Fifteen Great Resources For Aspiring Children’s Authors

great resources for aspiring children's writers

I have dedicated much of the last seven years to my third child, my passion for all things children’s book. It’s a wonderful world out there, should you venture between the pages of a children’s book, or into the warm embrace of the children’s book community. You’d be hard pressed to find a more supportive and encouraging community than the children’s book world.

I thought I would share a few great resources I have come across, which both incite a love of children’s books, and help you pursue your own career as a children’s author or illustrator in a fun and practical way.

1. All The Wonders podcast

In the words of All the Wonders podcast host: ‘I love this soooo much.’ I have listened to at least one interview a day, since discovering this wonderful podcast. This is easy listening if ever there was. Librarian Matthew Winner interviews authors, illustrators, literary agents and others who make books happen. I love how he brings the focus back to the children the books are intended for. What do kids like? Why? The conversations are so warm and passionate. The book creators explore what it means to make a story, how they made it, who they collaborated with, and where ideas come from. Almost every podcast inspires a new idea for me. But also, listeners learn how the publishing industry works, and exactly what it means to make a book.

Listen here.

2. Children’s Book Society of Writers & Illustrators SCWBI

Undoubtedly, if you have investigated a career as a children’s book creator, you have been directed to SCBWI. The society has chapters all over the world. When moving to Europe, I connected with the Netherlands branch, and immediately found a network of friends. SCBWI has led to job opportunities, and I did a personal showcase with SCBWI at the Bologna Book Fair.

A SCBWI meeting epitomises the warmth and support of the children’s book industry. Members are continuously reaching out to one another, critiquing each other’s work, and helping each other forge a career.

Agents and publishers are well connected with SCBWI and attend SCBWI conferences and events. Our branch hosts regular Agent Days, so writers and illustrators have the opportunity to sit in with a reputable agent, and have their work critiqued. This is a great way for agents and publishers to access your work, as well as helping you develop your story craft.

3. The Australian Writers’ Centre AWC

The Australian Writers’ Centre offers a range of online and face-to-face courses. I haven’t done the children’s book course yet myself, but have friends who have, and highly recommend it. I know at least two authors who have done this course, and have gone on to be published. The course is relatively short, and you can do it at your own pace in the comfort of your own home.

I listen also to the Australian Writers’ Centre podcast: So You Want To Be A Writer, which is ninety minutes every week of tips and advice about publishing, as well as great interviews with successful authors.

4. Your local writers centre and community writers groups

Many communities, such as the Northern Rivers community, have their own writers centre, or writers group. When I moved to the Northern Rivers, I connected with the Bangalow Writers Group, and the monthly meetings gave me an incentive to create work. The Northern Rivers Writers’ Centre not only organises an annual festival, but runs courses throughout the year, and sends out a great monthly publication with tips, advice and interviews.

5. Buzz Words

Produced fortnightly by Di Bates, the Buzz Words newsletter contains industry news, opportunities, awards, grants, tips, advice, and interviews.

6. Pass It On

Pass It On is another great resource for children’s writers. Jackie Hosking puts together weekly information about the children’s book industry, including news, awards, grants and other opportunities.

7. Publishers Weekly

Publishers Weekly is an American publication, which sends daily and weekly notifications about industry news, such as deals brokered, and new book releases. Get a feel for what’s happening in the US market.

8. Your local bookshop

For aspiring authors, your bookseller is your best friend. The bookseller will not only help promote your book when it is published. They can also tell you all about what’s selling, and why, what their customers like, and what kids like. They’ll tell you all about the different publishers, and who publishers what. Spending time in your local bookstore will spark imagination and ideas. Even in the Netherlands, where I don’t speak the local language, I love hanging out in the bookshop, as the illustrations alone give me a continual stream of sparks.

Many booksellers host events, such as author talks and workshops. The Little Bookroom, Melbourne, The Children’s Bookshop, Sydney and Where The Wild Things Are in Brisbane do this wonderfully for children. Hearing an author talk can be the most inspiring thing, as you learn about their process, and about the realities of creating a book. Many are also very entertaining! (Think Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton.)

Booksellers often have an online branch and send out frequent newsletters, so this is also another great way to find out about new releases, trends and events.

9. Your local library

Like your bookseller, your librarian is an expert in all things bookish. Librarians have daily contact with readers. If you are as lucky as I am to have a great children’s section in your library, with librarians passionate about children’s books, spend as much time as you can, absorbing the atmosphere, checking out new books, talking to the librarians, and attending library events. I do much of my work in libraries, and sometimes overhear author talks while I work. Can’t get much more inspired than that! Talk to your librarian about new releases, and about what books or series are popular with children. Maybe they can help you understand what makes a great story.

10. Story Box Library

I try and avoid having my kids online, or using screens. But I took out a subscription to Story Box Library, mainly so I can access wonderful Australian children’s stories any time, any place. Books are read by warm and entertaining people, often celebrities, and are animated. Story Box Library keep subscribers informed about the latest news and events in the Australian children’s book world.

11. Ask Tania

I first met Tania McCartney at the CBCA Conference, and we then connected on Facebook. Tania has a great blog, and frequently shares tips and advice for authors/illustrators. Check out her Ask Tania series. Tania answers anything about publishing, like how to get started, how to become a professional author and submitting manuscripts.

12. Girl and Duck

Jen Storer is a reputable Australian children’s author, who also shares weekly tips and advice about publishing. Subscribe to Jen’s Girl and Duck newsletter to be notified about new videos.

13. Robert McKee: Story

I know it’s a bit left field to include a screen writing guidebook in this list, but Robert McKee is the guru of story, and this can be applied to every genre and format. Learn from the best about character, plot development, and story structure.

14. Social media

I’m pretty sure that without social media, I wouldn’t have a career as a children’s author. It was through blogging and Facebook that I made my initial connection with a publisher, and since then, many more connections have grown.

I have connected with readers, publishers, marketers, book reviewers, and in particular, with other authors and illustrators. I haven’t met many of the children book creators in person yet, but we follow each others’ successes, and challenges.

SCBWI and the CBCA have children’s book groups on Facebook. Other relevant Facebook groups include Sub It Club, Great Story Book and KidLit411.

Many authors and illustrators are very active on Twitter. You can follow the #KidLit feed, or #PBPitch. Following the hashtag of children’s book events, like the Bologna Book Fair is a great way to connect with other book creators.

Illustrators are rife on Instagram! I think this is the main reason I use Instagram. I love trawling through the beautiful illustrations, and watching children’s books in the making.

15. Children

Spending time with children is the best resource for your children’s book writing and illustrating, because children are your audience! Absorbing their chatter triggers ideas. It also gives you access to a child’s voice, and the kind of things they like. Reading aloud to children helps develop your writers’ voice, and allows you to gauge how children interact with the ideas and vocabulary. I run workshops in preschools and primary schools, which gives me a little revenue, but also keeps me connected with children I’m not necessarily related to. And sometimes, the kids have ideas I really want to steal for my own books! I never do so without asking…

What are your tips and resources for children’s authors? Feel free to share your children’s book related post below! 

Travel Bug

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The Travel Bug had always dreamed of adventure. But he lived most of his life tucked under a bed in an AirBnB.

Until the day a little hand reached under, and extracted him from his safe burrow.

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Unsure at first, the Travel Bug ventured out.

His first taste of fresh air blasted his lungs. But he soon got used to it. He found himself on bridges in Venice, in barred windows, in busy piazzas and between selfie sticks.

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The Travel Bug had lived a safe life under a bed, but his taste of Venetian life left him wanting more.

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‘I am not going back,’ he decided.

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So the bug spent the rest of his bug life in Venice.

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Beware the Travel Bug, who photo bombs your selfie photos, and takes his espresso black, with no sugar. The Travel Bug, with big dreams, who finally found his place in the world.

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Sunshine Gypsies :: Istria, Croatia

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A little Venetian-style town, on the Mediterranean coast.

Friendly locals, who speak three, four, or five languages fluently.

Warm sea, perfect for swimming.

Bright skies.

Deep sunsets.

A swarm of sparrows every night, clustering in trees by the sea, not before swarming into the pink sky in formation.

A little mountain medieval village, with two city walls, and lots of cats.

One of the oldest, intact basilicas. Golden medieval mosaics.

Ancient Roman architecture, among coloured Venetian buildings, and 1960s Soviet apartment blocks.

A four year-old celebrates her birthday by the coast. Balloons hang between trees, and we eat cake for breakfast.

Ice cream every day.

Friends, good friends, to eat ice cream with, share meals with, and watch sunsets with.

As the sun sets on our last holiday destination in Europe, the sea suddenly cools. It rains the day we leave, and all the ‘summer’ shops are now shut. It seems like an ending. And in a way it is…

Home soon, to the little sunshine house.

Children’s Book Tuesday :: The Wonder Years

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It’s 9.30pm. I’m working. Husband is reading. Our youngest is fast asleep. From the next room, come the fast and furious mutters of a child not yet asleep. The intonation rises and falls. There are accents and a range of voices. There is possibly accompanying actions. Soon, the noises will cease.

Tomorrow, when I wake at 7.30am, I will hear them again. The mutters. The voices. The dramatic intonation.

This is my six-year-old ‘Talking Harry’. And no, it isn’t illness. Though possibly it could be leaning towards obsessive. Talking Harry begins early, and carries on through the day. Harry was talked all through Venice. He’s talked while dressing. She disappears into her room, or to the end of the play park to Talk Harry many many times a day.

Thankfully, she isn’t in formal school yet. She has extra months to dream and talk her stories in fast and furious whispers.

Reading Harry Potter each night to her, I too am drawn into the intricate and incredibly believable world J.K. Rowling has created. But like most, I know it’s not real.

For my daughter though, wizards exist, and she is definitely going to Hogwarts when she is eleven {sorry, Mum}. She is Scarlett Webb, one of Harry’s best friends, and her characteristics and actions alternate slightly as we read various passages and come across new characters.

She’s at the magical and wonderful point where real is fantasy and fantasy is real and you can so convincingly become lost in the middle.

At her age, I was also lost in my magical {real} world, at the end of our paddock in Inverell. I’d sit in the old olive tree, talking to my friends – the fairy, the family of bears, the magpie. We’d talk about the mean old king who controlled village finances, who lived one tree up. Why do I remember this so clearly? Because it was so real. And I spent so much time there.

I recently listened to this wonderful podcast from children’s author Mac Barnett, about how a good book will open a secret door to another world. He talks about the wonderful crossover between reality and fiction, and about how much humans love that space. We know it’s not real, yet we like going there, over and over. Children get to that space so much easier and faster than adults.

He mentions lots of scenarios. But I had to keep listening to Neko’s phone messages for his pet whale.

When kids buy a copy of Mac’s book, Billy Twitters and the Blue Whale Problem, they get a coupon to order their own whale. Heaps of kids write in, with various degrees of skepticism. In reply, they get a letter from a legal firm in Norway, explaining that unfortunately, due to issues with customs, their whale has been held up, but they can leave a message for their whale if they call a particular phone number. Many of these children, who are either curious or have completely bought into the fiction {or both}, call the number and leave a message.

Neko leaves message after message for his blue whale. His messages are so delightful and genuine, it makes me completely certain writing for children is what I need to be doing. Neko believes in his whale. For years. In the same way that Elka believes in Scarlett Webb and Harry.

In our family, we talk a lot about science, maths, philosophy, religion. My kids ask all sorts of questions, and we seek to answer them as honestly as possible. But the credibility of the wizard world is never put to question. It is sacred, and no further explanation is necessary.

Like Neko, I held onto my fantasy world for many years. Although I still believe in some things, to some extent, those truly magical wonder years had a definite point of demise, when I finally accepted that Santa wasn’t real. I had been holding onto my hope for months, long after I’d realised it was Mum’s handwriting on Santa’s cards; long after I wrote to Santa, asking for an elf as proof of existence, and received a little teddy instead.

At last, logic and credibility won out. I asked Dad in the car on the way to school, ‘Dad, tell me straight. Is Santa real or not real?’

‘He’s as real as you want him to be,’ he’d said.

And I cried into my school bag, as my attachment to all things fictional started to ebb away. {Dad had to follow me into class, because I’d forgotten my lunch money in my despair.}

It’s possible my six-year-old will only have one vivid memory of living in Europe for a year, and that is Harry Potter. But gee, will she remember that. She’ll remember the way she imagines Hogwarts. She’ll smell the corridors. She’ll remember how she feels as she intercepts Voldemort to protect Harry.

Because these are the wonder years.

Link your children’s book posts below for Children’s Book Tuesday! I will leave this link open, so feel free to link up later if you don’t have anything ready right now. Any and all posts about children’s books are welcome.

Sunshine Gypsies :: A Day in Venice

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What to do when you find yourself two hours drive from Venice? It’s half way to your next stop, in Croatia. Do you miss it? You’ll have to train in. Or catch a boat. It might be expensive. It’ll certainly be expensive. Forget it?

We haven’t splurged a lot on this trip. But Venice felt necessary.

We found a AirBnB on the mainland, close by, so had a taste of suburban Italy for one night. The next morning, we caught a train over the water to Venice. Turns out that rushing to buy tickets before getting on the train is pointless unless you read the ridiculously small fine print which says you also have to get them stamped on the platform. One relatively modest fine later…

We were in Venice.

Thankfully, my husband has an excellent nose for direction. Armed with a fold out map, and a bit of luck, we chose to cross the first bridge, and amble towards San Marco. What a good decision. The crowds from the ferry and the station ambled the other direction.

With a passage almost tourist free {except for us of course}, amble we did, through colourful lane ways, over bridges, and into a glorious little wine/coffee/local food stop, La Bottiglia.

We spent almost an hour in just one piazza, drinking, eating gelato, and buying a particularly small and wonderful person in our family a present for her birthday next week.

After popping by a few churches, so Elka could pray, and take photos of the artwork with my phone, we found ourselves in the grandiose square of San Marco.

A million tourists with selfie sticks. A million smelly pigeons. A line as long as Venice waiting to see the ancient horses. A couple of kids completely overwhelmed with the stimulation.

We took ourselves to the harbour, hung our legs over the edge, and ate apples in the sunshine.

The littlest sunshine human took a nap on Husband’s back, while we ambled back, getting as far from the hustly bustle as we could get.

The one with the nose for direction, and a map and some luck found us a perfect piazza to spend the afternoon. Children played around us. Adults flew kites. Everyone spoke Italian. This was Venice, enjoying its sunny afternoon.

And later, we found an even more atmospheric piazza, where children did handstands, and rollerbladed together holding a rope. Kids threw balls and danced. There was a food co op. And of course plenty of places for locals to sip afternoon beverages while the kids played in the wonderful carless, sun-filled square.

Our girls joined in with the handstands and the dancing.

It was getting dark, as we took a train back to mainland. We were careful to ensure our tickets were stamped by the conductor. The girls chatted merrily on the trip back, entertaining the friendly commuters with their banter.

Two small girls and ten hours in Venice could have gone horribly wrong. But it turned out to be one of our favourite days this year…

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