I recently had the privilege of meeting Leigh at a recent visit not far from where I live. He was on his whirl wind tour of the various schools and libraries across Australia, as well as overseas. He delighted the audience with his tales of being an art teacher, and pursuing children’s book illustration, as well as other artistic pursuits.
Today, I welcome Leigh to my blog.
You’ve been asked this a lot, but how did you get started in illustrating and writing your own books?
Around 1992, when I’d been illustrating other people’s stories for a couple of years, I began to lose interest. Primarily because I felt disengaged from the characters I was being asked to illustrate. Then an editor suggested that I create my own character which turned out to be Old Tom. He’d been hanging round and taking shape in my head subconsciously for a while. Originally, he looked like a gangster but I toned him down a tad, without making him look too goody – two – shoes. Naughty rather than nasty. Four publishers rejected Old Tom before an eagle-eyed editor at Penguin nabbed him.
You say your stories are character driven. Who are they inspired by?
I don’t think my characters are inspired by any person or ‘persons’ in particular. They’re a mixture of characters who I’ve met, or taught, even aspects of my family. There’s a bit of me in each one I suspect.
How do you road test any new characters you create?
I showed a couple to my mother earlier on. She was appalled, particularly when it came to Mr Chicken. I knew at that point I was on to something. I have an aversion to ‘cute’. I’m simply not interested in cute books, not that I pay too much attention to children’s books in any case. However, I admit I am a bit of a romantic at heart, hence the underlying good heartedness of my characters and the relationships between them…. or most of them. I never road test characters with kids. Every kid is different and ultimately a writer or artist needs to rely on their instincts. Well I do anyway.
I had the privilege to attend one of your talks at my local library in Gippsland. During your talk, you said that you write from the heart. Does what come out ever surprise you? If yes, can you give an example?
Yes. I’ve surprised myself on a few occasions. The first time was when, about twenty years ago I was asked to give a lecture to fine art and graphic art students at my old art school (Caulfield Tech. now Monash University) I’d only written a couple of books at that point and some students asked me to select a few pages and read them from my first book ‘Old Tom’. My voice cracked at a certain spot and I realised that I’d strayed into autobiography. The students picked it up as well.
Your illustrations are so loose and immediate. What do you do to create that effect?
It’s just how I draw. The drawings evolve on the page. I work hard to make it look effortless. I feel I’ve failed if a drawing looks laboured. I’ve always had better eyes than talent. Which means I’m nowhere near as good as I wish I were. My limitations all too often stare back at me from the page.
That can be a healthy thing for an artist. To keep striving for ones own idea of perfection even though you know it’s all too often unattainable. My primal goal when drawing is to get to the essence of the subject, be it a character or a building.
How long does it take you to complete an illustration?
It varies. Sometimes a drawing works straight off and it looks fresh and spontaneous and it’s done. However, there’s usually a spoil sport part or illustration where I have to battle to get it right….and then disguise the considerable effort along the way. Then it might take a day or days to finish. Often in this case I rip it up and start again, in a sort of frenzy because by then the deadline is looming.
I noticed in your books that you include well known buildings in the illustrations. I’m aware that you have a passionate interest in architecture and history. How important is it for illustrators to create from the heart?
I’ve no idea what’s in anyone else’s head, I just know that the enjoyment and satisfaction I get from creating these books comes from creating a genuine sense of place. An authentic sense of the atmosphere in London, Paris, or Rome.
You are working on your art in its various forms all the time. How do you feed your creativity?
I read a lot. Books about architecture, History, Baroque, Georgian, Tudor. English or German architecture interests me most. I read history books often. Biographies too. At the moment, I’m reading David Marr’s biography of Patrick White. As well as a history of London. I travel quite a bit too. I’ve been to London over thirty times.
Horrible Harriet has been made into a stage show. How did that come about?
I was approached by the producers who were, in consultation with me, offered the stage rights by my publishers. I had some input but stepped back after a point. I have learnt not to get too emotionally involved in the translation into other mediums of my books or characters.
What is it like to see your work interpreted in that way?
Unnerving and strange. My ‘children’ have left home. It’s ultimately flattering in spite of a degree of anxiety I inevitably feel.
I’ve watched a lot of interviews of you. Some show you going into schools and talking to the kids, engaging with them, and the students totally engrossed in every word, especially when it comes to the drawing segment where you show them how to draw Old Tom. What do you like most about school visits?
I enjoy engaging kids, especially when I sense that they are loosening up and creating for the pleasure of it. It’s satisfying too when kids who may not be used to drawing or writing creatively end up being completely engaged.
You are the Australian Children’s Laureate for 2016/2017. What does that mean for you?
It’s been a great honour and is and has been a wonderful experience.
What would you like to see change in the schools of Australia, and why?
Every school needs a Library and school Librarian. Misguided schools are, or have already done away with their school Library. I’ve heard dreadful stories about Librarians retiring or being put in excess and the school library, carefully built up over many years completely emptied with books thrown out or delivered to op shops. Libraries, good ones are carefully calibrated to the needs of the students and teachers at the particular school. They are more than just books. And I’d like to see art and music as a ‘definite’ on the primary school curriculum.
What’s next for you?
Mr Chicken’s next adventure: ‘Mr Chicken all over Australia’
Would you tell us ‘Three Fun Facts’ about yourself?
Well, here’s just one…. I’m allergic to cats.
Australian Children’s Laureate 2016-2017
“Leigh Hobbs, best-selling author of more than 20 books, including the iconic Old Tom, Mr Chicken Goes to Paris and Horrible Harriet is the Australian Children's Laureate for 2016 – 2017.
His subversive humour has delighted children for more than two decades.
Leigh Hobbs was born in Melbourne, grew up in Bairnsdale and has lived and worked in Sydney, Sale and London. He is an artist who works across a wide range of mediums, as well as writing and illustrating his children's books.
Many of his cartoons have appeared in the Melbourne Age newspaper. He is best known, though, for his children's books featuring his characters Old Tom, Horrible Harriet and Fiona the Pig and Mr Chicken, as well as the Freaks and their teachers in 4F for Freaks and Freaks Ahoy.
Old Tom has been adapted into an extremely popular TV series. Leigh has three times been shortlisted for the CBCA Picture Book of the Year Award (for Mr Chicken Goes to Paris, Horrible Harriet and Old Tom's Holiday) and his books have won every major children’s choice award in Australia. Leigh’s books are published by Allen & Unwin.” Quote from Children's Laureate website.
You can find more information about Leigh Hobbs on his website, about his role as the 2016-2017 Children's Laureate here, and his books and toys (you can buy Horrible Harriet, and Mr Chicken soft toys) through Allen and Unwin.
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Michelle Worthington is an international award winning children's author. She released her first children's picture book in November 2011. Since then she has released ten picture books, two within the last six months. Michelle is also the founder of Share Your Story Australia.
Persistent and tenacious , Michelle joined me for a chat about overcoming rejection, what’s her ‘why’ and how that impacts all she does, and how now she is available to help and mentor aspiring, and emerging authors .
Megan: Can you give me a brief overview of you journey to publication of that first book in 2011?
Michelle: Goodness me, that seems like a million years ago. After ten years of trying, I had all but given up on my dream of getting my picture book published. I had made every mistake, got a contract that was cancelled during the GFC and not had any clue there were people out there that could have helped me.
It was timing that got me my first contract in the end. I found a local publisher who had just finished an Australian animal book when I emailed my manuscript and were looking to use the same illustrator. Timing and luck, I'm not sure how much talent had to do with it, but I hope a little bit too!
Megan: I'm pretty sure talent had a lot to do with it. So much has happened since then. What publishing experiences have you had over the years since? What publishing experiences have you had over the years?
Michelle: I have had the absolute pleasure to work with some amazing publishers and illustrators and learned so much along the way. I'm still learning. I think you always do as a creative in such a dynamic industry. I love working as part of a team so the publication process suits me, both traditionally and independent. I am mostly traditionally published, except for The Pink Pirate.
That makes me what they call a hybrid. I really don't like that term. It shouldn't matter what pathway to publication you take, as long as you have something to say that makes a difference.
Megan: That's so true. Do you think that it is because for a long time self-publishing had a bad name because of a lot of not well made books were put out? Though that has changed so much now. These days you often can't tell traditionally published books from many of the self-published books
Michelle: I think so, but times are changing. Opinions are taking longer to change but the focus has to be on quality and author branding, no matter what publishing channel you choose.
Megan: You have had your share of rejection letters and emails. What have you learnt from those experiences?
Michelle: Over 300 to date. It showed me how passionate I was about doing this. Each rejection was an opportunity to learn and improve my writing or figure out what sort of writer I wanted to be. I still get down about rejections, especially when I really thought my story would be a good fit for that publisher, but it won't stop me. My motto is, "not this story, not them, not now" and move on.
Megan: And that is the key to the whole journey in the end, isn't Michelle? Digging deep and discovering and articulating your 'why.' And your passion for what you believe comes out in everything you do too.
Michelle: Absolutely, if you don't know your why, stop right now and figure it out for two reasons. to keep you going when times get tough and to make your life so much easier when it comes to marketing and promotion, a very tricky element of being an author.
It’s easier to market your why than yourself. I don't like talking about myself, but I can talk about my books until the cows come home. I think a lot of authors miss the point when it comes to marketing, especially via social media.
Megan: That is so true. One of the first things I did before I set up my website, and my Facebook pages was to articulate my why. This helps steer every conversation, and everything I get involved in. It has certainly helped me avoid some nasty virtual reefs.
Speaking about being able to talk about your books... as authors, we often put aspects of ourselves in our characters who we write about. What character do you identify with the most out of all the books you’ve read, and those you’ve written?
Michelle: Of the books I have read, I am Anne of Green Gables, Laura Wilder, Silky from the Far Away Tree and a hobbit, but the only book I have ever written with myself as the character was Hootie the Cutie. It was the trickiest book to write. All my books have elements of my upbringing, my beliefs, and my experiences in them. That is what children connect with, authentic stories.
Megan: I love Hootie the Cutie. One of my fav's.
You’ve mentioned a couple of times about you as an author having something to say, and finding a way to say it. How important is it for us to share our stories with the wider community?
Michelle: It is how we have passed down knowledge from generation to generation from the beginning of time. It is what makes us human, the ability to share stories with each other in order to teach, inspire and create. Everyone has a story to tell, and sometimes you have to show real bravery to tell it.
Megan: Telling stories is a wonderful way to communicate a message, to pass on a story that happened long ago, or yesterday. All sorts of things. You’ve recently started Share Your Story. Can you explain what it is, and how it came to be, and why you started it?
Michelle: It started out of my desire to help aspiring authors have an easier journey to publication than I did. There is so much amazing talent in Australia right now and so many stories that can inspire change for the better in our community.
But with the publishing industry becoming more and more daunting, I wanted to create a tribe of new writers and experienced authors who could work together to bring a new voice to the Australian arts scene. We are not a writers group. We are an organisation aiming to educate, inspire and empower writers to publish their stories and grow their author business. My goal is for authors to outgrow us and come back as guest speakers and mentors.
Megan: Wow! That is amazing. I love your heart Michelle. And you are right. It is daunting these days. I find it difficult in that, for someone unpublished like myself, I hear so many conflicting bits of advice. It is wonderful you have someone, like yourself, being willing to show and to guide aspiring and emerging authors, to help them grow their brand, their business, and to grow as a writer too.
You’ve been so giving of your time today. Thank you so much. Are there any final words you have for any emerging authors that are looking to get published?
Michelle: If you know in your heart that your story matters, never give up. I'm always here to help if you need me. My email inbox is always open.
I think that about wraps it up. Thank you so much for today. I've thoroughly enjoyed our chat.
Michelle: Thanks for having me.
3 fun facts about Michelle:
I love wearing old socks
I'm allergic to dust
My next husband will be Jamie from Outlander, that's why my current husband won't let me go to Scotland
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Karen Tyrrell Author is a Brisbane award-winning writer of empowering books for children and grown-ups.
Karen’s books are inspirational page turners, often humorous, showing how to live strong and be resilient.
Karen’s childrens’ books Bailey Beats the Blah and STOP the Bully are endorsed by Kids Helpline.
Harry Helps Grandpa Remember won a RADF grant.
Jo-Kin Battles the It, Jo-Kin vs Lord Terra and Song Bird Superhero share positive messages. Her messages include self-belief, resilience, team building, problem solving and STEM science.
Karen has just released Song Bird 2: The Battle of Bug World: Can Song Bird stop the bully, save her sister, the bees and environment … before it’s too late?
Welcome to the blog today, Karen. I’ve had you on the blog a few times now, and yet I always have new questions for you. This time around I would love to get your thoughts on writing junior fiction.
1. What drew you to writing junior fiction? And what do you enjoy most about it?
I loved reading junior fiction to my primary school classes, watching how engrossed they became with child-centred stories and characters they cared about.
I love creating humour and fast-paced action for my superhero, Song Bird AKA Rosella Ava Bird. She’s faced with dramatic challenges to save her sister from the bully … and save the environment and the bees.
Well, you’ve certainly achieved a fast paced book with lots of action with Song Bird Book 2.
2. What is the hardest part of writing junior fiction?
Combining all the layers of the story into one cohesive whole. My favourite layer is adding humour into the final storyline. I love watching the hero trip over and crack jokes about his dorky parents. I weave the child-centred humour into the final draft of the hero’s journey.
3. What are the most important elements to include in a junior fiction novel?Humour. Action packed adventure. A relatable kid hero and his/ her side-kicks. Yummy, delicious food.
We can’t forget the food, can we?
4. When did you get inspired by the idea for your latest book, Song Bird 2: The Battle of Bug World?
In 2016, I created version #1, Song Bird 2: The Battle of Hero World with a stop the bully and hero theme. Then I changed up the story line to add an extra plot line about saving the bees and the environment as well as the original bully theme. Bug World is a unique fantasy world, existing on two levels: the visible Bug World theme park and the mysterious world below the earth’s surface.
There’s certainly a lot going on in such a short book.
5. So, what are your top tips for writing junior fiction?
A: Junior novels or junior fiction: Primarily for 8-12+ years. Generally, a paperback with very few line illustrations (B&W) and the word length from 10,000 to 25,000 words depending on the series it suits. Books for young readers who are confident.
B: Create brick wall challenges, struggles, and conflicts for the relatable hero character to solve.
C: If your book is humorous, add hilarious humour to the very last draft. Think up crazy names. Create scenes to show-off slapstick humour and nerdy dorky parents who do ridiculous, embarrassing things.
D: Make the story child-centred with loads of delicious food, tons of action-packed adventure and dialogue that is punchy and creates tension.
Thanks for coming on the blog today, Karen, and sharing your tips for writing junior fiction. And don’t forget to check out the special prizes and giveaways that Karen has for readers at the end of the post. It’s some pretty cool prizes that you don’t want to miss out on.
A superstorm destroys Rosella Ava Bird’s flower garden.
All the bees are disappearing.
A giant sink-hole cracks open beneath Rosie’s school bus, and mysterious voices rise up from the depths.
A tornado blasts the house of Frank, Rosie’s sinister next-door neighbour, threatening Rosie’s family.
And Rosie’s sister, Raven, has gone missing.
Should Rosie lead a mission into Bug World to rescue Raven?
Or stay home and save her family?
You can find Karen on:
Facebook: Karen Tyrell
You Tube: Karen Tyrell
Instagram: Karen Tyrell
Check out the rest of the Blog Tour to win some AWESOME prizes:
From Mon June 26 AMAZON LAUNCH Battle of Bug World Amazon Releasewww.karentyrrell.com/amazon-release-battle-bug-world/
From Mon June 26 Battle of Bug World AMAZON LAUNCH
From Tues June 27 CURLY Q’S Kids Book Review
From Tues June 27 REVIEW Just Write For Kids. A New Eco Adventurefrom Karen Tyrrell
From Wed June 28 REVIEW Georgina Ballantine review
From Thurs June 29 Writing Junior Fiction with Megan Higginson
From Fri June 30 REVIEW & interview http://www.readilearn.com.au/blog/
Just leave a comment on any of the posts in the blog tour, to win a copy of The Battle of Bug World (Song Bird 2). Add initials SB2
FREE Children’s Book Assessment!
Win a free children’s book assessment (up to 10 pages) by the author Karen Tyrrell. Just comment on any of the posts in the blog tour and add the initials CBA
Win signed artwork by illustrator Trevor Salter. Add initials AW
Remember the more you comment, the more chances you have to win The Battle of Bug World. Good luck 😊
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Today I welcome Robert Vescio onto the blog, to chat about his latest book, Ella Saw a Tree. Welcome, Robert!
What was your inspiration behind Ella Saw the Tree?
My children are easily distracted with television and video games that it can be difficult for them to focus. We often tell our children to ‘pay attention’ but we don’t often teach children HOW to pay attention. So I wanted to write a story that does that in a fun way.
Mindfulness is about training yourself to pay attention in a specific way. We spend so much time thinking over stuff that happens, or worrying about things that might happen in the future, that often we forget to appreciate or enjoy the moment. Mindfulness is a way of bringing us back to experience life as it happens.
What message do you hope this book will bring its readers?
Ella Saw the Tree is an entertaining story about mindfulness and living in the moment. It teaches a simple but important lesson. By taking a moment to slow down and really appreciate your surroundings even the simple things can be surprising and fun.
Mindfulness can help treat people with anxiety and depression. When a person is mindful they are focused on the present moment, not worrying about anything that went on in the past or that might be coming up in the future, concentrating on what’s happening around them and to them and not being judgemental about anything they notice.
When you’re mindful it gives you a clear head, slows down your nervous system, lets you relax and helps you cope with stress.
Ella Saw the Tree will delight all readers. Teachers and parents alike can use this story as a starting point for discussing the concept of engaging all senses and being mindful of the little things in life.
For children, reading this book will open new perspectives on the world and being present in the moment. This is a great book to be shared with children of all ages.
Can you share a bit of your journey of Ella Saw the Tree, from the initial spark of inspiration, to signing the contract, to release date?
Parents have told me that they’ve seen their children read a book and realise they have no idea what they’ve just read. They’re there in person, but their mind is elsewhere.
I’m sure a lot of parents can relate to this as well. In today’s society, children are bombarded with so many distractions that it can be difficult for them to pay attention and focus on what is important.
The hardest part about writing Ella Saw the Tree was trying to write a story that was fun and exciting for children. I didn’t want to write a story that pushed children into seated meditation and sounded too much like a lesson.
So, I started writing my story – a story that would appeal to children and make the practice of mindfulness fun. In the story, Ella interacts with a tree and sees the beauty of life through her own eyes. So, in a way, the tree is actually Ella’s teacher.
When I felt comfortable enough with the story, I plucked the courage and submitted it to a few publishers who I thought would be interested in this topic. Then out of the blue, I was contacted by Diane from Big Sky Publishing who loved the story. The story appealed to her and she felt that it was a good fit for her list.
A few months later, I received the contract and Cheri Hughes was appointed as the illustrator. It was great to work with Cheri yet again.
Between signing the contract and waiting for initial character sketches, there was some editing and tweaking done to the story to suit Big Sky Publishing’s in house style. There are always changes to be made to manuscripts. It’s to be expected.
Cheri went on to complete the internals for the book. Once they were approved, the text was added to the pages and the overall design of the book, including the cover, was finalised.
The whole process from acceptance to publication took just under a year.
The journey was both magical and exciting. Just like all of my other picture books.
You’ve had a number of books released in the past two years. What has been the most exciting part of this particular book launch?
Sharing my story and its journey to publication. I’ve really enjoyed working with Diane and Sharon from Big Sky Publishing again on this one. As always, I was involved in every step of the way. They listened and supported me. Sharon was always there when I needed her.
It was a wonderful creative collaboration between myself, Cheri Hughes, and Big Sky Publishing. Everyone has their own views and ways of generating ideas and we all learn a little something. Collaboration is an important part of the creative process because it leads to the birth of powerful ideas and products like picture books – yay!
Also, it’s great to see so many of my fellow authors keen to help, share, support and promote my work. Asking for support can sometimes feel intimidating, so it’s great to see writers and authors go that extra mile to help out when someone asks for support. We are very fortunate and blessed to have a thriving community of writers in Australia that are willing to help and support and promote our work which is just AWESOME! I am so grateful to each and every one of you. I cannot thank you enough.
What else do you like to do?
Apart from writing and spending time with my children, I love to read.
I am obsessed with Disney.
I love chocolate cake with chocolate icing.
And … I love gelato!
Ella Saw the Tree is available now to purchase through all good bookstores and Big Sky Publishing: http://www.bigskypublishing.com.au/Books/Children/Ella-Saw-the-Tree-HB/1172/productview.aspx
You can follow Robert's blog tour:
Just Write For Kids: Robert Vescio’s Story on Mindfulness Opens our Hearts
Kids Book Review Giveaway: Giveaway: Ella Saw the Tree
Kids Book Review: Review: Ella Saw the Tree
Emma Middleton: Sharing 'Ella Saw the Tree' With Robert Vescio
Pass It On: Ella Saw the Tree - Blog Tour
Boomerang Books: Doodles and Drafts - With Robert Vescio
Creative Kids Tales: Tour at the Tales. Ella Saw the Tree
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If you enjoyed this post, please feel free to like and share.
I'd like to welcome the lovely Lisa G. to my blog today.
Who is Lisa G.?
In a nutshell…
I was born in Melbourne, lived in Beaconsfield Victoria then moved to Tassie at 6 yrs old. 8 years on, my family returned to Melbourne, before relocating to Gippsland, Traralgon as I entered my last year of high school. I have been here since and have no plans to leave other than for lots of holidays. I quite like not moving.
Married for 27 years, there are three cheeky boys in our home – one is my husband, and we all dote over our adorable Cheweenie, Lilly.
I am always thinking, creating and, even if I have no idea how to do it, on to a new project – which sometimes drives my family crazy.
I guess, I’m a little gypsy like. Other than writing, I have trouble sticking to one career – there’s just so many choices and too little time. I want to do it all and usually, in my own stubborn way! Retail, hospitality, banking, finance, managerial, legal, medical and education (Literacy and integration) have my name on them.
Though I enjoyed them all – and for different reasons, I can easily say, other than witnessing that light bulb moment when a child realises they can really do `it’, none have come remotely within coo-ee of the happiness, contentment and reward writing brings me.
How long have you been writing for? What did you first write? What genre?
Forever! It started with political poems based on my opinions of justice as a 12 year old. Inparticular, poverty and the lack of compassion in a world that has enough money that everyone can live well. At 14, I was writing lyrics and rhyme about heartbreak and love. For some time and after my first real boyfriend was killed in a car accident, poems of loss prevailed.
But my first serious foray into writing was with the emergence of rhyming children’s stories which turned everyday situations into magical adventures. That was at 16. The very first story is now the first in a series of five I have written, which I hope to one day publish.
Not until my early twenties did I attempt a novel. ‘Changing Faces’ was unfortunately corrupted by a virus and subsequently lost and I gave up on writing for a while. But being that writing is part of who I am, the moratorium wasn’t to be for long.
Writing took on a whole new meaning with the arrival of my first son. Composing during midnight feedings I fell totally in love with the beauty of night and the escapism of writing. And there spurned the pivotal moment my mind began the constant whirred of ideas, busy with creative projects, submitting editorials to papers (some published) and reigniting my desire and dreams, to not only write a “world class great read” novel but to be respected for my work.
When did you first know that you wanted to be a writer? Describe your light bulb moment?
Sitting under canopy of the large snowball tree at our Booran Road Caulfield home, a skip, hop and jump from ‘The Heath’ (Caulfield Racecourse), I dreamed of writing a novel. Emerging as I leaned back against the trunk admiring the blossoms, I was scribbling down prose for what was, unknown to me at the time, to be my first ever children’s book. I was 16. Every chance I had, it occurred to me that I was writing something, anything.
So, it wasn’t so much of a light bulb moment but a realisation that writing and I were synonymous – it felt very natural and words just seemed to come together for me. Writing was my home… where I felt totally at peace and free.
The fact that I didn’t think I was worthy or good enough to really pursue writing seriously when I was younger, I regret somewhat. Life would have certainly taken a different path if I had. Though RUMLA may have never happened – so the regret is not deep… RUMLA has given me great joy.
What are your core beliefs around reading and writing?
In short, I believe literacy is to life as air is to breath!
I am deeply entrenched that it is non-negotiable that everyone should be supported in developing the skills and literary comprehension to read, and of course, write. In addition to the daily challenges of living, a life without literacy robs our minds of idea’s, imagination and personal growth.
Reading and writing are powerful tools. They take us places, actions will never achieve. They propel us forward, drive our ambition and open our eyes. They provide entertainment and fulfillment. At times, they even console us. Literacy elevates everyone’s ability to communicate, to articulate and enriches our well-being, gifting us amazing journeys to share and providing a life beyond what we see.
Now to your book, Rumla. Where did the idea come from for this book?
Tricky question! Short answer – there was nothing specific. The words just came. RUMLA evolved.
RUMLA’s is however, a culmination of childhood experiences that birthed adult fascinations for the history and mystic of ancient old worlds and an admiration of strong, self assured characters; more specifically, those who see beauty and freedom of embracing their ‘you-ness’. These ingredients came together after spontaneous literacy task during a professional development session and much to my surprise, a strange little tale that had both my PD trainer and myself wondering.
Where the idea came from initially, I have no idea other than that the gloomy sky overhead gave me a starting point. It was some 12 months later I actually decided I’d see where this unique little story would go. Continuing on from where I’d left off, the ideas started flowing, the plot developed and the reasons for my motivation, the messages to deliver, defined themselves. Research followed, building depth and RUMLA became a kaleidoscope of purpose.
'A life without literacy robs our minds of idea’s, imagination and personal growth.' Lisa G.
Why did you write Rumla?
Originally, RUMLA was just for me.
I believed for the first time, I could maybe write that novel. The desire to make my teenage dreams a reality was strong. I literally thought, it wouldn’t hurt to try. Letting my imagination take me on a journey, there was never originally a higher moral purpose nor a deeper message.
In saying that however, I do love the simplicity of ancient wisdoms and it just happened that while researching Ashanti Twi culture, I literally stumbled across Adinkra; proverbial symbols which set were the original moral compass of ancient life for the Twi people. The ethics of Adinkra perfectly encapsulated the tone I wanted to covey. Incorporating the African symbolism as chapter headings (and an English translation of the Ashanti Twi name/proverb), Adinkra defines each chapter’s underlying message.
So there are many beautiful subtleties trailing throughout RUMLA and they are very much what makes RUMLA uniquely special and individual to each reader. Being that the messages are a part of the mystery, I will let you unravel them for yourself.
You have a lot of African mythology woven it throughout the story. How long did Rumla take to research and write?
From initial pen on paper to published – 8 years. Never did I have a self-imposed time line to realise my dream. A working wife and mum with quite a few commitments, writing fitted in very nicely around the goings on of family life. But really, RUMLA was my little escape and I enjoyed so much that part of me dreaded finishing.
With no direction and initially just writing to see where RUMLA would go, researching the historical, mythological and cultural kicked in about 18 months into writing. Investigations from then on never really stopped. This was predominantly because I was intrigued, but also because the ending wasn’t clear until it was almost upon me. So I was always searching, looking to add more depth and credibility to RUMLA– all be it on the pages of google!
What do you hope that people will take away from Rumla?
As they turn the last page of RUMLA, I hope readers have been intrigued, entertained and have felt a part of the adventure as if they were written into the story.
I hope that somewhere along the way, a little something is discovered that resonates, making it personal in a way that is unique to them.
In the end, my deepest wish is they get as lost in my imagination and in the world of RUMLA as I.
You love to encourage people and inspire people. What is your favourite life motto?
In my usual style, I am bucking the trend. I have two!
It always seems impossible until it’s done; a dreamer is a winner who never gives up!
In a world where you can be anything, choose to be kind.
3 fun facts about yourself:
1. I dance in the shower - every day, every time
2. I always, always, mix up aphorisms i.e. His room is like a pig’s breakfast. Dogs might fly!
3. I can NEVER be trusted with your chocolate - ever!
Thanks heaps, Lisa, for coming on my blog today. It has been entertaining and enlightening.
For more information on Lisa and her book, visit her website: www.lisagbooks.com
Like her on Facebook: www.facebook.com/LisaGbooks and join the conversation.
You can also find her on:
What could she have to do with African tales of myth and legend, serpents and curses, of royal lines, the armies of rulers past, and a trail of clues hiding secrets of a
predestined prophecy? Absolutely everything!
Though she does not know, there are others that do. A sequence of exceptional events, see her desire to escape the boring grind of Rumlalian life granted with the adventure of her dreams. Though fearing where it may lead, an insatiable appetite to know all propels her deeper into the mystery in search of the secrets.
Before long, she comes to realise there was never a choice for her and that Rumla, protected by a complicated series of connections, was far from ordinary.
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I love reflecting on the past year as I eagerly focus ahead for the coming year. It is a time that I take stock of the great experiences that I've had, as well as having a good hard look at the lessons that I have learned from the tough and challenging times as well.
In the past couple of weeks I have read over past blog posts and have picked out the most popular blog posts of 2016, counting down to the most popular.
10. At a writer’s workshop in my local writer’s group, find out what we learnt about using similes and metaphors to make your writing sing. Interesting stories are included.
9. Ester de Boer’s illustrator school visit is a success. Find out what she got up to at a local primary school that had them giggling.
8. Ever wondered if you should attend a Creative Weekend? Find out what happened when I took the plunge at a Creative Workshop Weekend in Bright, Victoria. The same might happen for you.
7. Check out my interview with Karen Tyrell and her latest book, Song Bird: Superhero, and find out why it should be on your kids 'to be read list'.
6. Have you ever wondered what it is like to live on the Autism Spectrum. Get some insight from my son, Brandon, as he chats candidly about living with Asperger’s in a Neurotypical world and not giving up.
5. Have you ever wondered what it is like to pursue a writing career and be a single parent? Is it even possible? Find out from someone who knows. Meet Robert Vescio, a children’s author and single parent.
4. The life is tough. The writing life can be tough. Have you ever wanted to give up? I have. Find out why, and how I fought back. I hope these tips will encourage you on your life journey.
3. Author school visits are all part of an author’s life. Find out about how I prepared for my first school visit, and how it went.
2. Wondering whether you should go to the KidLitVic2017 Meet the Publishers Conference in Melbourne next year? Don’t know what to expect? Find out about my take on the conference, as well as links to other authors' blog posts who went too.
And the top post for 2016…
1. The exciting announcement that Ester and I have our book, Raymund and the Fear Monster, coming out late 2017. It is a book about overcoming fear.
2016 has been an amazing year. I thank you all for being such wonderful supporters of my blog. I appreciate the time it takes to click and share; to post a comment either here, Facebook, or Twitter; or to send me an email.
If you want me to tackle something in particular, please email me, or pm me on Facebook or Twitter.
I have some new topics lined up, and some authors are coming for a visit. So stay tuned. Look out 2017, here we come.
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This week I'm excited to have Amelia Trompf on the blog chatting about her book, Who is Fitzy Fox?
"Who is Fitzy Fox? is about a furry animal who is feeling befuddled. He always thought he was a dog, but because everyone calls him ‘Foxy,’ he is a little confused. To solve this existential crisis, Fitzy sets out on an expedition that journeys from Melbourne to London to uncover the truth of his furry identity. Who is Fitzy Fox? centres on the uniqueness of each individual and being valued for who we are. It is about having the courage to identify and solve a problem as well as being willing to go to extraordinary lengths to do so."
Where did the idea for Fitzy Fox come from?
I was living in Scotland five years ago and was a little homesick for Melbourne. Wondering about my place in the world, I started writing about my home suburb of Fitzroy and, with alliteration in mind, I created the character Fitzy Fox. I felt there was a need for a picture book to be set in Melbourne as a celebration of our wonderful city and its character.
When we moved to Scotland for my husband’s job, I didn’t have a work visa. While at first I was excited about having some time off, I realised that I missed the structure of work, I missed having the daily feedback and engagement, I wasn’t earning money and I think I fell into a bit of a slump of feeling low and thinking about my identity without my career and what made me, me. Subconsciously this story came out. At the time I didn’t see any connection but on reflection I think there was a bit of me in Fitzy Fox trying to work out who I was.
How was the experience working with the illustrator? Did the text change at all?
It was at a drawing class in Edinburgh that I was introduced to artist and teacher Jennifer Bruce. Initially, I asked Jennifer to tutor me in drawing so that I could create some illustrations of Fitzy Fox myself to help turn my story into Christmas presents for my nieces and nephews. Later when I returned to Melbourne and was looking for a professional illustrator, I immediately thought of Jennifer. Working with Jennifer was the most exciting part of this journey. Seeing the process of her initial sketches develop into the finished artwork was just so exciting. We worked together from two different sides of the world, which is quite fitting given the story is set both in Melbourne and the United Kingdom.
The text didn’t change very much except that initially in Jennifer’s sketches, Fitzy was walking on all four paws and then as after long discussions with the editors, he ended up walking on two legs so a few little phrases had to change here and there. I love that Jennifer Bruce has brought Fitzy Fox to life and I am so excited for her because this is her first picture book and her talent is immense.
What are the lessons that you would like children to glean from Who is Fitzy Fox?
Drawing on my teaching background, I created Who is Fitzy Fox? to help children understand the uniqueness of each individual and the importance of valuing one another for who we are. It is also about having the courage to face your worries and being willing to go to extraordinary lengths to learn about yourself.
I wrote Who is Fitzy Fox? because after years of working with children as a primary school teacher, I came to realise that one of the most powerful ways of connecting with children is through story. Illustrated picture books start conversations and these are often conversations that wouldn’t normally be had.
In my first year of teaching, chasing my tail, I randomly picked up Shaun Tan’s The Red Tree from the library thinking it could be good to start a lesson about visual literacy. Well, when I asked the students if anyone could make personal connections to the story, I was completely amazed. One boy who had barely uttered a word for weeks put his hand up and said “Some days I feel like nothing good is ever going to happen to me but then usually it’s not as bad as it seems; just like in, The Red Tree." Something in the story allowed him to express something that not even he realised about himself. I wanted to write a story that might start an important conversation like that.
Three fun facts about Amelia:
More information about the book and the book's creation, as well teacher's notes and heaps of fun activities, can be found at fitzyfox.com
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Writing books is not an easy task. Ask any author who is single and no children, or has the space to just write for hours on end without interruption, it is a tough slog. What happens if you throw work and family into the mix, and then add being a single parent. How would you get any writing done? Recently I put the question to a few authors about balancing writing and family life. I received an insightful, real, and honest look into balancing writing and family life as a single parent from Robert Vescio.
So who is Robert Vescio?
Robert started writing children’s stories about eight years ago but he says that he has always enjoyed writing, even way back in high school. After leaving school he worked in the publishing industry for over 12 years and for eight of those years he was a Photo Editor working on a number of photographic Magazines.
However, it wasn’t until he left fulltime work in 2007, to become a stay-at-home dad, that he began to take writing more seriously. Now he had a great excuse to spend hours in the children’s section of bookstores. As he loved reading books, it made it easy to dive into the world of picture book writing. Robert also says that having his own children helped as well. All he had to do ‘was to observe them and the ideas started rolling in.’
So how does Robert get any writing done? Does he have a routine?
No. Robert does not have a writing routine per se. Rather, he writes either very late at night or early in the morning when the children are asleep.
“It’s tranquil and I’m left to my own devices with no disruptions. Writing demands thinking time, planning, editing and rewriting.”
Every day, Robert has to factor in work, distractions and chores. It is a real juggling act. This is especially evident when his children were younger and he was trying to keep on track with a writing project, and they were wanting his attention all the time. Now that they are older, it is getting easier. These days while Robert’s children work independently on homework and assignments, he fits in writing time while they are occupied with their schoolwork.
In a recent post on Facebook, one emerging author said that she is often made to feel guilty about taking the time to write while her son is playing. She was made to feel like he was missing out on time with her, even though he was quite happy playing by himself. I am sure many can identify, no matter what you enjoy doing, that, as a parent, when you are doing something that makes you feel fulfilled, you are happier as a person. And that has a knock on effect to the people around you.
Robert used to feel guilty about his writing and the time it took away from his children. Now listen to this…His children NEVER make him feel guilty. If he has been spending a lot of time writing, Robert reviews his schedule and commits to spending more time with his children later. He is now feeling pride at what his hard work is achieving.
Robert says that he is able to show his children, ‘that if you work really hard at something, not only will you become good at it but look what you can achieve. I’m living proof. They’ve seen that it’s possible, and so a great lesson has been learned.’
Roberts final thoughts on balancing writing and family life:
There has to be a balance between writing and family. My children always come first but it’s okay for me to enjoy writing. The more I enjoy writing, the more my passion will ooze and stand out. And the more my passion stands out, the more my children will learn and grow with me. If you love writing, you’ll find a way to balance the two.
Robert Vescio is a published children’s author. His picture books include:
Barnaby and the Lost Treasure of Bunnyville (Big Sky Publishing), Marlo Can Fly (Wombat Books) listed on the NSW Premier’s Reading Challenge for 2015, No Matter Who We’re With (IP Kidz). He has more picture books due out in 2016 and 2017. Many of Robert’s short stories have been published in anthologies such as Packed Lunch, Short and Twisted, Charms Vol 1 and The School Magazine NSW. He has also won awards for his children’s writing. Robert enjoys visiting schools. His aim is to enthuse and inspire children to read and write and leave them bursting with imaginative ideas.
For more information, visit:
Robert on his website: www.robertvescio.com or on Facebook: www.facebook.com/RobertVescioAuthor
I have fabulous news. Robert has just had a new book released this month. Jack and Mia (Wombat Books). How fantastic is that? Jack and Mia are available to pre-order and purchase now through all good bookstores and Wombat Books.
Read the full interview with Robert Vescio over on Just Write For Kids where I also blog.
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Woohoo! I am super excited to have award-winning children's resilience author, Karen Tyrrell, joining me once again, to delve this time, into the benefits and learning possibilities of her Song Bird Superhero, Book 1 in the Song Bird Series. With a fabulous cover design by Trevor Salter, Song Bird Superhero is an action-packed comedy superhero adventure for children between 7-12.
Rosella Bird’s nightly dreams are filled with flying. Too bad her waking hours are a living nightmare:
Her flying inventions crash.
Her kooky parents are overprotective.
Her singing shatters windows.
The principal bans her from the science fair.
Worst of all, she lives next door to Frank Furter, an evil boy-genius whose sights are set on seeing her fail!
Rosella is the girl least likely to soar, and yet when she learns to sing something incredible takes flight. Rosella becomes Song Bird, a flying superhero who saves the day.
Can Song Bird defeat Frank Furter’s evil bullying ways?
All of Rosie’s Superpowers are explained by STEM science. Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths. It’s the NEW buzz subject at school that kids LOVE to engage in.
Hi Karen and welcome.
Karen, I’ve enjoyed your books in your resilience series, Jo-Kin. What has been your inspiration for writing Song Bird Superhero?
Song Bird Superhero is a humorous adventure story inspired by how I empowered myself as a bullied girl. I joined the school choir where singing boosted my self-confidence and self-belief. Then I discovered how much FUN hands-on science was.
2. You have learnt about mental health and resilience yourself through your own experiences. Is this why you write the stories with these resilience themes?
I’ve overcome bullying and PTSD using humour as a powerful coping skill. Kids need powerful stories that touch their hearts and their funny bone.
I don’t want kids to experience bullying. So I write positive books that connect with kids. I created a pantomime script for Song Bird which I perform as FUN interactive story with music, props, costumes and prizes for best superhero or a winged creature. Afterwards kids complete SUPER fun crafty activities.
I perform Song Bird at schools, libraries and festivals.
I’m thrilled so many child mental health organizations, teachers and schools have endorsed my humorous books: Bailey Beats the Blah, Harry Helps Grandpa Remember, STOP the Bully, Jo-Kin Battles the It, Jo-Kin vs Lord Terra and now … Song Bird Superhero.
That is brilliant, Karen.
3. What inspired you to come up with using Rosellas in your story?
Crimson Rosellas are striking birds displaying bright red and blue plumage, the same colours as superheroes. I shortened Rosella Ava Bird’s funny name to Rosie, giving her a relatable name for the reader.
To add to the humour, Rosella comes from a family of birds. Her dad, Mr Bird is Ozzie ostrich, the fastest runner on earth, but he’s scared of heights. Mrs Bird is a clucky Little Red Hen type of Health and Safety officer. Rosie’s sister Raven is a punk-rock singer, singing on Song Star with Rosie.
4. How long have you been working on this book? What was the motivating factor for writing Song Bird?
From birth to publication it took a year to write Song Bird Superhero. I wanted to write a FUN entertaining adventure story that kids would love. At the same time, kids would learn positive messages that kids can do anything … if they believe.
Thank you so much, for joining me on my blog today.
Why don't you check out the FREE Teacher Resources and kids' activities, AND the Song Bird Giveaway below...
FREE Teacher Resources and kids’ activities for Song Bird!
Includes STEM science, creative writing, flying history, art, craft, maths, literacy, drama, social skills and bully prevention. Download HERE.
Song Bird Superhero is now available in bookshops & on Amazon in print & eBook HERE.
Song Bird Book Giveaway
Let’s celebrate the release of Song Bird Superhero by Karen Tyrrell on Amazon.
Comment below to win a FREE signed stamped “Limited Edition” of Song Bird. Giveaway closes on October 20. Good luck!
Answer this question: Why do you want to win Song Bird Superhero?
WIN Limited Edition on the Blog Tour. Finishes 6pm 2th October 2016Alison Stegert Blog … Write a superhero story with a relatable hero HERE
Melissa Wray Blog… World Building … How to Build a Fantasy World HERE
Jill Smith Blog… Review of Song Bird Superhero HERE
Just Write For Kids Blog … How to write Positive Books for kids HERE
I would like to welcome to my blog, my good friend and fellow writer's group member, Verity Guiton.
Writing is sometimes like jumping into a cold pool of water. Often you can sit on the sidelines and watch people make leaps and bounds; creating a splash when they enter into it. However, some of us hesitate, as we make predictions about how cold the water will be. No matter our passion, or our love of the craft, we insist on returning to the scene by cautiously dipping our toes in first. But as our wonderful writers group recently discovered, while gesturing excitedly on the edge of our seats, there comes a time where you look fear in the eye and say, “Enough is enough!”
This excitement was recently sparked and enlightened by an interview. The interviewee is a teacher, a book critic for the Age and a self-published author. She is my Aunt; Juliette Hughes.
We sat around a coffee table in Ester’s living room. The Skype line had fizzed and the battery to my iPad was about to die. However, this was an interview we were determined to have! So, we put Juliette on speaker phone and got down to business.
I started by asking Juliette a question, which I felt (as a toe dipper myself) I had to know in order to take the first plunge. “What do you feel is the most effective way to make lasting connections?” I asked.
Beginning with a quote from Winston Churchill, Juliette simply stated “Never give up”. Looking round at the rest of the group, it was apparent that this was what we all wanted to hear.
Juliette also said we needed “…a bottom like a Rhinoceros!”; in other words, a tough hide and thick skin. She followed up saying “…believe in your right to write” and with a virtual hand, passed us the website www.litrejections.com. This is an affirming page for writers that details the publishing journey of ‘literacy royals’, so to speak; such as Dr. Seuss, JR Tolkien and Jane Austin. It illustrates the number of rejections they each received by publishes. J.K Rowling, for instance, was rejected twelve times before being scooped up and handed to the masses.
Feeling a sense of hope in Juliette’s answer, I handed the phone over to Jacqui. Her thirsty question, as a full-time teacher, wife, mother and writer, was “How do you meet your writing quotas?”
We heard a rustle and a murmur in the background, which I recognised immediately. It was my Uncle Rick, who (as a teacher and artist/musician himself) provided the useful and practical advice of having a nap after work. Juliette explained that every author writes differently.
The late Terry Pratchett, who Juliette interviewed many times over, said he didn’t believe in office hours. He just “…let (the story) take him”. Austin was a similar case and didn’t even require privacy to write. Whenever words came, she stuck them to paper with her pen. Anthony Trollope on the other hand would get up at 4am every day and write for a specified time. All in all, as Juliette stated “Whatever you prioritise, you will do”.
Ester’s turn next and, dealing with the struggles of character development, she asked “How do you keep characters consistent when you also need them to grow from what they’ve learned and experienced in the story?”
A somewhat more conceptual answer was given to Ester, as Juliette explained that sometimes you need to look within yourself. According to Juliette, “Even when you’re writing about other people, you’re viewing them through a lens that is your own (so, it’s still an aspect of you!)”. She told us that characters often write themselves and, if your characters are changing, let them change. She said to coin your own words, like Shakespeare and to let yourselves in as much possible.
Juliette allowed us a sneak peek at her own novel, which she believes will be ready by September. It has layers of the spiritual realm all through it and puts a harsh light on the shocking realities of the world – ones we normally turn our faces from. However, an apparent sense of hope, and a desire to do what’s right what bleeds through. Her main character is based on her late and much beloved dog Peppy. She described his character in the novel as a kind of ‘Mary-Sue’. The difference being that this ‘Mary-Sue’ was born from cold and cruel origins. Juliette said her other works have been fun, interesting and (above all) exciting. But this novel, she informed us, “…this is my heart”.
Last, but certainly not least, was Megan’s question. She wanted to know about Juliette’s writing journey.
Juliette explained that sometimes you find inspiration where you least expect it. Listening to Dianna Ross, for instance, helped her realise she could teach ‘white’ girls how to combine their chest voice and head voice. Juliette directed us to the ‘artist pages’ website, and recommended the Dr Clarissa Pinkola Estés book ‘Women who run with Wolves’. She also said writing pages of absolute rubbish helps you get into the creative zone. This lead her to Stephen King’s repetitions of a mad man in ‘The Shining’, where Jack Torrance famously scribbles down “All work and no play…”. She said this is actually a very useful exercise.
Juliette explained writers need ‘know-hows’ and encouragement. “…like pregnancy” she said “…sometimes you need help getting the baby out” (to which Ester replied “…a literacy laxative”). Juliette concluded her answer by advising “…if you want to write, don’t wait for permission”.
Megan shared her own writing journey and expressed that, “One day I decided, this is what I am. This is what I want to be known as. I am a writer and I’m going to be discovered”. Juliette (clearly impressed) answered by saying “Well, God bless you!”
In the last moments of our conversation, we shared advice, personal philosophies and spiritual awakenings. The water was looking a little less chilly and we were feeling better about diving into the publisher’s pool. Juliette left us with one last piece of important advice. “Publishers want to pitch you as a genre, so know who you are as a writer and pick your genre”.
Drawing on everything we discussed one thing stood out to us all; believe in yourself as a writer and make sure to write the novel of your heart.
Juliette’s foremost passion (above anything else) is her family. A very close second is music and she leads the choir at St. Carthages Church, Parkville, Melbourne.
For years, Juliette was the Assistant Co-editor for Champagnat Magazine, and through Garratt Publishing, she wrote a series of poems and short stories for primary school and high school students.
Juliette’s self-published book was “… just for fun”, as she put it, and with a hint of cheekiness to her voice added it’s her answer to ’50 Shades of Grey’. In fact, it was only rejected by ‘Mills and Boons’ after she explained to them she wished to stick to her own formula.
It’s called ‘The Music Within’ (under the pen name Fae Clifton) and you can find it on Amazon.
Thanks Verity for setting up this interview and for writing this blog post. And thank you Juliette for making yourself available to answer questions of our writer's group. It was a fun, and inspiring afternoon.
If you, dear reader, have been inspired even just a bit, please feel free to share.
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You can find more about me, and read my children's stories at Creative Kids Tales
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