Leanne Barrett: Creative Kids Tales Writers Festival 2018 Wrap Up

Monday 26 March 2018

Creative Kids Tales Writers Festival 2018 Wrap Up

Georgie Donaghey asked the attendees of the Creative Kids Tales Writers Festival 2018 to be 'Prepare to be inspired!' and we were definitely inspired.

The hand of hope is needed in the story. - Suzanne Gervay
Write something memorable. - Suzanne Gervay
Do things in a positive light. - Georgie Donaghey
Take the germ of the truth, then lie and be good at it. - Wai Chim
Go to lots of talks and gleam ideas. - Tristan Bancks
Write the story that only you can tell. Your heart story. - Sue Whiting
Authors please leave space in your manuscript for the illustrator. - Sarah Davis
Illustrators are like film directors, they choose the cast (characters) and the set for the action to occur. - Sarah Davis

Making a Difference with your Stories. Susanne Gervay

As usual Susanne's energy and passion shines throughout the room as she calls writers to partner with the child reader. She reminds us that we only have one page to make an impression.What's your point of difference?

Susanne encouraged us to write the stories that include the 'brave' topics. But when we write about these issues, we need to drip feed them into the story. We need to create a story that includes light and hope. Susanne is very experienced in writing children's stories about the 'brave' topics eg. Gracie and Josh I Am Jack Series and Butterflies. Susanne drip feeds information into a story without telling kid's what's good for them, instead she helps children find the answers that they need within the story.

Top tips from Suzanne are the 4 Rs
    • Research - to make it believable, even writers of picture books need to research.
    • Read - make time to read as it is part of your writing work and read the best in your genre.
    • Rethink - use critique groups and then do the editing work.
    • Relate - use your own experiences as they give you an authentic place to start.

A Beginner's Roadmap to the Children's Writing Industry.
Georgie Donaghey

Georgie, the founder of Creative Kids Tales (CKT), is committed in helping other people on their writing journey.

It is this mentoring passion that led Georgie to organise the CKT Writers Festival. She has impressively navigated the waters to bring attendees a most professional event, that appeared to run smoothly, without any hiccups.

For this session, Gerogie generously shared her years of writing experience to assist aspiring children's writers. She presented the audience with a roadmap so they don't need to drive around the industry, lost in the fog.

Georgie shared many tools to help beginner writers with their journey of becoming an author.

But how do you even begin the journey?

The first step beginner writers can take is what everyone at the CKT Writers Festival did, attend a festival (or conferences or workshop) where you can learn about writing. At each of these events you might only take away one small gem but eventually you need to be brave and put it all together and get writing.

Once you have done the work the next step is to participate in manuscript assessments and critique groups, as their feedback and guidance is valuable in developing your craft. Georgie asks us to please remember that if you write a manuscript that needs illustrations please leave space for an illustrator. Don't tell illustrators how to illustrate they don't tell you how to write.

So you've polished your story and are ready to take the plunge in submitting your manuscript to a publisher. Georgie reminds us to always follow the publisher's guidelines. Never feel that you can only submit to one publisher. You can submit your manuscript to more than one publisher, just state that you are submitting your work to multiple publishers.

Once your manuscript has been accepted by a publisher how can you help your publisher promote you and your book?

Georgie encourages attendees of the festival to use their author platforms to assist in self promotion. Before you are published, use your author platform as a vehicle to get your name out there. Take the time to make connections; meet other writers, read stories at schools and have an online presence (website and/or social media). Use these connections to help promote your book but don't just use these connections for self promotion. It is important to create a relationship with your friends and followers.

There are several social media platforms to choose from. Georgie's main advice is, that when using social media, keep the number of platforms you use to a managable size to maintain. At the time of this festival Georgie recommended that if you are going to choose one platform maybe consider opening a Facebook author page.

Finally, Georgie asked us to remember author etiquette. Do not monopolise an author friend's time, they may too busy to help you, they are not an ATM. Remember no-one owes you anything so leave a good impression. 

Writing About What You Know. Wai Chim

Wai's presentation had some lasting impressions on me. She spoke about how a writer can take the germ of the truth and then lie to create a good story.

This premise is, that as writers we use what we know as the foundation of our story. That it is our experiences and knowledge that helps make the characters feel real and believable.

But this germ of truth does not mean that the story is autobiographical. How much of the story that we tell, is true? Wai encouraged us to use this germ of truth and then lie, make it a good lie by creating structure.

This structure of our story might be what we know but it also might be writing about what we don't know.

Wai suggests the following things when we write;
    • Research, research, research. 
    • Focus on the human experience.
    • Write about something that makes you passionate.

And finally, especially if we write about what we don't know, be prepared to accept criticism. Take time to understand the criticism and listen to it.

How to write a Successful Series and Marketing yourself and your work. Tristan Bancks 

Tristan attributed some of his writing success to, committing to writing morning pages (3 pages of uninterrupted writing before you begin your day). All The Duck Pond festival attendees noted that Tristan was using an A5 notebook. There was a consensus in the room that, we could all easily write morning pages using an A5 notebook, rather than the A4 size Jen Storer prescribed.

Like other successful series writers, Tristan draws on experiences from his own childhood and he also likes to get school children to brainstorm future story ideas. He recognises the children's ideas by adding their name to the book. Tristan suggests that you make sure you love the series idea and that once you don't like it any more end the series.

When it comes to marketing yourself, Tristan thinks that people need to be able to find you online, through your website or via a social media account eg. Instagram, YouTube, Twitter or Facebook. Writers who connect with readers find it easier to be published.

His top tip when using social media is that, you protect your writing time before you socialise.

When it comes to marketing your work try to think of ways to use the skills you have from your previous work to help you. Tristan uses marketing methods like launch parties, book trailers, kids television programs and downloadable things on his website eg. games, soundtracks list etc. Think of resources that teachers can show children. You don't have to spend a lot of money but it helps you connect with your readers. Remember to share a story about where your book started.

Tristan's final marketing tip is, to use a poster or a banner at talks and during book trailers. These kinds of visual aids help children remember who you are and the name of your books.

Let's Talk Publishing. Sue Whiting

Some of my author friends consider Sue a mentoring extraordinaire.

Sue's advice in the area of publishing is invaluable. She has worked in the industry for around 20 years as an author and editor. So when Sue speaks her pearls of wisdom are gathered and treasured.

What are publishers looking for?

Publishers know what they are looking for when they see it. It could be a gap in the market or a book that enthrals them so much that they can't bear to pass it up, even if it's a hard sell.

How do you give your manuscript the best chance?

Sue told us that you need to write a story that is great from the first line. Your story needs to be un-put-down-able. It needs to get the reader to care about your characters. Your story needs to be written with your heart and shows your point of difference.

Sue believes that your writing craft can improve with practice. So write your morning pages (they help you develop your unique voice), read, practice writing and do manuscript assessments.

When it comes to social media ensure you keep a balance in your life, where you write first and social media second.

When asked about some advice regarding submitting your work as an author/illustrators - Sue suggests that you send in your manuscript in by itself. You can mention that you are also an illustrator, but you are open to someone else illustrating your manuscript. Don't send your illustrations with the manuscript but maybe include a sample you your work.

Finally, when writing cover letters to a publisher, be professional. Make sure that you have no spelling mistakes and try your best to include all the areas that you are requested to include.

Sue is available to provide assistance in editing, manuscript assessments and mentoring. See here for more details.  

The Marriage Between Author and Illustrator. Sarah Davis.

When given a manuscript Sarah will generally ignore the author notes. Firstly she likes to soak up the atmosphere of the story and bring out the main elements of the text. Secondly Sarah will brainstorm ideas and concepts, looking for ways to engage the audience with the story. 

Sarah asks authors to leave space for the illustrator to create the character, setting and action. Illustrators are like film directors they want to be able to get the look that will be identified with the book (colour, style and shape). 

Part of the process of illustration includes;
  • Researching images and information that will be helpful.
  • Characters are developed: clothing, movement, personality, facial expressions and gestures.
  • Media is selected.
  • Additional narratives and sub-stories are added to the pictures.
  • Storyboards are developed

To learn more about the illustration process I would recommend illustrator Nina Rycroft, who has a range of online classes (including Skillshare classes) that can assist you. 

Book Pitch Session

I always am in awe of those who are brave enough to put their name forward to give a book pitch in front of a room full of people. For those in the audience watching and listening you can learn how to give a great pitch.

At the CKT Writers Festival attendees had the chance to add their name to a lucky draw, with a chance to pitch their story to Sue Whiting, Susanne Gervay and Clare Hallifax

Some of the pitches included the following format.
  • Stated the age group the story is for and the genre.
  • A synopsis of the story.
  • Read part of the story up to the cliff hanger.
  • Spoke about where the book is placed in the market, other comparative books, 'My story is like xxx mets xxx.'

Topic wise what did we learn? 
  • That there are never too many poo and prank books.
  • Australian animals being playful is a favourite that doesn't get old.
  • Find an original story that touches hearts.
  • Final suggestion. Can you think of a villain that isn't a fox?

Here are a few photos of some people who pitched books. And yes there were men pitching too.

Panel Session - Creative Kids Tales (CKT) members share their journey.

Geoff, Hayley, Jeffery, Pat & Karen
The final session of the day was an interesting way to learn more about CKT. Georgie collected a panel of CKT members to answer some questions about CKT and writing.

Here are some of the things the panel had to say;
  • It's important to find a good tribe.
  • Manuscript assessments help redefine your writing and craft.
  • Being published means joy, validation and that you get be a messenger though the magic of books.
The panel likes how CKT gives them a chance to..
  • work with others
  • recieve support
  • learn their craft
  • treats writing as a profession
  • networking oppoutunities
The CKT members utilise the following services from CKT...
For more information about Creative Kids Tales and how to become a member go to www.creativekidstales.com.au

Additional Photos

Karen & Leanne
Leanne & Ruth-Mary


  1. Wow! You covered it well Leanne. Thank you so much. ✨

  2. You're welcome Maria. There was so much content and I didn't include everything. Now to get on with the work. :)