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The Writers Bureau Writer Of The Year 2008

Justin Tonna is so successful in his writing career that he even has people recognising him in the street!

For the full story, and to see why we picked Justin as our Writers Bureau Student Writer of the Year 2008, see below.

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Justin Tonna, Writer of the Year 2007

 

Previous Years:
2011 2010

 

...and the runners-up are:

Allison Lee, Runner-up

Allison Lee,
England.
 

Like many people, Allison enrolled on the course to learn how to write fiction. However, she soon found success with non-fiction books based on her own career experiences with child-minding.


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Hazel McHaffie, Scotland.

Hazel found a way of making her work in Medical Ethics talk to a wider audience by writing it into fiction. Since taking her course she has had three books published and has a further three more commissioned.


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Hazel McHaffie, runner-up
Paola Fornari, runner-up

Paola Fornari, Uruguay.

Paola's success with her non-fiction writing has meant that she has had to put her fiction writing ambitions on hold. This is in spite of there being no English language newspapers or magazines in Uruguay where she currently lives.


[read more]

Christine Kenworthy, England.

Christine has enjoyed writing since childhood. Later in life she found writing to be very therapeutic when family illness and outside events forced her to close her business. After enrolling on her Writers Bureau course she has now turned her love of writing into a fun and profitable hobby.

[read more]
Christine Kenworthy, Runner-up

This year, again, we were presented with a tough choice for our winner. In the end we chose Justin because within a year of re-starting his course he's built up a great reputation for himself in his home country of Malta and has had two job offers from different magazines.

Click here to read about the latest developments in Justin’s writing career.

Writer of the Year 2008, Justin Tonna

"I had originally begun my Comprehensive Writing Course about ten years ago, but I failed to complete it. Life then got in the way and I put my writing dreams aside.

In September 2006, with life settled down, I once again took up my quill. However, this time I was determined to succeed in being published.

My will to succeed paid off and publication came quickly. Shortly after starting my course I was offered a spot in a local paper reporting the highlights of rugby union games at the weekend. Although I was writing for free, it did come with the satisfaction of seeing my name in print. The reports became popular and other newspapers began to ask to print them. My writing was even being translated in to the local language. At the end of the season the local rugby scene had enjoyed record turnout crowds and unprecedented publicity. As a token of appreciation the Malta Rugby Football Union presented me with an award for my work throughout the year which was extremely satisfying.

Simultaneously, I was also seeking out paying local markets and, with my name constantly appearing in all the newspapers, I soon became a regular contributor to almost every single local magazine. These magazines are often distributed as colour supplements with the weekend newspapers and are very popular on the island. The money I get from these contributions actually pays the mortgage!

As my contributor photo appears next to my articles I am now being recognised whilst walking in the street (I said the magazines were popular) and I often get good feedback on my writing.

Not wanting to be confined to the local scene I have also branched out in to foreign markets. My work has since been published in K9 Magazine in the UK, Rugby Magazine and Fate Magazine in the USA and I have become a regular contributor to Military Illustrated Magazine which is UK based but which is also distributed around the world. In September 2007 I had the cover story in Military Illustrated – something I am extremely proud of.

Currently I have actually been paid about £1,000 sterling for my writing, with another £1,000 sterling owed in work that has been submitted and another £1,000 sterling in commissioned work that is being written.

Recently the largest local newspaper (The Times of Malta) called me up and offered me a position on their staff as a sub-editor. I had done work for some of the supplements that the publishing group produces and they were very impressed.

Unfortunately, I turned the position down as the salary was much lower than my normal job (I hold a senior management position with a major insurance company). We have recently moved house and had a baby which meant that, no matter how much I wanted the job, I just couldn't afford the pay cut. However, the paper has since rung me back and told me they want to negotiate pay!

Also, our largest magazine producer called me and asked me if I'd like to be an assistant editor. Their pay packet is much more attractive and we are in negotiations. I may move in to full-time writing yet, so watch this space.

Apart from the financial rewards I have also discovered that writing can also change lives. Whilst doing an interview for a glossy magazine I met a young girl with a disabled father. She was a karate champion at the young age of 13, although the family were struggling to meet the growing financial demands of her sport. After I wrote an article on her abilities and situation the sports shops were falling over themselves to sponsor her. I have also secured her a spot on local TV using contacts I have made in the industry. When her father shook my hand and thanked me with tears in his eyes it made me realise that we really can change the world – perhaps not all of it, but certainly the little piece we live in.

I have to admit that when I read The Writers Bureau adverts I was sceptical of the claims. Now I sing your praises. The help I have received has been invaluable and the course material is excellent. I cannot praise the course enough for what it has given me."

Click here to read about the latest developments in Justin’s writing career.


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Like many people, Allison enrolled on the course to learn how to write fiction. However, she soon found success with non-fiction books based on her own career experiences with child-minding.

Allison Lee, Runner-up

"I have harboured a desire to be a writer for many years. However, like many people with a secret wish there has always been a reason of some kind for me not to pursue my dreams. A lack of time, fear of failure and lack of confidence were my recurring excuses.

I decided to enrol on a creative writing course with The Writers Bureau as I really wanted to try my hand at writing fiction. The course helped me enormously in terms of plotting story lines, building characters and looking for ideas. It also taught me how to present my work and where to source suitable publishers for my material.

My first success was having a letter published in a well-known woman's magazine and this spurred me forward. However, despite my initial interest in writing fiction it is non-fiction which has given me my greatest successes to date.

Before I had completed my course I had come up with an idea to write a book about my own career experiences and my first book "Starting Your Own Childminding Business" was commissioned by the first publisher I approached! This was the start of a wonderful relationship with How to Books who have since commissioned me to write a further five books.

One of my hobbies includes property renovation and I decided to turn my experiences of buying and letting houses as holiday homes into a book offering help and advice. Once again this book was commissioned and I also contribute regularly to Holiday Cottages Magazine.

My success writing for How To Books has given me the opportunity of appearing on the television programme "Women in the Property Market" and I have enjoyed taking part in radio interviews with seven different radio stations including Radio Five Live with Simon May in May 2007.

A well known distance learning college contacted me on the strength of my first published book and asked me if I would be interested in writing a course for them to assist students in gaining an insight into setting up their own childminding business and I agreed. I now tutor students who are enrolled on this course and I have since written several other courses which are sold by several distance learning colleges across England and Ireland.

Following a press release for one of my books I was contacted by the publisher of Scholastic's Nursery Education publication and asked if I would consider setting up a childminder's page for their magazine. I jumped at the chance and I am now responsible for my own monthly page which includes information, activities and a question and answer mailbag.

An advertisement in my local newspaper gave details of a small children's publisher in my area so I decided to contact them with a view to writing children's books aimed at children who spend time in childcare. I began writing my book series at the end of 2006 and the fifth book is due to be published in time for Christmas.

Never one to stand still for long I decided to branch out and began to submit proposals to other publishers in the hope of finding more publishing houses who would be interested in my work. I found this with Continuum International Publishing Group who published two of my childcare books this year with a further three titles due for publication in 2008.

My latest success came about a few weeks ago when, after completing a training course for my work as a childminder, I came up with an idea for a new book covering the Early Years Foundation Stage which will be compulsory to all childcare practitioners from September 2008. I approached another company, Brilliant Publications, with my idea and the book was commissioned immediately.

Although my initial thoughts were to write fiction I am very happy with the way my writing career has taken shape and I still have to pinch myself when I think about the fantastic success I have enjoyed in such a short period of time. However, fiction is still close to my heart and one of my future writing goals is to have a novel published in the not too distant future.

I have worked hard and enjoy writing immensely however I also feel I have a lot to thank The Writers Bureau for not least because they gave me the courage to approach publishers and to believe in myself and I can honestly say that I have never looked back!"

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Hazel found a way of making her work in Medical Ethics talk to a wider audience by writing it into fiction. Since taking her course she has had three books published and has a further three more commissioned.

Hazel McHaffie, runner-up

"When I first enrolled with The Writers Bureau I was a Research Fellow in Medical Ethics at the University of Edinburgh with many academic publications to my name. But increasingly over the years I felt a compulsion to do more to bring the subject of ethics alive, making it challenging, gripping, accessible. Fiction seemed to me the way to go. There was one major stumbling block: I had no experience of writing fiction beyond the juvenile scribblings of my schooldays and one novel ('Holding on?' published by Books for Midwives Press) written in 1994, which I now wish would quietly melt into obscurity!

The Writers Bureau Course promised to teach me how to write and perhaps show me if I had any talent for such a venture. I was sorely tempted initially to bypass the non-fiction half but in the end decided it might be good for me to be forced to write on topics not of my choosing. Having my work rigorously critiqued by my tutor and risking rejection by magazine editors was all part of the learning process. Impatient to get on with my novel I turned each assignment around as swiftly as I could and my tutor matched my speed; I was impressed. The fiction modules soon started to arrive. It was a triumph of perseverance over fear when I could add publication in The People's Friend and My Weekly to my heavy professional CV! And payment for these more than paid for the tuition.

The course completed, and the sound advice of my tutor ringing in my ears, I settled down to write fiction seriously. Having the assurance of my tutor that I could write helped me to persist when the rejection letters started to arrive. 

Eventually, thanks to the endorsement of a Professor of Medicine and the Arts, Radcliffe Publishing undertook to produce the first three books in a new series of novels set in the world of medical ethics. 'Paternity', 'Double Trouble' and 'Vacant Possession' were all published in 2005. Having the public written commendation of luminaries such as Alexander McCall Smith, Fay Weldon, Geoff Watts, James LeFanu, helped me to believe in myself as a writer. It seemed extraordinary that these people had actually sat down and read my writing... and liked it ... and were prepared to say so!

In 2007 a trade publisher, Luath Press, liked my fourth novel in the series, 'Right to Die'. I went along to their Dickensian premises next door to Edinburgh Castle to sign on the dotted line for this story about a young man who contracts a fatal illness... they signed me up for three new books on the spot and declared their intention of buying up the previous three too! 'Right to Die' is due out early in 2008 and the next one, 'Saving Sebastian', has just been submitted to them. They have ambitious plans and I am thoroughly enjoying the expert help of agents and editors, designers and promotion experts. And actually having deadlines helps to convince people that I am a proper writer and I'm not at everyone's beck and call.

As well as the delight of publishing my fiction I've had some fantastic associated experiences: speaking at the Brighton Book Festival, going into schools to talk about my writing, giving talks at conferences as an author, having tea in the House of Lords. I have folders on my desk for ideas to last as many years as I have the strength to hammer on my keyboard."

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Paola's success with her non-fiction writing has meant that she has had to put her fiction writing ambitions on hold. This is in spite of there being no English language newspapers or magazines in Uruguay where she currently lives.

Paola Fornari, runner-up

"When I started the Writers Bureau Course just over a year ago, in November 2006, my purpose was simply to develop my writing technique, rather than to make money. 

Living in Uruguay where we have no English language newspapers or magazines, I was a bit daunted when I found that I was immediately expected to research markets and to try selling my work.  However, with the encouragement of my excellent tutor, I persevered and found my way into print very quickly.  In fact I was so successful with non-fiction that after completing just a couple of fiction assignments, I put the fiction part of the course on hold – I'm simply too busy!

The first article I had published was in February this year, and since then I have had articles printed in publications as diverse as International Living (ten 'postcards'), Ireland's Own (two articles), Practical Fishkeeping, The Buenos Aires Herald (nine articles), and  The Oldie (three articles and two more accepted for future publication).  I was also shortlisted in a Writer's Magazine short story competition.   In my first year of writing, I have earned £1000.00 and have at least $500 more coming from articles which have been accepted for publication.  But writing has given me far more satisfaction than can be measured by the cheques that have come in.

The milestones that have given me the greatest pleasure so far include:

  • Having a two-page colour spread in the July 2007 marine supplement of Practical Fishkeeping despite knowing nothing about fish (I know about cowrie shells, though).
  • In December 2007, I had five of my articles published in a Uruguay Special in the Travel and Leisure supplement of The Buenos Aires Herald, the only English language daily in Argentina.
  • When owners of Country Inns in Argentina and Uruguay called me to tell me that international tourists had booked in because they had read about the place in my articles.
  • When International Living invited me to make two presentations to 85 potential investors at their 'Live and Prosper in Uruguay' conference in Montevideo, Uruguay, in November 2007.  My writing had come to the organisers' attention, and the presentations were a great success.
  • When I was 'promoted' from The Oldie's Expat column to their Travel section.
  • When I Googled my name and found that five of the six first entries were directly related to me and my writing.

 

The Writers Bureau course has been excellent in giving me the confidence to send out my writing, which had previously been reserved just for family and friends.  I have learnt a lot about style and marketing, and have been able to direct my writing with a view to selling it, while maintaining and developing my own voice.

It gives me immense satisfaction that my writing has a more lasting or far-reaching effect than simply being read on a page, and I hope to promote various little-known projects and tourist destinations.  I plan to follow more Writers Bureau courses: they are well organised and easy for 'permanent travellers' such as myself to follow.  I would like to branch out into poetry and learn more about writing for the Internet.  Thanks, Writers Bureau!"

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Christine has enjoyed writing since childhood. Later in life she found writing to be very therapeutic when family illness and outside events forced her to close her business. After enrolling on her Writers Bureau course she has now turned her love of writing into a fun and profitable hobby.

Christine Kenworthy, Runner-up"I have always enjoyed writing and spent a lot of my childhood filling exercise books with stories inspired by my favourite books. At secondary school, fuelled by my ambition to become a writer, I persuaded my English teacher to allow me to produce a school newsletter. This ran for three years before I gave it up to devote more time to 'O' Level studies.

Over the next two decades my writing ambition fell by the wayside as my life was filled with other things: travelling, marriage, running a health-food business and bringing up my daughters. I often thought about writing but never seemed to have the time or the inspiration.

In 2000, when the world was celebrating the new millennium, my world began to fall apart. My dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease and our family cared for him as the disease slowly stripped him of his memories, his independence and his dignity.

In 2001, problems arose with my business lease and I was forced to close, leaving us in financial difficulties. I re-trained as a Special Needs Assistant and found employment in my local primary school.

By now, dad was unable to communicate and did not recognise me and I began to write as a way of coming to terms with the changes in my life. Dad died at New Year 2006 and again I turned to writing to ease the pain.

In April 2006, I decided to take the plunge and enrolled on The Writers Bureau Course.

With the support and guidance of my tutor and the encouragement of my husband Peter, I began submitting articles to magazines. I was elated when my article 'A Suffragette in the Family', written for Assignment 2, was accepted by Practical Family History Magazine.

Since enrolling I haven't looked back! I have used my experience of working in school to produce regular articles for 5 to 7 Educator magazine and have had work published in magazines such as Best of British, Cat World and Chat earning over £1,000. Of course I often have work rejected, but as my confidence has grown I now use the experience to learn and to improve my work.

I have also written a pantomime that staff at school performed for the pupils on Red Nose Day and have written website material for a friend.

I am now working on a humorous book based on my experiences of running a health-food shop and my ambition is to have it published.

Enrolling on The Writers Bureau Course is one of the best things I have ever done. Dad would have been so proud of my success."

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Sarah Plater Writers Bureau's Writer of the Year 2017

“I’m currently working on my fourth book, have been paid for my writing by at least 15 different magazines, and now earn half my income from writing – all thanks to The Writers Bureau’s course."

Sarah Plater - Writers Bureau Writer of the Year 2017

Read Sarah's full story.

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