This is the second part of my interview with Penny Morrison, author of Captain Sneer the Buccaneer, the Hey! series and The Mighty Mighty King Christmas Book which is hot off the press! See part 1 here.
In this part Penny tells about the struggles this writing life throws up and the things that encourage her to keep going.
Penny, how are you linked in with a writing community?
My writers’ group runs through the NSW Writers’ Centre, where members can use a room for their group meetings. NSWWC runs various courses and festivals where I’ve met writers and editors. I originally formed the writers’ group with people I’d met through AWC and NSWWC courses.
Other groups I enjoy are CBCA, SCBWI, ASA, KidLitVic, CYA, Sutherland Shire Writers and Omega Writers. Each group offers different types of support for writers, such as meetings, conferences, editor consultations, competitions, Facebook groups or critique groups. CBCA has been great for meeting local authors and librarians. Through SCBWI I’ve met authors and illustrators from around Australia and New Zealand and I’m now also part of an online SCBWI critique group.
Omega Writers is a Christian group which has subgroups based on location and genre. COW is the Children’s Omega Writers and we have a Facebook group. MooOOOooo!
What have been the most significant struggles?
My first acceptance came in 2012. That wasn’t the struggle. It was very exciting—I got an ABN, business cards and told everyone my news. The editor rang to say she was writing up the contract and just needed my address to post it. After waiting six weeks, I got a phone call. They had decided not to publish it after all. I couldn’t believe it. I was sure such a terrible thing had never happened before. Since then, I’ve heard many authors tell similar stories.
I didn’t let it get me down. For every disappointment I’m determined to focus on submitting somewhere else and writing new manuscripts. But I must say—I would not have stayed this determined without the support of my critique group.
How were your ‘Hey’ books picked up for publication?
During those few weeks when I believed a contract was in the mail, my husband ran into a friend who had just started work at CEP (Christian Education Publications) and told him I had a picture book being published. This publisher wanted to meet me, so I took my dummy book in to his office to show him. He was actually looking for someone to write a program for church music playgroups, which I quickly agreed to do. I had written my own program and run it for years, but I had no idea how much work it would be to get it into a publishable format.
CEP had rejected my dummy book three years earlier, but now they had a new imprint, Growing Faith, and had begun publishing picture books. The new publisher asked if I could make my book into a series of four. My heart leapt at that suggestion—it hadn’t crossed my mind, but of course I could! This was four times better than I had hoped. He asked me to base the first four terms of my music program on the four books—an idea which I loved.
CEP is a specialised publisher for Christian resources, Have you found that there Are particular issues for people writing for the Christian market to be aware of, compared to traditional publication?
It’s a smaller market and books generally sell for lower prices. I’m certainly not writing in the hope of earning money. I’m doing this for love and a desire to share a message which is important to me.
The other issue is that it’s difficult to write a satisfying picture book which has a message. It really only works if the message comes out of the story naturally. A subtle message is more effective than an overly stated one and is more likely to result in a book which children love and want to hear again.
In the third and final instalment of this interview, we’ll find out the intrigue surrounding the publication of Captain Sneer! Stay tuned next month…
Penny’s Website is here
Here’s a great video of Penny talking about The Mighty Mighty King (scroll to the bottom)
Debra’s website is here