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Friday 12 March 2021

Guest Post: Allison Paterson on The Process of Researching and Creating

All books begin with a seed of an idea. Sometimes that little seed takes time to shoot and grow. 

Australia Remembers 2: Customs and Traditions of the Australian Defence Force (Big Sky Publishing) began as one of those slow-growing seeds that, with time, research and lots of negotiation, actually took root!

I have an enduring interest in Australian history and military service and have previously published books related to the service of my ancestors, including the children’s version of my adult title Anzac Sons. 

The creation of these books was the foundation for the Australia Remembers series, but my 20 years of experience as a teacher-librarian created the stimulus for action.

Every year I felt I was supplying teachers with the same non-fiction resources regarding the origins and traditions of Anzac Day and Remembrance Day. There was also a lack of information regarding war memorials, especially local ones. I wanted to provide a useful and curriculum specific book that would add to the available resources, one that would be valued by both teachers and children. Australian Remembers: Anzac Day, Remembrance Day and War Memorials (Big Sky Publishing) came to be. But … there was so much fascinating information that I couldn’t include – like why do service personnel salute, why do they turn their eyes when they march past an important person, what is the purpose of a march past?

I became very curious about the origins of the rituals we see on commemorative occasions. I reflected upon the number of times children had asked me … why? I saw an opportunity. I submitted a proposal to Big Sky Publishing and both the military and children's editor loved the idea. Now over two years in the making, I'm thrilled to see this book come to life!

The primary source of information was a book for adults called Preserving Our Proud Heritage (BSP), which is specific to the Australian Army. I plucked points of interest for schools from this title, researched them a little more and worked at simplifying the language for children. I then went hunting for more facts – like why do sailors wear white? I used the online resources of the Australian War Memorial, Royal Australian Navy, Australian Army and Royal Australian Air Force and also visited lots of museums. I received invaluable assistance from ex-service personnel and the History and Heritage sections of the three services.

There were also many approvals required for both text and images by the individual services, and collectively the Australian Defence Force. For instance, the use of the badges for each service all need approval from individual Brand Managers. It was a very involved process working with the military editors and fact checkers to ensure the best possible outcome. There were over forty drafts of the Australia Remembers 2: Customs and Traditions of the Australian Defence Force manuscript.

Then there were decisions to be made about grouping the information, and what facts to include and what to leave out – the research had resulted in an enormous manuscript that I needed to trim right back for children. That was tough. Then for each chapter we considered the interactive elements, the thought-provoking questions for children that can be used to stimulate discussion. Then, of course, there was the selection of the final activities that we add as a bonus!

After adding captions for each image, the manuscript and photos headed off to the designers. The team did an amazing job interpreting the colour-coded manuscript. The PDF of the design was then returned to me. Over twenty revisions were then made of the PDF. It also needed final approval of the three services. Phew … it was ready for print, but after all that, COVID delayed the 2020 production …

Finally, it’s 2021 and the books arrived on my doorstep!

The little seed of an idea had grown into a fabulous new book (well, I think it is)!

Allison Paterson is the author of the 2016 ABIA and CBCA longlisted title Anzac Sons: Five Brothers on the Western Front, the children’s version of the adult non-fiction title Anzac Sons: the Story of Five Brothers in the War to End All Wars. She has written two other children’s books, Granny’s Place and Shearing Time. Allison was a teacher-librarian for over twenty years and has reviewed children’s literature for Magpies Magazine for almost as long. She was a recipient of a 2017 May Gibbs Children’s Literature Trust Creative Time Fellowship. The resulting young adult manuscript Follow After Me was published in 2019.

Allison now works full-time as a writer and presenter in schools.

Australia Remembers: Customs and Traditions of the Australian Defence Force
is the second book in a series that focuses on Australian military history specifically written for children aged 6–12 years. The book delves into the historical origins of customs and traditions of the ADF, their symbolism, significance and why they are preserved.

Watch the book trailer for Australia Remembers, here.

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