AWC alumna Brooke Graham’s picture books helps kids with anxiety

Courses taken at AWC:
Writing Picture Books
Writing Picture Books Masterclass
Writing Children's Novels
Build Your Author Platform

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 – and she is now the author of two published picture books!

Her latest picture book is Nova’s Missing Masterpiece, out now with EK Books. Her debut Go Away, Worry Monster! was also published by EK Books and Brooke recalls the moment she found out it would be published.

“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!”

The joy and power of reading

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 Writing Children's Novels.

“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.”

The book came out in 2020, and illustrator Robin Tatlow-Lord was shortlisted for the Children’s Book Council of Australia Award for New Illustrator of the Year 2021.

Brooke's second picture book, Nova’s Missing Masterpiece, published in 2024, highlights a girl’s bond with her dog to address the themes of anger, self-regulation, problem solving, resilience and persistence. With vibrant, well-observed illustrations again by Robin Tatlow-Lord, this is the perfect story to show children how anger and frustration affect their brains and bodies, and how simple techniques can help them self-regulate and reset.

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 Books course is essential.”

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