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November 2019

Writing for Children Part 4

By | News, Writing for Children

How do I find an illustrator? How do I find a publisher? How do I submit my manuscript to a publisher? by Katrina McKelvey

I get asked these questions all the time. Usually the person asking doesn’t realise there are whole courses and workshops written to answer them. They are HUGE questions with no simple answers. There are processes involved and a lot of work.

1) How do I find an illustrator?

Illustrators are assigned by the publisher unless you are self-publishing. The publisher wants to make sure the writing style and the illustration style match. Only very established authors get to ask for specific illustrators. And publishers like teams too. Libby Gleeson and Freya Blackwood, Jackie French and Bruce Whatley are a few examples. Kirrili Lonergan and I have worked on two books as an author illustrator team, Dandelions and Up To Something. This is wonderful for us as we can visit schools together and talk to kids about making picture books from both perspectives.

The publisher also works between the author and illustrator to bring the project together. The author and illustrator don’t generally directly talk to each other about the book they’re working on together unless it is via the publisher. Some authors and illustrators never meet or meet after their book is released. I knew Kirrili before we started in this industry. So, when we were contracted as a team for Dandelions, we were delighted, as new people don’t usually get to work on a project together when both are new to the industry. She would sneak photos of work in progress while she was illustrating our book. I would get so excited when they popped up on my phone. It was such a privilege to see these snippets as this doesn’t often happen in the industry. Once the book is handed over to the illustrator, the author has to step back during the next part of the project. They’re often brought back in after the illustrations are finished to check the text is still working and look for any final mistakes before the book is sent off for printing.

2) How do I find a publisher?

I’ve said this a few times during these articles now: do your homework. Not all publishers publish children’s books. But there are many ways to find the right publisher.

Look for a publisher’s Submission Guidelines on their website then bookmark that page (article 3). Follow these guidelines exactly. Note: not all guidelines are the same. If a publisher is closed for unsolicited submissions, DON’T send something to them. Instead, go and meet them at conferences and pay for a manuscript assessment. Then you can ask them if you can submit further work to them.

3) How do I submit to a publisher?

There are several ways:

Slush piles (direct and unsolicited)

Manuscript assessments during conferences (book via the conference)

Via an agent (but getting an agent to represent a children’s author is very difficult)

Solicited (invited directly via a conference or networking opportunity)

Twitter parties (yes, there is such a thing!)

Before submitting, there are a few things you need to do. These take time—so don’t rush your submissions.

  • Write a simple one-page cover letter. There is loads of information on the internet and in courses about this. If you don’t know the name of the commissioning editor, address it to, ‘Dear commissioning editor’.
  • Format your manuscript based on the submission guidelines of the publisher you are submitting to.
  • Write a synopsis and a pitch—can you write what your story it about in one sentence, three sentences, in 30 words, in two paragraphs? Practise these. There’s loads of information online and in courses about how to do this. This is not as easy as it sounds. And this can be done badly if the author hasn’t conducted some research into how to write a synopsis/pitch correctly. Also practise writing a blurb. This is different to a synopsis.
  • Track which publishers are open for submissions. See earlier article.
  • Enter writing competitions that give you feedback. This may give you an idea of whether you’re on the right track.

You can submit your manuscript to more than one publisher at a time but publishers would like to know whether your submission is in front of multiple publishers. And if you get picked up by a publisher before you’ve heard from all who you’ve submitted to, you must email them and let them know you’re withdrawing your submission. This is very important! Publishers spend a long time preparing to present possible manuscripts to a publishing team in acquisition meetings. If your manuscript is now unavailable you need to save them the time in preparing for these meetings.

After submitting:

  • Track your submissions—name of manuscript, name of publisher, were they via email or hard copy, who was the editor, what date did you send your submission, record date of any feedback, record any comments.
  • What do you do in the meantime?

Some publishers don’t offer any feedback and say if you haven’t heard from them in three months, it’s a ‘no’. Very informal I know, but they just don’t have the time. If you want feedback, pay for an assessment via a conference. In the meantime:

– write the next manuscript

– build your social media platform—own the title ‘author’.

– build and maintain a website

– write blogs

– support others

– read

– volunteer

After you believe you’ve exhausted all avenues and you still haven’t got that dream publishing contract, you can either put it in the bottom drawer, rewrite it based on any feedback you’ve been given, or let it rest and relook at it down the track.

Rejections are part of this exhausting process. They can be very confusing, disappointing, and upsetting. And most of the time you won’t know why you were rejected. But try not to take them personally. Publishing is a business.

I have always had the mantra, ‘If my stories aren’t good enough to compete with Jackie French, I don’t want my book on the shelf’. This is the attitude you need to get by in this tough industry. The rewards are worth it if you make it. Trust me!

Acceptances are so exciting. But I need to be a parent here. Not all contracts are the same. Some are extremely unfair and don’t have the author’s best interest in mind at all. If you are not a contract lawyer, and most of us aren’t, you can do several things. You can either become a member of the ASA and access their contract advice service and pay to have a professional contract lawyer let you know if it’s a good contract or not (https://www.asauthors.org/findananswer/contracts). The other thing you can do is complete a course about understanding contracts via the ASA or AWC. They don’t come up often and probably not when you need them most, but keep an eye out.

Do I need an agent? This is a personal question with no simple answer. The answer is yes and no. In Australia, you don’t necessarily need one. Many children’s publishers offer a slush pile or are accessible via conferences. But not all publishers have unsolicited slush piles. Some publishers only want submissions via agents. But getting an agent can be as hard as getting a publisher. This is a question that needs its own article. Look online and read relevant articles or listen to advice offered by agents at conferences.


So where am I in my journey now?

I am eight years in and I intend on continuing in this career for a lot longer yet. I have two picture books being released next year so I’m starting to plan those book launches.

I’m currently researching the structure of early chapter books—a new format for me. I’m also researching potential publishers. I’m hoping to have book 1 and 2 ready to submit by Christmas.

I’m a Littlescribe co-author. 

I’m writing four books for Macmillan Education Australia as part of their Snappy Sounds project. This has been challenging and rewarding. These books will be available in 2020. 

I love attending conferences and children’s events as a chair, panelist, or participant so I’m planning where I’ll go in 2020.

I’ll be writing more picture books and, of course, will continue to facilitate my writing group through the Hunter Writers Centre.

And I’ll be popping into schools doing author talks and writing workshops. Love these! I’m on several speaker’s agencies lists. To find out more, visit my website.

Hopefully I haven’t left you feeling overwhelmed by all this information. Work your way through it. You can’t get your writing career off the ground overnight. Everything takes time to develop including manuscripts, author platforms, branding, your writing style/voice, and your networks.

I can guarantee you one thing. If you put your heart and soul into this industry, you will be rewarded. But you can’t cheat. You have to work hard, learn, make mistakes, and continually pick yourself up and dust yourself off. But it will be worth it. If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

Have you got what it takes to be a children’s author too? If you’ve got the 6 Ps—patience, persistence, practise, perseverance, passion, and positivity then you’re ready to start.


Katrina McKelvey author

Katrina McKelvey is a children’s author with over ten years primary school teaching experience. She’s currently working on her first chapter book series while developing new picture book stories. She’s highly involved in the Children’s Book Council of Australia, literary conferences and festivals, and loves visiting schools. No Baths Week and Up To Something are Katrina’s recent publications, after her successful debut picture book, Dandelions. Two more picture books are coming in 2020. She loves chocolate but doesn’t like chocolate cake. She’s left-handed but plays sport right-handed. She loves tea, but dislikes coffee. Katrina lives in Newcastle, Australia with her family and a naughty puppy. Google her or visit her website: www.katrinamckelvey.com

Writing for Children Part 3

By | News, Writing for Children

I’ve just written a picture book.  What do I do next?  How can I learn more about writing for children? by Katrina McKelvey

Inspiration can hit anyone at any time. But getting an idea down and crafting it into a polished manuscript takes work and time. No one gets it right this first time. First drafts are rubbish and need polishing. Remember when I mentioned rejections in an earlier article? Some of those rejections are due to manuscripts being sent off too early—before the story has had time to be crafted, redrafted, revised and reworked. I have some simple steps all authors should take before sending anything to a publisher.

1) Research the market

Remember I mentioned Read! Read! Read! in article 1? Well this is when it kicks in. Read anything and everything you can in the format you want to write in. Go and see what is on the shelves of your local bookshops and public libraries. Borrow heaps of books. Subscribe to Australian publishers’ newsletters. Follow publishers, authors and illustrators on social media. (Authors tend to hang on Facebook and Twitter, Illustrators tend to hang on Instagram. Some like me hang in all of them—ha!)

2) Educate yourself!

Go and do courses in your format—educate yourself! Be a learner. Ask questions. Listen. Observe. Admire. Appreciate the help you receive along the way. You will make mistakes but learn from them. I have made many!

Early in my writing career I went to every learning experience I could. I threw myself in head first. A lot of these experiences were in Sydney. I car pooled, I used the train, I flew interstate, and I did late nights on the M1. Use these opportunities to meet people and learn! Oh, and they make great social opportunities too.

Here are some conferences to keep in mind:

Kidlitvic (Melbourne) in May—annual

CBCA (Sydney or Canberra)—biannual

CYA (Brisbane) in July—annual

Writers Unleashed (Syd) in August—annual

CKT (Sydney) in April—annual

SCBWI National Conference (Sydney)—biannual

SCBWI State Conferences—vary when and where

Festivals and conferences hosted by your state’s writers centre

The Hunter Writers Centre offers a writing for children workshop annually too.

If you don’t have access or the ability to attend in person, online courses are also great:

Australian Society of Authors (ASA)

Australian Writers Centre (AWC)

Writing NSW—you can join in some workshops via live online meeting forums

The Scribbles Academy (Jen Storer)

Faber Writing Academy

3) Research potential publishers

This is important as not all publishers publish children’s books. In fact, a huge amount of Australian publishers don’t want anything to do with picture books. If you send the wrong type of manuscript to the wrong publisher, it’s a waste of time for everyone and an instant rejection.

Find the submission guidelines on each publisher’s website. These can be hard to find. Use the search tool on their website, or look under the ‘Contact’ or ‘FAQs’ tabs if they don’t have a ‘Submissions’ tab. Once you have found them, bookmark this page. Then make a spreadsheet. Use this spreadsheet to track when they are open for your type of submission. Note: some publishers are open all the time, some are never open for unsolicited submissions, some are only open if submitting via an agent, and some are only open at certain times of the year. Hint: follow their social media pages—they often use these to advertise when they’re open.

As a side effect, you’ll start to get a feel for what types of books each like and publish, and what new releases are popping into the market. Your book needs to be unique and compete with these, otherwise you’ll get rejected.

4) Edit, rewrite, and repeat until . . .

No one gets the story right on the first draft. NO ONE! You’re going to have to get used to editing—multiple times—maybe even tens of times—maybe even for years until it is polished enough to be sent to a publisher. And you’re going to have to get feedback from more than your family and friends. They either love everything you write because they love you, or they may feel uncomfortable telling you the truth if you need to be guided to do a heavy rewrite.

Editing is a process that takes time. There is no easy way around it.

A lot of children’s books are read aloud so, during the editing process, read your writing out aloud, or have someone read your writing back to you. This will help you hear whether your rhythm and flow are working. Make a dummy book too – see if you can work out where the page turns go.

But when does an author know their work is polished enough? Good question! Read points 5 and 6.

5) Join a critique/writing group (online or in person). If you can’t find one, start one.

When I started writing for children there wasn’t a local writing group I could attend through the Hunter Writers Centre. Karen started taking names until there were enough to get one up and running. In 2012 we met. And about three months later I began facilitating the group. We are still going today—seven years later. I cannot recommend joining a writing group enough. All my published manuscripts have been critiqued via my writing groups. If you’re unable to attend one, there are several online groups.

SCBWI: https://scbwiaustralianz.squarespace.com/online-critique-groups

CKT: https://www.creativekidstales.com.au/services/ckt-writers-workshop

 6) Get professional feedback before you submit anything!

I have all of my manuscripts professionally edited by a freelance editor before I submit anything. I know and trust her as she understands picture books. But this isn’t compulsory.

My first four accepted picture books weren’t professionally edited before I submitted them.

Getting work professionally edited before submitting it lets a publisher know you’ve invested in your work and you believe in yourself. It makes you look professional and could save everyone valuable time.

And remember, if you do get your story over the line, it will be edited again inhouse before it’s published.

Organising a mentor is another option. Mentors can help you with your writing as well as guiding your submissions. Some of the associations mentioned in the next article offer mentorships. Some authors offer mentorships too.

7) Network—build connections!

This sounds formal but it’s actually fun. I turn it into my social life. Networking can involve going to book launches, attending festivals and conferences, having a coffee with fellow authors, or attending meetings of industry organisations.

Writing can be isolating and lonely. Get out and meet people! They’ll become your new circle of friends.

8) Use your social media to follow children’s publishers, authors and illustrators.

There are some wonderful online groups full of authors and illustrators learning about the industry. I’ve met many of the members of these groups. Now they’re my friends. I highly recommend these Facebook groups:

Just Write For Kids

Creative Kids Tales

The Duck Pond

9) Join associations

It can be hard at first to know which ones to be members of—especially if you have a tight budget. The first thing to do is see what their core business is and whether it suits you at this point in your career. Here are a few memberships I recommend:

Hunter Writers Centre

Australian Society of Authors (ASA)

Writing NSW

CBCA NSWhttps://www.cbcansw.org.au

Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI)

If you can’t afford membership, join their online newsletters anyway. You can still do their courses—you’ll just have to pay the ‘non-member’ price.

10) Attend and volunteer at writers’ festivals

Attending and volunteering at festivals gives you a huge dose of inspiration and education. And you may also meet people who inspire you. I’ll never forget the first time I meet Andy Griffiths at the Sydney Writers Festival. I have also had the most amazing experiences being part of the Newcastle Writers Festival. Oh the people I have met! Join in!

11) Become friends with your local public children’s librarians and bookshop owners/managers

These people love literature more than you do. Make them your friends. These are the people who will support you when your book is out. They may even help you launch your book. I had two book launches this year. One was in conjunction with Newcastle Writers Festival, Newcastle Libraries and MacLean’s Booksellers. The other was a dog picnic in Lambton Park in conjunction with Newcastle Libraries and MacLeans Booksellers. There’s no way these events would have been as successful as they were without the support of all of them. They helped advertise my event, organise activities and the legal stuff, and provided book sales.

12) Listen to podcasts

One More Page

So You Want To Be A Writer

The Happy Book

Wow! What a long list of simple steps! But I promise you, if you take your time, be thorough and work hard, you can do it. I have done everything on this list. EVERYTHING! You can too. I wish someone had made this list for me eight years ago.

So, are you ready to submit? Promise me you’ll read article four before you do anything.


Katrina McKelvey author

Katrina McKelvey is a children’s author with over ten years primary school teaching experience. She’s currently working on her first chapter book series while developing new picture book stories. She’s highly involved in the Children’s Book Council of Australia, literary conferences and festivals, and loves visiting schools. No Baths Week and Up To Something are Katrina’s recent publications, after her successful debut picture book, Dandelions. Two more picture books are coming in 2020. She loves chocolate but doesn’t like chocolate cake. She’s left-handed but plays sport right-handed. She loves tea, but dislikes coffee. Katrina lives in Newcastle, Australia with her family and a naughty puppy. Google her or visit her website: www.katrinamckelvey.com

Writing for Children Part 2

By | News, Writing for Children

What are the different ways I can write for children? by Katrina McKelvey

Becoming a children’s author can happen in many ways. I’ve heard loads of unique stories which included a combination of hard work, strategic moves, and luck. And just like any journey, some who start make it, and some don’t. Some take one direct path, while others weave around for years before they can see the direction they want to take.

I’m a children’s picture book author. I have five picture books—three on shelves, and two being illustrated as you read this. But I’m about to diversify into writing early chapter books. A lot of children’s authors write in different formats. The trick is to find the right one for your writing style. Each format has a criteria authors generally follow to meet the needs of that readership.

When we say ‘writing for children’, this could mean anything from board books to young adult literature (YA). This range is HUGE. So, what are the formats of children’s literature? Note: ‘format’ is different to ‘genre’.

Picture Books

Picture books (PB) are usually less than 500 words. But with everything in literature, there are exceptions. I honestly believe picture books are for everyone. And the reader’s age and life experience will determine what will be achieved with each reading. However, authors often have children aged 4-8 in mind when writing in this format.

Authors need to keep in mind the adults that will be with the child while they read these books. It’s the adults that will buy these books, and most often will do shared reading with them. They need to get something out of the reading experience too.

PBs are complex. Usually, an entire story (with a beginning, middle, end, complication, resolution, character journey/growth) will need to be told in less that 500 words and on 32 pages or less. It’s a very strict format but this is what makes it challenging. Picture books can be fiction, non-fiction, a concept book, or a combination.

PBs are also costly to produce. Those big, glossy, colourful pages are expensive so publishers have to truly adore a PB for it to get through to publication. This is why so many picture book manuscripts don’t make it through.

Let’s talk illustrations. It may take years for an author to get 500 words perfect—but it also takes an illustrator hours and hours which leads to months and months of long days to illustrate one book. The author and illustrator team are crucial to the success of the book. The story-telling style and illustration style have to match. The illustrations need to add another layer of storytelling to the text—known as visual literacy. Illustrations need to do more than mimic the text. And it can take a while for an author to understand they need to leave room for the illustrations to do their job. Authors don’t need to describe a character or setting. Illustrators help convey a character’s personality and feelings. Words and illustrations need to work seamlessly together.

In addition, authors need to hand over their story without telling the illustrator how to do their job. This is a BIG issue for some authors. I can relate. It took me a while to trust my publishers and illustrators and let their talents add to mine.

Picture books need to be surprising, challenging, fun, engaging, clever, relatable, and authentic. Oh, and did I mention all this needs to be done in less than 500 words?

Junior Fiction (JF):

Young boy readingJunior Fiction (JF) has three main categories: early chapter books, middle grade (MG), and young adult (YA).

1) Early Chapter Books

Children who are reading early chapter books are becoming independent readers. They are moving away from reading with guidance, so they need to feel successful. They need to be able to decode while also comprehending and enjoying the story. Early chapter books are full of lovely, easy language, have a simple action-packed plot, and have wonderful characters that will help the reader experience an amazing journey. Humour is often used as well. The word count can be as low as 1500 words and up to 10 000 words. This low word count lets the reader finish a book in one – two sittings. Generally, the readership is from 7-10 years old.

2) Middle Grade (MG)

These books can be 10 000 – 50 000 words long. Kids are usually 8-12 years old (Years 3 – 6). The themes are usually more complex. Wonderful, strong characters are woven in good, slightly more complicated plots, with loads of action and adventure. Pace is fast. There will be more secondary characters too.

3) Young Adult (YA)

This format can be between 60 000 – 90 000 words. This readership is mainly high school aged children though some older primary aged children will be reading these. These stories contain very deep, confronting themes but without detailed descriptions. Loads of adults enjoy reading these too as they tend to be shorter than adult fiction but fast paced with challenging and thought-provoking themes. Fantasy and Science Fiction tend to be popular genres with this readership.

When writing junior fiction, authors need to work out a few things:

  • Am I writing a series or a stand-alone title?
  • If I’m writing a series, can my books be read out of order?
  • If I’m writing a series, will I have a narrative and/or character arc across all books?

Publishers are offering many different contracts for series at the moment. Some are signing up books one at a time waiting for sales before they commit to another. Some are offering a 2-3 book deal, then offering to extend it if successful, sometimes with an extremely short deadline for following books to be ready.

Anthologies/Poetry/Plays/Magazine articles

There are loads of opportunities to write in these formats. These are often advertised in online subscriptions such as Pass It On and Buzz Words.

Education market

The Education market is different to the books you find in the bookshops. These books are often sold directly to schools. This is a hard market to get into at the moment. However, loads of established Australian authors started their career writing these types of books. But from what I can see from my research, you only usually get into this market by being commissioned.

When you combine loads of reading children’s literature with lots of practice, it should start to become clear which format your writing style sits best within. And you don’t have to have the same publisher for the lot. You may have one publisher producing your picture books while another is doing your JF. Is there a format described here your writing style fits within?


Katrina McKelvey is a children’s author with over ten years primary school teaching experience. She’s currently working on her first chapter book series while developing new picture book stories. She’s highly involved in the Children’s Book Council of Australia, literary conferences and festivals, and loves visiting schools. No Baths Week and Up To Something are Katrina’s recent publications, after her successful debut picture book, Dandelions. Two more picture books are coming in 2020. She loves chocolate but doesn’t like chocolate cake. She’s left-handed but plays sport right-handed. She loves tea, but dislikes coffee. Katrina lives in Newcastle, Australia with her family and a naughty puppy. Google her or visit her website: www.katrinamckelvey.com

Writing for Children Part 1

By | News, Writing for Children

Writing for children is easy—right? Wrong! by Katrina McKelvey

a baby readingWriting for children is complex. After all, the readership is complex. To put it simply: kids are smart!

Children deserve stories that are compelling, breathtaking, and authentic that will make them think, empathise and wonder. Childhood is about learning, exploring and growing—mentally, physically, emotionally, socially—and the literature we present to them should contribute to this. We need to raise thinkers with the help of good quality literature.

Now, if you think writing for children (especially those books with all the coloured pictures) is easy, all you need to do is write a story in less than 500 words. Easy, right? Let’s take a closer look.

‘Picture books provide a beautiful experience that leaves 
the reader impacted, changed and empowered.’  
Essie White, US Agent


Australian publishers know children are complex and deserve the highest quality literature. They know and respect how clever children are. They don’t want to present literature that is preachy, repetitive and boring. That’s why only around five in 1000 picture book submissions make it through to publication in Australia every year.

Over these four articles, I will share a little about my publishing journey, as well as offer ways you can start your own journey to publication. It’s a long one. In fact, there are many paths, and no one can predict how long each path will be. There are NO overnight successes. It took me four years to get my first book published and another four years for the second and third.

It’s well known that authors and illustrators need the 6 Ps—patience, persistence, practise, perseverance, passion, and positivity. If you’ve got these, you’re ready to start.

Following this post I will discuss: The different ways you can write for children; How to learn more about writing for children; How to find an illustrator, a publisher and how to submit your manuscript to a publisher.

Loads of people decide they’d like to write a children’s book. Some people believe they have something to say. Some want to record family stories. Others want to fulfil the dream of having their name on the cover. All these reasons are valid, but the core reason will be what drives authors through the hard times and towards a published book. Is wanting your name on the cover enough? I don’t believe so.

But all beginning authors need to ask themselves, ‘Why do I want to write for children?’.

Here are some tips to get you started:

  • What are your childhood memories of reading and books?
  • Read like crazy! Read as many books as you can in the same format as you want to write in.
  • Take note of the author, illustrator, and publisher of the books you like. Why do you like some and not others?
  • Who will be your inspiration? Who do you admire in the industry?
  • Observe children. Listen to their dialogue. Take notes.
  • Write down ideas as soon as they come to you. They flutter in fast but leave at the same pace.
  • Watch illustrators of picture books. Observe how they tell stories visually.
  • Not all ideas become stories and not all stories will be published. Stories, characters and ideas evolve over time.
  • Ideas come from everywhere! Be observant! Be ready!
  • Follow your passion and not trends! Stories take years to perfect, so by the time your story is published (which could take years), that trend is long gone.

As you begin to write for children, here are a few questions you need to ask yourself:

  • Are you a reader? Read! Read! Read!
  • What are children reading?
  • Have you scheduled in writing daily? How often can you write?
  • Can you accept feedback? And not just from family and friends.
  • Have you heard of ‘show, don’t tell’?

And there are decisions that need to be made:

Before you start:

  • Who will be in my story? Great characters are crucial to keeping the reader interested until the end.
  • What structure will I follow? Structure needs planning in my opinion as the word count is limited. And kids love a twist.
  • Who is my intended audience? How old are they?
  • Will it rhyme?
  • First or third person? Past or present?
  • What is my word count?
  • What is the conflict in my story? Or is it a concept book?
  • What language devices will I use?
  • Do I need to do some research on my topic?
  • Is there a book already published similar to my idea? If so, how will mine be different?

During the writing process:

  • Do I know the themes of my story? Are they universal, complicated, sensitive, social?
  • Have I developed interesting, relatable, authentic characters?
  • Do I have excellent plot, dialogue, pace, mood?
  • Do I have a great ending? Have I left my reader satisfied?
  • Does my story have heart? Does it have an emotional core?
  • Can my story be enjoyed over and over again?
  • Do I have a great hook?
  • Does my story resonate? Is it engaging for children and adults? Is it memorable?
  • Do I have a strong, authentic voice? Write from the perspective of your deep, inner child.
  • Is every word needed? Make every word count. Delete unnecessary words.

Reality check: Beautiful writing doesn’t mean it’s publishable. Beautiful writing can win competitions, but this doesn’t mean it’s publishable. All my published books have been entered into competitions and haven’t won a thing. I have friends who have won competitions, but their books have never been published.

Another reality check: The industry is subjective. Different stories are magic to different people. One publisher could love it, while the next doesn’t. This can cause frustration and confusion. But you need to want it! Hard work, a strong belief in yourself, and a dose of stubbornness can get you through—that’s how I do it. Oh, and I keep going back to my original question, ‘Why do I want to write for children?’

It’s OK if you feel a little overwhelmed after reading this. It takes years to get your head around it. I feel like I have completed the equivalent of a university degree over that last eight years with the amount of educational opportunities I have completed in this industry. I believe learning the craft of writing for children is ongoing, but the basics remain the same.

And as they say in this industry, once you learn the rules, then you can go and break them.

So, is writing for children easy? Nope! I know—I’ve got the 200 rejections to prove it. But I also have five traditionally published books to show for the hard work I’ve put in over the last eight years. Each book was like starting all over again. Each of my books took 3 – 5 years of writing and submitting to finally get through. I currently have others out there trying to find homes. Others are being edited, others being written, and others swimming around in my head. It’s a juggling act but I’m where I want to be and I’m happy.


Katrina McKelvey is a children’s author with over ten years primary school teaching experience. She’s currently working on her first chapter book series while developing new picture book stories. She’s highly involved in the Children’s Book Council of Australia, literary conferences and festivals, and loves visiting schools. No Baths Week and Up To Something are Katrina’s recent publications, after her successful debut picture book, Dandelions. Two more picture books are coming in 2020. She loves chocolate but doesn’t like chocolate cake. She’s left-handed but plays sport right-handed. She loves tea, but dislikes coffee. Katrina lives in Newcastle, Australia with her family and a naughty puppy. Google her or visit her website: www.katrinamckelvey.com