Ep 169 50th anniversary of “The Outsiders”. And meet children’s picture book author Zanni Louise.

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podcast-artworkIn Episode 169 of So you want to be a writer: It’s the 50th anniversary of “The Outsiders”! You can rent Emily Dickinson’s room by the hour to pen your next masterpiece. Discover how to write a good synopsis and your chance to win a double pass to the film “Whiteley”. Do you know any “apple-knockers”? You’ll meet children’s picture book author Zanni Louise. Plus: tips on using your commute to write and much more.

Click play to listen to the podcast or find it on iTunes here. If you don’t use iTunes you can get the feed here, or listen to us on Stitcher radio.

Shoutout of the Week
From Susan:

I love listening to AWC’s podcasts! They keep me company on my hour’s drive to babysit my grand daughter each Thursday. Sometimes I want to join in the chat and find myself talking and laughing along with you and Allison! I love the tips and ideas and especially enjoy hearing how other writers go about the tricky business of crafting their stories. I’m looking forward to tomorrow morning already!

Thanks, Susan!

Show Notes

 

S.E. Hinton on The Outsiders’ success: ‘It gave me writer’s block for four years’

‘a mighty room’: Studio Sessions in Emily Dickinson’s Bedroom

Mastering the Dreaded Synopsis

Writer in Residence

Zanni Louise

Zanni Louise writes warm stories for children, with a twist of quirk and sprinkle of humour. Her first picture book, Too Busy Sleeping, with Anna Pignataro (Little Hare), was long-listed for the 2016 CBCA Book Awards.

Archie and the Bear, illustrated by highly acclaimed international illustrator, David Mackintosh, is her latest book (Little Hare).

Zanni’s four book series for independent readers, Tiggy and the Magic Paintbrush, will be released with Bonnier Publishing in 2018. Her next picture book, Errol, will be released by Scholastic. Zanni’s books are published in multiple foreign territories.

Zanni lives with two daughters, one husband, five chickens and one sweet cat called Mary Feather Flower in her little sunshine house on the north coast of NSW, Australia.

Follow Zanni on Twitter

Competition

WIN 10x double film passes to “Whiteley”

Your hosts

Allison Tait

Valerie Khoo / Australian Writers’ Centre

Connect with us on twitter

@altait

@valeriekhoo

Email us

podcast at writerscentre.com.au

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Interview Transcript

Allison

Zanni Louise writes warm stories for children, with a twist of quirk and sprinkle of humour. Her first picture book Too Busy Sleeping, with Anna Pignataro, was longlisted for the 2016 CBCA Book Awards. Archie and the Bear, illustrated by highly acclaimed international illustrator David Mackintosh, will be released this week. Zanni’s four-book series for independent readers, Tiggy and the Magic Paintbrush, will be released in 2018. So Zanni Louise is very, very busy. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us today.

Zanni

Thank you for having me on the podcast.

Allison

All right. So let’s start way back when. We’ll go back in the Way Back Machine. When did you decide you wanted to try writing picture books?

Zanni

Well it was, like a lot of writers’ stories, quite an organic process. So I’ve always loved writing and enjoyed it as a child, and written lots of stories all through school and university. And after university, and work. But it wasn’t until I moved up to the Northern Rivers, where I live now, in New South Wales, having finished fulltime work because I was going to have a baby, that I felt really driven to do something more creative.

So I was wandering around with my baby, who needed a lot of pushing in prams and carrying in the sling, she was one of those sort of babies. And everywhere I walked my head would be filling up with stories and I really had a burning need to start writing them down. And at that time it was really short stories for adults.

And I joined the writer’s group in Bangalow and that gave me the incentive to write every week. Every month, really, we had to present a story. But it was a great incentive to do that. And I started to go into courses, and getting really… The more I looked into it, the more excited I became about writing, the more sure I felt I really wanted to do this as a thing.

And then I started a blog, and again it was a very evolutionary… Is that the word? Evolving process. So I started blogging, and I got really, really into blogging. Just for the sake of blogging. I was blogging about parenting stories and little funny things that were happening in our lives. And I really enjoyed that, and I loved the blogging community.

And just out of the blue one day, a PR rep contacted me, as they do, and asked would I be interested in interviewing Mem Fox on my blog and doing a promotion for her new book? And I thought, oh, absolutely! I grew up on Mem Fox. And so I got to do a written interview with her. And it just got me thinking oh, well, maybe I could interview authors and picture book or children’s book creators on my blog and promote their books. And so I started to do that. And I contacted the various publishers and asked them to send me books that I could review on my blog.

And so every month I was getting tonnes and tonnes of books, and it was really lovely. Because I’ve got two small children, and they love listening to stories. And we were reading lots of new stories all the time. So the more I did that, the more I really felt, well, this is what I want to be writing, this is where my passion really lies. And so I started playing around with, at first, stories in verse. And then more sort of simple children’s books, story ideas. Yeah, so that’s really where it began.

Allison

So when you say you were playing around with ideas and things like that, were you just sort of writing entire books to see what that would look like? Were you just sort of playing? Maybe describe that process a little bit. And then what did you do to then kind of take it to the next level?

Zanni

I mean, the first story that kind of came in its entirety was a really silly story about a sock who wanted to break free from its ordinary life and it sets off to find freedom, and it ends up finding all these singular socks on a beach sipping mocktails. It was very silly.

Allison

I kind of like it! Now I know where they go! That makes perfect sense. They’re all sipping mocktails. Okay.

Zanni

Yes. Exactly. By the coast.

Allison

Or socktails.

Zanni

Socktails. Oh, I like that.

Allison

It’s yours.

Zanni

Thank you. So that was, I mean, it was just a silly little verse story. And I think the second story I wrote was Too Busy Sleeping. And it’s obviously not the final version that ended up as the book, but it was definitely the first manuscript for that. And that writing of those stories coincided with, again, a very fortuitous thing that could happen. Was that through my blog, one of my blog readers was the managing director of Hardie Grant Egmont, and she’s a mum with a young family, and she’d just a child. She had a child around the same time as I had my second child. And a friend of hers had said, “oh read Zanni’s blog, she talks a lot about parenting things.” So she started reading my blog and she really liked the things I was writing about, and at some point reached out to me to ask a question about a port-a-cot, which I asked my community, and they told me what the best port-a-cot was – which, incidentally, is phil&teds, apparently.

Allison

Just in case you were wondering.

Zanni

And so that was a lovely sort of connection. And then she wrote back and she said, “oh well, thank you for that. And by the way, I am a children’s book publisher, and can I send you some books for your children?” And I was like, oh my gosh, absolutely. And then when she sent the books they were Little Hare Books, and that’s the publisher of Too Busy Sleeping and Archie and the Bear. And I loved the books. And she also sent her business card. And I said to my husband, “keep that card in your wallet and let’s never…” – and I said it to him because he tends not to lose things, whereas I…

Allison

And you do?

Zanni

And I do. Anyway. So he looked after that business card for me, and it also gave me that little incentive to write their stories. So that original connection to publishing was through Natasha.

Allison

How exciting. Well, okay then, how long did you need to hold on to the business card before your first book, Too Busy Sleeping, came to be published?

Zanni

Well, it actually wasn’t that long, because whilst I was having these thoughts in my head, oh, yes, I want to write children’s books, and I was playing around with stories, I had also put it out there on my Facebook community, which is linked to my blog. And I said, “Oh, I know what I want to do with my life. I want to write children’s stories.” And because Natasha read that comment, she then sent me a private message and said, “I’d love to see your manuscript, Zanni.” And so that’s really, it really was quite a short period of time.

Allison

Wow.

Zanni

Yeah. But then the publishing of the book, as you would know, took a few years.

Allison

All right, so let’s talk about that then. Can you tell us a little bit about what that process to publication was? Like was there anything about that process that surprised you? How did it come about?

Zanni

Well, it was all very exciting, as you all would know. So every email that came, I’d be waiting on these emails, from the publisher and they would say, “yeah we love it and we’ll let you know in a couple of months” or “we’ll let you know soon.” And then a couple of months would go past, and then maybe a few months. And every time you open your inbox your heart rate accelerates with excitement. But it does take a long time. So there was a bit of back and forth between the publisher and myself. So the first point was getting to the point that she liked the manuscript, and then it was basically an editing process. So we went back and forth, back and forth, three or four times.

Allison

And this is just on the text? This is back and forth?

Zanni

Purely on the text.

Allison

And approximately how many words are we talking?

Zanni

It started off about 500, and it ended up being about 350.

Allison

Okay.

Zanni

And it was intensive editing. So Margrete Lamond, who was my publisher at Little Hare, she is an amazing editor. And she was very, very generous with her editing suggestions and her process. And she did it all through track changes. And so she showed me what she was doing and how she was thinking, basically, as she worked through my text.

So for a first-time author, that was an amazing gift, really. Because I got to see the way she works, and I got to do that to my story. And it really was an amazing insight into how that all works. And she still does that, but maybe to a lesser extent with more recent manuscripts because I’m trusted to do that a bit more myself. So that was really fantastic.

So that went, I can’t really say, maybe several months. And then it had to go to acquisitions, so that’s the sales team, and it had to be acquired.

Allison

Oh, right. So this was all before it was acquired? You were doing some intensive work before it even got through the sales meeting?

Zanni

Exactly. Yeah. And that’s not always the case. But this all happened before acquisitions. So once Margrete was happy with the manuscript, it went through acquisitions. And then that process, then I waited another couple of months to find out what the result of that was. As in a very sort of a high drama story or movie, the meeting kept getting put back, put back for various reasons. So every time, every month I’d think oh this is it, it was another month. But anyway, when I finally got that email to say, “yes, it’s been acquired and we’ve decided to pair you with Anna Pignataro” – and I loved her work, so it was very exciting. And champagne was drunk.

Allison

Much champagne, I’d imagine. So let’s talk a little bit about that process of working with Anna. Because of course you’re a first-time author at this stage and you’ve not done any of this stuff before. Did you have any understanding of what it would be like to work with an illustrator? What was your role? Like, once the text, they were happy enough with the text to put it through acquisitions, was there a lot of changes to the text beyond that? Because we’ve interviewed picture book authors in the past and they talk a lot about leaving room in the text for illustrations and things like that. Was that something that you had to then work through with Anna as well? Or had you done that work before hand?

Zanni

With Little Hare you tend to do that work beforehand. So Margrete has got a great vision. So she really, part of her process is when she receives a manuscript, if she can visualise it with images and quite often the particular illustrator will be visualised as well, so that’s a big part of her process. So usually, by the time it’s gone to acquisitions, the text is fairly much ready. And there might be a little bit of tweaking. But yeah, leaving room for illustrations is very important. And also with my future manuscripts for Five Mile, they will also be illustrated, and so that is a similar process. So quite often the editor will say, “well, this line could be expressed through pictures, so let’s just drop that.” So that is a big part of the editing, is definitely leaving room for the images.

Allison

Is that difficult as an author? In the sense, particularly like Tiggy and the Magic Paintbrush is early readers, so as an author your job is to get everything on the page, isn’t it? It’s to kind of write all the things so the reader can be exactly where they need to be. And when you’re dealing with very early readers like that, word choice and all of that sort of stuff is so important. So is it a case of, okay then, I’m just going to trust the editor and the illustrator are going to get this and they’re going to do it? Or how does that work?

Zanni

Yeah. I mean, that is a bit… Or maybe it’s just because I am in the early stages of my career, but I really have a lot of trust in all those people, and it’s a huge privilege to work with all those people. Because the way I see it is, say, Margrete has had many decades worth of experience working in very big publishing houses, and I really do trust her judgement.

And it’s the same with Anna Pignataro, she’s done well over 60 books, so she really knows what she’s doing. And David Mackintosh really knows what he’s doing. So yeah, I do have a lot of trust that they will get what I mean.

And to give you a good example, actually, so I’ve recently signed a contract with Scholastic for a picture book. And the manuscript for that is 50 words or less, and many of those words are repeated. So it’s a very, very minimal text. And I really felt that if I just sent that as a text to someone, I think it would have been lost completely. But because I’m a fairly visual person myself – I don’t intend to illustrate my own books – but what I did was a line drawing of each spread to indicate what was going on in each thing.

Allison

Oh, okay.

Zanni

And I wouldn’t do that for everything, but for this manuscript it was particularly important. But I’ve found that that sort of sketching out my stories as I write them has liberated them quite a lot. And it really does mean a lot of it can be said through images rather than just through the text.

Allison

All right, so let’s talk about what happened next after Too Busy Sleeping came out, was longlisted for the CBCA Book Awards in 2016, everybody is cheering, it was fantastic. What happened after that?

Zanni

Yes, it was exactly like that. Actually, I think it was the day Too Busy Sleeping was released on the shelves I got an email from Margrete at Little Hare to tell me that Archie and the Bear had been acquired by Hardie Grant.

Allison

Oh, that’s a big day!

Zanni

It was a big day. It was very exciting. First of September, 2015.

Allison

Mark it in your calendars, people.

Zanni

Yes. A historic event. Actually, so after Too Busy Sleeping had come out, oh sorry, been acquired, so there was about two or three years between the point of acquisition and when it was released.

Allison

Wow.

Zanni

So that was two and a half years of me developing other stories. And I can honestly say I wrote, I don’t know, over a hundred manuscripts. It doesn’t mean any of them are worth publishing, but I wrote many, many stories in that time. And I had sent several of them to my publisher and they were met with varying degrees of enthusiasm. But then I sent one which was Archie and the Bear, and I got an email back that day saying that she loved it. So it didn’t take that long, actually, to go through acquisitions.

Allison

Right. So it was just a matter of you sort of trying different things to see what was going to be the right thing.

Zanni

Yep.

Allison

Did you ever have moments though, when you were, as you said, these things are being received with varying degrees of enthusiasm. Did you have a moment when you thought, “I can’t, I’ll never be able to write another one. I’m never going to have another book. I am a one book wonder.” Did you have those thoughts?

Zanni

I have had that thought many times. So first, it wasn’t until sometime after I’d written Too Busy Sleeping that I realised that I could pitch more stories. I’d sort of thought oh, I’ve got to wait for that book to come out and then I can do some more. But really, that’s really going to be a slow career. I’ve got to get cracking. So that’s when I started sending things.

And my first story I really thought, “I think my publisher will really like this.” And yeah, she didn’t mind it. But you know, it wasn’t, I could tell, it wasn’t the same uptake as the other one. So at first I was a little bit worried about my ability to do it. But then I just kept on going. And I thought, well, look, I enjoy writing, stories are coming to me constantly, I’m just going to keep writing them down. And the more I wrote them down the looser you become, I suppose, and the more freely you write. And so that was what was happening.

So then when I wrote Archie, it really sort of came quite easily, and it was a really lovely process to write that story. And yeah. But since then, although I’ve written many, many, many things since then, yeah, particularly last year I had about ten or so months of little bit… A lot of quiet from the publishers. And I was getting a little bit worried about my ability to make this a purposeful career. But as it turns out, it’s just publishing. Things are a bit slower and eventually I heard back from all those publishers and several of them turned into acquisitions. So yeah, patience is definitely a virtue.

Allison

So you said that you’ve just recently signed a contract for a picture book with Scholastic. Do you act as your… Are your submitting your stuff all yourself? Or do you have an agent now? Or how does that work for you?

Zanni

No, I do it all myself. It’s fortunate in Australia you can do that. Because I do have American friends who can’t do that, and they are quite astounded that that is possible.

Yeah, I mean, I’ve been quite lucky, I guess. I think part of it is having a very strong Facebook and blog type presence. I’m constantly chatting away on there. And a lot of those connections are linked to the industry. So yeah, and it was just a bit… So at some point, with Scholastic, that was really through a connection through Anna Pignataro, because she’s published by Scholastic. So yeah, I think that’s sort of more possible in Australia, that you can do that.

Allison

And did you find the process of publication different the second time around with Archie and the Bear? Did it follow the similar pattern to the first? Or were there any changes?

Zanni

Well, there was a lot less editing on Archie and the Bear. And that was really sort of incidental, like I’ve had other manuscripts which have been heavily edited again since then. It was just particularly that story. But that went through quite quickly compared to Too Busy Sleeping. Yeah, it just varies from situation to situation.

Allison

Okay. Now your new four book series for independent readers, how does this differ from writing for picture books? Like, they’re two quite different… Because with picture books you’re writing not only for children, but for adults to read to children. Whereas this early reader is for independent readers, so your audience is basically kids who are learning to read. Was that a challenge to go in that direction for you? How does it differ, the writing process, to picture books?

Zanni

Yes, it is very different. Initially when I aspired to do this sort of writing, writing for a slightly older age group, I was interested in it because Danny Parker who is another Little Hare author…

Allison

And one of our presenters.

Zanni

Oh wonderful. He’d written Lola’s Toy Box, and it had been released and I read it and I thought “oh, that’s great! I wonder if I can write series.” And his were slightly older than Tiggy, the Tiggy books. So I wrote something and it was about a 3D-printing machine, basically, that goes a bit AWOL. And I submitted that, or a few manuscripts, I think, to Hardie Grant Egmont who deal with the fiction side of our publishing house. And they were very lovely about it. And again there was intensive editing and the editor there was very generous with her feedback and with her suggestions. And we sort of went back and forth several times, and it felt like this is really, I’m learning something each time. And a lot of it was about refining the idea, having a very strong premise, and also writing very simply without writing… And I sort of had a tendency to write quite quaintly, a bit like Winnie the Pooh. And that’s lovely but it’s not really today. So that was something that I needed to kind of eke out of my system a bit, just having been raised on things like that. So the more I did it, the more refined it got. And it was certainly short sentences, simple words, and in the case of Tiggy, which will be highly illustrated, leaving a lot for the illustrator.

Funny, was important. And I think the more I write the more I develop my voice. I think it is leaning towards funny, humorous type writing. So for me that wasn’t impossible. But yeah, it was just practice really. And also the constant suggestions from firstly the editor from Hardie Grant Egmont and then later from Five Mile, the editors there were wonderful, and really helped me refine those manuscripts.

Allison

So your writing process sounds quite organic. I’m not getting the sense that you are a planner necessarily of a story arc, etc. But is that not that case? I mean, are you a planner?

Zanni

With picture books, not really. It’s really organic. And these days I’m using that sketching style to capture the story framework. And I’ll do it, so it’s really like you’re creating the skeleton. So in a way it’s a bit like planning. Before you sort of write the story out I first sketch it out.

The Tiggy books follow a little bit of planning. Like the premise is very strong. I know the problem, and I know roughly how it will be resolved. But again, I write it quite organically, it’s not like a point by point event narrative.

But last year, I was just experimenting, really, but I wanted to write a longer fiction. And I started doing courses and things like that. And because I am sort of a pantser, I was looking into how to be more of a planner. Because what I was finding by being a pantser was that just writing, writing, writing, I would get to about 10,000 words and then I would just hit a wall every time. And I did that sort of four or five times last year, and the idea would just completely die. And I’d think, oh this is just boring, or I don’t know where this story is going. And I’d just immediately lose heart.

But then I went to, I think it’s called the snowflake method, which is pretty much the opposite of my writing style. And I did like a refined version of that. Which was basically to do an outline, synopsis, for each major character. And by doing that, I then, when I did have a bit of time to sit down and write something in my organic type fashion, it just flowed out like a… It was amazing.

Allison

Because you knew where everyone was going and what they were doing?

Zanni

Yeah. And it did change a little bit along the way, but it was really wonderful! It was really liberating.

Allison

There you go.

Zanni

Wow, this is fantastic.

Allison

There you go. A framework.

Zanni

So I think I’m a bit of a combination.

Allison

I find a lot of authors are. Like it’s definitely a, you know, you’ve got to find out which percentage of which you are to kind of really, as you say, really hit that sweet spot where everything starts to just fall out of you, so to speak. There’s a pretty image for you right there. Maybe you’d like to put that in one of your books.

Now, you have a young family. As you said, you’ve got two youngish children. What are they, seven and four? And you’ve also been travelling a fair bit. Because I do follow your blog, and I follow your travels on your various social media outlets. So I must ask, how you fit the writing in? How do you make that work?

Zanni

I actually wrote a post about this on Friday. But basically, I just do. And ever since my first daughter Elka was born, I literally had her strapped to my chest or stomach or however it is, in her Hugabub, and I’d sit on a gym ball and I’d write. Because she was one of those babies who didn’t lie down and sleep. So I literally had her on me most of the day. And then the same with my second child. And it was quite handy, in a way, because they had all their sleeps like that. And I just say on the gym ball and wrote and did a little bit of bouncing here and there. It was quite handy! I did have time to do that, in a sense.

And then, you know, kids do take up a lot of time. And my four-year old isn’t even at preschool at the moment, so I’m with her a lot. So there isn’t a lot of time to write, but I do find those little pockets here and there.

And my husband and I have always had quite flexible incomes and that we both work for ourselves, or we’ve both been casuals. So it is possible to drop things and pick things up depending on what the situation is. And we’ve had periods of our lives which are just so crazy busy, where we’re renovating, we’re both working like crazy, and those times I don’t even attempt to write. Or maybe I just sort of jot a few things in a notebook. But I don’t put pressure on myself.

But with the travelling, though, that was fantastic. Because I think there is something about being away from your home that does inspire a certain creativity. Well, for me at least. And I was quite liberated, and did have time to write, because I had a lot of family support over there. And I wrote a novel, I don’t know that it will ever be published, but it was a middle-grade type novel. But I wrote the whole thing whilst my family were busy holidaying at the lake. And I was too, but I was sort of more concerned with writing. So, yeah, I found that having that time was really amazing. So when I did have that time, I used it to its capacity.

Allison

Do you think that there’s a misconception that writing shorter books, be they picture books or early readers or whatever, is actually easier?

Zanni

Yeah. It’s definitely just different. And I think there’s more difficult things about it that don’t necessarily meet the eye. I sort of explained the editing process as being intensive on the picture books. And it’s things you wouldn’t think of. Just the sound of a word, or rephrasing things in an original way, thinking of original ways to phrase things. Just having original ideas is… You know, there’s so many picture books and things out there. How do you make something which is different? Or how do you have an original idea? I’m fortunate that I’ve got two young kids, and so they are a big source of inspiration.

But I don’t know, it’s just different, I guess. But I am interested in playing around with writing for different age groups of children, still children, but different age groups. Because I guess I want to challenge myself, and I want to know if it is possible. But it’s just a different format.

Allison

Now, as I mentioned, you and I met through blogging many years ago. What role do you think, I mean, the blog has been quite instrumental in some ways in getting your publishing break, in a funny way, over port-a-cots. But what role do you think that the blog and your online platform in general has played in your publishing journey, so to speak?

Zanni

Well, absolutely huge. Like you mentioned having that first contact, and then when I did announce that Too Busy Sleeping was being published, it was just this outpouring of excitement from various people and that community. So I was really amazed by how appreciate everyone was of it. And that’s continued even up to now. So very supportive.

The actual contacts within that blogging community, so other bloggers like yourself, people that I’ve met through blogging either at conferences or just online, have been hugely important in that process. Especially when it’s come to marketing the books. Because with Too Busy Sleeping, or I think this is just the case with publishing, you are expected to market your own books quite a lot. Publishing houses don’t have endless resources, so they’re not going to be able to do a huge marketing campaign for every single book, so the more you can do yourself the better.

And what I did was, I was already connected with Australian blogging groups, and so I put out messages in there and said would anyone be interested in reviewing my books? And I got many, many, many replies. And from my own stock of books I actually sent to just about everyone, and with a very appreciative note, and I think most of them reviewed it on their blogs or various platforms. And that was very helpful.

And I also put it out there, just a message to say would anyone be interested in me coming to your town, or your bookstore, or your preschool or your school. And I got a lot of invitations that way. So I did a really extensive book tour when Too Busy Sleeping came out. And I’ve done that to a lesser extent with this book. But yeah, I was hugely pro-active. And a lot of that was coming through my blog and the contacts I’ve made through blogging.

Allison

So do you find that you kind of use your blog and your social media in the same way now as you used to? Or has it changed slightly now that you have books out?

Zanni

Yeah, it’s changed quite a bit. So initially, my blog was Heart Mama. And it was all really about parenting, and the lovely sides of parenting. And then when I found out about the picture book, I did actually rebrand, so to speak, and changed it to My Little Sunshine House. Because I wanted it to be more about, it was still about family, but it was less focused on the actual style of parenting. It was more about family incidental things that were going on, or things that I could relate somehow to picture books. And creativity was a big focus in that.

And now I’ve actually just moved my blog entirely, I’m still blogging at My Little Sunshine House, but as my children get older, and lots of bloggers find this, it gets harder to write those intimate family stories, I find. Just for privacy reasons, but lots of other reasons. And so I find I’ve got less and less to say on that personal family blog. But I still want to write more and more about writing itself, and about the process of writing. So what I’ve done is started to blog on my author website, and already I’m getting lots of readers over there. And I’m targeting towards writers, want-to-be writers, and readers of picture books and children’s books. So I find that’s been definitely a big organic change. But it’s constantly evolving.

Allison

And we find your website at ZanniLouise.com and we’ll put the link in the show notes to that, because there are some fantastic posts over there about writing and other things that you should probably have a look at.

But also, and I know I’ve talked about this before, but your author website is one of the nicer, most well-organised author blogs or author websites that I visit on a regular basis. And I think that aspiring authors would be well-advised to pop over and have a quick look at what Zanni is doing. because it’s simple and effective, and I think that that’s basically what we’re looking for from author websites these days.

And I also noticed that you actually sell books directly from your website which is quite unusual for an author, in some ways. I’m just wondering why you set that up and how that kind of came about?

Zanni

I can’t really remember exactly why I did that initially. But I asked my publisher if that was possible, and it was with Little Hare. And I guess I just wanted to give people another option. Because I have such a lovely supportive online community, and they were constantly showing such, saying such lovely things about the book, and talking about where they can buy it, etcetera. And you can buy it at most good bookshops. But I guess I just wanted to give people another online option. And it’s a signed copy, so that’s the difference.

Allison

Which makes a big difference for a lot of people. Okay, so our last question for today is of course the famous three top tips for aspiring writers.

Zanni

Well, I just wrote about this on Friday, so it’s fresh in my head. But one of them is keeping your creativity close at hand. So what I mean by that is no matter how busy you are or no matter what you’re doing in your life, keep being creative in no matter what function you can. Whether it’s writing on the back of a serviette, or scribbling down things in a notebook, or writing in the mist of the mirror, you know, just keep doing little tasks constantly. Activate those creative muscles. So then when you do have your pockets of time when you can write, or do what it is you do, the creative juices are already flowing. And I find that it’s much easier to then produce something.

And so then on that token, it’s just constantly keeping an ear out of an eye out for ideas and potential ideas, and every little innate moment in your life can become something bigger, and can become a story. It can become a fiction series. You know, there’s so much opportunity. But it’s about just attending to them.

So I do tend to watch a lot of Netflix, and I feel like it’s sucking the juice out of life. But you know, I could pay my attention to Netflix, or I could pay my attention to the possibility of story. And I find that will take my further in life.

So my third tip… Hmm… I definitely think nurturing your relationships and your community is very important. Finding your comrades. I’ve got a couple of girls I write to on a weekly basis, and we’re very supportive of each other’s work and our journey, and it’s very very, you know, a fantastic thing for me. But also your online communities, and your publishing contacts, and attending conferences. And not exhausting those contacts, but really sort of nurturing them. And giving back to that community. So like what I do on my blog, I like sharing writing tips, I like sharing my experiences, and hope that helps other people. So really being an active member of those communities will benefit you to no end.

Allison

Fantastic. All excellent tips. Thank you so much for your time today Zanni Louise. It’s been absolutely lovely talking to you. Of course, Archie and the Bear is out this week. Keep an eye out for it in all good bookshops. Or you can pop along to ZanniLouise.com and buy yourself a signed copy, why would you not? And best of luck with all of the many, many projects that you’ve got coming up.

Zanni

Thank you so much. It was so lovely to talk to you.

 

 

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