Testimonial highlights

‘I feel truly privileged to have had my life-changing writing mentorship with Shelley Weiner.

‘I completed my debut novel during these eight sessions over the course of a year.

Shelley has taught me invaluable writing techniques: to be fully committed to my characters, to understand the different layers of a scene, to structure the plot and to use the advantage of multiple drafts. What makes her an exceptional mentor, though, is her sensitive yet thought-provoking style, and her generous and empowering ability to unleash her mentee’s potential, and to encourage full devotion to the task in order to gain better skills and confidence as a writer.

‘I’m truly grateful for the experience, and can recommend Shelley Weiner and the Gold Dust mentorship scheme to anyone who wishes to take their writing to the next level.’
– Julieta Timane, mentored by Shelley Weiner

‘I’ve just completed my eight sessions with Midge Gillies and first of all I want to put on record my thanks and appreciation for her outstanding mentoring. She has been a wonderful teacher guiding me to see things for myself with the result that I’ve learnt a huge amount.  She has been wonderfully positive and encouraging,  always making me feel my biography is a worth while project.  After every session I’ve felt energised and with a renewed sense of direction.  As well as giving guidance on structuring and writing, she has given me very helpful advice about research.  It has been a very valuable experience which I highly recommend.’
Nicola Bennetts, mentored by Midge Gillies.

‘The GD mentoring scheme is exactly what it says and Shelley Weiner who mentored me over eight sessions, lasting almost a year, is not only 24 carat gold but also the Koh-I-Noor. The sessions with her gave my work -in -progress a focus.  Her approach was always   balanced, thoughtful, thought provoking and rounded with lively and invaluable one-to one discussions covering style, structure, plot, characterisation, settings and more.  Under her perceptive, sharp eye I wrote, dismantled and rebuilt my story.

‘Each piece I submitted received a rigorous, strategic and insightful written appraisal. She quickly identified my strengths and weaknesses and suggested ways to address the latter.   

‘I signed up because I wanted to learn how to get there and Shelley navigated me in the right direction.  My writing was in a rut but as a mentor, Shelley instilled confidence in myself and in my abilities and showed me how to tackle hurdles that had hindered me. 

‘At times I felt I’d lost my mojo but Shelley was supportive and positive. She was a quiet, calm force and her constructive criticism allowed the creative process to develop.’   

‘I am hugely grateful to Shelley for believing in me and in my story. Her mentoring of me helped me shape my story and to understand the difference between writing memoir versus autobiography and thus to bring a disciplined focus to what I am writing about. When I faltered and lost my way, lost confidence in my writing and story Shelley helped me get back on track. She was hugely patient with me when life got in the way of my writing. As a result of Shelley’s mentoring I have a way forward, a theme, a structure and can now write dialogue which I had never done before! I highly recommend Shelley as a mentor to guide, challenge and support you in your writing.’ Anni Townend, mentored by Shelley Weiner.’
Sarah Jhirad, mentored by Shelley Weiner.

‘I can’t thank you enough for taking me on. I’ve drawn so much from this wonderful programme and am most grateful for the opportunity…..

‘I remember reading somewhere that really good literary criticism should inspire, not deflate you. Every single piece of critique I was given by Shelley was considered and kindly delivered. She turned on so many light bulbs for me over the year we worked together that I’ve finally been able to make my way to those two magical words… The End.

‘My goal on embarking on this mentorship was not publication, but rather to write the very best book I could. With Shelley’s help I’ve produced a solid first draft that I don’t absolutely hate (a big achievement for me!) and feel like I might be getting closer to a work of fiction I can be proud of.

‘I assumed that by the end of the Gold Dust process I would simply put the work in a drawer, with the other two novels I’ve attempted to scratch out between housework and cooking over the years, and forget about them. But Shelley’s encouraged me to take my writing further, and that means a great deal in terms of boosting my confidence and resolve, regardless of whether I get anywhere with it. 

‘I think that, if you’re willing to be guided and to learn, Gold Dust offers an invaluable experience. I’ve come out of our conversations richer, more confident, and most importantly, a better writer. Thank you Shelley for your generosity of time and spirit, and thank you Gold Dust for spotting some glimmer of potential in the jumbled 5000 words I sent you upon application.’
V.B. mentored by Shelley Weiner.

‘I brought a third draft of my historical novel and Sal guided me to think about the essential development of my characters, and how to write briefly, but express a great deal.  As I re wrote parts of my story her gentle voice “keep the reader located” was and is still important in my further efforts at writing.  There were moments too when we did not have strictly the same ideas about how much to cut out….sometimes I was right, but occasionally Sal was.  I had become very attached to my eleven years of research in writing this book.’
Vivian Gilliard, mentored by Sally Cline, published her novel Flight Home in 2015.

‘My Gold Dust mentoring with Sally Cline finished on Thursday and my entry for the Tony Lothian Prize will be ready when I have made the final changes. It has been great to have the opportunity to work on this with the knowledge and support of such an experienced writer. Sally has been a great source of information and encouragement and my memoir has developed and strengthened a great deal over the past year.’
Lucy Whetman, mentored by Sally Cline



’I have just finished my eight wonderful and transformative sessions of mentoring with Shelley Weiner.  I marvel at how much I have received from Shelley Weiner’s mentoring in only eight sessions of feedback, and how my confidence has grown steadily….Her sensitive guidance has transformed the book I am writing and my ability to write in general – both on a technical level and the mysterious way she has elicited my voice and given me confidence in it.  I feel as though I have been on an MA in creative writing.’
Helena Partridge, mentored by Shelley Weiner.

‘My year  working with Shelley as my mentor, has been an amazing journey.  I began with a muddle of ideas,  an unfocused plot, and characters not fully developed as believable people. Shelley has shown me how to produce an engaging novel, not only by correcting grammatical and other technical mistakes, but more importantly by considering the whole structure, both of plot and characters. The spirit and tone of the work, as well as the shape of the actual story, have all come together at last. Not only have I now the confidence to complete a strong draft of this story, but I would know how to work in the future on new ideas.
Shelley expects her students to work hard. She works very hard herself and this fact offers encouragement in itself. I would recommend others to take this marvellous chance to realise their potential with Shelley as their mentor.’
Mary Major, mentored by Shelley Weiner

‘I thought Gold Dust would like to know that with the guidance of Sally Cline’s sessions at the British Library, I finally managed to use some of the skills she taught me to finish the final draft of my book ‘ Flight Home ‘ in 2013.  I was aware of the tight time, as the 100 years of WW1 and 70 years of the Battle of Arnhem anniversaries fell in 2014. ………both those events feature in the overall story.   The publishers Aspect Design produced it in April 2014.   I have had some excellent reviews and it has also been at the Isle of Wight Literary Festival on 16 October, 2014 with a good audience and many questions at the end, so much so that they had to stop it for the next author presentation.   Flight Home is also now on sale at the Museum in Oosterbeek in Holland where I did a book signing in September on the 70th anniversary this year.’
Vivien Gilliard, mentored by Sally Cline, November 2014

‘From the beginning I felt at ease with Sally.  She was relaxed, friendly and humorous, essential qualities in a good teacher.

‘I was floundering when Sally agreed to be my mentor, but she achieved the impossible by giving me the resolve to succeed.  She combined patience and tolerance with a refusal to accept clichés and inaccuracies, insisting on clear, unambiguous writing.   I knew that I would always receive a totally candid appraisal from her, and that she would let no fault go unchecked.  It was exactly what I needed.
‘However, there was also the inspirational side of Sally’s teaching.  After a lesson with her I would go away, not only with a renewed determination and desire to write, but a new belief in my ability. 
Sally’s own writing has been another factor in my progress, for not only does she make her subject matter compulsive reading, but she also writes with a moving eloquence.  I cannot emulate that but I can learn from it.
‘I will always be grateful for the generous advice and wisdom I have received from Sally and for the privilege of knowing such a warm, gifted, altruistic woman.  My one hope is that she will agree to mentor me on my next project.’
Judy Darby, mentored by Sally Cline

‘It has been a pleasure working with Shelley Weiner for over a year progressing my novel. We have met regularly at the British Library and each of our sessions left me with much to consider as to how I might take my work forward. She has been patient and encouraging and her comments and suggestions have been revealing and instructive. I am grateful for all the time and energy she has spent constructively critiquing my work and assisting me.’
Jocelyn Watson, mentored by Shelley Weiner

‘Gold Dust – how apt a name.
The honest, considerate, encouraging and constructive guidance that was central to my sessions with Shelley was indeed like gold dust.
I live abroad but managed one face-to-face with my mentor. However, our Skype sessions worked extremely well because they allowed me to remain highly focused.
I had considered trying for an MA in Creative Writing. I’m so glad I didn’t. An MA is fine if you wish to gain a degree, but if you want to get published, go to Gold Dust. From the start I knew I had made the right choice.
Shelley helped me to find and fully explore my protagonist’s voice, and my own voice as a writer. With her encouragement I managed to unravel my “sticking points” and consign my “darlings” to the Recycle Bin where they belonged.
Shelley’s mentoring has enabled me to build my confidence as a writer. I now feel competent to tackle that magical final draft, though I’ll really miss our sessions.’
Mya Roberts, mentored by Shelley Weiner.

‘What did Gold Dust do for me?  Everything.   Before I met Jill Dawson I had totally lost confidence in my writing ability.  Jill not only got me back on track – her warmth, encouragement and guidance during our sessions helped me to hone and shape my novel.  Her intuitive approach showed me how to bring my characters alive – and to recognise when a paragraph, or even a sentence, detracted from what I was trying to convey.  From our first session, I knew I could trust Jill to be completely honest about my work, and to be critical in the most constructive way.  Her belief in my book never wavered – despite my snail-like progress!
I now have a New York agent and my book is two thirds completed.  Gold Dust is one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself.  A million thanks to dear Jill. Without her, this novel would never be flying. ‘
Rita Dallas, mentored by Jill Dawson

‘It’s the end of my year on the gold dust scheme, and I now have the rough first draft of my novel. I will freely admit that without Jill, that would not be the case. Instead, it would have been more like this: start, re-start, delete, re-start, cry, re-start, delete……repeat until dead, really. So I’m very glad that I signed up, and send an inordinately large thank you to Jill for her honesty and encouragement, as well as for lighting fires underneath me every six weeks or so.’ 
Nicola Hoskins mentored by Jill Dawson

‘Sal Cline is a wonderful mentor – hard working, insightful, trustworthy, generous and wise. I could not have asked for anything more of her. 

‘Sal is always honest, yet her candour is sincere and has never once discouraged me. Although she is a demanding tutor, she understands the ups and downs that crafting a readable novel entails, and she remains calm, patient and supportive when doubts, insecurities and pressures threaten to overwhelm me. 

‘As a writer, Sal treats me as an equal, and that gives me invaluable and much-needed confidence and self-belief. She has helped me to recognise what sort of writer I am, and to trust my own voice. She respects my story and its characters, and grasps their complexities and predicaments, sometimes better than I do. She has never tried to impose her own ideas upon the novel, yet her remarkable insight has helped me to foresee problems long before they have had chance to thwart my progress. She has drawn attention to plot and character issues that I have been avoiding and helped me to confront and tackle them. 

‘Most inspiring of all, Sal has a genuine belief in and compassion for my characters – she wants to see their story in print almost as much as I do. Writing has been a rewarding and much less lonely occupation with her by my side. Although my Gold Dust sessions with her are now over, her frank, clear-eyed advice and insight will stay with me always.’ 
Elaine Bishop mentored by Sally Cline

‘The advice and support I received from Michelle laid the best possible foundations for all that’s happened since. Her patience and encouragement gave me the confidence to develop my own voice, and her belief in my writing created a safe place in which to experiment. To work with someone who is so insightful about the genre of crime fiction and the industry as a whole was a wonderful experience, and one which continues to inspire me.’
Nicola Upson, author of An Expert in Murder and other novels featuring Golden-Age mystery writer Josephine Tey

‘Being mentored by Michelle Spring was a wonderfully rich and rewarding experience. Michelle is both kind and understanding, which really helped me feel comfortable when showing her my unfinished work. She always had an immediate grasp of what I was trying to achieve and could see where I was succeeding in this and where not. Her attention to the text was astonishingly detailed and painstaking, and her insights as to where I might improve it, and how, were spot on every time. Michelle looked at every aspect of my writing, from the construction of a single sentence, through locations and characters, right up to the narrative arc of the book as a whole. Her notes were fantastic and clear, as were the warm, detailed, and wide-ranging conversations we had. The whole experience of being mentored by Michelle was like having a really great friend reading my work, but one who happened to be terrifically experienced and insightful, and a widely-published and successful author to boot.’
Martin Ungless

‘An Arts Council grant enabled me to pay for Michelle to mentor me over a six month period while I was completing the first draft of a novel. She was a tremendous help. As part of the process she produced an extensive report in which she analyzed the novel chapter by chapter, giving detailed instructions on what needed fixing. She is a very encouraging mentor who has the experience to gently but firmly point out the pit falls and set you in the right direction.’
Judy Forshaw, mentored by Michelle Spring

Having Michelle Spring as a mentor was essential to my creative development but, just as crucially, she gave me the confidence to persevere in the face of  rejections and set-backs. Writing is such an uncertain occupation, and having the support and guidance of a mentor can make all the difference. I was fortunate enough to work with Michelle for a year whilst I completed THE SACRIFICIAL MAN and both novel and author went through many improvements under her watchful supervision.’
Ruth Dugdall, mentored by Michelle Spring

‘I submitted my book to Gold Dust on the advice of a friend at Random House. Having already spent over a year working on my manuscript, I was immensely relieved to finally have someone to discuss it with. From the first time I met Sally, her combination of ruthless honesty and her unfaltering belief in my book and my ability as a writer, steered me through an extremely productive year. Sally taught me how to self-edit and how to submit my manuscript to agents and publishers. Examining my work through the lens of her experience enabled me to see the strengths and weaknesses of my book and my writing in general in a more objective way. I will miss our sessions in the British Library and I hope to work with Gold Dust again on my next book. I cannot recommend this programme highly enough.’
Felix Bechtolsheimer, mentored by Sally Cline

‘Michelle has been extremely helpful on many levels with the novel I have been trying to write for some time. She has sharpened the structure, differentiated more clearly between the characters, helped cut the fat and given an overall clearer focus.

‘Michelle has been a warm and sympathetic mentor. I have looked forward to our meetings as highly constructive and somewhere we can be entirely honest with humour!!’
Veronica Thornton

‘Gold Dust has been a brilliant choice for me. Working with Jane has been both a pleasure and a privilege.  Her patience has been immense as everything took me longer than I’d expected.  But to have such an intelligent, generous and experienced first reader of tender drafts has given me the courage to persevere.
‘I started Gold Dust with a very rough first draft and worked with Jane through various versions of a second draft – trying to get the structure right and have now completed a reasonably coherant third draft and am just polishing a fourth draft which will go out to agents.
I have found Jane’s notes on my text so helpful that we have needed reletively little face to face time.  I think you know you are getting the right advice when it makes so much sense that you can’t believe you hadn’t noticed it yourself. I often find myself thinking – yes of course, of course as I read her responses.

‘I would recommend the Gold Dust mentoring scheme to any first time novelist and am grateful to you for giving the opportunity of working with such a great writer and teacher.’
Sally-Anne Lomas, mentored by Jane Rogers

‘I consider myself very fortunate to have been accepted for mentoring by the Gold Dust Organisation. Having met Jill Dawson, I asked her to choose a mentor to suit my personality and the genre in which I wished to write. Her choice of Shelley Weiner has been all that I wished for.

‘I met Shelley in London, before continuing my mentoring course in France and Australia, via email and long-distance phone calls. I have had a great deal of travel and disruption to my family life during this past year, which I hadn’t anticipated. This has severely challenged my focus at times, but Shelley has shown enormous understanding and flexibility in keeping me on course for the goals which I laid out at our first meeting. She has a wonderful way of keeping me focused, regardless of what else is going on in my chaotic life. 

‘This experience has been both confronting and rewarding, as I have gradually understood and adopted the techniques, the methodologies and the writing style for fictional literature.

‘When I started the course, after working on my first novel for a couple of years, I thought that my style needed polishing, but I had no true understanding of the actual journey required to write at this level. It requires a special ability for the tutor and the student to develop and nurture the relationship of trust over distance and multiple time zones. Shelley has that ability.

‘In conclusion, I cannot conceive of having progressed so far toward my dream of writing, without the support of Gold Dust and Shelley’s international mentoring.’
Lynn Russell, mentored by Shelley Weiner

‘My relationship with Michelle Spring worked incredibly well and I remember words of her advice most days while I’m writing away.

‘My time spent working with Michelle as a mentor was enjoyable and productive on so many levels. Michelle’s many years of experience as a writer were distilled into practical advice on crafting my novel, working on all aspects of plotting and character development, and keeping the reader hooked to the end. Michelle dispensed constructive criticism, editorial advice and warm encouragement throughout, the end result being a much leaner first novel, on the basis of which I soon found an agent and publisher. However, just as important as this success, Michelle’s mentoring skills helped to cement a quiet self belief that I could continue to develop as a writer, something for which I shall always be immensely grateful.’ 
Sarah Ridgard, author of Seldom Seen Random House, 2013

‘In Shelley I have found a personal trainer for my brain. She challenges me to use mental muscles that have been dormant for too long and perhaps ones that I’d be too lazy to use on my own in my writing.’
Aliya Ali-Afzal, mentored by Shelley Weiner.

‘Sal was a real help. The ‘infection of courage’ is her speciality. It is difficult to work without deadlines, critical reading and encouragement – Sal provided all three, the latter, particularly, in bucket loads.’
Katherine McInnes, mentored by Sally Cline

‘It was with whole-hearted interest that Shelley considered my work and gave me advice. I have come a long way towards seeing how to bring the whole story together. She made the sessions very thought-provoking, interesting and enjoyable, and I have gained much from them.’
Rita Nichols, mentored by Shelley Weiner.

‘I wanted to write and thank you for all your support. I can’t tell you how much I have learned from you – every single session gave me a new insight about my work, the process of writing and the industry itself. And it made it seem doable, less frightening and lonely!’
Alex Hurston, mentored by Jill Dawson

‘I have had a wonderful year with Sally Cline as my mentor. It has been a really exciting process writing the play and I have thoroughly enjoyed it. I found her to be very supportive and encouraging and would recommend this scheme to other writers.
‘Many thanks again.’
Tessa Dixon, mentored by Sally Cline

‘Well within my target year, the novel was out there in the real world, with an agent.’
Jane Rusbridge, author of The Devil’s Music (Bloomsbury), mentored by Kathryn Heyman.

‘As a first-time writer, I have found Jill Dawson’s input over the course of a year invaluable. Jill very quickly helped me to get to grips with a number of stylistic issues in my writing and I now feel much more confident. I have come away with a sense of direction both for my current project and for all my future writing. Thank you very much!’
Fiona Dunford, mentored by Jill Dawson

‘Being part of this programme has enabled me to acquire a realistic perspective regarding my ability as a writer. It is apparent how far Sally has taken me when I compare a piece of writing from a year ago  to any of the last pieces I completed under her mentorship. ‘
Milton, mentored by Sally Cline

‘I cannot imagine better tutoring/mentoring than I experienced in the last one year with Shelley. To put down good ideas and a strong plot on paper is one thing, but to go through the step by step process of crafting a readable novel is a totally different experience. I would not have known how to write in a consistent, structured and emotionally deeper way, if I had not gone through the sessions with Shelley.’
S. Raina, mentored by Shelley Weiner

‘It has been a great privilege to work with Sally.  Her thoroughness was incredible – and like nothing I had encountered during my MA.  Her insight was amazing and always proved correct.  She seemed to know my own doubts about a particular character or scene before I knew them myself! ‘
Jen Morgan, mentored by Sally Cline

‘I will always be grateful to Jill Dawson for taking me on as a mentee. Our sessions provided a structure and pace to my writing at a time where I had got quite stuck.
Rachel Clare, mentored by Jill Dawson

‘Without Louise’s guidance, support and friendship, I think I’d still be muddling around in a quagmire of multi-narratives, cloying clichés and brain-numbing superlatives. It’s been a wonderful and rewarding year working together, and if I achieve any success, it will be all thanks to Louise’s skill and patience.’
Paula Yare, mentored by Louise Doughty

‘Over the past couple of years, Louise has made our work together feel like a collaboration, an exploration, and a glorious journey in a resolute and unremitting search for honest and good writing.’
Charlotte Macleod, mentore by Louise Doughty

‘Shelley was hugely encouraging and supportive throughout – calm, authoritative and sympathetic. I really felt that I had her full support, belief and understanding in the sometimes lonely and frustrating task of writing on such a scale.’
Richard Marson, mentored by Shelley Weiner

‘Kathryn has been a fantastic mentor to me. Her gifts of insight, clarity and focus suffuse all her reading and feedback. Her handle on my strengths and weaknesses is a sure one and she often seems to ferret out my intentions even before I quite know myself what they are. Our conversations are full of warmth and good humour and she just keeps spurring me on. My clearest words of recommendation: if I had the chance to do it all over again, I would do so in a heartbeat.’
Joel Graham, mentored by Kathryn Heyman

‘With the generous advice of my perceptive guide, Jill Dawson, I have completed my novel, ‘Casting Shadows’. Jill has an outstanding level of intuition and instinct, not only for the technical aspects of the writing, but also the creative process with all its uncertainties and detours. This is the best possible way to invest in your talent.’
Patricia, mentored by Jill Dawson

‘Sally Cline’s energy and drive is an inspiration and Gold Dust as a scheme has been instrumental in nurturing the skills and confidence I needed to progress as a writer. This has just been proved by my securing literary representation last week from my first choice agency on my first mail out.’
Sarah Gibson Yates, mentored by Sally Cline

‘Jill’s intuition on every level is astounding. Her delicately balanced comments have given me the confidence I’d always hoped for. More than anything, she has made me believe that there is an audience out there ready and waiting to enjoy my writing.’
Ruby Speechley, mentored by Jill Dawson

‘The structure that Jill gave to my writing – with deadline and tasks – was invaluable in keeping me on track, while her insightful questions and laser-like pinpointing of holes in the plot made my book a thousand times better than I could have managed alone.’
Susan Grossey, mentored by Jill Dawson

‘Gold Dust is for people who take their writing seriously. It’s been a brilliant investment for me, worth every penny.’
Cherise Saywell, author of Desert Fish (Vintage) mentored by Lesley Glaister.

‘If you are serious about your writing and becoming a ‘writer’ you owe it to yourself to sign up.’
Helen Bettinson, mentored by Jill Dawson

‘Rather like a fast-track MA in Creative Writing only better.’
Lesley Gray, mentored by Jill Dawson.

‘Sal has more physical, mental and creative energy than anyone I’ve ever met. She’s a magical mentor and wonderful woman.’
Elaine Cusack, mentored by Sally Cline

‘During the mentoring year I found an agent based on a previous novel and Shelley has been extremely supportive over that big step.’
Dorothy Judd, mentored by Shelley Weiner.

‘Put simply, Michelle Spring helped me to transform a creaky outline into a polished first draft.’
Kathryn Skoyles, mentored by Michelle Spring.

‘She has restored my self-belief and rekindled my passion for writing and that alone is enough for me to be forever indebted to her.’
Anne Catchpole, mentored by Jill Dawson

‘Sal was utterly brilliant; I found her no nonsense approach exactly what I needed and to have found somebody who appreciated my sense of humour was a wonderful bonus.’
Jacqueline Cloake, mentored by Sally Cline.

More testimonials…