Australian Literary Agents' Association

Ask an ALAA Agent

Advice for Aspiring Picture Book AuthorsThe Victorian Writer

For the May edition of Ask an ALAA Agent Jacinta di Mase, Director of Jacinta di Mase Management, has collated some of the ALAA agents’ top tips for emerging picture book authors.

‘Writing a picture book is like writing “War and Peace” in Haiku.’ – Mem Fox.

Mem also offers tips for writers on her website such as:

Remember that a picture book is 32 pages. In printing, the pages are folded in half, then in 4, then in 8, then in 16, then in 32 which is why the 32-page format still exists. Half of those pages are pictures, so try to keep the word-count under 500 and don’t explain anything that will be made obvious in the artwork. When you’re drafting a picture book it’s useful to make your own 32-page mock-book, called ‘a dummy’, by copying all the features of a real picture book like endpapers, the title page, dedication and publishing information page and so on. It also helps to put the text on each page to see how the page-turns pan out.  The page-turns are crucial to success.

Here are top tips from ALAA Agents:

Brian Cook -The Authors’ Agent:
Read Australian books as widely as possible.  You are most likely to get a publishing opportunity in your home market first so read, read and read some more.

•           Visit children’s bookshops and look at what is on the shelves.  How are the sections broken down and presented?  Try to obtain a sense of which Australian publishers are doing what sort of books and how they do them.

•           Visit your local library and get to know the Children’s Librarian.  Ask them to guide you through Australian lists of the past few years.  Make sure you know if you are looking at Australian original publications or those from elsewhere. (There is a difference.)

Jacinta di Mase – Jacinta di Mase Management

Think about the number of pages in a picture book and space the text accordingly. Use the page breaks to create suspense, drama, and emphasis. Read it aloud over and over again before submitting it to agents or publishers to ensure that the story flows and that you’re not trying to “shoe-horn” words into the story’s natural rhythm.

Fiona Inglis – Curtis Brown Australia

Contrary to what most unpublished writers think, picture book texts are MUCH harder to write than almost anything else. With a novel of 100,000 words it doesn’t matter if a few of them are not perfect. In a book of 500 words every single word has to be the right one, and in the right place. I believe the most important word in THE GRUFFALO’S CHILD, for instance, is ‘she’. Look it up.

Clare Forster – Curtis Brown Australia

‘Picture-book publishers like to be very involved in the crucial creative pairing of author and illustrator. In many cases, picture books begin with a text only.

If you are writing a text, but don’t intend to illustrate it yourself, it’s most likely the case that the publisher would want to make their own choices about who might illustrate it, and in what style. Naturally these are choices which, if a book is taken on, the publisher talks through with the author (and agent). It’s important not to start out with set ideas or arrangements as to who might illustrate the text.

Some illustrators work with texts by other authors, some are author-illustrators, and some do both kinds of work. We represent many wonderful, award-winning author-illustrators including David Cornish and Lucinda Gifford; in the course of their careers and having different projects on the go, they like to illustrate texts by others, too.’

Debbie Golvan – Golvan Arts Management

Read your text out loud and make it sing.
Note that publishers are mostly NOT interested in work that rhymes.

This article was first published in the May 2015 edition of The Victorian Writer.
Writers Victoria publishes 10 issues per year of The Victorian Writer magazine per year, it’s definitely worth subscribing!
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Creative Writing Fellowships for Regional NSW Writers


Varuna the National Writers House is now accepting applications for the 2015 LitLink Residential Fellowship.

A LitLink Residential Fellowship offers writers living in regional NSW and the greater Sydney area* a two-week residency at the idyllic Varuna in the Blue Mountains, NSW.

The fellowship includes full board and accommodation at Varuna including a prepared evening meal, uninterrupted time to write in your own private studio, the companionship of your fellow writers as well as the opportunity to receive feedback on your work from a Varuna Consultant.

Varuna will award five Litlink Fellowships in 2015 with the residency dates being Monday 17 August until Sunday, 30 August 2015.

Varuna invites writers working in all creative forms, including fiction, drama, poetry and narrative non-fiction to apply for this fellowship with applications closing 30 April 2015.

Varuna thanks Arts NSW for supporting this wonderful initiative.

For full details and to apply visit:

email: or phone: (02) 4782 5674
*To be eligible for a LitLink Residential Fellowship you will need to live in regional New South Wales or the greater Sydney area:

  • South (Kogarah, Hurstville, Canterbury, Rockdale, Sutherland)
  • North (Hornsby, Ku-ring-gai, Pittwater, Warringah)
  • West Central (Auburn, Blacktown, Hills Shire, Holroyd, Parramatta)
  • North West (Baulkham Hills, Blacktown, Blue Mountains, Hawkesbury, Penrith)
  • South West (Bankstown, Fairfield, Wollondilly, Camden, Campbelltown, Liverpool)
  • Central Coast (Gosford and Wyong)



Ray Koppe Young Writers’ Residency

Ray Koppe Young Writers’ Residency

The Australian Society of Authors (ASA) will accept applications for the annual Ray Koppe Young Writers’ Residency in April 2015. The program is open to writers who have not yet had a full-length work published and have a limited publication history of short works. Judges will accept submissions across a range of genres, and will select the winner based on literary merit. The winner will be offered a week’s stay at Varuna, The Writers’ House [ <] in Katoomba NSW, to support the development of a work-in-progress.

This residency was established in 2011 by the Koppe family as a tribute to their mother, Ray Koppe. Ray, who for many years managed the business affairs of the ASA, was always passionately interested in and supportive of young writers. The inaugural winner of the program, Renae Haywood, had her first book published by Walker Books in September 2013. Other past winners include Dimitra Harvey (2012), Hannah Bent (2013) and Danielle Binks (2014).

Applicants must be Associate members of the ASA, working on a specific writing project and under the age of 30 on the closing date. They must also have no more than eight short pieces in total published in journals, collections and/or anthologies, including commissioned creative blog-posts and digital publications. Applicants do not need to have any pieces published to be eligible to apply.

Eligibility Criteria and Submission Guidelines are available at:< Applicants should read the Frequently Asked Questions before preparing their submission.

Applications open: 30 March 2015
Applications close: 4 may 2015

For more information contact Laurine Croasdale, Professional Development Officer at
the Australian Society of Authors on 02 9211 1004 or <

NSW Writers’ Centre courses

The NSW Writers’ Centre has just released a bumper program of courses for January to June 2015. Check it out…

‘Ask an ALAA Agent’ in The Victorian Writer magazine

We are now contributing useful ‘insider’ articles on publishing to The Victorian Writer magazine

Griffith University Josephine Ulrick Prizes

Funded and administered by Griffith University in agreement with the Josephine Ulrick and Win Schubert Foundation for the Arts, the Josephine Ulrick literature and poetry prizes are worth $30,000 in total prize money in 2015.

Literature Prize 2015

For a short story up to 2000 words:

  • First Prize: $10,000
  • Second Prize: $5,000

Poetry Prize 2015
For a poem up to 100 lines:

  • First Prize: $10,000
  • Second Prize: $5,000


Key Dates

  • Entries open 1 December 2014
  • Entries close Friday 13 February 2015
  • Winners announced on the website: Early May 2015


More information
Website: Griffith University Josephine Ulrick Prizes
General enquiries:

Varuna Open House day – 13 September

The much-loved Blue Mountains (NSW) writers’ centre Varuna will have an Open House day on Saturday September 13, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Visitors can take a tour of the house and garden, and enjoy live entertainment for kids and adults, readings and author talks, plus book, plant and cake stalls. It’s a rare opportunity to see the original home of authors Eleanor and Eric Dark, later gifted to the nation’s writers by the Dark family. Some of the featured Open House events this year include:

• a series of heritage kitchen conversations with Anne Elliott from Slow Food Blue Mountains, who will be cooking recipes from Eleanor Dark’s own cookbook!
• Eleanor Dark’s biographer Barbara Brooks, talking with local author Sylvia Martin in Eleanor’s own writing studio – answering questions about Eleanor’s life, and reading from her work and letters.
• wonderful Children’s writers to entertain younger visitors – stay tuned for news of the featured authors.
• Varuna Alumni author Jessie Cole talking about her acclaimed new novel Deeper Water – in conversation with Peter Bishop; and
• the opportunity to chat with local writers, Varuna Alumni, consultants and Board members about their work at Varuna, and the ongoing legacy of the Eleanor Dark Foundation.

For more information visit

Entries now open for the 2014 Queensland Literary Awards

As has been announced recently, State Library of Queensland is taking a leadership role managing the awards, collaborating with the QLA community to continue the program.

Ten award categories provide opportunities for both published and emerging writers, as well as four fellowships supporting new works by Queensland writers.

Categories for the 2014 program are:

  • The University of Queensland Fiction Book Award
  • The University of Queensland Non-fiction Book Award
  • Griffith University Young Adult Book Award
  • Griffith University Children’s Book Award
  • University of Southern Queensland History Book Award
  • University of Southern Queensland Australian Short Story Collection – Steele Rudd Award
  • State Library of Queensland Poetry Collection – Judith Wright Calanthe Award
  • Unpublished Indigenous Writer – David Unaipon Award (supported by the Copyright Agency Cultural Fund and University of Queensland Press)
  • Emerging Queensland Writer – Manuscript Award (supported by the University of Queensland Press)
  • The Courier-Mail People’s Choice Queensland Book for the Year

Plus, three Queensland Writers Fellowships of $15,000, and the inaugural Queensland Premier’s Young Writers Fellowship of $10,000.

Entries close 19 September 2014

For more information and entry details visit


NT Writers’ Centre – Alice Springs program

The Northern Territory Writers’ Centre looks after a vibrant and diverse writing community. Although the centre is in Darwin, there are activities in other parts of the Territory, including Alice Springs. For the program of what Alice Springs writers can look forward to over the next few months, please visit the NT Writers Centre website.

NSW Writers’ Centre – Open Access: Selling Your Book in the Digital Age

The full line-up has been announced for New South Wales Writers’ Centre’s Open Access, the symposium on selling your book in the digital age, taking place on Saturday 6 September.
The list of speakers includes publisher Robert Watkins from Hachette, digital expert Anna Maguire,Cate Blake from Penguin Books, Alice Grundy from Giramondo and authors Anita Heiss, Darrell Pitt, Summer Land and Bruce McCabe.
For the full program, please visit the NSWWC website

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