There is always something in our childhood that is special with to us. For me, it was books. I would devour them and my first memory of reading a children’s book was Possum Magic by Mem Fox. The memories of these books are still with me today.
– by Laura Bartlett
‘Everything starts with books. Books shape children’s lives, their learning, and their imaginations. I couldn’t even imagine a world without books, or a world where I didn’t share the joy of books with my children and the students I visit throughout the year at schools and libraries. I’m thrilled that I’ve been lucky enough to become an author who can share this love of books and to fire up kids passion for them. We should all do our bit to get kids into books and reading.’ says Aleesah Darlison, children’s fiction author.
Inspiration comes to us from everywhere, and the same rang true for Aleesah. ‘My first idea for a book that was accepted for publication was about my son, Blake, and his beloved teddy bear. Blake loved his teddy so much it literally started falling to pieces. I thought this concept of loving something ‘to pieces’ would be great to capture in a picture book and that other children could easily relate to it. That idea became Bearly There. Although it was my first manuscript accepted, it took four years for the book to be published. It was quite a wait but well worth it.’
Every publisher is different, as I am learning as I chat with all these amazing writers. ‘I work with different illustrators on different projects. Usually, a publisher will assign the illustrator. In the case of Bearly There, Windy Hollow Books chose Jill Carter-Hansen. I’d met Jill before and we’ve since become firm friends. I love her work and think she’s done a wonderful job with Bearly There, which she has illustrated with a limited colour palette of red and shades of grey/black. Sometimes, I have some say with illustrators, or can put suggestions forward. Another illustrator whose work I saw several years ago at a SCBWI conference is Shannon Melville, who lives in Western Australia. I’ve since been able to work with her on two projects for Wombat Books. Our latest project is Little Meerkat, a picture book about a rather brave baby meerkat. The drafts Shannon has sent through for that book are AMAZING and I just know the book is going to be very special. Little Meerkat will be out March 2014.’
Reading as a kid, those books still have a huge impact on me today and it’s what got me started on my own journey to writing, though penning children’s fiction is still a far-off prospect. ‘Both age groups/genres have their challenges. From experience, I’ve found writing children’s fiction has been easier than writing YA and that’s where I’ve developed my niche. I’m not sure I have the maturity in my inner voice, or my writing voice, to crack the YA market yet. I find I naturally gravitate to a younger voice and therefore a younger market. Every author is different, though, and I would have to say that writing picture books is probably harder than it seems, especially when you’re starting out and don’t know the rules.’
‘Surround yourself with authors and illustrators from the industry. These are the people who can teach you all you need to know about being a children’s author and how to get published. And never forget that no matter how many rejections you get, don’t give up. Don’t stop writing because you don’t know what’s around the corner. As Mary Pickford once said, ‘… this thing we call ‘failure’ is not the falling down, but the staying down.’.