So far in this interview with children’s author, Kiah Thomas, we’ve heard about the ‘nuts and bolts’ of writing and publishing, and we got to know some of her great picture books. In this instalment, we look at how Kiah is linked in to a writing community and how that helps, as well as discover some of Kiah’s top tips for writers. PLUS we get a sneak peek at the cover of her next book!
Kiah, I wonder what links you have with the writing community, and why you think connection is important?
One of my favourite things about writing for children is the friendships that I’ve made along the way. It actually makes my heart feel warm just thinking about it!
As well as my friendship with Zoe, which I mentioned earlier, I’ve made some other really amazing friendships along the way.
By bizarre coincidence, my aunty lives just around the corner from Edwina Wyatt (pictured above), and after some mild stalking (entirely on my part) we met up for coffee (I swear it was much less creepy than I’ve made it sound in that sentence). Edwina is warm and generous (and phenomenally talented – her debut junior fiction novel is out in November and it is actual magic), and we’ve been in almost constant contact ever since. She also introduced me to Zanni Louise and Lucy Estela.
I’d read interviews with Zanni before I met her, and found her story to be so inspiring. The real life version of Zanni is even more incredible. She is passionate and persistent and such a multi-talented writer (have you read her Stardust Dance series? My kids are totally addicted). And I’d actually sent Lucy fan mail about Suri’s Wall before I even started writing (that book still makes me cry – her story-telling is so beautiful).
They are such special friendships. Really talented women who love books and writing and on top of that are lovely and fun to be around.
I could talk about kids books all day, and having genuine connections with people who love kids books in the same way is amazing. Which you can maybe tell from how much I’ve gone on about it (I’m sorry!)
They sound like such valuable friendships! Do you belong to any associations as well, and if so, how have they helped?
I’m a member of SCBWI, which is such a great connection point for writers and illustrators. Through SCBWI I joined a great critique group, and have also been to a number of events and conferences, including an excellent workshop with Jackie French.
As well as connecting with people, I also booked an international critique at the 2019 conference, which led to a really lovely dialogue with an editor from the US – an opportunity I never would have had otherwise.
Our local CBCA also runs great events around the area – both for people who love writing for kids, and for kids themselves. Seeing kids get excited about books and storytelling is such an inspiring thing.
Your friend, Zoe is on the committee of the local CBCA branch too, I believe.
Now for discouragements! Have there been any and how have you dealt with them?
Gosh, writing is such a rollercoaster. And I get discouraged so easily!
Having a manuscript that you thought was really great get rejected is hard. Especially when you’ve poured time and love and a lot of yourself into it.
Sometimes it can also be discouraging to get really close a few times in a row – I know that sounds ridiculous, because there’s so much encouragement and positivity in that, but it can be hard to know what the elusive missing ingredient is!
But as much as anything, I never realised how slowly everything moves in publishing. It’s easy to let self-doubt and fear creep in between waiting for things to happen. Having people to talk to about it makes a really big difference for me. And also, picking up the pen again and writing something new (by which I personally mean computer – I’ve been so bad at handwriting in recent years that my hand cramps after like a page!)
I think the best advice I’ve been given since I started writing was by Edwina, and it’s that the only thing you can control is the words on the page – the rest is the machine. I keep coming back to that whenever I feel disappointed.
I can certainly identify! And writing friends are a great antidote.
How about social media? Where can we find you? What’s your favourite platform and why?
I’m on Facebook and Instagram but am terrible at Facebook. I would secretly love to be on Twitter because I adore reading people’s tweets, but I think I would spend way too much time and brain power trying to think of witty things to say if I was. I like Instagram a lot – mostly because even though I’m not at all visual I adore admiring illustrators and artists’ work. My instagram account is @kiahthomas.
Can you give us three top tips for writers?
1. I’ve stolen the advice once already today, so I’ll steal it again – the only thing you can control is the words on the page (thanks Edwina!)
2. The other thing is that hard work is super important, and sometimes you need to push yourself to get through wherever you’re stuck – but that you should remember the joy in writing, because I think it comes through on the page.
3. And maybe finally (and this is probably more for myself than anyone else) – giving your work space is really really hard, but so worthwhile. Step back from it for a few minutes if you can (I’m looking at you, Kiah).
Thanks so much, Kiah, for a fun, informative interview!
And now for the reveal of the cover of Kiah’s newest book, with Connah Brecon – Madeline Talbot has a Bunny on her Head.
How gorgeous is that? I can’t wait to peek inside!
And here’s a gorgeous photo of Kiah with her baby and her daughter at the library:
You can find Kiah online at Instagram @kiahthomas
and you can find me online, below.
You can find me atwww.debratidball.com
and on Facebook: debratidballpage
and Instagram.com/debra_tidball AND instagram.com/story_hound