The only thing that Jemima Parker regrets about the Writing Picture Books course is not doing it sooner! With a varied career that spanned law, communications and visual arts, Jemima knew she wanted to take a writing course ‘one day’. But it wasn’t until she was knee-deep in wedding decorations that she finally made the commitment to herself.
“As I sat and made hundreds of pom-poms for my wedding decorations, I suddenly decided: after the wedding, I am going to make time to take the Writing Picture Books course,” Jemima told us. “After taking the course, I finally knew what to do with all the stories whirling around in my head!”
Jemima launched herself into the world of kids writing and EK Books will publish her debut picture book in 2025.
“Taking the AWC’s Writing Picture Books course truly has changed my life. It filled me with inspiration and delight, and opened up a whole new world for me: the incredible world of kidlit in Australia and beyond,” Jemima says.
A dream come true
Jemima had dreamed of becoming an author as a small child, but life took her in a different direction. First she studied law and worked in a law firm for a few years before changing tack and going to art school. She worked in the arts and then moved into communications.
“While looking for courses on professional writing, I came across the Australian Writers’ Centre – I couldn’t resist clicking on the writing for children tab, and there it was – the Writing Picture Books course. I didn’t sign up immediately, but I kept coming back to the website, and reading about the course, thinking: one day when I have time I will do that.”
As soon as she took the course, Jemima knew she had done the right thing.
“I loved how practical the AWC’s Writing Picture Books course is. It not only covers how to write a picture book story – but gives you the real nuts and bolts, from how many pages are in a picture book and on what page the story should actually start, right through to how to format your cover letter and manuscript for submission, and how to find publishers.
“The course also gave me the confidence to put my writing out into the world – and in the same year that I completed the course, I was runner-up in the Children's Book Council of Australia NSW Branch Aspiring Writer's Mentorship Program, with a manuscript that I worked on during the course! This really spurred me on, to keep writing and believing in myself, and ultimately led me to securing my first publishing contract.”
Scoring a book deal
When Jemima found out that EK Books would be publishing her debut picture book, there was excitement all around.
“It was a moment of shock, followed by absolute delight!” Jemima recalls. “I squealed when I read the email, then jumped up and down. My dog knew something very exciting was happening, and he started barking and jumping around with me. I rang my husband to tell him the news, and there were happy tears.
The book is due out in mid-2025 and, while she can’t reveal too many details yet, she is already thrilled by the publication process.
“I have seen a character sketch that the illustrator made of my main character – and I just love it so much! I framed a print-out of the character sketch and have it sitting on my writing desk at home. It inspires me to keep following my dreams. It’s incredibly exciting to see a story that I created being brought to life by a publisher and an illustrator.”
In the meantime, she is continuing to work on several picture book manuscripts and a middle-grade novel. She fits her writing time around her full-time work and continues to remain active in the writing community.
“My creative writing is done ‘in the cracks’ – mostly very early in the morning, and sometimes in my lunch break,” Jemima says, who keeps herself busy as a volunteer as the editor of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) Australia East monthly newsletter. She is also part of a critique group. “I can’t recommend this enough. If I’m not writing, I am often thinking about writing, or listening to a writing related-podcast.”
Jemima urges other would-be writers to follow her example and start following your writing dreams right now.
“Don’t hesitate – book a course today! Don’t get caught up thinking I’ll do this one day when I have time – make time now. It might just change your life.”
Courses completed at AWC: