Smart Quill Editorial About the Editor

Next Year’s Words Await Another Voice

Posted on January 10th, 2016

2015 was a big year – I moved from London to Los Angeles to explore book to film possibilities for new writers, set up the Book Boutique as an exclusive online platform, and established the Authors Club in conjunction with Soho House West Hollywood.

2016 is set to be similarly exploratory… I’ll be continuing with LA workshops until the Spring; pitching to agents and producers at the Bologna Book Fair; and doing a London Book Fair event on the 11th April. I’ve been asked to talk about the event on National Radio Ireland – so if you are based there, stay tuned to the Green Room programme!

As well as the Smart Quill Edits, I will be allocating more time to one-on-one consultations. If you want a sense check on your writing, or to discuss general narrative direction, please email to book a session.

I hope you invoke the muse in 2016.

Interview with Positivitea: Not Just Tea

Posted on April 6th, 2015

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An unusual interview this month… Ellie Wharton is a picture book author, editor and consultant. But she also runs a rather remarkable company called Positivitea. As a start-up business based on creative passion, not dissimilar to launching a book, I thought it might be interesting to ask a few questions.

1. What did you do before Positivitea and why did you decide to start it?

I was in the children’s publishing industry for ten years – still am part time – but my motivation for creating Positivitea came when I was unsure of which direction to go next in my career.  This is symptomatic of an imbalance in the root chakra. Following a yoga class I went looking for a tea to help balance it and couldn’t find one in any tea section. So I decided to do it myself!

2. What have you learnt about marketing?

That social media is king!  Seriously, if you want to get ahead in the world nowadays, it’s the best way to spread the word about your business. As far as marketing itself goes, say yes to every opportunity where you can promote your brand. Also carry truth and integrity in everything you do, that’s simply the best tool you have when trying to sell a product. People buy into your passion and real passion can only come from a place of honesty. Also know your market and your product inside out!

3.  What achievement are you most proud of?
Probably getting the teas into my favourite yoga studio – Indaba in Marylebone – that was a real coup as it served as an affirmation for me that I had done the right thing in starting the company in the first place.  Since then it has been a roller coaster of fantastic experiences and connection made within the wellness and yoga community, we’ve even got a date at the palace!

Interview with Story Terrace: A Biographer for Every Person

Posted on March 1st, 2015

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Rather fortuitously, I met Story Terrace last month. They are a new company, a start-up, and doing rather wonderful things in the field of independently published autobiography. So over to them for a few questions…

Why did you decide to set up Story Terrace? 

My grandfather told the most amazing stories. Like the time he was asked to join training for the national football team because the regular goalkeeper hadn’t shown up. It was only years later that I realised his adventures had never been documented in any way. Eventually this led to the simple premise upon which Story Terrace is based: a biographer for every person. A professional writer that suits the person about whom the book is written. Together you capture your favourite anecdotes alongside life’s big events and turning points.

What sort of authors do you work with? 

We are looking for authors who are passionate about sharing people’s stories. They thrive on learning about others, and have an ear for the narrative that holds memories together. Our writers have diverse backgrounds and experience: from journalists to published novelists to barristers embarking on a second career. This is intentional, as different writers have different strengths and styles. We believe every story is unique and deserves the writer that suits it best.

What is the best untold story you have discovered?

We received a story about a young Polish man who was sent to Russia for re-education during the WWII-era occupation. He escaped and fled to the UK where he joined the Polish regiment. With his comrades, he helped to liberate France, Belgium and Holland, though he himself was still in exile from his country. He fell in love with a local woman and settled down in one of the towns he had liberated. The couple had two children, and after he died, his daughters discovered a mysterious letter indicating they may have a half-sister somewhere in Poland. It’s an amazing story what it means to be family. We’re honoured to be receiving emotional stories like this one.

The Little Black Book

Posted on May 27th, 2014

Have you heard of the Writers & Artists Yearbook? It is practically the first resource I encountered when I started working in publishing. Used by agents, editors, scours, packagers, it is how we all find one another. And therefore, it is an absolutely essential piece of kit for any aspiring writer. It should be thumbed, scoured, marked-up… It is the Little Black Book of Books.

The yearbook has embraced the digital and their website now provides a self-publishing comparison service, amongst other incredibly useful articles and bits of guidance. They have also developed an annual conference: Self-Publishing in the Digital Age, which will be held at The Wellcome Collection in November). It offers writers advice on the entirety of the self-publishing journey, with speakers from all aspects of the industry attending throughout the day.

If you are interested, Smart Quill can get you a discount! £75 rather than £95. Just send an email to, and I will put you in touch with the organisers.


Interview with a Smart Quill Author

Posted on October 31st, 2013

There has been of flurry of smart quill authors getting agents and publishers recently… And interestingly, my first Australian client was one of them, being offered representation with Curtis Brown and a book deal with Random House.  Thrilling! So this month I have a quick fire interview with Hugh “Obi” O’Brien, author of Undaunted. His book is a personal account of experiences in the Special Forces with the Army’s counter-terrorism unit TAG (east) – a secretive team of divers and commandos, with the sole purpose of defending the domestic population from harm post 9-11.

What inspired you to write your book?

I was inspired to write Undaunted having finished a challenging career in the Australian Military as a Navy Clearance Diver, followed by a venture into the private military. I thought I could tell a story that might interest people and give them a look into a world they might not have otherwise known existed.

What did you find interesting about the process of working with an editor?

I found it incredible useful to work with an editor. The level of detail and attention that an editor can give helps turn a potentially indecipherable manuscript into a readable and noteworthy submission. The difference is massive.

 Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?

The only tip I have for aspiring writers is to simply work hard everyday and get something on the page. Then you can go back, chop, change and analyse to death everything you’ve done. Once you’ve taken it as far as you can, seek professional assistance so that it may be polished prior to any submission.

Thanks Hugh! Undaunted is due for publication in 2014, and it is a rip-roaring read. If you like military memoirs then this is certainly one to look out for.

Smart Quill Tutorial Five

Posted on August 13th, 2013

Pacing to the End

Smart Quill Tutorial Four

Posted on June 18th, 2013

The Meaning of Tone

Smart Quill Tutorial Three

Posted on May 15th, 2013

Don’t Lose the Plot

Smart Quill Tutorial Two

Posted on April 30th, 2013

How to Bind Your Narrative

Smart Quill Tutorial One

Posted on March 25th, 2013

Characters and Characterisation