Bestselling author Rachael Johns shares her favourite writing craft books

Bestselling author Rachael Johns shares her favourite writing craft books

Writing craft books are a mainstay of every author’s bookshelf – we’re always trying to learn more and there’s always more to be learned.

But there are SO many writing craft books out there, it can be difficult to know which ones are worth it.

In October, my Write With Allison Tait group had the opportunity to have a snoop around the bookshelves of bestselling author Rachael Johns, who, along with her insider tips for writing commercial fiction, was kind enough to share with us her favourite writing craft books.

One thing that Zoom has done for us is to take us right inside the homes and writing spaces of our favourite authors, and watching Rachael rummage through her shelves for recommendations was a true moment of joy.

These are the books Rachael Johns has drawn upon – and continues to draw upon – in her journey towards becoming one of Australia’s most successful commercial and romantic fiction authors, and there are many that are beyond ‘the usual suspects, so I’ve decided to share them below.

As for those insider tips, well, you’ll have to join our happy group to watch the recording of our discussion with Rachael… and receive access to all of our previous events with everyone from authors such as Graeme Simsion, Anna Spargo-Ryan, Kate Forsyth, and Natasha Lester, to industry experts like non-fiction publisher Sophie Hamley, editor Nicola O’Shea, agent Annabel Barker, and publisher Laura Sieveking.

And don’t miss Dervla McTiernan in November! Details about the WWAT group are here.

But I digress.

Here for your collecting pleasure are the writing craft books that will always have a place on Rachael Johns’s bookshelf.

Rachael Johns recommends these six writing craft books


10 things about writing by Joanne Harris
The Complete Writers’ Guide to Heroes and Heroines by Tami D. Cowden, Carolyn LaFever, Sue Viders



Rachael Johns is the bestselling, ABIA-winning author of The Patterson Girls and many other romance and women’s fiction books, including her recent bestseller, Something to Talk About.

Jilted (her first rural romance) won Favourite Australian Contemporary Romance in 2012, and The Patterson Girls won the 2016 Romance Writers of Australia RUBY Award and also the 2015 Australian Book Industry Award for General Fiction. She continually places in Booktopia’s Top 50 Aussie Authors poll. Her latest novel is Talk To The Heart.


Write With Allison Tait Dervla McTiernanAre you new here? Welcome to my blog! I’m Allison Tait and you can find out more about me here and more about my online writing courses here.

For full details about Write With Allison Tait, my new online writing community offering Inspiration, Motivation, Information and Connection, go here.

Our Industry Insider Zoom event on 20 November, 2023, will feature international bestselling author Dervla McTiernan, and we’re undertaking a 30-day writing challenge. If NaNoWriMo looks too daunting, don’t miss my HaveAGoMo to help progress your manuscript.

Farewell, my friend

Farewell, my friend

I’ve never liked stories where the dog dies at the end. Even more so when it happens out of nowhere.

It breaks my heart, then, to share the news that we had to say goodbye to Scout (aka #Procrastipup) on Friday.

After a shockingly short, severe illness, he left us, surrounded by love and an ocean of tears. Leaving behind the very best of memories – and an aching absence in our lives.

For a solitary writer, Scout was the very best of friends.

He allowed me to be alone in company, an undemanding presence, always up for a walk when required, happy to listen to me read my stories out loud for hours.

He would muster me out the door every morning, eager to get in the car and get on with our day. And, if I left him, whether for five minutes to go to the mail box or five days for Book Week, he would greet my return with the kind of enthusiasm that every parent of teenagers needs in their lives.

Scout had many friends in the wider community, both on the streets of his home town, where The Builder and I walked him twice a day, and in the online writing world.

He was nicknamed #Procrastipup in his very earliest days with us, when I was trying to write book three of The Mapmaker Chronicles series and he was a playful puppy requiring constant supervision. It was no surprise to me when a small brown-and-white dog demanded a role in in the fourth Mapmaker Chronicles book.

Over many years, listeners of So You Want To Be A Writer and the Your Kid’s Next Read podcasts took him to their hearts, and his photogenic face never failed to induce social media love – even though he never particularly loved being photographed.

He was both the World’s Best Writing Companion and the Goodest Boy Ever.

I am bereft.

Vale Scout.

On the road for CBCA Book Week – and event news!

On the road for CBCA Book Week – and event news!

CBCA Book Week might officially last just one week, but the reality is that author life gets very busy for many weeks around the official dates (19-25 August this year).

So today might be Official Day One, but for me Book Week kicked off last Monday with a series of ‘Writing Fantasy Stories’ workshops in Sydney, and then continued up the coast to Newcastle and Port Macquarie on an ‘author road trip’ with the wonderful Jacqueline Harvey.

We had such a great time, we’re already making plans to do it again next year in a different region!

A L Tait Jacqueline HarveyA L Tait author visitA L Tait author visitA L Tait author visitA L Tait author visitA L Tait author talks
















This week, I’m closer to home, sharing my new author talk ‘Write What You Know (And Create Something New)’, along with workshops about finding your writing superpower and the 10 keys to writing a great story with kids along the south coast.

It made my heart sing today when one student told me how much she loves my books, and another was beside herself to meet a ‘real, live author’.

Long live Book Week!

Reach out via my Speaking page if you’d like me to visit your school either for Book Week 2024, or any other time of year you’d like me to chat reading and writing with your students.

On the subject of speaking, in case you missed it, I’ve also got a couple of special events later this week.


So You Want To Be A Children’s Author?: Free workshop for adult writers 

Event blurb

You’d love to write stories for kids, but you’re not sure where to begin. Or perhaps you’ve made a start, but you’re wondering what to do next?

To celebrate the launch of her brand-new middle-grade novel The first summer of Callie McGee, Allison Tait – internationally published bestselling author, co-host of the Your Kid’s Next Read podcast, and teacher at the Australian Writer’s Centre – is sharing her insider secrets and practical tips on writing for children.

She’ll look at the top 10 questions you need to ask yourself in order to write a great book for kids – as well as answering any burning questions you might have.

24 August, 2pm-3.30pm, Nowra Library, 10 Berry Street, Nowra.

All details and bookings here.



Event blurb

Join local children’s author Allison Tait at Gerringong Library for a book launch celebration and talk about The First Summer of Callie McGee – a mystery about growing up, figuring things out and solving the puzzle of who you are, from the author of the bestselling middle-grade adventure series The Mapmaker Chronicles.

A fun event for middle-grade kids, families, lovers of children’s books, teachers, local friends and supporters of all ages – everyone welcome.

This is a free eventbookings essential. Books available for signing and purchase on the day.

The winners of the Beach Art Competition will be announced and prizes awarded at the launch.

All details and bookings here.


A. L. Tait The First Summer of Callie McGeeAre you new here? Welcome to my blog! I’m Allison Tait, aka A.L. Tait, and I’m the author of middle-grade fantasy adventure series, The Mapmaker Chronicles, The Ateban Cipher, and the Maven & Reeve Mysteries, as well as my new contemporary middle-grade novel ‘The First Summer of Callie McGee’. You can find out more about me here, and more about my books here.

If you’re looking for book recommendations for young readers, join the Your Kid’s Next Read Facebook community, and tune in to the Your Kid’s Next Read podcast!

5 tips for finding your writing voice

5 tips for finding your writing voice

One of the best – and most difficult – things to develop as a writer is your own ‘voice’. That X factor that makes your writing inherently, well, yours.

I’ll be visiting schools up and down the coast over the next few weeks, giving talks and presentations, including my very popular Find Your Writing Superpower workshop. (You can read the basic principles here.)

I always tell kids that the greatest writing superpower of all time is your own writing voice.

Write so that people know that the story is yours – even if they haven’t seen the byline (or, in my case, the cover).

Write like you talk, only better.

It sounds straight forward enough, but the reality is that it takes a LOT of courage to bring yourself to the page. Your sense of humour. Your way of thinking about the world. The quirky things you know and love.

Your feelings and emotions.

Fortunately, it’s a writing superpower we can all develop – we just have to dig down into those dark recesses of who we are and be happy to present them on the page for all to read.

Seriously, though, it’s about working your way past all the influences – every writer you’ve ever read and loved – and the obstacles – fear being the biggest one.

These five tips might help.


My top 5 tips for finding your writing voice

Tip #1: Start a journal

Your writing voice is like a shy child, hiding away behind your everyday conversations and communications. To coax them out of the dark recesses, you need to create a comfortable, cosy, quiet place.

For most writers, that’s a journal. Your journal can be a file on your computer or a beautiful notebook with fancy pen. Whatever works best for you to unlock the ability to get your thoughts on the page.

This is not a place to think about a reader. The relationship here is strictly between the writer and the page.

Write what you actually think. Capture snippets of your day. Write down thoughts, ideas, things that turned your head or captured your attention.

For me, as a working journalist at the time, it was a blog that helped me discover the intimacy I needed to tap into my fiction voice. As a professional journalist, I was used to writing – but I was not used to the intimate honesty I needed to bring to the page to make my stories sing.

Blogging gave me that (and I wrote about it here).


Tip #2: Try different things

Often, as writers, we form strong ideas very early about what we should be writing.

Just as often, this is what we love to read – and that’s a great place to start.

But it pays to experiment with different types of writing. You may have a very clear picture of yourself as a writer of literary fiction, but when you sit down to journal, what you’re actually loving is writing funny character studies or strong responses to opinion pieces you’ve read that day.

I was convinced I was going to be a writer of romance novels or commercial women’s fiction – until one day I sat down to write a middle-grade adventure novel and became consumed by it.

Write poetry. Try a screen play. Write short stories, or crime novels, or picture books.

Every time you try something new, you expand your writing muscles – and you’ll hear your voice more strongly.


Tip #3: Trust the writing

I wanted this tip to be ‘get out of your own way’, but I thought I’d best stick to the polite.

Finding your writing voice takes time and patience. Be kind to yourself and trust the process. Every word you write brings you closer to understanding how you write and what you want to write about.

You’ll know when you’re there because the idea will sing to you and, no matter how difficult the writing becomes (and it can be difficult, trust me) you’ll keep showing up to your desk or your notebook to push through.

More about this here.


Tip #4: Show your inner editor the door

I don’t have a study to prove this but, anecdotally, I’m going to say that nobody ever found their writing voice with an editor sitting on their shoulder telling them that the last sentence wasn’t ‘perfect’.

Your journal doesn’t need to be grammatically correct and neither does the first draft of your novel or memoir. That first draft is about you learning what the story is about – even if you’ve planned it down to the last T on a spreadsheet.

Things change.

Stories are like life, messy and complicated. We all begin with the vision of what the story needs to be perfect – and then characters start to make their own plans.

But, unlike life, with stories, we get to finish the first draft and then go back and try to make it match up to the perfect vision.

Bring the shouty voiced editor into the picture at that point and not before.


Tip #5: Don’t show anyone too early

Finding your writing voice is a solo adventure. Yes, feedback is essential at different points along the journey of any manuscript, but if you ask for it too early, you’re in danger of sounding like a choir, rather than the prima donna soloist you need to be.

Going back to the idea of intimacy and trust, trust yourself. At least until you’ve got enough of your story on paper to feel confident you know what you want to say.

Until you can hear yourself thinking in the words on the page.

Then a reader will be able to hear you too.


writing group Allison TaitAre you new here? Welcome to my blog! I’m Allison Tait and you can find out more about me here and more about my online writing courses here.

For full details about Write With Allison Tait, my new online writing community offering Inspiration, Motivation, Information and Connection, go here

The inside story of ‘The First Summer Of Callie McGee’

The inside story of ‘The First Summer Of Callie McGee’

My new book, The First Summer of Callie McGee, is out now in bookshops everywhere – and I’m at home in that strange netherworld that is post-launch day.

Pre-publication day, the anticipation builds and builds, like those epic summer thunderstorms that press the very air down on you for hours before they finally burst into a light- and sound-show followed by furious drenching rain.

Unfortunately, publication day brings less of the light and sound and fury, and more the sound of boxes of books being opened in bookshops across the country and the slight rusting of pages as the books are placed upon the shelves.

The day after is just… business as usual. Except that I’m typing with my fingers crossed, hoping that readers will love Callie as much as I do.


The inside story of Callie McGee

In the headline, I’ve promised you the inside story on the book, but I think the best way to get that is to listen to me talk about it.

I’m the special guest on a veritable bonanza of podcasts this week, and each of them will bring you a slightly different perspective on this story and how it came about.


So You Want To Be A Writer

A. L. Tait talks about writing The First Summer of Callie McGeeFor a deep dive into the process of writing the book, from that first glimmer of inspiration to working through the complexity of creating the procedure of the mystery element, don’t miss my conversation with Valerie Khoo on So You Want To Be A Writer.

It was so nice to be back chatting to Val about all things writing and publishing. I spent seven years as co-host of this podcast, so sliding back into this space is like coming home.

But it’s a home where your Mum does not hold back on asking the hard questions, and I can always count on Val to keep asking ‘why?’ until I manage to articulate some part of my writing process that seems impossible to explain.

So we talk about the writing, we talk about wading into uncertainty and the memories of being 12, and we talk about re-drafting manuscript themes downwards. But we also talk about the very real challenges of establishing and maintaining a longterm author career.

You know you can count on us to be honest and get to the very crux of this stuff, so it’s worth a listen.

Find it here, or where you get your podcasts.


Words and Nerds

A L Tait talks about The First Summer of Callie McGeeThe thing I love about chatting with author and podcaster Dani Vee on the Words and Nerds podcast is knowing that the conversation will ramble its way into unexpected places and interesting revelations. And so it proved yet again.

We talked about The First Summer of Callie McGee, solving the puzzle of who we are and writing books outside our comfort zones.

But we also talk about publicity for authors from a journalist’s perspective, and how to find different ways to draw attention to your book – by thinking outside the box of your book, guest posting on blogs, making connections, getting your byline in the article, understanding the importance of booksellers and hand selling and the awesomeness of librarians.

If you’re a children’s author or would like to be one day, don’t miss this one!

Find it here, or where you get your podcasts.


KidLit Classics

If you haven’t discovered this podcast gem, you’re in for a treat! Hosted by author Samantha-Ellen Bound, KidLit Classics podcast invites contemporary children’s authors to discuss one book from their own childhood that made them a writer today.

I had the most wonderful time chatting to Samantha-Ellen about Callie’s Castle by Ruth Park. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while or listening to my various podcasts over the years, you’ll have heard this book come up before, but here we take a long, hard look at the beginning of my turret fixation.

To discuss the book, I had to read the book again and remain in awe of Park’s ability to create broad brushstrokes of a world, emotions and characters with a few fine details.

And yes, our characters share a name, but I swear this revealed itself to me only when Samantha-Ellen asked me to choose a book for this podcast episode. Until that moment, I hadn’t thought about Callie and her castle for years – but deep down in the part of the brain where fond memory lives, there she was.

I hope she’d like Callie McGee.

Find the episode here, or where you get your podcasts.


And an opportunity to ask your own questions

Writer’s Bookclub Podcast

The Writer's Bookclub A. L. TaitAuthor Michelle Barraclough’s Writers’ Bookclub Podcast has its own special twist on the author interview format – you get to ask the questions!

Michelle has chosen The First Summer of Callie McGee as her first middle-grade book to explore and dissect, and you can play along by reading the book and then posting any questions you might have for me about any aspect of writing the book to the group Facebook page before 15th August. (See How It Works here)

Michelle and I have a date later this month to interview an episode for the podcast where she asks me all your questions.

All the details on how to join in here.


A. L. Tait The First Summer of Callie McGeeAre you new here? Welcome to my blog! I’m Allison Tait, aka A.L. Tait, and I’m the author of middle-grade series, The Mapmaker Chronicles, The Ateban Cipher, and the Maven & Reeve Mysteries, and my latest novel ‘The First Summer of Callie McGee’. You can find out more about me here, and more about my books here.

If you’re looking for book recommendations for young readers, join the Your Kid’s Next Read Facebook community, and tune in to the Your Kid’s Next Read podcast!


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