Author Interview, Creativity

Interview with Zanni Louise about creating Tiggy and the magic paintbrush.

This week I was lucky enough to interview Zanni Louise, author of 2018 CBCA shortlisted book Archie and the Bear, Too busy sleeping and now a wonderful new series called Tiggy and the Magic Paintbrush.

Zanni Louise_ credit Kate Nutt Photography

Zanni explains what inspired her to write this new series, the importance of friendship and how a magic paintbrush can lead to the development of self belief in those tough times.

Thank you Zanni!

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  1. What inspired you to write a series of books about a young girl with a magical paintbrush?

The stories evolved over a number of years. They began as stories about a girl called Wynn and a 3D printing machine, which Wynn used to print things to solve her problems. The idea initially came from a fun conversation with my daughter. Working with editors, though, I ended up ‘refreshing’ the name, and decided that it would be more practical to have a magical device she could take with her, and preferably keep secret.

  1. Why a magical paintbrush?

When brainstorming devices, my daughter rushed past me, hurriedly painting imaginary things in the air with her invisible paintbrush. A paintbrush is handy, portable, and small enough to hide. It also gives Tiggy scope for creativity, which is something I really like.

  1. Tiggy has two special friends at school, and in one of your picture books, Archie and the bear, friendship is focussed on too. How important is it that we have friends in our lives – at all ages?

Friendship is a big theme in my life, and inadvertently a big theme in all my stories. Everyone has a different version of friendship, and I guess I’m interested in exploring all these different forms.

  1. How do you see this book helping young children as they start early schooling or even when they change classes or schools?

The first book A School Day Smile was written because my daughter was at the cusp of starting school, and I was curious about about her emotional responses, and her strategies for coping with this big change. Tiggy is clearly nervous about her first day, but is trying to be brave. I think this is a common experience, and for kids reading this, they feel validated that these are normal experiences. Tiggy also attempts to use magic to make her feelings go away, going as far as changing who she is, so people will like her. But in the end, she has to come back to being comfortable with her Tiggy-ness. I think this is important for all of us.

  1. Tiggy’s paintbrush is a tool she can use but she also learns that she can cope without it. I think this is a really important aspect of the story – why did you feel the need to ensure when children read this that they knew how important it is to realise how wonderful they are and that they can get by without these magical tools?

That aspect to the stories emerged quite unintentionally. It becomes a nice metaphor for reality though, that we don’t need to rely on our ‘crutches’ – we have all the resources we need within us. My editor at Five Mile, Melissa Keil, really helped draw out the ambiguity between Tiggy’s magic and her imagined world. I love too that Gillian’s illustrations bring this to life, by contrasting Tiggy’s ‘real’ black and white world, with her colourful imagined, magical world.

  1. You have written two wonderful picture books and now a junior fiction book. How was the process of writing Tiggy and the Magical paintbrush different to your other stories?

It took me a long time to get my head around writing for this age group. Unlike picture books, junior fiction and independent readers are being read by kids themselves, so the language needs to be very simple, without compromising the stories. The process of writing these stories, particularly as a series, has helped me really flesh out the narrative arc in all my stories. I have always gotten away with writing very intuitively with picture books. But independent readers push me in new directions.

  1. Inspiration can come from many places – how do you find yours and develop these ideas into stories?

I like to keep inspiration and creativity at my finger tips. To be honest, I have half a mind on potential ideas almost all the time! Mostly, I’ll try and write ideas down. When I get a chance, or feel particularly inspired, I’ll start nutting out a story. I’m fairly patient with stories. Some take days to develop. But some take years! Often a partly formed idea will sit on my computer for months before it becomes anything more.

  1. What else will we see Tiggy get up to in future books?

In the next two books, Tiggy tries her hand at performing, and prepares for a birthday party. And next? Well, yet to be seen!

Buy Tiggy and the Magic paintbrush here: 

A School Day Smile (Tiggy and the Magic Paintbrush)

A Pet Called Nibbles (Tiggy and the Magic Paintbrush)

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Author Interview, Book review, literacy, Parent tips, Teacher tips and resources

Tiggy and the Magic Paintbrush. A school day smile by Zanni Louise.

Tiggy has a big imagination. She sometimes has BIG feelings too. But everything is A-Okay, because Tiggy has a very special secret….

Zanni Louise has created the beautifully told story of Tiggy. A young girl who is starting her first ever day at school – and of course like most children is worried about making new friends, learning new things and being brave in an unfamiliar place.

BUY HERE:

A Pet Called Nibbles (Tiggy and the Magic Paintbrush)

A School Day Smile (Tiggy and the Magic Paintbrush)

Tiggy and the Magic Paintbrush  – A school day smile, is part of a new series for younger readers. Parents can read this story out loud or encourage new readers to have a go themselves. This is a wonderful story for beginning readers and one which can foster a love of reading.

Accompanied with delightful black and white illustrations by Gillian Flint, (with magical colour splashed in at the right moments) The reader meets Tiggy and her friends as they learn how to cope in a difficult situation – the first day of school!

Tiggy has her magic paintbrush with her all the time, and it can always help her out whenever she needs it. But sometimes having a magic paintbrush stops Tiggy from being herself  and Tiggy needs to be brave enough to realise when it is time for her to rely on the goodness inside herself rather than the paintbrush.

Tiggy shows the characteristics many new Kindergarten children will show when they are in a new situation but she also shows resilience and self belief.

Children will love this idea of a magic paintbrush and it will possibly give them that little boost in the back of their mind when they feel nervous, worried or sad.

Tiggy and the magic paintbrush is a new favourite at our house and we can’t wait to read the next book in this series!

Check out my interview with Zanni Louise coming soon to this blog.!

What else can you do with this book?

Here are some questions you can ask children after they have read the book –

  • Why are the illustrations in black and white (except for the paintbrush)?
  • Have you ever felt like Tiggy?
  • How did you behave when you were in a new situation?
  • Do you have a magic paintbrush to help you when you are nervous, worried or sad?
  • If you had a magic paintbrush, how would it help you?
  • Could the magic paintbrush cause trouble?
  • How might Tiggy feel if she loses it?
  • Do you think Tiggy always needs her paintbrush? Think about what she realise when she looked in the mirror.
Author Interview, Book review, Books with current issues, literacy

Interview with Suzanne Barton, author of Meeka

This month I am interviewing Suzanne Barton, the author of the new picture book: Meeka.
 
Meeka is Suzanne’s first picture book and has been self published.
 
Meeka is a delightful story for young children about not only a father-daughter relationship but also about the care we can give to natures’ smaller creatures. Throughout this story we also feel the care of the market stall owner community when little Meeka cannot be found
 
Thank you Suzanne for answering these questions for my audience and I.
 
1. How did you come up with the idea of Meeka?
Meeka’s story first came to life through a conversation between my mother and I. We were enjoying a delicious Moroccan meal and giggling as we imagined the adventures of a cheeky little bird who got stuck in a tagine. Not long after, I wrote up the story to enter into a writing competition and, to my surprise, the manuscript won its category. After that, I’d always hoped to see the story published.
2. How long have you been writing for and when did you feel that children’s writing was where you wanted to be?
I come from a family full of writers, English teachers and Scrabble enthusiasts – so I’ve been a bookworm and a wordsmith for as long as I can remember. My career and studies have led me to write everything from advertising copy to film scripts, but I really love children’s stories. Some years ago I took a course in children’s writing and loved learning about all the different styles and techniques. Since then, the stories have kept flowing.
3. How did you work with Anil Tortop? Did you exchange ideas or just let Anil explore the story and interpret it herself.
Working with Anil was a wonderful collaboration. I had some ideas about how I saw Meeka coming together, and so did she. From her very first sketches and storyboards, it was clear that Anil knew just how to bring Meeka to life. I always loved receiving her drawings as we were working on the book. Her characters have so much personality and movement. Even now I keep noticing tiny details that make me smile.
Check out the book trailer for Meeka!
4. You ran a successful pozible campaign – how did you ensure its success and how did you cope with the wait?
I am so grateful for the lovely people who supported Meeka on Pozible, helping me print the book beautifully. To prepare, I went to a crowd funding workshop for authors and thought carefully about the rewards I could offer supporters, and what fun things I could share on social media during the project. These included a book trailer, time-lapse videos of the illustrations and Photoshopped ‘selfies’ of Meeka with supporters, which were really fun to make. Sometimes I felt nervous that the project wouldn’t reach its goal, but I tried to stay positive and we got there with a few days to spare.
5. Can you give any advice to budding picture book authors who would love to see their book published?
Never give up. If you have stories in your heart, then keep working hard at your craft and seek support in the wonderful writers’ groups that can be found in many communities, and of course at your fingertips online. I also find critique groups especially handy. The chance to regularly receive constructive criticism from a supportive network of like-minded writers, and also to review other people’s work, really helps keep the creative ideas flowing.
 
 

6. Where to next? Can you expect another picture book some time or are there other areas of creative writing you are going to explore?

 

I have several more picture books up my sleeve and hope to see them brought to life in the coming years. I’m also working on a story for older readers, and continuing to create cabaret productions inspired by 1940s radio drama with my musical ensemble, Neo Radio.
Sounds exciting Suzanne! I can’t wait to see what else you can bring to life. Thank you for the time you have given to answer these questions.
Now followers – do you have any questions?

BUY YOUR COPY HERE: https://www.bluebellbooks.org/shop/

Author Interview, bees, Book review, Books with current issues, eco living, Environmental books, Uncategorized

Interview with Karen Tyrell, author of Song Bird Two: The Battle of Bug World.

Welcome Karen, and thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. I hope that these questions will give my readers some more insight into how you have developed the characters in Song Bird , how music inspires and how we can all take better care of the world we live in.

 Song Bird 2 The Battle of Bug World

What inspired you to write the Song Bird series?

Two life changing events.

Fan girls of my Super Space Kids series requested I write a new series with a girl superhero as the main character, especially written for adventurous girls.

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Songbird Superhero, AKA Rosella Ava Bird character is based on my experiences as a 11-year-old geeky, bullied girl. Each night, I dreamt I could fly, to escape my bullies. Later, I joined the choir and learnt how singing boosted my self-esteem and self-confidence. The following year, I started high school where I discovered my love of science and maths. I wanted Songbird to represent the powerful and free spirit I aspired to be.

Music is so important to all of us and can give us strength. How does music play a role in your life and why did you think your superhero needed music to help her?

Music plays a key role in empowering me in tough times. As a bullied 11-year-old girl, I joined the choir and learnt to sing. My voice was something no bully could defeat.

When I was a bullied teacher, music comforted me when I developed PTSD and anxiety. My student and his parents bullied me to breaking point. Music gave me joy and certainty, a place where I drew confidence and peace.

Like me, Rosella Ava Bird joined the school choir discovered her superpowers lived within herself.

Rosie is such a strong and confident character, even when she doubts herself. Is your character Rosie based on anyone you know?

Rosie is a mix of me and the girl I dreamt to be. I would love to sing and to fly… And use my superpowers for good, to save and protect others.

I really love that you have included children with disabilities in The Battle of Bug World and portrayed them as strong, clever, brave and very able – what inspired you to do this when most books do not?

Two important reasons.

I have a mental illness that’s invisible. Many people label my illness as a disability. I don’t. My illness is part of me. I’ve found writing lets me express my struggles and successes in ways that empower myself, and help others. I want to encourage kids to connect with their inner superhero and live strong.

I once taught a boy-genius who was smart and brave, and an incredible maths science whizz. He also happened to move about in a wheelchair. In Songbird, I wanted to shatter the disabilitry stereotype. Like the boy I knew, Amy Hillcrest, is quite the hero.

How do you think teachers and parents can inspire young children to step up and think for themselves when it comes to looking after our planet?

Children should read and learn about their environment. Realise, they are a part of it and can make a difference to it.

My message: We can all lend a hand to care for our environment. Many hands make light work.

Did you research to learn more about how bees and insects function in our world?

YES. I studied how insects and bees behave, especially the bee’s waggle dance. I spoke to beekeepers of honey bees and Australian stingless bees. I spoke to the director of Bee Aware at the Logan LEAF eco festival.

How do you look after bees in your life? Do you have any tips for our young readers as to what they can do?

I do simple things like plant brightly coloured flowers and fresh herbs in my garden. I grow purple agapanthus and native grevilleas to attract bees. I put out clean dishes of water for the bees to drink. I’m careful not to spray pesticides on the grass or the garden. That would poison the bees. Instead, I pull out weeds.

How do you think children can make a difference in our world in relation to the degradation of the environment without having to always rely on adults?

Kids can plant and nurture their own garden, pick up litter especially in parks and waterways, pack their own lunches without plastic, turn off lights and taps, sort out family rubbish into glass, paper and cans ready for recycling bins.

 

What is in store for us in Book 3?

Song Bird returns to save the lost rainforest, revealing an ancient mystery.

Thank you Karen for taking the time to answer all of my questions. Such honest responses and really drawn on your own life experiences and those who you have come across that show their own super powers. I am really looking forward to reading more of your inspiring and adventure filled stories.

Make sure you get your copy of Songbird Superhero and The Battle of Bug World here:

Song Bird Superhero and The Battle of Bug World available on Amazon

Karen Tyrrell Bug World

 

Author Interview, Book review, Books with current issues, eco living, Environmental books, picture books, Teacher tips and resources

Interview with Muza Ulasowski and Jennifer Poulter

 Today I am interviewing Jennifer R Poulter and  Muza Ulasowski, the author and illustrator of the beautiful story – Getting Home.

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How did you come about to illustrate picture books?

I have always been ‘arty’ with it being my favourite subject in high school. Even as a child, I remember telling everyone that I was going to illustrate children’s books!! However, life happened to get in the way – I ended up working as a legal secretary and various other professions instead – eventually, forgetting my dream. After my children graduated from high school though, I went back to college and graduated in 2007 with a Diploma in Graphic Design.

In 2011 I was lucky enough to have received my first publishing contract with New Holland to illustrate the book, ‘Where’s Michael?’ by Xavier Waterkeyn. I enjoyed that process so much, that I have been illustrating children’s picture books ever since. So now, I am very happily living my childhood dream.

How were you able to illustrate these Polar bears so that they would look so life like?

My natural style is hyperrealism. No matter how hard I try, I cannot do simple illustrations. Before I begin to illustrate a character in a book, I research and research and research, downloading hundreds of images via Google. I also visit zoos. For the book Forest Wonder, for example, I spent a lot of time at Lone Pine and also at Australia Zoo photographing the animals and sketching, to get a feel of their movements. I definitely used up my annual passes to both places!! With Getting Home, I visited Sea World many times and took photographs of their polar bears.

What was the medium you used for the illustrations in ‘Getting home’?

I use digital illustrating for books, and I work in layers. The reason for this is so that I can move the characters and background around to fit the text in comfortably – without having to redraw the whole illustration.

I used a combination of Artrage and Photoshop digital programmes via my trusty Intuos 4 tablet or my Cintiq Companion 2 to illustrate Getting Home. I used Artrage because the program is very straightforward and has no “bells and whistles”. It is very similar in technique to using acrylic paints in that once you choose your brush, intensity, medium, colour and transparency – away you go. Each brush stroke is applied individually – just like using acrylic paints – except there’s virtual “water”, no paint spillage and, you never run out of paint. Also, there’s a magical button I like to use a lot – called “delete”!!

Each character is created as a separate illustration, much larger in size than needed so that I can put a lot of detail in each illustration. All the created characters and the background are then combined in a Photoshop file and any touch-ups to colour and shadows are then finalised.

 

Do you enjoy drawing animals?

I love drawing birds and animals and portraying the tiniest of details. I find it fascinating to try to convey expressions on their faces and though quite challenging, it’s extremely rewarding when I “nail it”.

 

Your illustrations bring out so much in this story which has such a simple storyline. How do you do this so you can not only draw what has been written but add more to it?

I usually know what I want to draw before I start, but the pictures tend to change and evolve as I go. Sometimes it feels as though the animal characters totally take over – dictating to me what should happen on the page and what else is going to be happening on the page. Usually this happens once I am halfway through a book, and then I have to go back and amend or add to what I’ve previously drawn. So the stories evolve as I go further into the book with sidelines being added to the story.

Do you discuss much of your work with the author?

J.R.Poulter: “Getting Home” was a collaboration. Muza and I spent over a year to and fro-ing ideas, modifying images, modifying text till we had a cohesive whole that we knew ‘worked!’

Muza: Getting Home took an extraordinarily long time to develop…. when I look at the original roughs, the final one looks like a totally different book. There were lots and lots and lots of emails between Jennifer and I and a lot of collaboration changing, editing, deleting, redrawing…. it took over a year to get it to where we thought it was just right.

Why is it important that young children are aware of the problems animals face due to human behaviour?

J.R.Poulter: Today’s children, as the next generation of politicians, teachers, writers, researchers etc., are the ones who will work to protect our world and its animal inhabitants or not. It is important that children are taught to respect the world they live in and seek to preserve it for their children. If today’s educators and parents fail to pass on this respect by example as well as by teaching, then we can expect more animal species to become extinct as their habitats disappear, their food sources are cleared, water sources poisoned and the animals themselves hunted to oblivion either literally or by the push of so called ‘progress.’

 Do you have any favourite stories that encourage people to act more sustainably in our world?

J.R.Poulter:

“The Trail of the Sandhill Stag” and “Foam Razorback, His Life and Adventures” both by Ernest Thomas Seton – these two books were handed on to me by my grandmother. My mother’s eldest sister gave me a book called “Nanuk” about an Eskimo boy and his family and how they sought to live and work sustainably in their environment.

My grandmother also had a set of books called “People and Places,” which was published before World War I, I believe. It gave wonderful description of the native peoples and their environments and the animals of these then pristine areas.

Thank you both for giving up your time to answer these questions. Maybe we will see another collaboration someday soon. 

Muza Ulasowski is a graphic designer and children’s book illustrator based in the leafy western suburb of Brookfield in Brisbane, Queensland. Australia. She is inspired and surrounded by a vast array of local birds and animals who tend to make their appearances in her book illustrations. She shares her life with her wonderfully patient husband, their charismatic bulldog called Charlie and a black magic cat named Basil.

In 2010, she was invited to illustrate her first children’s picture book and enjoyed it so much, that she has been collaborating ever since with Australian and international authors. To date she has illustrated 12 children’s picture books and is currently illustrating several more which will be published in 2017/18. Whilst primarily concentrating on creating digital images for children’s picture books, Muza also specializes in graphic design, designing book covers and book layouts to print ready stage. Currently Muza has illustrated approximately 12 books, with more to be published in 2017 and 2018.

In her spare time she enjoys illustrating in pencil and charcoal, acrylic painting, wildlife photography, sewing, and creating artworks for her colourful and crafty ETSY store.

Qualifications:

  • Diploma of Arts – Visual Communication – 1979
  • Certificate IV in Graphic Design – 2008
  • Diploma of Graphic Design – 2008

muza_profilePhoto_NEW

Jennifer R. Poulter was a senior education officer with Qld Studies Authority, writing assessment packages for schools and editing material, and was Deputy head of John Oxley Library [SLQ] when she left there to have her brood of 5. She has over 30 children’s and education titles published in Australia, UK, Europe and USA with mainstream publishers and is currently collaborating with over 30 illustrators publishing her work under her imprint Word Wings for Kids. She has won major awards, including Children’s Choice, New Zealand. More books are coming. She loves teaching children the fun to be had with words!

Under J.R. McRae, she writes novels (including YA), award winning literary poetry, short stories and creates artwork.

J R Poulter - portrait

 

 

Author Interview, literacy, picture books

Interview with Joanne Karcz, author of Dangar Island. Birds, Barrows, a ferry and me.

Joanne Karcz is the very talented author of the rhythmically relaxing picture book: Dangar Island. Birds, Barrows a ferry and me.

Thank you Joanne for taking the time to answer some questions I have about your great book.

Book-2

How long have you lived on Dangar Island?

I have lived permanently on Dangar Island for seven years, but had a long association with the island before that. We used to come up for weekends regularly since 2000.

What do you love about Dangar Island?

I love so much about the Island, including being so close to nature, having parrots in our trees and water dragons near our jetty. I like that there are no cars. The river is beautiful and the ferry regularly passing our house is a sight I really enjoy. The community here is another great thing about living here. People are friendly and supportive and there are often community initiatives that happen here that are unlikely to happen on the mainland.

What inspired you to write a picture book about Dangar Island?

The freedom that the children who grow up here have, is something very special. They are allowed freedoms that not many children on the mainland have. That and the fact that I love living here gave me the inspiration to share this life with others.

You have written this poem in rhyme – how difficult was it to find the right words?

I have written many things in rhyme over the years, and it is a style that works for me. Finding the right words took time and perseverance – I did many drafts before being satisfied with the text.

What do children love to do on Dangar Island?

The book pretty much describes what the children enjoy doing. Playing in the park, getting covered in mud on the beach when it’s low tide and riding their bikes down the hill to the jetty. They enjoy exploring and older ones like to walk around the island on the shoreline at low tide.

If we come to visit what should we do? The cave looks exciting! 

It is easy to explore the island on foot – it only takes about 40 minutes to walk around the island. A couple of caves are close to the road on the high side. They are big rock overhangs, not deep caves. A walk to the top of the island through the bush is fun. You should see the beach and the park and try and see how many different birds you can see.

The illustrations really complememt the story, was it difficult finding an illustrator who would suit the lightness and happiness of the story?

It was difficult finding an illustrator at all given my budget constraints. This book was a personal project which I wrote for my children and the children of Dangar Island. It took me quite some time to find Jacqui who is the niece of a friend and lives on a property in Queensland. She first came to Dangar Island when we launched the book and used internet searches and photographs to guide her illustrations. We communicated regularly by phone and email. Before engaging her I asked her to do a sample of her work in a style similar to Mem Fox in Possum Magic. I am really happy with how the illustrations and story work together.

Can you see yourself writing any more books in the future? 

I have written a second book which is similar but very different from the Dangar Island book. It is currently in the process of being illustrated. Jacqui was not available and I was lucky to find someone else to work on this new book.

Thank you Joanne. I am looking forward to making a weekend visit over to Dangar Island some day very soon! 

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Photo taken from : http://www.goondiwindiargus.com.au/story/4794923/farleigh-downs-artist-recognised-in-us/