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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Today I'm chatting with Melissa Gijsbers, single mum of two chronically ill teenage boys, Melissa has crowdfunded, and self-published two books, and her new book, Lizzy’s Dragon was recently released with Stone Table Books.
Megan: Hello Melissa.
Megan: I have watched your journey for the last couple of years and have been blown away by your tenacity in the face of so many obstacles. However, even though times have been tough, you haven’t given up on your dreams of writing and publishing your books.
Can you share a little about your journey as a writer, and how being a single parent with two chronically ill teenage boys have impacted your writing journey?
Melissa: I have always loved writing. It's something that I could do that I was good at, that was mine. My siblings are very musical, and were heavily involved when we were teenagers, but it wasn't my thing. When I was in high school, I won some writing awards, but being an author wasn't considered an 'acceptable' career path and I was encouraged to look at other things.
Life got in the way for a while - I ran my own business for over 9 years, and was a blogger since before it was popular, so I still wrote, but not creative writing.
When my youngest son turned 7, I was told I had to return to work, so I closed down my business, and discovered creative writing again.
In 2012, I joined the 12x12 in 12 and Chapter Book Challenges, and things have gone from there. Through the Chapter Book Challenge, I discovered that I really like writing in that format.
Four years ago, my younger son came down with Glandular Fever, and that turned into Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, last Easter, my older son was diagnosed with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome.
It's a hard road, but many things we've been through have sparked ideas for stories, though when things are really hard, it gets overwhelming, and sometimes it can be hard finding the energy to write.
I've been a single parent for nearly 12 years now, and I often go away to my favourite cafe and spend a blissful couple of hours writing, but I haven't been able to do that lately with my older son in and out of hospital.
Although we do have a reputation around the hospital, all the staff ask me how my latest book is going.
Megan: That is amazing. You’re single. You work. You're looking after your teenage boys, taking them to hospital and doctors’ visits, and you also run writing workshops for kids.
How do you find time to write, besides the blissful couple of hours here and there?
Melissa: I do my best to fit it in around everything! I carry my iPad with me most of the time so I can add to stories when I have a minute. I have found the Scrivener app useful for writing snippets. I also have a notebook with me at all times so I can jot down things if an idea hits me.
For editing, I print out my manuscript and carry it with me so I can edit on the go rather than having to make sure I have my laptop or iPad with me
Megan: Wow! You certainly make sure that you make the most of every minute that you possibly can.
You’ve self-published two books. Where did the ideas come from for those books?
Melissa: The first book, Swallow Me Now, came about because my kids were being bullied, and they wanted a story that had a realistic ending, rather than one where the bully and victim become best friends, or the bully magically goes to another school. It's based on experiences I had as a missionary kid struggling to fit in, and experiences my kids had of being bullied.
The second book, 321 Done, was inspired by something my son did. My older son is a speedcuber, this means he solves the Rubik's cube very, very fast. Shortly after his brother was diagnosed with ME/CFS, he did a fundraiser at his school to raise money and awareness about ME/CFS to see how many times he could solve a cube in half an hour. This book is a fictionalised version of this event.
Megan: I’ve seen your older son solve those cubes. His fingers are like speed lightening. How have the books been received? And has anything about that surprised you?
Melissa: The books have been well received. The biggest surprise is how many parents & kids have told me how much the books have helped them - they have enjoyed the strategies for bullying in Swallow Me Now.
And how much the cubing community has embraced 321 Done - it was the first book that features a speedcuber that has been published.
The biggest surprise with my books is how much people are enjoying my story.
Megan: It must feel wonderful for your books to have been so well received. Especially all the hard work you put into it, as you also crowdfunded to get them published too.
So, what has kept you following your dreams despite the difficulties?
Melissa: Writing is something I feel I have to do. It's something that excites me. Sharing my love of writing and books gives me a buzz. In the midst of all the difficulties, it's something that feeds me.
I often have people ask what I'm doing to look after myself, I reply that I write. They often look at me as if I'm crazy, but it's what I do!
Megan: I totally get it.
Melissa: So many people don't!
Megan: You also have a new blog, Diary of a Chronic Mum. Can you tell me about it, and why you started that blog?
Melissa: I started it so that we could follow our own journey and see how far we've come, as well as sharing some of the strategies we use to cope.
I hope that it will help others in a similar situation, as well as being a way to help me cope - writing about it all!
Sometimes, in the midst of a difficult situation, you forget about how much things change and how far you’ve actually come.
Megan: So very true. It’s really wonderful that you can use your own experiences to help others.
You have a new book coming out, Lizzy’s Dragon with Stone Table Books. Can you share how that opportunity came about?
Melissa: That came about as a result of a friend reading Swallow Me Now! He got a job as an editor at Stone Table Books and they were looking for middle grade books and he asked if I wrote fantasy. I said I'd give it a go. We came up with the idea for a water breathing dragon and the rest, as they say, is history!
Megan: I love the fact that this opportunity came about because of a book you had self-published, and your friend was able to get a taste of writing style, and like it enough to ask you to write for them.
So, tell me. What is Lizzy’s Dragon about?
Melissa: Lizzy is a girl who really loves reptiles and wants a lizard as a pet, her parents won't let her. Her annoying little brother, Joey, seems to get what he wants! One day, she finds a strange looking egg. When it hatches, Lizzy finds the most unusual lizard she has ever seen.
Megan: Sounds fantastic. Where is Lizzy’s Dragon set?
Melissa: Somewhere in country Australia during a drought. There is no town name mentioned, so it could be anywhere.
Megan: So many fantasy stories are set overseas in places like England and Scotland. Why did you pick Australia for the setting?
Melissa: When we came up with the idea for a water dragon, we thought of bushfires! I lived in country Victoria during the 1983 Ash Wednesday fires and my Dad was a forester and fought the fires. It's something I was familiar with, so setting in Australia was an obvious choice for this book. Plus, as you say, there aren't many fantasy stories set in Australia.
Megan: So, it sounds like you worked closely with the editor on this book. How was that experience compared to writing your previous books and having total control over the end product?
Melissa: I really enjoyed the process. I find I do my best work when I'm working closely with an editor. The publisher found an amazing illustrator who brought my words to life.
Megan: A good editor is wonderful. They really do help you bring your story into a whole other realm don’t they?
Melissa: They do. They are able to see things that I missed, and help to turn a good story into an amazing story.
Megan: Do you have any current projects you are working on?
Melissa: My 4 year old nephew has asked me to write him a story about a boy and a unicorn! I am also working on a couple of stories for adults, not sure if they will be novels or novellas.
It's fun playing around with different formats and genre.
Megan: It certainly is. I love just writing whatever story comes in my head. I think about the audience when I rewrite.
Well, it sounds like you have plenty of stories to be working on. I look forward to seeing what you come up with. Good luck on the launch of Lizzy’s Dragon.
When and where will Lizzy’s Dragon be available?
Melissa: Lizzy's Dragon is available now through Stone Table Books and on Amazon, or request your favourite bookshop or library stock it.
Megan: That sounds great. Well, I think that about wraps it up. Did you have anything else you want to add?
Melissa: For anyone who thinks they don't have time - if writing is what you really want to do, then go for it. Even if you can only get the occasional 10 minutes here or there. You don't have to write for hours every day to be an author. I don't, and I'm making my dreams come true.
Megan: And that is the crux of it. No excuses! Just go for your dreams and make everything that seems like an obstacle and opportunity. An opportunity for growth.
Thank you so much for your time today, Melissa. I'm sure that your story will inspire a lot of people.
Melissa: Thank you for the interview and the opportunity.
Three fun Facts about Melissa:
Melissa Gijsbers lives in the South Eastern suburbs of Melbourne with her two teenage sons and their pet blue tongue lizard. She is an avid reader and writer and runs a group for writers at her local library. She currently has three books available for purchase and is looking forward to adding to this list. You can find out more about Melissa at www.melissagijsbers.com and www.melissawrites.com.au
Follow the blog tour:
Just Write For Kids: Character Q & A: Interview with Lizzy's Dragon, Bubbles.
Tales to Tell Me: Lizzy’s Dragon by Melissa Gijsbers.
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by Ester de Boer
Children's picture book illustrator. I also drink copious amounts of tea, and eat chocolate.
Do you want a writer's group activity with a difference? An activity that will stretch you in ways you wouldn't believe? Then you may want to try this interesting, and fun activity that will have you painting, and then writing with music.
Recently I ran a weekend art workshop in Canberra in which I used a synesthetic (Synesthesia) approach to teaching the elements of drawing through responding to sound.
Since our little writers’ huddle is on the artsy side I thought I would adapt it to the art of the written word.
We warmed up with some basic drawing and painting exercises and experiments, and I scattered a variety of art materials all over the table for us to choose from, and yes it was merry chaos!
Those of you who know a bit about art history would be familiar with Kandinsky. He was a Russian painter who is credited as having produced some of the first truly abstract paintings. One of the inspirations for the way he painted was an amazing ability called synaesthesia: Kandinsky could actually hear the colours he painted with!
It’s an enviable gift for any artist, but I think we all have a bit of it, and it comes out in our everyday expressions, for example “Feeling blue”, “black humour”, “green with envy” or “white noise” for the colours. Or how about texture, with expressions like “gravelly” or “velvety” to describe a voice?
I selected four different pieces of music, each with very different mood, texture, variations of dynamic and pitch, and we responded to each piece visually, describing the sounds into visual representations.
After sharing our artworks, I replayed the four pieces. This time, we responded both to the music and our visual representations through any kind of short, free-form writing.
Just as music and art have texture, rhythm, pitch/tone and tempo, so does writing. What was very interesting was how writing in direct response to music actually influenced our individual writing styles.
(To make this work properly, it’s important not to be given information about the music, use music with recognisable words or be able to see any video clips as they can obviously influence the outcome. The only recognisable piece is Flight of the Bumblebee, but I am happy to say that none of us drew a beehive!)
Stomp break dance with me
Boom! BANG! explode collide
Whiiiirl… BANG! fly……. land
c-runch—lift, glide… drop
Dancing. Joyful carousing.
Off to the markets.
Full of life. Laughter.
Slowly the day ends.
The sun sets into the horizon.
Ready for a new day.
Silken smoke drifts through the lattice, twists and writhes in the perfumed air… Its phantom fingers reach across the empty room and,
As we touch, it grasps, encircles around like cords,
Impossible to unbind.
Sadness. Love is lost.
All is lost.
There is no hope.
All is gone.
The voices all tell me
it is all gone.
But is it really?
I’m more determined to
live for life, for life
Each day slips by.
How will we live it?
Lose a day?
Gain some life?
Like a leaf blowing in the wind
blown by the storms of life?
Or rising like an eagle
to fly far above
Upon the pond, plipipipipop!
Spit! Spat! Raindrops drip-drop... dripipipipip!
Making puddles that splip and splap!
Drip. Drip. Pelting helter skelter.
Ssssshht-t BEEP Spaceport 9 canyouhearmeoverandout BEEP… ssshhhhht -t-t cracklesshhhhhtt-t-t-t. . … . . … .no noise. . . . U N K N O W N w h i t e r o u n d m e s s a g e .. . . number 9 receiving…. re ceiving… . re ceding. . .. . re ce d i n g … into the white round void that is s i I e n c e… silent .. sssilent over-over-over-over and out.
A cold fist in my belly.
Fear traces its icy fingers down my back.
It says, ‘I will get you!’
Safe? Am I?
This thing is pursuing me.
Will I get away…this time?
Long arms reach for me.
The thing I feared the most.
Megan's Two Cents
I found this a fascinating exercise to do. I was amazed at who much the music influenced what we painted, and not only what we wrote, but the language, the tempo, even the theme.
Let me know if you give this a try and how you go.
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I’m excited to welcome Cameron Macintosh to my blog today on his book blog tour for his new book series, Max Booth Future Sleuth.
Cameron Macintosh was born in Melbourne and has lived there ever since, apart from overseas backpacking jaunts whenever he’s been able to fund them. He studied Psychology and Italian at Melbourne University, and Professional Writing at RMIT. Worried that no one would ever publish any of his own books, he became an editor so that he could interfere with the books of others.
Then, in 2008, a lovely publisher asked him to write a book about the Beaconsfield mine disaster. This was an excellent introduction to professional writing.
Since then, he has written more than 80 books for primary and early secondary students. He has also honed hundreds of books for teachers and students in his other life as an editor for high quality educational publishers. In the few minutes per week that he isn’t wrestling with words on the laptop, he loves singing and playing the guitar, and reading music biographies.
Cameron: Good morning Megan!
Megan: How are you today? Are you ready to be interrogated...? I mean interviewed?
Cameron: Thanks very much for making the time to chat - I hope I'll have a few brain cells working - anything could happen.
Megan: Hehe. We shall soon see. It should certainly make things interesting. Let's begin.
You have more than 80 titles in print throughout the world, which is incredible. I’m keen to hear what your journey into publication looks like.
Cameron: Thanks Megan, it’s been a long journey and I definitely took the scenic route! Like most aspiring authors, I have a ream of rejection letters and emails to prove it. But I finally got a break into publishing by doing a work placement for an educational publisher – doing proofreading and photocopying (mostly photocopying, truth be told!)
But… they were wonderful people and they eventually gave me a job as an editor, which I used to worm my way into authoring books for the educational market. And now the Max Booth books are my first foray into mainstream publishing, which is extremely exciting.
Megan: Was this after you did the Creative Writing course at RMIT?
Cameron: That's right - I actually did the work placement as a unit of the RMIT course. I'd really recommend aspiring authors and editors take any chance they can to do work placements. The personal contacts and experiences have made a huge difference. Although of course there are so many other interesting paths to publication - that one just happened to be a great springboard for me.
Megan: That must have been an amazing opportunity that has certainly lead to many open doors for you, and it must have given you a lot of insight into the publishing industry. I read that one of your first books was to cover the Beaconsfield Mine disaster. How did you go about researching and writing it?
Cameron: That was a really interesting and challenging first commission. The publisher wanted as much of it as possible to be based on primary sources and media coverage from the time of the incident, which allowed me to weave in a lot of authentic detail. But I felt the need, very strongly, to tread very carefully, as so many lives were impacted by the disaster and are still living with its aftereffects today.
Megan: That must have been difficult, and you achieved it. What are some of the lessons you learned while researching and writing that particular book that has helped you since?
Cameron: In terms of the research, I definitely took away a strong message about the need to double- and triple-check sources when writing non-fiction! And to do my utmost to respect the people who are being written about.
As far as writing goes, that was my first experience of writing to a strict brief - which is standard in educational publishing - and to leave any hints of ego on the doormat. The goal in that situation is to give the publisher what they need, and that usually means producing a manuscript that will sit neatly alongside other books in the same series.
More broadly though, it was a very practical way to learn the value of drafting and redrafting. I still have the ream of paper I went through to get that manuscript in order!
Megan: You really took many valuable lessons away from that experience.
So, you got your publishing break writing for the education market. You have written a lot for them. What is it like? For instance, do you choose the subjects that you write about? Or do you get a brief?
Cameron: I really enjoy the educational writing. It's very much brief-driven, but all of the publishers I've worked with have been fantastic in their willingness to allow as much creative input as possible.
I've definitely noticed some big differences between fiction and non-fiction commissions. With fiction, usually I've been asked to come up with my own story idea, but one that works with a particular theme or area of study. The trickiest parameter to deal with is the levelling - trying to stick to word lists and sentence lengths without suffocating the story!
Non-fiction tends to be more prescriptive - the publisher will usually have a very specific idea about what they need from the manuscript - often with a bookmap - and I'll mostly be fleshing it out and trying to find interesting details to add. Both present their challenges but it's a fantastic industry to be a part of.
Megan: That is really fascinating.
You have a book that came out in July this year, Max Booth Future Sleuth: Book 1 - Tape Escape. It’s been illustrated by Dave Atze and is published by Big Sky Publishing. Can you give me a little spiel has to what the story is about?
Cameron: Certainly! The premise of the story is that it’s the year 2424, in a city called Bluggsville. Our hero Max is an 11 year-old street kid who sleeps in a packing case in the city museum’s storeroom. He survives by identifying ancient artefacts that the museum staff haven’t been able to identify themselves, and gets paid some pocket money for each artefact he identifies.
The objects he identifies are from the 20th and 21st centuries – things that the reader would know about but that are now mysterious to people in the year 2424. In Tape Escape, Max is given a weird lump of plastic to identify – a cassette tape from the 1980s. He discovers that it contains lost recordings by a still-famous rockstar. The recordings are so valuable that when a dodgy musicologist finds out about them, Max’s discovery suddenly gets him into all sorts of trouble (DOT DOT DOT!)
Megan: It certainly sounds exciting, Cameron. I love hearing the stories behind the stories. Where did the idea for this particular story come from?
Cameron: Thanks Megan. Well the spark of the story definitely came from a visit to Pompeii and the amazing archaeological museum in Naples. Seeing so many everyday objects that had survived a catastrophic volcanic eruption and centuries of burial was a real mind-blower.
Cups and spoons that probably would've been quite uninteresting to the people of Pompeii were completely spellbinding to me - and this made me wonder how people of future generations might look at items that we commonly use today.
This thought seemed to offer a lot of potential for story ideas, and I was eventually able to tease the idea out into a solid concept about a future detective, Max, who investigates objects from today, or recent decades, and is completely fascinated by them - even things that might not seem so interesting to us in the here and now.
It's great fun choosing the present-day objects, and I must say that the illustrator, Dave Atze, really understands and manages to amplify the wonder, and humour, of Max's discoveries.
Megan: That is so cool. I love how you didn’t just think about it and dismiss it, but continued that train of thought until a story emerged. Did the experience of writing your own novel prove different from writing to a brief? If so, in what way?
Cameron: Great question! It was definitely a very different experience to writing to a brief. Just being able to let the story take its own shape and length was quite liberating after having written for the same age group, with so many limitations.
At the same time, I think subconsciously it probably benefited from all of that brief-driven writing too - I really wanted the Max stories to engage both enthusiastic and reluctant readers, so it was helpful having a few parameters at the back of my mind in terms of vocab and sentence length. I really hope they've helped make the stories as accessible to as many readers as possible.
Megan: That is really wonderful. I have dyslexia and it is one of them, as you say, perimeters, in my mind as well as to make sure that my book is accessible to as many readers as possible. I could seriously go off tangent here and start an in-depth discussion about engaging reluctant readers, but maybe another time.
Back to your Max Booth book. How was it working with the illustrator? Did you have much input into the whole process?
Cameron: That would be a really enjoyable discussion to have. I'd love to see your book!
It was a real treat to work with Dave Atze on the two titles we've produced so far. He's incredibly versatile and really brings out the humour and pathos in the stories. I included illustration ideas in the manuscript (way too many!) but was more than happy for Dave and the publishers to work out which ones were worth pursuing.
I was lucky enough to see Dave's roughs and throw in a few comments, but he's such an intuitive artist who really 'gets' the characters, so I was happy to keep out of the way as much as possible and let him work his magic - which he did incredibly well.
Megan: That would be great to have another conversation, Cameron. I’d love to have a chat about my book, and writing fun and engaging stories to encourage children to read.
I’m a huge sci-fi fan so I couldn’t help noticing that a few of your books have the sci-fi theme. What draws you to writing Sci-fi?
Cameron: It's funny because I haven't read a lot of sci-fi as an adult, but I find it a really rich source ideas for kids' books.
I think that's because it offers limitless possibilities of setting, in terms of time and physical location, as well as imagined technologies that you can use to shape and colour your stories. And who doesn't enjoy a bit of speculation about how the world might look in the future, as scary as that can be?
And you can also get away with much more craziness - story wise - than you can in a story that requires realism or strict historical accuracy. A lifelong fascination with robots has definitely been an influence too!
Megan: That’s so true. I think that’s why I love sci-fi and fantasy. The pure escapism into other worlds; other realities.
So, Cameron, what do you think makes a good story?
Cameron: Boiling it down to the simplest level, I think it comes down to interesting character/s, dealing with an interesting, and seemingly insurmountable, problem. As a reader, I love seeing how characters react when thrown into the deep end, and learning from how they sink or swim!
I don't mean to imply that a good story needs to deal with high drama - the problem at the heart of the story can just as easily be an internal, emotional conflict. It's all worth sharing with the world.
Megan: Those are really great tips, Cameron.
What advice do you have for emerging authors? As you worked as an editor, could you please tell us from an editor’s point of view, and then as an author.
Cameron: Wow, really interesting question. As an editor, I'd advise aspiring authors to look very carefully at publishers' submission guidelines and make sure you tick all of their boxes, as most publishers who accept unsolicited submissions deal with a huge volume of manuscripts - make sure you give yours every chance of being read.
I used to do a bit of 'slush pile' reading (as much as I hate that term!) and found that so many of the submissions didn't match what the publishers had requested. And obviously, take the time to polish your work as much as possible before you send it out. One of the best ways to do this is to join or start a writing group with people whose opinions you can trust.
As an author, I wish there was a magic formula but really, it’s all about persistence and self-belief, and humility is a useful attribute too – because you’re going to need it! I’ve known so many brilliant writers who faced a few rejections and gave up.
I can't state strongly enough the need to have some kind of supportive writing community around you, too. I've been in a small but wonderful writing group for more than five years and the mutual encouragement and kind criticism has helped each of us beyond calculation...
Megan: Thank you so much for being so candid about the submission process. As an author, you certainly need to be persistent and not give up in the face of rejection. And finding a supportive writing community is super important.
So, Cameron, what’s next for you?
Cameron: Well, I'm currently drafting the third Max Booth adventure and enjoying that very very much. I've just started scribbling down the bones of a 'grown-up' book too. I'll find out find very soon if I'm grown-up enough to see it through!
Megan: That’s brilliant, Cameron. I’m sure you’ll learn a lot about yourself in the process.
Okay. I always do three fun facts. So, what are three fun facts about yourself?
1. I love toy robots from the 1980s, especially Dingbots and Omnibots (definitely worth Googling!)
2. I spent so much time in my teens and early 20s listening to the Beatles that I still consider Beatle-ologist as a viable fall-back career.
3. I cook at least two curries a week but will never refuse an invitation to dinner at an Indian restaurant!
Megan: Where can we find you?
You can find more about me and my books on my website: www.cameronmacintosh.com , and on Big Sky Publishing website, and on Facebook as Cameron Mactosh author.
You can check out the book trailer for Max Booth Future Sleuth: Book 1 - Tape Escape on my YouTube Channel.
Max Booth Future Sleuth - Selfie Search is also now available.
Megan: Thanks for taking the time to chat today, Cameron. It's been wonderful.
Cameron: Thank you so much Megan! It's been a real pleasure.
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Boomerang Books: Interview with Cameron Macintosh. Max Booth Future Sleuth
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