Mackie NeighbourMAIN
Ever wondered what it takes to become a published author? Sydneysider and first-time author Tracey Brady takes us on her rocky journey from idea to printed page.

Nicknamed 'the bookworm' at school, with a penchant for spending lunchtimes in the library and squirelling away novels under the dinner table, Tracey Brady loved words from a young age.

Melbourne-born, and the eldest of three girls, she spent her younger years on the move due to her father's job in the RAAF – from Canberra to Newcastle then Penang off the coast of Malaysia and back to Sydney for her high-school years. She now lives near Windsor with her sons, aged 24 and 21, her husband, and their cat with the familiar name, Mackie Neighbour.

The inspiration to see her work in print came when a published author started working with Tracey at her childcare centre. "It hit me like a bolt of lightning," she says. "If she can do it maybe an ordinary wife and mother like me can too," she says.

After falling into what she calls the first-time author trap and writing a failed autobiography, Tracey cut her losses and set her sights on a category she loved and knew: children's fiction. After seven years and many letters of rejection, Tracey achieved her goal, self-publishing her first book Mackie Neighbour with the help of Melbourne mum and first-time illustrator Jess Racklyeft.

The book began with a grain of truth. "We do have a cat, whose name is just plain Mack. We would stand out in the backyard and call Mack in for dinner, and one day we heard a little girl's voice calling out to him from over the back fence, 'Mackie Neighbour, Mackie Neighbour!'," says Tracey. "Mack would jump over to see her and was happy – until they got a cat of their own, who would regularly beat poor Mack up, but he just kept on going over there. I had to craft a happy ending to the story though, and couldn't resist a bit of a moral."

Armed with her tale, Tracey entered the daunting world of publishing, and, as expected, it wasn't an easy ride. After more rejections, she was left with no option but to self-publish. "I finally came to the realisation that if I wanted to get my book out there for children to read, and hopefully enjoy, then I would have to save my pennies, hire an illustrator and publish it myself," she says. "Luckily that option is quite a viable one these days, and with a lot of very helpful people around, it's not as hard as it seems."

If you have ever thought about putting your own words into print, Tracey highlights the importance of perseverance. "Read your story out loud as you write it. That's the only way to get the flow right. Children's books are designed to be read aloud," she says. "Don't be afraid to ask questions; most people with specialised knowledge will happily explain things to you."

Inspired by Dr Seuss, who Tracey calls "the greatest wordsmith of all time", and books such as Wonky Donkey (which she dares you to read without smiling, if not laughing out loud), Tracey is keen to continue her writing career, and has already finished three more books.

Mackie Neighbour is available at:

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May 2015 CHILD Cover