Saturday, December 11, 2010

Trailer Making

I've had lots of people ask about the making of the Get a Grip, Cooper Jones trailer. I had always intended to make a trailer for Cooper, and planned to have it ready prior to the book's release in August. I was lucky enough to be able to attend a trailer making workshop organised by Chris Cheng and SCBWI in 2009. So once the book's publication date was locked in, I used my newfound knowledge to work out a bit of a script and concept, and then asked my son, Brad, who enjoys fiddling with film and photography, if he'd help me.

Well, two things happened. Firstly, life intervened for both Brad and me: work commitments, uni, exams, overseas trips etc. and the trailer making kept on being pushed aside. Then when we finally had a window to get it started, Brad confessed that the idea of making a trailer with images overlaid with text and music didn't really inspire him creatively. (In other words, he thought my concept sucked!)

But don't worry, he said, I have an idea.

I'm his mother; I worried!

But I shouldn't have.

The idea was using the technique of stop motion animation - a technique Brad was interested in experimenting with. He showed me a couple of YouTube clips, explained his concept and I was immediately excited. This was going to be a whole lot of fun!

Basically, the technique involves taking a sequence of photos of an action in progress and then stitching them together - in much the same way an animator does with drawn images for cartoons. It took Brad about a week to film the clip and he estimates that he took about 1500 photographs. Another week or so to put it together and another week for a friend of his to add the music and sound effects. Then voila! We had our trailer.

And I think it is pretty cool.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Get a Grip, Cooper Jones - Stop Motion Animation - Book Trailer

Yay! At last, my trailer for Get a Grip Cooper Jones has been completed and uploaded on to youtube.
My son, Brad, created it for me, using stop motion animation. He is an engineering student with a passion for photography and a pretty strong creative streak. 

The clip plays on the notion that stories / books take you on a journey. I think it is a lot of fun. Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Thanks, St Anne's!

Had a fab day today hanging out with the great kids at St Anne's School, South Strathfield. I had so much fun and was blown away by their enthusiastic participation , imaginative ideas and intelligent questions and answers.

  • Creating the "three-eyed spotty alien monster". Hope I got that name right!
  • Screening for the very first time (to students), the finished, almost ready to post on youtube trailer for Get a Grip, Cooper Jones. Will post the link soon.
  • Brave Harry and his unique responses to "meeting" Charlie the spider.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Riley and the Curious Koala Blog Tour

Today I welcome author, Tania McCartney to discuss THE PROS AND CONS OF SELF-PUBLISHING.

It seems like the success of the publication of your first Riley book took you a little by surprise.

Yes, its success has been a surprise! Mainly in regard to how well it’s been received in Australia. I actually released Riley and the Sleeping Dragon: A journey around Beijing while living in China, so my audience in Beijing was very different to home… it was a multinational expat one, along with Westernised local Chinese. The combination of a Western boy touring around China’s ancient capital was one that appealed to this large group enormously, and the book sold over 1500 copies in three months. I had to reprint twice and the book is still selling strongly in some major Chinese cities.

Being a book with such a specific market, I honestly believed Riley and the Sleeping Dragon would die a natural death when we moved home to Australia in January 2009. This was my first picture book, too, so I was not an established children’s author (I have been published in the adult non-fiction category before) and I knew that ‘cracking’ the children’s book industry would be tough. Our children’s market here is enormous, well-established and packed with talent, but nonetheless, I thought I’d give it a go.

I approached a nationwide distributor – Dennis Jones & Associates, and set about marketing the book locally (in Canberra) and online… and the rest is history. Riley and the Sleeping Dragon was featured in the ABA’s Kids Reading Guide for 2009/2010 and continues to sell strongly Australia-wide. I’m only one person, but thankfully my commitment to showcasing the book has paid off and the series has developed a bit of a cult following. The second book in the series Riley and the Dancing Lion: A journey around Hong Kong was released last year and I’m thrilled to bring Riley home this November with Riley and the Curious Koala: A journey around Sydney.

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised the series has done well here – Aussies are great travellers after all, and many kids can relate to these books because they have either visited Hong Kong and Beijing, or because they harbour an innate sense of adventure.

Can you outline the reasons behind your choice of self-publication for this book and why you think Riley was so successful?

Essentially, I wrote Riley and the Sleeping Dragon as a memento for my kids – of their four years in Beijing. I have long-adored children’s books and after spending too much time just dreaming about writing one, decided to actually do it. I had lots of time on my hands and printing in China is phenomenally cheap, so I thought I’d give self-publishing a go.

I also knew I’d have a good chance of success because I was working in Beijing as a kids editor for several English language magazines, and had developed a bit of a following with my articles and family matters column. I had the audience, I had the printing means, I had the time and the passion – so I did it.

Self-publishing was surprisingly easy – after some serious research online, I found an illustrator and got to work. There were lots of mistakes and much time-wasting along the way, but in five months, I had 1000 books delivered to my door and it was truly one of the most remarkable moments of my life. It was incredibly rewarding.

Marketing and promoting the books was also relatively easy because of the profile I had developed through my magazine work. These magazines were very supportive and we created a fantastic marketing campaign that really helped get the word out. I sold out of books very quickly and even managed to get books into major booksellers.

Coming back to Australia was a different story – trying to infiltrate an already-saturated market was like standing at the base of Mt Everest, but thanks to my wonderful distributor, the internet and relentless hard work – I have succeeded to put a wee dent into the children’s book market and things are still going well. Sure, it’s frustrating at times but I’ve just never given up – and I won’t ever give up.

I’ve continued to self-publish these books because I can do it easily now – I have a glorious illustrator and printer (I print in Australia now), and the templates are all in place, so writing and producing the books is relatively straight forward and great fun.

Marketing and saturation continues to be the greatest challenge with self-publishing, but my stock continues to sell and my profile continues to rise (slowly!) thanks to Kids Book Review and Australian Women Online (where I’m a Senior Editor). It’s a slow, sometimes agonising process, but I couldn’t do anything else. I love it too much.

I think the success of the Riley series is because of my dedication and my passion for writing and the kids book scene. Oh, and I think the books are good! They’re different in that they incorporate several elements – text, illustration, photos and graphics – which really attracts kids. They’re also about travel, something I personally adore, and I think that when you write what you know and love, it has a greater tendency to succeed.

So many authors and illustrators publish or self-publish a book and then sit back and wait for it to succeed. I don’t think anyone – no matter how well-established – can rest on their laurels. Promoting and marketing your work – and yourself – is vital to market saturation, and that is something I ceaselessly work on. They say the most successful authors of the future will be those that market themselves well (on top of producing quality work, of course).

I also think the Riley series has done well because of the books’ quality. Self-publishers need to be mighty careful about quality and credibility – there is so much self-published crap and this tends to blacken the self-publishing genre – alas. This is rapidly changing, however, as more and more house-quality books are self-published and gain nationwide – even worldwide – attention.

There’s a very inaccurate belief that people resort to self-publishing because they can’t get their books published anywhere else. This may be true for a percentage of people but it is by no means the norm – I have met many successfully self-published people who never even approached a publishing house with their manuscript – myself included. There are many circumstances that lead people to self-publish and one of the main ones is that it’s so doable now. So long as you have the dedication and a commitment to quality and promotion, you can’t go wrong.

I imagine self-publishing has its own set of rewards and challenges. What have been some of the rewards and challenges that self-publishing has given you?

The rewards have been many – that feeling of achievement after endless hard work is just priceless. It’s also been wonderful to be able to associate my name with my books. Many authors and illustrators write fabulously successful books but their names can get lost amongst the book’s title and hoo-ha. Self-publishing has allowed me to expand upon and brand my name as opposed to the Riley series in itself. This is especially helpful as I write in other genres than children’s books, and am equally committed to those genres.

The other enormous reward has been the complete freedom to honour my own creative processes and choices, without having editors or publishers alter my work. Of course, this also has its cons! because a good editor is priceless. I’ve been very careful to look at my work objectively and to plan my path carefully, to minimise being too one-eyed.

Another bonus is that I can do what I want with my work – add to it, utilise it, work with it, expand upon it, without having to ask permission or follow any rules. I think being able to do this has added to the books’ success.

Earning a very large to large percentage (depending on whether I sell directly or via my distributor) from the sale of my books is also very nice.

Challenges include being only one person, having to fund everything and taking risks. But the greatest challenge, by far, is time. Publishing, printing, promoting and marketing takes up a huge amount of my creative writing time (and hair-washing time) – and this is a bug-bear I constantly battle with. I often get resentful that I can’t spend hours just writing languidly, because I have other sides of my ‘business’ to honour.

Maybe I’ll approach a publisher one day to take over the series so I can get my hair washed.

What advice would you give to other writers considering self-publishing?

Do consider it, but only if you have the time and dedication. It is truly full time work and your success would rely on a) quality of both the book’s content and production and b) your ability to market and promote.

Seek outside opinion from both children and adults. Listen to what people say but always follow your heart. Be objective about your work.

Don’t become one-eyed and do NOT expect to make much money. Self-publishing is a labour of love and if you’re in it for the money, you can forget it. This route best suits people who are passionate about the entire children’s book industry and have a love of publishing, illustrating and the entire literary scene (as I do). You will learn an enormous amount from self-publishing.

Self-publishing is not a guaranteed route to house publication. It stands alone, though any success you do achieve will certainly bring credibility to your work (if you do it well!).

As a self-publisher you must wear many hats. Put on your marketer’s hat for a moment and describe your latest Riley adventure. What do you think is the key to Riley’s continued success and following?

Riley and the Curious Koala: A journey around Sydney is the third in the Riley series of travelogue picture books for primary school children. This multimedia series combines stunning black and white photos of one of the world’s finest cities, with photographs of a real tin plane and gorgeous illustrations by Canberra artist Kieron Pratt.

Each book in the Riley series follows the adventures of this little Aussie aviator and his friends. Beginning in Beijing with his search for the sleeping dragon, the books are unique in that they combine virtual travel (via the photographs) with an adventure story that incorporates an animal associated with the destination.

The books combine history, culture and education in an almost imperceptible way. The gist of the storyline always incorporates some relatable element to the animal being searched for in each book. Sometimes these elements are literal, sometimes metaphorical, sometimes toyed with, as in the case of Riley and the Curious Koala.

The Riley series of books are different and I believe this is why they stand out and continue to do well. They are beautifully illustrated, humorous, fabulous fun and follow a tried and true story writing formula that draws children into the pages, so they can travel alongside their hero. The characters are charming, cute and totally relatable, meaning children very quickly fall in love.

In each subsequent book, the animal Riley finds becomes a ‘friend’ who then appears in the next book, in the form of a stuffed toy. This links the series in an irresistible way. Featuring a map at the end of the book that promises more adventure really hooks kids into the series, too – where will Riley travel to next? Will it be their town?

All of these above elements combine to add to the success of the Riley series. Along with my personal passion for travel, marketing and writing for children, I’m hoping the Riley books continue to entrance children for a long time to come. And in the meantime, where should Riley travel to next?

Riley and the Curious Koala is the third in the Riley travelogue series of picture books, taking young children on a journey to far flung destinations. Riley’s first adventure began in Beijing with Riley and the Sleeping Dragon, continued on through Hong Kong with Riley and the Dancing Lion, and now enters home turf, with a fun-filled adventure through the beautiful city of Sydney.

Will Riley find this terribly elusive and quite curious fluffy creature amongst the gorgeous watery vistas of one of the world’s most beautiful cities? Panda, Dragon and Lion from earlier books join this little aviator on his sensational Sydney search… and their discovery is a curious (and funny!) one, indeed.

Part of the profits for Riley and the Curious Koala will go to the Australian Koala Foundation

Thanks, Tania. All the best for the success of Riley and the Curious Koala.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Coming soon - Tania McCartney - Blog Tour

This coming Saturday, Tania McCartney will be dropping by as part of her blog tour to promote the release of her latest book, Riley and the Curious Koala and to discuss the pros and cons of self-publishing.

A bit about Tania ...

Tania McCartney is an author, editor, publisher, blogger, book reviewer and mango devourer who loves writing, celebrating and supporting children’s literature – and literacy. She is the author of the Riley series of travelogue picture books, as well as several published and self-published adult books.

Tania is an experienced magazine writer and editor, is the founder of Kids Book Review and is a Senior Editor at Australian Women Online. She lives in Canberra with a husband, two kids and a mountain of books. For more about Tania visit her or check out these blogs during her tour.
Already this month she has visited:
Writing Out Loud Blog
The Book Chook
Handmade Canberra Blog
BOOK GIVEAWAY! Win Riley and the Curious Koala! Run!
 Dee Scribe
Reading Upside Down
Australian Women Online
Little People Books
Miss Helen Writes
Soup Blog
 Bernadette Kelly’s Blog
Posie Patchwork: The Blog

And still to come:
Friday 19 November
Sally Murphy’s Writing for Children Blog
Saturday 20 November
Sheryl Gwyther's Blog
Kids Book Review
Sunday 21 November
Sandy Fussell’s Stories are Light Blog
Kids Book Review
Sunday 21 November, in the evening
Tania McCartney Blog
Join Tania as she takes you through her book launch party, held at Dalton’s Bookstore in Canberra City. There will be photos, stories about the launch and lots of fun!

See you all on Saturday.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Teachers are Awesome

There is no doubt about it - there are a heck of a lot of seriously dedicated, awesome teachers out there.

Yesterday morning in Sydney was gorgeous. The type of Saturday when a walk in the park or along the beach seems like the perfect thing to do. Or perhaps a picnic or barbecue with friends.

But despite this glorious spring weather beckoning, 65+ teachers headed to Our Lady of Good Counsel School, Forestville to attend an ALEA North Sydney professional development event on Children's Literature. The ALEA North Sydney group hold these events on various topics relating to literacy teaching four times each year, and without fail they are always well attended.

I gave a talk on enticing reluctant readers and the Lightning Strikes series published by Walker Books and Dr Alyson Simpson explored reading and responding to children's literature, giving many practical classroom ideas for the attendees to try out.

There was such a buzz in the room - such wonderful enthusiasm for children's lit, for teaching, for improving literacy, and for finding the right book. I felt privileged to be involved.

Special thanks to the hard-working ALEA North Sydney committee, especially Wendy Bean, Kathy Ferrari and Helen Pearson.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

There is a lot of talent out there ...

There are so many talented young writers out there. It never ceases to amaze me - truly. And last week when I was doing workshops with some amazingly clever and motivated young people at Brewongle - a NSW Department of Education Environmental Learning Centre and Bush Retreat - I was amazed yet again!

Holy guacamole, the kids were were amazing! They had talent by the bucket load.

What a classroom!
 This writers' camp is held each year and it is becoming a favourite event with me. Simon French, Susanne Gervay and James Roy were there also, charged with the happy duty of inspiring these fantastic kids.

Tough gig - but, hey, someone has to do it!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Get a Grip, Cooper Jones is Launched

I donned my party frock and party shoes. We sipped champagne and told jokes. We had a couple of speeches, a competition and lots of laughs, and I couldn’t have asked for a better way to celebrate the launch of Get a Grip, Cooper Jones.

Thanks so much to author, friend and SCBWI leader, Susanne Gervay for giving such a warm, generous and funny launch speech. You can read about it here.

Thanks also to Chris Cheng, SCBWI, the Hughenden Hotel, Claire Saxby, all who attended and shared the journey and joined in with the festivities. I had a blast. (And sold lots of books too! Yay!)

It was such a buzz  – I was grinning for days afterwards.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

A review and a launch for Cooper

Here's a lovely review for Get a Grip, Cooper Jones at Chris Cheng's review blog. Thanks, Chris!

Now, drum roll please ...

Get a Grip, Cooper Jones is going to be officially launched by Susanne Gervay next Sunday (September 19) at the SCBWI conference, The Hughenden Hotel, 14 Queen St Woollahra NSW, 12.30 - 1.00 pm. Let me know if you would like to drop by and join the celebration.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Book Week Fun

Here are some pics from BOOK WEEK. Courtesy of the wonderful Jean Saxby, T/L at Galston Public. Thanks, Jean!

Firefighting fun!

My volunteer firefighters are pretty tired after putting out the fire at Lulu's Ice-creamery.
Teacher / Librarian, Jean Saxby and moi.
Look at the great FREAKY poster on the window.

Teacher's notes for Get a Grip Cooper Jones

Walker Books has created  a great set of comprehensive teachers' notes for Get a Grip, Cooper Jones. They can be downloaded from the Walker Books website. Thanks, Walker!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Lucky Last

Thanks to a wonderfully relaxing weekend, I headed off to Blaxland School this morning full of beans for my last Book Week school visit.

There is nothing like an eager audience, eyes wide, totally engaged with your stories to fire you up. Thanks Blaxland! Your bubbling enthusiasm, astute questions and lively participation has motivated and inspired me. I can't wait to get my fingers typing on some new stories.

And so it's back to the office tomorrow for the "day job". But that's not so bad, as I'm lucky enough to have a job where I get to work with other authors and illustrators helping them to create fantastic new books.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Glorious Saturday

Glorious Saturday. After a week of zipping from one side of the countryside to the other, from Galston to Dapto, from Camden to Pymble to Bankstown, speaking to well over a 1,000 children, today I spoiled myself with walks on the beach, cafe breakfast with my hubbie, coffee with friends and lying around reading (Saving Francesca - Melina Machetta) and dozing. Ahh - it's been wonderful.

What a week! Friday saw me heading off to Bankstown City Library. The wonderful children's librarian there, Tara, conducts an amazing Book Week program (which runs for about three weeks!) ferrying authors and illustrators to schools and libraries all over the Bankstown area. This year she has had Sarah Davis, Di Wu, John Heffernan, John Larkin and moi.

First up we shot across to Al Sadiq College, Yagoona to speak to Years 2 & 3. We needed to lug my rather heavy "bag of tricks" and other paraphernalia up two steep flights of stairs - but it was worth it! The kids were fantastic. Attentive and bubbling with enthusiasm - they were intrigued with the whole process of how an idea became a book and asked some rather intelligent questions about the publishing process. The only minor hiccup occurred when I nearly scared one poor young lady half to death with Charlie - my enormous puppet spider. (Sorry!)

Next we headed to Greenacre Library to share stories with Year 2 from Greenacre Primary. Their love of books was catchy and the session was a lot of fun - made even more so by Fire Chief Holden's wonderful help with the dramatisation of The Firefighters. I felt it wise to leave Charlie in the bag for this session as I didn't want to be responsible for any more frights or potential nightmares!

Last session for the week was at Sefton Infants School and I must admit that the enormity of the week sort of hit me halfway through the session and I found myself suddenly very weary and extremely tired of my own voice. Fortunately, adrenaline kicked in and aided by a sea of smiling, excited faces we bravely saved Lulu's Ice-Creamery and toiled over bubbling pots of sugary syrup, until the session was over and so was Book Week. Phew!

Well ... almost. I still have one more school on Monday. Blaxland Public, here I come!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

All worth it

To avoid having to drive two hours each way two days in a row, I shouted myself to a night in a hotel in Pennant Hills last night. It was a good move. I had noble intentions of using the solitude of my lonely room to write long into the night. Instead, I flaked. The bed was the hardest bed I have ever slept in, but it didn't seem to matter - I slept like a baby.

So this morning, I was ready and rearing to go, especially as Galston School was now only about twenty minutes away. Yay!

The kids at Galston love their stories and I had a ball sharing mine with them. Freaky again starred and so did my "Adventure Story". Question time was a blast with hands shooting in the air and kids almost begging to be picked - many having to save their questions until lunchtime.

I always hope that just a tiny bit of my enthusiasm for writing will rub off when I am doing these visits, so I was thrilled when one kindi teacher told me how inspired and excited the kids were to write after my session. One student in particular responded really well and wrote not only with increased confidence and enthusiasm - she also wrote far, far more than she usually does. Ahhh ... stories like this make it all worthwhile.

Bankstown Library tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Freaky - the star of the show

Another day, another school. This time Sacred Heart, Pymble, where I was greeted with much enthusiasm and excitement. (They even had a parking spot reserved for me!) And, oh, what a gorgeous library - I started tingling the moment I walked through the door!

Book Week and school visits are such a great opportunity to see what works, and what doesn't - to really get an understanding of what makes your readership tick. And I am always amazed at how different every school you visit is - how different the reactions are. One school might fall about laughing over a story or anecdote, where the next school may barely crack a smile over the same material. What interests one group enormously, may seemingly wash over the next.

I find this intriguing and such a useful exercise in discovering what elements of my books appeal most widely. This year, the "star" book - the one that has had the most kids talking at the most schools - is Freaky. There seems to be a lot of excitement surrounding the possibility of a story containing giant spiders. The kids at Sacred Heart certainly followed this trend and seemed to really enjoy meeting my very hairy pet spider, Charlie!

Thanks, Sacred Heart - I had so much fun sharing my stories with you all.

Tomorrow - Galston.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Day Two - Lakelands Primary, Dapto

Well, today found me zipping down the coast to Lakelands Primary at Dapto.

There were two things that really struck me about Lakelands Primary (apart from its gorgeous name). Firstly, the kids were extremely well-behaved and attentive and it was obvious that the teaching staff worked really hard towards this end. Secondly, there was a wonderful buzz on the playground after my sessions. Kids everywhere talking about their favourite stories, favourite books, favourite authors, planning their own stories, bursting with questions as I walked through. The excitement about books was palpable.

This is why I love Book Week. It energises me. Inspires. Motivates.
Great stuff.
Thanks, Lakelands.

Monday, August 23, 2010

A great start to Book Week at St Paul's Camden + wonderful review at Kids' Book Capers

Just spent the day with the wonderful kids of St Paul's Primary at Camden (Kindi - grade 3).

We created a crazy monster called Hornhead, put out several raging fires at Lulu's Ice-Creamery, got freaked out over large and very hairy spiders, twirled to Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy and toiled over bubbling pots of sugary syrup! No wonder I'm exhausted. Hope you had as much fun as I did, kids!

I also had another interesting question that required some research back at home to find the answer. The question: "How many different illustrators have illustrated my books?" Great question - and I had no idea. But after a bit of a stock take at home, I think the answer is 35. (Even I was surprised.)

Four sessions down, fifteen more to go.

For those interested, check out this great review for Get a Grip, Cooper Jones at Kids Book Capers, Boomerang Blog. This one had me grinning all weekend.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

An Interesting Question and Abbotsleigh Literary Festival

Last Monday I had the pleasure of speaking at the Abbotsleigh Literary Festival. I was a little nervous prior to the event as I was going to present Get a Grip, Cooper Jones for the first time and wasn't sure how Cooper would be received. I felt like the mother of a kindi student about to send her precious child off for his first day at school. Will the other kids be kind? Will he make any friends? Will the kids like him as much as I do?

As is often the case, I need not have worried. Cooper held his own and I had numerous students milling around me after my sessions asking the question author's love to hear: "Where can I buy the book?"

It was a wonderful event, the students were fantastic and I had a great time.

During one session, I had a question from a student (Miriam) that I couldn't think of an answer for at the time and I promised to think about it and get back to her. The question was: "If you could be a character from any book, who would you be?"

I have been mulling over this ever since and I haven't yet been able to come up with a female character that I sincerely would want to be. This troubles me slightly.

If I look to my own books, I think I would want to be Sasha from A Strange Little Monster because she has a kind heart, but is also strong and courageous and true to herself. If I look elsewhere in Children's Literature, I guess I am partial to Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series - for similar reasons, and also because of her intelligence.

When I look to adult literature, I really can't get past Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird. I love Atticus because of his honesty and integrity.

I'm sure there are plenty of wonderful characters out there that I have overlooked. Any ideas? (Thanks for the great question, Miriam.)

Tomorrow is the first day of Book Week, and to mark the week, I have set myself the task of writing a blog post about each school/library I visit. Book Week is exhausting at best, so I'm not sure if I will be up for the challenge, but I will give it my best shot.

Congrats to all the winners in the CBCA Book of the Year Awards - especially the wonderfully talented bunch from Walker Books : Glenda Millard, Rebecca Cool, Sally Murphy and Heather Potter. You rock, gals!

Happy Book Week everyone!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Get a Grip, Cooper Jones - Release Day

I may be on the other side of the world (Vancouver at the moment) but I couldn't let the release day of Get a Grip, Cooper Jones slip by without at least raising a glass of cyber-bubbles and saying "Good luck, Cooper!" with my cyber buddies.

I will be returning in a week or so - after a kayak and camping trip out of Vancouver Island - just in time for Book Week and a full program of school and library visits to help celebrate Cooper's release "for real".

Until then, cyber-celebrations will have to suffice.
So ... here's cheers!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Get a Grip, Suzie-Q

In the next week or so, I will finally be holding an advance copy of my novel for 10-14 year olds, Get a Grip, Cooper Jones (published by Walker Books). And I am jiggling with excitement and nerves. And yes, this book is my third and final example of the three Ps of Publication. (Practice, Patience and Perseverance.)

This little baby has been my work in progress for the past six years. It has undergone so many rewrites that I couldn't even hazard a guess as to the number. It started out as one book, based on what I believed was a strong premise, and has ended up an entirely different book with that original premise thrown out the window. I have killed thousands of my "darlings", to coin a phrase from Stephen King's, On Writing, with some of my favourite scenes and funniest lines being mortally wounded by the delete key. In my last rewrite in January, I estimate I axed about 10 000 words and added about 15 000 new ones. (At this point, I'd like to add another P: PERSPIRATION! I have certainly put in the hard yards with this book.)

It has also gone through numerous name changes. It started out as Feral Feet (now totally irrelevant) and was To the Feral Tree up until about three or four months ago. Now it is Get a Grip, Cooper Jones and I think it is the perfect title for it.

So if ever there was a book that demonstrates that you shouldn't give up, this is it. It is due for release on August 1 and I can hardly wait!

What do you think of the cover? Pretty cool, isn't it?

More anon.

Monday, June 21, 2010

CBCA NSW State Conference

What an amazing couple of days. Terrific organisation. Wonderfully inspiring and entertaining speakers. Great company. Great fun. Congrats and thanks to all who were involved! I loved it, loved it, loved it!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Three Ps of Publishing - Part 2

This week my Aussie Nibble, A Strange Little Monster, illustrated by Stephen Michael King, will be released. YAY! And this release provides me with my second example of the three Ps of Publishing at work.

This story started with a first line that just popped into my head:

"In all of Grotty Hollow, there was no stranger little monster than Sasha."

I had no idea where the line came from, but it immediately intrigued me and I wanted to know more about this strange little monster. What made her strange? How did she cope with her strangeness?

A Strange Little Monster started out as a picture book manuscript and I honestly felt that this was the "one" - the one that publishers were going to be falling over themselves to publish. I was sadly mistaken. I sent the manuscript to eight publishers, and eight publishers rejected it. (This was in 2002/2003.)

But I was not deterred! (Cue: PERSEVERANCE.) I reworked the manuscript as a chapter book, a short story, a reader ... I sent it back out into the world and again it was rejected. (And I was sorely dejected, I have to say.) So I put the manuscript in my bottom drawer where all lonely homeless manuscripts go, and got on with other projects.

Five years later (cue: PATIENCE), I stumbled across it quite by accident and had another read. Hey, I think this could work as an Aussie Nibble, I thought. I pulled out my previous chapter book version, and with clear eyes and five years further writing experience behind me, I could see its flaws - and there were many! I could also see just what it needed to work in this format. So I set to work, and as they say, the rest is history!

When I was a primary school teacher, come September/October of each school year, I often found myself worrying that my students weren't making enough progress. At this point, I would always go back and look at examples of their work from the beginning of the year, and nine times out of ten, I would discover that they had indeed made loads of progress.

I often feel this way with my writing. Am I progressing? Is my writing getting stronger? Am I doing enough to improve my craft? It is so hard to know and often I find that writing seems to be getting harder for me rather than easier. (I suspect this might be because I am being increasingly harder on myself.)

Fortunately, the rewriting of A Strange Little Monster really brought home to me that yes, my writing has benefited from the years of PRACTICE. All that writing and reading and thinking and workshopping and analysing and critiquing has paid off. Like my primary school students, I have, thankfully, progressed. When I looked at my original manuscript, five years on, I could see why it was rejected. It simply wasn't strong enough. It started off relatively strongly, but wobbled into a meandering middle and fell splat into a limp ending. And it was a wonderful experience for me to rework it to a point that it was accepted rather than rejected!

So the lesson for me with this book is to never give up and to continue to practise my craft: to read and read and read; and write and write and write. It is, I believe, the only path that leads to PUBLICATION.

Oh, and by the way, that opening line that I loved and adored - I gave it the chop! It didn't work for the Aussie Nibble chapter book genre.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Three Ps of Publishing

From time to time I give workshops for aspiring authors. During these workshops, I often speak about the three Ps of publishing: Practice, Patience and Perseverance. Over the next few months I have three new books coming out - all that demonstrate the three Ps beautifully.

The first is my picture book You Wish Jellyfish. You Wish Jellyfish, illustrated by Lee Krutop, hits the bookshop shelves this week. This picture book has been a long time in the making - six years to be exact. Six years of PRACTICE, PATIENCE AND PESEVERANCE.

I started writing the story in mid 2004.
I first submitted it in February 2005.
It received its first rejection six weeks later.

Over the next twelve+ months I reworked the manuscript numerous times. I workshopped it with my writing buddies and reworked it some more. I submitted it to twelve publishers. Almost all replied with very positive comment and feedback, but no banana.

In November 2006 it was finally accepted by Koala Books. YAY! I almost didn't send it to Koala , because for some unknown reason, I thought the publisher, who had already published a couple of my books, wouldn't like it! Shows how little I know.

Next of course the manuscript was edited and reworked again and then began the search for an illustrator. Working in children's publishing, I know firsthand how long and difficult the task of finding the right illustrator can be and for You Wish, Jellyfish it wasn't until about May 2008 that I saw the first sample illustration from Lee Krutop.

It is now May 2010 and the book with Lee's beautifully bright illustrations is finally a reality.

I have seen it in a bookshop.
It has been sold to a Korean publisher.
And it has even received its first review in Junior Bookseller and Publisher Magazine.

Here is an excerpt: "... The wording is playful yet evocative, particularly when Jellyfish decribes to Mussel how 'sometimes the current took him where the sea washed warm and milky green over a garden of twisty coral,' and works best when read aloud, with the refrain of 'You wish, Jellyfish' sure to be a hit with the little ones. This is a gorgeous underwater road trip for ages two and up about accepting who you are and looking at life from a different perspective." Clare Hingston, Bookseller Younger Sun Bookshop, Yarraville.

And, heck, what a classic example of the three Ps of publishing! Time to crack open the bubbly. Cheers!

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Firefighters - Paperback and Big Book

The Firefighters, illustrated by the wonderful Donna Rawlins is now out in paperback and big book. The big book is particularly gorgeous - wonderful to see Donna's art gloriously larger than life. Saw a lovely display of the paperback today at Better Read than Dead (Newtown) with a recommendation and a cheeky note about how Donna and I can often be found hanging outside the local fire station! Made me laugh. (How did they know?)

Classroom ideas have been updated to include big book activities and can be found by clicking on this link. (And also at the Walker Books Australia website.) Click here for a Firefighters' colouring in sheet.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

How gorgeous is this?

This is the cover for my Aussie Nibble, A Strange Little Monster, out in June 2010. Pretty gorgeous, isn't it? Stephen Michael King is a bit of a genius, don't you think?

I have only seen his roughs for the internal illustrations so far - but they made me laugh out loud! He has created some pretty zany monsters for Grotty Hollow. Nothing like the monsters I imagined - but, oh, so much better!

Can't wait to share this one with kids.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Clocking up the Hours

For the past week or so, I have been on holidays from my "day job" and have been busy working on some major revisions to my middle grade novel To the Feral Tree. I have to say, that I have been thoroughly enjoying the process and have been really proud of myself, especially with the amount of energy and focus I have been able to maintain each and every day.

I'm not sure whether it is the change in routine, or whether it is because I have a deadline and a limited amount of "writerly" time to make that deadline, but I have been hammering away at the keyboard for between 8 - 14 hours each day for the past nine days (plus a few similar random days over the Christmas / New Year period). I have to tell you, this is some kind of record for me. I am the one who usually manages an hour or three, then suddenly remembers that she must mop that floor, or ring her sister, or get some groceries ...

I think it was Edison that said "success is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration". If this is the case, then I have certainly put in the perspiration for this project, here's hoping the inspiration doesn't let the team down.

Nevertheless, it is back to the "day job" and I will be hopping onto the 7.10 train tomorrow, secure in the knowledge that the revised manuscript is already in my editor's inbox. Yay!

And the best part is, I am all fired up and itching to get on to my next project. Double yay!