Suzanne Newnham: author, writer, health advocate (chronic pain management), researcher into chronic pain (Tai Chi, Qigong, meditation), trance medium; wife, mother, and grandmother who lives in a beautiful coastal town in Australia with my husband of 46 years.
Does writing energize or exhaust you? Or both?
Though exhausted tends to happen spontaneously especially at 2am after a bout of writing for hours! Remembering to get up and move is important otherwise tiredness sets in, but getting a cup of tea and drinking it while riding my exercise bike (pedals just going round instead of trying to break a speed-record) seems to help with re-energising me. If a deadline is looming and I’m not in the right head-space to write I get exhausted easily. I have a chronic pain and anaphylaxis condition which is triggered by sound and my energy can drop suddenly because of that, and if I’m writing and my cognitive abilities become further compromised then fatigue takes over. At those times when my work needs careful editing, usually I ask either my husband to read it and make suggestions or ask a member or two from my writing groups to do similar.
However, variety tends to keep me energised because I have several writing projects simultaneously (even if some of those are just a short story or poem for my writing group, or answering a query on chronic pain management). Also, when writing ‘What Glass Ceiling?’ I kept chapters in separate folders and wrote to those rather than chronological order, which also meant writer’s block or getting exhausted while writing was not really an issue.
How did you come up with the title for your book?
I have two main books: The first is ‘Ethics of a Psychic Reading’: Various psychic-themed books at the time were more of an esoteric nature. However, as I was surrounded by scientists in the family, and trod the line between fantasy and reality, my book developed into more of a code of ethics or conduct with a reference cum teaching style. It has energy frequencies and other terminology explained from both psychic and an astro-physicist perspectives. In my energy rebalancing practice I was seeing more and more clients affected by inappropriate psychic readings or healings – and my book ‘Ethics of a Psychic Reading’ was born.
‘What Glass Ceiling?’ while Patricia Evans/Morris experienced her share of obstacles and challenges throughout her life, she took those on as opportunities. Even though the expression what glass ceiling wasn’t coined until the 1970s it seemed appropriate to use that phrase because at times Patricia found the edge of that glass and climbed around it, and on other occasions she broke glass ceilings enabling women and disadvantaged men to follow behind her. This memoir ‘What Glass Ceiling?’, complete with a question mark, became a logical title as Patricia Evans was a woman before her time inspiring new generations with her leadership qualities from her professional life in the 1940s to her decades of volunteering. At 94 years-of-age Patricia died in 2022.
How important was professional editing to your book’s development?
Very important as there is only so much in the multitude of drafts that an author can keep re-reading and editing, and as accuracy is essential professional editing is generally required until the final manuscript is ready. Whether about aspects of character; plot; research, and depending upon the style of book such as in a novel, just retelling facts as an ‘info dump’ or research information is woven into story – showing character/place/research and taking the reader on a journey. Professional editing can also catch the odd spelling typo, punctuation, lapse in grammar, or formatting glitch. How proficient a writer is in construction in their chosen language, which may not be their native tongue, the level of writing education received in and since school days, a change of genre or writing style, all plays a part in how early or late a professional editor might be employed in a prospective author’s process in writing a book.
How long did it take you to write this book?
From 2006 when I started entering my handwritten collection of notes into the computer for a book to the final rewrite in 2012 for the international market ‘Ethics of a Psychic Reading’.
For ‘What Glass Ceiling?’ writing started in 2013, with the family edition printed in Dec 2017, and in 2021 for the published format.
How long have you been writing or when did you start?
My parents would have you believe that my writing started with a ‘Letter to the Editor’ in April 1972. However, even though my book ‘Ethics of a Psychic Reading’ was published, I didn’t have any intention to continue with writing. My focussed attempts started when I joined a writers’ group in December 2012. Joining a second writers’ group mid-2013 whereby members focussed on a writing project, with some looking at the potential for publishing, I took along the short story about my mother and my next stage of life – as a writer – emerged.
How much research did you need to do for your book?
In writing a reference book ‘Ethics of a Psychic Reading’ needed accuracy in a diverse number of areas. I contacted experts in their field, other authors/publishers for permission to not only use sections from their books but the way I would be explaining using their work to support my ideas or theories. Years of keeping journals of my own experiences and observations, with the latter checking against or with peer reviewed (where possible) research. Research into other countries’ regulations around the use of psychic and healing terminology. This is only a small indication of what research was required.
For ‘What Glass Ceiling?’ Patricia said she ‘just audited the books’ which belied the extent of her skills and abilities, and the influence she had on others. Due to the nature of her work, in some instances I focussed on research into the factories and organisations and their history or societal standards of the day and wove that into Patricia’s story. I’d put in her personal comment when given, or a ‘quoted statement’ based on my research for example with Hallstrom’s ‘Silent Knight’ refrigerator “at £55 that’s equivalent of half a year of my pre-tax salary!” I could have just said £55 but putting it into context of half a salary the small amount then becomes 45,000 Australian dollars ($US29,000) in 2023 money. And in case you’re wondering, if you went to buy equivalent 180L fridge today it would cost you $A400 ($US257).
What do you think is the best way to improve writing skills?
Join one of the many writing groups that abound – whether in-person meetings locally; through to local, national, and international groups who meet online. Whether it is just an opportunity to tell others your project, write, and then report how you went in the session; or writing and submitting for critique/feedback (sometimes exchange, read, and critique others work too), as well as hearing suggestions about character, plot, research, grammar, punctuation, and whether you are showing or telling the story. At times there are a multitude of other helpful and sometimes less helpful comments, although the latter perhaps from an interesting perspective.
What inspired the idea for your book?
‘Ethics of a Psychic Reading’: There was just a collection of notes of decades of experience and observation that I had squirrelled away over the years. Then, in my energy rebalancing practice I was seeing more and more clients affected by inappropriately-given psychic readings or healings – and my book ‘Ethics of a Psychic Reading’ was born. Various psychic-themed books at the time were more of an esoteric nature. However, as I am surrounded by scientists in the family, and tread the line between fantasy and reality, my book developed into more of a code of ethics or conduct with a reference cum teaching style. The book has energy frequencies and other terminology explained from both psychic and astro-physicist perspectives.
‘What Glass Ceiling?’: the Sydney-Fellowship of Australian Writers 85th anniversary in 2013, “Help us celebrate and write a short story” was such a simple request. I never thought when I submitted 1500 words on the theme “Sydney” that it would evolve to become my mother’s 41,000-word memoir!
From a delightful insight into Patricia’s childhood my desire grew to know more, beyond the adventure of fun and exploration. Soon snippets of information, a chance word, a smile and over a cup of tea Patricia spoke of hopes, challenges, respect, and achievements in her personal and professional worlds. Leadership wasn’t her focus, but became her legacy to countless people she inspired.
What is a significant way your book has changed since the first draft?
With ‘Ethics of a Psychic Reading’ I’d approached traditional publishers nationally, but when a publishing company approached me which would involve an international audience I took that opportunity. As talking about various aspects of psychic and healing practices had strict legal restrictions in a number of countries, I then had to research requirements on a global scale. While the basic premise of the book remained the same, words or explanations and even chapters were amended so that ‘Ethics of a Psychic Reading’ could be purchased and read anywhere on the planet.
‘What Glass Ceiling?’ transformed from a short story to memoir. As I took each draft to my friends at the Eurobodalla Fellowship of Australian Writers (E-FAW) night group each month, new sets of questions to ask my mother Patricia were given to me. In interviewing, chatting over a cuppa, I got to know my mother more than I had over the decades I had known her. I saw the child who grew up in a loving family where education and strong values of kindness were important. I saw the dilemma of being a female, an emerging young woman and the societal expectations that were placed on her. I saw a quiet rebellion forging a powerful determination when obstacles challenged her – not afraid of proving that she was equally skilled working within male-dominated industries as her colleagues. I saw a woman who melded an executive position and family from only a couple of years after the Australian Marriage Bar was lifted, eventually encouraging family-friendly and diversity practices within the workforce for herself and others until her retirement. The first edition was more of an insight and information in a story-telling style for the family, full of details, family photographs, and copies of documents to be presented to Mamma at her 90th birthday. At that event guests glanced at the book and asked me for a copy. I had printed copies for family as I’d intended, but because of the personal nature of various information and photos I then spent the next 3½ years removing specifics about other family members, as well as photos and documents which weren’t for public viewing. Next was editing the remainder plus introducing new information based on additional research, as well as the awards and other recognition Mamma had received since 2017, culminating in my successful publishing of both print and e-books of ‘What Glass Ceiling’ in July 2021.
Whom do you trust for objective and constructive criticism of your work?
For the past 11 years the local NSW based Eurobodalla Fellowship of Australian Writers (E-FAW) day and evening writer groups have nurtured my writing. In the E-FAW there are a range of writing abilities from ‘not since school’, to university degrees, to published authors, career screen-writers, and lots in between. There are editors, publishers, former English teachers, librarians, and others who have immersed themselves in the written word for decades. The day group has a monthly theme for short story, of the 100 words exact ‘Drabble’ through to 1000 words, or a poem, with all work being critiqued by members prior to story or poem being read by its writer at the meeting; the monthly night group critiques members’ work, and the group discusses each work with the individual writers replying to those comments and suggestions. At times mini-workshops are given by members experienced in various aspects of the writing industry, as well as workshops from those from outside the E-FAW.
Why do I trust E-FAW for objective and constructive criticism of my work? My cognitive abilities were decimated by chronic pain and medication reactions, and E-FAW have taken me from no longer knowing the meaning of words, expressions of speech, and great difficulties comprehending others words whether spoken or written, to being an author of multiple books, articles, anthologies, and co-authored novellas, and because we read our work aloud at meetings I’ve also regained confidence in public speaking. This cognitive improvement is still an ongoing process with writing and editing, even in responding to a letter or a comment until I get the result I’m looking for, taking an inordinate amount of time. However, without the E-FAW I doubt I would have got this far!
For access to Suzanne Newnham’s ‘Ethics of a Psychic Reading’, ‘What Glass Ceiling?’, and all my publications for purchase, plus my request for my new project, and other information, go to: