Dawn Brookes Publishing

Publishing Topics by author Dawn Brookes

Writing: Lessons I Learned from Writing My Memoirs – A Case Study

Writing: Lessons I Learned from Writing My Memoirs – A Case Study

Dawn Brookes, British nurse, shares what she’s learned from writing two memoirs
photo of Dawn Brookes

Thinking of writing and self-publishing a memoir? Get off to a flying start by reading this case study by ALLi author member Dawn Brookes, who shares the benefit of her experience gained from her two self-published memoirs containing stories from her early nursing career.


Why I Wrote My Nursing Memoirs

I started the first memoir while working full time as a community matron in Derbyshire. Initially I was writing for myself and for future generations who might want to explore family history. I became determined as I remembered the patients from those early days, I wanted their brave stories to be told, and I was remembering the fun and camaraderie of nursing in the 1970s.

Progress was slow going as I had hardly any spare time.

Set Back by Lost Work

In 2014 my computer crashed, and the hard drive was irreparably damaged. I lost the majority of the memoir. At that point, I gave up. Work was too busy and I began to doubt the value of writing it. I had major things going on in my life, as I was about to semi-retire and work part-time. I forgot about the book.

Broken Bones

As published in Alli blog

Hurry Up Nurse – the first instalment

Fate conspired to remind me about the memoir when, following a fall, I broke my foot in three places and ended up in plaster. I was confined to the house and bored out of my brains – when I remembered!

I was able to concentrate on one thing, in one place and I completed the work in seven weeks.

The most challenging part for me was developing patients’ stories without identifying them due to confidentiality.

I had to change things around a bit and mix up details while remaining true to the facts.

Mistakes Made & Lessons Learned

cover of book 2

And the first sequel (More are in the pipeline)

I made a whole load of mistakes in August 2016.

The biggest mistake was not having the manuscript proofread, although I had read it numerous times and   asked a few friends to read it, we were all too wrapped up in the story and missed the numerous grammatical errors.

The next mistake I made was joining the Amazon Advantage programme. I ordered 200 books. The pricing of memoirs is relatively low at £7.99. I had sensibly had the book cover designed by a graphic designer, and the Kindle book formatted and converted by a professional. I published the book on Kindle.

The orders were coming in from Amazon Advantage, but I was posting books to their warehouses all around the UK, wasting time at the post office.

It was costing more money than I was making!

The next major faux pas was when I read the book and noticed an error on the second page. I was learning a harsh lesson. In spite of this, complete strangers were reviewing the book favourably – even on Goodreads it was getting three stars! This encouraged me that the content was at least readable. I found ALLi’s Debbie Young via a blog post, and she kindly agreed to read the book. Debbie was encouraging about the content and gentle with her advice.

I bit the bullet and hired a proofreader which was the best thing I could have done.


I was able to correct the mistakes for the Kindle version, but the print book was more difficult. I had sold about 90 books when I decided it was time to cut my losses and do a reprint.

I realised that the Advantage programme was not right, and I moved the book to Createspace after a few emails to Amazon Advantage.

Change, Change, Change

The beauty of spending decades working in the NHS is that constant change requires flexibility which is vital, and I applied those skills to publishing.

The second memoir flowed better because my writing had improved.


  • I found it easier to mix up events and personalities to protect confidentiality.
  • The whole publishing process was much simpler.
  • I learned how to format books for kindle and epub and for print too, which saved me money.
  • This money was spent on proofing and editing the second memoir.
  • I saved a fortune by using print on demand.

More Memoirs to Follow

With lessons learned and readers requesting more, there is likely to be another memoir or two in the future. I still have around eighty print copies of my first book if anyone wants one – as long as they don’t mention the grammar!

Newspaper cutting

Celebrated as a success story in Derby local paper.

OVER TO YOU If you’ve learned lessons from writing a memoir, do you have top tips to add to Dawn’s list? We’d love to hear them!

As published on Alliance of Independent Authors blog   26/10/2017

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    Guy Fawkes and Bonfire Night – Pocket History

    Guy Fawkes and Bonfire Night – Pocket History

    I found an interesting video about Bonfire Night History that I thought I would share.

    The Year 1605 to Now!

    It’s November 5th and the night is full of fire and explosions, but don’t be alarmed. This is the annual British event called ‘Bonfire Night’. So what’s the story behind the fires and pyrotechnics? Well, we have to go back to the time of King James I in the 17th Century to find out. The main character to remember here is one Guy Fawkes – a member of a group of 13 English Catholics who took part in the failed Gunpowder Plot of 1605. He was born in York, England, and as a soldier fought on the side of Catholic Spain against the Protestant Dutch Reformers. Because of his skills with explosives he caught the eye of a man called Thomas Wintour who, back in England introduced him to Robert Catesby, the leader of a group of influential Catholics. Now, Catesby had a plan to assassinate King James I and restore a Catholic monarch to the throne of England.

    To accomplish this dastardly deed, the plotters bought the lease to an undercroft (a large cellar) beneath the House of Lords, and Fawkes was placed in charge of the 36 barrels of gunpowder they put there. The idea was that on the day the King opened Parliament, there would be a large explosion and a sudden vacancy for a new Catholic monarch. However, because of the receipt of an anonymous letter, perhaps sent by one of the plotters, the authorities searched Westminster Palace during the early hours of 5 November, and found Fawkes guarding the explosives. Over the next few days, he was questioned and tortured, and eventually he broke, naming the rest of the plotters.

    Gruesome Executions

    Some of these were killed, others caught and sentenced to death for treason. At this time Britain used a particularly gruesome method of execution where prisoners were hung, drawn and quartered followed by having their heads removed and spiked somewhere in London. Interestingly, Fawkes managed to escape this painful fate because he jumped from the scaffold where he was to be hanged and broke his neck.

    Bonfire Night

    So Guy Fawkes became the symbol of the Gunpowder Plot, the failure of which has been celebrated in England since 5 November 1606. The tradition of marking the day with the ringing of church bells and bonfires started soon after the Plot’s discovery, and fireworks were included in some of the earliest celebrations. In Great Britain, the 5th of November is called Bonfire Night, or Guy Fawkes Night and his effigy is traditionally burned on a bonfire, usually accompanied by a firework display. These lines from a nursery rhyme of the period have become famous:

    Remember, remember!

    The Fifth of November,

    the Gunpowder treason and plot;

    I know of no reason

    Why the Gunpowder treason

    Should ever be forgot!

    Guy Fawkes and his companions

    Did scheme contrive,

    To blow the King and Parliament

    All up Alive.

    Threescore barrels, laid below,

    To prove old England’s overthrow.

    But, by God’s providence, him they catch,

    With a dark lantern, lighting a match!

    Not a nice end for Guy and his followers but nevertheless, many lives were saved on November 5th 1605, including those of King James I and all of Parliament and many people who would have been in the vicinity on that day.

    As found on Youtube

    For great children’s book including Bonfire Night facts

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      Bonfire Night & Guy Fawkes

      Bonfire Night & Guy Fawkes

      Ava & Oliver's Bonfire Night Adventure

      Every year on November 5th most people across Great Britain celebrate Bonfire Night. Apparently many children (and adults) are unaware of the history behind the celebrations. Most people do know that it is linked to Guy Fawkes who tried to blow up Parliament.

      King James I and VI

      Ava & Oliver's bonfire night adventure

      17th century royalty was all powerful but also precarious due to various plots and divisions across Great Britain. James’s mother was Mary, Queen of Scots and he became king of Scotland in the late 16th century. When Queen Elizabeth I died, he also succeeded her. He was then known as King James I in England and King James VI in Scotland.

      King James became most well known for sponsoring the translation of the Bible into English – the King James Bible is still used in many churches throughout the English speaking world, although modern translations have largely replaced it.


      Guy Fawkes

      Guy Fawkes was a radical catholic who joined with others to plot against the king. They wanted to restore a Catholic to the throne and planned to blow up Parliament during State opening where the King would be in attendance. The opening of Parliament had been delayed until November 5th, 1605 due to fears of the plague spreading.

      Ava & Oliver's Bonfire Night Adventure

      Image Copyright Dawn Brookes

      Guy was not the leader of the group but he was the one caught guarding the gunpowder that was to be used. Someone had tipped off the Government and later the King and following a search of the under-buildings, Guy was found, arrested, tortured and executed.

      Traditionally he would have been hung, drawn and quartered but he managed to leap off of the platform and break his own neck, preventing this barbaric execution.

      Bonfire Night Tradition

      After the failed Gunpowder Plot, celebrations began every year on November 5th and an effigy of Guy Fawkes, known as a guy was burned on a bonfire. As fireworks were developed, the celebrations became more and more lavish in future years.

      Children would make a guy each year out of old clothes stuffed with newspaper – usually the guy was given an ugly mask but in later years the heads became less horrid. Children would often take out their guy, leading up to bonfire night and ask people for ‘a penny for the guy.’ I remember doing just that throughout my childhood and I would use the money to buy sparklers or chips for Bonfire Night.

      Halloween or Bonfire Night?

      In many ways, Bonfire Night has been eclipsed by Halloween as far as children are concerned. Most children these days appear to go ‘trick or treating’ rather than making an effigy and asking for a ‘penny for the guy’. For the most part though, Bonfire Night continues to be celebrated with bonfires and fireworks and due to the proximity of Halloween the fireworks seem to start earlier and earlier, culminating in the grand finale on November 5th.


      This has been only a short description of the history surrounding Bonfire Night – the true history involves much more complexity and many other people who were involved in the plot. Guy was the one caught with the gunpowder and so he has become the most famous.

      Many people still burn guys on top of bonfires but it is a tradition that is waning as many bonfires do not feature a guy at all. Some people are calling for a ban on firework sales to the general public due to the number of injuries that occur every year – but for now the tradition continues.

      Ava & Oliver’s Bonfire Night Adventure

      Early Readers

      70 page picturebook

      In this story, two friends are asked to make a guy for that will be burned on the village bonfire. Ava & Oliver and Oliver’s dog, Buster grow increasingly attached to the guy. As bonfire night approaches, they are filled with dread. What will happen to their guy?

      This is by far my favourite writing so far and the book has been beautifully illustrated. It will educate young children about some of the history whilst creating a magical story of friendship as the children realise that there may be more to their guy than meets the eye!

      Suitable for:

      Early readers, 4-7 year olds.


      Now available in paperback and kindle format.

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        Images not attributed are used care of Creative Commons license from Pixabay.



        Nursing Biography Reviews

        Nursing & Medical Biography Reviews

        Time for Christmas? Nursing & medical biographies are not just for nurses, most people experience setting foot inside of hospitals at some time in their lives, whether as staff, patient or visitor. I have experienced all three and in addition to that I have also entered the fray as an inspector and a lecturer.

        Fly on the wall experiences

        We seem to have a fascination in this day and age for reality TV but when it comes to books are we more likely to choose a novel? Personally, I must be nosey because I love biographies and don’t just confine myself to those about hospitals. I have read biographies about the rich and famous but also about the normal, everyday person who writes about their life. Why? Because I am interested in people and their lives. Everybody has a story to tell and they also say that everybody has a book in them. Since finally living my dream and taking to the pen (or laptop), I have discovered that I have multiple books in me.

        So where to start with nursing & medical biographies!


        One Pair of Feet, Monica Dickens
        Hurry up Nurse
        The first insight I ever gained into the nursing life was through Monica Dickens. Her book One Pair of Feet made me laugh out loud. Monica describes life as a trainee nurse during World War II. Life for a student nurse in the 1940s was even stricter than when I trained in the 1970s. The book is as flighty as Monica appears to have been herself but there are some good descriptions of life as a student nurse. This nurse was never going to succumb to the regimentation of hospital life and her night time escapes for fun and dating are inevitable. It is also inevitable that she will get into trouble with her superiors. There are some good insights and stories in the book but it does not contain much information about the war that is raging in the background. If you like her writing style you may also like One Pair of Hands which is equally funny.

        nurse memoirsnurse memoirsnurse memoirsnurse memoirsnurse memoirs

        Yes Sister, no Sister, Jennifer Craig
        Hurry up NurseThis one is set in Leeds in the 1950s and Jennifer describes experiences similar to those encountered by Monica Dickens in the 1940s. Matron is still top-dog and student nurses are bottom of the rung.

        I found that this book lost its way a little in the latter parts which made it more difficult to finish. Having said that, it is still a good read with quite a bit of humour, interspersed with friendships and challenges. nurse memoirsnurse memoirsnurse memoirsnurse memoirs

        Dr Ida, Dorothy Clarke-Wilson
        medical biographyI had to include this book because, although it is only available in used (hardback) format it is an incredible story. Dr Ida Scudder was one of the early women who trained as a medical doctor in the USA. She was the daughter of missionaries and determined not to be a missionary herself. Her father asked her to return to India when her mum became ill and after witnessing women dying during childbirth due to the lack of medical care and the refusal to allow male doctors to help, she returned to America to train as a doctor. She became a pioneering gynaecologist who did go to work in India and she worked tirelessly for over 50 years to improve the lot of women. She founded a nursing school followed by a medical school for women in India in spite of encountering prejudice. The Medical institution in Vellore which she founded is world class even to this day. A truly inspiring read of what one determined woman (or man) can achieve. It is one of the most precious books on my bookshelf.

        nurse memoirsnurse memoirsnurse memoirsnurse memoirsnurse memoirs

        Nurse! Nurse!: A student nurse’s story
        nurse biographyThis one is a modern day student nurse’s story. A male nurse who starts training in his 30s describes what it is like to train in the more recent climate. Whilst no-where near as challenging as training years ago, Jimmy still faces challenges on the wards. His first mentor is not very supportive and he encounters some difficult patients. He opts for mental health nursing and describes his experiences with sympathetic humour.

        The book describes some of the challenges encountered by male nurses in a predominantly female profession and some of the ribbing he gets from his alpha male friends.

        This book is a good read and I read it within a few days as I liked his writing style. He appears to go off in a different direction at the end of his training which is a bit of a shame.

        nurse memoirsnurse memoirsnurse memoirsnurse memoirsnurse memoirs

        Hurry up Nurse!: memoirs of nurse training in the 1970s, Dawn Brookes 
        I obviously can’t review my own book so I will provide a brief description and add a review from someone else! The book describes life as a trainee nurse in Leicester in the late 1970s. There are lots of anecdotes and although the Matron is no longer around, Nursing Officers and ward Sisters are still formidable and the majority of the training is still practical and ward-based.

        ‘I hope any time I need a nurse, that nurse is as compassionate and professional as Dawn Brookes. I liked Hurry Up Nurse! I liked it very much. Even better, I like Dawn. I like her beginning, I like her journey. I like the person and professional she has become.
        What I like most about Hurry Up Nurse is the way Dawn wrote it. Her tone is perfect for the book. It’s perfect for her life.Rich in detail, sometimes funny, sometimes sad, Hurry Up Nurse is always real and warm. If you are a young person contemplating going into this field, this is a must-read. But anyone who enjoys reading realistic life stories should pick it up just for fun. You will meet a great person. –Reader’s Favorite Reviewer and his star rating is below.

        nurse memoirsnurse memoirsnurse memoirsnurse memoirsnurse memoirs

        Hurry up Nurse 2: London calling, Dawn Brookes
        Nursing biographyFor the same reason as above, I will add a short description and a reader’s review. This book is a sequel to the first but can be read as a stand-alone. It is set at the London Chest Hospital in the London’s East End.

        ‘An excellent read after the first book, I can’t fault it in any way, just wish there were more. I lived every word, and loved the real thing ,the happiest time of my life.’ Reviewers rating below.

        nurse memoirsnurse memoirsnurse memoirsnurse memoirsnurse memoirs

        Not your Average Nurse, Maggie Groth 
        Hurry up NurseSet in London in the early 1970s, this book is an interesting read. I found it quite difficult at first. Although her entry into nursing was similar to mine in that it was not a pure career choice, she appeared to hate it at first. Initially I found her cynical and unfeeling but as the book developed, so did she and her compassion was a result of nurture, not nature.

        It is obvious from the start that she would not succumb to the discipline of the day but had an interesting career as a nurse before moving on. I found some of her post qualification jobs interesting and engaging.

        nurse memoirsnurse memoirsnurse memoirsnurse memoirs

        Take my Hands, Dorothy Clarke-Wilson
        Hurry up nurseAnother excellent book about an Indian doctor called Mary Verghese. If you can get hold of a copy of this book it is a must-read. Mary was a student of Dr Ida and was aspiring to be a gynaecologist like her mentor. She had a road accident that left her paralysed from the waist down and confined to a wheelchair for the rest of her life.

        Under the tutelage and mentorship of Dr Paul Brand, himself a pioneer, she learnt how to perform surgery and leprosy rehabilitation. A truly inspiring read.

        nurse memoirsnurse memoirsnurse memoirsnurse memoirsnurse memoirs

        If you buy any or all of these books for yourself or as Christmas presents, you will not be disappointed.


        Bible stories for kids

        Bible stories for kids

        Jesus feeds a big crowd

        Are you one of those parents who find it difficult to get your kids interested in the Bible. We live in an age of super-fast technology and media bombardment – it’s difficult to compete with that isn’t it? The Bible can seem like a book from ancient history to young and old alike in this modern world and yet it remains so relevant for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear.

        One of the ways to help is to present biblical stories in ways that children find interesting and challenging, rather than quaint and irrelevant. The difficulty is being relevant without watering down the content of what Christians truly believe.


        One of my favourite children’s book authors was Patricia StJohn who wrote some great books for pre and post teens. I did find though, that there was perhaps a bit too much death and tragedy in some of the books at times.

        Of course there the Narnia Chronicles by C.S. Lewis maintain a relevance today because of the theology that comes through these fantasy novels. The films have helped too. My personal favourite which helped me a lot in understanding how God deals with each person differently is ‘The horse and his boy’.

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          For younger children there are many picture books out there but what I found lacking when I was trying to teach children in Sunday school were books that brought the Bible stories to life in a modern age. I ended up, as I’m sure many parents do, improvising and experimenting with presenting the stories as if I lived at that time so that I could see and understand what was happening through modern eyes. Patricia StJohn also did this in some of her books.

          Why I started the Miracles of Jesus series

          I started the series for some of the reasons mentioned above but also because that is how I read the Bible myself. I like to immerse myself and find relevance to now because I believe that there is so much relevance to what is happening in the world today. The challenges that parents and children are facing today are all to be found through the pages of both the old and new testaments. We have the same human frailty now that we had then. We argue with God in the same way that many did back then and yet when we need help, we still find that ‘underneath are the everlasting arms’.

          It has almost become an embarrassment to say that you are a Christian in the modern world but it was too for the early christians. Remember they were persecuted for their faith, far more than we are today – we might be ridiculed but we are not yet burnt at the stake! We do children a disservice if we make out it is easy to maintain christian values in the twenty-first century because it is not. My belief though is rather to teach about God’s love rather than his judgement because children need to know that love. There are far too many problems in the world caused by a lack of love and charity. At least if we try to love others in the same way that God loves us, our consciences remain clear but we also have the harsh reminder that though Jesus was the most perfect man who ever walked the earth, he was brutally tortured and killed for being so.   He challenged the status quo and was accepted by those in need but not by those who thought they knew better than God. Does this sound familiar?

          Let’s therefore teach children about the love of God and help them to face the harsh realities that they may face in the future for standing up for what they believe in. Jesus was non-violent and so were the disciples and I personally believe that violence has no place in the name of religion.

          Jesus loves children

          It is not a mistake that Jesus encouraged adults to become like little children in their approach to his teaching. Children often understand right and wrong far more readily than adults and have a simplicity of understanding and response. In every encounter with children throughout the New Testament, he came across as gentle and kind. Children sensed the good in him and ran to him, often following him everywhere. He was not rich and so didn’t often give material things but he gave love and healing which so many needed then and continue to need today.

          In the first book I wrote I describe the feeding of the five thousand through the eyes of the boy who provided Jesus with the loaves and fishes that he used to feed the hungry crowd. The miracle came because the boy saw in Jesus something that even the disciples couldn’t see.

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            In my second book I describe the healing of a man who couldn’t walk. When he was healed, Jesus told him his sins were forgiven, and so I tell the story from the man’s perspective and how he ended up in the state he was in through youthful rebellion.

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              Both stories are fictional but I have tried to remain true to the essence of the biblical accounts. I hope that they will prove helpful to Sunday school teachers, schools and parents but most of all to any children that may end up reading them.

              I am writing this post because I have just re-released the first book in the series, having had it re-illustrated. It is currently with ACX and will soon be available as an audiobook. Here is a sample lasting just over a minute as it stands at present.

              I have just made it into an MP4 picture video which I hope to release via my website very soon.

              The first version of the first book is still available which is illustrated in more of a modern comic-book way if that is your preference.

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                Comments & reviews welcome!

                Image of child at top of page used under Creative Commons license thanks to Pixabay