A professional guiding hand

Laurel Cohn and her team provide active, constructive engagement with writers from around the world and the stories they want to tell.

Hands holding a light globe

About us

We work with book-length manuscripts and short-form writing (essays, short stories, novellas). We are experienced with fiction (e.g. literary, popular, crime, thriller), narrative non-fiction (e.g. memoir, travel, history), general non-fiction (e.g. personal development, reference, how-to books) and children’s books (picture books, middle grade and YA). We are happy to answer any questions you may have about the genre of your manuscript.

We also work with writers at various stages of the development phase, from the initial idea through to refining submissions to publishers and agents. We can arrange one-on-one consultations or mentoring sessions to suit you and your writing journey. 

Our writers have gone on to be published in Australia, US, Canada and South Africa, including by...

4th Estate
Allen & Unwin
Australian Scholarly Publishing

Black Inc
Brolga Publishing
Central Avenue Publishing (Canada)
Cilento Publishing

New World Library (US)
NewSouth Publishing
Penguin Random House

Penguin (South Africa)
Rockpool Publishing
Transit Lounge Publishing

Dr Laurel Cohn

Laurel is passionate about communication and the power of words to engage, inspire and challenge.

Since the late 1980s Laurel has been helping writers of all types prepare their work for publication. With a well-honed ability to analyse and critique texts, she gets a buzz out of helping writers understand how they can lift their work to the next level of development.

Laurel’s approach to giving feedback is informed by an understanding of the sometimes tricky emotional terrain of the development process, and the importance of honest, clear and practical guidance.

Laurel is a regular workshop presenter for peak writing organisations in Australia, and also teaches in Europe. She has a PhD in literary and cultural studies.

Laurel Cohn headshot

Bronwyn Birdsall

Bronwyn Birdsall, an editor and proofreader with over fifteen years’ experience, is passionate about the power of story and supporting storytellers. She regularly assesses entries for mentorship programs and competitions, and speaks about her work and the creative process at festivals, events and on podcasts.

Her first novel, Time and Tide in Sarajevo (Affirm Press), was shortlisted for the 2023 Readings Prize for New Australian Fiction; she is currently working on her second novel.

Bronwyn enjoys providing a fresh perspective to support writers in the process of developing their work, offering practical suggestions and guidance. She takes great satisfaction in seeing writers grow in their craft, and get their stories out into the world.

Madeline Oliver

Madeline has been writing and editing for many years, and working in manuscript development since 2014. Her background is in social sciences and she also studied book editing at Macleay College. In 2015 Penguin/Random House published The Painted Sky, adult fiction co-written by Madeline with four other writers from a book club she founded. Her current book writing is in the YA genre, and she also writes memoir.

Madeline has presented writing workshops at festivals, at writers’ centres and for Varuna, The Writers’ House, which awarded her a fellowship in 2016. In 2024, Dream Wedding, a play she co-wrote, was selected for the Short and Sweet competition.

Collaboration with other writers is at the centre of Madeline’s practice. Ghost writing, mentoring and writing television drama in partnership all enrich her own work. 

Madeline focuses on story structure in helping others develop their manuscripts. She is inspired by the progress writers make from draft to draft and feels privileged to be trusted with this work.

Barnaby Smith

Barnaby is an experienced journalist, reviewer and editor working across multiple mediums covering a variety of topics with special knowledge of music, literature and the arts. He has edited numerous books, academic works, reports and more, and is the editor of Northerly, the official publication of Byron Writers Festival. As well as a freelance writing career, he is a sub-editor for one of Australia’s most popular cultural publications. As a member of Laurel Cohn’s team he specialises in copyediting.

Helen Williams

Helen has an acute eye for what is emerging in a new work and how to support a writer to bring that work to fruition. She understands individual creative process and what it takes to nurture that.

Helen is an Accredited Editor with the Institute of Professional Editors and has many years’ experience producing and editing books. At The Federation Press and Aboriginal Studies Press she worked across a range of disciplines in the humanities and social sciences. She edited To My Delight, the autobiography of Aboriginal stockman Bill Cohen, which won the Christina Stead Award from the Fellowship of Australian Writers. Helen has also worked in Wales, China and Argentina.

For the past ten years she has focused on manuscript development of both fiction and nonfiction including crime and other genres, literary fiction, YA, middle grade, and memoir.

What others say

Craig Semple, one of Laurel Cohn's clients

‘I wanted to say a big thank you for your help and guidance in helping me get my work to a point where it got the attention of a publisher. I signed a two book contract and my first book has now been released. Madeline taught me so much with her objective, critical advice and also her encouragement in helping me believe my work had merit.’

Craig Semple
The Cop Who Fell to Earth
(Echo Publishing)
Manuscript assessment
Mark Eliott, one of Laurel Cohn's clients

‘I wrote my book sitting between glassblowing sessions in a café, with my laptop among strangers. As I wondered through the unfolding terrain of the story, I would sometimes see my editor Helen Williams finding her own way through the landscape until our paths intersected and we would tell each other what we’d seen along the way. I looked forward to the phone calls and emails which yielded fresh insights. As a first-time novelist I often needed someone to hold my hand and Laurel Cohn chose well in matching us up.’

Mark Eliott
Essence of Cloud
(Mark Eliott Books)
Manuscript assessment and copyediting
How I rescued my Brain by David Roland

‘Laurel helped me to polish the first three chapters of my manuscript when this was about all I had written of my memoir. I used these chapters, together with a chapter outline for the rest of the book, to secure a publishing contract. I have found that every bit of expertise along the way helps, and Laurel’s input made a difference to my proposal.’

David Roland
How I Rescued My Brain
Manuscript assessment

‘Madeline’s comments are really comprehensive and so valuable, I really appreciate all the work and thought that has gone into the assessment, and the technical details she was able to convey that will teach me such a lot. Everything has to sink in and there will be much to do, but I’m so glad I took this step before taking the manuscript to any agents or publishers. It’s exactly the kind of feedback that I needed.’

Aislinn Batstone
Manuscript assessment
Cover of The Writer's Guide by Irina Dunn

‘Laurel Cohn can turn a rough diamond of a manuscript into a polished gem of a book. She is expert in structural editing, copy editing and proofreading, and offers insights into your work that will help you realize your publishing goal.’

Irina Dunn
The Writer’s Guide
(Allen & Unwin)
Structural editing

‘Got the report for my manuscript and am very impressed with how thorough and insightful Madeleine is. It was exactly the ‘fresh eyes’ I needed and gives me focus and direction (for this and other writing projects!). Thanks so much – will definitely recommend your ed consults to my writerly friends!’

Louise Ralph
Manuscript assessment
Eighty-Seven Castle Lane by Jimmy Webb

‘Reaching out to Laurel to get my manuscript appraised was one of the best writing decisions I’ve made. The assessment I received was thorough and timely, and I was struck by how the assessor, Helen, engaged so seriously with my work. I could certainly feel the effort and reflection she’d put into appraising what I had written. She was sincere with her feedback and generous with her time, and deftly pointed out the strengths and the weaknesses in what I had written. Most importantly though, she instilled in me – however accidentally – a confidence to keep writing. What more could you ask for from a manuscript appraisal?’

Jimmy R. Webb
Eighty-Seven Castle Lane
Manuscript assessment

‘Thank you so much for your insightful editing of my manuscript. I found Helen’s comments spot on. They resonated with areas I had felt disquiet about. The problems identified are glaring with help from your precise feedback. It was so helpful having both the positives and negatives pointed out. As a newbie writer, discovering the strengths was equally enlightening. I couldn’t be happier with this edit, and will be looking to your agency for future support.’

Shannon Anima
Manuscript assessment