Meet Illustrator Amy Calautti

Amy has loved to draw from a young age and often made up games based around drawing to entertain her younger brother and cousins. Her artistic talent was noticed and she was accepted into fashion and textile design in high school and TAFE . When she became a mother, she fell in love with picture book illustration, and realised what her true potential could be. Amy and has developed  a few distinct styles and is always playing with new techniques to expand her repertoire.

Website: www.http://amygorgeousness2.wixsite.com/amyillustrates

Instagram: @amygorgeousness

Facebook: www.facebook.com/amyillustrates

Illustrator insight

What does art mean to you? Art is a beautiful way of communicating ideas and feelings.

What’s the best aspect of your artistic life? My studio is at home, and I love being at home for my children. Also,  I love doing something that I enjoy and it slots so seamlessly into my life.

—the worst? Maybe that it takes so long? I want to do all the projects I possibly can.

How do you approach an Illustration project? Walk us through your creative process. I read the manuscript and then I storyboard the illustrations in a thumbnail size. I sometimes go through several ideas before I show my editor and author. After the storyboard is finished I fix any changes that need to be made. Once the storyboard is approved I move onto final artwork which could be digital or traditional watercolour depending on what style the client and I want to go with. Both styles take about the same amount of time because I’m fast at painting watercolour but I then have to digitise it anyway. So the whole process is about four months, for watercolour and digital art. Digital art still takes me a while although I am getting the hang of it.

Picture books are a creative collaboration between author and illustrator. How closely did you work with Wenda on One Book was all it took? Wenda was an absolute dream to work with. She was very encouraging and I had a great experience. Our main points of discussion were when I handed in my first storyboard. Wenda, Anouska (our editor) and I bounced around some ideas for a couple of illustrations and I think it’s nice to get some input at that point of the illustration process.

One thing I’ve noticed about the picture books you’ve illustrated in the past few years is the variation in style from one book to another. What’s the background story on how the style is chosen? I originally started in a watercolour style, the I got a laptop tablet to digitise my artwork and I started to play around with hand sketching and digitally colouring illustrations. My watercolour style is usually good for cute, sentimental and heartfelt stories. My digital and ink styles are good for exciting humorous and energetic stories.

I usually let the client choose the style I work in. When I got my first contract with EK (Turning cartwheels) Anouska (editor)and Amy Adeney (author)  liked my digital style, and I  continued using the same style  so my editor  knows what style to expect. But I can consistently illustrate in a few styles, you just have to tell me which one you want. Also I’m thinking of creating a new style which I’m hoping to start experimenting with soon.

Did you draw on your own childhood experiences of libraries in creating the illustrations for the book? No, I am dyslexic so reading wasn’t my safe haven as a child. My love of reading came much later; riding a train every day to work was when I began devouring books.

How much time do you spend on creating each illustration? An illustration can take so-o-o long, anywhere from three hours to five days for final art.

Do you have a preferred medium? Water colour, pencil, and my laptop for digital illustration.

Is there any area of art that you still find challenging? It sounds weird but storyboarding is the trickiest, but I really like working out interesting compositions.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as an illustrator? Nothing, I got pretty lucky and I got three of my first book contracts within a few weeks of each other and went into panic mode to get all the work done. Haha

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an illustrator? I’m still quite new at Illustrating so I don’t have a huge wealth of knowledge, but it would be to stay positive and to show your work online.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? What’s the worst someone can say, no? Don’t let the fear of rejection stop you.

What’s your top tip for aspiring illustrators? I would make sure to put together a low res pdf portfolio showing your best work that tells a story and is aimed towards the children’s book market. Once it’s done, submit your portfolio to publishers you think may like your work.

What is your creative dream? I’m living my creative dream but there’s always room for improvement. Maybe to illustrate another fabulous book that becomes a sensation and I am just so busy with work for years to come.

Now for a little light relief – If you were going to be stuck in a stalled lift for several hours, who would you choose to share the experience with you and why? Probably my husband as he is an electrician and has worked on lifts before. He would be able to fix it and we would be out of there in no time. If I can’t pick him, maybe Taika Waititi would be a good laugh.

Book Byte

Violet has searched her room high and low, but just can’t find a book she hasn’t read before. She wishes her town had a library; a magical place full of adventure where she would never run out of stories to discover. But alas, on this particular rainy day, the only unfamiliar book she can find is the one propping up the kitchen table. Dad won’t miss it, right?…
With a CLATTER and a CRASH, Violet’s actions set in motion an unstoppable chain of events that soon has the whole town in chaos! Young readers will delight at the playful, colourful illustrations, while learning an important lesson about how actions lead to consequences. The story also introduces children to the wonder of libraries, while highlighting their vital role in fostering literacy.
One Book Was All it Took is the perfect tongue-in-cheek adventure story to share with budding bookworms. From the hilarity of the chaos that Violet causes, to the heart-warming reminder of the important role libraries have played in many of our lives, readers of all ages will find joy in this vibrant book. It is also an excellent introduction to the concept of how our actions can affect others, an important lesson for all young ones – especially Violet!

Buy the book here.

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 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: Janeen Brian

 

Janeen’s top tip for aspiring authors: Get your heart involved in your writing. That is, write honestly with genuine emotional sincerity. Even if it’s a commissioned work, a piece of work you haven’t personally chosen, I still think you can find something in the research or the writing of it you can relate to. Something that sparks your interest, so your writing isn’t wooden.

Photo: Bob Gloyn Photography

Janeen Brian is an award-winning children’s author and poet with over 100 books published in both trade and educational publishing. She enjoys writing picture books, junior fiction, poetry, novels and non-fiction.

Many of her books have been translated and distributed worldwide while more than 200 stories, poems, plays and articles have been published in children’s magazines or anthologies.

Janeen was the recipient of the 2012 Adelaide Festival of Literature Carclew Fellowship and in 2009 also received a May Gibbs’ Children’s Literature Trust Fellowship. Janeen is an Ambassador for Raising Literacy Australia (The Little Big Book Club.)

She loves reading, creating mosaics, aqua-aerobics, Yoga, walking, gardening, travelling, craft work, singing, watching theatre and films and spending time with her family and friends.

She lives in the seaside city of Glenelg, in Adelaide, South Australia with her husband. She has two daughters and four grandchildren.

To find out more, visit her website and Facebook page.

www.janeenbrian.com

www.facebook.com/JaneenBrian

AUTHOR INSIGHT

Why do you write? I think of words as seeds. Each holds power and beauty and can be arranged in a million different ways to bring about a million different outcomes. I love taking disparate words and making connections. I love using my life’s experiences for something other than memories. For me, writing equates to creativity. And creativity is my soul driver.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a writer? I was a primary teacher for many years. And a not-so-good actor in a children’s theatre company for a few years! I loved my teaching years but left in 1990 to write full-time and now, I’m not sure I’d return to that career. Perhaps I’d work part-time in Early Childhood centres. And I’d spend the rest of my time creating saleable mosaics from recycled materials – something I’ve been doing for over twenty years.

What’s the best aspect of your writing life? Because I’m disciplined and have a reasonably strong work ethic, I love being able to work from home.

What’s the worst aspect of your writing life? When I think I’ve conquered a particular structural humbug, only to see it rear its annoying head again in another piece of work.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an author? To clarify, I never had an ambition to become a writer. I still sometimes find it a surprise that I am one. One writing colleague described it as being an accidental author. However, from age eight, I was set on becoming a teacher. But when, in my thirties, I began to write and later, to become published, I wished I’d been told you had to make TROUBLE in your writing. That CONFLICT was the cannon you fired to action the story.

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? Ignorance of story. Ignorance of books. I felt this perhaps because my childhood and school life was almost bare of reading material.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as a writer? I was pretty much a self-taught author. Being a self-starter, I sought out books on how to write, from the library. Much later, there were writing prompts available online, which I ploughed through, and a ‘distant education course’ which I took, sending off work in envelopes. But today, I’d start out by studying the wonderful writing courses that are available both online, in universities and other institutions.

You’ve seen many changes during your writing life. How important is it to be adaptable as an author? What are the key attributes a writer needs for a long-term career in this unpredictable career? I delve deeply and often into my particular ethos of If it’s to be, it’s up to me.  Ultimately, it’s you who has to overcome hurdles and do the work. But sometimes, when even that’s not enough, having like-minded friends and colleagues to buoy you up through those tough times, is invaluable. Also, reaching out into other areas of the arts is helpful and enjoyable.  If you don’t want to sink, you learn to be adaptable in your own way. But, to stay afloat, you need persistence by the truckload. And an understanding that whatever you write can ALWAYS be improved, by revision, learning and practice.

You write picture books, junior fiction, poetry, novels and no-fiction. Do you have a preference? I love the crispness of picture books and poetry. I love to create words that sound perfect and hopefully, also provoke images in a reader’s or an illustrator’s mind. I so enjoy writing junior fiction and since I’ve now written three novels, I really like the expansion they offer as well. But I guess picture books and poetry nudge to the top of the line-up.

Are there any recurring themes to your writing? Succeeding by tapping into your own strength, intuition and creative problem solving would be one theme. So, in a word, resilience. Concern for the environment, another. Bringing history to life and also injecting humour into my writing whenever I can, would be others.

What was the inspiration behind your newest release, Eloise and the Bucket of Stars? It was the combination of two random images; one being memories of visiting old English orphanages. The other was reading the narrative behind medieval tapestries depicting the capture of a unicorn. The next step was to create a character who lived in an orphanage, who may or may not have been an orphan and to uncover her connection with a unicorn. And in so doing, create a story for mid-grade readers that entailed both mystery and magical realism. Talk about a challenge.

Is there any aspect of the writing craft that you still find challenging? Probably structure, particularly in longer pieces.

 

 

How important is social media to you as an author? Social media is good if you stick to those two words. Social, meaning you can visit and enjoy and share or gain information or knowledge from time to time. Media, meaning its very accessible. But beyond that, I’m wary, because it can drag you into passivity – when perhaps you should be writing.

Do you experience ‘writer’s block’ and if so, how do you overcome it? I don’t ever label those sticky times as such, because that tends to set the whole idea in concrete. Yes, I have times when ideas lay low, or the work is sluggish or dull, but now I have a better understanding of dealing with those occasions. Often, I’ll leave the work for a while. Or I might do a brainstorm or mind-map to see if that generates a breakthrough. But it’s usually a stepping away from the work, with or without a certain amount of grace, depending on my mood!

How do you deal with rejection? I still feel sad when it happens. And disappointed. And frustrated. And I’m not the most garrulous person to be around for a little while afterwards.

But it is a case of whether you still believe in the work or not. One case in point, was that my agent couldn’t get any publisher interested in a particular picture book of mine. In the end she returned it to me. I gave it time, rewrote it and sent it to a publisher whom I knew. It was not only published but won a Notable Award at the CBCA Awards.

In three words, how would you describe your writing? Image-provoking, heart-felt, language-orientated.

If you had a 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? It would be Kate DiCamillo because she evokes such richness or emotion in her powerful stories. I’d like to know whether her beautiful, pared-down style of writing evolved through her own intuition, or whether it was partly intuitive and partly learning the craft.

BOOK BYTE

Eloise & the Bucket of Stars

Janeen Brian

Orphaned as a baby, Eloise Pail yearns for a family. Instead, she lives a lonely life trapped in an orphanage and made miserable by the cruel Sister Hortense. Befriended by the village blacksmith, Eloise soon uncovers some strange secrets of yesteryear and learns that something terrible may be about to happen to the village. As troubles and dangers mount, she must learn who to trust and choose between saving the villages or belonging to a family of her own. Unless something truly magical happens . . .

The book is available from:

https://www.walkerbooks.com.au/Books/Eloise-and-the-Bucket-of-Stars-9781760651879

https://www.sequelbooks.com/eloise-and-the-bucket-of-stars

https://www.dymocks.com.au/book/eloise-and-the-bucket-of-stars-by-janeen-brian-9781760651879?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIgMi-lreM6QIVF38rCh3XlA5jEAYYASABEgJEqPD_BwE

https://www.qbd.com.au/eloise-and-the-bucket-of-stars/janeen-brian/9781760651879/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIgMi-lreM6QIVF38rCh3XlA5jEAYYAiABEgIhk_D_BwE

https://www.kobo.com/gb/en/ebook/eloise-and-the-bucket-of-stars?utm_campaign=shopping_feed_gb_en&utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc

 

 

 

 

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 Illustrator: Amy Calautti

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

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

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

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

ILLUSTRATOR INSIGHT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BOOK BYTE

When the Moon is a Smile

Written by Teena Raffa-Mulligan, Illustrated by Amy Calautti

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

Meet the Author/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 the Illustrator – Muza Ulasowski

MUZA’S TOP CREATIVE TIPS: Practise, practise and practise your craft. There is always something you can improve on. Never give up.  Take up all opportunities offered.  You never know where they may lead you.

MuzaUlasowskiMuza Ulasowski is a graphic designer and children’s book illustrator based in the leafy western suburb of Brookfield in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. She is inspired and surrounded by a vast array of local birds and animals who tend to make their appearances in her book illustrations. She shares her life with her wonderfully patient husband, their charismatic bulldog called Charlie and a black magic cat named Basil.

In 2010, she was invited to illustrate her first children’s picture book and enjoyed it so much that she has been collaborating ever since with Australian and international authors. To date she has illustrated 10 children’s picture books and is currently illustrating several more which will be published in 2016. Whilst primarily concentrating on creating digital images for children’s picture books, Muza also specialises in graphic design, designing book covers and book layouts to print ready stage. She also designs badges, brochures, logos, DL cards, stationery, business cards, programs and the like.

In her spare time she enjoys illustrating in pencil and charcoal, acrylic painting, wildlife photography, sewing, and creating artworks for her colourful and crafty ETSY store.

Find out more about Muza on her Website and Facebook. She is also on Instagram.

AUTHOR INSIGHT

What’s the best aspect of your artistic life? Being cooped up behind a computer all day creating whimsical characters.

—the worst? Being cooped up behind a computer all day creating whimsical characters.  LOL

How do you approach an illustration project? When I am offered a manuscript to illustrate, I need to be able to ‘see’ the words written as images.  If I can’t  ‘see’ the words in pictures, then I don’t take on the project.

Once I have accepted a project, I firstly create a 32-page dummy with the text roughed out and very rough pencil sketch ideas for the illustrations to go with the text – rather like a storyboard.  Then rough sketches are created with my Intuos 4 Wacom tablet using the Artrage Studio Pro program – it is so much faster digitally and I don’t have to waste time scanning the artwork.  I love the fact that I can create very rough roughs which look like marker pen sketches. I then erase the unnecessary lines as I clean up the image.  Once I have decided what goes where, I then use the ‘sketch’ as the background layer for my more detailed sketching. Once the roughs have been approved, then I digitally ‘paint’ over the top with colours using a combination of programs such as Photoshop, Illustrator, and Artrage Studio Pro.

What are you working on at the moment? I have only just completed illustrating a children’s picture book Getting Home written by J.R. Poulter – https://www.facebook.com/GettingHome2 .  It is off to the printers as we speak and the launch date will be announced very soon.

I am just about to commence illustrating the next book, Magical Minnie written by Jennifer Douglas – about an ex racing greyhound dog who is now companion dog to a gorgeous little Autistic girl. Check it out on https://www.facebook.com/MagicalMinnieBook

Is there any area of art that you still find challenging? I find every area of art a challenge. I am my own worst critic! I never know whether anything I attempt will be successful or not.  I usually get to about half way into an illustration before I know whether or not it will work.  And even then I always find something wrong with it that needs to be fixed!

What was your toughest obstacle to becoming published? I was extremely lucky to have been given my first break in illustrating children’s books by being offered a contract by a very large publishing firm.  This contract was then followed up by another contract with another publishing firm.  At the time I actually didn’t realise how very lucky I was to have been offered these opportunities. The last few books have been independently published collaborations with the most amazingly talented authors who found me through social media.  I am so honoured they thought me good enough to bring their manuscripts to me and trusted me to create illustrations for their wonderful stories.

What would you be doing if you weren’t an illustrator? As a child I always wanted to be a children’s book illustrator.  But in my day this was not recognised as a legitimate profession and I was talked out of enrolling in commercial art studies.  It was only after my children were grown up and had left school that I remembered what I always wanted to do and recommenced this path again.

What would you do differently if you were starting out now as an illustrator? I would not have listened to the doubters who talked me out of studying art in my youth.

What do you wish you’d been told before you set out to become an illustrator? I wish I had known just how much marketing and promotional work is involved in becoming published successfully. I wish I had been told that illustrating is only 30 per cent of the job done…. That publishing a book is a business with 70 per cent of it being marketing and promoting the book. Not that it would have made a difference – I still would have continued with my illustrating career, but at least then I would have had more realistic expectations.

What’s the best advice you were ever given? The best advice has been “Do not draw because you want to be famous or to be published…. Draw because you have a need to draw.”

BOOK BYTE

GH_JustFrontCover_1000pxGetting Home

By JR Poulter

Illustrated by Muza Ulasowski

 

Baby Bear is curious, he goes where Mama said, ‘Don’t!’ He finds himself adrift in a BIG, BIG ocean! Will Mama find him before his piece of pack ice melts?

A story for early childhood and lower primary with themes of risk taking, keeping safe, obeying rules, becoming lost and being found. The book also introduces small children to the idea of protecting our environment, animal habitats, melting of the pack ice and global warming.