- Tell us, in a nutshell, how you got your start in the industry. As you can guess from the last question, I relied largely on my writers’ group who I love oh-so-much, but I also did many other things that I believe were instrumental in establishing myself as a writer. I attended lots of writing festivals and events to network with people in the writing community/industry, such as other aspiring authors, published authors, editors, publishers. People, especially all-important editors, will begin to remember you if they see you out and about enough. I also entered lots of competitions for unpublished manuscripts, which helped demonstrate my writing ability in my submissions. I also made sure I was very familiar with the market by reading widely and having industry contacts.My greatest difficulty, initially, was sifting through all the information out there for writers, knowing which of the competitions were worth entering and which events worth attending. Knowing the right stuff comes from experience and having other writers you can draw on, which I was lucky enough to have.
- What were some of the difficulties you encountered when trying to establish yourself as a writer? Did you rely on any tools, mentors, groups or writers centres/courses for help? I credit my start in the industry to my writers’ group who I love oh-so-much. I first joined the picture book writing group at the NSW Writers’ Centre in 2010 and at the time I really knew nothing about writing picture books. At that point I hadn’t done much writing either; I had really only decided that I wanted to write. The members of the group were so open and supportive, and I learnt so much from them. Not only that but they were very proactive in seeking publishing opportunities and in 2011 invited an editor from Koala Books to attend one of our meetings to read and critique our work. She liked my story The Prince who Shrank so much she took it back to the office with her. A few months later, I had a publishing contract. The Prince who Shrank will be finally released in February. My next two books, a children’s chapter book, The Ugg Boot War with Omnibus Books and my young adult novel, Masquerade with Penguin Books Australia are two different stories again. You can hear me talk about how I got these contracts on my video blog, if you are interested. But without my writers’ group, I truly believe that I would not be here four and a half years later with three books published.
- What has been your biggest career highlight so far? And the biggest lesson you have learnt? Definitely the release of my young adult novel, Masquerade last July has been my biggest career highlight so far. I’ve been so lucky to have so many wonderful readers and bloggers who share their experiences of reading Masquerade with me on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram etc. I love chatting with them both as a writer and a fangirl myself. Writers don’t receive a lot of income from their books but when you see the impact your book has on people, it makes it all worth it.
The biggest lesson I learnt during this time was just how tirelessly authors work to promote their own books and how important it is to the success of a book. It’s fun and amazing and I wouldn’t trade it for an army of miniature publicists but it is a lot of work.
- What gets you inspired? As much as I fantasise about having a writing tower – think: comfy castle tower – and locking myself away in it sometimes, it’s when I’m out in the world, not writing that I get inspired. It could be the idea for a new book or an idea for a book that I’m working on already. I could be out sailing in Sydney Harbour, see Luna Park and suddenly know where my characters will meet next. Or I could be at St James Station and a friend points out the arched ceiling between the two platforms and tells me that there is multiple train unused tunnels beneath the city and I’m inspired with an idea for a new book. Both these things happened recently. It’s great because “inspiration” is a great excuse to see and do lots.Reading also inspires me. One author, I can’t remember who, said that writers should read everything that’s better than what they write. So I read A LOT. The great books I read inspire me to be a better author.
- What’s next on your goals list? I need to finish the first draft of my work in process before anything else! Somehow, everything else is getting in the way at the moment – holidaying, namely! After that, I’m probably going to look for a US agent, learn basic German (for the next stage of my work in progress) and perfect my pasta dough, because pasta gives you energy for writing, right?
- What’s your typical day like? Since writing is not my day job (yet!), I mostly write in the afternoons, on the weekends and during school holidays (I’m a primary school teacher). I work on a laptop or iPad, so I write pretty much anywhere and everywhere – the lounge, my bed, the kitchen table. Not so good for my posture, I’m guessing! If I start writing in the morning, it will take me a while to get out of my PJs but eventually I will. I tend to skip meals when I’m in the writing zone and snack on chocolate and cake. Not so good for my waistline! I do try to fit in exercise if I’ve been sitting down all day, usually in the form of exercise DVDs or a walk. I get easily sidetracked by other writing-related jobs I have to do, such as interviews, emails, social media accounts, video blog. At the end of the day, I lay back with a book or watch The Big Bang Theory.
- What advice can you offer to people who aspire to get into a similar role/field? I tell, and ever-so-lightly order, aspiring writers to join a writers’ group. They will give you invaluable support and encouragement, as well as being there to give feedback on your manuscript, brainstorm, to help with difficult decisions and to celebrate your success. Most importantly, they don’t let you give up. You can find writers’ groups through your local writers centre or a quick internet search. It’s also useful to attend writing festivals and events to network with people in the writing community, sorry to be repetitive. It definitely gives you a leg up when trying to get your work published. Australia has such a wonderful, open writing community and even before I was a published author, I felt like I was a part of it.
The Speedy Six:
- Describe yourself in one word: ?Creative
- You wish you wrote: The Harry Potter series, not for the money but for the story. Although the money would be nice…
- Can’t leave home without: My moblie
- First thing you wrote: A rip-off of The Secret Garden when I was in year three.
- If you were a character in a novel, you’d be: Karou from The Daughter of Smoke. Who wouldn’t want naturally blue hair?
- The best thing about being a wordsmith: Being able to create things – characters, moments, places, relationships – that didn’t exist before.