Meet the Author: Philip Salom

 

Philip’s top tip for aspiring authors: Read. It’s always the same advice. Be critical not sentimental. Look for individuality and value in your own work and be welcoming but be rigorous in developing it. Quality matters more than popularity.

Philip Salom‘s new novel The Returns is his fourth novel. He has also published 14 collections of poetry. His recent novel Waiting attracted wide-ranging acclaim in reviews and in 2017 was shortlisted for the prestigious Miles Franklin Literature Award, as well as the Prime Minister’s Award and the Victorian Premier’s Award. His two earlier novels are Playback, which won the WA Premier’s Prize for Fiction, and Toccata and Rain which was shortlisted for the ALS Gold Medal and the WA Premier’s Prize.

His poetry awards include winning the 1987 Commonwealth Poetry Book Prize in London for Overall Best Book of Poetry, after having won Best First Book Prize for Poetry in 1981; the Western Australian Premier’s Prize (twice for Poetry) and the prestigious Newcastle Poetry Prize. Plus numerous shortlistings in the major national book awards.

Philip was recognised with the 2003 Christopher Brennan Prize which is Australia’s most prestigious lifetime award for poets for “poetry of sustained quality and distinction”. Visit Philip’s website at www.psalom@philipsalom.com

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write? I’ve always been interested in making. As a child I did very little of it but those adults who did caught in my imagination as doing something thrilling, something I desired. Any kind of making, buildings, bridges, paintings, sculptures, but essentially visual forms. Though I read books non-stop it was only in my 20s that I realised I might actually make them. Not external visualisations, but internal ones. ‘Buildings’ you could say, that work in the mind.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? Very hard to say. I have forgotten what it is not to write. And during the last 10 years I’ve had long works-in-progress happening all the time. I have already finished the novel which will follow The Returns. However, I love the idea of being a trouble-shooter, a Fix-it, a problem-solver. The challenge, the creative and imaginative thinking required, the suspense. The resolution. Especially if it has a hands-on physicality, thus the pleasure of working mentally but in three dimensions. Unlike writing, which for all its imaginative recreation of life, is actually a very inward encounter.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? I was lucky. The first manuscript was picked up immediately because I was plucked: a publisher knew what I was working on and asked to see it. But some manuscripts have been harder to place and made me sit down and look very hard – to see if there were problems, then face up to them. First is the feeling of having gone wrong with it, having worked superficially, made errors of judgement. You must be rigorous, and get over it. Re-writing, even re-imagining, can be very confronting personally and tough in terms of sheer concentration, then in the new writing, and new re-writing. Endless re-writing sometimes!

How involved have you been in the development of your books? Did you have input into the covers? Sometimes my poetry has employed unorthodox layout so for a book I did with Penguin I was asked to do the entire layout myself. Fiction is much easier so I’m not involved. I always comment on my book covers, though, as part of my on-going interest in art and design. This new cover is the most unexpected so far and I have grown to really like it.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? Being so mentally involved with the actual writing. Fiction is something I carry in my head: my characters, their dialogue, their possibilities, potential surprises in development. It suits the loner in me to spend my private time in a place and with an imagined cast no one knows exists. Until it does.

—the worst? Not knowing quite how much has been achieved in one’s work and, much worse, receiving occasional reviews that seem to exist as bloody-minded dismissals of the work. Some reviews are examples of condescension by the ignorant, some are vindictive, some are not very bright. Thank god for the rest.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I would have written more fiction from the beginning and as a poet made more of the networking that poetry (with its very much smaller base of readers) necessarily exists within. Especially in Australia, where the readership and public reception of poetry are less – and less generous – than in many other countries.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? Same as the above, really, that there is the actual writing (which is private and which I value most) and there is the profession itself, where the public profile of any writer is established and promoted (or not). Most professions are like this but like many I had assumed the writing sold itself. It can, but mostly it doesn’t. There is a huge amount of unseen promotion behind very visible writers.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? A writer I admired telling me that I was on the right track i.e. keep going.

What’s your top tip for aspiring authors? Read. It’s always the same advice. Be critical not sentimental. Look for individuality and value in your own work and be welcoming but be rigorous in developing it. Quality matters more than popularity.

How important is social media to you as an author? It doesn’t appeal to me though its power and reach can be significant.

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? I’m lucky not to have it. Something always comes if you let yourself be subsumed by the work itself, not your anxieties about it, which are you, and personal. Drop the ego-self but keep the ego-confidence. During a long work I worry about where it’s going and how to solve its problems or demands (such as, does this scene work? Is it right to end it this way? Etc). I solve the problems by writing.

How do you deal with rejection? It’s a hit to the stomach. Keep on. Again, turn back inwards to the writing and if there are lessons in the rejection, use them.

In three words, how would you describe your writing? Its own self.

If you had the chance to spend an hour with any writer of your choice, living or dead, who would it be and what would you most like them to tell you about living a writing life? I remember the old saying: never meet your heroes. As above, the work is the ‘self’ that matters. The desire to meet others is of course very great. I had met and become friendly with John Clarke and he was an exception. His life and work were very much the same. Human, droll, insightful, hilarious and welcoming. That voice. A beautiful person.

BOOK BYTE

The Returns

Philip Salom

Elizabeth posts a ‘room for rent’ notice in Trevor’s bookshop and is caught off-guard when Trevor answers the advertisement himself. She expected a young student not a middle-aged bookseller whose marriage has fallen apart. But Trevor is attracted to Elizabeth’s house because of the empty shed in her backyard, the perfect space for him to revive the artistic career he abandoned years earlier. The face-blind, EH Holden-driving Elizabeth is a solitary and feisty book editor, and she accepts him, on probation …

Miles Franklin finalist Philip Salom has a gift for depicting the inner states of his characters with empathy and insight. In this poignant yet upbeat novel the past keeps returning in the most unexpected ways. Elizabeth is at the beck and call of her ageing mother, and the associated memories of her childhood in a Rajneesh community. Trevor’s Polish father disappeared when Trevor was 15, and his mother died not knowing whether he was dead or alive. The authorities have declared him dead, but is he?

The Returns is a story about the eccentricities, failings and small triumphs that humans are capable of, a novel that pokes fun at literary and artistic pretensions, while celebrating the expansiveness of art, kindness and friendship.

Praise for Philip Salom’s writing

‘Philip Salom … dissects the vulnerabilities of the human condition (loneliness, fear of intimacy, powerlessness, guilt), the power of the past to haunt us, the fear of the future to mire us, and the redemptive effects of love and acceptance.’ -Miles Franklin Award Judges

The book is available here and from all good bookshops.

Meet the Author: Angela Savage

Angela’s top tip for aspiring authors: Read and write. Don’t talk about writing. Do the work. And love what you do.

Angela Savage is an award-winning Melbourne writer, who has lived and travelled extensively in Asia. Her debut novel, Behind the Night Bazaar, won the 2004 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an unpublished manuscript. All three of her Jayne Keeney PI novels were shortlisted for Ned Kelly Awards. The Dying Beach was also shortlisted for the 2014 Davitt Award. She has taught writing throughout Australia and overseas. Angela holds a PhD in Creative Writing from Monash University, and is currently Director of Writers Victoria. Visit her website at http://angelasavage.wordpress.com/

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write? Because, as Franz Kafka said, ‘a non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity.’

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? Being a monster.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Maintaining momentum in the face of rejection.

How involved have you been in the development of your book? Did you have input into the cover? One of the most exciting aspects of developing a book is the dialogue between the writer and publisher, particularly during the editorial process. I aspire to be someone my publisher enjoys working with. I take advice. I meet deadlines. I welcome editorial feedback. I check in when it seems appropriate but I don’t hound them. I respect their expertise. That said, I did push back on the initial cover design until I felt we had something really striking; designer Peter Lo has done a beautiful job.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? Realising my dream of becoming a published author and having my work read. Also meeting other writers. And I get loads of free books.

—the worst? That there’s not more writing in my life.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? Planned things better so I could afford more time to write.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author?  That being known as a genre writer means some people will look down on you (I had no idea!); it will also make it harder down the track to publish non-genre fiction.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? Just get the story down. The first draft is where you dump your ideas, meet your characters, sketch the arc of the story. Re-writing is where you craft that draft into a book. I used to spend hours trying to write the perfect opening paragraph. Now I believe you can’t write the perfect opening to a novel until you’ve written the ending at least once.

How important is social media to you as an author? All the evidence suggests being on social media doesn’t sell books, but it’s brilliant for connecting with readers and other writers. When it comes to productivity, though, I’m inclined to take breaks from social media in order to write more (fighting feelings of FOMO every step of the way).

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? There are certainly times when the words come harder. In her TEDx talk Creativity in the age of distraction, Kim Wilkins explains that writing takes us into unfamiliar territory and, as such, we are easily distracted by tasks that are less demanding of us (social media being a classic example). She says it’s important to be still, to sit with the discomfort. That said, I find it helpful at such times to take one of my characters for a walk and imagine the landscape through their eyes—to get moving, both literally and figuratively.

How do you deal with rejection? It makes me feel like I’m back in high school, being shunned by the cool kids. But I tell myself that rejection is a writer’s lot, and that the experience of rejection can bring us closer together through empathy and compassion. My 13-year-old also likes to help by reminding me that JK Rowling had 12 rejections before she found a publisher for Harry Potter.

In three words, how would you describe your writing? Exquisite. Moving. Powerful. (I stole that from Christos Tsiolkas’s cover blurb for Mother of Pearl).

If you had the chance to spend an hour with any writer of your choice, living or dead, who would it be and what would you most like them to tell you about living a writing life? I’d spend an hour in a bar in Wyoming with Annie Proulx and pick her brain for tips on dialogue and capturing regional voices in characters.

BOOK BYTE

Mother of Pearl

Angela Savage

A luminous and courageous story about the hopes and dreams we all have for our lives and relationships, and the often fraught and unexpected ways they may be realised.

Angela Savage draws us masterfully into the lives of Anna, an aid worker trying to settle back into life in Australia after more than a decade in Southeast Asia; Meg, Anna’s sister, who holds out hope for a child despite seven fruitless years of IVF; Meg’s husband Nate, and Mukda, a single mother in provincial Thailand who wants to do the right thing by her son and parents.

The women and their families’ lives become intimately intertwined in the unsettling and extraordinary process of trying to bring a child into the world across borders of class, culture and nationality. Rich in characterisation and feeling, Mother of Pearl and the timely issues it raises will generate discussion among readers everywhere.

‘This is a story of family and motherhood, and also a story of culture and exploitation that asks us to think through the costs of our insatiable desire in the West to have everything. What I find remarkable about this novel is how it refuses easy and lazy judgement, how it takes seriously questions of loss, longing, and our human need to connect with each other.’ -Christos Tsiolkas, author of The Slap

‘A beautifully crafted novel from an incredibly gifted writer. Angela Savage explores the ethical minefield of international surrogacy through the stories of three women, desperate but determined to repair the broken parts of their lives The prose is as precise as it is poetic, the characters so deftly drawn. I read this book compulsively, racing to its poignant conclusion with my heart in my throat.’ Melanie Cheng, author of Australia Day and Room for a Stranger

The book is available here.

 

Meet the Author: Erin Rhoads

The Photo Studio Fitzroy; Fashion; Hana Schlesinger;Erin Rhoads

Erin Rhoads has been been writing about her zero waste life since 2013, sharing how she reduced plastic and her rubbish, leading to a happier and healthier life. Through Erin’s pursuit to live plastic-free and zero-waste, she learnt to eat real food, discovered new skills, cut down her exposure to harmful chemicals, found joy in moments over things and simplified her life, while saving money. Erin is on a mission to engage with individuals to redefine what is waste and how we can create less of it. She was a consultant on ABC’s War on Waste; shares skills and practical help to hundreds at workshops, talks and forums; helps organise and assist environmental action groups and co-founded Zero Waste Victoria and Plastic Bag Free Victoria. Her first book Waste Not: Make a big difference by throwing away less was released July 2018. Find out more at her website here.

AUTHOR INSIGHT

What motivated you to start your blog, The Rogue Ginger, and did you have any idea it would lead you to become an author and prominent commentator on zero-waste living?

My blog began in January 2013 with the intention to document my new life in Melbourne as I had recently moved to the city. Six months later I watched my first eco documentary The Clean Bin Project which I shared on the blog. For those who haven’t seen it, the documentary follows a couple from Vancouver as they battle it out to see who can produce the least amount of rubbish over one year. The movie had a profound impact on me, soon after I couldn’t stop seeing plastic everywhere in my life and decided I needed to reduce too. I signed up for my first Plastic Free July, documenting it along the way, and haven’t stopped! I never once expected someone who was once a climate change denier that spent her spare time buying fast fashion and a lot of fast food to be writing a guide book on how live zero-waste..

Your new book, Waste Not Everyday, offers 365 ways to reduce, reuse and reconnect and offers daily inspiration for a year of zero-waste living. What do you consider the most important first step for a family wanting to live a life with less waste and more meaning?

Up to 40% of what we are putting into our bins is organics, like food waste. That’s almost half of our bins. If we started reducing the amount of food in our bins then our landfills would also halve in size. Looking at our food, especially how we shop, is a great first step. Halve your bin today by becoming a better food shopper. Our bins are made up of up to 40% food waste. Before leaving the house make a shopping list and don’t forget to look inside your fridge and fruit basket, so you’re not buying more of what is at home already. Writing a list and sticking to it helps us avoid reaching for food we don’t need. Look for recipes that will encourage you to use up the whole vegetable and try using up scraps for making homemade stocks. For any remaining food waste start a compost or worm farm. Your council might even take food scraps in the green organics bin, so double check. If you don’t have space for a compost or worm farm sign up with ShareWaste.com, to link you with people in your neighbourhood that will accept it. Our food scraps don’t break down in landfill properly because therE is not enough of oxygen and microrganisms to help. It becomes a sludgy liquid while creating methane gas. By composting our food waste we are also putting nutrients back into our soil and food.

How much of your time is taken up with research and keeping up to date with the latest environmental findings?

A lot less these days as there is so much more being reported by the media compared to when I started on my zero-waste journey. The information is much easier to navigate, which is great! Of course this also means we all need to be critical and make sure the right information  being released by say a scientific journal is not being watered down in the wrong way by larger media outlets.

What would you be doing if you weren’t writing books and promoting awareness about our need to think about the future of our planet?

Most likely I would be working as a graphic designer which is what I was doing until I had my son. I imagine I’ll return to this field at some point in the future, but maybe for an organisation or not for profit in the environmental area. Writing books has been a lovely adventure but it doesn’t cover the rent or put food on the table.

Were there any obstacles on your path to publication?

The biggest obstacle was trying to figure out what to include in both books. I wanted to make the information easy to understand and accessible no matter where you live. I hope this was achieved!

How involved have you been in the development of your books?

My publisher and editor at Hardie Grant were very supportive and we worked closely on the books from development through to the printing. Together we looked at ways to keep the production as low waste as possible.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life?

Being able to help others and the environment is the best aspect.

—the worst?

 Trying to find the time with a vivacious two year old!

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it?

 I have the opposite! There are too many ideas in my head and sitting in draft documents ready to be put into the world.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer and speaker?

 I wish I had done a class on public speaking. I get so nervous wondering if how I’m delivering information is actually the best way. It’s still on my list to do. As for writing, I’m not sure what I would do differently. Probably just write more because I enjoy it so much.

What’s the best advice you were ever given?

 Don’t compare yourself to others. Whether it’s writing or if you are making eco changes in your life. Everyone is different and just because someone is doing it one way doesn’t mean it will suit yours.

How important is social media to you?

Depends on the social media – I love Facebook because of the communities that can form through Facebook groups. I’ve watched fantastic initiatives spring up to become helpful tools used widely not only in Australia but across the world. There is also the support Facebook communities can offer too.

What do you read for enjoyment? Favourite books/authors?

I recently finished Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (which I loved!) and am currently reading Island by Alistair MacLeod. This has been hard to put down. Unfortunately when I try to read anything my son will want me to read his books instead. His current pick is Truck Truck Goose.

What is your top tip for anyone wanting to write a non-fiction book?

Plan, plan, plan! Remember you’re writing to help your audience understand a subject so think back to how much you didn’t know before becoming an “expert” on the subject. I constantly asked myself what kind of book I would have liked at the beginning.

Now for a little light relief – If you were stuck in a stalled lift for several hours, who would you choose to share the experience with you and why?

 Scott Morrison – hopefully by the end of the experience he would be a waste warrior and ready to turn Australia into a circular economy!

BOOK BYTE

Waste Not Everyday

Suited to those who are interested in taking their first steps towards a zero waste lifestyle, this book is a lighter, easier approach to Erin’s first and more in depth book, Waste Not. Also makes a great gift for friends and family looking for a simple introduction to the concept of zero waste.

Would you like to throw away less? Do something for the planet? But not ready to dive straight into composting or go totally plastic-free yet? Waste Not Everyday is your step-by-step guide with 365 easy changes that will not only influence what you throw out but also have a genuine impact on the future of our planet.

Split into four easy-to-follow parts, Waste Not Everyday features simple tips that will lead to a real shift in thinking and action and show you that a zero-waste lifestyle is actually achievable – for everyone, every budget and every schedule. With tips ranging from actions and inspiration to recipes and resources, Erin takes you on a gentle journey towards a life with less waste and more meaning.

It is available from the following links:

https://www.booktopia.com.au/waste-not-everyday-erin-rhoads/prod9781743795552.html

https://www.dymocks.com.au/book/waste-not-everyday-by-erin-rhoads-9781743795552

 

 

 

 

Meet the Author: SL Lim

S L Lim was born in Singapore and moved to Sydney as a child. They don’t eat animals. They hate heterosexuality, the gender binary, the energy industry, other industries, racism, sexism, progressive politics as an aesthetic/lifestyle signifier as opposed to a material engagement with injustice and power, including in one’s own life; getting up in the morning, the requirement to exchange one’s labour in return for a wage, and people who casually mention they are better than you. They like stickers, food, pretty yet inexpensive stationery, mathematical approaches to vegan baking, direct action, quiet people with an ironical yet wise approach to life, noisy apparent assholes with good hearts, queerness, tendentious takes, mutual care, mutual accountability and mutual aid. They like to read blender reviews online where the reviewer obviously had totally insane expectations for the blender. Sunsets are beautiful. Borders are violence. Vaginal orgasm is a mass hysterical survival response.

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write? I would like to create beautiful things of lasting value which is independent of my existence as a person.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? The pleasure of naming a phenomenon, concept or experience that went previously unarticulated.

—the worst? Oscillations between megalomania and self-abnegation.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? Start earlier, work harder.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? In terms of the writing: there is no secret. Do the work and keep doing it. In terms of getting published: treat this as its own skill quite separate from the writing itself.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? Regard human systems as comprehensible and problems as solvable.

What’s your top tip for aspiring authors? Write. Read very carefully. Hang out with dead people. Keep writing. Be hard on your own work. Find persons whose judgement you trust and make use of their intelligence and kindness.

How important is social media to you as an author? I regret cruelty and loss and time and holding on to friendship and to love as it curdled into indifference but I regret NOT ONE SECOND of the time I have spent on the internet.

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? By reminding myself the obstacles that exist to prevent me from writing today will still exist tomorrow so if I don’t write today I probably won’t write tomorrow and this will go on for a while and then I’ll die.

How do you deal with rejection? Lying face down on the carpet. One aspect I struggled with during years of feeling like a waste of space, a pool of sentient mush dissolving on the bathmat, was the realisation everyone gets rejected, a lot. If I were a brilliant misunderstood genius I would probably be getting a lot of rejections. And if I were a self-deluding hack… the exact same thing would be occurring. There was no way of evaluating which particular universe I was living in.

Come to that, I still don’t know. Am I any good? Are you? Is what? Are unicorns hollow? Just because a question can be formulated grammatically doesn’t mean it has an answer. The trouble with this approach is it tends towards the conclusion literally nothing means anything. This isn’t untrue, exactly, but it doesn’t help you get out of bed, and I need all the help that I can get.

So maybe a better approach is to remember publication is not the only market of merit; there is a huge amount of structural unfairness and just randomness. But there are also ways you can improve your chances, like getting better at your craft and submitting your work to lots of publishers and agents.

My advice, if you were asking for it, is: do the thing you’ve got to do, because you do, and… well, that’s it, really. Good luck.

In three words, how would you describe your writing? It’s getting better.

If you had the chance to spend an hour with any writer of your choice, living or dead, who would it be and what would you most like them to tell you about living a writing life? Kim Stanley Robinson. I want to go hiking with him and either talk about Buddhism or not talk at all but simultaneously look at things like lichens and go ‘hmm’ so we understand we both appreciate this sublime phenomenon and are experiencing it in a manner both collective and solitary.

BOOK BYTE

Real Differences

by SL Lim

This is a story of a friendship so connected that without it one is not whole but lost.

Middle-class, clever and white, Nick is a child of privilege while his best friend Andie is the daughter of Indo-Chinese refugees. Despite their very different backgrounds, they share a conviction they can change the world for the better.

At the outset, Nick is pushing papers in a dead-end job while Andie is embarking on a secular crusade against world poverty. This generates conflict with her white husband Benjamin, who feels that Australians should come first. Meanwhile, Andie’s cousin, the teenage Tony is burdened by his parents’ traumatic past and impossible expectations. To their dismay, he finds solace in  radical faith.

S.L. Lim acutely captures the dreams and disaffections of a millennial generation. Real Differences is an emotionally resonant novel about idealism, ethical ambition, and love, filled with unforgettable characters. It ultimately asks us the most important question of all: What is our life for?

Sales site link

https://transitlounge.com.au/shop/real-differences/

Author website

https://twitter.com/slwritesbooks

 

 

 

 

#Books On Tour – Blog Tour -Tea with Mrs B: Teena Raffa-Mulligan

It was my turn to be in the spotlight this week as part of the online blog tour for When the Moon is a Smile. Tea with Mrs B was a treat.

Mrs B's Book Reviews

tea with mrs b v2.jpgWelcome to Tea with Mrs B, an author interview series. Here to share a pot of tea and to chat about her brand new book, When the Moon is a Smile, is Teena Raffa-Mulligan.

030519_teena promo_02 big.jpg

Teena writes tales to entertain children of all ages and her publications include poems, short stories, picture books and novels. Her first published picture book was a stranger danger tale about an elephant and a tiger (You don’t Know Me?, Darelle Publications, 1981) that brought her five minutes of fame and introduced her to the joy of sharing her passion for writing with children. She has been presenting talks, workshops and seminars for children and adults ever since and all her presentations have a strong focus on inspiration and encouragement. Teena has also had a long career in journalism, writing for and editing magazines and newspapers. She lives near the beach in a coastal city south…

View original post 1,461 more words

Meet the Illustrator: Amy Calautti

AMY’S TOP TIP FOR ILLUSTRATORS: You are on your own journey. Don’t look to the side, just keep working and win your own race.

Amy Calautti has loved to draw from a young age and often made up games based around drawing to entertain her younger brother and cousins. Her artistic talent was noticed and she was accepted into fashion and textile design in high school and TAFE.

When she became a mother, she fell in love with picture book illustration and realised what her true potential could be. Amy has developed a few distinct styles and is always playing with new techniques to expand her repertoire.

Visit her website here.  Amy is also on Instagram: @amygorgeousness and Facebook: www.facebook.com/amyillustrates

ILLUSTRATOR INSIGHT

When the Moon is a Smile is your debut picture book. How did that project come about? I’ve been illustrating for a couple of years with the intention of illustrating for picture books, and just started submitting my portfolio to publishers while I posted all my work regularly on social media and had made lots of arty FB friends along the way. Jennifer, our lovely publisher, friended me on FB, and once I had finished my Inktober project, she asked me to illustrate a book for her.

What were some of the challenges in creating the illustrations? I feel like the first draft is the trickiest because that’s where you use your imagination
the most. Sometimes I can come back to an idea and expand on it more. Once that’s done the rest is easy!

Walk us through your creative process. Once you have an idea, what’s the next step? First I thumbnail a storyboard. This is mainly stick figures and page layout. Next I make more detailed drawings to send off to the publisher.
Then I go through any changes and redraw which spreads need to be done.
My favourite part is next – PAINTING! Then I add any coloured pencil outlines or tonal values.
Once the artwork is done I scan it, and then add digital touches to bring it up to professional standard.

How much time do you spend on creating each illustration? Not counting the drawing time, painting a double page spread takes from four to nine hours. Nine hours has to be a very specky painting.
Do you have a favourite medium? My favourites are watercolour, coloured pencil, ink and digital.

Is there any area of art that you find especially challenging? Not overly, now that I’ve learned about preparing files for printing. I think my
technical side is improving. But I would like to be quicker so I can say yes to more projects.

You have two more picture books coming out next year. Can you tell us anything about them? I can’t really share anything about them although I am almost through my first round of drafts with both of them. Needless to say it’s been hectic at my house. Surprisingly I haven’t had any offers to help me out with all the neglected cleaning jobs around the house.

What’s the best aspect of your artistic life? The best aspect is that I get to do what I love. I can’t think of a better way to spend my day!

—the worst? In the beginning it was learning computer programs. I’ve climbed the mountain now! Just over a year ago, I had never owned a computer of my own or did any classes in the digital realm. Not even a typing class! Once I figured out it was holding me back, I took the plunge! now look at me go. Ha!

What is your creative dream? Gosh, so many dreams! I would love to illustrate a funny book. I really value humor in my life, so it makes sense to me to illustrate a book in that genre. Also I dream every day to be a full-time Illustrator, creating illustrations for picture books and junior fiction and provide an extra income stream for my family.
Other than that I would love to go on a painting tour around Europe. I don’t know if they exist, but they should!

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an illustrator? Nothing I could have been told, but something I would’ve loved to have studied is graphic design instead of fashion design back when I got into both courses (despite never touching a computer in my life, ha ha).
What’s the best advice you were ever given? There’s so much I’ve heard but I’ve not been told specifically. One off the top of my head is, ‘Illustrate, don’t decorate’.

Now for a little light relief – If you were going to be stuck in a stalled lift for several hours who would you choose to share the experience with you and why? Probably my husband, he would Macgyver our way out of there. Ain’t nobody got time for that!

BOOK BYTE

When the Moon is a Smile

Written by Teena Raffa-Mulligan, Illustrated by Amy Calautti

 

“Don’t go, Daddy!” It’s the plea that tugs at the heart of every loving father whose child no longer shares his everyday life due to a relationship breakdown.

For a young child, accepting how things have changed once parents live apart can be difficult. When ‘Daddy time’ is occasional instead of constant, saying goodbye for now can be the hardest part of spending time together.

In this gentle story about the special bond between a little girl and her father, the fun of sharing a day imagining everyday activities into extraordinary adventures turns to sadness when it is time for him to leave.

Tears turn to acceptance with the promise that Daddy will soon return — and there is a special way to know when that will be.

A heart-warming family story from the author of Who Dresses God?, True Blue Amigos and Friends.

When the Moon is a Smile is available here from Daisy Lane Publishing and also from Amazon and other online retailers.

 

 

 

 

Meet the Author: Paul Russell

Paul’s top writing tip: Be honest. Your stories are yours alone, find what it is that makes you unique and use that to make your stories the same.

Paul Russell is a primary teacher, artist, playwright and children’s author with five previous titles including Grandma Forgets, which made the CBCA list of notable picture books in 2018.  He is passionate about the place of imagination and daydreaming in children’s learning. He has a daughter who would rather be a princess or a dragon than a regular school student and he is grateful to teachers who embrace this in her education.

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write? I can’t help it. When I was younger I always claimed it was the only way I could get to sleep, if I didn’t write stories down they would keep me awake all night playing in my mind.

I think I have finally accepted now that I am just never going to fully grow up. I still have the imagination of an eight-year-old child and still see the world for what it could be, might be or will never be, making stories such an important part of my life.

How has your childhood influenced you as a children’s author? Every day and in every way. I had a joyous childhood filled with great adventures and the freedom to play. We never had a lot of money but my parents always had time for me. I had school holidays with notepads filled with stories, games and visits to local libraries.

I still see one of the greatest joys of parenthood is being able to have a second childhood through my own children.

You teach in a primary school. How much inspiration do you draw from your students? Do you test your early drafts on them? I hate coming up with character names and often steal student names, especially in first drafts but I don’t always find more inspiration in them than anywhere else. I think as an author you have to always be on the lookout for ideas. Sometimes they come in a student but other times it is an odd fact, a piece of rubbish on the side of the road or a comment a passerby says (or should have said). Inspiration is weird, it is the noting down when inspired that is important because you will never be inspired the same way twice and it is very easy to dismiss and too easy to forget.

I’ve tried running drafts past students but found they were always reluctant to be brutally honest, which is often what drafts need. My first novel I lied and told a student that one of my friends wrote it and I didn’t like it, to try to get some better feedback. Didn’t help, she still loved it.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? When you think you have something amazing but you can’t convince anyone to even read it. I submitted my first manuscript to a publisher when I was 17 and continued to send manuscripts regularly and wasn’t published till my mid-thirties. Half a lifetime of rejection makes you resilient and a better author.

However, I still think that some of those early works are really good and with the right timing would have made great published works. Timing is always out of your control. The greatest manuscript on the same topic or in the same style as a book a publisher just signed isn’t going to be signed and sometimes a not so great manuscript is going to hit the right desk on the right day.

How involved have you been in the development of your books? Did you have input into the illustrations? Different illustrators work differently. With my first picture book Nicky Johnston was incredibly generous with her artworks, she shared roughs, asked for input and showed me everything. Most of my input was just WOW! but I was still very involved, I even got to choose the number plate on the blue car.

Aśka on the other hand was completely independent, she tells her own story with the artworks and they work independently and totally harmoniously but I didn’t really see anything until big sections were completed. We did chat a lot back and forth about colour palettes in The Incurable Imagination but in the end you just have to learn to trust the experts in their area.

I have learned that words are my skill and although I have an art degree and am prone to a bit of doodling, I could never be an illustrator.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? The last full stop in a piece. Signing a contract or seeing a finished book is great but finishing a piece of work, regardless if anyone else will ever see it, love it or publish it, is the greatest feeling in the world.

—the worst? When you know you have a great idea but you can’t quite get it to work. Or a rejection letter on a script you really like.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I would join writing groups and talk to other writers. When I started my writing, and honestly too much now, I just live in my own bubble and write. I have found writers incredibly generous with their time, knowledge and experiences and always willing to share. I wish I had learnt this earlier.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? Do it. I always thought it was an impossible goal, even now I pinch myself just to make sure. The more you write the better you get. Don’t write to be published, write to be a writer and to bring your stories to life, the rest will happen eventually if you don’t stop.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? “You really have a talent, you know if you get good enough you can pay someone to fix your spelling.”

How important is social media to you as an author? I only started social media five years ago when my publisher told me I had to get onto Facebook. I use my Facebook page and Instagram account like a scrap book of photos and reviews of my books and am really quite poor at adding rich content to my page.

However, it’s the best way to meet other people like yourself. I have loads of people I only know thorough Social Media, I watch people who I want to be or people who want to be like me. I see ideas for launches or get to experience them. Social Media creates networks of authors and illustrators that was impossible only a short time ago and honestly makes everyone so approachable, I love it.

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? No. Never. Only a lack of time in my life to write. In my mind writer’s block only occurs if you are trying to force something. I will always be working on a number of different writing ideas at any one time. If I get a bit stuck for one or feel like it is getting sluggish and forced I will move to something else.

Writer’s block is a thing for people who are not busy enough with the rest of their life. I’ve never sat in front of a page or screen and not known what to write, my life is busy enough that when I have the ideas I try to find the screen or page.

How do you deal with rejection? I don’t think anyone is immune to rejection, nothing hurts more than when you put your heart totally into a script and no one else can see what you can.

Take a day. Eat a block of chocolate. Start the next one.

I am still convinced that one day I will be able to pass all those rejected scripts onto someone who will see what I saw in them but until that day you just keep going. Rejection is the building blocks for success, and rejection is only ever final if you give up.

In three words, how would you describe your writing? Imaginative, childish, passionate.

If you had the chance to spend an hour with any writer of your choice, living or dead, who would it be and what would you most like them to tell you about living a writing life? I grew up on English television and I think Ben Elton is the writer I would most like to sit down with. I would want to just sit there and hear him talk Young Ones, Blackadder and novels.

I think the greatest thing I have discovered in the past couple of years is lots of the children’s authors and illustrators who I thought I would never have a chance to meet or spend any time with I have met. I have met so many amazing and generous authors who share their time and stories with such passion.

It really is the most incredible community to belong to.

BOOK BYTE

The Incurable Imagination

Written by Paul Russell, Illustrated by Aśka

Audrey has the worst case of ‘imaginitis’ her teachers have ever seen! While other children paint their families, Audrey paints the ogre who lives under her bed drinking tea. Instead of singing about a black sheep, she writes her own song about a desk with legs that runs away. Her alphabet turns into soup. It’s clear that her ‘imaginitis’ is incurable. What’s worse, her condition is contagious and soon the other kids in her class start showing symptoms of an equally incurable imagination! As ‘imaginitis’ spreads, the teachers are horrified and the parents begin to protest too. But perhaps imagination isn’t such a bad disease after all? It might even be useful if it makes learning more fun.

Buy the book:

https://ekbooks.org/product/the-incurable-imagination/