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Category Archives: Animals
The Untangled Tales website is the best of the Summer Reading sites. Going over the site, was like being in one of the famous ‘But WAIT, there’s more!’ advertisements! At every click of the mouse, there was more and all of it FREE! There is something here for children of all ages [preschool, primary, secondary], for their parents, teachers and librarians. The site is gorgeous [literally] to look at, easy to navigate, entertaining in content and layout and engagingly informative!
The Celebrity Corner questions brought out the creative quirkiness of authors and illustrators in a very entertaining way and featured a very diverse group of creatives!
The Untangled Tales game is a blast – great fun! It challenges memory and prods research capabilities and informs about other cultures, their customs and attitudes as reflected in their fairytales and legends.
Check out the side tabs and their drop down menus – there is heaps and heaps of fun activity, fantastic tales, playful poetry and fanciful stories, arty opportunities, creative competitions in writing and art activities and painless learning along the way!!
I’m thrilled to be part of this year’s Summer Reading Club. I’m in Celebrity Corner with Kerry Brown, Christian Bocquee [with whom I am collaborating in our own Fractured Fairytales collection], Terry Denton, Lucia Masciullo and numbers of other wonderfully creative folk!
Muza Ulasowski, my wonderful collaborator, has created a fabulous FB page for our picture book, “The Sea Cat Dreams”! Muza’s wonderfully life like illustrations have perfectly captured the story in a way I could never have envisaged! She has truly captured the story’s essence! Here are some samples:
The story is about coping with life impacting change something that can happen planned [as in a house move] or completely unplanned [as with a natural disaster, accident, death etc]. Coping with change, as child/family psychologists and counselors all say, is something that has a profound impact, especially on the young. As with grief, adults are often too preoccupied with the change and its ramifications to be able to take in how the children, who are being impacted by change, are managing or not managing in the new setting/situation.
The cat in the story moves, accidently, from one environment & family on a farm, to another very different one, aboard a fishing boat. He is then impacted further by the loss of a master he has come to love. But this is not the end. He moves through his life’s dramatic changes; firstly, by grieving, something we need to encourage each other and especially children, to do. He then reaches out to, shares with and cares for others also affected by loss, in this case, the fisherman’s widow. He gradually accepts his new life situation, not for a moment forgetting what has happened, but treasuring the wonderful memories he has.
The process of grieving must be acknowledged and the grieving child/adult be allowed to express their grief or sense of loss at the change in their lives and encouraged to do so. Let them talk, let them share as much as they need to. Highlight the constructive aspects, positive elements, e.g, wonderful memories of a dead friend, relative or pet. If the impacting change has involved a move – be it to a different school, to another suburb, another state, another country – encourage the keeping of contacts where possible, assist with the making of new contacts and the sharing of the process of moving and resettling, especially any humorous incidents.
The hope in writing this book, was to help children talk about their own stories of life changing events and to recognise, that whilst change is not always pleasant, we can become stronger for it and be better able to reach out and empathise with others experiencing its many faceted impact on their own lives.
Reviews and recommendations:
The Sea Cat Dreams is a beautifully written and illustrated book for children. In today’s world with so many young people facing loss and change, this important resource supports a child’s journey through grief and separation.
I am adding it as a good resource in my new book, the third edition of “Life and Loss”.
Author, Children Also Grieve, Life and Loss
Fellow in Thanantology: Death, Dying, and Bereavement (FT), MS degree Counseling, Master’s Equivalency in early childhood education, LCPC and NBCC. She worked as a teacher and counselor in the school system for almost twenty years.
I’ve just lost a dear friend to cancer and I felt refreshed after reading the Sea Cat’s Dreams story.
I found myself identifying with the Sea Cat in the story and this metaphor provided a comforting space from the painful loss, but it also normalized it. Like the cat’s life, our life is often interrupted by hurtful events. Through the cat’s eyes I witnessed my sorrow and of those around me but in the midst of it all there is a safe, calm place on our heart’s sill where we know we shall be well, allowing the sorrow to run its course while cherishing the memories.
I would definitely use it with my clients, young and old.
Youla Overbey, MA, LLPC
Behavioral Health Counselor at Catholic Charities West Michigan; Professional Counselor at Muskegon Counseling & Educational Services
The Sea Cat Dreams is the latest bibliotherapy book penned by JR Poulter. The story, recounted in beautiful poetic form, centres around the life transitions of a cat and the devastating loss it has to bear, rendering it a very versatile bibliotherapy tool which can be used with children who have experienced different types of life transitions including change and loss in different dimensions. The slogan for the book is “Coping with change…” and this is an apt choice as change is paradoxically the constant in the cat’s life resulting in losses borne on lots of levels. The losses associated with the first transition in the cat’s life pale into insignificance compared to the devastating loss associated with the second and this bears out the author’s sensitivity to different losses having different impacts. The contrast is rendered starker by the positivity of the first transition in the cat’s life and this also shows awareness on the author’s part that not all life changes are unsettling. These observations lend further testimony to the nature of the author’s outlook on life which is both realistic and positive and shines through her work. Poulter focuses on coping with change and all its ramifications. She highlights the relational aspect of coping with bereavement in caring for and comforting one another and gives prominence to the importance of memories and fantasy in coping with changes and loss. The book is illustrated by Muza Ulasowski with delightful romantic imagery in hues that evoke comfort and warmth, blending seamlessly with the overarching theme of resilience in the face of tragedy. The Sea Cat Dreams is a book I would wholeheartedly recommend.
Claire Casha is a psychology graduate with over ten years’ experience of family therapy work. She is currently working as a research officer and reading for a Master in Family Studies at the University of Malta.
Preview and purchase: http://utales.com/books/the-sea-cat-dreams
Books are created from the imagination and inspiration of authors and the insightful vision of illustrators. They are then crafted. The authorial crafting may be right brain with a touch of editing or slow and laborious left brain plotting. For an illustrator, it may be inspiration flowing like rivers from brush or stylus or it may be storybook or dummy creation then rethinks, scrap some ideas, adapt others. Eventually, a book emerges that is then ‘ready for submission’. These days, that may mean adding animation and audio to make the book a digital production for app developers like Utales or Flying Books, or for YA, formatting it for Kindle or Nook e-publishers. It may mean self publishing on Createspace or Lightningsource, Smashwords or Lulu. Or it will mean the long road via submission to traditional publishers.
If the latter is chosen, the publisher will often require more editing, changes and perhaps more changes. My own book, started under contract to one publisher, was already well underway with the inimitable Sarah Davis as illustrator. We were having a ball creating our book. Then our publisher was taken over and the new publisher wanted to institute changes. At first, the major change – ‘get rid of the dead bird’ – seemed straight forward. Then we realised the book needed the bird but, to keep it, we had to make some big adjustments. An injured bird can’t just disappear in a children’s book, it has to get better and be released, which, in our picture book, meant its story had to be woven into the fabric of the main story seamlessly. No problem, a few days and Sarah and I had nailed it! As book creators, you have to be flexible and, especially if going the traditional publisher route, you can’t be too precious about your creation.
SO! This exhibition is about the journey numbers of wonderful children’s and YA books took from creation to bookshelf! Each book has a different creation story to reveal – something the public doesn’t see, it’s behind the scenes. Now the reader can take a peek backstage, behind the scenes to how it all came together!
THE SET UP
Setting up was not straight forward. The spaces has to be utilised to best advantage and the items displayed needed to be seen from as many angles as possible given I had a two shelf rectangular glass case. I didn’t end up using everything I brought with me. It would have been too cluttered. Last minute inclusion, bulldog clips, proved life-savers! They held the photographic prints in place.
I had never ‘hung’ a painting before at an exhibition and that proved ‘interesting. Sarah Davis sent up her wonderful original painting via kindly courier, Peter Taylor, but it was unframed. I had no time to find a frame. Fortunately, I had one around the house that was a good match colour-wise though not quite the perfect size.
Given my exhibit was about my close collaboration with Sarah, the items displayed needed to reflect the two minds working together to make a new creative whole – our book! Sources of inspiration, stages in text change, changes in images, cover and trivia relating to the characters, objects and places in the book, all combined to make a successful ( I hope you agree) exhibit!
The Exhibition, Journey of a Book, has a wide range of book journeys exhibited, from YA novel, like David McRobbie’s, to real life adventure by Prue Mason, picture books like those by Kathrine Battersby and chapter books like the one by Angela Sunde, to non fiction works on calligraphy as an illustrative art form by Peter Taylor.
Andrea has gotten it spectacularly right! The CEO of Tell Me a Story launched 10 new titles on 30th June, this year. I was privileged to be guest speaker at an event that had even seasoned politicians, Ian Rickuss, MP Lockyer, and Steve Jones, Mayor, Lockyer Valley Regional Council, commenting on attendance numbers!
Assembled authors, illustrators and guest panelists with Andrea Kwast
Muza Ulasowski [Panelist] and Guest Speaker, J.R.Poulter
The audience was rapt. I have seldom been at a publishing event where everyone’s eyes shone! Andrea has the devoted support of her very wide community of readers and growing. She also has the good fortune to have a very devoted group of assistants in administrator, Rel, and local photographer and budding author herself, Jenni Smith.
Research and innovation, preparedness to think out of the box, are hallmarks of Andrea and her team. She believes stories are lurking everywhere and it just takes the right determination, editing and dedication to bring them out. That she is succeeding over and above expetaction is more than demonstrated by the sellout and reprint, within the first few weeks since the launch, of no fewer than 3 titles!
Hearty Congratulations Andrea and Team and to all her authors – keep writing!
Why Choose Self-Publishing – Jo Linsdell’s experience as a new children’s picture book author
“Why did you choose to self publish?”
I wanted full control over every aspect of the book. I wrote the story for my son and designed it to suit his tastes. the fact that he played such an active role in it’s creation makes it all the more special to me. By self publishing I got to call all the shots and make it exactly as I wanted it.
“Why did you choose to do the whole book yourself, instead of collaborating with a writer or an illustrator? Are there drawbacks to going it alone”
I studied art and design at college and love it. I figured I might as well put both my writing skills and my illustrating skills to practice. Why hire someone else when i can do it myself? There is a down side to going it alone though. For example, I had no problems in sketches the illustrations for the book, but making them digital and print quality was a whole different story. I’d never used a graphic program before and so it was a huge learning curve for me. Luckily for me, one of my tech savvy friends was on hand to give me advice and assistance. he saved the day more than once 😉
“How has the experience been for you so far? “
Great. This book has been so much fun to do right from the beginning. I’m having fun with the marketing side of things too.
Is the process something anyone could undertake or do you need to be tech savvy?”
I think a certain amount of tech-savviness is definitely a plus. If you’re not lucky enough to have a graphic friend to help out with the technical stuff than I suggest going a different route. There’s so much you need to know, from what colours you can use to dealing with transparencies and layers, in order to get a quality end result. Producing a children’s book is not as easy as some people might think.
“How cost effective is self publishing?”
Very. I spent no money in the creation of the book. I wrote the text and did the illustrations myself. I’m also lucky to have a fantastic network of friends that volunteered to proofread for me and help out with my technical questions. My network has been amazing in supporting my promotional tour to launch the book too with many of them offering to host me on their sites, review the book and help spread the word.
The only cost I’ve had was $25 to have the book added to expanded distribution via createspace (to make it available to bookstores, onlne retailers, libraries etc…) and the cost of a proof copy.
“How time effective is self publishing with regards to all the promotional and marketing work?”
Marketing takes up a lot of time. I don’t think self publishing differs particularly from other publishing routes when it comes to marketing though. Even if you publish through a traditional publisher you will be expected to do a certain amount of promoting yourself.
“Would you choose self-publishing over traditional publishing?”
I did. Self publishing was plan A for me. The reputation attached to self publishing has changed a lot over the last few years and even big name authors are ditching their traditional publishers in favour of self publishing their work.
“Would you self publish again?”
Definitely. I would only consider using a traditional publisher if I couldn’t get the result I wanted on my own.
Jo has chosen a palette of bright flat colours such as young children love for her first picture book, “Out and About at the Zoo”, which she wrote with her small son acting as honorary head of her children’s consumer advisory panel. Her son influenced her story’s creation each step of the way, which has made the whole experience of making this, their first picture book, very special indeed.
The images of the animals are cheeky and fun and are complemented by the simple narrative with a strong rhyming element. Children love the musicality in rhyme so I can see why her little boy loved this mode of storytelling. I’m sure other children will find it fun too!
Interview with Nicola L. Robinson, illustrator turned author and the trials, tribulations and triumphs of a change of hats!
First off, HEARTY CONGRATULATIONS on the release of “The Monster Machine” with Pavilion Children’s Books – a sort of mad inventor meets Granny’s knitted nightmares joy of a book!
Have you always had a strong visual sense of story?
Yes I have, I’ve always loved drawing (like all illustrators I should imagine!) but particularly loved drawing pictures with something happening in them, be it a big thing chasing a small thing or any kind of interaction between my creations. As a child I’d name the characters and make up stories around them..
I grew up and went to university and did a degree in Fine Art, which was fantastic, but I realised my work was more illustration and less ‘Fine Art’. I have always looked for the story in the picture, and love adding narrative details to things, be it a little mouse hiding behind a teapot or something more sinister watching through a crack in the curtain... I am a visual thinker, but at this point I didn’t consider writing the actual words down to go with the illustrations.
What were your favourite storybook images as a child and how did they influence you as an illustrator and the style you adopted as ‘you’?
I didn’t have many traditional picture books, I did however pour over photos of crocodiles and snakes from a really old book on ‘The Animal Kingdom’. One of my favourite storybooks was a book of Greek Myths which had a lot of colour plates inside of the various mythological beasts and some nice black and white ink illustrations, fairly traditional in style. My favourites were always the ones I could imagine myself being in, something with some perspective, or one where you can see inside an open door or window. I also loved the Hobbit by JRR Tolkien, with Smaug the dragon. I have drawn many dragons since then and continue to do so today.
I have always loved the traditional fairytale illustrators like Arthur Rackham and others like Aubrey Beardsley and more recently Edward Gorey. Black and white ink illustrations in particular have always appealed to me, as has the sinister so I expect I have absorbed a little of their influence into my current working style. I certainly hope so!
Do you have a favourite among your previous illustrative projects? Would you tell us something of the creative process involved in bringing the images to light?
My favourites change all the time, but I am still very attached to a detailed illustration from last year titled ‘Downtown’
It started off like so many drawings as a few scribbles on the page, I could see a cityscape of sorts in my head… I often write lists of words and ideas to include in a piece, little descriptions like ‘Dark alleys’ and ‘Iron Bridges’ just as little word pictures, alongside thumbnails which I find very helpful.
From here it gets its structure and is drawn out. If I’m going to be working in colour I usually stretch some paper at this point before transferring the idea to it.
I work up the details in pencil…
Before going back in with a fine nibbed pen using black waterproof ink to make an underdrawing…
and here I decided I needed to add some life into the scene, I knew the city itself was alive and alert, but it had to be interacting with something, so I re introduced the tiny little figures on the bottom right.
I then add my colour and shading using various materials including pencils, watercolour acrylics and other coloured inks before transferring to Photoshop where I make the final enhancements…
I love collaborating on picture books! Have you been able to collaborate with authors or have the books you have worked on been more a case of the traditional ‘publishers keeping at least an ocean between author and illustrator’? What are your thoughts on collaborating as opposed to working on a project entirely on your own?
I have had a fairly traditional experience so far as an illustrator and have not had much contact with the authors whose work I have illustrated, although there are a few who have connected with me through twitter which has been great. You do wonder whether the author likes what you’ve drawn, and you hope they do, so it is lovely to hear it from them!
I think collaborating is a wonderful way to work the creative process, and a way to bring more creative ideas and experience to the table, being able to communicate directly and discuss ideas with one another has to be a good way to work. Providing you get on well and have harmonious ideas of course!
That being said I can’t deny enjoying being both the author and illustrator for my picture book, for me I found it saved time with regards to putting the book together in that I was the one who could edit both text and pictures simultaneously, which was handy.
When and why did you decide to go it alone as author/illustrator?
I have been illustrating for a good few years now but had not had the opportunity to be considered for a picture book, and I had always wanted to illustrate one, they always look like so much fun. However I hadn’t tailored my portfolio towards this with my work being geared towards an older audience, so I wrote one for myself.
I honestly wasn’t sure how people would take to it though, I had my illustrator hat well and truly screwed onto my head, so it was a bit alien to think of myself as an author too.
Did you do the traditional storyboard for your book?
I did, I had a look at other existing picture books and also had a look online to find out the right format. Square seemed like a good shape, and already suited my machine drawings, and I started drawing lots of little rectangles into my notebook… [see storyboard left] before working out the page breaks and what images I wanted to put on each page with lots of crude little thumbnails like these –
Honestly, how did you find the journey from inspiration to publication? I’m sure other illustrators will be fascinated to get a belated peek over your shoulder into the whole process.
Patience is a virtue, as the journey is not a quick one!
After the initial inspiration had set in and I knew my subject matter, I tackled the words. I knew it was also important to have a book which would read well out loud, so kept rereading it until I was happy.
I then took this along with my thumbnails and rough storyboard and I set about drawing up fairly detailed pencil spreads, and a cover. I picked out a couple of the spreads and worked them up in colour to give the publishers a flavour of how the book would look. I then put it all together into an A4 sized mailer. There is quite a lot of work involved in putting together a manuscript idea to pitch, particularly, when you’re doing the illustrations too.
I researched likely publishers, which I thought may be interested in my work, spent a lot of money on stamps and envelopes and sent them out into the universe. I also discovered the post box on my road has a really small letterbox that day so I had to walk a few miles to the nearest post office to send them off. Lesson learned.
Then came the waiting….
It did cross my mind that as both Author and Illustrator I was in a sense putting all my eggs in one basket. What if the publisher liked my illustrations but hated the story? Or worse, as an illustrator, what if they liked my story but hated my illustrations? Would I have wanted someone else to illustrate it? Probably not…
Fortunately, it wasn’t too long until my publisher contacted me saying they were interested in my work and invited me down to London, which was a wonderful experience, and such a relief to think that someone else likes the idea, something which I have written! After some more waiting, I was finally given the go ahead and contracts were signed. (It is very important to fully understand any contract you go into, if you aren’t sure get some legal advice to make sure you’re absolutely happy with the terms, read all the small print!)
The actual writing and illustrating of the book was the quickest part, I was lucky that I did not need to make too many major changes and I just set about working my way through the book. I submitted all the work ahead of deadline, which was nice, and also gave me some time to work out little extras for the fly pages and a This Book Belongs to page etc.
For me the longest part has been waiting for the actual book to come out, and be ‘published’ which happens a good few months after all the artwork is signed off. I did get my advance copies in the interim which was wonderful! They looked great, and I was really pleased with them. You rarely get your name on the cover unless you’re the author so it was really nice to see it there for once!
One of the most frustrating things has been friends and family and those not in the publishing universe constantly asking about ‘the book’ and other than being able to say ‘it’s on its way’ I haven’t been able to give a satisfactory response yet. But now it’s actually out which is nice! 🙂 Now they can see for themselves.
I’ve been tempted, from time to time, to illustrate my own book but feel I am a learner artist, not an illustrator of story. It is quite a different skill. I have, on occasion, used illustrator friend’s orphan images to create the story hiding in the image – a sort of collaboration in reverse – a different kind of challenge and creative pleasure. Did you get the image inspiration first or the ‘story’ inspiration? Can you tell us about the evolution of your ‘story’?
Chicken or egg? In this case it was the Machine. I can pinpoint the beginning of the story itself from the day I sat down and sketched a machine.
I love machines so this isn’t unusual for me. I was thinking about the machine and it crossed my mind that the machine would be a machine that makes something, monsters…. it really went from there. I worked backwards from the machine and then forwards from it creating the monsters.
Something which I have enjoyed, which has come from being both author and illustrator is the fact that I can write about things I love to draw, which is great. I love monsters and I love machines. Obviously you hope a good editor will match a manuscript with the perfect illustrator who will love the subject and themes it requires, but in my experience, there is no surer way than writing it yourself.
Finally – what next? Have you anything else ‘on the drawing board’ yet?
There’s always something on ‘the drawing board’ it is a matter of getting the time to coax it out to its full potential! Indeed what next?! I’m currently working on a pop-up book project which is great fun, and getting some ideas for more picture books! I’d love to do another one.
Thank you very much for having me Jennifer!
The Monster Machine has its own website to match the book- www.monstermachine.co.uk
Nicola’s website www.nlrobinson.co.uk
Can’t remember when I’ve had so much creative fun with such a fantastic group of multitalented folk! 13th to 16th January we arrived in from all over – WA, NT, Vic and ‘locals’ Christian and self. We were housed in the Gatton Motel, a leg stretch away from the main venue, not that we needed to walk. We were chauffeur driven everywhere by local Minibus/taxi owner Sue.
This is the door to my room, the non-existent No. 13, on 13th January, a Friday, how lucky can you get! Interesting how many places omit room 13, floor 13 etc etc. Do folk really think we are so bound by superstition and hangovers from the dark ages that we will eschew a room or a whole floor just because of a place in a numeric sequence? Evidently it is so.
Craig and I had joint sessions with small groups of ardent attendees in a series of workshops. All interacted with us freely and kept us on our toes with their questions.
We started with a draft of my story about the cow that swam the Brisbane river during the January 2011 floods. It was over 700 words [too long for a picture book] but gave the background Craig needed to locate the story and characterise the little cow. This is a link to a newspaper article about her amazing survival swim.
It was a revelation and a privilege to work with Craig one on one as he sketched out his visual thoughts on the story with me reading excerpts and the audience interspersing with comments. I cut swathes from the text as Craig’s expert hand created wonderful image after image.
This is a glimpse of the creation process –
- A view of the Brisbane Rive in flood provided by Kim Byron from her newspaper collection on the event.
- Craig working on a charcoal image of the little cow. He has a strong feel for movement and can create a whole range of emotions with sometimes the barely there addition of a line or a smudge.
I love the way illustrators climb into the visual universe of a story. Text says a family is sitting in a kitchen. The illustrator will look over their shoulders, look out the window, go out into the next room, climb the stairs to the attic or down to the yard and see where the house is located in a community.
[more coming… I just need to sleep now…]
When Jenny Stubbs, Festival Coordinator Extraordinaire, told me I had a slot to launch “All in the Woods” I was ecstatic! It was my first book to be published in the UK and a launch venue at the Ipswich Festival of Children’s Literature, Woodlands, was almost too good to be true. Jenny facilitated a link to Aleesah Darlison who agreed to MC. BRILLIANT! What could go wrong?
The Ipswich Festival is always an exciting event! It is held at Woodlands, a stunning, heritage listed venue set amongst rural fields, magnificent trees and rolling hills – what a setting for a launch! The lead up to the day, Tuesday, 13th September 2011, was a real buzz! Then the unthinkable happened… The weekend before, my throat started to get that irritating little scratch and that niggly cough that sometime precedes worse. Sunday night it started to hit! Laryngitis!
Friends, good friends can be the saving of such worst case scenarios. I spoke (whilst I still had a voice) to Tara Hale, who designed the promo poster, would she be Guest Artist “Pink” the possum [cousin of “Ink” the animal hero of my book]. Next I contacted Nooroa Te Hira, he has worked as a tour guide so I knew he would ace a reading of my book. Then I rang Christian Bocquee and asked would he help with nitty grittys like directing teachers and students to seats, distributing prizes and general moral support! Bless them, they all ‘volunteered’ unstintingly!
Result? Fun, fun, fun! We had a ball, the book launch was a total success! The author having to use copious amounts of sign language but, hey, she has 5 kids so she speaks the lingo with hands and fingers! 🙂
You can see some of the fun in the gallery below.
And the book, which was illustrated by wonderful watercolourist Linda Gunn
? It had been a truly international effort – written by an Aussie, illustrated by an American and published by a Brit! The icing on the cake was a nomination for the OPSO Award!
Here is a recent review by Kathy Schneider!
Where can you get it? Here!