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The moment I first thought about being a writer

The moment I first thought about being a writer

How do readers grow into writers?

It’s a big question, with many parts, and it gnawed away at me for a while until I decided to do something about it.

Over on the Your Kid’s Next Read Substack today, you’ll find an epic post I wrote for our paid subscribers that attempts to answer that one big question.

Fortunately for me, nine of Australia’s best children’s authors were happy to take up the challenge to help me: Alice Pung, Nova Weetman, Tristan Bancks, Zanni Louise, Belinda Murrell, Jacqueline Harvey, Kristina Nannestad, Emily Gale, and Rebecca Lim.

Here’s a hint of the questions I asked them:

Was the love of reading there from the beginning or did it develop over time? Was there a particular book that inspired you to write? A particular person? Can you the moment you first thought about writing your own stories? What has been the key to developing your writing voice?

You’ll find the full post here.

And here’s a tiny insight. Click each author’s name to find out more about them – and where that first moment has taken them.

Can you remember the moment you first thought about or began writing your own stories, or was it something that crept up on you over time?

 

 

Alice Pung on writingAlice Pung: “In Grade 3, a substitute teacher named Mr Galloway said to me “Keep writing Elizabeth you’ll burn a hole through that page”.

It was the first time someone had recognised I was good at this, and even though he got my name wrong, I always remember that moment of recognition.”

 

 

 

Nova Weetman on writingNova Weetman: “I had an old black typewriter as a kid and I wrote Agatha Christie-style murder mysteries on it.

I only ever wrote the first few pages, because I was never very good at plotting.

By grade six I was fairly adamant that I’d pursue writing as an adult, and I wrote seriously all through high school.”

 

 

 

Tristan Bancks on writingTristan Bancks: “I remember being in school plays when I was 5, 6, 7 years old. And starting to write my own little skits that I’d perform with other kids at a thing called ’The Primary Proms’ which happened once a term.

“So, I started out writing with performance in mind.

“I have stories I wrote in my Anything Goes Book in fourth grade like ‘My Life as a Mars Bar’, which I share with kids when I visit schools. It’s must-read stuff.”

 

 

Zanni Louise on writingZanni Louise: “I always told stories for as long as I can remember. When my dad brought home a typewriter when I was five I wrote some of them up and shared them in a folder with friends and family. I even got a Principal’s sticker!

“I still have those stories. I used to always write plays for my cousins and brothers to perform at Christmas too.”

 

 

 

Belinda Murrell on writingBelinda Murrell: “I was about seven when I first started writing my own stories, poems, and plays. I remember this was a step on from imaginary games where I’d act out scenes from books I loved, or my own stories and daydreams.

“My early stories were filled with fairies, giants, witches, and lots of adventure.”

 

 

 

Jacqueline Harvey on writingJacqueline Harvey: “I wrote stories in high school but it was really at University that I thought I would love to become a children’s author.

“It took a long time to realise that dream but it was there ticking away for ages.”

 

 

 

Kristina Nannestad on writingKristina Nannestad: “The desire to write stories crept up on me. I was an avid letter writer from my late teens onwards – I loved making my recipient laugh – and I wonder if that’s where my love of writing began.

“I used to be a primary school teacher and sometimes I wrote a play or a little book when I could not find exactly what I wanted to use in the classroom.

“When I first became serious about writing stories for children, I tried to write picture books but my stories always grew too long and complicated. So here I am, writing novels.”

 

 

Emily Gale on writingEmily Gale: “I always wanted to but I could only ever write the beginnings of stories. That’s why I wrote a lot of poetry in my teens – it brought the satisfaction of finishing something. They were all little stories, of course, and they were my way of trying out different styles — I had no idea of how to find my own voice.

“But I didn’t write short stories or novels because I wouldn’t let myself go far enough into the woods — I didn’t want to get lost, or get the story “wrong”, so I’d just polish the opening to death, give up and start something new.

“I thought of myself as a writer but not a storyteller, and I had some strange hang-ups such as thinking that if I couldn’t magically write a novel, without taking lessons or even reading about how other people did it, then I wasn’t a proper writer.

“But having my first baby was the catalyst for change: I decided it was now or never and that I’d have to work out how to structure a story.”

 

 

Rebecca Lim on writingRebecca Lim: “I was seven, and coming up with these stories illustrated with wonky coloured pencil sketches all the time. Back then, you’re too young to think of it in terms of being a potential, actual job, but I just knew that I couldn’t stop writing stories.

“It was a compulsion, and still is.”

 

 

 

Nine authors on how they became writers

 

Read the full article here.

 

Are you a writer? Can you remember when you first thought about being a writer?

 


A. L. Tait The First Summer of Callie McGeeAre 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

3 tips for writing narrative non-fiction books for kids

3 tips for writing narrative non-fiction books for kids

Narrative non-fiction for young readers is having a moment in the spotlight, combining facts, illustrations and storytelling in an irresistible short-form package.

But, as anyone who’s ever tried writing narrative non-fiction will tell you, getting the balance right between the information and the story is not always easy.

Bronwyn Saunders writing narrative non fictionWith her debut picture book Diprotodon: A Megafauna Journey out now, Bronwyn Saunders has popped in to share her experience with distilling a dinosaur-sized pile of research into a compelling story. The picture book is illustrated by Andrew Plant and published by CSIRO Publishing.

A children’s author and passionate citizen scientist who delights in sharing facts about Australia’s natural history with readers, Bronwyn has three top tips to help you if you’re thinking of following in her footsteps.

 

Bronwyn Saunders’ three tips for writing narrative non-fiction for kids

Diprotodon: a megafauna journey by Bronwyn SaundersNarrative non-fiction is weaving a story around factual information for the purpose of being informative and entertaining. The choice of producing non-fiction is a promise to the reader that the facts you are sharing are correct.

Writing non-fiction is addictive because the truth can be more outrageous and unbelievable than fiction. Diprotodon: A Megafauna Journey is a great example of outrageous facts.

Who knew Australia was once home to a marsupial that weighed up to 2,700 kilograms?

This is one of the facts about diprotodon that is thoroughly ridiculous and endearing at the same time.

I love astounding children with these unique facts, and there’s no doubt the facts compel you to share widely – but crafting a story with those facts is more than just stating (or listing) what you know.

 

Non-fiction ideas can creep up on you

My non-fiction topic found me whilst I was on holiday in Naracoorte, sparked by a statue, several facts from the tour guide and a tall tale.

The tall tale was exposed quickly, but by then I didn’t care that diprotodon wasn’t carnivorous, as the animal had already made a home in my heart.

I read everything I could find, which wasn’t much.

Then I dug a little deeper, reading scientific articles and research. Due to my research, I can verify that Latin is not such a dead language. The more I learnt, the more I had to know. I can proudly say I have read the majority of material ever written about diprotodon.

 

Managing your research

You don’t need archival qualifications to research a non-fiction topic but you do need an information management system.

No, you don’t need to buy it from Amazon or download an app onto your phone. It can be simple as recording and cataloguing source information, in a document, in a table or on a piece of paper.

Keeping the reference material in a single place is key. Collating all the references so they are retrievable when required is the aim. The style of reference that you use to keep the reference is not important, but consistency will help.

Remember, you are not composing a paper for university and do not need to use citations but your references do need to be accurate.

Correct referencing allows the writer to locate a source to double-check the source, interpretation or intended purpose with ease.

Correct referencing also makes it easier for the editor to review the evidence that is being relied upon so they can reassure the publisher of the accuracy of the text.

 

What details do you need?

The details depend on the type of source.

This could mean:

•a web address;

•author, title and page reference;

•or author, article title, journal name, volume and year of publication.

Try to capture every necessary detail that will enable you to easily find the source again, for example chapter names, article numbers, edition, volume and year of publication.

When I find a great source,I have been known to photocopy the page with all origin details, just to be certain, as well as allow verification that the source is what I want to rely on. It then goes into a hard copy folder between its own dividers, which are titled with how I intend to refer to it.

When I compile notes from the source, I use the basic reference data at the start of the notes and add it to the folder after the source material.

Diprotodon: A Megafauna Journey found a publisher five years after writing it. Experiencing the publishing process has helped me appreciate the need to give myself better clues of where within articles that I sourced information.

Your editor will appreciate your accuracy, too.

 

But what about the story?

Narrative non-fiction is not just listing facts. The facts must be used to tell a interesting story based on factual information.

The author has to take the black and white and fill the page with seamless colour.

Depending on the timeframe and the topic, knowing about the weather, the natural environment, buildings, technology, vocabulary, relevant culture and fashions are vital to capture the spirit of the story. In an historical movie or TV show there’s nothing worse than seeing an out-of-
place timepiece on the wrist of the lead actor, or for a car enthusiast seeing a classic car that was produced after the year when the production was set – and it’s the same for books.

For my story, it was important to listen to my palaeontologist advisor when he questioned my earlier use of insects to show Diprotodon toward
food. ‘Why would such a large animal pay any attention to what an insect is doing?’, he asked.

I had to be flexible with my manuscript and review what animal was available to use to guide Diprotodon to safety, which meant a return to research and drafting for the credibility of the story.

 

My top three tips for writing narrative non-fiction for children

1. Love your topic, you are going to immerse yourself in it.

2. Be methodical with your research, you may have to refer to it after many years have passed
or provide it to another person.

3. The facts need to be woven into a compelling story, the facts themselves are insufficient.

You can find out more about Bronwyn Saunders here, and watch the video below to find out more about Diprotodon: A Megafauna Journey – or visit CSIRO Publishing here to purchase.

 


Diprotodon Trailer from CSIRO Publishing on Vimeo.


A. L. Tait The First Summer of Callie McGeeAre 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, and tune in to the Your Kid’s Next Read podcast!

What I learned from indie publishing my middle-grade novel

What I learned from indie publishing my middle-grade novel

One of the many lovely things about Write With Allison Tait is the mix of writers who have joined my online writing group. We have children’s authors, YA authors, authors writing for adults, not yet published, traditionally published, indie published, novelists and non-fic authors.

It creates a brilliant melting pot of experiences and questions, and reflects my philosophy that, no matter what you’re writing, you will learn something new from every writer.

One of the great maxims of writing is to ‘read widely’. I think that ‘talking writing widely’ is just as important.

One such member of the group is Wendy Adams, who indie published her middle-grade novel Call The Wild Sea earlier this year.

There’s no doubt that indie (independent) publishing is on the rise and can be incredibly lucrative, particularly in genres such as romance and crime fiction, where readers have voracious appetites.

But with middle-grade fiction, the young reader is another step removed from the process. The author is relying on reaching the adults in that young readers life first, and then the young reader second.

All of which brings its own set of challenges.

With that in mind, I asked Wendy to share her experiences of indie publishing her middle-grade novel – and some tips for any other writers considering doing the same.

 

Reinventing the dream: What I learned from indie publishing my middle-grade novel

By Wendy Adams

Indie publish a children's novelTo publish or not to publish? In 2022, after years of rejections and a few ‘almosts’ that kept me believing, I realised it was crunch time. Would I leave my stories to hide, unread in my document folder, or take a giant leap out of my comfort zone and become an independent author?

You know the old saying, when the pupil is ready, the teacher will appear? Well, that’s exactly what happened. In the form of Pickawoowoo, a company that supports and assists independent authors.

On a whim, I rang them and found them so helpful and encouraging that I immediately signed up and the journey began.

After several edits, cold feet, impostor syndrome and terrified ‘what am I doing?’ questions, Call The Wild Sea was a book and I was a published author. And my childhood dream became a reality.

Tip #1: Find the help you need. The most crucial step I took as a first-time indie author was getting expert support and guidance in navigating the intricate processes of independent publishing. 

 

The benefits and the challenges of being an independent author

The benefits of being an independent author are many. I have control over every aspect of my publishing journey.

I decide when I’ll be published, not if. I make the dream a reality.

But of course, there are challenges too. The costs involved are significant and the learning curve is gigantic.

A traditionally published author has a team of supporters, so it’s imperative that the independent author has one too. Finding that team, if it doesn’t already exist, can be difficult.

The biggest challenge, though, of being an independent middle-grade author is marketing. It’s difficult to find your readers and keep them without the advertising power of a traditional publishing house. Who do I market to—teachers, parents, librarians? What about the newsletter? Who would most likely be interested in what I have to say?

Tip #2: The number one lesson I’ve learned about marketing since my book was published is that it’s a multi-faceted beast. I’ve explored various strategies, such as running Facebook ads, optimising my Amazon author page, engaging with reviews, conducting school visits, and maintaining a strong presence on social media, blogs, and newsletters. However, the true challenge lies in continuously discovering new and fresh ways to promote my work. 

 

Making the most of the middle-grade space

As I’ve learned, however, there are some unique marketing strategies available to middle-grade authors.

I created Teacher’s Notes to help promote my novel, making it more attractive as a class novel. The Australian Curriculum is available online and has suggestions for relevant learning sequences for middle-grade students. Also, looking at what other middle-grade authors have done will help you create your own teacher’s notes. (Tips for creating Teachers’ Notes here.)

Likewise, school visits provide a unique opportunity for children’s authors to foster community ties and encourage literacy among students. Ultimately, if you are an independent middle-grade author, you must put your fear aside and accept opportunities to engage with schools.

(I’m speaking to myself here because, despite being a teacher for many years, the thought of going into a school and presenting a workshop makes me unbelievably nervous. Despite that, I’m doing it!)

Tip #3: Make the most of the marketing opportunities that exist in the children’s publishing space. Aside from the above mentioned, don’t forget the basics such as asking local bookshops to stock your book, setting up a stall at local markets, and asking friends to post about the book on social media if they like it. 

 

Learning every step of the way

Now that my first book is out there, I’m working hard to produce my second – and I’ve changed some of my processes

For instance, In my eagerness to perfect the manuscript for Call The Wild Sea, I made the mistake of making changes after a professional editor had already proofread my work. This led to a cycle of fear and imposter syndrome, constantly second-guessing myself and introducing new errors in the process.

For my upcoming book, I’ve learned my lesson and will ensure that the professional editor is the very last person to review my work, allowing for a smoother and more streamlined editing process.

So, if, like me, you’ve struggled with countless rejections, think about reinventing the dream by becoming an independent author. The learning curve is steep, but the rewards are invaluable – your work is out there, you will have ultimate control and you might make some money too.

And the clincher? For writers like me who can create thousands of words for a novel but can’t write a riveting summary, you may never have to ‘pitch’ again. Now, that makes it all worthwhile!

Wendy Adams is the author of Call The Wild Sea, a fantasy adventure novel for middle-grade readers. Her next novel Paisley Partridge and the Case of the Disappearing Little Penguins will be published in early 2024. Find out more

 


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 new online writing community offering Inspiration, Motivation, Information and Connection, go here

 

Want to be a children’s author? Here’s what you need to know

Want to be a children’s author? Here’s what you need to know

So you want to be a children’s author?

Before I became a children’s author, I think, like most people, I thought it was just a matter of writing a children’s book.

Write a great book and, voila!, you’re a children’s author.

And it’s true. But also not true.

 

You don’t know what you don’t know

I think back on myself in those months before Race To The End Of The World came out and I blush for 2014 Allison.

I. Knew. Nothing.

And so I learnt how to be a children’s author the hard way. Because, you know what? It’s not easy.

I’ve been lucky, though.

First, I’ve had the benefit of learning from my immediate experience in publishing eight books and the generosity of my circle of children’s author friends.

But, through seven years’ hard work on So You Want To Be A Writer podcast, four years of running the Your Kid’s Next Read community AND nearly a year of creating the Your Kid’s Next Read podcast, I’ve been drowning immersed in the children’s publishing industry.

This year, I’m looking at new ways to share what I know and I’m thrilled to be launching a practical video presentation for aspiring and early career children’s authors.

 

7 things you must know to be a children’s author

Created with award-winning, bestselling author Sue Whiting, the one-hour video presentation is called ‘7 things children’s authors must know’ and is full of the kind of practical knowledge, insider tips and useful information that are usually hard-won through experience.

Plus, there’s a downloadable cheatsheet to help keep you on track.

All for $14.99 (AUD)

You can find out more about the course and buy it here. 

Sue and I hope you love it!

And stand by for further announcements about Creative Coaching Sessions or my brand-new online Write With Allison Tait community, both coming soon! Sign up for my newsletter for an exclusive launch discount.

 

Allison Tait how to be a children's authorAre 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.

You can find out more about me here, and more about my books here.

 

On being a children’s author, creativity and change

On being a children’s author, creativity and change

Creativity and change. The two things go hand in hand…

In case you missed it, I am no longer co-hosting the So You Want To Be A Writer podcast.

Call it a seven-year itch, if you like, but after 462 episodes the love had gone out of my labour of love, and so I had to break the news to the wonderful Valerie Khoo that I was calling it a day.

I am so proud of what Val and I created together, the help, support and advice we have given aspiring and emerging writers over the years, and the space we made each week for authors to share their thoughts and promote their work.

Val continues to host the podcast solo, so I’m pleased to say that it remains as a go-to for writing and publishing insights. It’s hard to let go when you’ve spent so much time building something so brilliant, but these are the decisions we have to make as creative people and I am looking forward to using that time for other projects.

I’m also coming up with some new ways for you to access all of my writing and publishing knowledge, advice and experience, so stay tuned!

The Your Kid’s Next Read podcast continues to go from strength to strength and I am thrilled to focus on that at present.

Which doesn’t mean I haven’t been out and about chatting about writing in other places…

 

On being a children’s author

Allison Tait writing quoteIrma Gold corralled me on a very honest day for this interview for Secrets From The Green Room, the podcast she co-hosts with Craig Cormick.

We had a very frank discussion about my writing and publishing journey, structural edits, my worst rejection ever and why being a children’s author is like being on the kids’ table at the wedding.

You can listen to the episode here.

 

 

 

 

Creativity and change

Allison Tait Andrew Daddo interviewAs I said at the top of this post, creativity and change go hand in hand. In face, one of the things you need to learn to embrace in a creative life is change – not always easy.

It’s a lesson we’ve all learnt in spades over the past few years, so I welcomed the opportunity to have an in-depth chat about it with author Andrew Daddo for Dani Vee’s Words and Nerds Podcast.

As someone who’s made a living from the ebbs, flows and currents of different forms of creativity across his entire career, Andrew is well positioned to offer some excellent tips about staying afloat.

We talked about rips, writing and being a Daddo, and it was just a chaotic and enjoyable experience. Much like a creative life, I guess.

You can hear it here.

 

 

One thing I’ve realised over the past few years is just how much I like podcasting, so I’m hoping I’ll be able to do more guest spots, both as interviewer and interviewee. I’ll keep you posted!

 

Allison Tait podcastAre 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.

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