'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Friday 30 July 2010

Interview: Vicki Stanton

We're thrilled to be joined by children's book-lover and Buzz Words magazine editor, Vicki Stanton, today. Details of how you can subscribe to this must-read 'ezine' are at the website, buzzwordsmagazine.com.

Tell us a little about you: what’s your background, your story? My background is quite varied which is a blessing because I have been able to experience many different aspects of life. My family moved around quite a lot when I was younger – nothing flash like overseas – but around Melbourne and a stint in Tasmania. The horrors of starting at a new school is well known to me! My mum was country raised but Dad is a city boy so I also experienced both sides of the coin from my extended family.

When I left school I trained as a registered nurse and while I enjoyed the work I felt it wasn’t really me so I enrolled in university to study history and politics. I still love history, especially Australian and early 20th century history, but I absolutely loathe politics having become very cynical of the whole process.

Why are you so impassioned about literacy and children’s literature? As a child I enjoyed reading – my favourite book being The Magic Faraway Tree. I, like many little girls, wanted to be Silky the fairy. And who wouldn’t want to live in a world with all those cakes (my vice)! However, as an adult I didn’t read much for pleasure – many adult books are too longwinded and overly descriptive for me.

When I had my first child and began reading to her I fell in love with children’s books all over again. I love the simplicity of the stories. This is not to say that the stories are simple but, instead of obscuring the story with lots of waffle, they cut right to the heart of what is important not only to children but to all of us – family, love, our sense of belonging and so on. This is true of the whole range of children’s books from picture books through to young adult titles.

Children obviously need to be able to read at a basic level to function in this world but literacy should go so much further than that. Reading, especially reading for pleasure, assists children to not only make some sense of their own world but also to have other experiences and to even sometimes be able to view the world from someone else’s perspective. If EVERYONE could do this the world would be a more content place.

How long have you been editing Buzz Words magazine? I started editing Buzz Words in March 2009 under the guidance of its founder Di Bates and took over as publisher in August 2009.

What inspired you to take on the magazine? Di had indicated for a while that she wanted to hand Buzz Words over to someone else but I didn’t even think about taking it on until Di asked me personally whether I would consider it. Initially, I said thanks but no thanks.

Buzz Words is such a thorough resource and Di’s standing in and knowledge of the children’s book world is second-to-none. She has had over 100 books published and has been a very active supporter of the Children’s Book Council of Australia, the Fellowship of Australian Writers and a mentor to many people.

But then I thought why not? I love children’s books, I love talking about children’s books, I am reading and researching about children’s books all the time anyhow. Maybe I could do it? And I didn’t want to look back and feel I’d missed a golden opportunity to become involved in the industry because I doubted myself.

Can you tell us what it comprises? Buzz Words is a fortnightly ezine which collates a vast array of information on the children’s book industry into one document. Buzz Words includes industry information, markets, opportunities, interviews, articles, competitions, festivals, writing courses and book reviews. A book review supplement, Books Buzz, is also sent out bi-monthly to subscribers.

Tell us about the format of the magazine and why you designed it this way. The basic format of the magazine was designed by Di. When I first started compiling Buzz Words I was on a massive learning curve and kept strictly to Di’s format. Recently, as I have more fully grasped the requirements of Buzz Words, I have altered the font, shuffled around the order of the sections and have incorporated a new header designed by the wonderfully talented Sally Hall.

Who is it aimed at and what do you hope Buzz Words provides its readers? Primarily Buzz Words is aimed at people working in the children’s book industry. It is for writers, illustrators, editors, booksellers, publishers, agents, teachers and librarians.

However, I also hope that people who read and love children’s books find items of interests in Buzz Words with author interviews, articles, book reviews etc. I try to stay across all the current trends, issues and discussions within the industry as well as alerting readers to what opportunities are available not just for creators but such events as reader and writers’ festivals, book launches and exhibitions of artwork. I hope to make the life of those who read Buzz Words easier by doing their research for them and locating markets, opportunities, giving brief rundowns on current issues and pointers to more information if so desired.

Where do you envisage the magazine heading? I hope that Buzz Words can continue to provide subscribers with the information to keep tabs on what is happening in the world of children’s books, particularly with the rapid changes in areas such as digitalization of books and online services. I’m also very conscious of responding to subscribers’ needs and always open to suggestions and queries. Buzz Words exists to help people further their knowledge and careers.

I am also in the process of developing a blog for Buzz Words where I can post interviews, articles, book reviews and the like.

Has writing for children changed in the past decade? How? Writing for children continues to get better and better. It is a very dynamic field. No topic is off limits now and all preferences and reading abilities are catered for from reluctant readers to horror, cross-gender issues, history and humour to name but a few.

What books did you read as a child? I loved Enid Blyton. The Faraway Tree series and The Wishing Chair were big favourites which I read and reread. Another book which I treasured was The Snow Goose by Paul Gallico. It was published during the Second World War and tells the story of a girl, a snow goose and a lighthouse keeper in Britain culminating in the evacuation from Dunkirk. Tearjerker would be an understatement. I don’t know whether this book started my fascination with the history of this time or I loved it because it fed into it.

What else do you like to do? As well as publishing Buzz Words and reading, I love to write for children and spend a lot of my spare (!) time doing so. Stories and characters are continually running around in my head. Spending time with my family, including my extended family is a must. This is difficult as my extended family lives in Melbourne but I make a point of visiting at least four times a year. If I don’t I feel like my soul is shrivelling.

I also love to scrapbook and am very interested in my family heritage. These two interests combine well. Another passion is the footy – Aussie Rules. Being an ex-Melbourne girl how could I not?

What is it about children’s books that fascinates you? As an adult reader of children’s books I love the beauty of picture books and seeing the world through a child’s eye again when everything is fresher and clearer. Even though children, and especially young adults, have problems to deal with there is much less cynicism in titles for these readers.

I love watching children read and reading with children too. There is a closeness that can be achieved through shared reading that cannot be delivered by any other activity. Reading together encourages the sharing your thoughts. I also love how children read the words then take the time to drink in the illustrations.

What five words best sum you up? Loyal, patient, stubborn, thorough, committed.

If you could do any job in the world, what would it be? An award-winning and prolifically published author for children! Outside of the writing field, working as an archivist or curator in a museum – one such as the Australian War Memorial.

What’s next for Vicki Stanton? Hopefully, publication in the trade market. I have had a few competition wins and short listings and a few pieces picked up for the educational market but have not yet cracked the trade market. I was fortunate enough to win the 2009 NSW CBCA Frustrated Writers’ Mentorship and am currently working with Glenda Millard on that manuscript. Fingers crossed!

How can we subscribe to Buzz Words magazine? To receive a free copy and to subscribe to Buzz Words you can contact me at vicki@stanton.id.au or send a cheque/money order for $44 (made out to Vicki Stanton) to PO Box 132 Woonona NSW 2517. Or check out the Buzz Words’ website at www.buzzwordsmagazine.com

Anything else you’d like to say? Thank you for the opportunity to be interviewed for this amazing blog. The children’s book world is full of generous and giving people who are passionate about children, literacy and books. It is a fantastic to be associated with such people.