Emma Quay – CKT Festival Wrap-up by Jeffery Doherty

Giving Voice, Then Keeping Quiet: the art of making children's picture books.. and letting them go - Emma Quay.

On Saturday the 6th of April 2019 I had the pleasure of attending the Creative Kids Tales Writers' Festival. The festival organiser and creator of Creative Kids Tales, Georgie Donaghey, had put together an amazing program of speakers. Some great Australian children's authors shared their knowledge of the children's book industry. Jackie French, Jackie Harvey, Deborah Abela, the lovely Susanne Gervay all regaled us with insights into the trials and successes of writing for children, but one of the highlights for me was meeting author/illustrator, Emma Quay.

Emma has written and/or illustrated some much loved and award winning picture books like, Rudie Nudie, Baby Bedtime, Shrieking Violet, Bear and Chook, Daddy's Cheeky Monkey, Good Night Me and Scarlet, Starlet. We were also lucky enough to view illustration from her new picture book, My Sunbeam Baby.

You would think, walking up to the podium following Jackie French would be daunting for a speaker. If it was, it certainly didn't show. Emma spoke about her passion for creating stories and pictures from when she was tiny and how she would keep making stories even if the publishers stopped wanting to publish her.

Her tips during the presentation to an eager crowd of writers and illustrators from all stages of their storytelling journey included;

  • Find your voice
  • Be obsessed with what you want to do
  • You have to truly care
  • Keep doing it - work every day to get better
  • Every part of the book matters not just the main characters
  • Give all parts of the illustrating equal attention
  • Invest your time
  • Do your best work
  • Pick projects you are passionate about
  • Never give up

Emma said, she needs to draw every day or she doesn't feel happy. When talking about where she gets the ideas for her stories, she said the ideas usually come to her at the same time, and often in the strangest places. Public transport is one of the best places to come up with ideas because you are essentially trapped, your mind wanders and lets your subconscious make connections.However, ideas are not stories. When working on your ideas, turn your analytical mind off. Brainstorming is a great way to build on your ideas into a story. Once you have the story it is complete, Emma stressed the importance of letting go of your book, that once you send your book off, it is no longer just yours.

Although amazingly talented, Emma Quay was quite humble and self-deprecating. She shared some of her less favourable book reviews to the gasps and amusement of the audience. Her favourite, a surprising three star review for her award winning book Rudie Nudie, appeared on an online public review website.

Rudie Nudie is a good realistic children's comedy story. It is written by award-winning author Emma Quay.

The story tells us about two happy children. They get out of a bubbly bath and roam around the house with extreme joy, completely butt naked.

The illustrations are lousy because they lacked effort and detail. There was very little colour and the lines don't contain it. Emma Quay's use of words is good because they rhyme and we like the way the rhyme isn't always there. The story was average quality, it was mildly funny but not very interesting. It was boring and we found it hard to stay engaged. It was appropriate for children two and under but not for anyone older.

We believe that Rudie Nudie is an ok book, give it a go but don't expect much because it's boring, with average illustrations and story.

This led to Emma's point that not everyone will like you work. You have to accept that fact and not let bad reviews or comments discourage you or stop you from following your passion. 

Jeffery Doherty - CKT Reporter 

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