Vikki Marmaras was on maternity leave with her second child when she decided she needed a new challenge. She had been writing picture book manuscripts on and off for a few years, but didn’t feel like she was getting anywhere, so she signed up for the course Writing Picture Books.
“I knew that if I wanted to make a success out of my writing I would need some help. The AWC Picture Book course offered everything I needed to know,” Vikki says.
Armed with her new knowledge, Vikki went on to secure contracts for three picture books, starting with her debut Poppy, The Queen and The Seat out now with Red Paper Kite and I Spy Treasure published by New Frontier Publishing.
“The whole process has been like a lovely dream!”
Turning a dream into reality
Vikki was working in communications for an international aid agency and had been thinking about taking a course in children’s writing for a while. But she kept putting it off for the usual reasons: work, family, and weekend commitments.
“I had tried a few things, including starting a very unsuccessful baking blog, and looking at various university courses, but nothing felt as right as writing did,” Vikki says.
That’s when she decided to finally prioritise her passion and enrolled in Writing Picture Books.
“I was determined not to let anything stand in the way of taking some time for myself, and doing something I knew I would love.”
Vikki relished being with other writers and came away with everything she needed to know to successfully write and publish children’s picture books.
“Writing Picture Books taught me so many of the basics, which now seem so obvious,” Vikki says. “For example, I had no idea that many picture books tend to be 32-pages long or about the various structures picture books can take. ‘Show, don’t tell’ was totally new to me, as was the idea of leaving space for illustrations. Aside from English lessons at school, this was my first creative writing tuition, and it was a welcoming, supportive environment to do it in.”
Vikki pitched her manuscript for Poppy, The Queen and The Seat to Red Kite Publishing, and was soon offered her first publishing contract.
“You never forget where you were when you’re offered your first publishing contract (or your second, or third!). In my case I was walking from our lounge room into the kitchen, looking at emails on my phone. The only problem was that our whole family was really, really sick at the same time, so I walked round in a bit of a daze, with ill children clinging to me, rather than doing the obligatory run around the house screaming.
“I’ve done plenty of celebrating since though and I smile constantly that my dream is now a reality.”
Reaching her audience
Vikki’s picture book Poppy, The Queen and The Seat was inspired after a cuddle with her son sparked an idea.
“After that, the story came incredibly quickly and was all consuming. I remember writing various verses as I walked to the shops – it was in my head constantly. I then shared it with my writing group, who helped me perfect it,” Vikki says.
It is filled with an eclectic assortment of chairs, fun rhymes and a fantastic tantrum, and is beautifully illustrated by Caterina Metti.
Vikki's second picture book, I Spy Treasure, features illustrations from award-winning illustrator Binny Talib, and her third picture book will follow in 2024.
With so many books out, Vikki has switched into promotion mode and completed the Presenting to Kids course.
“Presenting to Kids prompted me to think about the little things to consider when I share my book with a live audience. There’s so much more to it than just reading a story – how do you get the gig in the first place, what are the logistics of selling your book afterwards and what sort of pen should you use to sign copies?! I made reams of notes throughout this course and I definitely feel more confident to start offering myself as a presenter once I get the chance.
“I also found the online aspect of Presenting to Kids very useful. I completed the modules in lots of different places – at my kitchen table, commuting to work and even at the gym!”
Vikki still works a ‘normal’ day job and has a young family, so finds time to write in the evenings. The notes app on her phone is filled with ideas that she jots down during the day.
“I’m so pleased I discovered my love for children’s literature. I have so much fun writing children’s stories and am fortunate to have lots of ideas too – some good, some bad! I’m determined to get as many out of my notes app and onto paper as possible. Having said that, I’d still like to write a novel one day, and I can also feel a junior fiction book developing in my head. I need more time – and probably a few more AWC courses too!”