Debut author, Kassandra Papuga, discusses her writing journey

April 30th, 2021

By Kassandra Papuga

I have been a primary school teacher since 2007. I love the connections I form with the students I teach, and I particularly enjoy sharing my love of books and writing with them. I love guiding my students through the writing process, assisting them with developing their ideas and supporting them in producing a piece of writing they are genuinely proud of.

I was fortunate to return to teaching part-time after our daughter was born. The year before she started school and before I returned to full time teaching, I longed to do something enjoyable for myself. So, I made the decision to enrol in the Australian Writers Centre five-week course, “Writing Picture Books”. It was truly one of the best decisions I have ever made.

The idea for 'Iris' initially started as an assignment for the writing course. If you have read the previous two blog posts, you would know that the inspiration behind the story is a beautiful, chocolate-brown alpaca who lives near us, leading to our daughter developing quite a fondness for alpacas. 

The first draft of 'Iris' came easily to me, like one long stream of consciousness. Of course, there were things I wanted to change after that initial first draft, but one of the best pieces of advice I gained from the “Writing Picture Books” course was to create a new document with each new draft you create. Don’t amend that first draft – keep it! Once your ideas are deleted from that first draft, they are hard to get back!! 

Read your manuscript to as many willing listeners as you can, and ask trusted friends and family to read it for you. Join online groups and forums, and seek out new readers for your story. Be open to constructive feedback and create new drafts with the changes you have made.

A notebook and pen beside your bed is also essential for any author. If you are anything like me, story ideas and inspiration will often come at the most unusual times (2:00am, anyone?) and don’t fool yourself into thinking you will remember them in the morning – you won’t! It’s worth jotting your ideas down by the dim light on your phone in the wee hours of the morning, because you might discover you have something truly spectacular there when you read it with wide awake eyes! 

I know the advice many authors give is to write every day. But, if I’m being completely honest, as a full-time working mum and wife, I don’t get my laptop out to write as often as I should. So, my own advice to aspiring writers is, “Write as often as you can.” Set up a place within your house that is just “yours” to write in. If you sit there long enough, the words should come. (Fingers crossed!) 

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