This is a weekly series of guest posts on How Writers Work. Australian children’s author Corinne Fenton gives us an insight into her writing process.
Thanks must first go to Gabrielle, for kindly offering this opportunity.
The very first book I had published was an educational title, a first reader called ‘Dad and the Mosquito’. It took me 6 minutes to write the first draft, sitting on a step watching my husband chase mozzies about the room. At the time I was undertaking a Professional Writing and Editing Course and a fellow student mentioned that a New Zealand publisher was looking for manuscripts. I checked the guidelines, tidied up the text and posted it off to NZ. Not too soon after came the contract. I was very lucky. I still see that little book (and it is very little) in some classrooms and libraries. It was later published in Danish as ‘Jagten’ and as a CD. For the next few years I wrote and was published (and rejected) in the educational market with a range of publishers but I continued to write and submit picture book texts, always my passion and always my dream.
Then one afternoon, on the Melbourne Zoo website, I came across the story of an elephant called ‘Queenie’ who gave rides at the zoo for almost 40 years. What I read made me cry and I knew at that moment I would write her story. I’d never heard of Queenie and I had no idea whether her story had been written before, so that was the first thing to check. From that day, to when I finally held the book in my hands, 4 ½ years past, but every moment has been worth it.
‘Queenie: One Elephant’s Story’ is still being sold and I continue to present to groups such as Probus, RSL and Legacy. Among these groups are people who lovingly remember this iconic elephant and they share with me their memories.
‘The Dog on the Tuckerbox’ and ‘Flame Stands Waiting’ followed and there are several more picture books waiting in the wings. Four educational books will be coming in 2011 with my next picture book in 2012 about a colourful character from Australia’s past.
I write and do writing related tasks every spare moment I have, but I don’t really have a writing routine. I still have those delicious moments when an idea comes and I begin to write, relishing the flow, the excitement and the feeling that somehow those words must be jotted down immediately, otherwise they will be gone with the wind.
I often get ideas and write when I walk. My mind is free then and open to new ideas and thoughts. For this reason I usually carry a pen and paper or a small writing book or sometimes I type words into the ‘notes’ section on my IPhone. I live in a bushy area so I am lucky to be surrounded by inspirational spaces like the view below.
As I mentioned above, my latest book is ‘Flame Stands Waiting’ set in the time when a carousel ride was a highlight of a child’s life. It is the story of a stationery carousel horse called Flame, who, in his heart wants to be a jumper like all the other horses. The story is set in the period of The Great Depression, when there was very little money. It was a time of extreme hardship and unemployment for many people. A visit to a park and a ride on a carousel was a highlight in a child’s life.
Although the story is set on the carousel at Luna Park in Melbourne, Flame could be standing waiting on any carousel. There is something special about carousels and merry-go-rounds that draw us to them where-ever they stand, in towns and cities all over the world. Some are magnificent with gracious horses and shiny paintwork, while others are small and humble. But all of them have something magical, something that takes us away to another place or time.
Flame Stands Waiting by Corinne Fenton, Illustrated by Sebastian Ciaffaglione and Published by Black Dog Books.