Emma Mactaggart: You can see your words in print. All you have to do is start writing.

Photograph of Emma MactaggartEmma Mactaggart has been fighting with a pen for the last decade and has managed to wrangle with a number of manuscripts, bringing them to air in the form of children’s picture books and a ‘how-to’ text book, gathering awards for them along the way. Armed with a Bachelor of Business (Marketing), she now helps others achieve their dream of having their books in print. She can’t help swinging her arms while wildly gesticulating as she teaches, and is equally fierce with a red pen if editing! It all sounds aggressive, but she is meek and mild and very keen on sharing all she knows with those whose she believes will contribute to Australia’s literary landscape in the future.


Is it unusual to say I have discovered a passion for unleashing the talents of aspiring writers just like you?

In 2003, I wrote the words and drew the pictures for what was my first book, I can do anything, a story about a little girl who was terrified of the prospect of going to school because she thought she was too little. It was for my daughter and as a result of seeing my words in print, I discovered picture books to be a powerful and enduring way to inspire others to overcome challenges. I was hooked.

I created Lily Fabourama Glamourama the following year, happily using all I had learnt the previous year, and then I was asked to speak about the process to others. I honestly believe this was simply because I had finished my projects, something many others merely talk or dream about.

There are many elements required to create a book and each on their own merit is accessible. All I needed was to write a captivating story, find the perfect illustrator and step through the process. This included working with graphic designers, printers, distributors, promoters and later, awards teams. The process was so 'doable', I just needed to believe in myself to achieve my goal of seeing my words in print.

Everyone has the ability to see their words in print.

I realised that everyone has the ability to see their words in print: a creative like yourself; a grandparent leaving a legacy to their own and other grandchildren; a mother sharing an epiphany with other mums. Recognising writing was a fundamental act and one that could lead to great things, I wanted to support those who had this goal.

Now, I stand beside children, mentoring them through the entire process, and to-date, have published over 350 titles by primary school-aged children, some very magnificent 'for purpose' picture books for organisations, as well as being there for adult writers, should they need me. I can’t believe my luck when I receive an email from an adult asking for support, an invitation to present workshops to teenagers or a chance to share a book with preschoolers. Writing requires the least amount of resources compared to other hobbies or careers (just a pen and paper), yet has the potential to give the writer and the reader so much more than mere words.

Writing ... has the potential to give the writer and the reader so much more than mere words.

If you, too, want to see your writing published, all that is required is someone to stand with you to make sure you don't run away when it all seems like an overwhelming and intimidating process. Stick with it, and I am sure you will experience this same feeling of elation and yet quiet joy when you see your words in print.

Emma Mactaggart is an ambassador for the USQ Get Writing Prize, a competition for high school students in years 7–12 with a passion for writing poetry or short stories. Find out more about the workshop and the USQ Get Writing Prize, or discover even more creative writing inspiration by reading the words of Jenny Pollak, the 2016 Bruce Dawe Poetry Prize winner.


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