 80 is considered equivalent to school grade level 8, reasonably easy to read and therefore suitable for most professional documents. Anything for children should score 80 or above. The first chapter of my new Hi-Lo book has been graded as 100.

The Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level converts this to an approximate school reading level. Keep in mind, this is a formula based on the US schooling system. Books can also be given a Lexile score (although a quick look online will show there are half a dozen other ways to rate texts).

One of the ways the Lexile score (which ranges from 10L to 2000L) differs from other readability measures is that it uses qualitative measures (ie. it looks at the actual words used) rather than just the quantitative measures of averaging syllables and words. It’s meant to make the score more nuanced, although it is far from a perfect system (a quick look on Wikipedia shows that Twilight gets a score of 720, Ramona Quimby, Age 8*** scores 860, Jurassic Park clocks in at 710 while The Grapes of Wrath only scores 680L.


Out of curiosity, I ran the manuscript I finished last year through the Flesh-Kincaid assessment. It came up with a reading level score of 6.1 (ie Year 6 reading level) which was a little disturbing until I remembered I used a lot of very short sentences. My Flesch readability score was 74.8, which I’m fine with – I prefer to challenge people with the themes and concepts, not their ability to understand stodgy and overly verbose text. I’d be curious what the book’s Lexile score is, but that’s not something you can easily access.

You can enable the readability feature in Word by following the steps below:

Setting up Readability Stats in Word 2016

Go to File then Options (at the bottom of blue menu).

In the Proofing tab check the box that says ‘show readability statistics’.

If you have already run spellcheck through the document and want it to reassess, check the box that says ‘Recheck document’ but if you’re just setting it up for future documents, you can just click OK and close out of the menu.

Go back to your word document.

In the review tab, click on the Editor button (previously Spelling and Grammar).

The editor will open up on the right-hand side of the screen. Scroll down to find the ‘Insights – Document stats’ option and click on it.

Normally when you do your document stats, you get a brief summary of how many words, characters, paragraphs and sentences. Now your statistics will include:


Sentences per paragraph

Words per sentence

Characters per word.


Flesch Reading Ease

Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level

Passive sentences

This is the opening chapter of my Hi-Lo book. Very readable!

If you’re curious, this article rates a 63 in Flesch Reading Ease and a Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level of 9.1. These scores shouldn’t be used in isolation but they do provide you with some basic information about how accessible your writing is. I’ve been writing decodable stories for my daughter for years, but writing an entire book is a whole other kettle of fish.

Wish me luck!

*technically I haven’t finished one of these novels, but it’s pretty close

** we will see what COVID-19 has to say about that

*** I grew up reading Ramona Quimby and still have all my old books

My favourite books of 2021

I read 57 books in 2021 which isn’t bad for someone who likes to have their lights off by 10pm each night.

Reading at bedtime has been one of my favourite times of the day since I was a child, and as a mother of three, I savour it even more, because it (usually) means I am off-duty. Of course, it doesn’t always work out that way, but I start looking forward to it pretty much as soon as the dinner dishes are done. Look, I never said my life was exciting.

For the first time last year, I decided to keep a record of the books I read along with a few words of description (or reaction) to the book. Partly this is because I am known for buying multiple copies of a book because I forgot I already read it, though I’m realizing more and more that probably says more about the book than me.

When I looked back at the list of books I am struck by one thing – something that makes me very proud – 61% of the books were written by an Australian author and 35% by a West Australian author.

Five of the books I read this year, I was there at the launch and a total of ten have been signed by the author. I love the connection I feel when I know a book has been signed for me. I love attending book launches and in 2021 decided to adopt a fellow writer’s goal to buy two copies at every local book launch – one to keep and one to gift.

Admittedly of my 57 books, there were a handful I DNF (did not finish) but on the whole I loved each and every one of them.

But my favourite titles this year were:


Locust Summer – David Allan-Petale (West Aussie)

Skimming Stones – Maria Papas (West Aussie)


Stalking Claremont – Bret Christian (West Aussie)

I am. I am. I am – Maggie O’Farrell

The Shape of Sound – Fiona Murphy (Aussie)

Historical Fiction:

A Waltz for Matilda – Jackie French (Aussie)

The Riviera House – Natasha Lester (West Aussie)


The Chase – Candice Fox (Aussie)

The Last Thing He Told Me – Laura Dave

Luckiest Girl Alive – Jessica Knoll

Have you read any of these titles? Which was your favourite?

2021 – My Successes and Failures

I finished 2020 on a high.

I know this because I wrote a blog post declaring 2020 my ‘best year yet’. Not exactly subtle.

Last year I said I had a hit rate of 14%, meaning of all the short story competitions I entered, the manuscript prizes, the fellowships and residencies I applied for and the articles I submitted, I was successful for 14% of them. I don’t know what other people’s hit rates are, so I can’t tell if that’s woeful or in the ballpark.

In hindsight, my 2020 hit rate was closer to 17% because a manuscript I dropped into the Affirm Press slush-pile at the beginning of November 2020 was picked up in June 2021.

Mother and daughter, both wearing glasses, their arms around each other, smiling and crying into the camera.
Taken within seconds of receiving an email from Affirm Press saying they were going to publish my book. Coincidentally, my daughter was home that day from school and was able to happy-cry with me!

This is me and my daughter happy-crying when we realised the book I had written for her was going to be published (working title: Dyslexic Heroes, an illustrated collection of short stories for children about some of the incredible and inspirational people living with dyslexia. It’s due out September 2022).

In the meantime, I have been working hard this year and putting words out into the world. I subscribe to the idea that you need to put yourself out there no matter how terrifying it feels [I tried the other method, which is waiting for things to fall into your lap, and that wasn’t very successful].

In 2021:

I entered 9 short stories into competitions (I was highly commended in one).

I submitted 7 pieces to journals or magazines (one was accepted for publication).

I applied for 5 writing fellowships, residencies or mentorships (I was awarded one).

I entered 2 flash fiction competitions (and was highly commended in one).

I did a virtual pitch to 1 publisher (we ‘matched’, but ultimately they weren’t interested).

I entered 4 full-length manuscript competitions (two different books, no luck yet).

I submitted two different books to 5 publishers or agents (no joy yet).

So while my success rate may seem relatively low (two published short stories, one published flash fiction and a writing fellowship), I am really proud of the work I have done this year and feel that for some of my stories, at least, it’s a matter of not having found the right home for them yet.

Yet. Such a small word, but it holds such promise.

Outside of these obvious markers of success (the things you can put in your writer CV), I had less reportable successes: I continued critique (and support) sessions with my writing group of like-minded history-lovers (who I adore), worked with my writing mentor (who I worship), completed four writing courses, wrote 10 blog posts, read over fifty books, wrote 74,000 words of a new novel, brainstormed a children’s series I hope to write one day as well as the outline of a new non-fiction book while working part-time, parenting three daughters, a dog, and more recently, three bunnies.

I am grateful for everything except the bunnies.  They’re just annoying.

I’m still waiting to hear the outcome for two things, but so far my hit rate for 2021 is about 13%. Technically, this means my year has been less successful than last, but I don’t see it that way.

Sure, I’d still love to find a home for my 2020 contemporary novel, and there are some smashing short pieces I’d like to see published one day, but I look back at my year and think – at least I gave it a go.

But more than the numbers, because who cares about numbers, is something less tangible. I feel that this year has been about growth for me as a writer this year, not only the words I have put on the page but also the ones I have left off.

So maybe some of the misses of 2021 will become hits for 2022.

In the meantime, I am looking forward to Christmas and time with my family over the school break. Thank you for reading and I hope that 2022 brings you lots of success, plenty of words and lots of joy.

Literary Easter Eggs

For the word nerds among us – of which you’re probably one, or else I think you’ve clicked on the wrong blog – there is nothing more satisfying than discovering an Easter egg in a book or movie we’re enjoying.

An Easter egg is where the author deliberately hides a secret clue or message to sharp-eyed readers, often irrelevant to the book itself, but related to the wider world of the writer.

Disney is famous for placing Easter eggs in almost all of their animated movies, with characters and references from one movie regularly popping up in others. Examples include Aladdin’s lamp appearing in Tamatoa the Crab’s pile of sparkly treasure, Rapunzel and Flynn arriving at Elsa’s coronation in Frozen, and Pumba as a stone gargoyle on the roof of the Hunchback’s cathedral.

Stephen King is probably the most famous of the literary Easter bunnies. Almost all of his books are connected to at least one other, either in characters that reappear or are referenced, reusing settings or lines being repeated from book to book.

One example is the book It, where one of the characters, Eddie Kasbrak lives next door to Paul Sheldon, who of course reappears as the main protagonist in Misery.

Margaret Atwood is also known to include Easter eggs and inside jokes in her works, such as Offred noting an inscription on a desk in The Handmaid’s Tale that reads ‘M loves G, 1972’ which actually references a real relationship Margaret Atwood had with fellow author Graeme Gibson that started in 1972.

The epigraph at the start of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is accredited to poet Thomas Parke D’Invilliers. However, D’Invilliers is not a real poet but a secondary character from an earlier Fitzgerald book, This Side of Paradise.

The list goes on (seriously – Google literary Easter eggs and see your morning disappear).

I also like to include Easter eggs in my books.

I have four novels (in various states of ‘doneness’) which stretch from the early 1800s to 2020 and they are all linked in some way. It amuses me greatly to be able to do this.

The first book I started, The Teacher, is set 1912-14 and the main character is Isabelle Kelly when she is eighteen years of age and attending the Claremont Training College. (In this book I also mention two characters who belong to other Perth writers, Emily Paull and Sasha Wasley, who gave me permission to briefly include their characters in various scenes.)

Isabelle reappears at the age of eighty in my book Behind Closed Doors, which is set between 1965-85,as an elderly aunt to one of my characters. The protagonist in this book is an artist called Cordelia Cartwright, and one of her paintings (and a mention of Cordy herself) appears in 100 Days of March, which is set in 2020.

I’m halfway through my first draft of The Carrington Effect, which is set in the 1800s. I had been wondering how I could reference my other books considering the vast distance of time, but one of my protagonists is a midwife and while writing a birthing scene I realised that the child being born in 1859 could be Isabelle Kelly’s father.

Being able to connect all my books together makes me feel like the work I am doing is part of something larger; a quilt of literary pieces I am embroidering, bound together with stitches made of characters.

I’m fully aware that the chances of all four books being finished and published is slim and therefore no one else will ever realise how clever I am (please detect the joking tone in my words).

But just to know they exist makes me smile.

What is your favourite literary Easter egg?

When words are hard: my journey to writing a book about dyslexia

What do Australian authors Jackie French and Pip Williams have in common?

They’re both best-selling authors.

They both have a love of history and telling the stories of strong women.

They both have dyslexia.

What about Agatha Christie and Dav Pilkey?

Again, both best-selling authors (Agatha’s 66 detective stories and 14 books of short stories have sold over two billion copies, and Dav has sold over 80 million copies of his 48 books).

They are both award-winners.

Also, both dyslexic.

What about Jamie Oliver and Richard Branson?

They’re both hugely successful entrepreneurs and businessmen who have gone on to write books.

They’re both very, very rich.

They’ve both been recognised by the Queen for their service to the country.

They’re both also dyslexic.

In Australia, October is the month of dyslexia awareness. You may see people’s social media pages bordered in red or buildings and monuments across the country lit up red at night. I am lighting up my Instagram page red in October. Why red? Apart from the obvious red/read, it’s part of a campaign by Code Read Dyslexia Network:

By next October, my book sharing some of the most inspirational stories of people with dyslexia will be on the shelves of bookshops and libraries around the country. It’s something that fills me with incredible excitement but also, if I’m honest, also with a sense of trepidation and responsibility. That’s probably the topic for another blog, but today I just wanted to share just some of the incredible writers from around the world who have dyslexia.

Many writers say the same thing – dyslexia slowed them down, especially when they were at school, but it could not stop their love of stories. Moreover, the struggle they had with words, the extra effort they had to give to learn to read and write has just deepened their relationship with language and made the process of writing that much more special.

Awesome dyslexic writers:

  • Jackie French, Australian multi-genre, award-winning author, Diary of a Wombat and my daughter’s favourite, A Waltz for Matilda.
  • Pip Williams, best-selling Australian author, The Dictionary of Lost Words.
  • Catherine Deveny, columnist, speaker and author.

“The more you do it, the more you do. The more a pathway in the brain is used the better and faster it gets. Writing is a muscle. The more you work it out, the better it gets.” Catherine Deveny

  • Dav Pilkey, best-selling US author, Captain Underpants.

“Try to remember that being unsuccessful in school doesn’t automatically mean you’ll be unsuccessful in life. Lots of people who didn’t excel in school still went on to have successful lives.” Dav Pilkey

  • Agatha Christie, world’s best-selling author, Murder on the Orient Express.
  • Octavia Spencer, actress and author, Ninja Detective series.
  • Ahmet Zapper, children’s author (and son of legendary musician Frank). Ahmet left school at 12 due to his struggles with dyslexia but he is now the author of over 20 best-selling books.

“When we had to do book reports, I would pick a book that no one read and just make it up and turn that in. I got praised for my imagination.” Ahmet Zappa

  • Henry Winkler, actor (The Fonz) and children’s author, Hank Zipzer, The World’s Greatest Underachiever.
  • Richard Branson, entrepreneur and author. Virgin owner. Space tourist. Everyone knows who Richard is.
  • Jamie Oliver, celebrity chef and cookbook author.
  • Andrew Dornenburg – author of five best-selling culinary books and cookbooks with his wife, Karen Dornenburg.

“As I tell other dyslexics, it’s important to remember that you don’t have to be perfect to be great.” Andrew Dornenburg

  • Sally Gardner, children’s author (and also writes for adults under the pseudonym Wray Delaney). She was considered ‘unteachable’ by her teachers and called ‘Silly Sally’ by her peers because she didn’t learn to read until she was 14. She’s now the best-selling author of over 45 books.

“Keep telling yourself stories and don’t worry if you can’t write them down. Try to find your voice. Don’t be put off by anyone telling you that you can’t do something – believe in your dreams.” Sally Gardner

  • Debbie Macomber couldn’t read until she was 11 but is now the best-selling author of more than 100 romance and contemporary books and she has sold over 200 million copies.

 “Often times when we have a disability in one area we are often compensated in another area by a talent – for me it was storytelling. I wanted to become a writer because I had stories to tell.” Debbie Macomber

  • Jeanne Betancourt, author of over 80 children’s and YA books and scripts, My Name is Brain Brian.

“Since learning to read and write was difficult for me growing up, I paid more attention to the world around me. I took clues to what people were thinking and feeling from their speech and body language. Today, as an author, it is easy for me to imagine what it would be like to be in someone else’s shoes.” Jeanne Betancourt

  • Anne Rice, author of over 30 novels, including one of the best-selling novels of all time, Interview with the Vampire (which was made into a movie with another famous dyslexic, Tom Cruise).

“Go where the pleasure is in your writing. Go where the pain is.” Anne Rice

The list goes on…

  • Avi, author of over 80 books for children and young adults.
  • John Irving, American novelist, The World According to Garp.
  • The late thriller writer Vince Flynn.
  • Paranormal and urban fantasy writer Sherrilyn Kenyon (aka Kinley McGregor).
  • Lynda La Plante, best-selling crime writer.
  • Billy Bob Thornton, actor, scriptwriter and musician
  • and many, many more.

In many of the interviews I read, people said a similar thing: that their success was not despite their dyslexia, but because of it.

I pulled my daughter aside, pointed to the hundreds of names in my spreadsheet, and simply said: nothing is beyond you. Dyslexia can’t stop you.

Who do you want to read about? I would ask. Astronauts? Doctors? Actresses? Writers? The man who digs up dinosaurs? And she would tell me, and I would write their story and we would curl up in bed and I would read it to her.

Then I would find more names and write more stories. From Nobel Prize winners, Oscar winners and Olympians to Prime Ministers and Princesses. But not every child, dyslexia or not, can grow up to win a Nobel Prize, and few of us are born princesses.

I didn’t want to add to the stress she already finds herself under every day, so I found the stories of people whose names we do not know, with achievements no less breath-taking but more attainable for us mere mortals.

Soon I had so many stories she could pretty much name any career in the world, and I would be able to open the book to a page and point to a person whose story had been told. Chefs, artists, dancers, designers, musicians, sportspeople, comedians, inventors, philanthropists, activists, filmmakers and more.

Incredible people with inspiring stories and I can’t wait to share them with you.

When everything seems to be going against you, remember the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.

– Henry Ford