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6 Lessons from my first year as a debut author

6 Lessons from my first year as a debut author

What’s it really like to be a debut children’s author?

When I think back to my own experience (ten years ago now!) I remember excitement, trepidation, confusion, consternation, celebration and more.

But everyone’s experience is different – or is it?

Over the last year, I’ve had a front row seat for several debuts as members of my Write With Allison Tait group have launched their book babies into the world.

I asked one of those members to encapsulate the experience in a post and she has delivered in spades.

Heidi Walkinshaw writes stories for children, finding the fun and laughter in the everyday.

Her debut picture book Some Fish Have Moustaches (illustrated by Michel Streich) was released in June 2023 through Affirm Press, and she was recently Longlisted in the Just Write for Kids Pitch It competition.

Below, Heidi shares her experiences of being a debut author over the past 12 months – because the debut process begins well before publication day!

 

6 lessons from my first year as a debut author

By Heidi Walkinshaw

I’ve loved to read for as long as I can remember. I would tag along with my grandmother to our local library, spending hours trawling the shelves and delighting in taking those stories home to get lost in for the two-week loan, the little return-by-date stamped inside the card on the front cover.

At school, I had great teachers who encouraged me to write, and I would fill pages with worlds beyond my own. Life doesn’t always go according to plan, however, and writing was pushed to the side for more “serious” career pursuits, leading me to a world outside the creative field.

It was only years later, a series of life changes and the courage to take a leap of faith that I stepped back into something that had been calling me for so long, and last year my debut picture book Some Fish Have Moustaches was published.

It hasn’t been an easy first year as a debut author. There have been highs and lows, wins and rejections and a lot of lessons along the way. Here are six of the key things I’ve learned.

 

It’s a game of inches, not miles – take your time and persist

There is an old saying that an overnight success takes a decade. This could apply to any career and certainly rings true when stepping into the world of authorship.

Success seldom happens instantly – as the online world may have you believe – and there are hurdles that you
will need to cross to get your manuscripts to those glorious bookseller shelves.

The path to becoming an author takes time and persistence. Even after you are published and the excitement has settled down, there is more work to be done and no guarantee that you can get your next idea across the line.

Keep going, keep working at it and eventually one will stick.

 

The roughs are just that – rough

When I look back at my first drafts of Some Fish Have Moustaches, I often wonder what I was thinking at the time.

It was headed in a completely different direction from what was eventually submitted and then published.

First drafts are just that – the first attempt before you iron out all the details.

Whether it’s your manuscript or the illustrations that you first receive, it is imperative to remember that it is the first concept and not the finished product.

On days when I had doubts, I was reminded to go back and look at the first drafts of some of my favourite picture books, like The Gruffalo and gain insight into the journey of some of the most successful creators in our space.

 

Find other creatives for support

There are wonderful humans out there who will cheer you on, especially on the less-than-creative days and pull you up when the blows knock you down.

And you had better believe there will be a few of those.

A career in the arts is certainly not for the faint-hearted and a group of like-minded creatives will help to motivate you, give you support and a reality check when your ego needs to go back in the pocket.

Joining a writing group was one of the best investments that I made in getting to know other writers and their projects. We get to share what we are working on, our challenges and the wins.

Life as a writer can be a solitary existence and having others to share it with helps build a supportive community.

 

Ask questions and look fear in the face

For most of my career, I worked in a space where questions were a part of daily life.

I developed a mantra of “No question is a silly question, especially if it is going to help you learn.”

While I’m not always great at reaching out and asking questions – usually out of a ridiculous fear – one thing I am trying for when I’m not sure, is to ask someone who has already taken the road less travelled and learn from their lessons.

Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and build connections with others, no matter how much networking scares the pants off you. The writing community is incredibly warm and willing to share their experiences.

Just keep in mind that their time is also valuable.

 

Be prepared to do the legwork

There are so many avenues to publishing now and all have different approaches to getting your book to market.

I was incredibly fortunate to have the support of the team at Affirm Press to launch Some Fish Have Moustaches and as a debut author, they were amazing every step of the way.

While the publisher will handle producing and getting your book onto the shelves, it is also up to you to do the legwork.

Get to know your local booksellers, especially in your immediate community. Booksellers are some of the best people you can meet and are usually very welcoming.

While there is no requirement, a website is essential real estate for others to learn more about you and your book.

There is no shortage of social media sites available for use and whatever you choose – for me it was focusing on Instagram – make sure that it is manageable and gives you a space for engagement with readers and the writing community.

 

Celebrate on publication day

Publication day is everything and nothing all at once and I had sage advice from a mentor to go out and celebrate.

Battling minimal sleep and a toddler who decided it would be fun to bring home head lice from daycare, going out was the last thing I felt like doing.

But we deloused, organised the troops and headed out as a family.

It was the best advice I could have received and well worth it to celebrate a milestone that had taken many years to achieve.

The author’s life is one that we do for love and if you blend that love with commitment and add a dash of discipline, the wins will come.

Just keep at it and the writing community will be right there to cheer you on.

 

Some Fish Have MoustachesFind out more about Heidi Walkinshaw on her website, or follow her on Instagram

Discover more information and teacher’s resources for Some Fish Have Moustaches here.

 

 


 

a l tait profileAre you new here? Welcome to my blog! I’m Allison Tait and you can find out more about me here and more about my online writing courses here.

Subscribe to my newsletter for updates, insights and more amazing writing advice.

Or check out So You Want To Be A Writer (the book), where my co-author Valerie Khoo and I have distilled the best tips from hundreds of author and industry expert interviews. Find out more and buy it here.

Your Kid’s Next Read podcast celebrates 150 episodes

Your Kid’s Next Read podcast celebrates 150 episodes

As usual, I’m late to my own party because the Your Kid’s Next Read podcast celebrated 150 episodes on March 27th and here I am sharing the news right before episode 152 drops tomorrow.

You can listen to episode 150 here.

I’m sure you’ll be unsurprised by this situation – after all, I’m a known under-celebrator from way back – but I’m feeling bad about this one.

The truth is, I’m really proud of this podcast.

 

Your Kid's Next Read podcast

 

My co-host Megan Daley and I began the podcast as a natural extension of the Your Kid’s Next Read Facebook community, which we founded in 2017, along with author Allison Rushby.

We thought the podcast would give a voice to the conversations and engagement from our thriving group – and it turns out we were right.

At the time the podcast began, I was still co-hosting the So You Want To Be A Writer podcast with Valerie Khoo, and I loved doing both, but I’d been with SYWTBAW for seven years and I was, frankly, tired.

My first love is children’s literature and I was watching the spaces given over to the discussion and promotion of Australia’s children’s literature shrinking.

I was also watching our literacy rates and results dropping, and an increasing number of desperate parents/carers/educators/other interested parties flocking to the Your Kid’s Next Read community to try to find ways (and books) to keep their kids interested in reading.

So I decided to focus on the Your Kid’s Next Read podcast and I truly believe that Megan and I have created something special.

Yes, we discuss children’s books (from board books to YA), reading, and writing, but our conversations (the Quality Waffle) take us upwards, downwards and sideways into parenting, teacher-librarian life and advocacy, education, honey, cooking, gardening, the joys (and challenges) of teens, our wonderful author interviews and so much more.

If you haven’t yet had a listen, it’s a great time to jump on board.

And if you are a part of our community of listeners, thank you SO much for being part of our conversations.

We love that we go walking with you, and fold the washing with you, and ferry the kids around with you.

We love it when you talk back to us via reviews and via the Facebook community.

We love making Australian children’s literature a part of your week.

Even if we do forget to celebrate that sometimes…


 

a l tait profileAre you new here? Welcome to my blog! I’m Allison Tait, aka A.L. Tait, and I’m the author of middle-grade series, The Mapmaker Chronicles, The Ateban Cipher, and the Maven & Reeve Mysteries. My latest novel THE FIRST SUMMER OF CALLIE McGEE is out now. You can find out more about me here, and more about my books here.

If you’re looking for book recommendations for young readers, join the Your Kid’s Next Read Facebook community, tune in to the Your Kid’s Next Read podcast and sign up for the Your Kid’s Next Read newsletter

New A. L. Tait novel in 2025

New A. L. Tait novel in 2025

I’m excited to announce that I’ve signed a contract with Scholastic Australia for a new A. L. Tait novel, to be published in 2025.

I can’t wait to work once again with publisher Laura Sieveking and the rest of the Scholastic team – the same team who fell in love with Callie McGee and brought her so successfully into the world in 2023!

It’s my 10th contract and just as thrilling to me as the first one I signed all those years ago – though, these days everything is done digitally, meaning I have to get more creative with my photos…

I’ll share more details when I can!

In the meantime, if you haven’t read THE FIRST SUMMER OF CALLIE McGEE, have a look!

Best middle grade books 2023

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

a l tait profileAre you new here? Welcome to my blog! I’m Allison Tait, aka A.L. Tait, and I’m the author of middle-grade series, The Mapmaker Chronicles, The Ateban Cipher, and the Maven & Reeve Mysteries. My latest novel THE FIRST SUMMER OF CALLIE McGEE is out now. You can find out more about me here, and more about my books here.

If you’re looking for book recommendations for young readers, join the Your Kid’s Next Read Facebook community, tune in to the Your Kid’s Next Read podcast and sign up for the Your Kid’s Next Read newsletter

What 14 years of blogging has taught me

What 14 years of blogging has taught me

As of today, I’ve been blogging for 14 years.

That’s right, my blog is not only a teenager but well and truly entering the ‘difficult’ years.

Which fits. It’s a lot surlier and harder to get started now than it was when I wrote my first post on 22 January 2010.

It’s also changed a lot since those early days.

My first post was all about how my move to the country had resulted in a lot more cooking in my life. Young children, fewer takeaway choices, and there I was, living in the Pink Fibro on the south coast. You can read it here – I keep it on this website because purely because of its place in my blogging history.

Speaking of blogging history, I haven’t written a blogoversary post like this for a few years. Not since my 10 Favourite Posts From 10 Years Of Blogging post.

As a contrast, you can read about the 12 things I learned in my first year of blogging here.

Or the 4 things I learned in my fourth year of blogging here.

Anyway, basic crux is that I’m a bit overdue one of these.

 

The two key things I’ve learned in 14 years of blogging

 

The first thing I realised when I sat down to write this post is how much my blogging style has changed over the years.

In the early days, I just blurted it all out, no subheads, no spacing, a dodgy image and pressed send.

But along the way I learned that subheads are essential for reading on the internet. And most of us just want to be able to skim the text and find what we want.

So I’ve broken all of my thoughts about this momentous occasion down into two key points for you, dropped in some keywords (yes, I learned about SEO along the way as well) and have whipped up a tidy social image because Canva came along and changed my life.

Fourteen years is a long time. I’m glad I learnt a few tricks along the way.

But of all the things I’ve learned, there are two key secrets.

 

Consistency is key

I’ve always said that that one of the best things about blogging is the recording of your own history – your thoughts, your voice, your influences, your life at any given time.

In the earliest days of this blog, I wrote every single day and when I read back some of those posts now (they’re not all here anymore) I can see Book Boy and Book Boy Jr as they were at two or five or seven or nine.

I am reminded of tiny moments in our lives that would be forever lost without the discipline of blogging.

For it is about discipline. It’s about observation and training yourself to spot ideas and finding your writing voice – but most of all it’s about the discipline of putting words on a page (screen though it may be) and creating a writing habit.

Today, my blog is much more focused on my author life.

I share my writing knowledge, I share my love of children’s books and reading, I bring together lists of books to help others discover Australian authors and literature, I offer those same authors a space to write their own thoughts and promote their own books.

My blog is different, but it’s still here.

As writers turn to platforms like Substack and Medium or look for places to share their words, I return here, time and time again.

Yes, video content has taken over, yes, things are ever-changing, but I am lucky to receive hundreds and hundreds of visitors every day to this website, drawn by the deep well of words in my thousands of posts.

I’ve used different social media platforms to help spread the word about my blog over the years, but, as we all know, they come and go – while my words remain.

Here.

Secrets of blogging

 

Community is everything

As my focus has shifted from freelance writing to writing novels, from hands-on parenting of small children to being the rock lighthouse that older kids need, from a podcast for writers to a podcast that supports those encouraging young readers (and writers), I come back here to my home on the internet.

And to the people who are here with me.

From the beginning, I have been lucky enough to have had the support of an engaged and enthusiastic community of readers, who have cheered on the publication of my nine novels, as well as the two non-fiction books that have been launched on this blog.

I thank each and every one of you, whether you’ve been here right from the start or you started reading today.

I’m not showing up every day in this space like I once did.

But I’m still showing up.

 


 

a l tait profileAre you new here? Welcome to my blog! I’m Allison Tait, aka A.L. Tait, and I’m the author of middle-grade series, The Mapmaker Chronicles, The Ateban Cipher, and the Maven & Reeve Mysteries. My latest novel THE FIRST SUMMER OF CALLIE McGEE is out now. You can find out more about me here, and more about my books here.

If you’re looking for book recommendations for young readers, join the Your Kid’s Next Read Facebook community, tune in to the Your Kid’s Next Read podcast and sign up for the Your Kid’s Next Read newsletter

Are you a writer? Find out more about my online writing courses here.

Subscribe to my newsletter for updates, insights and more amazing writing advice.

Or check out So You Want To Be A Writer (the book), where my co-author Valerie Khoo and I have distilled the best tips from hundreds of author and industry expert interviews. Find out more and buy it here.

There’s a lot, I know, but then, 14 years is a long time. 

Write 5000 words with me in January!

Write 5000 words with me in January!

It’s that time of year when our thoughts turn to words like GOALS, CHANGE and DREAMS.

If your dream is to write – ‘write more’, ‘write that novel’, ‘write something’, ‘get serious about writing’ or words to that effect – I’ve got the kickstart you need.

Join my Write With Allison Tait group now to participate in the #Fresh5000 31-day writing and creativity challenge throughout January.

Every day there’ll be a new prompt to kickstart your writing word count for the year or a challenge to expand your creative thinking.

By the end of January, if you stick with me, you’ll have added at least 5000 words to your work in progress, and have filled your creative well in new ways, too!

Join Write With Allison Tait here.

 

What is Write With Allison Tait?

Write With Allison Tait is an online writing group, facilitated through a Facebook group, and featuring two live Zooms each month:

• The Access Al Areas, which is an ‘Ask Me Anything’, offering an opportunity to talk about your writing progress with me and other group members, and ask any burning questions you may have about writing, editing, publishing, book publicity, podcasting, building an author platform and anything else you can think of.

• The Industry Insider, which is an intimate Q&A with an industry expert. Previous guests have included

authors, such as Dervla McTiernan, Kate Forsyth, Natasha Lester, Graeme Simsion, Anna Spargo Ryan, Rachael Johns, Ashleigh Barton, Meredith Jaffe, Pamela Cook, Angela Slatter

publishers, editors and agents, including Laura Sieveking (Scholastic Australia), Sophie Hamley (Hachette), Nicola O’Shea (freelance editor), Annabel Barker (literary agent),

industry professionals, such as Michelle Barraclough (author websites), Rah Gardiner (author’s assistant and tech), Anna Featherstone (indie publishing expert)

All Zoom sessions are recorded and remain accessible for members of the group to watch at any time.

The program for 2024 is shaping up with a bestselling children’s author, award-winning screenwriter, literary agent, publisher, and more in the mix.

On top of our Zooms, I also run at least two Creative Challenges each year to help you make progress with your manuscript. In 2023, we did the #Fresh5000 (January), the #Spark7000 (July) and #HaveAGoMo (November).

 

Who is the group for?

The group is for writers of all kinds, carrying on my philosophy from my years with the So You Want To Be A Writer podcast that we learn something from every writer we hear from, and I bring my own broad-ranging expertise (children’s author, non-fiction author, freelance writer, podcaster and interviewer) to the table.

In 2023, members of the group have been published in picture books, middle-grade and YA fiction, as well as historical fiction, commercial women’s fiction, romance, and more.

Whether you’re writing your first novel and trying to get to The End, you’ve written a manuscript and you’re wondering what to do next,  you’ve published a book (indie or traditional) and you want to know how to spread the word about it, you’re trying to write novel #2, you want to know more about what publishers want or how the industry works, or you need the encouragement and motivation of being part of a group of like-minded people, this group is for you.

If you’ve ever wanted to pick my brains or sit down for a coffee with me, it’s also for you.

Membership is $29.95 a month.

Find out all the details and join here.

 

Testimonials

Checking in with Write with Allison Tait is an essential part of my writing routine.

“I love being a member of Al’s online writing group (Write with Allison Tait).

“In addition to chatting with like minded people who encourage and lift each other up, Al is a constant and vibrant source of insider writing and publishing tips. Al’s abundance of knowledge and enthusiasm for the writing craft means that she can answer any queries thrown her way – and if she doesn’t know, will make it her priority to find out.

“I love the engaging zoom meetings where we discuss individual triumphs and difficulties; as well as the informative sessions with specialist guests including well known authors, publishers, editors and more. Checking in with Write with Allison Tait is an essential part of my writing routine.” – Lisa Heidke 

 

A generous mentor who has a lot to offer

“I have been a member of Write with Allison Tait online writing group since May 2022. WWAT is an inclusive and encouraging writing community offering a range of benefits to members. This includes engagement with industry experts from whom I have gained invaluable insights into the writing process. 

“Accountability is another key feature. Regular check-ins, writing challenges, and goal-setting exercises have motivated me and provided a sense of camaraderie.  

“Allison is a generous mentor who has a lot to offer given her extensive experience as a author, writing teacher and blogger.” – Pauline Wilson 

Join us! 

 


writing group Allison TaitAre you new here? Welcome to my blog! I’m Allison Tait and you can find out more about me here and more about my online writing courses here.

For full details about Write With Allison Tait, my online writing community offering Inspiration, Motivation, Information and Connection, go here

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