Somerset Storyfest Report 2019 – Part Three
Session 11.15 to 12 noon – The Great Hall
Zanni Louise is a picture book and fiction author based in Northern NSW. She’s written ten books for children, including Errol! Mum for Sale and the Tiggy and the Magic Paintbrush series. Her books sell in 20 countries and have been translated into multiple languages. Two have been long-listed for the CBCA awards and Archie and the Bear was selected for the White Ravens catalogue by the International Children’s Library. Zanni advocates for creativity and imagination and loves teaching writing to adults and children. She is part of the Byron Writers Festival StoryBoard program.
Zanni is also a Facebook friend of mine and I was delighted to see her presentation in the Great Hall. It was a relief to be in air conditioning.
The student introduction mentioned ‘Tiggy and the Magic Paintbrush’ and the Errol series. The room was packed and her hook to get the students involved was to set up an interview. It went from strength to strength from there.
The job interview was for an Author.
You are the best person for the job if you are: –
- Engaging and like playing games
- If you like being bored. Being bored is very important as not being entertained lets your mind roam. What happens is that your mind chases down ideas to make a story. My working life is like this – Zanni lies down on the stage. Stories come when I’m lying down.
- If you have a head with a brain inside you have imagination
- Perseverance – try and fail – try again – finish something
- Are any of you magic? Magic is making something out of a bunch of different things.
Zanni announced – you all qualify for being an author.
‘Tiggy and the Magic Paintbrush’ idea came when one day she was folding clothes and her daughter was playing games and jumping on the bed. What would you do if you could print a friend? She wrote Wyn and the 3D printing machine. Early readers stories. She sent it away and the story was rejected. Zanni cried. Then she saved the idea and changed the name from Wyn to Tiggy, and the 3D printer to a paint brush.
Zanni sent the story to a different publisher and received a four-book contract, with Gillian Flint as the illustrator.
You are never too old for picture books. Zanni teaches writing for picture books. The story idea was a seed in the soil – inspired by emotions and observing how people feel.
Emotion – excited – frustrated
She wrote the first draft then edited and tweaked it. She sent it off to a publisher and discovered it’s an amazing business with lots of people doing different things.
Sent as a word document to the editor who sent it back with lots of red marks – oh no!
Okay, an Editor is good, they make the best story we could, reduce it down from five hundred words down to three hundred and fifty words. They suggested the main character solved her own problems. The illustrator was from the publishing house using colours and shapes on the page creating movement.
Two years later we had a finished book. The text and images came together.
Archie and the Bear had a different illustrator David Mackintosh.
The magic of picture books is that you can look through the book and read it without text.
As in Errol – a blank page with a blob helps the story take place with simple drawings that would take you through. The end pages are like wrapping paper.
Mum for sale – lets trade story ideas. Here are a few.
- A kid can print $100 bills and has to hide it because it’s illegal.
- The life story of a stick that falls into the sea, going all around the world.
- A little boy goes around the world and he loses his mum.
- A Mars Bar and you get eaten.
Writing is like dancing – (Zanni gets the kids involved)
The publisher asks – can you write a series of books about ballet? You can make anything out of nothing.
Bailey (a boy from the audience) gets up on stage and shows his dance move, like a caterpillar crawl.
Idea – Stardust School of Dance – books have relationships with people.
Q. How do you normally start your books? Zanni – with an idea from my notebook, I might draw a version of my story.
Q. Why does it take so long? Zanni – A lot of people are involved so it takes time, art takes time.
Q. When did you want to become an author? Zanni – When I was six I started, I didn’t think it was a job, I love picture books. When I had kids in 2015 I decided to try.
Q. What was your first book? Zanni – Too Busy to Sleep, but I knew I had a long way to go.
Q. How old were you when you wrote your first book? Zanni – Thirty-one
Q. What’s your best book? Zanni – I can’t choose. My favourite is Errol. I like to make kids laugh.
Q. How many books have you published? Zanni – Ten books published, I write a series.
Q. What’s your favourite Tiggy book? Zanni – A Birthday Party Trick
Q. What was your job before you were an author? Zanni – I worked in an Art Gallery. I wrote manuals on how to drive trucks. Training manuals, writing ten to twelve thousand words a day.
Q. Do you think you would write a book about bullying? Zanni – Maybe, I didn’t in my current book.
Then it was lunch time and I made my way happily to the Quadrangle. I ate my lunch perched on a seat, watching the bidding at an auction for an author to be slimed! Then I decided to change my next session and I’m glad I did.