Today I am helping author Ben Kitchin to celebrate the release of his new picture book, Don’t Wake the Troll!
Congratulations Ben – your book is gorgeous, kids will love it.
Now today’s topic for discussion is one that always fascinates me – how did you get here? Not here to the blog but what was the journey that led to the publication of this book?
Here’s what Ben told me…
Don’t Wake the Troll, my first published picture book, came out this month! I am over the moon excited about this.
I have always been a bit of a writer. In primary school I was the kid who read heaps and wrote seventeen page sagas about disgusting monsters, robot wars and evil sewer kings. I continued to write fanciful tales throughout my teens and early twenties but I kept them pretty much to myself (apart from a serialised adventure story I emailed to some friends). I have never stopped reading fairly voraciously.
It really wasn’t until I had children that I began to take my writing more seriously. My wife and I bought and borrowed lots of picture books for the kids and over time we both decided we should have a crack at the genre ourselves (my wife as an illustrator and me as a writer). Funny little games or conversations with the kids suddenly became story book ideas. Five children meant lots of inspiring moments!
Three years down the track we’d written and partially illustrated lots of stories but we’d had no luck with publication. We subbed stories and pictures together but hadn’t made it past a few encouraging feedback letters. This process was a very slow and often frustrating experience as most publishers were closed to unsolicited submissions. Whilst unsuccessfully soliciting agents I was advised to find a manuscript assessor. Another author (who I’d accidently mistaken for a manuscript assessor) suggested Sally Odgers from Affordable Manuscript Assessments. Sally helped me clean up my manuscripts and gave great hints, tips and encouraging feedback.
Then, all of a sudden, after years of twiddling our thumbs and waiting for publisher feedback, my wife was offered some work with a self-publisher (both were clients of Sally). This was fantastic news! My wife went on to illustrate a great little book called Funky Chicken www.funkybooks.com.au . This left me out in the cold though which was a little embarrassing given I’d been the driving force behind our picture book dreams for a long while. I was sulking one afternoon when my wife told me I should send some of my stories to a favourite illustrator of ours, Ben Redlich. Maybe he could do something with the stories? I was too embarrassed to at first as I thought it was just weird until my frustrations tipped me into trying it. I googled him, found a FaceBook page and asked him if I could send him some material. After checking the ideas/themes in the stories weren’t potential doppelgangers to his own I sent him five stories. I was very happy when he said he liked them. I nearly turned inside out when he said he’d forward one to a publisher contact he had. Within a week or two the publishers had decided they’d take it and I lost a lot of sleep through sheer excitement over the next few months. Ben and I emailed each other back and forth during the illustration process and it was a lot of fun to see my little story vividly brought to life.
So now here we are, almost twelve months down the track, and my first picture book has just been released by Scholastic. I still often pinch myself and shake my head in disbelief at this development.
My wife has started illustrating her second picture book and I continue to write stories as often as I can. We both love the creativity and fun this involves and if a switch was flicked, it now seems difficult to turn off!
Thanks so much for that Ben – these stories behind the stories really do excite me. It’s always reaffirming to hear that everyone had to start somewhere.
For your chance to win a copy of Ben’s book all you have to do is tell us about your journey (in the comments) to your first publication. It doesn’t have to be a book, it can be a poem, short story, article, whatever. It can be paid or unpaid. It can be print or online – the important part is the journey. I will choose a winner by the end of the week – Sunday 29th September.
To read more about Ben and his new book you can now hop over to Sally Odgers blog.