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

Ask Tania: Who pays for what if we get a publishing deal?

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Dear Tania, 

A friend and I are writing a book that includes lots of styling and photography. Who pays for photography and props, if we get a publishing deal? Do we pay or does the publisher cover those costs?


Hi, Mark,

Your question depends on a few factors.

With the type of book you're planning, you have a lot of work ahead in terms of time and money investment. It's kind of scary to work on a book with no guarantee of publication--this is what creators the world over face, and no matter how much financial investment you need to outlay (if any), you still have to put in the time, heart and effort, with no guarantee of publication, let alone financial success.

So, I guess the first thing to say is this: welcome to the world of publishing! It's a place where relying on income doesn't really exist--at least, not at the beginning. With recent reports saying most authors earn as little as $13,000 p.a. from their writing (and that's often active, full- or near-full- time writers!), it can be rather discouraging. But the good news is, income does increase over time, and with dedication.

But back to your question.

Introducing A New York Year and A Texas Year!

Monday, 23 May 2016

Yeeha - advance copies have arrived!

Tina and I have gone stateside with the latest in our A Kids' Year series for EK Books ... introducing Texas and New York!

We had a blast working on these titles and it was fascinating learning more about the incredible and varied cultures and traditions in both states. We hope our adorable characters warm the hearts of people everywhere, no matter where you live.

Order your advance copies right here - A New York Year, A Texas Year. And you can see all A Kids' Year in the series so far (Australia, England, Scotland) right here.

Out August!

Ask Tania: How much do I present to a publisher in order to be taken seriously?

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Dear Tania, 

How much do I present to a publisher in order to be taken seriously? Do I need to have the whole book written to go to a publisher, or just a few pages or the concept?


Hi, Lisa,

Every book, every creator, every publisher, every 'route' to publication is different, and oftentimes as uniquely individual as each and every book.

Some people submit to a slush pile and are picked up (rare!). Some people submit after entering a competition. Some submit through an agent. Some submit an idea to a publisher they may have met at a conference (HIGHLY recommend attending conferences!) and that idea is interesting to the publisher, so they ask them to flesh it out and submit. Some might win the chance to submit directly.

Some might receive a manuscript critique and be picked up that way. Some are already published or know publishers well and can submit directly, or hash the idea out with their publisher first. Some are also commissioned to write something the publisher is looking for, and some are just famous and so will be published straight-up, whether or not they can actually write.

National Simultaneous Storytime 2016

Saturday, 21 May 2016

It's on again! National Simultaneous Storytime 2016 goes live at 11am on Wednesday 25 May 2016. Readers all over the country will be reading the same book at the same time--how cool is that?

I will be at Dickson Library in Canberra for this fabulous event, which aims to encourage kids to fall in love with reading. I'll be reading Jol and Kate Temple's sensationally funny book I Got This Hat. I'll also be reading two of my own books--Smile Cry and Tottie and Dot.

Hope to see you there! It's FREE but do register here.

Ask Tania: Being a writer is physically tough--how can I keep fit??

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Dear Tania,

Being a writer is physically tough. I'm spending so much time sitting, sitting, sitting, especially when I get passionate about what I'm working on (which is often!). Not only am I putting on a little weight, I can feel my bones rusting. How can I keep fit?? How do you keep active? Do you have a routine? Any tips appreciated!


Hi, Mallory,

Oh, I love this question, and it's very timely for me right now, having come off 10 months of illustrating for my first self-illustrated book. Let's just say I'm feeling a bit rusted and pudgy! I find longer projects (like Australia Illustrated) and deadlines are the worst times of all--and not only is this period of inertia physically challenging, it absolutely takes a mental and emotional toll, too.

It took me many years to learn how to create a finer work/health balance. I would easily commit to 12 - 18 hours a day in front of my computer, most days of the week, and I never understood the concept of 'sharpening your axe', until I heard the actual 'sharpening your axe' story--and it finally made sense. That, and back pain and jeans that wouldn't zip up and a brain that had turned to mush.

Here is the story ...

Chief Minister's Reading Challenge - school visit

Sunday, 15 May 2016

One of the great joys of being a children's author, is chatting with kids about story--and hopefully, just hopefully, having them fall in love with books.

In my role as an ambassador for the Chief Minister's Reading Challenge for 2016, I get to have that chance even more than I regularly do. I also get to visit brand new schools, like Charles Weston school in the far west of Canberra--a brand new, state-of-the-art school, with fabulous kids eager to learn and grow.

I talked to them about books--about writing books, illustrating books, reading books, loving books. I talked about how much fun books can be, and how important story is. The kids were so receptive and so curious. They giggled and commented and asked questions and threw themselves straight into the pages of the books I'd brought along, the very moment they could. Now--that's what we want.

One of my favourite moments was showing them a 3D story called Jim Curious. These three little poppets (below) donned their 3D glasses, only to be met with a rather ferocious shark! They loved it--and they were so brave! (Note the little one biting her nail!)

career evolvement

Friday, 6 May 2016

Sometimes we think of evolving as 'getting better', and while this is absolutely true, we can also look at evolving as 'shifting and changing'--maybe even changing direction in a particularly dramatic fashion.

This shifting and changing is something I didn't really expect when I embarked upon a writing career. I just always presumed I'd write books. Forever. I didn't even think the genre of my book writing would change. I presumed it would always be the same (at the time, adult fiction).

Then things morphed into children's books, then came editing, then came publishing and book layout and design, then came marketing and social networking and teaching and presenting... and now, nearly 30 year later, I've found myself on an illustration journey (among other things), and sometimes I take pause and realise it's all quite surreal.

How did this happen?

Exploring Time and Place Through Children's Literature

Saturday, 30 April 2016

from Australian Kids Through the Years, image by Andrew Joyner

Not sure if you know (!), but I love books. And reading. And other cultures. And watching children grow and learn and thrive with the inclusion of all three of these vital components in their lives.

A few months ago, I was asked to write an article for Connections magazine, an initiative of the Schools Catalogue Information Service, which serves schools and libraries in both Australia and New Zealand. The article has just been published in the magazine, and is also online.

In it, I discuss the importance of exposing children to books featuring other places, times, races and cultures. I talk about the benefits of multicultural exposure, which include broader minds and a deeper understanding of both the self and others. Children exposed to other ways of life have a greater willingness to explore and experience life to its fullest, and to pursue friendship, relationship and career opportunities unbound by prejudice, stereotypes and limited thinking.

Now do you know why I love books, reading and other cultures?

You can read the entire article right here.

Smile Cry WINNERS!

Monday, 25 April 2016


Thank you to everyone for entering my comp to win a copy of Smile Cry. Some of you entered by leaving a comment and some by email. Your entries were so heartwarming, and oftentimes hilarious!

And now, I have great pleasure in announcing the two winners, as chosen anonymously by my two kids.

Congratulations go to:
Reena Balding
Vanna McAlister
Congratulations, Reena and Vanna (who entered by email). I hope you love Smile Cry. Please email me at and your book will soon be winging its way to you!


Friday, 8 April 2016

Lisa-Marie Kerr

Sometimes, we all need a lull. A period of less frenzied activity. A time of creative connection without the pressure of production.

More time to ponder, less time to do.

More time to wander, less time to rue.

I've spent the last month in a state of Lull. At a slower pace. After a deeply-dedicated, lengthy period working on my first illustrated book (I'm revealing the title at the end of this post!!), putting in about 900 hours and putting on about 900 kilos in the process, I've taken this time to walk, read, crochet, eat good food, and do yoga in the sunshine.

One Word Wisdom with designer Lisa-Marie Kerr

Monday, 28 March 2016

1. What is the best thing about running your own design company?  

2. What’s the worst thing?  

3. How did opening Bear and Sparrow make you feel?  

4. What do you hope it brings its customers?  

5. Who has influenced your business the most? 

6. What has been your biggest career reward? 

7. What's the most important contribution design can make to the world?  

8. What’s your biggest career goal?  

9. What else do you like to do?  

10. What’s next?  

Lisa-Marie Kerr refers to herself as an ideas piñata ... even she struggles to keep up with what she describes as the divine inspiration she receives daily. The owner and chief designer for stunning children's homewares website Bear and Sparrow, Lisa-Marie is a woman who craves variety and ... being different, which she uses as her motivation when designing new pieces for Bear and Sparrow. Married with three beautiful children and the most gorgeous dog, Lisa-Marie is an everyday woman working hard to make her mark on the world. Bear and Sparrow is 100% Australian owned, designed and made.

Learn more about Bear and Sparrow at the website

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