When the stars align…

Fate. Chance. Kismet. Coincidence. Serendipity.

Whatever you call it, many times in my life when I have been facing a big decision or the possibility of change, the stars have aligned to allow me to proceed toward my purpose.

Halley's Comet 1986

Halley’s Comet — photographed, by me, in the sky over Dandaragan, early 1986.

But after spending five or six years contemplating my novel-writing dream, I hadn’t done more than write out a list of possible scenes, having woken one night brimming with ideas and unable to get back to sleep until I’d written them down.

Then, while interviewing an author I admired, I felt the twinges of professional envy and knew that if I was serious about writing a novel I’d better do something about it.

With more than 30 years of journalism experience, I knew how to write, but writing fiction is considerably different to writing fact. I wanted to learn the craft, and I wanted to learn it well.

According to an old saying in spiritual circles, when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. Through fate, chance, kismet, coincidence or serendipity, I found my teacher.

Daydreaming about how to move forward, I logged on to Facebook and the first item in my news feed was a post a friend of mine had shared about novelist and writing teacher Natasha Lester, who had just one place left in her university extension course, Nailing Your Novel: Why Writers Abandon Books, due to start the following week.

I couldn’t waste another minute. I clicked on the link, signed up and knew instinctively that this would be a valuable next step on my writing journey.


Author Natasha Lester taught the Nailing Your Novel course at UWA Extension.

I learned more about the nature of the novel in that five-week course than I had learnt in a lifetime of reading and many years studying literature at secondary and tertiary level.

Each week I travelled more than an hour each way to attend the classes, during which Natasha detailed the processes of novel writing, offered practical tips, guidance and inspiration, set exercises to encourage creativity, and used examples from classic and contemporary fiction to reinforce the course content.

She reminded her students that writers should also be readers; that we should read the sort of fiction we wanted to write, as well as stories beyond our comfort zone.

And Natasha urged us to foster a desire to learn more about the writing process, by attending other classes, joining a writing group, reading books by experts in the field and, most importantly, by writing at least a little bit, every day.

9 thoughts on “When the stars align…

  1. Louise Allan says:

    It never fails to amaze me how fate leads us to where we’re meant to be. I’ve not done one of Natasha’s classes, but everyone who has says how terrific they are, including people who say her courses are better than creative writing classes at universities. As a complete aside, that photo of Halley’s comet is incredible! The stars were certainly aligned on that night. x


  2. Maureen Eppen says:

    Natasha’s courses and workshops are brilliant. You can no doubt tell I’m a huge fan. The stars literally and figuratively lined up the night/morning I took the Halley’s Comet photo. I was living and working in Moora at the time, and had set my clock alarm to wake up in the early hours of the morning, so I could go out to an isolated farm in Dandaragan, where a group of Central Midland Senior High School students and reps from the Perth Observatory had gathered to watch and photograph the comet. I was going to photograph them… The lack of light pollution made for ideal conditions, but I didn’t actually get the chance to take my comet shot until shortly before dawn because I was taking so many people pictures. 🙂 I borrowed a tripod, opened the shutter at a wide aperture and counted to 60 in my head before finishing the shot! The result was published on the front page of the paper I was writing for — and on the front page of Education News. Great memories! Hope I’m still around to see the return of the comet (I’d be close to 100!).

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sonia says:

    So envious of your course with Natasha Lester, her books just keep getting better. I’d love to take one of her courses but they are a tad expensive for me.
    It seems so obvious that in order to write you should read but I have met a few people who don’t and they still think they can write a book which seems extraordinarily arrogant to me.


  4. Maureen Eppen says:

    I loved her courses, Sonia. She has so much to give to aspiring authors, and she gives it so generously. Her UWA Extension courses were very well priced, but if you find the current courses she runs beyond your budget, she still has heaps of practical tips and advice for writers on website and through her blog. Are you signed up for her newsletter?


  5. Sonia says:

    I took a self publishing course earlier this year (and that was a birthday present-) so I am not really able to take any more this year, Ironically afterwards I realised I was writing the wrong book-all 70,000 words of it! Yes I am signed up to Natasha’s newsletter very practical and helpful.


  6. Sonia says:

    Maureen its a bit like being the hostess- you have to make sure that everyone else has a good time- so I hope that you do get to the workshops you want,

    Ironically my book was called ‘Starting over’ and that’s what I’m having to do


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