Janeen Brian


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.