The Integrity of Elizabeth Mary Cummings – Author Interview

#theforeverkid #blogtour #booksontour #day5

It is an honour to speak with an author so involved in the community and so passionate about providing her audience an authentic, complex and sensitively considered literal experience that they can apply so practically in challenging situations. Elizabeth Cummings provides us a snippet of how The Forever Kid came together, her current engagements and future endeavours. Thanks, Elizabeth!


Your story deals with a sensitive topic on loss of a loved one through a joyous celebration of Johnny’s memory on his birthday. How did you find the right balance between grief and joy for an audience that may be as young as four? Was the language a challenge to perfect?

That was a consideration I carried very consciously in the course of editing and rewriting and reworking the initial story. The story has not changed terribly much but each word is carefully chosen. I wanted to avoid the state of pity or trite ‘lip service’ to this massive matter; I wanted it to keep its integrity. It had to be real and representative of a regular family. After I was happy with the ‘final draft’ I took it out into the community to beta readers, to those with lived experience and those who were professionals in the field of bereavement and I asked them to comment on the story’s appropriateness and tone. It was well received and the main change was adding the part that describes Vince’s mixed feelings of resentment towards Johnny as he ‘used to get away’ with things. This was thanks to a bereaved mother who talked to me about the complex emotions siblings have rather than a simple 2D sadness of losing their brother or sister. Children’s feelings involve far more than that and so by including the angle of unresolved feelings for Vince a reality and depth was added to the story.

Illustrator Cheri Hughes has gorgeously captured the essence of family and remembrance through her dream-like-quality illustrations. How do you feel she portrayed your intention? Was there much collaboration throughout the process?

Cheri and I are yet to meet. Once I heard BSP had selected her to illustrate I checked out her social media and was impressed with what I saw. I trusted BSP so after being asked for any initial thoughts re the style or images I left the creative process of that side to her and BSP until the thumbnails and preliminary sketches and colour schemes were sent through. I gave feedback and as the project got closer to completion there were artistic details that were discussed via email and the occasional phone call with BSP, then this was relayed to Cheri. I felt involved and liked how she developed the cloud story into a motif of a ship and how this metaphor was used throughout the book.

You are a strong advocate in the literary community with school presentations and workshop, both in Australia and internationally. What other kinds of events have you been involved in recently? 

I am currently in Lithuania guest lecturing at Vytatas Magnus University in Kaunas on creative writing and meeting with a Lithuanian poet whom I am collaborating with as well as researching into some future projects regarding literature in translation and narratology.

Anything else of excitement you’d like to add? News? Upcoming projects? TBR pile?

Some of my new projects include: two poetry collections, a new picture book called The Green Striped Hoodie about bullying and resilience, finding a publisher for a project I have been working on to do with trauma and recovery as well as a couple of environmental projects and some more Verityville stories!

Thanks, Elizabeth! Look forward to seeing all of your projects come to fruition! 😊

 

For more of an in-depth interview with Elizabeth, please skip across to Teena Raffa-Mulligan’s blog, In Their Own Write!


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