Yes, people do judge a book by its cover

  • By Melissa Pouliot
  • 30 Jun, 2016
I’ve launched a new Facebook page for my debut bestselling novel Write About Me. It’s an opportunity to go right back to the beginning of my author journey, and share with my readers the many stories behind the story I self-published in 2013.

Like so many other indie authors, I don’t have a publisher, an agent, a marketing company or a personal assistant. Everything I have achieved I have achieved with the support of a small group of passionate indie authors and of course, the amazing support of my readers.

To date, more than 100,000 people have read Write About Me and I have raised awareness around the world for missing persons. In one of my bookstores, it has been the highest selling fiction novel on their shelves for the past three years in a row. I’m still only a part-time writer (nights and weekends) but I am still living the dream of pursuing something I am passionate about – writing and missing people.

But before we delve into the stories behind the story, let’s look at something more superficial. Book covers.

It really is true. People do judge a book by its cover.

I remember sending my first print edition to a newspaper journalist, and after she interviewed me I asked her what she thought. She stumbled, hesitated and then blurted out – it looks like all self-published books, um, very, self-published.
Book cover, book marketing, book publishing, cover design, book cover design

I was devastated, and highly offended. But three years down the track, and looking at my initial cover, I didn’t follow any of the rules of book publishing.

Rule #1 – The cover needs to give the reader an insight into what the book is about

My very talented brother drew me my first cover image, and a highly skilled graphic designer created my cover. But we missed a few important things in our attempts to be super creative, and as the jack of all trades that a self-published author has to be I missed one very important point – what does the cover tell a complete stranger, your prospective readers, about the book? What will make the reader pick this up, click on it and turn the first page?

Write About Me is mostly based in Kings Cross. It is the story of a teenage runaway who ends up on the streets, while her devastated family and friends search for her. It is crime fiction and although one of my target audiences is young adults (16+) it does contain confronting themes and language. It is not a walk in the park.

The meaning of the signpost and coloured pavement only becomes clear after you read the novel. It is a beautiful, creative cover but it fails to sell or tell the story when it’s sitting on the shelf waiting for someone to purchase.

Rule #2 – people often choose books by authors, so your author name is as important, if not more important than the book title itself

A critical part of being an author is developing your author profile. And this starts with your name! People need to be able to read your name on the front cover from a distance. It needs to jump off the page on a paperback, and jump off a tiny thumbnail online image. I realised this pretty early on and we made my name bigger, but as I was about to release my second crime mystery novel I had to make a very difficult but very important decision. I needed to go back to the drawing board and get some fresh eyes onto my book cover design.

Rule #3 – work with professionals

Self-published authors have very small budgets. There are a lot of do it yourself tools out there so anyone, with even the most basic of desktop publishing skills, can create their book from scratch. But there are essential professionals you need to invest in to create the best possible book.

  • Graphic designer
Preferably one with experience in book cover design and sales (and let them go for it with their creative ideas, when you are too close to something you can clutter up the design process quite easily!)

  • Book formatting professional
It used to take me as long to format my book using the Create Space template as it did to write my books, so when one of the authors in my mentor group introduced me to Polgarus Studio, it changed my world!

  • Editor
I am a journalist, sub editor and editor and have more than 20 years of editing experience. But no matter how good you are, you can’t edit your own work! You really need to invest in a professional editor if you can, I promise they will pick up on things you hadn’t thought of, and they also give you a really great perspective on sections that need more work or don’t work at all. 

  • I’d love your feedback on my post, and to hear your experiences and knowledge about book publishing. Please feel free to follow me on social media – I’m pretty easy to find! I’m about to release my fourth book, You'll Never Find Me - check it out! Kindest Melissa

MP Book News

By Melissa Pouliot 21 Aug, 2017

Article first published Canberra Times, July 31, 2017

"It's never too late to find your missing person."

That's the message Melissa Pouliot has for suffering families after her missing cousin, Ursula Barwick, was recently found following a 30-year search.


Ursula, aged 17, had died in a car accident on the Hume Highway, near Tarcutta, in 1987, only weeks after she went missing.

Ursula had been living in Sydney under a new name, Jessica Pearce, and it was that name her new friends provided to investigators after the crash.

Author Melissa Pouliot, left, with her cousin Ursula Barwick, who went missing in 1987, aged 17. Photo: Supplied

The authorities failed to track down her family and Ursula was buried in Emu Plains cemetery under the name of Jessica, where she lay undiscovered until Ms Pouliot re-sparked the search.

The Merimbula-based author wrote the crime fiction novel, Write About Me , as a way to honour Ursula's memory, but it created the momentum that saw the case reopened by police  and Ursula found.

Ms Pouliot chronicled this journey through a series of novels and last week unveiled her fifth, Found , which was launched in Canberra.

Ms Pouliot will launch Missing Persons Week 2017 – the annual national campaign to raise awareness of the issues and impacts surrounding missing persons – in the Bega Valley this week.

The theme of this year's campaign is "Still waiting for you to come home".

Like Ursula, 25,000 of the 38,000 people reported missing in Australia each year are under the age of 18.

Teens aged between 13 and 17 are six times more likely to go missing than the rest of the Australian population.

Young women are the most susceptible.

While the majority of missing people are found within a short period of time, there are more than 2000 listed as long-term missing, which means they have been missing for more than three months.

Australian Federal Police national coordinator missing persons and exploited children Marina Simoncini said for every missing person there were family, friends and colleagues left behind, still waiting for them to come home.

She said, in some circumstances, disappearing might be viewed as the only option to escape a bad situation, but in some extreme cases, a young person might have become a victim of crime.

Ms Simoncini said young people went missing for a range of reasons, including miscommunication, misadventure, or because of a misunderstanding.

While Ursula has been found, the police case finally closed, and a memorial held at the Emu Plains Cemetery earlier this month, Ms Pouliot said the family's quest continued.

"The long journey of her death is not over yet," she said.

"We are still trying to join dots that connect Ursula and the fictional character of Jessica Pearce, who she created for her new friends in Sydney."

The details and circumstances of Ursula's death are now with the NSW Coroner.

Ms Pouliot said she hoped for clear answers to the many unanswered questions.

But she said Ursula had left a clear legacy for the families and friends of missing persons.

"[Ursula's] legacy, the thing that will inspire others for many years to come, is that it is never too late to find your missing person."

To view Australia's national register of missing persons, visit the National Missing Persons Coordination Centre website at www.missingpersons.gov.au , where information about support services across Australia can also be found.

Anyone with information relating to a missing person is urged to contact their local police or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.


By Melissa Pouliot 21 Aug, 2017

For me, a bestselling crime writer based on the stunning Sapphire Coast, where you’ll find some of the best mountain bike tracks in the world, they are intrinsically linked. As part of the launch of my fifth crime novel FOUND , I shared with Sapphire Coast Tourism how the bike trails I ride inspire my writing. I also shared some excerpts from my new book, which the Australian Federal Police launched in Canberra on July 27, 2017.

BUTTERFLY

The morning is warmer than usual and it won’t be long before I won’t need my gloves or beanie beneath my bike helmet. I look to my right and admire the swans gliding gracefully on Wallagoot Lake.

The water is so still it looks like glass. To my left I hear a rustle in the thick bush and wonder if it’s the lyre birds I see from time to time, building their nest, or something more sinister.

I shift gears as I reach a slight incline and look down at my handlebars. Something flashes past my face and my heart skips several beats as wildly look around to see what it is.

It appears again, then multiplies. Butterflies. One, five, ten, twenty. They dance around my head then disappear into the bush. A few moments later they return, then they’re gone again.

They follow me like this as I ride past the boat ramp, along the corrugated dirt road and to the entrance to Bournda National Park. I stop for a drink and admire their quiet presence, wondering if I will be quick enough to capture them on my camera. I’m not.

I keep riding. There’s a steep section and I’m so distracted that I forget to change gears and nearly don’t make it up. The butterflies are still with me when I reach Wine Glass Bay, and they follow me to the steps leading down to Turingal Head beach.

My thoughts flutter to the fifth book I’m writing and by the time I’m back home, I have a new chapter already written in my head.

Ant was ahead of her, gesturing and pointing out things while Andy quizzed him. Occasionally Andy would crouch down, Ant standing awkwardly by his side. Rhiannon walked silently, also in front, and Christine watched a butterfly land on her shoulder. It was bright yellow with small dark spots on its wings. It was a Eurema smilax or small grass yellow butterfly. Quite common, but something Christine had never noticed in the city.

She watched it cling onto Rhiannon’s white cotton shirt with its tiny sticky feet, a slight breeze making its wings move ever so gently. Christine focused on the butterfly to calm her mind. She became transfixed, wondering in her foggy drug-induced mind, if it was a sign from Annabelle.

Annabelle loved yellow. The butterfly was yellow.

Annabelle was here!

She was trying to tell her something. A strong gust of wind dislodged the butterfly and Christine watched with panic as it flew away. She raced after it, convinced it would lead them to Annabelle.

Nobody noticed at first, until Andy called Rhiannon over to show him something and Ant looked back to see Christine running in the opposite direction.

‘Hey, Christine! Where you going?’ Ant called.

Christine didn’t answer, it was taking all her energy to not lose sight of the butterfly which was leading her deeper and deeper into the bush. She pushed through shrubs, she was off the path now, panting heavily from the exertion. She rolled her ankle as she scrambled through the dense undergrowth and pain shot up her leg, but she kept running.

Ant tore after her. ‘Christine, what is it?’

Rhiannon and Andy started jogging after Ant, while Christine dashed and darted after the speeding yellow butterfly, pushing through branches and around trees.

‘Show me Annabelle, show me where you are,’ she whispered hoarsely.

Finally the butterfly stopped. It settled on the flower of a Christmas Bush, its yellow standing out strongly against the white. Christine hunched over, trying to catch her breath.

Within minutes Ant was behind her. ‘What the fuck are you doing?’

‘Shhh,’ she said. ‘Don’t move.’

Rhiannon arrived next; a few minutes later Andy crashed through the forest.

‘Shhh,’ Christine hushed him. ‘ Quiet! Don’t come any closer.’

Her eyes remained firmly fixed on the butterfly.

Ant leant in close, clearly annoyed. ‘What. Are. We. Doing. Here?’

Once Andy stopped the loud puffing of a detective who was unfit, overweight and spent far too much time at his desk, Christine spoke. ‘See that yellow butterfly there?’

They all peered amongst the mass of flowers on the bush, eventually making out the tiny yellow shape. ‘Yes,’ they said in unison.

‘It’s a sign from Annabelle! It landed on your shirt when we first arrived, and now it’s brought me here. To this spot.’

Silence.

Well? Don’t you get it? Yellow is her favourite colour. The butterfly is yellow. The butterfly has led us to Annabelle. The butterfly is Annabelle! This is where you need to look. Don’t you understand, this is the spot. She’s here, somewhere! Start looking!’

She was crying and shaking, clearly distressed. ‘She’s here, I know she’s here. Have a look, you’ll find her. I’m sure of it.’

Ant stepped in close and wrapped his arms around her.

Andy walked away first, then Rhiannon. Ant stayed and hugged Christine tightly. Through her tears, she stared at the tiny yellow butterfly, before it lifted gracefully off its flower and disappeared deep into the forest, never to be seen again.

BONES IN THE BUSH

It’s the first time I’ve ridden this track on my own; it’s always made me feel slightly uneasy but with a riding companion, there’s nothing to worry about. Right? Right.

I duck to avoid a low hanging branch then quickly swerve to avoid a large stick hidden underneath the thick mat of crunchy leaves.

I’m getting deeper and deeper into the bush and start to feel disoriented as I come to a fork in the track and wonder if I should go left or right. It’s a common theme in my book; my runaway teens including Annabelle Brown and Keely Johnson never know whether to turn left or right, and more often than not, take the wrong track.

I stick left. I nearly fall off my bike when something hits the back of my helmet at full force. I’m terrified. The track narrows and the bush closes in around me. I hear a buzz over the loud crunching my wheels make. It gets louder and louder, then something hits my helmet again, and again. I scream, and get off my bike, flailing my arms about, fighting with the giant buzzing creature that is swarming around my head. I can’t get away from it.

I jump back on my bike and pedal as fast as I can to escape, but it keeps up with me. It won’t leave me alone. My legs are burning and I can hardly breathe. I feel it land on my back and I writhe and wriggle to free myself from its dangerous grip. There is no sun in here, and I am completely spooked.

I keep pedalling, searching for the light at the end of the tunnel. I know it can’t be far away. Something catches my eye on the ground, tangled in the leaves and undergrowth. It’s a black jumper. My imagination is going wild. What is the jumper doing here? Who does it belong to?

I’m not sure if I’ll ever escape the ‘the spooky forest’, and it becomes a recurring theme in all my books. It’s where terrible things happen, deep in the Australian bush.

  teph’s daughter Sara, Annabelle’s best friend, was home for a school friend’s engagement party, so first stop was her room.

‘Hey, Sairs, got any plans tonight?’

Sara looked up from the book she was reading, leaning over her bed at full stretch to turn down the volume on her cassette player. ‘Not really. Why, what’s on?’

‘Want to come out to Lee’s with me?’

Something in her Mum’s tone scared Sara. ‘Don’t tell me,’ she said, snapping her book shut and getting off the bed to move closer.

‘No, not that. But Lee’s in a fret. The news tonight, more bones in the forest.’

Annabelle,’ Sara said quietly.

‘Maybe,’ Steph wrapped her arms around her daughter. ‘Best place for us is with Lee, on the couch, with chocolate.’ ‘And cups of tea,’

Sara tried not to go into a panic. They’d been here before. Waiting, watching, wondering. Watching every news bulletin for that glimpse of information that might connect bones to Annabelle. Daring the phone to ring, wondering how long it would take for detectives Andy Cassettari and Rhiannon McVee, and the seemingly slow-turning wheels of the police system, to match bones in the forest with Annabelle’ s.

Within half an hour Lee and Steph were on the couch, Sara in the kitchen making tea and preparing a platter of sweet treats.

‘I hate this Steph.’

‘Me too, Lee. The not knowing, it’s so hard.’

‘Should I call Rhiannon and ask?’ Lee posed this question every time. She and Steph went around in circles, like they had many times before, and eventually talked themselves out of it.

‘You’re right,’ Lee said, after they’d been over it from all directions. ‘They’ll have it in hand. Of course they’ll be checking against her file. Rhiannon will let us know.’

Sara handed them their steaming cups of tea, slipping easily into her role of chief carer. She never contributed much to the conversation, letting their words wash over her while she did everything she could to cheer up Lee and look after her every need. Sara kept her thoughts for her diary, the one she was planning to give Annabelle when she came home.

Sara stubbornly refused to entertain the possibility these bones could be Annabelle’s. She refused to let conversations like these filter through to her inner belief that Annabelle was still alive and well. That didn’t mean she didn’t feel paralysed right now. With so many bones being discovered, and all this talk of a serial killer on the loose, her hope of seeing her best friend again was at risk of shattering, piece by tiny piece.  

By Melissa Pouliot 07 Jul, 2017
WORKSHOP: How to get buzz for your book launch
Saturday July 15, Club Sapphire Merimbula
A book launch is a fantastic way to celebrate. It is also an essential part of getting your new book noticed, generating sales, building your author profile and putting your book into the hands of the people who matter most – your readers!
Writers of the Far South Coast have invited me to run a workshop with practical, simple tips on organising your book launch. To register for the workshop visit HERE .

FIND ME in Collins Merimbula's Top 10 for June
It's so exciting to walk into one of my favourite bookshops and see one of my books on the Top 10 stand. The previous month it was You'll Never Find Me in the #7 position and now FIND ME has snuck in at #10. Happy days!

What do you do when you walk into a bar and spot someone reading your book by the fire with a glass of red?
Join them of course! I was thrilled to talk books with Ginelle from Ballarat one Friday night at Dulcie's Merimbula, but I'm afraid I cut into her Mum time and she didn't get much reading done!  I shared this special moment on my Facebook and Instagram pages if you'd like to check it out.

By Melissa Pouliot 07 Jul, 2017

One of the perks of being an author is an excuse to have a book launch party! And this year I'm thrilled to be having not one, but two book launches for FOUND , my fifth crime fiction novel.

1. Who better to host the launch of a crime novel than the Australian Federal Police? 

Thursday July 27, MUSE Canberra

 It's difficult to find the right words sometimes, and one of those times was when the AFP National Missing Persons Coordination Centre asked if they could host a launch of FOUND in Canberra.
 Let me think about it...for less than a millisecond! This means so much to me, as they hold a very special place in my heart for the support they've given me since I published Write About Me. I will always remember my first meeting with them, clutching my new book in my hands, to see if there was anything I could do to help reinvigorate my cousin Ursula's case.
 They have endorsed all my novels and taken them to international conferences, and because of the work they do, they understand the layers and meanings that surround every word I write. I'm proud to be helping raise awareness through fiction about the far-reaching impacts when someone goes missing, and beyond excited that they're launching FOUND.

Everyone is welcome, and your friends too!
 

2. Beers, Burgers, Books and Blues is BACK! Thursday August 3, Merimbula
 After the success of the launch of You'll Never Find Me last year at Dulcie's Merimbula, they've invited me back! This launch has it all - live blues music by Mojo, and the best burgers you'll ever taste. Beer (or wine), an atmosphere you need to experience to believe and the friendliest (and coolest) staff on the South Coast. And of course, books! Your ticket includes a copy of FOUND, a burger and a beer or wine.

 Tickets are limited so you need to get in quick. Dulcie's will post event details on their Facebook page when tickets become available.

By Melissa Pouliot 20 Jun, 2017
It's that time of the year again - book publishing time!

Fifth time around I feel I should have this down to a fine art. It should be completely stress-free, there should be no deadline pressures because I know exactly how long it takes to pull it all together, I should have a super-organised marketing plan that rolls out with ease and I shouldn't have to get up at 4am every morning for the month leading up to sending my book to print to check if all my commas and fullstops are in the right place.

It's so true what they say - the life of a writer is never dull. If I tried to record what has happened in my world during the past year, even the last month, it would fill another novel, or two. So I'll just keep things simple. My book is finished. And I love it! And I'm so excited to be sharing it with you all.

FOUND is available for pre-order on Amazon Kindle as well as in my online Australian bookstore .

I'm also having not one, but two book launches, one in Canberra on July 27 and a second in Merimbula on August 3. Click on the word HERE for full details - everyone is welcome to come along!

FOUND
In the dead of night, teenage runaway Annabelle Brown vanishes in the rugged Blue Mountains west of Sydney, in a shroud of mystery and intrigue. Twenty-seven years later, with no body, no clues and no leads, the case remains unsolved.

Then reformed Kings Cross drug dealer Antonio ‘Ant’ Fitzpatrick runs into his old flame Christine Long, a prostitute turned jewellery designer for the elite, and the criminal underground drags them back to their dark pasts. Bright, young detective Louise Whadary, determined to solve this cold case, discovers some hidden clues and their lives start to unravel as the secrets they buried come back to haunt them. 

As investigators close in on a murder suspect, Annabelle’s family realise it’s never too late to discover the truth. But will that truth ever be found ?

The sequel to the #1 bestselling novel Write About Me , by the Australian author of the Detective Rhiannon McVee crime series.  

By Melissa Pouliot 06 Apr, 2017
A book club in Albury Australia has spent an evening with Write About Me

The club used the book club discussion questions I have developed for the novel. The photo they posted on Instagram says it all - what better way to spend an evening than with a group of book-loving friends, cheese, wine talking about books!

Here is what they said:

"Where do I even start? A great discussion tonight with lots of personal experiences and thoughts - some quotes from the night include:
  • Harrowing but just so well written
  • It sounds strange because of the content but I loved this book
We also had comments about how well Write About Me demonstrted just how many people can be affected by a missing person and how it can happen to anywhere, to anyone. And a lot of interest in following your young detective Rhiannon McVee - yay! Thankfully you have three more books after this one!!" Sandra Moon

"A wonderful book Melissa Pouliot. Harrowing subject matter, but as I said to Sandra Moon,  your book cleverly illustrated the enormous impact any one individual has on so many lives. Thank you for a great read." Kristen Ody

One of my favourite comments from the night was this one:
"I will show these photos to hubby to prove that we do talk about the books - not just the wine and cheese!"

* If your book club would like to add Write About Me to your list, my discussion questions are HERE . It doesn't matter where you are in the world, if you would like me to join your discussion I'd be happy to - just get in touch via email mp@melissapouliot.com and we can arrange to Skype, talk books and drink wine!
By Melissa Pouliot 31 Mar, 2017
When you don't think you are going to meet that major deadline, and you are drowning in the sheer size of the task, you need to remind yourself that you can do anything!
But sometimes you need an unshiftable deadline to make it happen!
I managed to finish my fifth crime fiction novel (80,000 words) and submit it to a publishing award six hours before deadline, and I feel proud.
I wrote this novel in my spare time, around family and my business commitments, and I had to be super organised, passionate and motivated.
But I needed a deadline, not one set by me as that is easy to shift, but one that wouldn't change. 
I actually 'finished'this book on January 1, 2017, which was the first deadline I had set for myself. However, it wasn't actually finished, it was in very rough draft.
I then faced what seemed an insurmountable task to proofread, edit and organise the book into something that closely resembled a real book.
I stuck at it quite diligently for a while, but then life got in the way, and my scribbled on manuscript sat in a messy pile on my desk reminding me every day it wasn't done.
Twenty-four hours before the deadline I really didn't think I was going to be able to do it, but I meet deadlines every day for my clients, so was determined to meet this deadline for myself.
If you're a writer and struggling to finish your manuscript, remind yourself to breathe, write lists, remember to do what you love, then go for it! Because you can do anything.
By Melissa Pouliot 13 Mar, 2017
The role of faith, personal stories and imagination play as starting points in writing puzzles, mysteries and journeys. This was the topic that started a fascinating discussion involving myself and fellow self-published author Karen Nelson during the inaugural About the Book festival in Merimbula.

Experienced facilitator and regional news storyteller Ian Campbell and people in the audience asked lots of great questions. Although Karen and I write very different novels, we are similar in our passion for telling important stories through fiction.

I never miss an opportunity to speak publicly about my love for writing and how I shift between writing fact by day as a media company owner , and fiction by night, as a crime fiction author .

I also never missing an opportunity to talk about missing persons , how more than 38,000 people go missing in Australia every year, which is more than 100 a day. How my books are another way of trying to connect with the broader community to take notice and help foster more understanding and support for missing people, their families and their friends.

I'm always happy to share my tips on self-publishing and how I navigate through the quickly changing book publishing arena. I even managed to get on the microphone during a self-publishing session during the festival, and shared some of my experience and insights in how to get your book ready for publishing.

Download audio
If you have a spare one hour and twenty minutes, you are very welcome to download the audio of our conversation on my About Me page  HERE   (you'll just need to scroll down the page a bit) . In the near future you'll be able to hear a jooshed up version via Ian's podcast About Regional so pop on over to his site and join up to his mailing list!

About the Book Merimbula
About the Book is a festival celebrating all aspects of the book. It embraces all books, old and new, in whatever form they take.

About the Book is about:
– those who author, design and publish them
– those who sell, deal, and distribute them
– those who read, collect and repurpose them

They embrace any style and form of the book: graphic, comic, picture, text, fold out, grimoires or whatever manifestation the book happens to take, in both traditional and new media, embracing and celebrating what has happened in the past, while anticipating the future.

I look forward to seeing this event grow and become a permanent fixture on the Australian book festival tour - watch this space!

  • To find out more visit About the Book's website HERE .
By Melissa Pouliot 15 Feb, 2017
TO THE thump of leather on willow, crime writer Melissa Pouliot delves into the heartache of families with missing loved ones.
As her children play Saturday morning cricket, Melissa imagines life in Kings Cross in the 1980s and the unremitting grief felt by families of missing people.
Melissa doesn’t have to delve far to find empathy — her teenage cousin went missing in 1987 when Melissa was just 14 and her disappearance was never solved.
It’s this Saturday morning routine that has allowed her to become “a book writing machine” as her children, Jake, 17, Tom, 12, and Laura, 7, describe her.
She has published four novels about missing people, Write About Me (2013), Find Me (2014), When You Find Me (2015) and You’ll Never Find Me (2016).
The former journalist, originally from Quirindi in NSW, now lives near Merimbula on the NSW south coast.
She has never given up hope there will be answers to her cousin Ursula’s disappearance.
“Ursula went missing when I was about to turn 15,” Melissa says. “She caught the train from the central coast of NSW to Sydney and nobody heard from her again.”
Melissa is hopeful her cousin’s disappearance might be solved by the 30th anniversary of the date she went missing, but she is aware of the limitations of the original police report.
“There were only six pieces of information about her disappearance, such as her hair colour, eye colour, height and where she got on the train,” Melissa says. “And some of that information was wrong.”
Melissa’s first book, Write About Me, is fiction but was inspired by Ursula, and Melissa drew on her family’s experience. She admits it was somewhat cathartic.
“The main character, Rhiannon, she is what I wanted for Ursula,” Melissa says. “She is someone who is so determined when police have limited resources.”
At the last minute before publication, Melissa decided to include an end note about Ursula.
The publication of the book led to fresh leads and Melissa was determined to get the inaccurate records changed.
“Ursula’s case was never closed and in the past few years it was given to a new detective and it has been a whirlwind since,” she says.
As a journalist, Melissa says she had always wanted to write, but never thought fiction would be her style.
Melissa started her career at a newspaper in Charleville, Queensland, before a long stint in the Wimmera where she worked in journalism before launching her own public relations company.
She started to write about Ursula, her missing cousin, but there was too little information about the disappearance of the 17-year-old to hold up a book, so Write About Me became a blend of fiction inspired by real-life events.
As a journalist who sticks to the facts, Melissa says she found writing fiction liberating, although she brought some journalism skills to the research.
“I have police officers who worked in the 1980s who check my police sections and my brother lived in Potts Point since the late 1990s so he helps me find the Kings Cross history,” she says.
Melissa says her family still grieves for Ursula, as many families of missing people do.
“There is a term ‘ambiguous loss’ where you grieve for your missing person but there is no end point because you don’t know where they are and what’s happened. So the writing has helped me understand and make sense of the emotions that go with missing Ursula for so long.”

By Melissa Pouliot 14 Nov, 2016

Last week I was special guest at the Bega Evening VIEW Club dinner, a club whose history stems back to 1960 when George Forbes, then General Secretary of The Smith Family, saw the potential for an organisation which allowed women from all walks of life to develop interests outside the home, providing friendship, education and mental stimulation. At the same time he hoped to offer these women the means to assist others less fortunate through The Smith Family.

It was a special evening and a generous audience of women who had all worn red in honour of having their local ambassador for   Day for Daniel   at their table. It was an absolute privilege for me to share the story of balancing my professional career with my role as wife and mother. Added into the mix is my passion for writing crime mystery novels in my 'spare time' and my volunteer community advocacy to raise awareness for missing people, driven by my personal quest to find my missing cousin Ursula who disappeared in 1987.

What fascinated me most about the VIEW club was its history. I would have liked to meet George Forbes, who spoke up for women at a time when women were discouraged from having a voice in the community. George believed society needed a better balance in decision-making processes at the local, state and national governance levels. He believed that this imbalance could be rectified through the creation of a supportive network of women that worked across these levels.

“People nowadays who insist that ‘A woman’s place is in the home' are living in the dark ages.” VIEW World issue 1, 1971

VIEW was underpinned by the ideal of providing opportunities for women to engage with other women and ideas, to develop not only their social capital but also their knowledge and self-confidence, enabling them to think and act in new ways.

“Since inception, VIEW Clubs have enjoyed a rate of growth unmatched by any similar organisation.” R. Turner, The Smith Family General Secretary, 1977

Reading this makes me appreciate just how fortunate I have been in my professional career, which started in newspapers before I formed my own company 17 years ago, which I still love as much as I did when I first started. I am working in an era where women can and do. Where women can have a family and a career. An era where women support women. An era where women make change.

So what happens when women get into a room together and make plans to help others in their community? What is behind the success of women's groups both past and present? One Australian woman I admire greatly, Ita Buttrose, knows the answer.

“I believe that VIEW’s success is founded in friendship. Australian women coming together and doing what they know best: caring for each other and for society.” Ita Buttrose in her address at the 1999 Melbourne Convention

I agree wholeheartedly. While we live for today and plan for tomorrow, I think we also need to look back at those who helped forge our path. With more than 300 clubs and 17,000 members across Australia, and its heart still very much in the right place, I encourage all women to take on this special VIEW of the world.

More Posts
Share by: