Student Log In
33 Years of Success!

Tel: +44 161 819 9922

This month we have a student forum special in the form of successes and tips from students, expert advice from Heather Cooke on how to generate ideas, Ten Tops Tips to help you with your poetry competition entries, plus the usual mix of inspiration and useful websites.

E-zee Writer
Top Tips For Writers

E-zee Writer Top Tips for Writers Issue 110
November 2009

Hello again,

Happy Thanksgiving to our American readers! A little early, I know, but it’s an important day and I am sure you are all looking forward to it. So, enjoy your turkey, football and parades!

Speaking of our American friends, our Director of Studies, Diana Nadin, is looking for tutors in America (both fiction and non-fiction) to work with students. So, if you are already a successful writer contact her with your CV on

I have been moseying around the forums this week and I’ve found some gems of advice that I’d like to share with you, which I’ve included in Inspiration. And in Student Stories you’ll find some publication stories I’ve nabbed to show you it can and is being done on a regular basis. I have to say, I am absolutely loving the Next Line post started by Paul H – couldn’t resist adding my two pennies worth. And The Last Shall Be First post started by Sandra M. Both can be found in the Have a Laugh forum.

So remember, if you ever need a little encouragement don’t forget to go and chat with other students and read their stories – that’s what they are there for. If you are a student and don’t yet have access to the student community area of the website email to get it set up. If you are not yet a student – what are you waiting for?

We have expert advice from Heather Cooke, regular readers will know her well, on generating ideas in Steal or No Steal? And Ten Top Tips advises on how to make sure you have the best chance possible of winning in poetry competitions.

According to 840 international industry experts at the recent Frankfurt Book Fair by 2018 digital sales will overtake those of traditional books. So, if you want to keep up with the times have a look at Useful Websites for a great blog on the how, why and where of e-book publishing (and consider our Writing for the Internet course to get you off the ground). And to promote your new e-book, or any other format for that matter, you can utilise another of our featured sites for free press releases. The final website is student recommended and an excellent site for research.

If you can go gallivanting this month you may want to head over to South Birmingham College, Digbeth to attend The Writers' Toolkit on November 21st between 10am and 4pm. In their words, “The Writers’ Toolkit is our second annual gathering for emerging and established writers and anyone working in the writing industry. It offers a unique opportunity to learn about aspects of the business of being a writer and to network with others writing and working in literature development through a mixture of panel discussions and Q&A sessions.” Tickets cost £29.00 and include a buffet lunch. Part of Birmingham Book Festival.

Students in the UK should go along to their local Borders Bookshop.
They have a wide range of events going on all the time. For instance Borders in Leeds has a book group that meets every two weeks and a creative writing group too, plus book signings and a knitting group – could make for some interesting article ideas!

A five day residential writing seminar, between 1st and 7th December, hosted by Peer Spirit at a retreat called Whidbey Island, Seattle, USA may be something you think could help you develop as a writer. It is “designed for people ready to move beyond the unstructured creativity of journal writing to tackle a portion of their life experience by writing memoir, autobiography, essay or fiction.” The cost is $1275.00 which is all inclusive of tuition, consultation, room and board. Sounds fantastic, once again I’m wishing I could persuade the chiefs that I need to road test these events! More information here.

I forgot to mention the link to Sue Wilkes’ book last month, sorry Sue, and promised I’d do it this time. So, here it is. And on the theme of tutors and books, another of ours, Nicki Taylor, has just launched her newest book, The Scottish Wedding Planner, via her own publishing company, Unbound Press. Incidentally they are also seeking full length fiction and non-fiction submissions for next year. Details can be found in the submission section of the website.

As we are getting near the time of year when we have to rack our brains for what to get that special person let us take the hassle out of it for you – buy them one of our courses. You can’t go wrong! They’ll still get their 15 day trial period and you could be giving them the opportunity to start a whole new career.

Once you’ve given them the writing course, your loved one could be entering competitions like the Rider Haggard Society’s Annual Short Story Competition which could bag you £200 and a year’s free membership for first prize.

Finally, November 19th plays host to World Philosophy Day. So, I’ll leave you with a philosophical thought from one of my favourite websites – – to ponder upon:

“Energy and persistence conquer all things.”


                                                                            Benjamin Franklin


Have a determined month!
Shelley x

Don’t forget our Writer Of The Year Competition is  now accepting entries.


As I mentioned earlier here are the stories of success from the student forums:

Rachael H tells us about her recent success and passes on a tip for where you can submit too – thanks Rachel, “Hi everyone, I have recently had a non-fiction article accepted by Stories for Children magazine (YEAH!) and have just received an email from one of the editors to say that they urgently need submissions. Unfortunately this is a non-paying market (apart from a free PDF version that is) but as this is the second plea I have received, a good chance for a publishing credit. Check out their website on: Click under top right hand tab for Contributors and then on the left hand menu you will find submission guidelines and an ideas calendar.” 

Nigel W says: "Folks, I submitted an outline for my article 'Lay-by Labour' to a Baby magazine about seven weeks ago and after a few reminders was told "Sorry - we only accept commissioned work" (this is not what they say in their magazine so I took it as a "Go away - we aren't interested"). I felt rather disappointed as my tutor loved the article but rallied my confidence and sent the same outline to another Baby magazine... ...within 48 hours the Features editor got back to me and said they'd like to see the full article so I duly sent it off. Within 72 hours she contacted me again and asked if I could supply any pictures too - so I duly complied yesterday evening. I opened my email this morning and found that they would love to publish my article and offered me £450 for the full rights !!! I was absolutely beside myself with excitement. Needless to say I've accepted their offer and I shall be having a glass of red wine (or three) tonight to celebrate! So many, many thanks for giving me the confidence to submit this article for publication - I really feel like I might actually have a future at this writing lark!"

Kate M tells us that, “In October's Junior Education, my first 'proper' article will be published - I even got paid for it! I've had letters published, but have been hoping for this since I started the course in January. It's a great feeling and I know that if I can do it, anyone can!" Thanks for that Kate and for your encouragement!

Emily P told us, “After submitting a story to a new children's magazine, I just assumed it hadn't got anywhere when I hadn't heard anything back from them in a few months. A few days ago however, I received confirmation that it has been chosen to feature in their Oct 09 issue! It’s unpaid, but it's put the biggest smile on my face! Just thought I'd share." Thanks for letting us know Emily and remember it doesn’t really matter that you haven’t been paid for this – it’s one for your portfolio so it’s all good!

And just to highlight the truth in the Benjamin Franklin Quote:

Sonja M says “I've finally had one of my reader's tips published after nearly three years of emailing it to a succession of 12 different women's magazines. Persisting, despite being ignored or rejected is worth it!” I found this really quite inspiring Sonja, your persistence really does astound me, but it’s paid off in the end!


Thanks, as always, to Rachel, Nigel, Kate, Emily and Sonja for sharing their inspirational stories with us. If you would like a prospectus for the Comprehensive Creative Writing Course or any of our other courses 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
an essential guide for freelance writers

For up-to-date market information, Freelance Market News is invaluable.

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.

This month
See the winner of our Poetry and Short Story Competition, learn how to write fillers on healthy issues plus, how to write for a greeting card company.


Steal or No Steal?

by Heather Cooke

We’ve all been there. The mind’s gone blank. “What on earth am I going to write about?” It’s at moments like that when we’re tempted to give up, go off and curl up with a magazine. Some might call that a displacement activity, others a cop-out. I call it research.

Reading stories and articles that other people have written (and have had published for payment!) can spark off ideas for your own work. “Hang on!” I hear you say. “Isn’t that plagiarism? Aren’t there laws against stealing other people’s work?” And of course you’re right. But applying a little bit of lateral thinking to something that’s already in print can be exactly what you need when ideas dry up. You wouldn’t be using the original author’s words or even the same basic idea, and you certainly wouldn’t use any of that writer’s own research. Confused? Let me explain.

In the magazine I’m looking at, there’s an article about a celebrity’s battle with anorexia. The subjects there are: celebrity, battle, anorexia. Can I write about any of those?

Do I know any celebrities? Have I met any? Celebrities always sell, but you don’t need to be bezzie friends with an A-lister. Some magazines have slots for personal accounts of meetings with stars, so maybe you once hung around outside a theatre for an autograph or photo opportunity or queued to have a book signed by someone famous. Did you once spot a “face” in the supermarket or the pub? Perhaps a famous (or even infamous!) person went to your school, and you can use that as a hook to write about education or your home town or how fame changes people... or doesn’t.

Battle? You could write about someone else’s battle with an addiction or health problem, whether famous or not. Or has someone been fighting for justice?

Anorexia? You might decide to write a factual piece about eating disorders. Which brings us to:

The original article is an interview, with plenty of quotes from the celebrity. You might decide to approach one of the subjects in a completely different style. Yours could be a straightforward factual piece, giving the background to a subject, or you could decide on a practical how-to approach.

On the other hand, if an article that catches your eye is a factual or practical one, could you write a personal account of your own experience of that subject? Or could you interview someone, celebrity or not, who has some connection with the topic? Perhaps you know someone whose battle against the odds has been particularly inspiring, or is there a local expert who could shed further light on the subject?

If the original article is emotional and heart-rending, is there scope instead for a humorous approach to the subject? Almost all topics can be treated in a light-hearted way, often to great effect, if angled correctly and sensitively. Depending as always on the target readership! Which brings us to:

The magazine I’m looking at is a chatty women’s weekly, but the subject could be of interest to a wide range of markets as it stands – and an even wider range with a little imagination. A thought-provoking piece about the downside of being a celebrity could sell to a magazine on any of the performing arts as well as sports magazines. If the magazine you look at is a national one, is there a local angle on the subject that would sell to a county magazine? And vice versa!

Eating disorders might fit into any of the health magazines (an original angle would help, as the subject will obviously have been covered before) but also parenting mags, specialist cookery titles, or teen markets. The latter might prefer a more snappy approach, a quiz maybe. Which brings us to:

If the article you look at is a conventional shape, with a beginning, middle and end, could the subject lend itself to a different approach? Many publications use the Top Ten (ways to lose weight, beat the bullies, meet your heroes) and you’ll have spotted E-Zee Writer’s own regular Ten Top Tips slot below. A similar idea is the A-Z of whatever.

Conversely, if the published item has a shape like this, could you write about the subject in a more conventional way, expanding on those bite-sized chunks of information and developing it into a feature?

Other variations on letters and numbers are popular, too, such as the initial letters of a relevant word. Facts about that celebrity could use the letters of the star’s name, or a series of health tips might use the letters of HEALTHY – Help, Exercise, Alcohol and so on. You could use a number that fits the subject: Seven Pillars of Wisdom might be tips on improving your brain-power or little-known facts about Sir Norman. Nine Lives might look at caring for kitty, and so on. Six of the Best, perhaps – or Famous Five, or Dirty Dozen! Which brings us to:

Here’s a final trick. Next time you flick through a magazine (and of course all these principles also apply to magazine websites, if you’re glued to the PC!) try not to look at the content of the items at all, but just the titles. Chances are that the ideas generated by those titles will be very different from the original articles ... or stories! Which brings us to:

Fact or fiction?
The focus so far has been on non-fiction, but exactly the same principles apply to fiction. Too good to be true? Try it and see! When ideas run short, take some time out with a fiction magazine. I guarantee it works, and plagiarism this is not. A story you read could give you an idea for one of your own, simply from something a character says or a location used or the title. And be prepared, too, for cross-fertilization. A short story might give you an idea for a feature, or an article might spark off a story.

And why stop there? Who knows, your next novel might be about a celebrity who battles against an eating disorder...

Heather Cooke is a Writers Bureau tutor, teaching both fiction and non-fiction. She has had hundreds of short stories and articles published in markets ranging from Chat to the Church Times, as well as three novels.


Ten Top Tips for entering poetry competitions

Remember to keep these tips safe so you can use them when you enter our Poetry and Short Story Competition - we are accepting entries now!

1. Wherever you are and whatever the time of day, always keep a notebook handy. You never know when the inspiration for a new poem will come to you. It’s so easy to forget your ideas when you’ve lots of other things on your mind – and you might just be losing a winner.

2. Avoid hackneyed themes. You might have just had a painful love affair and want to write about it – but so will many other poets. Unless you can bring something new and original to your theme the judges will pass it by. The same goes for natural disasters, wars and abuse. They tug at your heart strings, but they also inspire many other poets. The Writers Bureau 2009 competition was inundated with poems about the loss of life in Afghanistan and Iraq.

3. Most competitions are open – so they will accept both free verse or rhyming work. But don’t mistake free verse for a slab of prose. There is a distinct difference between the two and poetry must have structure and rhythm. It must also be properly punctuated. Punctuation in poetry can be more fluid and imaginative but it must still do its intended job – to indicate pauses and breathing spaces.

4. If you do chose to use a specific form – such as a sonnet or a limerick – make sure that you follow the necessary metre and rhyming scheme. And don’t invert phrases unnaturally to get appropriate rhymes at the end of lines – this is a real ‘no-no’ for judges.

5. Never use ‘antique’ phrases such ‘thus’, ‘poesy’ and ‘doest’. Also, check your similes and metaphors carefully to make sure that they are fresh and original.

6. Always follow the rules – so watch your line limit. If the organisers say 40 lines you’ll be throwing away your money if your poem runs to 45.

7. Don’t get unhealthily attached to a particular poem. If it’s not been placed in a couple of competitions try to look at it objectively. You might be able to use the same theme but how about starting again and re-working it?

8. Polish, polish and polish again. Make sure your work is perfect. When competition is fierce only the best will win.

9. When entering a competition give yourself plenty of time. We all know that you can dash off a poem and then send it by email the day before the deadline. But, you need to be able to put your work aside after you have written it and then come back to it with a fresh mind so that you can spot any flaws. And don’t forget Tip 8, above.

10. Finally, and probably most importantly, write with integrity. Make every entry your best, irrespective of how large or how small the prize money. 

This site allows you to create press releases to promote your publications for free, or you can pay a small price and have more benefits. It’s a good starting point for promotion of your work via Google and such like.  
Here you can learn the in’s and out’s of publishing e-books. The posts are well written and fun to read and you should learn a lot about how to write and sell your e-books effectively. If you are unsure as to the potential of e-books have a look at the article entitled “E-book Publisher Generated $21 Million in 12 Months”, it’s pretty convincing, plus you’ll be doing your bit to save the planet!
The last site featured this month is excellent and was recommended by Fiona J. She says, “May I suggest if you have a moment to spare and it is well worth it, go on to Open2net. There is a mine of information there and you never know, in the course of your research, you could find all kinds of information. Definitely an ideal research resource. I was a former student with the OU and frankly I cannot sing its praises loud enough.” Thanks Fiona.

Remember, if you run a website that you think may be of use to our readers, let me know. If I like it, I’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 May

Beltane in the Irish Calendar and also the first day of summer. 

2nd May 1885

Good Housekeeping magazine goes on sale for the first time.  

3rd May

World Press Freedom Day. 

4th May 1953 

The Old Man and the Sea earns Ernest Hemmingway a Pulitzer Prize. 

5th May 1260 

The Mongol Empire is taken over by Kublai Khan. 

6th May 1877

Chief Crazy Horse surrenders in Nebraska to the United States troops. 

7th May 1539 

The founder of the Sikh Religion, Guru Nanak Dev, dies.  

8th May 

World Fair Trade Day. 

9th May

Europe or Schuman Day is a celebration of peace and unity in Europe. Sadly this day is not celebrated in the UK due to a large amount of euro-scepticism but it is celebrated in all other member countries.  

10th May 1996

Eight climbers, including Rob Hall and Scott Fisher, are killed in a rogue storm at the summit of Mt Everest making it the most deadly day in the mountain’s history.

11th May 1987 

The trial of Klaus Barbie for war crimes committed in WWII begins in Lyon. 

12th May

International Nurses day. 

13th May 1958 

The trade mark for Velcro is registered. 
14th May 1939

Astonishingly, Lina Medina becomes the youngest confirmed mother in medical history giving birth at the age of five to a healthy boy by caesarean section. 

15th May 1991


France elects its first female prime minister in Edith Cresson. 

16th May 1568 

England becomes a refuge for the fleeing Mary Queen of Scots. 

17th May 1994 

The first multiparty elections are held in Malawi. 

18th May 1897


Irish author Bram Stoker publishes Dracula. 

19th May 1897


Reading jail releases Oscar Wilde. 
20th May 1916

A tornado hits the small town of Codell in Kansas, USA. The same town is hit by a tornado on the exact same date for the next two years – oh no, we’re back to those spooky coincidences again!


21st May 1960 

Jeffrey Dahmer, the notorious American serial killer, is born in West Allis, Wisconsin.


22nd May 1960

The most powerful earth quake ever recorded – 9.5 on the moment magnitude scale – hits Southern Chile. 

23rd May

World Turtle Day. 

24th May 1940


Russian born Noble Prize Laureate and poet Josef Brodsky is born in Leningrad, USSR. See end notes for a link to a rather gruesome and sad little poem about a polar explorer. 

25th May 1966


Princess Laurentien of the Netherlands is born in Leiden. 

26th May 1966

British Guiana claims independence and becomes Guyana. 

27th May 1995


Superman actor Christopher Reeve falls from his horse at a competition in Charlottesville, USA, and is paralyzed from the neck down.  

28th May 1999 

The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci is put back on display in Milan, Italy after 22 years of restoration.  

29th May 1886 

The first advertisement for Coca-Cola is placed in the Atlanta journal by chemist and inventor of the drink John Pemberton.  

30th May 1431  Joan of Arc is burned at the stake by an English dominated tribunal.  

31st May 1279 BC

Ancient Egypt has a new Pharaoh, Rameses II, also known as Rameses The Great.

Here are some reader suggested tips for you to digest and use:
Lyndsey G advises the following for making your outlines succinct: “Try telling a friend what article you are writing and tape record yourself while you do it. It won't be too long because you don't want to bore them and you'll want to make it sound interesting so you only end up giving the edited highlights. I used to work in recruitment where three-page CVs had to be whittled down to 50 word tag lines and that was the method I used.” It’s a great tip Lyndsey, thanks!

And Kate M explains how to get ideas using brainstorming: “Write down a topic title on a topic that you know a lot about and then around that topic title, write all the words down relating to that topic. It's what teachers call a brainstorm. From that, jot down key words or sentences you could write about this section and you have a basic framework for an article. It should look a bit like a spider’s web. Introduction, Main Body and Concluding Paragraph are your three basic paragraphs, then off you go! There are loads of ways to plan an article, but that one works for me." Good luck! If you try it out and it works for you please go onto the forum and let others know.

This month’s game is more of a challenge than a game. It’s the Trivial Pursuit Challenge – who’s best, boys or girls? I found this totally addictive and the videos for right or wrong are amusing! So, come on girls, we were ahead by over 100,000 points the other day when I was looking, but I see now that we are about the same behind and we only have until 31st December to catch up! Sorry – my feminist side is creeping out!

Remember, if you are in the USA and you are already a successful writer you could be tutoring our students. Email with your CV and find out if you could be just what we are looking for.

So, to finish off this month here’s the Joseph Brodsky poem recounting the last days of a polar explorer’s final days. Short but definitely not sweet – Polar Explorer.

If you found something of use to you in this issue please pass the word on 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.

See you next month.

Shelley x

P.S. Don’t forget our Writer of the Year Competition!
As usual, if you've any suggestions or would like to comment on anything you have read then please contact me at:



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

Lou Carter"After completing the course I began writing as much as I could and in 2014 I was finally signed by my agent and within two months I had a contract with Bloomsbury.

To date I have nine picture book contracts all at various stages of publication. There Is No Dragon In This Story (Bloomsbury) and Pirate Stew (Orchard) both published last summer and Oscar The Hungry Unicorn (Orchard) is due to be released on Sept 20th 2018. "

Lou Carter

Sarah Leavesly"Since starting The Art of Writing Poetry course, I have been published many times under my pen name Sarah James, won competitions and made money."

Sarah Leavesley


Noel Gama"I was so excited about the immense potential of the Internet that I enrolled for yet another Writers Bureau course, ‘Writing for the Internet'."

Noel Gama


Gilian Atack

"The course has helped me write a story that evokes strong emotions; the constructive but motivational feedback I received from The Writers Bureau has helped me knock down the barriers to self-doubt. Recently, I held my first book launch where I talked about how and why I wrote my story."

Gillian Atack

Read Gillian's Story

Cathal Coyle

"My short-term intention is to continue combining writing for newspapers and magazines with my current job. I'm enjoying my writing 'sideline' but I may find as time goes on that I want to make the transition to full-time writer."

Cathal Coyle


Institute of Training and Occupational Learning

Bookmark and Share