Path to Publication: My first picture book contract - words & pictures
In early 2015 I was offered my first picture book contract as writer and illustrator. The idea grew out my 4 year old son’s obsession with insects. Last year, we went on meandering bush walks together, searching for stick insects and inspecting spider webs. Seeing the insect world through a child’s eyes helped my idea for a bug book and sprouted a lot of noisy characters that couldn’t be ignored. Once I started drawing them I couldn’t stop!
I signed up for the Illustrator Portfolio Showcase at the SCBWI Conference in Sydney in July 2014. I never knew such a thing existed or I would have done it sooner, as it’s a great way to have work seen by the industry. They have a room set up with illustrators' portfolios on tables and invite publishers and art directors to view. The illustrators don’t go in while all this happens. I was new to the industry and things opened up to me dramatically around the time of the conference. I’d been making a lot of new work and joined in with the 52 Week Illustration Challenge and shared lots of work online too. Along the way, I discovered that writing a book is like pouring a whole lot of time into some uncertain cup in the sky, really exciting and really hard.
At the SCBWI conference I took up the opportunity to book a portfolio critique with crazy talented Bruce Whatley. Showing my pictures to an illustrator who has worked on so many books was most inspiring and a piece of advice that sticks in my mind is, “Make it how you want it and not how you think it should be”. It’s really valuable when you’ve moved away from client-led design work to your own creative projects. Bruce suggested I get in touch with Scholastic and recommended I find Rebecca Young. She’s a picture book author and has written some beautiful books. She didn’t attend the Illustrator showcase but asked Andrew Berkhut, Head of Publishing at Scholastic to scout anyone she might like and he came back with a postcard of one of my illustrations. I got in touch via email and my little postcard paved the way. Go little postcard!
My first picture book, with lots and lots of bugs, will be published in July 2016 with Scholastic Press and it’s wonderful news that it’ll make it into the hands of little readers. So, keep up the drawing and word wrangling because you never know what opportunity might be around the corner. Since then, I’m working on the illustrations for another picture book too, out next year with New Frontier.