Five minutes with Sonia Stanizzo


I’ve been teaching writing for a while now, but 2016 was the first year I taught for Romance Writers of Australia (RWA) in their Online Workshop Learning (OWL) program. I was a bit nervous, but all went swimmingly with both my course on plotting, and how to write a synopsis and pitch to agents. Then, just as I was preparing to call 2016 a successful teaching year, I got an email that cinched the “successful year” deal.

Sonia Stanizzo was a student in both my courses and in December, she emailed to tell me she’d just been offered her first book deal. What amazing news to end the year on! I was so, so excited for her. So what does a proud mother hen do when presented with the success of a mentee? Blog about it, of course! Give her the opportunity to tell the world about her book. So here is five minutes with the fabulous, soon-to-be-published Romance author, Sonia Stanizzo.

Sonia, can you please tell us about your book. What’s it called, what’s it about, who will want to read it?

Why is it when someone asks me what my book is about I freeze? It’s like I’ve been keeping my writing a secret for so long that now it’s out and people are asking, I don’t know what to say?? LOL!

This is the blurb that you helped me with for The Trouble with Mr Pretty:

“Gift shop owner Lauren Moore’s motto is “never trust a pretty face.” Following a disastrous affair with a handsome celebrity, she’s vowed to never fall for anyone like him again.

But when Australia’s sexiest ex-football player, Jack Henderson, barges into her shop late one night displaying all the characteristics she wants to avoid, Lauren is unwillingly drawn to his seductive good looks and bad boy smile.

When Lauren is forced to accept a job offer from Jack to pay her blackmailing sister and has to spend more time with him than she’d like, Jack shows her that he is more than just a pretty face. Lauren must decide if she can let go of the past and trust in love again.”

This might sound a little weird but my inspiration came from a dream. I dreamt of my heroine sitting alone under New Year’s fireworks with gut-wrenching grief. The next morning I quickly wrote it down and that went on to become a prologue for my story but after feedback from RWA comps, I decided to cut the scene. Even though I loved it, I could see that it didn’t fit. I also love reading and watching romance with light, fun humour and so I’ve tried to incorporate that style into my stories. I’ve also had to sit and watch endless football games with my husband and that is how my hero was born.

Sounds like a great read! Perhaps you can tell us a bit about you as a writer and your writing journey thus far?

My writing journey has been a long one, even though I have only written two books, with my second finding a publisher, Beachwalk Press.  I would start to write, do some courses, join writers’ forums and freak out! It seemed like everyone knew what they were talking about and I had no clue. I would put away my manuscript for months because I didn’t think I could do it. Then it would always be bugging me that I didn’t finish it, so I’d pull it out and start again, freak out and put it away again. Last year I made a promise to myself to finish it, no matter how “freaked out” I got. I finished it and now it’s getting published. But to be honest, I still feel a little clueless.

I think many writers continue to feel “clueless”, despite evidence of their success. And on that note, you contacted me in December 2016 to let me know you’d been offered a book deal. Firstly, congratulations. Proud mother hen, here! I’d like to know if you thought that RWA and the OWLs helped you get the deal and what advice you’d give others about joining RWA and doing an OWL or two.

I absolutely believe that the OWL courses helped me to get a deal. Without the courses I had no clue about the craft of putting together a great manuscript. The feedback you get is fantastic. The OWL courses for 2017 look amazing and I can’t wait to do most of them. I would highly recommend writers join RWA and take some OWL classes because there is so much information and support.

So, as an avid reader, which writers do you admire and can you recommend any books to my readers?

I really love the humour of Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Rachel Gibson, Jill Shalvis and the suspense of Sandra Brown. Any of their books are a great read. I also LOVE the urban fantasy Fever series by Karen Marie Moning.

It’s been great chatting to you, Sonia. Before you go, please let us know when will your book be available and where we can get a copy.

I had to email my publisher because I wasn’t sure. She said March/April and said I could say “Spring 2017” but it’s Autumn here, so not sure if it has the same ring to it?? The Trouble with Mr Pretty will be available to purchase at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and iTunes. There are some other places too, but they are the most well-known.

(Sonia was also kind enough to provide the following quote about my OWL. I didn’t pay her to say this, seriously!)

“During the synopsis OWL course, Samantha helped me tighten up my synopsis and get it ready to send to publishers. I don’t think I would have gotten a contract without her guidance. I highly recommend doing any of Samantha’s courses. Hers were two of the best ones I enrolled in.”

You can contact Sonia on Facebook or Instagram:

Instagram @soniastanizzowriter



Romance Writers of Australia online course – The Synopsis

You’ve written a stand-out story and now it’s time for (gasp) submission. Eek! You know if you don’t get this part right, the agent or publisher won’t even get to that manuscript you’ve just spent the last year (or ten) slaving over. Oh, the pressure!

Relax. Breathe. It’s OK.

Most writers know they need to provide a “book package” that varies slightly from publisher to publisher, but will inevitably contain a synopsis, cover letter, author bio and perhaps blurb. The good news is you can prepare a kick-arse package that’s ready to go, and tweak it to suit the individual specifications of your intended submittee.

When I was starting out some years ago, I thought whoever devised the concept of the synopsis must be a complete sadist. I mean, what kind of cruel and unusual torture involves reducing 400 pages of novel to two 1.5 spaced standard A4s?! This task necessarily means you have to leave stuff out. Lots of stuff. So what parts do you leave out, what bits do you leave in, and how should you write the darned thing? Just what makes a good synopsis that will hook your ideal agent or publisher and MAKE them pick up your amazing manuscript?

I asked all these questions and more of the many mentors I’ve had and I can thankfully report that, with some examples, an explanation of the theory behind the synopsis and other tools, it’s not the hand-wringing task it at first appears. Which brings me to the OWL I’m teaching in September called “Synopsis, blurb, cover letter, bio — your book selling tools”.

I work best when I understand the purpose of a thing, and have good examples to work from, so that’s the approach I’ve taken with this OWL. I’ve included lots of theory and I’ve called upon my network of writer pals to provide me with examples of their materials. You’ll get to see what different types of synopsises, cover letters, author bio’s and blurbs have worked for a variety of published authors. I’ve also strong-armed my longstanding mentor and editor, Robb Grindstaff ( into providing a bit of assistance, and he’s going to be available on our forum to answer your questions — many of Robb’s clients have landed agent and publishing deals, so make good use of him!

Also, because I teach in the Professional Writing stream at TAFE, I’ve seen first-hand that one-on-one feedback is often the most useful part of a course. So I’m also offering all participants the opportunity to submit their synopsis to me in week four (after we’ve covered the theory, done some exercises, and seen examples, of course) for individual feedback about your strengths and weaknesses. Feedback can pickpocket Dear Writer of their blind spots which is always helpful, not necessarily painless, but I do promise to be gentle! For this reason, I’ve capped the number of participants or I may drown under a sea of synopsises — yet another reason they are instruments of torture — so book in quick!

If you want to book, you can do so here:

Hope to see you in September!

How to write a synopsis, cover letter & author bio

Winter HeatHi there!

Are you a writer ready to submit your work to a publisher? Perhaps you’re just interested in what you’ll need to do when you are ready. If that’s you, I’m teaching an online course through Romance Writers Australia this September. It’s just $35 for non-members, and $40 for members. For details and bookings, click below.

And here’s what you get:

Most writers know they need to provide a synopsis of their novel, short story, or screenplay to prospective publishers before they’ll request your manuscript. But what should a good synopsis look like? Is there an industry standard for what should be covered? Do you give the end away or tell them just enough to pique their interest? And what about all the other stuff publisher’s websites commonly ask for – a cover letter, your elevator pitch, your author bio.

This course will look at each of these essential ‘book-selling tools’, what you should and shouldn’t include, and how to get that submissions editor to request your work. Advice will come from both the presenter and professionals in the field, including an internationally successful writer and book editor. You’ll get working examples from published authors and if you want to have a go at writing your 1-2 page synopsis, the presenter will also give you individual written feedback.

Week 1:

What is a synopsis and why is it so important? This lesson will look at the role of a good synopsis and canvas the divergent advice on what you should include. Examples from both the presenter and published authors will be included. Robb Grindstaff, international writer and book editor, will be available to answer questions from participants on the FB forum.

Week 2:

How to write a blurb and an elevator pitch. These short, sweet tools can be the key to a publisher requesting more from you. This lesson will provide examples on how to summarise something big (like a novel) to something small (like a sentence or two).

Week 3:

Your cover letter and author bio. There’s an art to these too. This lesson will teach you what to include, what to leave out, and how to standout.

Week 4:

No lesson this week. Instead, email me your 1-2 page synopsis, and I’ll provide you with written feedback.

Students will be provided with a weekly PDF lesson via email each Monday (except in week 4 when written feedback will be provided in lieu of a PDF). Questions will be answered on a closed

Moodle group during the week. Depending on availability, Samantha is hoping to have at least two prominent writing professionals join these discussions, and once they have been finalised, students will be emailed to let them know who the ‘special guest’ will be, and to email their questions before posting them to the group.