The course that changed my life

Last year when my husband took over running my business and sent me home to rest up and get my health back on track, I found myself at a bit of a loose end. There is after all, only so much reading on the couch that this little black duck can do.

So I signed up for the online version of the Sydney Writers’ Centre Magazine and Newspaper Writing course. I had rediscovered a love of writing when I started blogging and liked the idea of getting paid to write. A year and a bit on I can safely say that doing that course was life-changing.

The Sydney Writers’ Centre (SWC)  was founded in 2005 by Valerie Khoo. She started her professional life as an auditor but quickly came to realise that writing was her true passion. Valerie made the decision to change careers and then had to navigate her own path towards finding a job as a writer. Valerie wanted to help all those people like her who were looking to make a career change and help fast-track them down that writing path. In short, she created the organisation and the course she wished was available back when she wanted to make her career change!

And boy am I glad she did. It was such a privilege to do the Magazine and Newspaper Writing course because that meant I was learning direct from Valerie herself. I was always amazed to get to the end of each week’s lesson and find that I had absolutely no questions because Valerie had covered everything. It was VERY comprehensive.

Upon finishing the course I gained access to the SWC closed facebook group and if I thought the course itself was hugely valuable, well then I have no words to describe the worth of the facebook group. Here was a group of fellow writers all willing to share their knowledge and advice with each other. For the most part everyone in there is fairly new to writing for magazines and other online publications yet it never ceases to amaze me how generous everyone is with their contacts and little bits of inside knowledge (yes editors, be scared – you are often the topic of discussion ;)

And I have not only gained advice from this group, I have gained new friends – people who I can talk to about writing without their eyes glazing over. People who I can share the little wins with and who ‘get’ those little wins

How else did this course change my life? Well it gave me the confidence to call myself a writer. It gave me the confidence to pitch articles to various publications. It helped me get published online at Mamamia (I’m there today talking about Lance Armstrong actually!) and The Hoopla and offline at The Canberra Times and in Marie Claire. It helped me get paid work writing at Kidspot. It gave me the confidence to write my book.

But most of all, it has made me happy. I love writing and for a long time it has taken a big back seat in my life. Doing the SWC course has brought it front and centre again and now I am feeling that wonderful buzz that writers get from writing every single day. Possibly only other writers will understand that buzz … but for my exercising friends,  it is just like that post-run endorphin hit. Pretty neat hey?!


For those who are interested, Chapter 2 of my book went out to subscribers today. My book is completely free … you just need to be on this list :)

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  1. says

    You know, I frequently wonder why I’m bothering with my course when this one looks so good! Looking forward to reading Chapter Two :)

    • says

      Honestly – I don’t like talking anything up too much in case it disappoints, but the course was brilliant – covered every question you could have! Having access to the facebook group just takes things up a whole other level!

      And Chapter 2 should have hit your inbox by now … let me know if not and I will email to you directly :)

  2. says

    Thank you for sharing this post!! One thing I walked away with from Problogger was how ‘on the ball’ and inspirational Valerie was and how much I wanted to look up doing a course through SWC!
    Off to check out their web site now!

    • says

      Josefa I can’t speak highly enough of Valerie. She is not only amazingly on the ball, but she is able to share her knowledge in such a clear and easy to process manner. That is a true skill!

    • says

      I honestly can’t recommend this course enough. At $395 (from memory) it is not cheap but you are a wonderful writer Catherine and you’re building up a nice portfolio already. This course will show you how to pitch ideas to magazine and earn actual money for your wonderful writing!

  3. says

    Kelly, I’m currently doing module 3 of that same course so loved reading this piece!

    How awesome is Valerie Khoo?! I loved listening to her intro and could totally relate; not just because I am an auditor myself. I think Valerie’s totally on the money that there’s heaps of us out there who have life experience and things we want to share; it’s so great to have Sydney Writers’ to learn from so that we can polish up and get our work out there (well I hope!).

    Props to you for making the subsequent opportunities happen, gosh I can’t wait to get access to the FB group!

  4. says

    I frequently lurk on the FB group. It’s full of such valuable information that goes above and beyond the content of the course (I will help you talk it up – loved it!). I’m doing another short course next month, then hope to be a regular in the group, pitchin’ with the best :)

    • says

      Yay Jane! I have to admit I am doing more lurking than interacting these days because I have hardly been pitching – but hope to remedy that soon!

  5. says

    So true kel. I did the course while on mat leave and then returned to work for 10 months before launching myself into full time academic and freelance writing. It has opened so many doors for me, it paid for itself after my first pitch was accepted! Seriously though, who is your Favourite person on the FB group?

  6. says

    From the sounds of things SWC is changing many lives, yours and mine included. I too have had the privilege of meeting many talented people through doing the course, including you of course!

  7. says

    Hi Kelly

    I did the children’s writing course online this time last year and it was brilliant. I did discover that writing for children wasn’t for me and through assignments found my ‘chick lit’ voice.

    It was confronting realising I wasn’t good at what I wanted to do but now I am going to do NaNoWriMo and have a go at getting my story on paper. If it works I will be signing up with SWC to do their Chick Lit course. I still use the information from the online course as it is great advice whatever form of writing you do.

    • says

      Oh Kerry – that sounds like an amazing plan. I can imagine it would have been confronting to find out writing for children wasn’t for you but now it sounds like you are truly on the right path. Good luck for NaNoWriMo!

  8. says

    I’m so glad to have had the privilege of “meeting” you through it! It is certainly an inspiring group and one I’m proud to be part of. That said, I feel I am very much struggling to achieve much in the way of success and need to re-assess to find out why I am going wrong. I still feel like my “voice” is too flowery to be a feature writer (writing a manuscript is where my heart lies) but if I want to avoid going back to a brainless, dead end job, I need to work out a way I can alter my style (but still enjoy doing it) and get some success coming my way again. It’s a tough gig, but the SWC course is certainly beneficial.

    I’m so thrilled for your success and you are such a writing inspiration for me x

    • says

      Aw Don I think you might need to re-define ‘success’ … I think you have achieved so much already. I can imagine it is so hard when your heart is in fiction to make the switch to features so you can pay the bills, but I don’t think you are too flowery at all. If ever you want me to put my editor hat on and have a look at a piece for you to check for ‘floweriness’ … I am at your service!

      • says

        Oh you are so kind, thanks for that lovely offer Kel – I may just take you up on that! I really am a bit stuck at the moment on where I am headed with this writing game, but I am sure this is just another obstacle in place to see how badly I want it x

          • says

            Yep, you nailed it! I know for me it all comes back to confidence – or, presently, lack thereof. I tell myself I am one success away from feeling like I am back on track, so I just have to ensure I don’t give up (and I won’t, no matter how tempted I may be sometimes!).

            until then I shall remind myself of that saying “it will all be okay in the end – if its not okay, its not the end”.

  9. says

    I have plans to start one of their courses very soon. I really enjoy the whole process of writing but realise I need to learn a whole lot more before I can move up to the next level. Valerie was such an inspiring speaker to listen to at Pro Blogger; consequently I now have a huge bucket list of things I want to do!

    • says

      I love Valerie – she is just direct and to the point and a wonderful teacher (as you saw at ProBlogger Sarah!) I know you will love whichever course you decide to do :)

  10. says

    Hi Kelly

    Yes, I agree. I recall taking a much deserved holiday to Noosa with my children about two years ago. I was in between swims, reading, writing and cafe hopping when I went on the Net for fifteen minutes; saw an ad to do a magazine course at SWC. I immediately enrolled. Although, that first course has not taken me on the path of a freelance writer, it has enable me to set up my own business, which is at present undergoing a great positive partnership, gain much needed confidence, boost my creativity and connect with amazing people. Thank you Kelly

    • says

      It’s funny where these things take us isn’t it Di?!! And it’s funny that after doing the course I thought “oh god, I don’t want to be a freelance writer, I don’t want to be at the mercy of editors etc etc”

      But then I got over it … and I am so glad I did!

  11. says

    This is so cool to hear Kelly – I have been blogging for over two years now but just recently decided to make writing my priority instead another chore on the list and you should know (may already) how inspirational you and your writing have been to me.
    To hear you have been doing for such a short time encourages me even more! You are a marvel, so be aware YOU are changing lives too!

  12. says

    Congratulations for putting yourself out there, it would have been a nerve wracking thing but something that definitely payed off. It’s great how you gained the confidence within yourself and your writing to call yourself a writer.
    I write everyday on my blog, and essentially that can be classified as a ‘writer’ I still have a creative process like everyone else, but there’s a lot of negativity swirling around in my head thinking me being a writer sounds silly.
    I hope to have your confidence one day. Thanks

  13. says

    Hello Kel, Just wanted to say how much I enjoyed reading this post, your joy and enthusiasm is leaping off the page. I did a SWC course last year on feature writing and enjoyed it a lot. I used to freelance in the past but haven’t for ages. I THINK my thing is to do travel writing – pity my kids are terrible travellers! BUT for me, I am in search of my blog voice, it struck me after Problogger that I don’t have a personal blog voice, I tend to write factual all the time and not be personal. After 18 months of blogging, maybe it’s time to pluck up the courage?!!

    • says

      Thank you Seana!

      I find it interesting that you write factually in your posts and don’t find your voice shines through because I find your voice is very distinct in your comments and on Social Media. Maybe it’s time to start writing the way that you speak? Because the way you speak is full of energy and very engaging!

  14. says

    I’ve seen this course and considered it in the past, but wasn’t sure it would be worth the $$. Thanks for this inspiring review. And how great that it’s been helpful in jump-starting both your confidence and freelancing career.

    • says

      I just can’t recommend it enough. I had no idea about the amount of work that went into getting articles published in magazines (and getting paid for them!)