Larissa Ferenchuk’s dream of becoming a picture book author comes true

Larissa Ferenchuk had had story ideas swirling around her head for some time, but wasn’t sure how to get them into a picture book. So she enrolled in Writing Picture Books at the Australian Writers' Centre to give herself a creative outlet – and hopefully learn to write down some of those stories.

“Every week, as the new course units were released, I discovered insights and information that I never knew about picture book writing,” Larissa told us.

During the course, Larissa wrote a story and developed it into a picture book manuscript called Two Rabbits. Just a few months after completing her course, Larissa received the news that EK Books wanted to publish her story.

“I was beyond excited when I got the email saying that my book was going to be published. I rang my husband and my mum straight away to share the amazing news. It is not often in your life that it feels like one of your dreams is coming true, but it really did that day.”

A valuable creative outlet

Larissa was looking to get back into the workforce after being a stay-at-home mum to her three kids and she started studying to be a support worker. But she knew that she needed a way to exercise her creative muscles as well.

“I had always loved lyrical and emotive forms of writing. I also loved the way that picture books create a written and visual story that can offer the reader different layers of meaning. I had been thinking about doing the Writing Picture Books course for a while, and finally I just decided that this was the right time to take up the opportunity.”

Larissa was amazed at how much she learned in the five-week course.

“It has impacted my life in so many ways. It has given me a new purpose and passion. It has introduced me to a whole new supportive writing community. It has given me the confidence to believe in my stories, and the technical knowledge to create picture book manuscripts that have led to book contracts. I honestly feel that if I hadn’t done the course, my stories would never have had the chance to be published, as I would have structured them and written them in a completely different way without understanding the rules of picture books.”

Hungry to learn more about the art and craft of writing, Larissa continued on with Writing Chapter Books for 6-9-year-olds, Presenting to Kids and Your Author Website.

A story about friendship

One of the stories that Larissa wrote during her Writing Picture Books course went on to become Two Rabbits.

“Two Rabbits is a story about friendship and forgiveness, illustrated by Prue Pittock and published by EK Books. It is a story about Little Brown Rabbit and Little Grey Rabbit who have an argument. As they go their separate ways into the night, the wind whispers around them to remind them of their sharp words. The story portrays the physical and emotional journey of two best friends as they experience feelings of anger, sadness and loneliness after the argument. Young readers will learn that friendship can overcome differences and disagreements.”

Larissa sent the manuscript to EK Books just three months after completing the Writing Picture Books course.

“Two weeks later, I got an email from the publisher, Anouska, saying she liked my story. Following that, my manuscript was taken to an acquisition meeting a few months later, and I got the exciting news that my story would be added to the EK Books list!”

Larissa is now working in a preschool with four and five-year-olds, who are a constant inspiration for new stories. In fact, Larissa already has another contract with EK Books for her next picture book and her imagination shows no signs of slowing down.

“I often write my stories in my head before I get anything down on paper. Sometimes I think about a story idea so much I even dream about it! When I sit down to write, I try to get the whole story down in one go. After that comes the editing phase, where I pull out sentences or change words. I always set out my pagination from the moment I start writing. It makes me think about how much information and action I want on each page, and what words I can pull out to leave space for the illustrator to create their own perspective of the story.”

Understanding how to paginate your picture book correctly before you send it to a publisher is important – and students of the Writing Picture Books course learn exactly how to do that.

Larissa’s process is influenced by the tools and tips she learned during her courses at the Australian Writers' Centre, especially Writing Picture Books.

“I absolutely recommend to everyone to go and do a course with AWC if you are serious about writing. The Writing Picture Books course is structured so well and allows you to build on to your learning each week. It is manageable to do in your spare time, even if you are working, studying or parenting full time. An AWC course is comprehensive and gives you all the required technical information you need to know about writing picture books. The absolute best part of the AWC Writing Picture Books course is the incredible feedback from your tutor (who was a published author) that you get on your own stories. Getting this feedback and being able to see other participants' feedback was so valuable to my writing process.”

Courses completed at AWC:

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