August 27, 2011

Interview with Children's Author/Editor of Walker Books (Australia) Sue Whiting


When did you first know you wanted to be an author?
I fell in love with children's literature as a young teacher. But it wasn't until I was in my late twenties that the desire to write started to flare. (Quite unexpectedly.)  I kept  a lid on it for another ten years before the desire became too strong and I had to give it a crack.

What makes you passionate about writing?

I love story. I love the way we, as human beings, connect with story and are changed because of it. And there is nothing better than being lost inside your own stories, listening to your characters as they tell you what's on their minds and watching them as they solve the problems and challenges you throw their way.

What was the road to publication like for you?

Rocky. As it is for most and I built quite a hefty pile of rejection letters along the way. But I was advised early on that the key to success was to continue to write and write to improve my craft and to never give up – to persevere no matter what. It was excellent advice.

Tell us about your books.

I write books for all age groups, ranging from picture books for the very young to novels for teens. My most recent books include a novel for 10 – 14 year olds, set in a coastal tourist town one blistering and bushfire-filled summer, Get a Grip, Cooper Jones, and an Aussie Nibble chapter book, illustrated by by Stephen Michael King. 

Can you please describe a typical day?

I rise early as I am on the train to work at seven am. It is a long commute, so I use the time wisely: working on my work in progress and reading manuscripts etc. I am Publishing Manager at Walker Books, so the day in the office is always very busy and there never seems enough time to do all the tasks I hope to complete each day. But is a rewarding job and I feel privileged to work with such a talented team and with so many wonderful creators. The home commute is a time to chill, but also to tinker with my writing as well. Once I get home, I have a few hours of the usual dinner, telly and family stuff, then if I still have some energy, a little more time on my writing. 

What are you involved in over book week?

I have the week off from my day job and am on the "road" traversing from one end of Sydney to the other to schools and libraries to talk to kids about books and writing. Sixteen sessions, approximately 800+ children – it's a busy week, but also lots of fun and I always come home feeling inspired. 

Are you doing anything for literacy week?

I'm flying up to Brisbane for the Ipswich Literature FestivalBrisbane Writers' Festival and the CYAconference.

What's the best part about conducting workshops and presenting?

Presenting truly is my favourite part of the job. The opportunity to share my passion for books and reading and writing with kids is a joy. And the chance to share my own stories and to witness firsthand what works well is priceless. To coin a phrase from my picture book, The Firefighters: I love it. I really do!

What's your secret to presenting to children?

  My top tips:

  • Be prepared – rehearse and refine your presentations. 
  • Be flexible – always have a plan B.
  • Props and dress-ups, visuals and variety – all help to keep the kids engaged.
  • Incorporate some audience participation.
  • Don't rely on technology. 

Where do you write?

Everywhere and anywhere. I have a home office/study that I share with my family, and a small writing nook in a spare bedroom, but these days much of my writing is done on my laptop wherever I happen to be: on the train on my trip to work, in cafes, on the sofa. My favourite time and place is sitting up in bed with my laptop on a Sunday morning.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

Spare time? What's that? I spend a lot of my spare time reading and writing, but I also like to go on very long walks and enjoy the bush and the beach near where I live.

What do you like to read?

I read a variety of genres, but at the moment I think I enjoy reading Australian YA the most. I love the honesty within the pages, the raw emotion and heart, and the fresh voices. My favourite books of all time include The Book Thief, Marcus Zusak and To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee.

What advice would you give aspiring writers?

Read and read and read. Write and write and write. Remember that writing is a craft and requires time and effort. Write from your heart. Never give up!


Charmaine Clancy said...

Great interview :)
Wagging Tales - Blog for Writers

Unknown said...

Thanks Charmaine and Sue of course for doing the interview. Sue, I love the photo of you dressed up in the fireman/woman suit. I bet the kids had a ball!