What am I working on?
What I'm meant to be working on, is my third book in the DynaMites Music series. The first has just been published, second one about to go to the printer, and the deadline for the third one is coming up. And I am working on it, I really am. Honest.
DynaMites is a church music program for preschoolers, so it involves more programming than real writing. I've finished the exciting part, the programming, and now I'm setting it out neatly and checking list after list of songs, books and resources so I can send it to the editor. Dead boring work.
What I'm spending more time on is manuscripts for board books on the same themes as the program I've written. I can't find the sort of books I would like to recommend to go with the program and I'm overflowing with ideas of my own.
I'm also working on plenty of other manuscripts for picture books. These are stories which I will submit to mainstream publishers. The one on my mind right now is an Anzac Day story.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
My Hey! series is FUN. It doesn't seem worth writing a children's book unless I can see it being a child's favourite. I aim to write books which have an element of surprise or something to make a child laugh. I want my books to have a natural message without being overly didactic. I also want to write books which work well with a group, such as at a playgroup or music group.
DynaMites Music is the only Australian church music program for preschoolers which has been published, as far as I know. The songs I have used are available on itunes and I suggest lots of fun resources such as a variety of percussion instruments, dancing ribbons and boomwhackers. I think parachute games are a must for every week - every session ends with a few parachute songs.
Why do I write what I do?
I have all these ideas, and I have to do something with them.
I love writing picture books. Some of my stories are simply for the fun of it, and others are more meaningful to me. Creating new characters and stories is satisfying, and I love the challenge of making the story work and the sport of attempting to get it published.
The Christian books have the added dimension that I am benefiting others in a deeper way, if they can learn about God through my books. I'm more practical than artistic, and I'm motivated to create resources which others can use.
How does my writing process work?
I begin with writing ideas in a notebook. If I don't write them down, I forget them. Picture book idea month is fantastic for inspiring ideas. Usually it's only half an idea, but I write it down anyway, and hope that it will match up with another half-idea.
When I have a chunk of time, I sit down and write a first draft. I often do this at the computer, but I love doing it sitting on the beach. I don't care if it's terrible, because nobody else will read it. At least I then have something to work on.
I'm a slow thinker, but that doesn't seem to matter when writing picture books . I write a gazillion drafts with teensy changes. I enjoy the rewriting, because it feels like solving a puzzle, and it's satisfying to see the manuscript get better and better. I also love my writers' group. They tell me what isn't working in the story and I always come home from our meetings feeling inspired.
When I think the manuscript is the best it can possibly be, I usually make up a dummy. It always looks lame. This isn't for anyone else to see, but I'll let you see a page. The dummy helps me see how the text could fit into a 32-page layout, see more clearly how it might work with illustrations, and whether or not the page turns work well. When I think it's absolutely ready, then I still often keep it for a few months before submitting, so that I can see it again with fresh eyes.
Next Monday, Cecily, Julia and Ramona will blog about their writing processes.
My first 2 board books are officially launched.
I was nervous about driving to Menai early in the morning, but once I had arrived on time, I was able to relax and enjoy the morning. The books were launched at Menai Anglican Church playgroup, along with another book also published by Youthworks, Bitzy the Bossy Bilby by Skye Parry-Jones.
I was asked to give a talk to the adults on the topic of 'Making the most of storytime'. I loved inspiring people to share books with their children.
It was hard to believe that people wanted me to sign their books. After all that signing, I'm getting used to scribbling in the front of beautiful new books, without feeling like I'm destroying them.
It was fun to meet lots of children (and Mums and Grandmas) who were enthusiastic about my books.
The little fan sitting between me and Skye already had his copies and - this has to be the ultimate for any author - he has to sleep with them every night. He melts my heart.
I consider the launch a huge success, because I didn't make any mistakes in people's books.
Thanks Youthworks for organising the morning and making it a great event.
I imagined it would be exciting to have something published.
Writing about my experience of having a miscarriage was sad and painful, but still positive. It helped me work through the emotions I went through at the time - ten years ago.
The news that my contribution would be included in this anthology was a shock. I had written it for myself and I submitted it without expecting it to be accepted. It is too personal for others to read.
When the book was published, I had just been to a memorial ceremony for my nephew who had died at 28 weeks gestation. At the time, I was too sad to tell many friends that I had had a piece of writing published.
I hope and pray that this book will help women going through the lonely and traumatic experience of miscarriage. I'm happy to share my experience, if it helps others through their pain.
But I feel no excitement about having my writing published.
A publisher accepted one of my stories, but will you please STOP looking excited, I haven't finished the story!
As I was saying, a lovely publisher accepted one of my stories, collected my ABN etc and then emailed to say she was in the middle of drawing up my contract but had forgotten to ask for my postal address. For 6 weeks I knew the contract would arrive in my letterbox 'any day now'.
When my lovely publisher, who is great with emails, phoned me - on the telephone ... I could guess what she was going to say. Something about difficult market conditions ... still believe in the quality of my manuscript ... but due to the difficult market conditions ... I felt too dizzy to speak, but I had a vague awareness that I needed to say something so she would know I was still there. I said, 'I don't know what to say.'
My story was not going to be published. Unbelievable. I'd never heard of something like this happening. Worse than that, I had to un-tell everyone I had told. I knew my Picture This friends would be supportive, but my family would be disappointed. When my daughter finished crying, she said, 'And I thought my Mum was a REAL author.' I had to go to the SCBWI conference as a fraud, with my 'Author' business card.
I arrived at the SCBWI conference feeling like a teenager who had just been dumped - hating my ex's guts, but still wanting to get back with him. The Picture This guys were sympathetic and they could hardly believe that something like this could happen. One of the first people I met was Katrina Germein, who had known about my story being accepted. She told me that something similar had happened to most people in the room. If that was true then maybe I wasn't such a fraud.
On Saturday author Claire Saxby spoke about the first book she had accepted. It was illustrated, had the ISBN and she even had a rough copy to show us. But before it went to print, the publisher went broke. Years later she saw the editor and told him she was devastated by this. His response was, 'Devastated? I don't think so. I lost my job, my house and my family.' (gulp)
Claire's second book to be accepted was published, but even then it took 5 or 6 years.
Sue Whiting also spoke about her experience. Her first book also had illustrations completed, and then the editor died. She tried taking it to other publishers but they all said it was 'too finished'. Hearing this made me feel like a normal writer.
On the Sunday, Laura Harris from Penguin, spoke about book sales. The reality is that book sales overall have been down 20-25% in the last 2 months. So, my wise publisher was probably right in changing the decision made 2 months ago. It's disappointing to be unaccepted, but it would also be disappointing to have a book which didn't sell.
I've gone through my initiation now, and I feel like I'm part of the club. It's great to be a SCBWI member to have the friendship and support which has stopped me from getting discouraged. And I've already sent out a new submission.
Without SCBWI, I would still think I was the first person this has ever happened to.
I am a children's author.