Book Week 2016 Highlights

Friday, 26 August 2016

I've just hung up my book bag after a full and sensational Book Week here in Canberra. It's such an enriching, fulfilling week of talks, presentations, book readings and conversations with the very people we create books for (and their highly supportive teachers and librarians!).

Seeing Stories Finale Event wrap-up

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Today I had the great pleasure of attending the Seeing Stories Exhibition Finale Event at the University of Canberra. Organised by the National Centre for Australian Children's Literature (NCACL) and featuring hand-picked originals by some of our finest illustration talent, including Terry Denton, Ann James, Alison Lester and Bob Graham, The Hub was alive with stunning artworks, authors, illustrators, kids and book lovers.

This exhibit is but a small slice of the precious John Barrow collection, now owned by the NCACL.

Bob Graham

Ask Tania: How do I throw an amazing kids' book launch?

Monday, 15 August 2016

Dear Tania,
I'm launching my first children's book soon and wondered if you had any advice to help me? I've never done this before! What's usually expected? And weekday or weekend? How do I throw an amazing book launch?
Thank you!


Hi Katherine,

Congratulations on your first kids' book--how wonderful! I would love to help you with some advice for a fabulous launch, and so, below, you will find a full chapter from my Fantastical Flying Creator e-course (more here). I hope you find it helpful ... and I hope you have a wonderful launch!


The Kids' Book Launch (from The Fantastical Flying Creator)

Your first book launch is a true Life Moment. It's one of the most exciting things you’ll ever do, and will be packed with supporters. The more books you launch, like anything in life, really, the more the shine wears off, but I must admit they’re still a lot of fun and I still do launches for most of my books.

Your publisher is unlikely to throw you a launch unless you’re Jeff Kinney, but don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive.

You can absolutely have more than one launch, and you can host them locally or interstate. If you have family or friends to stay with, it makes things even cheaper.

To attract guests, you should offer something to your audience—a giveaway, bookmarks, cake, goodie bags, balloons and activities for kids … any of these things will attract people, especially cake. People will come for cake.

A Scottish, English, New Yorker, Texan Year

Thursday, 11 August 2016

It's so lovely to see books 2 through 5 in the A Kids' Year series powering along. These books took a lot of dedication and a lot of work, and a lot of falling in love all over again with these amazing places! Remember, if you can't book a flight to the other side of the world right now, you can always travel through the pages of a book ...

I particularly love these reviews on The Mummy Project:

I wonder which two destinations will be next in the series??? Two more out in 2017. Post a guess in the comments below, if you like.

One Word Wisdom with author/illustrator Christina Booth

Sunday, 7 August 2016

1. What is the best thing about being an author? 

2. What’s the worst thing? 

3. How did creating your picture book Too Many Sheep make you feel? 

4. What do you hope it brings its readers? 

5. What else do you like to do? 

6. Who has influenced your writing the most? 

7. What has been your biggest career reward?

8. What is the most important contribution an author/illustrator can make to the world?

9. What’s your biggest writing goal? 

10. What’s next? 

Christina works from her Launceston studio overlooking a lake and a variety of wildlife. She illustrates her own books and great stories for other authors. A number of her books have won awards including Kip (Windy Hollow Books), the story of a noisy rooster living in the city, which won an Honour Book Award in the 2010 CBCA (Children’s Book Council of Australia) Book of the Year Awards and Welcome Home (Ford Street Publishing), the story of a whale as she returns to her ancestors home, which won the Environmental Award for Children's Literature in 2014.

Christina's latest book, Too Many Sheep, is out now! Learn more about her fabulous books at her website.

Ask Tania: What's the process when someone is commissioned to illustrate a book?

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Dear Tania,
What's the process when someone is commissioned to illustrate a book?
Thank you!


Hi Jolanda,

Like most things in publishing, this is a far-reaching question and has many moving parts, but I'll do my best to give you a general overview!


Traditionally, publishers (both trade and independent) like to appoint illustrators to books. They use either in-house illustrators whose work resonates with their overall book list, and with whom they have an established relationship, or they commission illustrators they've had their eye on, or whose work might complement the book's text, genre and 'feel'.

Commissioned illustrators may be experienced or emerging--and again, this is dependent on many factors. A lot of the time, publishers like to go with someone who understands the book creation process and how to interpret and add visual value to a manuscript, but this doesn't mean emerging creators can't achieve contracts, especially if they spend time reading and studying picture books (or other types of illustrated books) to familiarise themselves with layout, design, construct and the priceless nuance that imagery can add to text.

Many illustrators submit their work to publishers, and most are willing to receive unsolicited portfolios, as looking over artwork takes just a fraction of the time than reviewing a manuscript. Visit publisher websites and check out their illustration-receipt process. There's absolutely no harm in having your work out there. You can also showcase your work at many children's book festivals and conferences. It's well worth doing this.

If you're unsure how to present your work/create a portfolio, there are countless tips online--just google it. You can also google what publishers particularly esteem in regard to illustration. Being able to effect 'movement', emotion and character consistency are all highly regarded, as is an understanding of attractive colour palettes.

CBCA ACT Branch Christmas Book Appeal

Monday, 1 August 2016

Veronica Melville (CBCA ACT Appeal Coordinator), Diana Richards (ALIA), Sarah Steed (Libraries ACT), Minister Meegan Fitzharris, Leanne Barrett (CBCA ACT Vice-President), Tania McCartney, James Redden (Harry Hartog Woden) and Jayne Murray (Yarralumula PS)

It's August! Which means Book Week (my favourite week of the year) and also the Children's Book Council of Australia ACT Branch's annual book appeal. I went along to Civic Library today, where Meegan Fitzharris, Minister for Transport Canberra and City Services, officially launched the appeal.

The ACT Branch will be collecting books at a number of sites during August to donate to local charities and refuges, as Christmas gifts for disadvantaged children.

Their 2016 donation target is 1600+ books.

Minister Fitzharris making a book donation

Collection sites are only open during the month of August. Additional locations will be added, so check the CBCA ACT Book Appeal page for updates.
  • Libraries ACT branches: Belconnen, Civic, Dickson, Erindale, Gungahlin, Kingston, Kippax, Tuggeranong and Woden
  • ALIA ALIA House 9-11 Napier Close Deakin
  • Dymocks Belconnen, Canberra Centre and Tuggeranong
  • Harry Hartog Bookstore Woden
  • Queanbeyan City Library

Let's make 2016 our biggest donation pile yet! and give the gift of books to kids who have so few, this Christmas.

One Word Wisdom with author Kaaron Warren

Sunday, 31 July 2016

1. What is the best thing about being an author? 

2. What’s the worst thing? 

3. How did writing your novel The Grief Hole make you feel? 

4. What do you hope it brings its readers? 

5. What else do you like to do? 

6. Who has influenced your writing the most? 

7. What has been your biggest career reward?

8. What is the most important contribution an author can make to the world?

9. What’s your biggest writing goal? 

10. What’s next? 

Kaaron Warren has been publishing horror and science fiction for more than 20 years. She’s won awards close to home (the Canberra Critics Circle Award) and far away (the Shirley Jackson Award). Kaaron has lived in Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra and Fiji. She’s sold more than 200 short stories, three novels (the multi-award-winning Slights, Walking the Tree and Mistification) and six short story collections including the multi-award-winning Through Splintered Walls. Her latest novel is The Grief Hole (IFWG Publishing Australia) will launch at the Canberra Writers Festival in August 2016.

Pre-order The Grief Hole here, and learn more about 
Kaaron's fabulous books at her website.

Ask Tania: What's the best way to work towards becoming a full-time author?

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Dear Tania,
What's the best way to work towards becoming a full-time author?

Hi Cathy,

I could write 1000 paragraphs on this! And even then, it would be part-way subjective and would fail to cover all the intricacies and variations and far-reaching tentacles.

Some of us need to work full-time jobs, some of us work part-time, and some of us have the luxury of all the time in the world. Some of us have small kids, older kids, grownup kids, no kids. Some of us are in marriages, some not, some in supportive relationships, some not. Some of us have self-belief and some of us don't. Each author's life situation and journey is unique, and so very many variables contribute to the acquisition (or not) of a full-time writing career.

I could also regale you with the myriad things you 'should' be doing, but honestly? ... other than the fact that each person has a unique life situation that must be navigated around, authorship is changing. Our online world is changing. The way we read books is changing. The way we write and publish is changing. And it's all changing so fast, I reckon by the time you read this, my 'advice' would be redundant.

So, I'm going to go back to brass tacks. I'm going to hand pluck the 'little things' that I've learned in almost 30 years in the writing industry (first magazines, then adult non-fiction, then children's). I reckon if you can resonate with the following stream of consciousness, you stand a good chance of securing full-time authorship.

Bolded entries are especially important. At the end of these points, I'm going to cover Self-Belief and The Flow--also especially important!

Here we go ...

Ask Tania: I'm media-terrified. How do I promote my work without putting my foot in it?

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Dear Tania, 

I'll get straight to the point. I'm media-terrified. Interviews unnerve me, as I never know what question is coming, if my responses will sound dumb, if I'm saying the wrong thing, or--worst of all--if I don't even know what to say. This is also a worry when I need to do presentations. How do I promote my work without putting my foot in it?


Hi, J,

You are not alone! Even the most seasoned creators experience angst and nerves before an interview or speaking engagement. I don't think I'll ever get used to it, personally, and there's been times where I've literally not slept the night before, I've been so angst-ridden. 

I think the first thing to remember is that feeling nervous is absolutely normal, and is a human  reaction that almost everyone experiences, no matter how confident or seasoned they are. When we really absorb this knowledge and really embrace it, we feel a lot better about ourselves.

Beijing Tai Tai turns Chinese

Thursday, 21 July 2016

I loved living in China (2005 - 2009). Absolutely loved it. It changed my life--and the life of my family--in ways too numerous to mention. I think the world would be a very different and far more peaceful place if we, each and every one, had the chance to live in a country that's hugely different from our own. One that stretches and opens our hearts and minds. One that takes us out of our comfort zone and teaches are that we are all, indeed, one race. The human race.

Could you imagine? Yes, the world would be a very different place.

I really miss China and would love to go back and see how much it's changed since 2009. I miss the people, the food, the quirks, the smells, the ceremony. I miss the sweetest and tiniest things, like the call of the nut and seed sellers as they peddle their 3-wheeler carts through the streets. The eye-boggling beauty of the flower and fruit markets. The ceremony of tea.

So, it's a real honour to have Beijing Tai Tai translated for the Chinese market (thank you, Exisle Publishing and Shanghai Joint Publishing Company and Big Apple Agency, Malaysia!

It's quite surreal to see my text in Simplified Chinese, not to mention the interesting (but very Chinese-market-savvy) cover and the even more interesting occasional internal images!

I'm not too sure what this mixture of reto line-drawings have to do with Tai Tai, but I love them all the same--they're so kitsch!

And now to see what the Chinese market thinks of the book...

a dent in my reading stash

Sunday, 17 July 2016


I've had a truly lovely school holiday break. I had every intention of consistently pausing, reclining somewhere soft, and reading until my eyes crossed ... and I'm pleased to report this actually happened! I know! Of course, reading never happens as much I'd like--but then, is it ever possible to read as much as we'd like? The answer to that question is [Pokemon] No.

I even let the house go (so, today--a massive cleaning spree; even the windows) and just did things that made me smile. I went to galleries and sipped great coffee with my husband, shopped with my girl, cooked and pottered with my boy, caught up with friends, walked in nature, watched period drama and Disney movies, caught up on documentaries and some comedy, and clocked up three or four certificates on (currently studying graphic design and upping my Adobe Illustrator skills).

However. As is always the way, 'work' crept in (even as I dashed and skipped and curled under a blanket to avoid it), so I also worked with my publisher and graphic designer to send Australia Illustrated to print (another sneak peek image at the bottom of this post), signed my very first illustration contract for an exciting National Library book (will reveal more eventually, but all hush hush for now), heard exciting news about some of my books, including an overseas translation for Smile Cry!) and worked on some internal images for one of my junior fiction WIPs.

Of course, none of these things proved at all pesky! But they did get in the way of my reading marathon. Ahem. Nevertheless, here is what I managed to pass my eyes over these past three weeks. I got through a hefty chunk of these two--amazing to the power of a billion times 40!

I also got some old and new classic works though my eyeballs and into my heart:

I also made a larger dent in these (have been struggling a little with both for some time--not sure why, just am; these things happen sometimes ... but they're both worth persisting with):

And I also managed (it's really not a stretch, trust me) to devour some sensational children's books--about three times this amount, in truth, but these are my faves:

I hope you and the kids had a sunshiny, book-ridden winter holiday period and have a productive and fulfilling catch-up time ahead. To set myself firmly back in work mode, here is another illustration peek at Australia Illustrated (out November). Have a fabulous week!


when you know it's time to take a holiday

Friday, 24 June 2016

The thing about being an author, is that you never really have a break.

Even when you're in a low- (or no-) production period, there's more than enough to do--catching up on maintenance, accounts, tax, filing, acquittals, blog posts (like this one), mentoring, events, promo, marketing, social media, planning, committees, volunteering, applying for grants, reviewing, emailing, promoting others and their books and events, updating or upgrading your website, writing workshops, creating presentations, speaking, visiting schools, doing interviews, writing guest posts, writing articles, planning book launches, studying, honing skills, sketching, learning new digital art techniques, scratching the back of or liaising with beloved friends and colleagues--and, heaven forbid, perhaps writing new, un-contracted material.

Oh, and maybe washing your hair occasionally.

illustration styles for different types of books + dot eyes!

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

So, I've been a bit 'elsewhere' of late.

Had a few Life issues to deal with including the second brand new PC to blow up on me in two months (the first one lasted 3 hours, the second one 2 months and 3 hours--such quality!).

It seems the Universe has been trying to tell me something about the crappy Lenovo All-in-One I bought (highly do NOT recommend this machine), and instead wants me to have the custom-made, multi-screen Starship Enterprise flightdeck I really, truly need on this illustration journey (but cannot afford--I shall be planting a money tree in the morning).

Ask Tania: The work/life balance ... how do I write AND manage a household?

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Dear Tania, 

My question is about making time to write amongst a day filled with jobs, family commitments and household tasks that just don't do themselves (sad face). How do I write AND manage a household? How do you do it?


Hi, Cate,

I would have to say this is one of the questions I'm most often asked! So it's clearly something a lot of people struggle with ... including me.

It's a convoluted topic, so let's break it down:

They say there's nothing like mother (or dad) guilt. Although I'm not a guilt-tripper by nature, as my writing has grown into full-time work, the seemingly endless hours I need to put into it has seen that sordid guilt trickle in. Ach--it's SUCH a pain.

The way I deal with it? I remind myself that mothers (and dads) need to be people, too. We also need to do what we love--and invest the time in doing it--and, REALLY importantly, to model passion and drive and commitment and hard work for our kids.

Neither of my kids go without food, clean clothes, a warm house, a great education and oodles of love. Sure, I may not spend endless hours playing Monopoly or watching blockbuster superhero movies with them, but they get my full attention when they need it or ask for it.

Admittedly, both are teens now, and pretty much do their own thing/are out a lot of the time. So, I know this is harder for women (or men) with littlies. When mine were little, I would write early in the morning or late at night or when Dad took them to the park--and I would actually write, not stack the dishwasher. I know this, too, can be hard, especially if you're exhausted. But, as I'll discuss shortly... it really comes down to How Much You Want It.

When my kids were smaller, my house was perennially prepped for a Vogue photo shoot. Now, anyone I know is forbidden from doing the pop-in, lest they catch the six inches of dust under my dining table, the opaque glow of a long-unwashed window, and me looking like an old bag lady with limp hair, ugg boots and a stain on my top.

Favourite Author Illustrator Websites

Saturday, 28 May 2016

Books and illustrations are not the only delight we can enjoy when it comes to children's book creators. If you're anything like me, you'll love perusing their gorgeous websites, too. I love them for their design, simplicity, whimsy and sheer cleverness. Ever-aspiring to create a 'better' website, these serve as enormous inspiration for me ... and if you're just starting out, these will make a wonderful reference point for your own site.

I know there are many, many I've left out and I'll potentially add to this as I find more. Let me know if you know of a spectacular website--leave a comment below.

In no particular order ...

a u t h o r / i l l u s t r a t o r

a u t h o r / i l l u s t r a t o r


a u t h o r

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