Courses taken at AWC:
Writing Picture Books
Congratulations to AWC graduate Bec Nanayakkara who has landed a publishing deal for her debut picture book – which is based on an idea she workshopped in our Writing Picture Books course with tutor Zanni Louise just a year ago!
“I wrote a story for one of the assignments, and soon after the course, I polished it up and submitted it to Affirm Press. It was my first picture book submission to a publisher,” Bec told us. “Six months later they got in touch, and I have just signed a contract with them. They will be turning my manuscript into a real live story book in 2023!”
Finding a creative outlet
Bec had always loved picture books, but it was while she was on maternity leave that she turned to writing as an emotional and creative outlet. Her long-held desire to write for children was reignited and she enrolled at the Australian Writers' Centre.
“Learning how to present a picture book manuscript was a real game changer. We all have stories – amazing stories! But what next if you don’t know how to turn those stories into a manuscript?” she says. “We were given a manuscript template, and we were taught heaps of rules about things like formatting, page numbers and illustration notes. This information gave me the confidence to take my stories, turn them into manuscripts, and actually submit them to publishers.”
What inspired Bec’s story?
The inspiration behind Bec’s story is one everyone can relate to – what to wear. It’s this universality which makes it the perfect – if surprising! – topic for a picture book.
“Keeping it child-centred, I started to think about Book Week Dress-Up days,” Bec says. “My daughter loved all her costumes from prep through to Grade 6 but, prior to every Book Week, there was always that discussion – ‘What should I wear? What is everyone else wearing? What does everyone else think I should wear?’ I felt certain that this Book Week Dress-Up Day dilemma was one that many young readers could relate to, and so I began writing.”
Although Bec felt that she intuitively knew many of the elements of storytelling, workshopping with Zanni and her fellow students helped her to apply those principles to her own stories. She also developed a commitment to a regular writing practice.
Getting into the flow of writing
“The course was only five weeks long, but it helped me build up a writing momentum,” Bec says. “Each week we had to submit a writing task of approximately 200–500 words. At first, it seemed like a big commitment – we had nine-month-old twins who liked to cluster feed all evening. But once I was in the flow, and once I realised how much I loved my writing time, it didn’t feel so hard. Since the course has finished, I’ve kept up with writing three or four nights a week.”
While she waited to hear back from Affirm Press, Bec continued to work and rework her manuscript. So when they came back with positive news, her story had actually changed!
“We talked about the original and the updated version of my manuscript. The Kid’s Team were keen to keep some parts from the old, but also really loved some of my new changes. I happily agreed to blend the two together. A month or so later, the Kid’s Team took this new blended version to their acquisition meeting, and it was a success,” Bec says.
A book deal!
“Amazingly, the day I signed my contract was the same date that my Writing Picture Books course had started, 12 months ago.”
Now that she’s had her first taste of success, Bec is keen to keep writing and submitting manuscripts and work on her social media presence. But the important thing is to keep loving what she’s doing.
“I’m reminding myself not to get overwhelmed or to let writing become a burden. Above all else, I want writing to be my creative outlet, a source of joy, and a mindful and therapeutic practice.”
A source of joy for us here at the Australian Writers' Centre is to hear stories from our graduates just like Bec’s. Have you landed a publishing deal or a dream agent? However you define success, if you’re one of our graduates we’d love to hear from you. Drop us a line at [email protected].au so we can celebrate with you.
Congrats Bec! We’re looking forward to watching as your picture book progresses.