“Don’t wait till the spirit moves. While there are times when inspiration and thought outrace your pen, you’ll never get to the top if you wait on this.”
“Choose the magazine you are going to submit to most carefully … Not a bit of use submitting an article on colour bar or flying saucers to a periodical catering solely for young mothers or fashion trends.”
“Make sure of your facts, whatever you are writing … Don’t even let your characters eat whitebait out of season … unless it’s tinned.”
“Never be set back with rejections. I could have papered a room with mine.”
|MS-3854/021, from the Charles and Louise Croot papers|
These are some of the tips Essie Summers gave in 1960 to young people interested in free-lance journalism. A copy of her advice, which runs to ten closely-typed pages, is in the papers of Dunedin teacher, broadcaster and writer Charles Croot. Perhaps Croot had invited Summers, a local Presbyterian minister’s wife, to talk to one of his English classes at Kaikorai Valley High School.
Essie Summers was well qualified to give advice to budding writers. She had published poems and stories in magazines, and for six years wrote a popular column in the Timaru Herald. She was also well on the way to becoming one of New Zealand’s most popular novelists. By 1960 she had written eight romances, published in England by Mills & Boon. They would eventually publish 52 of her books, which were translated into 17 languages and sold millions of copies. Many of her books were set in Otago and Canterbury, particularly in the high country, and her lyrical descriptions of the landscapes she loved inspired numerous overseas readers to visit New Zealand.
|Bachelors Galore by Essie Summers, published by Mills and Boon, London in 1958. The Hocken has most of Summers’ novels, which are collectors’ items today|
As well as giving a wealth of practical advice on formatting, inspiration, subject matter and editing, Summers revealed her own joy in writing: “One may as well admit that it is a great thrill to see one’s name in print and to know that some editor is so convinced of its merit that he is willing to identify himself with your views or imaginings and to pay cold cash for it.” Summers, who was renowned for her charm and kindness, signed off with some encouragement to her audience: “Wishing you all the best and some resultant and desirable little thin envelopes with acceptance slips and cheques.”
Blog post prepared by Ali Clarke, Reference Assistant