​Take a Course, You'll Thank Me by Zoe Gaetjens

Ever thought of taking a course to improve your writing skills? Last year I thought about doing this. I thought and I thought and I thought. I researched and read about different options. I got excited. And then the excuses began and I did nothing.

"I just had a baby, I don't have time," I wearily reminded myself, every night, particularly in the wee hours.

"I work in high schools, I teach writing for a living," I sometimes told myself, knowing that there was still so much to learn about the specialised world of writing for children.

"I can't justify the cost," I'd think every time I withdrew money from my dwindling bank account.

Does this resonate with you? Have you ever used any of the same excuses? Maybe you have your own stock standard ones.

My thinking and my excuses were given a 180-degree turn around towards the end of last year. I received an email from the wonderful Georgie Donaghey congratulating me on winning the CKT anthology competition. So excited was I that I completely forgot my excuses and applied to study The Craft and Business of Writing Picture Books with The Children's Book Academy. Best. Decision. Ever.

The Academy is run by Dr Mira Riseberg. Mira has 27 years of experience in the industry and is a wearer of many hats, literally and figuratively! Children's literary professor, award winning author and writer, art director, independent editor and literary agent, Mira has pretty much done it all. She has so much to give and give she does. One also must not forget Kelly Delaney who assists Mira in this course. In addition to helping run the course Kelly is an editor at Random House New York. What writer doesn't want to listen to professional advice from an editor at such a large publishing house? Not one that I know.

Every time Kelly spoke I madly scribbled down everything she had to say, such is her industry know how. In addition to Mira and Kelly students learn from a myriad of best selling and award winning authors and illustrators through a series of interviews.

The Craft and Business of Writing Picture Books is designed to support you as you write or rewrite your own picture book and assist you as you then go on to submit this manuscript.

Lessons are structured so that you can directly apply each concept to your manuscript. As you do this you have opportunities for your work to be critiqued by your fellow students, your critique group as well as with Kelly or Mira. Your writing is workshopped each step of the way comes out so much stronger and tighter because of it. Ideally, you should complete the course ready to submit your sparkling manuscript to your ideal editor with a polished cover letter. I love that this course focuses on both the craft of writing and the business of publication. As any writer with dreams of publication knows, writing a brilliant manuscript is only the half of it and perhaps not even that!

The Craft and Business of Writing Picture Books is the course that keeps on giving. I have completed the 5 weeks of online lessons but the Facebook group where we communicated, questioned and encouraged will continue indefinitely as will our smaller critique groups. Additionally, we have been gifted with bonus material, an e-book, additional webinar and an opportunity to pitch our work to a collection of agents and editors. Seriously amazing.

I have enjoyed learning alongside others, sharing my work and thoughts with them and helping tighten and tweak their own. I have come away with a widened network, a boat load of new ideas and a renewed and restored hope that I might just be able to give this writing thing a go.

I implore you. If you haven't already done some study then please begin thinking about it. You should research it. You should get excited about it and then instead of starting with the excuses you should go for it. Hopefully you too will be lucky enough to take a seat in Mira's class.

For more information check out www.childrensbookacademy.com they run a number of different writing and illustration courses. You can thank me later.

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Sunday, 18 August 2019

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