Early in the 1980s when I was working as a nurse, I decided to write a children’s book.
The first story I wrote was about a rat. A rat that lived inside a muddy riverbank, wore a suit and —worked in the stock market (go figure). I think it was some kind of Wind in the Willows rip-off.
I didn’t finish that story. Thank goodness.
A few years later, I wrote another story.
This time about a teddy bear dangling on a clothesline.
I ‘finished’ that one —bashed it out my Panasonic electronic typewriter then popped the story in an envelope and posted it to Penguin Australia.
Honestly, I was CLUELESS about writing for kids—writing any kind of fiction for that matter.
I knew NOTHING.
I didn’t know about word counts, page lengths, categories, genres, voice, structure, characterisation, publishing contracts, agents, editors, sales teams, author/illustrator relationships, book launches, self-promotion.
It was six months before I received the rejection—and the penny dropped.
It wasn’t enough to want to write.
I had to learn to write.
A few more years went by, and a few more false starts, before I enrolled in an arts degree.
It took me six years to complete that degree. (I was a sole parent at the time and worked as a nanny to put myself through university.)
I wrote THOUSANDS of words during my degree.
All of them nonfiction.
When I graduated (with first class honours) I finally thought I knew how to write.
I bought a textbook about writing for film (how hard could it be, especially now that I was officially clever?) and, following along with the book, I set about writing a screenplay.
A rom com.
Bridget Jones would have eaten her undies.
I burned it long before I finished.
It was more than a dud. It was a true stinker.
By now wounded, bleeding and convinced I was hopeless at writing fiction, I got a job on the other side of the fence. In publishing.
For the next few years I worked on other people’s manuscripts.
I helped other people improve their work. Helped them make their stories shine; make them publishable.
During those years I was completely immersed in the craft of storytelling and, having thrived in the publishing world, I felt a little more confident.
A little more… perky.
I had another crack at writing fiction.
Another children’s story.
It took several months, working on weekends— and in the stands at the local swimming pool and in the car at school pick-up, but eventually I finished my story and posted it off to a couple of publishers.
Six months later that story was rejected by one publisher— and accepted by another. On the same day.
That story become my first children’s book, an Aussie Chomp entitled, I Hate Sport. It was published by Penguin Australia and went on to become one of their bestselling Chomps.
And it had only taken me twenty years.
When I embarked on my kidlit adventure there was nothing to support aspiring authors. Or if there was help, it was hard to find.
No conferences, masterclasses or mentorships.
My generation of authors and illustrators is a little in awe (and a little envious) of those who have come to kidlit in this last decade.
There’s so much support these days.
So much guidance.
So much information.
So many opportunities.
In fact, nowadays there’s so much help it can feel overwhelming.
It can be hard to figure out where the best help lies, too, and who best to listen to.
As part of the move to educate aspiring authors and illustrators, I created girlandduck.com.
Talk about a trip!
I’ve LOVED developing girl and duck; to see it grow, evolve and be of service to thousands of creatives has changed my life as well the lives of those I’ve helped.
I’ve also happily poured my energy and creativity into our Facebook group, the Duck Pond. It’s so unique. So full of life.
I’ve been running that group, 24/7, for nearly five years— a long time in the fickle world of social media.
Over the years, I’ve seen countless duckies arrive in the group, sometimes lost, sometimes muddled or dispirited.
Hundreds have also arrived bright-eyed and bubbling with energy, keen to share their expertise with others, or to get cracking and put their own stamp on the world of kidlit.
Either way, I’ve watched every one of them (emerging and established) evolve.
I’ve seen them learn, connect, celebrate, triumph, cry, comfort each other, enlighten each other, publish, succeed, and, let’s face it, wise up.
Writing for kids is not all unicorns and fairy bread.
It can be demoralising, too, and occasionally leaves us rocking in the corner.
That’s why the Duck Pond means so much to so many.
It’s there in the good times and the bad.
It’s safe, it’s nurturing, it adds true value to people’s lives and its full of like-minded souls who get each other.
To quote one esteemed publisher, ‘the Duck Pond is the go-to place for all aspiring and professional writers in the glorious world of kidlit.’
On Saturday October 3, the Duck Pond will transition into its next exciting phase. Yes, we’re growing up!
It will still be a private Facebook group, but it will also be a low-cost membership site.
What will this mean for our members?
More focus and more support.
There’ll even be FREE masterclasses with celebrated industry professionals.
As well as interviews with extraordinary creatives from all kinds of complimentary industries. Interviews that will inspire our members to think bigger, create more passionately, expand their horizons.
All this, plus the ongoing support, encouragement and inspiration everyone has come to expect from the Duck Pond.
I’m so excited about this next adventure.
It will support and empower our creatives in ways they can’t even imagine .
If you want to be part of the fun, if you want to evolve and grow with us, hop on my mailing list and I’ll keep you updated. Don’t miss out!
Meantime, keep paddling!
When will the new Duck Pond open?
Saturday October 3, 10am.
When will the shop open?
Saturday October 3, 10am. The sales page on the girl&duck website will be live then too. You’ll see all the goodies spread out before you!
When will the shop close?
Wednesday October 7, 10pm.
When will the shop open again?
No idea. We’re just focussed on NOW.
When is the online launch party?
Sunday October 4th, 2pm onwards. Jen will be live in the NEW pond!
Can I come to the party?
You betcha! You’ll get an invitation when you buy your membership.
Will I get a present when I come to the party?
My wordy lordy YES!
I can’t make it to the party. Will I still get a present?
Absolutely. You will receive your present when you buy your membership. #noduckieleftbehind
How much is a membership?
We have an opening special. Membership will only cost $15 per month (pay as you go) or $150 pa. Remember, it’s like a ticket to Dreamworld. Once you’re inside all the rides are free!
JOIN MY MAILING LIST HERE.