Monday Motivator With Susannah Crispe

ABOUT SUSANNAH
Susannah Crispe is a Canberra-based children’s book author and illustrator. She studied art history and zoology at university and has volunteered with native wildlife throughout Australia. She worked in museums and bookstores for about 15 years, until discovering her true passion for creating books.  Susannah works from her glorious home studio in Canberra; drawing inspiration and support from her rambunctious four year old son, step daughters, super-husband and the cutest dog in the world.

ABOUT SUSANNAH’S BOOK
Under the Moonlight is Susannah’s first book as both author and illustrator. It is a gentle story about showing bravery in the face of your fears. Set in a snowy, Scandinavian forest, an enormous, brave and solitary moose settles down to rest. Unfortunately for Moose, his tranquil sleep is about to be shattered by a fright in the night. The story follows Moose as he shows great bravery in facing his fear of the unknown and investigating the source of the night-time fright. Told in lilting, roll off the tongue rhyme with the character of Moose is playfully rendered in quietly humorous scenes.

HARDEST THING ABOUT WRITING THIS BOOK
The hardest thing in writing this book was working out how to turn a nonsense monorhyme poem that I wrote years ago into an actual story. Once I got my head around the structure and stepped away from the monorhyme, I was able to map out the plot visually. I saw scenes illustrated in my head, almost like a stop-motion film and the words just fell into place.

MOST CHALLENGING THING ABOUT BEING AN AUTHOR
In general, I find the most challenging thing as an author and illustrator is having to stop writing and illustrating to do real world things. I have a seemingly endless list of ideas for both stories and illustration, a million techniques to try, a laptop filled with downloaded (and unstarted) courses, and a very limited amount of time to do it all. I love my work so much, and if I had my way, I would write and illustrate to the exclusion of everything else. My family, friends and other commitments have different ideas.

OVERCOMING THE CHALLENGES
I overcome this problem (but absolutely do NOT advocate this for anyone who wants to retain their sanity), is to work until midnight or 1am, 6 or 7 nights a week. The thought that this is a temporary state of being gets me through, as I fantasise about an improbable day when I have no responsibilities and limitless time to explore all my ideas. Well, that and the litre and a half of tea I drink daily.

Monday Motivators – The Whole Truth

Writing biographical fiction about someone who’s still alive is easier in some ways because you can run things past them. You can check the facts, make sure you have them right. But it comes with its own challenges.

I must admit I was a little daunted from the beginning at the thought of writing about someone as successful and inspiring as Professor Emma Johnston, a leading marine ecologist and TV presenter and the subject of my new Aussie STEM Stars book published by Wild Dingo Press.

Emma is a staunch advocate for the women in science and I connected with this straight away, not that I ever had aspirations to be anything other than a writer, but my mother was one of the first women scientists with the CSIRO long before Emma was born. My mother loved her job, but she was forced to leave when she got married, and her wage was half what her male colleagues were paid for doing the same job.

Fifty years later, I learn from Emma that obstacles still exist women wanting to shine in science, and she’s passionate about breaking them down. I became more determined than ever to write this book.

Emma is truly an inspiration. She’s on the board of the Great Barrier Reef Marine authority, has done amazing work for the marine world of Sydney Harbour and has dived under the ice in Antarctica to learn more about the ecology there and she’s also a FOXTEL tv presenter. She has done so much to advocate for the environment and to help marine life faced with the impacts of climate change.

Because of her commitments, our interview time dwindled to just a few hours. So it wasn’t possible to delve into things like ice diving training and life on an Antarctic base. I had to find out about these things myself.

I did as much research and writing as I could and Emma spent hours reading through the drafts and gently correcting anything that I might have accidentally misrepresented, misinterpreted or not been able to find out.

It took at least 12 months longer than planned to get the book to publication, and our Wild Dingo editor/publisher was ever patient and understanding.

At first I felt insecure about the process, so many changes to my manuscript, so many rewrites. But I had to let that go.

In the end, the most important thing was to help readers discover Emma and her inspirational work and find out how they could help the marine environment. It was more important to be able to tell the whole truth, to depict Emma’s life and works in the most accurate way possible.

It has been a longer journey than I anticipated, but I’ve learnt so much along the way and I’m proud to have a book that sits alongside the other inspiring Aussie STEM Stars and their creators.

Monday Motivator with Andrew Dittmer

ABOUT ANDREW
I’m a children’s fiction author from Sydney. I like being outdoors and active. Find more about me and my writing as well as book reviews and interviews with kids book creators at my website: https://www.andrewdittmer.com/

ABOUT SNUFFY

Everyone has unique gifts and talents. Sometimes they’re not always recognised and appreciated. Snuffy is a cute puppy with an amazing sense of smell. Her owner, Grum, thinks her nose is nothing but a nuisance… until she finds an opportunity to show how amazing her gift can be. If kids put on their detective caps and study the illustrations (by Jenni Goodman) carefully, they’ll find all the clues to the story. 

Snuffy has just been shortlisted in the Speech Pathology Australia Book of the Year Awards.

THE HARDEST THING ABOUT WRITING SNUFFY

Deciding on the final storyline. I had so many drafts all going in different directions. 

HOW DID YOU OVERCOME IT?

I tried to boil down the message I was trying to convey into a sentence or two and then I tweaked the story around that message.

HARDEST THING ABOUT BEING AN AUTHOR

It is very difficult to devote significant time to it because of needing to provide for the family financially and also fulfilling the roles of husband and father properly.

HOW DID YOU OVERCOME IT? WHAT HAS KEPT YOU GOING?

I’m still trying to make it work. But I’m very grateful that this year, I’ve been able to reduce my normal job to three days per week and devote two days per week to writing and family. What keeps me going is I have no other choice but to keep writing. I can look at the situation logically and think, this is a terrible return on investment of time. But because it’s what I believe I was born to do, I keep doing it anyway. Nothing could stop me from writing.

I’m sure there are many creators who can relate to Andrew’s story. Perseverance is definitely one of the keys to being a successful author. Feel free to share any of your tips on the time juggle of being a creative.

Monday Motivator – Too Many Projects

Writers often get asked, ‘How do you overcome writer’s block?’

But what if you have the opposite problem? What if your head is overflowing with new ideas? That’s more the kind of writing dilemma I’m used to.

I don’t know about you, but for me a new idea is like falling in love. It’s all shiny and appealing and you want to spend time with it. Unfortunately, I usually have about 6 of these swimming around in my brain at the same time.

So, what do I do? Prioritise and reward.

First of all I prioritise my projects in the following way:

1.The ones that have existing deadlines for always come first.

2. Next I work on the ideas that I already have a publisher in mind for – ideas that I already think I can sell. Ideas that I believe have definite possibilities. Writers, after all, have to at least attempt to make a living.

3. Last, I pay attention to the sparkly new ideas that I’ve been collecting like a magpie.

For me, the sparkly, new ideas are the reward!

If I’ve just met a writing deadline, the next thing I work on is a reward project. (Providing I don’t have another tight deadline hot on its heels) My reward is to give myself permission to spend time with a new idea. It’s like a secret indulgence. When I’m working on a deadline, it spurs me on to know that I have something sparkling and focus on once I finish.

I try and work to this method, but there are always those projects and character that call to me and I find them unable to resist. The projects that make me break my own rules.

Also, I sometimes work on more than one project at a time and this can be a deliberate thing to try and provide some balance. For example, when I was researching and working on my Holocaust novel, Beyond Belief, it was deeply immersing and disturbing at the same time. To help me retain my equilibrium, writing my Eddy Popcorn books provided some welcome light relief.

This is just what works for me. All writers are different, and I’d love to hear how you deal with the ‘too many projects’ scenario.

Feel free to comment below.

Monday Motivator with Dianne Wolfer

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dianne Wolfer is the author of 23 books, including the multi-awarded ‘Light’ series which has inspired street theatre, musical and stage adaptations and is currently being re-adapted by Theatre 180. Dianne writes across genres and especially loves historical fiction and animal stories. She combined these passions in her WW2 novel The Dog with Seven Names, winner of the 2019 Speech Pathology Award. This title was one of two books written for Dianne’s PhD research into anthropomorphism in children’s literature. The other, The Shark Caller  is a fantasy quest novel sparked by the ancient practice of calling sharks. 

In addition to The Last Light Horse, Dianne has two more books due out in 2022. One is a second Aussie STEM Star title, about future foods Skye Blackburn-Lang – Eating Bugs for the Planet (Dianne now eats cricket meal muesli for breakfast). The other title Mia, is part of Allen and Unwin’s Through my Eyes Australian Disaster series. You can find more at Dianne’s websites www.diannewolfer.com and www.animalswhotalk.com.

ABOUT THE LAST LIGHT HORSE

There were 136,000 Australian horses sent to fight during the First World War. Just one came home. From the high country of Victoria to the desert sand of Egypt, from the waters off Gallipoli to the battlefields of France, The Last Light Horse is the extraordinary story of Sandy, the only returning warhorse. Sandy was the favourite horse of Major General Bridges. After being hit by a sniper at Gallipoli the major general’s dying wish was for Sandy to be allowed to come home.  This is the final story in Dianne’s award-winning ‘Light series’. It joins Lighthouse Girl  (winner WA Young Readers’ Book Award, shortlisted NSW Premier’s History), CBCA Notable In the Lamplight, and WA Premier’s Award winner Light Horse Boy. A Better Readings review describes the book as, ‘Engaging, and at times heartbreaking, The Last Light Horse is a fantastic conclusion to the series and a heartfelt look at an unsung Australian hero.’

THE HARDEST THING ABOUT WRITING THIS BOOK

The hardest thing about writing The Last Light Horse was filling the gaps between ‘known’ historical events relating to Sandy. Wartime record keeping was detailed for humans, but not for horses! To overcome this challenge, I structured the story around the four pivotal humans in Sandy’s life; Francis O’Donnell, Major General Bridges, Captain Whitfield and Archie. I knew that before the war, Sandy carted bricks for the O’Donnell family at old Tallangatta, a town that was drowned to make the Hume Weir. I also knew that Sandy was Major General Bridges’ favourite horse and that they sailed together in late 1914 on the flagship Orvieto. But how did Sandy and the major general meet? Did the O’ Donnell family donate Sandy to the war effort, or to Major General Bridges directly? I interviewed descendants of the O’Donnell family and Tallangatta historians. Their opinions differed, so I linked their meeting to an actual wartime horse muster. I also knew that after leaving the Middle East Sandy travelled with Whitfield to the Calais Remount Centre, and that his eyesight was damaged in a gas attack. but again there were no details. For an author sketchy information is not necessarily a bad thing as it leaves plenty of room for imagination. For readers who’d like to know more, I’ve created a link ‘The Real Sandy’ on my website, sharing what is real and what is imagined. I will continue adding to this as more becomes known about this iconic horse.

THE HARDEST THING ABOUT BEING AN AUTHOR

The hardest thing about being an author is believing in yourself and persevering. Every author I know has received manuscript rejections. Writing is like any other job, you need to turn up every day. Editing and working to make your stories the best they can be is difficult.

OVERCOMING IT

When I’m stuck, I find that being outside helps, taking a long walk, swimming in the ocean, or just staring at clouds or a tree. Nature helps me put things in perspective. Once I stop obsessing about a scene or character, a solution usually presents itself. Allowing myself to write scrappy first drafts without judgement also helps. First drafts can be edited again and again until at last they begin to work. When a manuscript is accepted, it’s worth all the hard work.

Monday Motivators – Ideas are never wasted

I wanted to share this experience with you because often people ask me how long a book takes to write and also about the rewriting and editing process.

About 12 years ago I started writing a humorous Middle Grade for girls. It almost got published a number of times but never quite made it.

The story never left me and I stayed attached to the character and I tried to rewrite it a number of times as a more layered Middle Grade novel with deeper themes, but it has never found a home.

Recently, I was talking about the characters and setting with my husband and he said, ‘Why don’t you try writing it as a YA novel?’ and I thought – that’s actually a really good idea.

I definitely think it can work as a YA and I set about rewriting it.

Still, I couldn’t quite get it to work. I brainstormed it with a couple of very close writer friends. Thanks Bren MacDibble and Louise Mentor. And no matter how much we discussed it, my humorous book took a darker turn. And that’s when I realised that I couldn’t fight it the direction it was taking, and maybe it was for the best.

I’ve written about 300,000 words drafting and redrafting and now I’m about to start all over again – with a completely clean slate.

I haven’t let go of the main character I’m so fond of, or the setting. But my funny MG has somehow become a YA psychological thriller – and I’m completely re plotting – and loving it.

There’s no guarantee of publication for this one either, but it feels right and I’m excited about the story again.



I wanted to share this with you because it has taught me not to give up on writing ideas or characters that keep calling to you. Perhaps you need to turn them on their heads.

Will keep you posted about the progress of this one. I’m really excited to see where it takes me.

Would love to hear your stories about your manuscripts that have become something totally different to the way they started out.

Happy writing 🙂

Dee

Monday Motivators With Jeanette Stampone

About Jeanette
Jeanette Stampone is the youngest of eight children.

She was born in a three-hundred-year-old English house and grew up with stories of local legends, pixies, ghosts, and fairies. Jeanette now lives in a small country town in WA with her husband and two boys.

About Shadow and the Girl
Shadow and the Girl is a picture book about a shadow who tries to run away from a giant girl. Soon Shadow realises she is stuck to the girl and there is no escape.

This book explores friendship, fear and self-acceptance. It is written by me, illustrated by Demelsa Haughton and published by Red Paper Kite.

The Hardest thing about Writing Shadow and the Girl
The most difficult thing about writing this book was trying to get a good idea out of my head and onto paper. Shadow began as a monster but that didn’t work.

Then Shadow was playing in the girl’s room but that didn’t work either. So I ended up changing the whole scene and beginning the story outside in the park. Finally, it worked! This process alone took about six months.

The Hardest thing about Being an Author
The hardest thing about being an author is receiving a LOT of rejections and not giving up, even though you don’t know if you’ll be successful.

I overcame this by imagining myself in twenty years time. If I gave up, the older version if myself would always wonder what if…? What if I’d tried just a bit longer? However, if I never gave up but never got published, I still believe the older version of myself would be proud that I kept going and did my best. You can only ever do your best. That’s always good enough.

Monday Motivators With Sarah Armstrong

Before writing kids’ books, Sarah Armstrong was an award-winning journalist at ABC Radio, and she has published three novels for grown-ups, including Salt Rain which was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award. Big Magic is her first kids’ novel and its sequel will be out in 2023. She lives in the northern NSW town of Mullumbimby (which features, although slightly disguised) in all her novels. 

About Big Magic:

Big Magic is about eleven-year old Tulsi who lives in a travelling circus. She comes from a long line of women magicians but her mother has always forbidden her to learn Big Magic. It’s dangerous, thrilling and powerful – and Tulsi wants it more than anything. But one hot summer’s night, a magic trick goes horribly wrong and her mother disappears. Only one person can bring her back, and that’s Tulsi.

What was the hardest thing about writing this book?

The hardest thing was carving out the time. Although sometimes it’s a slog, figuring out plot points and making sure everything makes sense. It’s just hard holding everything in my head!  I’d call Big Magic low fantasy (ie set in the real world with a magical element) but there was still plenty of world building which was new to me as someone who’s previously written realist novels. It’s quite complicated creating rules for a new world!

How did I overcome it/what kept me going?

I had Zoom meetings with my lovely editor Luna Soo, at Hardie Grant, where we nutted out some of the world building stuff. And I got out my roll of butchers’ paper and did lots of diagrams and planning. It really helps me to ‘see’ it like that. Freewriting is also my miracle writing tool – I free-write whenever I am stuck whether it be a plot or character issue.

What is the hardest thing about being an author/illustrator?

 It feels like my dream job. The hardest thing is that I never clock off. There is always work to be done.

How did you overcome it?

I’m not sure I have overcome that one yet!

What has kept you going?

My love of books sustains me always and also my writing buddies. I write once a week with kids’ authors Zanni Louise and Tristan Bancks, and have an amazing online writing critique group with those two and Lian Tanner and Deb Abela. I spend so much time in my own head, thinking things through, that having a writing community is really essential.

I was lucky to be at a recent launch of Sarah’s Big Magic and although I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, it sounds amazing.

Dee

MONDAY MOTIVATORS WITH KAYE BAILLIE

ABOUT KAYE

Kaye Baillie is a writer of fiction and non-fiction children’s picture books and short stories. She has a Diploma in Professional Writing and Editing. One of Kaye’s passions is bringing stories about remarkable people or events to young readers. In 2022 her book When The Waterhole Dries Up was Shortlisted in the Children’s Book Council of Australia Book Awards and many of her picture books have won or shortlisted in awards such as the Speech Pathology Australia Book Awards, NSW Premier’s History Awards, WAYRBA (West Australian Young Readers Book Awards), and the Children’s Peace Literature Award.

Her work is published in Australia and internationally. She is an active member and the Assistant Coordinator of SCBWI Victoria, Australia, and a member of the Children’s Book Council of Australia. She is represented by Essie White of the Storm Literary Agency in the US. Kaye lives in a Victorian coastal town in Australia with her family and high-maintenance pets.

When she is not writing or reading, she can be found walking on the beach, baking or eating a scrumptious pudding.

ABOUT THE GREAT BIG SOFTIE

Kaye wrote Great Big Softie when the words, ‘Mind the glassware, sweetie’, popped into her head. She enjoyed saying the line so much she knew she had to write a story to go with it. She wondered who ‘sweetie’ was? And why he/she didn’t like being called ‘sweetie’? Then when a soft-hearted monster made an appearance in her imagination, Elliot became the main character who while trying to fit in with his monster friends, upsets a little girl. Elliot must decide whether to continue his monstrous deeds or follow his heart.

The amazing illustrations in this book have been created by Shane McG.

The Great Big Softie is published by New Frontier Publishing.

THE HARDEST THING ABOUT WRITING THE BOOK

In the scene where Elliot stands outside the little girl’s house, I wanted it to be unclear about what Elliot will do next. At the same time, I wanted to hint that he has decided not to do what the other monsters expect of him. It’s a lot to capture in one image

HOW KAYE OVERCAME IT

I had several back-and-forth emails with the editor who was in direct contact with Shane, the illustrator. I explained my intention for the scene and Shane produced a perfect expression for Elliot’s face. I then altered my text to best capture that moment.

WHAT IS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT BEING AN AUTHOR?

Wondering if the text is finished. Is it the best it can be and should be.

HOW DO YOU OVERCOME IT? WHAT KEEPS YOU GOING?

Getting a critique is essential for making a story stronger. With fresh eyes on a story and receiving someone else’s view, it helps me to see my work from another angle. This provides an opportunity to revise and improve things like the structure, the POV, or even remove a character. Or sometimes it helps me reword text to make it clearer.

MONDAY MOTIVATORS WITH MARG GIBBS AND KIM ROBERTS

Today, sisters Marg Gibbs and Kim Roberts are visiting to talk about their beautiful new poetry book, Tomorrow Land, and the challenges they faced creating it.

MARG’S STORY

“I am passionate about poetry. For me, it’s music in words, a flutter in the heart and a calming space that offers a second and third reading. It can be a stepping stone into writing a story.

Tomorrow Land’s poems for children is my first collaboration with my sister Kim. I believed that the two of us could channel our strengths and skills as teachers to come up with this book, Kim’s background as a primary teacher/ librarian and me as a secondary teacher.

The wonder of poetry is the playful combination of words and feelings. Tomorrow Land is based on time chapters or themes, six altogether. Before, First, Next, Now, Always and Last. Kim and I wrote poems to suit these sequences based on what if? time, space, imaginative places, journeys, and a sprinkle of magic.

Marg (left) and Kim (right)

The trickiest thing was ensuring a balance of poems in the table of contents. We overcame this by rearranging the different poems and changing a couple of titles, My Magic Finger and Magic Treehouse became The Treehouse. We also had two What if poems, so altered that. Structuring the poems involved careful layout. Our styles are different.

The most challenging thing about being an author is the never-ending ideas that come to me; choosing the best ones and letting go of some. I overcome this by brainstorming with others, including my sister, who will edit and suggest a new approach. Sometimes I need to walk away from an idea for a time.

What has kept me going is the passion, drive, and pleasure I receive in sharing words with others to foster reading and curiosity about the world. In the back of my mind and heart are my grandchildren. They are tomorrow’s generation, and this makes me happy.”

KIM’S STORY

“Poetry is something that I’ve written all my life. It’s short, precise and is like a little package that you open up when you read. If I can’t write a poem in an hour or two, it’s just not there. Everyday life inspires me, so for many years my poems were about my 4 boys. They included their dad, their friends and events like holidays and birthday parties. A concise memory to treasure forever.

As a teacher in the Primary school, I’d make up funny ones about a particular teacher having a birthday or having a baby. These often turned into songs sung in the staffroom. As a librarian, I love reading aloud to children, using my voice and expression to tell the story. It is easy to know the mood of the book, even for older children. Connection is the key. Each student connects in a different way and question time is rewarding.

The hardest thing about writing this book of poems was believing in my style. My sister writes differently and sometimes I thought maybe this isn’t good enough. To overcome this fear, I read my poem in the mirror and saw my own enjoyment. That was enough.

Being an author is easy. We are all authors. Believing your work is worthy for the public eye and for someone to pay for it is more challenging. Marg and I were fortunate enough to self publish. I think if you pour your heart into something, and it gets rejected, that can put you off trying again.

Tomorrow Land is full of poems to make you think and wonder. The illustrations also highlight this play with words. This experience was given to me by my sister after I had a stroke 8 months ago. It gave me the purpose I needed to navigate a difficult time in my life. The printed books arrived today on my doorstep. What a joy it was to hold one in my hand and know that some child will soon be discovering fresh ideas. Some mother or father, some Granny or Pop, will lie at night, like I do with my grandson and share a beautiful memory.”