Explaining Australia's federal voting system seems like strange inspiration for a picture book – but that's exactly what Krys Saclier did for her second book Vote 4 Me, illustrated by Cathy Wilcox, and published through Wild Dog Books.
“It explains preferential voting – but don't let that put you off!” Krys says. “It's lots of fun and even [political satirist] Mark Humphries said he wished he read it before prematurely declaring Labor the winner of the 2019 election.”
Krys is a graduate of several AWC courses, including History, Mystery and Magic, How to Write for Children and Young Adults, and Pitch Your Novel: How to Attract Agents and Publishers. Her debut picture book, Super Nova, was published in 2019 through Ford Street Publishing with illustrations by Rebecca Timmis.
Learning to focus on one project at a time
Krys had always imagined being published one day, and was a keen writer.
“I was always going to write, regardless of whether I was published or not, which is part of the reason I started the Kids Only Podcast because I could get my work out into the world through a different medium.”
But it was while transitioning into casual work that Krys thought she should challenge herself and enrol in a course at the Australian Writers' Centre.
“I was at one of those major turning points. I had gone into casual employment in order to balance work with motherhood, so why not throw in the dream of becoming a writer as well,” Krys says. “Most of the courses are online and flexible, which is fantastic if you are trying to shove an extra thing into your already over-stuffed existence.”
Krys certainly does enjoy juggling! She's not afraid to have too many projects on the go at once, which is why she particularly valued advice from AWC presenter Kate Forsyth.
“I always remember her saying to focus on one project at a time which is excellent advice, even if I don't always stick to it. It's easy to get overwhelmed with ideas and opportunities so focussing on one thing and completing it has been beneficial for me,” Krys says. “She's inspirational and a wonderful teacher!”
From writing dreams to reality
That focus paid off, with the publication of Krys's first picture book, Super Nova, in 2019. Super Nova turns superhero stereotypes on their heads by making the little sister the hero of the story.
“My first book, Super Nova (illustrated by Rebecca Timmis and published by Ford Street), took years to go from an idea to a physical book I could hold,” Krys says. “There were many, many drafts and so much work went into it. I was sending it to all the publishers of children's picture books and getting constant rejections, so when I got an acceptance it was an absolute shock.”
Holding the physical book was well worth all the effort and it was shortlisted for the 2019 Aurealis Awards for Best Graphic Novel / Illustrated Work.
“There is nothing like seeing your book in real life – and someone actually reading it,” Krys says. “One of the best things someone has told me is that their toddler son loves Super Nova and is always asking for it. That's especially important because one of the themes in Super Nova is that boys can admire girls. It's a narrative that boys don't commonly see. I love that a little boy is going to grow up thinking of girls as superheroes.”
Krys's second book, Vote 4 Me, was a much quicker process, but still a lot of work. It was published in 2020 by Wild Dog Books and it explains Australia's rather intricate voting system. It's a very unique topic for a picture book and it stems from Krys's work as an electoral educator. The book follows the students of Mount Mayhem as they elect leaders to improve the school’s hideous uniforms, awful tuckshop food and empty sport’s cupboard – and no doubt, adults will learn a lot from the book, too!
Krys recognised that while there were lots of resources to teach upper primary kids about Australia's democratic process, there wasn't anything that told a proper story. The book is a remarkable achievement that sees Krys marry her two passions – electoral education and writing.
No plans to stop juggling
With two books now published, Krys is committing even more time to her writing, as well as continuing on with her education work.
“I'm still juggling all my responsibilities, but the writing is now a bigger part. It's gone from being one of those little multicoloured balls to a chainsaw,” Krys says. “I even have an office now, rather than covering our dining table in an avalanche of papers.”
Congratulations, Krys. We're looking forward to seeing what interesting topic you cover in your next book!