Writing Competition for all ages

Writing and illustrating competitions are a great way to get your work seen by publishers.

Each year, the CYA Conference offers opportunities for authors and illustrators of all ages and levels of experience to enter your stories and illustrations.

There are opportunities for new writers/illustrators, published writers/illustrators and kids (hatchlings).

Each entry is prejudged by at least two volunteers who are published, unpublished, and editors as well as avid readers of the genres.  CYA endeavours to have at least one published author/illustrator/editor judge adjudicate per entry sent into the competition.

The judges use a standard score sheet per writing category.The scores are tallied into a percentage and the final results are based on that percentage. The same happens for illustrations, graphic novel and illustrated picture books entries.

Judges feedback is provided for all entries.

The winning entry and short-listed finalist will be considered by a publisher of children’s books, with no guarantee of publication. Author/Illustrator retains copyright.

More information is available at the CYA website.


Happy 2016

I hope your new year is off to a good start.

Unfortunately, I’ve been a little preoccupied, which is why I haven’t been posting here lately.

Logo_no_lamp_text_sampleMy crit buddy Alison Reynolds and I have been organising a conference for Kidlit and YA writers and illustrators.

Our aim is to help people get published.

There will be publisher panels discussing what’s hot and what’s not in publishing.

We’ll also have an illustrator panel to provide information to help illustrators find their way in Australian Publishing. Our Illustrator Liaison is the the fabulous Nicky Johnston, Creative Director of the 52-Week Illustration Challenge and a published author/illustrator.

The conference will take place on 7 May 2016 at the State Library of Victoria.

Our fabulous lineup of industry professionals includes:

  • Black Dog Books/ Walker
  • Hachette
  • Hardie Grant Egmont
  • HarperCollins
  • Penguin
  • Random House
  • Scholastic
  • Scribble/Scribe
  • The Five Mile Press
  • Jacinta di Mase Literary Agent

As well as the panels, there will be manuscript and portfolio assessments and a cocktail party.

We’re organising this not-for-profit event for Australian authors and illustrators

You can find out more at our website.

Hope to meet you there :)


KidLitVic2016 – Meet the Publishers and show them your writing and/or illustrations

For some time now my crit buddy, Alison Reynolds and I have been talking about how great it would be to have a Meet the Children’s and YA Publishers Day in Melbourne so that new, emerging and established writers and illustrators would have a chance to network, find out what publishers are looking for, and get their work seen.

It’s now a reality!

KidLitVic 2016  Meet the Publishers is a not for profit event to be held on 7th May next year and we already have some fabulous publishers confirmed for this event including:

  • Black Dog Books/Walker
  • Hardie Grant
  • Harper Collins
  • Penguin
  • Scholastic
  • The Five Mile Press

There will be publisher panels for various genre, and an illustrator panel. You will also have the opportunity for 15 minute one-one-one manuscript and illustration consultations with publishers.

We are so lucky to have the very talented Nicky Johnston on board and she has provided the stunning illustrations for our website and is our Illustrator representative.

If you want to know more about this event, please check out our website.

We are putting our panels together so if there is something you’ve been dying to ask a publisher, but have never had the chance, please feel free to include your questions in the comments section of this post.

Please also feel free to share this post with writers or illustrators you think could benefit from this event.

Kidlitvic Christmas flier

How Networking Helps You Get Published

When I first started writing kid’s books I was quite frankly, hopeless.

A Duel of words hard coverMy writing wasn’t that bad, it was just that I had no idea about the industry or the readership I was writing for.

My manuscripts weren’t the right length for the age group. (See this great post here by Jennifer Laughran for a guide on how long your manuscript should be http://literaticat.blogspot.com.au/2011/05/wordcount-dracula.html )

And yes, I was guilty of looking through the yellow pages for publishers (a print copy back then) and sending manuscripts out to anyone with the title, publisher. I soon learnt when I got lovely polite letters from Sport publishers with things like, “You write well, but unfortunately, we don’t publish books for children.

I was living in a remote part of Victoria at the time and the Internet hadn’t been invented yet (strange but true) so I didn’t have access to the fabulous people and resources available today.

Now there are so many resources and networking opportunities available to help you on your path to publishing.

10 Ways Networking Has Helped Me

  1. letterstoleonardolrgCYA Conference 2005 – I came third in the CYA Conference competition with my YA manuscript, Letters to Leonardo and this gave me the confidence to keep revising, and the book was eventually published in 2009.
  1. 2006 – PWE – Professional Writing and Editing at Victoria UniversityDoing this diploma helped me develop some amazing networks and in fact, one of my teachers, Sherryl Clark launched my YA novel, Letters to Leonardo in 2009.
  1. SCBWI Conference 2008 – Letters to Leonardo was published as a result of a manuscript assessment by the wonderful Margaret Hamilton at the Conference and meeting Sue Whiting from Walker Books, who later became my editor.
  1. Met wonderful Lia Keyes online –  Lia set up a Facebook network to support people doing NaNoWriMo all over the world. I connected with and made some lifelong author friends from all over the world when I joined this network.
  1. SCBWI LA Conference 2010 – Helped me make contact with US publishers and agents and develop a wonderful network of international writer friends and colleagues. Also met in person, some of the people I had met through Lia’s network. SCBWI LA was a huge learning curve for me.I learnt so much about international publishing and I met people who have passed on information about publishing opportunities they have heard about. One of the online friends I connected with in LA was Mina Witteman who is a co-organiser of the SCBWI Europolitan Conference and earlier this year, I was invited to Amsterdam to conduct a writing workshop there.
  1. IMAG1859May Gibbs Fellowship – Thanks to the May Gibbs Literature trust I spent a month in Brisbane working on my YA manuscript, The Tangled Web. I found out about this opportunity through my writing networks, and while I was in Brisbane, I was able to extend these networks even further. I’ve been on a number of very productive writing retreats since with Brisbane writer, Sheryl Gwyther. In fact, Sheryl and her fabulous feedback were instrumental in my receiving my first acceptance from The School Magazine this year for my story, Enter at Own Risk (November Orbit).
  1. My New Picture Book – I have a new picture book coming out with EK Publishing. This would never have come about if it weren’t for my good friend, Tania McCartney who told me about EK’s fabulous books, and that they were open for submissions. It’s going to be illustrated by the amazing Tracie Grimwood who I met after she illustrated some of my other titles.
    Lost Dog Scaredy Cat Runaway Pony
  1. Find a crit buddy or writing group. I found my fabulous crit buddy, Alison Reynolds through a group for Kid’s and YA writers. I also met my fabulous critique group members, Bren MacDibble and Pam Harvey through the same network.
  1. Networking can create other great networking opportunities. Alison Reynolds and I were talking earlier this year about how hard it is particularly, for new writers, to meet publishers and present work to them. That’s when we had the idea to have a Meet the Publisher Day to bring children’s and YA writers and illustrators and publishers together. KidLitVic2016 Meet the Publishers was born.Kidlitvic2016 flier with link
  1. Big Sur Writing Workshop – later this week I’m heading to America to attend the Andrea BrownBig Sur Writing Workshops for picture books, early reader, middle grade & YA fiction, courtesy of the Henry Miller Memorial Library and the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. Once again, I wouldn’t have known about this workshop or that applications were open if it hadn’t been for my good writer friend, Lia Keyes. https://bigsurwriting.wordpress.com/

So there are so many great things that networking can do for your career including getting you published, finding out about new publishing opportunities, and finding out about opportunities to hone your craft and make you a better writer. You can also meet some amazing creative people who inspire you and become lifelong friends. These are the people who will support you through the good times and the bad – who will encourage you to keep going when those rejections roll in and who will celebrate your successes.

MORE ABOUT KidLitVic2016 Meet the Publishers 

If you’d like to find out more about KidLitVic2016 Meet the Publishers, you can visit our website  or Facebook Page.

How has networking helped you? Please feel free to share your experiences in the comments section of this post.

Happy writing:)


8 Amazing Picture Books for Christmas

There are so many wonderful picture books being published at the moment, but I’ve selected a variety to review that would make great Christmas presents.



Unknown The Lion and The Bird by international bestselling and award-winning author and illustrator Marianne Dubuc is the tender story of the unlikely friendship between a lion dressed in denim and a bird with a broken wing.

One autumn day, a lion finds a wounded bird in his garden. This is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Then one day spring arrives, and so too do the other birds. Will Lion and Bird have to say goodbye to the friendship for the summer?

Screen Shot 2015-11-23 at 7.34.23 amThis moving story is so relevant in today’s times when the world is full of vulnerable people like refugees who have been damaged by circumstances, and are looking for a safe haven and a new life.

As well as compelling text, this book is beautifully presented in hardback with the pictures left to tell the story on some pages.

It’s no wonder that The Lion and The Bird has been published in 15 countries across the world.

It’s a beautiful book that can be shared at leisure, and it features themes of friendship, waiting and change.

The Lion and The Bird is published in Australia, New Zealand, UK and Ireland by Book Island.


In this contemporary fairytale, a young boy and escaped blue bird free their country from the rule of tyrannical despots.

This picture book for children aged five-years plus, explores ideas of freedom and justice and meets the demand for more culturally diverse picture books in an increasingly multicultural society.


Every illustration by Mattias De Leeuw is a work of art in this book.

It compliments the lyrical text by Laila Koubaa.

At the door, he breathed in the sweet smell of Jasmine. The front of the house was like one big flower. 

The richness in both the text and illustrations make this book an enticing read. It is beautifully translated into English by David Colmer.

Azizi and the Little Blue Bird is another wonderful book for opening young minds to the world around them. It is also published by Book Island.



Australian Kids through the Years is a wonderful book written by Tania McCartney and illustrated by Andrew Joyner.

It takes readers on a leisurely tour through history starting with Australia’s first children, through the 1800s, 1900s and into modern times.

There are so many fascinating facts in here about things like the way children lived, how they dressed, how they did their hair, what they ate, what they did for fun and what they read.

This book is a feast of fabulous illustrations and easy to follow text with interesting language and information that young readers can pore over for hours.

Unknown-1At the back is a summary of the years, and National Library references for all the illustrations.

Adult readers will also be able to reminisce as they meander through history in these colourful and lively snapshots of Australia’s past.

Australian Kids through the Years is a great way to bring history into both the family and the classroom.

Australian Kids through the Years is published by the National Library of Australia.


9781760067229_COVERI’ll admit upfront that I’m biased about these beautiful books because they were written by my crit buddy, Alison Reynolds, and I have watched their progress from initial idea to finished product.

But right from the start, I was drawn to the two compelling characters and their special friendship. Bree is a feisty little girl who likes to get her own way, but who has a good heart and is able to recognise her own faults. Pickle is a gentle, slow moving and very large bear who admires those qualities in his friend that he doesn’t possess himself.

In The Decorating Disaster, all about teamwork, Pickle and Bree have very different ideas about how the home they share should be decorated, and this leads to humour and disaster, but also some important revelations.

Even though they are the very best of friends, Pickle and Bree are very different, but they soon realise that some jobs like hanging wallpaper and painting, just aren’t supposed to be done alone.

At the end of this adventure are some tips on teamwork that both teachers and parents/guardians will find helpful to share with young readers.

In The Birthday Party Cake, all about welcoming differences, it’s Jason’s Birthday and Pickle is planning a special bear surprise for his friend. But when Bree decides to lend a hand, her idea of a perfect party is not what Pickle had in mind. But can Pickle and Bree find a way to save Jason’s birthday?

This adventure carries tips at the back for welcoming differences and considering the feelings and wishes of others.

9781760067236_COVERPickle & Bree’s Guides to Good Deeds are wonderfully illustrated by Mikki Butterley whose humorous pictures are a perfect match for the rollicking text.

They are great for reading in schools and homes to introduce children to concepts like sharing, accepting others and getting along.

Two more Pickle & Bree’s Guides to Good Deeds are coming soon.

They are published by The Five Mile Press.


Bertie Bear was going on a long journey. He didn’t realise it would be on a camel! And he never imagined he would be having adventures of his own, far away from Jessie.

UnknownThis delightful story of a real bear’s outback camel and train journey has been cleverly woven into a work of fiction by Janeen Brian.

The rhythmic text along with Anne Spudvilas‘ stunning illustrations introduce young readers to the vibrant colours of the outback and its characters.

I also like the way the story is told from the lost toy’s point of view.

This is a work of fiction, but the real Bertie makes a ‘star appearance’ at the back of the book.

Where’s Jessie? is published by the National Library of Australia.



UnknownI love Craig Smith‘s work so I was so excited when I heard a picture book was about to be released that he had both written and illustrated – and I wasn’t disappointed.

Remarkably Rexy also just happens to feature one of my favourite animals, a cat.

Rexy is a typical cat, but he’s also a bit of a dancer, and quite proud of himself because he’s always being praised for his good looks and talent.

But his perfect existence is shattered when Towser the barking dog next door escapes.

Unknown-1The text is hilarious and Craig’s vibrant illustrations are beautiful.

Remarkably Rexy is so much fun for cat lovers of all ages. It also has a link to a free audio reading.

Remarkably Rexy is published by Allen & Unwin.


This hilarious book written and illustrated by Dave Hackett (Cartoon Dave) is one of my favourite picture books this year because it’s so relatable.

“Come on Daddy. It’s time for bed.”

“But I’m not tired,” says Daddy.

How can a little girl put her daddy to bed when he doesn’t want to go?

imagesTime for Bed Daddy is so funny because it’s a complete role reversal, and so much fun at bedtime.

I remember how hard it was to get my kids to bed when they were small, and how tensions often rose.

This book is a great tool for turning bedtime into a playful occasion that’s fun for everyone.

Time for Bed Daddy  is published by University of Queensland Press.



Surviving NaNoWriMo

There are some obvious tips for surviving NaNoWriMo.

Coffee, lots of it, is a given if you’re a coffee drinker (which I’m not, but I’d guess that your need for coffee during NaNoWriMo is probably as great as my need for chocolate.)

Food and beverages are just part of the equation however. (Although I’d love to know what your favourite Nano refreshments and edible delights are).

Screen Shot 2015-11-08 at 11.53.52 amBut when it gets to the actual writing part there are some things I have found work really well for me.

  1. Keep writing – it might sound obvious but writing for me is like daily exercise. Once I stop doing it, I find it hard to get going again. If you are blocked, keep writing – even if it’s not something that will fit in with your story. Try writing a stream of consciousness letter from your main character to a friend or enemy – even if it’s about having writer’s block. I find that this helps me get back deep inside my character’s mind.
  2. Walk, mow the lawn, play golf, do whatever works for you. I find that walking helps free my mind and gives me the opportunity to mull over my plot.
  3. Allow as much thinking time as writing time. I find that allowing myself the time to think about what will happen next helps me avoid writer’s block because when I sit down to put pen on paper (and yes I hand write my first draft) I know where I’m going.
  4. Unknown-4Yoga/pilates for writers – typing, sitting, getting all those words out puts a lot of strain on more than just the mind. If you don’t stretch – particularly your hands – you will suffer for it. Here are some great links for exercises for writers – many that can be done at your desk http://www.writing-world.com/life/yoga.shtml and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O6rjmUsqa9g and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YE4WOkSF-q0 and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4MfsEZPIcZY
  5. If you’re stuck on one scene – leave it for now and write the scene that’s ‘calling’ you.
  6. Plan ahead – not necessarily in great detail – just know what you want to work on next time you sit down to write – and write the scene that takes your fancy. You can sort the order of things later. I like to at least start with a detailed synopsis.
  7. I used to over plot my NaNo novels and then when I came to write them I’d lost the spark. So now I do a mix of plotting and pantsing. As I mentioned above, I do a synopsis so at least I know who my character is and what their goal is and what the resolution to their story problem will be. But I don’t know how they’re going to get there. That’s all revealed, even to me, as I write.
  8. As I write, I scribble down notes of things I think of that will need to happen in the future and some things I will need to add in to earlier chapters already written.  I don’t edit at this stage. Keep moving forward.
  9. Set realistic personal goals that fit in with your lifestyle and commitments. Personal goals are just that – they are personal – they your goals. It doesn’t matter how many zillion words other people are writing, all you have to worry about are the targets you have set yourself. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else.
  10. Enjoy the journey. NaNoWriMo is not supposed to be torture – it’s supposed to be fun. There are all sorts of groups, write ins and word wars you can join to make the experience more enjoyable and help you when your motivation is flagging.

Unknown-5I hope you’re enjoying NaNoWriMo 2015 as much as I am.

If you have tips on how you survive NaNoWriMo, please feel free to share them in the comments section of this blog.

Happy writing:)



Try Something New

Writing takes work and time, but eventually words flow from our pens and they bring us joy.

But for many of us, this isn’t enough.


We want somebody besides the cat to read our words. We want what we write to make a difference in people’s lives.

Yet the world of publishing seems to get harder to break into day by day.

It’s easy to believe that it’s your own work that’s the problem. That your novel is too long, too short, not romantic enough, not literary enough, too much action, too much description, not enough characterisation, a weak voice etc.

It’s possible that your manuscript is none of those things. It’s possible that it’s a fabulous story, but the timing just isn’t right. The publisher might already be committed to publishing a manuscript in a similar vein and they don’t want to produce two ‘similar’ books.

The marketing department may have a plan that you don’t know about, but unfortunately your book doesn’t fit into it. For example, they might be committed to publishing series at the moment, but your manuscript is a stand-alone. Or romance might be what’s ‘selling’ but yours is more action.

It doesn’t mean that your manuscript is wrong or bad, it just means that the timing isn’t right.

So what do you do in this instance?

Try something new

Me skydiving

Try something new. Use this opportunity to become a more diverse writer, to hone your craft in other areas. Learn to have fun with your writing again.

I have a number of completed YA novels that I’ve had the most amazing rejection letters on, but they’re simply not being taken up.

So I’ve put them aside for now.

I will revisit them at another time, revise them again and resubmit – but at the moment, the timing just doesn’t seem to be right.

So I’ve been turning my attention to other forms of writing – shorter forms where it doesn’t take me at least twelve months to complete something.

Not only has this brought me a lot of joy and stretched my writing skills, but it has brought me some success.

My short story for children, “Enter at Own Risk” is coming out in a November edition of one of the School Magazines.

Tracie Grimwood is the talented illustrator of five of my books.

Tracie Grimwood is the talented illustrator of five of my books.

I recently signed a deal with EK Books for a picture book to be illustrated by the amazing Tracie Grimwood to be published in 2017.

I’ve entered the Scarlett Stiletto Awards this year and the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize and I’m writing poetry again.

I’ve also applied to upgrade my writing qualifications – doing my degree in creative writing followed by my Masters. If nothing else, I figure this will develop my skills, keep me inspired and allow me to meet new writers.

Yes, novels are my first love and No, I haven’t stopped working on them, (in fact I’m working on one I’m very excited about right now), but I’m spreading my wings and trying new things, and it has given my writing life new vigour.

I hope this works for you too.

If you have other tips and suggestions on how to navigate your way through the difficult world of writing and publishing, please feel free to share them in the comments section of this post.

Happy writing :)