Archive for February, 2010

self-publishing in the Telegraph

February 24, 2010

A friend gave me a cutting from the Telegraph Weekend (Feb 13th, 2010) about self-publishing. Three websites are mentioned:, and Otherwise the article does not give a lot of hope. I will find it difficult to sell my self-published book – I am not surprised.

I tried to use the format of blurb some time ago. I could not get my book to fit into their framework. After a couple of hours I’m afraid I gave up. I have settled on a local small publisher – Rodney Dale at FernHouse in Haddenham, Cambs.

The article did alert me to copy right issues. It was much cheaper for me to have the ISBN number under the publisher’s name. I see that this gives him copyright. I will have to check on this!

Jonathan Clifford’s website ( might also be worth checking


I have found something that may improve my writing (I hope).

February 23, 2010

I have found a great book that may improve my writing. Style by Joseph Williams, published by Scott, Foresman and Company ISBN 0-673-38186-2, gives ten lessons in ‘clarity and grace’. I am not sure about the grace bit, but he certainly helps to clarify. I have not finished reading the book, but I have already come across some brilliant ideas.

New to me is the notion of placing an important idea at the END of a sentence. While he agrees that you try to put the central idea at the beginning of the sentence/paragraph I never thought of leading up to a main idea and placing it at the end.

I always have a problem with too many adverbs and he shows how to avoid these. In the chapter on cohesion he provides lists of joining words that I can use when teaching. He provides exercises for you to try and answers to some of them in the back. I really need answers to any exercises I do, so I skipped those that had no answers.

 I have decided to buy a copy for myself for I think it will be very useful if I teach advanced English as a  Foreign Language in summer as planned.  

And no, nobody is paying me to say these things!

Positive proof: You can’t write without help

February 19, 2010

Previously, I posted my first attempts at writing my blurbs for my forthcoming book: Out of a Learner’s Mouth. The publisher (Rodney Dale of Fern House in Haddenham) asked me for the final drafts of my blurbs for the front cover of the book (about the author) and for the back of the book (about the book).

I did my best, but felt very uneasy because it had not been through the hands of a copy editor. I asked the publisher to edit, please – and he did. It was clear editing was needed. This is proof that you really should get others to edit your work. Hopefully I will continue to learn from this experience.

I am even tempte4d to contemplate going on a copy-editing course. Does anyone know any good, reliable copy-editing courses I could sign up to?

Here are the finished blurbs. What do you think?

Blurb about the book for the back cover:

Picking up a stranger in a pub in Spain and buying a flat from him is an unusual way of starting a new relationship with the country and its language. However, this mature lady casts caution aside and gives the stranger her credit card to pay a deposit for her dream flat by the Mediterranean Sea. When the contract is signed and she first enters the building, she is unable to communicate with the electrician who is still fixing the wiring. She realizes she has to learn Spanish.

In a series of hilarious anecdotes she records her feelings about the language and the Spanish way of life. She struggles with new vocabulary and with interference from school French. As her exposure to the language increases, her attitude alters; she makes drastic changes to her approach when teaching English as a Foreign Language to students in the UK.  

She describes the new Spanish words she acquires and shares the trials and tribulations that all language learners have with concentration, memory, personality differences and interfering life events. 

A developing awareness of the benefits of image, humour, other language associations and her past learning and teaching experiences give insight into the nature of the process.        

The book is an essential companion for those contemplating learning Spanish, or planning a holiday in a Spanish-speaking country, and for those in the language learning, researching, teaching and teacher-training businesses. 

 and the final blurb about the author:

Teacher, writer and adventurer Dr Rosemary Westwell made her first move overseas from Tasmania when she flew across the Bass Strait to study School Music at Melbourne University. After returning for a short bout of teaching in Tasmania, she sailed to England and eventually settled in a Cambridgeshire village where she acquired successively an English husband, two daughters and a number of grandchildren.

As she neared retirement, she inherited a house in Tasmania – rather a long way to go for holidays, so she exchanged it for a flat in Spain on the Mediterranean Sea. Learning Spanish from scratch, she recorded her learning experiences as the data for her PhD research thesis. Out of a Learner’s Mouth is a frank and humorous account of her experiences.

In the UK, she reviews concerts, teaches Piano, Singing and English, and entertains local societies with talks about her life in Tasmania. She runs The Isle Singers, a ladies’ choir which gives regular concerts, and may be found carolling at Ely Station at Christmas. .

She has had a number of articles, short stories and poems published. Her book Spontaneous Survival Lessons in English is published by Zigzag Education. Future books in the pipeline include her first novel Tassie Rebel, and its sequel Teaching Language Learners, and a course for IGCSE.


What do you think?

The trouble with language surveys

February 16, 2010

I saw and advertisement in The Guardian (p.6 Tuesday 15th February) that asked me to take part in a world languages survey. I assumed that the survey would be about which languages are learned, how they are learnt and which languages are considered most important for worldwide communication.

As I have been studying the language learning process by observing my experience learning Spanish as a beginner, I thought it might be useful to respond to the survey.  

The website ( was easy to access, the survey clearly marked out and the questions easy to respond to. There were very few times when there seemed no place for the answer I wanted to give although I found it incredible that English was not included as a language. Also, the survey was just the right length – long enough to gather useful information and short enough not to become a chore to complete.

However, the survey seemed more concerned with me, with whether I taught languages or not and what would encourage me to teach languages more. This surprised me. I felt as though these questions were almost irrelevant. If the aim of the survey was to get a picture of world languages in the field of education, I expected it to ask additional questions about which languages I believed were the most relevant and important for students worldwide to learn, how these should be taught and how the teaching and learning of them could be better supported.

Little reference was made to effect of making language learning no longer a compulsory part of the curriculum. It seemed logical and common sense that fewer students would take up the subject if it was not compulsory. Whether we like it or not, our world is shrinking and it seems obvious to me that we need to be able to communicate in more than one language to survive. Bringing back the study of a language as a compulsory part of the curriculum seems to be the logical answer to the problem of the decline in language learning in secondary schools and above.

A survey of teachers’ and students’ language learning preferences and needs, in my opinion, would be a useful follow- up and a much more pertinent and effective survey.  

One final point: which is more valuable – the results of a survey of thousands, or a single, in-depth study?  It is commonly accepted that there is a place for both in our attempts to discover the truth, but is the knowledge that most people learn French more important than understanding how an individual develops an appreciation and empathy with a second language?   

I leave you to decide.

Trying to write the blurb about yourself as the author is difficult

February 15, 2010

It is difficult to write about yourself  as the author. It would be much easier to write about someone else, but it must be done. This is my latest version for the front cover of Out of a Learner’s Mouth. Suggestions for improvement?

The author is the teacher and writer Dr. Rosemary Westwell.

Brought up in Tasmania, she made her first move overseas when she flew across the waters of Bass Strait to study School Music at Melbourne University. After teaching in Tasmania for a short while, she wanted to explore more of the world. She sailed to England and eventually settled in a village in Cambridgeshire, acquiring an English husband, two daughters and a number of grandchildren.

After the death of her father she inherited a house in Tasmania. Realizing it was too far to go for holidays, she exchanged it for a flat in Spain on the Mediterranean Sea. She needed to learn Spanish and decided to keep a reflective diary on her Spanish learning experiences as the data for her PhD research thesis. Out of a Learner’s Mouth is born from a desire to write frankly and humorously about her difficulties as a learner and researcher.

In her life in the UK, she writes reviews of local concerts and plays and teaches Piano, Singing and English. She runs a ladies’ choir called The Isle Singers which gives concerts regularly. The singers may be found carolling at Ely Station at Christmas.

She has had a number of articles, short stories and poems published. Her book Spontaneous Survival Lessons in English is published by Zigzag Education. Future books in the pipeline include her first novel Tassie Rebel and its sequel, Teaching Language Learners and a course for IGCSE.

Publishing your book 5

February 11, 2010

The blurb

Part of the publishing process is convincing people that they want to read your book(s).

I wrote a letter once that got me a teaching job immediately. I was told at the interview that it was my letter rather than the CV that worked. I tried the put myself in the employer’s place and wrote directly addressing her needs i.e. saying that I would not need any materials because I provided my own and that I would teach any group at any stage.

Maybe I should try to do the same with ‘selling’ my book, but it is not so easy.

I read out part of this blurb to a Writers’ Circle and they immediately suggested different approaches. Apparently 250 words should be the maximum length of any blurb, so I seem to be okay there. The trouble is I felt my blurb needed to reflect the contents of and style of the book as honestly as possible so I found it very difficult to adopt their suggestions.

One member of a publishing group I know is going on a marketing course – a course that is not specifically related to publishing books, but should help her market the books her firm publishes. It’s an idea…  

My blurb was written as a response to a publishing firm asking for materials. I have tried to apply my golden rule of write and re-write at least 3 times, but I feel it could do with more tweaking.

My blurb to the publisher:

If you are looking for support material for teachers, you may be interested in publishing two books that I have written: Teaching Language Learners and Out of a Learner’s Mouth.

Teaching Language Learners explains current language acquisition theory simply and succinctly and it offers ideas and methods for teachers to engage students in the process of language learning. It is slanted towards the teaching of English but it applies to teaching Modern Languages and any subjects that use language as a channel for communication. I plan to present a paper at the IATEFL Conference in 2011 on the contents of this book.

Out of a Learner’s Mouth is being self-published at present. A copy-editor has been employed and the book is due to be published by the end of the month. It is a light-hearted description of the trials and tribulations of a teacher’s efforts to learn Spanish as a beginner after reaching the age of retirement. Although written in an approachable, informal style, it is based on a sound theoretical platform. Teachers find out what a language learner really thinks about her teachers, the courses she uses and the people she meets. Teachers, researchers, and course planners gather new ideas and methods and find out the pitfalls of their profession. Prospective learners of Spanish are entertained with tales of Spain and Spanish characters while learning a word or two of Spanish on the way. I will be presenting a paper on this book at the IATEFL Conference in April this year.

I am sure you could do better. I would happily do a swap – you sort out my blurb and I have a go at yours..?