Writing Insider – Haylee Hackenberg

Haylee discusses her pathway to being a writer and what inspired her to write a children’s picture book.

Starting out

Why did you start writing?

That’s a somewhat tricky question in that I’ve always been writing, even as a kid. In a professional sense, my writing really took shape a few years ago after the birth of my second child, when I dusted off the ol’ Arts degree in the hopes of holding off going back to my corporate job. I started off writing what I knew, contributing to parenting blogs and magazines, and eventually got the courage up to apply for a ‘real’ content writing position. Working under editors refined my writing (with a lot of tears), and somewhere in the mix, I started to think seriously about my dream to write a children’s book.

Who or what inspires you?

As a children’s writer, kids inspire me. My own, and all the other children I know. They have such a fantastic view of the world, a real juxtaposition between being brutally realistic, and yet seeing the magic in everything.

Writing practice

What does your writing practice look like when you are working on a book?

I’d love to say it’s all leather-bound notebooks in coffee shops, but the truth is, most of my manuscripts begin in the notes on my phone. From there, I shift to the trusty laptop and refine refine refine. I’ve recently joined a critique group as well, and that has been invaluable so far. I find it incredibly scary to share my work but the other writers in the group have been so generous with their feedback, I’m really glad I did.

What does your writing practice look like in the between times?

For me, the most important part of my practice at any time is less about writing and more about reading. Read all the books. Read widely, read diverse authors, read and read and read.

The beginning of a book

How did you come to writing your first book?

Arya Daisy, my daughter, shares more than just a namesake with one half of Daisy and Bear and the Very Ordinary Day. Without her, the book simply would not exist. The idea for Daisy and Bear was born a few years ago after a particularly challenging day with my children. One of those days as a parent where you look around at the mess and the turmoil and you wonder what exactly it was you achieved. At bedtime, I apologised to my small daughter for what I had perceived as a boring day. She looked up at me, all eyes and earnestness, and exclaimed in surprise that she had had a very interesting day indeed. Listing off all of the imaginative play she had engaged in with her little brother in her lilting sing-song voice, I felt the weight of parenting guilt lift from my shoulders. Like all children’s authors, I wrote this book in the hope that kids would adore it. But parents, grandparents, and other caring folks, Daisy and Bear is also for them.

How did you know what you were working on was going to become a book?

I didn’t really. I loved the idea, I built the story and thought it was something that might make a great book, and just sent it out to publishers with a whole heap of hope! I got a heap of rejections, a heap of silence, but Red Paper Kite loved the idea and I am so incredibly grateful to Sandra Van Doorn, the publisher there, for believing in my little story.

Agents and publishers

Any advice on rejection?

Get used to it, normalise it, see it as one step closer to achieving your dreams. Even your favourite authors get rejected, regularly. It doesn’t mean your work is bad, and it certainly doesn’t mean you are a bad writer. I would highly recommend listening to podcasts that interview authors (Reading With a Chance of Tacos is my personal fave) and hearing just how prevalent rejection is.

Acquisition to publication

How, if at all, did your work change in the hands of a publisher?

My editor, Brenda Gurr was very gracious in asking my opinion on almost everything, but the truth is I was happy to defer to her suggestions. There were a couple of important changes, mostly around some of the descriptive words I had used not being quite right for the age group.

And, overall

What has been the most joyful part of the process?

Seeing the book in the hands of children. Sometimes people tag me on social media and it honestly makes me tear up. To see something go from a small spark of an idea to a tangible book that is read by children is truly incredible.


Haylee Hackenberg, Author

A shameless book collector, Haylee is passionate about embedding a love of literature in children.

A professional writer, when she isn’t at her trusty laptop, Haylee is strolling through forests and finding excuses to visit the beach. Delighted by the whimsy of childhood, Haylee is excited by the opportunity to capture the magic of the every day through her stories.  

Haylee lives in Brisbane with her family, and her many rescue animals.


Daisy and Bear and the Very Ordinary Day, Haylee Hackenberg
Picture Book. Red Paper Kite Publishing , 2021
> Read a review

Daisy and Bear live in a small house. They do the same ordinary things every day. Or do they?

Follow the adventures of this delightful brother and sister duo as they find the sparkle and fun in the daily routine of family life.

With charming pencil illustrations by Bianca Pozzi, this is a delightful book that values innocence, imaginative play and love.