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

Saturday 27 May 2017

Lifting the Lid on the Children’s Literature Book Trade at KidLitVic

Tasmanian based illustrator, Alyssa Bermudez, reports on her recent attendance at the KidLitVic conference where authors, illustrators and publishers inform, inspire and ignite their passions.

What are some vital aspects for success in the children’s book publishing industry? Last
weekend I had the pleasure of attending the KidLitVic Conference in Melbourne – “Meet the Publishers.” The State Library felt like the perfect venue to listen to publisher panel discussions, participate in expert workshops and network with industry professionals from across Australia. A vibrant energy filled the conference with reacquainted faces and introductions to new ones. Illustrators like me had their portfolios in hand and the authors were ready to pitch their next big idea.

The conference began with Bethany McDonald’s insight into childhood literacy and cognitive skill development. Literacy is essential for this development. She mentioned the success of the State Library of Victoria's initiative, 1000 Books Before School, which offers incentives and goals for children and parents to read together more often. “Books aren’t dead, not if kids have anything to do with it.” 

A common theme for the day was the puzzling thought of what makes a great children’s book. In the first panel discussion, regarding chapter and middle grade books, the panellists noted that a common trifecta for engaging children is, “heart, smart, and fart.” Children want stories with real authentic emotions, intelligence and humour. Susannah Chambers of Allen & Unwin later noted in the picture book panel that is vital for there to be a true sense of character and a sense of place. The young adult panellists added that a memorable character doesn’t even have to be likeable, but more importantly they need to be fully formed, unique and real with a strong individual voice. 

©  Alyssa Bermudez!  Used with permission

As children’s books evolve and grow throughout time, the vital elements of storytelling remain the same with a strong story and character at the centre of it. The end of the conference day came quickly and I’m sure I was not the only one to feel invigorated and energised with new ideas.

Alyssa Bermudez
Children’s and commercial illustrator
W: http://www.alyssabermudezart.com/
FB: https://www.facebook.com/alyssabermudezart
T: @bermudezbahama

Alyssa Bermudez is a children’s and commercial illustrator, art teacher, and craft lover from New York City residing in Hobart. Her debut publication, LucĂ­a the Luchadora is distributed worldwide and has received multiple starred reviews. She is eager to try on her author/illustrator shoes soon too! Stay tuned!

Sunday 21 May 2017

Hey Diddle Diddle, You All Know the Riddle - It’s Time for a Story!

It is Library & Information Week in Australia and a highlight of celebrations is the National Simultaneous Storytime event – get involved by visiting your local library on Wednesday or initiating a shared reading in your home, classroom or LIBRARY!
This Wednesday the 24th of May marks the 17th National Simultaneous Storytime Event, (NSS) run by ALIA (the Australian Library and Information Association). 
It is such a difficult task to choose a book that has appeal to a wide enough range of children to fit the bill for NSS, and we have seen some excellent choices in the past with Pete the Sheep, The Wrong Book, The Very Cranky Bear, The Brothers Quibble, Too Many Elephants in This House and I Got This Hat, all created by talented Aussies who are well known to the CBCA.

What a great moment it must be to find out your book has been chosen for this wonderful event!  This year that honour goes to Tony Wilson and Laura Wood for their witty picture book The Cow Tripped Over the Moon; a wonderful take on the back-story of the classic nursery rhyme, Hey Diddle Diddle.
This story was of course an honour book in last year’s CBCA Early Childhood Book of the Year Awards, and is a true celebration of resilience and the importance of having great supporters around you to achieve a dream.
The clever rhyming text makes Wilson’s book a fantastic choice for a read aloud as it flows so well, builds to an exciting climax and provides a satisfying conclusion despite the inevitability of the outcome!  Wood’s illustrations are just delightful in their comic additions to the story, providing much for the reader to enjoy. The Illustrator, Laura Wood, has shared some double page spreads on her website.
ALIA have put together a wonderful range of support materials to help engage children beyond the storytelling of the book, and again the fantastic team at Story Box Library have a brilliant rendition read by Eddie Perfect (Play School, Offspring).
Even if you can’t get to an NSS event on Wednesday, I encourage you to find some time this week to read this engaging tale aloud – even if it’s to the cat and the dog!  I’m sure they will think it such sport!
Jessica Marston
(Teacher Librarian - Hagley Farm School (K-6), mum, advocate of the power of reading aloud).
Twitter: @marston_jessica

Saturday 13 May 2017

Combining Book Collections Leads to New Finds

Jackie explores the delights of sharing book collections as a pathway to discovering new titles. Blue Fin is the gem that she has just discovered through her husband's personal library. There’s sure to be more treats to explore!
One of the side effects of sharing a house with another adult is the combination of your separate book collections. For my husband and I this was mostly a positive experience as our tastes in books do cross over in places – so while I have to find room on the bookshelves for the Stephen King and military history collections that don’t enthuse me, I have also been able to find books I do like but haven’t read before (and of course there were a few duplications that were probably inevitable in two people who read at least some of the same authors.) Of course now our most frequently purchased item of furniture since our wedding is always a new book case . . . . but this is a happy outcome even if one day I hope we can progress to a new couch!
One of the real finds was that Norm owned a copy of Colin Thiele’s Blue Fin, which I hadn’t previously read. I enjoyed Colin Thiele as a child but for some reason this particular book had never come my way.
Blue Fin is a coming of age story set in the tuna fishing town of Port Lincoln in South Australia. Snook, at fourteen, finds that everything he tries goes wrong and it seems that he will never earn a place for himself or the respect of his father.
The struggle of the tuna fishermen is clearly portrayed as well as the tragedy that strikes when boats and crew fail to return. It is a hard trade both for the skippers and boat owners as well as the crew. Thiele also portrays the social minefields of adolescence as Snook tries to navigate the shifting currents of opinion at school, at his part time job at the cannery and within his own family house.
When Snook’s father reluctantly agrees that Snook can be part of the crew for his next (and possibly last if he cannot catch enough tuna) trip, neither he nor Snook can imagine how the next week will change both their lives forever.
If you haven’t read Blue Fin yet, it is highly recommended.
Blue Fin DVD cover image
Jackie Gangell

Editor’s note: If you have not had the pleasure of dipping into Colin Thiele’s extensive works, there is a useful bibliography at Equitainment: Author Fact sheet. This site also lists titles reproduced as films.

Saturday 6 May 2017

The Sad but Maybe Happy Tale of Bunny & Bettong

An author’s perspective on author/illustrator collaborations
by Anne Morgan

You’ve just written Bunny & Bettong, your first picture book. It’s going to be a bestseller, you can feel it in your bones. CBCA Picture Book of the Year. International sales. Translated into every known language. But you need an illustrator, right?
As luck would have it, an Amazing Artist (AA) lives across the road from your best friend. Her whimsical wildlife images would be a perfect fit for your story. Better still, you’ve seen AA’s house. The veranda is falling down. Needs a paint job. Good omens. Bunny & Bettong could provide AA with the financial lifeline she obviously needs.
So, how should you, the Hopeful Author (HA) approach AA? After some deliberation, you decide on a courteous invitation, to be dropped in AA’s letterbox. 


Before dropping that letter into AA’s letter box, here are some issues to consider.

The ethics of asking an artist to work for no pay

A virtual mountain of picture book manuscripts are written in Australia every year. Imagine the mountain. Now picture a small rocky cairn at the summit. The cairn represents the relative number of children’s manuscripts that will receive a royalty-based contract in Australia every year.
Asking AA to provide a dozen or more illustrations without payment is the moral equivalent of taking your car to a garage because your brakes need fixing and saying, ‘I can’t afford to pay you right now, but I’ve just bought a Tatts ticket. If I win I will share my winnings with you.’
Your text may not be good enough to attract a publication contract. And major publishers choose their illustrators from their stable of experienced and award-winning illustrators. AA’s artwork may not fit their house style. And just because AA can paint doesn’t mean she can illustrate. Can she storyboard a picture book, finding the right fit for the text and images? Does she know what a gutter is in a picture book, and how to avoid it or work around it?
When you submit an unsolicited manuscript you are asking the publisher to invest thousands of dollars in editing, design, printing and marketing your creative work. To stay solvent and, better still, turn a profit in this alarmingly volatile industry, publishers are risk-averse, preferring to invest in tried and true winners rather than rank outsiders. That’s not to say a publisher will never contract a newbie author and illustrator team; but Bunny & Bettong would have to dazzle the socks off them first, and/or fit an identified publishing niche.
So, knowing this, you’re still keen on AA illustrating Bunny & Bettong. How can you be fair to AA and see your book illustrated by the artist of your choice? Here’s how.
AA will be far more willing to collaborate on the story if you offered to pay her for 1-3 concept illustrations. Then you can submit your text and concept illustration/s, with a recommendation that the publisher consider AA as a possible illustrator.


Is your text good enough for publication?
Publishers rarely reveal why they reject a manuscript; they are far too busy publishing their chosen manuscripts than to enter into dialogue with disgruntled authors. They might even think Bunny & Bettong is a corker of a story, but they have just contracted Squirrel and Potoroo, which deals with similar themes. They probably won’t tell you that, though.
Do your research.
When was the last time you read a modern Australian picture book? The CBCA awards are a great place to start, as are the winners and shortlists of other children’s book awards. Check out the shortlists over the years. Go to the children’s section of the State Library. Go to bookstores and read, read, read within this genre. Support the industry by buying children’s books. Check out the formatting. Themes and story structures, and how the text interacts with the pictures.
Invest in yourself.
Attend a workshop in picture book making
Author illustrator, Christina Booth, offers picture book workshops for adult writers and illustrators.
The Society of Children’s Book Writersand Illustrators (SCBWI) is an international professional organisation for writers and illustrators of children’s literature. You don’t need to be published to join, just serious about developing your career. SCBWI also runs peer critique groups and organises industry conferences and publisher assessment opportunities.
Children’sWriters and Illustrators (CWILLs) is a coffee networking group that generally meets at the State Cinema restaurant in North Hobart at 5pm on the Third Tuesday of every month. Contact Gay McKinnon.
Subscribe to industry networking e-zines
I recommend Buzz Words and Pass It On.
Get your manuscript critiqued or assessed
Some TAS-based services are,
      * Affordable Manuscripts, Sally Odgers 
      * Christina Booth
      * Tasmanian Writers Centre’s assessment service

Personal Case Studies in Local Author/illustrator collaborations

Of my ten published children’s books, eight of the illustrators have been chosen by the publishers. But I have also had the good fortune of collaborating with three gifted Tasmanian artists. Here are the circumstances. 
The Glow Worm Cave (1999)
This was my first published picture story, published in 1999. Aboriginal Studies Press had emailed to say they liked my text and suggested I find an indigenous illustrator, then submit a fully illustrated concept. I found an indigenous illustrator who, for reasons beyond her control, eventually pulled out of the project. I then came across the remarkable artwork of Belinda Kurczok, who was then only 17. I invited Belinda to supply concept illustrations to the publisher. Belinda’s illustrations won her a contract with Aboriginal Studies Press, despite the fact that neither of us are indigenous. The Glow Worm Cave was shortlisted for the Environmental Children’s Book of the Year 2000.

The Smallest Carbon Footprint in the Land & Other Ecotales (2013)
I met Gay McKinnon at CWILLS some years ago (Book Chooks in those days). Gay impressed me with her artistic talent and her dedication to developing her new career as a children’s book creator. At that stage she was still seeking her first publication contract. David Reiter, publisher at IP Kidz, had expressed interest in my manuscript of recycled eco fairy tales. After discussions with David, I asked Gay if she was interested in submitting concept illustrations. Gay was awarded an illustration contract, and the Ecotales became a joint winner of the Environment Children’s Book of the Year (Junior Fiction) in 2014.

The Moonlight Bird and the Grolken (2016)
IP Kidz offered me a contract for this picture book in 2014. I recommended Lois Bury, another talented, but then unpublished CWILLS member. Lois submitted concept illustrations and was awarded a contract, and the book was published.


Do your research and invest in yourself. When your text is as good as it can be, you can approach AA with a letter of support from a publisher for the manuscript, and/or an offer to pay for concept illustrations.

What next?

For information on publishers, agents, submission letters, and other useful publishing advice, subscribe to the Australian Writers Marketplace online database.
If Bunny & Bettong doesn’t attract a royalty-paying contract, and you still have faith in your manuscript, there are other publishing options these days. You could try a partner publishing deal with a reputable business like LittleSteps.
Another popular option is self-publishing – but do be fair to your illustrator. Agree on a fair remuneration for AA. Then draw up a formal memorandum of understanding specifying ownership of copyrights and financial details of the collaboration. Then draw up your marketing and distribution plan.
Good luck with your writing.

Anne has an adventure a day at Adventure Bay, Bruny Island. She trained as an English, Drama and biology teacher and has a PhD in Writing from Edith Cowan University and a Master of Education Degree from the University of Tasmania. Her children’s books include the Captain Clawbeak series (Penguin Random House). The Smallest Carbon Footprint in the Land & other Ecotales, illustrated by Gay McKinnon, was a joint winner of the Environmental Children’s Book of the Year, 2014. Her most recent picture book is The Moonlight Bird and the Grolken, illustrated by Lois Bury. Her next title, Francie Fox, is being developed as an interactive e-book for Virgin Airlines.
Anne is the Coordinator for the Tasmanian chapter of SCBWI. Her website is www.annemorgan.com.au.