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Michael Foley, Essex

Michael Foley

Michael had tried to get published for twenty years before he took The Writers Bureau course. Now he's had numerous articles and eight books published.

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I had been writing for over twenty years without any success. As the old saying goes, you could have wallpapered my house, and some of my neighbour's houses as well, with my rejection slips. When I tell people this they always ask why I kept on trying. I tell them that it's because I always believed that I was good at it. I then see the look that they give me which means twenty years of rejection slips proves you wrong.

I do sometimes wonder if this means that you have to have a great deal of staying power to become a writer, or does it mean that you must be stupid enough to ignore the evidence that proves your belief in your ability is completely wrong? Perhaps the latter.

To say that the twenty years of writing was entirely hopeless would be an exaggeration. After about fifteen years I one day received a letter from a magazine concerning an article I had sent them some months before. They liked it and wanted to publish it. They were going to pay me five pence per word and as it was over a thousand words that was lots of money. It was however the recognition that I craved and finally seeing my name in print. The magazine was a bi monthly publication and my article was to be in the April edition. April came and went as did May then June. My article arrived back in the post in July. The magazine had folded, the April edition was the first not to appear.

In some ways this was harder to bear than the rejection slips. I had come so close only to have success snatched away again. Ever the optimist, I think that I managed to use this disaster to fool myself again by saying that this proved that I was a good writer, I was just very unlucky.

I think that taking the course with the Writers Bureau was my last fling. I must admit that I had looked at the course on offer before this but wasn't sure if it would be right for me. If I had still failed after taking the course then I would not have been able to make any more excuses and would have given up writing. How wrong I was and how I soon wished that I had taken the course much earlier.

One of the problems that I had with what I was writing through all those years of failure was that I never got any feedback on its quality, just rejection slips. Suddenly with my Writers Bureau assignments I was getting tips on where I was going wrong of which there were many. Also the hints on getting published such, as writing letters to the editor was something I had not dreamt of before. Not only was this an easy way of getting published, and getting paid for it, it was a great way of learning how to write for specific markets.

Within six months of beginning the course I had my first article published in a magazine and had been paid for it. Something I had failed to do with hundreds of attempts in the past twenty years. I must admit that again I totally overestimated my ability and on the strength of this one article I waited for the plaudits and offers to come rolling in. Nothing happened for six months.

However with the continued feedback and encouragement more articles were accepted. By the time I completed the course I had articles published in several magazines and even had the confidence to write short humorous stories for a woman's magazine under the pen name of Jane Foley, which were also published.

I already felt like my writing career had taken off but I could never have dreamt of the success that was still to come. While taking the course I experienced a great change in my life. I had been working as a primary teacher until one of my children had twin boys who were premature and as a result were severely disabled.

My wife and I both gave up our teaching jobs to take care of the boys full time. It looked as though my teaching career was over. I felt quite at a loss in losing my working identity but at least I had something now to fall back on, writing.

One of the tips from the course was write about something you know about. I knew about local history and I sent the manuscript for a book I had written to a publisher. I received a letter back accepting the local history book that I had written for publication.

It was to be the beginning of a new career that I could do while looking after the boys but still feel like I was being successful professionally. The book was published soon afterwards called Front-Line Essex. I soon found myself being interviewed on local radio and by local newspapers.

I followed this up with Front-Line Kent and Essex Ready For Anything, a history of Essex in the Second World War. I was now becoming quite well known as a military history writer and followed the first three books with Front-Line Suffolk.

I had by this time ambitions to write beyond local history and through someone I had met while writing my first book I obtained the First World War letters, paintings and poems of an author and artist who was a member of the Sportsman's Battalion. I used this material to write a history of the battalion which was only in existence during the war and just afterwards. It was my first hardback called Hard As Nails.

I had not, however, neglected the local history books that had started me off and have since had Front-Line Thames published and then More Front-Line Essex. I have also written another general history book, which is a history of prisoners of war held by the British, which is also due out shortly. I have also just received a contract for Essex In World War One, which will be my ninth book.

I have tried to diversify what I am writing although I have had less time for articles and short stories since writing the books. I have completed a novel, which is under consideration with a publisher at the moment. I am also writing a book about my twin grandsons that my wife and I look after, charting the difficulties of bringing up disabled children.

Since the outset of my success in having books published I have appeared in numerous local newspapers and on local radio on a number of occasions. I have been asked to take part in the Essex Book Week in March. I have also done a number of book signings in local shops.

I have used the success to help local special needs charities by doing book signings at Christmas Fairs in aid of local nurseries and by dedicating Front-Line Thames to the special school attended by my grandchildren. I also donated a number of copies of the book to be sold for school funds.

Completing the Writers Bureau course has made it possible for me to attain my life long ambition of becoming a published writer. It was an ambition that took a lifetime to achieve but that would have taken much less time if I took the course earlier. The level of success I have achieved has far outweighed what I was hoping for when beginning the course. I would have been happy if I had managed to have a few articles published and maybe one day a book of some sort. By the end of this year I should have eight books already published and hopefully two more finished.

The success also came at a very important time of my life when my career in teaching had come to an end. Although I am very happy being a full-time carer for my grandchildren, writing has also given me a professional career that I can pursue alongside it.


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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