Q. I've worked for 13 years in training and lecturing. I'm thinking of becoming a life coach but am finding it difficult to get independent advice - all the information seems to come from companies trying to get you to buy their training.
A. Life coaching is gaining in popularity. With your past experience you probably have many of the skills needed already, but may need help putting them into a different context. As coaching is an unregulated activity and there are experience based accreditation routes available, you might want to consider finding a coach supervisor to support you in adapting your skills and advising whether a training route is for you. But if you want to research courses look to the universities, which both accredit and run courses. Accreditation with a professional body is advisable because the industry is making moves towards self regulation, but requirements for accreditation vary from one body to another, with some being more rigorous. The Coaching and Mentoring Network ( www.coachingnetwork.org.uk) seeks to provide independent advice, and its site has links to both national and international training providers and professional bodies. It is possible to do a specialized search for university and university accredited courses using their data. Bodies providing accreditation of either training providers, individuals or both in the UK are the Association for Coaching ( www.associationforcoaching.com); the UK International Coach Federation ( www.coachfederation.org.uk); and the European Mentoring and Coaching Council ( www.emccouncil.org). Most life coaches are self-employed. Many start out with a full-time job and a part-time practice - testing the water to see if they can break into this increasingly competitive marketplace and make a full-time living.
A touch of romance
Q. I would love to be a romance writer for Mills and Boon, or write books for young children, but I'm not sure how to go about it.
A. I think you have to be realistic about this. The Book Trust, ( www.booktrust.org.uk), an independent national charity, says that inspired by recent high profile success stories, more people than ever are attempting to write for children, believing it to be an easier and more lucrative alternative to producing adult literature. But they point out that the market is overcrowded and competitive, with great financial recompense only going to a lucky few. It's not impossible to get lucky of course - publishers are always on the lookout for new talent and original ideas. Look up the Booktrust tips, which include knowing your market, being aware of age groups, and understanding how to submit ideas. Some publishers will only accept submissions via a literary agent, for example. Have a look at How to Write for Children - And Get Published (Piatkus £9.99), which advises on market trends, ideas and themes, plus ways to approach agents and publishers. Mills and Boon, which has an extensive "how to write for us" section on its website ( www.millsandboon.co.uk), does say it answers every submission, even if it takes time. It asks potential writers, in the first instance, to submit the first three chapters and a synopsis of the rest of the story. One author who has written for Mills and Boon advises reading a lot of the books and working out how they are constructed. When it comes to writing, though, she says you should stick to the formula, put cynicism to one side and plunge into the story, or the book has no heart and never really works.
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