In this second installment of my interview with Tonya Alexandra, she delivers some sage advice and we find out what has encouraged and challenged her in writing for kids. You can catch up on the first installment here

Tonya, I understand you have an agent. I hear that they are as hard to get as publishing contracts! Can you tell us how this came about?

I needed some help with the contract for my book deal, and one of the authors in our CBCA group told me an agent was really good for your career, not just a book deal, so I made a few calls and sent out my work and was accepted by one of the agents at Curtis Brown. Of course, it helped that I already had a deal!

What do you consider the most helpful things that encourage you to write and made you a better writer?

Looking at writing as a craft, I think inspires me be a better writer. The thought of a story as a big log which you whittle further and further down, to the minute detail until it’s a beautifully shaped story. I love that.

That’s a great image! However, I’m sure along the way there have been some struggles and challenges?

Yes. I’m an introvert so I don’t like self-promoting, I feel like a fraud. The money is depressing too. I recently made more money writing 10 days for a film than I did on a book which took me two years. So beware – many people dream to ‘be published’ and are let-down by what comes after. So don’t write to be published: If you are as a by-product of your writing anyway, that’s great. But it shouldn’t be your purpose or you’ll be disappointed. I understand, being published gives you creditability and makes you feel like you haven’t been wasting your time. But you are never wasting your time when you write. It’s vital to so many of us, as vital as going for a walk or swim for our body, we need it for our minds. Being published doesn’t change this.

Thanks Tonya, that’s a really helpful thing to keep in mind.It echoes this quote I came across on the Creative Kids Tales site by Andy Griffiths: 

‘Many fledgling writers misplace a lot of energy worrying about how to get their writing published. That energy is much better spent using writing to deeply explore yourself and the type of stories that only you can tell. Try to find the types of stories that you get a delicious thrill out of writing whether or not they eventually get published.

And this quote from Stephen King: “Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous… or making friends. Writing is magic, as much as the water of life as any other creative art. The water is free. So drink.” 

Yes. He’s right. Drink up people!

Apart from the general issues above, were there any particular discouragements for you in the writing/publishing process? If so, how did you deal with these?

Personally, I write to keep myself sane. If I didn’t love it I wouldn’t do it. Seriously. My first book deal was for three books to be published in Australia, UK & USA – but due to book industry complications slowly that got smaller and smaller until it became one book in Australia only. But you can’t focus on that. As I said, you keep writing because you love it.

Do you belong to any groups/associations and how have they helped your writing/getting published.

I am part of the northern suburbs sub-branch of CBCA NSW where I have met wonderful writers who have given me advice and support, and their events which have informed and inspired me. But my agent is the one who approaches publishers for me now.

Do you write in other genres? Have you been published elsewhere? Does that help your writing for children?

I have been in marketing – which helps me come up with ‘angles’ for books. I was also a travel writer for years; freelancing for SMH, The Age, and contributing editor for specialist holiday mags, Out & About With Kids, and Holidays With Kids. Writing in mags and papers definitely helps because you learn to work fast and not be precious with your work


Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions, Tonya. There is a lot in here for us to apply to our own situations. And I  totally recommend grabbing a copy of  ‘The Impossible Story of Olive in Love’ – it is a great read!

You can find out more about Tonya and her Olive series by visiting her website here

And my website is here!

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