It was Pyjama Day at St Mary’s Star of the Sea Primary School in celebration of Book Week. It was fun presenting and workshopping across all years. I thought it was only appropriate to get dressed in my pjs as well, much to the children’s amusement. A huge thanks to Josephine, the School Librarian, for her dedication and commitment. She has done an amazing job with the students. The students were both curious and enthusiastic to learn more about the world of books which made my visit that much more enjoyable. Great day, overall. :-)
Save the date!
I’m having a book launch at Harry Hartog Booksellers – 11am, Saturday 20th October, 2018. Meet the creators: Robert Vescio, Kathy Creamer and Peter Creamer of Little Pink Dog Books :-)
It’s free but email firstname.lastname@example.org and Miranda@harryhartog.com.au or comment below so we can gauge expected numbers. There will CAKE and treats. Fun for all ages BIG and small.
Hope to see you there.
Today, I’m excited to be interviewing Dimity Powell on my blog to find out all about her latest picture book and more.
When Dimity’s not writing, she’s reviewing books or acting as a Books in Homes role model. She is also the Managing Editor for Kids’ Book Review.
Dimity’s work spans a wide variety of genres including anthologies, junior novels and digital content.
I love how Dimity’s passion for words shines through her work. They always warm my heart. Her words are like a gentle hug, wrapped with love to bring joy.
Dimity, this is my way of sharing a BIG warm virtual hug to say THANK YOU.
Let’s begin the Q&A …
1. Tell us about At the End of Holyrood Lane.
At the End of Holyrood Lane is a metaphorical glimpse at one aspect of domestic violence and how it affects young lives. It is a tale of anxiety shown through the eyes of a small being with an intense dislike for thunderstorms, a fear shared by many young children. It is hoped the deliberate use of objective correlative in this picture book will instil a gentle awareness in young readers suffering their own domestic torment as to how to seek help and shelter from their storms.
Few (if any traditionally published) picture books available today address this volatile and woefully prevalent aspect of society without overt explicitness or didactic overtones. At the End of Holyrood Lane does so in a sympathetic, non-threatening way. Although domestic and family violence are the pervading undercurrents, other themes including child parent relationships, hope, resilience and confronting fears are voiced as well, thus giving Flick’s story greater universal appeal.
2. What inspired you to write this book?
From the moment, Deirdre Hanna, founder of a leading children’s charity and crisis centre, approached me to write a picture book about domestic violence, I was filled with agitation. This was after all not your everyday topic for an entertaining children’s book. I could not think of one mainstream title or artist currently tackling this topic. Why was that? I wondered. It (DV) was, and still is, however an ongoing horrifying reality of society regardless of culture or creed, a reality that needs more attention if we are ever able to halt it. Why was mainstream children’s literature sidestepping this issue?
Deirdre threw me a bone that day, one I could not give up. And so, this story became my challenge, my tormentor and eventually one of my ultimate favourites. I was thrilled EK Books was as foresighted and confident enough to undertake this project with me.
3. We know how important it is for children to have stories read aloud to them. How do you see At the End of Holyrood Lane contributing to this cause?
I think the power of this story is its allegorical simplicity. The text is sparse yet packed with emotional punch. The lyrical prose aligns beautifully with Nicky’s illustrations so that small children will be able to identify Flick’s feelings and fears from both the sound of the words used coupled with the emotive colours and movement of the complementing visual narrative. Even if they are not DV sufferers themselves, the all mighty dominance and fear a furious thunderstorm can provoke is something many children (and adults) immediately relate to.
Reading this story aloud to youngsters will enable them to ‘read’ or identify emotion in the voice of their shared reading partners be they carers, parents, teachers, or counsellors. Like body language, understanding the nuances of speech is another important factor in literacy development. Picture books exploit this concept phenomenally well.
Books like Holyrood Lane not only provide mirrors to a child’s own life but also windows through which they can catch glimpses of the world of others’. By providing platforms for gentle discussion and questioning like this, we encourage understanding and empathy, which is crucial in promoting care and tolerance in any community.
Illustration by Nicky Johnston from At the End of Holyrood Lane.
4. How did you feel when you saw Nicky’s illustrations for the book?
I wept. With joy. I first saw her roughs at the SCBWI Conference in Sydney in 2016. Once again, Nicky’s intuitive ability to capture my exact intentions was mind-blowing. I immediately fell in love with her rendition of Flick and Flick’s toy unicorn whom we unanimously named, Uni. Nicky understood the metaphor I was adopting and exactly how to portray it; how the storms in Flick’s life were the violator of something more sinister and foreboding.
5. What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
In this case, getting the story and balance of emotion just right. I devoted many hours to word choice and order. Holyrood Lane began as a very different story; one publishers loved but were reluctant to take on owing to the raw gravity of the subject matter. After several rejections, it seemed I’d found the answer why so few picture books on DV existed. But I didn’t stop there. I changed tacks, made the story more appreciable on a global level and, after several rewrites, knew I’d finally done it. Hitting that sweet ‘just right’ spot is the most challenging aspect of the artistic process for me. I’m never happy!
6. How did you break into publishing?
When the NSW School Magazine snapped up the very first story I ever submitted, I couldn’t believe it (more weeping). I had prepared myself for years of heartache and rejections. Seeing my story accompanied with pictures was and still is a joy I can barely comprehend. Luckily, years of spiralling into relative obscurity followed that initial success, so my rejection preparations were not for nothing!
A competition win led to my first traditional publishing contract for my junior novel, PS Who Stole Santa’s Mail? In fact, entering competitions has been a great proving ground. They prompted me to write something, something good enough to win or at least elicit feedback. They also accustomed me to the de rigueur of submission guidelines. The Fix-It Man evolved from a manuscript I had the guts to submit once. It only attracted a special mention but won the attention of a publisher keen to include it on their lists. There’s a lot to be said for taking a leap of faith.
7. Where is your favourite place to write?
Anywhere that is quiet. I need to hear the story. I like to handwrite my first drafts especially if they are picture books. I find a paper notebook and pencil more accommodating than noting ideas on devices because it gives me freedom to Alt Z manually. I drafted my third picture book (due out 2019 / 2020) on an eight-hour flight to Singapore. While the entire planeload of passengers slept, I scribbled away uninterrupted, unbelievably satisfying. Pity I can’t fly somewhere every week.
8. Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
I read so many books as a kid, the words and titles are a rainbow jumble of wonderful memories, but I do vividly remember Elyne Mitchell’s Silver Brumby series. Her immense affinity with nature and ability to describe it so succinctly on the page really resonated with me. Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House on the Prairie series had a similar affect. Both these writers were able to create incredibly genuine characters with whom I could really empathise and identify. I was convinced we should have had a horse and covered wagon instead of a Ford Falcon when I was thirteen! (I still think so; I mean, Fords, really?)
9. What were some of your favourite children’s books as a child?
All the usual suspects: anything by Enid Blyton, Trixie Beldon, Silver Brumby but also anything that had a horse, a dog or a bird in it: James Harriet series, Cricket in Times Square, The Wolfling, Snowgoose, The Giant Jam Sandwich, Stormboy, The Cotswold Adventures, Fly-By-Night (K M Peyton), Bertha the Racing Pigeon. I think I should have been a Vet.
10. What’s on the horizon for you next?
Sunshine and Lollipops? Actually, my story by the same name appears in a novel anthology already so perhaps I should just focus on Holyrood Lane for now. The official launch is 23 September in Brisbane so I need to get my marketing-party-head on.
There is a new picture book due out next year that I’m quietly delighted about, and a couple more picture books of mine will feature on the Kindergo App later this year. More short stories are always popping up in an anthology somewhere too so keep your eyes on that horizon!
While I’m still reviewing, presenting writing camps and coordinating blogging events for the next SCBWI Conferenced in Sydney next year, writing time is at a premium. My one writing objective is to write more!
Thanks for being awesome, Dimity.
Tickled pink to be here, Robert!
You can find out more about Dimity and her books here: www.dimitypowell.com
Title: At the End of Holyrood Lane
Release Date: September 2018
Price: $24.99 Hardback
Written by: Dimity Powell
Illustrated by: Nicky Johnston
Thrilled to announce that I've just signed a contract with New Frontier Publishing. What a way to start the weekend. Still happy dancing :-)
I am sooooo excited to announce that 'Eric Finds A Way' and 'Finn and Puss' have both been shortlisted in the 2018 BILBY (Books I Love Best Yearly) awards run by the Children's Book Council of Australia. Woo-hoo!!! These awards are children's choice awards. Wonderful to see children exercising their voice and nominating their favourite books. Very few awards take children's preferences into account. I'm over the moon and in great company too. Now until June 29, vote for the book you love best from the shortlist. The BILBY Award winner will be announced during CBCA Book Week August. Thank you to all the children who voted. YAY!! :-) If you feel inclined to vote, follow the link to cast your vote ;-) https://qld.cbca.org.au/voting-for-the-bilby
Kellie Byrnes is a children’s author and full-time freelance writer with her first picture book, Cloud Conductor, being released by Wombat Books May 2018. Kellie's second picture book will be published by Little Pink Dog Books in 2019.
Beautifully illustrated by Ann-Marie Finn, Cloud Conductor, examines the importance and fun of the imagination, and how creativity can be used to help us deal with difficult times. It is perfect for prompting discussions about topics like creativity, illness, the seasons, weather, clouds, music and more.
Welcome to my blog, Kellie. It’s great to have you here.
Tell us about Cloud Conductor.
Cloud Conductor is a picture book about Frankie, a young girl who is busy and active yet, sometimes, in quiet moments, likes to sit and watch the clouds. She pretends she’s a conductor, who moves the clouds around and sees and hears different things. When she gets ill, and is confined to her bed, Frankie can’t do many of the things she used to, but still has her imagination to take her away from her problems.
How did you come up with the idea for Cloud Conductor?
I started thinking about how difficult it must be for children who are used to doing lots of fun, physical activities, but who then can’t keeping doing them when they’re in hospital or otherwise unwell. I wondered how they would cope, and immediately considered that their imagination would have to be one of the greatest tools in their toolbox (as it is for adults, too). When the name ‘Cloud Conductor’ popped into my head, I knew this was a way to take the story forward, and went from there.
What was the process like in getting it published?
Cloud Conductor was the first thing I wrote and, after having done a bunch of courses, and paying for mentoring, joining critique groups, and reading hundreds of picture books, I decided to sign up for a manuscript assessment at a conference (it was CYA in Brisbane). I was just after some feedback from editors to help me grow and improve my work, but ended up actually getting a contract with Wombat Books for Cloud Conductor as a result. I was amazed, very grateful, and shocked, too. My second picture book contract seemed to take much longer to get, though!
What were some of your favourite children’s books as a child?
There were so many I loved! Three of the most memorable picture books were Each Peach Pear Plum, Harry the Very Dirty Dog, and The Monster at the End of This Book. As for books for older readers, I loved everything by Enid Blyton, Roald Dahl and C.S. Lewis, of course, as well as Bridge to Terabithia, and the Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, and Hardy Boys series. There were thousands of others, but these are the ones that really had an impact and that I remember most.
What’s on the horizon for you next?
My next picture book, called Yes! No., is coming out with Little Pink Dog Books next year. I’m working on many other picture books that I hope to get contracts for as well; plus I’m tweaking a junior fiction novel, and plotting out a few middle grade and young adult story ideas.
Where can people get in touch with you?
Head to my website/blog at www.KellieByrnes.com to get in touch with me, find out about my author visits and other appearances, and read my author interviews, book reviews and more. You will also find Teacher’s Notes and a Media Kit for Cloud Conductor on my website.
As for social media, I’m on Twitter at @KellieJByrnes, and on Facebook at KellieByrnesAuthor.
It was great to hear your inspiration behind the book and I look forward to hearing more about your exciting writing journey soon. Thanks Kellie :-)
Title: Cloud Conductor
Release Date: 1 May 2018
Price: $24.99 Hardback
Written by: Kellie Byrnes
Illustrated by: Ann-Marie Finn
Welcome to my blog again, Emma. It’s great to have you here.
Book Review - The Bear in our Backyard
Mummy Bear gives great big hugs. One hug can mean everything. The Bear in our Backyard brings home the message that this simple action can turn a frown into a smile and show that you care.
The Bear in our Backyard is a touching celebration of the special relationship between a mother and her children and makes the perfect gift for Mother's Day. From playing games to singing favourite songs, Mummy Bear is great at everything.
With gentle rhyming verse by Emma Middleton and sweet illustrations by Briony Stewart, this beautiful picture book dances across the pages. I especially love the special card for Mum inside the book. Stewart's illustrations are colourful and engaging.
The mummy in this book has many talents that are celebrated in this read. Middleton has written another sweet and poetic picture book about the power of a loving hug that is sure to brighten your day—just like a hug.
Inspiration behind The Bear in our Backyard
In writing The Bear in our Backyard, I wanted to acknowledge the magical moments that mothers create in their children lives. We knew the uber talented Briony Stewart would be illustrating the story and as she was expecting her second child at that time, it was clear to me that we needed to honour her by mirroring this little miracle of motherhood in the book.
I have strong memories of my daughter calling me ‘Mummy Bear,’ when she was younger and asking for a, ‘mummy bear hug.’ I believe creativity and imaginative play is the domain of every child, and can turn an ordinary day into an extraordinary adventure. I remember many hours spent with my children creating fairy potions for an enchanted visitor, or making a protective fort to protect against ‘Mr Mac dressed in black.’
As a mother there are few things more special than taking the time to swing a skipping rope or make a warm honey tea for your child. The bear is a wonderful image for mothers as she is warm and cuddly, yet also strong and protective. It was a privilege to pause and reflect upon these treasured moments created by mums around the world, each and every day.
Q & A with the talented Emma Middleton
Did you always plan to have a follow-up book to The Lion in our Living Room?
With the benefit of hindsight, it does seem obvious to have a companion book to The Lion in our Living Room, which shone a light on the special role that dad’s play in their children’s lives. However, I cannot take the credit for this idea. I received a surprise call from author and editor Davina Bell from Affirm Press, who suggested the idea of a follow-up title. Originally we were going to tweak a story that I had submitted, however when they contacted Briony Stewart to see if she was available to illustrate a second book, she suggested the title of The Bear in our Backyard, to celebrate mothers. Immediately I fell in love with this concept and I wanted to find some way of honouring Briony in the story, especially considering that she was expecting her second child at that time. I mirrored this special time in the story.
Did you face any challenges in writing The Bear in our Backyard?
I felt an immediate connection to the concept, especially as my daughter often called me ‘Mummy Bear,’ when she was younger. I love the idea of the bear representing mothers, as bears are warm and cuddly, as well as strong and protective. Initially I had the bear going into hibernation, and included all sorts of timeframes that were far too complicated for a picture book, but my brilliant editors Davina Bell and Clair Hume soon got me back on track.
You mentioned there was a tight timeframe for this book?
It was a race to the finish line, especially for our illustrator Briony Stewart, who was expecting her second child at the time. Everyone was praying that the illustrations would arrive before the baby. Briony finished the illustrations just two days before her due date. The illustrations are sumptuous, with beautiful detail and dreamy colour schemes. Everyone worked tirelessly to make this book a reality.
I know children enjoy finding all the hidden lion references in The Lion in our Living Room, are there bear references in The Bear in our Backyard?
Not only are there hidden bear references, but there are also references to the lion. Children will love finding objects appearing in both books. Briony Stewart’s illustrations are full of warmth, love and humour, and of course the way she makes the bear’s shadow out of mum’s silhouette is brilliant.
The Bear in our Backyard is essentially about, families, mothers and creativity. What do you wish to express about these topics?
I hope to celebrate the everyday ‘miracles,’ that mothers create; playful interactions, warm tea and loving hugs amongst a busy day with many jobs to be done. Of course, the ultimate miracle is the arrival of a new baby, and this is lovingly depicted on the final pages as Tom and Tilly meet their
‘baby bear,’ for the fist time.
What do you like most about being a children’s author?
On a personal level it is a whole lot of fun being a children’s author, connecting with the aspect of joy that is attached to childhood. It is a huge privilege to write for children as you are planting seeds at a time of vivid imagination, as well as encouraging life-long readers. I love writing in rhyme for children, as they respond so well to rhythm and music.
I am happiest when I can bring my characters and stories to life for children in my storytelling performances. It is a wonderful feeling to see the wonder on their faces, knowing that you are creating a space that allows their vibrant imaginations to flourish.
This doesn’t mean everything has to be terribly serious; humour and play, mixed with a little drama or pathos, are magnetic themes for children. When Adam Gidwitz was comparing dancing to reading he said, ‘It’s not important, in the end, whether a child is waltzing to Tchaikovsky or Strauss. The important thing is that she is waltzing.’ I hope every child continues to waltz.
It was lovely to hear your inspiration behind the book and I look forward to hearing more about your exciting writing journey soon. Thanks Emma :-)
Written by: Emma Middleton
Illustrated by: Briony Stewart
Publication Date: 27th March 2018
Hardback: 32 pages
Publisher: Affirm Press: www.affirmpress.com.au
How do you grab the attention of a publisher with your picture book story?
Aim for different. Think of something close to your heart and make it interesting.
Be creative. Mix up those ideas and concepts in your own unique way. It’s all about creating a wonderful experience for your reader.
Make it memorable. Make your reader pause and pay attention.
There’s more to a story than just your great vocabulary and grammar. These are essential tools, but it’s the magic that happens when your story changes the way your reader feels after reading it.
See your vision. Capture it. Write it. Keep at it. It’s not impossible.
Tips to remember:
1. Read current picture books. Examine them and see how the words and pictures work together.
2. It’s not easy to tell a story in under 500 words so every word counts. A picture book is a marriage of words and pictures. You must leave room for the illustrator to interpret the story.
3. Every spread must be a page turner filled with fun and surprise.
4. Kids don’t like to be lectured. Keep it fun but with an underlying message that isn’t preachy.
5. Don’t ever send out your manuscript just after you’ve finished it. Put your manuscript away for a few days.
6. Go back to your manuscript with fresh eyes. This will allow you to see your work more objectively. Editing and re-editing your manuscript will get it to the stage at which an editor will want to read it. Make sure your manuscript is flawless before you send it out.
7. Research publishers before submitting your work. Check out their lists and see what types of books they’re publishing.
8. Always, always follow the specific submission guidelines offered by the publisher. They’re specific for a reason.
9. A good cover letter is the key to the door. Keep it brief and to the point. Make it catchy and impressive. Don’t be chatty. Use short paragraphs.
10. It all comes down to hard work. If you put in the hard yards, you’ll reap in the rewards.
Getting a book contract is hard work. But if you stick with it, good things will come your way.
I hope this helps to inspire others to follow their dreams.
Now … DO IT! :-)
WOW! Another exciting contract delivery!! I'm delighted to announce that I've just received another picture book contract. :-) This time it's with Little Pink Dog Books. The illustrator is the wonderfully talented artist, Demelsa Haughton Illustration. Thank you so much Peter and Kathy. Two contracts in two days - a definite first. Now, that's three contracts in two months. To say I'm excited is an understatement. What a great way to start 2018. ;-)
Just received a wonderful surprise - a picture book contract!!!! :-) Thank you EK Books. This time I'm teamed up with the lovely and talented artist, Andrea Edmonds. Thank you again Anouska Jones. I'm doing my celebratory happy dance :-)
Welcome to my blog page!
Here you will find the latest news and updates on my writing and published books.