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In this month's bumper edition get expert advice on how to deal with the dreaded rejection letters, gain some inspiration and see our Top Ten Tips on getting an agent plus the usual helpful sites for writers!

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E-zee Writer
Top Tips For Writers

E-zee Writer Top Tips for Writers

Issue 99
December 2008

Hello and festive figgy pudding greetings to you all.

It’s almost Christmas again! I don’t know if our readers who celebrate other religious festivals feel the same, but Christmas appears to be really magical in that it seems to come around quicker the older you get.

The European Christmas markets are wafting their cinnamon spiced gluhwein, stollen and bratwurst smells my way – enticing! And for anyone who has just enrolled, a trip to the Christmas market would be the perfect place to write about for assignment one – the tempting smells, twinkling lights and irresistible goodies on offer should give you plenty to describe.

If you are still looking for something to get for that special person, our courses make great Christmas presents. What could be better than giving them something that could change their career, in fact, their whole life! And if you want it to be secret we can arrange that too. Call us at head office on (0044) 0161 228 2362 to make your purchase, tell us it is a gift, give us the name of the person you want to give it to and we will arrange for the 15 day free trial to begin on December 25th, so you can gift wrap it for Christmas Day.

Not many people are interested in working over the festive holidays. I think eating, drinking, sitting in front of the telly and generally spoiling oneself are the order of the day for most, myself included! So, why not use the downtime to think? Thinking is just as important as doing when it comes to writing. Frederick Franck, the Dutch artist said, "We need a way to detach ourselves from an environment constantly bombarding us with noise, agitation and visual stimuli. We need to establish an environment for recovering our unspoiled creative core, an oasis of undivided attention, and an island of silence."

To achieve this you could try the following to fire your creative engine, whilst also performing a Zen meditation technique, during the long winter nights. Described by writer, and Zen meditation expert, Natalie Goldberg in her book “Writing down the Bones”, this simple exercise, designed specifically to help writers, can last as long as you want, from 10 minutes to 10 hours. Just stop when you feel you are done. She says, "Whatever amount of time you choose, keep your hand moving the whole time. Don't cross anything out. Ignore spelling, grammar and punctuation. Lose control. And go for the jugular - dive into every feeling that comes up. The idea is to burn through your first thoughts to the place where energy is unobstructed by politeness or any internal censor. In Zen you learn to not be tossed away, no matter how great the thought or emotion. The discipline is just to keep sitting, to keep writing." Let me know if it works for you.

This month we have expert advice from Jackie Cosh on what to do with those pesky rejection letters. I’m sure many of you have some colourful suggestions as to where you’d like to put them, so let Jackie give you a more constructive approach. And to tie in with this, take a look at the recommended websites this month – you’ll find a frank and amusing come-back from an anonymous editor to people complaining about the rejection letters they receive. For those of you who read the article and want to see the poem she refers to in point four, I have included it here. I don’t think I could be annoyed if I was left this beautiful little piece as an apology! Plus the very amusing rejection letter website the anonymous editor refers to is listed for your enjoyment as well as a useful freelance working information site.

Our student stories this month come from Peter in England who has just had his first crime novel published and Kinoti from Kenya who has had a very successful time since enrolling with us. As I say each week, these stories should act as inspiration for you. They come from students just like you who start the course and keep at it – practice makes perfect and perseverance pays off! If you have been successful since enrolling with us you should share your experience with others – we would all love to hear them.

Agents, are they a good idea or not? They can help to get your work published, however, there is a cost involved. Read our Ten Top Tips on getting an agent to find out the advantages and pitfalls.

Your local writing scene can be the source of inspiration, motivation and more. I found the following events taking place by simply typing ‘writing events’ into Google. If you are in London on January 11th you could immerse yourself in the finest poetry at the Southbank Centre in London. See the ten T. S. Eliot Prize shortlisted poets, including Maura Dooley, Jan Hadfield and Stephen Romer, read their poems – and all for just £12.00. Further details can be found here. If this event inspires you to have a go at writing poetry yourself why not enrol on our Poetry writing course, with the excellent Alison Chisholm as your tutor, further details here.

If you happen to be near Uplands, Canada on December 28th (or the last Sunday of each month) you can meet with writers who want to create a little space in their ‘normal’ lives for writing. The day begins with writing exercises to get those grey cells working and after lunch you can work on projects of your own with like-minded people. There is a charge of $50.00 and spaces are limited so click here to sign up.

Reading widely is as important as writing if you want to be a successful freelancer and discussing other people’s work will enhance your analytical skills. So, get a copy of City of Joy by Dominique Lapierre, read it and then go along to the Linen Hall Library in Belfast on December 18th to discuss the book with other readers. If you miss this one don’t worry – the reading group takes place on the last Thursday of each month. Details here.

I have had a request from a reader to mention this competition – so here it is. Following the success of their first short story competition the Rider Haggard Society’s second competition is now accepting entries. First prize is £200 and a year’s free membership to the society. To see the style expected and further competition rules click here, Closing date is March 31st 2009 so you have plenty of time!

And finally, there’s still time to enter our 20th anniversary award competition which closes on the 31st of this month – it’s open to all current and ex students, it’s free and all we want to know is how studying one of our courses has affected your life.

Have an indulgent, meditative month!


P.S. Don’t forget those gifts! We have the Comprehensive Creative Writing course for those who don’t really know what kind of writing they might like to do and more specialised courses for those who already know the direction they would like to take. These are: Writing for Children, Freelance JournalismNon-fiction Writing, Fiction Writing, Novel and Short Story Writing, Article WritingHow to Write Biographies, Memoirs and Family Histories, The Art of Writing Poetry and Write for Profit Using the Internet.


“Despite having a non-fiction book published very successfully in 1987 (The Modern Mercenary), I felt very under confident about writing fiction. Eventually, I decided to try a correspondence course with the Writers Bureau at the end of 2003. The first few assignments were short stories, and although my tutor was very pleased with what I produced, and I sent them off to several magazines, all I got was a fast-growing collection of “Thanks, but no thanks!” letters. When we got to the module which involved plotting a novel, I was beginning to lose heart. If I couldn’t get a short story published, what chance a novel? But I persevered, and my tutor responded with “I think this...has great potential”.

“I was encouraged, but not entirely convinced. As part of the next module, I wrote a first chapter and returned it to him. “There is so much that is good here”, he told me.

“After the long haul of writing and rewriting it, I sent it to several agents, two of whom were very complimentary, three of whom were very brusque, and one of whom said he’d take me on if I paid him! (Never do that)

“In frustration, I decided to do it myself, and I sent the first 50 pages of the MS directly to Robert Hale, who I had read were very popular with their authors. They first told me to send the complete MS, so I knew it couldn’t be that bad, and then they told me they liked it but it was too long, and then they told me they would publish it if I rewrote the last chapter. So I rewrote it, and realised in the process that they were spot on – the result was a big improvement. So now, as I write this, I am only a couple of weeks away from publication of my first crime novel. Wow!”

Blood on the Cowley Road is a crime novel set in Peter’s home city of Oxford, and is published by Robert Hale Ltd.

Peter Tickler, England


“In the time I have been in writing, I have so far written for all the top newspapers in Kenya: The People, The Nation, Kenya Times, Standard and East African. I have also written for the top magazines in the country including Marketing Africa, The Accountant and Beacon. I have also gone online and my articles have featured on an East African website known as 'Jamii Forums.' 

“I have also authored a novel entitled 'Wheels Within Wheels' which has been ranked a best seller in the Sunday Nation - Kenya's largest newspaper - for five times now and has been entered in the international website: Book In addition, the book has been assigned an International Standard Book Number (ISBN) which is:9966 9888-2-3

“Right now I am doing weekly features for one of the top newspaper in Kenya: The People. I'm glad to let you know that some of the assignments that I have submitted at the Writers Bureau have served as major features for The People newspaper.”

Kinoti Gatobu, Kenya

Thanks to Peter and Kinoti for sharing their stories with us. If you would like a prospectus for the courses they are studying please email us here with your full name and postal address.

Or, to share your success stories with others, just send an email to with 'Success Story' in the subject line.


FREELANCE MARKET NEWSFreelance Market News Magazine
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Issued 11 times a year it's packed with information on markets in Britain and around the globe, plus you get all the latest news and views on the publishing world.

Every subscription comes with FREE membership of The Association of Freelance Writers. Your membership also entitles you to discounts on books and competitions, a free appraisal worth over £30 and a Membership Card which confirms your status as a Freelance Writer.

FREE sample copies are available to view at the website, along with more details about the magazine and how you can subscribe.


Find out how to create your own website and 'Credit Crunch Fillers'.

Christmas Gifts
Two special offers for E-zee subscribers*
Remember, offer ends 31st December 2008!

*(forward this email to a loved one so you get the present YOU want!)

Freelance Market News – every writer's indispensable guide to the world of publishing. Subscription also comes with Membership to The Association of Freelance Writers. Take an annual subscription or try it for six months – and receive a £2.00 discount!

Your membership gives you many benefits and savings.
These include: 

  • One FREE appraisal per year of 3000 words of prose or 120 lines of poetry worth over £30. 
  • Save 20% when you enter The Writers Bureau Annual Short Story and Poetry Competition with £4000 worth of prizes. 
  • FREE entry to the monthly Writing Competition in the newsletter with a £50 prize. 
  • FREE entry to competitions with book prizes. 
  • FREE advertising in The Writers' Web. 
  • Up to 50% OFF books for writers. 
  • Membership Card which identifies your status as a freelance writer.

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If you wish to take advantage of these offers but do not wish to purchase online, please call:

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By Jackie Cosh

Rejection letters – a positive approach! 

A writer needs imagination, a pen, a good grasp of English, and a really thick skin! The last one may not be the most obvious on the list, but when starting out as a writer its importance is soon evident.

Many a new writer gives up at the first hurdle, feeling hurt and despondent that their great masterpiece has been rejected. You’ve put in hours of work, chosen the market carefully and sat in hope waiting for a reply. When the response is a rejection or, worse still, silence, you feel that that's it – failure, your work is no good, and there is no point carrying on.

As a Writers’ Bureau tutor, I often have students tell me that they are very thin skinned when it comes to rejections from editors. It probably doesn’t enter their head that all writers receive rejections all the time and for a variety of reasons. I am also sure it doesn’t occur to them that although part of me dreads rejection letters or emails as much as they do, they can be very useful if you look at them in the right way.

What is there to like about rejection letters?

Of course I don’t like being rejected, who does? But a rejection letter is an acknowledgment that your idea has at least been looked at and considered. Nothing is worse than regularly checking your inbox or doormat for some kind of response, any kind of response! One national newspaper I write for are very short and to the point in their rejections – ‘no thanks’, ‘not for us’, are two such responses. Some people find this approach rude – I think it is terribly polite of them to take the time to respond. Editors tend to be overloaded with work so any response should be appreciated.

I am quite happy to be told simply yes or no, but sometimes editors will take the time to explain why your work is not suitable, this isn’t necessary, and should never be expected. Several emails with the likes of – ‘recently commissioned something similar’, or ‘sorry did this a few months back’, tell me that I am on the right track and to keep on going.

An email telling me that they are rejecting my idea because everything is done in house is very useful as it tells me to stop wasting my time with that publication and to look elsewhere – this is much better than ploughing away with ideas and getting nothing in return.

The best emails are those that finish on a positive note – a ‘no thanks, but would you be interested in doing a piece on …..?’ is the best kind of rejection. It’s encouraging as it shows that they like your writing style and are willing to see more.

Whether your idea is rejected or not, it shows the editor the way your mind is working and how much you know the publication.

The importance of not giving up.

Just because an idea is wrong for one publication it doesn't mean that it is wrong for all publications. If you really believe that an idea would make a great article you should keep on going until you sell it. For example, two years ago I had what I knew was a good feature idea and a great case study to back it up. I tried roughly ten publications as I was convinced that someone would take it. After a lot of rejections, and even more silences, I finally found one publication who were interested. That idea turned out to be a foot in the door, and I now write for them on a monthly basis. I am also in the middle of writing a book on a related subject to be published next year.

I managed to place my work because I refused to take the knock backs, and because, ultimately, I believed enough in the idea. I didn’t take the rejection personally, and I didn’t look back. I decided not to ponder why each publication wasn’t interested. I simply moved on.

Back up markets.

Sometimes it works better to have a back up market in mind from the very beginning. This isn’t a case of being pessimistic, it is more to do with being realistic. After all, your chosen market may be overloaded with ideas at the moment or perhaps they have just accepted an article on the very same idea – there can be all sorts of reasons why they might say no. It is also a good idea to think about the back up market at the beginning of the process because the original idea and how you will approach it is still fresh in your mind.

This can also help if you don’t take rejection well, as having a back up market in mind from the very beginning means you can turn the article around and get it sent to another publisher with minimal work and delay and without dwelling too long on the rejection itself.

Before you do so, however, it is always worth taking a moment or two to look at the outline again. Decide if you are still happy with it and whether it is appropriate for sending to the new publisher. A revisit should allow you to see if improvements need to be made and a fresh market may mean you have to tweak it slightly.

Others who have been there.

It is well known that J K Rowling received many rejections for Harry Potter before she found success, and she is certainly not alone. Many well-known and successful authors persevered through years of rejection before someone finally recognised their talents. Children’s author Judy Bloom received nothing but rejections for two years before finally getting somewhere. Watership Down, Gone with the Wind, The Diary of Anne Frank, and the Dr Seuss books were all rejected many, many times while Stephen King received this response regarding Carrie: “We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell."

So, don’t take rejection letters to heart! Consider them a sign that you are a real writer – after
all, only real writers receive rejection letters. Have a think why your idea was rejected, then file the letter away and send the piece elsewhere. Don’t consider it a rejection per se, but a response from an editor. Don’t ponder the matter, close it and move on.

Most important of all, don’t let rejection letter get you down. Simply view them as part of the journey. And take some pleasure in the thought that in ten years' time when you are a household name, you can inspire other novice writers with tales of your own pesky rejection letters.

Jackie Cosh is a Writers Bureau tutor and freelance writer, covering mostly education, health, and business areas. Her first book, Alzheimer's: The Essential Guide, is due out on 1 October 2009.


10 top tips on getting an agent

Do agents make a difference? Yes! If your book is handled by an agent it will increase your chances of success. For one thing, it will mean you dodge the horrors of the dreaded slush pile. Publishers trust the judgement of literary agents and will treat anything sent by them with special interest and care.

Agents certainly earn their 10 per cent commission. They have the contacts and inside knowledge of the business, and will offer you advice on honing your novel before it is submitted to a publisher. But, unfortunately, interesting an agent can be quite a trick in itself. So here are some tips on giving yourself the best possible chance of getting an agent.

1. There is little point approaching an agent with short stories, poems or articles. They will only be interested in novels or non-fiction books – until you are famous!

2. Use the list of Agents that you will find in the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook, The Writers’ Handbook or the equivalent book in your own country to check what kind of material each agent specialises in. There is no point sending a steamy novel to an agent who specialises in placing non-fiction books.

3. If possible, in the UK, choose an agent who is a member of the Association of Authors’ Agents ( as they are committed to dealing with writers in a professional manner. Whether an agent is a member is shown in the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook

4. Should you pay a reading fee? Members of the Association of Authors’ Agents don’t request a reading fee. But quite a lot of reputable agents do – it covers the cost of reading the manuscripts. Before paying anything, try to check out the agent, using the Internet and word of mouth. There are bogus agents out there who only want your money and you’ll get nothing in return. Never answer adverts placed by agents requesting writers to contact them. Real agents are inundated with writers – they don’t need to advertise.

5. Only send off a covering letter, synopsis of your book and two or three chapters. Don’t send an entire book to an agent – unless of course it is a short children’s book.

6. But, do make sure that your book – especially if it is a novel – is finished before you approach an agent. If they are interested and want to see it immediately you could have problems and ruin your credibility if you can’t send the rest of the book to them.

7. It’s important that what you send to them is perfect in execution and presentation. Don’t finish your work and then immediately dash off the first few chapters to an agent. Let it settle and then check and re-check it until it is error free, tight and there are no typos. You’ll probably only get one bite at the cherry so make sure you give yourself the best chance.

8. Use the post to send your manuscript. It’s not yet acceptable to clog up someone’s inbox with hefty chapters from a novel. But don’t be afraid to approach more than one agent at a time – otherwise, you could be waiting a lifetime before you get an acceptance.

9. Take every opportunity to buttonhole published writers at conferences, courses and writing groups to see if they would be prepared to put in a good word with their agent on your behalf. Remember, often it’s not what you know, but who you know!

10. If you manage to sell your book direct to a publisher yourself it may be worth approaching an agent and asking them to take you on. It will prove that you have a track record and you will find, over the years, that it pays to have an agent. The 10-15 per cent that they take from your earnings will be well spent when you take into account the various rights that they might sell on your behalf, the royalties they collect and the hassle that they help you to avoid! 


This link was sent to me as the people who run the website thought it might be of use to our readers, and I think they could be right! Whilst not concentrating solely on writing the site covers all kinds of issues you may come across when working as a freelancer. It delves into tricky areas such as tax, networking, time management, plus a whole host of other topics. And, there’s a monthly newsletter you can subscribe to.

This is the response from a female editor, known only as Slushkiller, as to how to interpret the unfortunately inevitable rejection letters in the correct way. It is essentially a look at the other side of the coin and makes a lot of sense. She also offers an amusing insight into the most common reasons for a manuscript being rejected. It makes for interesting reading and is quite illuminating as to what it is like for editors who receive hundreds of manuscripts each week.

And this is the website Slushkiller is referring to. It is a collection of rejection letters that aspiring writers such as yourselves have uploaded and commented on. You too can add your lovely letters to the mix. Plus, you can include what you think of that particular response and, it seems, the person who wrote it. If your letter is deemed the most humiliating, demeaning, frustrating etc, you could be chosen as ‘Reject of the month’, just to boost your self esteem a little further. If nothing else, it will make you realise that you are not the only one getting rejected on a regular basis. Plus it has some useful ideas about how to deal with rejection and should elicit a giggle or two.

Remember, if you run a website that you think may be of use to our readers, let us know. If we like it, we’ll publish a link to it giving you a free plug. What could be better than that?

END NOTE and a little inspiration


Could you write an article about ...

1st June 1831 

The magnetic North Pole (situated at that time in Canada on the Booth Peninsula) is discovered by polar explorer James Clark Ross.

2nd June 1780

Six days of rioting, named the Gordon riots after anti-catholic agitator Lord George Gordon, begin in London.

3rd June 1906

The exuberant American-born French dancer and singer Josephine Baker is born in St Louis, Missouri.

6th June 1844

George Williams forms the Young Men’s Christian Association, better known as the YMCA, in London.

7th June 1494

Treaty of Tordesillas is signed between Spain and Portugal, effectively dividing the New World between them.

8th June 632

The founder of Islam, Muhammad, dies in Medina.

9th June 1672

Peter the Great, Tsar of Russia, known for his modernisation of Russia, is born.

10th June 1793

Paris is the chosen venue for the first purpose built zoo, named the Menagerie du Jardin des Plantes.

11th June 1899

Neosensationsis Japanese author Yasanuri Kawabata, best known in western circles for his novel “Snow Country” is born in Osaka.

14th June 1951

The first commercial, general use computer named UNIVAC I is demonstrated by the Remington Rand company.

17th June 1775

Charlestown, Massachusetts, is the location of the Battle of Bunker Hill, the first large-scale engagement of the American War of Independence.

20th June 1906

Kate McMullen, better known as Catherine Cookson, is born in the slums of South Tyneside – she goes on to publish 97 novels in her lifetime.

24th June 1947

An American pilot reports seeing UFOs flying near Mt Rainier, describing them as ‘saucers’ leading to the popular term 'flying saucers'.

25th June 1876

260 US cavalry forces under General Custer are wiped out by a force of Sioux and Northern Cheyenne Indians lead by Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse.

27th June 1746

Bonnie Prince Charlie, with the help of Flora MacDonald, escapes to the Isle of Skye dressed as an Irish maid following his defeat at the Battle of Culloden.

28th June 1922

The Irish Free State supporters attack republicans in Dublin starting the Irish Civil War.

30th June 1908

The largest extraterrestrial impact, thought to be either a comet or a meteorite, is recorded in Tunguska in Siberia.


Another year is at an end. I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year and I
look forward to being in touch again in 2009 – sporting a few extra pounds I’m sure! If you do anything exciting, writing-related of course, over the holiday period please write and let me know.

Next month we have expert advice from Lorraine Mace on how to keep ahead of the game using editorial calendars, top tips on illustrating your work and the usual motivation and inspiration.

I’ll leave you with a jolly, addictive puzzle game, Xmas Corner. Help Santa collect all his presents using his trusty reindeer, Rudolph, as a sidekick. I think the look on the reindeer’s face is just a picture! There are 18 levels so it should keep you amused for a while.

If you found something of use to you in this issue please pass on the word to all your writer friends – and even those who don’t! You never know, you might inspire them to take it up. They can sign up here

Shelley x

P.S If there are any of our overseas readers who would like me to promote literary events in their country, please let me know and I will do my best to mention them.

Don’t forget our 20th Anniversary competition with £2000 worth of prizes! It is open to all students and ex-students who want to tell us how our courses have affected their lives as writers. Closing date is 31st December 2008 so get cracking! Further details can be found here

As usual, if you've any suggestions or would like to comment on content then please contact me at:


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Annemarie Munro Writers Bureau's Student of the Year 2022

"I have seen my writing journey as an adventure: What can I write? What am I best at? What new aspects of writing can I discover and contribute towards? I have welcomed the wide range of modules covering different types of writing, challenging me to try new aspects in style and content, pushing me gently outside my comfort zone with encouragement.

"I signed up for the course in December 2020 as a Christmas present to myself and I started the first module in January 2021. I have had eight pieces published: three paid earning £1080 and a star letter where I won a £250 hotel voucher."

Annemarie Munro - Writers Bureau Student of the Year 2022

Read Annemarie's full story


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