Meet the Author: Robinanne Lavelle

What’s your top tip for aspiring authors?

Don’t give up! Find your passion and then keep investigating where it could be placed to be of the most use to others.

Robinanne Lavelle

Robinanne Lavelle lives and works in Brisbane, Australia. She completed a Bachelor of Economics, a Master’s degree in Business and another in Education Management. She has been a teacher, a lecturer and author of five textbooks in the social sciences. As well as academic pursuits, spirituality and emotional intelligence have been at the forefront of her life’s journey. After studying yoga and meditation with monks, she ran courses and has written a book on mindfulness and meditation. Robinanne has been writing professionally since 1990 and has no intention of slowing down anytime soon! Her latest release, The Road Awaits, a book of poems and stories, explores the life changing events that shaped her childhood and the adult she is today.

Visit her website here.

Author Insight

What inspires you to write? I just want to express myself and to help others. Writing seems a natural way to do this

What role does your career as an educator play in your writing? I believe most educators are people who want to help others by sharing knowledge. You can do this in the classroom/lecture theatre, and you can reach many more people through books. For example, when I co-wrote the Layman’s Guide to Law in WA the textbook reached 75% of those studying law in upper school throughout the state. I could help many more students than I could in one classroom.

In three words, how would you describe your writing? Interesting, educational, and organised.

Who has been the strongest influence on your writing life? My grandmother wrote a book, then my mother wrote a lot of poetry and short stories. I felt they were both very articulate, expressive, passionate women.

Share a little about your path to publication. I studied law in upper high school in Melbourne. When the subject was introduced to WA, I was one of the first teachers to teach it. Victoria and WA law is not all the same and having only a Victoria textbook available was fraught with problems. I started writing a journal with five other teachers to help new teachers with the subject and this led to two of us ending up writing the textbook and workbook for both students and teachers in Years 11 and 12.

How involved are you in your cover and interior book designs? I had a vision of The Road Awaits having a nostalgic VW combi van on the cover. I searched for a professional photograph that would capture a combi in Australia. I collected many photos. I played around with the photos and eventually it was a photo that was taken in South Australia and captured the idea that the book is about travel in Australia, a road trip. I played around with the name of the book for months too, until it just felt ‘right’. Then I handed it over to the publishers for their professional take on how it should look. As for the layout and design inside, I have a Masters in Educational Management and my dissertation was on format of textbooks, plus through the books I have written, I have gained a lot of experience in what works for the reader. Thus, I set this book out with the photo relating to the poem, then the poem and finally a little story that elaborates on the poem or situation. 

What do you hope readers will take away from your books? The Road Awaits is a book about facing and overcoming hardships and treasuring the little gems you find on your path to a better future. I hope people will enjoy the journey, find inspiration in the stories, and stir them up to travel Australia.

Walk us through your writing process. Do you spend time planning or start writing and see where it will lead you? I have an idea what I want to do and usually formulate the layout first. So, it might be topics or chapter headings and then I start to fill in!

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? I’ve never had writer’s block but then I don’t write fiction. I think fictional writers might be more inclined to have this issue. I have a subject I’m writing about, and I just write.

Is there an area of writing that you find challenging? I find proof-reading very challenging. Having ADHD, I don’t tend to focus well on every word and tend to read what I think I have written – not necessarily what is on the page! I always need a great editor and have found such in Olympia Publishers in London.

What’s the best aspect of your creative life? I get to work from home. I’m not super keen on mornings and so waking up slowly, having a coffee, and taking it to my desk and working for an hour in my pjs (before showering etc.) I think is such luxury.

—the worst? Sometimes I think I would like to retire. I like the idea that I could do anything I like in retirement because once I start on a book there is a process and schedule to adhere to.

How important is social media to you as an author? I’m not an avid social media person. I much prefer to meet someone in the flesh for coffee or something. It is important though for an author to have a profile and face on social media. As an author you need to reach out to people and have yourself available online.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? Make your difficulties your strengths. I have ADHD but this can mean I can do things and see things differently to other people and I cherish this as a gift now.

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? No doubt at all – it would be the Australian playwright, David Williamson. I believe he is our modern-day Shakespeare!

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? Eckhart Tolle – his understanding of the human mind and spirit is amazing!

Book Byte

The Road Awaits

Joan Elkington & Robinanne Lavelle

This invigorating collection of poems highlights the beauty of the natural world which is often forgotten about in the new digital age. Robinanne Lavelle reminisces about the first road trip she took as a child which drove her strong admiration for nature. From the beaches of Bondi to the grapes of Barossa, and shipwrecks of the rugged west coast, Lavelle explores the small divinities which make Australia so magnificent whilst passing on apples of wisdom fed to her by her parents. With sharp turns and bumps, this road trip will cause a range of drastically different emotions but is sure to leave any reader changed and awakened. Whether a passionate environmentalist or an indifferent traveller, the road awaits…

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Meet the Illustrator: Hilary Jean Tapper

Keep drawing. Draw for the love of drawing. No matter what happens, do it for the love.

Hilary Jean Tapper

Hilary Jean Tapper is a picture book illustrator, Courage Doll creator, filmmaker, Creative Arts Therapist and researcher, based in Aotearoa New Zealand. She is perpetually in pursuance of, and enchanted by, the magic of the arts. She’s also obsessed with existential philosophy, vegan food, small things and rainbows. Hilary’s work seeks to inspire the courage to create, and to remember our connection within, with those around us, and the greater world we are a part of.

Illustrator Insight

What does art mean to you? Phew, what a question! Art has been, and continues to be, a central part of my life. My grandfather was a New Zealand artist, and from as early as I can remember, I identified with him – I wanted to be an artist too! I love so many different forms of the arts: drama, film, dance, painting, drawing, music, and have been involved in these since I was a few years old. I struggled with depression in my teenage years, and it was the arts, particularly filmmaking, which got me through. When I was 26 I enrolled in a Masters programme in Creative Arts Therapy, and since then, my understanding of and love for the arts and creativity has only expanded and increased, especially in regard to its therapeutic capacities.

What’s the best aspect of your artistic life? The best aspect of my artistic life is that there’s never an ‘end’, every new creation offers something new – new possibilities, new ideas, new styles. There’s no summit to the mountain of art, only the next image, the next dance, the next creation. There’s no limit to our imaginations and possibilities.

—the worst? The worst aspect of my artistic life is the flip side of the best aspect of my artistic life – never feeling satisfied!

How do you approach an illustration project? Walk us through your creative process. The beginning of a picture book is my favourite step in the creative process. I love receiving the manuscript, reading it through for the first time, and diving into ideas and characters, imagining what I could do with it. I’ll then take my pencil and copy paper, and freely sketch out some of these ideas. I love watching the characters evolve from the pencil lines! Once these characters are approved by the publisher and author, then I move to storyboarding, then black and white roughs, then colour roughs. Each of these rounds involves feedback from the publisher. Once everything has been fine-tuned we move to the final art.

How much time do you spend on creating each illustration? I have no idea! There’s no time in creative time! One image might blossom in an hour. Another might be ten!

Do you have a preferred medium? My favourite medium to work in is watercolour paint, with pencil and permanent ink outlines. I am currently experimenting with bringing a little more loose colour pencil and gouache paint into the mix.

Is there any area of art that you still find challenging? Oh, the whole thing! I am always challenged by my inability to give form to what I can imagine, but I also know that this is the very task, and wonder if it may always feel like this. This is the role of the imagination – to envision what is always yet to come. I am also constantly challenged by creating the final art, I find it quite paralysing to create what feels like it needs to be “perfect”. It is terribly uninspiring, and I freeze up and can’t paint at all. I have to try to by-pass this by listening to fun music, dancing, and getting paint on the page without thinking too much about it!

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as an illustrator? I am still starting out as an illustrator, but with every book I learn something new, even just within the three books I’ve finished, I can see how much I have grown and changed. It was a huge learning curve doing my first book – so many new lessons – how to draw the same character across 32 images from different angles, how to create enough paint to be the same hue across 32 images, how to sit and illustrate for 40+ hours in a week! (My hand was so stiff and couldn’t move after my first book!) These were things I had no idea about, and probably wouldn’t have unless I illustrated a book. Now I feel a tiny bit looser and more informed in how to pace myself and prepare myself for each book, so this helps. If I were starting out for the first time now, I would just tell myself “Trust the process”.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an illustrator? I actually went to a children’s literature conference called the Wild Imaginings Hui in Dunedin before I received my first picture book contract. At the conference I was able to hear from and speak to some of New Zealand’s best and experienced children’s book illustrators, and their advice gave me so much perspective as well as inspiration. Meeting illustrators and hearing about their experiences prior to this journey starting was a real blessing.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? I’ve been blessed with so much good advice! But probably the best advice I’ve ever been given, which got me through the panic I experienced painting my first picture book, comes from Deborah Green, saying “Stay close in with the art”. To me this meant keeping close in to my body, my senses, my feelings, and to the art materials. It’s so easy for me to loose touch with both and get swept up in my head and thoughts, fears and inner critic. But staying close in with my body and the art materials, allows me to stay with the process of artmaking, to keep breathing through the difficult space, to be open to the unexpected, to let the art lead and just enjoy the mystery of the creative process.

Other good illustration advice came from New Zealand illustrator Jenny Cooper who I had the great fortune of hearing speak live at my local library. She gave so many tips that day, I wrote down almost everything she said. But one of the best parts was hearing her say that our final art will never be as good as the roughs. There’s an aliveness and beauty when it doesn’t “have to be” perfect, and I lose it when I do the final art, I get all rigid and tight. I felt permission in this moment to just accept and trust the creative process, and accept there won’t be perfection at any stage.

What’s your top tip for aspiring illustrators? I keep coming across so many drawings, sketches and paintings I’ve done over the last ten years. Looking back on them, I can see how much I have grown through experimentation. All that I can say, other than the extraordinary blessings I’ve had in my life and the endless support of my husband and my family, is keep drawing. Keep drawing. Draw for the love of drawing. No matter what happens, do it for the love.

What is your creative dream? My creative dream is to see more and more opportunities for people to engage with the arts and creativity. I felt so fortunate to have the arts in my life when I was really struggling with depression as a teenager. I can’t imagine what it would have been like if I hadn’t had that. I hope to help bring the arts, creative arts therapy, and the multitude of ways we can be creative in our lives, more and more into schools, communities, and young people’s lives.

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? Haha, how is getting stuck in a stalled lift light relief? Well, I would probably be quite anxious if this happened, and so I would definitely want my husband with me because he is a super relaxed person, plus he’s a beautiful singer. So maybe he would sing some songs to help pass the time!

Book Byte

Freddy is certainly not a Teddy, but that won’t stop him from being the star of the Teddy Bears’ Picnic in this inspiring story about inclusion, friendship and staying true to yourself.

Freddy is Jonah’s favourite stuffed toy, but no one knows quite what Freddy is – a funky duck, a peculiar platypus, a punk rock penguin? When Jonah’s teacher announces that they’re going to have a Teddy Bears’ Picnic, it seems that if Jonah wants to take Freddy, Freddy will have to go in disguise!

Jonah and Freddy try all of their best Teddy Bear disguises, but nothing can quite cover up the fact that Freddy is a little different. What should Jonah do? He loves Freddy, but should he still take Freddy to the picnic if he doesn’t look like all the other teddies?

Find out what happens when Jonah stands up for himself and for his beloved Freddy in a heart-warming story that will resonate with any child who has ever felt like they’re a little different. A celebration of inclusivity and being kind to others, Freddy the Not-Teddy will inspire young readers to express themselves just as they are!

Buy the book here.