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WRITING PICTURE BOOKS – New Classes Available With Award Winning Author

Katrina Germein and Friend

Picture book author Katrina Germein writes stories that delight readers of all ages. Her first book, Big Rain Coming, is an Australian best seller and remains in print around the world more than a decade since its release.

We are so pleased to welcome Katrina to Writing Classes For Kids. She’s going to talk about what she writes and how she writes…and she has a FREE WRITING ACTIVITY.

Katrina is not only a great author, she’s also a good writerly friend and she’s the kind of person who is always happy to help young and new writers.

Katrina has won Notable Book Commendations from the Children’s Book Council of Australia and in 2011 her book My Dad Thinks He’s Funny was Highly Commended in the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards. Katrina’s latest story, Somebody’s House, will be published by Walker Books Australia in 2013. Aside from writing, sunshine makes Katrina happy and so does swimming in the sea with her three children. You can find out more about Katrina here:

  1. Her Website:
  2. Follow her on Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/katrinagermein
  3. Katrina’s Facebook Page Facebook
  4. Writing Workshops at her fabulous new blog


Well. I write for nine year olds. I write for babies. I write for adults and I write for preschoolers. You see I write picture books and picture books are read to babies from the time they’re born and enjoyed by nine year olds who can read independently. During the years in between they’re read by adults and children together. It’s part of what makes picture books so special. They’re enjoyed together by multiple generations.

Children love to be read to but they don’t want to listen to just anything. They want to read books that reflect their own world and move and entertain them. But first of all, they need an adult willing to read with them. So picture books must appeal to both adults and children.  We all know too, that three year olds don’t want to listen to the same story as eight year olds. So there are lots of different types of picture books. I find each age group equally challenging and rewarding to write for.  Here are three examples:

 Baby Gets Dressed is a book for infants. It is under one hundred words long but that doesn’t mean it was easy to write. I was set the challenge of creating an entire story with hardly any words. To have a wide appeal among many families the baby needed to be of no specific gender, culture or socio economic background. In a story like that every word counts and must fit perfectly. I used rhyme to hold it all together.

Big Rain Coming is used frequently in school in junior primary classes. Children of this age have a short attention span but love stories and are naturally curious. A book for them needs to be fun and concise but still provide opportunities for learning.  In other words it needs to be ‘multilayered’. Multilayered stories are what most picture book authors aspire to with each story.

My Dad Thinks He’s Funny has an older readership and is best understood by middle primary students. While it’s packed with seemingly silly seven year old humour it still maintains valuable opportunities for learning with children needing to think about various puns and situational jokes to make sense of the book.


Katrina has a fabulous new resource for picture book writers and lovers at The Writers’ Quilt.

 I love picture books. I love reading them. I love writing them and I love talking about writing them. So I’m very excited about my new website – The Writers Quilt.

Over at The Writers Quilt there are lots of writing tips for aspiring picture book writers from a whole host of picture book authors. It’s a space for picture book writers to focus on their craft. It’s a place to consider story ideas, revise drafts and contemplate paths to publication. Also on The Writers’ Quilt website is information about online picture book writing workshops. The next workshop starts on Monday February 13th. It will consider things such as the essential elements of a picture book, traps to look out for and how to increase your chances of securing a trade publisher. There are also details of how you can find out more and register for the workshop. Pop on over and say hi. I’d love to see you at The Writers’ Quilt.


This is a fun activity to do with a friend. Your friend doesn’t need to be in the same place as you. You can be in different rooms to each other, or even different countries!

You each need a computer with and an email address you can use.

 Step 1:

Write some notes about a character you would like to be for the activity. Both friends need to do this independently. List the characters’ age, gender, appearance, hobbies, cultural background and any other details you would like to include about their personality.  Try to create a character different from your real self. (You can draw a picture of the character or make a collage from a magazine if that helps you to imagine them.) Do not share this information with your friend. It will be a surprise for them later!

 Step 2:

Friend A sends an email as their character to Friend B. They must share with Friend B some good news but also a problem they are facing. *Remember, do not write as yourself. Pretend you are your character.

Step 3:

Friend B writes a response from their character to send to Friend A. They offer some advice to help Friend A but also mention a problem they are having of their own.

 Step 4:

Friend A remains in character to reply to Friend B. Their email must include at least one question for Friend B to answer.

Step 5:

Friend B remains in character to reply to Friend A. Their email must also include at least one question for Friend A to answer.

 You can continue this activity for as long as you both like. Try asking questions in your emails that help both characters get to know each other. If you’re enjoying the challenge you can keep the activity going for days or weeks!

Katrina's writing workshop

At some point you may wish to step out of character for a while to discuss the direction of the project and whether you should turn it into a story or novel.

Have fun!

Thanks so much for visiting, Katrina and for your fun writing activity.

Don’t forget to check out Katrina’s great picture book writing tips and classes at The Writers’ Quilt.





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Today I’m pleased to welcome wonderful Australian author, Lian Tanner. Lian is the author of the very popular Keepers Trilogy and today she’s going to share some tips on how she puts her stories together.


City of Lies, the second book in the Keepers trilogy, began with a little pottery tower made by a man called John Watson. I saw the tower in a shop, and it immediately gave me a shivery feeling, the one that tells me an idea is growing somewhere in the back of my mind. So I bought the tower and put it on my mantlepiece, and waited for the idea to make itself known.

It didn’t take long. A couple of days later I was struck by the thought that the tower looked like the sort of place where someone might be imprisoned – where children might be imprisoned.

And there was the heart of the story straight away; in this new book, Goldie, Toadspit and Bonnie, the children from the first Keepers book, Museum of Thieves, were going to be stolen by villains and imprisoned in a tower.

Of course, ideas change as you work on them, and by the time I had finished my outline and started writing, it was Toadspit and Bonnie who had been stolen, and Goldie was trying to rescue them. Not only that, but the tower had become a teetering five-storey house with bars on its windows and two men guarding it.

So how on earth was Goldie going to rescue her friends from this very well guarded house without being caught herself? I had no idea. So I did what I usually do when I’m stuck – a brainstorming session.
I took a huge bit of paper and some nice thick felt pens. I wrote the question across the top: ‘How does Goldie rescue her friends?’ Then I set a timer for ten minutes, and I started to throw ideas onto the paper, as quickly as I could. A lot of them were really silly, but I wrote them down anyway. I wrote down the good ones, the bad ones, the impossible ones, the absurd ones, the ‘maybe’ ones, scribbling like mad with my big felt pens. Sometimes I wrote extra notes, or drew circles and arrows, or put a big red exclamation mark next to one of them. But I didn’t stop and think. I didn’t slow down – I kept pouring out ideas right up until the timer went ping.

Then I stopped and looked at what I had written.

Some of the ideas made me laugh, they were so silly. Some of them were impossible. Others were possible, but not very interesting.

And right in the middle of them was one that was both possible and interesting. Really interesting. It involved a slaughterbird and a smoke bomb and … no, I won’t tell you any more. I’ll just say that when Goldie tried it, it worked beautifully.


You can use brainstorming for practically anything. You can use it to get ideas as to what you want to write about. You can use it to find out more about one of your characters. Or you can use it – as I did – to answer a perplexing question.

You’ll need big felt pens and a big sheet of paper to start – I like butchers’ paper or blank newsprint, because it gives me lots of room to be messy and to muck around. That’s what brainstorming is about – mucking around. Being serious and sensible is very useful for some things, but it’s no good for getting creative ideas. So when we brainstorm, we put our sensible brain to one side, and become playful.


1.  Write your question across the top of the paper.

2.  Set a timer for five minutes.

3.  Take a deep breath and imagine that you are setting off on a mysterious, exciting voyage, and have no idea where you will end up …

4.  Now start the timer and scribble down the first idea that comes to mind, and the next, and the next. Don’t worry about whether they’re good ideas or not. Work as quickly as you can, without thinking too much. Write in lists or in sentences or in blobs or in big circles – it doesn’t matter. Be messy. Have fun. (Pretend you’re a little kid doing finger painting!) Don’t try and spell properly. Don’t worry if the ideas seem weird or silly or pathetic, just keep going until your time is up. Your aim is to get as many ideas as possible.

5.  When the timer goes off, sit back and look at what you have written. Eeek! What a mess!

6.  But now you switch your sensible brain back on and read it through. Probably there will be a lot of ideas that you don’t like, but in among them will hopefully be some useful ones, or some that excite you and make you want to go and write about them, or some that might be good for another story, but not this one.

The more you practise brainstorming, the better you will get at it. But always remember, have fun!

Museum of Thieves and City of Lies, the first two books in the Keepers trilogy, can be bought at http://www.booktopia.com.au/ Book 3, Path of Beasts, will be published in October 2012.

I love using Lian Tanner’s method of brainstorming. That’s how I start my stories too.

If you like writing fantasy stories like Lian, don’t forget to enter our current Free fantasy writing competition for kids and adults.

Happy writing:)


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