Author keen to share tips
PUBLISHED author Bette Shiels will be travelling to Biloela next month to host a writers’ workshop.
“I have been up there a couple of times,” Bette said. “I really enjoy Biloela.” Since starting to write at the age of 35, Bette has published six books.
“Four books are written and two are audio,” she said.
The audio books are the same as regular books but are recorded on tape to be played in the car or at home.
“I started doing them for the blind association and they are very popular with the grey nomads – they like to listen to them while they are travelling instead of the radio,” Bette said.
Audio books are not the first time Bette has been involved with those who are vision impaired.
“I started doing workshops for Centacare and after two years, four of my classes were vision impaired,” Bette said.
“It is amazing what their imagination is.”
She also teaches seniors. “I work with seniors who want to write their memoirs.
“In between writing my own books, I like to teach younger people as well.”
Bette’s novels are inspired by her surroundings.
“I try to keep them all different. My first one was a true story of 15 years of fostering,” she said.
“I have had a very adventurous life – I have lived in every state in Australia.”
Her second novel, Mirikata Magic, was inspired by another of her journeys.
“We were sent to work on a station in the outback and the government decided to make it redundant and we lost $300,000,” she said.
“I thought I didn’t come up here for nothing and I wrote a story on it, so that was the plot.”
Bette enjoys doing the workshops in her spare time between writing.
“It is what I love doing and I always come away happy. It is inspiring seeing someone learn,” she said.
Bette comes prepared for her workshops, with plenty for the students to learn.
“What I do is I give them a questionnaire to find out what they know about writing, what they would like to do, what they would like to learn,” she said.
“I usually have something funny for them to do and start writing.
“(I teach) a lot of fundamentals, what you need to learn before you become a writer.”
To be a good writer, you had to have enthusiasm,
“If they come to a workshop, they are enthusiastic and want to learn.
“I was taught by a teacher it’s all in your mind how creative you can be, if you’re interested.”
She said imagination was key.
“My biggest thing when I teach is to get the storyline and then ask what if, what if this would happen?” Bette said.
In today’s day and age, some might think writing and reading is a dying art.
“I keep a journal so my kids, great-grandkids, great-great-great grandkids know who I am and what I did,” Bette said.
Having now spent many years writing, Bette loves what she does.
“It is an interesting hobby and if you write a bestseller that could be your life.
“But it takes 10 years to be an overnight success.”
To become a published author wasn’t easy, she said.
“Colleen McCullough, who wrote The Thorn Birds, sent her story to 70 publishers before they accepted her story. It is hard work to get a publisher.”
And Bette said it was vital your story was different from the others.
“You have to be exceptional and something different,” Bette said.
“You have to love the written word and you have to be a reader – you can't be a writer and not be a reader.”
DOWN ON PAPER: Bette Shiels teaching Ros Matthews, who is vision impaired, how to write.