‘Once a Creepy Crocodile’
Written by Peter Taylor
Illustrated by Nina Rycroft and includes a sing-along CD by Rusty Berther
Published by The Five Mile Press
Release date 1st July 2014
See that title? That was me trying to be clever working some of the story line of Once a Creepy Crocodile into it.
Once a creepy crocodile swam toward a riverbank, his eye on a very tasty brolga. When the croc invites the brolga to afternoon tea the brolga’s friends raise the alarm that it’s a trap and the croc must make do with a sneaky snake treat instead!
(From The Five Mile Press website)
For a detailed review click here.
Brisbane Write Links members are very lucky to share their children's writers group with Peter Taylor. Not only is he a wonderful writer, he is extremely generous with his time and in sharing his knowledge with emerging writers and illustrators.
Here is an insight by Peter Taylor on how the story came to be, from inception to publication:
Once a Creepy Crocodile was first envisioned in collaboration with fellow author Julie Nickerson at the Ipswich Festival of Children’s Literature in 2009, in a workshop given by Jan Ormerod. Julie graciously agreed that I could develop it, but it could equally have been her story.
Jan followed its progress with much interest, but unfortunately passed away before hearing of its acceptance.
In its multiple drafts, there were many times I asked for opinions and suggestions from others in a range of networks: members of the Australian College of Journalism Yahoo group, SCBWI, Kids-writers Downunder Yahoo group, Career Booster network and others, and I also paid Jackie Hosking to see if she could make suggestions through her verse service. There are none more generous than children’s book creators.
The first 250 words were first pitched to a panel of international agents at the SCBWI Symposium at Bologna in 2010. All the American agents said ‘What’s a brolga’ and ‘What’s a dingo? I don’t think our children would be interested in those.’ But New Zealand agent Frances Plumpton was encouraging, and so were the attendees. At one time I was advised to make it longer, which I did. I rejected an offer to partnership publish.
It scored well in the CYA competition, but didn’t make the shortlist. You just have to find the right editor and publishing house team, because all members of the team have to support a text at an acquisition meeting, even the sales reps. One vote of ‘No’ is usually enough for a rejection.
Fortunately, at a paid appraisal at the Sydney SCBWI Conference in 2012, Karen Tayleur, from the Five Mile Press loved it. I immediately asked Nina Rycroft, who’s one of my favourite illustrators and who was at the conference, if she would be prepared and available to illustrate it if asked and the price was right. In a formal submission, I told Karen that Nina would like to be considered. But there was a problem. The words are to the rhythm of Waltzing Matilda and the sales team believed it would sell better if it had an attached CD of it being sung which meant there were some Copyright issues of the waltzing Matilda melody to be sorted out.
The illustrations Nina has done in watercolour are absolutely wonderful, vibrant and delicious.
The CD was recorded by Rusty Berther who has appeared on Spicks and Specks and sung at every AFL Final Breakfast over many years.
Wanting to see your picture book traditionally published certainly asks for lots of patience, dedication and a never-give-up attitude. Thank you for that insight, Peter. Here is the interview:
How long have you been writing for children?
I started making up bedtime stories for my own children in the early 1990s. Some stories were so boring that I’d fall asleep while telling them and the children would still be wide awake, so my wife suggested that I should enrol in the Australian College of Journalism ‘Professional Children’s Writer’ course, which I started around1997.
How did you feel when you first saw the illustrations?
Unlike the book’s watercolour versions, the first illustration sample that I saw was painted in acrylics. That was as vibrant and beautiful as are the pictures that were used , and I knew that potential readers would love them. People always comment first on the illustrations in picture books, they never start by saying ‘What wonderful words’.
I am curious, you mentioned you were offered a partnership publishing contract. Why did you decide against it?
For one thing, I couldn’t spare the cash that they required, but so many people loved the text that I considered that there would probably be a traditional publisher somewhere, at some time, who would recognise its potential to be successful for all concerned, a business who would pay me and not require my financial outlay. And I believe that, generally, traditional publishers have the best track record in marketing and promoting books, for example, by employing sales representatives who talk to and enthuse bookstore proprietors, and these publishers’ distribution mechanisms are the most efficient in getting copies into the hands of those who may chose to make a purchase.
Have you got any advice for unpublished writers in how to get published with a traditional publishing house?
Never give up trying - everyone receives multiple rejections, even the most famous authors and illustrators. Go to talks, do courses and workshops, talk to published authors and learn industry expectations. Keep reading and writing. Pay to have have stories appraised by traditional house editors at conferences and festivals. Network with editors and publishing professionals (including sales reps, they also have a say in the acquisition process). Meet and talk to as many editors and staff in person as you can (which can often be done without cost by attending book launches, award ceremonies and the like) with the hope that they will recognise that you are a normal, civilised and professional person, someone who is unlikely to refuse to consider suggestions for changes in the editing process, someone who is unlikely to phone three times a day to check progress but who will probably deliver amendments on time , the kind of person they would like to work with.
What are you working on now?
I keep making small changes to several stories that were once considered ‘finished’, but which I now think I can improve, ready for another submission. I’m creating a decorative border and calligraphing someone else’s text, which is lined up to be published, but I’m not sure when, and I have a historical creative non-fiction biography of 19th century hermit who boarded himself up in his house for 25 years. That’s maybe YA, and has been on the back-burner for far too long. And my website is 14 years old and needs rebuilding, as does a retaining wall and my carport...
Hm, that is a serious 'to do' list!
Your story rhymes beautifully and rolls off the tongue very naturally, how hard is it to write in rhyme? Did it involve many revisions or are you a natural?
Thank you! Writing in rhyme is fun but not easy for me. I’m not a compulsive rhyme writer. It’s rewarding, but hard work! Rhyming is usually not the most difficult part. The hardest thing is making the storyline flow, too, and maintaining the beat rhythm with no missing or added syllables. Each phrase has to come naturally in a perfect and logical sequence, just as you’d speak in conversation and the story wasn’t rhyming. You can’t contort lines to something unnatural to make a rhyme. It must be a good story, whether it’s in rhyme or not. In the writing process, it’s really easy to believe that certain lines should be retained simply because they fit and rhyme well - whereas in fact, in order to keep the actual story cohesive, or avoid a problem elsewhere in the verse, it would actually be better to ditch or re-write the whole verse completely and make it totally different from this original version.
There were many many revisions over three years and large numbers of suggestions were received from other writers when the going got tough. Changes continued to to be made even after the editor and I thought it was finished ...in order for Rusty Berther to sing it to his favoured musical arrangement, and I provided him with about 10 new alternatives for one line.
The CD is lovely with a version of the your story and the original Waltzing Matilda version, did you ever dream that your story would also be a song?
Not initially, when writing it, but later I did fancy that it could be played and sung at a launch if it was ever published, and also that school choirs and musicians may choose to sing and play it. I’ve retained the rights for the words to be used as song lyrics and music scores are now downloadable from my www.writing-for-children.com website and I’d love to see and hear people’s renditions on YouTube. I’ll send them a small gift if they post there. I certainly never considered that a recording would be included in the book. I believe that was the idea of the publisher’s sales team. The rhythm of the words closely matches ‘Waltzing Matilda’ and I love Rusty’s performance.
Well, I'd better get going and record my children singing your song, but before I go, where can we buy your book?
It should be available in Australia from ‘all bookstores’ and eventually, I hope, in other countries too. And here at www.booktopia.com.au. The recommended price is $16.95.
There will be more launches of Once a Creepy Crocodile. Watch this space.
Authors and illustrators from Brisbane Write Links immersed themselves in industry news, writing and illustrating master classes and were surrounded by kidlit elite at the 2014 Sydney SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) last week.
For a full report on each session, read the Roving Reporters blog posts on the SCBWI blog. And for more impressions on the conference read posts by Illustrator Tanya Hempson and Author/ Illustrator Yvonne Mes.
To make this conference even more exciting there were several book launches, two of whom were by Write Links members!
Peter Taylor launched his first picture book, Once a Creepy Crocodile, with The Five Mile Press
Pamela Rushby launched her YA historical fiction novel, The Ratcatcher's Daughter, with HarperCollins.
One of my favorite events was the Illustrator showcase where over 40 publishers went through the many portfolios on display. Several Write Links members had their portfolio on display among whom: Tracey Lennon, Tanya Hempson and Peter Taylor and author Andrew King's, Engibear's Dream, illustrator Ben Johnson.
I just wish the organisers had left the portfolios out a bit longer in order for the rest of the delegates to savour all the artwork on display.
Quite a few Write Link Members had an amazing weekend at the CYA dinner and conference where three of the six writers on the CYA Success Panel were also Write Links members. Congratulations to Caylie Jeffrey, Karen Tyrrell and Samantha Wheeler!
And while we are talking about success stories, here are a few more!
Sharing Write Links successes will now be a regular feature on our blog. I know of several other Write Links members with new and upcoming successes to share in the very near future.
We finish this post with some great tips and insights, including highs and lows, from each featured author from their road to publication.
Melanie Hill as Melanie Bird
18 is an Anthology of short stories for Young Adults collated by Vision Writers. Melanie’s short story is titled ‘The Black Queen'.
Road to Publication:
In September of 1996, a collection of speculative fiction authors founded Vision Writers. Now, in celebration of eighteen years bleeding on the page, we present 18, a collection of stories showcasing our best emerging talents.
Featuring cave crocodiles and spell absorbing beards, a seance with soul, a night in a gypsy caravan to make all your wishes come true and a journey through hell that will make you swear to be good. Come with us to rebuild the world clock, face the dragon queen and hide from the thing under the bed.
18 is self published anthology using the editing and self-publishing expertise of some of the Vision members. The stories are aimed at young adult to adult readers.
The e-book version can be purchased from Amazon for $1.07. Print on Demand hard copies can be ordered through the authors for about $9 a copy. Purchase your copy here.
Publication: Bedtime Stories for Busy Mothers
Road to Publication:
After trying my hand at children's picture book writing, I found that my words appealed more to adults than children, so I started a blog with weekly essays about life matters and imperfect parenting and haven't stopped writing since, for myself and several other publications.
A friend suggested I self-publish a collection of essays from my blog, and hey presto! the idea for Bedtime Stories for Busy Mothers was created! I researched how to self-publish, found a printer I liked in Brisbane, a cover illustrator and an editor to help me with the work I'd done. I asked several close writer friends to critique the final draft, and after a lot of hard work by many people, the book was successfully launched before Mothers Day 2014.
The target audience is women between 25 and 125, mainly mothers, but plenty of men have been enjoying it as well, and non-parents, so it has something for everyone in it.
You can purchase your copy here.
Publication: STOP the Bully
This is a children’s book for 8 to 12 year olds, teachers, parents and school counsellors.
Road to Publication:
I’m a survivor of childhood bullying and parent-teacher bullying. I’m passionate about empowering children with an uplifting story with bully prevention skills. I wanted to show all perspectives of the bullying problem including the victim and the bully.
The ending of the story came to me first. Then I wrote the story backwards over 18 months. STOP the Bully was Beta read by members of my Genre Writers group plus Charmaine, Jacqui and Leslee from Write Links.
I independently published with the help from editor, Sally Odgers, Book Cover Cafée and illustrator Trevor Salter who designed the cover characters.
STOP the Bully is supported by Kids Helpline & Logan Mayor Pam Parker, aligned with Kids Matter, Education Queensland
Available at Amazon Black Cat Books Riverbend Books and Book Shops here.
Publication: Undertow (Anthology)
Road to Publication:
Jocelyn's story ‘Dear Sam’ was published by Prana Writers, a Gold Coast writing group in May 2014. This is one of 20 stories in an anthology titled ‘Undertow. - Tales from Outside the Flags. ‘ - a unique publishing venture.
Prana Writers received funding from The Regional Arts Development Fund, Queensland Government and the City of the Gold Coast. Each chosen story features a historical photograph which shows some aspect of the Gold Coast environment from the sea to the hinterland. ‘Dear Sam’ is set in the Numinbah Valley in 1942 and my chosen picture was the Natural Arch. This place was of particular interest to me as I had discovered its magic as a child and later this was a special place to which we often returned over the years.
Undertow is available from Amazon for $17.95 plus postage. Purchase your copy here.
Tips for emerging writers from our featured authors:
Join a writing group or two. Camaraderie and shoulders to cry on are essential in your journey as a writer.
Set yourself realistic and achievable goals. Review your progress regularly and you will be surprised at how much you achieve.
Don't be afraid to self-publish. There are plenty of people to help you on your way, and in the time it takes to be 'discovered', you could have published your own book. Never scrimp on quality and make sure you have trusted people to edit your work who will be absolutely straight with you. Be prepared to hear bad news about your craft! You don't need to spend a million dollars for a great product- it's possible to work smart within a budget.
Enlist key supporters prior to publishing for possible logos and endorsements.
To acknowledge that this is not an easy road at times, what has been the most frustrating experience on the road to publication?
Trying to re-write and edit two drafts of my story over Christmas while we were driving to Tasmania and back with a car full of kids and limited internet coverage.
Having to sell my own products to strangers is really hard work- firstly, it's difficult for most people to blow their own horn, talk to strangers and become a centre of attention in the public arena. Start off small, practice with people you know at book launches and small events if you're frightened to promote. Go to other book events and launches to see what's involved. To sell books, published traditionally or by yourself, you will still need to self-promote.
Smooth sailing but a few hiccups with the printer forgetting to list, Stop The Bully, on world-wide distributing channels. All fixed now.
And lastly, what has been the most rewarding experience since publication?
Downloading the book onto my own Kindle and reading the final versions of everyone's stories.
Having strangers write to me to tell me how much they've enjoyed the book and how they connected with me through my writing! Oh, and being asked to be a speaker at the Brisbane Writers' Festival in September 2014!
Taking STOP the Bully to CYA Conference, Gold Coast Writer’s Festival, to schools & libraries.
I hope you enjoyed reading about the successes of these Write Link members, we look forward to sharing many more of these stories in the future!