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MEET AMRA PAJALIC – Featured Author

Amra graffiti

Talented writer, Amra Pajalic is today’s featured author at Writing Classes for Kids.

Amra’s debut novel The Good Daughter was published by Text Publishing. It won the 2009 Melbourne Prize for Literature’s Civic Choice Award, and was a finalist in the 2009 Melbourne Prize for Literature Best Writing Award and was shortlisted in the 2007 Victorian Premier’s Awards for Best Unpublished Manuscript.

Amra’s short stories have placed in competitions, been published in magazines, journals and anthologies.

Amra is also co-author of What a Muslim Woman Looks Like.

Today, Amra talks about how she uses her own personal experiences to inspire her writing. - and she has a fun writing activity to share.


As a high school student I was always reading, but there seemed to be no books that represented my story about growing up. I’m talking about coming from the Western suburbs of Melbourne. About being from a migrant background and the family expectations placed on you to be a good wog girl, while at heart being Aussie and wanting to break out of this mould.

So I wrote The Good Daughter for myself and for teenagers like me so they have something to read that speaks to their experiences and that will inspire them to fight for their ‘outlandish’ dreams.


When I started writing The Good Daughter I looked to my life for inspiration. Like my protagonist Sabiha I too am of Bosnian-Muslim background, have a mother who suffers from Bi-Polar and was brought up in the Western suburbs.

While The Good Daughter has a lot of me in it, I created a fictional character and gave her a lot of my experiences and it is wonderfully cathartic. Sometimes I can’t remember which stories are real, and which are fiction.


In this writing activity, Amra will take you through the process of writing a story from start to finish.


Every character has things about them that are internal (the way they feel) and external (the way they are). Here are some things to include when you are creating your main character.


1. Who is your main character?



2. What does your character look like? Describe their appearance? What are their unique features? Try to include more senses than just the visual–how the person sounds, smells, the texture of their hair and skin.

3. What does their voice sound like? Do they have a speech mannerism? Is there something they repeat?

4. How does your character walk? What does their walk say about them? Do they have special gestures/mannerisms


1. Next, write a little about what you can’t see about the person from the outside. What is their secret fear? What is their pet peeve? What do they love eating? Do they have a pet?

2. What is your character’s defining quality, that is, how would anyone describe your protagonist? What trait is the most prominent in her personality? What kind of a person are they?

3. How would you show this quality? Write a paragraph or plot how you would show this quality in your short story.

4. What is a secret they don’t share? Write a scene about the moment when this secret was formed?



1.    What’s the most embarrassing thing that’s happened to you as a teenager?

2.    Give your embarrassing moment to that character?



What would make the situation worse?What does the character do to try and solve the situation, but it doesn’t work?

What would make it even worse than that?



Now think of three endings:

1. The disney ending where everything is perfect,

2. The tragic ending where everything is melodramatic and soap operish.

3. The realistic ending.

Which ending do you choose?



Thanks Amra for sharing your journey and for this great writing activity. You could win a copy of Amra’s amazing book in our current writing competition.

You can find out more about Amra here




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Local Redlands children’s author, Michelle Worthington, has released her first children’s picture book, The Bedtime Band.

Michelle grew up in the Redlands and has always enjoyed writing stories and sharing them with others.

She reads to her children every night and believes in the benefits of sharing quality time with children by reading them bedtime stories.

Since graduating from the University of Queensland with a Bachelor of Arts, she has travelled extensively and enjoys learning about new cultures and sharing new experiences.

In 2012,  Michelle will be releasing a further two children’s picture books, as well as her first book for adults. An energetic and dynamic storyteller, Michelle is dedicated to encouraging a strong love of reading and writing in young children and conducts school visits, library storytelling and writing workshops for primary school aged children.


When the sun goes down, the night comes alive. Have you ever wondered what the animals get up to while you are sleeping? Dont be scared of the bangs, clangs and creaks. Get ready, get setty…it’s the Bedtime Band!

Available at www.wombatbooks.com.au

Ask for it at your favourite bookstore


Michelle has some great tips about marketing your new book.

A little known side effect of getting your book publishing is having to learn how to market yourself as an author, as well as selling your book.  Publicists have limited time and budget when it comes to promotion, especially for a new author. A successful author is also a sales person, an accountant, an administration officer, a graphic designer and a self-promotion guru.

As an author marketing your book locally, it is definitely a case of “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”  Use the contacts you already have, such as your children, grandchildren or friends schools to get your first storytelling visits. Ask for a minimal fee or do it free until you feel you are giving them value for money and always ask for the opportunity to sell you books by pre-order or post-order form and on the day.

Create your own book launch until your name is known or ask to be included in events that suit your book and marketing plan. Local women’s groups, seniors groups and interest groups that your book relates to are often happy to have you set up a trade table in exchange for the cost of admission and a lucky door prize. Have a short speech prepared in case you are asked to say something about yourself and your journey to getting your book published. Your local council website will list events in your area that you may be able to participate in.

Approach your local book store and library as they will already have time set aside for story telling and are always in need of new people and new books. Libraries also have rooms that are available to hire for your book launch or event.  Your aim is to draw a crowd, and book stores love a captive audience. Have a photographer friend take photos and offer them to the book store to put on their website.

Make sure you book are booked up with events that fit your individual schedule for 4 weeks in advance, to give you enough time to get new engagements if some cancel. Don’t take on more than you can handle and always be professional, when it comes to your marketing material, your phone manner and what you wear on the day. If your book has a theme, kids love dress ups and interactive play, so let your imagination run wild!

Register for writer’s festivals and conferences to learn from others about how they market their book, as well as making friendships with other local authors and illustrators. Join local Writers Groups and Member organisations that allow members to promote their book and book launch on their facebook, newsletter and website at little or no cost. Network with other authors, illustrators and publishers via facebook, LinkedIn, an author fan page or a website. Remember that if you can help others, they may be in a position to help you in return.

The biggest hurdle new author’s face in marketing their book is their own inhibitions. Don’t be afraid to ask. The worst thing they can say is “no”.


1. The Bedtime Band uses pictures and words to tell the story. It can sometimes be very hard to write a children’s book, because they have to be concise and easy to read.

Can you write a story for children in under 100 words and use pictures to help tell the story?

2. Words are powerful. They can be descriptive, musical and animated. Write a list of 20 words and make them look like they sound. For example. write the word ‘haunted’ in ghost writing or ‘furious’ in a very angry face. Choose words that form a picture in your mind.

Don’t forget to enter our FREE fantasy writing competition for kids and adults


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