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Sunday, 7 September 2014

Blasting off with Tottie and Dot and Tina Snerling

Today is special. Today we welcome two new girls to the neighbourhood. They are Tottie and Dot and they grace the pages of Tania McCartney's and Tina Snerling's latest creation, Tottie and Dot. To celebrate, the girls are having a BLOG BLAST party guaranteed to have you screaming with delight.

 Here's a snippet of what I thought of this yummy picture book.

Tottie andDot is the latest picture book deliciousness doled up by Tania McCartney and Tina Snerling. As with their previous bestseller, An Aussie Year, Tottie and Dot effortlessly teams McCartney’s delectable dream-like story line with Snerling’s candy-luscious illustrations. Sweetly simple statements are anchored on full double page spreads with divinely drawn detail, right down to the tiny-tarred paw prints and gumball pebbled paths.

You can read the rest of my review of Tottie and Dot here. Meanwhile, I've just spotted illustrator, Tina Snerling. If I can keep her away from the apricot sandwiches for a moment, I might be able to ask her a few arty type questions. Hope you can hear us over the screaming...

Hi Tina - fantastic party. Tell me...

Q. Who is Tina Snerling? Describe your illustrative self.

My life is immersed daily in illustration, vibrant colour and intense patterns. There is rarely a day that passes that I am not drawing, brainstorming or dreaming of what will be illustrated next. It is my day job, my night job, my hobby, my passion and my dream.

Q. How long have you been illustrating kids’ books? What do you find most gratifying about it?

I have been illustrating kid’s books for nearly 5 years – wow, I can’t believe it’s been that long! My first illustration was creating the characters for ‘An Aussie Year’, with Tania.  The most gratifying part of illustrating children’s books is creating characters from my own imagination and watching the children connect with each one on their own level.  It is like a thousand Christmas’s come at once when you see your book in print for the first time!

Q Your illustrations seem to use a truncated palette of colours yet come across full of colour-popping detail. How do you achieve this?

Colour is my passion, and one of the most enjoyable processes of illustrating is creating the colour palette. I am drawn to intense, complementary colours – and kids respond so well to it too! It wasn’t until I began illustrating my third children’s picture book that I even realised I have a particular style when it comes to colour -  I don’t do anything in particular to create this, I am just naturally drawn to a succinct, vibrant colour palette. 

Q. What look were you trying to achieve with Tottie and Dot? Why?

I wanted two recognisable characters that were very clear with their identity. Given the intensity of the story line, I knew it would become chaotic, so I loved the idea of creating characters that stood out amongst the chaos. I wanted ‘Tottie and Dot’ to be a maze of illustrations that kept their reader interested long after they had read the words. I hid little details in each page, waiting for the reader to find them.

Q. This is the second time you have partnered your pictures with Tania McCartney. Was this a deliberate choice to collaborate or just happy chance?

Deliberate choice – absolutely! Tania and I are actually currently working on our third picture book! We both work so well together, and hope to continue to work together for many years to come. Our partnership is a team effort – there is no Author and Illustrator in our case – we want our books to be recognisable as a collaboration rather than separate artists working together. 

Q. What media are you most comfortable illustrating in? What medium did you use to create Tottie and Dot?

I am a digital illustrator, and I work very differently to many traditional artists. I generally don’t sketch using a pencil and paper – all my ideas are drawn directly onto the screen using my graphics tablet and Adobe Illustrator. I am a perfectionist with my illustrations, and I love using digital as I can easily re-draw an incorrect stroke or change a colour at the touch of my pen. Tottie and Dot was drawn digitally.

Q Which colour best represents you and why?

The colour that best represents me is probably 'yellow' I tend to be drawn to this colour in all aspects of my life. It's a happy colour that's hard to be depressed around and it evokes thoughts of brightness and energy - I would like to think that's how people think of me!

Q. What’s on the drawing board for Tina?

Many, many things!!! During the day, I am a Graphic Artist for a children’s stationery company – on my days off/at night when I should be sleeping -   I illustrate children’s books. In the very near future I will be concentrating even more on illustration and am working on illustrating my own book, among other things!

Q. Just for fun question (there’s always one) If you could make up any flavour tea, what would be your favourite concoction?

Oh, this is a hard one for me as I don’t actually drink tea (or coffee for that matter!) If I did, it would definitely be sweet – strawberry, vanilla and anything chocolate!!!

Fabulous Tina. Thanks for the chat and the chance to party with Tottie and Dot.

But don't leave yet - this party is ALL DAY. Check out the Blog Blast Schedule for more awesome pit-stops, interviews, give-aways, reviews and tantalising tip bits on  Tottie and Dot. Or just click on the poster. It's that easy.

EK Books September 2014

Monday, 11 August 2014

SCBWI Sydney Conference 2014 - Lasting Impressions

It's the last month of winter. Almost four weeks since I had to dig out my gloves and wraps for the first time this year. They accompanied another 'first'. An experience I had been secretly yearning for, aspiring toward for years...my first SCWBI Conference. And, unlike a few other 'firsts', it exceeded all expectations.

Much of what went down, who was there and what we got up to has been magnificently covered both on the official SCBWI Australian/NZ web and blog sites, and featured in several sensational personal accounts, not least of which is Tania McCartney's SCBWI Wrap Up post. Be you author, illustrator, industry professional or just interested passer-by with a fondness for Kids Lit, you're bound to unearth some awesome insights on your favourite artists, books and literary gems.

Here are a few recollections and choice tip bits of my own, along with the mandatory blurred snapshot to seal the moment.

Feeling like a kid allowed to go to her first big party by herself, I rugged up, boarded up and headed off to sunny Sydney.

Had to stifle slight alarm after sliding into the taxi and was promptly asked by the driver how to get to The Hughenden Hotel. Hmm but get there, we did.

The cosy lounges and corridors of this charming boutique hotel soon bubbled with conversation and old chums. A veritable cauldron of new faces and old, some connecting for the first time in spite of years of cyber friendship. It felt like a magnificent homecoming in many ways.

First task: to register. Met these two bear-skinned cuties in the marquee. Poor little mites must have misunderstood the brief and filled out themselves instead of the forms provided. Oh dear.

Kick-off at 3.00pm Opening remarks were lost as a rabble ensued thanks to one boisterous baby brolga and some unruly banana-benders.

Rachelle Sadler, Rebecca Sheraton, Yvonne Mes, Peter Taylor & Tracey Lennon

Fortunately the unflappable Christopher Cheng was there to lend a hand and restore calm.

Things settled down and I settled with the idea of sharing digs with these three ratbags - Sheryl Gywther Head of the Rovers, Jacque Duffy minus her bear and the effulgent Kaz Delaney.

Meal times were quite memorable. Scott Chambers and Peter Taylor seen here with their unfortunate Freundian choice of table number.
Deb Abela, Mark Greenwood, Frane Lessac and DianneWolfer.

Feeding time fun at the Woollahra Hotel.

Dianne Wolfer encouraging a frail looking Wendy Binks to wolf it all down.

Sessions Away!

Room to Read's Wendy Rapee inspired and moved, by reminding us that 'the ripple effect is world changing'.

Connie Hsu

'Publishing is Conversation and Collaboration' Maryann Ballantyne Black Dog Books

'Be the next you!' Karen Tayleur The Five Mile Press

'Give readers a visceral reaction' Connie Hsu Roaring Brook Press

'Visual elements in books are a HUGE draw card for older readers.' Connie Hsu

'You can get a hole in one depending on how many times you want to hit the ball'  Tania McCartney

'Books are static. We need to make them real for people' Kathryn Otoshi KO Kid's Books

'Encourage, support. Start small and grow organically. Stay true to yourself and give back' Tania McCartney

'Remember your eight year old self' Tania McCartney

'Even back cover Blurbs need a resolution' Melina Marchetta

'Look for your pot of gold but don't be unrealistic. Study which fund, grant, award or fellowship will suit you and your project best and stick to the application guidelines' regarding tips on seeking grants.

'How do you move 250,000 books? Use boxes' Louise Park Paddlepop Press

'Never orphan your product for what you think is a good marketing plan. Have a contingency plan and invest YOURSELF in it to the very end' Louise Park

'Focus should be on excellent books to increase the pleasure of reading' Professor Ernst Bond

'Provide diverse experiences so kids can connect' Professor Bond

Master class with Bruce Whatley, Christina Booth, Tania McCartney, Nicky Johnston and me. Photo courtesy Tania McCartney.
'Common Core Standards can increase visual literacy, critical thinking, better writing and an understanding of literary elements' Professor Bond

'If an illustrator can find their own visual narrative, they will add multiple layers to the book and enhance the text rather than simply duplicate it' Bruce Whatley 

'I never feel I'm quite 'there' because if I get there, I may stop.' Bruce Whatley

Then things started to slide when they let publishers from Walker Books Australia, Harper Collins, Black Dog Books and Scholastic Australia up on stage to 'assess' a couple of outstanding but as yet uncontracted book concepts pitched by our own efficacious Susanne Gervay and Frane Lessac.

They had every chance to make it as shown here by Sue Whiting's display of a fart making picture book.

The Budgie Smuggler pitch met with wild applause and generous feedback.

However Frane was advised that her artwork need more refinement.

Scott Chambers, Frane Lessac, Meredith Costain, James Foley

Fortunately she was recompensed with Mark Greenward's booty thanks to the award winning efforts of The Beatnickers.

Susanne Gervay Extraodinarie with Frane Lessac
Already fat on fun, fabulous facts and friendships, we rewarded ourselves with group shots, dinner, wine and a bit of choralling of course to the wonderful groove of The Beatnickers. Have a peek at the video below for a glimpse of authors and illustrators behaving...quite well actually.
Queensland SCBWI members
SCBWI Sydney Roving Reporter Team headed by Sheryl Gywther

The SCBWI Sydney Conference was a fantastic meeting of minds, kindred spirits, ideas and shared dreams and in some ways, of a realisation of ourselves as valued members of a truly tremendous industry. Just in case anyone didn't realise who they were, I requested they all hold up their name tags. What a self-aware bunch.

The Delegates - a fraction of

And so, as the halls emptied and the ink dried on the limbs of another set of SCBWI bears, I headed back to my writing nook, to bask in the warm afterglow of my inaugural Sydney conference confident it would not be my last.

What did the SCBWI conference mean for me?

Apart from a few days respite from making school lunches...

It was more than the absorbing and enriching presentations and workshops.

It was more than the chance to mingle with contempories and pitch my work.

It was like attending a big family reunion. Hundreds of people, some you may not know intimately, some you have never met before but there pervaded a powerful sense of being part of something greater, an extended family, of belonging.

As dawn goes down today...on Sydney
If you are a published or self-published children's author or illustrator and want to find out more about the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators and exactly what it offers, have a look here. Consider becoming a member. You could do far worse than listening to the Beatnickers once in a while...

Saturday, 28 June 2014

A Croc and Bull Story - Reporting on the Central Coast

Okay, so I'm no longer on the Central Coast of Queensland and the fact that I don't even have central heating is a little hard to bare after spending a balmy week in Rockhampton but report I must for bulls and crocodiles have a right to be heard.

It began with an invitation to present at this year's Central Coast Literary Festival in Rocky, Queensland. Sounded harmless enough; spend a week soaking up the CQ sunshine in between rabbiting on to a few hundred school students just days away from their mid-year break.

Things started well with fair skies and some snappy local colour.
No sign of crocs in the local watering hole. Several authors decided to risk taking a dip in spite of constant warnings against this. Understandably, they reside in Melbourne where crocs are susceptible to hail damage thus not prone to hanging out in motel swimming pools.
Things took a turn for the worse as the fog rolled in from a nearby lagoon, Suddenly Meredith Costain's constant cautionary tales about bunyips became ironically plausible. But were they capable of taking on the world's most murderous reptile?

We forged on. We had no choice.They held our books hostage - with balloons.
Calm was restored within the hallowed grounds of Rockhampton Grammar School.

Thoughtful of them to install a bell tower; to warn students of impending croc attacks I presume.

But what of the bulls?

I scaled the highest towers (but not the bell one for fear of setting off a false alarm), battled the cruelest winds and scanned the outlaying land for wayward bulls (and my author buddies). But found nothing.

No, wait...Meredith came too, plucky country gal that she is.

Croc avoidance and bull location is wearisome work. Eventually, we found sustenance deep within the Rockhampton Customs House.

The purpose of the Customs House was to impose duties on imported goods. As there was no demand for imported crocodile-skin boots in Rockhampton, the town being self-sufficient in that sort of thing, the Customs House was closed down. Weird neon glowing bar stools were installed and carefully balanced with chili and lime so gatherings of authors could dine comfortably on vogue inspired Thai cuisine. Disappointingly, there was no croc on the menu.

Nonetheless, it took a while for Adam and Leigh to convince Peter and Phil it was safe to dive into the Tom Yum.

It took even longer for Leigh Hobbs to convince me I could draw. Hmm not quite Old Tom but thanks to Leigh and Peter and Adam, I've managed to connect with my inner-illustrative muse. Or exposed an odd fetish for musical tinnies.
Finally a day off. Life is crazy relaxed in Yeppoon. Even the mangrove trees favour a good lie down on the beach over actually growing somewhere.
Sunday streets were strangely absent of crocs and bulls.

Time to dine again - we authors eat ridiculous amounts.

The Criterion Hotel boasted its own ghost and a fish tank.

But we had to bring our own forks.

Fortunately Peter Carnavas, Adam Wallace and Gemma Dean-Furlong never leave home without theirs.

Again no croc. Plenty of bull but I really wanted to see one with its legs still attached...

Despite our best efforts to restrain him, Phil Kettle couldn't resist a feet first stair-dive.

He made it look easy.

Such grace and flair Phil. It's how I'll remember you.
The local Rocky vino is rather robust and chunky in body exhibiting striking gold hues and a pronounced sweetness with lingering nutty undertones.

After several glasses you hardly notice the metallic aftertaste.

The hallucinatory effect of the vino took affect mainly in confined spaces - like maxi taxis.

Here, George Ivanoff looking suitably terrified
as Adam Wallace recalls the size of a certain bull's appendages he encountered earlier that day.

Chilling stuff.

In the end, Rocky was all about crossing over, for me at least.
Photo courtesy of George Ivanoff

We visited some awesome schools (this was not a croc hunting net but a gigantic web at St Pauls Primary school), meet some inspired individuals, and talked and talked and talked - to adults and students alike - here's proof.

And not once did the locals bare their teeth at us or threaten to charge us out of town.

And that's no...
Photo courtesy of George Ivanoff