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PASS THE BOOK BATON

It’s Friday! And that means it’s time for Pass the Book Baton. Every week Alphabet Soup features a book creator who will answer one question before throwing a new question to the next Friday visitor. (It’s kind of like a book relay in slow motion.)

Gabrielle WangToday the book baton is passed to author and illustrator, Gabrielle Wang. Gabrielle writes and illustrates picture books and novels, including two series in the Our Australian Girl series. Her latest novel is The Wishbird. Gabrielle says her Chinese heritage influences all her work and she likes to include Chinese philosophy and folktales in her novels. Keep an eye out for her new book The Beast of Hushing Wood, which will be published in April 2017.

Here are some of Gabrielle Wang’s books:

Last week, Michael Gerard Bauer asked:
In general I’d love to know how being an illustrator impacts on your writing. For example, if you are writing a novel, do you find yourself creating illustrations for the characters or scenes even though they might not be included in the published work? Have characters or stories ever started from something you have drawn? Is visual imagery an important part of your writing style?

Gabrielle answers:
While working on a novel, I don’t think about the illustrations. I do think in pictures and scenes though. Being a visual person, the very first thing I need to come up with when I begin a new novel is the setting. Only then can my characters begin to act out their story.

The Beast of Hushing Wood

The Beast of Hushing Wood will be published in April 2017.

In my forthcoming novel, The Beast of Hushing Wood, the woods play a major role. It is a character with its own moods, mysteries and emotions. Because of this it was important for me to travel to the USA to do research. I needed to immerse myself in place — to walk, feel, smell, touch and taste the woods before I could write about them.

Once I’ve completed the novel and it has been through all the major editing phases with my publisher, I then go back through the text wearing my illustrator’s hat. If a particular scene stands out and excites me then that’s the one I will illustrate. At the same time, I need to be practical and make sure that the illustrations are evenly distributed throughout, especially those that are full-page.

Because painting gives me such joy, I illustrate almost everyday. It’s a form of relaxation. I don’t know what I’m going to paint until I begin. I like illustrating animals so many story ideas come out of these illustrations. One day I would like to publish a picture book.

Visit gabriellewang.com to find out more about Gabrielle Wang and her books.


Sage Cookson book 1And now Gabrielle Wang passes the baton to the next Friday visitor — Sally Murphy. Sally has written over forty books for children including Pearl Verses the World, and a new series about the daughter of celebrity tv chef parents.

Gabrielle asks:
“I would love to know how you began. I’m interested in hearing about that transition between being unpublished to being published. Did it take you long? Did you ever want to give up? Did you have many rejections?”
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Check in every Friday for questions and answers from children’s authors and illustrators.
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See you next week!

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PASS THE BOOK BATON

It’s Friday! And that means it’s time for Pass the Book Baton. Every week Alphabet Soup features a book creator who will answer one question before throwing a new question to the next Friday visitor. (It’s kind of like a book relay in slow motion.)

Today the book baton is passed to author and illustrator, Anna Ciddor. Anna has written and illustrated over fifty books on topics as diverse as Vikings, Australia, goldfish, and tournaments. Her most recent book is The Family with Two Front Doors — a true story about a family of nine children who lived in Poland in the 1920s.

You might recognise some of these books:

Last week Meg McKinlay asked:
You’re a writer and an illustrator — good grief! Do you feel equally comfortable doing both, or does one come more naturally to you?

Anna answers:
Well, to tell the truth, even though I have been a full-time author and illustrator for nearly thirty years, I don’t find either writing or illustrating quick and easy! For me, they both need lots and LOTS of drafts and research and planning. Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at how I wrote and illustrated The Family with Two Front Doors so you can see what I mean.

Step 1 Planning and research
The Family with Two Front Doors is based on stories my late Nana told me about her childhood. I planned each chapter of the book, including the ending, then sat down to bring the first scene to life in my head. I quickly discovered I had a problem. Nana never told me what clothes she wore as a child and, sadly, she was no longer around to help. If I can’t picture a scene, I can’t write it, so I had to stop and research the types of clothes worn by religious Jewish children in 1920s Poland. All through the book there were delays while I researched details before I could picture each scene.

Step 2 The Writing
When I write, I constantly ask myself, ‘Does this word give the best picture of what I am trying to say?’ For example, in one sentence I wrote ‘Yakov ran through the door,’ but then I realised I needed a more descriptive word than ran. Maybe burst would be better? Or scampered? Which word gave the best picture of what Yakov was doing? As you can imagine, this makes the writing process extremely slow. It took me four years to research and write The Family with Two Front Doors!

Step 3 The editing
When I deliver a book to the publishers, it is very exciting and scary, waiting to find out if they like it. Luckily, they loved The Family with Two Front Doors but it took me a few months to write the few changes they suggested because I am so slow!

Step 4 Illustrating
For me, this is the last step. Even though The Family with Two Front Doors was going to have tiny black and white illustrations, I wanted them to be perfect. I drew them over and over again. The faces of the characters had to be exactly the way I imagined them, and their clothes, and details, such as the sewing machine, had to be historically accurate. Those few tiny illustrations took me months!

Visit Anna Ciddor’s site for more about her and her books!


Dragonfly SongAnd now Anna Ciddor passes the baton to the next Friday visitor — Wendy Orr. Wendy’s books have been published in 25 countries and languages and have won awards in Australia and overseas. Her Nim’s Island books were made into movies. Wendy Orr’s latest book is Dragonfly Song.

Anna asks:
I love to find out how other authors work. There are two parts to my question. Firstly, do you plan the whole book, including the end, before you begin (like I do), or are you one of those authors who start writing without knowing the ending? And secondly, once you begin writing, do you slow yourself down with research and re-writing (like I do), or are you one of those amazing authors who can work fast?
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Check in every Friday for questions and answers from children’s authors and illustrators.
 ..
See you next week!

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PASS THE BOOK BATON

James Foley photoIt’s Friday! And that means it’s time for Pass the Book Baton. Alphabet Soup features a book creator every Friday who will answer one question before throwing a new question to the next Friday visitor. (It’s kind of like a book relay in slow motion.)

Today author-illustrator James Foley takes the baton. James Foley is a writer, illustrator and cartoonist. He likes working with pen and ink, pencil, charcoal, watercolour, and digital tools. He has illustrated books by other people, and written and illustrated his own books.

He has quite a stack of books behind him now.

Check them out:

His most recent book is the graphic novel Brobot.

Last week AL Tait posed two questions for James. AL asks:

Q. You started out as an illustrator — what made you decide to write In The Lion and Brobot yourself?

A. I’ve always written and illustrated my own stories; it just worked out that my first book was only as the illustrator. It’s easier to break into the industry by working with someone more established, as Norman Jorgensen was. Then I got the opportunity to make In The Lion on my own, which was great. It’s a different experience writing AND illustrating a book yourself, as opposed to illustrating a text written by someone else (as I did with Sigi Cohen for My Dead Bunny) or collaborating with a writer quite closely through the initial process (as I did with Norman Jorgensen for The Last Viking and The Last Viking Returns). Also, when you do the book yourself you get the full royalty … 😉

Q. As an author-illustrator, do you start with the words for a story or start with the pictures?
I usually start with a bit of both — some loose images and a few phrases. I may have a few key scenes playing in my head, but they’re fragments of what the overall story will eventually become. Then I nut out the character designs and the overall storyline at the same time; these two processes feed off each other. A character design may give you a plot idea, and vice versa. Then when the characters and the storyline seem to have settled, I can get started on thumbnails and storyboards, and then final artwork.


The Stupendously Spectacular Spelling BeeAnd now James Foley passes the baton to the next Friday visitor — Deborah Abela. Deborah is the author of many books. Her most recent title is The Stupendously Spectacular Spelling Bee.

James asks:
Do you find that your characters reflect different aspects of your personality? So the heroic characters might reflect your good side, the villains might reflect your naughty side, the protagonists might share your strengths and weaknesses, etc?

Check in every Friday for questions and answers from children’s authors and illustrators. See you next week!


Visit James Foley’s website for more information about him and his books. You can also read earlier Alphabet Soup interviews with James here and here.

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Tania McCartney is the author of fiction and nonfiction picture books. Now she is launching the first book she has written and illustrated. Today one of our regular book reviewers — Matilda, aged 10 — asks Tania some questions about her new book Australia, illustrated.

 

Matilda: Why did you think of illustrating this book yourself when your other books are illustrated by other people?

Tania: Just like you, I’m sure, I absolutely loved to draw when I was a kid. Writing and drawing was my thing. I did it right through school and into high school but then something terrible happened. I became an adult.

Well, actually — it’s not terrible to become an adult! But what IS terrible is that so many adults stop doing the things they love, and instead do the things they ‘should’. So I lost my ability to draw, and I really, honestly believed I could no longer do it.

I began writing children’s books around 10 years ago (around when you were born! spooky!), and I had a secret dream to illustrate my own books. I never, ever thought that would happen because I still believed I could no longer draw.

Then, in 2014, I started the 52-Week Illustration Challenge [a group of illustrators where the members each create their own illustration in response to a weekly prompt] and over two years I learned that I could still draw! I couldn’t believe it! At first, my drawings were pretty horrid, but over that time, they quickly improved — and that goes to show that practice does make ‘better’!

I was stunned and delighted when my publisher said they’d be happy for me to illustrate my new book idea — Australia Illustrated. I was also a bit scared. Could I do it??? Well, I did. And I still have to pinch myself!

Here is a picture of my first drawing for the 52-Week Illustration Challenge, and then after that you’ll see a page from Australia Illustrated. Do you think I’ve improved?

Eggs illustration

Tania’s first illustration in the 52-week illustration challenge.

 

A page from the first book Tania illustrated.

A page from Tania’s new book.

Matilda: How did you have the idea for a book like this about Australia?

Tania: There are so many books about Australia, but I wanted to do something really different. I don’t know of any other book like this one.

For a start, it’s a whopping 96 pages! (Picture books are generally 24 to 32 pages.) And it’s also unusual in that it’s mostly pictures, with only a handful of words.

It also covers parts of Australia that are really well known (like our animals and icons like the Sydney Opera House) but it covers things people don’t know much about, too — like quokka selfies or Tasmanian chocolate factories.

The other thing I’ve done with Australia Illustrated is that I’ve included lots and lots and lots of kids of all different cultures and races. I think it’s important to celebrate the multicultural country we live in!

Matilda: How many of the places in your book have you also been to?

Tania: What a great question. I’m going to look through the book and tell you exactly!

Okay, I’m back. So, out of all the places I cover in the book (towns, sites, states) I’ve been to around 70 out of around 100. This doesn’t include the maps I’ve done for each state which have hundreds of place names — though I have been to a lot of those places, too. I like to travel!

My big dream is to go to Uluru. I used to be a flight attendant and I used to fly over it all the time! If they’d given me a parachute, I could have jumped out and gone to see it! I’m hoping next year I can go.

Matilda: What was different about illustrating your own book instead of having someone else illustrate it?

Tania: Oh, it was SO different. It was the first time I’d ever illustrated an actual book so I wasn’t really sure how to do things. In fact, I did the cover first … and books are hardly ever done that way! But it worked out really well for me.

It was fantastic being able to have control over how the book looked visually. And it was also fantastic to get to draw whatever I wanted — it was such a creative process and I loved it so much. I could mix things up and change things and dream up kooky things. It was just SO much fun.

When you have an illustrator doing pictures for you, it’s a whole different experience because the illustrator reads your words and has their own thoughts about how the pictures should look. When my illustrators send me their pictures, it’s like Christmas! Opening the email to get a wonderful surprise — a beautiful picture. It’s really exciting — and you can never guess what they might have created.

You may have heard of that saying ‘two heads are better than one’ and when I work with an illustrator, I find they bring so many great ideas and thoughts to the text. They might read my words and see things completely differently from me — and they could add some wonderful things to the story with their illustrations … extra things that I may not have thought of.

I love both ways — illustrating my own books and having illustrators create the pictures, too. They are totally different but both are a lot of fun.

Oh, and also — when you illustrate your own book, it’s twice the work!

Matilda: Are you planning to illustrate more books?

Tania: I am. I’ve already started on three illustrated books and each one of them is going to be digitally illustrated. In December, I’m starting work on a big book for the National Library of Australia. I’m doing the illustrating but someone else is compiling the book — someone quite famous! I can’t say more yet but I’m really excited about that one.

I also have some ideas for more picture books I want to illustrate but I want to try a different style — perhaps just watercolour. And a few people have asked me to illustrate their books, too. I might be doing one for a friend, not sure yet — we’ll see! The thing about publishing is that we so often say ‘we’ll see!’

Thanks for the wonderful questions, Matilda. I just loved them.

Australia Illustrated launch poster

 

Visit Tania McCartney’s website www.taniamccartney.com for more information about her books and to join in the celebrations for the launch of Australia Illustrated. 

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PASS THE BOOK BATON

It’s Friday! And that means it’s time for Pass the Book Baton. Alphabet Soup features a book creator every Friday who will answer one question before throwing a new question to the next Friday visitor. (It’s kind of like a book relay in slow motion.)

Today we are lucky to have two visitors at once! Joshua Button and Robyn Wells collaborated over ten years to create their recently published picture book Steve Goes to Carnival.

Joshua Button and Robyn Wells.

Joshua Button and Robyn Wells.

Joshua Button is an Indigenous artist from Broome. He is descended from the Walmajarri people of the East Kimberley in Western Australia. He first worked with Robyn in a literacy program at primary school that resulted in the picture book Joshua and the Two Crabs. Robyn has a degree in Fine Arts and has lived in the Kimberley for many years. She is passionate about enabling young people to express themselves through language and art.

Kathryn Apel posed a question for Joshua and Robyn. Kathryn asks:

Q. I read that you collaborate for hours over the kitchen table. Can you describe your process — and how you came to form this wonderful working partnership?

Joshua answers:
Robyn and I help each other a lot with the artwork. Robyn often cuts out stencils and does the background textures with sponges. Then I usually use black drawing ink to paint the characters or animals over the background textures.

Robyn and I research the animals and characters together. We look at the size and shape of the animals, the structure of their bones and the texture of their fur. Sometimes we take photos of people we know in Broome to base the drawings on — we study the colour of people’s skin, how they are standing, the expressions on their faces and what clothes they are wearing.

Robyn and I work really well together. We don’t have any arguments — working with someone else means it takes half the time to finish the work!

[Here are some photos of Joshua Button and Robyn Wells working together. Thank you to Magabala Books for permission to use these photos.]

Joshua and Robyn creating a picture book together.

Joshua and Robyn creating a picture book together.

Joshua working with ink.

Joshua working with ink.

 


 

LILY IN THE MIRROR by Paula Hayes.

And now Joshua and Robyn pass the book baton to next Friday’s visitor — Paula Hayes. Paula is the author of the novel Lily in the Mirror.

Our question for Paula Hayes is:
Your character Lily loves all things dark and mysterious. Were you inspired by any real life mysteries, strange events or unusual people?

Check in every Friday for questions and answers from children’s authors and illustrators. See you next week!


Visit Magabala Books for more information about Joshua Button and Robyn Wells and their books. You can read a recent review of Steve Goes to Carnival here on Alphabet Soup.

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Every Friday Alphabet Soup will feature an interview with a children’s book creator — writers, illustrators and writer-illustrators. Our Friday guest will answer a question and then ask one question of the next writer or illustrator. (It’s a bit like running a book relay in slow motion.)

We’re calling it:

PASS THE BOOK BATON

Be sure to check in on Fridays. Our first writer will be setting off with the baton tomorrow morning.  See you then!

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Today we welcome Frané Lessac to Alphabet Soup. Frané is an illustrator and author — she’s the illustrator behind Ned Kelly and the Green Sash, Midnight, and The Greatest Liar on Earth (and many, many more books!).

We asked Frané if we could talk to her about A is for Australia: A factastic tour — her latest book. Here it is in all its glory:

 

a is for australia

What is the Fremantle Doctor? Where is Qui Qui? And why are some islands named after days of the week? You’ll uncover these exciting facts when you explore the A to Z of Australia — from Bondi to Kakadu and all the way to Taronga Zoo. Discover why Australia is one of the most amazing countries in the world …

 

 

FranéLessac

Frané Lessac

Can you tell us a bit about where you live?
I live in the port city of Fremantle in West Australia. From my front porch, I can see a sliver of the Indian Ocean and Rottnest Island. Our house is over 120 years old and we’ve built an art studio in the back garden where I paint.

When you were working on A is for Australia, what came first — the artwork or the text?
Location came first. We had to decide what locations would be depicted for each letter of the alphabet. There were incredible alternatives and that made it hard to choose, but what made it easier was the need to represent all states narrowing down the locations. Next came the text, then art.

How long did it take you to create the book?
I first approached Walker Books with the idea over seven years ago! They were familiar with my other alphabet books based on New York, Washington D.C., Texas and the Caribbean. They knew the format and the market. I wasn’t sure if I was going to write the book myself initially, but with a twist of the arm, I did it!

What do you like to do when you are not illustrating (or writing-after-your-arm-has-been-twisted)?
Over the years I’ve lived in New York, Los Angeles, Paris, London and the Caribbean before settling in Australia twenty-five years ago. My closest friends and my family are spread right across the globe and l love to visit them as much as I can. When I’m home in Fremantle, I like to walk along Dog Beach.

What sort of books did you like to read when you were growing up?
My mother was an avid reader and placed an importance on reading and books. She took me to the library at an early age to pick out my own books. I started with Beatrix Potter and moved onto The Hardy Boys and the Nancy Drew mysteries.

What led you to create A is for Australia?
A is for Australia is a celebration of Australian people, places and culture. I wanted to create a book for children so they could discover why Australia is one of the most amazing countries in the world. I hope that visitors from overseas also grab a copy and share it back home.

Do you have a preferred medium?
I use gouache paint on watercolour paper. There’s an enormous range of colours and they are also easy to mix. The paint dries fast and I can paint in layers, which allow me to make any changes easily.

Do you have any advice for young artists? 
Believe in your art and don’t compare what you create to anyone else’s. Everyone draws differently. Be confident. If I worried about what other people created, I never would have created one single book. I never went to art school and I was never the best artist in the class, but I always loved to draw and paint.

Are you working on any new projects at the moment?
I recently received a folktale from my UK publisher that’s set in India. It’s called Pattan’s Pumpkins and it’s right up my alley. Jungles and animals and bright pumpkins!  Exciting to work with this publisher again — I met the editor over thirty years ago and we created three folktales together set in West Africa, Papua New Guinea and Polynesia.

For a peek inside the pages of A is for Australia, visit Frané’s blog. And you can hear Frané talking about making the book on the book trailer:

 You can find out even more about Frané Lessac and her books by visiting her website: www.franelessac.com.

(And teachers will be interested in these A is For Australia Classroom Ideas.)

 

 

 

 

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