Monthly Archives: October 2015

Five totally awesome things to include when writing your story

  1. Theme – children’s picture books have one strong theme. This is one insight or concept or viewpoint. Keep it positive, especially if a social problem as you want your reader to know how to deal with it.
  2. Plot – conflict involving the main character. This conflict can be internal or external and it needs to be resolved. The character learns through the process. (The lesson learnt is the theme!) Make sure there are events and action, not internal musings.
  3. Story structure – jump right in! Start later than you meant to and finish promptly. Keep it simple and avoid flashbacks. Are there a number of scenes? Is it told in the first person or the third person? Does it have a single point of view? Time – is it past or present?
  4. Character – someone the reader identifies with. Top age of the intended readership. Have one telling detail as an identifier.
  5. Style and tone – simple, direct, avoiding chunks of narration. If younger audience, embrace poetic devices (rhythm, repetition, alliteration) Don’t be cute, sweet, sentimental or condescending.

Kate receiving 'The Lost Calf' (1) copy

The magic from children’s picture books is fully realised when you read them aloud. You will certainly instinctively find that anything is missing from your story if you do so!

Now go and write – and read…





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Filed under Emma Mactaggart, Writing Tips

Just Write For Kids has Moved!!

Jwfk pic labeled

Dear Valued Subscribers,  

Thank you for joining the Just Write For Kids Blog! Your loyalty and interest in our growing community is very much appreciated.  

We’ve had a successful first six months, with a wonderful line up of fascinating and insightful articles by our generous bloggers; regulars and guest posters! We’ve had author interviews, writing journey reflections, access to useful links, accounting tips, publishing tips and technical tips! What more could you ask for!  

We are absolutely thrilled to announce that our blog now has a BRAND NEW website! How exciting is that?! Nothing has changed except the title (now Just Kids Lit) – we’re still operating under the Just Write For Kids Australia brand. To be able to continue to grow and expand our literary community, we would love for you to head over and subscribe to the new site, and even tell your friends about it! And what’s more, we would love to feature you or your book event for FREE exposure, so if you have a great article on writing for children or want us to advertise your launch or other festival*, please get in contact!  


Thank you! Look forward to catching you on the other side!  

With Kind Regards,  

Romi Sharp
Founder and Director of Just Write For Kids Australia  

* Please download and read the conditions here.

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Where DO ideas come from? Tips for kids…

Emma Mactaggart Ideas

And tips for adults searching for their inner child!

‘I just can’t think of a good idea…’

I want to tell you right now, you have thousands of ideas already in your head and it just a matter of letting them land on the piece of paper in front of you!

You are looking at me, pleading for help! It is so tricky to come up with an idea on demand, on the spot, when there are so many other fun things to think of.

Well, actually – write down those fun things. Answer the question – what do you want to do this weekend if you are allowed to do ANYTHING!

  1. You are sitting there, chewing the tip of your pencil! All you can think about was the very funny thing your friend said at lunchtime.

Right! Write down that funny thing! Fill in what happened before and what happened afterwards.

  1. You are so distracted. The boys beside you in the classroom said some really mean words and you feel like crying.

OK – so write it down. Now describe those boys (make them smelly animals!) and describe what happened afterwards when you told them to be nice!

  1. Your teachers says, ‘Hello? Are you here?’ because you are so distracted you have missed the school bell ringing and the classroom is empty!

Grab your pen – write down that daydream – quickly, now, before you forget what distracted you in the first place.

  1. Finally, you were getting ready for sport on Saturday and you felt that funny feeling in your tummy, nervousness! You had a flash, a great idea of how you were going to deal with it…

Yes, you are onto this now – WRITE IT DOWN.

Every experience you have, good or bad, can be the base ingredient for a story. And the only difference between a story and a flash of an idea – it is written down.

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Filed under Emma Mactaggart, Writing Tips

My best, worst feedback.

I am a writer. I love writing. Am I any good? I don’t know.

When I began writing I craved feedback. I wanted to find out whether my writing was good enough to go the next step or an enjoyable past time.

I attended a Writer’s Workshop in Port Hedland hoping no-one I knew attended.  The presenter, the lovely, talented Marlish Glorie, (author of Sea Dog Hotel and The Bookshop on Jacaranda Street), saw potential. It was the confidence I needed to continue my writing for others. I submitted my first Picture Book manuscript to Kids Book Review competition and waited.

The email came back, I wasn’t a winner but the feedback was good, better than I expected. The assessor even wrote LOVED in capital letters.


This was it, I am a writer, I am going to write. I wrote articles to magazines, wrote about electrical goods, submitted to any competition I could find, joined many online writing networks as a regular contributor, began a Facebook page, Twitter account, Instagram and Pinterest. I wrote about anything and everything, no focus, no goal I just wrote.

A year later I submitted again to Kids Book Review, if I received 38.5 out of 50 last time then surely with all the writing I had been doing I would have improved. I neglected to think about the manuscript I had sent in didn’t have the year of passion, commitment and thought placed into it like the previous year’s.

This is when my reality check came in. After again the waiting, the feedback was ready. I felt like I had received a big, fat, red cross. Of course, the assessors at Kids Book Review did not put a cross on the page, but the feedback was honest, accurate and the worst I had received.


I thought long and hard. It was my wake up call.

I learnt to be a writer you need to be, focussed, passionate, committed, thick skinned, and proud.

I became focussed, I spent a lot of time deciding why I wanted to write and what I wanted to achieve from my writing. I only kept writing networks which met my goal and personality.

I stay committed to my writing goal, not allowing myself to be side-tracked by online writing opportunities.

I have become thick-skinned (well sort of) I found an editor who was honest and whom I respected. I continually research, learn and write to improve my skills.

I have pride in my work, knowing that whenever I publish anything, even the 140 characters on twitter, it is to the best of my current ability.

Am I a good writer? Who really knows.

Am I a passionate writer with a clear focus on my goal, ‘Developing children’s reading and writing skills, through stages not ages?’ Yes.

Have you ever received feedback which made you stop and think? Feel free to share below, the good the bad and the brutal.




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Filed under Jenny Graham, Writing Tips

Super Easy Image Attribution for flickr

Blog posts and images are a match made in heaven. While it’s easiest to use your own photos, most times I find I don’t have a photo to suit.

There are numerous websites with images a blogger can use for free provided they meet any specified attribution requirements. This blog post is not about finding those sites. A quick Google will identify pages of posts listing and ranking image sites. If you’re looking for that you could try these lists from the buffer blog and Canva.

flickr3This post is about my favourite site. I have three sites I use regularly – flickr, Pixabay and FreeImages. The latter two frustrate me more often than not because while I might find a suitable image, the best image, the one I would much rather have, is displayed to taunt me. It costs money.

While Flickr contains some copyright images a blogger can’t use, it’s easy to search by copyright restriction category. The available images are a higher standard in terms of creative composition, theme and subject compared to what I find for free on other sites. You don’t need to setup a flickr account to use the images.

There’s one more reason that makes flickr images my favourite choice. It’s an app called the cc flickr attribution helper. This is a bookmarklet developed by cogdog which will generate a Creative Commons attribution script  – as text or html – for easy cut-and-paste insertion into your blog (or document).

Here’s how it works. Once you have the bookmarklet installed (instructions follow), find the image you want to use on Flickr, remembering to search by a usable image category. For my example image, I searched the “commercial use allowed” category because I know that will give me an image with some restrictions, to best demonstrate the bookmarklet.


I feel like ice-cream tonight so I selected the above image by Rachel_S_Lee from my search results. You can see in the bottom right of the screen it has “some rights reserved” and these relate to the attribution and that you can’t derive anything from it. To create the correct attribution click the cc flickr attribution helper in the browser tray and it will generate both the html code and text.


If I copy and paste the html into my blog it will look like this:

flickr photo shared by Rachel_S_Lee under a Creative Commons ( BY-ND ) license

And if I use the text, it will look like this:

flickr photo by Rachel_S_Lee shared under a Creative Commons (BY-ND) license

If I make a mistake and select an image which is restricted, the bookmarklet will provide a message saying the image can’t be used, even with attribution.

You can install the cc flickr attribution helper bookmarklet from here on github. There are a number of options but the easiest way, and the way I did it, is to drag the bookmarklet to your browser bar. If you prefer visual instructions, this YouTube will help you. It was created by Richard Byrne who blogs at Free Technology for Teachers, one of my favourite blogs.

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Filed under Sandy Fussell, Tech Tips

A Curious Tale: Interview with Longy Han

imageLongy Han loves a bit of adventure and travel, and with her natural curiosity and imagination, she aptly developed her new book series, ‘The Curious Travels of Gusto & Gecko’. Longy’s personal journey resulted in this wondrous quest between a pair of time-travelling dinosaurs, taking on the world one city at a time. The first book, bravely crowdfunded and self-published by Longy, is ‘Gusto and Gecko Travel to Kenya’.

Crafted by Elinor Hägg, the adorable, cartoonised illustrations with their bold and vibrant earth-tones sweep the pages, immediately hooking its readers in for the wild ride ahead. A naive prehistoric dinosaur pair jet off in their Rombom travel machine and enter an unknown land. Experiencing a real sense of urgency, the story takes off when a ferocious lion charges at their heels, and they dart through the plains of the serengeti. In each scene, upon encountering other African wildlife in their natural habitats, Gusto and Gecko attempt trickery to escape the jaws of the attacking lion. But no dust, hiding places, or blending in with the wildebeest crowd fool the roaring beast, until a fortuitous camouflage disguise saves their tails. A jolly celebration and a beautiful sunset conclude their extraordinary escapade on this present Sunday afternoon.

imageConnecting with themes including teamwork and courage, ‘Gusto and Gecko’ primarily aims to broaden the minds and awareness of its young readers to our fascinating world and cultures within it. This book is humorous and suspenseful with a plethora of details to explore, including the two concealed dinosaurs and their little mice companions. Flipping the ordinary and logic on its head, Longy Han has produced a wonderfully imaginative story that will have its early primary readers longing to take this tumultuous expedition again and again.

Han Creative, September 2015.

I spoke with Longy about how her ideas hatched and the plans set on her future horizon.

Congratulations on the release of your first picture book, Gusto & Gecko Travel to Kenya! Can you briefly explain your publishing process?

Gusto & Gecko was made possible through crowdfunding with the help of family, friends and the wider community. Elinor, my rockstar illustrator, was discovered through an online Facebook illustration competition that I ran.   From the get go, I wanted to challenge the traditional publishing process, bend rules and engage with the end consumers. I ran an interactive campaign so I could involve the public from the beginning to the end -people got to vote on the illustration designs which directly impacted on the creative process as well as the outcome of the book. This way, the book is not just mine – it’s all of ours.

‘Gusto and Gecko’ is a fun and lively story of discovery, friendship and shenanigans in the African wilderness. Who or what inspired you to write this story? What do you hope readers will gain from reading it?

I lived in remote Kenya for a month at an orphanage teaching kids mathematics and English (at least I tried)! At the end of my trip, I felt humbled and lucky to walk away with a really valuable life lesson: it doesn’t take much to be happy and kind to others. The animals I saw on my safari trip were also majestic. So I wanted to share my travel experiences and encourage readers to explore the world!

The illustrations by Elinor Hägg are gorgeously animated and humorous. How did the collaboration come about and what was it like to work with her?

Elinor is a graphic designer based in Sweden. I have never met her in my life but I feel incredibly lucky to join forces with her. During the brainstorming and sketching phase, we would Skype on a weekly basis and email several times a day. We brainstormed on our own first and then shared our ideas. Sometimes I come up with the most crazy ideas and Elli would have to put up with me. Overall, it went so well that she has agreed to work on the second book with me (surely that is a good sign)?!

imageWhat was your favourite part of the story to create?

The second page of the book is my favourite page – I love imagining what the travel machine (the Rombom) looks like, how it moves through space and the sounds it makes. The dotted lines actually signify the movements of the Rombom so I hope the little ones will trace those lines as they read the book.

If you could be any African animal which one would you choose? Why?

A giant hippo! How awesome would it be to lie or roll around in wet mud all day? I’m also pretty clumsy so being a hippo means no one can tell if I accidently slipped in the mud or if it were a planned maneuver!

What do you love most about Kenya?

Joie de vivre in the Kenyan people, especially the kids.

What do you love most about writing for children?

Every time I pen a story, I feel liberated – like a kid again where curiosity knows no bounds, imagination runs free and absurdity is accepted, treasured and enjoyed.

imageYou are currently planning another crowdfunding campaign for your second book, Gusto & Gecko Travel to New Orleans. What can you reveal about this next title in the series?

The next book will be set in New Orleans. This year is the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and I want to, through storytelling, celebrate what a beautiful and truly fascinating city New Orleans is. After all, it is the birthplace of jazz, home to authentic Cajun and Creole cooking and breeding ground for dangerous alligators!

Gusto & Gecko’s first stop is none other than the quintessential Café du Monde, best known for its signature beignets. As Gusto devours the hot, crispy, sugar-dusted beignet, nothing will prepare them for what happens next! Will you travel with us?

What else can we look forward to from Longy Han and her adorable friends, Gusto and Gecko?

A lot more absurd and fun-filled stories about countries around the world!

Thanks so much for talking with me, Longy! 🙂

Longzhen Han also has a vision to invest in the future of our next generation by giving back to the community. She is running a ‘BOOK FOR BOOK’ promise where every purchase made via the current crowdfunding campaign will include a donated copy to a child in need. Please head to the Gusto and Gecko campaign to make a pledge. You can also find more information about Longy and her book series at her website and facebook pages.  

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Filed under Author Interviews, Book News, Book Reviews, Romi Sharp

10 tips for getting the books out of the garage!

You have already achieved the most extraordinary thing – you have written AND illustrated your own picture book. You finally have that perfect gem!

Did you know over 80% of Americans want to write a book? Did you now over 150,000 titles were added last month to Amazon? It is a challenge now to let other people know your book is ready to fall into their eager hands.

If you want to generate an income from your book, you can do these simple things to help sales:

  1. Pick which format (eBook or print) and confirm the file extension by searching your own website or the Amazon sites for your book.
  2. Copy this url LINK
  3. Determine a ‘call to action’ – for example ‘Down load your copy today’ or ‘Buy a print copy and I would love to sign it for you’ or ‘The 100th share and I will give you a copy…
  4. Share this LINK with your world, along with the image of the book cover
    • by posting it on FACEBOOK
    • emailing the LINK
    • instagram the LINK
  5. Or use your book cover as an image on a postcard and send an invitation to purchase your book to EVERYONE – the old fashioned snail mail!
  6. Make and copy a book mark, with your book cover and a ‘call to action’
  7. You geo local bookstore will often have a  ‘local author’ section! They happily stock the books on commission.
  8. Design and make your own flyer and include a headshot photo of yourself and write about you as the author – which is an awesome way to promote your books, especially if you have a number of titles! Take this everywhere you offer to read your book!
  9. For example – to the local library and offer to read the book to children in the school holidays.
  10. Or, finally, offer to read the book to the kindergarten at your children’s school – after all, this was where the whole journey possibly started!


Have fun!

Kate receiving 'The Lost Calf' (1) copy



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Filed under Emma Mactaggart, Writing Tips

The Journey Begins

Following several rides on The Giant Drop, I took a rather giddy step back. It felt as though the manuscripts I’d submitted were starting to turn on me. ‘Oh, you think we’re so good. You think you’ll be turning publishers away with all the attention we’ll bring. You think your books will be up in literary lights… think again! We’re nothing, but wish-wash! You’ll never have your name on a book if we’re all you have to offer!’

Ah, the old seed of self-doubt, angrily sprouting away. Wondrous, isn’t it?!

I needed to view the bigger picture. As difficult as it was, I decided to put those pesky manuscripts aside and start something fresh. My morale yearned for it. In early 2014, I created a character; a curious, young boy on a quest to problem-solve, using his active imagination. I had hopes of turning his adventures into a picture book series. I drafted the first story and within a few months of daily rewrites and edits, he was ready. I knew it this time. This little guy was not going turn on me!

I submitted my manuscript to Kids’ Book Review for assessment and was delighted with the feedback. My idea was unique, entertaining and picture-book-appropriate. The one thing letting it down was that I had written the story in rhyme and the meter was inconsistent in most parts. The irony of a musician failing to write rhythmically, but I later realised my struggle may be because there’s no musical accompaniment in a book! No instrumentation to fill gaps and complete phrases.

Although there were many positives to my creation, the manuscript still needed work.

A highly experienced and professional author and editor, from the KBR team, saw promise in the story idea and my approach to improving it, and offered her services to work with me. How grateful I was, to have her knowledge and expertise helping my story (and me as a writer)! I’m thankful every day, for this experience.

Seeing my story take much better shape, I decided there were to be no ‘giant drops’ with this one. I knew it shone and my editor agreed. I showed the complete manuscript to fellow creatives and they also agreed. All signs were pointing the same way, urging me to transform this story to book. Following thorough research, I decided to self-publish. A 100% guarantee that my work would see the light of day and 100% creative control over its publication. I like having control. Some say, I need it. I’m relieved and thankful that I followed those signs because it was the beginning of a long and wonderfully rewarding (and challenging!) journey.


Catch you next month for the next leg. 🙂

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Filed under Author Business, Book News, Publishing Tips, Renee Price

You have the right to see your words in print! Step Ten…

10. Print and Perform

The words and the pictures are done. You know the output – eBook and or print – and you have already put a great deal of thought into your book launch and hopefully, beyond.

Printing a book is a stage requiring your focus for a moment. The single determinant is your budget. How much are you prepared to outlay right now? It could take years to recover the costs unless you are working on sales full time, so make sure it is either unallocated funds in your budget or you can afford the outgoing with the incoming return effectively on the ‘drip’.

It is useful to have already sought quotes from various printers, both locally and overseas. (I am assuming you are reading this entire document at first sitting, then going back to set one!) For local printers, I strongly recommend sourcing from your own immediate backyard. The shipping costs for books can be astronomical simply because of weight. For overseas printers, buyer beware! Once the books have left the factory and are loaded on a ship, there is no way to return the product if it is faulty. An agent is useful to say the least.

Aside from a printer, a graphic designer is your true friend at the moment! If they are worth their weight in gold, they will be able to take over the conversation with the printers to ensure the internal pages are set up correctly to accommodate ‘bleed’ and the cover is a separate document. You will have to specify paper stock, binding method and soft or hard cover. Don’t panic about any of this – simply ask questions if you don’t understand a question or a request for information. All the printers and graphic designers I have ever worked with have been amazingly patient with a ‘newbie’.

The graphic designer will also set up all the pages and text as you wish. This includes the imprint page, cover and blurb at the back. Be prepared! I suggest setting up a DropBox file (or other file sharing tool) and add a folder with illustrations – scanned or photographed to the highest possible quality. A second folder with a sample of the imprint page, including business logos, photos, ISBN and copyright qualification statement AND your storyboard! Finally, add a third folder with a copy of the manuscript. This file sharing will be invaluable as your designer will be able to upload a PDF draft of your book in construction for you to approve!

And then the file goes to the printer – and you wait…

And wait…

And wait…

Not time to rest on your laurels though – this is the PERFECT time to do a tonne of administration stuff to get organised. Think of yourself now as marketing and PR manager! Remember you had to finalise plans for the book launch? The book release venue has been contacted again to confirm your intentions and you are shopping any moment now for the catering. How about now writing press releases to send to media outlets? You can have teacher resources considered and a social media platform you have been priming for the launch. Remember your SWOT analysis though? You have already decided your skills and weaknesses and these will heavily influence your plans at this point.

Step 10.

Let’s jump right to the point when the books arrive…

You have planned for this moment! I can nearly picture you crying as you hold your book in your hands. It is incredible, overwhelming, exciting, intimidating and humbling. A cacophony of emotion and you’ve earnt every one of them.

Well, You did it! 


You are a published author. I told you that you could do this.

Who knows what glorious things await you after this point…


Have fun!

YHTR Step Ten

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Filed under Emma Mactaggart, Writing Tips

Working with an Awesome Publisher

Guest Post By Dianne (Di) Bates

Dianne (Di) Bates, award-winning author of over 120 books for children, recipient of The Lady Cutler Award 2008, and founder of the popular Buzz Words e-zine, reflects on her most recent publishing experience with Big Sky Publishing.

imageWorking with Australian publisher Big Sky Publishing to produce my two latest books, Awesome Cats and Awesome Dogs has been, in a word, awesome! I emailed my manuscripts in late January this year, receipt was acknowledged the next day, and them less than three weeks later I received an email from the publisher Diane Evans saying the company was interested. Submitting a manuscript and having it contracted in less than two months is something I hadn’t experienced in many years. This was the beginning of what has turned out to be a very happy journey for me.

The publisher was a total delight to work with; I was constantly told what was happening and my opinion sought and when I was sent samples of the artwork to approve, I was even happier. Each of the books feature lots of gorgeous illustrations combined with coloured photographic images of adorable dogs and cats from Best Friends Rescue and Little Legs Cat Rescue. The inclusion of real-life images and stories of the charismatic animals from these pet rescue organisations adds another level of education and inspiration. The books also feature quirky cartoon characters; the information is attractively presented with lots of break-out boxes – the whole of the books are all wonderfully designed.

Big Sky Publishing also promotes their titles via schools through Redgum Book Club, focusing on quality children’s books for children aged 4 to 13 years of age. Diane Evan’s sister, Sharon, who is responsible for book promotion, has also been a blessing in the publishing process. On top of that, Jodie Bennett, who also works with the Evans’ sisters, has been responsible for the production and delivery of bookmarks and posters – all in full, bright colour, and like the illustrations in each of the books, beautifully designed and presented.

imageI could not have imagined that the Awesome Cats, Dogs and Horses’ books would turn out as brilliantly as they have. My whole experience with Big Sky Publishing from start to finish has been an author’s dream… in fact I really couldn’t have dreamed it, only hoped for it. What is also exciting is that the company will publish two more awesome books in mid 2016: Awesome Horses and Awesome Kids. I’m sure they will be just as awesome as the two coming out on 1 October this year.
Each paperback book has about 150 pages and retails for $14.99. The books will also be available as e-books ($6.99) and distribution to bookshops is through Woodslane, phone: (02) 8445 2300 F: (02) 9970 5002,,

People can also buy the books at the following links:
Awesome Cats … and Awesome Dogs.
Details about Dianne (Di) Bates
Twitter: @dibatesauthor
Blog: Writing for Children

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