authors, interviews

Katrina Germein: Tell ‘Em!

Katrina GermeinToday’s visitor is Katrina Germein: an award-winning picture book author. Her books have been published all around the world and even read during story-time on television for Play School. You might have read some of her books already, like Big Rain Coming, My Dad Thinks He’s Funny, or Thunderstorm Dancing. Today we’re talking to Katrina about a new picture book called Tell ‘Em!, a collaboration with the children of Manyallaluk School, Rosemary Sullivan, and illustrator Karen Briggs.

Tell 'Em by Katrina Germein, the children of Manyallaluk School, and illustrator Karen Briggs

From the publisher:

A joyous and exuberant picture book about life in a remote community Tell ’em how us kids like to play. We got bikes and give each other rides. Tell ’em about the dancing and singing, and all the stories the old people know. In this book, written in conjunction with children from Manyallaluk School in the Roper River region in the NT, the voices of Indigenous children sing out across the land to tell us about their life in a remote community.

Time for some questions!

You wrote Tell ‘Em! in collaboration with Rosemary Sullivan, the children of Manyallaluk School, and illustrator Karen Briggs. How did the collaboration come about?
I met co-author Rosemary Sullivan when I was living in a remote Aboriginal community in the Northern Territory. I was working as a teacher and Rosemary was also teaching at a nearby school. We quickly became friends. After returning to my hometown of Adelaide I drafted an early version of Tell ’em! So when Rosemary mentioned an idea to create a book with the children of Manyallaluk School we decided to work together.

How did everyone communicate with each other during the book’s creation?
Rosemary used the early draft of Tell ’em! to workshop story ideas with the children of Manyallaluk. The students shared their ideas with Rosemary while they were at school and then they emailed the ideas to me. The story went back and forth like this for several months until it felt finished. The children held the final say on what was included in the text. The book is their story. It’s about them and 100% of author royalties go directly to Manyallaluk School.

A sneak peek inside Tell 'Em
A sneak peek inside Tell ‘Em

From initial idea to published book, how long did the process take?
Once the story was accepted by a publisher, Indigenous artist Karen Briggs joined the team and completed the stunning artwork for the illustrations. The whole project took over five years, and it’s exciting to now see the book in libraries, shops, schools and homes. (Picture books often take a long time!)

Can you tell us something about your next book?
My latest book (illustrated by Tom Jellett) is called Shoo, You Crocodile! It’s for young children and is a zany story about a crocodile on the loose in a museum! I’m always working on new stories. One I’m writing at the moment is about some little piggies who have the job of washing dishes in a busy restaurant. The fourth book in the My Dad Thinks He’s Funny series, My Dad Thinks He’s Super Funny, is coming out in 2021.

Do you have a tip for young writers who would like to collaborate with other creators on creative projects?
Hmm. Good questions. Every book I make is a collaboration. I can’t illustrate my own stories so I’m used to working with people. I think  it’s fun seeing what ideas other creators have but some people might find it difficult not to be in control the whole time. My advice is to remember that the project is ‘shared’; it’s not ‘yours’. The people you’re working with deserve the chance to make decisions about how the project will turn out. I think it helps if you really appreciate their talents. Think about how they’re making the project better.

Tell 'Em by Katrina Germein, the children of Manyallaluk School, and illustrator Karen BriggsAWESOME EXTRAS:

Check out previous interviews with Katrina Germein.

Click here for Teachers’ Notes.

Visit Katrina Germein’s website for more about her and her books.