Quote of the day:
"Your wealth is where your friends are."
Tania McCartney - Guest author, editor and book reviewer
Today I'm pleased to host a well known Australian author, editor, book reviewer and founder of literary site, 'Kids Book Review'. An advocate for literacy, Tania is an ACT Ambassador for the National Year of Reading, and her latest books include: Riley and the Grumpy Wombat: A journey around Melbourne (Ford Street Publishing), Australian Story: An Illustrated Timeline (National Library of Australia ) and Beijing Tai Tai: Life, laughter and motherhood in China’s Capital (Exisle Publishing). Tania adores books, travel, photography and marshmallows, and currently lives in Canberra with a husband and two kids . . . in a paper house, at the base of a book mountain.
TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR WRITING
I began writing in primary school – and haven’t stopped; my most treasured possession
is my year 3 English book with its doggie sticker on the front. My first poem
was published at age 8 and the writerly bug thereafter took firm hold – I wrote
my first chapter book at age 10, wrote my first adult novel at 19, had my first
magazine article published at 20 and my first book published (with Hodder Headline) at 26.
Most of my writing life, pre-2008, was actually magazine writing and editing, which I
loved. Moving with two small kids to Beijing for four years in 2005 was the
catalyst to shift into full time writing, and I still pinch myself that I now
make a living from my books. Fairy tale stuff. Beijing was also the catalyst
for my swan drive into the children’s book world. I have quite the obsession
with children’s books.
WHEN AND HOW DID YOU BECOME A WRITER?
I had no choice! It really overtook me at an early age and still has me by the throat. I’ve
always written but I guess I didn’t write seriously until my late teens.
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
The mental and emotional high – it engulfs me sometimes, I love writing that much. It’s a deep and very personal love that’s as vital as air. I must admit it’s a joy to create work other people enjoy, most particularly kids. What I don’t like is the writer’s thighs issue. And the
fact that I rarely have time to wash my hair.
WHAT IS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
Being unable to locate the hours and solace to create the mass of story ideas going gangbusters in my head. It’s mad-making and relentless and makes me anxious at times. Also: writer’s thighs (or butt or belly, or whatever you particularly succumb to) and hair-washing issues.
WHAT WERE YOU IN A PAST LIFE, BEFORE YOU BECAME A WRITER?
I’ve been a bar tender, executive secretary, desk top publisher, PA to a creative
director, publisher, office manager, editor and proof reader, data entry clerk,
speaker, marketing assistant, mother, promotions girl, catwalk model and flight
attendant – in no particular order!
WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST WRITING ACHIEVEMENT?
My first picture book – Riley and the Sleeping Dragon – because it was the launching pad for my children’s book career. Being asked to be an ambassador for the National Year of Reading 2012 may not seem a far-reaching achievement but it was a personal thrill beyond words. I’m a passionate literacy advocate. I’m also really proud of Kids Book Review
WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON AT THE MOMENT?
I’m just finishing up two picture books for the National Library of Australia, and am
working with Kieron (illustrator) on my fifth Riley the Little Aviator book –
this one set in Canberra. I’m in the final stages of my first historical junior
fiction book for New Frontier and have begun fleshing out the bones of a picture
book series – again for the NLA.
I’m taking three months ‘off’ to write at the end of the year – a real luxury for me as I
do so much extra-curricular writing and literacy work. I’ll work on some
picture books and a chapter book manuscript that was highly commended at the CYA conference this year.
WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
Everyday life – the small things. Humour. Travel. Reading. Illustrations. Children. An inherent and irrepressible desire to put pen to paper (or fingertip to key).
WHAT GENRE DO YOU WRITE?
I write across several genres of children’s books – picture books, historical fiction, chapter books, non-fiction. I also write adult non-fiction and biography, and full magazine feature articles, columns and book reviews. I’ve written a few adult fiction manuscripts but have
never been courageous enough to sub them. I’m hoping the courage will arise a little down the track.
DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR NEW WRITERS?
Write. A lot. Read. A lot. Be objective and self-effacing. Use a unique voice and original story ideas. Never give up.
DO YOU SUFFER FROM WRITER’S BLOCK?
Only sometimes but it’s easily dealt with – I just push on through and the force
unplugs the block.
DO YOU HAVE A PREFERRED WRITING SCHEDULE?
My preferred daily schedule is as many hours per day as humanly possible! This is tough because I dedicate so much time to other (literary) ventures. I ‘work’ five days a week from 8am to 4pm, and I’m trying to force myself not to write on weekends and in the evenings,
though deadline time kyboshes this!
DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE WRITING PLACE?
My beautiful, sun-strewn office with large windows and a view of our front garden. I also love writing in cafés when we travel.
WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST JOY IN WRITING?
Piecing words together in a way that conjures, warms and inspires. Watching children’s eyes light up as I read to them. My greatest, greatest joy is inspiring children to write their own work and/or read.
WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE AUTHOR AND WHY?
Everyone says Dr Seuss and I will, too, because he’s quite simply a genius, but I also love Emily Gravett and Mo Willems for their free-reign on pure creativity, and Jackie French for her overwhelming cleverness, dedication to her craft and single-minded love for her
WHAT’S THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT YOU EVER RECEIVED
FROM A READER?
From one of my literary idols: Your books are superb. It still makes me cry. From a kid: You rock!
WHAT WAS THE WORST COMMENT FROM A READER?
I’ll never forget a reviewer saying she looked forward to seeing how her young grandchild would ‘cope’ with listening to the big words I use in my Riley picture books. That’s my worst comment because it worries me when people presume children are idiots.
WRITERS ARE SOMETIMES INFLUENCED BY THINGS THAT HAPPEN IN THEIR OWN LIVES. ARE YOU?
Absolutely. Even the teensiest little everyday things inspire my writing and storylines. In fact, I rely on them.
OTHER THAN WRITING, WHAT ELSE DO YOU LOVE?
Reading, walking, photography, travel, baking, gardening, creating photographic travel
books, speaking to children and inspiring them to write and read.
DID YOU HAVE YOUR BOOK / BOOKS PROFESSIONALLY EDITED BEFORE PUBLICATION?
My books with publishing houses were professionally edited. My self-published books were self-edited, but I’m a professional editor and proof reader. Nevertheless, I do believe all work needs a second or third eye before publication.
DESCRIBE YOUR PERFECT DAY.
Traveling with my family – anywhere in the world – and writing and photographing every step of the way. Coffee would need to be involved, too.
WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE?
More writing. More travel. And then some more of both. I’d also like to wash my hair
Thanks, Tania. Love ya work! Now, forget about washing your hair. Grab some marshmallows and pig out. You deserve it.
Thanks for listening.
I'm Clancy Tucker.