Write 5000 words with me in January!

Write 5000 words with me in January!

It’s that time of year when our thoughts turn to words like GOALS, CHANGE and DREAMS.

If your dream is to write – ‘write more’, ‘write that novel’, ‘write something’, ‘get serious about writing’ or words to that effect – I’ve got the kickstart you need.

Join my Write With Allison Tait group now to participate in the #Fresh5000 31-day writing and creativity challenge throughout January.

Every day there’ll be a new prompt to kickstart your writing word count for the year or a challenge to expand your creative thinking.

By the end of January, if you stick with me, you’ll have added at least 5000 words to your work in progress, and have filled your creative well in new ways, too!

Join Write With Allison Tait here.


What is Write With Allison Tait?

Write With Allison Tait is an online writing group, facilitated through a Facebook group, and featuring two live Zooms each month:

• The Access Al Areas, which is an ‘Ask Me Anything’, offering an opportunity to talk about your writing progress with me and other group members, and ask any burning questions you may have about writing, editing, publishing, book publicity, podcasting, building an author platform and anything else you can think of.

• The Industry Insider, which is an intimate Q&A with an industry expert. Previous guests have included

authors, such as Dervla McTiernan, Kate Forsyth, Natasha Lester, Graeme Simsion, Anna Spargo Ryan, Rachael Johns, Ashleigh Barton, Meredith Jaffe, Pamela Cook, Angela Slatter

publishers, editors and agents, including Laura Sieveking (Scholastic Australia), Sophie Hamley (Hachette), Nicola O’Shea (freelance editor), Annabel Barker (literary agent),

industry professionals, such as Michelle Barraclough (author websites), Rah Gardiner (author’s assistant and tech), Anna Featherstone (indie publishing expert)

All Zoom sessions are recorded and remain accessible for members of the group to watch at any time.

The program for 2024 is shaping up with a bestselling children’s author, award-winning screenwriter, literary agent, publisher, and more in the mix.

On top of our Zooms, I also run at least two Creative Challenges each year to help you make progress with your manuscript. In 2023, we did the #Fresh5000 (January), the #Spark7000 (July) and #HaveAGoMo (November).


Who is the group for?

The group is for writers of all kinds, carrying on my philosophy from my years with the So You Want To Be A Writer podcast that we learn something from every writer we hear from, and I bring my own broad-ranging expertise (children’s author, non-fiction author, freelance writer, podcaster and interviewer) to the table.

In 2023, members of the group have been published in picture books, middle-grade and YA fiction, as well as historical fiction, commercial women’s fiction, romance, and more.

Whether you’re writing your first novel and trying to get to The End, you’ve written a manuscript and you’re wondering what to do next,  you’ve published a book (indie or traditional) and you want to know how to spread the word about it, you’re trying to write novel #2, you want to know more about what publishers want or how the industry works, or you need the encouragement and motivation of being part of a group of like-minded people, this group is for you.

If you’ve ever wanted to pick my brains or sit down for a coffee with me, it’s also for you.

Membership is $29.95 a month.

Find out all the details and join here.



Checking in with Write with Allison Tait is an essential part of my writing routine.

“I love being a member of Al’s online writing group (Write with Allison Tait).

“In addition to chatting with like minded people who encourage and lift each other up, Al is a constant and vibrant source of insider writing and publishing tips. Al’s abundance of knowledge and enthusiasm for the writing craft means that she can answer any queries thrown her way – and if she doesn’t know, will make it her priority to find out.

“I love the engaging zoom meetings where we discuss individual triumphs and difficulties; as well as the informative sessions with specialist guests including well known authors, publishers, editors and more. Checking in with Write with Allison Tait is an essential part of my writing routine.” – Lisa Heidke 


A generous mentor who has a lot to offer

“I have been a member of Write with Allison Tait online writing group since May 2022. WWAT is an inclusive and encouraging writing community offering a range of benefits to members. This includes engagement with industry experts from whom I have gained invaluable insights into the writing process. 

“Accountability is another key feature. Regular check-ins, writing challenges, and goal-setting exercises have motivated me and provided a sense of camaraderie.  

“Allison is a generous mentor who has a lot to offer given her extensive experience as a author, writing teacher and blogger.” – Pauline Wilson 

Join us! 


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 online writing community offering Inspiration, Motivation, Information and Connection, go here

Writing Family History: Finding the Fiction in the Facts

Writing Family History: Finding the Fiction in the Facts

“I’m writing my family history.”

Whenever I teach a writing workshop for adults, as I did this week (‘Writing Through The Messy Middle’), I ask what people are writing and there is invariably at least one person who is creating a book based on family history.

Our family history can contain some incredible story material – just ask bestselling children’s author Katrina Nannestad, who’s new novel ‘Silver Linings’ is based on her own family’s story. And yes, it’s a novel.

Because one thing I always ask those writing family history is whether they’re creating a non-fiction version, a memoir or a novel. There are good reasons for choosing any of these options, but one thing is certain – you need a clear picture before you start of precisely which you’re undertaking.

One person who understands the tension that arises between telling a compelling story and ‘sticking to the facts’ is Pauline Wilson, whose first novel ‘Conflict At Hanging Rock’ was based on her own family history, and whose latest novel ‘Breaking Free‘, also draws on family ties – though much more loosely.

In this guest post, Pauline looks at how to find the story in the facts.


Writing Family History as Fiction

By Pauline Wilson

Writing family history as a novelMy Great Uncle Jim was once heard to say (pointing emphatically over his shoulder), “never look back, always look forward”.

This has always made me wonder what the old people would say to me digging up the past and putting family stories out for all the world to read. My Genealogy blog is full of stories from the past.

When I decided to write my first novel, Conflict at Hanging Rock, Uncle Jim’s words came back to me.

I had gathered up so much information about this very infamous branch of the family, I felt I knew enough to write their true story. There was plenty of tension to include: convicts, family feuds, a community divided, an illegitimate child and so much more.

But then I wondered whether non-fiction was the best approach.

Would there be descendants of this branch of the family who would be offended by hearing the full story? All of the events happened well over 100 years ago, so everyone concerned is dead. But I had to think of the living.

That was when I decided I would write the story as fiction and changed all the names. I soon found that this decision allowed me to add dialogue and fill gaps in the knowledge I had.

In short, it gave me more freedom to write a compelling story.

But there was still a tension for me between telling a compelling story and sticking as close as possible to the facts. Discussions with my editor were interesting as she tried to help me improve my book despite my determination to stick as closely as possible to the facts.


Treading the line between story and history


writing family historyMy latest novel, ‘Breaking Free’, whilst still telling a family story, is much less factual – and there are several reasons for this.

One reason is that the protagonist is a woman and, sadly, women left a much lesser footprint on history. Simply put, I knew a lot less about my protagonist, even though she is inspired by my Great Grandmother (pictured left on her wedding day).

Researching my family history, I found a report of my Great Grandmother having spent time in the Kew Lunatic Asylum, which prompted me to write the story. But apart from that report and dates and locations, I knew very little.

I also took inspiration from other authors.

Mary Anne O’Connor weaves many of her family stories into her excellent books, including Where Fortune Lies, In a Great Southern Land and Sisters of Freedom.

Darry Fraser drew inspiration from family stories in her book The Forthright Woman.

I recently read Searching for Charlotte by Kate Forsyth and Belinda Murrell, an expertly written story of their search for Charlotte Waring, their great, great, great, great grandmother.

They too struggled with how to tell the true story. They didn’t want it to just be a dry biography and wondered how to keep to the facts and still keep it interesting.

That very struggle was why I decided to fictionalise my story. In their book, Forsyth and Murrell mention Emma Darwin who was another author who struggled with this when writing her book about Charles Darwin.

Emma Darwin wrote that her book is strung painfully on the tension-line between the responsibilities of the storyteller and the responsibilities of the historian.

This statement definitely resonates with me, and is something every author writing a family story should bear in mind.


writing family historyPauline Wilson is a writer and family historian who loves learning and research.

She released her debut novel, Conflict at Hanging Rock in July 2022 and her second novel Breaking Free will be released on November 13th 2023.

Pauline writes historical fiction inspired by true stories of her ancestors. Find out more.




Allison Tait writing tips and adviceAre 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.

Subscribe to my newsletter for updates, insights and more amazing writing advice.

 Or check out So You Want To Be A Writer (the book), where my co-author Valerie Khoo and I have distilled the best tips from hundreds of author and industry expert interviews. Find out more and buy it here


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.

3 tips for writing narrative non-fiction books for kids

3 tips for writing narrative non-fiction books for kids

Narrative non-fiction for young readers is having a moment in the spotlight, combining facts, illustrations and storytelling in an irresistible short-form package.

But, as anyone who’s ever tried writing narrative non-fiction will tell you, getting the balance right between the information and the story is not always easy.

Bronwyn Saunders writing narrative non fictionWith her debut picture book Diprotodon: A Megafauna Journey out now, Bronwyn Saunders has popped in to share her experience with distilling a dinosaur-sized pile of research into a compelling story. The picture book is illustrated by Andrew Plant and published by CSIRO Publishing.

A children’s author and passionate citizen scientist who delights in sharing facts about Australia’s natural history with readers, Bronwyn has three top tips to help you if you’re thinking of following in her footsteps.


Bronwyn Saunders’ three tips for writing narrative non-fiction for kids

Diprotodon: a megafauna journey by Bronwyn SaundersNarrative non-fiction is weaving a story around factual information for the purpose of being informative and entertaining. The choice of producing non-fiction is a promise to the reader that the facts you are sharing are correct.

Writing non-fiction is addictive because the truth can be more outrageous and unbelievable than fiction. Diprotodon: A Megafauna Journey is a great example of outrageous facts.

Who knew Australia was once home to a marsupial that weighed up to 2,700 kilograms?

This is one of the facts about diprotodon that is thoroughly ridiculous and endearing at the same time.

I love astounding children with these unique facts, and there’s no doubt the facts compel you to share widely – but crafting a story with those facts is more than just stating (or listing) what you know.


Non-fiction ideas can creep up on you

My non-fiction topic found me whilst I was on holiday in Naracoorte, sparked by a statue, several facts from the tour guide and a tall tale.

The tall tale was exposed quickly, but by then I didn’t care that diprotodon wasn’t carnivorous, as the animal had already made a home in my heart.

I read everything I could find, which wasn’t much.

Then I dug a little deeper, reading scientific articles and research. Due to my research, I can verify that Latin is not such a dead language. The more I learnt, the more I had to know. I can proudly say I have read the majority of material ever written about diprotodon.


Managing your research

You don’t need archival qualifications to research a non-fiction topic but you do need an information management system.

No, you don’t need to buy it from Amazon or download an app onto your phone. It can be simple as recording and cataloguing source information, in a document, in a table or on a piece of paper.

Keeping the reference material in a single place is key. Collating all the references so they are retrievable when required is the aim. The style of reference that you use to keep the reference is not important, but consistency will help.

Remember, you are not composing a paper for university and do not need to use citations but your references do need to be accurate.

Correct referencing allows the writer to locate a source to double-check the source, interpretation or intended purpose with ease.

Correct referencing also makes it easier for the editor to review the evidence that is being relied upon so they can reassure the publisher of the accuracy of the text.


What details do you need?

The details depend on the type of source.

This could mean:

•a web address;

•author, title and page reference;

•or author, article title, journal name, volume and year of publication.

Try to capture every necessary detail that will enable you to easily find the source again, for example chapter names, article numbers, edition, volume and year of publication.

When I find a great source,I have been known to photocopy the page with all origin details, just to be certain, as well as allow verification that the source is what I want to rely on. It then goes into a hard copy folder between its own dividers, which are titled with how I intend to refer to it.

When I compile notes from the source, I use the basic reference data at the start of the notes and add it to the folder after the source material.

Diprotodon: A Megafauna Journey found a publisher five years after writing it. Experiencing the publishing process has helped me appreciate the need to give myself better clues of where within articles that I sourced information.

Your editor will appreciate your accuracy, too.


But what about the story?

Narrative non-fiction is not just listing facts. The facts must be used to tell a interesting story based on factual information.

The author has to take the black and white and fill the page with seamless colour.

Depending on the timeframe and the topic, knowing about the weather, the natural environment, buildings, technology, vocabulary, relevant culture and fashions are vital to capture the spirit of the story. In an historical movie or TV show there’s nothing worse than seeing an out-of-
place timepiece on the wrist of the lead actor, or for a car enthusiast seeing a classic car that was produced after the year when the production was set – and it’s the same for books.

For my story, it was important to listen to my palaeontologist advisor when he questioned my earlier use of insects to show Diprotodon toward
food. ‘Why would such a large animal pay any attention to what an insect is doing?’, he asked.

I had to be flexible with my manuscript and review what animal was available to use to guide Diprotodon to safety, which meant a return to research and drafting for the credibility of the story.


My top three tips for writing narrative non-fiction for children

1. Love your topic, you are going to immerse yourself in it.

2. Be methodical with your research, you may have to refer to it after many years have passed
or provide it to another person.

3. The facts need to be woven into a compelling story, the facts themselves are insufficient.

You can find out more about Bronwyn Saunders here, and watch the video below to find out more about Diprotodon: A Megafauna Journey – or visit CSIRO Publishing here to purchase.


Diprotodon Trailer from CSIRO Publishing on Vimeo.

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. My latest novel THE FIRST SUMMER OF CALLIE McGEE is out now. 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!

Writing tips and advice you may have missed

Writing tips and advice you may have missed

I’ve been out and about talking about writing, teaching writing, writing about writing… what I haven’t been doing is blogging about writing here, on my actual blog.

So, to make up for it, here’s a list of blog posts, full of writing tips and advice, you may have missed, plus some recent interviews where I chatted about writing The First Summer of Callie McGee, and even a chance to spend a day with me learning the ins and outs of being a children’s author (I’d love to see you there!)


16 writing posts you may have missed

The creative magic of the mundane

How to pitch yourself to a podcast: an author’s guide

5 short stories to read right now to make you a better writer

Want to be a children’s author? Here’s why you need to learn to present to kids

How to maintain tension in a romance novel when you know there is a happy ending

5 ways to keep your reader guessing in a crime novel

Are you a teenager who loves writing? Here are seven ways to become a better writer

How to build your author platform before your book is published

How to write your book’s acknowledgements page

Simple steps to blog your way to success as an author

10 Australian authors on Substack

How to create a book series bible

4 writing books you need

Six simple tips for proofreading

The write-changing joy of tidying your office

“It’s never too late” and other great writing tips


Recent podcast interviews

Allison Tait talks about writing on Reading With A Chance of TacosReading With A Chance of Tacos

Ken and I cover a lot of territory about the choices you make when you’re writing for a middle-grade audience, why Callie McGee is set in a contemporary world and not my signature ‘almost history’ and a whole lot more.

Spoiler: we did not eat tacos, so there will be no chewing in your ear.

Find it here. 


Allison Tait on Healthyish podcastHealthyish

Host Felicity Harley and I take a dive into how to tap into creativity (and it’s probably not the way you think).

If you’d like to harness more creativity – and write more – within your busy daily life, this one is for you.

Listen here. 


The joy of escape reads for kidsYour Kid’s Next Read

I always forget to mention my own podcast, but in this episode my co-host Megan Daley asks the questions educators want to know about The First Summer of Callie McGee.

We also have a chat about the importance of ‘escape reads’ for kids.

Listen here. 


So you want to be a children’s author?

Children's author writing workshop at SCWCHave you been thinking about writing a children’s book? Or maybe you’ve started and don’t know what to do next?

Join me at the South Coast Writers’ Centre, Coledale, NSW, on Saturday 7 October, 10.30am-3pm, and let’s talk about ALL THE THINGS!

In the first part of this half-day workshop, I’ll share my insider secrets and practical tips on writing for children. All the things I’ve learnt through hard-won experience.

I’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.

In part two, we’ll dive into how to build a successful longterm career as a children’s author. From promoting your work to writing the next book, get the inside track to save you time and heartache.

Come along and say hello!

Find out more and get tickets here.


Allison Tait on why children's literature mattersAre 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.

Subscribe to my newsletter for updates, insights and more amazing writing advice.

Or check out So You Want To Be A Writer (the book), where my co-author Valerie Khoo and I have distilled the best tips from hundreds of author and industry expert interviews. Find out more and buy it here.

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