At the beginning of your career, you may not have a long list of publications that you can include in your Author Bio. However, there are a number of things that you can do to help build your credentials.
You don’t have to have published books. Any other publications show that you are serious about writing. For example:
Think outside the box. Could you write an historical article for the local newspaper? Could you be a guest blogger on a friend’s blog? Do you know of somewhere you could write book reviews? Do you have scholarly articles on architecture from university you could consider submitting? Any of these will help to build a respectable Author Bio.
Some resources to find other publishing credits:
- Magazine Markets for Children’s Writers: The 2017 print edition of this directory is now available. It also includes a helpful section on contests and awards. $26.95. Available through the Institute for Writers.
- Places for Writers: An online resource available at www.placesforwriters.com
- Poets & Writers: An online resource available at www.pw.org
Enter writing competitions
I like these competitions in particular because they consider children’s literature as separate from writing for adults.
- The Writing for Children Competition hosted by CANSCAIP and The Writers’ Union of Canada. This contest is near and dear to my heart as in 2011, before Skink on the Brink was published, it won this Canada-wide competition. Definitely the highlight of my writing career to this point!
- PNWA (Pacific North-West Writer’s Association) Literary Contest: This one has 12 categories including one category for YA, one for Middle Grade and one for Picture Books/ Chapter Books.
- The Katherine Paterson Prize for YA and Children’s Writing: Organised through Hunger Mountain, the journal for the Vermont College of Fine Arts (VCFA). Divided into Young Adult, Middle Grade, and Picture Book.
- Seven Hills Literary Competition: Organised through the Tallahassee Writers Association. They publish all competition winners in the Seven Hills Review, an anthology with a very small print run that you can actually buy on Amazon.
- The Helen Isobel Sissons Canadian Children’s Story Award: Organised through the Project for Advancement of Childhood Education (PACE) to recognise a “short story for young children that reflects the diversity of the world’s population.”
- The Writers’ Federation of New Brunswick Writing Competition: Open to members of the WFNB, New Brunswick residents, and non-resident New Brunswickers, this competition has a distinct category for Books for Young People.
Of course, there are other children’s writing competitions – but not many. I may not have entered them myself but that doesn’t mean they are not reputable. However, you should always be careful when sending your manuscript and your entry fee. You want to make sure you are dealing with a responsible governing body and be certain that you retain all rights to your work.
If you write for adults, there may also be other competitions (e.g. short story contests, postcard competitions, etc.) to help you get those credits under your belt. If you’re local to the Fergus/ Elora area, then of course check out the Elora Writers’ Festival competitions. You can also find writing contests more specifically suited to your own work in guides such as Magazine Markets for Children’s Writers.
Aspiring and established authors can take courses to learn more about the craft of writing. These are also terrific additions to any Author Bio.
- George Brown College: Offers courses in creative writing, including writing children’s fiction (taught by Ted Staunton) and writing non-fiction for children (taught by Cathy Rondina.)
- Humber School for Writers: Offers workshops and correspondence courses.
- Ryerson University: Offers a range of creative writing courses and workshops, including writing for the children’s market.
- University of Toronto: Offers a Certificate in Creative Writing, as well as a number of individual courses focused on writing for children (e.g. picture books, young adult, etc.)
- Vermont College of Fine Arts (VCFA): Offers a Masters in Fine Arts (MFA) in Writing for Children and Young Adults. Most is done from home by correspondence with two 10-day on-campus residences. Also offers a Graduate Certificate in Picture Books.
Conferences are great places to develop your skills, learn the latest about the industry and to meet writers, editors and publishers. Being able to say you met someone at a conference, or saw them present, gives you an opening when sending your submission and shows that you are serious about developing your craft. You may even get an opportunity to talk to an agent or an editor, so be prepared with your elevator pitch.
Some good conferences include:
- Canadian Society of Authors, Illustrators and Performers (CANSCAIP) Packaging Your Imagination Conference. Held every November in Toronto. www.canscaip.org
- Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) holds an annual Winter Conference in New York and Summer Conference in Los Angeles. The Canada East Chapter also holds a Fall Conference in Ottawa, and occasional events and retreats in places like Niagara Falls or Huntsville.
- Highlights Foundation Workshops: The Highlights Foundation offers over three dozen workshops per year covering a wide range of topics and offering encouragement for both beginning and published authors and illustrators. Highlights Foundation workshops are held in Honesdale, Pennsylvania, but many Canadians attend.
- The smaller conferences, WordSpring and WordsFall, are hosted by the Writers’ Federation of New Brunswick each May and November respectively.
Join an association
There are many good associations for professional and aspiring writers. Some are national or international in scope, while others are regional in nature. The level of resources offered to members will vary, but they all provide an opportunity to network with other writers and demonstrate your professional commitment.
- Canadian Society of Children’s Authors, Illustrators & Performers CANSCAIP
- The Canadian Children’s Book Centre CCBC
- Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators SCBWI
- Communication Jeunesse (for writers of Quebecois and French Canadian children’s books)
- The Writers’ Union of Canada TWUC (for published authors or those with contracts in hand)
- Professional Writers Association of Canada PWAC (for all writers, not just writers of children’s books)
- Writers’ Federation of New Brunswick WFNB
- Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia WFNS
- Writers’ Alliance of Newfoundland & Labrador WANL
- Association des auteures et auteurs de l’Ontario français AAOF (for all Ontario writers working in french, not just those who are writing for children)
- Children’s Writers and Illustrators of BC CWILL
- Arts Council Windsor & Region ACWR
- The Writers’ Community of Durham Region WCDR
- Elora Arts Council EAC
Additional/ Significant Steps You Can be Taking
As you continue writing and building your credentials, it is helpful to continue building your network of writers and industry contacts. Attending courses and conferences and joining associations are useful, but there are other ways that you can expand your network.
Find a critique group (online or in person)
- A great resource for feedback on your writing, but often a place to share information about the industry too.
- An example I have found particularly helpful is “Kidcrit.” Open to new members who are serious, committed writers for children, even if they’re not yet published.
Attend literary festivals & events, such as:
- The Word on the Street – locations across Canada. Happens in September.
- Ontario Library Association Superconference – in Toronto in February. (Admission to the Expo part of the event is usually $45. It’s a great way to browse publishers’ tables, meet people and see what’s going on in the book world.)
- The Festival of Trees – Canada’s largest literary event for children and teens. The awards ceremonies take place in Toronto and satellite cities across Ontario in May.
- Elora Writers’ Festival – in the beautiful town of Elora, just outside of Guelph in May
- Telling Tales – Canada’s largest children’s literary festival. In Rockton (near Hamilton) in September
- Eden Mills Writers’ Festival – in September in a small village just outside of Guelph.
- North Words Literary Festival – in Huntsville in September
- Fog Lit Literary Festival – an inclusive family festival in Saint John, New Brunswick each October
- WordPlay – the North Shore of Nova Scotia’s family literary festival, happening in June
Connect with other writers online through:
Keep writing! And revise, revise, revise!!!