Meet the Creators: Vikki Conley and Penelope Pratley

One of the loveliest aspects of my writing life is connecting with other children’s book creators and sharing the excitement of a new story finding its way to young readers. This week I’m chatting with Vikki Conley and Penelope Pratley about their creative life and their beautiful picture book, Ella and Mrs Gooseberry.

Congratulations to you both on the release of this warm-hearted story about Ella’s quest to find out what love looks like and how to help her next door neighbour find it again. It brought a smile to my day and I’m sure it will become a favourite with families.

Penelope, what was your response on first reading Vikki’s manuscript?  My first response to a manuscript is always to draw a few quick sketches as I read the story and see how the characters present themselves.

Did the story immediately conjure images for you? Immediately I knew that the images where the characters explain ‘What love looks like’ would use the colours of the rainbow in the background which would lead to a rainbow of colour as Mrs Gooseberry danced in her kitchen. I also really wanted to include the ‘floating’ elements to represent the magic feeling that is love.

Please share a little about your process in illustrating the book. How collaborative was it?  As an illustrator I complete a storyboard that is then sent to the publisher. The art director and editor then provide feedback on placement and any early changes that may need to occur. Then I complete a set of ‘good copy’ drawings that are sent back to the publisher and shared with the author. From there the publisher provides me with any further changes before I commence the final illustrations using pencil and watercolour paint.

Vikki, has the book been illustrated the way you envisioned it would be when you wrote it?  When I write, I visualise scenes, not necessarily exact color or style. However, I always hoped that the story would be in soft watercolor with gentle characters and warm colors. Penelope has done just this with her beautiful illustrations. So I think the answer is yes!

Do you have a favourite part of Ella and Mrs Gooseberry?

V. I love the floating images that represent each character’s wonder and response to the question, “What does love look like?” I was thrilled when I saw Penelope had conceived this concept for the story. It added visual excitement and supported the story in such a original way.

P. It’s so hard to choose just one part! I’m particularly fond of the ‘love looks like’ pages – especially the ‘grandma’ page as it’s based on my beautiful mother-in-law. I also love the small story of the soccer ball getting stuck in Mrs Gooseberry’s front yard that we later see Mrs Gooseberry kicking happily.

What do you hope readers will take away from the experience of reading this book?

V. That they will be encouraged to wonder. That they will explore the idea of love with their family. That they will consider how others feel. That they will feel warm inside like an apple pie!

P. I hope readers will appreciate the importance of community and will value that love comes in many different forms and that a child’s solution to a problem comes from the heart.

Where do you find your creative inspiration?

V. In so many places. In particular, I expose myself to a lot of art and wilderness. I read widely. As a treat, I try to get to galleries and performances. A podcast, audio book or music is often playing in my car, or while I cook dinner. I walk among trees and along rivers several times a week. I then try to notice the small things in life – sounds, body language, light, movement, colors. Diverse experiences are also good for my creative juices – travel, food, climbing mountains, trying new things regularly.

P. Well Vikki’s beautiful story obviously, my family and friends and ‘Olive’ who was an elderly blind lady I used to read to after meeting her on the bus home after school. I would spend my Sunday afternoons walking to her house and reading her The Secret Garden and many classic tales.

How has your childhood influenced you as a children’s books creator?

V. Enormously. I grew up on a farm nestled in between the mountains, rainforest, the ocean and a national park. Animals, the natural world and adventure left a lasting imprint on my mind and soul. I have memories of doing backflips down sand dunes and spotting kangaroos hopping along the beach on remote islands, body painting myself with white clay found in river streams, making daisy chains for the orphan lambs that we reared by bottle, and eating icecream with mulberries picked straight from the tree. I still feel, smell and smile about all of these memories. They inspire my writing every day.

P. I was very ill as a child and still suffer from a range of chronic autoimmune conditions. So books and art have always kept me company. When I returned to school in grade two after a long stint in hospital our class was reading Possum Magic. The accompanying activity was to recreate one of Julie Vivas’ stunning watercolour illustrations. That moment was completely magic for me. I was not a great reader until early high school but would spend hours listening to stories on cassette tape and poring over picture books. My Nan in particular encouraged my love of art, always providing a steady stream of paper and materials to keep me company while I was unable to attend school. Art and creativity have always had a consistent presence in my life.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published?

V. Finding space in my life to just keep writing.

P. Believing that I could. Because it doesn’t matter how many people tell you can do something until you believe it yourself.

What’s the best aspect of your creative life?

V. Working with other creators who bring their own imagination and flair to a project. That sweet spot where story meets illustration is like honey on crumpets!

P. Oh my goodness – there are SO many! I suppose the best one is I get to do what I love every day and I am still available to be a mum to my two beautiful children.

—the worst?

V. Having to keep so many multiple projects and jobs on the go in order to be able to afford crumpets.

P. Time! I never seem to have enough of it and I spend vast amounts of time alone. Sometimes it would be great to have someone to bounce ideas off as I’m creating.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now in this industry? What do you wish you’d known?

V. I would have reworked my early manuscripts for longer before I started submitting. Perhaps done my Australian Writers’ Centre Picture Book course sooner – it helped me take a giant leap.

P. I think the only thing I would do differently is to have started sooner.

What’s the best advice you were ever given?

V. Just keep writing.

P. Do all things with excellence.

What’s your top tip for aspiring children’s books creators?

V. Just keep writing. But also seek opportunities to improve eg a mentor, a course, a writer’s group.

P. Put your work out there and put time in to hone your craft with daily repeated practice.

How important is social media to you?

V. I used to be slightly afraid, almost opposed to social media. However, I now embrace it. It’s helped me connect with many creators and professionals in the industry. It’s also allowed others to share my journey and support me along the way.

P. Not overly important as far as self promotion but super important for the beautiful friendships and for the advice of fellow illustrators and writers who are so generous with their time and knowledge.

Is there a favourite childhood book that has influenced you creatively?

V. The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton because it is pure bliss and wonder. And also The Gingerbread Man by Jim Aylesworth for its fun and cheekiness. How can you ever forget that line…? “Run, run as fast as you can! You can’t catch me I’m the Gingerbread man.”

P. Ha! I can’t possibly only share one. Possum Magic – Mem Fox, Let’s Play – Marie Hall Ets, Velveteen Rabbit – Margery Williams, The Little Matchstick Girl – Hans Christian Anderson, and The Little Green Road To Fairyland- Ida Rentoul Outhwaite.

Vikki Conley. Photo: Rachel Winton Photography

Vikki Conley is one of the most prolific emerging children’s authors, with seven picture books being released within the next two years. She is a writer, book reviewer and intrepid adventurer. She has worked as a professional writer and marketer, with diverse communities in Africa, Asia and Australia, for over 20 years.

Vikki has been short-listed, long-listed and placed in competitions including Jackie Hosking’s Poetry For Kids (2019), the CYA Competition (2018 & 2019) and the Charlotte Waring Barton Award (2017). Vikki has a Bachelor of Arts in Public Relations and has completed two children’s picture book courses (Writers Victoria and the Australian Writers’ Centre).

To find out more about Vikki, visit https://www.vikkiconley.com/

Penelope Pratley

Penelope Pratley is an emerging illustrator, writer and educator living in NSW, Australia. The first picture book she illustrated was published in 2018. With an aim to grow hearts she uses watercolour, ink, pencil and mixed media. Penelope always had a BIG dream to write and illustrate quality books and inspire children to read. When she’s not working in her garden studio or munching chocolate freckles, you’ll find her at the back of the local bookshop in the children’s section. Penelope has illustrated two picture books published in 2019 and is excited to be illustrating more for publication in 2020. To find out more about Penelope, visit https://www.penelopesnest.com/

About Ella and Mrs Gooseberry

Grumpy old Mrs Gooseberry from next door has lost her love. ‘I didn’t know you could lose love,’ says Ella. So she begins her quest to find out what love looks like and how she can help Mrs Gooseberry to rediscover it. Her mother says love is like home-cooked pie. Her teacher says it’s like lanterns in the night. Perhaps love might look like a little kitten. Ella and Mrs Gooseberry is a heart-warming picture book about a child’s understanding of love, selfless giving and how it makes you feel.

It is available from www.ekbooks.org and wherever good books are sold.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meet the Author/Illustrator: Anne Helen Donnelly

It’s always a celebration when a new picture book becomes available for young readers and today it’s my pleasure to welcome Anne Helen Donnelly as part of her online book tour for Ori’s Clean-up, latest in her Ori the Octopus series.

Anne lives in Sydney with her husband and her two young children. She has taught dance, been an entertainer at children’s parties, and she reads and teaches art and craft to children. She paints children’s canvasses and makes greeting cards.

Anne has been encouraged to share her story-telling, her illustrations and her creativity, resulting in her Ori the Octopus series. The first book Ori the Octopus was closely followed by Ori’s Christmas, both released in 2017. In 2018 Anne is combining another of her passions, care of the environment, in her third book Ori’s Clean-up, released this month.

I asked Anne about her creative life…

What’s the best aspect of your creative life? Getting out doing readings and workshops with children.

—the worst? I have been trying to revamp my website for two months now, this would have to be top of my list right now.

Where do you draw the inspiration for your picture books? For my current picture book, the environment and its care has always been a passion for me. Otherwise, from everywhere/anywhere. I can think in pictures, so I may see something that sparks an idea.

How has your background in dance and being an entertainer at children’s parties influenced you as an author/illustrator? The dancing has helped me as I have had to capture the attention of children and motivate them. Teaching 20 four and five-year-old boys teamwork in a dance troupe is a tough gig. The entertaining is the same. You use anything that works; comedy, magic, games and mostly getting them involved. And you learn not to do one thing for very long and to mix it up.

How do you approach a new picture book project? Walk us through your creative process. Once you have an idea, what’s the next step? Like most writers, an idea usually has to sit and ‘cook’ until it’s ready to be told. Then I write the first draft, then many, many redrafts with usually more than one critique and assessment.

What are you working on at the moment? I am working on promoting my new book. I just completed four events up in Port Macquarie and have some 11+ events coming up this year.

Also, as mentioned earlier, I am revamping my website while ‘cooking’ another picture book manuscript or two.

How much time do you spend on creating each picture book? I assume this means after the manuscript has ‘baked’? It varies, starting at eight months.

What do you hope readers will take away from your stories? An enjoyable story, lovely pictures and a message. My current book has a clear message of taking care of our environment, regardless of how young you are.

Is there any area of art or writing that you still find challenging? We are all always improving so I like to think that my manuscripts in two to three years’ time will be better than what I am writing now. Ditto for illustrating, but I do find drawing hands challenging.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? I would say what is my toughest obstacle now as an independent publisher is competing with trade published books for promotion/sales and shelf space.

What would you be doing if you weren’t writing and illustrating children’s books? I would still be involved with children in a voluntary manner in between a regular job like I used to be. My last university qualifications mean, prior to entering the Kid Lit world, I was a health manager. I used to manage a Cancer Care Centre across two hospitals. It was a generalist management role; budgets, doctors and other health workforce, patients, service delivery, accreditations, complaints, improvements etc – the whole works.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as an author/illustrator? Network earlier on.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become a picture book creator? Some more facts about the size of the Australian market and the common obstacles. I probably would have still continued anyway, I like to try things. You only live once!

What’s the best advice you were ever given? My first editor helped me with my writing by saying I had some $5 words in my manuscript. Meaning, some of my vocabulary was aimed too high for my intended readership.

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? Tough one. I really don’t know. My mum’s uncle was an amazing man. He was an interpreter in the British forces in Malta. He spoke five languages perfectly, down to the accents. I only got to meet him twice before he died, and I so enjoyed listening to him and talking with him. He felt like a kindred soul, and so down to earth. It would have been wonderful to have more time with him.

Of course, I also had to ask for Anne’s top tip for aspiring author/illustrators. It’s good advice:

Do a good picture book writing course and get to as many pitching sessions and manuscript assessments as you can.

BOOK BYTE

Ori the Octopus and his friends have left their rubbish everywhere. They tidy up, but it doesn’t work. To keep their home clean and healthy, they need to do something different, something better.

Buy the book at Booktopia general site and bookstores and on Anne’s website annehelendonnelly.com

Anne has been out and about chatting about her new book as part of the launch celebrations organised by Books on Tour. Here’s where to find her other book stops…

 

 

 

 

 

Monday July 30 – Friday August 3

www.justkidslit.com/blog

Monday July 30

educateempower.com.au

Tuesday July 31

maureeneppen.com

Wednesday August 1

missielovesbooks.com

Meet the Author-Illustrator: Adrienne Body

Author Illustrator Adrienne Body

Adrienne Body is an author and illustrator of children’s fiction and non-fiction picture books. Growing up in New Zealand with stories and illustrations by great local children’s authors like Lynley Dodd and Margaret Mahy inspired her to put her love of art together with her love of words to bring to life her own cute and colourful characters.

Website: Adriennebody.com

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CREATOR INSIGHT

What’s the best aspect of your artistic life?

I like having an outlet for all the crazy random sparks of ideas that come from great experiences and interactions. I love that (hopefully) my books help kids to learn, to feel positive about books and reading, and encourage their own creativity. If a book or character of mine makes someone smile or laugh, I’m happy.

—the worst?

I often wish I had more time to devote to it, but it doesn’t pay the bills right now.

How do you approach an illustration project?

Usually I am illustrating my own text. Sometimes the text comes first, sometimes the idea forms with the text and images forming together. Mostly I just let things stew in my head until something clicks. Then I get the words down, map out a page by page layout, then start work on the individual illustrations.

I find it helps to give myself a deadline, even if it’s fairly arbitrary, otherwise I procrastinate too much. Other than that, I find there is no point in trying to work on any project of mine if I am not in the right mood for it. Things just get frustrating.

When doing illustrations or cover art for others I try to get to know the story, talk to the author about it, and again let it all stew for a while. I’ll then rough out some concepts and go from there.

What are you working on at the moment?

I always have a few different projects floating about in my head. I can never tell which one is going to elbow its way to the front next. At some stage I plan on revisiting my very first character, Breakfast the sheep. In her next story she is trying to help her friend (a currently nameless cow) figure out a way to jump over the moon. I’m having a lot of fun with the rhymes and the not-so-successful moon jumping ideas. Accurate use of the laws of physics is not something that is going to be playing a role in this story.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published?

Confidence, time, and expense. It can be a big and scary investment; particularly if you decide to self-publish. Print-on-demand wasn’t really a thing when I put out my first book, so deciding to front up the cash to print a batch after being (very politely and positively) rejected by a couple of publishers was nerve-racking. Although one publisher was very encouraging about my illustrations, so that helped a little with the self-confidence.

Is there any area of art that you still find challenging?

It’s hard to let my projects ‘into the wild’ sometimes. I don’t think I’ll ever be 100% happy with them, so I have to tell myself that they are finished enough, otherwise I’d never publish anything. It comes down to the confidence thing.

Also, marketing can be a challenge, particularly when you aren’t great at talking about yourself and your work.

What would you be doing if you weren’t an illustrator?

I honestly don’t know. I’ve always been writing and drawing. If I don’t do something creative pretty regularly, then I struggle with life in general. It is my sanity, my therapy. It’s not my day job, not my main income, and I (try not to) think I’m a bit rubbish at it, but I think it’s what I’m meant to be doing.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as an illustrator?

I think I would do some courses on some different techniques and on using different digital illustration software. But it’s never too late to do that, so I probably soon will.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an illustrator?

I always had self-doubt, thinking that I would never be creative enough to come up with new ideas or produce something good enough for a client. It would have been nice to have a cheerleader then, someone whose opinion I trusted who could tell me that I would be good enough and to keep working toward it. I got there on my own.

What’s your top tip for aspiring illustrators?

Find yourself someone who will genuinely (in a constructive and sensitive way) tell you if something you make is rubbish; and believe them when they tell you it’s not.

 

BOOK BYTE

Granddad’s Fish Tank

“This full-colour children’s picture book is full to the brim with adorable aquatic creatures who have oodles of personality. Granddad’s Fish Tank is a great tool to encourage literacy development skills. It’s rich in fun rhymes and rhythm, paired with bright and quirky water-colour illustrations.”

Available here: https://adriennebody.wixsite.com/kidsbooks/books-by-adrienne-body

 

Books by Adrienne Body

 

 

 

 

 

Meet the Author: Bobbie Richardson

Bobbie’s top tip for aspiring authors: Find a place, whether at home or at a café you love to go to, and make that your business place to write. I always treat myself with a cuppa and do at least 1.5 hours of work at a time before breaks.

Bobbie Richardson, a local Maleny resident from New Zealand, moved to Australia in 1998.

“I was made aware of a system that holds humanity back when I had an incredible experience with a Cherokee Elder who I met and worked with for a few years,” she said. “Taking my hand she talked to me telepathically for over an hour at a time. This led me to using my visions (real things Bobbie saw outside this reality) I had received all of my life to focus on the truth of what’s really going on and to find out more about humanity ‘s potential.”

Bobbie has three children now aged 12 to 28 and has experienced the diversities and different needs of each individual soul.

Bobbie has written and illustrated two children’s books, with a third on the way. She was also a singer songwriter and has recorded and sung 15 originals, winning a competition with Brisbane radio station B105 and Channel Seven’s Today Tonight. This led to performing her original song at a Broncos’ game in front of over 20,000 people. Bobbie created a song to go with her first picture book to unite all children.

Website: www.bobbierichardson.com.au

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/childrensnewagebooks

 

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write? I started to write because my life had led me to a lot of great information about humanity’s potential. My journey took me to USA to work with an Elder, and to Uluru with David Icke but most of all I learnt over the years to trust my dreams and visions as many came true.

This led me to illustrate my first picture book, designed to open children’s imagination for the purpose of igniting these potentials I was taught.

I went on to write The Timekeepers Void to enhance our lives, to step out of the programming of our system, to entice children and adults to think outside the box, to believe in magic again, that anything is possible.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I used to be a singer/songwriter and always an artist so I would probably still keep on creating in some form or another.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Honestly I totally failed English at school so to let that go, the belief that I wasn’t good enough, and to believe in myself enough to send my books out to the right people and never give up has been huge. I’m a bit like a dog with a bone, if it feels good, ignore the logic and just do.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? Working from home so I can still be with my girls as I am a solo mum.

—the worst? Spelling, grammar and motivation when there’s still housework to be done.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? Invest more in myself earlier.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? If it’s your passion, then treat it like a business and invest into that business all your time and finances that you are able to…don’t hold back.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? To keep your eye on the ball, no matter what drama you create in your mind.

BOOK BYTE

Jonar & Kitty –the Timekeepers Void

The story takes the reader on an exciting adventure through an inner porthole to another dimension.  This dimension is full of magical, fantastical creatures where animals and humans are equals and plants have the ability to heal and lead us into other realities. This other-world adventure throws two teenagers, Jonar and Kitty, into a journey of self-discovery and empowerment. Through saving their friends, they also find a hidden gem within themselves and are then able to unite both dimensions, returning us all home.

Visit the world of Elphnye where the colours are brighter and the days are shorter, where the stars move before your eyes and the trees hold other realities. Meet Spirit, the black panther; Jabene, a dramatic fairy; Alder, a wizard who made a terrible mistake and was sentenced to a life as a badger; Loopnit, a crazy little man with the ability to teleport and many more characters.

Designed for children who are looking for awareness of self and unlimited imagination.

Jonar & Kitty – The Timekeepers Void, is an 18 chapter magical adventure novel written and illustrated to introduce other dimensions, whilst learning the value and potential of the imagination, stillness of mind, and focused intention. Taking you through a maze of self-awareness, it is written like a fantasy story along the lines of: Narnia, Golden Compass and Alice and Wonderland. Therefore, any child could read it as just a mystical fantasy or they could choose to delve deeper and explore their own potential.

Written to enhance our lives and to step out of the programming of our system. It entices children and adults to think outside the box and to believe in magic again, that anything is possible.

The ebook is available here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meet the Author/illustrator: Lance Balchin

New happy Lance

Lance’s top creative tip: Experience is everything! I have tried to do as much as possible in this life, experience as wide a slice of this world as I can. Everything you do and every conversation you have will form part of the worlds that you create in your writing.

Lance Balchin studied photography at the University of Tasmania and went on to complete a Masters of Arts and Bachelor of Laws. Lance has worked as a head chef, co-owned a media production company, worked in fashion photography and fine art portraiture, and taught adult photography and film making. Lance was mentored by many of the original pioneers of the emerging Melbourne gonzo arts scene. The influences of Tom Waits, George Orwell, Patti Smith and Bukowski have always led his writing and image making. Lance is based in Brisbane.

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write? I think that I write, illustrate and take photographs for the same reason; to communicate the way in which I see the world around me to others. The visual arts and literature are ways of performing to an audience and I love the idea that that audience could be anywhere and that my illustrative and written performance might move them and create an invisible connection between me and them.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I’d work in community law. I finished a law degree at the same time as getting the first publishing deal with Five Mile Press and have been too busy working on the Mechanica series to take it any further. I’d only be interested in working within my community to help people to whom the legal system offers little chance of substantive justice. I grew up in the working class suburb of Collingwood in the late ’70s and saw the importance of community action and support organisations.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Realising that what I had was a book. I’d finished a dozen illustrations and was thinking about exhibiting them in a gallery but then realised I could build a narrative around them. I was very lucky to find Karen Tayleur at Five Mile who has supported and helped develop the concept ever since.

How involved have you been in the development of your book? I have done all the illustrations and writing for the books. The team at Five Mile helped polish the graphic design. I’ve also developed a range of video and online content to help support the books.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? At the moment it is the ability to work seven days a week on the books. I love getting up ridiculously early (at 2am) and working through the morning. The best thing about my writing life is the writing I suppose; love the process.

—the worst? Honestly, nothing. I love what I do and getting the chance to do it leaves me no room to complain about any aspect of my writing and illustration life.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? Nothing. I would do exactly what I have done up until now. Writing for me came at the right time. Finishing law gave me the discipline to tackle longer projects and my background in the visual arts gave me a way of making images that would get my book noticed. I think all the elements that have gone into making Mechanica were the product of 46 years and couldn’t have come earlier.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? It’s all so new to me still so I can’t say I know enough to want to change anything. As a children’s author I’m competing with an exciting and engaging world of digital entertainment, I knew that when I decided to put he book together. While it is hard to get many children to put down their iPad to read a book, I think that authors can still produce books that cut through all the noise to create worlds that children love to explore. I hope I’m doing that with the Mechanica series.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? There’s a song called ‘Work‘ by John Cale and Lou Reed that is about Andy Warhol. “It’s work, the most important thing is work…’ For me creating anything involves work – thousands and thousands of hours of work; most of which goes nowhere. You just have to keep going and write, illustrate or photograph something every day to progress forward.

 

BOOK BYTE

MechanicaMechanica

Lance Balchin

 

At the end of the 22nd century, the environment has collapsed, species have become extinct and the land can no longer support nature…
Drone armies, engineered by humans, have fought one another across the east and west, but during these battles, many became damaged and lost contact with their handlers.
In an effort to overcome the species loss, robotics designers created Mechapets, complex robots that were crafted to resemble Earth’s lost but most exquisite insects and birds. The Mechapets were kept in sanctuaries and zoos for the public to enjoy, but it wasn’t long before some of the insects and birds escaped and began colonising lands, where they encountered some of the lost military drones.
The Mechapets, now known as Mechanica evolved at a startling rate, increasingly becoming dangerous hunting machines. Battles were fought against the ruthless species of Mechanica, who threatened human existence.
Protagonist Liberty Crisp has grown up surrounded by Mechanica. She has intimate knowledge of these robots, having learned about them from her parents, both scientists, and being taught by expert, Reginald P. Prescott. However, when the Steel Wall Defence System collapses on Saraswati, Liberty’s island home, it’s up to her to save its human inhabitants from almost certain destruction by the Mechanica.
Mechanica is a dystopian tale for our times, appealing to us to live more sustainably and with a greater appreciation for our precious resources.

It is available from http://www.fivemile.com.au/search/Mechanica

And here’s the link to the trailer…https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YYO9u3Em9-

 

Meet author/illustrator Bianca Ross

BIANCA’S TOP WRITING TIP:  Allocate a two-hour block every day to writing, and stay with your schedule. All writers need discipline, and setting aside regular time slots ensures this happens. Spontaneous creativity may not always come along, but routine helps to foster it.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABianca. C. Ross is a writer and a small-time farmer. One day when she was sitting in the garden at her farm, she decided she would write about Herbert Peabody, the farmer who digs food. She’d always enjoyed being read to when she was little, especially books with pictures. And she’d grown up in a house that had a big vegetable patch in the backyard.

The idea to write about Herbie had been brewing for a while. Bianca had always liked healthy food and this led her to work at some big food companies in Australia including dairy and fruit juice companies. She had always enjoyed communicating, and this saw her working in different ad agencies in France, Singapore and Australia.

Herbert Peabody and His Extraordinary Vegetable Patch is Herbie’s first adventure.

For more information about Bianca and Herbie, visit www.herbertpeabody.com

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write? I write because I love to. I enjoyed story writing in primary school, and wrote short stories and poems throughout secondary school and university. Writing copy evolved to be part of my career, and with the ‘Herbert Peabody’ book series, I write to entertain children, and hopefully their parents. Herbie shares important messages in a fun way through characters children can easily relate to, and I think it’s important for young readers to have positive and fun role models.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? My passions are advertising and marketing, because both disciplines seek to communicate and engage people. It’s important to share an affinity with your audience and establish a connection with them, and understanding people has been fundamental to my career. This inspired me to write Herbert Peabody. My other dream would be to sing and perform.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Producing the book to the specs I wanted to best bring the story to life – colour and line illustrations, hard back, A5, with a map at the front so children could orientate themselves with where the stories are set. So, because I’m impatient (!) I self-published.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? People telling me how much their child loves Herbert Peabody, and that he’s inspired them as a family to start growing their own herb pots or veggie patch. There are many wonderful stories to read, and I am both delighted and humbled when someone chooses mine.

—the worst? Having twenty four hours in one day. Inspiration comes along often, and there is not enough time in one day to record it!

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I would take time to enjoy the writing process – the suspense, tension and inspiration – rather than worry about the result. Knowing readers enjoy my work is encouraging, and I now appreciate planning, writing and editing to produce the best work I can.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? To find a writing mentor. I’m lucky to have met writer, Les Zig, and designer, Luke Harris, who welcomed me to the world of writing. Their patience and encouragement compelled me to stay.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? To unfold a story slowly, and deliver the ending in a compelling way that gets to the point. Good writing is like going to a great party and leaving while it’s still swinging. It’s the mystery and the tease that entices the reader, and the wrap should leave them wanting more.

BOOK BYTE

Herbie 2 smlHerbert Peabody is a farmer who grows fruit and vegetables in his big, big vegetable patch at Mulberry Tree Farm. When his niece Clementine and nephew Digby come to stay for the school holidays, Herbie can’t understand why they know so little about vegetables. But there’s a bigger problem: a local bakery is under threat and needs Herbie’s help. Can Herbie teach Clementine and Digby the importance of vegetables? And with some hard work and a little bit of magic, can they make something extraordinary happen?”

You can buy the book here.

 

 

 

 

Meet the author/illustrator: Lizzie Midgley

LIZZIE’S TOP TIPS FOR THE CREATIVE LIFE: You can’t edit a blank page and not everything will be great, but there will be something good in everything. The first one is as basic as it seems. If you want to be a writer- write. If you really want to get that novel out into the world, you actually have to write it. It’s not  going to appear on its own one day, it’s work and you can edit once it’s all out otherwise you’ll never get the book written. You’ll just wish you were a writer.

The second one is something I have learned in my 15 years of writing. Not everything you write or paint will be great. In fact some will be lousy. But the good news is that there will be something usable in that work – a new technique, perhaps an awesome paragraph that can be the beginning of something new. Or even just the idea and its development. Not everything you do HAS to be great. It’s OK to write a shitty poem, just because you feel like it. Have fun. Learn and share your vision.

headshotLizzie Midgley is an author and publisher based in Western Australia. With a background in education and special needs teaching and assisting, Lizzie has followed her passions for literacy and development and creative writing, carving a place for herself on families’ bookshelves and in the independent author sector.
Her first book launch, held for My secret dinosaur in May 2014 was an exciting foray into the world of book tours and selling her book in person. Her second picture book, the long awaited Garden Gnome was published in March this year, followed quickly after by Bug and Boots in July.

Lizzie hopes her enthusiasm for writing and reading ignites a love of book sharing in families, and a passion for creative writing within children and adults alike. ‘To write is a gift; but the magic comes from being read.’ ~ Lizzie

To find out more about Lizzie, visit https://lizziemidgleyauthor.wordpress.com/ or https://www.facebook.com/authorlizziemidgley/

AUTHOR INSIGHT

What’s the best aspect of your artistic life? I love my life, I’m so blessed in so many ways. Other than the obvious things like working with books, libraries and families, I think for me the best part is seeing something turn from a slip of an idea into a physical object, either a book with my own words and or illustrations, or making a painting from tubes of paint and a canvas. There is something very satisfying about creating every day.

—the worst? This is a hard question. I think that living a grateful life is important especially when your work depends so much on the goodwill of others to actively purchase your work. For me – and probably our family – the worst part of living a busy modern artistic life is the time demands. I find that with being a full-time, stay at home Mum, some days it’s quite late before I get a chance to work on any of my ‘creative endeavours’.

I do think that Dear Husband would say the worst thing is never knowing what kind of day I’m going to have. Some days I’m an impeccable housewife and the house is spotless and there is an amazing meal ready. Other days when I’m possessed by the muses the house looks like a bomb’s gone off, and I have no idea what time it is. He takes it all with good humour of course, which is one of the many reasons I adore him.

How do you approach a creative project? Usually with notes and post its. Everything comes from an idea. The more time I invest into creative work the more creative ideas I come up with. Sometimes I have to write it down just so I can come back to it at a later date. From the initial ideas, I take notes and story board. I do any research that needs to be done, then work on putting it together. Quite often I have multiple projects on the go at once, which means I have to keep a tidy work space so I don’t lose anything important. Some days that’s easier than others.

Once I have the story and illustrations, I digitise,  and work on the formatting and assembly of the digital proof.

After that, it sees my editor, and a reader or critic. I make any changes we agree need to be made and it goes off for publishing.

Or if it’s a painting, I’ll take some photos for reference, and sketch the idea out on paper. Once I’m happy with the design I’ll sketch onto canvas or parchment depending on the media and get to work. Most of my paintings take between three and nine hours to complete from the second sketching stage.

What are you working on at the moment? Quite a few things, it’s all systems go here at the moment. I have a few workshops for beginner writers that I’m hosting at the Kwinana Library, and we will have my book launch for Bug and Boots here in January (so that’s in the planning stages). I also have my year-long project #enrichmylife2015 which I work on continually every month, plus the large end of year culmination event – which is a mixed media exhibition in December. I’m working on four paintings for that at the moment, the written pieces are finished.

Then I have six picture books in varying stages of development, one almost ready for publishing in the next month or two. Of course then there is the first of my novella trilogy that is being edited with the publishing date set for March 2016, and I’ve taken on two authors’ manuscripts for publishing under my label in the next six months too.

None of that includes the regular parent helper days at school with Mr Boo, or the birthdays and the like that everyone has. Thank goodness for diaries and planners.

Do you think of yourself more as an artist or writer? Oh! That’s funny, I was asked what I do for work at a party recently and I automatically cAme out with, ‘I’m a stay at home mum’. At which point my mother inserted that I was an author and artist which prompted a long discussion and hopefully (fingers crossed) some work with local schools.

You know, I’m still only new to this career path, so I’m still struggling with the ‘am I worthy’ questions. I have to stop myself from thinking about it too hard or I get a little anxious.

In reality I don’t think of myself as either, I think of myself as Lizzie. I’m always looking for more things to learn and to share what I have learned with other people. Each of the things I spend the majority of my life doing make up the person I identify as – mother, wife, artist, writer, public speaker, educator, student. I’m also passionate about ‘people rights’ and living with chronic disease.

If I had to choose one of those options though I’d say a writer, mostly because I’m really new at the art stuff. I only started exploring the artistic world in March, which isn’t long at all. I am happy to say I’m learning along the way and having a great time, but there will always be something to learn about both writing and art, so I am not sure when you can define yourself as either.

Is there any area of art or writing that you still find challenging? Oh definitely! Most of which is intrinsic, my own inner monologue and doubts. I find I’m very good at accepting my work for myself, but can’t seem to grasp that other people find enjoyment from my various works too. (Most of my projected confidence is fake ).

I find it challenging to push my own branding – as a small publisher it’s a little counter productive, and as I said in the last question, I think that there is always room for learning in both areas. Especially because of my age. I think that being in my late 20s and early 30s is challenging in both worlds because there are many people who have been doing these things for years, and are sometimes closed minded to new ideas and methods.

I’m also a terrible typist, which means there are SO many typos in my manuscripts, which drive my editor crazy.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Accepting rejection. In the beginning I spent years sending manuscripts and author bios to traditional publishers, and I was continually told that I wasn’t ‘mainstream, commercial or marketable enough.’ Which was hard for me to hear, especially as a late teen/early adult. (Egos are so fragile)

After failing health and motherhood put me in the position of having more time available to work from home, I decided I was going to tick something off my bucket list and publish my own book anyway. I figured if I failed, at least I tried and can be proud of the effort instead of waiting for someone else to say I was good enough.

Even now, I have three picture books out and I still find it difficult to push the sales, because there is this little part of me which is afraid I’ll be rejected and found out to be a phony. ( I’m not phony, if anything I’m a little too real for most people, which makes them uncomfortable.)

What would you be doing if you weren’t an author/illustrator? Reading? I’d most likely be working in special needs classrooms. Maybe part time as our family is still young and my health wouldn’t really cope with a full-time job. Oh the joys of chronic disease. But definitely in a school.

I’m glad I am though. I wouldn’t like to think that one day I would wake up and realise I’ve lived the same day over for 75 years and not really experienced life or accomplished my dreams.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as an author/illustrator? Invest in a good desktop computer. I do most of my writing work in notebooks or on my iPad, but for publishing, my big clunky laptop is slow and difficult to use. I really need to upgrade and set up a publishing work space. Somewhere quiet with lots of desk space and light.

Also I’d remember to say yes to more opportunities. In the early days I was very shy and found it difficult to attend promotions and do networking events. I still do, but the nervous butterflies are a reassuring sign now that I’m doing something that while it makes me uncomfortable in the short term, will be promising in the future.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author/illustrator? It’s OK to like your work, and to have favourites. And some days it’s just not going to work. Instead of stressing and making yourself sick, unplug and reconnect with the people in your life. Days away from work are good for you.

Also, if someone had told me not everyone would be as honest and genuine as I believed them to be, that would have saved me a great deal of heartache and tears at 2am. It’s all a learning journey though, and I’m grateful for every experience as I have learnt to trust my gut instinct about people’s motives.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? Reflecting on the last few years, I’d have to say that the advice to sleep when the baby sleeps, you can’t spoil a baby with love and never give up on a bad day are the best pieces of advice Ive been given.

Most importantly that last one, ‘never give up on a bad day’.  It was spoken in a tear-filled conversation about sleep deprivation and breastfeeding, but I find it really applies to everything – in my life anyway.

On the days where I’m just not finding the art groove, or my words seem contrived and angst filled, I put everything down, move away and come back to it later. I found that if I don’t give up while filled with strong emotions, when I come back and look at the problem, I don’t need to give up after all. I think the essence of it is that if I don’t give up on a bad day- because eventually it will end –  I won’t want to give up on the good days.

 

BOOK BYTE

bbfcBug and Boots

by Lizzie Midgley

On a sunny day take a walk with the adorable Bug, who evades his arch nemesis Boots – well not really an arch nemesis but an adventure all the same. Follow Bug as he goes about his day followed by Boots. Almost an adventure in your own garden, your family will be enchanted by this picture book with its hand-drawn illustrations and charming characters.

links to sales sites https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=lizzie+midgley

Meet Author/Illustrator Kayleen West

KayleenWestAuthorIllustrator-webKAYLEEN’S TOP CREATIVE TIP: Be authentic. If you pursue what you are most passionate about, you’ll do it well. Then you’ll be internally fulfilled, making your occupation feel more like a hobby and less like work. This will keep you motivated regardless of setbacks.

Kayleen West is an award-winning children’s author, illustrator, designer and creative educator. Her works hang in private and corporate collections around the world including the Australian Embassy in Ireland. Since late 2009 she has authored picture books, Adoptive Father and Without Me? and illustrated, Better Than A Superhero, Celia and Nonna and We Worship God. She is also the author and illustrator of Positively Quote Colouring Book.

Find out more about Kayleen on Facebook , Instagram , Twitter and Linked In.

AUTHOR INSIGHT

What’s the best aspect of your artistic life? Exploring possibilities and discovering I can create things I never imagined…or perhaps I did.

—the worst? Balancing all the roles you take on in publishing.  Fitting it all in!

How do you approach a creative project? I go with what feelS right. This is usually the project that will touch others the most – make a difference. I don’t have a formulated process. I am organic in how I operate but I do sketch out ideas in fragments before I compile and explore thoroughly. Mindmapping would be the best description.

What are you working on at the moment? I have just finished a colouring book for adults called Positively Quote Colouring Book and working on another. I want to develop a particular children’s picture book too and plan to write and illustrate it. I can’t say too much more just yet except that it looks at what appears to be a weakness but in fact is strength.

You can read more about my colouring book here: http://kayleenwest.com.au/portfolio/shop/crafts-and-activities/positively-quote-colouring-book/

Do you think of yourself more as an artist or writer? I see myself as a storyteller. I find writing more difficult but both images and words are necessary to deliver my stories or messages to the world. I am possibly more skilled as an illustrator and prefer to be illustrating in my studio.

Is there any area of art or writing that you still find challenging? Definitely! I am always seeing the higher possibility in everything creative and so looking upward to that. I also have a dyslexic challenge. I am always typing my letters round the wrong way and forever correcting that. It slows me down and is terribly frustrating but it hasn’t stopped me.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Initially, fear of not being good enough. I struggled with the written word and spelling as a kid and still do but am too compelled not to stop.

What would you be doing if you weren’t an author/illustrator? Working in outreach. I want to use my time on Earth to help others in some significant way.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as an author/illustrator? I wouldn’t waste time working pro bono or with unfair payment agreements disguised as promotional opportunities. I’d rather work on humanitarian projects and not be paid. I would watermark all my work (too much has been stolen) and I would have spent more time on large-scale personal projects.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author/illustrator? That the book industry was gradually altering agreements to pay creators less and the internet was going to make intellectual property rights a nightmare for writers and artists. That compete to work ‘completions’ was going to become too normal because emerging creatives are so desperate to be published; they too often accept any agreement. This is reducing the industry standard to a point that very few would earn a living from their craft.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? Love others and have integrity in all you do.

 

Books-by-Kayleen-WestView more of Kayleen’s work and order books from: www.kayleenwest.com.au

 

 

Meet the Author: Louise Park

LOUISE’S TOP WRITING TIP: It’s hard when you start out. It’s hard to imagine how anyone would want to read what you have to say. But if you live and breathe it, then they will. Be true to your heart. Write from your soul. Write what you do best and don’t try to be everything to everyone or every age group. Oh, and from the publisher in me: always check the guidelines from publishing houses!

Louise Park 2Louise Park draws from a strong background in Education and literacy to produce her blockbuster bestsellers that include Zac Power and Boy vs Beast. She has taught primary school children of all ages, trained teachers in literacy education, created and developed successful reading resources to help children crack the reading code, and published books that have ignited such a love of reading in children that she has parents writing to her on a daily basis to thank her. Louise’s books dominated the top ten slots on the children’s charts in 2013 when she held eight of the ten most coveted positions in publishing. She also holds position nine on the prestigious ‘10 best-selling books of all time in Australia’ (adults, children’s, fiction and nonfiction) with total sales over 3 million. Louise writes under her own name as well as the hugely successful pseudonyms: H. I. Larry, Mac Park and Poppy Rose. Find out more about Louise here.

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write? Oh, that incredible, unstoppable urge. That unrelenting need to give some random ideas that jumped into my head when I should have been sleeping, some shape. The desire to help children master literacy skills and the art of reading is a massive driver, also.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? Well, before I was a professional writer I was a children’s publisher. Before that, I was a literacy advisor to teachers. Before that, I was a primary school teacher. And of course, before that, I was that very child I write for now. I still publish books for big publishing houses alongside the writing business. So, if I weren’t writing I’d be making even more books for publishers; and curled up in my favourite spot, reading. Always reading, I am.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Having worked in publishing and having written so many books on staff while I was there, the leap was quite smooth for me. I have been very blessed. The market gets tougher, though, and more Indie bookstores disappear. Then it gets harder and harder to sell books. Therefore, fewer books will be commissioned. That makes things tricky!

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? Being able to work whenever and wherever I want. As long as I make the deadline it doesn’t matter. I love the Internet and being able to work from anywhere these days!

—the worst? Knowing that I have to start that next manuscript and then I do everything else but making that exact start. Oh, I am SO good at that! Then, the pressure of deadline hits and I still haven’t made that start! I find the first paragraph of anything the worst. If I get it right, then, the rest just seems to flow. If not, I’m up the creek without a paddle! Oh, and people thinking that I don’t have a real job with real pressures and stresses. I’m just at home puddling around, aren’t I? BLEH!

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? That’s a tough one! I have evolved along the way. Some people say they need that special space yet I still don’t have that for various reasons. Some people say they need their routines yet mine are thrown out constantly with print deadlines for book files for publishing houses. I’ve just rolled along with it all while I raised my gorgeous children as a single mum. I fit into all sorts of spaces and timeframes. I’m used to that. I don’t know how I’d go back and change it. It’s who I am now. I love my ‘warts and all’ history and I don’t really know that I would change any of it.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? DO NOT LET the project you are most passionate about be left behind. If it is what you are most passionate about then it is your calling. Clearly! So, just do it! Find the time, make it happen, and you will be amazed! Across all fronts, I might say! Also, if your schooling or other experiences have persuaded you that you will never be a writer, DEFY THEM! Go on!

What’s the best advice you were ever given? See the question above! But I got bogged down in paying bills and just coping day to day. And, hey, I know that’s’ part of life. We are all on a path, eh? That’s why you can’t give just any advice, willy-nilly. It needs to be individual and on an individual basis.

BOOK BYTE

sml 2smlIn this exciting new interactive children’s fiction series, best-selling author Louise Park invites readers to join the crazy, fun-filled world of Harriet Clare’s Secret Notebooks.

Harriet is a normal everyday girl (just like her readers) who really cares for her friends, sometimes gets into trouble, worries a lot, but always tries to do the right thing. She loves skateboarding and writing in her notebooks, and needs a new BFF to solve her mega-huge and awesomely nutty problems – and help complete her notebooks along the way.

As Harriet’s new bestie, she’ll ask readers for advice, to draw a picture of their own BFF, or even decorate a cool skateboard. It’s a visual feast of fun, enticing even the most reluctant readers with charming illustrations, illustrated text and sketching activities. Harriet also encourages problem-solving, self-understanding and empathy, making sure that her new friends learn as much from her as she does them!

The first two books in the series, Boys Beware and Pinkie Swear (Hinkler Books, $14.99), are laugh-out-loud funny and relatable adventures for readers looking for a good friend like Harriet. They are available here.

Meet the Author/Illustrator: Andrea Faith Potter

seahorsesANDREA’S TOP CREATIVE TIP: Be happy to change your book as you create it. It is important to plan a book and then be flexible as you work. Let the ideas breathe, allow the book to become what it wants to be. And then be happy to make more changes after you have ‘finished’ the book. Tiny tweaks can make a big difference.

Andrea Faith Potter studied a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree at the University of Tasmania. After completing her degree she was selected to do a Research Associate for 12 months. Andrea then studied a Post-Graduate Diploma in painting at RMIT. She went on to have more than 50 art exhibitions nationally and her work has been featured in several magazines (including Craft Arts International). Andrea has illustrated two books by Jackie French, Werewolf Warrior and Dance of the Deadly Dinosaurs (both books were edited by Lisa Berryman and published by Harper Collins). Andrea has also created a learn to read system for children learning to read their very first words. Andrea’s website has lots of illustrations for people to see. www.andreafaithpotter.com

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write and illustrate children’s books? I feel compelled to draw. I always have. I PotterAndrea1love to make up characters and explore imaginative worlds. I love to pretend the characters are real and have a life of their own. It is a funny thing to say, but I imagine the characters so vividly that I get worried about them when they get into strife and they make me laugh when they do something funny.

What’s the best aspect of your artistic life? I love improving my skills and ideas. Every day I get a little be better at what I do. I have a love of visual story telling. It is exciting to come up with new ideas and develop them. Drawing has always been important to me. I draw all the time and then I still feel like I haven’t had enough drawing time.

Do you think of yourself more as an illustrator or as an author? I love writing stories for children but I tend to think of myself as an illustrator first. This is mostly because my stories come to me visually and then I translate the ideas into text. I draw the stories before I write them. When I write longer stories I tend to write the story first but it still feels very visual.

Are there any new areas of art or writing that you want to explore? I am always coming up with new ideas for books. I love thinking about possibilities and inventing new worlds. I love drawing animals, funny or sweet characters, fantasy and domestic scenes and so much more.

I love telling children funny adventure stories where surprising things happen. It is exciting to see the looks on their faces and how they get wrapped up in the story, jumping about on the mat imagining it is all true.

Have you illustrated books for other authors? Yes. I illustrated two books by Jackie French, zDance of the Deadly Dinosaurs coverWerewolf Warrior and Dance of the Deadly Dinosaurs. There were about 40 characters to design for the first book, which was exciting. Then there were a lot of new awesome characters in the second book, including dinosaurs (dinosaurs are awesome to draw!).

Have you ever self-published any ebooks? If so why? Yes. I thought that learning to read could be much easier and more fun if there was a set of books FrogandBatwhich introduced words gradually and kept using the same words so children could practise the words they had already learned. I felt that the only way to make a whole system of books affordable, was to self-publish them as ebooks. With my love of visual story telling, I was able to create adventure stories that were told with very few words. I also created several books which are told with words that have four letters or less (for reading practise and to build reading confidence). Frog and Bat is one of these books.