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. This takes time and I’m often running behind but from now on I’m hoping to keep this up to date.
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….
This interview first appeared in PASS IN ON on Monday 18th January 2016 – issue 569
When did you know that you were a writer?
This year when I decided to follow my dream and write. I have always wanted to write but you are not a writer until you commit.
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 have been reading my stories each week to children from Kindergarten to Year six at school which has been extremely rewarding and I have even received author letters from them and some are now wanting to be writer’s themselves. The snowball effect.
What and when was your first acceptance? How did you feel?
None yet just writing getting ready for my first submissions. Yeeks.
What is your favourite genre to write? Why?
Children’s picture books yay
How long have you been writing? And what have you written?
This year . Some of my stories are called Wombat Cuddles, Happy, A very Clever Plan, Scaredy Pants or It is Only the Night, Clever Sneaky, Mr Brown, my favs are Wombat Cuddles and It is only the Night.
Of your own work – do you have a favourite? Why is it your favourite?
Wombat Cuddles and It is only the Night and the students at school love them and want them as books. They have drawn pictures and written me letters as and author and also about the characters.
What is your favourite genre to read? Why?
Children’s Picture books and self help books
Do you have a favourite author?
Mem Fox, Lynley Dodd, Libby Gleeson, Joy Cowley
Did/do you have any writing heroes or mentors?
No not yet but Mem Fox is my hero and Joy Cowley sent me her book writing for children such a creative, gorgeous lady.
How do they encourage you?
I met Mem and she was amazing and Joy wrote to me.
Do you mentor others? What do you do?
Yes last term I have been teaching Creative Writing to Stage two and Three Students. I had no idea that my actions would ripple through the school it has really shown me that I am a writer.
Do you write full time?
What are your other jobs?
Have you ever won an award/s or been shortlisted? What was it for?
Have you ever been awarded a grant? How did it help you?
Do you belong to any professional organisations? What are they and how do they help you?
ASA Do you participate in writing workshops as a student? Which ones were memorable?
Yes I have been to Cathy Tasker’s writing picture books course and one other course in Beecroft.
Do you run writing workshops? What do you include?
For the school students we have been looking at techniques in picture books and doing fun little activities based on this.
How might you be contacted in relation to running workshops or for school visits?
Via email, mobile or Facebook. I would love to do this immensely . I was going to visit local schools to gauge their responses to my stories.
We all know that would be writers should read and write as much as possible – do you have any other advice?
Yes writing and reading go hand in hand together. I am Reading Recovery Trained, L3trained, learning difficult and ESL trained, behavioural difficulty trained and no matter what Reading and writing go together. Reading seems to takeoff first. A world of possibilities is opened through both.
How might people find you? Website, Blog, Facebook etc.
When I adopted PASS IT ON (originally known as CAINON) from Di Bates back in 2004 I must admit that I did it for entirely selfish reasons. As a new writer, a very new writer I was desperate to be in the know.
Di asked for someone to take over CAINON (Children’s and Illustrators Networking Online Newsletter) after she had produced it for twenty weeks and me, being very much a believer in
the Little Red Hen philosophy, put my hand up.
Di asked that I change the name which I did and the rest is history.
Eight years later and we’re still here passing on information, sharing industry news and generally supporting one another week in week out.
This afternoon I’ve been reliving memories, scanning over past issues and loving how generous the PIO subscribers are.
Originally PIO didn’t really look like a e-zine, more a very large email chopped into sections. There were no pictures or illustrations and you couldn’t click on the contents’ links (this little gem appeared in issue 70, thanks to the help of Bren MacDibble).
If you’re interested in seeing some of the early issues I uploaded them to a blog – the formatting is a bit haywire but it’s interesting to see what we were talking about back in 2005.
In November 2005, thanks to Marg McAlister, I learnt how to create a more professional looking e-zine. This evolved in October 2006 with the inclusion of a PIO logo. Who remembers this?
It was supposed to symbolise the bigger, more experienced writer “passing on” their knowledge to the writer-ling. I was very pleased when I found that in clip art, very pleased indeed. And slowly but surely, book covers began to appear as well as all sorts of other colourful additions.
Then in January of 2008 I thought it might be fun to frighten you all with this ridiculous face, you’ll note, for those of you who currently subscribe to PIO, that a small version of this photo, still appears each week, I’m not sure why, I think it’s just that old habits die hard.
After 6 weeks of seeing my very cheery face, an illustrator friend, Teresa Lawrence suggested a brand new segment – Illustration of the Week and so was born PIO, the Children’s Writers’ AND Illustrators’ Networking E-zine.
Since issue 183 with Marjory Gardner’s first illustration, PIO has profiled over 200 very talented illustrators and as you know I am always on the lookout for new ones.
In June of 2009 clip art delivered a new logo. I liked this one because in showed exactly what PIO is all about – connecting through our computers.
This logo still appears in current issues and I think it will probably stay.
So today I sent out issue 400 which equates to about 8 years of weekly e-zines. If you subscribe or if you have every subscribed I’d love for you send in a little comment. There are so many of you now and I know how busy you all are but it would really mean a lot if you could give a little wave to celebrate what has been a wonderful 8 years and hopefully there will be another 8 more.
Each week PASS IT ON profiles a different illustrator. Along with a chosen illustration, each illustrator then answers the following questions…
What’s this illustration for?
Do you have to wait for a flash of inspiration – how do you start?
How did you get your start as an illustrator?
Who or what has influenced your work?
What’s your favourite media for creating pictures?
Do you experience illustrator’s block – if so, what do you do about it?
What’s the worst thing about being a freelancer?
And the best?
What are you working on at the moment?
Where can we see more of your work?
In this week’s issue we get up close and personal with Lynn Priestley.
PASS IT ON is always on the look out for illustrators to profile. Since March 2008 we have profiled in excess of 300 illustrators – the talent around is amazing but we’re always on the look out for more. For a look at past interviews you can visit this blog
In this week’s issue of PIO you will find an illustrator profile from Serena Geddes.
Opportunities for picture book writers and short story writers.
Information about upcoming events relevant to the children’s book writing and illustrating industry including an evening of enchantment with Isobelle Carmody and Nan McNab and a book launch with Hazel Edwards.
You’ll find useful books, websites and blogs and book reviews from Deb Abela.
If you don’t yet subscribe to PASS IT ON and you’d like to take a look at a recent issue please do get in touch.
Once again I’d like to thank everyone who contributed this week and I’d also like to post that I am on the hunt for children’s book illustrators to profile. If you’re looking for exposure PIO is the place to hang out. Many Australian children’s book publishers subscribe to PIO and your illustration is the first thing they see on a Monday morning. Please do get in touch or pass on this call to any illustrators that you know.
And if you don’t yet subscribe to PIO, at $38/per year (80 cents/week) – it’s got to be the best valued newsletter around.
I’ve always written. One of my greatest treasures is my Grade 3 English book with the puppy dog sticker on the front – and a jumble of fantastical stories and glittery stickers inside. The bigger and more glittery your sticker, the better your work – and I still feel the thump of my eight-year-old heart when I run my hand over a particular sticker of some kids riding a 1960s ferris wheel, bespangled with glitz and covering a full half-page.
Hang literary awards – that sticker is one of my greatest literary achievements, ever.
Since my grade-three tales, I’ve spent many years writing in many genre. In 1995 I had my first book published with Hodder Headline (You Name It, a non-fiction adult book) and over the decades have had countless magazine and online articles published, but it was only since having kids that my attention turned to the children’s book genre.
I have a wee bit of an obsession with kids’ books, truth be told. I love the pictures. I love the stories that colour in our kids’ brains like an activity book and a box full of crayons. I love fun children’s books, traditional ones, magical ones, educational and just plain nonsense ones. I even love the smell of them.
But what a dream to actually publish your own children’s picture book. What a dream to see the contents of your head down on paper; flickable. What a dream to entrance and inspire children in any way, shape or form. But how to make this dream a reality?
I’ve received enough publisher rejection slips to pâpier maché the Outback. There’s been a lot of despair, frustration and tears shed in this writer’s lifetime, trust me, but forging ahead despite setbacks is relatively ‘easy’ because I love to write. I need to write.
In 2005, whilst on post in China with my family, I finally found myself in a position to write full time – and in 2008, I finished penning a picture book called Riley and the Sleeping Dragon: A journey around Beijing. I was tempted to send it to Australian publishers but after spending many years watching time slide away – with naught but “we’re considering, we’ll get back to you in 8-12 weeks” slips in the mail, I decided to do something out of the ordinary – I decided to publish myself.
The self-publishing process, at first glance, is most certainly overwhelming. Now that I have four successful self-published books in the bag, the single most frequent question I hear is “but how did you do it?”.
I must admit, when I first passed thought to self-publishing Riley and the Sleeping Dragon, my head was swamped with an enormous ocean and there was that original, ambitious thought, bobbing in the centre of that ocean – a teensy speck amongst the galloping waves.
Where to start? Who what when where how?
So, I took small steps. I’ve written and edited countless articles and manuscripts and I have to say there is not much more valuable than the opinion of someone you respect. I asked some brutally honest people to read my manuscript and the feedback was good.
Shortly afterwards, I took it to the most important critics of all – the kids. The test audience reaction was also excellent. So far, so good.
Next was researching the target market. I needed to understand who the book was for (the English-speaking expat community in China was my initial focus, with Australian children a target for when I returned home), and what ages and what genre the book fell into. Because the project was so large and I was doing it on my own, my main focus was penetrating the expat community in China, and as a well-known family matters columnist and features editor for several English language magazines, I was fortunate to have a high level of exposure and marketing aid, not only in Beijing but other major Chinese cities.
I also needed to seek a niche. As a multi-media book combining scenic photos, graphics, photos of objects and cartoon illustrations, I knew the layout of the book was unusual. I also knew the travelogue style was unique and therefore felt confident it would attract attention in an oversaturated market. I honestly feel that seeking a solid niche is vital for new books to stand out.
Gathering the basics to actually publish the book was very straight forward. I easily sourced ISBNs, barcodes and the info required for my Cataloguing in Publication Entry data. All done by email.
Whilst waiting for these things to arrive, I sourced an illustrator online. I used a Canadian whose work was good but whose time management skills and demands sent me into a flying panic close to book launch time. Finding the right illustrator is absolutely crucial – not only for their talent and style, but for the author/illustrator relationship. I later found a new artist for subsequent books in the Riley series – and Canberra-based Kieron Pratt is an author’s dream (plus, he just happens to make me laugh hysterically on a regular basis).
Once I began working the manuscript into picture form, I found I needed to buy new software (Adobe Illustrator) in order to create print-ready files. Learning how to implement and use this software was vital, and I’m still learning how to use it effectively, four books later.
Whilst working on the book files, I began researching how to list my books with Nielsen Book Data and Global Books in Print, and began contacting both the media and literature organisations such as the Children’s Book Council of Australia, various state writing centres, the Australian School Library Association and others.
During this time, I located a reliable printer (in Beijing). Shopping around for the right one is crucial – and for my second and third Riley books, I sourced a fantastic Australian printer whose prices were highly competitive, without compromising quality.
I was very nervous about bringing Riley and the Sleeping Dragon home to Australia. I spent countless hours researching and implementing how to get my book into the mainstream market here, and was enormously grateful to be taken on by a major book distributor – Dennis Jones & Associates – who now carry all four of my self-published books.
Since releasing Riley and the Dancing Lion: A journey around Hong Kong (2009) and Riley and the Curious Koala: A journey around Sydney (2010), I’ve tirelessly promoted all three of my Riley books at countless schools, libraries, clubs and events – not to mention online. This is vital for self-publishers and it really is full time work.
I began constructing teachers’ notes for my books, and wrote teaching modules on book writing and publishing, to be presented with book readings at schools. I even implemented a successful Writer in Residence programme at a Canberra school that mimicked the production of the book.
I was and still am ceaseless in my efforts to promote my beloved travelogue series. It’s been incredibly hard work, but I’ve always been driven by an insatiable desire to create educational, enchanting and beautiful books for children. When Paul Collins expressed the desire to take on Book Four in the series (Riley and the Grumpy Wombat: A journey around Melbourne), I wondered if perhaps my self-publishing journey was coming to an end.
Letting go of creating, producing and publishing my own books is a bittersweet thought. I’ve loved every moment and have taken great pride in this intense and incredibly overwhelming journey, but I also know if I want to write more books, I need the time (and energy!) to write them. Having Ford Street take on Grumpy Wombat not only takes my work to a whole other level, it affords me greater time to write – and I’m already working on Book Five which will be set in Canberra and involves a very jumpy kangaroo.
Whether you are a published author or a hopeful newbie, the prime consideration in any publishing journey is to be prepared to work tirelessly and passionately to implement the birth of your work. Whether it’s via the traditional publishing route or the self-publishing slog, the dream is possible. Just don’t wake me up.
Riley and the Grumpy Wombat: A Journey around Melbourne
Tania McCartney, illustrations by Kieron Pratt, A$22.95, hardcover
Riley and the Grumpy Wombat – A journey around Melbourne was such fun to read being a Melbourne girl. And Riley is such a cute character. Beginning his adventure making mud pies (I loved making mud pies) in his Nanny’s garden, the helpful soul is determined to find out why the resident, fleeing wombat is so grumpy.
Aboard his red plane Riley and co. fly around Melbourne searching for the grumpy wombat.
The book then continues with Riley’s red plane superimposed onto gorgeous black and white photographs of Melbourne and Victoria.
I was particularly fond of this one as I made the sea change about 12 years ago and adore having this view in my back yard.
Children will thoroughly enjoy gliding around in Riley’s red plane discovering the Victorian treasures not realising that they are absorbing a geography lesson as they do so.
And of course the book ends happily with Riley finding the wombat back in Nanny’s backyard, not grumpy in her burrow but lazing in the lap of luxury, in a brand new mud villa!
Too funny 🙂
Short Author Bio
Tania McCartney is an author, editor, publisher and founder of well-respected children’s literature site, Kids Book Review. She is an experienced speaker, magazine and web writer, photographer and marshmallow gobbler. She is the author of the popular Riley the Little Aviator series of travelogue picture books, and is both published and self-published in children’s fiction and adult non-fiction. Tania lives in Canberra with a husband, two kidlets and a mountain of books.
Riley has discovered a wombat in his nanny’s garden. But why is this furry creature so grumpy? Join Riley and his friends from books one, two and three, as they zoom around the stunning sights of Melbourne in search of a wombat that simply needs a place to call home.
Featuring gorgeous black and white photos of Melbourne and surrounds, Riley and the Grumpy Wombat combines photos, illustrations, adorable characters, humour and an adventuresome storyline in a travelogue-style book that showcases Melbourne at its very best.
In this week’s PIO we profile illustrator Christina Bollenbach as she showcases an illustration from her picture book A Monster for Lukas.
We highlight the 2012 National Year of Reading ‘soft launch’ at Bialik College, in Melbourne with patron William McInnes, Reading Ambassadors Alison Lester and Hazel Edwards.
We list 14 special events of interest to children’s writers and illustrators including festivals, books launches, blog tours and talks.
We include a writing opportunity for educational authors, two competitions and a number of workshops.
Dee White writes on whether or not to go to conferences and author Tania McCartney is profiled.
We include 5 new book reviews and list some very useful blogs and websites.
Tomorrow Tania McCartney will be visiting this blog as part of her Riley and the Grumpy Wombat Blog Tour where she will be discussing her self publishing journey.
I will also include a review of her book along with a chance for you to receive a free copy of Riley and the Grumpy Wombat: A journey around Melbourne.
Once again I’d like to thank everyone who contributed industry news to this week’s PIO and if you are not yet a subscriber and would like to see a copy of this week’s issue please do get in touch. At 75cents/week you can’t afford to be without it.
I review a new picture book ‘Prudence Wants a Pet’ and we see what PIO members Edel Wignell, Robyn Osborne, Bren MacDibble, Aleesah Darlison and myself have been up to this past week.
Once again a huge thank you to everyone who has contributed industry information and news. I hope you enjoy this week’s PIO and if you are not yet a subscriber please do get in touch for your complimentary copy of this week’s issue.
So here I am finally able to sit at my computer after hurting my back. Still feeling very sore and tender but able at least to function. Writers and Illustrators all – look after your backs. Here’s a great website if you are suffering from back pain.
Now back (pardon the pun) to this week’s issue (351).
Henry Smith is our profiled illustrator.
We list three new writing opportunities and two new competitions.
Dee White talks about why is pays to go to conferences and we learn a little bit more about Text Publishing’s Editor, Alison Arnold who will be appearing at this year’s Ballarat Writers’ Festival.
Gabrielle Wang’s guest this week on How Writers Work is picture book author and illustrator NARELLE OLIVER