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

Saturday 17 March 2012

Interview: KBR Unpublished MS Award Winner Rebecca Colless

even as a tot, our winner was a creative soul
In just one month, Kids Book Review is launching its second annual Unpublished Picture Book Manuscript Award. We've made some changes to the award, making it easier to enter - with a larger cash prize for the winner. But most exciting of all, we have a wonderful publisher who is willing to look at the winning manuscript!! We will reveal ALL on 16 April . . .

To celebrate our second year running this award, we are taking a look back at our 2011 award - and are excited to introduce you to the winner of our Unpublished Author category - Rebecca Colless - whose fabulous story - Bollinger's Feast - was an absolute joy to read.

Enjoy this peek into the life a true lover of words - and stay tuned for our interview with our Published Author 2011 winner - Catriona Hoy.

Who are you? Is this a trick question?

What do you do? Currently, I am developing a non-fiction picture book for our local water supplier. It’s for toddlers. I previously developed a kindergarten book for the same business. I also manage the marketing for my husband’s business: www.redbeardbakery.com.au. And I’m a mum. In my spare time I sing, walk and read (not always simultaneously).

Tell us a little bit about you. I have a science degree and post-grad qualifications in communications and journalism. My first job was at Scienceworks Museum in Melbourne, developing science shows and other experiences for visitors. After that, my husband and I ran our own travelling science shows for five years. We visited schools all over Australia. We also worked for various science museums – training their staff and developing exhibitions, shows and a children’s activity book.

I have since worked in education/communications/marketing for a university, the CSIRO and a sourdough bakery. Meanwhile, I had two daughters – now aged 7 and 11. We live in Woodend, a small and friendly town, not far from Melbourne. Recently, I wrote and directed a couple of children’s musicals for local charities – one about Australian animals and one for Christmas.

How long have you been writing? I have been paid to write non-fiction and for promotional purposes in a variety of media, for a wide range of audiences, throughout my 20 year career. I have always written songs and stories just for fun. I’d like to break into professional fiction writing.

Why do you write? I love to read, and after absorbing lots of stories, I feel I have to start excreting some, or I’ll burst. I also love the challenge of communicating well – using the right words and images for a specific audience to educate, entertain and persuade them by design.

What genre do you prefer to write in? Picture books are my preference at the moment because (a) I don’t have the big chunks of time available that it would take me to settle into a novel; and (b) I enjoy trying to use fewer, more exquisite words to tell a story.

Since having kids, I have read thousands of children’s books and analysed what makes them work (or not), so I think I know how to do it well. I just wish I had the talent to create the illustrations as well as the text. I can see the pictures so clearly inside my head…

You entered and won KBR's inaugural Unpublished Picture Book Manuscript Award in November last year – what inspired your winning piece? My winning story – Bollinger’s Banquet - is about the wonderful variety of food available around the world. It was inspired by a trip I made to Europe, combined with my experience as a mother trying to entice reluctant children to try new tastes.

How did it feel to win? Very encouraging, thank you. Being an unpublished author can feel like being a leper with laryngitis – no-one invites you in and no-one hears you. It’s wonderful to know someone (other than my family) has taken the time to read my stories and has liked them.

Why are writing competitions important for both published and unpublished authors? It’s a chance to measure up and discover if you’re deluded about the quality of your writing! I also hope that doing well in this competition makes it easier to get published.

What are you working on now? I am working on several picture book manuscripts simultaneously. My husband gave me an idea for a sequel to Bollinger’s Banquet.

I also want to write a personal story. My grandfather was the Captain of HMAS Sydney when it was sunk. The consequences for his family were severe and lasting. However, there is a bittersweet story about a dolls house inside the historic tragedy.

In addition, I am working on Moving the Goalposts - a story about a football and a seagull who hatch a plot to escape from their unhappy lives at the MCG. I’m from New South Wales originally, so I don’t understand the Victorian obsession with AFL, and this is my protest piece!

What is your ultimate writerly dream? Of course, I dream of making a good living creating to my own agenda. I wouldn’t mind either if my publisher/agent/personal assistant had smouldering good looks, although his obvious passion for me would have to remain tragically unrequited.

Name three children’s books you love – and why.
The Church Mice series by Graham Oakley – highly original plots, witty text and heart-warming, detailed illustrations.

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems – it’s interactive, it’s fun for all ages and it has the perfect punchline.

The Large Family books by Jill Murphy – therapy for mothers, disguised as bedtime stories: genius!

Which children’s book character best represents you and why? Amy in Henry and Amy by Stephen Michael King. Like Amy, I wish I wasn’t a perfectionist. Like Henry, my husband tends to create chaos, not always unintentionally. Like the fictional friends, we complement each other and live happily together… most of the time.

What’s next for you? Fame and fortune, surely?