So you wanna be a children's writer, eh? 

The Writer's Union of Canada hosts contest

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Got the next Harry Potter or Gruffalo rattling around in your brain begging to be written down as a story?

The Writer's Union of Canada has launched its annual Writing for Children Competition. Wannabe J.K. Rowlings are invited to submit a short piece in English of 1,500 words, with submissions for all ages of young people, from picture books to young adult fiction.

The winner will be awarded $1,500 with the story entries of winner and finalists being submitted for consideration to three publishers of children's books.

Writers must be unpublished; the deadline is April 24, 2012.

Sara Leach, a Whistler-based author of four children's books, says that while a competition like the TWUC's isn't necessary for getting a new children's writer known, it can be well worth it to enter.

"The biggest reason to enter a contest is that it forces a writer to finish a manuscript," Leach says.

"A lot of people tell me they want to write for children, but the ideas are still floating around in their head, and aren't on paper.  Having a deadline makes you write it all down and polish it. Another reason to enter is that, in the case of this contest, if you win or are a finalist, your manuscript will be sent to three publishing houses. That's a fantastic way to skip past the slush pile."

Leach says in terms of her own career, it took seven years of honing her skills before getting her first contract with Orca Book Publishers.

"During that time I won one contest — the Whistler Blackcomb 'My Favourite Memory' contest. I also attended every Whistler Readers and Writers Festival, improved my craft and met a lot of writers and editors. I had articles and stories published in the Pique and other Canadian publications. All of these things added to my bio, although I think the most important thing was sending in a polished manuscript that fit the profile of what Orca publishers looked for."

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