2016 has been a tremendously eventful year on the blog, with establishing the Directory, a cascade of amazing interviewees and guest posters, and invaluable tips and news updates made available. And I couldn’t have done it all without the support and dedication of my wonderful team of bloggers and the Australian kidlit community. So, thank you! I feel blessed to be a part of this always-inspiring world.

To celebrate, a few of us Just Write For Kids bloggers got together to reflect personally on the year that was. Here’s what we had to say…

What is one major lesson you’ve learned about yourself or your writing this year?

Renee: I’ve learned two! One is stop over-thinking (it’s such a time-waster) and the second is try to ignore the self-doubt and really believe in my capabilities.

Megan: I can do far more and achieve way more than I ever imagined that I could. Disclaimer: It takes a lot of hard work.

Kellie: In making lots of lovely new connections with authors and illustrators this year, I’ve really learnt that I’m not alone when it comes to doubting my creative abilities. It makes such a difference, though, to have people you can share your highs and lows with, and your fears and doubts. Knowing that I’m not the only one who wonders if they’re good enough to make it in the publishing industry, and having friends to discuss both the frustrations and the exciting times with, has made all the difference to me.

Romi: I’ve learned to take some risks, experiment with new and totally unfamiliar ideas. Like Renee and Kellie, there have been moments of self-doubt, but remembering that fire and passion in my heart has kept me going. When you’re on a roll, don’t get off!

Can you find an article or blog post that was particularly helpful to you?

Megan: A blog post from Jen Storer, Right Story, Wrong Format. Why it is Important to be True to the Story, was a game changer for me. This post, plus a writer’s group session, and reading a particular picture book (all in three days), made me revisit a picture book manuscript of mine and rewrite it. I’m publishing it next year. Yay!

Renee: There are too many to list here, but I always find inspiration and reassurance in blogposts by Jen Storer, Tania McCartney and Adam Wallace. Check them out!

Debra: Anything from Jen Storer or Tania McCartney, and this one: http://www.chroniclebooks.com/blog/2012/02/17/over-and-under-the-snow/

Romi: Agree! Those authors are inspirational. I loved ‘Dialogue: the five main uses’ by Jen Storer, amongst others, and I found Virginia Lowe’s ‘The Picture Book Storyboard’ made a real difference in organising the balance of the plot. Also, Debra’s write up on her lessons from the Kids and YA Festival 2016 contains plenty of invaluable and inspirational tips from highly acclaimed creators.

Kellie: Ooh, so many great ones to choose from! I particularly loved this reminder of the importance of “butt in chair” time from young adult author Susan Dennard.

What has been the biggest highlight?

Debra: Signing a book deal with Hachette Australia – my picture book comes out in October 2017.

Renee: Featuring in the kids’ program for the Newcastle Writers’ Festival.

Kellie: The biggest highlight for me this year has definitely been getting my first publishing contract signed!

Megan: One of my biggest highlights was the first Meet the Publishers Conference in Melbourne. I was thrilled to meet, in person, many from Just Write for Kids, as well as many other authors that I had met on Facebook. I could barely contain myself I was so excited.

Romi: Same here, Megan! Attending the Meet the Publishers Conference was an absolute thrill. I just loved meeting the creators I admired and even become ‘buddies’ with. The whole event was the best kind of information- and entertainment-overload possible!

Who was your favourite or most admired person you met?

Kellie: Too many people to name just one here. Honestly, every creative person I have met who has turned their passion into a career has inspired me. Similarly, I also hugely admire all the creators of the amazing books I’ve read this year – their stories have moved me, sent me to another world, or taught me something.

Romi: Well said, Kellie!

Renee: I had a brief, yet lovely first chat with Serena Geddes at the Newcastle Writers’ Festival in April. She’s delightful! J

Debra: Margaret Wild at the CBCA northern Sydney subbranch Christmas party.

What was your favourite children’s book you read this year?

Renee: Ooh, now this is a tough one – there are dozens of favourites! Can I mention a few? Clarrie’s Pig Day Out by Jen Storer, Australia Illustrated by Tania McCartney, The Bad Guys (all of them!) by Aaron Blabey and What Could it Be? by Sally Fawcett.

Romi: Same, Renee! I also enjoyed Olive of Groves and the Great Slurp of Time by Katrina Nannestad, which took me back to my love of Enid Blyton’s Magic Faraway Tree days as a child.

Debra: Too hard to pick just one! The two that come instantly to mind are Captain Sneer the Buccaneer by Penny Morrison and The Fabulous Friend Machine by Nick Bland.

Kellie: Eek, how can I name just one?! So many amazing books… One of the most memorable for me though would probably have to be A Court of Mist and Fury, by Sarah J. Maas. She is one of the current YA masters in my books.

Megan: I’m being cheeky here. It is To the Moon and Back: Grandma’s Rocket Ship Adventure by Merelyn Carter and illustrated by Ester de Boer. It will be available January next year. I saw it being developed and I love it. The illustrations are so bright, colourful, full of movement and feeling. I can’t wait to get my copy.

How will you be spending your holiday break?

Kellie: I’m looking forward to hanging out with my family, who are visiting from interstate, and trying to fit in some more reading and writing when I get the chance!

Megan: I will be catching up with family and friends. Reading. Researching. Relaxing. Writing. Planning for 2017. It’s going to be a big year.

Renee: My family is looking forward to some down-time over Christmas, then back into performing and book-release/launch prep in the new year! We’ll fit in some day-trips to the beach and maybe the zoo as well. J

Debra: Celebrating Christmas with family, reading the books I unwrap from under the tree (I hope!) and relaxing.

Romi: Sounds wonderful! I’ll be spending time with family and friends, sorting, organising, reading and planning for the year ahead! It’ll be great!

What do you most look forward to in 2017?

Renee: Getting into full-swing with the release of my second book… and signing a publishing contract or three LOL

Megan: The launch of my first book, Raymund and the Fear Monster late 2017. A close second would be catching up with everyone at Meet the Publishers Conference in Melbourne in May 2017.

Debra: My new book coming out.

Romi: New ideas and professional development plans coming to fruition!

What festive message would you like to share with our readers this season?

Renee: Have yourself a super-duper Christmas and magical wishes to you for a wonderfully creative 2017!

Kellie: Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all the readers and creators out there. I hope that amidst all the craziness of the festive season that you find a little time to yourself to read or write a story that inspires you. 🙂

Megan: Stay safe; have fun with family and friends; take a break; laugh daily; find delight and enjoyment in the simple everyday things; be kind to yourself and others. Have an absolutely fantabulous Christmas and New Year everyone!

Debra: May you be blessed with the love, joy and wonder of Christmas.

Romi: Take some time to reflect on all the highs, and lows, that have contributed to your strength and success. Look forward to a bright future that awaits. Wishing you all the joy and happiness over the holiday season x

Thanks to my fantastic team for everything! See them all here.

See you in 2017! 🌟 🌲 🍰

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