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.

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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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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The writing industry with Rosanne Hawke

rosanne hawke young adult authorCan you tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you’ve been in the industry?

My first book was published in 1995 and I’d been writing (or trying to) 5 or so years before that, learning how to write from reading. My 30th book has just been published and I’ve had the joy of rewriting earlier titles. I was an aid worker in Pakistan and the UAE (United Arab Emirates) for 10 years which had a huge impact on my life and creativity. That, and my daughter’s influence, catapulted me into writing.

Describe your typical work desk.

I have a 100-year-old desk that was owned by a late icon of our country town. I like it because it has writing slopes that pull out on each side where I can rest research, the pages I’ve done when editing, or my lunch. There’s a cup of herbal tea and a flask of hot water to keep topping it up. My last few day books are lined up in case I need to know what I said I’d talk about. A glass of sharpened pencils just because I like using them. A pretty stubby holder my daughter made filled with pens. A box of important notes. 

What do you think is the most important aspect of a manuscript?

The characterisation and the voice, which of course has to be conveyed on the first page. If the character is genuine and interesting and the voice distinctive it’s probable the writing will be good as well.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given as a writer?

Write whether you feel like it or not. Once you have the draft in your hands, you won’t be able to tell by the writing which days you had to push yourself and which days you were on a roll. This came from author and academic Eleanor Nilsson, a huge influence on my early career.

Has your writing process changed or stayed the same over the years?

It has changed remarkably, from me just writing to see where the story took me to getting to know my characters so well that they write it for me. Over the years I have developed a process that works for me, but it is always growing and transforming. 

If you weren’t a writer, what job would you love to be doing?

Probably a teacher-librarian. At one point I wanted to be an archaeologist or a historian and work in a library and research things. Or dig them up. As a child I used to write sentences and put them in tins, so I could dig them up again. I like finding things and exploring, which is a lot like writing.

Describe your workshop for the Wombat Books conference.

I have been in the industry now for 25 years writing and teaching and I will share the ‘big picture’ of what it's as an author writing for YA and children (a bit like riding the wind). I’ll share highlights, what I’ve learned and those tips/advice that I’ve gleaned, and maybe a writing secret or two.

For more workshops like Rosanne's, book for our conference now! Click the link below for more information.

Conference Tiles My Writing Journey

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Writing the personal with Lora Inak

DSC 4091Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you've been in the industry?

I've been writing stories since I was a little girl, but I seriously took pen to paper in 2005/2006 and wrote my first middle-grade fiction called Celia Snoop the Fairytale Detective. Of course, this never saw the light of day, but by then I found I couldn't stop writing. I wrote countless middle-grade and picture books, but it wasn't until I won a place in the 2011 Maurice Saxby Mentorship Program and found my voice as a YA writer that I started to write my first YA novel, Unspoken Rules, which was later published by Rhiza Edge in 2017.

Describe your typical work desk.

My typical work desk is pretty much my laptop, which often lives on my dining room table, but also at times travels to my favourite cafes. Between fulltime work, two young children and the chaos of life in general, I often write when and where I can, so you might see me having a latte at my favourite cafe on a Sunday morning, or at my local library after hours. Basically, it's an hour here, a few hours there, and anytime I can find in between. It's not ideal, but for now, for me, it works.

Culture and identity are prominent themes in your book. What interests you most about these topics?

These topics interest me because they are strong themes in my own life. My family immigrated here in the early 1980s from Turkey, and I spent my youth and teenage years walking a swaying cultural tightrope. I often found myself conflicted, attempting to understand where I fit in the world, at school, at home, within my community.

For these reasons, cultural conflict is close to my heart and I love exploring all the implications and impacts of culture and cultural differences within a YA setting in my work. Culture encompasses so much from food, to celebrations and traditions, to family expectations and religion — the scope is broad with endless fodder to ponder and explore.

How do you balance making demands on the reader with taking care of the reader, especially with a teenage audience?

I'm always mindful that teenagers are on the cusp of adulthood yet are often still somewhat naïve and innocent about life. They come to things fresh, with so many firsts, a great deal to learn and experience. I instill this, in differing degrees, into my characters. I will of course always sense-check my work through my wonderful writerly friends, who I trust will be honest with me. All this helps me to shape my characters and stories so that I'm not overstepping or oversimplifying.

What is your top tip for writing stories that draw on personal experience?

I believe that every writer, to some degree, needs to delve into themselves, into their own experiences, feelings, beliefs and thoughts to find that topic or idea that energises them the most. For some, these ideas/thoughts will become a paranormal romance, for others a picture book, but regardless, my tip is to fearlessly delve right in. Find what turns your dial and then build characters and worlds to explore that.

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

I grew up wanting to be Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables so I would 100% choose her. Her ability to stay positive and hopeful even when the world around held so much bitterness and ugliness, so many scrapes and drama, so much judgment and tribulations, was amazing and inspirational. I've always tried to approach my own life with the same attitude.

Describe your panel for the Wombat Books conference.

I am so honoured to be on a panel with Aunty Ruth Hegarty and Kate Gordon that discusses the role personal experience has played in our writing. I was a massive fan of Kate's Girl Running, Boy Falling, which deals with the confronting topic of youth suicide, and I was fascinated by Aunty Ruth's Is That You, Ruthie?, an account of her time as a dormitory girl. They are both amazingly talented and beautiful writers.

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

Conference Tiles Writing the Personal

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Shaping your antagonist with T.M. Clark

TMClark updated headshot for blogCan you tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you've been in the industry for?

It is 20 years now that I have been actively involved in the writing industry. From the moment I wrote my first article that sold...it has gone so fast! It was a pipe dream when I left school, and though I wrote about three chapters longhand of a Mills and Boons at the beach, it was put in the drawer and the dream forgotten. Only after I had my kids and lived in England did the dream resurface, and I'm so glad it did! I can't imagine my life now without all my story characters in it.

Describe your typical work desk.

Messy — seriously — drives my hubby crazy. I seem to always accumulate paper! But generally I know where things are in the mess and that does his head in more.

Who's your favourite antagonist?

The one I didn't kill, MaNtuli (from Tears of the Cheetah). She has to come back and be as diabolical as she can be in another book.

What makes a great antagonist in three words?

Love to hate.

Can you describe one of the antagonists you have placed in a story before? How were they 'antagonistic'?

The dictionary describes an antagonist as 'showing or feeling active opposition or hostility towards someone or something'. So going back to MaNtuli, she isn't hostile towards a specific thing or person, but if you get in the way of her own agenda, you're in trouble. She doesn't do anything to harm the hero or heroine's journey, but manipulates the people around her to do that for her. Once you know her, you actually feel sorry for her, and in your empathy towards her, you can easily forget that she is the main antagonist in this story.

Is an antagonist always what people perceive? Or are antagonists sometimes a surprise?

For me, my antagonists are not a surprise — you know from almost the get-go that they are the baddie in the story. I would love to write a book with a surprise antagonist, but I think that would be fairly difficult. In saying that, the journey of the antagonist could sometimes be surprising, and the amount of empathy you feel towards someone so horrible can take the ready by surprise. For example, in My Brother-But-One, Rodney is the antagonist. However, I had a reader send me an email saying to him, Rodney was the centre of the story.

Describe your workshop for the Wombat Books Conference.

How to have fun finding your villain/antagonist. As much as we all love the superhero, the antagonist is just as important as they make you love the heroic deeds of the protagonist more. By building a supervillain, you can make the reader love your hero even more, so my time will be spent making sure you have the ying-and-yang of these characters and the balance is there to make them become real 3D characters in your reader's mind.

You can book your tickets to T.M. Clark's masterclass now! Click on the link below for more information.

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The First Chapter with Kate Forsyth

Kate Forsyth minCan you tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you’ve been in the industry for?
I've been writing as long as I can remember. I wrote poems and stories from 4 onwards, and my first novel when I was 7. I was 16 when I first tried to get published, and 30 when I managed it. This year is my 22nd year of being a published author, and my 44th book will be published in July.

Describe your typical work desk.
I have a study at home. It's looks out on to the garden, is painted pale green, and is lined with book and art. My desk usually has a cup of tea, my diary, the notebook for whatever book I am writing, my glasses, assorted pens and pencils, and a pile of books. I also keep a collection of poetry books on my desk, to browse through whenever I am stuck or waiting for my computer to power up.

What first chapter of a book hooked you the most?
Any book that I've actually read. If the first chapter fails to hook me, I put it down and find a better book.

What makes a good first chapter?
A powerful first line. Instant immersion into the story. An engaging and believable voice.

How do you go about writing a first chapter? Do you usually write it first or last?
I always write it first - but I don't begin writing until I have a strong sense of my story's shape and voice, and my characters have come to life in my imagination. And it will be rewritten many times.

How important is the first chapter when submitting a manuscript to a publisher?
Utterly crucial.

Describe your Wombat Books Conference workshop.
It's a full day workshop, with the morning spent discussing what makes a brilliant first chapter and then the afternoon working on your manuscript. Everyone will get 10 minutes one-on-one time with me to talk about their project and what problems they are having. Everyone needs to bring their fist chapter, plus coloured pens and highlighters. Hopefully it will be a really interesting & informative day!

 

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Aleesah Darlison on Writing, Editing and Submitting the Manuscript

Darlison Mar15 029Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you’ve been in the industry for? 

I write picture books, chapter books, novels and series for children from the age of 3 – 14 years. I’ve been published for nine years. My first book was Puggle’s Problem and it was published by Wombat Books. Since then, I’ve had 44 other books released. It’s been a wonderful experience so far.

Describe your typical work desk.

L-shaped to give me plenty of room. Nice and tidy; everything in it’s place. A To-Do List that always has things on it (sigh!), laptop and large screen. I usually have artwork from my kids all around, notes and images from my current writing project and often a writing schedule to ensure I meet deadlines.

What’s your favourite children’s book? 

So many too choose from! I’ve always read anything I could get my hands on, even as a kid. Z for Zachariah, Lord of the Flies, A Rag, a Bone and a Hank of Hair, anything by Victor Kelleher, The Once Series by Morris Gleitzman … the list goes on.

How important is it to proof your manuscript before submitting to a publisher? Or should the work speak for itself?

It’s incredibly important. I find that if a manuscript isn’t proofed, polished and well set out, then the work isn’t going to speak for itself. A publisher won’t even look at a story if the document itself doesn’t adhere to minimum professional standards. The story won’t flow and won’t be written well enough because poor layout often shows poor research of the market and an uneducated writer. One tends to flow into the other.

DSC 6173 minShould authors submit multiple manuscripts or a single manuscript to a publisher at a time?

It depends on the publisher’s guidelines, which should always be followed to the letter. Having said that, life is short, and if you wait months or years for a publisher's response, you might find that life passes you by. With anything, it’s common sense and a sensible medium. Don’t swamp publishers, but don’t be prepared to wait forever before you send your stories elsewhere.

What’s the biggest tip you can give authors hoping to submit to a publisher? 

Research the market. Don’t rely on others to do the work for you. It takes time, knowledge and effort to be successful as an author. Also, develop a thick(er) skin. This industry certainly requires resilience, but the rewards are definitely worth it! 

Describe your workshop for the Wombat Books Conference. 

Being an author is a multi-faceted job, from writing to editing to submitting your manuscript. In this intensive masterclass, I’ll provide an overview of the Australian publishing industry and give invaluable tips for authors. I’ll also work with participants on their manuscripts to target areas for improvement such as structure, voice, language, character, tension, formatting and more. Participants will read their work out for group feedback and if time allows they will receive personalised feedback on their manuscript from me.

You can book your tickets to Aleesah Darlison's masterclass now! Click on the link below for more information.

 

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In Conversation with the Mum/Daughter Team about their Latest Picture Book

What inspired the story behind Chandani and the Ghost of the Forest?DSC00087

Rosanne: We saw children forced into labour when we lived in Pakistan. Some children worked from necessity for a small wage as they wouldn’t have eaten otherwise. But this picture book is a voice for those children who are sold into domestic labour and their suffering is unheard. The charity, Compassion, states 168 million children are trapped in child labour. This is almost 11% of the world’s children.

Lenore: Stories may have a message but they are meant to be enjoyed. When my youngest daughter was 5, her favourite animal was a panther. She so wanted to have a picture book about a panther and a little girl.

Why did you think it was important to collaborate as a mother/daughter team?

Lenore: I so enjoy working with my mum. The opportunity to collaborate with her on The Wish Giver and Chandani has been such a privilege. For these projects, I've had the idea and wrote the first draft and then my mother waves her magic wand and transforms the story into a work of art! Together we have created special memories working on these projects that have knit us closer together as friends.

Why do you think people should listen to fables in today’s current political climate?

Rosanne: Originally, fables were often written to show how to live morally. In today’s society most people believe morality is outdated and people should just do what they think best as long as they are not hurting others. Even though Chandani’s story doesn’t have an obvious moral like the older fables, I do believe that it is not moral to enslave children; it’s not moral to mistreat children and it isn’t moral to trap and kill endangered animals.

Do you believe you have a Ghost of the Forest watching over you?

Lenore: Yes, to me The Ghost of the Forest is a symbol of God in some ways. He is constantly watching over us. He doesn't always take our painful situations away, but He sure does lead us through them and helps us to make hard decisions and teaches us to be overcomers rather than remain victims. He gives us the strength we need to stand up for what is right.

IMG 0814 minWhat is your connection to the Himalayan Mountains? 

Lenore: I saw these mountains every day through the windows of my boarding school. The backyard of the boarding house was a forest, which was the inspiration for the setting of Chandani.

Rosanne: We lived in the Himalayan foothills in Pakistan when we were aidworkers. We often took the children higher in the mountains during school holidays. It was beautiful and we saw not only the Himalayan Mountains but the Karakorum Mountains and, in the distance, the Hindu Kush guarding Afghanistan. It was the amazing meeting place of three major mountain ranges, containing many of the highest peaks in the world.

What can we do to end child slavery (aimed for children)?

Rosanne: It is a human right of children to be safe, have a home & parents, education, medical help and be able to play. We need to show that not all children have these rights.

We can tell people about this by writing stories and drawing pictures.chandani med72

We can raise money to rescue children from forced labour.

We can write letters to governments to make stricter rules to stop slavery.

Lenore: To end slavery, we need to become more aware. Through awareness, change can happen. We need people who are willing to stand up and be a voice for those who aren’t being heard. In the case of domestic labour, the families need help and education to escape their poverty so that there is no need to send their children away to work. In the West we have so many resources: so much wealth. If we could only share what we have … what a world we could have! 

Chandani and the Ghost of the Forest is available to pre-order now.

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Once ... We Chatted with Kate Forsyth

Kate Forsyth minWhat prompted you to write Once?

I am an oral storyteller as well as an author, and some of my favourite stories to tell are those told to me by my grandmother when I was a little girl. My great-great-grandmother was Scottish and grew up on the Black Isle in the Highlands of Scotland. Her name was Ellen Mackenzie and one of the stories she told was about a famous curse cast against the Mackenzies of Seaforth by a warlock called the Brahan Seer. The warlock predicted the fall of the house of Seaforth, and many years later the curse came to pass.

Whenever I told any of my grandmother's stories, I used to introduce it by saying 'my grandmother's grandmother grew up in the shadow of a cursed castle in the Highlands of Scotland. When she came to Australia she brought only one small chest, but her head was filled with the stories her grandmother had once told her. She told them to her granddaughter who told them to me, and now I shall tell you ...'

One day I was saying this to a room full of children, and a little girl put up her hand and asked me if my grandmother had ever gone back to her grandmother's home - the cursed castle in Scotland - and I said, 'yes, but not till she was quite an old lady.' The little girl asked why she waited so long, and I said, 'well, when my grandmother was young, the world was at war. It was a very dark time, and she could not travel wherever she wanted.'

As I spoke, I felt the idea spark inside me. I wrote the words down after my storytelling session had finished, and over the next few days I built it into the book you can read now.

What do you think the most inspirational thing is about your ancestors?

They were very brave and resourceful. None of them had an easy life, but they all worked hard and did the best they could, and built lives filled with love and joy and purpose.

How do you believe your ancestors influence you still today?

I remember their stories, and think how difficult life must have been for them. I try hard to be as strong, courageous and resilient as they were, no matter what happens in my own life.

Why do you think it’s important to listen to the stories of our parents, grandparents, great-grandparents?

They have learned so much and have so much wisdom to bequeath. I feel it's very important that we learn from history, and try not to repeat the mistakes of the past.

What story do you remember the most that one of your forbearers told you?Once Digital ARC

The story of my great-great-grandmother Ellen Mackenzie has always been very important to me. She and her sister grew up in a loving family, but her parents both died when she was still just a girl, and her uncle inherited everything. He sent Ellen and her sister Jane out to Australia by themselves, and they had very little money or help. I've often imagined what that would be like - how lonely and frightened they must have been, and how strange Australia must have seemed in comparison to the Scottish Highlands, and how much strength it must have taken to rebuild your life from nothing ... and yet also how exciting and adventurous it must have been too!

Once takes us from a sailing ship to bush fires to a world at war. Do you feel a connection to these moments of our history?

Yes, indeed. My ancestors lived through those dangerous, difficult years. They loved and feared and suffered and prevailed, and because of their courage and determination, I now live in this beautiful, peaceful country. I am reaping the rewards of what they sowed. I have tried to honour their memories and their stories in this book.

How can we learn to listen to the stories of our past?

I think learning to listen is one of the most important life lessons. Everyone has a story to tell. By sharing our stories, we connect with other people. We come to understand their hurts and their hardships, and we feel a kinship with them. Stories link us to other humans, both those that came before us and those who follow us. Telling our own story is a crucial way to understand our own lives, and to grow towards compassion and empathy.

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Illustration Challenge Finalists Announced

Phew! It was some tough competition this year when judging our Illustration Challenge. There were so many amazing entries, using so many different techniques - from water-based paints to digital design to collage. Every drawing was so unique that it was hard to choose the finalists. Here's just a brief snippet for you ...

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However, after many hours of going through piles of entries, we've narrowed it down to 31 artists. Congratulations to the following artists who will be featured in our printed edition of Around Australia in 30 Places.

Tommy Clements
Britney Fallon
Layla Gill
Ruby Levitt
Scarlett Papps-Burford
Nathan Kingsley
Lara Tamke
Alexey Luchkovskiy
Kai Caspelherr
Daisy Karner
Anna Rose Gray
Andrew Philip
Teniel Sauer
Rory Smith
Abbey Olafsen
Ruby Wandschneider
Belle Ritchie
Ella Zieserl
Evie Larcombe
Zach Searle
Jack Morris
Blake Ellerman
Sonya Clarke
Aramis Surtees
Caitlin Miller
Berylia Nur'aina
Rebecca Tang
Lara Winton
Amber Liang
Sarah Savige
Samantha Parish

Can't wait to see the final book? You can preorder your copy of Around Australia in 30 Places now here with free shipping.

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Meet Our New APA Intern: Megan

Meg Run 2 Med72I have volunteered with the Brisbane Writers Festival for the last six years and love participating in the shared excitement of people who are passionate about books. My rescue greyhound Hamilton is named after the Broadway musical/American president, I like ice skating and watching ice hockey, and I love to bake but always seem to pick complicated foods, such as cupcakes that look like little burgers and Halloween cupcakes with eyeballs on top! I enjoy true crime stories and anything with strong women, and when I was young, I memorised The Owl Critic by James Thomas Fields (a humorous and very lyrical poem) because I loved the way it sounded.

What book sparked your interest in the publishing industry?

When I was in primary school, I read Which Witch? and The Secret of Platform 13 by Eva Ibbotson and as soon as I finished, I wanted to read it all over again. I loved the idea of being involved with creating books that delighted people (and still do: I re-read it last month!)

If you could meet any children’s author or illustrator, who would it be (yes, we can use a time machine)?

The author I'd love to meet would be Jon Klassen (the author of I Want my Hat Back and other hat-related books) or Gail Carson Levine (who wrote Ella Enchanted). Based on their books, both sound like delightful and engaging people who would have unique perspectives on the world. Plus, both of their stories have made me laugh out loud in public, so they'd definitely be entertaining!

You’re going to be assisting with the editorial department this internship. Are you an oxford-comma girl?

I am, but working in education has really dulled that impulse! The editorial change I dig my heels in about is 'that vs which'!

What exciting projects will you be working on when you’re interning at Wombat Books?

I'll be helping out with a couple of different projects at Wombat! One is a professional development conference for Wombat authors to learn from one another and another is a project aiming to align our published works with the school curriculum, to make sure our books support children's learning. Looking forward to the challenge!

What’s your current ‘bus read’? (i.e. what are you reading at the moment?)

Howl's Moving Castle, a Studio Ghibli production, is one of my favourite movies ever. I've just started the book it was based off, by Diana Wynne Jones and I am really pleased so far with how beautifully the movie represented this fabulous story!

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Meet Our New Publishing Assistant: Bec

Bec FoleyBec is a recent QUT graduate who was born and raised in Mackay. She loved books, reading, and writing all through school, especially when they provided an opportunity to escape into fantastical other worlds. She’s very excited to join the team! Bec is hunting for a wonderful fantasy to add to the Wombat Books publishing list.

What book made you want to get into publishing?
The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater. I really wanted to get involved with the creative process of something that’s both engaging at the surface level, but contains interesting ideas, and uses mythology and history to construct something unique.

What’s your favourite thing about publishing for children?
Broadening horizons and opening people’s minds to new possibilities.

What are you most excited about working on at Wombat Books?
I’m excited with collaborating with authors on things they’re passionate about - really bringing the book’s strengths to the fore, so that the reader loves the book just as much as we do.

What do you think makes a great children’s fantasy?
Especially for children’s fantasy, specifics of worldbuilding matter less than high concept and consistency. I also love to see a strong use of theme tying everything together.

What would you like to see in the submissions portal for you to read?
I’m a big fan of three-dimensional female protagonists. I think the things that connect the reader to the character are often character flaws, so I love to see authors who aren’t afraid to work with imperfection. Everybody loves an underdog!

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Jacaranda Snow: a modern classic for Australia’s ‘Jacaranda Kids’

As an Australian immigrant, author and happiness blogger, I understand firsthand the opportunities that a Catherine Greercountry like Australia offers. Born in Canada, my husband and I moved to Sydney twenty years ago and have raised two Aussie sons in a country bursting with beauty – and jacaranda trees.

I remember making ‘jacaranda snow’ with my two boys when they were little and asked to see snow. Sydney’s jacarandas inspired me to write the first draft of my debut picture book, Jacaranda Snow.

I read a 2016 report from the Australian Council of Social Services, which documented that over 731,000 Australian children between the ages of 0-16 live below the poverty line[1]. I wanted to write a story that includes these children in our Australian literary landscape. All children deserve to see themselves in picture books. But not many books feature kids who live with less.

I combined my love of jacarandas – and the history and urban legend that surrounds them – into a modern Australian classic story for all our Jacaranda kids.

I’ve found responses like this from the South of Sydney, where a ‘Mrs Haxton [at Jacaranda Maternity Hospital in Caringbah] would carry the baby to the car, followed by a nurse who carried the mum’s bag in one hand and a jacaranda tree in the other.’[2] I love to imagine that many of our Australian suburbs are graced by jacarandas planted by mothers in the 1940s and 1950s.

I knew jacarandas were a symbol of Australian children. I wanted to write a growth mindset story, where a little girl who lives in a diverse family – just Jess and her Gran – finds a way to make her own dreams come true.

I teamed up with the Canadian company, Educalme (www.educalme.com) to produce a Growth Mindset mindfulness online course, provided free with every book. Schools, classroom teachers and parents all have free access to the online course..

The book also features an original piano composition, “Jacaranda Snow,” by young award-winning Australian composer, Alexander Lau, for musicians everywhere to enjoy.

Jacaranda Snow is a modern Australian classic picture book. It includes history, urban legend, a main character who’s an Aussie battler; it champions diverse families and has an educational toolkit that’s free for everyone to use. And it comes with a beautiful original piano score. It’s a true Australian story, and I’m very proud to have partnered with award-winning illustrator, Helene Magisson, young award-winning composer, Alexander Lau, and Wombat Books.

[1] http://www.acoss.org.au/media_release/child-poverty-on-the-rise-730000-children-in-poverty/

[2] https://www.theleader.com.au/story/2708257/reader-recalls-gathering-jacaranda-seedlings-for-maternity-hospital/#comments

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Wombat Books chats with the busy Supermum and author, Aleesah Darlison

Aleesah Darlison PicThere are so many books out there detailing how parents should do their so-called ‘job’. But is there really a manual to ‘great parenting’? 

When my first child was born, I used ‘Baby Love’ by Robin Barker as my bible. It got me through some long nights and many confusing days. But a manual for great parenting? Different people will find help from different books, I suppose. At the end of the day, you have to remember that each child is an individual and so will offer up their own challenges, joys and rewards that can’t always be boxed up neatly in a book. Sometimes, you’ve got to trust your instincts and do what you think is right. As long as your actions stem from love, you should be okay.

 

What is the most important thing about parenting for you?

Maintaining positive, open communication with my kids. Having them know that I love them above all else and receiving their love and respect in return.

 

Do you ever find that your kids can have unrealistic expectations of you as a ‘superhero’ parent?

Love it or hate it, being a parent is about being a superhero in your kids’ eyes. Parenting is one of the most difficult, confusing, selfless, endlessly wearying things you’ll ever do in your entire life. Luckily, it’s also the most wonderful, rewarding, fun and amazing thing you’ll ever do too. I’m glad I’m a Supermum to my kids. They’re pretty super in my eyes too.

 

daddyshopsmallHow does your family spend their Father’s Day? 

We usually go out for brunch, have a lovely meal together and maybe a walk along the beach. It’s relaxed and easy-going. The important thing is that we’re all together. We might throw in a few presents for my husband, but he doesn’t expect much and is happy just being with us. I like my kids to make a special card for their dad, which shows in the making and in the text of that card how much they love him. Those cards are kept forever – they go into their scrapbooks so they will always have them.

 

Why did you write The Daddy Shop? 

The Daddy Shop is a humorous look at children’s often literal, sometimes fickle, viewpoint on parents and their ‘availability’ to satisfy every child’s need. Many parents – not just dads – have to work and this does impact their children, especially if there’s a special event on the horizon that the parent can’t attend. The Daddy Shop is designed to unite working parents and their children in a fun way and to engage them in discussion about family relationships, the importance of making time to be together and, of course, to get families reading together.

 

The Daddy Shop is available from 1 August.

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Cecily Paterson and the Squished Bananas Club

PatersonCecilyWhat’s something the Wombat family should know about you?

Most people seem to be interested in the fact that I spent my childhood in Pakistan and went to boarding school in the Himalayan Mountains when I was 11 (so I usually add that in to anything I write about myself). I like dark chocolate, sewing things, and writing letters. I’m never going to get a tattoo, and I have a really cute black-and-brown furry dog who lies next to my desk all day.

Did you have a club when you were at school?

Of course! There were the usual ‘Spy on the Boys’ clubs I created with my bestie, Sharon, at various times (mostly when we were bored). In Year 2 I was in the ‘Cat Club’, in which everyone became a different breed of cat, of course. We stretched and purred our way around the playground. The best club was when I was in Year 5, where we made up the 'Squished Bananas Club' (don’t ask me why I called it that because I truly hate bananas and won’t ever eat them). The Squished Bananas had a club book, constitution, written purpose and all the official stuff. I’m pretty sure it was just an advanced version of ‘Spy on the Boys’, though. It was embarrassing when the boys actually discovered the club book and started reading it out loud to the whole school bus.

What’s your opinion on mascara?

Amusingly, I really like mascara. I have hopelessly wimpy eyelashes that are short and stubby, and when I don’t wear mascara I feel like I look pretty ordinary. Having said that, I don’t think you need to wear mascara when you’re eleven years old like Abby Smart in the book. Maybe wait a few years.

What is your favourite children’s book? How did it influence you?

There are too many children’s books that are my favourites and I can’t possibly pick one. I’ve loved almost every book I’ve ever read. One of my favourite writers when I was eleven, though, was Rumer Godden. She had a beautiful way of stitching words together and it made me feel almost hypnotised. All I could think when I read her stories was: ‘Wow – I want to write like that.’smartgirlsdontwearmascarasmall

What did you want to be when you were twelve years old? How’s that changed now?

My life ambition hasn’t really changed since I was eight years old and decided for sure that I would be a writer. I dabbled with the idea of being a world-famous ballet dancer, Olympic swimmer and prize-winning gymnast, like everyone does. I also had a brief, fleeting ambition to be a billionaire business woman, who carries around a very smart briefcase and wears a suit. But the desire that has lasted the longest has always been to be a writer who is famous enough to have a display of her books in a bookshop window.

Sum up Smart Girls Don’t Wear Mascara in 5 words.

Five Words: Abby Smart is totally clueless.

(Four additional words: But she means well).

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Katrina Roe Reminds Readers To Look Up and See the Big Picture

Katrina Roe websiteWhere did the idea for the story come from?

Initially the idea of the balloon travelling through different children’s lives was more about the journey. I liked the idea that the balloon’s journey could show that people are all interconnected, even if they don’t know it. It was an idea that wallowed in the back of my mind for two or three years without form.

It was a personal crisis that eventually prompted me to finally write it. By this time, the story had become immensely personal and deeply philosophical to me. It poured itself out onto the page. Through the writing process, the story became much more about letting go of loss and disappointment, while recognising that one person’s loss is often another person’s gain… if only we could see the big picture.

Lilys balloon touches the lives of three different children. Do you think we often miss the things that interconnect us?

 Do we ever! One of the down sides of being part of an individualistic society (in which we’re all encouraged to pursue our dreams) is that we don’t always notice what is going on for the people around us. Lily has to give up something she wants very much because Tom and Amelia need it more. All the characters in the story find peace, comfort and beauty when they stop looking down and choose to look up. We can see things so much more clearly when we look outwards and upwards instead of focusing on ourselves.

 The balloon has a history and a future that the reader doesnt suspect. Is there an object you have that has touched multiple lives?

For me, the things that survive from the past to the future are the stories that Screen Shot 2018 07 06 at 11.00.51 amget handed down. These stories often define our past and shape our future. And I think it helps to connect those stories to an object. In our family there is a cowbell and a typewriter that my great grandfather brought back from Gallipoli, as well as a number of books, journals and paintings that have been passed down through the generations. These objects can help us understand our place in the world, where we have come from and are going to.

Why did you choose a balloon to interconnect the lives of the children? Why is the balloon symbolic to you?

 I think the balloon is a flexible metaphor that can mean different things to different people. A balloon in itself is something small and insignificant, but it represents so much. Often balloons signify joy and hope and love - they mean that loved ones are gathering and something good is about to happen. For Lily, the gentle bobbing of the balloon brings calm to a situation she finds overwhelming. So naturally she is devastated when the balloon drifts away. But actually, Lily no longer needs to hold onto it. Just watching it soar to the clouds is enough to bring her joy. For Tom, the balloon is a gift, that helps him appreciate and capture the beauty in front of him. For Amelia, the balloon reassures her that she it not forgotten by her father. The journey of the balloon is not significant on it’s own - it’s what it brings to others that gives it meaning.

How is the balloon symbolic to each of the children?

The balloon means different things to each child, because each child has very different needs. Lily needs to focus her attention on something calming because she’s overwhelmed by what is going on around her. She wants the balloon all to herself, but little does she know how much it’s needed elsewhere. Tom, who is disabled, needs to feel empowered to create and contribute to his world and to appreciate the beauty in it. Amelia needs to know that her father loves her and remembers her. Each person has the balloon only for as long as they need it.   Lily’s Balloon is gentle reminder to stop, look up and see the big picture.  

Lily's Balloon  is out 31 July.

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Sharing Memories with Catherine Bauer

Catherine BauerColourful Memories is a touching tale about sharing memories and moments with your  family. What inspired you to write this story?

There were several things that inspired me to write this story, but at the end of the day if I had to pinpoint one thing, it was my own memories of my dad sharing his own childhood stories with me and my brother and sister when we were children. He grew up in Germany during WWII – he was 11 when the war ended. Dad was the second of five children and they didn’t have a lot, but my grandparents worked hard and they were happy. My dad had lots of adventures – funny and exciting – and he wove them into the most magical stories that had me completely enthralled.

What’s a cherished memory you can remember your grandparents sharing with you?

So many – but whenever I visited my Australian grandma, who lived in Sydney, the first thing I’d do was pester her to show me “the dancer in the bottle’’. It was a wedding present to my grandparents and one of her treasured items – they were only married about 14 years before my grandpa died. It was a special liqueur, that had real gold flecks in it. There was a music box in the base and a dainty ballerina that spins around. She’d carefully remove it from the sideboard, wind it up and we’d sit and watch the ballerina dance while she told me about their wedding day. After my grandma died and her house was packed up, my aunty sent me the bottle!

My German grandparents kept chickens in their back garden and when I visited them, we’d go out early in the morning to look for eggs – still warm in the nesting boxes. I remember the smell of the straw, my oma tucking a hen under her arm and letting me pat it. She also had newly-hatched, fluffy, yellow chicks, which she kept in her kitchen where it was warm and toasty. I used to hand feed them and play with them for hours!

Do you keep photo albums for your kids? Do you ever find the time to remember moments and photos with them?

I have loads of photos – some in albums and others in boxes. I also like to have framed family photos around the house of special moments and events. With everyone being so busy these days with school and sports, we don’t always find the time to sit and look at albums together. But we often share our memories of special moments, holidays, funny things that have happened and milestone times in their lives – “firsts”, birthdays, Christmas and school events.

There’s a certain nostalgia in this book about bygoneScreen Shot 2018 07 06 at 10.37.06 am times. Do you think the times our grandparents and parents experienced were simpler?

Yes, in some ways I do. My grandparents and parents experienced war in different ways in Europe and Australia and that was definitely a struggle and time of worry for them. But as my dad would sometimes quote “we were too poor to have problems”. This means beyond their basic needs, there was no pressure to have “stuff” – the latest this or that, the newest, biggest, shiniest thing. And of course there was no technology which can be as much a hassle in our lives, as a help.

Do you have any tips about sharing memories with grandchildren and children?

I think that when you’re sharing a wonderful moment – whether it’s doing something spectacular, like taking a trip somewhere; or something simple like walking the dog or making a cake together  live in that moment and enjoy it but then talk about it later as a way of re-living it and etching it on your hearts and in your minds.

Colourful Memories with Wombat Books is out the 15th of July 2018.

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A Letter to Our Young Wombat Readers

Dear Wombat Readers,

Here at Wombat Books, we love to see children getting involved in the creation of the books they like to read. We’re currently running two challenges for you to inspire your author and illustrator creativity.

Why not have children creating children’s books?

DSC 6216 min

This was the idea that sparked our first Illustration Challenge in 2014, which produced the book, Zoo Ball, written by Aleesah Darlison. Kids from across Australia adored bringing to life a mischievous visit to the zoo and the ruckus the animals managed to get up to. This was followed shortly in 2016 by Yay! It’s Library Day, written by Aleesah Darlison, which inspired kids to jump into the magical world of libraries in their illustrations. We received over 600 entries!!!

Now we’re running our third Illustration Challenge, Around Australia in 30 Places.We hope Aussie kids can get even more creative as they explore marvellous places around their country.

"The Illustration Challenge began as my fledgling idea to involve children in the world of publishing and have children’s work featured in children’s books,” says Rochelle Manners, Publishing Director.

But that’s not it! Wombat Books has also opened a Kids Writing Competition for the Australian Girl Series.

We're seeking original short stories from school-aged students (aged 5 - 13) to publish in the Australian Girl series, in partnership with Australian Girl Doll. The previous books in the series include The Rainbow Necklace, by Jacqueline Larsen, Amy and the Wilpena Flood, by Claudia Bouma and Annabelle and the Missing Turtles, by Rose Inserra. Submissions are open for new titles where children's stories will be included in the new books.

Wombat Books has established these competitions to provide aspiring young artists with the opportunity to be published.

Young illustrators and writers from all around Australia are encouraged to send their entries to Wombat Books. We can’t wait to read your stories and see your illustrations.

 

Warm regards,

The Wombat Team

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Meet the Australian Girls ...

Are you wishing to submit for the Australian Girl early-reader series? Get to know the characters here:

 

amyHi, I’m Amy from Adelaide!

I love sport especially netball, soccer and football. But when I grow up I’m going to be an actress. I think that would be so cool! 

We live too far away from the country and too far away from the city—we’re stuck in the suburbs. Well, I guess the park is something. There are netball courts, and goals for soccer and football there. Oh, and I’m part of the junior netball team! We’re called the Pink Galahs. I practise all the time, so that one day I’ll be really good. I like to practise everything I do over and over again till it’s perfect. 

I also have A LOT of family from here in Australia, India, Netherlands and Fiji—cousins galore! I love to hear all their different stories, but I most enjoy hearing the Dreaming stories my Grandmother tells that she learned from our ancestors.

 

JasmineUm, hello! My name is Jasmine, except my friends call me Jas.

I live in Sydney, but my friends live ages away from me. That’s ok, though, because we email each other all the time. Sometimes we get to visit each other which is really exciting!

I play the violin and love all sorts of music. On television from time to time they show concerts, but I’d like to see one live. My favourite food is Singaporean noodles (my gran makes the best). She learned how to make them from her grandmother too!

Another thing I like to do is read. I would read an entire library if I could! My favourite books are ones that have a mystery, (maybe I’ll be a detective when I’m older!) and ones that make me laugh. I have lots of books in my bedroom.

 

emilyG’day! My name’s Emily and I’m gunna be a Jillaroo someday.

My favourite animals are horses, wombats, dogs, cats, wallabies and… well, I guess I love ALL animals! Except maybe snakes. Urgh! 

All my friends live ages away from me, and there aren’t many kids on the station my age. They’re either too old or too little. So, anyway I get to stay at my friends’ houses on the holidays, and sometimes they come to my house. We also keep in contact on email and with letters. They tell me all the adventures they’ve been having, and I tell them all the adventures I have. I love adventures! They are sneaky things… you have to go out and find them! 

 

Matilda previewHello, everyone! I’m Matilda.

I have lived all over the place, but at the moment I split my time between boarding school and my aunt and uncle’s cattle station (my parents are away overseas again). I am learning fast that there is a different kind of fun to be had in both places and I think it’s great.

I love history! Aussie history is the best—it stretches back so far. Oh, I especially love the adventures the explorers went on across Australia—or looking for gold! That would be the best!

I also love clothes and dressing up. I love pretending to be someone else. 

 

Bronte in sarong previewI’m Bronte and I love the beach!

Splish-splashing in waves, surfing and making sandcastles are just a few of my favourite things. I get to spend a lot of the time at the beach as we live so close! My friends love going to beach with me when they visit (but they’re not as good at surfing as I am).

I also enjoy visiting Nonna, as she teaches me how to make pasta from dough. Spaghetti meat balls is my favourite (but it’s very messy when I eat it). I like all sorts of food, though: tacos, noodles, pizza, dumplings, and much more. I want to be able to cook just as well as Nonna when I grow up.

 

Wombat Books is taking submissions now. For more information click here.

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Talking Trouble with Amanda Francey

FranceyAmandaWombat Books talks trouble with Amanda Francey, illustrator of Trouble For Toby.

1. What was the best thing about illustrating Trouble For Toby?

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Janet Reid's humorous and beautifully written story. For me to enjoy illustrating a children's book, it's really important that I can relate to it in some way. So the best thing about illustrating Trouble For Toby, was that immediate connection I felt to the main character. Toby reminded me very much of my own son when he was younger. 

His heart was in the right place, but his imagination and impulsiveness often led to trouble. 

2. Toby desperately wants a pet, but his parents don’t think he can look after one. Did your parents let you get a pet when you were a kid? Were you able to look after it?

Thinking back, I feel sorry for my parents. After many years of nagging and trying to convince my parents that I knew everything about ponies from reading books, they reluctantly agreed to let me buy one. Our neighbour sold me her ageing pony before she moved to the suburbs. While I successfully looked after my pony, I had no horse riding experience. Apparently, this is knowledge you learn from practical experience, like horse riding lessons, not from reading books.

I'm lucky to be alive really, after the amount of times my beloved pony aimed my head towards a low hanging branch, tossed me into a creek and trampled over the top of me.

3. Toby’s imagination takes him to crazy places. What is your favourite imaginary place that readers visit in the book?

 When Toby convinces Sam to be park rangers in search for rare animals in the Tranquillity Garden. I will say no more, as I don't Trouble of Toby 10 002 8want to spoil any hairy surprises.

4. If you could be any fictional character, who would it be?

Anne of Green Gables because I enjoyed spending most of my childhood living in my own imaginary worlds, without a care in the world. Plus Prince Edward Island is my utopia. The scenery is positively sublime and the lobster is irresistibly delicious.

 

5. What do you love the most about children’s books? Are there one or two books that stick in your mind as most meaningful? Why?

I've always loved looking at pictures in children's books. The artwork in children's books was the very thing that influenced me to want to become an illustrator. I was a reluctant reader with a love for stories, so I was more inclined to read picture books or comic books, because the combination of words and pictures was easier for me to follow along.

During middle primary school, my favourite children's chapter book was The Silver Brumby by Elyne Mitchell. It was one of few 'illustrated' chapter books on a subject that interested me. If I was a child today, I believe I’d be an avid reader due to the much larger selection of illustrated chapter books offered in libraries.

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