The Writing Life… it’s not all about the writing

Most people get a huge shock when you hit them with the facts – no, we don’t expect to ever earn enough royalty from our writing/ illustrating to rival JK Rowling. It’s more the case of what JK Rowling spends on her pet cat. Yearly.

Luckily, we don’t do it for money (alone)! 

Most of us have to supplement our income visiting schools and libraries, promoting reading, writing and heaven’s above, even our own books. The good side is, it’s fun! Sometimes stressful, but fun all the same.

I’ve asked author, Sue Lawson (on the occasion of the launch of her new book, Forget me not) to answers some in-depth questions about hitting the author appearance trail and how she copes with the bumps and hollows of these author gigs. 

Sue Lawson, Australian author

Welcome north of the border, Sue! I’ve got some specific questions that would interest practising authors…..

1. When you have a class group, do you plan the writing activities around your novels?

When I run straight author talks, I discuss how I come up with ideas and the writing process. It’s during these sessions that I focus on my novels.

For the workshops, I use my experiences to illustrate what I am teaching. For example, when showing students a way to capture ideas, I’ll show them my planning book with the original mind map that kicked off the story, or if we’re doing dialogue, I might show a piece of editing where I have changed a slab of text to dialogue and explain why.  I think kids become very sick of ‘in my book.’ ‘When I was writing…’

Instead I focus on books I’ve read and loved like David Metzenthen’s Black Water, Karen Tayleur’s Six or Julia Lawrinson’s Bye Beautiful for older readers and Michael Gerard Bauer’s Just A Dog or Glenda Millard’s Kingdom of Silk series for younger readers. Doing this also helps to encourage kids to read.

2. Do teachers tell you what they want you to impart?

Generally teachers will tell me what they want me to focus on before I arrive. I would much rather work on what the school sees the students as needing, rather than me come in and focus say on characters when the kids really need help with dialogue. The teachers give me the topic and I design activities around this. It’s best to stick to one area, as an hour goes very quickly, particularly when you have the kids writing and sharing their work.

3.  What type of activities do you find most useful?

That’s a tough one – the success of the activity depends on the group. I love working on character and dialogue and use pictures I’ve collected to help inspire the students. Asking the kids to share is a powerful way to teach – once the kids know you are going to be positive they fall over themselves to read, which gives you an opportunity to impart all kinds of incidental information. ‘I love how you named that character straight way.’ ‘Fantastic start – you’re straight into the problem.’ Etc.

 The best tip I can give is to ask the teacher about the students’ needs and listen to what they say. You’ll pick up all kinds of hints. While you are setting up the visit, bounce around ideas and listen to the reaction from the organiser – you’ll know straight away if your idea is a winner.

Many thanks, Sue. I’m sure these insights will be helpful to lots of us JK Rowling-cat-feed-earning authors (and illustrators)  



Our other two competition winners….

Check out the logos on our FACEBOOK SITE 


Our new SCBWI (QLD) blog logo

We’ve chosen our three winners.

Thank to to all our entrants! We have a wealth of talent in this state. 

1. OUR BLOG LOGO – illustrated by Anil Tortop, in collaboration with author, Jennifer Poulter.

2. OUR FACEBOOK LOGO – designed and illustrated by Jennifer Pearce.

3. OUR OUTDOOR BANNER LOGO – designed and illustrated by Lynn Priestley. 

(c) Anil Tortop and Jennifer Poulter

Jennifer Poulter:  My design symbolises the joyous spirit of creativity! The pelican represents authors and illustrators catching ideas, surfing waves of inspiration. It also symbolises Queensland with its long, long coastline and the pelican, one of our most prolific water-birds, which is found on the coast and on inland lakes.  Water symbolises growth, nourishing, renewal – a great symbol for the dissemination of knowledge and the generation of ideas, the stimulation of imagination. It also captures the joy of playing in water, which all children love whether it is in the bath on the beach, river or lakeside, in the pool or under the hose!

Anil executed the design and – a stroke of genius – incorporated the Q for Queensland in the wave!


New Blog Logo coming soon!

Yes, soon we’ll reveal the logo competition winners. We’ve chosen three separate logos that each have suitable attributes – one for Facebook, one for this blog and one for a banner. Who says you only need one logo?

Special thanks to artist, illustrator and designer, Aaron Pocock for his valuable advice.