Meet the Author: Belinda Lyons-Lee

Belinda’s top tip for aspiring authors: Don’t. Give. Up.

Belinda Lyons-LeeBelinda Lyons-Lee was born in Geelong, Australia and still lives in the region with her husband and son. She has degrees in youth work, education, writing and literature. Belinda has been teaching English and creative writing in high schools for nearly twenty years and the nineteenth century has been an obsession of hers for even longer. Belinda has had various articles published that explore writing, vocation, mental health and creativity. Tussaud is her debut novel. Find out more about Belinda at http://www.blyonslee.com

Author Insight

Why do you write? I write because I love to escape and inhabit the times and places I create, because I want to discover something about what it means to be human, to try and make sense of my own, and other people’s lives. I read for the same reasons.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I’d be drawing, painting or messing around with clay whilst balancing teaching English. The same life I have now but swap out the writing for another form of creative expression!

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? I can’t remember who to attribute the quote to but it goes something like – ‘It’s not what happens to you but what happens within you that defines who you are’. There’s been a lot of ‘stuff’ that has happened to me along my writing journey, the usual culprits of rejections, set-backs and disappointments. However like Marie in my novel, I had to instead concentrate on what was happening within me, my reactions, my self-talk and find a way through it all.

How involved have you been in the development of your book? Did you have input into the cover? My publisher (Transit Lounge) has been incredibly supportive in terms of opening dialogue about each step in the publishing process. I can say the same about the editing process – Kate Goldsworthy was amazing in the way she connected and understood not only the technical details of the writing itself, but the deeper, richer essence of the novel that shines through now more clearly because of her attentions. Talking through the front and back cover was very exciting. Josh Durham, the designer, is so very clever and physically captured the mood of the novel perfectly. I actually sent the publisher and Josh a Pinterest board of the sort of covers I loved early on in the process to help frame the look I ideally wanted. Josh came up with a few designs that were all equally impressive but in the end the publisher and I both felt that this one, the one that you see now, was the best representation of the mood of the story.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? The very first draft. So much energy, momentum!

 —the worst? Sometimes the technical details of spelling, grammar, punctuation and then chapter length, refinement of sentences, plot holes, inconsistencies etc. This requires a different sort of energy and headspace. Sometimes it’s hard to balance out the two when one, for me, is much more fun than the other!

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? Celebrate the small accomplishments.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? That writing requires an enormous amount of determination and sheer stubbornness.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? I’ve had this quote by Neil Gaiman as my screen saver for about seven years. That tells you something about how highly I rate this advice! ‘Start telling the stories only you can tell. Because there will always be better writers than you and there will always be smarter writers than you. There will always be people who are much better at doing this -or doing that – but you are the only you.’

How important is social media to you as an author? It’s wonderful as a way to connect with readers and people in the ‘writing world’ but I guess like anything, it can quickly turn into a time sucking diversion.

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? If I feel a piece lagging, losing energy or momentum, I find it’s because, as William Kenower (?) I think has said, I’m no longer curious about it anymore and perhaps have even lost confidence in myself, my idea and my ability. So the moments I ‘drop out’, I switch to writing another scene or chapter or go sideways into historical research and then maybe approach it slyly again the next day or the day after. This seems to have worked so far…

How do you deal with rejection? Generally I deal with rejection by allowing myself time to feel the sting, hours, days, whatever is needed until the ‘noise’ of it begins to dissipate. Then I consciously remember to myself what the vision for that particular piece of work is and I get back in the chair and just keep going.

In three words, how would you describe your writing? Fictitious. Historical. Imaginative.

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? The hardest question ever – aside from name your favourite book! At this very moment in time, I would choose Daphne du Maurier. I read one of her biographies and was fascinated by her life and her complexities as a person. I would like to hear her thoughts on balancing the need she felt for solitude, the need to write and the need for intimate and social relationships.

Book Byte

Paris, 1810. Haunted by the French Revolution, Marie Tussaud has locked herself away in her shop with the death masks she was forced to make to avoid the guillotine.
Philidor, a famous magician, offers her the chance to accompany him to London to assist in creating a wax automaton that will bring them both money and success.
Following a disastrous performance on their opening night in which the wax on their prized spectacle melts, the eccentric Duke, William Cavendish, invites them to his rambling estate,
Welbeck, where he suggests they take up residence, use his underground ballroom for a new show and in return create a private commission for him: a wax automaton in the likeness of Elanor, a beautiful girl who mysteriously disappeared from the estate when he was a child.
In this delicious novel of twists and turns, Welbeck, with its locked doors and rooms, is full of secrets and no-one is who they seem. There is the seductive aura of Shelley, Dickens and Du Maurier in Tussaud. Marie must fight for survival in a world dominated by male advantage and power in a mesmerising story filled with wisdom about human behaviour and motivations.

Buy the book here.

Meet the Author: Sandi Scaunich

Sandi ScaunichSandi Scaunich’s career spans the fields of medical anthropology, women’s health, and diversity and inclusion. Her writing has appeared in various blogs, academic reports and The Age. She lives in Melbourne with her husband, three children and a very energetic Kelpie x named Pesca. Chasing the McCubbin is her first novel.

To find out more about Sandi, visit her website at www.sandiscaunich.com.au

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write? I’m not a big planner, so for me writing is an exciting and mysterious process of discovery that takes me out of my head and into the minds and bodies of my characters.

 What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I (temporarily) stopped working in my career during the second lockdown. Until then, writing had been a side passion that I squeezed in around working and family. The kids are back at school now, which means I’ve been typing away freely, doing Q&As (ha!) – and gosh, it’s been lovely!

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? My career is outside the publishing industry, and therefore I had no comprehension of how it operated. Unsolicited or agent? Bulk submissions or one at a time? These questions, and many more, were complete unknowns to me. So I enrolled in several courses, but the publishing industry still seemed like an exclusive grand palace with guards and huge gates where only a selected few gained access. Eventually I broke through!

How involved have you been in the development of your book? Did you have input into the cover? When it came to editing and cover design, Transit Lounge were incredibly collaborative. Actually, I loved the first cover proof, so there was little back and forth!

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? The joy of creating a new story filled with unique characters that, in my mind, live and breathe.

 —the worst? Spending long hours at a keyboard isn’t great for the body! At the end of a writing session, I sometimes feel like I’ve aged ten years. And back and neck aches lead to headaches – so not great. I’ve integrated regular exercise and stretching into my weekly routine to counteract this. A must!

 What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? Hmm … Would I have the wisdom and knowledge I have now? If so, I’d ditch the expectation of a publisher responding almost instantly with a big, enthusiastic, accepting YES.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? That the publishing industry moves at glacial speed, and to expect rejections, often in the form of silence. Plus, I’d recommend attending as many pitch sessions as possible.

 What’s the best advice you were ever given? Graeme Simsion told me recently to keep my expectations realistic. This really resonated with me, as it’s about celebrating the wins and avoiding disappointment. An extreme example, but I see it like this: if an author is disappointed their book ‘only’ hit number 2 on the New York Best Sellers list, then said author (the J K Rowlings aside, of course) needs a reality check! It’s made it to the New York Times Best Sellers list! (On a side note, that’s not something I expect to be dealing with!)

What’s your top tip for aspiring authors? I am definitely in the debut writers’ camp of ‘write what you know’. Stick to a subject you’re passionate about and know intimately. And listen to your gut instincts. For instance, there was a moment in the early stages of writing Chasing the McCubbin when I toyed with the idea of changing Ron’s character. By way of background, Ron is meant to represent a modern reincarnation of the man in Frederick McCubbin’s famous painting ‘Down On His Luck’. In the 1800s, impressionist painters, such as McCubbin, were promoting the white male narrative through their works – the white man as explorer, worker, prospector, farmer, etc. In light of contemporary values, I was tempted to carve up this traditional narrative. But Ron was simply too clear in my mind to disregard. I could hear him speak, visualise his walk and see him pottering in the shed. So despite my brain urging me to sever the continuation of the white male narrative, my gut told me to stick with Ron. Likeable or not, progressive or not, he evolved authentically as I saw him. Authentic characters engage readers; if they’re not, they risk feeling more like vehicles. Trust your instincts, I reckon.

How important is social media to you as an author? I’m a bit of a technophobe, really. In fact, I’d avoid social media completely if I could! But, hey, it’s no longer 1991, the year Chasing the McCubbin is set. My most significant tech-related achievement of late was connecting my Instagram to Facebook and Twitter! As much as I’d ideally be happy to avoid social media, I do want to connect with readers, and therefore I’m making an effort to post regularly on Instagram (I rarely check Facebook and Twitter). I’ve even posted a few vids of me chatting to the camera – talk about progress!

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? I don’t really believe in ‘writer’s block’. I think it might be more a crisis of confidence, although, luckily, I haven’t experienced it yet. Until recently, my biggest obstacle was finding the time to write – that was my personal block!

How do you deal with rejection? A Spritz Aperol and a blockbuster-action-type-movie. Like anything Marvel, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars

In three words, how would you describe your writing? Atmospheric. Sensitive. Honest.

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? Having a chat over coffee with Helen Garner would be a dream. I’d pick her brains about all-things-writers-life … I’m not fussed about what exactly. In fact, she could tell me her preferred breakfast cereal and I’d be interested. (Is that, um, creepy?!)

BOOK BYTE

Chasing the McCubbin

The Pines, an outer Melbourne suburb down on its luck. A country in the grip of recession.

Experienced collector Ron senses new possibilities: swift evictions provide hard-rubbish to scour and garage-sales have doubled. There’s only one problem: since losing his wife, Ron has struggled to navigate the suburbs alone. Plus, his deteriorating health slows him down.

This all changes through a chance meeting with Joseph, a troubled, withdrawn and unemployed 19-year old who knows nothing about antiques. As Joseph comes to understand and appreciate Ron’s world of eccentric bargain hunters, and hopefulness, his ability to navigate a history of family violence and to see a future for himself grows. Both come to share the wild dream of finding a rare bargain such as an original Frederick McCubbin painting and making their fortune. So begins an exhilarating adventure and an unlikely and beautiful friendship.

Set against the background of the early 1990s, Chasing the McCubbin is funny and sad in equal measure. A story of loneliness and the ageless desire for belonging, it will be the most heartbreaking yet feel-good novel you will read this year.

‘Truly fine writing with a great sense of characters and place, sympathetic and heartfelt without being sentimental, Scaunich pulls us into a fascinating world of low stakes and petty rivalries.’ GRAEME SIMSION, author of The Rosie Project

 ‘Authentic, subtle, evocative and alive.’ KATE RYAN

Buy the book here.

Meet the Author: Mary Garden

 

Mary’s top tip for aspiring authors: Find the best editor you can, and who suits your writing/genre.

Mary Garden has published widely in journals, magazines and newspapers, including The Humanist, The Australian Financial Review, The Guardian, The Northern Times, New Zealand Geographic, and Journalism: theory, practice & criticism.

She is the author of two books: The Serpent Rising: a journey of spiritual seduction, a memoir of her years spent in India in the 1970s entangled with flawed gurus and yoga teachers. It was first published in 1988, and reprinted in 2003 and 2019. Her latest book is Sundowner of the Skies: the story of Oscar Garden, the forgotten aviator, forgotten aviator, which was shortlisted for the NSW Premier’s History Award 2020. She holds a B.Ed. and a PhD in Journalism.

Born in New Zealand, Mary now lives in Maleny, in the Sunshine Coast hinterland, with her dog Ivy and cat Elsa.  

To find out more, visit

www.marygarden.com.au

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write? I’m compelled to write. To tell the truth, to shine a light on things.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I did train to be a schoolteacher, and have taught for short periods, but teaching does not suit me. I like the solitariness of writing, so I’d probably be an artist.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? My ignorance and lack of research. I should have read the ‘bible’ – Rhonda Whitton’s A Decent Proposal: How To Sell Your Book To An Australian Publisher. After a string of rejections, I emailed Sean Doyle at Lynk Manuscript Assessment. He rang me and said do you have a marketing proposal, endorsements, etc.? I said, ‘What are they?’ Within a week, I managed to get a marvellous endorsement from Trent Dalton (just before he became a literary celebrity!), as well as a few other authors.

How involved have you been in the development of your books? My first book was self-published, so I was very involved. With my latest book I was also very involved. There was not much editing, although the editor wanted much of the last two chapters left out. I fought back and we reached a compromise, and the result was perfect. I gave feedback for the cover and was given a choice with the photographs: whether to have more in-text or less photos in a glossy section. I spent a month writing a damn blurb, and then they used Trent’s endorsement for the blurb itself!

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? Can I have two? I just love hearing from readers of my books or articles. I never write to authors and am gobsmacked by the letters and emails I receive. In fact, the feedback from readers of an article I wrote, inspired me to write my latest book. And I just love it when words come out of nowhere and they are perfect.

—the worst? My deluded mind. Those times when I think what I have written is great, and it is not. I spent a month working on a creative non-fiction essay and did multiple drafts. I sent it to my editor friend who said it was terrible and that it read like a report. I was crushed. Then, out of nowhere, the first few sentences appeared in my mind. I rewrote it within hours, and re-sent it to my friend, who said that’s more like the Mary I know.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I’d like to think I’d be more disciplined and sit down every day and write. My brother-in-law, Maurice Gee, is a celebrated author, a household name in New Zealand. He went to his den every day to write and my sister went to work! Mind you, they’ve struggled financially, whereas I’ve gone out and done other things. For many years I’ve worked part-time in our family bicycle business.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author?  I did not set out to become an author or a freelance journalist. I just felt compelled to write. I can’t honestly think of anything I wish I’d been told. Except, don’t do that creative writing course at university. That, for me, was such a waste of time.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? Just write. Anything. Do a dump.

How important is social media to you as an author? I only use Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. I did have an author’s page on Facebook but deleted it, as I was not doing regular posts. I prefer Twitter, as I did my PhD thesis, in part, on Twitter. But I’m using Instagram more lately, and just cross-posting to Facebook.

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? Yes. I don’t do anything. I just don’t write.

How do you deal with rejection? Pretty good. I pick myself up quickly and try again. If I get good feedback, that is almost as good as acceptance. I was thrilled to bits to get a rejection from Catherine Milne, HarperCollins. She was the first person to read my manuscript, and really enjoyed it – she said it was ‘elegantly written’ – but could not convince the sales team. I knew then that my writing was not crap and it made me determined to find a home for my story.

In three words, how would you describe your writing? Easy to read

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? Helen Garner. I would like to know more about her writing process. How does she know when something is good? How often the muse comes and sits on her shoulder.

BOOK BYTE

Sundowner of the Skies

Mary Garden

In the early morning of 16 October 1930, a young man taxied his tiny Gipsy Moth across the Croydon aerodrome in the grey light and, with a wave of his hand to the only person there to farewell him, took off. On his feet he wore carpet slippers and he had half a dozen sandwiches on his lap. His plan was to fly to Australia, which was sheer madness as he only had a mere 39 flying hours under his belt.

Miraculously, he survived in spite of several forced landings. When he landed at Wyndham in 18 days later no one was expecting him. The press dubbed him ‘Sundowner of the Skies’. Sundowner describes an Australian swagman who arrives unexpectedly out of nowhere on sundown, and disappears the next morning.

His flight – the third fastest after veteran aviators Bert Hinkler and Charles Kingsford – captured the world’s imagination due to its casualness. With a lack of fanfare, he had given the impression he had just set out on a short pleasure trip, instead of the most formidable feat in aerial navigation.

The casual flyer was Oscar Garden (1903-1997). Remarkably, he was one of the few survivors of those early years of long-distance flying – most died in crashes – and went on to a career in commercial aviation in England. In 1940 he delivered the luxurious Short flying boat Awarua to Auckland for Tasman Empire Airways Limited. In 1943 he became their Chief Pilot, but left suddenly in 1947. He became a tomato grower and never flew a plane again.

Sundowner of the Skies is a deeply personal study told by his daughter Mary Garden. This book is her journey of discovery. Until recently, she knew little about her father’s life as an aviator. As well as digging up his amazing flying adventures, she uncovers his tumultuous childhood in the far north of Scotland, the ghosts of his past, which he could not escape. And shines a light on the intergenerational trauma that impacted her own life.

Follow this link to buy the book:

http://newhollandpublishers.com/skies/

 

 

 

Tea, teamwork and pets of all kinds

Welcome to a new year and an interview with a difference. Penny Reeve and Cecily Anne Paterson write The Pet Sitters series together as Ella Shine and it was my pleasure to chat with them both about why they write, how they came up with the series and some of the challenges involved in their creative collaboration.

Ella Shine LOVES pets of all kinds. She lives in Sydney, Australia with her three cats, four bunnies, parakeet, bearded dragon and an imaginary ant farm for company. When she’s not writing stories for children she can be found dreaming up adventures and hunting for the unexpected with at least one of her pets in tow!

When she’s not writing as Ella Shine, Penny writes as Penny Reeve or Penny Jaye and is the author of more than 20 books for children and older readers. She’s an experienced writing workshop leader, conference presenter and writing coach with a particular interest in equipping children’s writers. You can learn more about Penny at www.pennyjaye.com and www.pennyreeve.com

Award-winning novelist Cecily Anne Paterson writes ‘braveheart’ fiction for girls aged 9-14. She grew up in Pakistan where she went to boarding school in the Himalayan mountains, and now lives with her family on Sydney’s beautiful Northern Beaches. She’s a freelance editor and writer, an engaging speaker and presenter, a reluctant housekeeper, and an aspiring, but average cellist. See www.cecilypaterson.com

AUTHOR INSIGHTS

Why do you write?

Penny: Writing is how I explore ideas and issues, but I also love the joy and power of story and finding ways to communicate to an audience through words.

Cecily: It’s annoying, but I can’t not write. It’s a compulsion I’ve had my whole life since I was eight and sat down and wrote newspapers about what was going on in our family. (They weren’t very interesting.)

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

Penny: I’d probably be doing what I already do when I’m not writing: being a stay-at-home mum trying to find ways to make a living with my creativity. Or I’d find myself in a teaching role of some sort, but probably not full-time classroom teaching. I love working with kids.

Cecily: I have very inferior skills, but I’d like to be a full-time musician. Failing that, I wouldn’t mind running a fancy op shop. Being realistic, I suppose I’d probably settle down to being a teacher or working in administration.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published?

Penny: When I first started out, I struggled to find a publisher who published the genre I wrote in. Plus, my writing wasn’t that great. So I needed to improve my craft while at the same time getting creative about finding the right publisher.

Cecily: Same as Penny. Craft, creativity and finding ways to get past rejection. I was encouraged early on by an editor from Penguin Books who liked my first novel and suggested ways to make it better, so I rewrote it with enthusiasm. Unfortunately, they didn’t take it in the end, but it gave me some assurance that I wasn’t simply a deluded, talentless hack.

The Pet Sitters junior fiction series is a collaborative project. How did that come about?

Cecily: We were talking about children’s books, as we are prone to do, and one, particular, massively successful series for eight-year olds. I think I may have uttered the words, ‘We could write those,’ and the vision grew legs.

Penny: It was also a great project to have on the go during 2020 as it required us to work together and have a sense of writing connection even when many other writing opportunities were slowing down.

Walk us through the process, please. How did that work? Were there specific challenges?

Penny: We decided early on that we wanted to write the books together with both of us having equal creative input. We began with a planning day where we sat and drank tea and plotted the stories. Then we took turns to write the first draft chapters, using our plan as a guide. It was immensely fun but was also quite challenging, especially at the beginning as we have very different natural writing styles.

Cecily: To be fair, we drank a lot of tea. And even before we started on the story plans, we did a lot of work on intended audience, the length of the books, and the different elements we wanted to include. We created the characters in detail before they even set foot in a story. We also created the author character of ‘Ella Shine’. It seemed too cumbersome to have both our names on the front cover, so we made up something far more memorable. You can read more about us here: https://puddledogpress.com/about

How involved have you both been in the development of your books? Did you have input into the cover and illustrations?

Penny: Because we decided to independently publish these books, we took ownership of the entire project. This meant we needed to source and contract an illustrator for the project. Thankfully, Lisa Flanagan was interested, and her style really complements the stories.

Cecily: Penny and I are both honest enough to know where our talents and experience lie and there was a neat, natural division of labour in creating this series. It’s a great example of the  whole being greater than the sum of its parts. Working together, we’ve achieved more than we thought we could. (For example, Penny was smart enough to apply for government funding for audiobooks, which we received. Adding the amazing voice narration skills of Suzanne Ellis to the project has made it even better. Check out our audiobooks here. https://puddledogpress.com/pet-sitters-news/cot8kp5zvuay7fkq1m8ignczlzfeq5 )

What’s the best aspect of your writing life?

Penny: I love the creative stage of writing; the freedom of the first draft. But I also love the final product and being able to interact with students and readers when the book is finished. I suppose because audience is always my focus, I love seeing how people response to the books I write.

Cecily: Finishing. I get to the middle of a book and feel like poking my eyes out, it’s so hard. I like ending, and editing, and then later, reading what I wrote. (Also, I like fan mail. Especially the emails where they tell you that my books made them cry… in a good way.)

—the worst?

Penny: Rejections are never fun. One of my books (Our of the Cages) was rejected 11 times before it found a publisher, but it went on to win an award so the extra time and effort probably paid off.

Cecily: Yeah. Same as Penny. Rejection by publishers, and rejection by readers in the form of bad reviews. My skin is thickish, but it still hurts.

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

Penny: I’d tell myself to relax and take my time, to learn as much as I could, but also to have realistic expectations. Being a writer in Australia is hard work and statistically doesn’t pay well. I’d probably also tell myself to go do a basic marketing course!

Cecily: I’d study genre, figure out what’s selling and write that! (Money to pay the bills does help in life…) Also, I’d work hard on my craft and join a critique group sooner than I did.

What’s the best advice you were ever given?

Penny: Don’t send your manuscript to all the publishers at the same time. Suzanne Gervay once said this to me after I admitted I admitted I’d sent my story to five publishers. She advised me to send out sparingly to allow time and space to rework in between. And she was right. I’ve been doing that ever since.

Cecily: I’m not sure if this was said to me, or if I made it up myself, but it’s this: you can’t expect most people around you to care about the books you write. Your audience is out there somewhere, but it probably isn’t your family or even your friends. If you live or die by the praise of the people immediately around you, you won’t keep living as a writer.

What’s your top tip for aspiring authors?

Penny: Learn, read and write. Never think you’ve learned or read everything you need to. We can always learn more both about our craft and the work of others. But at the same time, don’t stop writing!

Cecily: Start a blog. Write and publish something small every day. Read other people’s work and pull it apart. Why did they do it this way? What makes this good or bad? If you grew up reading anything written before the 1980s, know that writing has changed. You can’t write something in the style that you loved as a kid: it doesn’t work anymore. Get a handle on close third person point of view, or your work will never even get looked at.

How important is social media to you as an author?

Penny: Social media is probably quite important for authors, but I’ll admit it doesn’t come naturally to me. I’m active on Facebook but not on many other platforms as I find it too much to keep up with. For the Pet Sitters stories, we use Facebook quite a lot because it’s a useful took for interacting with our readers’ parents and teachers.  https://www.facebook.com/puddledogpress

Cecily:  Facebook = my alternate existence. Instagram = I do it because the cool kids are there. Linked In = boring, but I’m there because, you know… Twitter = runs screaming from the room. Everything else: I’m too old to know what it is or how to use it.

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

Penny: I very rarely experience the blank page writers block, but I do sometimes face the editing version of writers’ block where I don’t know what or how to improve my manuscript. If this happens I might go back to my planning stage, do some mind mapping on my characters or seek the advice of a trusted writing friend or writing ‘how-to’ book. I also try to get back to the fun, or the heart, of the project I’m working on as that seems to help break through the ‘stuck’ stage.

Cecily: Extremely rarely. If I’ve planned my story properly, I just write what’s in the plan. Occasionally I get scared of my characters and can’t write them. Sometimes I get discouraged and think, ‘this is rubbish, I’m rubbish, and no one is going to read it,’ but I force myself to write two thousand words anyway. I figure I can always fix it later. You can’t fix a blank page.

How do you deal with rejection?

Penny: I get really down, eat lots of chocolate, wonder why I’m writing and consider giving up altogether. But a couple of days later I pick myself up, remember how much I love the story I’ve been working on and get back to it!

Cecily: Chocolate.

In three words, how would you describe your writing?

Penny: I’d probably describe my writing as topical, relatable and fun. Ella Shine is possibly more playful and less serious than my other writing!

Cecily: Character-driven, dialogue-rich, lots of sub-text. Like Penny, Ella Shine is more light-hearted and fun than my usual middle grade and YA novels.

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?

Penny: I’d love to have a chat with Kate Dicamillo. I’d like to hear how she holds and weighs the hard parts of her writing with the lightness and hope of children’s literature. I’d be interested in it technically (her writing process) but also emotionally (how she processes the balance).

Cecily: I’d like to hang with a literary legend like Anne Tyler and find out if truly exceptional writing (the sort I get jealous of) can only happen for introverted, thoughtful, eccentric types who don’t have to keep ahead of the schedules of four children and who have someone else doing the washing and the cooking and the cleaning. Can you be a great writer/artist if you’re also a regular parent-at-home without long periods of reflection and solitude? It doesn’t seem to happen for me.

BOOK BYTE

Need a pet sitter? Cassie and Lina are the girls for the task… as long as Gus the talking cat can keep out of trouble!

Best friends Cassie and Lina would love to take a pet to the Pet Parade but it’s not possible… until they’re asked to pet sit Gus the cat next door. The girls might be ‘ready for anything’ but Gus isn’t quite the cat they were expecting.

Looking for an engaging, fun junior series with great values, gorgeous characters and hilarious action, with a sprinkling of the unexpected? Welcome to the Pet Sitters.

Pet Sitters Website: www.puddledogpress.com

Store site: https://puddledogpress.com/store

Meet the Illustrator: Kym Langfield

It’s my special pleasure today to introduce Kym Langfield, the illustrator of my newest picture book, Solo Dan. Kym is a children’s illustrator, author and teacher. Her titles include Adventure Guide – Teddy Town (Picture book, The Book Company, 2014) and Just One Wish – Christmas Tales Anthology Three (Short story, Storm Cloud Publishing, 2018). She gained her diploma in Illustrating Children’s Books from The London Art College in 2016, and she has experience in editing and writing book reviews.

Kym has a passion for watercolour, and also enjoys combining pencil, ink and collage. She is a primary school teacher, specialising in literacy and visual arts. Kym also creates commissioned art on a casual basis.

Kym, How did you come to illustrate Solo Dan? I was sitting in McCafe of all places, enjoying a hot chocolate with my eldest daughter, when I received the best email from a lady called Jennifer Sharp, from Daisy Lane Publishing. One of her writers had noticed my artwork on social media and Jennifer asked if I’d be interested in illustrating a book for her. I was thrilled!

I was sent a couple of manuscripts to consider and I immediately felt a strong connection with Solo Dan. As a primary teacher, I feel very much for children who go through struggles in their lives. Reading Teena’s manuscript made me quite teary! Jennifer and I decided that Solo Dan seemed to be a natural fit for me.

What were some of the challenges in creating the illustrations? I wanted to make sure that the main character Dan looked consistent throughout the story, so I drew him in lots of different poses and positions.

Another challenge was drawing so many different types of characters, including toddlers, elderly people, guinea pigs and cats. I made sure that I looked at lots of different photos and examples of these character types (including photos of my own family members!) before designing my own!

Walk us through your creative process. Once you have an idea, what’s the next step? I often have an image come to my mind very quickly. Then I figure out how I’m going to draw it! I do lots of Google searches, take lots of photos, look at photos and books that I already have, until I’m satisfied that I can put the picture together.

I spend a lot of time sketching the picture and making lots of alterations/improvements until I feel that I have drawn it just right.

Finally, it’s time for the colour! I often use watercolour to apply a base coat to the picture. Sometimes I add an extra layer of paint, or I move onto coloured pencils to add further details and shading.

For Solo Dan, I learnt how to use Photoshop to add digital improvements, alterations and to add text to the illustrations as the final step.

How much time do you spend on creating each illustration? I tend to spend a couple of days sketching an illustration, a day or so adding the watercolour and another part of a day using the coloured pencils. Usually no more than a week.

Do you have a favourite medium? Yes, I love watercolour. The colours and the way the paint absorbs and mixes together is always a surprise! It can also be nerve racking too!

Is there any area of art that you find especially challenging? Adding the paint is always nerve racking because it’s like taking a risk or gamble every time I add colour! Will the paint behave the way I want it to? Will the colour palette look OK? Will the paint complement the picture or ruin it?

 

What’s next on your creative journey? Do you have any other picture books in the pipeline? I have been challenging myself to submit my work to a few illustration challenges currently happening with Australian groups/publishers.

Being September and a big fan of Christmas, I am already designing some new Christmas card designs, which I will sell via my social media pages. I’m gradually illustrating some early designs for a close family member who is an aspiring author. I’ve recently completed a few commissions which has been lovely. I also enjoy writing my own stories, so I will get around one day to illustrating one of my own stories!

What’s the best aspect of your creative life? As a busy mum and teacher, it’s really lovely to have a creative hobby/job just for myself. However being a creative person, I do love to bring creativity into my children’s life and into my classroom as often as possible! I really believe in making time for creativity every day.

—the worst? Wanting more time! It would be wonderful to have more hours/days/quiet time just for creativity.

Where do you draw your inspiration? Often my own children and the wonderful students I teach. I also find lots of inspiration in nature – both flora and fauna. I live at a quiet bay area, which is always an inspiration. I’m also inspired by touching stories that I hear, either in the news or in the lives of my family and friends.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an illustrator? That the digital side of illustration is just as important as creating the illustrations traditionally. It is really handy if you know how to use programs like Photoshop and to obtain skills in typography and book design.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? To draw daily and to get your work ‘out there’ on social media as much as possible.

What is your creative dream? To write and illustrate a book (books preferably!). I’d love to be involved in creating a Christmas book. I would love to dedicate more of my time to creating books and running art workshops eventually.

Now for a little light relief – If you were going to invite two special guests for lunch, who would they be and what would you serve them? It would have to be a high tea! Preferably a garden party setting. Lots of tea and cakes. As for the guests – this is too hard! If I stick to arty people, I’d love to invite illustrators I admire and hope that they share their tips and tricks with me! I’ll start with Anna Walker and Tania McCartney.

I think it would be lovely to share a high tea with yourself, Teena, and with our wonderful publisher, Jennifer Sharp!

That would be a treat, Kym. We will have to arrange that!

Kym’s top tip for aspiring illustrators: Make time each day to practise drawing, even if it’s for only ten minutes per day. It’s amazing how quickly your skills can improve by doing this. I also found that enrolling in an illustration course (I have a diploma in children’s book illustration) improved my skills and knowledge greatly.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Solo Dan

Written by Teena Raffa-Mulligan

Illustrated by Kym Langfield

 

Dan has never had a place to belong. He bounces from one home to another, like a ball no one can catch. He’s OK with that. Families can be too much trouble. His shadow is all the company he needs. Or is it?

Perhaps what he really wants is a forever home.

A story about hope, love and belonging.

Buy the book here: https://www.daisylanepublishing.com/product-page/solo-dan

 

 

 

 

 

Meet the Author: Tobias MCorkell

Tobias’s top tip for aspiring authors: Don’t look for ‘tips’ or advice; cultivate your own practice.

Tobias McCorkell is a writer and academic whose fiction and non-fiction interrogate the class, gender and generational divides of Australian culture. He also writes light non-fiction, humour and gift books under the name Tobias Anthony.

The manuscript for Tobias’s first novel, Barely Anything, was awarded the University of Melbourne/Affirm Press Prize for Creative Writing in 2015. In 2018, Tobias appeared at the Melbourne Emerging Writer’s Festival. In 2019, he was accepted into residency programs both domestically and internationally, including a Varuna Residency Fellowship and a Leighton Artists Studios Residency at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity in Canada.

Tobias has been teaching creative writing at the University of Melbourne since 2012.

Find out more about Tobias at https://www.tobiasmccorkell.com/

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write? To tell the truth and connect with people. I’m mostly dissatisfied with how people interact with one another, there’s always a barrier, but writing strips that barrier away and the possibilities for connection and intimacy – even with strangers, with people who you’ve never met – are suddenly limitless.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I’d like to open a florist, or at least work in one. Probably, though, I’d be a schoolteacher like everyone else in my family.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Time. There’s just no way around it but getting to the required skill/competency level takes about ten years or more, and years of persistent effort. Except for a few freaks or ‘young’ authors being exploited by publishers keen to trade in on youth or some novelty aspect of their identity, the vast majority of people aren’t publishing in their twenties.  

How involved have you been in the development of your book? Did you have input into the cover? Really involved! I’m lucky being published by Transit Lounge, because they were keen to see me publish the book I wanted to publish, and so I felt supported during the editing process and like I was in control of the situation. This doesn’t always happen, so I’ve had a dream run with this book, though I’d say it comes down to how professionally you behave and how well you understand your novel as well as the industry. And yes, I helped design the cover – it was almost exactly as I imagined – so I’m to blame if you dislike it.  

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? Getting to write. It’s all I want to do, really, apart from watch horror movies and read. If I could find a way to make money off the other two, I’d be set.

—the worst? The administrative tasks: emails, applying for grants/funding/residencies, submitting your work, doing Q+As (just kidding!), etc. It takes more time than it ought to, and mostly your applications are rejected anyway, so it can really feel like a waste, plus it eats into your concentration and focus on the ‘real’ stuff – the writing itself. 

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I would’ve spent less time writing and more time reading and trusted that Time would take care of the rest. I wasted precious years stressing about the quality of my work and wondering if/when I’d be published. If I’d been less career-driven I would’ve had space for other things, too, like prioritising my own happiness, which means I would likely have left my relationship a long time before it ended … Too dark?

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? I’m really not sure about this one … I can’t stress the importance of becoming a good editor enough and learning the ropes on the technical side of things. But I was always told this and just never listened. But then, my focus was elsewhere, and I got a handle on that part eventually.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? I was once asked ‘What’s a voice that isn’t being voiced?’ and it’s always stuck with me as a way towards conceptualising what I want to do next. My writing isn’t especially original, I’m a fairly traditional writer in some respects, but I can aim to be good and to write something I’d like to read that perhaps isn’t readily available.

How important is social media to you as an author? Not very, though I do tweet relevant information if I have anything to promote and have, only this month, created a Facebook account to do likewise. But I don’t have a big following and doubt it’s of much use. I can’t get past the long-held belief that social media is a disease for the mind, adopted by depressives and the undertalented in a bid for underserved attention. 

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? Not really, I think it’s a bit of a myth, a bit like that one about how everybody has a book in them. I think most people don’t have a book in them, and these are probably the same people walking around convinced they’re suffering from writer’s block. Regardless, planning helps – writers should spend about as much time simply thinking about their project and planning as they do writing.

How do you deal with rejection? Booze and good conversation; so, hitting a bar with a mate or date. Sex, too, if I can get it.

In three words, how would you describe your writing? Oh. My. God …

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? Jean Rhys. And only on the condition that we wouldn’t waste a single second talking about writing.  

BOOK BYTE

Everything in its Right Place

Tobias McCorkell

Coburg, Melbourne. Ford McCullen is growing up with hismother Deidre and his Pop and Noonie in ‘The Compound’, a pair of units in the shadow of Pentridge prison. His father, Robert, has left them to live in the bush with his new male partner. Nobody is coping.
When Ford’s paternal grandmother Queenie’s good fortune allows him to attend a prestigious Catholic private school on the other side of the river and to learn the violin, Ford finds himself balancing separate identities. At school he sees himself being moulded into an image that is not his own, something at odds with the rough and tumble of his beloved north.
Crumbling under the weight of his family’s expectations and realising that he just might be the only adult amongst them, Ford embarks on a quest for meaning while navigating the uncomfortable realities of his father’s life, his mother’s ongoing crisis, and the pillars of football and religion, delving
ever deeper into a fraught search for the source of the ‘McCullen curse’.
Everything in its Right Place tackles themes of class, love and sexuality with humour, truth and grit. It is a story of the legacies and dilemmas that families bring, of how we all must find our own way.

Buy the book: https://transitlounge.com.au/shop/everything-right-place/

Meet the Creator: Adam Wallace

Today I get to know kids’ book creator Adam Wallace…and if there’s one word that describes him, it’s inspirational. Of course I could also add dynamic, energetic, funny, authentic, enthusiastic – no wonder he’s such a popular author guest at schools. Let’s find out a little about what makes this force for positivity tick.

Adam is a New York Times bestselling author who writes every single day, no exceptions. He plans to do that every day for the rest of his life, and he plans on living to 130! From self-publishing through to traditional publishing, Adam now has had over 80 books published, and has had his books read on the White House Lawn and in Kim and Kanye’s house!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s the best aspect of your creative life? Being creative! I mean, we’re all creative, but it can easily get shut down amongst all the “life” stuff that goes on. I have been fortunate enough to carve a career out of being creative (ie making stuff up!), which means that the creativity I create gets to be seen by heaps of other people, which for me, is a main goal. I want to entertain and inspire as many people as I can, and my stories and videos can’t do that while sitting on my computer here in lovely Croydon!

—the worst? I am yet to experience that aspect of it, and hopefully never do. Just the words creative life, to me, speak of imagination and energy and aliveness, and I can’t think of a single thing that could be bad about a creative life. Seriously. When you’re living a creative life, you’re curious, and excited, and always looking for the next idea in all your experiences, so even something people (in general) may see as a bad thing, well, that could potentially be your next great story, so how can anything be bad?

Where do you draw the inspiration for your children’s books? Haha, oh boy, settle in and grab a cup of tea. Actually, don’t worry about it. It’s everywhere. I have had ideas for stories spring up from listening to a song, or seeing a kid play with their parents, or something someone has said, or a bird landing on a wire, or playing a game with my niece, or a publisher has said write about this thing, or I do or see or experience something.

Like, literally everywhere. Ideas are everywhere. This is the main reason I have never been scared of running out of ideas. How can we? We’re alive! There is always something happening, which means there is always something to write about!

Isn’t it awesome?

How has your childhood influenced you as an author/illustrator? In so many ways! Firstly, my grandmother was an amazing writer (and pianist and linguist), and we were always making up stories together.

Second, my step-dad was a teacher-librarian, and so our house was filled with books and he was always reading us stories in incredible voices and with amazing emotion.

Third, my mum ran her own business from the time I was one.

Fourth, I spent quite a good deal of time on my own, playing sports by myself, commentating, making up the games and results.

Fifth, I loved to read, and had so many incredible books influence me (although teachers weren’t always happy with the influence the horror books had on me … in primary school!)

Sixth, Dad took us to movies every second weekend, so I started to see, even if not consciously, how movies and stories worked, in terms of characters and structure.

Seventh, I nearly failed Year 12 English, and never thought I would write again, so a helluva lot of stories were bottled up inside me when I finally did sit down with pen and paper again.

How do you approach a new project? Walk us through your creative process. Once you have an idea, what’s the next step? I start writing. That’s it. I am not a planner at all at all, and especially if it is an idea that really strikes a chord with me and gets me excited, I sit and I write and I see what comes out. That is one of the most exciting times, those first words, seeing how the story starts (and that doesn’t mean the finished product will start that way), it’s started and the possibilities are endless from there.

Then I keep writing till either a first draft is done, or I realise it isn’t working. If the draft is done, well, then it’s time for read-throughs and edits.

If it isn’t working, it’s time to either get back and start again, using what I have already done but reconfiguring it. If that happens a few times, there are two choices.

One, I still have the energy and excitement around the idea/concept, and I will grind at it until it clicks and then I am away. This has happened with two stories I have in mind. For each of them, I struggled initially, doing four or five drafts of around 13,000 words, but it didn’t feel right to me. Then, suddenly, something clicked, and I was away, and I flew through it and now those are two of my all-time favourite books.

Two, I let it go. A story doesn’t have to be finished. We don’t need to cling to that idea, unless we are worried there won’t ever be another idea … and we know there will!

What are you working on at the moment? I am having so much fun at the moment! I am working on a picture book series that is currently 34 books long, with another to be written today.

I am also working on a new collection of short stories, Amazing Alien Adventures, which are being illustrated by the awesome Kat Rattray.

I just finished and sent off the first book in a new series, so edits will come in on that shortly, along with a couple of other stories with my editor.

I have revisited a picture book series I had done two books for, and I had ideas for another two, so I wrote down the titles of those yesterday and will start on those today as well.

And I am deciding on which course to film next for my online portal, Kid’s Book Creator Capital (thekbcc.com). It will be either creating a picture book, or self-publishing. Both will be done eventually, just deciding which one to do first. Picture book is currently winning!

What do you hope readers will take away from your stories? What do you hope your audience will take away from your courses?

From my stories, I really hope people get entertained or inspired. And inspired can mean they are inspired to write their own story, or be inspired to be themselves, or go for a goal, whatever.

And just for them to feel joyous emotions, be that laughter, inspiration, connection, hope, possibility, whatever.

And for kids, as well as all those things, for them to be excited about books and reading and writing and drawing and creating. For them to be energised about themselves and what they are reading, and what is possible for them.

With the courses, I guess the main thing is for people to see that it’s possible. That things we think seem out of reach or that we are told can’t be done are possible! Whether that’s making an income doing something we love, or reaching goals, or moving past limits we have imposed on ourselves, it is possible!  If we break it down, if we see that someone else has done it, if we can use their blueprint, their framework, then we can make amazing things happen.

These courses are taking my 20 years and distilling it into three or four hours, so that people can get to where I am way faster than I did it.

And it’s breaking it down into little steps, which make it seem so much more achievable. It’s the same when I teach drawing to kids. People who never thought they could draw suddenly realise it’s way easier than they ever imagined. A line here. A circle there. A tweak here. A curve there, and we have a character … a character they can then expand on and develop, because now they have the confidence they are able to do it, so the walls are down. And now the only limit is their imagination and curiosity, because they aren’t working from a place of fear or lack that they can’t do it.

Is there any area of art or writing that you still find challenging? One of the main things is getting seen amongst all the noise, whether that be other books or just that whole life thing again!

But even in that is an opportunity! With so many books, and so much noise/social media/everything else, that means people are looking, always looking, and that means you can be seen!

Other than that, really, it’s deciding on which of the ideas is the one that is going to get me the most pumped, narrowing it down to that and then doing it.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Haha my writing probably sucked a bit … hence the 150 rejections over eight years!

In saying that though, I had a few books that were rejected well over 10 times each that went on to sell a lot and do really well, and kids loved them … so one of the obstacles is time and place. Maybe those books weren’t ready to be done right then, and maybe it took me seeing what I did in them to then self-publish them and get them out there with my passion.

So, in a way, it’s hard to say what the obstacle really was. I don’t know why most of those stories were rejected. I often didn’t get feedback on why. My guess is they either weren’t good enough, they weren’t to the publisher’s taste, or they didn’t fit the list at that time.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as an author/illustrator? I would get out there more, and I don’t mean with my books, I mean with myself! As a rejected author, and then a self-published author, I didn’t feel like I belonged in the children’s book world. I felt like doing it the way I was doing it made me less worthy than those people who were being published by publishers.

I also was determined to prove I could do it on my own.

Then when I finally got the guts to get into the community, I discovered a world of the most amazing, supportive, encouraging people ever. And that is from the very, very top down. I had some of the most famous authors and illustrators in Australia talk with me for hours, discussing books and passing on advice and ideas.

I was made to feel welcome immediately, I was made to feel worthy, and from that moment on both my writing and my career went to a new level.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become a children’s book creator? Well, following on from the previous question, to get out there. Go to book launches and conferences and retreats and talks and festivals and mingle and play and meet these amazing people who do what I love to do, and do it at a level I want to be at.

It’s interesting, my first instinct was to say I wish I’d been told it was possible, that we can make a living out of children’s books, and that is definitely something I want to pass on to kids’ book creators … but at the same time, being told I couldn’t do it, that it wasn’t possible, made me so incredibly determined to prove it was that it is one of the main reasons I have made it to where I am today.

What’s the best advice you were ever given?

Two things.

  1. Get your work as good as you possibly can. Everything else will flow from that. Work and work and work and work on your craft, so that when the opportunities arise, you will be ready.
  2. Get the schools, teachers and children onside, and everything else will flow from that. Focus on them, not on the bookstores. Not that bookstores aren’t important, they are, incredibly so, but if you have kids and teachers raving about you and your books, and if you can get in front of those kids face to face so they love you as well as your books, then you are on a winner.
  3. Actually, there’s three. When I had started going well, I was told, “This is when you have to lift your game even more. This is when you have to get even better.” It was great advice a), so I didn’t rest on my laurels and get comfortable and slacken off, and b) because I had an audience and I had expectations, and that is both from readers and publishers. And you always have to keep growing, as a creator and as a person, because if you aren’t growing and flowing, you’re stagnant. And stagnant water stinks.

What’s your top tip for aspiring author/illustrators? Those three things are huge, but I think the working on your craft is the biggest thing. Getting out there and meeting the community and kids and all of that means nothing if your work doesn’t follow through on the promise you as a person, a personality, are putting out there.

Second top tip is write what you love. Don’t worry about what’s hot in the industry, or what people tell you to write. Write what you love, that is how you will find your authentic voice, and that is what kids (especially) will respond to most of all.

And, if you are writing for kids, write for kids! They are the most amazing human beings. They are open and willing to go on a journey with you, but only if what you write connects with them on their level or above. Find out what kids love, what they respond to, what energises them. Sometimes there are beautiful, amazing picture books, like, just incredible … but are they for kids? Will they give kids an incredible sense of enjoyment and excitement around reading, and make them want to read more? When you can connect with that, when you can find that magic pill, that’s when you will soar.

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? Oh boy … definitely someone who smelled amazing! Okay, so I am going to go for someone I have never met, although some of them do smell amazing.

So, if Drew Barrymore wasn’t available to be stuck in the lift with me, I would go for Will Smith or Tony Robbins. Definitely. Drew Barrymore not only as an actor, but also as someone who has such determination and skill and ability to reinvent and be awesome. Will Smith because he inspires me with his philosophies on life, and also his incredible energy. And Tony Robbins because I just find him fascinating, and would want to draw out as much knowledge from him as I possibly could, and go deeper than I have been able to so far, from the conferences and videos I have been to and watched.

Can I have all three? We would all fit, for sure!

Of course, Adam. It would make for the most interesting conversation. I’ll have to join you and listen in!

You can find out more about Adam on the following links:

Website: http://www.adam-wallace-books.com/

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/wallysbooks

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/adamwallace2016/

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/awallace100

COURSE REVIEW

 

 

Kid’s Book Creator Capital

School Visits 101

School Visits 101 promised to tell me everything I need to know about inspiring kids in schools and I wasn’t disappointed. Even after many years of presenting author talks and workshops to all age groups from pre-schoolers to senior citizens, there was much for me to take away from this comprehensive video course presented by a master of inspiration. It will be invaluable for anyone just starting out as a kidlit creator keen to spark children’s imaginations via school visits.

Best-selling author and experienced presenter Adam Wallace delivers the course in imitable style. His energy and enthusiasm are infectious so it’s no surprise he is such a popular visitor to schools. Students exposed to such a dynamic creative boost can’t help but respond. Authors and illustrators who complete this course are sure to be similarly inspired as Wallace walks participants through the series of units in the course.

Drawing on his experience gained during more than 15 years and 500+ school visits, he shares advice on how to get bookings, what to charge, how many sessions to run per day, using technology, session content, keeping kids in line and organising book sales. A step by step guide to creating your own school visit is a highlight of the course, which also includes homework and downloadable resources. Throughout, Adam emphasises the importance of authenticity when presenting in schools. His essential message is “Be you” because everyone has something unique to offer.

Four courses are currently available on the Kid’s Book Creator Capital website, with more on the way. Check them out at https://thekbcc.com

Review by Teena Raffa-Mulligan

 

 

Meet the Author: Barry Lee Thompson

Barry’s top tip for aspiring authors: Be patient. The literary industry moves very slowly. Do your research on publishers, and take the time to get your approach right before sending your manuscript out. Find a publisher that you know will look after and respect your work. Take risks, be brave. And don’t be discouraged by rejection.

Photo by Damjan Janevski.

Barry Lee Thompson was born in Liverpool in the UK. After studying art history at the University of East Anglia, he moved to London. He lives in Melbourne, Australia. His short stories are published in Australia, the UK, and the USA, and have been recognised in awards including the Bridport Prize, The Age Short Story Award, and the Overland Victoria University Short Story Prize. His work appears frequently in Roomers magazine. He is a member of Elwood Writers, and of the Alumni Association of Varuna, the National Writers’ House. Broken Rules and Other Stories (Transit Lounge, September 2020) is his first collection of fiction. The book is supported by the Victorian Government through Creative Victoria, and by Varuna, the National Writers’ House.

Find out more here: www.barryleethompson.com

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write? Because I’m inquisitive and I always want to see what happens. Writing is a way to slow things down, to examine them closely.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I’d probably be wishing I were a writer.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Doubts about the viability of short-story collections. When I first started writing the stories in Broken Rules, there was talk of the demise of short fiction. And it was suggested in some quarters that readers might be disinclined to buy short-story collections not by a familiar author. Fortunately, there are publishers and readers out there who are willing to take a chance on new authors.

How involved have you been in the development of your book? Did you have input into the cover? Transit Lounge has been terrific in keeping me involved and informed throughout the production process. I was given a choice of covers, and we discussed these and came to an easy consensus. Publishers are in the business of book production and understanding the marketplace. Transit Lounge is a successful independent press. I was familiar with their list from the very beginning, so I knew my book was in the best hands.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? Being responsible for my own time. Being able to escape into the page. And I love how reading is part of the job, and that sometimes the answer to a writing problem can come from walking, or from just staring into space. I like sitting still.

—the worst? The precariousness can sometimes be terrifying.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? Nothing, probably. It’s been useful to go down a few wrong paths, to make mistakes and learn from them. Nothing’s a waste of time. But maybe that’s a boring answer. Perhaps I’d try to worry less.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? I wish I’d been shown how to find the opportunities in rejections, to learn how to move on quickly and not be discouraged by them.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? Keep your mind on the work. Cultivate gratitude for the people who take time to read your work.

How important is social media to you as an author? Other than a blog, which I treat more like a website, I don’t use social media. I deleted my accounts a few years ago. It was becoming too consuming. I don’t doubt social media has its benefits when used thoughtfully, but it’s not for everyone. I like the peace and freedom that comes from being unplugged.

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? I don’t think I’ve experienced it. This may be to do with the way I write. I don’t sit down for lengthy periods in front of a page, but dip in and out through the day. Writing is a series of problems. I walk a lot, and think a lot, and sit and daydream, and ideas and solutions arrive in those moments. It’s all work because it’s all part of the process. A blank page can be an exciting thing, but sometimes it’s easier to visit an existing piece of work. Because I write short pieces, I’ve got hundreds on the go at any one time. I just have to delve into my files and open up a few documents, and before long I’ll stumble across a story I want to work on. If a story isn’t going anywhere, I file it away, sometimes until years later, then choose another page, blank or otherwise.

How do you deal with rejection? Rejection is cruel, but it’s all in the game, and everyone experiences it. I’ve found rejections often come in twos or threes, compounding the impact. Over time I’ve learned to understand them a bit better, and now they roll off more easily. It’s helpful to have some awareness of what might lie behind a rejection, and reframe it. A rejection is a decision made at a particular time by a particular person about a particular piece of work. All three of those are variables. The decision means the work wasn’t right for that occasion, but it will find its home, eventually. Rejection as opportunity. It’s easier said than done, though.

In three words, how would you describe your writing? Let me think.

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? Samuel Beckett. I’d be interested in hearing his views on social media.

BOOK BYTE

Broken Rules and Other Stories

Barry Lee Thompson

These awards-listed, interlinked stories vividly capture the
small, rarely spoken moments of our lives that reverberate
with meaning, with darkness and with light. An adolescent
son and his parents on their annual holiday at a Bournemouth
guesthouse become intrigued with the glamour and
otherness of an American family from Boston. An adult son
and his mother navigate an unnerving relationship based on
dependence and ritual. A woman transgresses her husband’s
rules and his distaste for parties. A sex-worker empathises with
the life of an elderly client. From derelict industrial districts, to
a lonely highway diner, to the faded charm of a British seaside
resort, these are stories of growing up marginalised and living
in working-class England and Australia.

The book is available here.

 

 

Meet the Author: Claire Fitzpatrick

Claire’s top tip for aspiring authors: Write what you know, and be honest in your writing. Put your heart and soul into your writing. It’ll make for a more intriguing and realistic story.

Claire Fitzpatrick is a visual artist, performance artist, and award-winning author of speculative fiction and non-fiction. Called ‘Australia’s Queen Of Body Horror’, she enjoys writing about anatomy and the darker side of humanity. Her collection Metamorphosis from IFWG Publishing, was hailed as ‘simply heroic’, ‘graphic, disturbing, honest’, and ‘nothing short of a masterpiece’. She lives with her fiancé, the spray-paint artist Misery Ink Design, and their weird goblin kids somewhere in Queensland. Claire is currently working on a gory dark fantasy novella about shapeshifters and a non-fiction project on Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley.

You can find out more about her on her website and social media:

Website: www.clairefitzpatrick.net

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/witch.of.eldritch

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/throughaglass_darkly91/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/CJFitzpatrick91

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write?  Writing has always been the most stable thing in my life, and I honestly don’t really know what else to do with myself. I have a bachelor degree in Government and International Relations, a Postgraduate Certificate in Writing, Editing, and Publishing (the latter quite boring to complete, to be honest), and I started a Masters degree in Health and Rehabilitation Sciences before being fired. That was crap. But writing has always been there for me, to lift me up when I’m down, and to remind me it’s OK to fail at things because at least it’s something I excel in. I write because it’s cathartic, and it’s the only way I can express my feelings. I’m really bad at expressing my feelings. Ask my fiancé. (We’re getting married in two weeks. Gosh. That’s scary).

 What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? No idea. I’m constantly reinventing myself, though I suspect it’s part of my mental illness (I have Borderline Personality Disorder). Over the past seven years, I’ve worked in government, retail, hospitality, vocational education, journalism (news, radio, and music), human resources, and marketing. I find it really hard to keep a job or stick to a profession, and writing has been what’s grounded me. I’m really into gardening. Maybe I’ll work in horticulture? The possibilities are endless. I am, however, a performance artist and comedian (I’ll work a gig once every two or three months). That, along with my writing, have been the most stable aspects of my ‘career.’ Let me know what you think I should do next.

 What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? My first professional horror publication was in 2015. However, I had four comedy stories published in 2013, a poetry chapbook published in 2012, and a poem commended in the Dorothea Mackellar Poetry Competition in 2002 (I think I was 12). But the initial success of being published in a professional horror magazine was, at first, hard to replicate. I felt like I had to be 100% better than I needed to be and held myself at an unreasonably high standard. It was a really difficult time for me. I always had to try harder, be better. It was only when I actually relaxed and wrote something uniquely personal that I overcame the fear of being a ‘one-hit-wonder’ kind of writer and went on to have several more publications. So, the toughest obstacle was and still continues to be me.

How involved have you been in the development of your book? Did you have input into the cover? Luckily, I had the opportunity to work with my cover artist, as we’ve collaborated in the past. Greg Chapman is an amazingly talented artist. Not only did he work with me on my idea for the cover of Metamorphosis, but he also designed and physically created the cover of my award-winning non-fiction anthology The Body Horror Book. Greg listened to me and slightly altered his design to suit my wishes, which I’m so grateful for. I’m excited to work with him again, as he designed the cover of my upcoming anthology A Vindication Of Monsters, a non-fiction book on Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley (submissions are open –get in contact with me for details!). You can find Greg at www.darkscrybe.com/ (his writing website) and www.darkartiste.wordpress.com/ (his artist website). Greg is superbly talented! It’s always an honour to collaborate with him.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? Not having to leave the house. Joking! I love the fact that people appreciate my imagination. I love that they enjoy reading what I have to say about myself, and the world. I love that I’m accepted for who I am, and what I write.

—the worst? I’m poor! Haha Don’t become a writer and expect to make money. Unless you’re a crime writer and extort people.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I think I’d try not to beat myself up over stories that aren’t accepted. I’d say, “Hey Claire, there are going to be some stories that just aren’t at the highest calibre they could be. Sometimes you get lazy when you’re in a slump. Also, it’s OK if you’re in a slump. That’s just how writing works. Additionally, stop thinking you’re a fraud. You’re being stupid and need to snap out of it.”

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? Writing is a personal journey; you’re either successful or you’re not. But I’d like to have been told that it’s completely fine to not be published by the ‘big five’ publishing houses because it doesn’t mean you’re not a good writer. I’ve been fortunate enough to be published by a well-respected and high calibre Australian speculative fiction and children’s fiction publisher. I’m sure I would have been upset if my manuscript had been rejected, but it’s perfectly fine to have to keep trying. You can’t always be successful on your first go. Sometimes you just need to work at it. It’s very rare for people to become instantly successful.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? A few years ago, I was completing a creative non-fiction course at university, and I was finding it hard to figure out what to write about for my major project. Then my teacher told me it’s always best to write what you know, write what you feel strongly about, your passions, what makes you angry, what makes you depressed. Write something that is uniquely your story to tell, whether it be fiction or creative non-fiction. Personally, I think it’s important to be honest in your writing. Only you can tell your story. Write about you.

How important is social media to you as an author? Most of the people in my Facebook friends list are fellow writers. I have a Twitter account, but I don’t use it much. I think it’s important to use social media to connect with fellow writers. Find your tribe. You’ll grow as a writer, and as a person. Trust me.

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? All the time. I’ve been writing a novella for about three years now, and I just can’t seem to finish it. It’s pissing me off. I go to write and…. nothing. But I tend to get writers’ block with larger projects, as opposed to short fiction. Saying that I have several unfinished short stories that I’ve neglected because I have no idea how to finish them. It’s hard to give advice on how to overcome writers’ block since I think many people overcome it in different ways. Something I do, which is helpful, is write non-fiction if I’m stuck on fiction, and vice-versa. So, I’d always recommend people do that. At the moment I’m pretty fucking (can I swear?) depressed, as my father has terminal cancer, and I’ve been writing like crazy. But I have a feeling I’ll get writers’ block after he passes. That’s the way life is, I suppose. I’m not sure how I’ll overcome that.

How do you deal with rejection? Sometimes, it hits me hard. I tell myself I’m shit and worthless and that my success won’t last. But that’s the borderline personality disorder talking. I’m quite a ridiculous person. But after a while I’ll write something new, and it’ll be accepted, and that makes me feel better. Sometimes I paint or tend to my plants. That’s always helpful. When I’m feeling better, I remind myself I’m 29, and a lot of people aren’t professionally published, or win an award/awards until they are older. I just happened to become relatively successful in my field in my twenties. So, rejection is OK. Just have to keep your chin up.

In three words, how would you describe your writing? Bloody. Grotesque. Honest.

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? Clive Barker. After I read his work I immediately wanted to write body horror, and the first body horror story I wrote was my first professional publication. I’d just want to say thank you for helping me find my niche. I’d then ask him to tell me how to finish my damned novella, and how I can balance my writing life with my ‘real’ life. Actually, if anyone can tell me how to do that, that’d be swell.

BOOK BYTE

Metamorphosis

by Claire Fitzpatrick

Madeline will never become a woman. William will never become a man. Does June deserve to be human? Does Lilith deserve a heart?

Seventeen stories. Seventeen tales of terror.

If imperfection is crucial to a society’s survival, what makes a monster?

Buy the book here: https://www.amazon.com.au/Metamorphosis-Collection-Stories-Claire-Fitzpatrick/dp/1925956040

Meet the Author: JD Murphy

John’s top tip for aspiring authors: Read Steven King’s excellent memoir/coaching guide called ‘On writing.’

John D Murphy is an Australian author based in Queensland, He has had a lifelong attraction to storytelling; from stories ranging across family entertainment skits as a child, to turning his life into story as an art of understanding his adult purpose. This first of his novels is, above all, designed to entertain readers and he hopes they will be open to the tale he has crafted within.

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write?  For the pleasure which writing affords me.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer?  Teaching and travelling – preferably together.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published?  Finding ‘that’ publisher who operates between the big end of town and the self-publishing domains.

How involved have you been in the development of your book? Did you have input into the cover? With respect to the development, I have had full engagement. With respect to the cover, I suggested some themes which I considered important; then a creative interpreted those ideas with required commercial focus. I was very pleased with the results.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? Taking a fleeting dream sequence and turning it into a kind of reality which will appeal to a reader.

—the worst? 1. Constant interruptions by cats whose dominant thoughts are that I should be focused on them rather than writing. 2. Covid 19 chaos for grounding the launch of my first novel in April 2020.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? Dream less and read more.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? To read Steven King’s excellent memoir/coaching guide called ‘On writing.’

What’s the best advice you were ever given? Writers write; Authors publish.

How important is social media to you as an author? I am a shy, retiring, outgoing, loquacious type who really has to have something of substance to say before engaging with SM.

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? Never been a problem. Nor talking incessantly, as my dear wife and close friends would earnestly confirm.

How do you deal with rejection (of a manuscript)? Just the same as any other bump I have had on my life’s paths. Identify the issues and address them. Only happened once, because I had far too many typographical errors in the manuscript to be considered seriously. Having fixed said typographical errors with some stiff editing, I submitted to a Melbourne publishing house and the rest is going to be history.

In three words, how would you describe your writing? Engaging. Relevant. Reflective.

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? David H Richter. Falling into Theory (1994). I would be pleased for this author to expand on those of his words which told me that I was going to walk on a writing path.

‘If in my life I have developed any ability to understand those who are other than me, other in race or gender or culture or sexual practice, a good deal of my training in empathy must have come from the practice fiction and poetry have given me in taking on other selves, other lives.’

BOOK BYTE

The Arbor girls are a force to be reckoned with

Maeve Fossard, a nurse during the bombings of Bristol in WW1 wants to escape the pain and suffering around her. A trip to a pub and a chance meeting with a stranger named Colin, changes her life. The shadow world of spies and politics becomes a reality.

Through two World Wars, the Cold War and into the Sixties; from England to Australia, she encounters ultimate highs and soul sapping lows.

Every action has consequences. Her companions, Margaret and Allison, their fates entwined, join a rich tapestry of characters, in her endeavours to create an invisible dynasty of social reform which will continue through to the future and span the globe…

“A fantastic read from a new Australian Author who has a flair for the period of such a wonderful storyline…authentic and moving with beautiful nuances and themes…5 Stars…”  Gail, IndieBooks Reviewer.