How Rude!: Interview – Clare Helen Welsh

15 12 2018

Hi, Clare,

So happy to have this chance to interview you today. First of all, I love the humor in How Rude! And the illustrations by Olivier Tallec add to the fun.

Here’s Clare Helen Welsh. . .

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Can you tell us what inspired you to write this story?

How Rude! started out as a text called Don’t Poke the Penguin! I love stories that escalate in tension and then culminate in chaos. I could also see the potential for humour in a book where two characters were in conflict. Throw in a perfectly prepared tea party and you’ve got How Rude! My story was submitted to the team at Quarto by my agent, Alice Williams. It had a face lift under Quarto’s guidance, in which I rewrote it from third person narrative to dialogue only …and changed the animal, too! I’ve always wanted to write a dialogue-only text, so I was thrilled when the editor suggested we give it a try. I’m so pleased with the result!

Can you give some tips for writing humorous picture books?

I don’t think I’m a naturally funny person (my husband would agree!), but there is fun and joy to be found all around us, all of the time. In my experience as a school teacher, and a Mum to young children, there is never a dull day. I often write notes in my iphone; words, phrases, altercations… anything that tickles me! Picture books are definitely a team effort though; a culmination of the input from agents, editors, illustrators, art directors… who all help make the story the best in can be.

You’ve done a great job with minimal text. Do you have any tips for telling a story in so few words?

Thank you! Edit, edit, edit! All my picture book texts begin long, and then I cut, cut, cut leaving only the essential in.

If we look at the text alone, it’s hard to tell what illustrations might be paired with the words. Did you have illustrator notes?

Yes, I always include illustrator notes in my submissions, since I tend to think very visually and leave space for the illustrations to tell the story. I realise, though, they are a bit of a ‘marmite’ topic with industry professionals. But in my experience, if you only use them when they are essential, write them in a different colour and format them at the start or end of a spread (rather than in the middle of the text) they don’t put editors and agents off.

Did you and the illustrator have any contact while the book was in progress?

I often get asked this question, and it’s something I hadn’t really realised when I first became a writer. But no, all the communication and back and forth was via the editor and art directors.

What surprised or pleased you most when you saw the illustrations?

I loved the simplicity of Olivier’s work. He conveys so much with so little. He also had a unique style that was quite unlike anything I’d seen before in the UK.

What do you hope children will take away from the story?

In my job as a school teacher, and personally, I really value kindness and being considerate of other people’s feelings. Any story that helps children develop empathy and seeing things from somebody else’s point of view, is a story worth telling in my opinion.

Did you base your characters on anyone you know?

I can’t say that the story was inspired by any one particular true-life event or person. But certainly, family life and over ten years teaching experience provided plenty of material, some of which I’ve kept back for further Dot and Duck adventures!

Did you love to read as a child? If so, can you tell us some favorite books?

In all honesty, I don’t recall being an avid reader as a child. But there are a few books that stick firmly in my mind.

Burglar Bill, by Janet and Allan Ahlberg

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Burglar Bill is one of my all-time favourite reads. It’s dangerous, just my kind of humour and the repetition allows readers to anticipate and join in with the story. This is certainly something I aspire to emulate in my texts. I also love the way that the dialogue reflects the characters. There’s no mistaking who is speaking; “That’s a nice toothbrush. I’ll ’ave that!”

As a writer, this is something I don’t find easy. I work hard to keep my authorial voice out of my character’s dialogue. Here’s Sneaky McSqueaky from Aerodynamics of Biscuits, illustrated by Sophia Touliatou; “Climb aboard! Let’s get some cheddaaaaarrrr!”

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‘Peepo,’ by Janet and Allan Ahlberg

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I also vividly remember reading Peepo at many a bedtime. Again, there’s the lovely language and repetition. But I also loved the interactive die cut hole, which is an important reminder of the reason I write picture books in the first place; to bring children and grownups together to share a special moment in their busy lives. I now use this book in schools to teach about the past! The detailed illustrations are a great talking point: coal shovels, bed warmers and war time uniforms.

If I can learn something from a book, then I personally love it all the more. I have a real interest in using books to help children deal with difficult issues. My first picture book with Little Tiger Press, The Tide, is a text to support children with a family member living with dementia. It publishes in the first half of 2019 and is illustrated by the incredible Ashling Lindsay.

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The ‘Mr. Men’ and ‘Little Miss’ Books by Roger Hargreaves

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I remember my Nan having a whole set of these books! My favourite was definitely Mr. Tickle, which I would come back to again and again and again. And what a perfect accolade for a book! To have created a plot so well formed and satisfying, that readers come back to it over and over.

How Rude! is a character driven story, too, which uses humour to tell a tale of kindness, manners and friendship. It gets more and more chaotic with every page turn but has that satisfying ‘awwww’ moment at the end as well. There are plans in the pipeline for more Dot and Duck adventures. I can only hope that these stories bring a snippet of the enjoyment I had from the Mr. Men and Little Miss books.

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When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I wrote ‘to write a book’ on a New Year’s ‘to do’ list in 2012. I love challenges, trying new things and being creative. I love lists, too! But I had no idea just how much I was going to love writing. It’s changed my life for the better and I wouldn’t be without it now.

Did you have any childhood dreams for when you became an adult? If so, did they come true?

I remember in early years, wanting to be a teacher like my Nanna 😊, which was a dream that became a reality in 2006. For a while, during my teenage years, I wanted to be an art psychologist, combining my love of Art and Psychology. In a funny kind of way, I feel like I have achieved this goal, but via a slightly different route.

What are you working on now?

I am currently trying my hand at writing non-fiction picture books. I’m also working on a chapter book for children aged 7 yrs+ about a practical and creative female inventor. I don’t know if anything will come of it, but I’m very much enjoying the challenge!

Can you tell us a bit about some of your other books?

My first picture book was called ‘Aerodynamics of Biscuits’ and was published in 2015.

I have six further picture books in development for 2019 and 2020.

I also write early readers for a very popular early reading scheme.
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Some random questions just for fun:

Did you ever run away from home?

Once! My Mum doesn’t remember, but I recall the whole two minutes vividly.

If you could have any pet in the world, what would you choose?

A hypoallergenic dog that didn’t set off my allergies!

When do you like to write?

Mostly late at night when my family are all asleep and there are no distractions.

Are you an early bird or night owl?

Both! I takes naps when I can.

What was your biggest fear? Did you get over it?

Speaking in front of a large group people. And yes, I enjoy it now …but I do prepare and power dress!

Thank you, Laurie, for a really fun interview and your interesting questions!

You’re welcome, Clare. You gave us some fun answers along with lots of inspiration. I know readers will be looking for this book. You can find How Rude! at Amazon and Book Depository (free worldwide shipping).

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Readers, Clare shared some of her favorite picture books from childhood. What are yours?

Clare is a primary school teacher and children’s author who lives in the South West of England with her husband and two children. She writes a range of different picture books, including funny and quirky and sensitive and emotional, but always hopes her books bring a little added something to story time. You can find out more about Clare here on her website www.clarehelenwelsh.com  or by following her on Twitter @ClareHelenWelsh. She also has a Facebook page. She is represented by Alice Williams at Alice Williams Literary.

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Overcoming Depression

1 11 2016

As the days get shorter and colder , many people find themselves getting depressed. Marshall Rosenberg explains some causes and cures for the blues. Well worth the 7 minutes it takes to listen:





Win an Amish Quilts Coloring Book

19 04 2016

Amish Quilts Coloring BOOK cover

One more week to enter the contest to win an adult coloring book. Details can be found at Rachel J. Good’s Facebook page.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Inspired by quilts seen in Amish country, many of the designs in this Amish Quilts Coloring Book are based on traditional patterns, but some have been reimagined or repeated multiple times to create more intricate designs to color. Each quilt is printed on only one side of the page; facing pages contain inspirational Amish proverbs. To make the quilts even more colorful and interesting, sketch fabric designs – plaids, checks, paisleys, flowers, or abstract shapes – into the larger quilt blocks, use pattern stamps, or even collage fabric scraps to the pages. And if the designs inspire you to make quilts of your own, the pages can be used as templates for quilt-making.

ABOUT THE ILLUSTRATOR

Rachel J. Good is the author of the Sisters & Friends Amish novel series. Book 1, Change of Heart, debuts May 3. Find out more at www.racheljgood.com.





Losing an Agent

25 03 2016
Angel in the Mist

Photo Credit: Zsolt Zatrok

Losing an agent hurts. Sometimes agents can’t sell your books, sometimes you’re not a good match, and sometimes they leave the business. But the most painful way to lose an agent is to death.

Earlier this week, I lost an agent I loved. Mary Sue Seymour lost her long and hard-fought battle against cancer. I still can’t believe she’s gone. Even last week, she was still posting her usual upbeats messages. She saw beauty and goodness everywhere she went. And she had the gift of spreading the gifts of kindness and encouragement wherever she went.

I admired her as a person, and as an agent, she was awesome. I’ve never known an agent to respond to every email within 5-10 minutes. Soon after I signed on with her, I sent the final manuscript revisions to her after midnight. The following morning at 7 am, she emailed with a list of 10 publishers who had the manuscript.

A few months later, she completed all the back-and-forth contract negotiations until we had everything we both wanted on a 3-book deal. I didn’t discover until later that she’d been undergoing twice-weekly chemo sessions the whole time. She never once mentioned her health. And she must have been doing the same for her other clients, because a month later, she was named Agent of the Year by the American Christian Fiction Writers.

Change of Heart - Comp - Dec4I’m grateful that I signed with her. I only wish she could be here to see the first book in the Sisters & Friends Amish series, Change of Heart, release on May 3. I wrote this book at her request, and she offered to review it as I went along. She shepherded it through the synopsis and early draft stages, even though I never sent it as official submission. When it was completed, I was thrilled when she offered to represent me. The book had been her baby all along. Although she can’t be at my book launch in person, I know she’ll be there in spirit. And at all my signings, I’ll be wearing the lovely bracelet she sent me at Christmas to celebrate my first book contract as Rachel J. Good.

To honor her life and generous, caring nature, I’m dedicating my Rachel J. Good Twitter feed to celebrating Random Acts of Kindness. Feel free to share any acts you do  for others or those you hear about. Let’s flood social media with positive messages.

#100kRAOK #randomactsofkindness

 

 





Coming out of Hibernation

18 03 2016

polar bear

What did you do on the long winter weekends? Besides hibernating to meet deadlines, I’ve also been spending time on writers’ retreats.

The first one occurred during the worst week of winter. I was anticipating a lovely warm cruise to Mexico when the car got stuck in the ice in the driveway, and airports all over the east coast shut down. I worried I might not make it to Florida before the cruise ship left. My own cancelled and delayed flights left me wondering if I’d make it. I arrived about six hours later than I’d planned, but in time to spend a night in a lovely FL hotel.

FL hotel

But delays weren’t the only thing I needed to worry about. Nothing like trying to board a ship with an expired passport. My new passport was safely locked up at home hundreds of miles away. After hours of frustration, we managed to get a copy of my birth certificate faxed a short while before the ship left port.
ship

So we were off to the Caymans and Cozumel with a group of authors, editors and agents aboard the Brilliance of the Seas. Some great pics of the fun and “work” we did can be found at the Seymour Agency website (scroll to bottom of page). Oh, wait, are most of those pictures of us eating? Believe me, we really did work, attend sessions, and pitch books. I returned with several editor requests for manuscripts and two more agents at the Seymour agency who will rep my work, so it was time well spent.

We did find time for fun and touring. I spent a day swimming with sea turtles and seeing babies to adults, touring small towns, and visiting Chichen Itza. My lovely editor gave me an additional week to finish my manuscript so I could enjoy the sightseeing and socializing.

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I returned home to warmer weather than when I left, but holed up in the house to finish that manuscript. Thanks to some wonderful critique partners, who edited while I wrote, I made the deadline.

After all that writing, I needed another break. So it was off to the North Carolina beach with a different group of authors. The weather was nice enough on Topsail Island for walks along the shore, picking up shells and sea glass, and sitting on my bedroom balcony to write and enjoy the view. Lots of craft sessions and fellowship filled the time between writing and meals. Hmm…are we eating again?

Topsail

The following weekend I headed to the lovely Mimslyn Inn in Luray, Virginia. Again, lots of great food and company, but time to work too. We created journals with pictures and notes about our book’s setting and details. As I researched, I stumbled across a valuable resource for my historical novel. I’m looking forward to delving into it further. I left the retreat refreshed and eager to get back to writing.
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I have some more hibernating to do before I attend one more retreat in April — this time an illustrators’ retreat. And then in May and June, I come out of my cave completely to attend a whirlwind of events for my book launch. So the next few weeks will be a mix of writing and planning.

As writers we often need to hibernate to get work done, but we should also plan to come out of our caves from time to time. And even if you’re not a writer, do you hunker down in winter and spend a lot time indoors? What do you do after an extended period of hibernation? Do you socialize or prefer quieter activities? And if you’re a writer, what are you favorite writers’ retreats?





Honoring Your Journey

6 01 2016

2015  ReleasesI usually set goals and make resolutions this time of year. I like the thought of a shiny new year with all those beautiful blank days ready to fill like journal pages. As I look back over last year’s journal and accomplishments, it’s easy to see how I spent most of my time. Writing and illustrating took up a lot of it.

I had 6 books come out and signed with an agent, who sold my Amish novel in a 3-book deal. I traveled to quite a few speaking engagements and finished my classes for my MFA in Children’s Writing and Illustrating at Hollins University.

Those were all tangible results, but I remember many years when my only progress consisted of stacks of rejection letters, half-finished manuscripts, and a brain full of ideas. Although I put in a lot of work, I didn’t feel a real sense of accomplishment. Now I wish I could go back and celebrate those achievements, because if it weren’t for those years of drudgery and disappointment, I wouldn’t be published today.

So wherever you are on your journey (whether in writing or other pursuits), honor the hard work you’ve put in — even if it didn’t bring the rewards you hoped. Find a way to keep track of what you’ve done and celebrate the small milestones along the way. Rejection letters indicate you’ve been submitting, partially finished manuscripts prove you’ve been writing, doodles in your sketchbook show you’ve been drawing. Yes, you may not have gotten as far as you’d hoped, but rather than looking at where you expected to be, rejoice in how far you’ve come. You’ve made progress, and that’s the most important thing.

What small strides did you make toward your goals this year that you haven’t given yourself enough credit for?

 





Celebrating 2015

1 01 2016

fireworksA year often passes so swiftly that you barely have time to breathe before it’s over. So it’s always good to look back over the highlights of the past 12 months. Sometimes it seems you haven’t accomplished much, but when you take time to appreciate how you spent your time, you realize that you did much more than you thought you did.

Often we focus only on external achievements, but forget to count the time we spent helping others, building relationships, and making deep, inner changes in our personal lives. Those should be the cause for the greatest celebration.

Perhaps you didn’t reach your goals or complete last year’s New Year’s resolutions, but did you make any progress? Even if you lost 10 pounds twice (the same ones, and regained them), give yourself credit for losing 20 pounds. You did do that, even if no one can see it now.

Did you set a goal to send your manuscript out to 20 agents, but only sent to 5? That’s still progress. Happiness

Maybe you decided to be a kinder, nicer person, but found yourself losing your temper more than you’d like. Count up the days that you did manage to hold your tongue, days when you said the right thing, days when you encouraged someone or did a kind deed for a friend or stranger. Did you like someone’s Facebook post or compliment someone? Those count too. You might be surprised to find that you did a lot more good than you realized.

What big goals did you reach this year? And what thing — small or large — did you do this year that you haven’t appreciated yourself for?