Robert Vescio has worked in the publishing industry for more than 12 years as a Production Manager and a Photo Editor, working on a number of photographic magazines. Robert enjoyed sourcing photographic material from world-renowned photographers the ilks of Mario Testino, Annie Leibovitz, Patrick Demarchelier and Jean-Baptiste Mondino just to name a few.
Two of his picture books, Finn and Puss and Eric Finds A Way were shortlisted in the 2018 CBCA Bilby Awards. Many of his short stories have been published in anthologies such as Packed Lunch, Short and Twisted, Charms Vol 1, The Toy Chest and The School Magazine NSW.
Robert has won awards for his children’s writing including First Place in the 2012 Marshall Allan Hill Children’s Writing Competition and Highly Commended in the 2011 Marshall Allan Hill Children’s Writing Competition.
He is a Books in Homes Role Model and enjoys visiting schools. His aim is to enthuse and inspire children to read and write and leave them bursting with imaginative ideas.
Robert is a BIG kid at heart! He is a huge fan of Disney. He lives in Sydney and enjoys spending time with his children, who are an endless source of inspiration.
Why do you write? What I love about writing is that I get to share my stories with children. It’s great to see how I can make a difference in a child’s life. This is the rewarding part about being an author. I like to write stories that help children deal with changes in their lives and to better understand their world and relationships.
Picture books invite engagement – a connection. That’s why I enjoy writing picture books because it supports an adult-child conversation. The pictures help to initiate a discussion with young children and express their feelings. I find it a challenge to tell a story in under five minutes. Children read more books than adults and the world of children’s book publishing is welcoming. When you write children’s stories there are no rules. They can be silly or serious. Anything goes! Also, I get to visit schools and connect kids to books and give them an appreciation of the process involved in creating the books they love. Oh, and children’s book authors get the best fans and fan mail.
How has your childhood influenced you as a children’s author? Growing up, I loved reading the Winnie the Pooh series and I went on many great adventures. But my absolute, all-time favourite book is The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I found new friends, a lamppost, a faun and a forest where it’s snowing all the time. For me opening a book is like opening a cupboard and being transported to another world. You never know who you’ll met or what you’ll find. Stories are fun and powerful. They transport us from one world to another by some sort of magic. I have wonderful tales to share, after all, I’ve lived life and you pick up life lessons along the way. So, you naturally employ those life lessons in your work.
How much inspiration do you draw from your own family life? Do you test your early drafts on family members? It helps to have kids. I observe them and the ideas start flowing. For instance, I wrote my first picture book No Matter Who We’re With following my separation in 2008. Not only was it rough for me on a personal level, with so much upheaval and sadness, but for my children too. So, I decided to write a story that would help not only my children, but also other children going through a similar fate to cope with the many changes experienced when parents separate. I couldn’t find any picture books that dealt with this issue so I thought I’d write a picture book about it myself. I test all my stories on family, especially my kids. They are the hardest critics!
In Voyage you’ve used minimalist text to tell a dramatic story about a family fleeing their war-torn country in search of a new life in a new land. It packs a powerful punch and I found myself saying a mental ‘yes’ as I turned the pages and followed their journey from chaos to comfort and safety. How did this story come about? What led you to pare the text back to basics? Most importantly, what do you hope readers will take away from it? Today, we find ourselves living alongside refugees who have suffered and experienced horrific trauma. They all have different experiences and come from different cultures. It’s important that we understand and build good communities and the only way we can do this is through stories – stories that help us explore and imagine being that someone else.
I wanted to write a story about the refugee crisis that was unique and different. The one word per spread gives the reader the ability to expand on the words and tell a story through what they see i.e. that old adage ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’. This will help children to explore their surroundings and open classroom discussions about what is happening in the story. What is it like to leave everything behind and travel many miles to somewhere unfamiliar and strange?
The simple and spare text used in The Voyage, will help to put things into a context that will make sense to them. It’s simple and thought-provoking and shows the different stages of a refugee family fleeing their home in search of another country to start a new life. I hope The Voyage will help children talk about the different reasons people are forced to flee, build awareness and admiration and have a greater understanding of what it means to be a refugee.
Australia’s distance from the rest of the world can sometimes make it feel like we live in our own bubble. It can make it tough to imagine what people are experiencing so far away. The Voyage will help kids to talk about what’s happening and provide a little more clarity.
How involved were you in the development of this book? The illustrations tell so much of this story. Did you have input into how they were shaped? When writing The Voyage, I didn’t have a specific country in mind that the family were fleeing from. The illustrator, Andrea Edmonds, researched refugees from different parts of the world. This led her to the refugees in the Middle East.
Andrea created powerful illustrations to help children visualise the people impacted by war. The illustrations draw the reader into every stage of the voyage. Her illustrations invite the reader to imagine the challenges they would face. The end result, is a simple yet powerful story of a family fleeing their war-torn country and making a dangerous trip across the ocean to a new life in a new land. It helps the reader to connect and sympathise with the family, and better understand the heartache of their experiences.
You have a growing number of titles released and in the pipeline. What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? I think the toughest obstacle was finding a publisher who would take the risk of publishing my work. It’s important to persevere and never give up. The door will eventually open. Persistence is key! If you want to be a writer, you must call yourself one. Be brave. Believe it. Become it. I’m fortunate to have 12 picture books published to date with another five to be published over the next two years.
What’s the best aspect of your writing life? For me, appreciating the work of other authors is the best aspect of my writing life. Writing isn’t easy and I appreciate all forms of writing. Writing is a labour of love. By writing what I really care about, I’m putting my heart into my writing. This is what makes it come alive. Words are precious. They provide a way into reality.
My creativity is another aspect I like best. I’m fuelled by many things such as books I’ve read, people I’ve come into contact with, art and my kids, of course.
I never know where my stories will take me. This mystery is what creates the excitement I need to stay inspired. Embracing the freedom to change things along the way helps every choice I make in my writing. By doing so, I open myself to a world where anything is possible.
I’m also inspired by the idea of creating something that is positive and brings happiness to people. It’s inspiring to know that I can make a difference in someone’s life through my stories. If I write creatively on what I know and believe then I’ve achieved what I’ve set out to do.
—the worst? The worst part is having self-doubt. You must always be true to yourself.
What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I wish I had started sooner. There’s that self-doubt creeping back again. I believe if you can conquer this then it will lead to productive writing. Don’t let self-doubt get in your way. Just do it. Don’t wait!
What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? How hard it was to get published.
What’s the best advice you were ever given? Write what you know. Think of something close to your heart and make it interesting. If something is very close and dear to your heart the words will flow out easily.
What’s your top tip for aspiring authors? Read and keep reading more. Practice writing and keep practising more. The more you write the better you will be at it. It’s okay to make mistakes as this will show you where you went wrong.
Seek out constructive feedback on your work. Send your work out to be assessed. Take suggestions seriously, and learn from them. My writing is far better for it. It’s important to get feedback from people in the industry.
Before submitting a manuscript, make sure your work is polished. After all, publishers are professionals and we must show respect in how we present our work to them.
Competitions and anthologies have been very helpful in shaping my career as a writer. I wouldn’t be in the position that I’m in now had I not plucked up the courage and submitted my work to these events.
If your work is of a high standard, sooner or later it will get published.
How important is social media to you as an author? Social media helps. It’s a great way to get your books noticed. It’s important to have a presence out there. Remember – out of sight, out of mind!
Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? Yes, I think we all do. I go for a walk. This clears my head. You never know what you’ll find along the way.
How do you deal with rejection? No one likes rejection. Believe me, I’ve received my fair share. But rejection only fuels me even more to improve my work. I keep all my rejection letters in a folder. Why? Because this is a constant reminder of my commitment to my writing. It’s what keeps me going. I shrug it off and keep going. Be determined, and don’t take ‘no’ for an answer. If your story comes back with a rejection letter, don’t take it personally. GET IT IN THE MAIL TO ANOTHER PUBLISHER.
In three words, how would you describe your writing? From the heart.
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? CS Lewis.
‘You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.’ – CS Lewis.
Written by Robert Vescio, Illustrated by Andrea Edmonds
Displaced by war and conflict, a refugee family sets out on a voyage into the unknown. Told in only a few words, this is the powerful story of a family fleeing their war-torn country and making a dangerous trip across the ocean to a new life in a new land.
‘Chaos’ begins the story, as the family escapes.
‘Wild’ is the midway point, as their boat battles through a storm.
‘Land’ is the sight of a green, beautiful land ahead of them.
‘Safe’ is the beginning of their new life in their new home.
The book is available from https://ekbooks.org/product/the-voyage/