Today I am delighted to welcome Angela Sunde, who is here as part of her blog tour to promote her first ever book, Pond Magic.
Hi Sally! Thanks for inviting me to your blog. I’m very excited to be here.
1. Pond Magic is your first book publication. How did it feel to hold that baby in your hands for the first time?
It was a little surreal in a way. I’d been excitedly waiting and expecting the Pond Magic parcel to arrive and one day a plain white box was delivered to the letter box. I ran down the hill (we live on acreage) and back up, placed the box on the outside table on the veranda and then ran inside to get my camera. My mother-in-law was visiting at the time and, after taking a few photos of just the white carton, I asked her to capture the moment of me opening my lovely box of books. The look on my face said it all – inside was a selection of sample products from the supermarket! No books!
Eventually the books did arrive and my lovely publisher had filled the parcel with glittery multi-coloured stars which burst out once opened. It was a magic moment!
2. Tell us about the journey. When did you decide you wanted to write for children and what did you do to make it happen?
I’d been itching to draw and paint seriously ever since I can remember. Then after an extended family holiday overseas, I was also keen to write about that experience. Upon my return I decided to enrol in some art and creative writing courses and because of my love of picture books I also did a ‘Writing for Children’ course at my local TAFE. I was hooked after that. I trawled the internet in search of courses, groups and workshops. I seriously began to study the craft of writing for children, and I was struck by how many opportunities there are for writers who are starting out. My first contact with other children’s writers and illustrators was at the CYA Conference in Brisbane. I came home buzzing!
3. And Pond Magic – how long from getting the idea to having it accepted?
Pond Magic was born as an idea for a short story. As it developed it grew in length and took about six months to write the first draft. But as I continued to study the craft of writing for children I would go back to the manuscript repeatedly and apply my new found insights and knowledge, editing and polishing parts of it each week. I didn’t rush this process. I love playing with language and Pond Magic was my creative artwork. So it wasn’t until a year after the idea was born that I submitted it to publishers. Penguin Australia accepted Pond Magic six months after that.
4. After the acceptance, what steps did you and your publisher go through to get it from manuscript to finished book?
Before acceptance I had to cut back the manuscript by 3,000 words to fit the Aussie Chomp format. I saw this as a challenge which would prove to myself whether I had the mettle to be a true writer or not. Sharpening my pencil, I systematically set about chopping out words and re-arranging sentences. After six days I was done and the contract was in my hand.
The first editing with the publisher was done via email, using track changes on Word. This is an efficient and effective way to work together. Then the first pages were mailed out to me and I had to work on cutting back parts of the manuscript to fit the maximum 96 pages of the Aussie Chomp. Each chapter had to be considered separately. Final pages were mailed out in July for me to check and comment on and then only incidental changes were made by email after that. The whole process was simple and straight forward – taking about three months – , and the editors at Penguin were so supportive and helpful. I thoroughly enjoyed working with them.
5. What did you/do you do to improve your writing skills?
If I immerse myself in excellent writing then hopefully a little might rub off on me, so I read in the genre I write as much as I can. I attend master classes on writing at conferences, festivals and the Queensland Writers Centre and I subscribe to a number of online writing groups and e-bulletins on writing for children. As a member of a writer’s group I also learn from the feedback given to my work. Currently I am working with a mentor on a picture book. There is always something new to learn and every opportunity is worth investigating. I have links to the ones I recommend on my website.
6. What advice would you give to unpublished writers who want to write for children?
Take your time. Re-write, edit, polish, let it be, then edit again. Join your local writers centre and attend workshops, conferences, literary festivals and author talks. Then go back to your manuscript and apply the new skills you have learnt. Edit again and again and again. Give it to other writers for feedback. Don’t rush into submitting your manuscript to a publisher. I have often heard other authors say: “I wish I hadn’t submitted my story to that publisher, because now it is so much better.” My advice is – make it better, make it the best you can.
I also found networking with other writers has helped me enormously. The children’s writing community is so friendly and welcoming. It’s the best job in the world!
7. Lastly, what next? What other projects do you have on the boil?
I am writing and illustrating a picture book with the assistance of a RADF grant. I also have a junior fantasy novel which is nearing completion and I am collaborating on a picture book with my sister, Nadia Sunde, who is an international award winning children’s songwriter and playwright. Life is great.
Thanks so much for visiting Angela. Enjoy the rest of your blog tour – and the wonder of your first book’s release.