Meet the writer – Katrina McKelvey

Every week I like to feature an Australian writer and illustrator in PASS IT ON.

Now with the illustrators, once they have been featured in the ezine, I upload their interview onto a blog.

The writers that I’ve interviewed don’t have a blog of their own so I thought I might upload their interviews here. I won’t be able to go back to the beginning but I hope to fill this space with interesting insights into some of our wonderful writers.

So here we go, please meet….

Katrina McKelvey

This interview first appeared in PASS IN ON on Monday 7th March 2016 – issue 576


When did you know that you were a writer?

I started writing for children in early 2011 after I had put primary teaching aside to be a full-time mum. My first child was born in 2008 so over the next 3 years I looked for the perfect job that would mix my teaching experiences with a new, flexible career. I had children’s books all around me and I was very passionate about my children falling in love with books as early as possible. Writing for children made complete sense to me.

When did you first read your writing aloud or give it to someone to read and what was their reaction? How did it impact on you?

I joined a writing course about a year after I started writing for children. It was facilitated by Libby Gleeson in conjunction with the Centre for Continuing Education at The University of Sydney. I travelled from Newcastle to Sydney once a week for 8 weeks. It was during the 6th visit (I think) I read my first ever manuscript aloud to a room full of strangers. They made some great suggestions for improvement. Looking back now I can see it was dreadful. That manuscript is still in the bottom drawer but I still believe in it. I’ll revive it one day and give it another shot.

What and when was your first acceptance? How did you feel?

I was driving to Canberra for the CBCA National Conference in 2014. I just happen to be in the car with Kirrili Lonergan, the hopeful illustrator. We found out together we were being contracted as an author/illustrator team to create ‘Dandelions’. We discovered the news via a text message as our publisher didn’t want us to crash the car – ha! We pulled over and read it on the side of the highway. Later that evening we toasted our success with champagne in the foyer of the  Australian National Library.

What is your favourite genre to write? Why?

I love writing picture books as it is so much fun playing with words and playing with how they fall on the page (that’s as close to illustrating as I will get). But I’m dabbling with writing early chapter books. They give me more freedom as I tend to write too much.

How long have you been writing? And what have you written?

I’ve been writing for 5 years now. I’ve written many manuscripts about animals, disasters, farting, and skateboarding. Some are humorous, and some more serious and whimsical.

‘Dandelions’ illustrated by Kirrili Lonergan, published by EK Books in October, 2015 was my second attempt at writing a picture book.

What is your favourite genre to read? Why?

I love reading picture books and funny chapter books. I need the pictures, the fun texts, the humour, and the text in small chunks to keep me interested. I love reading with my children. I absolutely loved reading to my students in the classroom too – anything that hooked them.

Do you have a favourite author?

No, I have many! Stephen Michael King, Libby Gleeson, Sara Acton, Nick Bland, Aaron Blabey, Danny Parker, Glenda Millard, Bob Graham …

Do you mentor others? What do you do?

I facilitate the Hunter Writers Centre Children’s Writing Group. We meet monthly to guide, inspire, critique and offer each other advice and inspiration. I absolutely love meeting with these people. We laugh so much and always go home with a spring in our steps.

Do you write full time?

No. But I wish I could sometimes.

I’m trying to become a master of multi-tasking  and to be more disciplined.  My children are so young and I want to fit their needs in around my writing. At best, I get about 4 hours a day uninterrupted and then some of that time is used to do social media, administration etc. School hours always go faster than any other hours in the day! The rest of the day is full of sporting commitments, preparing meals, homework, managing the family diary, and cleaning up cat vomit.

What are your other jobs?

Mum to two children, wife, Books In Homes Role Model, CBCA (NSW) Newcastle Sub-branch President, Newcastle Writers Festival committee member, P&F President, household manager, counsellor, gardener, first aid officer, cleaner, psychologist, referee, taxi driver, financial manager, secretary, magician, need I go on?

Have you ever won an award/s or been shortlisted? What was it for?

I came third in a CYA Conference Picture Book Writing Competition in 2013.

Do you belong to any professional organisations? What are they and how do they help you?

NSW Writer’s Centre
Hunter Writers Centre

These organisations offer advice, access to workshops/courses/conferences/services, and help me to keep in touch with the industry. Through these organisations I have been able to meet a lot of my writing and illustrating friends. Support comes in many different forms and from many different places. All of these organisations contribute to my support network in someway.

Do you participate in writing workshops as a student? Which ones were memorable?

Yes, I go to as many as I can. I have attended conferences and festivals up and down the east coast. I love listening to and learning from fellow colleagues – and as a bonus I get to make new friends along the way.

The first ever workshop I attended was with Jacqueline Harvey through the Sydney Writers Festival in 2011. I still remember sitting in that room listening to her every word. I knew no one. I wrote so many notes. I was a sponge!

Do you run writing workshops? What do you include? 

I plan to do these in the future. At the moment I’m concentrating on school visits. I’m also throwing myself out there to do author talks, panel speaking and chair appointments for festivals and conferences.

How might you be contacted in relation to running workshops or for school visits?

Website: http://www.katrinamckelvey.com
Email: katrinamckelvey@bigpond.com

I’d love to participate in festivals and conferences as well. Book me!

We all know that would be writers should read and write as much as possible – do you have any other advice?

  1. Be patient, persistent, and passionate. But above all – practise!
  2. Listen and observe.
  3. Start building your social media platform immediately.
  4. Get to know your local children’s authors and illustrators – they could become your best friends.
  5. Have fun!

Where you can find me…

Website: www.katrinamckelvey.com
Blog: http://katrinamckelvey.blogspot.com.au
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/katrinamckelveyauthor/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/katrinamckelvey
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/katrinamckelvey/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/katrinamckelvey/
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCgfVHAHyIHP14oeEkGl2jtA

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