Part Three. My Year in Review: Work and biz, the flops and the favourites

Here’s Part Three of the trilogy, my love!

Talk about a saga.

Let’s start with

This Writing Life. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly!

The Good

Truly Tan: Baffled! (that’s book seven) came out in October (in paperback and in audio).

img_6686The series continues to delight old fans and gather new recruits.

This year I had two letters from two different girls, both of them 16, both of them admitting they return to Truly Tan each time a new book comes out.


I figure if two 16-year-olds can bother to write to me, there must be plenty more out there with the same ‘secret’.

As I always say, kids’ reading habits are fluid.

They will move seamlessly between The Hunger Games and Truly Tan.

Never underestimate, or try to box in, young readers. Age does not define them.

The Truly Tan film

Plans for a live action Truly Tan film continued to take shape.

Watching the screenplay come together and ‘finalise’ at the end of the year, was beyond exciting.

The main story of the screenplay stays true to Book One, with the addition of a totally fabricated subplot that’s funny and lively, and supports the main story beautifully.


Working with the producer and the screenwriters was a dream come true (between them, they have worked on countless projects from Harry Potter to X-Men to Happy Feet).

All those years studying screenwriting held me in good stead as I read the drafts.

I knew what was worth fighting for and when to pull my head in and give the experts their due. I fully understood how different film is from novels.

I was not precious!


The final ‘pitch deck’ document, with a mock-up movie poster, plus photos of our dream cast in situ, (OMG Magda Szubanski as Tan’s school teacher, Miss Dragone, can you imagine?!) was almost as good as seeing the movie.

We will see, dear reader. We will see.

Next step is to convince a mogul to buy the screenplay…

Glad that’s not my job.

I’ll clean windows in my girlfriend’s apartment while I wait.

Speaking of audio books (were we?) I was so happy! to see Truly Tan listed on Leonie Dawson’s Top Books for 2018.

Apparently, Leonie’s daughter who struggles with dyslexia, loves Truly Tan and gets her fix via the audios!

As many of you would know, I love Leonie’s My Shining Year Workbooks and have been using them for years.


I’ve been inspired and educated by Leonie in countless ways, and, well, she’s one of my favourite online personalities.


To see Tan pop up on her blog was a TOTAL BLAST!

The Bad

I can’t say anything bad happened in my writing life this year. That happened in 2017 when I lost my shit and my beautiful publisher gave me a year off!

I used my time away from the writing mill, wisely. See Part One of this trilogy, The Tree Change.

The Ugly

I can now officially say that my picture book, Clarrie’s Pig Day Out, bombed.


I think it has made about $500 over two years. It’s still about 3K in arrears. That is, it’s nowhere near earning back its advance so I’ve seen no further money from it at all.

This means the sequel, Clarrie’s Morning Flea (which I think is even funnier) has been rejected.


No sequels without strong (or at least decent) sales, people!

Why did dear old Clarrie bomb?


Maybe there was too much noise in the marketplace when he was released.

Perhaps he was up against too many Mems and Olivers and Blabeys, and the reps just couldn’t convince book buyers to take him on.

Maybe booksellers were too preoccupied with other titles. Maybe they were too busy or swamped with choice, to do that crucial hand-selling that can make or break our sales (and our careers).

Maybe book buyers (ie the public) simply didn’t know he existed. Or didn’t care (weep).

Maybe I didn’t push it enough.

Clarrie was also overlooked by all the major support bodies in our industry.  Even a long-listing can help boost your book’s visibility.

This ‘rejection’ from the major groups, surprised and saddened me (my publishers and editors, too).

We still believe it’s a highly original book that plays with rhyme and the nuances of language, in subtle, clever and refreshing ways.

Plus, the few children and adults who have read it, have LOVED it. Like, they quote from it!

But I guess the CBCA and the Speech Pathology people yawned.

And that’s how it goes.

That’s why you MUST have a thick skin in this industry.

Blanket rejections from every sector hurt.

But if we want to keep creating, we have to hang in there.

We. Have. To.

Besides, without its hardy, brave, DETERMINED creators, there would be no industry.

Which brings me to Girl and Duck!


My online biz kept growing, as did the beautiful Duckie community.

See that Make Kidlit Magic banner up there? We’re getting rid of that line in the banner.

That line is a great example of vague or ‘jargony’ marketing.  ‘Make Kidlit Magic’ does not clearly state what we do or what we are on about.

This year, we are going back to, ‘The art of writing books for kids’. Watch all the spaces…


The growth of girl and duck meant my online life became more and more frantic.


Holding space for hundreds of people is emotionally and intellectually draining.

That’s why I switched off my phone and escaped to the outback in November.

I needed to RUN!

I needed down time.

Wild donkeys in a dust storm. Silverton NSW

Avoiding burn-out is a constant challenge for anyone who runs an online biz.

In 2019, I’m putting way more support strategies in place.

What might these look like?

More holidays, all of them scheduled.


More time with friends and family.

My son’s girl said, ‘Glad you got the memo, Jen’. 😉

Regular massages (monthly).

I need to hire more biz help, too.

I could do with another virtual assistant. Just part-time, mostly to manage my inbox. I’m researching the possibilities.

Everyone says get a cleaner. But cleaning doesn’t worry me (see pic of window cleaner above) and, besides, a cleaner would stress me (I’d have to clean up for them, right?).

I’ll hire a book-keeper this year, too.

I’ve also hired a business coach. We’ll be working together from Feb to April. I need help streamlining the biz, systematizing the repetitive stuff,  increasing girl and duck’s exposure and growing our mailing list.

Tough decisions this year

1 No more sales.

I believe we’ve had enough sales.

I believe all our products are of the highest quality and are totally unique in this market.

Our back-up and ongoing support is also second-to-none.

We don’t just sell you a course then dump you! We go on a journey with you!

Being firm on price is a MAJOR challenge. Especially for women. It’s like we feel guilty for even trying to sell something. We are always fucking apologising!

If you want to see a hilarious (and scarily accurate) video about women’s selling techniques watch this video. It’s brilliant.

Please note! Even if you’re ‘only’ an author or illustrator, you need to be able to ‘sell’ your books, or promote your work, with grace, pride and energy.

Selling is not just for those of us who own a biz.

Take a look around the kids book industry. I would hazard a guess that the blokes go in way harder in terms of promo than do the women.

Why is this??

Just like money mindset guru, Denise Duffield Thomas (in the video above), I want to role model good business habits to other women.

And, I don’t want my biz to come across as a ‘bargain basement’ option or a cheap alternative.

We are up there with the best and it’s time our prices reflected that.

2 . I decided to monetize Q and Q Friday (questions and quacks).

There are now 100 of these creative writing videos, FREE, on YouTube.

But, as from 2019, our new videos will  be hosted on Vimeo and there will be a  subscription fee of $50 per year.

If you’re on my mailing list I’ll send you all the deets, so you can pay your subs and get on board before the first season starts in February!


Girl and Duck Highlights, 2018

The Scribbles Masterclass in May!


Three hours of creative writing, connection, giggles and major breakthroughs for many!

I’m hosting another Scribbles Masterclass in May this year.

I’m so excited to be meeting up with everyone again and to be covering lots of juicy, new material!



Another MAJOR highlight was our Creative Writing Awards in November!


This was when I realised, perhaps for the first time, that girl and duck now has a clear purpose.

When I began, it was a business.

Personally, I was mostly about numbers and growth. (If you’re not about these things at the start, you won’t have a business for long!)

My first business coach said, ‘Eventually you must have a higher purpose for your biz or  you’ll lose momentum and HEART.’

Apart from providing quality products, I couldn’t figure out what that higher purpose could be.

It took time.

And finally, in November this year, the Awards helped me see how much Scribbles (our signature creative writing course) is changing lives.

I was awed by the outpouring of enthusiasm, affection and TALENT.

I was beyond excited to be helping people get visible, achieve their goals and realise their creative dreams.

Through the Awards I actually SAW IT HAPPENING. I saw our higher purpose.

I was helping people GET RESULTS.

And my heart cracked open.

Is there anything better than helping others reach their goals?

Check out the winners and highly commended HERE in our Hall of Fame.

56610540763__6B96D55E-A4F2-4D17-9971-19838578BC05Another major highlight of 2018 was the opening of

little tweet

We opened the girl and duck Institute with three video tutorials on creating picture books.

I wanted to host an ‘Institute’ so people with SPECIFIC creative writing problems could simply buy targeted, one-off, in-depth tutorials that would help them gain clarity and insight.

We will add more tutorials to the Institute this year.

If you’re on my mailing list, I’ll let you know when the new tutorials come out.


We also opened a Red Bubble shop this year.

It’s a gorgeous shop.

Duckies and Scribblers alike have loved picking up the odd piece of girl and duck merch, all of it designed by wonder woman Graphic Designer, Zoe Collins!


screenshot 2018-10-10 14.35.47img_6651

Final Highlight!

We got us a Duckie HQ!

Yep, we leased an old shop down the main street. We hooked up NBN, hung some curtains and away we went!



In 2019, I’ll be running workshops and classes from here.

I’ll also be writing here (I have to write the final Truly Tan and the final Danny Best this year).

We will also film all our new videos and Institute tutorials in this space.


For me, 2018 was about carving out new space, literally, emotionally and creatively.

Now, as 2019 begins to unfurl, I’m slowly starting to see a new, more sustainable, more aligned way forward.

I hope you’ll come with me on the next part of the journey. You fuel my soul, dear reader, you really do.

I am grateful to know you and to have your company.

Much love and countless New Year blessings to you and all those you hold dear.

Jen xoxo

Missed the first two parts of My Year in Review?

No worries. Here are the links:

Part One, The Tree Change:


Part Two, The Spiritual Journey:












5 Replies to “Part Three. My Year in Review: Work and biz, the flops and the favourites”

  1. Geez Jen this was an amazing and brutally honest rundown. This only made me love and respect you and everything you do more that ever. What you have done for me personally as a wanna be childrens writer/author is more that any tafe or uni could do for me and I know all of the other duckies feel the same. Your kindness and encouragement, your generosity, everything thing about you and what you do is truly inspirational.
    Thank you from the bottom of my heart. (I wanna be you when I grow up.)

    1. Julie! LOL! Such a funny and heartfelt comment, it was wonderful to read! Thank you! Love helping you on this journey and watching you grow. I couldn’t ask for a better ‘student’. Have a great year and I’ll see you in Scribbles again soon! xo

  2. Thanks for another lovely sharing of your writing and life experiences. I appreciate your honesty in giving us the inside story on what it is to ‘be’ an author in these rapidly changing times in the publishing world. Your Q&Q Fridays have been a delightful discovery and I’m inspired by your energy and enthusiasm. Thank you!

  3. Loved this series – the bright and joyous pictures and the breezy but honest account of your crammed year. You have certainly helped this writer get results and find more joy in her writing. And you have set the tone for two wonderful online communities – The Scribblers and The Duck Pond. Who said writing was a lonely pursuit? I can now tap into a world brimming with friendship and support anytime. Thanks for that Jen.

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