Sandra Bennett - Interview (March 2019)
Why do you want to be a published author/illustrator?
Watching the delight on a child’s face when they listen to me read aloud their favourite book or hearing them tell me in wonder all about an amazing adventure they have just read is fabulous. When the book happens to be mine, it fills my heart with joy even more. I believe if we encourage a child’s imagination we also enhance their creativity. This in turn leads not only to a love of books and reading, but a love of learning. The more we increase literacy with a love of books, it helps set each child on a path of individual growth that can lead to endless possibilities and future innovation. If by publishing my stories I can reach just a small group of children and help them reach their potential through a love of my stories, then I feel I would have helped the best way I can.
How long have you been writing/drawing?
I feel like I have been writing forever. It’s the cliché story, started writing in my youth, won my first award at 16, but then didn’t pursue it as a career. I decided to head down the teaching path instead. This only instilled a greater passion for literacy and children’s books and my urge to write continued. I began writing in earnest in 1999, determined to see my work published I completed a Diploma in Professional Children’s Writing with the Australian College of Journalism. After several years of near publications which resulted in the inevitable rejections I settled for writing for my kids in my classroom. That was until 2012, when I was inspired by a colleague to try my hand at independent publishing. I am still learning and growing today.
How will/did you celebrate your first publication?
As exciting as that first self-published book was back in 2012, it was nothing like receiving that first offer of publication by a publisher last year in June, 2018. I wanted to shout it from the rooftop. It felt so exhilarating that someone else felt my writing and my story was worthy. I popped a bottle of bubbly and told anyone who would listen. I phoned Hubby, he was working overseas, then phoned all the family. Posted it on all my social media platforms too. Then sat by my cosy fire with my glass of bubbles and contemplated how good it felt.
How would you describe your writing/illustrating style?
Wow, that’s a good question. I’m still struggling with that one. Not sure I have found where I belong yet. So far, I have dabbled in picture books, early readers/chapter books and middle grade. They all tend to be family oriented, Australian themed with lots of humour and adventure. Living in the country, I do tend to add a country feel to my stories using the animals and birds around me for inspiration. We have also been lucky to have travelled widely around Australia and this comes out in my stories too. On reading my manuscript for ‘Secrets Hidden Below,’ my publisher said she felt like she was reading a modern-day Enid Blyton. I felt rather humbled by that. Not sure if I could or should compare myself to someone so amazing, but I guess it gives you a basic idea of my writing style. Fun, adventure mysterious, with intrigue and a bit of humour thrown in where I can. I also like to add in a bit of local history and geography to make each scene as authentic as possible.
How has Creative Kids Tales assisted you on your journey to publication?
Now that’s an easy one. Creative Kids Tales has been super helpful. I wouldn’t be traditionally published today without them. Being a member to this awesome group increased my confidence to attend my first conference, which happened to be the CKT Writer’s Festival last year. I was so pleased I did as I submitted my first chapter of ‘Secrets Hidden Below’ for a manuscript assessment. The incredible Sue Whiting was so lovely, so supportive and helpful. Her suggestions were spot on and gave me the courage after further edits to begin the submission process. It didn’t take long for my story to be snapped up. It was just what Elephant Tree Publishing were looking for. Yes, they are small and new to the industry, but we all must start somewhere. During the festival I was lucky to have my name drawn for an on the spot pitch to the editors. While I know my nerves didn’t do me justice, the panel were super helpful. My picture book is now all the stronger for their suggestions. It is not released yet, but fingers crossed, maybe one day soon. Since then I have also used CKT for a paid manuscript assessment for my next book in my series following on from ‘Secrets Hidden Below.’ The assessment is so thorough I am still wading through my edits and revisions. The story will be that much improved and something I will be much prouder to share with my publisher and the world. I can’t thank Georgie and Creative Kids Tales enough for all that you have done for me to help further this emerging author’s path to publication.