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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Guest post + WIN! A Totally Tickled magazine pack

An Aussie Year Virtual Tour

Crafting a Children’s Picture Book

The craft of children’s book creation has experienced a revolution of sorts. Gone are the days when an author sent in a hand-typed manuscript and an illustrator spent months hand-painting watercolour pictures, before mailing them back to the publisher for the printing press. It was a rather solitary collaboration; rarely would the three creators meet.

Nowadays, the author, illustrator and publisher form a much tighter symphony. Increasingly, authors and illustrators are becoming involved in the creative production of picture books, sometimes right to pre-press, as was the case with my brand new picture book—An Aussie Year: Twelve in the Life of Australian Kids.

The idea for An Aussie Year came to me while living abroad with my family. We had been in Beijing three years when I realised how few picture books dealt with the celebration of the Australian childhood and all its divine and multicultural idiosyncrasies. I wanted to create a book that showcased the diversity of our kids’ lives back home—from events and festivals through to our quirks and peculiarities.

Working with one of my dearest friends, Tina Snerling, on the production of this book was a dream come true. Tina is not only a joy to work with, she’s über talented (she sews, she designs, she draws, she creates websites) and the fun and whimsy she brought to An Aussie Year has been priceless.

An early layout concept, before set characters were introduced

So, how did we do it?

We started our collaboration by going over my manuscript and shaving the words right down, so the pictures could become the focus. It was interesting deciding which entries would stay and which would go. It was all about balancing the twelve months as evenly as possible, and we also wanted to include a large variety of multicultural elements.

We decided on five central characters for the book—five kids with enough ethnic diversity to represent as many nationalities as possible. We also varied their ages from 6 to 10, so the book would relate to more kids.

Tina’s original characters, before finals

Once we had introduced our characters and finalised text entries, Tina began working on double-page spreads month by month. While she designed the imagery, I spent time honing the text, fact-checking and liaising with an Aboriginal advisor to ensure our Indigenous content was accurate and apt.

Like most books, the text and image continued to undergo changes as we worked, with new ideas popping up as we went along. To ensure page balance, both Tina and I laid out page drafts to ensure we were on the right track. Being a ‘visual’ writer, this helped me ensure the text was relevant and worked well.

An early double-page spread

Tina used InDesign for the construction of this book. We spent a lot of time liaising on colour choice and layout, and once the twelve months were completed, we began liaising on the title pages, imprint page, dedication page and endpapers. The front and back covers were also important, and we went through three drafts before settling on the final.

The following image of Matilda holding a camera was our front runner for some time, but as the publisher rightly pointed out, having a girl on the cover of a picture book virtually cuts your target market in half. We would need to include both girls and boys if we were to attract the full market.

One of several cover options
Of course, during finalisation of all the pages for the book, we liaised with our publisher, Anouska Jones of EK Publishing, who proofread, edited, and provided endless support. She also liaised with our printer, who took those print-ready files and made them into a beautiful hardcover book that’s not only a fun story for children, but a tangible representation of the passion, dedication and heart of three women with a clear vision.

The best part of creating a picture book to pre-press is the squealing. Watching image and text and layout and design come together into something that elicits squeals of joy is an overwhelming feeling, and each part of the creation puzzle is as vital as the next when it comes to creating something so beautiful.

Whatever you’re creating, I hope it makes you squeal, too.

WIN! A Totally Tickled Magazine Pack

Here’s your chance to win a Totally Tickled magazine pack valued at $50! All you need to do is leave a comment on this post, telling us in 25 words or less about your most creative Aussie childhood memory.

This is a game of skill, not chance. The winner will be chosen by Tania and Tina, and will be announced Friday 22nd November, 2013.

An Aussie Year Virtual Tour Schedule

Join Ned, Zoe, Lily, Kirra and Matilda on this journey around the webosphere, from 21 October to 21 November. There will be reviews, sneak peeks, guest posts and lots of fabulous giveaways including some publishing opps! See the entire tour schedule right here http://taniamccartney.blogspot.com/2013/09/an-aussie-year-virtual-tour.html

Visit the An Aussie Year website (www.anaussieyear.com.au) to meet all the characters from the book, see updates and behind-the-scenes work. There’s also some Fun Activities for kids.

About the Creators

Tania McCartney is a book-obsessed author, editor, reviewer, photographer, traveller, mum of two and wife of one. She simply adores words and paper—and would ingest them if she could (though she’ll settle for a good coffee). She frequently flits around cyberspace but can also be seen visiting schools and libraries, running workshops, reading to kids or pushing tomes onto unsuspecting shoppers in bookshops. Tania lives in Canberra, but would like to live inside a book.

Tina Snerling is a designer, illustrator, artist, web designer, seamstress and mum. She adores Paris, fabric, design and paper. She lives a very illustrated life—one day she’s creating children's books, the next she’s creating websites (in between the washing and school lunches!). She’s the type who has a notebook by her bed because most good ideas happen when you’re supposed to be sleeping. She lives in Brisbane with her two gorgeous poppets and one gorgeous husband.

Book Info
An Aussie Year: Twelve Months in the Life of Australian Kids by Tania McCartney and Tina Snerling

(Oct 2013, EK Publishing, $19.99, hard cover, 9781921966248)

Meet Ned, Lily, Zoe, Kirra and Matilda––three Aussie kids keen to take you on a journey through a year in the life of Australian children, from cultural celebrations to traditions and events, to our everyday way of life.

An Aussie Year is a picture book bursting with national pride. It is a snapshot of who we are as a nation, covering our melting-pot culture, lifestyle and traditions. Its pages feature trailing, meandering text, dates and gorgeous illustrations showing our five Aussie children at play, at school, at home, enjoying their homeland––from the tropical north to our rugged west.

Trailing through the seasons and idiosyncrasies endemic to each month of the year, this is Our Australian Childhood.


  1. My brothers and I would head of for adventures in the bush, climb into the treehouse and pretend we were whoever we wanted to be.

  2. Making a billy cart out of our pops rusty old items, we took the wheels off the old lawn mower (pop was a bit or a hoarder) & the cart was the washing basin my gran had pot plants stored in.

  3. Congratulations Janine N! You are the winner of the Totally Tickled magazine pack. Please email editor@tickletheimagination.com.au with your details x





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