Writers and Their Notebooks: Katrina Germein

I get loads of questions from teachers about the best way to use writer’s notebooks in the classroom. Some of those questions include:

  • Should they be full of gorgeous art works?
  • Are they only for writing?
  • Should they be ruled and dated?
  • Are they only for collecting ideas?
  • How do they help students become better writers?

With so many different views on the ‘correct’ way to use these, I thought it would make sense to ask the experts themselves. And that’s what started my author interview series, Writers and their Notebooks.

I figure the more us teachers learn about how published authors use their writer’s notebooks, the better we’ll be able to guide our students on using these authentically in our classrooms.


Introducing Katrina Germein

This week, as part of my Writers and Their Notebooks series, I was fortunate enough to interview Australian children’s author Katrina Germein. Katrina has written over 20 books, including the hilarious My Dad series (which surely has to be based on my husband Laurie 😆 ).

Katrina Germein's books

Katrina’s book Before You Were Born is currently shortlisted in the Speech Pathology Book of the Year Awards; an award Katrina won in 2019. Her first non-fiction book, Wonderful Wasps will be released later this year.

Katrina generously shares insights on how she uses her writer’s notebooks in our interview below.


How do you use your writer’s notebook?

The process is a bit haphazard, which is maybe another word for creative. I have a collection of too many notebooks because I love stationary. All of these contain fragments of ideas and incomplete passages which sometimes become stories. Increasingly, I rely on my phone to record ideas because I always have my phone with me.

Katrina Germein's writer's notebooks
Some of Katrina’s physical writer’s notebooks.

What types of things do you write in your notebook?

If I’m working on my phone, it might just be an idea, a title perhaps, like Komodo Dragon or Ballerina Rabbit. Other times it’s a sentence I’ve heard like Chloe keeps standing on my shadow or I’m going to blow out the candles with my nose. There are also general ideas like Tree Week and Book of Cakes.

If I’m experimenting with slightly longer pieces of prose (writing without overthinking) then I’ll use a paper notebook rather than my phone. This kind of writing includes questions, incomplete sentences, and chunks of writing. Occasionally, these turn out to be gems which transfer straight into a story and remain unchanged in a final book.

Digital writer's notebook examples
A few screenshots from Katrina’s digital notebook.

How has your writer’s notebook use changed over time?

I use technology a lot more than when I first started writing. I used to draft everything by hand. Today I’m comfortable letting musings meander across a screen. My drafts are still full of questions and wild, incomplete ideas but I’m happy to type these tangled thoughts. Once upon a time we all felt like computers were for ‘good copies’ only. That seems funny now.

Where do you get the ideas for your writer’s notebook?

Everywhere. Often when I’m presenting in schools, I show the children a list saved on my phone and explain where each one came from in order to show how authors collect ideas. The possibilities come from articles I’ve read, photos I’ve seen, things I’ve heard people say, things I’ve seen people do, unexpected thoughts from my own imagination, memories, fun words, events, and on it goes. Almost everything can be a story when looked at through the right lens.

How do you take an idea from your notebook and turn it into a completed piece of writing?

I write my way though. Some ideas simply remain ideas on the list forever and some demand to be written. I just start writing and see what happens. Some stories grow easily. Some don’t. Some start rhyming and some are abandoned. I don’t have a structured process and every story grows differently. I often flick back over old notes to see if there’s an idea I’ve forgotten that’s still interesting. There’s no filing system or index but that’s part of the fun, the freedom to wander.

Inside an author's writer's notebook
A peek inside some of Katrina’s notebooks.

How often do you use your notebook?

Sometimes daily. Sometimes several times a day. Sometimes weekly. There’s never a month where I don’t add something.

What advice do you have for young writers and illustrators?

Use whatever process you like. There are no rules. Just write. Draw too if that helps. Try different things and feel free to change your strategy. Collect ideas. Abandon pieces and start new ones. At some point, you need to do the hard work of finishing a project but allow yourself plenty of time to play and daydream. Not everything becomes a story for sharing and that’s part of the process. Listen to yourself and enjoy writing because you want to.

What are your contact details (if teachers want to get in contact with you for school visits etc)?


Thankyou so much for giving up time to share your process with us Katrina! It’s much appreciated and will go a long way to helping us all develop a more effective approach to using writer’s notebooks in our classrooms. We wish you all the best in the Speech Pathology Awards and I personally can’t wait to read your non-fiction book when it comes out.

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