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! 

Children’s Book Tuesday :: Books to Travel With

Children's Books to Travel With

Here’s a thing. Once upon a time, we lived among a thousand children’s books. There were piles next to the bed, next to the daybed, in the day bed, and bursting from every bookcase and box we could find. There was always a new unread book to pick up, and read for the first time. There was always a book to read, which we hadn’t read in a long time.

But then you plan to move your family to the other side of the world for a year. A thousand kids’ books can’t come with you, as nice as that would be. But how then do you choose? We like variety. We love reading something new or forgotten. How could we choose books to sustain us for a whole year?

Here’s a few ideas:

Something small, but full of goodness

There are several beautiful small books, which are long, and juicy enough to the fill bedtime reading hour, but short enough to fit in your luggage. The key is finding well written books that you can read over and over again, like:

Violet Mackerel
Beatrix Potter
Lola’s Toy Box
The Cleo Stories

Something classic

I don’t really like re-reading adult novels,  but re-reading children’s classics never gets tiring. And if you can find the classic in small print, with a paperback cover, even better.

Books we brought with us include:

Alice Through the Looking Glass
Harry Potter
Pippi Longstocking
The Wizard of Oz
Charlie & The Chocolate Factory

Something that satisfies more than one age group

If you have more than one kid, bringing books that kill two birds, so to speak, will weigh less in your luggage. Both our three-year-old and our six-year-old daughter love:

Pippi Longstocking
Violet Mackerel
The Cleo Stories

and all picture books. Well, any book with illustration.

Something to listen to

I have always sworn by audio books. My daughter chewed through Charlie & The Chocolate Factory several times over when I used to have to take her baby sister to sleep. Audio books are great for plane rides and long trips. I either download them through iBooks on my phone or, if I have an internet connection, put them on YouTube without the visuals.

Audio books my eldest has listened to on this trip include:

James & The Giant Peach (YouTube)
Gangster Granny (iBooks)

and I have listened to The Fault In Our Stars (iBooks) and Artemis Fowl (iBooks). (Great for running too!)

Something to borrow

Of course, you don’t have to bring every book with you, in your luggage. There are lots of free libraries around the Netherlands. Mini ones, in front of people’s houses! But also public libraries. Our friend took out a membership for us, and every week or two, we select new picture books to read at night to keep life interesting.

And Dutch friends have very generously leant Dutch books to the girls while we are here.

Something to swap

I haven’t done this yet, but I like this idea…

If you meet other families on your travels, swap books with them! I don’t think I can bring myself to re-read some of our picture books again, having read them so often on this trip. Maybe I can find a bookish family to swap some books with, when we are camping.

Something local

My kids are learning Dutch. So buying or borrowing Dutch books while we are here is a great thing to do. Not only do I get to stagger through the books, while the kids patiently listen, I get to learn a little bit of Dutch too. Also, children’s books are a great little insight into the culture of the place you visit.

Books that are very synonymous with Dutch culture are:

Jip & Janneke
Pippi Longstocking
Ronia The Robber’s Daughter

Something good

Whatever you do, choose wisely! These books will be your companion on your travels, however long that may be. So they need to be good.

Personally, I hear anything by Zanni Louise is worth lugging around the world 😉

How do you choose books to take with you when you travel? Any other ideas?

Join me for Children’s Book Tuesday here by sharing your children’s book post in the link below. Or follow along on social media #ChildrensBookTuesday.

Children’s Book Tuesdays :: Strong Girls

Hi! Welcome to the first of the Children’s Book Tuesdays link up {first Tuesday of every month}. Hopefully this becomes a thing!

What children’s books have you been reading/writing/loving/quoting?

We’ve been reading lots of books by, or about strong girls. And I think of it because I have two daughters, and although {or maybe regardless of the fact that} they have a penchant for tutus and princess dresses, they are both very strong.

One is physically strong, with a deep voice. She has the will of a… something that has a strong will. She is so determined and powerful. Suffice to say, she dresses up as Pippi Longstocking every day she’s not being a princess.

The other is strong in mind and character. She too will usually get her way using sheer negotiation skills alone. Strong, wilful daughters are wonderful things.

Incidentally, or maybe it’s completely intentional, but we’ve come across lots of strong female characters lately.

When Tara Moss launched her book Speaking Out recently, she flagged the fact there are still significantly more male than female protagonists in books.

But there are of course lots of strong female protagonists. A few we’ve been reading…

Pippi Longstocking

Pippi_Långstrump

Pippi has to be our all time favourite girl or anything character. She is so unique, and funny, and independent… and strong! Pippi lives alone in Villa Villekulla. She is the daughter of an angel, and a sea captain, who was blown to sea by the wind. Pippi returned to Villa Villekulla with a bag of gold, a horse and a monkey. Pippi’s neighbours, Tommy and Annika, think Pippi is the best thing that’s ever happened to them.

Apart from being able to lift a horse, cook a hundred cookies and throw bullies into trees, Pippi is strong in herself. She visits her neighbours for a coffee party, and while the ladies talk of their maids, Pippi chips in with her own ludicrous stories, undeterred by polite murmurs to behave herself. Pippi goes to school, but entirely on her own terms. And when it doesn’t suit her, she leaves. Pippi could be a nightmare of a child from a parent’s point of view. Luckily, Pippi doesn’t have parents. So she gets to be the sweetest and coolest friend Tommy and Annika could ever have.

I am secretly glad my three-year-old has finally ditched Elsa as her role model, and is pursuing Pippi dreams…

Princess Sue

the worst princess

We came across the funniest picture book in our local Dutch library recently, called The Worst Princess, by Anna Kemp and Sara Ogilivie.

Princess Sue {in a tower near you} is hanging out for her prince. She’s read the books, she knows the score, she’s grown her plaits down to the floor. She really needs to get some air, to see the world and cut her hair.

The prince turns out to be a twit, who locks her in his tower. Sue combats the boring and dreary life of a princess, by befriending a dragon to blow down the tower and set the princely shorts alight.

We have this one memorised…

Daisy 

how i live now

Daisy from How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff is a fifteen year old from Manhattan, who is sent to live with cousins she has never met in England. Daisy falls in love with a new life {and a person}, and feels happiness and belonging she’s never experienced before. That is until the war breaks out…

Daisy is courageous in a way you can’t imagine is possible for a fifteen year old. But maybe war would do that to a person. She’s brittle, witty, and passionate. And so brave.

This book is for older kids. YA.

Hazel Edwards

The_Fault_in_Our_Stars

Hazel Edwards is the narrator and protagonist of The Fault In Our Stars, a romantic YA tragedy by genius John Green.

Hazel has terminal cancer. But that’s not a spoiler. In the first scene is in support group, and meets Augustus. Together, Hazel and Augustus have the quip and the wit to outsmart cancer.

Knowing you are dying must be the hardest battle. Hazel has all the resources to face it head on.

I have The Hunger Games too sitting in my to-be-read stack. I am sure Katniss would be perfect for this list.

What strong female protagonists have you been reading?

Link up your children’s book blog posts here, or join us on social media #ChildrensBookTuesdays

Children’s Book Tuesdays

children's book Tuesdays

This week, England left the EU. Last week, they announced that the Guardian Children’s Books would no longer run. What is the world coming to? Sad face.

I often come across blog posts and social media posts about children’s books, and thought I’d start a little monthly link up here – first Tuesday of every month Children’s Book Tuesdays. A celebration for all that is glorious in the world of children’s books!

If you have a post about children’s books you are reading, or children’s books you are writing, or maybe about how a children’s book inspires you, come and link it here. {Link will open 6.30am EST.} If you aren’t a blogger, you might like to tag on social media: #ChildrensBookTuesday

We’ll miss the Guardian Children’s Books, as it was so good. But maybe we can use this little space to nurture our passion for children’s books?

Look forward to seeing you next week!

Zanni xx

 

Here’s what I know…

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Here’s what I know…

I hadn’t lain next to my six-year-old for a long time, because this is the year she became a Big Girl, and learnt to take herself to bed. Beside me, she whispers stories to herself. Urgent. Animated. Dialogue rapid and varied, as she swings between characters. Her narrator voice, too, is strong.
‘Go to sleep,’ I urge. ‘School tomorrow.’
But, she carries on, without a pause. Suddenly, she stops. Then I realise. She was telling herself a story to help herself sleep. The girl who never easily slept. Who feared sleep – dreaded sleep, because it took so long to arrive. The girl who learnt to whisper stories that form into dreams.

Here’s what I know…

A littler girl, my three-year-old, spends ten or so minutes getting dressed. She needs long socks. But the right kind of long. She needs big shoes. But black, and bigger. She needs sticking-out plaits, nothing less than horizontal. I do my best to meet her Pippi requirements.
‘Annika,’ she asks her big sister through the day, ‘does Pippi like bananas?’
‘Yes,’ says Annika. So Pippi eats a banana.

‘Annika, does Pippi like riding bikes?’
‘Yes,’ says Annika. So Pippi rides a bike.
‘Annika, does Pippi like broccoli?’
‘Yes,’ says Annika. So Pippi eats broccoli, and I smile over the top of my three-year-old’s head at ‘Annika’. Thank you, I say with my eyes, and she nods in an understanding way.

Here’s what I know…

While Gregor paints houses, I relax into days with my kids. I am soaking up time with them while I have them. Before my eldest is at school full time, and while my youngest is still at home. I literally can’t get enough of them.
Today, though, one is at a birthday party, and the other is at school. I have been at home since 8.30 writing. It is now nearly 7pm. I took a break for lunch, and a run, and now a blog. But those hours have been time enough to lose myself in a new manuscript.
I have always written, and studied a little bit of creative writing at university. Yet I still feel like such a novice. So I have been reading books about writing, critically reading every children’s book I can, attending workshops and doing online courses. There is still so much more I need to know, but even reading manuscripts I worked on a few weeks ago, I realise how much I am learning. And need to learn.
In the last three weeks, I’ve started three different manuscripts. I get so lost in each one, plot, characters and story forms, then a new voice leaps into my head while I am riding my bike, and a whole new outline starts to emerge. I am sticking to the one I am working on today, though, until it’s finished. The story is captivating enough to keep me going. I love the characters. A boy who talks to his resident tortoise, the only one in his life who truly understands him. A mother who blindly follows her criminal husband. A little girl, who blindly follows her new friend, knowing that everything will work out in the end.
Words drip and drip and drip, and it’s such a 
pleasure to write. My daughter needs stories to sleep. I need stories to fill my day.

But maybe we all do.

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