Tips and services for ‘newbie’ children’s book writers

Please note: I have edited this post since it was first published on 6 March 2013).

Every so often, a children’s writer/poet emails me for my advice. Yikes!

I admit that I have many teaching years under my belt (like many writers). This experience includes primary and kindergarten teaching (including ESL groups), and 17 years in TAFE Queensland (8-9 years teaching/lecturing in Business Communication subjects, and 9+ years in ESL/Language/Literacy programs). I have written many a letter and edited many more Managing Directors’ letters whilst a secretary/private secretary/administration officer in industry (many, many moons ago). My article writing endeavours include writing (and editing the editor’s articles) for a community magazine and compiling a regular newsletter when I was secretary for a canoe club. I have completed a few writing courses (both long and short) with the hope of improving my skills as a children’s picture book writer, poet and article writer. And I have had work published.

But when I receive an email asking for advice on children’s book writing I question my ability to assist, yet feel a sense of ‘maybe I can help’. I know basic grammar and do have an eye for spotting recalcitrant commas and punctuation marks. But beyond that, I don’t feel confident ‘assessing’ a fellow writer’s manuscript. My ‘fear’ is that I don’t want to steer another writer in the wrong direction. Don’t get me wrong! – I feel very humble and grateful that someone has asked for my advice, but I also know there are a lot more seasoned children’s book writers out there.

And readers of this blog will know that I hardly ever give my own writing tips as there are many writers’ blogs that give fabulous information and tips. However, after replying to a number of emails requesting some assistance, I thought I’d share the names of people in the children’s book industry who have helped me. I know these experts will give you wonderful advice if you need it. And they offer their services at very reasonable rates. There are of course many other writers and manuscript assessors who give great information and if you are a ‘newbie’ children’s book writer, I would recommend speaking to other writers for their recommendations.

The following recommendations/suggestions are just the ‘services/resources’ I have used – just somewhere to get you started. Please note that although these experts live in Australia, their services are available to writers everywhere through their e-courses, virtual workshops, e-books, published books and assessment services via email, etc. I have included recommendations under subheadings, plus some tips.

Improving your rhyming skills:
Rhyming well is actually very hard to do. Many publishers don’t or won’t accept rhyming text as they don’t believe that many writers do it well. Rhyming text is more than just getting the words at the end of lines to rhyme. It is also a matter of meter, word stresses and getting the flow right. It takes time and practice to get it right, but it can be learnt.

Learn the rules. However, once you know the rules, they can be broken (I believe) if it suits the text and deemed appropriate.

My suggestions for learning about rhyme and rhythm:
Jackie Hosking
E-book: Rhyme Like the experts – How to make your writing sing. By Jackie Hosking. Cost $10.00 AU -Order from her site: This can be easily downloaded; very easy reading – clear to understand. Purchase link is on right hand side bar of her site. Jackie also critiques poetry, particularly rhyming poetry. She is an excellent poet and assessor, and offers very reasonable rates. And she really will make your poetry sing!
Assessments sent via emails. More details on her site.

Sally Odgers
Sally has also written a book on writing metrical verse. Includes great exercises. Details below.
Writing Metrical Verse -
$6.25 USD download
$8.02 USD paperback
Sally is a very talented and prolific children’s writer, and has years of writing and assessment experience. Sally assesses rhyme and prose. Again at reasonable prices.

I have used both Sally and Jackie to critique mss (Jackie for rhyming verse and Sally for prose) and both have given invaluable advice.

Improving your story:
If you have written a story in rhyme, try writing it in prose. It may sound better.

Many writers who ask for my advice send me a story in rhyme. Most of the time these stories don’t seem to gel as the writers seem more intent on finding rhyming words than making the story come to life. And sometimes writers put too much unnecessary information in their stories. This is where illustrations are so important. The illustrations should not only be wonderful but used to complement and add to the story. (Please note: I am not an assessor, and always encourage writers to seek professional advice.)

Another issue I find is that most ‘first time’ writers don’t seem to edit their work. They finish a story and think that is it. What they have finished is really their first draft.

You may need to do a number of rewrites. Writing the perfect children’s picture book is not easy. I have literally done 100 rewrites on just one verse of a children’s story in rhyme. After endless hours of editing, it is recommended to put your manuscript away for a while and look again with fresh eyes. Some writers recommend ‘hiding’ your ms for at least six weeks, others will recommend six months. Here you need patience. Many ‘first- time’ writers are just rearing to go and just want to send their work to a publisher as soon as they think their story is finished.

When you ‘revisit’ your manuscript with fresh eyes and rework your text as best you can, I’d then recommend using the services of a children’s book assessor. If you are a little impatient and don’t want to bury your ms in a drawer for a while, send your ms to an assessor first – not a publisher. Try not to be precious about your work. You may not always agree with an assessor’s opinions but be open to suggestions. An assessor can help point out issues in your story that you just didn’t see.

My suggestions for writing courses and manuscript assessors:

Sally Odgers
Sally will look at the plot, and flow of the story. And give you detailed pointers to think about so you can rework your text.

Sally also offers a Virtual Writing Course, and her services are very affordable. She has published a number of books to assist writers. More details on her website.

Dr Virginia Lowe
Dr Virginia Lowe also offers an assessing service as well as a children’s book writing course. I received funding from a Regional Arts Development Grant Queensland (RADF) to complete Dr Lowe’s Createakidsbook e-course. I learnt so much from this course. I completed both the illustrating and writing a children’s book components. Also I would recommend researching grants (local and national) that are available for writers/artists.
More info at.

Anyway, hope this helps as a start.

Please note that I have only recommended resources that I have used.

And if you wish to recommend any editing services you have used or writing for children/YA courses you have undertaken, please do so in the comment section for other writers to refer to.

Wishing you all the best.
x Helen

Sign up for PiBoldMo – Picture Book Idea Month

If you are not participating in the insanity of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) this November, you might like to sign up for PiBoldMo -  Picture Book Idea Month!

I discovered this fabulous idea in a recent PIO (Pass It On) e-newsletter – where have I been hiding?

PiBoldMo was created in 2008 by Tara Lazar, a children’s book author.    Since then it has gone from strength to strength in terms of participants.  That’s great considering the first PiBoldMo was held by a party of one  -Tara.

The concept is to create 30 picture book ideas in 30 days. You don’t have to write a manuscript. Tara has also organised a number of guest bloggers to keep participants inspired during this month.

Sign-up closes on November 3rd, and you must be registered before then to qualify for prizes! Yes, there are prizes!

Time is running out to register.  So what are you waiting for? Click on the direct link for sign up:

Tara’s site at:

And would you believe that in a moment of madness (again at the eleventh hour)  I decided, after all, to sign up for this November’s NaNoWriMo? Madness, I say!  Pure madness!

All the best for the madness of November!

Have an inspirational month everyone!



8. Chatting with Jackie Hosking, writer and ebook publisher.

This week I welcome a very special guest, as all my guests are.  Members of PIO (Pass It On) know the lovely Jackie Hosking – talented poet and writer, as well as compiler,  editor, publisher of PIO and  now,    — drum roll  please –  eBook publisher.

Jackie chats with me about her foray into e-Book publishing, as well as a little about her writing journey.

Welcome Jackie. Please help yourself to wine and nibblies.

Did you always want to be a writer?

Being a writer wasn’t something that I consciously thought about; it was just something that I did. I loved to write in my diary and write letters. When school required me to write short stories I found it a pleasure, not a chore.

When did you start writing?

I started writing consciously after my last child was born.  He is ten, so about ten years.

What genres do you write in/or have written in?

I mostly write for children – children’s short stories, in prose and verse and rhyming poetry. I have written short stories for adults and I particularly enjoy flash fiction or the very, very short story. I have also written poetry for adults some of which are travelling around on the Melbourne trains thanks to the work of Moving Galleries.

PIO (Pass it On) members certainly know of your commercial success as a children’s poet, especially for The School Magazine and other children’s publications.  However, for non PIO readers, could you let us know when this all began.

My very first children’s poem, ‘If I Were a Giant’ was published by the School Magazine in 2005. Before that I was writing for a UK website called The Bad Mothers’ Club where I wrote poetry about children for (bad) mothers. My children’s poems have been described as old fashioned but not dated; I quite like that description. Since 2005 I have had many poems published all over the world.

To view Jackie’s extensive publication list please click on the following link:

What inspired you to write your informative book, How to Write Rhyme like the Experts? And why did you decide to e-publish  it?

I’ve been editing children’s poetry since 2006 and in this time I have noticed that new rhyming poets make similar mistakes so I thought it might be useful to put together a booklet to help demystify the art of rhyme and meter.

How did you go about gaining information on e-book publishing?

Actually I picked up a tip in PASS IT ON. A subscriber provided a weblink to a site that converts word docs into pdfs. I designed the booklet in a word doc then converted it. It was very easy.

How long did the process take ie. from writing your book to publishing it? And how did you go about editing your work?

Because the book is more of an information booklet, it didn’t take long at all, maybe a week. I was never planning to sell it as a book on its own, more as an extra for those who use my editing service. The editing was done as I went along and I gave it to a couple of colleagues to read over and I took any suggestions into account.

Did you encounter any obstacles during this process?  If so, what were they?

No not really.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of e-book publishing? What were your greatest learning curves?

What I like about it is that I can email off a copy to anyone who asks for it without leaving the office. It’s a way of sharing information with minimum fuss.

How do you go about marketing your e-book?

I offer a discount to users of my editing service, $5.00 instead of the full price $10.00. I advertise it in PASS IT ON and I advertise it on my website.

Are you interested in finding a commercial publisher? Why or why not?

Not for the e-book as it’s very specialised and really more suited to an email attachment. For my poetry, definitely – a commercial publisher would be very welcome.

Even though you have established yourself as a fantastic children’s poet and editor of the resourceful PIO, where would you like to be in five year’s time?  – ie. writing/publishing wise.

I would love to have a collection of my poetry published. I hope to still be involved with PIO; I think it is a great resource and I hope too, to be still helping other poets.

What projects are you working on now?

I’m always writing new poems and submitting them to competitions and publishers. I also try my hand at picture books and have a half dozen bubbling away.

What words best describe you?

Persistent, curious, helpful, cheerful and active.

Have you any other words of advice?

Have fun. If you’re not having fun (most of the time) then try something else. Life’s too short to be miserable.


And Jackie, just to finish off, could you just complete the following:

At school I was … neither popular nor unpopular – just Jackie.

When I was a child I wanted to be …a washing up lady (and I’m a mother so be careful what you wish for!)

I relax by    … walking and talking with friends.

For more information:

Web/blog -

Jackie’s  manuscript service – includes some testimonials from happy customers , and  I am one of Jackie’s happy customers.

Information about PIO:

PASS IT ON is a weekly, on-line, interactive, networking newsletter for those involved with or interested in the children’s writing & illustration industry.

It was voted ‘Best Non-Fiction Magazine’ in the Preditors & Editors Readers Poll for 2008 and placed 2nd in 2009 & 2010 in the ‘Writers Resource Category’.

To receive a recent issue and to enquire about subscribing please email  Jackie Hosking at jackiehosking [at] bigpond. com

Jackie Hosking | poet | editor | publisher
PASS IT ON (Children’s Writing/Illustrating e-zine)

Jackie is one very busy and talented writer.

Jackie, thanks for sharing.  I also look forward to seeing your collection of poetry in print.

Thanks Helen – it’s been fun.

Helen Ross interviews Jackie Hosking 26 August 2011.  Copyright Helen Ross August 2011

Threatened Abolition of Parallel Importation Restrictions – What does it really mean?

The threatened abolition of Parallel Importation Restrictions (PIR) has been in the news for some time now. But terms such as PIR, open markets, and the need for cheaper books has made it a little difficult to clearly understand all the implications, and what it really means to our industry.
Many people (including writers) have informed me that they wish to know more, but they are finding it hard to fully understand exactly what the abolition of PIR means, especially when a lot of the information is not given in layman’s terms.
The following sites are excellent, and explain the situation clearly and succinctly. These sites are taken from the latest PIO Issue 250 (d) 20 July ’09 (*see endnote).
1.  Author, Sally Murphy presents a layman’s guide to the cheaper books debate:-

2. Author, Sheryl Gwyther administrates a new site that outlines information, links, comments and access to practical ways people can contact (and lobby) politicians, letters to the editors – and getting these concerns out to the general community. 


3.  Visit author, Dee White’s blog to see her detailed article on abolition of PIR, and what you can do. 



If you don’t support the abolition of Parallel Imports on books, write to your local politician. If you don’t know how to go about it, the above sites will help.  


*PIO (Pass-It-On) is an excellent weekly, on-line, interactive, networking newsletter for those involved with or interested in the children’s writing industry.  If you wish to join or find out more, please email Jackie Hosking at