Courses taken at AWC:
Writing Picture Books
Vikki Conley had long dreamed of writing for children. Over the years, that little voice telling her to write books got louder until she simply couldn’t ignore it. She threw in her marketing job, enrolled in an Australian Writers' Centre course and started writing. Very quickly, she established herself as a prolific author, with the publication of seven picture books and contracts with four publishers. Her most recent book, Where the Lyrebird Lives, won the CBCA Book of the Year Awards 2023 in the Early Childhood category, with the judges saying: “This book delights and entices from beginning to end.”
Vikki's other publications include Milly and the Mulberry Tree and the CBCA shortlisted Amira's Suitcase, both released in 2022, Tomorrow Girl, Little Puggle's Song, The Lost Moustache and Ella & Mrs Gooseberry.
The start of the story
“My obsession with words started very young. I began writing as a young child, creating handcrafted books in early primary school. My marketing work often involved writing and being published under different brands/names, and in different forms – like newsletters, annual reports, magazine articles. I also have a genetic link to the legendary novelist, Thomas Alexander Browne (author of Robbery Under Arms). He is my great, great, great, great uncle.
“Perhaps there was no escaping my path towards becoming a published author. It was a buzz in my head that never went away, so I just had to make it happen!”
Before the course, Vikki had already decided to make her writing a priority. “I had just thrown in my permanent marketing job to chase the dream of writing for children. This was after almost 20 years in the marketing and professional writing industry… But the voice in my head that kept telling me to write books had turned into a piercing scream, so I couldn’t ignore it any longer.”
To get herself on the right path with her writing, Vikki looked into courses and found Writing Picture Books. “I liked that it was specific to picture books because I wanted a deep dive in just this category.
“The course really helped me take my writing for children to the next level. It also fuelled me with the confidence I needed to write specifically for picture books. I was an experienced writer, but it’s another thing entirely to write children’s picture books.
“The take home materials were very comprehensive. I referred to them for years after I did the course. The information about structure was particularly helpful.”
Getting the first publishing contract
“I was thrilled and shocked when I first received my contract from EK Books. First, because everyone had said it was so competitive and it would take years. Second, because they contracted me for two of my manuscripts, not just one!
“All of a sudden, I had two book contracts. It was a very happy moment when I realised I could now call myself an author, as well as a writer.
“I’m now one of the most prolific emerging children’s authors, with six picture books released within two years. I have contracts with four separate publishers – Affirm Press, Red Paper Kite, New Frontier Publishing and EK Books.
“Ella & Mrs Gooseberry (EK Books) is a heart-warming story about finding love. Little Puggle’s Song (New Frontier Publishing) is about finding your strength in ways you didn’t expect, set amongst the beautiful Australian bush. Christmas Wonder (Affirm Press) is a joyful ode to everything that is special about coming together at Christmas time.”
And it’s not just writing that fills Vikki’s days now. “When I’m not writing, I’m visiting schools, running creative literacy and story art workshops, and collaborating on special projects like story yoga and inclusive story art for children with disabilities. I also review children’s books, curate my social media pages @courageouspages, and still do professional writing and marketing projects on the side. Oh yes, and I’m a mother of two young children! Life as an author requires fingers in many pies to stay alive.”
Vikki’s advice to anyone considering a course? “Do it. It’ll change your life.”
Congratulations, Vikki! We’re looking forward to even more picture books in the future.