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Like to Write and Illustrate Your Own Books?


Today, my talented friend, Tania McCartney is visiting Writing Classes For Kids to talk about writing and illustrating your own books.

She has some fabulous information to share, and at the end of this post there’s a link to some great prizes including copies of the book.

Over to you Tania :)

image018Writing and Illustrating Your Own Books with Tania McCartney

Do you know what an author who also illustrates (or an illustrator who also writes) is called? When I visit schools, I often ask kids this question. My favourite response so far was when someone said:


I loved that! In truth, they are simply called ‘Author Illustrator’ but I much prefer Authorstrator, and I’m so stealing it.

Most times, on the cover of a picture book, you will notice two names … the author, who, of course, pens the story—and the illustrator, who creates all the pictures. Sometimes, though, you might only see one name, and that’s because both the words and the pictures have been done by the same person.

An Authorstrator. ;)

Sometimes, it’s easier to be an Authorstrator. Publishers and editors only have to deal with one person. There’s no arguments about how pictures should look or how words should sound. The images and the text tie together really well, as the Authorstrator already knows how the pictures will complement the words.00a-cover-pastel

Even for authors who don’t illustrate, they can still ‘see’ in their mind how the pictures might look—and sometimes an illustrator may not be able to make that vision come true. So authors who illustrate have a lot more control—they can dictate how things will look.

But of course, being an Authorstrator is double the work! And it can be lonely. Really lonely.

On the other hand, when TWO people create a book together… two heads are often better than one. With my books, my illustrators bring such magic and new ideas to my text. I really value and appreciate their thoughts and cleverness. They always add wonderful things to the story—and they even see things I never imagined myself. I’ve never been disappointed!au-diverse-kid-girl-japanese

Working together is also lots of fun—having someone to bounce ideas around with, and enjoying the fabulous process of creating something together. It’s also a lot less work! But you do lose some control, and sometimes you may not agree on what’s been written or illustrated.

I’ve only been an Authorstrator once so far. My new book, Australia Illustrated, took me an entire year to write and draw—and this was almost full-time. I drew over 1,000 individual images to create the book—can you believe that? And it was a LOT of hard work.

act-arboretum-boy-3I was very lucky in that I could pretty much create what I liked—and this is not always the way! Oftentimes, an editor or publisher will want to guide you, and that’s okay, too.

Because this was my very first Authorstrator experience, being able to create Australia Illustrated the way I wanted really helped me succeed. I had no idea how I was going to do it all—I just learned as I went along. And do you know what? The very BEST way to learn is with experience. So yes, I was very, very lucky.

Authorstators might sometimes do the typography, layout and design, too. Typography is the setting of the text on the page. You may notice that this text is placed on a blank space so it’s easy to read. The illustrator, of course, must plan space for the text when they first do their drawings.034-vic-mel-icons

Layout and design is how the pages and cover end up looking. It’s how the images are laid out on the page, how they fit around the text, and how the covers (front and back), endpapers and spine look. I’ve done this for several of my books and I absolutely love it.

So, there you go—you’ve officially met the Authorstrator. The Jack- or Jill-of-All-Trades who can take words and pictures and make them into story. Hopefully stories you’ll be enjoying very soon.


027-nsw-sydney-ferriesSee more of Tania’s work at www.taniamccartney.com or follow her on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter @taniamccartney

Australia Illustrated is published by EK Books and will be on sale 1 November in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the US, with a release date of 28 November in the UK. Hardcover, clothbound, 96 pages, AU$29.99, ISBN: 9781925335217 www.ekbooks.org


  • WIN a copy of the book (There three to give away, thanks to EK Books)
  • WIN an original watercolour image from the book (two to give away)
  • the chance to name some of Tania’s book characters!

Enter here at Tania’s Blog






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How to Encourage Young Writers


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere are some things that have worked for me:

1.  Read with the young writer and pick a character, a scene or a setting from what you are reading – something they would like to write about – and get them to write it.

2.  Look at this blog post by Susan Stephenson, which has various ideas on how to get a story started http://writingclassesforkids.com/writing-prompts-to-get-your-story-started-by-susan-stephenson/

3.   Brainstorm with your young writer. I used to do this with my kids. We’d pick a word for instance, chocolate, and I’d make up a story about chocolate and they’d either continue with my story or they’d think up an idea of your own. To encourage them I’d ask questions like “What if… this happened?” and “What happens next?” and “How did that happen? Why did that happen? Who did that happen to?”

4.  If the idea of a whole story is overwhelming, take it in stages:

- Decide who the character is

- Decide what the character’s story problem is

- Decide how the character plans to solve it

- Decide what obstacles will get in the way.

5.  Encourage the writer to create a story based on a favourite character from a book, movie or tv program – encourage him or her to try to imagine what it would be like to be that character.

6.  Don’t put limitations on the length of the story. If the child wants to write a 30 word story, that’s okay. If they want to write 300 or 3,000 words, that’s okay The only word count limitations they should have to follow are if they are submitting for a competition or publication and a word limit is specified in the guidelines.

IMG_12007. Always use encouraging language and don’t push the writer to do more than they are comfortable with.  If you have constructive suggestions on how they can improve their story, always focus on the good things about it first, and be encouraging with your suggestions. Always use positive language.

8.  Don’t take over. If the story isn’t the way you would have written it, don’t interfere. The child needs to follow their own creative direction. You will stifle their creativity, dampen their enthusiasm and wreck their confidence if you try to take over their story.

9. If the writer isn’t great at spelling, don’t let this be a deterrent. They can still be a good writer, they just need an editor to help them. Getting the child to dictate the story to you or to type it themselves, will encourage their storytelling and develop their confidence and stop them from worrying so much about the spelling. This is definitely an area you want to help them improve, but try and keep it separate from their story writing. Jackie French was the Australia National Children’s Laureate for 2014 and 2015. She’s the author of over 100 wonderful books, and she also has dyslexia. She is living proof that one of the most important qualities you need to be a writer is to be a storyteller.

10.  Endings are hard and many young writers don’t complete their stories before moving on to the next one – this is perfectly normal. Have realistic expectations. Writing endings is one of the hardest parts of creating a story. It’s something that writers often find difficult into their teens and even adulthood.  Particularly when writers are young, they are exploring where the story is going rather than planning it so it might not have an ending – and it doesn’t matter. I started writing novels when I was about nine.  There were boxes full of my half finished stories at my parents’ house. They were experiments – me learning to be a writer.  Allow your young writer to explore their creativity without pressure. There is no right or wrong way to be a writer.

If you have keen writers in your house or at your school, look for ways to help them get published – through school blogs or newsletters, or holding a writing competition at school. Find out more about hosting a writing competition here.  If your school wants to run a writing competition, I’m happy to donate prizes.

I hope you found these tips helpful. If you have any additional tips, please feel free to share them in the comments section of this post.

Happy writing:)



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