A Force To Be Reckoned With
– Career Stories from ADF Partners
There is an enormous amount of talent, creativity, grit and determination in the Australian Defence Force (ADF) spouse/partner community. Not to mention incredible stories of partners adapting to changing circumstances, making the most of new opportunities that come their way, and not just surviving but thriving in the face of the challenges. Each month we’re going to hear from an inspiring ADF partner who is achieving success (however they define it) in their career life and ask them what they’re doing, how they got there and what’s next.
Guest #1 Amelia McInerney – Author
I am so excited that Amelia McInerney agreed to be my first guest! Amelia is a children’s writer who is currently living in the Blue Mountains with her RAAF husband and 3 children. Her first two books (The Book Chook and Bad Crab) have been published and received rave reviews. The Book Chook is on the NSW Premier’s Reading Challenge list and is short-listed for the Speech Pathology Australia Book of the Year! Amelia has four more books on the way so keep an eye out!
How did you get started as a writer?
I had a lightbulb moment when I was reading a picture book to my newborn and my three-year-old. My eldest was almost six at the time, so I had been reading picture books to her for that long. I had always loved picture books, particularly funny, clever ones, both as an adult and as a child. The thought of writing them myself was really exciting.
How long have you been writing for?
I had that ‘lightbulb moment’ almost five years ago. I got into writing gradually because I had a newborn baby, a three-year-old and a kindergartener to look after, but I was hooked on writing for kids from the moment I started looking into it online.
When did you first consider yourself “a writer”?
I think I considered myself a writer after I had been working on a manuscript for a few months, and knew that, in time, I could get it to a shelf-worthy state. I didn’t consider myself an author until I had a book on the shelf.
What other jobs do you have/have you had?
I’ve been a sonographer for fifteen years and I still do ultrasound part-time.
What training/professional development have you done to become an author?
I started by scouring the internet, learning for free, and reading textbooks on creative writing. The nice thing about the arts is that you can be self-taught. I’m a member of the Children’s Book Council Australia, Writing NSW, and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and I’ve been attending writing conferences, festivals, workshops and the like for a few years now. I’m also a member of two writing groups, where we meet to critique each other’s work. All of these things have helped my development as an author, as has reading a lot in my genre, and writing a lot. Most of all, writing improves with writing.
Which locations have you lived in as a Defence family and which has been your favourite?
We met in my hometown, Melbourne, but besides living there (twice), we’ve lived in Newcastle, Canberra (twice), Katherine, Toronto (Canada), Washington D.C (USA) and now the lower Blue Mountains. It’s too hard to choose a favourite!
How did you become a published author?
When we posted from the States back to Australia, I joined some writing groups and started going to kidlit writing events in Sydney, Melbourne and the Blue Mountains. These networking opportunities were invaluable; I met my publishers and my agent at these events and I managed to score two publishing deals and an agent in the same month.
(Most publishing houses have ‘slush piles’ where anyone can email unsolicited manuscripts for consideration, and I had started doing that, but I think it helps if the publisher/agent has met the author or at least has seen them around at literary events beforehand.)
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced in your career/life that you’ve successfully overcome?
Getting anything published by a large publishing house is really difficult. This is especially true for picture books. Knowing what I was up against, I worked hard to learn about the industry and the craft of writing, which meant I gave up most of my spare time. And I still do! But, funnily enough, I think my writing goals actually helped, and continue to help with another challenge that military life presents to us all; the constant moving around. I still make friends on every posting, but I like having writing as a focus because I know I won’t ever have to leave it behind.
What are some of the opportunities that have come your way that you’ve embraced?
Two overseas postings were a dream come true. I had done a lot of overseas travel before I met my husband, and even spent a year working in the UK, but living in Canada and the US were incredible experiences. I’m pretty sure that the experience of living in so many different places over the last fifteen years was integral to my metamorphosis from sonographer to writer.
What are some career highlights you’ve had over the years?
I’m thrilled that my first book, The Book Chook, is shortlisted for the Speech Pathology Australia Book of the Year awards! And I’m still pinching myself that I have four more picture books coming out with Scholastic and Allen and Unwin. Signing with a top literary agent was another highlight. And this might seem like a much smaller thing, but doing author visits to my kids’ schools and preschools was pretty cool!
What advice would you give to someone considering a career change or pursuing a future in the creative arts?
Unfortunately, there’s not much money in the arts, at least not when you first start, so to take the pressure off, maintaining an income from somewhere else is a good idea. But you don’t have to do a degree for many artistic pursuits and there is so much to learn on the internet, for free. Find interest groups online (like on facebook) for education, support and friendship. And when you do have something to sell, learn about marketing. To begin, just start doing the thing you want to try doing, no matter how little free time you have, and give yourself permission to make a mess and have fun!
What are your next goals?
To keep publishing children’s books and build my career as an author. I’m always writing picture books but I’m also working on a chapter book series for 7-10 year olds and I aim to finish that in the next year or two. If I can stop writing picture books long enough.
Thank you Amelia! You can find details of Amelia’s books on her website http://www.ameliamcinerney.com and follow her on social media:
Facebook: Amelia McInerney Author
Her books are available at all good bookstores in Australia and New Zealand and worldwide at http://www.bookdepository.com
Would you like to share your story?