To be a Children’s Writer

Some children know they want to be writers when they grow up.

Others are ‘accidental authors’.

I’m that sort.

For many years I was a teacher and only wrote a few poems for my young daughters. I once tentatively attended a weekend writing course and that’s when I made a discovery.

I knew nothing about writing.

But I began writing a little more. And borrowing ‘How to write’ books from the library.

Was I hooked?

If I’m interested in something, I tend to pursue it to see if the initial appeal is sustainable. But I was interested. And I did love words – and language – and reading.

Luck also played a part. An ex-writing colleague became an educational publisher. That’s where I got my start to write for children. Writing something that’s not necessarily of your choice, to a strict brief and word length is good training ground.

I was being published.

But I still felt as if I was floundering and a fraud. Was I really a writer?

Spurred on by some awards and publishing successes with trade publishers, I wrote. And kept writing. And was rejected. Hundreds of times. However, an important truth is that writing is a craft. Persevere and you can improve.

I wrote to succeed. I wrote to learn. I wrote to enjoy myself and to discover the stories and poems within that would’ve lain dormant, never revealed. I tried always to write from the heart and to connect honestly with my feelings.

I entered dozens of prose and poetry competitions gaining a number of successes or shortlistings.

In 1990, I left my part-time teaching job and became a fulltime writer.

As I tell children in schools, I consider writing hard fun.  It is a tough gig almost at every stage and disappointments abound. But the pay off, when what you wanted to say resonates with your readers, is truly wonderful.

I now consider myself, first and foremost, as a children’s author, although occasionally I write poetry or short stories for adults. I write widely, from picture books to novels, poetry to short fiction and sometimes, non-fiction.

One festival organizer told me she didn’t know where to ‘slot’ me!

Self-doubt comes with the territory of creating and often I’m concerned about finding the next idea. I keep a notebook and I write something every day; sometimes I give myself a word length if I’m struggling, just to get myself over the next hump.

I know now that writing nourishes me. That I have to write; otherwise I feel I’m living only on the surface.

I’m happy that I’ve now have over 100 children’s books published; poetry accepted in 20 anthologies and hundreds of poems and stories published in national and international children’s magazines. I have won many awards, including CBCA and Speech Therapy of Australia Awards and numerous titles have been translated throughout the world.

Having a good relationship with editors and publishers is important to me. Writing is a business and I try to work hard and play fair in this business. My agent of eight years deals brilliantly with many aspects of the publishing industry and has been a great help to me.

There is a joy in crafting and creating, and I feel lucky and privileged that the world of children’s literature is such a warm and wonderful place in which to live.

Janeen Brian

Janeen Brian

Author

Janeen Brian is an avid reader, an ex–primary school teacher and an author of over 100 books. Janeen’s books have been translated and won awards including CBCA Honour Awards for Where does Thursday go?, Hoosh! Camels in Australia, Pilawuk - When I was Young and I’m a Dirty Dinosaur (winner of 2014 Speech Pathology Australia Awards). Janeen’s latest and very endearing picture books include I’m a Hungry Dinosaur and Mrs Dog.