Georgie Donaghey in the Spotlight; ‘Lulu’ Makes her Debut

Georgie DonagheyIt’s not enough to just want something and hope that it will be delivered  to you on a silver platter. Unfortunately for most of us, life isn’t that simple. What we try to teach our kids is that you absolutely can achieve your aspirations, your goals, your dreams, but it takes work, persistence and determination. In this same fashion, this is all too true for first time picture book author, Georgie Donaghey. Her dedication to her writing, the foundation of the successful Creative Kids Tales for emerging authors, and the establishment of The Author’s Shelf, are all what make her journey to publication so inspiring.

Her new book, ‘Lulu’, gorgeously illustrated by Ann-Marie Finn, published by Dragon Tales Publishing, is simply scrumptious! Lulu; a sweet, ice-fishing polar bear, has a dream. A dream to dance. With courage and resolve, Lulu abounds success, but in the end she discovers that all the popularity in the world doesn’t compare to the comfort and affection of family and friends. And she enjoys the best of both worlds.

Read Dimity’s fab full review of the divine Lulu here.

Now, let’s take a peek into the creative mind of Georgie Donaghey.

Georgie & CharlotteCongratulations on the latest release of your first picture book, ‘Lulu’! How did you be celebrate its launch?  

With lots of family and writer friends at Sutherland Shire Library. Over 100 people attended.  It was like a dream.  Susanne Gervay launched Lulu, and I was joined by Deborah Abela, Emma Cameron, Di Bates, Bill Condon and lots of other well-wishers. I wanted to make sure my first launch was extra special so went a little crazy making polar bear cupcakes, chocolates, a Lulu slice (just like LCM’s), goody bags, craft activities such as colouring sheets, polar bear masks.  I read Lulu to the kids on an iceberg made from white faux fur and cushions.    

Where did the inspiration for this story come from?

I am one of those crazy authors where their characters speak to them.  Lulu actually began in the playground of my daughter’s school.  I was tapping away on my iPad while waiting to do my first author talk to my daughter’s class, and the opening line popped into my head.  ‘Polar Bear’s life was quite cosy and nice, with mountains of fish and even more ice.’  Lulu’s name came during the publishing stage.  

How does ‘Lulu’ resonate with you?  

Lulu followed her dream no matter what obstacles were in her way.  I, like many other authors, have received too many rejections to count.  Instead of being discouraged I wear them like a badge of honor and continue to believe and follow my dreams.    

‘Lulu’ has a beautiful underlying theme of ambitiousness and following one’s dreams. What special message would you like Lulu’s readers to take away from the story?  

If you work hard and believe in your dreams, anything is possible.  

Lulu‘Lulu’ is written with a graceful poetic rhythm, perfectly suiting your charming polar bear dancer. Do you often write in rhyme, and is this your preferred style of writing?  

I’m not fond of rhyme only because you have to be spot on with it.  You can’t fool kids, the rhyme has to flow.  To publish a poorly written book is a disaster so I tried to fight the rhyme and just write Lulu as a story but clearly the rhyme won.  Would I do it again?  Well Lulu has a brother who has a story to tell and I am also working on another rhyming manuscript about an octopus.  Fingers crossed.    

What were your most rewarding and challenging aspects of creating ‘Lulu’?  

Challenging would be of course getting the rhyme just right.  I experienced both highs and lows from conception to launch.  You need a thick skin, and a lot of patience in this industry to deal with rejections and obstacles you face along the way.    

Lulu twinkledI love illustrator, Ann-Marie Finn‘s soft, pastel-looking textures and delicate shades of blues and pinks. What was it like collaborating with her? How much creative license did you allow Ann-Marie in the design process?  

As with most publishers the illustrator was appointed by the publisher.  There was no collaboration between Ann-Marie and I.  I think there was only one brief chat with Kaylene and then Ann-Marie just did her own thing.  Needless to say I am very happy with how Lulu turned out.  Ann-Marie is also a Director of Dragon Tales Publishing.  

How would you describe your first publishing experience with Dragon Tales Publishing?  

An experience to remember.  

Your literary websites ‘Creative Kids Tales’ and ‘The Author’s Shelf’ are fantastic resources for emerging authors and illustrators, and have brought their readers and listeners a plethora of inspirational information and entertainment over the past 4 years. What has been your most valuable piece of advice given or favourite experience with a visiting author?  

Thanks for the lovely comments.  Gosh! How long is a piece of string?  I loved chatting with all my guests on The Author’s Shelf and took something away from each interview.  Probably the stand-outs would have to be Posie Graeme-Evans (creator of McLeod’s Daughters, Hi5 and many other great Aussie dramas), Jackie French.  In fact Jackie and I had such a good time on air she came back for a second show.  
Tony Flowers & Nick Falk were fun to interview together.  Tony joined me in the studio and illustrated in between answering questions with Nick.  Andy Griffiths was a delight, and Dav Pilkey (Captain Underpants) was lots of fun too.  
For Creative Kids Tales I have interviewed 38 guests including Mem Fox, Graeme Base, Jacqueline Harvey, Kate Forsyth, Belinda Murrell, Leigh Hobbs, Nick Bland, Paul Jennings and many other household names.  That number is growing with guests lined up well into 2016.  
I have received lots of valuable tips over the last few years.  The best way to share them is via my Top Tips page http://www.creativekidstales.com.au/tips/top-tips.  One of the pages on CKT I am most proud of is the testimonials page.  Beautiful words from beautiful people …………  

Can you tell us a bit about your experience speaking at the 10th CYA Conference? What an exciting honour!  

I thought hosting a fortnightly radio show was nerve-racking and then chairing a panel at last year’s Kids & YA Festival at the NSW Writers’ Centre was enough to give me butterflies on my butterflies.  I have been to a few CYA’s now and have proudly worn the hat of chief tweeter.  Again this year I juggled tweeting and posting on Facebook for the duration of the conference.  Standing at that microphone and delivering my speech to 160 attendees was fun and nerve-racking.  My four minutes flew by, and I had many comments from attendees saying my journey resonated with them.  They were comforted by the fact our journeys were similar, and they were inspired to continue chasing their dreams.    

What’s next for Georgie Donaghey? What other projects do you have on the go?

I’m always setting the bar higher.  I have a lot of things planned for Creative Kids Tales, and The Author’s Shelf is beginning to take shape into something new and very exciting.  It’s a bit hush hush at the moment.  I’m writing, editing and submitting.  Fingers crossed I can announce my next book soon.    

Thank you for your insights into your publishing journey, Georgie! Looking forward to seeing more from you!

Thanks, Romi, it’s been a lot of fun.

Click on the links to get in touch with Georgie Donaghey at Creative Kids Tales and on Facebook.

Review – Lulu

LuluAt first glance, life on the icy floes may seem appealing. (Unless you reside in SE Queensland as I do with no real concept of what cold is until you have to live through ‘an unseasonably cold winter’ with little more than a cotton tee-shirt and a pair of bed socks). In Lulu’s world, there is more ice than you can shake an Eskimo at and ‘mountains of fish’ to sate the largest appetite. What more could a young polar bear desire? Yet like many of us closeted in the everyday cosiness of the familiar, Lulu harbours dreams and a hankering to fulfil them.

Lulu’s name ribbons across the sweetly simple cover of Georgie Donaghey’s debut picture book, Lulu. Along with illustrator, Ann-Marie Finn, Donaghey has created a tale that will strike at least two chords with many young readers aged three and above: the need to chase one’s desires no matter how ambitious and dancing.

Lulu illoExpounding these themes, Donaghey uses carefully nurtured verse to draw the reader along with Lulu who sets off alone in pursuit of her dream of performing on the big stage. It’s not really a case of running away, rather running to somewhere. Pirouetting on the snow for her Arctic friends just doesn’t cut it for her anymore and in true grass-is-greener style, or in this case, the lights-are-brighter-than-the-aurora-borealis style, Lulu eventually conquers her ambitions, finds her place on stage and performs for many seasons in the big city.

It’s a life filled with glamour and fame, highbrow audiences and gratifying reviews but sadly not with true friends. Turns out, the ice is greener after all and eventually the call of home lures Lulu back.

Donaghey does well to point out to young readers that it’s okay to have dreams and great aspirations. We don’t always attain our goals, but sometimes, if we want them hard enough, dreams do come true. Lulu was lucky enough to experience the realisation of her strongest desires but also to realise that her most steadfast believers, her friends would always be there waiting for her no matter how far away her dreams took her. This conveys a positive message of security for children, stressing the importance of being self-assured.

Ann-marie Finn Finns’ considered colour choices for the illustrations are uncomplicated revealing mood, time and place with minimal clutter. White space replicates the vast pristine landscape of Lulu’s home with subtle colour shifts and blends from polar blues and whites to snowflake- pretty sunset yellows used to maximum effect on what could have been a monochromatic environment to illustrate. Little blips of pink provide contrast and encourage little eyes to focus on Lulu, the true star of the show.Lulu illo spread

With its soft matt cover (in this paperback edition), comfortable rhythm, and pleasing artwork it is hard not to be warmed by this story set on the ice.

Georgie DonagheyPop over to Romi’s interview with Lulu author, Georgie Donaghey now for more interesting insight into the creation of this plucky little polar bear and the fiercely determined creator behind her.

Lulu is now available, here.

Dragon Tales Publishing June 2015

Ann-Marie Finn’s Sweet New Release; Gus the Asparagus

There are moments in life that make us stop and adjust our perspectives on the world. Even encourage us to see the world from another’s point of view. Author Kaylene Hobson and illustrator Ann-Marie Finn from Dragon Tales Publishing have achieved just that by introducing us to their new, loveable character, Gus. ‘Gus, the Asparagus’ is a story targeted towards children and families with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, promoting awareness through this valuable and entertaining resource.

IMG_8433Gus is a part of the Green Family. He is the only asparagus, but he doesn’t mind. Despite his differences, they love him anyway. But upon entering school, Gus finds it difficult to ‘fit in’ with the other fruits and vegetables. Cleverly, the story integrates some of the challenges that a child with Autism may face; like highly distracting birds and misunderstanding the rules in a ‘rolling’ race.
A diagnosis of ‘Asparagus Syndrome’ sees Gus finally thrive as others become more aware of his needs and help to make adaptations to his environment. And the best part is, Gus makes a friend who doesn’t mind his upside down, asparagus ways… being different is okay.

‘Gus, the Asparagus’ is a simple story that clearly defines its’ message of accepting differences in yourself and others, yet in a humorous, light-hearted manner. The mixture of explanatory narration and amusing dialogue is like watching a children’s television show! Whimsical, goggle-eyed characters and bright, bold colours that Ann-Marie Finn has illustrated perfectly suit the playful text by Kaylene Hobson.
A sweet, charming and significant book for families, teachers and specialists, and all primary school children to connect with, whether on the spectrum or not. ‘Gus, the Asparagus’ is sure to spear your hearts with its juicy goodness!

Ann-Marie Finn is a talented artist and author, having produced stunning books including ‘A Trip to the Moon’, ‘Captain Kieron’, ‘I Despair of My Hair’, and illustrations for ‘Isaac’s Dragon’ and ‘My Dad is a FIFO Dad’. I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to learn about Ann-Marie Finn’s fascinating journey to creating her books, including the scrumptious ‘Gus, the Asparagus’.

You have a gorgeous, eye-catching style of illustrating. Please tell us a bit about your artistic background. How did you come to illustrate children’s books?
Well I’ve been an illustrator since leaving college, and I always knew that I wanted to be a children’s book illustrator eventually. I started out designing greetings cards and stationery, and there was never really time to work on anything new. Then I left work to have my two children and I knew then that I had to just go for it! I took a story that I had written years earlier as a student, adapted it to be about my first little boy Liam, and A Trip to the Moon was created.  

Congratulations on the release of your latest book with Kaylene Hobson, ‘Gus, the Asparagus’! Can you tell us a bit about how you and Kaylene collaborated and what you hope the readers will gain from this book?
The reason Kaylene and I met was through a group that Kaylene set up to help kids on the spectrum to interact with each other. Once she found out I was an illustrator and I found out that she was an author we started talking about a collaboration. We completed Kaylene’s first book in July last year and haven’t stopped thinking up ideas since. When I first had the idea to make Gus the Asparagus a character I sent her a message. I knew she would either laugh and think I was crazy or decide it was a good idea and we should run with it! (She did both). The idea behind the book was to create a character that kids with autism could connect with and understand, a book for them to understand themselves rather than for adults. We also hoped it would be fun for any kids, not just those on the spectrum.  

How did working on ‘Gus, the Asparagus’ make you feel, considering the topic is so close to your heart? How does the story resonate with you personally?
I loved every moment of working on Gus. The best part was that we were never short of ideas! In fact we had too many and had to cut out some pages (good excuse for a sequel though…). Gus himself is very much like my eldest Liam, and he actually helped me out when I was illustrating the book and gave me ideas on what would make Gus more comfortable in class. I love it when my kids get involved in my work.  

Gus the asparagus picWe’ve seen a mixture of amazing artistic techniques across your books, including pencil sketching, collage and digital media. Do you have a particular style or type of medium that you tend to prefer over others? Describe the illustrative process you used for creating ‘Gus’.
When I see a manuscript or think up a character I can usually see it in my head before I start to work on it. I knew Gus needed to be a very simple but bright character, without fussy backgrounds. It didn’t take me long to get him right. The characters were created from painted colours on textured paper.  

51cO8B3DfnL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_ The pencil sketch style that I developed for A Trip to the Moon is my favourite though, I like that I get to draw it all by hand but have the ability to manipulate the images easily in Photoshop and keep the hand drawn look. I’ve used that technique in most of the books I’ve illustrated.  

What were the most rewarding and challenging aspects of creating the illustrations for this book?
The most rewarding part was when I got the look of Gus just right. Both Kaylene and I knew instantly when he was right, I think it’s his eyes that do it! There weren’t any real challenging parts to the illustrations, it’s amazing how easy it is to get the right expression on an asparagus!  

Do you like asparagus? What’s your favourite vegetable?
I love asparagus! Luckily the variety I eat doesn’t have saucer like eyes so I don’t feel like I’m doing anything wrong….  
Yes, I would consider asparagus to be my favourite 🙂  

You have authored and illustrated several children’s stories. Do you have a preference for a particular role in creating books for kids? Why?
Well I have never considered myself an author, just an illustrator. The fact that I have written 3 and a half of my own books doesn’t register really, but I think that’s all part of being an asparagus…  

What has been the biggest highlight for you since beginning your journey in the field of children’s literature?
The feedback is most definitely the best part of every book. I’m always a bit scared of doing book readings (I’m allergic to public speaking), but seeing the kids being interested in what I’m reading, pointing to the pictures and asking questions is amazing. It’s the whole reason I wanted to illustrate children’s books in the first place.  

51Mmu67oo-L._AA160_You have two new projects due out soon. Can you tell us a bit about the works you are creating with Georgie Donaghey and Michelle Worthington?
I have just finished Lulu by Georgie Donaghey and received the first copy a few days ago. It was a very challenging one for me because I decided to paint the illustrations this time. It’s very time consuming and less easy to correct if I make mistakes, so tougher when working to a deadline. In the end though I think I got it right and I’m very pleased with the final result.  

Angels Outside the Window is a gorgeous story by Michelle Worthington about her son’s experience with having a baby brother born prematurely. I am in the early stages with this one, trying to find the right style to work in. I want to keep it soft and dreamy; a sensitive style to go with a sensitive topic. Michelle is kindly donating profits from the sale of this book to the Life’s Little Treasures foundation, so it’s an extra incentive for me to get it just right!  

What does your art space look like? Creative clutter or meticulously organised?
It’s clutter central. Whenever it gets too much to cope with I panic and try to get someone to organise it for me. Kaylene has tried to empty my desk before, so has a professional de-clutterer. But it still ends up the same way. I can draw pretty pictures but I can’t for the life of me put something back where it belongs!!  

Is there anything else about Ann-Marie Finn that you can share with us? Something we won’t find on the internet!
Hmmmm, I think you might have guessed by now that I’m a bit of an asparagus 😉  

Thanks so much for talking with me, Ann-Marie! It’s been a blast!

Connect with Ann-Marie Finn:
www.amfillustrations.wordpress.com
www.facebook.com/amfillustrations
www.dragontalespublishing.com.au

World Autism Awareness Day was celebrated on April 2nd this year. You can find more information about the cause here.

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To WIN a copy of ‘Gus, the Asparagus’, head to the Gus the Asparagus Giveaway!
Entries close 9pm (AEST) Sunday April 26th 2015.