I’m so excited to be posting part two of this interview with children’s picture book author, Amelia McInerney on the day of the OFFICIAL RELEASE of the first of her FIVE picture books, The Book Chook. I was fortunate to have had a sneak peek at this funny chook last weekend at the SCBWI conference, and I wasn’t disappointed. It’s hilarious, with plenty to entertain the kids and the grown-ups!
In part one we saw how Amelia started writing for kids, and in part two, we hear about how Amelia’s writing turned into book publications. Also, don’t forget to check out the launch details at the end of the post…
So Amelia, tell me, from starting out quietly and in isolation, when did you put your work ‘out there’ and how did it feel?
The first time I put work ‘out there’ was when I submitted The Book Chook via a few ‘slush piles’. It was exhilarating! It was when it got ‘real’. And when the perpetual roundabout of hope, fear, and my own up-and-down opinions of my work began. Most of the time I stick to the swings and the slide, but as all writers know, once you hit ‘send’, the roundabout is always there! Thankfully, I received some lovely feedback, and because I had heard not to expect a response for my first submission, I found this highly motivating. Soon after, I met my future publisher, and I’ve been on a bit of a roll ever since!
You are represented by Jacinta di Mase. What made you decide to get an agent and how did that come about?
I actually flew to Melbourne (my hometown) to hear Jacinta speak at a SCBWI event. I hoped to become a client of hers one day and I thought I was paving my way for years down the track. Meeting her and hearing her speak about what she does strengthened my resolve. Little did I know, I was about to get my big break, and with another big cliché too— the stars aligning!
In Part 1 of this interview, I explained how I had a fifteen-minute assessment for The Book Chook at the SCBWI conference in 2016. I reworked the text and met Omnibus Books publisher, Clare Hallifax, at another SCBWI event in Sydney soon after. I promptly sent her three manuscripts and when she told me she was taking them all to acquisitions, I let Jacinta know (I had just met her in Melbourne and I had booked her to critique two of those MSS at an upcoming Kidlitvic). It was all happening! I gained representation from Jacinta at that point, so that I had someone to help with any contracts that may have been forthcoming. And happily, there were!
Have there been anomalies in the order of publication or was the first book you submitted the first published?
I first submitted three picture book texts to Scholastic and two were contracted. The Book Chook was one, and a nursery rhyme re-telling was the other. Several months later, I wrote a near-wordless picture book about a naughty crab and that was picked up by Scholastic too. Bad crab is actually pushing in (just typical!) and is going to be my second book, out in July this year. I then wrote another book about a zoo-escaping giraffe and that will be my third. I’m still working on the book that I hope will follow my nursery rhyme re-telling (hopefully it will be a series of three). So the re-telling (which was the first book I contracted, along with The Book Chook) and the fifth picture book I contracted should both come out in 2020!
That leads nicely to asking: What can you tell us about your upcoming books?
All of my books are fun and funny. Silly in a clever way. And with the exception of my near-wordless Bad Crab, they all rhyme.
The Book Chook is my debut and is out today!
My second book, Bad Crab, is due out in July this year. This one is almost wordless.
I have a rhyming picture book about a giraffe that will come out in November.
My nursery-rhyme retelling is due out next year.
I have a mono-rhyming picture book about a goldfish due out next year also. This one is with Allen and Unwin.
I’ve recently sent my agent another finished picture book— one in prose this time! And two rhyming picture books for very young readers. I’m also working on a chapter book series, which I’m progressing very slowly on because I just can’t stop writing picture books. And of course, I have several more unfinished picture books on the go!
That is so amazing! Fingers crossed for those new ones! Sounds like you are on fire!
I know that one of your illustrators is Philip Bunting! He is so hot right now! How did that come about and how did you feel when you found out?
I’m still pinching myself! My wonderful publisher set it up. I just adored Mopoke and I was impressed but not surprised to read about Philip’s Kate Greenaway Medal nomination. Serendipitously, the very next day Clare told me that I would be collaborating with Philip Bunting on this near-wordless book. My eyes went very big, my eyebrows went very high and my mouth went very smiley! The book went to press last month and I cannot wait to hold it! I am over the moon with Philip’s illustrations and how it’s come together.
I was at the speed launch of The Book Chook on the weekend as part of the SCBWI pre-conference events at The Children’s Bookshop, Beecroft. It was such fun to celebrate with you and Shelly Unwin and Aura Parker, who I’ve also interviewed here, along with the others. (You can read my blog post about it here) Are you celebrating your debut in any other ways and do you have any plans for promoting your new books?
The speed launch was so much fun! It was also my first time speaking at an event as an author, so it was very exciting. It was an honour to join all the other wonderful creators present, particularly because there were so many wonderful creators in the audience.
I am having a regular launch as well. See the flyer at the end. Everyone is welcome!
I have a feature coming up in my local newspaper and a few more interviews coming out online, plus some signings lined up at some bookshops and some CBCA events, some school and preschool visits… I’ll also be posting on my Facebook and Instagram accounts about my book babies and sharing some insights as I begin this adventure as an emerging (multi-published!) children’s author.
Isn’t that fun to say?! I’ve been loving your chicken posts on social media. I’ve loved having pet chooks in the past – they are simultaneously funny and calming, I reckon.
Ah, thanks Debra! Yes, I have four pet chooks – they’re great pets for kids. One chook is actually called Ray, which is the name of the main character, in the Book Chook.
That’s funny! How much inspiration for The Book Chook came from having pet chooks?
None! I was living in America when I got the idea for The Book Chook and we didn’t have chooks there. I’d never had chooks in my life. But when we moved to the Blue Mountains, I was excited that there was a coop on the property. And not just any coop- a two-story coop with a huge ramp down to the ground and it actually has a little balcony overlooking a valley in the Blue Mountains. So my chooks are actually post-book chooks and they’re just living a life of luxury thanks to this book, really. Although one of them has inspired another picture book idea so they may actually earn their keep one day!
My chooks are actually going on TV pretty soon, so once again, they’re not book chooks but TV chooks. They’re the guests on a couple of episodes of a kids’ TV show that will air from July, on 7 plus. There’s just no end to the entertainment that these chooks provide. So I guess they already do earn their keep. And they’re such cute little characters!
Oh my gosh, that’s so fun! I’ll keep an eye out for Ray and the others on TV.
Amelia, I see you around at various events like for CBCA and SCBWI and supporting friends as they launch their books. What do you see as the value of these events?
I think these events have enormous value for aspiring and emerging writers. There are so many opportunities to attend all sorts of industry-related events on the Australian kidlit scene. They’re great for learning about writing techniques, pitching, financial and other career management strategies, getting affordable manuscript critiques, networking and making like-minded friends. Being a writer is so much more enjoyable thanks to these organisations.
What associations do you belong to and how have they helped?
I’m a member of the CBCA, SCBWI and Writing NSW. The online content of these associations is fantastic, but even better are their events, as I mentioned in the previous question. There are experienced professionals in these communities who are so encouraging, friendly and helpful to those starting out. Oz kidlit
is a wonderful industry because of all the kind people in it. Aside from what you can learn, associations like these are how you meet people and get involved with what’s going on in the industry.
The publishing industry can be discouraging at times. What have been the discouragements for you in this process and how have you dealt with them?
I had to get used to the speed at which things happen in this industry because I was starting to go batty, hopefully (obsessively?!) checking my emails so many times a day. It is s l o w! There is so much going on behind each step, and the sooner a creator can accept that, the better………….*refreshes screen 😉
I’m hearing you! How about the most helpful things – events/skills/moments – that encouraged you to write and made you a better writer?
-I think reading a lot in the genre I write is necessary. And reading what is current. Keeping a focus on what is selling and what kids today enjoy, not just creative writing techniques/practice. For me, this ties in nicely with coming up with ideas for new books – thinking of something new and unique that will appeal to the current market as well as something that excites me.
-Next— something that comes from within. A light, a drive, or a voice (preferably just the one!) for self-reliance in this solitary pursuit. I’m more driven than a snow plow after a blizzard, but if I wasn’t, or if I found it fleeting, I would try to cultivate something along these lines. Not for productivity or success (directly) but for longevity and enjoyment of the process, because persistence pays off in this industry, and enjoyment is everything.
-Joining SCBWI and CBCA and going to their events – so valuable for learning about the industry and meeting the people in it.
-The format has changed now, but I think I absorbed every blog post and Youtube video that author Jen Storer (facebook group: The Duck Pond) ever created. I think I learnt a degree’s worth from her alone. I really should send her something… And yes, I still enjoy a paddle in ‘the pond’.
What great tips for other writers! Thanks so much Amelia, it’s been brilliant having you on the JWFK blog, and I feel so privileged to be your first author interview! I notice since my lat post you’re on the SCBWI success blog. Readers can find this interview here. It’s well worth the read.
Wishing you brilliant success with The Book Chook and all the others.
Thanks so much for having me, Debra!
You can follow Amelia on facebook: amelia mcinerney author
or Instagram @ameliamcinerneyauthor
And her website is www.ameliamcinerney.com
and you can find me at www.debratidball.com
and on Facebook: debratidballpage