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It’s always a thrill and a delight to be a part of the launch journey of one of our favourite regulars; multi-published author, Teena Raffa-Mulligan! This November, she, and debut illustrator, Kym Langfield, are celebrating the release of their heart-warming picture book, Solo Dan! What an honour to have them both here this week, sharing all the behind the scenes processes, inspirations, and creativity for a book that sings to your heart. Connect with these amazing creators and welcome them into your homes! 🙂
Congratulations on the release of Solo Dan!
Teena, what inspired you to write a story like Solo Dan?
Romi, it began with a dream in which Dan ‘told’ me his story and showed me how he felt – the kid on the outside always looking in at everyone else having family fun and making out that wasn’t what he wanted too. It was interesting to have this story idea come to me because I grew up with a strong sense of family belonging. Dan’s life was a complete contrast to my own.
Kym, what were your initial thoughts upon reading the manuscript? What resonated with you the most?
The story immediately connected me with students I have taught over the years as a primary teacher. I have taught children who have gone through similar experiences to Dan, so it immediately pulled on my heartstrings! I had quite an emotional connection and knew immediately that I wanted to illustrate it!
You’ve collaborated brilliantly together, with the Daisy Lane Publishing team, to produce a book that is carefully thought out, bright and engaging for the reader. What was the process like for each of you?
Solo Dan was a story that took years to evolve. It went through a number of rewrites with lots of ‘rest’ periods in between where I was working on other stories. Every so often it was as if Dan tapped me on the shoulder and said, ‘Hey! Remember me?’ His story has always felt important to me, so it was exciting to have Jennifer at Daisy Lane Publishing take it on for her list.
I don’t always have the privilege of being involved in the illustration process but Jennifer gave me the opportunity to be part of the illustrator choice and to see the pictures as they went through the various stages. With picture books I like the illustrator to have lots of space to be creative. After all, it’s a collaboration and my story is only one part of that. The only request I did make was for Dan to have red hair and to have him always on the outside looking on.
Jennifer and Teena were both so warm and encouraging. They both provided me with plenty of positive feedback about my illustrations along the way and also some helpful suggestions so that we could make the story even more special.
What was your most rewarding part of the journey?
For me, it was receiving a ‘yes’ from Jennifer because that meant Dan’s story would be shared. It was also exciting to receive the first print copies.
This was my first opportunity to illustrate a whole picture book, so that in itself was so exciting! Being able to work on such an important and meaningful story, written by a highly accomplished author was such a privilege!
What is your favourite spread or line from Solo Dan? Why this one?
When you’re part of a family you’re never alone.
It’s the essence of the story – and to my mind the concept of family is not restricted to the traditional idea of Mum, Dad and their biological children. Family can take many forms. It’s more about the sense of belonging and acceptance than the configuration of the family group.
The spread where Dan is surrounded by his new parents and when he realises that he will now have a family of his own, was the most special and touching part to me.
What are your personal favourite activities or traditions you like to do with your own families?
We have three children with their own families so when we all get together for celebrations it’s quite a crowd and I love those gatherings. Until last year everyone came to our place on Christmas evening and the buffet festive feast would be followed by a stroll to the beach and a cricket match in the quiet cul de sac opposite our house.
For weekend lunchtime visits by a couple of families I’ve continued a practice my mum started when our children were in their late teens: DIY salad rolls. The table is set with a selection of salads, sliced meats, vegan and vegetarian options, boiled eggs, cheeses, pickles and mayo, and a range of bread rolls (including gluten free). Everyone makes their own and it’s an easy way to feed a crowd with varying dietary requirements. In winter we add a pot of vegetable or pumpkin soup to the mix. The round-table conversations are the best part of these lunches.
Oh, like Teena, Christmas is such a special tradition in our family! The whole lead up to Christmas Day, such as being part of Christmas carols, conducting our own family Christmas concerts (now run by my own children and nephew!), seeing the Myer Christmas windows in Melbourne, is a really special time for us. We really get into the decorating, making cards and gifts, cooking delicious treats and just really enjoying being together!
What do you hope readers will gain from reading this story?
I’d like it to encourage a greater awareness that sometimes what people are showing on the outside is not what they are feeling on the inside. I hope it will prompt some discussions about family, acceptance and belonging.
I hope that children (and adults!) will really appreciate how lucky they are to have a family and people who care about them.
Anything else about yourselves or Solo Dan you’d like to share?
Just a heartfelt thank you to Jen and Kym for their roles in creating the book to share with readers.
I’d also like to thank Jennifer and Teena for such a fun, special and warm experience! I couldn’t have imagined a more wonderful way to start my journey in illustrating books!
Thank you, Teena and Kym, for taking the time to discuss your valuable book! 😊
Teena Raffa-Mulligan writes whimsical and quirky stories for children of all ages, and fun, flirty romances. Her writing life has also included a long career in journalism, during which she has written countless articles on all manner of subjects and edited magazines, anthologies and newspapers.
Teena now spend her days creating stories and sharing her passion for books and writing by presenting writing sessions to encourage children and adults to explore the world of their imagination.
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Kym Langfield is a children’s illustrator, author and teacher. Her titles include Adventure Guide – Teddy Town (Picture book, The Book Company, 2014) and Just One Wish – Christmas Tales Anthology Three (Short story, Storm Cloud Publishing, 2018). She gained her diploma in Illustrating Children’s Books from The London Art College in 2016, and she has experience in editing and writing book reviews.
Kym has a passion for watercolour, and also enjoys combining pencil, ink and collage. She is a primary school teacher, specialising in literacy and visual arts. Kym also creates commissioned art on a casual basis.
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