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READ WRITE INSPIRE. Welcome to my Words, a place devoted to making Reading and Writing for children more Inspired.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Granted - Writing a Picture Book ain't easy

Around winter a year ago, I was blessed to be awarded a  CAL Creative Industries Career Fund grant. There was much rejoicing and disbelief then more rejoicing. This was duly followed by quiet hand clapping, frantic paper shuffling, pencil sharpening and then excited conference booking. Several spread sheets, dozens of workshop notes, zillions of manuscript drafts and one grant acquittal later, I am happy to report that I am creeping ever closer to the conviction that granted, writing a picture book is not as straightforward as a walk in the park even when that walk includes the most beguiling, fluffy-eared, impeccably behaved pup displaying all the necessary attributes to make passersby stop and swoon with delight, but it is one hundred per cent worth it.

In fact this is a notion I've been clinging onto for some years now, rather like a the proverbial dog with a bone. But as any progressing author (I tend to shun the term 'emerging'. I mean I've been born, already.) will tell you, without the merchandising funds of your latest, in fact your only, published work to sustain you, finding replacement leads for your pencils, let alone inspiration to continue writing gets a bit tricky.

So I decided to step up my speed and purpose and ask for a helping hand. I applied for many funds and fellowships with the same commitment and determination as I had when entering competitions and awards in the past. And I lucked out. How to go about choosing and applying for grants is an art unto itself. Getting the timing right can be as exacting as submitting a manuscript. But the fact is, there are many organisations, associations and funding bodies that offer regular opportunities for you to seek financial assistance for your writing or illustration project no matter what it might be.

For those ready and interested, this re-blogged post of Charlotte Wood's is an extremely useful and detailed look at how to go about the grant writing process (for literary funding). The article hits every nail on the head. Of course I happened across it after already applying for mine. But nonetheless, it provides great reminders for the next time and time after that.

So what have I learnt?
  • Know exactly why you want a grant. Have a clear project goal with attainable objectives but don't be unrealistic.
  • Invest in your self and your work, put in the hard yards first. In other words, commit to your craft. It pays to accrue some industry experience, credentials and publications. I waited several years before applying.
  • Cultivate your author persona and almost as important, be aware of those around you.
  • Do your homework. Study what's on offer and determine which fund, grant, award or fellowship will best suit your project requirements at this stage of your career.
  • Be prepared, ordered and methodical when completing grant applications. Follow application guidelines to the letter.
  • Details matter. Take time to work on a realistic budget (they may want to see how you intend to spend the money they offer you). Work on supplying quality support material, this may include samples of your own work and or letters of recommendation from those in the industry.
  • Acquit your grant in a timely and professional manner. This is when you report back to the funding body at the completion of your grant period, once you've been awarded it. Because you will get one. It's only a matter of time...
Why did I seek funding?

Because I'd been walking around that park with my picture book pup (actually a whole pack of them) for a long time. Enjoyable as that was, I felt like I was going in circles. Structured mentorships had been unattainable to me before but with the CIC fund I finally had the opportunity, impetus and (great sigh of relief), resources to embark on one. This I did with the awesomely patient and wise, Dee White. The year that followed, attending conferences, stockpiling information and working with Dee one-on-one on my manuscripts was the most incredible rite of passage.

So what did I gain?

Well, you'll have to tune in again next time when I outline what a grant did for me and how you could benefit too.

Granted, you may not quite be at this stage yet, so simply file this information away safely. You will be one day.

Thanks to Sheryl Gwyther for first bringing Charlotte's wonderful blog post to my attention.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Sparking ideas with Melissa Wray

Almost two years ago fellow author, Melissa Wray and I shared a marvelous first. We published our debut novels for children with Morris Publishing Australia. Each story grew from very different beginnings. Her's Destiny Road, is a story about decisions and consequences, walking the right path and growing up. A raw, non-comprising look at a young girl's coming of age, suited to older teens.

But from where did the seed of this idea originate and how did it germinate within Melissa's writing realm? If you have ever wondered about the inside stories, the stories behind the stories of great writing, read on. It's goosebumpy good.

What sparked the idea to write Destiny Road?
Recently Melissa Wray was asked this question by Uncommon YA. Here is her very personal response.
We moved to North Queensland when I was 14. After a year or so Mum could see that something about Townsville and I did not mix. Strangely enough it was her suggestion to ring my dad and ask if I could move back south.

So I did. Then I packed my bags and moved 3,000km away to live with him. This decision is what sparked the idea for Destiny Road.

Now I never set out to write this story, let alone have it published. It just kind of happened. It came about because one night I was lying in bed and couldn’t sleep. There was an unspoken conversation going on in my mind. It was a conversation that I regret not having and has played on my mind over the years. This particular night it got the better of me so I got up and began to write. It wasn’t until after I read through those mad ramblings a couple of weeks later that I thought hmmm … I could create a story from this. So I began writing. I passed my 10,000 word milestone. Then 20 then 30 then before I knew it 50,000 words had been typed.

You see I think about that one phone call I made all those years ago sometimes. I have often thought about how that decision, that one pivotal moment that is talked about in Destiny Road, really did change the course of my life. I’m sure as you're reading this you can look back over your life, and pinpoint one moment that has shaped it in a big way. I truly believe that Dad saying yes when I asked was a determining factor in how things have turned out for me.

One afternoon I was sitting with him. He got to talking about his philosophy on life and death. Dad had been fighting a battle against cancer for a while at this point and I was kneeling next to him as he sat on his reclining chair. He was holding my hand as he shared these ideas on life and death. He said to me "It’s cool. Whatever happens, it’s cool." My dad used cool a lot when he spoke. He was pretty cool. He was also a big believer in God. So that afternoon he said "It’s cool if I die because I get to meet my maker." ‘Then he said "But it’s cool if I live because I get to be with the ones I love." This was his philosophy. Either way was cool with him.

I remember kneeling there, holding his hand and wishing I could say thankyou to him. Thanks for saying yes all those years ago. Thanks for that pivotal moment in my life. I wanted him to know how much that meant. But I couldn’t. I just couldn’t get those words out.

That night he passed away.

I never did get to tell him and have regretted that for the past 10 years. So you see once the spark to write Destiny Road was lit, it had to finished. It was my tribute, my thankyou and I am beyond thrilled it was published.

Now I’m not going to bore you with my views on life and death but I can’t help but wonder something, because anyone who knew my dad, Rod Morris, and anyone who knew his sense of humour ... well I can’t help but wonder if there wasn’t a helping hand when Morris Publishing (no relation) chose to publish Destiny Road. I like to think so.

It's hard to believe two years has passed since the launch of Destiny Road. To celebrate there is a chance to win 2 x $20 Gift Cards, ENTER NOW!

To connect with Melissa;

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Blasting off with Tottie and Dot and Tina Snerling

Today is special. Today we welcome two new girls to the neighbourhood. They are Tottie and Dot and they grace the pages of Tania McCartney's and Tina Snerling's latest creation, Tottie and Dot. To celebrate, the girls are having a BLOG BLAST party guaranteed to have you screaming with delight.

 Here's a snippet of what I thought of this yummy picture book.

Tottie andDot is the latest picture book deliciousness doled up by Tania McCartney and Tina Snerling. As with their previous bestseller, An Aussie Year, Tottie and Dot effortlessly teams McCartney’s delectable dream-like story line with Snerling’s candy-luscious illustrations. Sweetly simple statements are anchored on full double page spreads with divinely drawn detail, right down to the tiny-tarred paw prints and gumball pebbled paths.

You can read the rest of my review of Tottie and Dot here. Meanwhile, I've just spotted illustrator, Tina Snerling. If I can keep her away from the apricot sandwiches for a moment, I might be able to ask her a few arty type questions. Hope you can hear us over the screaming...

Hi Tina - fantastic party. Tell me...

Q. Who is Tina Snerling? Describe your illustrative self.

My life is immersed daily in illustration, vibrant colour and intense patterns. There is rarely a day that passes that I am not drawing, brainstorming or dreaming of what will be illustrated next. It is my day job, my night job, my hobby, my passion and my dream.

Q. How long have you been illustrating kids’ books? What do you find most gratifying about it?

I have been illustrating kid’s books for nearly 5 years – wow, I can’t believe it’s been that long! My first illustration was creating the characters for ‘An Aussie Year’, with Tania.  The most gratifying part of illustrating children’s books is creating characters from my own imagination and watching the children connect with each one on their own level.  It is like a thousand Christmas’s come at once when you see your book in print for the first time!

Q Your illustrations seem to use a truncated palette of colours yet come across full of colour-popping detail. How do you achieve this?

Colour is my passion, and one of the most enjoyable processes of illustrating is creating the colour palette. I am drawn to intense, complementary colours – and kids respond so well to it too! It wasn’t until I began illustrating my third children’s picture book that I even realised I have a particular style when it comes to colour -  I don’t do anything in particular to create this, I am just naturally drawn to a succinct, vibrant colour palette. 

Q. What look were you trying to achieve with Tottie and Dot? Why?

I wanted two recognisable characters that were very clear with their identity. Given the intensity of the story line, I knew it would become chaotic, so I loved the idea of creating characters that stood out amongst the chaos. I wanted ‘Tottie and Dot’ to be a maze of illustrations that kept their reader interested long after they had read the words. I hid little details in each page, waiting for the reader to find them.

Q. This is the second time you have partnered your pictures with Tania McCartney. Was this a deliberate choice to collaborate or just happy chance?

Deliberate choice – absolutely! Tania and I are actually currently working on our third picture book! We both work so well together, and hope to continue to work together for many years to come. Our partnership is a team effort – there is no Author and Illustrator in our case – we want our books to be recognisable as a collaboration rather than separate artists working together. 

Q. What media are you most comfortable illustrating in? What medium did you use to create Tottie and Dot?

I am a digital illustrator, and I work very differently to many traditional artists. I generally don’t sketch using a pencil and paper – all my ideas are drawn directly onto the screen using my graphics tablet and Adobe Illustrator. I am a perfectionist with my illustrations, and I love using digital as I can easily re-draw an incorrect stroke or change a colour at the touch of my pen. Tottie and Dot was drawn digitally.

Q Which colour best represents you and why?

The colour that best represents me is probably 'yellow' I tend to be drawn to this colour in all aspects of my life. It's a happy colour that's hard to be depressed around and it evokes thoughts of brightness and energy - I would like to think that's how people think of me!

Q. What’s on the drawing board for Tina?

Many, many things!!! During the day, I am a Graphic Artist for a children’s stationery company – on my days off/at night when I should be sleeping -   I illustrate children’s books. In the very near future I will be concentrating even more on illustration and am working on illustrating my own book, among other things!

Q. Just for fun question (there’s always one) If you could make up any flavour tea, what would be your favourite concoction?

Oh, this is a hard one for me as I don’t actually drink tea (or coffee for that matter!) If I did, it would definitely be sweet – strawberry, vanilla and anything chocolate!!!

Fabulous Tina. Thanks for the chat and the chance to party with Tottie and Dot.

But don't leave yet - this party is ALL DAY. Check out the Blog Blast Schedule for more awesome pit-stops, interviews, give-aways, reviews and tantalising tip bits on  Tottie and Dot. Or just click on the poster. It's that easy.

EK Books September 2014