You were an early childhood teacher before deciding to have a go at writing as a career. What led to the idea for your first book, Digby's Moon Mission, and what's the book about?
One night, my son and I (he was three years old at the time), were chatting and looking up at the sky. He noticed that the moon was only ‘thin’; shaped like a banana. We hypothesised about the causes and he claimed it must be hungry and in need of food to make it full. I loved his thinking behind this concept and later that night began jotting down ideas for the story.
Why did you self-publish?
I’d submitted stories to traditional publishers for about two years with either polite rejections or no response at all. After drafting Digby’s Moon Mission, I had the story professionally assessed and edited. I also had a wonderful mentor who had pursued self-publishing for some of her own work. My mentor and illustrator saw great promise in the story and character concept. I didn’t want Digby to become another manuscript tossed aside or overlooked by trade publishers. He was different. He needed to share his voice. The best way to ensure this was to self-publish. I researched for 12 months, the processes, challenges, pitfalls and benefits involved with creating a trade-quality children’s book.
In 2013 you created the Facebook page Create It Kids, to share activities for kids with others. Why did you decide to use that brand to publish Digby's Moon Mission?
Create It Kids was the result of me brainstorming strategies to gain an interactive audience and become a presence in creating for the early childhood market. My plan was to expand the brand’s umbrella and incorporate my books, music and then performances. It now publishes the Digby Fixit book series and Digby Fixit Live! stage shows.
You launched a Pozible crowdfunding campaign to publish Digby's Moon Mission. What was the process then of getting your book printed and published?
I raised $7200 which was $1200 beyond my target. I had contracted a children’s booksmith team, Tadaa Book, and Anil Tortop (from Tadaa) created the gorgeous illustrations. The team did all the formatting, typesetting and more. I sourced all that was required to publish the book, including ISBN, printing and distribution. The publishing process was much the same for my second book except that instead of print-on-demand, I opted for higher-quality, offshore bulk printing.
Why did you adapt Digby's Moon Mission for your one-woman stage show?
I decided to produce the live-show to assist marketing my stories within educational settings and on the road. Combining my skills and love of performing, I incorporate storytelling, props, song and puppetry. The production is titled, Digby Fixit Live! and is presented at council libraries, early childhood services, primary schools and festivals. Educators are provided with a set of follow-up activities, linked to the Early Years Learning Framework and Australian Curriculum.
On March 4 you'll launch your second book, Digby and the Yodelayhee....Who? at Wallsend library. What is the plot?
Digby is baffled by a mystery noise and sets out with his friends to discover what or who is making the super-duper sound. This book has an accompanying, original song which can be downloaded via a QR code featured in the book. I’m currently working on the stage-script, and plan to tour interstate, later this year.
How hard is it to make a financial fist of being a writer when you also have two young children?
I imagine it’s similar to anyone building a business. I’m fortunate to have had a lead into the industry with the success of my crowdfunding campaign. I would have found it impossible to get my career off the ground otherwise. My youngest was only nine-months-old when my first book was published. Time, and income vs financial outlay, would definitely be the biggest challenges.
The hardest part of running a creative business?
Trying to market a brand, character, stories etc that children, families and educators find engaging, entertaining and most importantly, unique.
I’m working on a handful of manuscripts to enter into competitions and submit to trade publishers. I’m also a few chapters into writing a middle-grade memoir. With Digby, I’m drafting several early reader chapter books. It will be wonderful for kids to continue following Digby’s adventures as their reading interest and ability matures. I’m also building Digby’s interactive kids’ website, which features character profiles, songs, videos, activities and his blog, and have plans to design a ‘Fixit!’ creative and problem-solving app.
What is your advice to budding authors?
The following things help me: I’m always researching the craft and industry, immersing myself in children’s books and studying how they are created, language use, themes, illustrations, technique. I invest in professional editors and submit polished manuscripts. I enter competitions to assess my work’s suitability and potential. I also try to keep my goals in sight in the face of obstacles. I work incredibly hard and celebrate every little bit of progress.
I didn’t want Digby to become another manuscript tossed aside or overlooked. He was different.Renee Price