The Essentials for being an Author

Republished from Sheryl Gwyther‘s writers’ blog … 

vermeer-lady-writing

When I run writing classes, people often ask for hints on how to become better writers (and so do children – thankfully, for a future of great stories still to come!)

These are the essentials I pass on…..

  • Have an active imagination. Always ask, WHAT IF?

  • Be an acute observer of people, nature, places and things. Learn how to develop an ‘artist eye and ear’. Be aware of all your senses, totally.

  • Read voraciously (like a foraging seagull) with a hunger for story.

  • Learn by osmosis, and from the wise advice of the experienced and the successful; to glean more information on how to do it better from books and the web, and also from workshops run by those who have been ‘through the mill’ themselves, and who’ve gained much knowledge from their wide experience.

  • You will face manuscript rejections – regard them as your apprenticeship. Even experienced writers get manuscripts rejected. We are a small market in Australia. Unfortunately, a fact of life.

  • Never give up. If you are truly meant to be a writer, perseverance and toughness is essential at those most vulnerable moments of painful rejection or ‘so-so’ reviews. But you will pick yourself up, learn from the experience and start editing and re-writing to make your story even better.

  • Join a small writers’ group you can trust in – everyone there will understand the mountains we travail in this job; they will support, just like you would do in return.
  • Join a support network like the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators … a global network. We have an excellent regional group here in Australia and New Zealand.

ENJOY THE JOURNEY!

Image: Johannes Vermeer’s portrait of a writing woman in 1670-71. One of his beautiful studies of women in the sublime light of his studio. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lady_Writing_a_Letter_with_her_Maid

ANGELA SUNDE’S … ‘Snap Magic’ book launch coming soon

SCBWI member, Angela Sunde talks about the publishing journey of her new book for young people, Snap Magic.
Notes.to.Editor-Feature.SnapMagic.docx-5******************

SNAP MAGIC – EDITED BY CATHERINE McCREADIE, former senior editor of children’s books, Penguin Australia (now working freelance at Penguin and Allen & Unwin).

Snap.Magic.Invite.BCat2

 

SCBWI Queensland’s Gold Coast meet a great success

Inaugural SCBWI Queensland Gold Coast Regional Meeting 

Report: Sheryl Gwyther, SCBWI Assistant Regional Advisor

Another SCBWI Queensland regional members’ meeting was held on Saturday 24th August – time time, at Tallebudgera Valley on the Gold Coast. It was splendid to see authors and illustrators traveling from as far away as north of Brisbane to south of the Queensland/NSW’s border.

Twenty-five writers, illustrators and librarians, SCBWI members and non-members talked, listened, shared morning tea, lunch and then afternoon tea, networked, shared recent successes and other news, and generally had an excellent time at the home of Angela Sunde, SCBWI support team member.gold coast gig9Our guest speaker, Judith Rossell presented a powerpoint of her work, especially her recently published picture book, Oliver.judith r 2 Of great interest was her journal of drawings she worked on at her May Gibbs Children’s Literature Trust Residency in Brisbane. The story is set in Victorian England and her pen and ink drawings are sublime.

SCBWI Assistant Regional Advisor, Sheryl Gwyther also presented a slide show, Dinosaurs, Research and Writing … turning a trip through time into a novel, talking about the journey of her children’s novel, Secrets of Eromangasheryl_presentationThank you to Angela Sunde and husband, Rob Brown for their generous hospitality, and to Judith Rossell who generously donated her fee back to SCBWI Qld. And thank you to our wonderful members who once again proved that they are the best bunch of people this side of the Black Stump. 🙂

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HITTING THE HIGH NOTES AT THE SCBWI WINTER CONFERENCE, NEW YORK

Better late than never! Here’s a guest post from SCBWI West’s Reporter-at-Large and Regional Advisor, Frané Lessac, illustrator, and Susanne Gervay, SCBWI Australia/NZ RA and author. Thank you, FranéSCBWI_2013_NY_blog headerHave to admit, I was a wee bit anxious leaving an Australian summer for sub zero temperatures of the SCBWI Winter Conference in New York. I need not have worried. The Conference hotel was conveniently located smack bang above Grand Central Station with gazillions of restaurants, shops and public transport right downstairs.

The bonus of attending SCBWI New York is that many of the top US children’s book editors, agents, publishers and art directors get involved. With 999 attendees, 17 countries represented, and 45 US states, it was a constant thrill in the elevators to find out who was from where. When they realized WA wasn’t an abbreviation for the state of Washington, West Australia always got the biggest wow. 🙂 new-york-new-york_Frane-

Meg Rosoff gave the first keynote entitled “So When Are You Going to Write a Real Book, You Know, For Adults?” She was hysterical when she translated that into a list of people she wanted to punch in the face for asking. Most celebrity authors were targets. Jay Leno’s book, IF ROAST BEEF COULD FLY had a roasting for sure.

I must have heard Shaun Tan speak over a dozen times. He never ceases to amaze me. Every time his talk is different – even if he’s talking about the same piece of art. He received a standing ovation, not only from me, but by the other 998 attendees too!

Another keynote was by NY Times bestselling mother and daughter writing team, Julie Andrews and Emma Walton. Although their presentation was heavily scripted, it was a highlight seeing Mary Poppins in person.

Mo Willems gave the closing keynote – inspiration and infotainment at its best.

A major US children’s bookseller had some good news to share. In her opinion: The library and school markets are healthy. Schools have money to buy books, although mostly paperbacks. They’re looking for short stories, fairy tales and folktales relating to the curriculum, and narrative non-fiction. Also the go: action packed novels, bullying, movie tie-ins, war, survival and diversity.

There are funds for author school visits with Skype visits on the increase. Bookstores are coming back and the balance is changing. In the future, stores may be used as showrooms, as people buy an ebook after viewing the print version. The balance will never be equal again, but children still want a book to hug.

Frane in America1
Frané keeping company with pumpkins.

If anyone would like more information about attending the New York or Los Angeles SCBWI Conferences, please feel free to contact Frané Lessac.

Conference blog link: http://scbwiconference.blogspot.com.au/

SCBWI Queensland members’ get together

It’s always fun getting together with our members. Here’s an image of our last meeting held at The Collectors’ Cafe, at Queensland Museum in Brisbane.

Angela Sunde, Sheryl Gwyther, Julie Nickerson, Anil Tortop, Betty Collarson, Jacki Halpin and Jennifer Poulter on the other side of the lens.
Angela Sunde, Sheryl Gwyther, Julie Nickerson, Anil Tortop, Betty Collarson, Jacki Halpin and Jennifer Poulter on the other side of the lens.

Our guest speaker, Jessica Miller spoke about her short-listing in the Text Prize with her work-in-progress, Elizabeth and Zenobia, a junior fiction novel. It sounds like a fascinating read and we can’t wait for it to be published one day, for surely it will. 🙂

Members also shared some of the work they’re doing at the moment, and discussion ranged from e-book publishing contract pros and cons; Angela’s new picture book draft :); Betty’s story for kids set in her home country of Brazil, and a whole heap more. The coffee was good and the muffins even better.

Sorry to those members unable to make it on a weekday – promise the next one will be on the usual Sunday.

1001 ways to ignite young imaginations

Countless parents, teaches and children’s authors know the secret to finding 1001 ways to ignite young imaginations – read aloud and tell stories to children.

Today’s guest post is from SCBWI Queensland member, Dimity Powell. Dimity is the author of children’s stories. Her qualifications for this role include Professional Children’s Writing Courses, Motherhood, Director of Marketing in the Leisure, Boating and Hospitality Industries and travelling around the world a couple of times. Dimity’s ‘fond of the real world but especially love imaginary ones.’ For her, to Read, Write and Inspire rank as high as wining and dining. Take it away, Dimity!

Dimity Powell, author
Dimity Powell, author

One thing that I am emphatically unashamed to promote out loud and that I believe is the critical essence of our existence as writers and illustrators for children is the art of storytelling. Stories exist in many forms: physically in dance, visually in colour or via the written word, through music and even as bumps and raised dots. But perhaps, for me, one of the most joyous ways to be part of a story is to hear it being read – out loud – by another human being. And I know quite a few people under the age of 10 who agree with me.

Read to My Child is an exciting new web site for kids and their carers and parents created by Jasmine Berry. Jasmine developed this site after identifying the unfathomable capacity under-five year olds have for hearing the same story being read to them again and again. Being time-poor is a modern day dilemma for many working parents and electronic babysitting is not the most nurturing or inspired of solutions. This site combines the convenience of self-help with the lovely organic involvement of hearing and seeing a real person, read a real book with real interaction.

The collection of books featured are stories that many young children will adore; classics from the likes of Jackie French, Hazel Edwards and Janeen Brian. The site in no way replaces parents reading to their children, which is a precious experience for parent and child alike, but rather, it is another option at those times when something just needs to get done (like ironing the school uniforms and making the dinner!).

Read to My Child offers an alternative to putting on another kids show on TV. If your child particularly enjoys some of these stories, you can purchase them for their next birthday or Christmas straight from the site. Stories are selected to be both educational and absorbing for children.

Jasmine is always keen to expand the selection of books she can share with others, so if you are an author who wishes to contribute one of your books to be read on the site please contact Jasmine at: contact@readtomychild.com.au

http://www.readtomychild.com.au/about

Here’s Dimity’s web page for kids. Kool Kidz Stuff

A PERFECT SUBMISSION … from the editor’s eye

On January 20 2013, SCBWI Qld held its first 2013 Professional Development workshop for writers and illustrators for children, with a very special presenter, Leonie Tyle. Leonie lives in Brisbane and is a well-respected editor and publisher who now works freelance.
Leonie Tyle
Thank you to all those who attended. We look forward to more of these worthwhile sessions – if you missed this one, hopefully you can attend next time.
SCBWI member, Angela Sunde managed to take copious notes from Leonie’s workshop … here they’ve been whittled down for the blog. Full notes will go to SCBWI Qld members by email.
SUBMITTING:
  •  Your first page must be riveting. Don’t submit too early. It must be polished like a sparkly lake.
  • Examine your motivation for writing.. Why do you want to write? Is it that you can’t find anything to read? Is it that you just love to write? Is it because you have something to say and want to share it with someone else? Getting published isn’t the be all / end all of writing. Chill about it and have fun writing.
  • All writers procrastinate. To become a better writer, practise, practise, practise… We all have the same insecurities, some have more pressure than others because their previous books were such high quality. Eg. Markus Zusak.
 A CHECKLIST:
Check and re-check your work:
Do you have an ordered structure? (A beginning, middle and end for kids’ books.)
Does the first sentence engage the reader and hook them in?
Does the text flow without relevant information, unnecessary dialogue and too much telling rather than showing?
Does the title fit the story?
Is your grammar and spelling almost perfect?
Is the word count applicable to the age group ?
Do your characters come alive?
Is your writing a refreshing look at life?
Does it respect the child and the adult reader?
Does it have the potential to be profitable?
 big group

EDITING:
Edit!
Within an inch if its life.
Make sure your opening is as stunning as possible. Get that hook!
Make sure there is no lack of vision, and your structure, plot and execution is true to the ‘what if’ theory.
Are you telling rather than showing?
Are there long and endless pieces of narration?
Are the sentences long and convoluted?
Is the dialogue realistic/authentic?
Are your characters real and empathetic? Be in someone else’s shoes.

Extra bonus: a luscious morning tea
Books Leonie recommends:
‘Bird by Bird, Some Instructions on the Writing Life’, Anne Lamott.
Grammar Basics on the Web, sentences, push and punctuation‘, Paul Callaghan.
The Professional Writing Guide, Writing Well and Knowing Why’, Roslyn Petelin and Marshall Durham.
Business and Professional Writing’, ?
The Elements of Style’, William Struck jnr and E.B.White.
 
Leonie loves both Fantasy and Realism. She loved reading ‘Daughter of Smoke and Bone’ by Laini Taylor. ‘The Scorpio Races’, by Maggie Stiefvater, ‘The Penderwicks’, by Jeanne Birdsill – a junior novel. She also feels there seems to be more interesting stuff coming out of the UK and USA at the moment than out of Australia.
ESPECIALLY FOR ILLUSTRATORS
Interesting discussion point. Unfortunately, we ran out of time to really explore these ideas behind working out how to price your artwork. This video recommended by Sheryl Gwyther (SCBWI Qld ARA). ‘How to Price Illustration for Children’s Booksby American illustrator, Will Terry.
The graph from Will Terry's video
The graph from Will Terry’s video
What do you think about the ideas Terry talks about? We’d love to read your thoughts about it on this blog site.