I’ve Written a Children’s Story… Now What?

Children reading children books

I often get requests from people who have a collection of stories, or spent months writing a tale and are now unsure of what the next step is.

The first thing you need to do is, give your story to a child. Even if you do stick figures for the illustrations, or whatever, if the child doesn’t get it, then you know you need to go back to the drawing board. The second thing you need to decide is: do I want to publish through a publishing house, or do you want to self-publish?

Publishing Houses

If you want to publish through a publishing house then I suggest doing a bit of research on the internet as well as checking other children books that you think are similar to your own story and  see who they published with. Go to those publishing houses websites and see what their submission guidelines are (it’s usually somewhere on the website). Check if they take manuscripts from authors, or if they only accept through agents. If you want to be published in the UK and USA – most of these publishing houses only take from agents. Here in South Africa, however, they are usually open to accepting straight from the author. If you are interested in getting an agent, then I suggest doing a bit of research in this area. Check who other authors are using, compile a list and then submit to them. Continue Reading

Time for a Polka Dot Antagonist

Pink Camels and Floating GranniesIn Pink Camels and Floating Grannies I stayed away from having a villain type character. The story was based around Monkey’s grandparents coming to visit and spending the weekend with her, so I didn’t feel like it needed a direct conflict character. It was more a series of family events that everyone could relate to (well – at least a little). My grandmother was a main character and she created a lot of explosive interactions which I felt was enough. The feedback I have been getting from children who have/are reading my story confirmed that I was correct. They are all adequately embarrassed about my Grandmother.

In the second book, my feeling are a little different. In this book, my focus is around Monkey and her friends as they embark on a school camp. All my favourite teachers will be there, including Mrs Pelliot and maybe even Mr Trousers. I have also included a new teacher, Mr Mefer, who is the gym teacher (with a large moustache, of course). During the trip to their camp, Monkey, her friends and Mr Mefer stop for a lunch at a petrol station.

It was at this point that I felt like something needed to happen. I stopped writing.

I didn’t know what needed to happen. Did Mr Mefer relate an interesting story? Did something happen at the gas station? Did something happen to the Kombi they were driving in? I let these ideas float around in my head as I carried on my day.

At 5:30am on Sunday, my youngest cat – Gandalf – started scratching at the bedroom door wanting to get out, which my husband does.  Of course then I am now awake. I could toss and turn till a decent hour, but that’s just going to irritate everybody. It then hits me.

Grandma and Grandpa
Grandma and Grandpa from Pink Camels and Floating Grannies

Continue Reading

Interview: Author Julia Richman

Julia Richman Interview

I chatted to Jules Richman about writing, her books and future projects. I have had the honour of illustrating two of Julia’s enchanting books and look forward to creating future stories with her.

Celeste: Hello Jules! Congratulations on your latest book ‘A Huddle of Hippos.’ Before we chat about it, can you just tell us a little about yourself?

Jules: Thank you, Celeste! And thank you again for your fantastic illustrations – collective nouns have never been so exciting, vibrant and fun!

I’m Jules Richman. I live in the glorious Mother City (Cape Town) with my husband –  Tim, son – Nicholas, and cat – Katya. Nicholas is 18 months old and loves exploring and being outdoors, so I spend most of my time these days running after him making sure he doesn’t swallow a stone or pull out my pansies…

I love writing colourful stories for children and I also love art, interior design, flowers, food and wine! I am an animal lover and a sensitive soul, in search of kind, caring hearts.

Celeste: Your first book, Katya’s Hairy Tales: The Bacon Chase was published last year. What lead you to try out for children stories? Continue Reading

Projects Old and New

Collective Nouns

Jules Richman, who you might remember wrote Katya Cat last year, has this time put together a wonderful tale of Sam who finds collective nouns everywhere on a safari. I have been having such fun painting Jule’s imagination of robbing mice and hugging hippos. Here is just a sneak peek of some of those landscapes. If you would like to pre-order the book, at R100 a book, you are welcome to drop me an email (mrsbeckerling <at> gmail <dot> com), with ‘Collective Nouns’ in the subject line. Continue Reading

Letting Go and Writing What You are Comfortable With

Illustrator South Africa

Somewhere between being a child and an adult my writing got stifled. I don’t know whether it was all those articles I had to produce for clients, amazing books I read by other people or finding out that other writers always have these epic, deep, character building, thoughts and I just had a few mushrooms and bug-spray, but somewhere, some time, at some point, things took a wrong turn. I keep looking at books that have whole worlds created by authors and thought ‘I can do that.’ I looked at stories with epic endings and thought ‘I can write that.’ I looked at characters that blossomed and changed and thought ‘I have that.’ And it was true, I did have it. But I never finished it. I wrote out story plots with twists and turns, worlds with pink candy floss for trees and orange bumble bees. I even tried my hand at limericks and prose. But did I finish it? Nope.

Well that’s not entirely true, I did finish one here, another there. I then got excited that I had finally completed it and would email it off to publishers. Slowly over months I would get emails dribbling in sort of saying it needs more work. By this stage I wasn’t interested in it any more. The truth was, these stories were not my favourite. Within a month of completing the few I did, I realised I didn’t actually like them much myself. Sure there was a paragraph here, and a chapter there that brought me joy, but the story line just didn’t feel right. Continue Reading

SCBWI – South Africa – becoming a member

scbwi SA

I was recently asked by the SCBWI (Society of Children Book Writers and Illustrators) to come on board and assist with their website content – content management if you like. For those of you who know me, this kind of thing comes naturally and I was delighted to be involved. I am pleased to announce that in a wonderful partnership with Elaine Ridge, Marjorie van Heerden and Samantha van Riet, the South African SCBWI blog is now beginning to take shape.  In return for my assistance, I was to be a member of their team.

Now I should say, that I have been stalking this group of people for over a year now. In fact, I was there, hanging out, chatting to them, going to events, well before I was even a published illustrator! I had gone to a book launch to meet an international illustration, Jane Heinrichs, who you might have remembered I interviewed that one time.

I had ‘met’ Jane via social media and found out that she was launching a book she was illustrating, with a Cape Town writer (Jane normally lives in the UK), so I went through. It was a little bit of a disaster, as the publisher seemed to have forgotten about it and the venue also were very confused, but in the end the author and Jane still managed to sign a few books, although mostly because of people they had personally invited. It all felt a bit like a flash-mob book launch! Continue Reading

Writing Children’s Picture Books

A One day interactive course with children’s author, Alan Durant, on Monday – 12 September 2016 from 10am – 15.30pm

00 Alan

Location: Sasnev (huis der Nederland), 4 Central Avenue, Pinelands, Cape Town.
Cost: R750 – includes a light lunch.
Bookings: alandurant58@gmail.com

Whether you want to write for you own children or relatives, or for publication, this one-day workshop class with award-winning UK author Alan Durant will reveal some of the key tehniques and considerations of writing picture books for young children. Fun, practical and informative, this class will provide plenty of opportunities for writing and is suitable for writers of all levels – and also illustrators keen to learn how to tell their stories through words. Continue Reading

Interview with Caroline Pedler

Caroline Pedler

I have two sides to my creative personality.

Celeste: Hi Caroline, thanks so much for taking time out to chat to me today! I just love your work! I understand that you have done a lot of illustrations for children’s books over the years. Can you tell my readers a little about yourself and how you came into this industry?

Character Sketch from Little Bear's Big Jumper
Character Sketch from Little Bear’s Big Jumper

Caroline: Hey Celeste, Yeah thanks…. I was living at home in Cornwall after a disastrous gap year and bad health and worked on my illustration folio. I had a lucky break showing my folio to a card company in Bath and from there on in I started illustrating greeting cards for a company called Gordon Fraser, under the umbrella of Hallmark Cards in 1997. I worked for card companies for a couple of years, illustrating numerous ranges and making a living from that and bar work. I loved it. I was then offered my first children’s book around the same time, for Oxford University Press, and then another for Readers Digest in Bath. From one of the the first ever greeting cards I did with Hallmark, a company called Parragon wanted me to do a book based on that card, of Father Christmas. I did 7 more books in that range, plus another 6 over the next few years. That started my career. I also took part in exhibitions in local galleries at that time and got an agent via that connection. So for a while I did various illustration work and then I started working with the children’s publisher Little Tiger Press in 2005. I have been on a rolling book contract with them ever since. Meaning I am contracted to do 2-5 books in one contract, spanning over 12 months – 2 years in advance. I prefer a two book contract so I don’t feel trapped. Little Tiger are a great company and really look after me. To the extent of taking me to business parties and taking me out for dinner in Palaces and lovely restaurants in Bologna, Italy, while at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair. Continue Reading

Mike Boldt Children Books & Illustration

Mike Boldt Illustrator

The ‘D’ is silent

Celeste: Welcome Mike, to my blog! Before we get started, can you tell my readers a little about yourself?

Mike: Thanks Celeste. I appreciate the invite and opportunity. I live in the beautiful countryside just outside Edmonton, Alberta, where I’ve lived most my life enjoying comics, cartoons, sports, and ice cream. I also love creating stories and drawing and have been doing so for as long as I can remember. Professionally, I’ve been working in as an illustrator for over 16 years working almost exclusively on products for children.

I Don't Want to be a Frog
I Don’t Want to be a Frog

Celeste: You style varies a lot, from realist to very stylised work. Can you tell us what your favourite project has been so far?

Mike:  I have a couple favorites. Recently, it would be the I Don’t Want to be a Frog book, by Dev Petty, as well as my next book, A Tiger Tail. Both those books were such a natural delight to work on – which also helps having an incredible editing team that I really connected with. I should add that when I have time for it, I love doing personal doodles. I should really try to make more time for those.

Celeste: Not only are you a creative illustrator, but you’ve also been published as an author. How does it feel to be on the ‘other side’ as a writer?

Mike: It’s a very different approach to a project for sure. Drawing comes very naturally for me, where writing does not. When I get a manuscript that someone else has written, most of the hardest work has been done. As an illustrator, I get a lot of ideas and concepts I’d like to do or write. But an idea or simple concept is nowhere near a finished story. Writing a great story is the most difficult thing I have come up against, but something I also enjoy immensely. Continue Reading

Whimsical Illustrator – Shirley Ng-Benitez

Shirley Illustrator

My inspiration are my kids and nature.

Celeste: Hi Shirley! Thank so much for chatting with us today. I must say I love your work – it is very whimsical! Can you tell us a little about yourself, before I start bombarding you with questions!

Shirley: Hi Celeste! You are so kind to ask and thank you for your generous words, I really appreciate that! I am a children’s book illustrator and writer living in the Bay Area, California and have been illustrating for the children’s market for about five years. I made the transition to illustration in 2011 from many years in the graphic design field. I started out after college working for American Greetings, Inc. as a Professional Lettering Artist, and then worked for different design firms specializing in the toy industry, direct marketing, product marketing, and technology. I continue to work with my clients in design through gabbyandco.com, my company established in ‘98. Continue Reading