Within your heart, keep one still, secret spot where dreams may grow.
The Dream Makers
Okay, so I've always had a weakness for Presents books set Down Under. Think Emma Darcy...Robyn Donald...Daphne Clair...Helen Bianchin and Miranda Lee. I have shelves of keepers by these authors. So six years ago when I discovered that Daphne Clair and Robyn Donald ran the Kara School of Writing together, I leapt at the chance to go.
I'd been thinking for a long time about wanting to write. But I hadn't done anything about it. Until now. Then one morning I opened my mail to find a booking confirmation telling me that Daphne and Robyn would like to see my manuscript 3 weeks before the Kara course started in two months time. Aaargh! What manuscript???
I had a serious think. How much did I really want to be a writer? Very much, I discovered. So I sat down and wrote like a fury and six weeks later sent off the eight odd chapters I'd managed to cobble together. Undoubtedly, Robyn and Daphne were the catalyst that started me writing.
Dream Makers. That's how I think of Harlequin Mills & Boon writer Robyn Donald and Daphne Clair Daphne, multi-published authors, each with more than seventy books published. And, as I write this, The Prince's Convenient Bride is on the US Waldenbooks charts! Both are busy authors with careers and families of their own, yet they've always taken time to encourage new writers. Truly inspiring.
Over the years I attended several weekend courses at Daphne's country home in North Island, New Zealand. The courses run from Friday evening to Sunday afternoon for a group of 4-5 students-it's where I met and connected with my three fantastic critique partners. The food is fabulous, the company scintillating-expect lots of laughter, and you receive enough information about the craft of writing to make your head spin. The highlight of the weekend is the feedback each writer receives from Robyn and Daphne about their manuscriptyes, they actually read every student's manuscript!
So as a Kara die-hard, I asked Daphne and Robyn some questions about Kara School of Writing, the successes they've had and how it will run in the future:
Q. Okay, so I've been reading your books for ages, how many books have you published now?
ROBYN: I've sold and had published 71 books.
DAPHNE: More than seventyRobyn is probably ahead of me on this one now.
Q: You're both so busy with your own writing commitments yet you decided to jointly start a writing school. What triggered the decision?
ROBYN: Daphne suggested it, and I thought, What a brilliant idea! I'm a teacher by profession, and I don't think you ever lose the desire to teach. Also, it took me ten years to get published in my own; I am certain that if there had been a Kara school of writing in those days I'd have got there in half the time. I wanted to help others do that.
DAPHNE: I actually began offering very cheap writing weekends for high school kids and local people probably about twenty years ago, but don't do that any more although if someone else organises I'm always willing to teach. In 1991 I was asked to run a course for some people I met at a writing seminar, and with experience of how exhausting they are, I asked Robyn if she'd like to join me. Then word of mouth spread and after a while we began doing a bit of advertising.
Q. You've both given so much to novice writers, what do you get out of it?
ROBYN: I get an enormous amount of pleasure from seeing the improvement in students' work, and from just talking about writing and discussing their manuscripts. Also, I've made some very good friends!
DAPHNE: A great deal of pleasure in helping people in ways that were unavailable to us at the start of our careers, and meeting a variety of interesting and fun people. Robyn is a trained teacher and I have discovered I like doing it. I'm told I'm a "natural teacher." Also we learn a lot from having to analyse our craft and make it explicable to other people. We've had to give names to things we do by instinct and try to discover how we do them before teaching others the techniques. And because there are two of us we get a great deal of enjoyment out of discussing how to do this and passing it on.
Q: Do you know how many people have achieved publication? Can you give some names of your successful graduates?
DAPHNE: More than a dozen. Some in other fields like children's writing or erotica, and we often find ex-students' names in lists of contest place-getters and in publications of various kinds. This isn't all down to us although some have credited us with a big boost to their efforts at publication. We know at least ten have been published by Harlequin lines and several others are e-published or published by other print publishers. They include Fiona Brand, Frances Housden, Karina Bliss, Abby Gaines, Yvonne Lindsay, Kelly Hunter....
Q: How many years has Kara been running now? Will you still be running Kara in the future?
ROBYN: Yes, we'll be running Kara, but in a different way. We'll leave the actual organisation of students to those who wish to come, and we've also discovered that the school works well when we travel, which is also less expensive overall for those who attend.
DAPHNE: Since 1991, and we will continue for as long as we still enjoy it and feel we can help other writers. Recently we changed our system of enrolment to save some time and trouble, putting the onus more on the participants to organise groups and dates.
This is wonderful investment in your writing career and I highly recommend it to anyone who is serious about writing for publication. To find out more about Kara School of Writing click here.
NEWSFLASH: Melanie Scott, a graduate of KARA School of Writing has DOUBLE finalled in the 2007 RWA Golden Heart Contest.