Today we hear from author Susan Ross…
These Are a Few of My Favourite Things About Being a Children’s Author (Please get into the spirit of the article by singing the first part of the title.)
Okay, let’s get this out of the way. Of course, I don’t love everything about my job, but who does? I have two pet peeves: bookkeeping and consignment sales. They both tax my brain (no pun intended). So now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to the fun stuff.
I love writing and making up stories. I love how ideas just pop into my head. I get to use my imagination and creativity. I can make ANYTHING happen in my stories. It’s great! I love using my sense of humour, sometimes light, usually slightly edgy.
I used to do storytelling at different venues. There would be a special event and I’d make up a story around it. That’s how I got the ideas for three of my four books. With storytelling there’s no pressure, no worries about word choice or grammar; just the joy of creating and telling a story. However when I’m gone, the stories die with me. I was told by a parent at one event that I should write the stories down for my grandchildren (that I STILL don’t have) and so I did; but it was slow going so I got frustrated and stopped. Then I saw The Bucket List. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend that you do so. I got off my laurels and began working on my stories again. It was hard work but creative, challenging and well worth the effort. My fondest wish is that my stories will be read for generations to come.
The Great Bellybutton Cover-up was created for a sheep shearing event. I decided it would be funny if one of the sheep did not want to be sheared because everyone would see her bellybutton. She’d find different things to wear to cover it up. Violet is a very determined and creative sheep. She never gives up.
The Kit Kat Caper was created for a Halloween event. I love Kit Kats. So naturally I decided to make up a story about a rather impolite little witch who only wants Kit Kats. The little witch walks around in her tall black hat; on her shoulder is a bat; trailing her is a black cat. Everyone thinks she looks familiar. No one recognizes her. There are hints to her identity in the story and the pictures. No, I’m not going to tell you who she is.
The Rose and the Lily was created for a strawberry event. Pompous Princess Rose sent Prince Sterling on a quest for the perfect fruit. I changed the prince’s quest to the perfect hairpin when I retold the story at a children’s festival. This very funny fairy tale illustrates the proverbs “beauty is only skin deep” and “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” I love Princess Rose. She’s absolutely horrid.
Generally stories just come to me, triggered by a word, picture or event. I have many stories yet to be published but no money for illustrations or printing. (This is my sneaky plug to get you to BUY MY BOOKS or no more stories for you!)
That leads me to another thing I enjoy: selling. Not selling to stores particularly, but selling “one on one” or at shows. It’s challenging, sometimes demoralizing, but usually exhilarating.
Collaborating on the illustrations and the layout of my books is another favourite part of the job. Having this type of control is, to my mind, the best thing about self-publishing.
I wish I could do the artwork and layout by myself but I don’t have the skills. So I use the illustrator’s/graphic artist’s talent and my vision of the story and together we create wonderful illustrations and layouts. If I had a publisher I would have no say in the illustrations. What’s the fun in that? I’ve got the whole book in pictures in my head. If it doesn’t look the way I imagine it, then it’s not really my story. Pictures are a huge part of picture books (hence the name “picture books”).
My favouritest (yes, I know there’s no such word but there should be) part of my job is doing author visits. Nothing gives me more pleasure than reading my book to a crowd of children and watching their reactions to my stories. Then I discuss all the aspects of my job with them. I talk about the writing, the illustrating and selling. Sometimes I talk about the layout, marketing and the business aspects if the kids are old enough. My “selling” stories are hysterical because I have no shame. If you look like you have kids or grandkids I’ll approach you in a parking lot, a grocery store, a restaurant (my husband hates that), the train, the subway station, anywhere I can. (Are you a plumber coming to my house to fix a leaky tap? Beware, I will try to sell you a book.) As for marketing – putting logos of sheep with bellybuttons on the car does not endear you to your husband. But hey, business is business and it’s a great way to advertise.
When I have extra time at a visit, I take advantage of my captive audience and try out my manuscripts on my little subjects to get their input. I get to check that they “get” the funny parts and that there are no boring or slow parts. The test is whether they would want the book as a gift. If most of them say “yes”, the story gets illustrated and published. Constantly changing the wording of the story can be frustrating. But in the end I know the story is much better than it would have been if I didn’t seek input from as many sources as possible. Writing is an art and a talent. As in all things in life, practice and hard work makes perfect; well nothings perfect but that’s another story.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my passion – children’s books. Perhaps I’ve inspired you to write your own story. Regardless, I’ll consider this article a success if you learned a little something and if I got you to smile.
Thanks, Susan! A fun insight. You can find out more about Susan here.