Deciding to write picture books was literally a lightbulb moment for media and communications manager Claire Thompson. Each time she put her newborn baby in the carseat, the interior lights flashed on, so Claire and her four-year-old invented a story about a magic baby. She immediately realised she wanted to write a children’s book and enrolled in the course Writing Picture Books a few days later.
“The course gave me tools, knowledge and confidence which set me on my path. I haven’t looked back or paused for breath since!” Claire told us, and she’s not exaggerating. Her debut picture book Lily The Inventor is out now with Redback Publishing.
“I was amazed, overwhelmed, and incredulous. I film all my reactions to publisher emails on social media so you can see for yourself here.”
Never give up on your dreams
Claire had had early ambitions to be an author, stapling pages together as a child to make her own books.
“At 12-years-old, I submitted my first manuscript to Scholastic,” Claire says. “It was a YA horror story in the style of the popular 90s ‘Point Horror’ series. Shortly after, I proudly received my first rejection letter. It was hand typed, encouraging me never to give up on my dreams.”
In her 20s, Claire pursued journalism instead, a career she loved. It was only after her second daughter was born that she revisited those early dreams of becoming an author during that lightbulb moment heading to the park.
“My older daughter and I came up with a hilarious story about a mischievous magic baby who made lights flash and furniture whizz around. Of course, the car lights were flicking on as I knocked them with my head putting baby into the seat (baby brain!) But the seeds of an idea for a fun, children’s book were planted.”
The Writing Picture Books course was exactly what Claire needed to explore her re-ignited passion for fiction.
“I knew I was in the right place because every element of the course was fascinating to me. I drank up every drop and felt bereft when the five-week course ended. From learning about structure to character development, language and rhythm, alongside weekly feedback, every part of this course filled me with knowledge and excitement.”
Magic starts happening
Claire’s debut picture book Lily the Inventor tells the true story of Lily Born who, at seven years old, invented a cup to help her grandpa with Parkinson’s Disease.
“I fell in love with Lily’s true story and the first draft came together quickly,” Claire recalls. “I sent my manuscript to 50 publishers and got a yes from Redback Publishing in Sydney. They were looking for a STEM story and loved Lily The Inventor.”
It’s a perfect read-aloud story that follows Lily’s six-step invention process – Observe, Brainstorm, Prototype, Experiment, Repeat, then Launch – and introduces the idea that science and innovation begin in the home. It has been illustrated by debut picture book illustrator Zoe Bennett.
“Before I did the Australian Writers' Centre course, being a published author seemed too much of an impossible dream,” Claire says. “But once I’d done the course, armed myself with knowledge and equipped myself with tools, the dream started to come into focus. I started to believe in myself, and of course, that’s when magic starts happening.”