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.

Our Head in the Clouds with Kellie Byrnes

Kellie ByrnesKellie Byrnes is the debut picture book author of Cloud Conductor.

Do you conduct stories in the clouds?

In a figurative sense I certainly do. I think a big element of being a writer is having your "head in the clouds" all the time, daydreaming and thinking about "what if?" I've always been in my head quite a lot, whether pondering life's mysteries, or making up stories, or contemplating what characters might be doing after the story ends. I think daydreaming is a healthy thing and that adults and kids should be encouraged to do it every day! When we let our imaginations run away, we can come up with amazing goals, solve problems, and learn about ourselves.

I also spend a bit of time looking at the clouds and the sky. I love to take in beautiful sunsets or look up at the stars and the moon at night. I'd like to say I look at the sunrise too, but as a night owl, I have to admit, I am rarely awake for them!

The imagination plays a huge part in Cloud Conductor. Why is a child's imagination so important to you personally?

Children have the most amazing imaginations, and it tends to be one of the things adults love most about spending time with Cloud Conductor 03 002 26them. However, sadly, as people get older this way of looking at the world with wonder and creative eyes seems to gradually get pushed down. Even by the time kids are in late primary school, I notice they spend less time imagining.

It's important for adults to encourage children to explore their imaginations and find inventive ways of solving their own problems and seeing the world. I know how much stories, words, and ideas have helped me over the years, and I hate the thought that children may grow up believing they have to leave that behind.

How can we all be cloud conductors?

We can all be cloud conductors by spending more time out in nature. Whether you like to stare up at the sky, walk through a park, garden, hike, meditate outdoors, swim in the ocean etc., letting your imagination wander while you get some fresh air and forget your to-do list can really make a difference. Having a few hours to yourself to go off and pursue an interest or take in the world around you also helps to get your imagination firing.

As adults, we tend to forget how to live in the moment, or just don't do it often. As soon as you build a sandcastle with a child, or play tug-of-war with your dog, for instance, you are back in the present, and can find more joy and appreciation for life. Letting your subconscious mind romp about while your conscious mind is focused on something else is also a wonderful way to solve problems. I see all these activities as another type of cloud conducting, and something anyone can do, at any age.

Cloud Conductor 03 002 20Escapism is very important in Frankie's life. Why is that?

No matter our age, we all need escapism in our lives at some points. Sometimes when things are outside our control, the best thing to do is just escape for a time and leave our troubles behind. In the book, the main character, Frankie, is dealing with an illness and can't do the things she used to love. This is not only incredibly difficult, but isolating. By escaping through her imagination, Frankie can, for a time, feel more free, happy, and connected. She can also use this reprieve from real life to "power up", in a way, like avatars in video games do. She can also use it to help others.

How does it feel to have your first picture book published?

It feels amazing! This is a life-long dream of mine, and I am so excited and grateful that it has finally been realised. I can't wait to read the book to kids and learn what they see in the clouds. I'm sure I will be amazed by their creativity! I also really hope children who are struggling with illness or any other problem in their life find the book a useful tool to remind them of their own power and strength.

 

Cloud Conductor comes out 1 May. To pre-order your copy head to this link.

 

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Ten Questions with Deborah Kelly

DKellyBWHi! I’m Deborah Kelly.

I grew up in New Zealand but have lived in lots of places including Japan, Scotland and, of course, Australia. I live with my husband and two kids in NSW.

I have written several picture books for children including The Bouncing Ball, Jam for Nana, Dinosaur Disco (Random House) and the soon to be released Me and You (Penguin Viking). I also have a picture book coming out in 2017 with EK books. I have written books for Macmillan Education, including Sam’s Great Invention and Don’t Sweat It. My short stories for children are included in Random House’s Stories for Boys and Stories for Girls anthologies.

This year Wombat Books published my first chapter book Ruby Wishfingers: Skydancer’s Escape, which has been beautifully illustrated by Leigh Hedstrom. The second and third books in the series will be published this year also, Ruby Wishfingers: Toad-ally Magic and Ruby Wishfingers: Hide and Seek. Two more Ruby Wishfingers books are also scheduled for next year. I hope that kids will have as much fun reading the Ruby Wishfingers books as I had writing them!

I regularly visit schools, festivals and libraries to share my books with children and chat about writing. For me it is one of the greatest things about being a children’s author!

 

1) What was the first story you ever wrote and has it been published?

My first attempt at writing a children’s picture book was cringe worthy. Without going into too much detail, it involved a ladybug with a bad case of wind. I’m very thankful it never made it to publication!

2) What is your favourite part about being an author?

There are so many things I love about being an author. Working in my pyjamas. Drinking copious amounts of tea. Getting lost for hours in my own imagination. Seeing my characters brought to life by illustrators. Getting to work with talented, dedicated people in the publishing industry who are passionate about what they do. Being part of a community of inspiring, creative people. Being able to visit lots of great schools, libraries and festivals to share my books with kids. It’s an absolute honour and a privilege to be able to speak directly to children, all over the world, through my books.

3) What do you do for fun?

I love spending time with my family and friends and just being silly with my kids. I love bushwalking and swimming. And I read a lot! I am also a dedicated yogi. I couldn’t imagine life without my daily yoga practice!

4) How do you test out your stories? Or who do you test them on?

I always let a manuscript have a ‘cooling off’ period before showing it to family or friends. If I get a good response from them and I still like it a month or so later, I might think about submitting it to a publisher.

5) What was your favourite children’s book when you were a kid?

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There were too many to count! I still have my childhood copies of The House that Sailed Away by Pat Hutchins and The World Around the Corner by Maurice Gee—two books that I adored as a child!

6) Have you ever travelled overseas as an author?

I spent four years living and working overseas and I’ve been to lots of countries as a backpacker! I’m yet to experience travelling as an author on tour—but I think it would be great fun!

7) Have you met anyone even more famous than you that was exciting?

I said hi to Bob Geldof when I was working at a train station in Scotland! He was there for the Make Poverty History concert. I’ve also met Jeanette Winterson, Dame Kirri Te Kanawa and Jenny Morris. I’ve met loads of amazing authors and illustrators, far too many to count and all of them much more famous than me!

8) What writing do you like to do the most?

I love being in the ‘flow’—those wonderful moments where I’m just watching the story play out in my mind. I write it all down as fast as I can and worry about editing it later!

9) Where do you see the future of children’s books?

I certainly prefer print books over anything electronic. So do most people I know. I think this is especially true of children—particularly toddlers who are very tactile creatures!

10) What is your favourite way/time to read?

Snuggled up in bed on a rainy evening, when the kids are asleep and the house is blissfully quiet!

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