Welcome to the blog of the Tasmanian branch of the Children's Book Council of Australia!

Friday 25 June 2021

The Great Maternity Leave Project

New-to-the-scene Tasmanian author and illustrator team, Hannah Coates and Claire Neyland, on education, motherhood and self-publishing
A Home for Little Penguin.

Hannah Coates & Claire Neyland. A Home for Little Penguin [front cover]

I was heavily pregnant and impatiently awaiting the arrival of my first child, when I started playing around with a few little story ideas.  I wrote and re-wrote a few drafts, adding a character here, removing an adjective there. But then baby Eddy was born, and the project went into hiding for a few months whilst I learned how to be a mother. It wasn’t until Claire was also on maternity leave from teaching and looking for a creative outlet that I remembered the tale about the Little Penguin I’d been working on. There was a picture hanging on Claire’s living room wall that I had always admired, and I was blown away once I realised that she had actually painted it. 

Hannah Coates & Claire Neyland. A Home for Little Penguin [back cover]

What followed was truly a huge collaborative effort. Claire gave feedback on the text drafts, as well as encouragement and reassurance that what I had visualised was worthwhile pursuing. We visited the locations that would be depicted in the book (Douglas-Apsley Waterhole, Whaler’s Lookout, Coles Bay, Diamond Island). She sent me photos of her sketches and works-in-progress, wanting to make sure she created exactly what I wanted. In truth – she did better. 

 © Claire Neyland. Douglas-Apsley Waterhole [image]. A Home for Little Penguin 

Once we had a few images and a well edited manuscript, I set about looking for a publisher. What I found was that it is extremely difficult to crack into the oversaturated world of children’s picture books! There were only a handful of Australian publishing houses who were accepting unsolicited manuscripts. In the end, we decided to self-publish. It was a risky decision, but we believed that we had created something good, and wanted to see it through. We loved the idea of being able to read our children something that we had created. We were lucky to have the support of Tasmanian Publisher Forty South; it was a good fit for us, because we still had a certain amount of agency during the editing, and Claire did a lot of the design work. 

I’m so glad that we backed ourselves. It has been a long and sometimes frustrating journey to get here, but it feels so unbelievably rewarding. 

A Home For Little Penguin is dedicated to our first children, Eddy and Kate. Now that we are both mothers of two – another project is certainly overdue!

© Hannah Coates & Claire Neyland 
A Home for LIttle Penguin [title page]

Hannah Coates

Storyteller & Bookworm

BIO: Hannah Coates is a Tasmanian storyteller, teacher and mother. She lives on the beautiful East Coast, where her love for the ocean inspires her in all things. A Home for Little Penguin is her first book. 

Editor's note: A Home for Little Penguin is available in local Tasmanian bookstores and online. All images used with permission from the creators.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome children's book. Hats off to Hannah and Claire.