Monday, 23 May 2016

Introducing A New York Year and A Texas Year!

Yeeha - advance copies have arrived!

Tina and I have gone stateside with the latest in our A Kids' Year series for EK Books ... introducing Texas and New York!

We had a blast working on these titles and it was fascinating learning more about the incredible and varied cultures and traditions in both states. We hope our adorable characters warm the hearts of people everywhere, no matter where you live.

Order your advance copies right here - A New York Year, A Texas Year. And you can see all A Kids' Year in the series so far (Australia, England, Scotland) right here.

Out August!

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Ask Tania: How much do I present to a publisher in order to be taken seriously?

Dear Tania, 

How much do I present to a publisher in order to be taken seriously? Do I need to have the whole book written to go to a publisher, or just a few pages or the concept?


Hi, Lisa,

Every book, every creator, every publisher, every 'route' to publication is different, and oftentimes as uniquely individual as each and every book.

Some people submit to a slush pile and are picked up (rare!). Some people submit after entering a competition. Some submit through an agent. Some submit an idea to a publisher they may have met at a conference (HIGHLY recommend attending conferences!) and that idea is interesting to the publisher, so they ask them to flesh it out and submit. Some might win the chance to submit directly.

Some might receive a manuscript critique and be picked up that way. Some are already published or know publishers well and can submit directly, or hash the idea out with their publisher first. Some are also commissioned to write something the publisher is looking for, and some are just famous and so will be published straight-up, whether or not they can actually write.

So, there are many and varied ways to submit--and, pertaining to your fabulous question, there are almost as many ways you can submit your raw material.

Mostly, it's wise to have a book 'finished' before submitting. This is particularly so if you are emerging or as-yet unpublished. And this is especially so if you want to submit 'blind' (ie: to the slush pile). Sometimes, though, particularly if the book is lengthy or contains a variety of components, such as photography, I think it's okay to submit parts while you're still working on it. I say this because the slush pile submission process can be extraordinarily lengthy. And during that nerve-wracking waiting game, you can spend your time focusing on your work, so you don't think about the wait too much!

It's also okay to submit a concept or even better--a full outline to a publisher, if the work is particularly detailed and lengthy, though you would still need to provide writing samples. You up your chances of interest in a concept if you have a direct relationship with a publisher or are already published by them. I've often done this, and it's a wonderful way to secure solid interest (or even a contract!) as you set to work on the book. As we all know, the time spent creating a book carries with it a sliver of angst, never knowing if our hard work will see the light of day on a bookshelf sometime--so it's worth getting to know publishers and having a relationship with them so you can up your chances of securing contract early.

Having said that, do remember that each and every word you pen is of ENORMOUS value to your career journey. If it's never published, that's okay, because it adds to your talent arsenal exponentially. And, as is often the way, it can even be revisited later down the track, when you are published. I know many a successful author who has reworked early book ideas and had them published, even 20 years down the track.

As for what to actually submit to a publisher, no matter how far along you are in your book's creation, the very best thing you can do is check the publisher website for submission requirements. When you do this, you must absolutely, categorically, follow each and every step TO THE LETTER. Go over it several times and be sure you follow each step, to up your chances of having your work a) seen, and b) taken seriously.

If you don't know which publisher websites to check, simply look at other titles similar to yours, and see who publishes them.

If submissions are closed, don't despair. They often re-open, so just keep an eye on the website. Some people still submit, even when a publisher is closed. I have heard of manuscripts being picked up by doing this, but it is as rare as hen's teeth. Publishers are closed for a reason (a massive backlog), so adding another yet ms to that pile and attempting to 'skip the queue'--I'm not so sure about it. Nevertheless, each to their own!

How can I submit when publishers aren't open for submissions?

If there are no guidelines on a publisher's website, the standard is to submit the first three chapters and a synopsis. There are plenty of tips online when it comes to writing that synopsis. Always err on the side of succinct, though. Ditto your cover letter.

If you are writing something a lot shorter, like a picture book, you can submit the entire manuscript. DON'T submit imagery if you a submitting 'blind'. Only send the manuscript in, with a cover letter and synopsis. Don't send anything else, don't explain the background to the story, don't send in a bio or the proffering of a first born child. Keep things clean and simple. Publishers are so snowed, so if you do more than the sheer basics, you'll risk being shuffled into the Too Hard pile.

If you have a relationship with the publisher, it's okay to submit artwork samples (your own or someone else's) but please, please, don't submit illustrations that haven't been done professionally. If you are an established illustrator, you could submit roughs, but again, only if you have a direct relationship with the publisher and can ask them if they'd like to see roughs/illustrations.

If you have several components in the book, like photos or other elements like cut-outs or pop-ups, you can simply mention these in the cover letter or synopsis. Don't send them with.

If your book is non-fiction, you could send an outline with a sample chapter or two. Outlines are great for non-fiction, because they allow the publisher to see the depth and scope of the work, plus a sample of how it's actually being written.

Writing your manuscript submission cover letter

When submitting to publishers, how should I lay out my manuscript?

Remember, clean, clear, succinct, all the way. Check the publishers submission requirements as a matter of course, and get to conferences and festivals to meet them!

Good luck!

See all the questions so far ...

Saturday, 21 May 2016

National Simultaneous Storytime 2016

It's on again! National Simultaneous Storytime 2016 goes live at 11am on Wednesday 25 May 2016. Readers all over the country will be reading the same book at the same time--how cool is that?

I will be at Dickson Library in Canberra for this fabulous event, which aims to encourage kids to fall in love with reading. I'll be reading Jol and Kate Temple's sensationally funny book I Got This Hat. I'll also be reading two of my own books--Smile Cry and Tottie and Dot.

Hope to see you there! It's FREE but do register here.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Ask Tania: Being a writer is physically tough--how can I keep fit??

Dear Tania,

Being a writer is physically tough. I'm spending so much time sitting, sitting, sitting, especially when I get passionate about what I'm working on (which is often!). Not only am I putting on a little weight, I can feel my bones rusting. How can I keep fit?? How do you keep active? Do you have a routine? Any tips appreciated!


Hi, Mallory,

Oh, I love this question, and it's very timely for me right now, having come off 10 months of illustrating for my first self-illustrated book. Let's just say I'm feeling a bit rusted and pudgy! I find longer projects (like Australia Illustrated) and deadlines are the worst times of all--and not only is this period of inertia physically challenging, it absolutely takes a mental and emotional toll, too.

It took me many years to learn how to create a finer work/health balance. I would easily commit to 12 - 18 hours a day in front of my computer, most days of the week, and I never understood the concept of 'sharpening your axe', until I heard the actual 'sharpening your axe' story--and it finally made sense. That, and back pain and jeans that wouldn't zip up and a brain that had turned to mush.

Here is the story ...

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Chief Minister's Reading Challenge - school visit

One of the great joys of being a children's author, is chatting with kids about story--and hopefully, just hopefully, having them fall in love with books.

In my role as an ambassador for the Chief Minister's Reading Challenge for 2016, I get to have that chance even more than I regularly do. I also get to visit brand new schools, like Charles Weston school in the far west of Canberra--a brand new, state-of-the-art school, with fabulous kids eager to learn and grow.

I talked to them about books--about writing books, illustrating books, reading books, loving books. I talked about how much fun books can be, and how important story is. The kids were so receptive and so curious. They giggled and commented and asked questions and threw themselves straight into the pages of the books I'd brought along, the very moment they could. Now--that's what we want.

One of my favourite moments was showing them a 3D story called Jim Curious. These three little poppets (below) donned their 3D glasses, only to be met with a rather ferocious shark! They loved it--and they were so brave! (Note the little one biting her nail!)

This is what we want for kids--reactions to books. We want to take them to other places. To send them on adventures. To make them feel and think. When we do this, we not only educate, enchant and entertain, we do the very best thing we can to encourage literacy.

My other favourite part was chatting to the kids one-on-one after the presentation. Below, I'm chatting with a girl with Scottish heritage, taking her through A Scottish Year. Note the little loves, bottom right, with that fabulous 3D book!

Thank you to Lauren and Dave from the Chief Minister's office for organising this fabulous visit, and to Mr Spencer and the kids from Charles Weston for having me. Books rock!

Friday, 6 May 2016

Career Evolvement

Sometimes we think of evolving as 'getting better', and while this is absolutely true, we can also look at evolving as 'shifting and changing'--maybe even changing direction in a particularly dramatic fashion.

This shifting and changing is something I didn't really expect when I embarked upon a writing career. I just always presumed I'd write books. Forever. I didn't even think the genre of my book writing would change. I presumed it would always be the same (at the time, adult fiction).

Then things morphed into children's books, then came editing, then came publishing and book layout and design, then came marketing and social networking and teaching and presenting... and now, nearly 30 year later, I've found myself on an illustration journey (among other things), and sometimes I take pause and realise it's all quite surreal.

How did this happen?

In fact, yesterday, I pitched my illustrations (one of them, above) to one of my publishers. If you'd told me I'd be doing this, even a year ago, I would have had to have a cup of tea and a lie down.

On this rollercoastering, creative journey, I think it's important not to box ourselves in too tightly. Not to stereotype or label ourselves. I think this kind of self-labelling can really be limiting, and can keep us from growing or exploring things that might bring us even greater fulfillment.

I believe that sometimes we don't even know what latent talent or desire we hold within. Sometimes, a word, a look, an event, can cause a teensy spark that soon becomes a burning flame... and we might experience shifts and growth and changes in our world that completely alter our life path, make us happier and more fulfilled. Maybe even more 'successful' (though I would argue that being happier and doing what we love is the ultimate in success).

What I'm learning on this journey is this: if it feels good, do it. Don't listen to the naysayers and don't worry about the people who might be waiting for you to fail. This most especially includes yourself. We can be so terribly hard on ourselves. We can let ourselves down with our own self-doubt and lack of courage. We need to run our own race, never look sideways or worry what anyone else is doing, and just do stuff that makes us HAPPY, even if it makes no sense to anyone else, let alone ourselves.

What are you feeling called to do? Is it wildly different to what you're doing now? Does it make sense? Does it even need to?

How will you evolve?

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Exploring Time and Place Through Children's Literature

from Australian Kids Through the Years, image by Andrew Joyner

Not sure if you know (!), but I love books. And reading. And other cultures. And watching children grow and learn and thrive with the inclusion of all three of these vital components in their lives.

A few months ago, I was asked to write an article for Connections magazine, an initiative of the Schools Catalogue Information Service, which serves schools and libraries in both Australia and New Zealand. The article has just been published in the magazine, and is also online.

In it, I discuss the importance of exposing children to books featuring other places, times, races and cultures. I talk about the benefits of multicultural exposure, which include broader minds and a deeper understanding of both the self and others. Children exposed to other ways of life have a greater willingness to explore and experience life to its fullest, and to pursue friendship, relationship and career opportunities unbound by prejudice, stereotypes and limited thinking.

Now do you know why I love books, reading and other cultures?

You can read the entire article right here.

Monday, 25 April 2016

Smile Cry WINNERS!


Thank you to everyone for entering my comp to win a copy of Smile Cry. Some of you entered by leaving a comment and some by email. Your entries were so heartwarming, and oftentimes hilarious!

And now, I have great pleasure in announcing the two winners, as chosen anonymously by my two kids.

Congratulations go to:
Reena Balding
Vanna McAlister
Congratulations, Reena and Vanna (who entered by email). I hope you love Smile Cry. Please email me at and your book will soon be winging its way to you!

Friday, 8 April 2016


Lisa-Marie Kerr

Sometimes, we all need a lull. A period of less frenzied activity. A time of creative connection without the pressure of production.

More time to ponder, less time to do.

More time to wander, less time to rue.

I've spent the last month in a state of Lull. At a slower pace. After a deeply-dedicated, lengthy period working on my first illustrated book (I'm revealing the title at the end of this post!!), putting in about 900 hours and putting on about 900 kilos in the process, I've taken this time to walk, read, crochet, eat good food, and do yoga in the sunshine.

Monday, 28 March 2016

One Word Wisdom with designer Lisa-Marie Kerr

1. What is the best thing about running your own design company?  

2. What’s the worst thing?  

3. How did opening Bear and Sparrow make you feel?  

4. What do you hope it brings its customers?  

5. Who has influenced your business the most? 

6. What has been your biggest career reward? 

7. What's the most important contribution design can make to the world?  

8. What’s your biggest career goal?  

9. What else do you like to do?  

10. What’s next?  

Lisa-Marie Kerr refers to herself as an ideas piñata ... even she struggles to keep up with what she describes as the divine inspiration she receives daily. The owner and chief designer for stunning children's homewares website Bear and Sparrow, Lisa-Marie is a woman who craves variety and ... being different, which she uses as her motivation when designing new pieces for Bear and Sparrow. Married with three beautiful children and the most gorgeous dog, Lisa-Marie is an everyday woman working hard to make her mark on the world. Bear and Sparrow is 100% Australian owned, designed and made.

Learn more about Bear and Sparrow at the website

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