Mentors & Kelly Gardiner on pirates, Twitter & getting the writing done.

Kate and Katherine talk mentors. Kate sings the praises of informal mentors such as this week’s guest, Kelly Gardiner, and also her formal mentorship with writer Charlotte Wood. Katherine laments a work mentorship gone wrong. What about mentoring others? And what’s the difference between mentoring and being a member of a good writing community? Kate mentions Toni Jordan on the Writers Vic website who writes that ‘Helping emerging writers is the most important thing that any established writer can do.’

Then Kate speaks to writer, Kelly Gardiner.

Kelly Gardiner is a writer, editor and educator. Her latest book is Brimstone, the first in her Firewatcher trilogy for middle grade readers. Her previous novel, 1917, was shortlisted for the NSW Premier’s Young People’s History Prize. Kelly’s other books include Act of Faith and The Sultan’s Eyes, both of which were shortlisted for the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards; and Goddess, based on the life of the seventeenth century French swordswoman, Mademoiselle de Maupin.

Kelly teaches creative and professional writing at La Trobe University and is the co-host of Unladylike, a podcast about women and writing.

Kelly discusses:

  • Being part of a writing course, as a student and now a teacher.
  • The journey to publishing her first book Oceans Without End – the first in her Swashbuckler trilogy.
  • The writing for children community (KG:In kids and YA, even if you don’t know somebody, you will promote their book when it comes out) and meeting Margaret Mahy )
  • Using social media (KG:There is no better professional development or professional networking tool (especially for introverts) than Twitter.
  • Writing historical fiction (including ‘walking the ground’ for research)
  • Having an agent (Kelly is now represented by Danielle Binks & Jacinta diMase)
  • Dealing with success (Have I got success?!)

To get the writing done, Kelly:

  • Does ‘fast drafting’ in blocks (especially is she has a residency such as at Falls Creek or Varuna)
  • Uses Chrome Nanny or other tools to lock herself out of her browser.
  • Blocks two ‘golden hours’ into her diary. (It is immovable.)

What has she learned along the way?

  • Emerging writers can tend to worry more about publishing than finishing the book (which she says is ‘totally human to get obsessed and worry about‘).
  • Not to put too much of your research into your historical fiction.
  • It’s not a failure of yours if your book doesn’t make it on the bestseller list.

Kelly says:

I think I know now, it’s about the book – it’s not about me.

Her advice:

  • Just make your book the best book it can be.

Kelly’s recommendation for a debut novel is Helen Garner’s Monkey Grip . She says: ‘Everyone, even Helen Garner, was once a debut novelist, having all the same feelings.’

Find out more about Kelly Gardiner at or follow her writing adventures on Twitter or Facebook.

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