As a journalist, Chenée Marrapodi was confident in her ability to write. But when it came to writing the children’s book she’d always dreamed of, she knew she had to learn the ropes.
“Writing news stories is very different to writing a children’s book!” Chenée told us. “I knew if I tried to find all of the information myself, I’d end up falling down the ‘Google rabbit hole’ and I’d waste even more time – yet another excuse to stop me from actually writing the book!”
Instead, she dove into the course Writing Children's Novels and, as she says, hasn’t looked back. Chenée’s debut book, One Wrong Turn, is out now with Fremantle Press.
“I still have to pinch myself when I see the hardcopy of my book. My name is actually printed on a book cover – can you believe it?!”
The courses were a springboard
Being published by Fremantle Press is a bit of deja vu for Chenée – she received her first ever rejection from them back when she was a teenager.
“I’ve dreamt of being an author since I was in primary school. I used to spend my school holidays writing books, which my mum would edit chapter-by-chapter over her morning coffee. I actually got my first rejection when I was 13 from my now publisher, Fremantle Press!”
Her love of writing led her into a successful career as a television journalist, but she never shook off that desire to write a book. Like many people, she talked about writing a book ‘one day’ but there was always an excuse to put it off. Finally, she knew she had to make it a priority or it wouldn’t happen.
“A course felt like a really good way to make myself accountable. I thrive on structure and rules, so I knew if I was committed to a course, I would be motivated to get the job done. I also felt like it was a security blanket, a bit of reassurance that I was on the right track,” Chenée says.
Chenée liked that she could fit the course in around her busy work schedule, curled up in her pyjamas on the sofa. After completing Writing Children's Novels, she went on to do Presenting to Kids, Pitch Your Novel: How to Attract Agents and Publishers, Fiction Essentials: Point of View and 2 Hours to Scrivener Power.
“Each time I came to a new hurdle – building an author brand, how to pitch my novel, presenting to kids… I was always relieved to find there was a self-paced course with everything I needed to know.”
As well as learning new skills, Chenée felt the courses acted as a springboard for her motivation.
“As soon as I started investing time and money in writing, my mindset changed. I started taking it more seriously and was determined to see the project through to the end.”
One right turn
As part of launching her author brand, Chenée attended pitching events and started a podcast. In the meantime, she was also editing the manuscript she had started in the Writing Children's Novels course.
After a few rewrites that brought forward a secondary character, Chenée knew she was on to something special, and received positive feedback from two publishers.
“My body was absolutely buzzing and that excitement made me certain I was on the right track. Having piqued the interest of two publishers with the rewrite pitch, my brain went into complete overdrive. I wanted to rewrite the whole thing as quickly as I could to get it back to the publishers while I was still fresh in their mind. I decided to take part in NaNoWriMo and set myself the goal of completing the first draft within the month.
“From there, things moved really quickly. The new version of the story – turning the secondary character into a main character – flew out of it. The character had a Southern Italian background, like me. I was writing what I knew and it showed. The whole manuscript came to life. Within a few weeks of resubmitting, I had my offer.”
One Wrong Turn is the story of two young ballerinas who go head-to-head for the lead role in Cinderella. But it’s also a celebration of dance and Italian culture, both of which are close to Chenée’s own heart.
“There’s a lot of ballet in One Wrong Turn, but there’s so much more to it than tutus and tiaras,” Chenée told us. “I’ve danced my entire life and wanted to explore the athleticism and dedication required of ballet dancers. I feel like people often underestimate ballerinas because the art looks so graceful and effortless. I really wanted to showcase the physical and mental strength behind it. Sadly, I wasn’t as talented as my ballet dancing characters, so I feel like I’m having a ‘Dance Mum’ moment and living vicariously through them.”
Chenée looks at her Australian Writers' Centre courses as the essential training she needed to launch her writing career.
“If you wanted to be a professional athlete you would train and hire coaches to help take you to the next level – this is no different. Writing is a craft that needs to be honed.”
Courses completed at AWC: