Today I’m chatting with children’s author, Renee Price. Renee is the author of the Digby Fixit series, founder of Create-it-kids, musician, performer, and puppeteer (though she informs me she is still working on that). Renee is an inspiration to me. Nothing holds her back from achieving her goals. She just goes for it.
Megan: Hello, Renee.
Renee: Hi Megan, I've managed to be child-free for about 20 or so minutes. Hoping that's enough time!
Megan: We might have to do it over a couple of days. The interviews usually take about an hour to an hour and a half. How quick can you type?
Renee: Oh sorry! Did I miss that piece of info? I'll see how I go.
Megan: Shall we dive right on in then?
Renee: Sounds good
Megan: I’ve been watching your journey over the past three years with great fascination. I’ve followed your journey as you’ve self-published not one, but two picture books that seem to be doing really welly and kids are loving them. Digby’s Moon Mission came out in 2014, and you followed it up with Digby and the Yodelayhee… Who? in 2017.
1. Can you tell me why you decided to publish these books yourself, and how did you go about it?
2. Can you tell me what your process was like to create Digby’s Moon Mission and the second book, Digby and the Yodelayhee… Who?
Renee: Thanks, Megan! It's definitely been a challenging, yet rewarding journey. 1. I’d submitted stories to traditional publishers for about two years with either polite rejections or no response at all. After drafting Digby’s Moon Mission, I had the story professionally assessed and edited.
I also had a wonderful mentor who had pursued self-publishing for some of her own work. My mentor and illustrator saw great promise in the story and character concept. I didn’t want Digby to become another manuscript tossed aside or overlooked by trade publishers. He was different. He needed to share his voice. The best way to ensure this was to self-publish. I researched for 12 months, the processes, challenges, pitfalls, and benefits involved with creating a trade-quality children’s book.
Megan: And you certainly have produced quality books to be proud of. You ended up going with Taadaa Books. What was it like to work with Anil and Orzan from Taadaa Books?
Renee: Your question two: The process started by commissioning an illustrator, and I found the amazing Anil through a Facebook author/illustrator page. I then worked with my editor through many revisions of the first book - once the manuscript was ready, Anil and I worked on the storyboard together then her and her husband, Ozan (Tadaa Book) worked their magic - Anil with illustrations and Ozan with design.
Anil and Ozan are fabulous - so incredibly helpful with all aspects of the self-publishing process. I couldn't have done it without their guidance, and the source of information, Tania, my mentor provided.
Tadaa Book were familiar with the printing company, Ingram Spark, which is who I used for Digby's Moon Mission. They are a print-on-demand service, so it was good to know I could print as many or as little copies as needed. They offer online distribution as well, and I also sourced my own distributor here in Australia, Dennis Jones & Assoc.
Megan: It sounds like you have a wonderful team around you to guide you through the process. I don't think a lot of people realise how much hard work goes into creating a picture book.
Renee: This is true! It takes a village to make a book!... or something like that. Haha! My second book followed a similar production path, except that this time, I printed offshore rather than through Ingram Spark. Quality and pricing were much better.
Megan: You have the whole performer package going on too. You sing, write your own music, even do puppetry. Does music influence you when you write your books?
Renee: I do! I wanted to offer a unique 'service' to help market my books, and I've had a life-long dream of being a children's performer - I just love creating for kids. I love that I can combine my passions - writing stories and songs, and utilise these to communicate, interact with, and engage young children.
Music plays a significant part in my writing process, and I was so excited to publish Digby and the Yodelayhee Who? as it brings my two writing loves together. I have some other manuscripts in the works where music is involved.
Music plays a significant part in my writing process, and I was so excited to publish Digby and the Yodelayhee Who? as it brings my two writing loves together. I have some other manuscripts in the works where music is involved.
I love uniting the two artforms — I feel they credit each other so well — especially in early childhood, language development, imagination and creativity can really flow.
Although I'm still working on refining the puppetry skills! Haha
Megan: I’ve seen the video you did with Debra Tidball with her new book, The Scared Book. It was great.
You are also the founder of Create It Kids as well as (and I’m quoting from your website here) ‘a qualified early childhood teacher, music educator, children’s author and performer, with 13 years collective experience in early childhood education, writing and entertainment. What response have you had to your performances and books?
Renee: Thank you! It was a delight to work with Debra on the video - such a fabulous opportunity and so fun!
Megan: I’ve also seen other videos of you performing with some kids. I say ‘with’ because they were all in there dancing around, totally involved with your singing and music.
Renee: My performances are where I really feel at home — I love how interactive they are, and I can be totally crazy, and it's a good thing. The kids respond well to the high energy and interactive nature of the performances, and it leaves a lasting impression — on them, and me. Schools and preschools have been really happy with what I offer for their kids/students. I hope to broaden the audience next year with shows further from home.
The response I've had from my work has been so positive and incredibly encouraging. It's a big risk being an indie author, so when your book babies are out in world, you just hope they are well-received. My books have had quality reviews on sites such as CBCA Reading Time, Boom Books, Kids' Book Review etc., and continue to do well. My second book was recently listed on the NSW Premier's Reading Challenge which was wonderful.
Megan: Wow! Congratulations. I did see your second book listed on the reading challenge. I’m sure there was some happy dancing around the house for that. Your self-published book on a list like that.
Renee: Oh, yes! I was thrilled! Such a huge achievement (and great reassurance to have recognition such as this).
Megan: On your website you share that both you and your eldest son and have a rare, genetic condition, called Cleidocranial Dysplasia. Can you tell what sort of obstacles you’ve overcome to get to where you are today with your writing and performing?
Renee: I spent a lot of time in hospital as a child — either attending specialist appts, having tests, surgery, treating fractures - reading, writing and music were my escapes and comfort. Having physical limitations such as short height, weak bones, and muscles, I couldn't do a lot of the 'normal' physical activities kids could, so I found ways to overcomes this through creative involvement - music lessons, theatre performance, and writing. In a way, my condition has helped pave the way, and I love everything about what I do.
The trickiest part though, has been the last 10-12 years where I've gradually lost my hearing (due to the bone fragility of my condition). I now have moderate-severe hearing loss, so without hearing aids, I'm lost!
Thankfully, because of the hearing aids, I can still enjoy my music, though it does have its challenges in the recording environment (and even with hearing aids, I still miss some sounds). Does have its bonuses though when I'm being annoyed by certain sounds — I just take them out to get some peace!
Megan: So often it is those very things that we think are obstacles are the very means to pave the way towards something we may never have discovered about ourselves.
Renee: So true!
Megan: This year was the second year that Create It Kids has donated money for Jeans for Genes Day which supports research into genetic diseases, birth defects and cancers at Children’s Medical Research Institute (CMRI). How important is to you that you can use your author and performing platform to be able to get the word out there, and hopefully one day see medical breakthrough in these areas?
Renee: I often feel overwhelmed with people… people's stories and challenges — being so close to home for me, and having something I can use to help increase awareness mean so much, I just hope if my tiny level of involvement can reach even just one new person, it will create a ripple effect.
Sorry - the wording there is all weird. Couldn't express it very well!
Megan: That's okay. I thought something was wrong. Sometimes when something is close to our hearts it can be hard to express, no matter how good with words we are.
Renee: Hit the nail on the head there.
Megan: And I’m sure that what you’re doing will have a long-lasting effect on many people.
Renee: Thank you - so many creatives have had long-lasting effects on me. I love this industry.
Megan: You blog for Just Write for Kids. Last year in June you wrote a blog post entitled, This message will self-destruct. http://www.justkidslit.com/this-message-will-self-destruct/ .
In this blog post you said, ‘And now, here I am, doing it all over again. Fearing the opinions of others. Comparing myself and my ‘failures’ to others, seemingly endless success. So much wasted energy!
You know what?! I’m done. Done with fear. I’ve spent the better half of my life living with it, now it’s time to lay it to rest. I don’t expect this to be an easy journey, but I’m tired of the alternative. Tired of enduring the ‘F’ word. I know deep down I’m one of the awesome ones… we all are! It’s time to kick fear to the curb and let courage step in.’
I love that last part, ‘It’s time to kick fear to the curb and let courage step in.’
What differences have you seen in your life since you’ve made that commitment to yourself?
Renee: You know, it's enlightening to sit and re-read this passage (thank you). It's a commitment that, I will be honest, has softened at times, but I think the difference is since making it I'm now more aware of when the 'F' word starts creeping in, and I know how to manage it better — I'm in a more confident space, and I'm able to zoom out and look at the bigger picture when I'm feeling doubtful or a little anxious about where things are headed, what I'm up to etc.
I also have a newfound outlook that anything is achievable if we want it badly enough — we just have to work hard to get there, and never miss an opportunity for growth.
Megan: That is so true. It’s amazing what we can achieve if we know how to address fear, look it in the eye, and say, ‘Get out of my way! I’m doing this.’
What next for you? Will there be another Digby Fixit?
Renee: That's a great question! I'm working on some more Digby stories; however, I want to spend more time on 'non-Digby' work so that I can continue building my body of work, and submitting to traditional publishers. I'm unsure I will self-publish again, so that is the biggest question regarding Digby books — but I will continue to spread the word of his stories with performances, perhaps scriptwriting as well — I'd love to see his stories on the big stage.
Megan: That would be fabulous. Any last words of advice to your fellow creatives?
Renee: Dream big, work hard!
Megan: Great words of advice.
Three fun facts about Renee:
My favourite colour is purple.
I'm the eldest of five in my family - all of us are musical.
The first concert I ever went to was John Farnham when I was eight-years-old.
Megan: Thanks for taking time out to chat with me today, Renee, and being willing to share your journey with us.
Renee: Thank you so much for the awesome interview - I love the personal nature of your questions - it really gives insight into the 'person' behind the creator.
It's been my pleasure to share. I'm really grateful for the opportunity.
Megan: Bye, bye for now. I can’t wait to meet you in person at KidLitVic in Melbourne next year.
Renee: Thanks again! xx
About Renee: Renee is a children’s author, songwriter and performer, from Newcastle, New South Wales. She began writing in 2010 after teaching in early childhood and primary school settings for eight years.
In 2012, she held the role of Editorial Coordinator at Newcastle’s Child magazine, working within various aspects of the publishing industry, including reviews of children’s books and music, and composing articles for the publication.
In December 2014, Renee released her first picture book; Digby’s Moon Mission, through her brand, Create It Kids, and performs a dramatisation of the story for preschool and young primary school audiences, incorporating theatre, song, storytelling and puppetry. Renee has developed a series from her first publication, with Digby’s second book due for early 2017 release.
She will continue adapting each story for dramatisation.
Renee is a current member of CBCA NSW and Newcastle Sub-Branch, Australian Society of Authors and Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.
Where to find Renee on social media, links to places she blogs, and her website.
Social media - www.facebook.com/DigbyFixit & www.facebook.com/CreateItKids
Twitter handle @CreateItKids
Websites - www.createitkids.com.au & www.digbyfixit.com
Some of her songs for kids are recorded here.
Renee's Digby performance promo video link.
She is also on the team at www.justkidslit.com and am an admin for the Just Write For Kids Facebook group.
YouTube clip of Digby and the Yodelayhee… Who?
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I'm happy to introduce Elizabeth Foster and her debut novel for tweens, Esme's Wish, as a part of her Books On Tour promotion. Esme’s Wish is a fantasy novel, which I had the privilege read prior to release and I adore it.
Megan: Good morning, Elizabeth. Shall we begin?
Elizabeth: Hi! Fire away with the questions.
Megan: When did you know that you were a writer?
Elizabeth: I always knew I wanted to do something creative, but didn’t know what, so I put it on the back burner and focused on raising my children instead. I loved books but never dreamed I would write one.
When I first started writing Esme’s Wish, my sister, who was also writing at the time, asked me if I thought I was now a writer. I said I didn’t really know. What I did know, deep inside – don’t ask me how – was that if I worked hard and never gave up, I would get there one day.
Megan: Wow! So, Esme’s Wish was your first book. I just wanted to let you know how much I loved Esme’s Wish. As I wrote in my review on Goodreads, Esme’s Wish should come with a warning not to start reading before bed, especially if you have to get up early.
Esme’s Wish, published by Odyssey Books, is your first novel. Where did the inspiration for Esme’s Wish come from?
Elizabeth: Thanks, Megan. I feel both guilty and glad that you lost sleep over it! I first got the idea after I finished reading the Harry Potter series. I loved that series so much that I didn’t want to leave the world J.K. Rowling had created.
As I wrote, my own world started to evolve: an oceanic realm enchanted by the gods, that blended elements of Greek mythology with a Venetian aesthetic. I love Venice, and imagined a similar dreamy canal city for my story. Venice is already a magical place, so it wasn’t hard to add in a little magic of my own.
Megan: I love how such a different book to the Harry Potter series was inspired by it.
How long did Esme’s Wish take to write?
Elizabeth: Around eight or nine years ago from first idea to finish. I wrote about things I enjoyed – the ocean, magic, dragons – so it was intrinsically interesting to me, otherwise I would have given up long ago. I was really obsessed for a long time – just ask my long-suffering family!
Megan: I love that you were obsessed over it. The fact that you were passionate about what you were writing shows through in the incredible world you’ve created.
When you started writing Esme’s Wish, did you realise how long it would take and how much determination it would take to finish?
Elizabeth: I was a complete novice and had no notion of what it would take to bring my book to publishable standard, or the immense effort it would take to find a publisher. I thought it would take a few years, not nine!
My writing journey was full of false starts and wrong turns and plenty of tears. I suppose it was a combination of determination and pride in my craft that kept me going. I also knew that once the book was published, it would be my calling card – so I was determined to give it my best shot.
When I felt it was ready to fly, I entered Esme’s Wish in competitions, mainly so I could get it read in full by publishers! It didn’t win, or get shortlisted, but positive comments from a leading commissioning editor gave me a much-needed confidence boost. I kept polishing, working especially on characterization and pace, and was still tweaking it right up until publication day.
Megan: Your dedication to the story, and you constantly improving your craft certainly shows in your novel. And you’re right. When you first start out and think about writing a novel, or a picture book — anything really — you really don’t know what you are in for, or how much dedication, and sometimes just plain stubbornness and refusing to give up, it will take to see your book published.
Elizabeth: Yes, a certain amount of stubbornness is required. And grit, and patience. I admire anyone who manages to get a book published.
Megan: Writing fantasy is so freeing as it leaves so much scope for the imagination. Some of the ways you approached the various fantasy elements such as the tidal pool, and how the locals of Aeolia interact with their environment, as well as the local laws, customs, and festivals was wonderful. Even down to the way you dropped clues all the way through, and tied up everything neatly by the last page of the book. I was screaming for more, but at the same time I was deeply satisfied by what I had read, and experienced.
How did you create such a rich world?
Elizabeth: Megan, I'm blushing from all your compliments. Thank you! These are the sort of words an author hopes to hear but isn't sure if they ever will! I know that some fantasy writers plan out their world meticulously before they even start to write, but I am more of a pantser (making up things up as I go along) than a plotter when it comes to the fantasy aspects.
Much of the detail comes as the story evolves. Some ideas come from everyday life and experiences. For example, my family and I used to go on holidays to the N.S.W. South Coast and would often swim in a rock pool there. That little pool sparked my imagination and a version of it ended up in the story.
Megan: I write the same. I'm an organized person so I thought I would plan my story, my novel. But, I couldn’t. So, after asking Jen Storer in her Girl and Duck Q & Q Friday, about where should I start, as I only had about three scenes written and nothing else, and her telling me just to write, play and have some fun learning about the story as I go, I just dived right in.
I recently listened to an interview with Kate Forsyth. It was on the So You Want to be a Writer podcast, episode 204. When Kate was asked if she was a ‘plotter’ or a ‘pantser’ she said she didn’t like the term ‘pantser.’ Rather, she prefers to say that she writes intuitively. I like that phrase better myself. It certainly sounds like you write that way too.
So, will there be a sequel to, Esme’s Wish?
Elizabeth: Esme’s Wish is the first of three books in the Esme series. I am presently working on the sequel, Esme’s Gift. It continues Esme’s adventures in the world of Aeolia and ties up unfinished business from book one, as well as introducing more complications, of course.
Megan: Did you always know Esme’s Wish was going to be a series?
Elizabeth: Yes, and I am very glad that I planned it that way. Everything is now in place for the sequels, which is making writing them so much easier. Writing series seems to run in the family, too. My son is also writing one.
Megan: I'm sure planning the overarching story would certainly help. And that’s great that you have inspired your son too.
Writing can be a lonely occupation. Do you have a cheer squad to spur you on? Do you belong to a writer’s group, or similar?
Elizabeth: I haven’t had much success with critique partners but fortunately I live with a secret weapon, my son, Chris. I rely heavily on his advice. He has not only edited many drafts of my book but has also been a fantastic help for brainstorming plot ideas or helping me climb out of plot holes. Now I am editing his first novel, a mammoth but awesome epic fantasy, the first in a series of five. While I am desperate to get back to writing my own sequel, debts must be paid!
Megan: That’s wonderful that you have someone that can help you so much. And wow! A five-book series. A mammoth task indeed to edit an epic fantasy novel.
What advice do you have for authors?
Elizabeth: Apart from the obvious one – write a lot – take time to read books where the prose is of an immaculate standard. If you do, your own writing will improve in leaps and bounds. Read widely - classics as well as contemporary, and non-fiction, too.
I like these words by Steve Martin, words which helped tide me through. The quote was in fact serendipitously pinned to the twitter feed of my publisher, Odyssey Books, when I was offered a publishing contract with them.
"Be so good they can't ignore you." ~ Steve Martin.
Megan: Brilliant advice, Elizabeth. Is there anything else you would like to add?
Elizabeth: Only to say thank you for taking the time to find out about my writing life so far. And for liking my book!
Megan: My pleasure, Thanks for your time, Elizabeth.
Elizabeth: Thanks Megan.
Three fun facts about Elizabeth:
I’d love to own a cat, but I’m allergic, so I put them in my books instead!
One of my most prized possessions is my space pen, with which I can write upside down in bed. (Yes, I know I can use a pencil.)
A lot of my inspiration comes from nature, especially the ocean. I’ve always lived close by water.
About the Author
Elizabeth Foster read avidly as a child, but only discovered the joys of writing some years ago, when reading to her own kids reminded her of how much she missed getting lost in other worlds. Elizabeth lives in Sydney, where she can be found scribbling in cafés, indulging her love of both words and coffee. Esme’s Wish is her debut novel. Find out more about Elizabeth at www.elizabethfoster.com.au
For more information on blog tours at Books On Tour please visit www.justkidslit.com/books-on-tour.
Follow the tour:
Monday November 20 - Friday November 24
Thursday November 23
Megan Higginson - www.meganhigginson.com/blog
Friday November 24
Teena Raffa-Mulligan - www.teenaraffamulligan.com
When fifteen-year-old Esme Silver objects at her father’s wedding, her protest is dismissed as the impulsive action of a stubborn, selfish teenager. Everyone else has accepted the loss of Esme’s mother – so why can’t she? But Esme is suspicious. She is sure that others are covering up the real reason for her mother’s disappearance – that ‘lost at sea’ is code for something more terrible, something she has a right to know.
After Esme is accidentally swept into the enchanted world of Aeolia, the truth begins to unfold. With her newfound friends, Daniel and Lillian, Esme retraces her mother’s steps in the glittering canal city of Esperance, untangling the threads of Ariane’s double life. But the more Esme discovers about her mother, the more she questions whether she really knew her at all.
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Anne is chatting with me today about her new book series, Ori the Octopus. Her second book in the series is Ori’s Christmas.
Megan: Hi, Anne.
Anne: Hi Megan.
Megan: Well, let's get stuck into the interview, shall we?
Can you tell me a bit about your new book, Ori’s Christmas?
Anne: Having young children myself, I understand how difficult it is to get them to compromise most of the time. I decided to use this as a theme for a book. And given Christmas is a time when most kids get spoilt, that would be a good example of the perfect time to compromise.
Also, as with the first book in the series, Ori the Octopus, the book has actions in it, so children can participate in the story telling and the four craft pages in the middle can be pulled out to keep little hands busy for a little while.
Megan: So, you had a theme, and the Christmas season. I love hearing the stories behind the stories. How did you come up with the idea for a picture book series featuring a helpful Octopus? I mean, it could’ve been any creature.
Anne: The first book, Ori the Octopus, is about Ori helping his friends all at once. As he is using all of his legs he gets confused and drops everything. His friends see him sad, so they step in and they all do the tasks together. The original inspiration truth be told, was the multi-tasking busy mum. It grew from there into a story of friendship, helping others and teamwork.
Megan: The eternal wish of mothers that they had another pair of hands, or four.
Anne: Around the house when I'm being pulled this way and that I say "Hold on, I'm not Ori the Octopus!"
Megan: That’s hilarious!
Anne: Although other messages can be derived from Ori. Once I was reading at a library to a group of young kids and their mums. Afterwards one mum said to me that my book told her that we all need to ask for help sometimes. So, we all get messages even from a simple preschooler book!
Ori is also helpful in Ori's Christmas in that he plans the day's celebrations, but his friends figure out how to compromise so the day is enjoyed by all.
Megan: Your website is super interactive. It has videos of Ori the Octopus, free printable activity sheets which include colouring sheets, mazes, counting and matching sheets, drawings, and even some sea themed Christmas Carols. What was the idea behind your website?
Anne: I wanted free and safe entertainment for the younger children. I am aiming to be selling a book that is followed up with more...I call the activity sheets '5 minute fillers' - to give mum a break to hang the washing out or what not.
Also, the first book has cut out puppets in it. The kids can watch the puppet videos on my website then get inspired to make their own shows with the puppets from the book.
With the second book, there are loads of Christmas activities to do as you said, carols, cards, mazes etc.
Megan: That is amazing. I’m sure there be plenty of parents and teachers very happy with the activities, and I’m sure the kids would enjoy them.
Have you done any author visits?
Anne: Lots of author visits. I have done about 49 events for the first book and have just started with visits for the second.
Megan: Wow! That is a lot. What is the most gratifying thing about reading your books to children?
Anne: I do libraries, book shops, schools, and many preschools. Lots of fun -great fun - I love it. I get to act like a kid myself.
Megan: Any fun experiences you want to share?
Anne: Here is one of the funniest moments...at a preschool during book week. We stand up for the dancing. One boy is having a good look and then announces, "You're really short like my grandma" — priceless! You can't buy that humour and candidness.
Megan: That is so funny!
Anne: I also want to share one that is coming up and I am excited and nervous. When I arrived here from Malta my parents took us to live in Mt Druitt and I went to a local primary school there from year 2 to year 6. I have organised, through a not for profit org called Paint the town REaD to go and read at the school next month. I will read to the playgroup, then to kindy. They also want me to talk to the parents about what I experienced when I first came here, it wasn't all good and I think sharing it might reach someone.
Megan: I love how telling our stories can help other people.
So, you’ve self-published your two books. Why did you decide to go down the self-publishing route?
Anne: Self-publishing. Well, it is difficult to get trade published, no lie in that. I was really passionate about wanting to do this, text and ills. I read up for about a year then started to retrain and off I went!
Good and bad point of self-publishing. The worst problem is that your book doesn't always make it on that elusive shelf space. you have to work so much harder for that shelf space.
Megan: Why did you decide to illustrate the book yourself?
Anne: I love to draw! Always have. I have got some good feedback on the illustrations but I know my style will not fit all books. But for this series I think it fits well. Simple, cheerful, colourful characters, with faces that can easily portray emotions.
Megan: You’re on the right track. Illustrators have told me is that the illustrations need to show the character, emotion, movement, and to extend the words on the page.
What experience have you had in illustration? Did you learn as you went, or did you do a course?
Anne: I completed two illustrator courses, one on-line and one in town (Sydney). I also had to get some training in photoshop as I use that in my illustrations also. My illustrations are a mixture of painted objects and illustrator pictures.
Megan: What made you decide to do the courses and not just dive in and illustrate your books without doing the extra work? Considering you’ve always drawn.
Anne: I did at first. I painted the whole book but wasn’t happy with the result. So, I retrained and used a mixture — much happier with the results.
The illustrations definitely look better with the mixture of illustrator pics and painted, so after I did the course yes. But even then, I had to play around with it. I ended up having nine versions of Ori before I had one I liked. Now I've got loads of images I can play around with.
Megan: What are the most valuable lessons have you brought away from this experience?
Anne: The illustrations you mean or the whole getting a book out there?
Megan: The whole experience. You can break it down if you want.
Anne: I've learnt lots at every stage but the message I keep telling myself is — persevere and keep trying new things. If you fail, you will learn something.
My husband and I are both trying new careers right now. Before this I worked in health management and so did he. I am now writing books for kids and loving it and he is starting his own business in law. Even if we don't succeed, life is short, and you've got to try things while you can and, I figure we're being good role models for our kids.
Megan: So, Anne, what’s next for you? Is there another Ori book on the horizon?
Anne: Sure is - hopefully out for book week next year. This one is with another special message that is close to my heart — taking care of our environment. So, stay tuned.
Megan: Well, I think that about wraps it up. Thanks so much for your time today, Anne, and for participating in my 'In Conversation' series.
Anne: Thanks Megan - that was easy peasy lemon squeeze as Lola would say (of Charlie and Lola). Thank you for doing this interview. Bye!
Three fun facts about Anne — here they come… (drum roll).
1. Anne likes to do accents (see her Ori Octopus puppet videos) and impressions of famous and not-so-famous people.
2. Anne loves to dance. However, with the closing of her teen-hood night clubs and other responsibilities, Anne doesn’t get out dancing anymore. So, she struts her stuff at home in the living room, the study, and kitchen…anywhere there is space really.
3. Anne’s philosophy: “The best thing about having children is that it allows you to still act like a child yourself.” Examples: watching kid’s movies, going boogie boarding, fishing, ordering kid’s meals, lots of art and craft and generally acting silly.
Anne lives in Sydney with her husband and her two young children.
She has taught dance, been an entertainer at children’s parties, and she reads and teaches art and craft to children. She paints children’s canvasses and makes greeting cards.
Anne has been encouraged to share her story-telling, her illustrations and her creativity resulting in her Ori the Octopus series. The first book Ori the Octopus is closely followed by Ori’s Christmas, both released in 2017.
Website: Anne Donnelly.com
Facebook: Anne Donnelly
Ori’s book blog tour:
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An Australian author, multi-award winning singer/songwriter and musician, a mother, a wife, and a grandmother.
‘The two most important days in your life are the day you are born, and the day you find out why.’ Mark Twain
‘Like the bobo doll is weighted to enable it to bounce back up, understanding my ‘why’ is what weighted me and enabled me to rise after every fall. I’m not saying it was easy, but it gave me strength to keep going.’ Daniel Flynn (Co-founder, Thankyou TM – from his book, You Have the Power to Change Stuff – Chapter One
‘When you discover your Why? it opens the doors to also discover your Who? What? and How? Who am I? What am I meant to do in this world? And How am I going to go about it?’ Merelyn Carter
We wander around in life searching for our place – how do we fit in, what are we supposed to do with our lives, what is the point of our existence – ultimately, we ask ourselves, ‘Why are we here?’
Even when we get some sense of the bigger picture — why we are here, what life is all about, how some things work in the universe, we can falter on the day to day purpose. Finding our why to all facets of life, both big and small, propels us forward to really living. Living with purpose, having the courage to face the difficulties, seeing the sense in the circumstances of our lives, finding meaning in the darkest times, rising above the hopelessness and greed that permeate so many of the decisions being made in the world. Knowing what’s your why, is a key to living life in abundance.
‘The key to abundance is meeting limited circumstances with unlimited thoughts.” Marianne Williamson
We need to lose our victim mentality.
Being a victim gives us an excuse to procrastinate and avoid finding our purpose.
Being a victim allows us to blame others for our misery and not take responsibility for our own happiness.
Being a victim stops us from finding our Why?
I can honestly say I have found true, deep, and lasting peace, joy, and love.
That’s a pretty big call, but it is true.
My life experiences and situations have shown me that knowing true peace, joy and love is utterly a matter of perspective. It’s about how you view the situations that you are in, owning your own decisions to get you to that place and seeing the bigger picture. Does this mean I never feel sad? Does it mean I haven’t known loneliness or never feel alone now? Does it mean that I am happy, ‘together’, sailing through life with ease – all the time? No.
Do I ever get frustrated, agitated, angry? Yes. Do I have to face my fears? Yes. Do I get tired of the stupidity that is so inherent in human nature? Yes.
Do I have a firm belief to bring me back to moving forward? Yes. It is knowing ‘What’s My Why?’
It is about having an inner belief system that supports the peace, joy, and love. It’s about knowing strategies to help us live through and rise above the hard times, gaining perspective as to the bigger purpose of our lives.
Megan's two cents...
Knowing your why is so important to gaining focus in your life, no matter what you are doing. If you are feeling lost and want to find out more, please check out my blog post on, How to Know Your Why, over on Just Write For Kids.
More about Merelyn:
Her love for the creative, and her desire to connect with others has led her to tell her story through her autobiography ‘The Deepest Part of Me’, encourage and motivate through her book ‘Inspire’ and tell her stories in song with her husband David through their music as ‘Carter & Carter’ (www.carterandcarter.com.au).
Writing stories for her children and grandchildren has led to the teaming up with IPPY award winning Illustrator Ester de Boer to create her latest gloriously illustrated children’s book ‘To the Moon and Back. Grandma’s Rocket Ship Adventure’. Merelyn and David live in Kinglake, Victoria, Australia on a small farm with 60 animals. Faith, family, and friendship are her life priorities, bringing together people and communities to share the journey of life.
To the Moon and Back
Grandma's Rocket Ship Adventure.
A gloriously illustrated children's book celebrating the relationship between a grandparent and child that explores imaginative storytelling and celebrates the extended family relationship. Be transported on an adventure to the moon on Grandma's Rocket Ship. It's a wild ride. Collect rainbow moon dust and search for the elusive man on the moon.
We can empower ourselves to live to our full potential simply by knowing who we really are…
The Deepest Part of Me
Every now and then someone takes the chance to reveal the deepest part of their soul to the world. Taking away the masks, barriers, and filters, removing the fear of not being liked. Opening their heart and allowing themselves to be vulnerable. Giving of themselves without regret, all with the hope of reaching out to other hearts and souls and making a difference. Merelyn Carter is one such person with her book, The Deepest Part of Me.
For all book and music go to http://carterandcarter.com.au/books.html or call 0416 075 638
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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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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
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You can find more about me, and read my children's stories at Creative Kids Tales
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