Hey cHEwY gum gums!

At last month’s SCBWI Sydney meeting, I was chatting to someone who was looking to get into writing for kids. They asked me if they needed to do a writing degree to become a writer. It’s a common question I get asked by kids and adults alike.

Here’s the short answer. No, you don’t.

But I did get a writing degree and it helped me a bit.

Fresh out of high school, I went to Western Sydney University (back then it was called UWS haha) to do my B Comm (Writing and Publishing). The degree was split into two parts, creative and technical.

Technical writing covered stuff like copyediting, proofreading, writing information guides, council procedures, manuals…yes it’s the boring side of writing that many tend to ignore, but it’s decent work if you could get it. I did an internship for the Whitlam Institute at WSU Parramatta campus, copyediting and producing articles and it was kinda alright.

But what about the creative writing side? What I found helpful was the assignments where I had to produce writing pieces, short stories and the odd novella. The feedback was great and it gave me a deadline, so I couldn’t procrastinate.

You can get all of those perks by simply joining a writer’s group, whether in person or online.

I still think a writing degree is unnecessary when it comes to being an author. It may warrant a mention in your Cover Letter. But for those who are just starting out, I do recommend doing some short courses. Writing is a craft, with tools and skills that you can pick up from doing them. There are a ton, start with your local writers Centre, the ASA or if you want to write for kids, check out SCBWI. Not only do you get learn the ropes of your choice of genre, it will give you the confidence to pursue your stories. A course is the perfect kickstarter to your writing journey.

Plus you never stop learning. I love overloading my brain at conferences and festivals, with juicy information for my own writing. Sometimes I will drop into a class led by a fellow author pal and just soak it in (with their permission of course hohoho). When I did a writing humour for kids session at last year’s Writers Unleashed festival in Gymea, a few author friends came along to watch, it’s all good.

At the last SCBWI conference, Valerie Khoo and Alison Tait had a session on how to build an online author platform. It was all gold! They also have a brilliant podcast called So You Want to be a Writer? Plus they have a book out now, hop into it.

Honestly, it just depends on which way you like to learn, as well as your schedule. Is it through podcasts, joining a writers group, or just cornering an author and asking them 100 questions. Just have an open mind and be prepared for the overload.

By all means, go ahead and do that writing degree if you’d like. Enjoy the experience and soak it up. At the end of the day though, the one qualification you really need to be a writer is desire. If you want to be a writer…just write!

O.W