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Category Archives: non fiction

Trends – New bends in the path to publication. By J.R.Poulter

Some time last year, Erica Wagner, Publisher at Allen and Unwin, was reported as having said, in relation to graphic novels, that there was a lot to be gained by submitting a  text already illustrated or mostly illustrated [Allen & Unwin publish purely commission only picture books]. Perhaps this may signal a change in direction that may even extend to those other illustrated tomes – picture books and picture book/graphic novel crossovers.

Some writers/illustrators I know have recently signed contracts for ‘print ready’ books.  This is not self-publishing, nor submission to a print-on-demand house but submission to a traditional, royalty paying publisher of a book that is ‘ready to go’ in publishing terms.

What constitutes a ‘print ready’ book?  It is a book that has been –

  • professionally edited,
  • proofread,
  • designed to industry standards,
  • professionally designed cover and,
  • if illustrated, has all images appropriately set.

This is a great way to go for authors who are able to pay illustrators and book designers up front. Most authors are not able to do this.  This then means all creators involved in a book project agreeing to royalty share and working between paid projects to collaborate on their book.

What have I gleaned about such ‘print ready’ deals? One company, smaller and reasonably new, offered a small advance and a good contract, by industry standards, with higher than regular royalty share for creators. An offer of help with promotion was also part of the deal. Another company, medium sized and established, offered no advance but better than average royalty shares for creators and help with promotion and marketing of the book.

How does this stack up against what is generally on offer now?

  • Small and middle range publishers, in general, do not offer advances.
  • Larger publishers offer advances depending on the book, depending on the author, and depending on the agent involved.
  • Smaller and middle range publishers often [there are exceptions] expect the author to do it all in relation to promotion, even requiring the submission of a marketing plan.
  • Larger publishers vary greatly as to how much promotion they will give a book.
  • Generally, publishers will submit copies of their publishing output for major awards, such as the CBCA, and to a selection of leading review outlets.

What’s the down side for author, illustrator, book designer, [often the illustrator], to go down the  ‘print ready’ publishing path?

  • It IS a lot of extra work for all creators involved to ensure the book is ‘professional’ standard even before it is submitted.
  • There is no money upfront.

Are the rewards worth the effort?

  • If you love collaborative work, it is a big plus.
  • Creators have much more project control to create the book they have collaboratively envisaged.
  • A quality product, ‘print ready’,  is a major bargaining point for creators/agents. ‘Print ready’ saves the publisher heaps!

The first company mentioned does small print runs, sells out their print runs, reprints and even sells out reprints and so it seems to be gradually snowballing.

It is too early to know in the second instance.  [I’ll keep you posted!]

My feeling is that, if Erica Wagner was sensing a ‘trend’ and if these companies make a success of it, we will see more such deals.  It’s something to think about!

My own news –

TOOFS!-Promo-3To be launched end of June – “Toofs!” a collaboration between J.R. and Estelle A.Poulter and illustrators Monica Rondino and Andrea Pucci.

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Summer Reading Club 2012/13 – Untangled Tales is choc full of holiday awesomeness

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.

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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!

Luvverly LISTS for Writers and Illustrators!

Hi Everyone! 🙂

Lists can be extremely useful, especially when they are constantly being updated!

Here are SIX such.

The first, compiled by the enterprising and enthusiastic Brain Grove, is a list of US publishers who are currently accepting submissions for children’s books – http://j.mp/SVbnCk  – he also, very helpfully, adds links to each entry to take you straight to the site.  I also recommend his ebook on  query /submission letter writing.

A second list, an international one, that is  regularly updated is on Lou Treleaven’s Blog:

http://loutreleaven.wordpress.com/2010/07/21/childrens-publishers-accepting-unsolicited-manuscripts/

The third,  a veritable database of bloggers who interview and/or review, is continuously being updated by the very proactive authors, Delin Colon and Lisa Kalner Williams – http://bit.ly/writerinterviewopps …

Fourth – a database of legends and folktales – if you are looking for inspiration for twists on fairytales or legends, fables etc – here is a whole swag!

Fifth – oh this one is an essential! The inimitable Katie Davis’s Tool Kit is  linked out under 5 ‘HEADLINE’ headings!!

If you haven’t joined www.jacketflap.com, I highly recommend it – an excellent networking site for all things related to children’s literature and books.

Latest addition, number six, Rachelle Burk has a wonderful resource site –  http://www.resourcesforchildrenswriters.com/ –  her awarded list of wonderfully helpful links is truly encyclopaedic!

Get busy and good luck!

Part III – Journey of a Book – the Launch, 13th July, 2012

The launch was wonderful, a chance to  see everything in place, admire friends’ exhibits, show it all off to friends and family and network! Sheryl Gwyther, Prue Mason of SCBWI and Michelle Richards [our wonderful Exhibition coordinator from Brisbane Square Library] organised the launch event. Jenny Stubbs, Coordinator of one of Australia’s leading children’s book festivals, “Ipswich Festival of Children’s Literature”,  came down from Ipswich to open the exhibition. Jenny gave a stirring and encouraging speech to gathered authors, illustrators and friends, despite protesting she didn’t fancy herself a speaker . 🙂

Visitors included Dr. Virginia Lowe of “Create a Kid’s Book” fame and Lucia Masciullio of Blue Quoll Publishing, teachers and teacher librarians from Brisbane and Ipswich. Feedback has been excellent. It is vindicating, as an author or as an illustrator, to have people acknowledge the work that goes into a book’s creation and to have a new appreciation of the end result!

Read other reports of the Exhibition on Anil Tortop’s Blog and the SCBWI Facebook page. Better still, go along and have a squizz – Level 2, Brisbane Square Library, George Street Brisbane CBD, from 13th July to 31st August, 2012!

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Journey of a Book – Part I – children’s literature creation under the microscope

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!

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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.

Wow of a launch results in 3 titles in reprint already!

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!

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Researching the environment of story

By happy accident, I discovered the  way to travel interstate, overseas, inter-culturally  and explore the  ambience of remote towns, cities, country lanes and outback outposts. Air tickets – well that’s the ideal, but no, I used Google Earth.

It started with my trying to locate a lovely country home in West Hougham, Kent, England. It was featured in Country Life for September 7th, 2000, and was the

Inspiration for “The Dolls’ House in the Forest”

inspiration for my story “The Dolls’ House in the Forest”. I was fascinated by the quaintness of the architecture compared to anything out here in Oz and the size of the immense, almost regal trees forming a perfect backdrop to the house. I tried to relocate the house by doing a ‘street view’ saunter down English lanes in the vicinity.  I located the area on the map and zeroed in from aerial to ‘here I am virtually walking down this street on the other side of the world the environs of which I just happen to need to explore.’

West Hougham, Kent, country road, travelled via Google Maps street view.

I didn’t find the house, but I had the most wonderfully inspiring time wandering down country lanes that were little more than wagon tracks, great boughs canopying overhead and wildflowers dotted in the fields…

Now, if I need to capture something of the ‘feel’ of an area. I seek out an address.  Real estate notices for sale/auction/for rent are a good source, then go explore in Google Earth.   Wander around that area, exploring the architecture, streetscapes, lifestyles evidenced in things as random as  street art, verge gardens, bus stops, signage, graffiti, shop window decor, fences or lack of, litter, strays and the bystanders to my wanderings. Don’t forget YouTube – Example – Dingle, and with Celtic song overlay Dingle

I have also found that  exploring the Realtor advertisements in the area I am exploring gives insight into the lifestyle and inhabitants of the town. Many homes  give a slideshow or even a video tour online.  This helps you pick up on details of lifehome decor, layout, from wall hangings to  cushions, scatter rugs to artwork, the placement of chairs to take in a much loved outlook, the windows and their views out, the garden. Example.

Perhaps this sounds a little bit the voyeur. It is not the intention, far from, it is seeking faithfulness in recreating a  ‘feeling’ for place. It is gathering the elements of story , setting the stage, arranging a convincing backdrop to the action!

Lovely example of a virtual tour – 1893 mansion, St Georges Road, Toorak.

http://imagetrack.com.au/pv/view.php?sc=ffdc8554de&v=/v/ffdc8554de

Another lovely virtual tour – historic “Douglas”, built in 1881, in Birchgrove, Sydney.

Visualising Story

The tips above, of course, are beneficial to illustrators as well. Not many can afford to jet around the world on location research for images.  Other ways to ‘get in the setting’ for free include YouTube clips. This is even a Youtube video clip on West Hougham, Kent. Sadly, it doesn’t feature that house…

Other ways to ‘get in the setting’ for free, besides YouTube clips, are Flickr and photographic collections held in State Libraries and on places like Pinterst. Jeff Faria recently sent me  a great link to early circus posters – fascinating. Little did he know I am currently writing a story  which involves Civil War period circuses in the US.

If your story requires an historical setting, you are in luck! Heritage listings in Australia and the UK are excellent.

Below are some very useful research sites  for historic buildings in Australia –

Federation style dwellings   lists many excellent buildings, of which Alister Brae, Pymble is an outstanding example.

Additional links are given for some residences, as in the case of “Venice”, Randwick.

The NSW Heritage database also gives excellent information. TIP: Put in the street name and the suburb to narrow your search for a particular building. Just putting in the suburb will bring all heritage listed buildings in that suburb. Putting in the street number and street will draw a blank. Putting in the property name will sometimes bring up additional material otherwise unaccessed, e.g., “Glen Rhoda”, a gothic residence in Woollahra. Using the  name in the search brings up information on the existing residential property, No.71, and and an additional link to the listing for, No.67, property formerly part of the original “Glen Rhoda”.

For anyone researching Kew, Camberwell or Hawthorn buildings [mainly but not only residences] from 1860s through to 1969, this site is a must. Other Councils will have similar sites.

Open Gardens, Australia has links to various of its  most notable gardens. Windyridge shows the garden in all four seasons in a map based virtual tour.

International settings – the virtual tour

Aside from a drop in to street level via Google Earth, many online sites feature virtual tours of historic settings, buildings, rambles around towns, cities and country areas. A few examples –

Castles –

Eilean Donan, the iconic Scottish Castle featured on  innumerable  calendars, tourist  brochures and used as a location in numbers of  feature films [you need Java 7 to see the virtual tour on the official website] can be viewed in Youtube Clips.

The best clip of Eilean Donan, features a commentary on the Castle’s history and shows the exterior, surrounds and interior in much more detail.

Neuschwanstein [Castle that inspired the Disney fairytale castle] – site tour;

Virtual Tour of Neuschwanstein with  commentary in English subtitles;

Virtual sight-seeing – contemporary and historical

Paris

A walk around Paris by video [sadly not signposted but gives a good  overview of  everyday life];

Louvre  – historical commentary and tour [mainly external],   contemporary , history [in French] and tour of architectural features;

Tuileries, Paris  surrounds, exterior, interior in brief;

Whatever the historic building or the town, you are quite likely to find a youtube clip or at least flicker photos, then there is always Google earth! Have fun!

How to Create a Website in 3 Steps (with 10 thumbs)

How to Create a Website in 3 Steps (with 10 thumbs). This is good sense advice succinctly put from Jo Ann Carson. NOTE – you do not have to buy. Word Press, Yola, Weebly and Wix all provide excellent ‘free’ – yes, that’s what I said, FREE’ site templates, easy to assemble [if I can, anyone can] with lots of whizz-bang features!

Presenting – the Lockyer Arts Festival

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.

12a/aka 13

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.

Presenting

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 –

  1. A view of the Brisbane Rive in flood provided by Kim Byron from her newspaper collection on the event.
  2. 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…]

Children’s Book Festival, Family Day 3rd April 2011 – State Library Victoria & Wheeler Centre

“Books Are Fun”

Children’s Book Festival 2011,  Family Day 3rd April 2011, 10.00am to 4.00pm

State Library of Victoria and the Wheeler Centre

This free programme of ‘events’ over the Sunday was hugely popular.  It was described as “the biggest celebration of children’s books that Melbourne has ever seen”. Families and children’s book lovers crammed into venues to hear a wonderful assemblage of Australia’s leading authors and illustrators. They queued for meter after meter to meet authors and illustrators and have their load of precious books signed.  They waited for hours to be able to get into workshops, storytelling and performances.

The ‘Family Day’ was the brainchild of the State Library of Victoria and the Wheeler Centre who held, coordinated and promoted  the various sessions.  Authors and illustrators were fully utilised, most doing at least two events on the programme. [http://wheelercentre.com/static/files/assets/087ddc27/CBW_Childrensbooks_A4programme-DR7.pdf ]

Some notes from the day:

 

John Nicholson/Roland Harvey interview with SLV staffer

John Nicholson (architect) – author and illustrator

John started writing fiction. His publisher suggested he write non-fiction.

Working with A&U –  John has an idea and approaches them with it or they have an idea and approach John. At one stage they seemed to take a turn about with this process. He now just develops ‘the ideas I want to’. He prefers to work alone now.

John agreed with Roland, in  creating an authentic “Sense of place” it was important, if at all possible, to do the research for the text and images on location.

Roland Harvey (architect)  author and illustrator

History was something that always fascinated him and which initially led him to writing and illustrating books.

Family activities have inspired  some of his books – “At the Beach” and ‘To the Top End”.  “You need to know, to “feel” the place you are writing about. To research you should “be there to be really successful”. Otherwise ther is the internet but Roland considered this sort of research “much harder” in trying to create a real sense of ‘place’.

He collaborates a lot. His latest book is a collaboration with Mem Fox which was launched at the Family Day. He doesn’t publish any more  and mainly works with Penguin and A&U. He liked the freedom he had  as publisher. He surrounded himself with experts in each area. He found his best books were done “against the advice of others”. It was risky but he LOVED the freedom to do what he was passionate about.

His next project is another picture book based on family travels. He is also avidly exploring Apps and is excited about this development in children’s books.

Terry Denton/Chris Morpeth interview with SLV staffer

Terry Denton  author/illustrator

The place where I like to write/draw:

I have a studio in my backyard. It is quiet, no distractions.

“Gasp” is my favourite of my creations.

Denton and Andy Griffith go away for a week together when working on a new joint project to ‘get it started’.

Chris Morpeth (former teacher) author

The place where I like to write:

In a café over coffee – there are no distractions. At home, I get distracted with Nintendo and Mario. I make my stories up as I go along. I think the more you do the better you get.

Terry & Chris agreed  re book writing/creation, “If it is too organised, it doesn’t work!”

Leigh Hobbs interview with SLV staffer


Leigh Hobbs (former teacher) author/interviewer

His first version of ‘Old Tom’  was rejected. This version had an angrier look and  smoked  a cigar.  The next version, accepted, was more humorous and sly. Leigh draws the pictures for his books first as he has his ‘run of ideas’. Then he ”works“ to finish the book. He felt  he wrote books of the sort he liked a a kid. He loved Enid Blyton, Treasure Island.

A lesson he learnt early, was that children  want “Mums” kept within certain parameters, e.g. Old Tom’s ‘Mum’, Angela Throgmorton.

Leigh Hobbs and Old Tom's evolution