photo of Hazel Edwards

Author: Hazel Edwards

Author Hazel Edwards currently runs a year-long non-fiction masterclass at the Victorian Archives Centre

What a difference a year makes. Last year, running writing workshops at the Victorian Archives Centre involved monthly in-person sessions, a tour of the collection and regular Reading Room visits. A photo of some of last year's students adorns the banner and bottom of this page! This year things are a little different. And so a new book baby is born.

What is a Hazelnut?

The term ‘Hazelnuts’ was affectionately started by some of my former writing students. To qualify as my ‘Hazelnut’, you have to have attended one of my courses, finished and published your writing project. Across decades, it’s satisfying to see so many non-fiction books on diverse subjects gained from crafting and workshopping across a year. Telling the story of ‘extra-ordinary-ordinary heroes’ is worthwhile. So are ‘How To…’ books. And then there is the mutual help Hazelnuts offer each other by reading drafts or attending launches. And the research skills from visiting archives, historic locations, interviewing via digital devices or sleuthing family secrets. Then came the pandemic lockdown and postponement of face-to-face classes like sessions at PROV’s Victorian Archives Centre. A 12 part manual, Complete Your Book In A Year, was an attempt to keep people writing. I share some tips from the book here...

Writing in lockdown

De-cluttering during lockdown, I saw more Victorians interested in writing memoirs, organise family memorabilia, evaluate their lives for their families and themselves, or even capture covid’s significant history in real time.

So how to get started?

Top tips for writing a book in a year:
1. Individuals vary and most work faster towards the end, but on average aim for 7 hours of writing per week i.e. about 30 hours per month.
2. Set a weekly word goal. A memoir can be any length even 20,000 words or less. Decide on final wordage and work backwards for weekly total.
3. Read at least one book per month for technique. Who has written in the style, format or subject you want to do? Read as a writer.
4. Decide on your structure. Chronological? Anecdotal? Other?
5. Decide on viewpoint from which to write. Fact, faction or fiction?
6. Draft a cast list. Write dossiers for major characters. List strengths and weaknesses.
7. Keep research going, including interviews, while you are writing. Check legal issues like copyright of letters and archival materials used. Keep a running sheet of interviewee contacts. Work out your own system of distinguishing fact from opinion and gossip.
8. Use readers to fact check your draft.
9. Practice responding to: ‘What is your book about?’ in one sentence.
10. Find reputable editing, designing and publishing options via library, professional organisations, or by checking your local historical society for recent, well produced books.

Get inspired

Past ‘Hazelnuts’ serve as inspiration for those heading down this path for the first time:

•    Shirley Fung's Second Chinese Daughter about three generations of resourceful Asian women whose descendants are now in Australia, has been published by MPHGroup and nominated for the Dublin Literary Award by The National Library of Malaysia. 
•    Lyndel Kennedy’s The Hidden Diffability: Discovering Aspergers provides strategies and successes from her experience with parent support groups. 
•    Darren Arnott explores the crime history associated with suburban Rowville’s little known Italian prisoner of war camp in No Regard for the Truth
•    Maribel Steel’s Blindness for Beginners is a humorous, motivational memoir, inspiring people to ‘see’ differently. 
•    Felicity Marshall’s intricate illustrations of Hello, Honey Bee are supported by bee facts and a wonderfully fanciful story of a Queen Bee.


About Hazel Edwards

book cover

Although best known as author of There’s a Hippopotamus on our Roof Eating Cake Hazel Edwards’ other ‘How to…’ books include Writing a Non Boring Family History, Authorpreneurship: The Business of Creativity, and the now Pandemic- defunct Non Boring Travel Writing. Currently she’s co-writing the screenplay adaptation of her adult mystery Wed, Then Dead on the Ghan.

Hazel’s Complete Your Book in a Year Manual provides practical advice to help you from the inception of your idea, developing the story and structuring your book through to publication and marketing.


group of students
Past students holding up their books, with Hazel Edwards and PROV's Tara Oldfield.

Material in the Public Record Office Victoria archival collection contains words and descriptions that reflect attitudes and government policies at different times which may be insensitive and upsetting

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples should be aware the collection and website may contain images, voices and names of deceased persons.

PROV provides advice to researchers wishing to access, publish or re-use records about Aboriginal Peoples