Patreon is a simple way for you to contribute to my goal of becoming a self-supporting author and illustrator and for you to receive great rewards in return! Find out more at www.Patreon.com/Yvonne
Here is some of what you can expect, from my Patreon page:
Here I am. Looking for patrons, how old-fashioned.
But what else is a grown woman to do when she has resigned her job (other than hawk her body, which admittedly is a teensy bit past its prime.)
Here I am, because I have found my passion. How lucky I am. Right?
Let’s try that again:
Here I am, because I have found my passion, in my late thirties, around the same time that I popped out my last child. Still lucky, but not as convenient.
‘Ooh, that is going to need stitches!’
‘I want to write and illustrate children’s books!’
Well, it went something like that.
Inconvenient, because my passion is not accounting, or engineering, or real estate.
My passion is in the arts, literary and visual and with a fetish for picture books. If I was in my twenties, sharing my house with some kooky housemates with no responsibilities other than to prove myself artistically, things may be different.
But, my kooky housemates are my three sons, my husband, our dog, our run-away cat and our 30 or so tadpoles. And we have bills to pay. And an artistic passion to follow. Dose of guilt anyone?
So here I am, trying to entice those quirky philanthropic billionaires to share some of their wealth so I can continue to follow my dream. If that doesn’t work, I am happy to accept patronage from anyone who would like to support the arts. Unless you are a struggling student in the creative arts. Then you need your vitamins, go and buy a bag of apples instead.
So what can I entice you with?
How about I share my experiences as a struggling self-employed author/ illustrator. I’ll try not to make it depressing and share my thoughts EXCLUSIVELY (imagine that word on a sign surrounded by flashing lights, ooh, and perhaps a touch of smoke machine for that magic touch) with my patrons.
Or, if you would just like to follow me, without the patronage, go ahead, I’ll share some of my illustrations and general going-ons on a regular basis, but without the soul-searching-midlife-crises-esque-slap-stick thoughts. The boring version so to speak. With pretty pictures. So pretty good, really.
I've also thrown in some behind the scenes-looks and opportunities with special rewards and discounts. I'd love get an idea of what other rewards you are interested in, so please let me know.
That’s it. That is all the enticing that I’ve got in me.
Want to ask me a question? I am sure you can do that somewhere on this page. And I’ll answer.
After I pick the kids up from school.
At our last Write Links meeting, we had our first collaborative writing session with a specific purpose; to create two children's stories for The Big Draw to be illustrated by the children of Brisbane on Saturday the 22nd of August during Children's Book Week.
This This unique event is a collaboration itself between members of the Brisbane Illustrators Group, the State Library of Queensland, Book Links, Write Links and of course the QLD branch of the Children's Book Council Australia.
Most of us at Write Links were new to writing a collaborative story but were lucky to have among our group the talented Children's Writer Angela Sunde who helped us on our way.
Angela Sunde's team Prana Writers, won the open division National Award and Eastern States Award for the Write-a-Book-in-a-Day competition in 2011.
After several seemingly crazy warm-up exercises we formed two groups to create two stories, one for older children and one for younger children.
Thanks to Angela's warm-up and experience it was relatively easy to come up with the main character, problem and how the story would be resolved. As the stories are for children they had to be action-filled, fast-paced and with a fun topic and in a setting allowing for visual expression.
I was part of the story for younger children. A picture book has 32 pages of which 14 spreads (or 28 pages) will actually be used for the story and for our collaboration we had eight writers! Some of the pages were left purely for illustrations which meant we had one or two spreads each and only a short paragraph to write as word count was to be no more than 500 words. We also benefited from illustrator Anil Tortop perspective during the process ensuring there was enough room for an illustrator's perspective.
During The Big Draw the stories will be spread out along several long tables and children will be able to illustrate the story directly with the text with the help of Brisbane illustrators including the award winning illustrator Lucia Masciullo.
Using Dropbox for collaborative editing sessions Write Links created two fun stories lending themselves well to illustrations. I can't wait to see the result on the 22nd of August.
I hope to see you at The Big Draw, make sure you share the link to this free event!
Here is a short post to share my excitement with you.
Blast Off, Issue 7, by the lovely people at The School Magazine, will be going out to readers in July.
My short story, My Sister Ate My Science Project, can be found on page seven.
In itself that is pretty exciting already, after all, this will be my first ever story to be purchased and published. But then, I almost fell off my rather large and comfortable chair, when I discovered my story is illustrated on the cover by the talented Vivienne To.
It feels so satisfying to know that actual children will be reading something I wrote soon and just as exhilarating to see the story depicted visually. And now I know, ahhh, this is why I keep going at it in this crazy writing life.
About the issue:
Blast Off: Science simmers in this issue! There‘s a story about a science project that is eaten by … a little girl; an article about the science behind bubbles; an activity that will leave you blocking your ears; and an article about vehicles that drive themselves! The Book slice this month is a visual feast; it's all about life on earth. And of course, there's a play to perform.
More information about The School Magazine (from the 'About' page)
What is The School Magazine? It is Australia's most loved and longest-running literary magazine for children. For generations, it has been introducing young readers to a world of words.
The School Magazine has been published by the NSW Department of Education since 1916 and is currently part of the NSW Curriculum and Learning Innovation Centre within the Department of Education and Communities.
The secret of its enduring success is its quality and its ability to engage young readers.
A small in-house team compiles 40 magazines each and every year, drawing on the skills of the finest writers and illustrators in Australia and world-wide.
I first met Karen Tyrrell during her book launch for Bailey Beats the Blah at my local library. Soon after I was thrilled to meet Karen again at Write Links, the Brisbane Children's Writers group.
I soon realized that here is a powerhouse in children's writing when it comes to stories with a mental health message.
Karen is a passionate mental health advocate and her stories have received strong support and recognition from schools and mental health professionals.
Karen works tirelessly and is a frequent speaker on the subjects of writing and building an author platform.
It has been wonderful having Karen as part of our group through her encouragement and support of other writers and in sharing information and her experiences.
Without further ado, I would like to present Karen's latest book, a Junior Novel, STOP the Bully:
SYNOPSIS: Eleven year old Brian is hiding something. His life is falling apart. Dad abandoned the family. Brian hates his new school. And now an aggressive bully attacks him every day. Can Brian STOP the Bully without revealing his shameful secret?
STOP the Bully is a riveting junior novel to empower girls and boys with assertive strategies. The mystery reveals the bullying dilemma from all perspectives.
STOP the Bully raises big issues: bullying, family break-ups, poverty, self-esteem, coping with change, friendship, forgiveness and reconciliation.
5% sales go to Kids Helpline to help Kids in Crisis, STOP the Bully is now available from Amazon.
How to Write a Junior Novel with Karen Tyrrell:
How did STOP the Bully develop?
First I pictured the ending with a twist, and then I wrote the story “backwards.”
I created STOP the Bully as a fast paced mystery incorporating positive messages and offering bullying solutions.
How did you know STOP the Bully was ready to publish?
When I could improve STOP the Bully no more, I sent it out to five Beta readers for critique. I listened to their feedback and suggestion continually upgrading and improving my story. I changed some of the action, dialogue, prose and even character’s descriptions until STOP the Bully became a much stronger version than the original idea.
Why did you publish STOP the Bully?
My dream was to create a junior novel to empower children to overcome bullying and become more resilient in future episodes. Prevention is FAR better than cure.
I wanted to empower children with anti-bullying strategies and boost their self-esteem at the same time be entertaining.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to publish their children’s book?
A. Immerse yourself into the genre of children’s chapter and junior books. Practice writing techniques such as dialogue, setting, character development, creating a character the reader can empathize with while crafting a strong story arc.
B. Create a junior novel on a theme you’re passionate about. Your energy will shine through in your writing.
C. Send out your to junior novel to experienced Beta readers for critique and advice.
D. Develop your junior novel over time by rewriting, redrafting and perfecting.
E. Contract the very best editor, illustrator, cover designer and formatter you can find to create a professional child-centred junior novel appealing to kids, parents and teachers alike.
STOP the Bully is aligned with Kids Matter, national education curriculum and supported by Kids Helpline.
ISBN: 9780987274069 Available on Amazon and independent bookshops (such as Black Cat Books in Paddington, Brisbane).
Download FREE children's activities and FREE teacher notes from www.karentyrrell.com
STOP the Bully Blog Tour & Book Give Away
WIN: Signed copies and eBooks of STOP the Bully.
Leave a comment on any of the 15 hops June 2- 11
The MORE comments you leave the MORE chances you WIN.
WINNERS announced on June 16 http:// www.karentyrrell.com
Blog Tour June 2-11
2 June STOP the Bully Release Party & Reviews http:// www.karentyrrell.com
Sally Odgers Interview http://spinningpearls.blogspot.com.au
3 June Jill Smith Review http://authorjillsmith.wordpress.com
Charmaine Clancy Interview http://clancytales.blogspot.com.au
4 June Sally Murphy QUICK Questions http://aussiereviews.com/2014/06/karen-tyrell-blog-tour
5 June Melissa Wray Interview http://www.melissawray.blogspot.com.au
Yvonne Mes Interview http://www.yvonnemes.com
6 June Ali Stegert Interview http://ali-stegert.com
7 June Kids Book Review CURLY Questions http://www.kids-bookreview.com
9 June Bug in a Book Review http://buginabook.org/category/childrens-books
Jackie Hosking Interview http://jackiehoskingpio.wordpress.com/school-magazine
10 June June Perkins Interview http://pearlz.wordpress.com
Robyn Parnell Interview http://www.robynopie.blogspot.com.au
11 June Nicky Johnson Review http://www.nickyjohnston.com.au/blog
Literati Radio Interview 9am AEST http://www.blogtalkradio.com/laliteraticarpelibrum
Karen Tyrrell is an award-winning Australian author and teacher. Karen presents interactive story telling sessions, creative writing workshops, seminars and author talks in schools, libraries, festivals and confer-ences. She speaks out on TV, radio and writes for magazines.
Bailey Beats the Blah (2013) empowers children with resilience skills. STOP the Bully (2014) junior novel empowers children with assertive anti-bullying strategies.
STOP the Bully is now available from Amazon.
It is about time I wrote a blog post in honor of my local writer's group, Write Links.
The group started a little more than a year ago as a collaboration between Book Links and our local SCBWI after they identified a need for a writing group specifically for emerging children's writers. I was there from the start and haven't missed a meeting since.
Our group has grown considerably since that first meeting, our Facebook group has 88 members, and we have around 25 members show up for our meetings each month. I get requests from new members on a weekly basis.
Our members are emerging or established writers, as-of-yet unpublished, traditionally published and self-published.
In addition to the networking and professional development, there are three motivated critique groups; Picture Books, Junior Novels and Young Adult.
Over the last year, the formidable and knowledgeable Sam Sochacka, has educated us, overwhelmed us, or introduced us to all things Social Media for writers. Jenny Stubs from Book Links is our fairy godmother, coaxing us on, and sharing the latest and hottest news and opportunities. Jenny is also a walking encyclopedia on anything related to children's books. Mia Macrossan, CBCA (Qld) Book of the Year Judge is a strong supporter, so is Sheryl Gwyther from our local SCBWI, Peter Taylor, Pamela Rushby and many others. I have slowly grown into the role of coordinator, which I share with Sam Sochacka and it has been a rewarding experience.
The most rewarding aspect of Write Links is the friendships and supportive network this group has created. I now have superhero writing and illustrating friends for life! Why are they superheros? Trying to fit in writing with or without having to look after families, working full-time or part-time in another profession or trying to make a living out of writing or illustrating, is REALLY is not easy to achieve. This group of superheros keeps me focused, inspired and encouraged.
Oh, and I love that my social calendar has filled up with book launches and writing events.
Keep an eye out for our own Write Links logo in the next couple of months, designed by our own members, and check out some of our favourite Write Links blog posts:
Pamela Rushby on writing and her latest novel: The Ratcatcher's Daughter
Getting the most out of a writers' and illustrators' conference
April Write Links Meeting with Stephanie Hogan at Black Cat Books
Write Links meets on a monthly basis as the State Library Qld from 1 to 5pm, for more information please have a look at our website:
And on the topic of interesting blog posts ... Here is the link to a guest post I did for Alayne Kay Christian:
ALL ABOUT SUBMISSIONS GUEST BLOGGER YVONNE MES: HOW TO SUBMIT WITHOUT FEELING LIKE THROWING UP
And to round it all off, here are some pictures of last Saturday, the 3rd of May, dedicated to children's writing in the company of my Superhero Write Links friends:
11am - 1pm -Book Launch
Kaz Delaney launched her new book 'Almost Dead' at Black Cat Books hosted by the wonderful Angel Sunde.
There was a Q & A session between Angela and Kaz which included the telling of some spine tingling spooky stories.
Kaz is absolutely amazing and will be looking forward to more of her books.
1pm - 5pm - Write Links meeting
Sam's social media presentation at the State Library Qld, followed by our networking and critique sessions.
5.30 pm - till late -Book Celebration
Caylie Jefferey had a book celebration for 'Bedtime Stories for Busy Mothers' at the Lethbridge Gallery in Paddington, gearing up for her book launch next Saturday.
As we arrived a little late, the place was so packed, we couldn't even get a glimpse of Caylie until the crowd had thinned out a little!
For more information about 'Bedtime Stories for Busy Mothers' read my review here.
Today I have the pleasure of reviewing Bedtime Stories for Busy Mothers and interviewing the author, Caylie Jeffery.
I identify more than a little with ‘being one of those mothers, the harassed looking ones that never carry enough band-aids, as Caylie describes herself in the introduction and it can be quite cathartic recognising yourself in someone else life; realizing you are not the only mother that loves her children enormously but worries about not living up to being the perfect mother, struggling with guilt and trying to find a balance between parenting and being a person in your own right.
Caylie urges us ‘to take some time each night to rest, reflect and regroup’ by reading her stories. As an emerging children’s writer and illustrator and a busy mum, I only have so much time to read stories that are not for children, so this book with its short stories for adults was perfect! The stories were just the right length and packed full of goodness. Like taking a multivitamin for busy mums.
This book does not describe the agonies of middle class motherly woe. These are stories that inspire, stories that overwhelm with emotion, stories that frighten and stories that make you laugh.
Caylie and her husband made some life changing decisions after close encounters with tragedy and Caylie chooses to live her life consciously, reflecting on anything from the extraordinaire to the mundane.
My favourites are too many to list, but the opening story particularly has stayed with me (you really need to read it and experience the goosebumps and snotty tissues for yourself). Topics range from puppies to politics, from following your dreams and relationships to ... warts. Midwives, teachers, The Baby Artist, being an imperfect parent, libraries and writing and many more. But what all these stories have in common are heart, soul, humanity, frailty, courage, passion and love, and they made me giggle.
The book left me wanting more; more stories and more insights from a fascinating lady whose words flows on the page like a salve for the weary busy motherly soul.
Caylie’s book is being launched at Black Cat Books on Saturday the 10th of May at 10am.
And if you can't make it to the launch, you can get your copy here.
Interview with Caylie Jeffery author of Bedtime Stories for Busy Mothers
Please tell me you have more books like this planned?!
Yes, at the end of each year, I'll publish another Bedtime Story book for grownups, using the best stories I've published from the year before, possibly in e-book format to start with, and maybe one for Dads!
What was your road to getting this book published?
I have always loved to write, and used letters, journals and diaries to debrief about my life experiences. Blogging became another outlet after a Picture Book author suggested I get an audience and a platform before I started to submit stories to publishers. So just over a year ago, I started Distractions of a Busy Mother and realised that debriefing about imperfect parenting and describing positive experiences and inspirational events connected with a lot of people (mainly women between 30 and 60). My stories were read out on the radio and picked up by a few online magazines, and hey presto, I had a platform, an audience and a reason for writing. Now I can't stop.
I see wonder, beauty, pain and choices everywhere I look, and can't wait to get my fingers typing about so many different topics that might resonate with my readers. Because I was frightened off traditional publishing by a publisher who said they received 1000 manuscripts a day, I decided that life is too short to wait for someone to 'discover' me. So, I took the initiative, started my own publishing house (Mindful Matter Publications), found a great editor, printer and started learning everything I could about marketing. And here I am!
Can you share some tips for busy mothers?
Ha! I can offer some but I'd love to receive some in return!
I'm always looking for smarter ways to live and parent! But for what it's worth:
1. Be your true, authentic self. Your kids will know if you're trying to practice a new technique on them that you've read about in a book. If it doesn't come naturally, ask yourself why and then perhaps change the technique to suit your own style and voice
2. Those books next to your bed that tell you how to be a better parent can also sap your self-esteem. Perhaps get a blank journal and keep a record of all the things you do well as a mother, rather than beating yourself up about not being perfect. Just being aware of your developmental areas is a good start, and if you make a mistake, just pick yourself up, dust yourself off and do it better next time.
3. Follow all the same advice you give your children!
4. Have your own hobbies that don't involve the kids or your partner and make time for them
5. Don't stop reading for pleasure... even if it's only 15 minutes a day... sit up in bed, don't lie down to read! Else, you're a goner!
6. Allow yourself down-time. Watch a DVD with the kids, or watch one of your own when they're watching theirs! No guilt!
7. My biggest tip: ask for help when you are snowed under. Start with your kids, then your partner, then your extended family, then your friends. They don't know what to do to help you. Be specific, give a time frame and then say thank you without the need to pay them back with gifts. Let them help you, as you will pay it forward when you can, I just know it.
What are you working on now?
Apart from the marketing and promotion planning for this book, I'm continuing to write weekly essays for various online publications. I am also doing the QWC's Year of the Edit to finish off my YA Manuscript, Salt.
This story is based on our real-life experiences in London during the 2005 terrorist attacks and the ensuing sailing adventure. The heroine is a 16 year old Australian teenager called Rosie who finds power at sea after the traumatic past she's had.
Thank you, Caylie. I am looking forward to more stories and hope to one day hold one of your picture books in my hands!
Caylie and I are both members of Write Links, the Brisbane children's writers group. For more information check out the website.
Meet Tracey Lennon: Brisbane writer, illustrator and visual artist.
Late last year Tracey latest children's book, The True Book of Gnomes, was launched at Avid Reader in Brisbane. I was proud to be there supporting this local and talented author/ illustrator.
The True Book of Gnomes is written for young independent readers from 7 years and up. The story is written from 11 year old Sam’s perspective. Tracey really gets the voice right and the humour is sustained throughout. The story starts off with an exciting chase scene which plunges the reader into a tale of gnome kidnapping by terrible gnomers. After the gnomes, Tomte and his brother Binky, find safety with Sam and his family the story turns into an informative text with delicious titbits of knowledge about the lives of Gnomes.
The book can be read as a whole, or dipped in and out of. There is information on what to feed your gnome, the magic power of gnomes, runes, a short history of gnomes and includes jokes, riddles, quizzes, recipes and even music through the clever use of a QR code.
Though this book will be enjoyed by confident readers, it would also be a great asset to school libraries and specifically for reluctant readers, dyslexic readers and ESL students.
I was so fascinated by this book that I really wanted to learn a little more about Tracey and her background in writing and illustrating. So I went ahead and asked her some questions:
Your new book The True Book of Gnomes launched late last year.
What is your background? How did you become a children’s writer.
I never set out to be a children’s writer, or a writer at all. I’ve always been a compulsive reader and drawer and I studied an Arts degree and design when I left school. I also studied set design and illustration but I didn’t begin writing until I enrolled in a course at the College of Adult Education in Melbourne in 2000. I had a fantastic mentor and teacher called Rachel Flynn who inspired me. I wrote 4 educational fiction books for a local publishers in Melbourne and poems and plays for Australian school magazines.
But what I really want to know is, how did you become such a Gnome expert?
I read the Book of Gnomes by Rien Poortvliet when I was 15 and became fascinated with this world and all the different creatures and fairies in the fantasy realm. I was amazed at the variety and wealth of magic creatures in every culture and I wondered how they would fit into Australian life. I began noticing articles in the local paper about gnome owners and kidnapped gnomes. When I researched the topic on the Internet I discovered a number of organisations that “relocated” gnomes. As I wrote the book a number of gnomes found their way into my garden and my life and it was through them I became an “expert.”
There are quite a few facts within your story, I loved how you entwined Gnome and Human history and even made up your own language. Did you base much of the language of Runes on fact?
Yes. I researched the first types of writing and discovered they were called glyphs which means symbols. Then I found the Nordic runes from The Elder Futhark. I was amazed they were so similar to some English letters but I also thought it was wonderful that each rune has it’s own ancient story and meaning. The meaning of runes are open to interpretation and I was intrigued by the warning, “ Don’t use runes for magical spells until you are completely sure of what it is you’re doing and what (the runes) mean”! Perfect for a gnome’s secret language and spells.
How does your book assist children that find reading more challenging, such as reluctant readers or ESL students?
It’s written with a lower reading age and a high interest level. It has diagrams and pictures to help the reader understand the words. It is a ‘handbook” so it can be read in small sections to avoid reading fatigue. The font is larger and the pages have coloured backgrounds to help dyslexic readers.
What age group would your book appeal to?
7-12 and some adults.
Could you describe your writing process?
Pretty chaotic. I began writing this book on an envelope. Then in a notebook. As I started to write the book I began to do drawings with it - probably like a picture book. I had a specific goal which was to use the pictures to create meaning for the words. I wrote the book over two years but I had the gnome story for ages and I’d written lots of different versions of it. I decided on the chapters, did the research and then cut and pasted all the info into groups/chapters. Most of my writing is like collage- bits of info put together. Then I wove all the info into a story and joined the chapters with a narrative thread. I had a publishing contract on the book at that time so I was working with an editor to bash it into shape. I rewrote it many times. When I got the rights to the book back- I changed it again- included many more illustrations and redesigned it for my audience- dyslexic kids.
You did the illustrations yourself as well. Can you share a little more about your process as an illustrator?
I developed a series of gnome characters and then I went through the book and decided on the number and type of illustrations. I did them in black and white. For every illustration I’d do some sketches and when I was happy I’d use a light box to trace them onto watercolour paper. I used an old fashioned quill pen and ink because it kept the drawings loose- inkblots remind you not to get too uptight! and I like the effect of soft ink wash. I used a program called Comic Life to do the comics and collage for the chapter title pages. I’m dodgy with computers so I like to stick to pen, paint and paper and use computers to clean up the pictures. I got a graphic designer to help me put colour and labels on the drawings and design the book.
Do you consider yourself an author or illustrator first?
Not sure- probably a writer- I started writing and was published as a writer first. I guess that gives you a “professional” title. I’ve had two books published with my illustrations but mostly I just feel like someone who loves writing and drawing.
What advice would you give to yourself when you first started writing and/ or illustrating (imagine you have a time machine).
Warning : Don’t read this if you are easily scared. (I wouldn’t read it.)
Advice to myself: Try not to write everything on little bits of paper, Tracey, because you always lose them. Try to start with a plot and a narrative thread. Try not to have too many ideas. Punctuation and editing are good tools for writers like you to use. This will be the hardest thing you’ve ever done and will take an insane number of rewrites and redesigns to produce a book. Writing the book was the easy part- selling it is the hard part.
Which writer(s) inspires you?
Roald Dahl, Hilaire Belloc, Ogden Nash, Isabelle Carmody, Susan Cooper , Tolkien, C. S Lewis, Catherine Jinks.
Which illustrator(s) do you admire?
Quentin Blake, Ronald Searle, Lizbeth Zwerger, Oliver Jeffers, Julia Friese (Schnipselgestrüpp).
What writing resources do you recommend?
Writing Hannah by Libby Gleeson. This is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett. Screenplay by Syd Field. The Writing Book by Kate Grenville. The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell. The Poet’s Manual and Rhyming Dictionary by Frances Stillman. And online www.kidlit411.com.
What project(s) are you currently working on?
A series of three chapter books. They are narratives based on the “handbook” of gnomes. Written for 8-12 year olds and at 18, 000 words. I’d like my reluctant readers to have a go at reading shorter chapter books.
Where can people buy The True Book of Gnomes?
You can buy my book via my website, www.traceylennon.com, at Amazon or Booktopia and from local bookshops in Australia including : Avid Reader. Riverbend Books, Speld QLD.
TRACEY LENNON is a writer, designer, illustrator and tutor.
She has completed a Bachelor of Arts (UQ), Bachelor of Applied Science Interior Design (QUT), Cert IV Professional Writing and Editing (CAE Melb) and Cert IV TESOL (BNIT TAFE) and studied illustration and literacy. Her articles have been published in local and regional newspapers : Indian Link, trade magazine Multihull World and kid’s magazine, Scientriffic. She worked in communications at RMIT and is currently tutoring in English Grades K-12. She has had 4 novels for children published, Bad Hair Days, Fish Tales, The Fish Files and The Great Island Adventure. Her poems for children: Glimmer, P’s and Q’s and The Need for Speed, articles: King of the World, Freaky Creatures, Pirates at School and play The Secret Club have been published in The NSW School Magazine and Pearson School magazines.
In 2013 she participated in Two Locals, Brisbane Grammar and Clayfield College Art Shows. The True Book of Gnomes for middle readers was launched in December 2013.
Who knew I was doing a series! This post marks the last in a series of three posts featuring the most amazing critique partners a children's writer could have!
Today I am featuring Sylvia Liu, writer, illustrator and winner of the Lee & Low New Voices Award 2013.
I was lucky enough to meet up with Sylvia a year ago through Julie Hedlund's 12x12. We share a lot of the same passions and interests and I was very impressed with her knowledge of illustration and her willingness to share her experience with everyone. I am now honored to call Sylvia a friend and am excited to follow her journey towards the publication of her first picture book, A Morning with Gong Gong.
What is the New Voices Award?
Established in 2000, the New Voices Award encourages writers of color to submit their work to a publisher that takes pride in nurturing new talent. The Award winner receives a cash prize of $1000 and a standard publication contract, including the basic advance and royalties for a first time author with Lee & Low.
The Winning Story:
A Morning with Gong Gong portrays an energetic young girl named Mei Mei, as she spends time with her grandfather. When Mei Mei sees her grandfather, Gong Gong, practicing t’ai chi in the garden, she is eager to join in. He tries to teach her the slow and graceful moves, and Mei Mei, in turn, tries to teach Gong Gong some of the yoga poses she has learned in school. Although they both struggle with these new activities, Mei Mei and Gong Gong realize that it’s the time they spend together that is important. (From the Lee & Low website)
Please paint a picture, what was your reaction when you found out you had won the Award? I know you had to sit on the good news for a while before you were able to share it, it must have been sweet suspense.
When I got The Call, it was actually Call Waiting, because I was on the phone with my husband. I saw a New York number on caller ID. Not recognizing it, but not thinking much about it, I took the call. It was my editor, who introduced herself as being from Lee and Low. At that moment, my heart began to beat double time. My immediate thought was that I was one of the finalists, but then she told me that I had won. I am sure she thought I was a blithering idiot. After the call, I did a happy dance and called my husband. I did some more happy dances with my girls when they came home from school.
I heard on December 20, so it was a wonderful Christmas present. Lee and Low asked me not to share the news with anyone except close family until they officially announced the award in mid-January. I was dying to tell my critique members and other close friends, but I kept mum. The three and half weeks until the January 15 announcement were torture, but I learned that I can keep a secret.
Roughly how long did it take you to write A Morning with Gong Gong from idea to submission?
It was very short compared to most my stories, which go through months of resting and revisions. I came up with the idea in June 2013, wrote my first draft in July, and went through a couple rounds with my critique group in August and September. I had a professional critique done in mid-September and snail mailed the story to meet the contest deadline of September 30.
I know that you do not practice t’ai chi yourself, what inspired you to write this story?
My dad has practiced t’ai chi since I was a teenager. In the last decade or so, he has moved on to a different Chinese mind-body practice, qi gong. I wrote the story when I was on a family vacation in Vermont with my parents. Watching my dad practice qi gong and seeing my him interact with my girls and my sister’s three kids inspired the story. The story originally included qi gong as well, but I ended up paring it down.
Is there an underlying theme or an overarching philosophy that runs through your writing?
I guess my stories reflect a curiosity about the world. I try to remember what it’s like to be a child where everything is new and strange and mysterious. Some of my stories have environmental themes, a leftover from my years as a marine conservation attorney. Others are more idiosyncratic.
Can you describe your writing process?
I’m a pantser when it comes to picture book stories, and an outliner for my middle grade work. I usually have an idea of a character or a story in mind, and I start writing and see what develops. The problem is that my resulting story often lacks an important element, like a narrative arc or a motivation for the main character. That’s where my awesome critique group comes in and points out that I need to include a plot or an ending. It usually works itself out after a few rounds of critiquing, which is why I am such a fan of critique groups in general and my critique group specifically.
If you are a children’s writer or illustrator, Kidlit411.com is one of the best resources on the web and it is totally free!
Kidlit411.com was launched recently and I had the pleasure of interviewing the founder of the site, Elaine Kiely Kearns. Luckily she was able to snatch away a few precious minutes from her hectic schedule, because not only is she a children’s writer, but she is also a teacher, married (to a fireman no less) with two beautiful daughters.
I ‘met’ Elaine last year through Julie Hedlund’s 12x12 picture book writing challenge. When a call came up for people wanting to join an online critique group we both accepted the challenge. It has been amazing year of writing, creativity and friendship.
Here is the interview:
Who is Kidlit411 for?
KIDLIT411 is for everyone who is trying to write a children's book, whether they are just starting out on the journey or are already published. It is a place for everyone!
The site has topics from Challenges, Contests & Awards, to Diversity in Kidlit, Query Letters and Social Media. This is only a short list, you really need to have a look at yourself to get an idea of the scope of the site. The topics link you to the latest, quality and useful websites and resources.
How did you come up with the idea for Kidlit411?
KidLit411 came about from my need to pool resources from the internet. There are so many great sites out there and the kid lit community LOVES to share information! The amount of resources shared in Julie Hedlund's 12x12 was so fantastic that I couldn't keep up and needed a place to put it. So, I started making a list of the sites that I loved the most and would return to again and again to share with my online critique group. Then I started thinking that perhaps other friends would enjoy the information too , and eventually the idea just morphed into an entire online site.
Some of my critique partners, Teresa Robeson, Yvonne Mes, and Alayne Kay Christian also work on the KidLit411 site, Sarah Maynard updates the site regularly with the latest contest dates. Sylvia Liu is also my partner, keeping the site running, adding links, and overseeing the illustrations.
What are some of Kidlit411 features?
KL411 features a weekly ILLUSTRATORS SPOTLIGHT, where Sylvia Liu, interviews an illustrator about their craft and showcases their art and a weekly AUTHOR'S SPOTLIGHT where I interview an author and find out what helps them be successful in the industry.
We also send a WEEKLY 411 email (sign up here! http://www.kidlit411.com )where you get a condensed version of all of the new links and information that has been posted for that week. This is also the ONLY place where we include 'NEW AGENT information, so be sure to sign up!
How is Kidlit411 different from other websites for children’s writers and illustrators?
KL411 is different because it is more of an online link library than a blog. We aren't talking about kid lit or the industry, but rather we are a hub, a gathering place for all the really great online information that we find.
We've weeded out the bad stuff, and only left you with the best. You can pretty much bet that if it's listed on our site, it's worth a look.
How can people get involved with Kidlit411?
We welcome suggestions for quality links that are relevant to children's writing and illustrating, you can email them to: email@example.com.
If you are interested in being featured in any of our main pages or would like to be featured in the Illustrator or Author Spotlights you can email the above address as well.
To the right is a screen shot taken from Kidlit411, I love how all the topics are grouped and displayed. Each topic features art from children's illustrators and are changed on a weekly basis to showcase as many illustrators as possible.
If you are an illustrator you can send your own art in for consideration.
Not only is Kidlit411 an amazing resources it also supports upcoming and established writers and illustrators.
What is next for Kidlit411?
We have so many awesome ideas for KIDLIT411! Time will bring more great things to the site, that's for sure. Stay tuned!
(As I write this, Elaine has just added a classified/ wanted topic where writers and illustrators can look for critique partners, illustrators etc.)
Who do you look for for inspiration?
That is a really hard question to answer, I try to surround myself with people who inspire me! I guess those that I admire the most are all of those who don't give up or give in, those who are kind and helpful, those who help, even when the "helping" is hard. True people with a good heart and soul. Oh, and anyone who makes me laugh. I love to laugh. (But not in a creepy unnatural way) :-)
And one final question:
Which children's writer, past and/or present do you admire?
I have way to many favorites to choose just one!
Elaine Kiely Kearns is a picture book writer from NY, a second grade elementary school teacher and a mother of two, who lives on coffee, chocolate and humor.
You can find out more about Elaine, by checking out her website.
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Children's Writer and Illustrator