Engineer-turned-maths teacher Charlotte Barkla never imagined she’d become a published writer – but three children’s books later, she’s thrilled to have rediscovered her passion.
Charlotte signed a contract for her first book, picture book All Bodies Are Good Bodies, in early 2018; that was swiftly followed by her Edie’s Experiments books for middle-grade readers, for which she was offered a two-book deal by two different publishers.
Though Charlotte always loved writing, she studied engineering at university and ended up working as an engineer for five years and then as a maths and science teacher. It was during her maternity leave that she rediscovered her love for creative writing.
“I decided to try my hand at writing picture books, since I had two young kids and had been reading a lot of picture books at the time!” she says. “I researched the publishing process and started submitting to publishers who were open to unsolicited submissions. I also joined a local writers' group, to get to know other local writers in the area.”
Full of insight
After getting the contract for her picture book, Charlotte decided to take the Australian Writers’ Centre’s course on writing picture books to sharpen up her skills – and she says it was key to develop as an author.
“I knew my first book was going to be published, but I was keen for more!” she says. “It was a great course to take for developing my knowledge and skills in this area. And I hope to have more picture books published in the future… fingers crossed!”
When she decided to try her hand at fiction writing, Charlotte took the How to Write for Children and Young Adults course, and she also took the Freelance Writing Stage 1 course before she began writing freelance articles.
“Each course has really helped hone my writing skills, and helped me get to where I am today!” she says. “Each of the courses had lots of opportunities to develop your writing craft. One thing I found particularly helpful was learning how to analyse published works to see what works in the genre – whether published picture books, middle-grade novels, or articles in magazines and websites.”
A leg up
After taking How to Write for Children and Young Adults, Charlotte wrote her Edie’s Experiments manuscript and submitted it to various literary agents. One of them – Sarah McKenzie – offered to represent her.
“It was wonderful to know that I’d have someone to champion the manuscript for me,” she says. “I’d managed to swim through the slush pile for my first book deal, but having someone by my side for my middle-grade series was fantastic.”
Shortly after that, Charlotte received offers for a two-book deal for Edie’s Experiments from two different publishers.
“It was a wonderful but difficult position to be in, because I knew both publishers would do a great job publishing the book, and it was difficult deciding between them! I ended up signing with Penguin Random House, and the editing process kicked off. A little over a year later, the first book, How to Make Friends, hit the shelves.”
Making writing work for you
Now Charlotte writes three days per week, alongside her family commitments, with regular freelance writing as well as working on new fiction projects.
She writes regularly for Engineers Australia’s online publication, create digital, and has also been published in MiNDFOOD, the Australian Education Union (Victoria) Magazine, the Australian Educator magazine, Good Health Magazine, Domain and The Sydney Morning Herald.
“The Freelance Writing course had a significant impact on my writing, opening up new opportunities to have my work published, and to explore the option of freelance writing as an additional income stream to my fiction work,” she says.
“Each course has really helped hone my writing skills, and helped me get to where I am today. The AWC offers a range of courses that can really help kick-start your writing career. I’d highly recommend their courses.”