Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thursday Talktime - Teaching

Kate Walker talks about how she ended up acquiring a reputation for something that she really thought was the last thing she ever wanted to do!

OK so I'm not really sure if this should come under Thursday Talktime
or Writers' Wednesday because it's about writing (a bit)

or even
Temptation Tuesday (because it's something I love doing and it does tend to tempt me away from my writing sometimes)

Because I think bits of this post come under all of those. But my slot in the PHS this month is Thursday. And unless I was going to do What Are You Reading (Reading? I've just sent in my latest book and the hours I spent on finished that one meant I didn't get any reading done!), or Soundtracks - I don't do soundtracks for my books. So I'm left with Thursday Talktime and what I want to talk about is teaching.

I think this is really quite important after all the fuss and excitement over the New Voices contest. If the number of entries - 824 wasn't it? - to that contest showed anything, it is that so many people want to write. They all have different reasons. Some think it's a great way to make a lot of money - fast! Hmmm - don't want to disappoint you but I'm sitting here at home writing this in cold, wet Lincolnshire. I haven't headed for tax exile yet. Nor am I likely to in the not too distant future.

Some people think they'll become famous and a celebrity as a result of their writing - hmmm again. OK so you could probably rcognise JK Rowling if you met her in the street - or maybe Stephen King . . . Salman Rhushdie? but mostly writers are stay at home people who love their job for lots of reasons but one of them definitely is the fact that they can sit at the desk in tracksuit pants and a tee shirt, no make up - if they're like me, no shoes. . .

The best reason I can see for writing - the reason I write - is because I love to tell stories. I also have to get those people who live inside my head out of there and on to paper/the screen/a book otherwise people will think I'm completely mad because I had a tendency to retreat into this imaginary world where my characters are living out their lives. I have to write or my head will get to crowded with these imaginary peolple.

So I tell stories. It's what I always wanted to to. The thing my mother and my teachers always told me I'd never do. So why didn't I get a 'sensible' job ? I could become a teacher like my mother.
Oh dear me - no! The last thing I ever wanted to do was to teach. Stand in front of a class of people and instruct them in the finer points of English Lit (ther only thing I was really good at) Shudder! Or perhaps teach them French? I was supposed to be good at that too. I got a grade 1 in my GCEs - teach French? Double Shudder (Le frisson double). No teaching was not something I wanted to do.

So how come I ended up being both a writer (sorry Mother- and teachers - proved you wrong) and a teacher? And I seem to have acquired a reputation as a teacher that I never ever expected. The secret is that I'm teaching some thing I love. I teach writing. And most of all I teach writing romance. That rarely seems like work - or even something that I have to worry about nor struggle to plan and organise. Teaching writing is really an extension of something I love doing - and that is talking about writing. And some of the best moments in my workshops or courses have been when the discussion realy gets going and the ideas are flying around. Personally I will never forget the Creating Characters session in one workshop where we ended up with a heroine who was a lap dancer and the hero who was a vicar . . .

I fell into teaching writing romance by accident - but it's given me a wonderful addition to my life that I never ever expected. I've taught at library events, Arts Training weekends, Literature Festivals. I was lucky enough to be invited to speak at the Romance Writers of Australia Conference in Sydney the Romance Writers of New Zealand in Auckland (where the legend of Hugh-in-a-towel was born - projected onto an OHP screen more than life size. And where H-I-A-T was stolen by Anne McAllister who calls herself my friend!)

I now regularly get to visit Wales (well - revisit because I was at University in Aberystwyth and that's where I met my DH The Babe Magnet umpty ump years ago) because I teach at Caerleon Writers' Holidays in the summer and in February we spend a wonderful weekend overlooking the sea at Fishguard Writing Weekend where next year I shall be inaugurating the very first Advanced Writing Romance Course. Amazingly,that was booked up almost in the month it was announced. Imagine - me the person who didn't want to be a teacher. Ever. Now planning and running advanced courses.

And this all largely came about because of an Instant Message conversation. I was chatting with Dee Tenorio one of the hosties on the eHarlequin site. She was still unpublished then – this is going back years . We were talking about writing and as I’d read some of her novels I’d asked if she’d ever thought of writing for Presents. This took the conversation on to The 10 Most Important Things about Writing for Presents. I don ‘t remember much detail about that discussion, but I do know that the top three of that Top Ten most important things were:
And The Question Why?

That conversation grew in to a workshop plan and the workshop plan grew into a booklet and the booklet grew into a book when a publisher commissioned me to write up the workshop as the 12 Point Guide to Writing Romance. A book that first came out in 2004 and won Cata-Romance's Best Book For Writers award that year. Since then it has sold out not once but twice, it has been updated, expanded - pretty hugely expanded with hints and advice from over 20 published authors. And now, just this last week, it has been reprinted yet again - in its third edition (upated with the new names for lines etc)

I love that book. I had opened so many doors for me and made me a lot of friends. I love the way that people I've never met - people who want to write (and not just romance) email me and say how much the 12 Point Guide has helped them. I'm really truly happy when I hear from brand new writers who have just had their very first books accepted and they say that the 12 Point Guide helped them on their way to publication. After all - that's why I wrote it. Because a lot of people can't get to my classes. So I put the best of what I know into that book and that goes to placesI can never read. I just heard today that a lovely lady in Fiji (Hi Nas!) has her copy winging its way to her.

And seeing as my publisher has offered me some copies of this book to give away on 'suitable websites and blogs' - I think the PHS is a 'suitable web site' - I have a brand new hot off the press copy of the third edition to giveaway. So come and chat with me about writing - about writing classes you've been too - How to books you've found helpful - advice that's really hit the spot - post in the comments and my trusty sidekick Sid the Cat will pick a winner of the 12 Point Guide at the end of the day.

As well as celebrating the publication of the 3rd edition 12 Point Guide to Writing Romance, Kate is also thrilled that her March Presents Extra title The Konstantos Marriage Demand has been short-listed for the Best Presents Extra award at RT Book Reviews. And her latest Presents title - The Good Greek Wife? which is out in Presents Extra right now - sold out in the UK. What's that about good things coming in threes?

You can find out all about her latest news and the new titles coming up on Kate's web site, with all the very latest news on her blog.
And the winner of a copy of the 12 Point Guide to Writing Romance is Elissa. Elissa please email me (kate AT with your postal address and I'll get the book in the mail to you.


  1. Kate, coming from a teaching background myself I've always hated that saying "Those that can't do - teach" and you're living proof that it's not true. There's a buzz that comes from teaching someone something and 12 months later have people talk to you about how great it was or how bummed they were that they missed it.

    I never thought I'd be a teacher either - had my sights on being the next Nicole Kidman *winces*. Fair to say I never quite made it but writing is something I've done since I was little and what I really want to do - not for the fame and fortune (not that I'd knock them back if they were on offer) but because it's who I am. I'm a storyteller. Now I just need to learn how to be one worth publishing ;)

  2. Hi Kate,

    Yes I'm so happy to finally be told that Kate Walker's 12 Point Guide to Writing Romance will be with me shortly!
    I feel honoured to be mentioned here.

    Thanks first to Michelle Styles and Donna Alward who steered me to your book in the first place as the very best!
    And thank you for also donating one to our University for all those aspiring writers, as Fiji does not have RWA chapters or any writing groups.

  3. I think the difference with your kind of teaching is that you don't need to keep discipline! If you're teaching people who are desperate to learn, then it makes it more enjoyable for everyone, whereas a reluctant teenager who has no intention of learning anything can cause havoc (I flirted with the idea of teaching myself!).
    I've read and enjoted Christina Katz's 'Getting Known Before the Book Deal' (or something like that!) and a lot of the Writer's Digest books are very good too.

  4. I came to teaching much later than you, Kate, but I love it too. The biggest surprise to me was how much *I* learnt about writing myself once I started to teach. Until then I just wrote. Didn't think about it at all. But once I had to explain what I did, I had to understand what romance is and how stories work, and I found that really interesting.

    I'm offering a one day course in York (UK) and a week in Tuscany (dirty job, but someone has to do it) in 2011,(details at - and your 12 Point Guide is always top of my reading list!

  5. I, too, was encouraged to be a French teacher and I could never imagine myself dealing with tons of other people teenagers all day long. My own are quite enough to keep track of.

    Since I'm early enough to be the first, I'll mention Deb Dixon's Goal, Motivation, Conflict. It's a great straightforward book that really changed how I think about plot.

  6. Yay on a 3rd printing - the 12 Pt Guide is a go-to book for me so I'm thrilled it's continuing on.

  7. Sorry to be late coming to answer everyone. I had to go out and get some things done - it all took lonoger than I expected.

    Elissa you're right about that buzz -it's also wonderful to see the 'lightbulb' go on in someone's eyes in the middle of explaining things so you know that they've 'got' it. I've never liked that 'those who can, do. Those who can't - teach.' It implies that those teachers are somehow second rate when I know lots who 'can do' all sorts of thinsg but would be dreadful teachers.

    If you know you are a story teller and you must tell those stories then you will always enjhoy the journey to - I holpe - being published one day. Fingers crossed for you.

  8. Hio Nas

    I was happy to help - and yes thank you to Michelle and Donna for their recommendation of the 12 Point Guide. Perhaps one day you might start your own Romance Wtiters of Fiji chapter?
    Good luck with your writing and I do hope tyhe 12 POint Guide helps

  9. pageturner you make a very important point. My mother, my husband, my son, my friends are all teachers and they love it - when they can teach. But that discipline problem is always so difficult. When people want to write they usually join in with what we're doing willingly - mind you, I do have to say 'usually' - I've had one or two difficult characters and they do spoil it for everyone

  10. I comp;letely agree Jesica- one of the fascinating things about teaching writing is the way you also learn about yourself. I love it when someone asks 'how do you do this or that?' and you have to stop and think how *do* I do it?

    I envy you your teaching in Tuscany - that must be lovely. And thank you so muh for those recommendations od the 12 Point Guide

  11. Hi Julia - ah yes, the thought of tackling more than my own teenagers woujld have sent me running too. Thank you for the recommendation of Deb's book. I keep meaning to take a look at that one myself though I admit I'm very much an instinctual writer and so I spend less time working on planning than perhps I should. But it's worked for 25 years so far . . .

  12. Thank you Donna - it's always such a thrill for me when I find that fellow authors as well as not yet published writers also get something out of the 12 Point Guide - that is such a compliment

  13. The winner of a copy of the 12 Point Guide is Elissa Graham. Elissa please email me Kate AT with your postal address and I'll get the book in the mail to you