This year the annual Rottnest Retreat, organised by the International Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI West), gave me the opportunity to pitch a new idea to Jane Godwin, publisher of children’s books for Penguin Australia.
Before my latest book, To See the World, turned into such a wilful and errant child, I was regularly published by Penguin, but never on their picture book list. So when it was advertised that Jane Godwin would be one of the visiting publishers at the Rottnest Retreat this year, I jumped at the chance to show her my latest picture book manuscript in a one-on-one critique session. These sessions are an important feature of the SCBWI Retreat each year. Where else would you get such a fantastic opportunity to have the undivided attention of a reputable publisher? Jane read my work and gave me good advice on how to improve the overall story. Although I didn’t follow that advice to the letter (Jane would not have expected me to) her suggestions allowed me to re-think the visual and emotional impact of the story on my readers. As so often happens during the development of a story, fresh eyes are needed. As a writer I become too close to my own work. It’s only after someone else reads and comments on it that I can see other possibilities. Invariably the story is strengthened by the fresh approach that suddenly becomes possible.
No matter what eventually happens to my Professor Louis Labrat story I want to thank SCBWI West for making sessions like this available to West Australian writers and illustrators. Fingers crossed that you will hear more about the whacky Professor in due course.