After the birth of her first child, Heidi Walkinshaw knew she wanted to try a new career, so she enrolled in a psychology degree. However, it didn’t quite scratch her creative itch, so she turned to the Australian Writers' Centre.
“After procrastinating for a little while, I took the plunge and enrolled in the Writing Picture Books course with Cathie Tasker and suddenly all those notebooks of ideas that I had been scribbling in for years made sense,” Heidi told us.
Heidi can now add published author to her list of achievements with the publication of her debut picture book Some Fish Have Moustaches, out now with Affirm Press.
Heidi had always found solace in writing, filling up notebooks as a teenager growing up in a tiny country town just outside the Hunter Valley.
“I would often climb onto the roof of our old farmhouse and write. There was something about the air and the landscape and life that looking back may seem idyllic, but it was an escape,” Heidi says.
Looking for a new challenge
Like a lot of creative young people, she didn’t think writing was a viable career option, so wound up in a career in business. She reached a point where she was working, studying psychology, and looking after her family and yet still felt like she needed a new challenge.
“After the birth of my first child, I pursued a psychology degree while working and biting off more than I could chew. In my final years of that degree, I started to get itchy feet for something else and came across a course from the Australian Writers Centre.”
Despite being busy, Heidi found she could fit the course in between her study, work and family commitments.
“The course outlines everything needed to get started, and being self-paced I found that even if I missed a session, I could catch up later.”
The Writing Picture Books course, Heidi says, was life changing.
“It gave me the courage to leap into something new and reconsider that career path that I had only dreamt of.”
Inspiration for her picture book
Heidi came up with the idea for her Some Fish Have Moustaches after a conversation with one of her kids.
“My then seven year old asked why our goldfish had funny markings including what looked like a moustache. The answer she received was, ‘Well, some fish have moustaches’ and an idea was born.
“After receiving great feedback and many edits, I put together the pitch and looked for publishing houses to submit the manuscript to. Affirm was one of those and you send your piece off into the world with a wish and a prayer.
“Around six months later, I received an email from Coral from Affirm to let me know that they loved my manuscript and would love to talk more about it and a meeting was arranged. I headed off to the meeting with an eight-week-old at home, much to the surprise of Tash and Meg from Affirm, and a few weeks later heard back that they would be acquiring Some Fish.
“Tash, Meg, Coral, and the team have been amazing through every step, especially as a debut author. It’s been so exciting to see Some Fish Have Moustaches on the shelves!”
As well as writing fiction, Heidi has also launched a successful copywriting business after completing Copywriting Essentials at the Australian Writers' Centre.
“After completing the Copywriting Essentials course, I finally took a chance and went out as a freelance writer in content and copywriting and now have my own business, Blackbird Collaborative. I specialise in blog and article writing, website content, profiles and business copy.”
Heidi now juggles writing fiction around her copywriting career and raising a family. It’s not always easy, but she has discovered that writing can be a viable and satisfying career.
“If I hadn't taken that first step several years ago and completed Writing Picture Books, I don't think I would be doing this now and would still be wondering, ‘what if.' Learning is never wasted, and it can change your life for the better.”
Courses completed at AWC: