The Fix It Man – The Writer’s Journey

I’m so thrilled to welcome Dimity Powell and Nicky Johnston, and their beautiful new book The Fix It Man to my blog today.

Nicky and Dimity are both dear friends and amazingly talented people, and I’ve been lucky enough to share the journey of their wonderful picture book from initial idea to publication.fullsizerender

First, congratulations Dimity and Nicky on such a beautiful book.

Now … About The Fix It Man.

ex_fixitman_cvr_300THE JOURNEY

Back in early 2013, Dimity sent me her draft manuscript, The Fix It Man, and asked if I would help her get it ready to submit for publication. It was already a truly beautiful manuscript. The moving storyline was there and the language was lyrical, but I did have a couple of suggestions.

The Beginning

This is how the story originally started:

My Dad can fix anything.
No job is too difficult. No repair is too big. Or too small. Sticky tape is his preferred tool of trade and Super Dooper Dad Glue.
When butterfly bead bracelets break, Dad’s there. When mermaid kite tails tear, Dad’s there. When skipping ropes unravel and rip, Dad’s there.

Burst bulbs, cracked cups, and fractured furniture. Dad never knocks back a challenge.
Because that’s what daddies do.

fixing-dog-house_nickyjohnstonMy suggestion

Dimity’s beginning was already beautifully evocative, but I suggested that the story problem … Mum’s illness … could be introduced into the story earlier and that way readers would connect with the character straight away. I said …

Bringing the story problem in earlier would allow you to take more time in the story with Mum’s illness and eventual passing – and show Dad’s increasingly desperate attempts to fix her. It would create more tension and allow the reader more of an emotional connection.

Language and Tense

Dimity’s language was already beautiful, but I felt it could be strengthened by using consistent forms of words for example, Dad and Mum, rather than switching to Daddy or Mummy and back again.

Sometimes when you get caught in the emotion of the story, it’s easy to slip in a different tense … and this was something else we worked on in The Fix It Man.

But overall, this was such a strong story, that there really wasn’t a whole lot of work to do … and Nicky Johnston’s gorgeous illustrations have strengthened and enhanced it even more.kitchen_nicky_johnston

The Story

In The Fix It Man a young girl believes her father is the king of fixing things, but following the death of her mother, she discovers that broken hearts are not as easy to repair as damaged toys and cracked teapots. Together, she and her father find a way to glue back the pieces of their lives.

The Fix It Man is a poignant picture book that explores how a child can cope with the loss of a parent (in this case, the young girl’s mother). Grief affects all members of a family, with each responding in their own way to the loss. By sticking with her father, the young girl is able to strengthen her resilience and ability to cope with one of life’s harshest experiences. The author was encouraged to seek publication for this story after receiving the endorsement of several grief counsellors who work with children and who recognised the need for a book such as this.

In The Fix It Man grief is handled in such a gentle sensitive way, and despite the subject matter, readers are left with feelings of hope.

There are not many characters in this story, but each one has been well crafted with an authenticity that makes them so relatable.

To hold The Fix It Man in my hand has filled me with so much happiness for these creators. There’s such symmetry between Dimity’s text and Nicky’s evocative illustrations which take the story to a whole new level.

They truly capture the emotion and poignancy of the subject matter and the beautiful relationship between father and daughter.

I can see The Fix It Man providing a wonderful conversation book in homes and schools, not just for gently introducing children to the concept of loss, but for building empathy for others.

MORE ABOUT THE FIX IT MAN …

To celebrate the launch of The Fix It Man, Dimity and Nicky’s blog burst is taking them to many other wonderful places in cyberspace.

You can check them out here:

blog-burst-poster

 

Dimity Powell’s Writing Tips for Newbies

Today I’m pleased to welcome talented and charming Dimity Powell to DeeScribe Writing.

Dimity has dropped in on her blog tour to celebrate the release of her debut junior novel. PS Who Stole Santa’s Mail?

“Dimity’s new book is a quirky, fast-paced, light-hearted Christmas mystery filled with evanescing elves, odd smells and stolen hopes and scooters.”

Dimity says, “I didn’t set out to change the world with this children’s novel but I did want to embody my crazy love of all things Christmas within it, and to show kids the power and magic of believing in the spirit of Christmas.”

DIMITY’S STORY

Here Dimity shares her path to publication, and she has some great tips for new writers.

Each author’s path to publication is unique and fascinating. Mine is no different. PS Who Stole Santa’s Mail? began as an assignment submission back in 2006.

Five years down the track, a couple of competition entries and a lot of editorial advice and massaging later, the manuscript was shortlisted by Morris Publishing Australia in their inaugural writing competition. I was overjoyed but dwelt little on it; thinking that I’d spend the rest of 2012 overhauling the story. When I got the email that I’d won a publishing contract, I experienced the usual disbelief immediately followed by panic. No sitting around on my hands now thinking about a rewrite! It was game on for real.

My first publishing experience has been pleasantly gratifying. Much of what I had been preparing and studying for over the past six years has been beautifully validated by the whole process. The term ‘journey’, used to express and define one’s rite of passage on any given venture, is sadly overused. Being an ex grotty yachty; I’m more comfortable with ‘voyage’. Sometimes it was smooth sailing. Sometimes there were choppy, uncertain seas, but it was always exhilarating.

Here are my top tips for newbies to the (traditional) publishing process.

  1. You’ve won a contract! Great.  Give yourself a quick pat on the back; enjoy the moment then, steel up. If you thought actually writing your story squeezed every last creative drop out of you, think again. The hard work is about to begin.
  2. Go back and give yourself another quick pat, because being offered a contract really is a momentous thing.
  3. Write out the word ENJOY and stick it somewhere prominent. Try to remember to do this at all times, because like many first time experiences, it’s easy to forget what the dream is all about when you are so busy living it. I enjoyed just about every aspect of the voyage even the rough bits because they were proof positive that I was attainting my goals. Maintaining a positive outlook well enhance your overall enjoyment.
  4. Read. Read everything you can about: others’ experiences, your contract, whatever your publisher sends your way. Make sure you understand exactly what you are reading. If you don’t, seek advice. A publishing contract is a legally binding agreement like any other. It is filled with terminology and percentages and clauses unique to this industry. Associations like ASA (Australian Society of Authors) can offer contract assessments, advice and guidance for the uninitiated.
  5. Don’t be shy. Develop a sound working rapport with your publisher. Even in the larger houses this is still possible. I was fortunate to be published by a growing independent publisher. The advantage to this is that any communication is almost instant. I felt more involved and was consulted at most stages.
  6. Be professional and friendly. Whilst you don’t need the docility of a house cow, being malleable to the publisher’s various requests goes a long way to establishing a workable relationship with them. Showing your publisher you are willing and able to work in a professional team and could also ensure an extended business relationship with them.
  7. Be prepared to rewrite parts of your manuscript. I really enjoyed this part. It gave me the opportunity to get back to the nuts and bolts of my story and tighten it up even more.
  8. Keep calm when it comes to editing. Again this was the part I was extremely keen to partake in. My edit was a bit rushed as it turned out; I would have loved more red pen queries. Don’t be put off by a heavy final edit. The result will be better, cleaner, and brighter.
  9. Be resourceful and pro-active. In today’s financial and forever changing climate, no publishing house has buckets of PR dollars to splash around, especially on first time authors. Try to take up as much of the promotional marketing slack as you can and know how to. I developed my own plan which I shared with my publisher. We then used it to fit her requirements and recommendations. Have a clear idea to whom you are aiming your book for, why, and how you intend to reach them. Know how you can best promote yourself and your book. Are you a keen blogging, social media fiend or part of a club or group that can assist you? Don’t be afraid to learn new ways to broaden your author platform and strengthen your author brand. But if you are not comfortable with online baring all, then investigate other ways to reach your audience; through library, festival or school visits for example. Don’t stop once you’ve received your first print run of books either! Happy days indeed, but if you want to move those books out of the box, you must maintain your marketing momentum.
  10. Start planning for publication before it happens.  Being published wasn’t my ‘be all and end all’ goal for writing. I just wanted to share my stories with the kids I wrote them for. But I did have a very clear plan of attack; almost down to the copy I would send to the local newspaper! I liken it to planning for your own wedding even before you’ve snagged a husband. Because it’s healthy to plan for your dreams right?
  11. Finally, like the Sam in PS Who Stole Santa’s Mail?, believe: in yourself, your publisher, your book.

Good luck with your writing and enjoy your reading – always!

Thanks Dimity for those fabulous tips.

Wishing you and Sam all the best on your blog tour and I hope that Sam finds his way onto many bookshelves:)

Dee

VISIT DIMITY ELSEWHERE ON TOUR

Find out more about Dimity and her book by visiting these other great blogs on tour:

Tania McCartney, Susan KBR 17/11/12 http://www.kids-bookreview.com/
My Little Bookcase 18/11/12 http://www.mylittlebookcase.com.au/
Sheryl Gywther 19/11/12 http://sherylgwyther.wordpress.com/
MPA australia 20/11/12 http://morrispublishingaustralia.com
Kat Apel 21/11/12 http://katswhiskers.wordpress.com/blog/
Elaine Ouston 22/11/12 http://elaineoustonauthor.com
Renee Taprell 23/11/12 http://booksforlittlehands.blogspot.com.au/
Alison Reynolds 24/11/12 http://www.alisonreynolds.com.au/
Buzz Words, Vicki Stanton 25/11/12 http://buzzwordsmagazine.blogspot.com.au/
Christine Bell 26/11/12 http://christinemareebell.wordpress.com/
Dee White 27/11/12 https://deescribewriting.wordpress.com/
Jackie Hosking PIO 28/11/12 http://www.jackiehoskingpio.wordpress.com
Alphabet Soup, Rebecca Newman 29/11/12 http://soupblog.wordpress.com
Angela Sunde 30/11/12 http://angelasunde.blogspot.com.au/