Wombat Books Blog

Wombat Books blog is the place to keep up to date with all the goings-on in the world of Aussie kid's books.

A Personal Note from Wombat Books Director

rochelle manners publisherI’ve been running Wombat Books for over ten years now.
Through that time, I have met so many wonderful people from the Australian author and illustrator community. Many different people have worked with us as we’ve grown—from new creatives, to bestselling and well-known creatives. Each has brought their energy and their talent to the publisher. I just love being around people in the publishing industry: those that love books.
I wanted to host the first and only Wombat Books Conference as a way to say thank you for ten years of books, support and Auslit. But also to create a collective think tank of our authors and illustrators to show how much we’ve learned, and how much we can learn from each other. Having a chance to give back to the writing community that has supported us is important to me.
I’m excited to meet emerging authors and illustrators in this professional development format, and hopefully share Wombat Books' ten years of knowledge with everyone. We’ve also got a stellar line up of industry greats, from award-winning Kate Forsyth, to local heroes like Aleesah Darlison and T.M. Clark, to illustration superstars like Giuseppe Poli and Renée Treml. It’s just so much talent jam-packed into this one day. Creatives teaching creatives; creatives meeting creatives; creatives learning from creatives.
I hope to see you there and please don’t hesitate to introduce yourself to me on the day.

Yours sincerely,
Rochelle Manners
Director of Wombat Books

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Invest in yourself with Georgie Donaghey

Georgie Donaghey headshotCan you tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you've been in the industry?

Since beginning in this industry over 20 years ago, I've had the privilege of wearing many hats: published author, editor, mentor, festival director, radio host and founder of Creative Kids Tales. To make it in this industry, I knew I would have to invest. I began my training as President of a local chapter of the Children's Book Council of Australia. After three years I left and Creative Kids Tales was born. Fast-forward to today and CKT is almost 10! It's been an amazing journey, and I love provide the kid-lit community with support and resources.

I've also had time to write and publish a number of books, including Lulu (now available on Virgin and QANTAS entertainment channels!), Clover's Big Ideas, and In the Shadow of an Elephant. My stories have also been featured on Kinderling Kids Radio. You can read more about me here.

Describe your typical work desk.

Unfortunately, my workspace has become more a dumping ground for files, books and merchandise. I like to think of it as organised chaos.

I'll write wherever I can find a spot. On the train, in my garden or at my dining table. My favourite place to write is in the shower. I have a waterproof notepad and pencil stuck to my wall. A lot of my ideas come to me when I'm in the shower (probably because it is the only space I can be truly alone with my imagination).

What is most important for an author to remember when marketing themselves?

I immediately think of the big no-no's I see instead! When an author bombards sites trying to sell their books, or when they respond to posts and spin the topic around in an attempt to sell. Marketing should not be 'in your face'. Apart from any initial launch, it should be gentle but long-term. Get involved with groups both online and in person, especially where your book might be a good fit. This is also a great networking opportunity, but don't push your book on people.

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

I don't think there was ever one purchase. It's all about long-term investment: going to festivals, upskilling through workshops and so on. Anything you can do to expand your knowledge in your chosen genre is beneficial. Reading extensively in the genre you write for and being aware of trends with publishers helps too.

What is the most memorable approach you have seen to promote a book?

Merchandise is great! However, this is not always possible. Kids love getting something that ties into the book, and parents love freebies for their kids. It can be a stuffed toy, kid's watch or a bookmark or poster. This week I received an emoji pile of poo with a smiley face, that smells of chocolate. My kids love it! Launches with giveaways, book readings and signings are great promotional avenues. Kids love meeting their writing heroes.

Describe your panel for the Wombat Books conference.

Writing is only the first step in your investment. You need to network, market yourself, build your brand, polish your work and so much more. Participants will learn how to INVEST to build a healthy return. This session will equip you with the tools needed to take your writing journey to the next level, with topics spanning from the value of critique groups and writing competitions, building your author platform before publication, and social media.

For more great workshops like Georgie's, book your tickets for the conference now! Click the image below for more information.

Conference Tiles Invest the write way

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The heart of the story with Giuseppe Poli

GiuseppePoliCan you tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you've been in the industry?

I'm an artist and creative who has been making things for years. The journey to children's picture books has been a long one and being a children's story creator was not what I wanted to be when I grew up (see my website for more details!) My break into the industry came in 2014 when my first book was published. Today I am working on my tenth and have many other stories in development.

Describe your typical work desk.

Like many aspiring artists, I'm still in the process of making my ideal studio. At present, I have my computer adorned with things that inspire me. Next to that I have a makeshift lightbox and all my colour pencils on display. The best thing I've done so far is group my pencils and inks into colour groups. They look delicious! They are like little fields of flowers and grass and woodland...and they beckon me to pick them up and play. Recently I've drawn portraits of my characters and have them around my monitor too.

I've learned something interesting in the pursuit of a perfect workspace. When I'm in the thick of creating, I'll use whatever space I can find (the floor, dining table, wardrobe doors). When I feel the urge to have my own studio I use it as a trigger to ask myself 'Should I be creating? Am I procrastinating?' and once I get back to work, my workspace angst is no longer a problem!

There is one key way I use my work desk. I finish my night thinking about a creative project and what I'd like to do next, and leave one note of action on the desk for the next day. When I wake up, bleary and tired, I don't need to think, I just do.

What made you want to become an illustrator?

I love making art but I love story more. I'm inspired by films and games and when I looked for a way to build skills in visual storytelling, I found that I had all I needed in a pencil and a piece of paper. From this, I realised children's picture books were an incredible medium and a wonderful opportunity to master my ability to captivate, inspire and grow.

How do you go about designing a character when working with picture books? How does the collaboration between author and illustrator work?

For me, all my design and characters for the book come from my intentions for it. I don't bring my past work into my present project, and try and clarify what the heart of the story is. If the story calls for something I don't have in my tooklit, I work to discover how I can deliver that.

I want people to feel something and there will always be movement in my art. It's at this intention level where I think authors and illustrators collaborate best. The beauty of the author and illustrator collaboration is that we give each other room to shine and together we amplify the story.

The other collaborator that's important to acknowledge is the publisher. There is a reason why you as the illustrator have been chosen. That's the magic of passing over the story-baton to the visual storyteller and seeing where they fly.

Who are your illustration idols?

I admire what Shaun Tan has done for the medium of the picture book. Shaun has walked to the top of the hill of high art and literature, planted a flag for picture books and laid out a picnic blanket for all others to join him. I see picture books as galleries and curated exhibitions, each page a blank wall, curated towards a special experience.

I also love Quentin Blake and think his knighthood for his service to illustration is very cool. Both he and Shaun have opened our eyes to the medium as something that is more than 'just for kids'. A picture book is a moment in time.

Which children's book would you love to have illustrated?

The newly illustrated Harry Potter books by Jim Kay. Wow! I can't wait to get that good. Quentin Blake's illustrations of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory are also enchanting.

Describe your workshop for the Wombat Books Conference.

At the heart of each of my books is my desire to reach a win-win-win: a win for me as a storyteller, a win for the author/publisher and a win for our readers. That pursuit is not easy and I love it, because it forces us to be really creative and in this pursuit we all grow.

I believe that a book that satisfies all these elements can exist, and that product is worth searching for. Finding our way there can be difficult, and this uncertainty is where I feel I can help.

My best successes have come from when I produce work that I love, aspire towards and am proud of. It's not the product, it's the revision that makes art, with taste and with clarity for what you want your audience to feel and you, as a creator, to feel. That's where we push our boundaries.

Every drawing, every thought, every word we write or say is a single step. As a visual storyteller, you are going to be walking a long while. Some of that might be a steep climb, but the beauty of a steep climb is that you are always rising. I can't wait to see you in my workshop, and rise together.

For more great workshops like Giuseppe's, book your tickets for the conference now! Click the image below for more information.

Conference Tiles How to Make Art

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The writing industry with Rosanne Hawke

rosanne hawke young adult authorCan you tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you’ve been in the industry?

My first book was published in 1995 and I’d been writing (or trying to) 5 or so years before that, learning how to write from reading. My 30th book has just been published and I’ve had the joy of rewriting earlier titles. I was an aid worker in Pakistan and the UAE (United Arab Emirates) for 10 years which had a huge impact on my life and creativity. That, and my daughter’s influence, catapulted me into writing.

Describe your typical work desk.

I have a 100-year-old desk that was owned by a late icon of our country town. I like it because it has writing slopes that pull out on each side where I can rest research, the pages I’ve done when editing, or my lunch. There’s a cup of herbal tea and a flask of hot water to keep topping it up. My last few day books are lined up in case I need to know what I said I’d talk about. A glass of sharpened pencils just because I like using them. A pretty stubby holder my daughter made filled with pens. A box of important notes. 

What do you think is the most important aspect of a manuscript?

The characterisation and the voice, which of course has to be conveyed on the first page. If the character is genuine and interesting and the voice distinctive it’s probable the writing will be good as well.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given as a writer?

Write whether you feel like it or not. Once you have the draft in your hands, you won’t be able to tell by the writing which days you had to push yourself and which days you were on a roll. This came from author and academic Eleanor Nilsson, a huge influence on my early career.

Has your writing process changed or stayed the same over the years?

It has changed remarkably, from me just writing to see where the story took me to getting to know my characters so well that they write it for me. Over the years I have developed a process that works for me, but it is always growing and transforming. 

If you weren’t a writer, what job would you love to be doing?

Probably a teacher-librarian. At one point I wanted to be an archaeologist or a historian and work in a library and research things. Or dig them up. As a child I used to write sentences and put them in tins, so I could dig them up again. I like finding things and exploring, which is a lot like writing.

Describe your workshop for the Wombat Books conference.

I have been in the industry now for 25 years writing and teaching and I will share the ‘big picture’ of what it's as an author writing for YA and children (a bit like riding the wind). I’ll share highlights, what I’ve learned and those tips/advice that I’ve gleaned, and maybe a writing secret or two.

For more workshops like Rosanne's, book for our conference now! Click the link below for more information.

Conference Tiles My Writing Journey

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Writing the personal with Lora Inak

DSC 4091Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you've been in the industry?

I've been writing stories since I was a little girl, but I seriously took pen to paper in 2005/2006 and wrote my first middle-grade fiction called Celia Snoop the Fairytale Detective. Of course, this never saw the light of day, but by then I found I couldn't stop writing. I wrote countless middle-grade and picture books, but it wasn't until I won a place in the 2011 Maurice Saxby Mentorship Program and found my voice as a YA writer that I started to write my first YA novel, Unspoken Rules, which was later published by Rhiza Edge in 2017.

Describe your typical work desk.

My typical work desk is pretty much my laptop, which often lives on my dining room table, but also at times travels to my favourite cafes. Between fulltime work, two young children and the chaos of life in general, I often write when and where I can, so you might see me having a latte at my favourite cafe on a Sunday morning, or at my local library after hours. Basically, it's an hour here, a few hours there, and anytime I can find in between. It's not ideal, but for now, for me, it works.

Culture and identity are prominent themes in your book. What interests you most about these topics?

These topics interest me because they are strong themes in my own life. My family immigrated here in the early 1980s from Turkey, and I spent my youth and teenage years walking a swaying cultural tightrope. I often found myself conflicted, attempting to understand where I fit in the world, at school, at home, within my community.

For these reasons, cultural conflict is close to my heart and I love exploring all the implications and impacts of culture and cultural differences within a YA setting in my work. Culture encompasses so much from food, to celebrations and traditions, to family expectations and religion — the scope is broad with endless fodder to ponder and explore.

How do you balance making demands on the reader with taking care of the reader, especially with a teenage audience?

I'm always mindful that teenagers are on the cusp of adulthood yet are often still somewhat naïve and innocent about life. They come to things fresh, with so many firsts, a great deal to learn and experience. I instill this, in differing degrees, into my characters. I will of course always sense-check my work through my wonderful writerly friends, who I trust will be honest with me. All this helps me to shape my characters and stories so that I'm not overstepping or oversimplifying.

What is your top tip for writing stories that draw on personal experience?

I believe that every writer, to some degree, needs to delve into themselves, into their own experiences, feelings, beliefs and thoughts to find that topic or idea that energises them the most. For some, these ideas/thoughts will become a paranormal romance, for others a picture book, but regardless, my tip is to fearlessly delve right in. Find what turns your dial and then build characters and worlds to explore that.

If you could live a day in a literary character's shoes, which one would you choose?

I grew up wanting to be Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables so I would 100% choose her. Her ability to stay positive and hopeful even when the world around held so much bitterness and ugliness, so many scrapes and drama, so much judgment and tribulations, was amazing and inspirational. I've always tried to approach my own life with the same attitude.

Describe your panel for the Wombat Books conference.

I am so honoured to be on a panel with Aunty Ruth Hegarty and Kate Gordon that discusses the role personal experience has played in our writing. I was a massive fan of Kate's Girl Running, Boy Falling, which deals with the confronting topic of youth suicide, and I was fascinated by Aunty Ruth's Is That You, Ruthie?, an account of her time as a dormitory girl. They are both amazingly talented and beautiful writers.

For more great panels like Lora's, book your tickets for the conference now! Click the link below for more information.

Conference Tiles Writing the Personal

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Shaping your antagonist with T.M. Clark

TMClark updated headshot for blogCan you tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you've been in the industry for?

It is 20 years now that I have been actively involved in the writing industry. From the moment I wrote my first article that sold...it has gone so fast! It was a pipe dream when I left school, and though I wrote about three chapters longhand of a Mills and Boons at the beach, it was put in the drawer and the dream forgotten. Only after I had my kids and lived in England did the dream resurface, and I'm so glad it did! I can't imagine my life now without all my story characters in it.

Describe your typical work desk.

Messy — seriously — drives my hubby crazy. I seem to always accumulate paper! But generally I know where things are in the mess and that does his head in more.

Who's your favourite antagonist?

The one I didn't kill, MaNtuli (from Tears of the Cheetah). She has to come back and be as diabolical as she can be in another book.

What makes a great antagonist in three words?

Love to hate.

Can you describe one of the antagonists you have placed in a story before? How were they 'antagonistic'?

The dictionary describes an antagonist as 'showing or feeling active opposition or hostility towards someone or something'. So going back to MaNtuli, she isn't hostile towards a specific thing or person, but if you get in the way of her own agenda, you're in trouble. She doesn't do anything to harm the hero or heroine's journey, but manipulates the people around her to do that for her. Once you know her, you actually feel sorry for her, and in your empathy towards her, you can easily forget that she is the main antagonist in this story.

Is an antagonist always what people perceive? Or are antagonists sometimes a surprise?

For me, my antagonists are not a surprise — you know from almost the get-go that they are the baddie in the story. I would love to write a book with a surprise antagonist, but I think that would be fairly difficult. In saying that, the journey of the antagonist could sometimes be surprising, and the amount of empathy you feel towards someone so horrible can take the ready by surprise. For example, in My Brother-But-One, Rodney is the antagonist. However, I had a reader send me an email saying to him, Rodney was the centre of the story.

Describe your workshop for the Wombat Books Conference.

How to have fun finding your villain/antagonist. As much as we all love the superhero, the antagonist is just as important as they make you love the heroic deeds of the protagonist more. By building a supervillain, you can make the reader love your hero even more, so my time will be spent making sure you have the ying-and-yang of these characters and the balance is there to make them become real 3D characters in your reader's mind.

You can book your tickets to T.M. Clark's masterclass now! Click on the link below for more information.

TM banner dates

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Aleesah Darlison on Writing, Editing and Submitting the Manuscript

Darlison Mar15 029Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you’ve been in the industry for? 

I write picture books, chapter books, novels and series for children from the age of 3 – 14 years. I’ve been published for nine years. My first book was Puggle’s Problem and it was published by Wombat Books. Since then, I’ve had 44 other books released. It’s been a wonderful experience so far.

Describe your typical work desk.

L-shaped to give me plenty of room. Nice and tidy; everything in it’s place. A To-Do List that always has things on it (sigh!), laptop and large screen. I usually have artwork from my kids all around, notes and images from my current writing project and often a writing schedule to ensure I meet deadlines.

What’s your favourite children’s book? 

So many too choose from! I’ve always read anything I could get my hands on, even as a kid. Z for Zachariah, Lord of the Flies, A Rag, a Bone and a Hank of Hair, anything by Victor Kelleher, The Once Series by Morris Gleitzman … the list goes on.

How important is it to proof your manuscript before submitting to a publisher? Or should the work speak for itself?

It’s incredibly important. I find that if a manuscript isn’t proofed, polished and well set out, then the work isn’t going to speak for itself. A publisher won’t even look at a story if the document itself doesn’t adhere to minimum professional standards. The story won’t flow and won’t be written well enough because poor layout often shows poor research of the market and an uneducated writer. One tends to flow into the other.

DSC 6173 minShould authors submit multiple manuscripts or a single manuscript to a publisher at a time?

It depends on the publisher’s guidelines, which should always be followed to the letter. Having said that, life is short, and if you wait months or years for a publisher's response, you might find that life passes you by. With anything, it’s common sense and a sensible medium. Don’t swamp publishers, but don’t be prepared to wait forever before you send your stories elsewhere.

What’s the biggest tip you can give authors hoping to submit to a publisher? 

Research the market. Don’t rely on others to do the work for you. It takes time, knowledge and effort to be successful as an author. Also, develop a thick(er) skin. This industry certainly requires resilience, but the rewards are definitely worth it! 

Describe your workshop for the Wombat Books Conference. 

Being an author is a multi-faceted job, from writing to editing to submitting your manuscript. In this intensive masterclass, I’ll provide an overview of the Australian publishing industry and give invaluable tips for authors. I’ll also work with participants on their manuscripts to target areas for improvement such as structure, voice, language, character, tension, formatting and more. Participants will read their work out for group feedback and if time allows they will receive personalised feedback on their manuscript from me.

You can book your tickets to Aleesah Darlison's masterclass now! Click on the link below for more information.


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