Taking Five with Tania McCartney


What do you love about children’s books?

Oh, so very much. The language, the pictures, the stories, the magic—the fact that you can create tales to enchant and enlighten kids, and make them think and become something.

Children’s book authors have a great responsibility to write stories that expand a child’s world, open their hearts and stuff wonderful things into their brains. We need to write well, we need to create beautiful pictures, and never skimp on quality of content, style, image or narrative.

Children’s books create a formative love of story and reading in kids, and give them access to information and nous that’s so readily absorbed because it’s FUN to read. And great children’s books help develop a culture of reading and literacy and art appreciation that changes lives. What’s not to love?

How/where do you find your inspiration?

I mostly find it in the everyday. The things people say, how we interact with each other, the tiny little things that happen. I once wrote a picture book after spilling hundreds and thousands on the kitchen bench!

I’m also hugely inspired by kids themselves—and the remarkable way they see the world; it’s so inspirational. Travel, art, photography, nature and history are also inspiring for me. I love to look into the past and relate it to the present, then project it into the future. So I guess you could say I’m also inspired by time travel?

What can participants expect to take away from your upcoming children’s book creator masterclass at the ACT Writers Centre (Saturday 19 November)?

Nearly thirty years’ worth of heart and passion and hands-on experience in writing, publishing and children’s publishing. Not many people know I’ve also had my own small publishing company, and have written and edited for magazines for two decades now—so there’s a lot I want to share. I was only recently talking to my friend Jen Storer about our deepest passions, and one of them, for both of us, is passing on what we have learned and inspiring new creators. It’s really important. So, during the masterclass, I am laying open my head for participants to peek inside!

I also think the format of this masterclass is wonderful because it’s tailor-made to each participant. Many workshops don’t necessarily cover exactly what each participant needs; we’re each on a unique journey, after all… so tailoring the content to suit each person is priceless. This is why we’re keeping numbers low, too. And of course, each participant will receive my Fantastical Flying Creator course, which not only reiterates but exponentially expounds upon what we’ll cover in the masterclass.

Oh, and I know they’ll take away valuable contacts and new friendships too.

What inspired you to create your Fantastical Flying Creator PDF workshop?

The endless questions I’m asked! I began my Ask Tania column on my blog to help people out, but I found it wasn’t enough. I wanted to go deeper and offer ‘more’, so I condensed almost everything I’ve learned into one PDF that people can refer to over and over again. Just this weekend, I had someone tell me they used it again when faced with their first radio interviews.

It’s so exciting to be able to share my experience, because I remember how tough it was when first starting out. And it’s only getting tougher as our children’s book industry grows. Flying Creator has become a sort of reference guide for people wanting to fast-track their knowledge of the kids’ book industry, and take their career to new heights. So, that’s exciting.

If you could give aspiring children’s book writers one piece of advice, what would it be?

Hone your craft. Create constantly. Get better, better, better. Become a master. This takes a lot of time and endless effort and commitment, but it’s so vital. A ‘nice’ story won’t cut it anymore—the industry wants phenomenal, so we must constantly improve and refine our work, to stand out in the morass. See this amazing short by Ira Glass about honing our craft and closing ‘the gap’ between what you know you can do and what you’re actually able to do. He nails it.

So yes, practise, practise, practise, and know that every word you write and every image you draw is never wasted—it’s adding to your talent cache. And that talent cache is what will see you both published… and successful.


Tania will be running a Children’s Book Creator Masterclass Saturday 19 November at the Writer Centre, 3pm-6pm.  Come and learn the ins and outs of children’s writing and publishing with us.


Tania McCartney
adores books and words and pictures. If she could, she would live inside a book, and as an author, illustrator and editor—she kind of already does. Tania’s books have won awards and shortlistings, and in November 2016, her 22nd (and first self-illustrated) book, Australia Illustrated, will be released in Australia, NZ, the UK, US and Canada. Tania lives just outside the ACT with a very nice husband, two marvellous kids, and a Himalayan mountain of books. www.taniamccartney.com


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