Last time in our interview with Edwina Wyatt we learned how her own obsession with picture books led to publication, despite her attention meant for other things. In today’s instalment, we find out why this chosen career path is so important to her and the ways she has immersed herself in her role as an author. I love how she remains so humble in light of her magnificent success!
Edwina, we’ve already established you love writing for children, but is there something in particular that warms your heart?
When a kid yells out ‘boring’ at the crucial part of your story when you are doing a reading and it only makes you laugh. And it’s still worth turning up to work the next day.
To be fair, it was a boring bit…
Noted, young sir.
Do you write in genres other than picture books? How would you compare writing these to other forms of writing?
I do indeed, but only recently. My publisher at Walker Books, the incredible Nancy Conescu, suggested to me last year that I might try my hand at writing something for older readers. I am forever grateful that she has seen potential for my voice to stretch in new interesting ways and is willing to mentor me in this capacity.
As a result, I am working on some bits and pieces that I hope to share soon.
Two of your books, ‘In the Evening’ and ‘Together Always’ were awarded Notable Books in the Children’s Book Council of Australia Awards (2016 and 2017, respectively). Congratulations! How did these come about and what was your reaction to the news, on both accounts? What does this mean for you and your writing career?
I was very humbled on both occasions to be included alongside so many hardworking and talented creators. I think focusing too much on awards is not healthy or helpful, though. Many of the best books that I cherished through the year and predict as winners often miss out and I could list dozens of books I think deserve more recognition than they have received. If it was an objective measure of quality, then all the same books would win all the awards, but they don’t of course.
And how to measure the success of a book? The pressure on authors is immense: too literary, too commercial, too complex, too simple. You can win an award but not be commercial. You can miss out on an award but sell lots of books or make foreign sales. You can miss out on sales and awards but be loved by one reader. You can write a book that parents and teachers love but kids don’t or vice versa. You can do well with one and have your others compared to that. Or any other combination. There are just so many ways to measure success and all of them are equally fraught. So best not to concern yourself with it at all.
As an author, my goal is just to keep working; to keep creating in times of self-doubt and white noise. And I want to support all those other creatives at any stage of their careers, and thank them for giving their voice so generously to us.
And if incidentally, I make one little human feel a little less afraid, care a little more, or make them laugh or feel something or even say, I don’t get it? Then that is fantastic. Even if it has nothing to do with my story, but is merely a product of the time that someone is spending with them to read it. It’s enough just to have been part of something ephemeral and fleeting and for my kids to know that I spent my time doing something I am passionate about.
A very positive and wise attitude!
What kinds of events or presentations have you been involved in as a guest speaker? What value do you see for authors in presenting to children?
I am represented by the Children’s Bookshop Beecroft Speakers’ Agency. I have done some school visits and have been a guest speaker at various festivals and literary events including Sydney Writers’ Festival, Goulburn Writers’ Festival and the Southern Highlands Writers’ Festival. I have done the last couple of years at the Illawarra CBCA Kids’ Day Out and Literary Lunches: great fun. There is enormous value to be found in doing these presentations, although it’s hard to quantify. Perhaps for authors, it is just the unexpected moments that come from saying yes to challenging (potentially terrifying) things.
What projects are you currently working on? What can we look forward to seeing from you in the near future?
I am excited about my forthcoming picture book THE DANCE OF FOX AND BIRD out next June 2019 with Little Hare, illustrated by Alice Lindstrom.
Also another with Little Hare later called OLIVE.
I am also eagerly awaiting SOMETIMES CAKE in 2020 with Walker Books, illustrated by Tamsin Ainslie.
There are some other projects on the boil, too, including some exciting collaborations, which I am looking forward to sharing as the details are confirmed.
That all sounds hugely exciting! Looking forward to seeing your newest creations soon! Thanks so much for talking with me, Edwina! It’s been truly fascinating! :)
My pleasure, Romi. Thank you.