As a mum and a primary school teacher, Brooke Graham knew the value of good children's books. Reading to kids was one of the most enjoyable parts of her job. Then after completing the Writing Picture Books course at the Australian Writers' Centre, Brooke became hooked on writing and was determined to write her own. Her debut picture book Go Away, Worry Monster! has now been published by EK Books.
“I was ecstatic when I received the email saying the whole team at EK Books loved my story,” Brooke says. “Seeing the completed illustrations for the first time was another highlight!”
Brooke has always loved reading and shared that love with her students and daughter.
“Seeing children swept up in the plot and emotion of a story brings me great joy,” Brooke says. “When I became a mum, I read picture books to my daughter as part of her bedtime routine. That half hour together every night not only developed a love of reading in my daughter, but also gave us an opportunity to spend quality time together.”
After a family tragedy, Brooke wrote a story to help her daughter to cope with her anxiety. She knew the story could help other kids dealing with tough situations, but she also knew the book needed work before it could be considered for publication.
Doing the right courses
She quickly enrolled in Writing Picture Books and then went on to complete the Writing Picture Books Masterclass (exclusively offered to graduates), as well as Creative Writing Stage 1 and How to Write for Children and Young Adults.
“Completing several courses helped develop my writing skills and gave me necessary knowledge to write for children. It also gave me the confidence that, provided I worked hard, I could become a published author,” Brooke says. “The assignments and feedback were really helpful in ensuring I stayed on track with the weekly modules. The handouts and audio lessons were very comprehensive and I’ve referred to them often since completing the courses.”
When writing Go Away, Worry Monster! Brooke drew on the anxiety-reducing strategies that she and her daughter had learned through counselling.
“I wanted to be able to help other children who were anxious,” Brooke says. “After a number of drafts, I shared my story with critique partners and finally, when I felt it was polished, I submitted it to an editor assessment at a conference called CYA in Brisbane in 2018. Anouska Jones, from EK Books loved it! She asked me to make a minor change and formally submit it. A few days after submitting I was told it would go to acquisitions. It was accepted and a couple of months later I had a contract.”
More success to follow
Like a lot of authors, Brooke had done well in English at school, but didn't think she had it in her to be a published writer. All that changed after her experience at the Australian Writers' Centre.
“I was a single mum in my late 30s, working part-time as a primary school teacher in a small, rural school when I decided to do the AWC Writing Picture Books course,” Brooke says. “If you are considering becoming a picture book author, the Writing Picture Book course is essential.”
After that first course, she was ‘hooked'.
“I was determined to become a published author so over the next few years I completed other AWC online courses.”
Brooke now divides her week between teaching part time and focusing on her writing. She's also active in her local writing community.
“I’m a member of Write Links, a Brisbane based writers’ group. I coordinate the picture book critique group and each month after the meeting we critique each other’s stories. Next year I will also be doing school visits – which I’m really looking forward to,” Brooke says.
More in the works
Brooke's hard work and determination have certainly paid off, and she has a slew of projects in the works. “I currently have a picture book at acquisitions and through recent editor assessments I was invited to formally submit two other stories to publishers—fingers crossed there could be another contract in the near future. At the moment I’m working on a few new picture books and also have an idea for a junior fiction series.”
With her first picture book out now, we know that Brooke will see a lot more success in the future.