Pitch It! Competition


Welcome to the webpage for the annual Just Write For Kids Australia Pitch It! Competition. The aim of the competition is for writers of children’s and young adult books to hone their pitches to publishers so that they are polished, well-crafted and submission-ready.

The pitch is like the eyes to your soul. It’s a short marketing advertisement for the manuscript you’ve poured your heart (and soul) into. It’s the face those publishing editors will judge to understand what kind of writer they are dealing with – it’s the tone, the voice, the vision that elicits an emotion to what lies within. Sounds a bit heavy, but you know your story better than anyone else, so all you have to do is pitch it in its best light. You’ve got this! 


The Pitch It! Competition enables writers – emerging, experienced, published, or unpublished – the opportunity to craft their pitch in a concise, emotive and marketable way that aims to engage, and persuade, a publisher that your manuscript will be their next best-seller (without directly telling them so!). The practice of writing, and considering marketable elements in your pitch, can also help to refine your manuscript further with language or narrative gaps you didn’t consider earlier.

It’s also an opportunity to take your pitch and manuscript, and creative career, further with fabulous prizes and professional support! Several of our past winners and runners up have gone on from their manuscript critiques from publishers to securing contracts. Just like our 2018 winner and picture book judge, Stef Gemmill! On that note, let’s meet the judging team…


In 2021, we have a fabulous line-up of judges, all with incredible experience, knowledge and merit in the children’s book industry.

Picture Book Judges:

Stef Gemmill is an author of children’s picture books and middle grade fiction. Previously a Montessori teacher, music journalist and technical writer, she swapped the mosh-pit for toys and tantrums and had her first book contract snapped up in a mere 20 days. Stef has two picture books out now, A Home for Luna (2020 International Rubery Book Awards – winner children’s category) and In My Dreams (both published with New Frontier) with Toy Mountain (EK Books)a story of sustainability due out in October 2021. She loves to support fellow writers in realising their publishing dreams.

Find Stef at: Stef Gemmill – children’s author

Katrina McKelvey is a children’s author, former primary school teacher, wife, and mother to two tweenagers and a cocker spaniel. She’s written many children’s picture books and educational readers including No Baths Week, Up To SomethingIsla’s Family Tree (April, 2020), and Chasing Rainbows (August, 2020).

Katrina is highly involved in CBCA, SCBWI, literary conferences and festivals, and loves visiting schools. She’s left-handed, loves tea and rollercoasters, and is addicted to mint chocolate. While in lockdown in Disney World a few years ago, she survived Hurricane Gene (Category 5) by eating awful brownies.

Find Katrina at: Katrina McKelvey | Children’s Author

Debra Tidball is the author of award-winning picture books, and has short stories published in anthologies and accepted for The School Magazine She’s a kid’s book enthusiast who reviews books on the radio, and writes about her adventures in KidLitLand on her blog. A social worker who morphed into an author, Debra has an MA in children’s literature and is the secretary of her local CBCA NSW Sub-branch. Debra’s The Scared Book was published after a successful ‘elevator’ pitch to the children’s Publisher at an open day at Hachette.

Find Debra at: Debra Tidball – Home

Junior Fiction / Middle Grade and Young Adult Judges:

Kate Gordon grew up in a small town by the sea in Tasmania. She is the author of six novels for teenagers, as well as the picture books, Bird on a Wire and Amira’s Magpie, and the junior fiction series, Juno Jones. She now writes middle grade fiction. The Heartsong of Wonder Quinn was published by UQP, in 2020. Aster’s Good, Right Things was published by Riveted Press in 2020. The Ballad of Melodie Rose was published in 2021.

Kate has been long-listed in the 2019 CBCA Awards and shortlisted and longlisted in the 2021 awards. She received the 2016 IBBY Ena Noel Award. In 2018, Kate was shortlisted in the Dorothy Hewett Awards for an Unpublished Manuscript, and was commended in the 2018 Vogel’s Awards. In 2021, Aster’s Good, Right Things was shortlisted in the Speech Pathology Book of the Year Awards and won the CBCA Book of the Year for Younger Readers.

When not writing, Kate reads, listens to Josh Ritter, has grand adventures with her daughter, and is (finally) learning to drive a car.

Find Kate at: Kate Gordon

Pamela Ueckerman is a writer, podcast host, book reviewer and home educating mother of two boys.  As co-host of the podcast Middle Grade Mavens, she has interviewed some of the biggest names in children’s literature in Australia and the UK. She is published in The School Magazine and her work has been included in a number of anthologies. She is also a reviewer for the CBCA publication Reading Time and subeditor of a home school magazine.  Apart from words, her loves are ballet, chocolate, English Breakfast tea, nature and her family (not necessarily in that order) and she hopes to still be dancing when she’s eighty.   

Find Pamela at: Pamela Ueckerman | Children’s Author, Book Reviewer and Podcast Host


In 2021, we are fortunate to collaborate with the following industry professionals, who have generously provided invaluable opportunities for our winning, runners up, and highly commended entrants.

Clair Hume – Commissioning Editor at University of Queensland Press

Clair will be assessing the Picture Book and YA winning manuscripts. She enjoys books with fresh voices, surprising plot twists and memorable characters.

Mary Anastasiou – Creative Director at Larrikin House

Mary will be assessing the Picture Book winning manuscript. She has 30 years of design and marketing experience, and works with authors and illustrators to help them realise their publishing goals.

Crystal Corocher – Publicist at Larrikin House

Crystal will be assessing the Junior Fiction winning manuscript. She loves to immerse herself in a world of Children’s Literature, Rhyme and Madness!

Jennifer Sharp – Commissioning Editor at Daisy Lane Publishing

Jennifer will be assessing the Picture Book, Junior Fiction / Middle Grade and Young Adult winning manuscripts. She is a dynamic wellness and confidence coach, speaker, educator and publisher of stories that inspire, inform, educate and empower.

Adam Wallace – #1 Best-selling author, school presenter and creator of the Kid’s Book Creator Capital

Adam will be providing FREE access to his specialty professional learning short courses for children’s creators, for each of the winning pitches. Adam writes to entertain as many kids as possible, and also inspires as many adults as possible to take charge of their creative careers.

Sally Odgers – Editor at Affordable Manuscript Assessment Service

Sally will be offering manuscript assessments for the third place runners up of the Picture Book, Junior Fiction / Middle Grade and Young Adult categories. She is an all-rounder when it comes to writing, with children’s and adult books from picture books and early readers, to short stories, and novels, as well as providing editing services, contests and anthology opportunities.

Big Sky Publishing will be providing book prize packs for one honourable mention in each category. Big Sky Publishing love to work closely with their authors to bring great Australian stories to readers everywhere.


Please send any questions to jwfkcompetition@gmail.com.


Need some inspiration for your pitch? Please have a look at Stef Gemmill’s winning pitch for her soon-to-be-released Toy Mountain from our 2018 Pitch It! Competition:

Toy Mountain is a 440-word picture book for 3-6 year olds. It’s a quirky, action packed story of 5-year old Sam’s chance to become a toy tester for the Tiny Hands Toy factory, reminiscent of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. After Sam signs up for his exciting new task, he quickly accumulates a pile of plastic, clunky toys, discarding his well-loved toys handed down to him from his Grandmother. Toy Mountain has an underlying theme of our world’s ‘war on waste’. In Australia, we generate 6.3 billion tonnes of plastic. Only 9% is recycled and 12% incinerated. The remainder goes into landfill polluting our precious environment. This story encourages the reader to cheer Sam along as he rescues his treasured old toys from being lost under a growing mound of broken plastic. Toy Mountain also draws on gatekeepers’ nostalgia for quality toys that can be cherished forever.