Wombat Books Blog

Wombat Books blog is the place to keep up to date with all the goings-on in the world of Aussie kid's books.

Meet Illustration Challenge Winner: Ruby

Ruby1. Tell us about your illustration for Around Australia in 30 Places.

I chose the Great Barrier Reef because the ocean is a colourful place and I love colour. There are so many pretty things in the ocean. I also love swimming in the ocean at summertime, so this was the perfect picture for me to draw!

2. If you could travel anywhere in Australia, where would it be?

The Great Barrier Reef.

3. What would be your No.1 travel tip?

Always take lots of pictures so if you don’t ever go back to the place you are visiting you will always have lots of memories to look back on.

4. What’s something you can’t live without in your suitcase?

My family! I love travelling with them!

Around Australia in 30 Places is available for pre-order now.

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Meet Illustration Challenge Winner: Daisy

1. Tell us about your illustration for Around Australia in 30 PlacesDaisy

My illustration is a water colour painting of the Australian Nullarbor. I love the orange toned colours of the Nullarbor as well as all the lines that draw the viewers eye to the amazing landscape.

2. If you could travel anywhere in Australia, where would it be?

If I could travel anywhere in Australia, I would have to choose Kangaroo Island in South Australia. The clear blue water, white sands and getting close to kangaroos on the beach would be amazing!

3. What would be your No.1 travel tip?

My number one travel tip is to never under pack. It sounds obvious but so many times I have packed everything for a warm weather trip and then for one of the days, the weather turns cold and I wish I had packed just one jacket in case.

4. What’s something you can’t live without in your suitcase?

I cannot live without my sketchbook and pencils in my suitcase because it helps time pass by on the plane or relax in the hotel room. Also, there is always a ton of inspiration from the surroundings.

Around Australia in 30 Places is available for pre-order now.

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Meet Illustration Challenge Winner: Sonya

Sonya1. Tell us about your illustration for Around Australia in 30 Places.

I have heard people say that Wagga Wagga is the 'City of Good Sports'. Many of Australia's sporting heroes say that their home town is Wagga Wagga. So, I wanted to illustrate something that was ‘sporty’.

2. If you could travel anywhere in Australia, where would it be?

Uluru. It is so unique. The rock looks incredible to visit. Have you seen the one in Around Australia in 30 Places? You can learn more about the Aboriginal people because the site is of great cultural and spiritual significance to them. They have lots of great walks, bike rides and tours to go on. I would like to go on one at night.

3. What would be your No.1 travel tip?

Get excited. Before any holiday my family talk about the distance and the destination for months beforehand. My sister and I will go on the internet and have a look at what we are going to see.

4. What’s something you can’t live without in your suitcase?

Always pack kid-sized headphones in your luggage. I have trouble using the headphones the aircraft give me. If we are travelling in a car, I try not to get stuck with my parents’ headphones which are way too big. Always have volume child-safe headphones that can fit in your ear properly. If you're travelling by airplane you also need a headphone socket ‘thingy’ so it can be used…. I’ve been caught without it!

Around Australia in 30 Places is available for pre-order now.

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Meet Illustration Challenge Winner: Layla

Layla Photo1. Tell us about your illustration for Around Australia in 30 Places.

I decided to do Solomon Island because I love islands, flowers and the things they wear.

2. If you could travel anywhere in Australia, where would it be?

Tasmania, because my best friend lives there, it's a beautiful place and I want to see the northern lights.

3. What would be your No.1 travel tip?

Roll all your clothes that you would wear for the day together so that you save time and explore more. You just have to pick a pack and you’re ready to go out.

4. What’s something you can’t live without in your suitcase?

My camera and toy dog.

Around Australia in 30 Places is available for pre-order now.

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Meet Illustration Challenge Winner: Zach

Zach1. Tell us about your illustration for Around Australia in 30 Places.

I’ve done an illustration of the Penguin Parade in Phillip Island. It’s a very popular tourist attraction where people can watch penguins waddle their way from the sea to their burrows. I thought it would be fun to illustrate a parade of penguins getting tickets at a booth to visit the beach, with the tourists looking on, so I made the picture look comical.

2. If you could travel anywhere in Australia, where would it be?

I would love to visit northern Queensland and see the Great Barrier Reef and the rainforests.

3. What would be your No.1 travel tip?

Bring a notebook and keep a journal of your trip, so that you can record your favourite memories of your trip.

4. What’s something you can’t live without in your suitcase?

I love reading, so I can’t live without books, especially when there’s a long journey in the car.

 

Around Australia in 30 Places is available for pre-order now.

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Meet Illustration Challenge Winner: Kai

1. Tell us about your illustration for Around Australia in 30 Places.Kai

My illustration in Around Australia in 30 Places depicts the Bungle Bungles – 350 million year old lime stone formations in Purnululu National Park in WA. I drew this picture in kind of indigenous style using with fine liners (markers) on paper.

2. If you could travel anywhere in Australia, where would it be?

If I could travel anywhere in Australia, I would go to the Great Barrier Reef so that I would be able to see all the fascinating flora and fauna.

3. What would be your No.1 travel tip?

My number one travel tip is: don’t get stuck with your original plan when travelling. If you come across some interesting place along your journey, go there, whether you planned it or not.

4. What’s something you can’t live without in your suitcase?

Something I can’t live without in my suitcase is a book. After a long day hike, the best thing to do in the evening is to relax in your sleeping bag and read an interesting novel.

Around Australia in 30 Places is available for pre-order now.

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Meet Illustration Challenge Winner: Anna Rose

Anna Rose1. Tell us about your image from Around Australia in 30 Places.

With my image I wanted to be a little creative and out of the ordinary by using animals as the tourists/visitors to the Flinders Ranges. I enjoyed illustrating the camel race and even added in an emu for a bit of fun. I used bright and dusty colours with water colour paints to create what I believe the Flinders Ranges would look like. I also included some native Australian plants such as the Sturt Desert Pea. I hope that the readers of the book enjoy my colourful and fun artwork.

2. If you could travel anywhere in Australia where would it be?

I love going to Queensland or New South Wales. I love swimming in the ocean at both of these destinations. I enjoy relaxing in the warm weather in Queensland and seeing my Aunty and cousins in Sydney.

3. What would be your No.1 travel tip?

My number one travel tip would be to always have a notebook and pen or pencil with you wherever you go. Then you can record your ideas, thoughts and experiences to remember in the future. You can create drawings if you have nothing else to do.

4. What’s something you can’t live without in your suitcase

I can't live with out my special dog puppet soft toy that travels with my whenever I go on holiday!

Around Australia in 30 Places is available for pre-order now.

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Meet Illustration Challenge Winner: Rebecca

1. Tell us about your illustration for Around Australia in 30 Places.

Rebecca TangMy illustration was Coffs Harbour (with the Big Banana). I chose this place as I have been here many times and it has the best dessert ever. I thought that I could connect the most with this place so I knew that I had to draw it. I was just doing this competition for fun and I was not thinking about winning, so when I received the news, I was so surprised and ecstatic at the same time.

2. If you could travel anywhere, where would it be?

I would love to travel to New York because there are so many beautiful places to visit and the views are always so amazing. However, I would also want to travel to France because then I would be able to go to Paris and visit the Eiffel Tower. There are too many amazing places to choose from!

3. What would be your No.1 travel tip?

Always make a checklist of what you need to bring on that trip. This tip will always be handy because everyone has had that feeling, when you walk out your front door and you feel like you are forgetting something but you can’t remember what it is. Then by the time you arrive at your destination you remember that thing that you forgot at home. Therefore, it is always handy to have a checklist when you pack your bag to and from your destination, so that you can make sure that you are not forgetting anything.

4. What’s something you can’t live without in your suitcase?

Sunscreen. I can’t live without sunscreen because when you stay in a hotel, most of the time there is going to be a pool and you don’t want to get sunburnt so I always bring sunscreen. This is the thing that I cannot forget during a trip.

Around Australia in 30 Places is available for pre-order now.

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Meet Illustration Challenge Winner: Rory

1. Tell us about your illustration for Around Australia in 30 Places.

In my illustration for “Around Australia in 30 Places” I aimed to incorporate Rory Smithas much of the natural beauty found in the Australian landscape as I possibly could. The natural environment in itself is such a precious and beautiful thing and portraying this accurately in my illustration proved to be a challenge. I tried to capture the landscape in a unique way that portrayed the way I perceive it and its wonders. This experience has helped me to develop new skills with my art and has helped me gain insights and new perspectives on the Australian environment that I am lucky enough to live in.

2. If you could travel anywhere in Australia, where would it be?

If I could travel anywhere in Australia I would love to visit the end of the world in Tasmania. It is such a beautiful and peaceful spot that looks so inviting. Being able to experience the beauty of the natural environment with the fresh, crisp air would be a dream come true. I think it would be quite an inspiration for many artworks seeing as the great expanse of ocean is just a glance away. At the end of the world Tasmania, there is so much open space surrounded by natural vegetation which would be a lovely way to escape the bustling cities of the mainland.

3. What would be your No.1 travel tip?

I think my number one travel tip would be to live in the moment and take it all in while you can. Take a step away from your device and any distractions and just take the opportunity to appreciate where you are and all you have to be grateful for. I find that when you just focus on where you are now, the experience is so pure and eye opening that nothing could make you forget how you feel in that moment. When you just take the time to be in immersed in the moment, you are able to fully appreciate where you are and what you are doing, which I think is ideal when you are travelling.

4. What’s something you can’t live without in your suitcase?

I think the one thing I couldn’t live without in my suitcase would be my camera. When going on a holiday I find so much inspiration in the places I go. The atmosphere is always different, there’s always new things to discover and explore. Having my camera allows me to capture the memories I make and the atmosphere I never want to forget. Also, seeing as photography is such a passion of mine, I feel that practicing in a new environment is very good to help develop my skills and make the trip even more enjoyable.

Around Australia in 30 Places is available for pre-order now.Rory snippet Resize

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The Secret Science Society's Experiment Series: Lava Lamps

Mona likes to moan. facebook lavaLamp
Kiki is a worry-wart.
Bart loves following rules.
And Zane HATES following rules.

When the four of them are put into The Secret Science Society together, this could only mean one thing: DISASTER!

Now you can join the Secret Science Society too! We have a fun experiment that you can try at home. 

We're making lava lamps! This experiment has way less mess than the Secret Science Society's exploding volcano!

  • What you need:
    An empty, see-through water bottle
  • Water
  • Food colouring – choose your favourite colour!
  • Effervescent aspirin
  • Vegetable oil

Picture 1

1. Fill the empty water bottle about two-thirds full of vegetable oil. You might want to wear a lab coat so you don't get any on you! 

Picture 2

2. Next, fill the rest of the bottle with water until it is almost full to the very top. If you look carefully, you will see that the water sinks straight down to the bottom of the bottle. Oil and water don’t mix.

3. Now it's time to add your favourite colour! Add a few drops of food colouring. To mix it in, use a straw or chopstick.

4. Once the water is coloured, you can break one effervescent aspirin tablet into four pieces and drop one piece in at a time. You will see the lava bubbles start to rise to the top and fall back to the bottom of the bottle. How cool!

Picture 3

So how does it all work? When the aspirin tablet sinks to the bottom of the bottle and starts fizzing, it creates gas bubbles. With each bubble that rises to the top, some coloured water rises with it. When the gas bubble reaches the top of the bottle, the coloured water sinks back to the bottom of the bottle. This happens over and over again until the aspirin tablet is dissolved. How awesome!

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The Secret Science Society's Experiment Series: Bending Water

Mona likes to moan. facebook bendWater
Kiki is a worry-wart.
Bart loves following rules.
And Zane HATES following rules.

When the four of them are put into The Secret Science Society together, this could only mean one thing: DISASTER!

Now you can join the Secret Science Society too! We have a fun experiment that you can try at home. 

What you need:

  • A water tap
  • A plastic comb
  • A head of hair!

Firstly, we have to do a control test so we can see what happens with a normal comb. I know you’re probably bored by this part, like Zane, but control tests are very important for experiments says Bart! Run the tap so that a very thin stream of water is flowing straight down, then move the comb close to the water (but make sure it doesn't get wet!).

Does anything happen?

Next, we can begin the real experiment! Brush your hair with the comb at least ten times, then move it slowly towards the thin stream of water (but make sure it doesn't get wet again!).

CH7aDoes anything happen? Yes!

So how does it all work? Brushing your hair with the plastic comb collects electrons from your hair. Electrons have a negative charge. When you move the comb close to the running water, it is attracted to the water because that has a positive charge. Negative and positive charges are how magnets work.

In this experiment the attraction is not strong enough to move your hand, but it does pull the water toward the comb. Try to find some other small items around the house to test the comb on now. Zane is already looking in his grandpas's workshop!

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Chatting to Deborah Kelly about Oliver and things

DKellyBWWith an increasing number of children being diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) every year, it is more important than ever to have these children and their families represented in mainstream media, including books. Portraying children like Oliver and Tilly not only provides kids in similar situations with literature they can relate to, but it also helps to foster tolerance and acceptance of difference and diversity in all readers.

1. Did you draw on personal experience when writing The Thing About Oliver?

I have the privilege of knowing several children on the autism spectrum and their families. There is a lot of support out there now for kids on the spectrum, which is fantastic. But often the siblings of these children are overlooked. They are sometimes called glass children, because it can feel as though their overstretched parents look right through them. They have to grow up quickly, are often expected to take on far more responsibility than other kids their age and can feel guilty about their own problems and worries in comparison to that of their siblings. They can also struggle with feelings of resentment and guilt towards their parents and the sibling with special needs.

2. The story centres around the move to Townsville, which is described quite vividly. Do you have a history with the area?

I spent several years living in Townsville while I attended university. thing about oliver 9781925563818 large72Because moving there coincided with leaving home (and the whole world opening up), Townsville will always have a special place in my heart. When I visited a couple of years ago for some writing workshops, a lot had changed since I left and most of the people I knew there had moved on. However, I felt that the sights and smells, plants and animals, and the humidity that had hit me all those years ago was the same.

3. Is marine biology an interest of yours? What’s your favourite fish?

I loved marine biology in high school due to an enthusiastic teacher and went on to study it at university so I could help protect the reef for future generations. Like Tilly, colourful nudibranches are high up on my list. So is the goofy-looking parrotfish, which chomps so noisily on coral that you can actually hear it underwater. I’ll never forget the time I came face-to-face with a baby tiger shark! And I love the magic of a night dive. There are tiny creatures in the water that glow at night and if you turn off your torch, it’s like floating in a night sky, surrounded by stars.

The Thing About Oliver is available now.

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A Personal Note from Wombat Books Director

rochelle manners publisherI’ve been running Wombat Books for over ten years now.
 
Through that time, I have met so many wonderful people from the Australian author and illustrator community. Many different people have worked with us as we’ve grown—from new creatives, to bestselling and well-known creatives. Each has brought their energy and their talent to the publisher. I just love being around people in the publishing industry: those that love books.
 
I wanted to host the first and only Wombat Books Conference as a way to say thank you for ten years of books, support and Auslit. But also to create a collective think tank of our authors and illustrators to show how much we’ve learned, and how much we can learn from each other. Having a chance to give back to the writing community that has supported us is important to me.
 
I’m excited to meet emerging authors and illustrators in this professional development format, and hopefully share Wombat Books' ten years of knowledge with everyone. We’ve also got a stellar line up of industry greats, from award-winning Kate Forsyth, to local heroes like Aleesah Darlison and T.M. Clark, to illustration superstars like Giuseppe Poli and Renée Treml. It’s just so much talent jam-packed into this one day. Creatives teaching creatives; creatives meeting creatives; creatives learning from creatives.
 
I hope to see you there and please don’t hesitate to introduce yourself to me on the day.


Yours sincerely,
Rochelle Manners
Director of Wombat Books

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Invest in yourself with Georgie Donaghey

Georgie Donaghey headshotCan you tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you've been in the industry?

Since beginning in this industry over 20 years ago, I've had the privilege of wearing many hats: published author, editor, mentor, festival director, radio host and founder of Creative Kids Tales. To make it in this industry, I knew I would have to invest. I began my training as President of a local chapter of the Children's Book Council of Australia. After three years I left and Creative Kids Tales was born. Fast-forward to today and CKT is almost 10! It's been an amazing journey, and I love provide the kid-lit community with support and resources.

I've also had time to write and publish a number of books, including Lulu (now available on Virgin and QANTAS entertainment channels!), Clover's Big Ideas, and In the Shadow of an Elephant. My stories have also been featured on Kinderling Kids Radio. You can read more about me here.

Describe your typical work desk.

Unfortunately, my workspace has become more a dumping ground for files, books and merchandise. I like to think of it as organised chaos.

I'll write wherever I can find a spot. On the train, in my garden or at my dining table. My favourite place to write is in the shower. I have a waterproof notepad and pencil stuck to my wall. A lot of my ideas come to me when I'm in the shower (probably because it is the only space I can be truly alone with my imagination).

What is most important for an author to remember when marketing themselves?

I immediately think of the big no-no's I see instead! When an author bombards sites trying to sell their books, or when they respond to posts and spin the topic around in an attempt to sell. Marketing should not be 'in your face'. Apart from any initial launch, it should be gentle but long-term. Get involved with groups both online and in person, especially where your book might be a good fit. This is also a great networking opportunity, but don't push your book on people.

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

I don't think there was ever one purchase. It's all about long-term investment: going to festivals, upskilling through workshops and so on. Anything you can do to expand your knowledge in your chosen genre is beneficial. Reading extensively in the genre you write for and being aware of trends with publishers helps too.

What is the most memorable approach you have seen to promote a book?

Merchandise is great! However, this is not always possible. Kids love getting something that ties into the book, and parents love freebies for their kids. It can be a stuffed toy, kid's watch or a bookmark or poster. This week I received an emoji pile of poo with a smiley face, that smells of chocolate. My kids love it! Launches with giveaways, book readings and signings are great promotional avenues. Kids love meeting their writing heroes.

Describe your panel for the Wombat Books conference.

Writing is only the first step in your investment. You need to network, market yourself, build your brand, polish your work and so much more. Participants will learn how to INVEST to build a healthy return. This session will equip you with the tools needed to take your writing journey to the next level, with topics spanning from the value of critique groups and writing competitions, building your author platform before publication, and social media.

For more great workshops like Georgie's, book your tickets for the conference now! Click the image below for more information.

Conference Tiles Invest the write way

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The heart of the story with Giuseppe Poli

GiuseppePoliCan you tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you've been in the industry?

I'm an artist and creative who has been making things for years. The journey to children's picture books has been a long one and being a children's story creator was not what I wanted to be when I grew up (see my website for more details!) My break into the industry came in 2014 when my first book was published. Today I am working on my tenth and have many other stories in development.

Describe your typical work desk.

Like many aspiring artists, I'm still in the process of making my ideal studio. At present, I have my computer adorned with things that inspire me. Next to that I have a makeshift lightbox and all my colour pencils on display. The best thing I've done so far is group my pencils and inks into colour groups. They look delicious! They are like little fields of flowers and grass and woodland...and they beckon me to pick them up and play. Recently I've drawn portraits of my characters and have them around my monitor too.

I've learned something interesting in the pursuit of a perfect workspace. When I'm in the thick of creating, I'll use whatever space I can find (the floor, dining table, wardrobe doors). When I feel the urge to have my own studio I use it as a trigger to ask myself 'Should I be creating? Am I procrastinating?' and once I get back to work, my workspace angst is no longer a problem!

There is one key way I use my work desk. I finish my night thinking about a creative project and what I'd like to do next, and leave one note of action on the desk for the next day. When I wake up, bleary and tired, I don't need to think, I just do.

What made you want to become an illustrator?

I love making art but I love story more. I'm inspired by films and games and when I looked for a way to build skills in visual storytelling, I found that I had all I needed in a pencil and a piece of paper. From this, I realised children's picture books were an incredible medium and a wonderful opportunity to master my ability to captivate, inspire and grow.

How do you go about designing a character when working with picture books? How does the collaboration between author and illustrator work?

For me, all my design and characters for the book come from my intentions for it. I don't bring my past work into my present project, and try and clarify what the heart of the story is. If the story calls for something I don't have in my tooklit, I work to discover how I can deliver that.

I want people to feel something and there will always be movement in my art. It's at this intention level where I think authors and illustrators collaborate best. The beauty of the author and illustrator collaboration is that we give each other room to shine and together we amplify the story.

The other collaborator that's important to acknowledge is the publisher. There is a reason why you as the illustrator have been chosen. That's the magic of passing over the story-baton to the visual storyteller and seeing where they fly.

Who are your illustration idols?

I admire what Shaun Tan has done for the medium of the picture book. Shaun has walked to the top of the hill of high art and literature, planted a flag for picture books and laid out a picnic blanket for all others to join him. I see picture books as galleries and curated exhibitions, each page a blank wall, curated towards a special experience.

I also love Quentin Blake and think his knighthood for his service to illustration is very cool. Both he and Shaun have opened our eyes to the medium as something that is more than 'just for kids'. A picture book is a moment in time.

Which children's book would you love to have illustrated?

The newly illustrated Harry Potter books by Jim Kay. Wow! I can't wait to get that good. Quentin Blake's illustrations of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory are also enchanting.

Describe your workshop for the Wombat Books Conference.

At the heart of each of my books is my desire to reach a win-win-win: a win for me as a storyteller, a win for the author/publisher and a win for our readers. That pursuit is not easy and I love it, because it forces us to be really creative and in this pursuit we all grow.

I believe that a book that satisfies all these elements can exist, and that product is worth searching for. Finding our way there can be difficult, and this uncertainty is where I feel I can help.

My best successes have come from when I produce work that I love, aspire towards and am proud of. It's not the product, it's the revision that makes art, with taste and with clarity for what you want your audience to feel and you, as a creator, to feel. That's where we push our boundaries.

Every drawing, every thought, every word we write or say is a single step. As a visual storyteller, you are going to be walking a long while. Some of that might be a steep climb, but the beauty of a steep climb is that you are always rising. I can't wait to see you in my workshop, and rise together.

For more great workshops like Giuseppe's, book your tickets for the conference now! Click the image below for more information.

Conference Tiles How to Make Art

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Sending good messages with Cecily Paterson

PatersonCecilyCan you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got started in the industry?

I feel like I've been doing writing-related stuff for a while. My first job out of uni was learning to be an editor with the Law Book Company. It was stringent and useful, but boring. I moved on to a far more interesting job as a communications officer for a non-profit organisation where I got to write, which was always my first love. My first book, a history of the organisation, was written in that job. My second book was the biography of my boss from that job. He had been adopted as a four year old in Palestine during the Second World War. He had no papers, no identity and never knew exactly how old he was. It was a story that wrote itself really. It wasn't until I was 37 and had just had my fourth child that I knew I was ready to write fiction. I'm currently working on my eighth novel for girls.

Describe your typical work desk.

I work daily at my desk, which is set up in the corner of our lounge room. The bigger the desk, the more room for mess — and I have a big desk. My husband makes 'tsk' noises at it, but I clean it up twice a year, which is more than enough for anyone. I can sit to write or press a button to use my standing desk. I also have a treadmill set up for walking while writing. It was exciting at the start, but I'm a little lazy these days.

What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?

I learned to read when I was three by listening to my older brother sound out his words, and like Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird, reading was as natural to me as breathing. At the same age, our family went to live in Pakistan for a period. The caretaker family on our property sent their children to school, but neither parent could read. One of my mum's first tasks was to run a literacy program in a slum area, teaching women their letters and sounds. I was intrigued by the idea that a grownup was unable to read and do this most basic thing I loved so much. At the time, I tried to imagine a life without access to stories and other worlds from books, but it seemed impossible, or at least remarkably small.

How do you balance making the plot engaging with providing a strong message?

Nobody wants to be told what to think, so I don't 'preach' directly in my books. My characters, however, go through hard times, learn difficult lessons and have challenging conversations with their friends and mentors. The messages come through their discoveries. When a mentor is giving advice to one of my characters, I try to write the dialogue so it's natural to the ear, to avoid having indirect preaching take place.

What advice would you give to parents wanting their children to be more accepting of others?

Model kindness in your own words and actions. Apologise to others, be quick to listen and slow to get angry. Give other people the benefit of the doubt. If your kids are angry with people, listen and validate their experiences, but help them to find ways through the anger. It's really useful to help your kids understand the power games that often play out in groups. If they can recognise manipulation, they can either avoid it or shut it down.

What's your favourite under-appreciated novel?

That's almost too difficult to decide. Growing up I loved the twentieth century children's author Rumer Godden, whose voice was tantalisingly vivid and delicious. Why was she not acclaimed? I just adored A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth when it came out, probably for its Indian flavour, which was very similar to my experience in Pakistan.

Describe your panel for the Wombat Books conference.

It's called 'Social awareness in books'. As all my novels tend to feature some kind of issue that the character has to navigate, I'll be talking about how to be serious while still staying engaging. Extreme honesty will be mentioned, as will staying true to my characters and their points of view. Basically, it's how I try to write in story form all the useful advice that my kids won't listen to if it just comes out of my mouth the normal way.

For more great panels like Cecily's, book your tickets for the conference now! Click the image below for more information.

Conference Tiles Social Awareness

 

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Keeping it short with Emily Larkin

LarkinEmilyCan you tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you've been in the industry?

My mum read to me a lot when I was young, and I grew up with a love of reading, writing and animals. I studied Creative Writing at university in 2010, and loved being exposed to different types of stories. In 2012, I wrote the text and descriptions of images for a picture book as one of my assignments and, three years later, pitched this idea at the CYA Conference. I was thrilled when Wombat showed an interest in my story and Helene Magisson has created such beautiful illustrations for The Whirlpool!

Describe your typical work desk.

My work desk is usually cluttered with scribbles on paper, and pens that don't work that I've forgotten to throw away.

What makes the short story genre so special?

I think that short stories have a powerful capacity to illuminate character and capture a moment of change. In our busy lives, it is wonderful to be able to read something in one sitting that has a lingering influence.

Have you read anything that makes you think differently about fiction?

Chekhov is credited with the line: 'Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass'. I think that is beautifully evocative, and a reminder of why showing is often more impactful than telling in narrative.

What are some great examples of short stories, for anyone not familiar?

Some of my favourite short stories include Kaleidoscope (Ray Bradbury), Bullet in the Brain (Tobias Wolff), Singing my Sister Down (Margo Lanagan), No Is Yes (Paul Jennings), After the Strider, the Stranger (Mireille Juchau), and An Act of God (Gary Crew). These stories became reference points for me and stayed in my head long after I'd finished.

What is your favourite childhood book?

I know this is a popular choice, but I love the Harry Potter series! Rowling's magical world has everything ours does, from sport, to chocolate, school friendships and rivalries, homework, bigotry, tolerance, and love. I also grew up reading (and re-reading) Eoin Colfer's Artemis Fowl series. Colfer's blend of magic and technology is clever and compelling; the banter between characters and the narrative's humour leaves me chuckling every time, and Artemis's emotional growth brings me back to the series again and again. Other childhood favourites include everything by Emily Rodda (what a legend!)

Describe your workshop for the Wombat Books Conference.

My workshop explores what makes a great short story, including structure, characterisation, dialogue, and editing. Participants will learn about the short story form by discussing exemplars, and be guided through writing exercises to hone their skills and share their work with others.

For more great workshops like Emily's, book your tickets for the conference now! Click the image below for more information.

Conference Tiles Short Stories

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Talking science and the autism spectrum with Kathy Hoopmann and Josie Montano

kathyjosieauthorpicIs there a personal story behind this book?

We met in 1999 at the Ipswich Writers Festival and have been friends ever since. We have both written extensively on Autism Spectrum Disorders (Asperger Syndrome) and publish in other genres as well (Josie also writes as Josie Santomauro). We had thought about working together, but once Kathy moved back to Australia five minutes away from Josie, it felt like an omen! Over coffee, we came up with the concept of the Secret Science Society and had a blast creating a bunch of quirky, lovable rascals who get up to all sorts of mischief, whether they mean to or not. With our combined understanding of mental and developmental diagnoses that have a lot of letters (ASD, GAD, ADHD), we hope that the book will delight, entertain and educate our readers.

Many kids and YA books deal with mental health these days. Why do you think it's become a common theme to explore?

Awareness of mental health in our society has been raised significantly over the years. There are non-fiction books on various topics available, although mostly for an older audience. As children and youth especially suffer from mental health issues, it is vital they have access to literature that is aimed at them. A great example from our book is Kiki, who has anxiety. Readers may be able to see themselves on the page and relate, realising they are not alone and that others out there experience life like they do. That's a huge step for many. Often the greatest quandry for those with mental health issues is that they feel noone could possibly understand what they're going through and can see no way out of their dilemma. However, seeing that Kiki is capalable of stretching herself and contributing will show them she is valued for who she is.

Why did you choose to focus on a character with ADHD?zanesecretscience

We didn't set out to write it that way originally. We threw a bunch of very diverse children together and stood back to see what happened (for any teachers out there gasping in horror at our lack of planning, rest assured we did have a plan; we just weren't rigid in how it played out). The best part of writing is allowing your characters to come alive and do what they want. Zane quickly took over and because he was such an endearing and interesting character, we let him dominate.

One of the main themes of this book is putting aside differences to work together. How can we do that in our everyday lives?

Listen to each other. It's that simple. Throw away preconceived ideas and take a moment to step into someone else's shoes. Once you know where a person is coming from and why, it's so much easier to accept them for who they are and enjoy what they have to offer. You never know what amazing friendships can emerge from that.

secret science societys spectacular experiment small72Do you think there is still a long way to go with educating kids about good mental health?

There are many great books/programs available already that can offer support. The issue at the moment is providing a conduit for that information to reach those who need it. Parents, teachers, health professionals and the government all have their part to play in accessing resources and promoting good mental health.

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Social awareness in fiction with Katrina Roe

Katrina RoeCan you tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you’ve been in the industry?

Being in media, I've always written for work, but only got serious about creative writing once I had my first child. I started toying with kid's books in 2009 (Gasp! Ten years ago!) and published my first book, Marty's Nut-Free Party, three years later in 2012. I work 5 days a week and have 3 kids and it's a real struggle to find time to write.

Describe your typical work desk.

I think I have written all my stories at my kitchen table, usually when one of my kids has been taking a nap. It's usually a mess. As I write this, I am surrounded by a mug of half-drunk Milo, a bowl of sugar, tomato sauce, babushka dolls, a box of tissues, my four-year-old's drawings, a Lynette Noni novel, Kat Colmer's YA romance Can't Beat the Chemistry, a Hope 103.2 waterbottle, the school newsletter, a pack of playing cards, a painted ceramic mermaid, my to-do list and a bunch of flowers. By the time I finished writing the list, I'd drunk the rest of the Milo. I really need to clean up!

Accepting difference and social awareness are prominent themes in your books. What interests you most about these topics?

I've thought about this and find it hard to articulate why I come back to these themes. Somewhere along the way I just became sensitised to the idea of people being excluded or misunderstood. Growing up with a brother who had a severe disability, then having a daughter with anaphylactic food allergies probably heightened my awareness of the need to care for those with extra needs. Since reading To Kill a Mockingbird as a teenager, I've been acutely aware of the power of books to build empathy and I seem to gravitate towards books about outsiders in my own reading. So I guess that just naturally comes out in my writing. And I love seeing the way kids respond emotionally to these stories.

What research do you do when writing from personal experience? Do you try and get a broader understanding, or make it uniquely your own?

I tend to write first from my instinct and experience, then research later to make sure what I've written stands up to the research. At times I have had to tweak or amend what I've written to fit the research. For example, when I wrote Gemma gets the Jitters, I initially had Gemma taking a photo from the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Once I researched the BridgeClimb and the techniques they promote for tackling a fear of heights, I discovered that no cameras are allowed on the BridgeClimb. So I had to amend the story to reflect that reality.

Writing can be a great emotional outlet, but can conversely be a mentally draining process. What is your advice for anyone struggling with this?

For me, the writing itself is always a joy, it's the rest of the process that is mentally draining. The constant promotion, worrying about book sales and publicity and the constant rejections. Sending off your very best work to a publisher and waiting months to hear anything back is the most agonising part of the process for me. Every time you publish a book you never know if you will ever be published again! Having so little control over editorial decisions can be tough on authors as well. It hasn't happened to me, but I know many authors find it tough when the publisher's ideas for the title or cover conflict with their own creative choices.

My advice would be to keep your writing in its place in your life. Don't let it take over your life. Make sure you're enjoying other activities and hobbies, a good social life and prioritising your non-writing friendships, your health and your family. You won't be a great writer if you don't live your life to the fullest.

If you could live a day in a literary character's shoes, which one would you choose?

Anne of Green Gables! She finds so much joy in everything!

Describe your panels for the Wombat Books conference.

I'm going to be discussing resilience for writers on a brilliant panel with Penny Jaye, Kate Gordon and T.M. Clark. We'll be looking at issues of mental health, bouncing back from adversity and work/life balance. I'll also be looking at social awareness in books with Josie Montano, Cecily Paterson and Kathy Hoopmann.

For more great panels like Katrina's, book your tickets for the conference now! Click the image below for more information.

 Conference Tiles Resilience for Writers

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Resilience and research with Penny Jaye

Penny Jaye 2017 largeCan you tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you've been in the industry?

I've been writing for children for almost 20 years now and have more than that number of books in print (writing as both Penny Reeve and Penny Jaye). I write picture books, children's non-fiction and YA novels, and love not having to stay in one box with my writing. When I'm not writing I like reading, admiring a glorious sunset, spending time with my family and pretending I can garden.

Describe your typical work desk.

My desk is an antique leather-topped desk my husband bought me as a gift. It's lovely, but more often than not appears rather cluttered. I usually have a stack of papers to the left (my current WIP), two rows of books against the wall (one for study, the other a moderate 'to-read' pile) and a space for pens, mouse and a cuppa to the right.

Does writing energise or exhaust you?

Can I say both? Creating, writing and even editing can be a real treat, but long slogs at the desk also wear out my brain. I need to refresh regularly.

Do you find characters in your research, or do you research around your characters?

I often start with a notion of a character in my imagination long before the research allows me to know them. It's my curiosity about their story that drives the research: all the wonderings about who and why they are.

When writing on challenging topics, how do you keep yourself grounded?

By taking care not to let the difficult stories be all I think about. This can be especially challenging when the topic area demands hours, week or even years of research. But I find I have to pace myself and take care of mental health. I need to let my mind dwell on other things when I'm writing the tough stories. I need to deliberarely seek out joyous things, beautiful things, stories with happy endings.

Do you hide any secrets in your books, or like to lay everything out in the open?

I'm not sure I deliberately hide 'secrets', but often there are little details I'll include that mean a lot to me but will probably go under the radar for most readers. It's usually got to do with characterisation.

Describe your panel and workshop for the Wombat Books conference.

My workshop will explore how good research contributes to the construction of authentic storytelling. We'll discuss the pitfalls and difficulties of thorough research, as well as workshopping our WIP (work-in-progress) for research priorities, angles and appropriate strategies. I'll also be participating in a panel on resilience for writers, and am excited about sharing some of my coping strategies for writing with longterm goals/dreams in mind.

For more great panels like Penny's, book your tickets for the conference now! Click the image below for more information.

Conference Tiles Doing you Research

 

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