Adam Wallace likes to march to the beat of his own drum. Hilariously funny, I managed to get him serious for a few heartbeats.
Megan: Hellooooo, Adam. Are you there?
Adam: Ready when you are!
Megan: Let's dive right on in, shall we?
Adam: Let's do it!
Megan: In your life before writing fulltime, what did you do?
Adam: Haha! Wow! We really are straight into it!
Megan: Oh, yeah!
Adam: Okay, well, to cut a long story shortish sort of, I had about twenty jobs, but the main things after school were not writing for ten years and becoming an engineer! Yes, I am a numbers nerd! I did that for a while, then got a Primary Teaching Diploma of Education or grad dip, or dipping sauce, I don't know, something that let me teach, and then from there I morphed into writing children's books!
I must also warn you I am currently working on a book called Weird, so my answers may get a little crazy!
Megan: Thanks for the warning. I’m now prepared for the answer to my next question. How exactly did morphing from engineer to primary school teaching to children's book author look like?
Adam: Haha well I guess it was a cross between Mission Impossible and X-Men and the Incredible Hulk, who is my favourite Avenger, and I actually had a pair of Hulk jeans when I was a kid. I was missing the muscles, but I had the jeans.
Anyhoo, I would do a flow chart to show you, but don't know how, so basically, I was bored as an engineer, didn't have motivation to go further with it as a career, and wanted to work with kids, or play golf. I started writing and what came naturally was rhyming children's stories. I loooooooved it, and started writing every day.
And also bought The Artist's Way, which I recommend to everyone in the world, no matter what you do.
From there I went back to Uni and did my teaching degree, while still engineering, and on my rounds and in my assignments, I wrote and did rhymes and one assignment was to write and illustrate a kid's book, and I loved it. I put more into that than any assignment I had ever done, and I still have that book today! So that writing led to more writing and more submissions and many rejections and finally books!
That last sentence was 8 years in one sentence. And people say I waffle on!
Megan: I love The Artists Way by Julia Cameron. It was an essential part for me diving into the world of illustration. Julia has certainly made an impact across the globe in the wold of creativity. And it's that whole ripple effect too.
Adam: Yes, I love the ripple effect! The butterfly effect freaks me out a little, but the ripple effect is amazing. Especially in creative fields, where this leads to that leads to something else. Even with the book I am working on now, I will write something that will spark something else and suddenly I am doing things that never crossed my mind in the initial draft.
I think a creative career is like that as well. When you get started, things happen. If you sit around, nothing does.
“I think a creative career is like that as well.
Megan: I love how a spark can leads to another thing, and that leads to something unexpected and a complete surprise.
So, it took you eight years to break into the industry. And I noticed you’ve self-published, partner published, and traditionally published. Can you talk us through how you made the decision to self-publish, partner publish, and traditional publish? Was it depending on the individual book? Or were other factors involved?
Adam: Hmmmm. Okay. Well there are a few answers to this. I will try and not waffle ... mmmmm, waffles.
I initially self-published because I was working with kids and reading them my stories and was feeling confident they were liking them (except for the time I read a story to two kids and halfway through they got up and walked off!!!).
Megan: Kids don't try and be polite about how they feel about something. They tell you straight up. Honesty. Love it.
Adam: Definitely! And as creative people, yes men are no good to us at all! We need to know if something isn't working, or we can head down the wrong path for a long time. Not all advice is going to be right for what we want, but at least it needs to be honest.
Adam: However, publishers weren't as keen on the stories as the kids were, and I built up around 150 rejections over 5 years.
That helped me decide to self-publish to 1) Actually have a book rather than just hundreds of stories on my computer and 2) Show the publishers there was a market for these stories. So, I borrowed a little cash off Dad and got an illustrator - you may have heard of him ... Heath McKenzie? He's done some stuff since.
I printed 2000 copies of Better Out Than In and set about selling them. I sold the 2000 in around a year or so, which was awesome, and then I heard a whisper that a publisher was looking to start doing children's books. This was JoJo Publishing. I submitted, they accepted, and they offered me either a traditional or a partner publishing option. I went for Partner. We redid Better Out Than In, and then I did another 7 books with JoJo’s. It didn't end so well, but they really gave me a start when no one else would, and I am forever grateful to them for giving me that chance!
While all this was going on, I was still submitting to other publishers, but they weren't interested, so I also started self-publishing some little how to draw books, which went offfffff! They are now the backbone of my writing business, and so I continue to self-publish them because they are going so well. I have also done freelance books, basically pay for hire work, for Hinkler Books and now for Sourcebooks in the USA, which has also been amazing!
With traditional publishing, the choice to do that was made when Paul Collins at Ford St took me on, and again I am so grateful to him for that as well. I met Paul, and after a while he came to me with a style of book he wanted, and so I wrote and illustrated that for him and we were away!
Megan: You’ve certainly come a long way since your JoJo publishing days. Your book, How to Catch an Easter Bunny was read out at Trump’s first Easter Egg Roll in 2017. You’ve also hit the New York Best Seller list several times, and some of your books like, Spark, have received awards. Can you explain what these experiences were like?
Adam: Oh wow, all of those things were AMAZING and bizarre and exciting. Especially the Easter Egg Roll thing. I had no idea it had even happened, and to this day don't know how it did! I have had different reactions. The Easter thing was laughing and telling everyone, the bestseller list was so awesome and, in a way, a nice justification that I was on the right track.
For a long time, I had been told that my books only sold because I was selling them, so for these books to reach the Bestseller list without me doing anything aside from writing them was really nice and made me feel like I was actually writing books that worked, regardless of if I was there telling people about them and jumping around like a crazy person.
Spark was amazing. I actually burst into tears with that one, because it was dedicated to my grandmother, who was also a writer, and who actually had some of her stories illustrated by Mirka Moira! So, Spark was inspired by an experience I had with her, and was totally written for her and in a way with her, so for us to be recognised for our book together was incredible. And I can't thank Andrew Plant enough for his paintings/illustrations that brought the book to life.
Megan: I love Spark, and yes. The illustrations are so amazing and evocative, and to have Spark which is so important to you to be recognized in that way is fabulous. Did these accolades make your next manuscript easily accepted, or do you still get the odd rejection letter?
Adam: Haha! No! I get rejection letters still! What I have found is that the accolades give me more exposure, which is incredible, and so it gets a bit of a foot in the door and gets me out of the slush pile (sometimes). But the publishers still have to like what I write, and it still has to fit with their vision and mission. So, I still get rejections!
But rejections can also be opportunities! The How to Draw books, for example. They were rejected all around and have now sold over 70,000 copies! Or ones I did with JoJos that got rejected everywhere else, did really well and in fact are still going well now! So, it is definitely worth persisting, especially if you really love something you have written.
Megan: And that is what is comes down to, doesn’t it? Doing what you love. Believing in your work. And persisting. And you’ve certainly shown all that in bucket loads. There is so many ways to get your work out into the world now.
Adam: It totally comes down to that. I mean, sometimes we still have to take a look and realise that perhaps a certain piece of work just isn't good enough, but, also, sometimes a rejection doesn't mean that at all. It just means it either needs work or it isn't the right time or place for that story.
Megan: At KidLitVic-meet the publishers last year, you were described as the publishers’ author. You have the qualities as an author that they love to see. What qualities are they?
Adam: Oh, yes! That was a funny experience, and really nice and made me blush at the same time. Well, the things Paul was talking about at KidLit were the fact that I am prepared to put in the slog. The glory is great, but you have to do the slog, get out there and show kids your work, and let them get to know you as a person as well as a book making guy.
Social media and computer stuff is great, but for me face-to-face is the best! I do school visits and go to craft markets and look, to be honest, I love being with the kids, it gives me energy and inspiration, and I can fully be myself. Also, I think I am quick. I can write and draw quickly and with quality, so deadlines are very rarely an issue. I like to get my work in fast so that there is then time to work on it with the publisher and make it as awesome as possible for the kids, who are the only ones who matter in the end, I believe.
Megan: You are so right. We need to be able to stand back from our work and cast a critical eye over it and see if what they say has merit, and we need to put in the hard slog and persist.
And your comment about school visits is a nice segue into my next question. Besides writing disgustingly funny stories, you make visits to schools around Melbourne. You just said that you ‘love author visits because I love being with the kids, it gives me energy, and I can fully be myself."
What do you think makes your author visits memorable? And what advice would you give authors considering author visits?
Adam: I really want to ride on a Segway ... just sayin'.
Well, I think what makes my visits memorable are that I bring hiiiiiigh energy, and really try and engage with the kids. My visits have morphed like the Hulk over the years, and now I have found a nice mix that works well. There is a lot of interaction with the kids, they get to tell stories and use writing techniques that I use, and we also draw pictures and have lots of laughs.
And I think that probably the main thing is that what I do is fun, and it is achievable, and with kids, especially those who find reading, writing, and drawing a chore, or too hard, or think they can't do it, that is a massive key; letting them see they can have fun and come out of it with something they never thought they could achieve. It's awesome for them and it's awesome and a massive buzz for me as well.
In terms of advice for other authors, pretty much the biggest thing is be yourself. I jump around and get a little crazy and really try and wind up the kids, but if you aren’t someone that feels comfortable doing that sort of thing, don't do it! Be you! That is what should be coming across in your books, and also in your presentations, or workshops. If you are you, and comfortable in that, it will come across and that will relax the kids as well.
And the other thing would be to get the kids involved. Don't just get up and talk at them for an hour. I did that at the start and bored myself and the kids to tears.
Megan: I love doing author visits and having fun with the kids. I’m not a live wire like yourself. But, I think that if they can see you are passionate about what you do, they’ll catch that too. And I apparently get really fired up about story writing.
Adam: Haha! That is awesome!!! You getting fired up about it will get them fired up too ... maybe not all of them, but that's okay as well. And you're exactly right about the passion. Fun and energy can be all sorts of different things, it doesn't have to be right out there. Some people have props, some sing songs, some tell stories, some are passionate about writing, and some are really low key but the kids have a ball and love what they hear and do.
I think connecting with the kids is the key. Even fun without connection will bore them in the end.
"I think connecting with the kids is the key.
Megan: So true. Nearly finished, Adam.
I love hearing about the courageous acts of others. And I’m not talking about saving someone or being heroic. I’m talking about feeling afraid of doing something and doing it anyway. Do you have a personal story of courage? Something that you felt you had to do but felt so freaking afraid you thought you’d pee your pants, but you did it anyway.
Adam: Oh man, well there was the time I needed to pee my pants, and I was scared that if I did I would get into trouble, and then I did it anyway ... and I got into trouble. But aside from that!
Oh man, it happens all the time! In terms of physically, I have bungy jumped and done sky-diving and things like that which were terrifying. But there are also things like speaking in front of hundreds of people when I am naturally shy, or sending off my first story, or doing my first interview, or being open and honest even though I know it will cause conflict.
I get scared all the time, professionally and personally, but I love the saying that courage isn't the absence of fear, but feeling it and doing it anyway, and I try and live by that. I got a tattoo of the word YES, because I want to be someone who, even if they're scared, says YES and goes for it anyway.
Fear has its place, don't get me wrong, fear is a safety mechanism, but if it controls us and stops us doing what we love or being who we want to be, then we have to overcome it and say YES!
Megan: I agree with 100% with your statement, Adam. And I live by that motto too. ‘Courage is not the absence of fear but feeling it and doing it anyway.’ Here’s to saying, ‘YES!’
Megan: Finally, three fun facts about you.
Three Fun Facts about Adam:
Haha! Oh, wow, okay ...
Megan: Yay! Brilliant. Thanks so much for the chat today, Adam. You have been so generous with your time and sharing your experiences with others. It’s been a blast.
Adam: My pleasure, thanks so much for letting me play!
Just for fun:
Megan: One of my top posts for 2017 was 5 Ways Zombies Can Inspire You. Adam wrote the book, Zombie Inspiration, which I read and ultimately blogged about what I gained from that book. Check it out if you'd like, and be inspired to say, 'Yes!'
About Adam Wallace:
Adam Wallace is a New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author who writes children's books and sometimes really boring books for adults that he never shows to anyone. Ever. So don't ask.
Adam has had 45 books published, and he writes and draws every single day ... which is lucky, because he's an author and cartoonist, so writing and drawing is kind of important.
Adam dreams of a world where children read and write for pleasure, and where people never say, 'I can't draw.'
Places on the internet to find Adam:
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Though I did not have much to do with my Pop, and my Nan died when I was a baby, their art was always around, inspiring me that maybe someday I could do the same. My parents separated and later divorced when I was 13. And, as my father was violent, we had to go into hiding. Though in years later I did meet up with my dad and have a small amount to do with him, it was not a lot and he no longer was doing any art. He has since passed away.
My big breakthrough with both my art and my writing (which I thought I was all good with) came when I picked up a copy of, The Artists Way by Julia Cameron at the beginning of this year. It was first published in 1992 and, as Ali Stewart has so aptly put it in her recent blog post, Three Important Insights from The Artists Way, ‘with umpteen reprints, several spinoffs, and numerous nips, tucks, and facelifts, the perennial title continues to unstick stuck creatives.’ It has certainly unstuck me.
So, what was it that unstuck me and helped me overcome my fears? A lot of hard work and commitment for the full 12 weeks of The Artists Way program, and committed to stretching and challenging myself ever since, that’s what. Each week of The Artists Way program, especially at the beginning, you have to work through questions and activities to find what is keeping you stuck. I was amazed how the very act of WRITING an experience down and seeing it black and white could unblock something within. Do it! It will amaze, shock, and surprise you.
For me, it was a combination of having my classmates laugh at my stories. I was a shy kid with very poor self-esteem. Looking back now I can see that my stories were funny. At high school, I would write stories straight out of left field and have a totally different take on the assignment. This also caused my classmates to burst into laughter and for me to wish I could just sink into the floor and disappear.
My art was different. I had one great art teacher for three terms in year eight. But, the rest of the time my art teachers were interested in Abstract Art which I hated. I wanted to learn to draw and paint nature, people, and animals. As I said at the beginning, I couldn’t get past the ‘yuk’ stage. I didn’t know how.
About five years ago I got hold of Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards. This was my first breakthrough. Going through the exercises and then trying to draw later I was amazed at the difference. As you can see below, there is a remarkable distinction between the two drawings.
In The Artists Way there is a section of affirmations. One spoke to me and has made one of the biggest impacts. I can nurture my artist. Up to this point, because I felt my artwork was no good, I didn’t need to invest time and/or money on courses or good materials. Oh. My. Goodness. The change that happened when I gave myself permission to invest in good quality paints, paint brushes, paper, liners, as well as online courses was incredible.
So, what did I do after The Artists Way?
I drew. I painted. I continued to take myself on Artists Dates. I spoke with illustrators like Giuseppe Poli and Katrin Dreiling and picked their brains. You can read what they told me here and here. With Giuseppe’s encouragement, I joined the 52 Week Facebook Illustration Challenge and started putting up my work online, not just in that group but everywhere on my social media pages.
My illustrations aren’t great. But, the very act of having to come up with a new piece every week is a wonderful discipline. These were my Artist Dates as well as going to the art store for art supplies. And I can see the improvement already. I often sit in amazement of what I just completed. I also signed up with Skillshare and started taking Nina Rycroft’s illustration courses, as well as any other courses that I felt could help me learn how to use the different mediums.
For me, putting up my art on public display is about conquering my fear of not being good enough and feeling afraid of never measuring up. I have changed my thinking. I no longer compare myself to my friend Ester, who is an amazing artist, and an incredible illustrator. Nor do I compare me to anyone else. I am me. I look at the world differently to anyone else. I am discovering my own style. And, most of all, I am having fun. I experiment all the time. I now compare myself to myself and how far I have come in such a short time.
And do you know what has surprised me the most? This release, this freedom I have found in my art has found its way into my writing. I play with words. I have fun with them. I have fun in my stories. I especially noticed this in the Sci-fi/fantasy novel I just finished. I had an absolutely thrilling time writing the last part of my novel. Each time I sat down I felt exhilarated.
As for my art, I have signed up to take Nina Rycroft’s illustration Masterclass e-course. And my friend Ester is taking it with me. We’ll be doing it together. How cool is that?
So, what about you? What can you do to become all that you can be and start understanding your fears, overcome those that hold your back?
- Identify your fear and have a good look at it. Is what you afraid of going to hurt you, or put you into danger? If yes, I can’t help you and you need more than this blog post can provide. (I’m not making light of your situation. I’ve been there.) If the answer is no…please continue.
- Write down where you think these fears stem from. It could be a childhood incident. It could be more than one and is still impacting you today.
- Work through that incident. What did you think and feel about it at the time? What was really true about it? How do you feel about it today? Write it all down.
- What can you do to challenge yourself creatively to get yourself out of your comfort zone, and also, what can you do to play? Then go ahead and do it!
- Do something new each week. Or it could be the same activity but stretch yourself a little more all the time. For example, the first week you may go to an art store and buy yourself some art supplies. (Or it could be the $2 shop depending on budget). The next week you could actually draw and paint. The next week you could watch a YouTube clip and try out some of the painting or drawing techniques. Or you could check out your local Neighbourhood Learning Centre and learn rope art, or glass blowing, or sculpture.
- Ooo. Did I say play and have some fun.
- Put your work out there. You never know where it can lead.
Valerie Khoo is now getting commissions for her rope art AND her artworks. Katrin Dreiling has just had her first book come out. It’s written by Michelle Worthington and illustrated by her. It's called, The World's Worst Pirate.
As for me, people are liking my illustrations and watching my journey. One day, I will realise my dream and write and illustrate my own picture book.
You can find out more about Julia Cameron and her book: The Artists Way
Betty Edwards has a website. Find out more here and read her book and do the exercises. It’s amazing.
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.
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
Megan: Hi, Katrin. I just wanted to say that I am so pleased to have found you on social media. I think I first saw your illustrations on Facebook. I love your quirky, fun style. And I am rapt to have met you in person at KidLitVic2017 this year too.
Katrin: Oh, wow thank you Megan I'm very happy I have met you personally and online, too. It's always fantastic to meet the people behind their profile pics in real life...
Megan: So true. So, maybe we should start at the beginning, as that is always a good place to start.
Has art always been an influence in your life? If so, in what way?
Katrin: It certainly has. Since I was really little I would always draw or craft things. I have always been very interested in music, too. Not so much making music myself but listening to it and trying to understand the musician's mind and his/her work.
Megan: I have been reading your blog. In your first post, Eins, you shared briefly about your childhood and teen years. Would you share just a little bit with me, and what has helped you overcome your fears of following your dreams?
The wounds of such abuse last for a life time, though. To various degrees. I also stepped away from that past in a big way when I met my husband who helped me become 'myself' again. But it still took me a long time to come back to art because in my mind I still listened to what my parents wanted.
Megan: I can understand that, especially the emotional and psychological abuse. It can take a lifetime to change your thinking, and is certainly a work in progress. What would you say was the catalyst, the reason that you turned to art again as an adult?
Katrin: So, it was always there but very much in the background. My children then brought me back to it and my husband encouraged me to keep going.
Megan: It is wonderful that you have had the support of your husband. It is so important to have a cheer squad cheering you on and encouraging you. I read on your blog that you were a teacher. What made you give up teaching and go into illustration?
Megan: Woah! That sounds full on.
Katrin: Interestingly enough the money that I earned as a teacher versus the complete lack thereof in illustrating didn't stop me. It's an import message to my children, too, I think. My husband had the same idea unfortunately. Just around the same time when I stopped working actively as a teacher, he quit his job as a university professor and founded a tech startup. It's going well and somewhere, but in the middle of it all we sometimes look at each other and think we are completely nuts—with three children, a dog and a mortgage.
Katrin: We still like to think that we inspire our children… even if finances are tight sometimes.
Megan: I don't think that there is anything wrong with that. In fact, it might teach them something about what it takes to follow your dreams, do what you are good at, and what fulfills you.
So, at some point you decided to go into illustration. What was the first thing you did?
Katrin: Do you mean career step wise or the kind of illustration I focused on first?
Megan: Good point. They are both different. Let's take your second question as I was going to ask you about the style of illustration you do. I love it. How did that come about? And did it come about before you decided to make illustration your career?
So, I've always had this thing that I would 'outline' things I drew first with a black pen. It's still how I work mostly. I use ink fine liners for outlining and then I fill it with any kind of paint or even (digitally) with paper collages.
When I was young, art teachers at school, or especially an 'artsy' friend of mine back then tried to convince me it looked 'wrong' and that in reality things are not outlined like that.
They only made me more stubborn I think.
I admire everyone who can draw things realistically so that it looks like a copy. But it's not for me. If I wanted that I would use a camera. I'm interested in the things one cannot see and that tickle a child's imagination. The results are often wonky and quirky but I'm working on this idea and hope that it will be obvious to see and get better every day.
Megan: I'm with you on that point. Realism is amazing, and I also admire people who can do that. But, I'm the same mind when it comes to illustration. I like how you say that you are, 'Interested in the things one cannot see, and that tickle a child's imagination.' Beautiful. Okay, I've said this a few times, but I do like your style. It makes me feel like I don't have to be perfect and realistic in developing my own style. I can make things a little wonky, a bit different. You have inspired me.
Katrin: Yay! (Cheering Minion)
Megan: So, what was the first step you took in making illustration your career?
Katrin: First, I've created a picture book 'on the side' while still teaching. It's called 'How to get a fat fairy flying' and I self-published it. I think the 'true' moment of making it a career, though, was stepping into the 'public' with my work - posting it on Facebook and joining the Brisbane Illustrators Group. Both set a machinery of things into motion. You meet people and hear and learn things and everything just 'grows'.
Megan: That's true. It's not something you can do alone.
'I'm interested in the things one cannot see and that tickle a child's imagination.' Katrin Dreiling
Katrin: Then I started going to conferences. I did the CYA competition and won second place in 2015....I think? (I'm so bad with dates and numbers).
Megan: Wow! Congrats on the win. Conferences are great for connecting with others. You have illustrated a book written by Michelle Worthington, The World's Worst Pirate. Can you tell me how that came about?
Katrin: I met Kathy Creamer and later on her husband Peter on Facebook. They run Little Pink Dog Books and Kathy approached me about submissions for their brand new publishing business. They were also my first ever clients who bought an original art piece from me and I really appreciate all their support and that they believed in my work from an early stage on.
Megan: That is so wonderful. Your experience really shows the importance of getting to know others in the industry and getting your work out there.
Is there anything else that you'd like to add? What advice do you have for an emerging illustrator, such as myself?
Katrin: I think the most important thing is that your illustrations 'tell' something that goes beyond just the visual. Have a message. The rest will follow
(I hope this made sense...)
Megan: Can you elaborate? Do you mean that each illustration tells a story?
Katrin: Ideally illustrations in a picture book don't just show what's in the text but tell their own little tale. They also carry an emotion and atmosphere that adds to the story told. At least that's the kind of illustrations I always go back to when I look at picture books.
Megan:That is what I have learnt too. Thank you so much for your time today, Katrin. I think that about wraps it up.
Katrin: It was a pleasure Megan Thank you for the opportunity to talk about my work!
Three Fun Facts about Katrin:
1. I'm scared of birds. If they swoop me or come too close to my head it sets off a ridiculous presentation of running, screaming, and arm-waving...
2. I can't get enough of watching Golden Retriever puppy videos.
3. I love to recycle art supplies and use the tiniest scrap of leftover paper for my work.
If you want to find out more about Katrin, or would like to follow her on social media, head over to her website. www,katrindreiling.com
Guest blogger Pamela Ueckerman
Pamela Ueckerman grew up as much in Avonlea, Middle Earth and Narnia as she did in England. She also had a love affair with Spike Milligan’s limericks. She now lives in Melbourne and is the mother of two boys. Pamela teaches creative dance and writes stories that are infused with the magic of childhood.
The networking was priceless and the panels very informative. The 15-minute one-on-one assessment that I booked was worth every dollar and every minute of stress trying to decide what to submit. I didn’t book myself into any of the workshops this year as I wanted to attend the panels, but I intend to next year.
If you missed out on a ticket, do get yourself one next year as nothing can compare with being there. But, for those that did miss out and would love a taste of what we learned, here are some of the most interesting points that I took away from the panels.
Forgive me for this being quite author-focussed, it’s what I do, and remember that these are the views of a small selection of publishers and editors; in some cases, it’s one person’s opinion.
- Publishers encourage authors and illustrators to send their manuscripts to multiple publishers at a time. Do your research and send it to as many publishers as you can who are open and would suit your manuscript. Be upfront - mention that you’re submitting to multiple publishers in the cover letter and let them know if you get picked up. However…
- They publish very few manuscripts from the slush pile. For one publisher, it was one in three years, another said 1%, another smaller publisher had published none. So, if you want to increase your chances of getting a foot in the door you need to network, network, network. Publishers and agents are happy to take submissions from people they’ve assessed at events.
- If that doesn’t discourage you from submitting unsolicited queries, know your publisher, and show this in your cover letter. Mention that you’ve looked at their website or that your book would sit nicely in their list, for example. Also, submitting a storyboard might help as it shows commitment and understanding of the industry
- If you want to pitch a series, submit the first book along with outlines for subsequent books as well as a timeline for how long those books can be complete by
- Be diverse… But not for the sake of being diverse. This was discussed in all panels. Don’t default to a specific gender or race, but also don’t include token diverse characters by stereotyping,
- Challenge assumptions – of gender norms, race, etc. Not all boys hate pink, for example.
- For picture books: the market is oversaturated with Australian animals/Australiana and grandparent stories (according to some publishers)
- Rhyming books – they love them, just be really good at it.
- Specialist knowledge can help (for example scientists)
- Don’t think about book categories while writing, this is for the publishers and booksellers to decide. However, do think about the age of your protagonist, kids want to read up (usually two years older)
- Publishers want to nurture the careers of authors, this was unanimous. So, be professional at all times, don’t burn bridges.
- Don’t worry about celebrity books, publishers set aside a few spaces for these each year and their higher sales provide more money for nurturing career authors.
- Every kids’ book needs “heart, smart and fart” (grin). Children want to be challenged, they want to connect and they love to laugh
- Illustrators should demonstrate that they can draw people - from different angles and with different expressions. The eyes are important for an emotional connection.
- Bestsellers can suck the oxygen out of that type of book, publishers and booksellers are reluctant to publish more of the same for a while.
- And finally, the most important point that the panel members were unanimous on is that authors need to write authentically, with strong characters and voice.
I highly recommend to all aspiring and emerging authors and illustrators to book a ticket to next year’s event and fully immerse yourself in it.
From an organiser's perspective: The KidLitVic 2017- Meet the Publishers Conference Wrap-Up by Nicky Johnson
Tania McCartney gives her view of KidLit, along with what she is up too on her blog, Works-in-progress, KidLitVic and Crystal Kite!
Romi Sharp reflects on her experiences on her blog, KidLitVic2017 Reflections
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On my blog you will find:
I'm passionate about helping people overcome their fears and live courageously.
I love to share as I learn.
I have dyslexia.
I share what it is like living with a chronic illness, Fibromyalgia, and learning to live in the moment and enjoy my life.
There are writing tips from my Writers' Group, Dribbles and Scribbles, as well as short stories that my friends and I have written.
I am a qualified Youth Worker and Education Support Worker. I am an Associate Member of the Australian Society of Authors, and a member of Writer's Victoria.
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Raymund And The Fear Monster
The content on this website and blog is information only and the author is not liable for what you, the reader, do (or not do) with that information.