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Deborah Frenkel



Date of Success:

Deborah Frenkel writes books, billboards, and the writing on the back of cereal boxes, which to date is probably her most widely read work. Books, though, are a) more filling and b) can be enjoyed at any time of day, making them definitely superior (though possibly less crunchy.)


Her picture books include Naturopolis (published 2022, Storytorch Press), and The Sydney Harbour Fairy (Affirm, 2023) with three more picture books also under contract for 2024 and 2025.


As well as accolades in the CYA writing competition, her accolades include a shortlisting in the inaugural SCBWI picture book competition and an Australian Society of Authors Award Mentorship.


She's based in Melbourne but spends most of her time in her imagination.


I’m not being melodramatic when I say I probably owe my entire creative writing career to CYA.


I’m an advertising copywriter by day, but after a decade writing for a living I’d forgotten the joy of writing for its own sake. During my first maternity leave, I rediscovered picture books, enrolled myself in a short course, and heard some mentions of a mysterious “seeya competition” which would provide some actual feedback to all entrants.


So in 2018 I entered the CYA competition on the very last day it was open, sitting in our local library while my daughter was doing her three hours of daycare orientation, frantically typing as the clock ticked down – not an ideal way to write. But that year, one of my picture book entries came 11th (the other came something like 223rd!), and I was hooked.


The next year, I was slightly more prepared and drafted a non-fiction picture book manuscript all about the little scraps of nature hiding in the city – something I’d been acutely aware of in my slooooooow adventures around our suburb with a very dawdly toddler. It came fourth and I was both thrilled and devastated that it hadn’t placed.


But with that little boost of confidence, I entered the manuscript into the following year’s ASA Award Mentorships and was selected… a series of events that gave me the confidence to submit it a few months later to Storytorch Press’ first ever submission window. Two months later, I got a call from the publisher saying they’d like to publish it, and that became Naturopolis which was released in August 2022 (illustrated by Ingrid Bartkowiak.) Since then, I’ve consecutively placed third, second and first in various picture book categories – gratifying to see that I’m improving year-on-year!


The competition sucked me in, but the conference kept me coming back. Unfortunately by the time I realised the conference would be an amazing thing to attend, we were in the midst of Covid, so my conference experiences thus far have been entirely online. But despite that, they’ve been invaluable. Craft is one thing, but navigating the nuances of the industry is another, and CYA has been instrumental in my understanding of both.


Hot tip – if you have the time, volunteer to judge some competition categories. By reading other’s work, I’ve learned a lot about what makes a manuscript stand out. It’s a crash course in critiquing that you can apply to your own work. And if you’ve benefited from CYA, it’s an amazing way to pay it forward.

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