When I decided twenty years ago that I wanted to write children’s books, I didn’t know that I would truly embrace it and how it would become a major part of my every day. Within a year of my decision to write and while I was undertaking my Diploma of Professional Writing and Editing at Box Hill TAFE, I had a book accepted by Cengage Learning for the education market followed by another one the year after. I realised I could write something publishable. It was a great motivation. Within the next year or two, I signed two more contracts with trade publishers. One was a very small publisher who ended up deciding that they couldn’t afford to publish my picture book, and the other a junior novel with a good publisher in WA, who eventually passed even though I’d signed a contract. These experiences taught me that there are no guarantees and that I had to keep working hard. There were years when I slowed down on the writing front as I spent solid time raising our two daughters, but the writing never left me and the desire to keep going grew stronger, despite many many rejections.
During the past six years I became more determined to create better work and hoped that eventually, someone would connect with my stories. I wrote tons of ‘practice’ stories, that I thought were great, but they really weren’t ready. I entered competitions, joined SCBWI in 2013 and Writers Victoria and more recently the CBCA. I attended Literary Speed Dating, joined a US group in 2014 called 12x12 which has an amazing support base for new writers, followed groups like Kidlit411 which is chock full of information, subscribed to Buzz Words, Pass It On, Magpies Magazine, and followed authors and editors on Twitter taking in their generous helpful information. I submitted stories to publishers, took webinars, got critiques, found a critique group through SCBWI and goodness knows how many other things. I got several acceptances for short stories and poems in The School Magazine. Then in 2017 my first trade book, an early reader, was released with Wombat Books. That felt great! Then I had my first trade picture book published by MidnightSun. That felt great too! Then MidnightSun accepted my second picture book which is due out in 2020. I felt I was on the right track and my confidence rose.
Towards the end of 2018, self-doubt crept in. I’d completed several picture book stories that I believed were some of my best work. I’d sent them out months earlier to various publishers as finding an agent was proving impossible. I didn’t hear a peep. I thought that after all I’d learned and created, that my work still wasn’t marketable. The very next day after wondering what on earth I was doing, I received an email from a publisher asking if one of my manuscripts was still available. They thought my story was lovely and that it would suit their list. I was ecstatic! Then in February 2019, I received an email from a publisher in the US for a different story, saying they fell in love with my story and was it still available. I couldn’t believe it! While this was going on, I was looking forward to the upcoming SCBWI conference in Sydney in late February 2019. Agent, Essie White of Storm Literary who had been closed to submissions for some time and who I had been watching for over two years, would be attending. Yippee! When SCBWI opened the bookings for critiques and masterclasses, I had set my alarm and made sure I was at my computer the moment bookings opened. I did not want to miss out. I secured my spots with my heart beating harder than usual. I couldn’t wait to meet Essie.
As I’d just become Caz Goodwin’s assistant for SCBWI Victoria, I was told we might do some volunteer tasks at the Sydney conference. I got the best task possible. I got to introduce Essie to the attendees at her masterclass. The class itself was brilliant and Essie went around to each person to talk about their specific projects and offered each of us the opportunity to submit directly to her the manuscript of our choice. I still had my critique with Essie to come. I went and had a quick lunch, then went to meet Essie. Her feedback on my picture book biography was great, and I looked forward to revising my manuscript. I made sure I dropped into the conversation that I was currently considering two different contracts so she would know I was serious. We talked about the types of stories I like to write. But during that critique I didn’t know if Essie was interested in representing me.
I went home thinking I would never hear from Essie again and that I had one chance left … the opportunity to submit directly to Essie. I began planning whether to send the revised biography or something new. I commenced revising the biography based on Essie’s feedback. About five days after the Sydney conference, I got such a surprise. It was an email from Essie! I read the email – fast! Was she interested?
She was! Essie asked to see my biography revision and more of my work. I sent the stories off immediately. That night, I woke at 3am and looked at my phone. There was another email from Essie! As I read it, I realised that Essie was offering me representation. I couldn’t make too much noise given the hour. I squealed the news to my husband then raced outside to my writing hut to reply to Essie. Within the next two days the contract was signed by Essie and myself and I am absolutely over the moon to have such an amazing agent in my life. Without SCBWI, this would never have happened. I went to the conference with a dream, and it came true!
I went to conferences at SCBWI Sydney, KidlitVic and CYA which, thanks to incredible organisation, provide such nourishment.