Quark’s Academy – debut children’s novel signed with Hachette. Plus setting up her own copywriting and freelance travel writing business in Sydney.
Catherine Pelosi dreamt of becoming a children’s book author and, after completing a course at the Australian Writers’ Centre, has now released her first novel – with more already on the way.
Catherine was living in London working at a “dull office job” when she first realised she wanted to write children’s books. “I remember sitting at my desk and looking out the window when I had lightning-bolt moment – I wanted to be a children’s book author!” she recalls. “As soon as I returned to Australia I decided to find a course about writing for children. I found the Australian Writers’ Centre (AWC) course, Writing Books for Children and Young Adults, and signed up straight away.
“I turned up and it was brilliant from the start, it was just like entering this whole new world of magic and happiness and I’ve never left because it’s so great learning about writing and children’s books.”
What she learnt from AWC
Catherine says that course helped her really understand younger readers. “The language, sentence structure, themes and length of the story will depend on the age group you are writing for. During the course, there were also many opportunities to write and share our work. To me, this was the most useful aspect of the course. Receiving feedback from peers and the presenter was incredibly helpful in figuring out what I was doing well and what areas I needed to work on.”
In fact, Catherine loved the course so much, she ended up doing it twice – the first time face-to-face, and the second time online – a couple of years later. “I remember after one of the exercises where we were asked to write about a childhood experience, my presenter said to me: ‘I strongly encourage you to keep writing’. That one sentence coming from someone I truly respected fuelled me many times over the years. Writing can be a tough gig! Remembering those encouraging words really helped me to keep on going and not give up.”
Catherine’s first novel is Quark’s Academy, a middle grade novel for readers aged around eight to 11. While she was writing her manuscript, Catherine made sure she kept on learning and also understood the importance of networking in the publishing industry.
It was at a Children’s and Young Adult Writers’ Conference, where she attended a “pitch session” with editors and agents, that she pitched to the woman who would eventually become her agent, Alex Adsett.
Alex loved Catherine’s pitch for Quark’s Academy and pitched the book to publishing giant Hachette.
Catherine has also completed the Copywriting Essentials and Travel Writing course through the AWC and has since started her own copywriting business as well as had two travel pieces published. Added to her experience in getting her debut novel to a publisher, she has plenty of praise for the results AWC has given her.
“There is nothing like having the support of other writers and expertise of highly experienced teachers. What I love about AWC is that it’s more than a place to do a course, it’s a community. I’m part of several graduate Facebook groups where we share information, pass on opportunities and remind one another when an event or something useful is coming up. I’m also a long-time listener to the AWC podcast, ‘So You Want to be a Writer’ – I’ve never missed an episode!”
And did she ever imagine she’d be earning an income as a writer? “I always hoped I would! I’m not yet able to earn money from writing full-time but it is my goal. My plan is to continue to build my copywriting work/travel writing and continue to write children’s fiction.”
Learning at the Australian Writers’ Centre
“I would say if you want to do a course at the Australian Writers’ Centre, definitely do it. They also have courses online, I’ve done one of those as well, so you can make it fit into your life at whatever stage you’re at.
“If it wasn’t for the Australian Writers’ Centre I don’t think I would be as far into my writing career as I am. It really gave me a great boost of confidence right at the start when I needed it most. It’s a great way to feel encouraged and inspired to be around people that have knowledge and other people who are cheering for you along the way.”