How to Write Like a Professional

How to Write Like a Professional
6 Surprising Mistakes That Make Writers Look Like Amateurs... and How to Avoid Them

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Kathryn Apel Tells All About Her First Picture Book

Lothian Hachette, 2009
Welcome, Kathryn Apel! Thanks for being with us today. Kat has published two books, one chapter book and one picture book. This is the Mud! is her debut picture book.
When a cow gets stuck in the mud near a farm dam, chaos ensues. Rescuers come to help – but when they, too, get stuck, who will rescue them?
Question ONE: How has reading picture books to your children made you a better parent?
I think in reading with our children we are gifting them with quality time, cosy cuddles, rich discussion, imagination, creativity, and the keys to unlock a range of education and career paths as they grow and progress through life.  After all, reading gives children the keys to pursue their own research, follow written instructions and work independently. In reading to our children, we show them we value them – and we value reading/literacy. With the gift of reading, a child will never be bored. During our reading time, my boys’ choice of book gave me insights into their interests, and our incidental discussions obviously taught them more than I’d imagined. Both boys are excellent little critters of my own writing. They highlight plot weaknesses – and clearly articulate ways to fix them. And I know they’re good, because when I’ve ignored their advice, experienced editors have said exactly the same thing! (So now I listen. :P)

That's good advice. Always listen to your children.

Question TWO: What are three of your favorite picture books (because we all know you have way more than three)?
This is kinda easy for me  but only if I can answer in terms of ‘authors’ – not specific picture books.
  1. My absolute favourite PB author who continually inspires me, is Lynley Dodd. I love her playfulness, her rhythm and rhyme and her great gulping mouthfuls of words. If you haven’t read about the escapades of Hairy Maclary (and friends) you are missing out on a treat! Lynley Dodd is an absolute delight!
  2. Pamela  Allen is another prolific author who I have great respect for. Her PBs are widely varied, but a family favourite was Alexander’s Outing. But then there is also Belinda, Who Sank the Boat, and Clippity-Clop, to name a few.
  3. There will always be a sentimental attachment to ‘Duck in the Truck’ which inspired me to write my muddy PB, This is the Mud! Besides, we (boys & I) loved reading that book. Brimming with laughter and fun.

I'm with you, Kat. I'd have to choose three favorite authors, I think. It's tough to choose just three!

Question THREE: What was your road to publication like?
  • 2002:  Started writing for children.
  • September 2005:  Wrote This is the Mud! It was so simple to write that I was embarrassed to own it, and only shared it with my two boys and my hubby, before sheepishly sending it off to Penguin Books Australia.
  • September 2006 The inaugural CYA (Children’s and Young Adults) writing competition was held in Australia. I read all my MSes to my boys, and asked them to rank their top three. This is the Mud! was (adamantly) my youngest son’s favourite, and my eldest’s 2nd favourite. I entered This is the Mud! in the preschool category, and my eldest’s pick in the primary category. Both entries were written in rhyme. Both entries were short-listed, and sent to Helen Chamberlain (then the editor of Lothian Children’s Books) for final judging. I was thrilled when ‘This is the Mud!’ won, and my other MS came 2nd.
  • October 2006:  Formal subbed to the ‘new’ Lothian-Hachette, and heard immediately that they were interested in publishing This is the Mud! – but it had to go through a formal acquisitions process before official acceptance…
  • February 2007:  Penguin Australia emailed to apologise for the delay, and ask if the MS was still available. They commended it for great rhythm, a nice Australian touch and good humour. Squeee! Two publishers interested in my PB. Eeeeeek! Two publishers interested in my PB! A very stressful time, deciding what was best and ethical, with no formal offer from either publisher at that stage. I felt my loyalty was to Helen since she had given of her time in judging the competition, so I waited…
  • March 2007:  Yay and hurray. This is the Mud! was officially accepted for publication by Lothian Hachette, with an expected June 2008 release date. Crazy-but-true, my first chapter book was also accepted for publication that same month. After 7 years of writing for children… boom boom! :D
  • May 2007:  I acquired an agent, who was with me through the publication process, though we have since parted.
  • November 2007:  The contract arrived, and publication was delayed.
  • 2008:  Publication delayed until May 2009.
  • March 2009:  Advance copies of This is the Mud! arrived unexpectedly, which prompted havoc at our rural letterbox. My boys worried somebody would hear me and ring for help. Since we live several kilometres from anyone, that was highly unlikely – but ever-so-cute! (It is possible that passing motorists wondered what that loopy woman was doing, flashing muddy books and gesticulating wildly as they drove past our letterbox.)
  • May 2009: We launched This is the Mud! at Under 8's Day, with children from nearby schools and playgroups in attendance. There were hundreds of children and parents in attendance, with a whole range of muddy themed activities. My one regret was that I wasn't able to sell copies of the book at the launch because it was deemed a conflict of interest, since I also taught one-day-a-week (but not the launch day) at that school. SUCH a missed opportunity! But an awesome day none-the-less. You can read ALL about it!

High points for me. Not one word of my manuscript was changed during the editorial process, and I was involved throughout the whole process of publication – even down to font and layout on the page. Though the marketing department changed the title to Mud! less than a month before it went to print, I was able to share my reasoning with them, and the book reverted to This is the Mud! with days to spare, to the delight of many. Phew! In fact, everything I asked for was in the book, including a (gorgeous!) beefy cow (who is in fact modeled on my pet cow, Amber – though I was happy for it to be any beef cow) and a rural Australian setting. I couldn’t have asked for more.

Wow! What a great story. Two books accepted in the same month. And without an agent. Congratulations!!!

Question FOUR: How might teachers use your book in the classroom?
  • This is the Mud! fits into units about: farm, Australia, mud, weather, quest, rescue, working together… It is also a model for rhythm and rhyme within poetry units.
  • There are a number of activities drawn from the book on the Kids’ Stuff tab of my blog, with more planned.
  • Teachers and parents might also like to peruse the launch day post and be inspired for activities.

Inspiring activities, indeed! 

Question FIVE: What are some writing tips you can offer to writers seeking publication?
  • I heard a great quote at my first writing conference, and it’s been my mantra ever since. Writing is 5% inspiration, 5% creativity and 90% DETERMINATION.
  • Above all other things, you must be Determined. (And yes, that capital ‘D’ is intentional – such is the emphasis and importance.) I still must be Determined, as I push for publication on other books.
  • Pursue publication – with passion, professionalism and integrity. Determination!

Kat, thanks for joining me today. You certainly fit the bill for being one 'D'-termined lady! Congratulations, again. 

** Please note: Australian spelling has been used during this interview. **

13 comments:

  1. This is an excellent interview, thanks Christie.

    Kat, I so appreciate your sharing, very vividly and in wonderful description, about your journey.
    I could feel your excitement and delight. It pays to be determined - to never give up. Congratulations on your creative accomplishments thus far. :)

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  2. Great interview Christie. Nice to see how This the Mud came about. I am sure there will be many more super pbs of yours out there soon Kat. I love This is the Mud!

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  3. Lovely interview, thanks Christie! Kat, it was really interesting hearing the process you went through to get This Is The Mud published - you are most certainly Determined and as Lynn said above, your excitement and enthusiasm shone through and I am sure that is reflected throughout your pbs :)

    (And I LOVE the picture of you and Amber on your website - I want a pet cow too!)

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  4. Great interview, and wonderful to learn more about the lovely Kat and her path to publication. Always inspiring!

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  5. Thank you for all your lovely comments, girls. And to Christie for asking me to visit your blog. It was a lovely thing, to reflect on such an exciting/important time of my life.

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  6. Great interview Christie, and great answers Kat. I loved reading about your journey to publication.

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  7. Thanks for the interview, Christy and Kat. Interesting read about the road (sometimes muddy?!) to publication...
    Continued good luck.

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  8. Fabulous interview. I learned things I hadn't learned through other articles about Kat. I really enjoyed hearing the path to publication. It puts some perspective on the whole process.

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  9. I'm glad you all enjoyed the interview. Thanks for stopping by. Be sure to check in on July 2, the first Saturday of July, to see who gets the next HIGH FIVE!

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  10. Delighted to see all these familiar faces, here. Thanks for stopping to read/comment. :)

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  11. What a great interview! And how exciting for Kat! I'm so glad they stayed true to your vision for the book. I absolutely love to hear about author's writing journeys!

    Carla

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  12. Great to meet you here, Carla. And you're right - they caught my vision and kept it true. The best thing about the PB was that it was everything I hoped it would be, and more.

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  13. I really enjoyed reading your interview with Kat. It gave an exciting glimpse into Kat's writing journey to publication. This is the Mud! is a fabulous book with many more to follow I'm sure!

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