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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!