Today the rather spectacular Tania McCartney is visiting Reading Upside Down. Tania is an Australian writer, editor, publisher, blogger, book reviewer and founder of Kids’ Book Review, a fantastic place to find out about the latest book releases for kids as well as reminders of some children’s classics.
This week Tania launches her third picture book in the Riley travelogue series. I’ve reviewed Tania’s earlier Riley books Riley and the Sleeping Dragon and Riley and the Dancing Lion and I was waiting for my copy of Riley and the Curious Koala with great anticipation.
Enough from me. Let’s see what Tania has to say. (drum roll please)
A Curious Life
The title for Riley and the Curious Koala: A journey around Sydney was actually coined by my daughter Ella.
All my Riley books have been written in a totally unplanned way – they have simply unfolded as I sat down to write. I sort of knew the direction I was taking with Curious Koala from the start – I knew I wanted my koala to be a little kooky from all that eucalyptus juice – but I still wasn’t sure how to literally portray this Sydney book star and I certainly had no idea of the title.
At first it was Kooky Koala. Then Fuzzy Koala. Then Elusive Koala. None worked.
I was talking about this with my daughter (without revealing the nature of my koala character) and then, out of the blue, she said “Curious Koala”. That’s when everything slotted into place like a row of Connect-Four buttons. I just knew she was right.
The title suited the book perfectly – this koala is definitely curious – and by curious I mean ‘a little odd and different’ – not inquisitive (ok, well, perhaps also a little inquisitive).
My meaning of ‘curious’ becomes apparent as the book unfolds… this koala is truly a funny, gorgeous and curious creature (least of all for the fact that he subsists solely on euc leaves and a droplet of water every now and then) and the title of this book got me to thinking about the curiosities of life – and how we all experience an oddity or two, especially when it comes to writing books.
One curiosity I regularly (and increasingly) come across in my writing work is synchronicity. Sure, perhaps we can blame it on the zeitgeist – the all-pervading everyday that saturates our psyches – but I think there’s something more to it than that. It’s a sort of creative connection.
Many is the time I perceive or imagine something to do with my work and then receive, almost instantly, the very same image or thought from someone close to me – someone I work with or someone in my family or friendship circles.
But it also happens with seeming strangers and those I hardly deal with. Three times in the past month I’ve had some pretty major manuscript synchronicities that have sort of blown my socks off – in good and bad ways (bad in that it may mean the publisher now won’t want to do mine and good in that it may mean I’ve got a new book deal. Another curiosity.)
Another curiosity that emerges in the writing world is a lack of self-belief. Most of my writing life has been stricken with a lack of self-confidence that is almost solely responsible for my changing career tack over and over again. When I think back at all those wasted years of not-writing, I could weep.
But I’m not alone. Many, if not most, authors (and indeed, illustrators) have experienced this same curiosity. And most interestingly, it’s often the ones who do so well and are so admired who suffer from it the most.
Is creativity, as a general rule, married with uncertainty?
In my many interviews with established authors and illustrators and industry professionals for Kids Book Review, I’ve been dumbstruck when famous or highly successful talent has revealed a chronic lack of confidence in their work.
Of course, second-guessing ourselves is part of the human condition – but for majorly successful artists to continually express their fears over whether their work is good enough or whether they’ll have it published or whether anyone will like it… well. That is just a major curiosity to me.
But then, even my own humble books have arrived from the printer to greet an author that is too green in the belly to even look them over – for fear of finding fault or fear that no one will like her work. So, majorly famous or no – we all feel the fear.
But don’t we do it anyway?
My, creative people are a curious bunch. And we probably wouldn’t have it any other way.
As for our curious koala – he’s too much of an oddball to care what anyone thinks of him. And that’s just the way I love him. I just hope hope hope you love him, too. (Hey, I’m only human).
Tania posts regular book reviews and articles at Kids’ Book Review, posts updates on her writing and publishing activities at her personal website and also writes regular articles for Australian Women Online, where she is a senior editor.
You can follow Tania’s blog tour this week for some great posts on writing children’s books, self-publishing, travel and more. I’ll be posting my review of Riley and the Curious Koala later this week and will be attending the official launch on Sunday in Canberra, so no doubt I’ll be bragging about meeting Tania next week.by