Sandra had always wanted to write for children, even more so once she went to teachers college and began teaching. As she raised her sons and taught part-time she practiced the craft of writing, took a few courses and eventually grew in confidence to begin the process of helping early and reluctant readers with her own stories through independent publishing.
I see you have four books currently out. Tell us more about those.
First of all thank you for the wonderful opportunity to be interviewed by you on your website and the chance to talk a little about my books and myself.
As you know I currently have published four books. Two are the beginning of my short chapter book series for reluctant readers while the other two are part of a series of uniquely Australian picture books.
Gingerbread Aliens and Alien Shenanigans are fun science based early readers designed with a bunch of pictures (for aid in comprehension) and a huge dose of humor to encourage reluctant readers. They have easily relatable characters, suspense, twists and hooks along with intrigue and often gooey science experiments for kids to try.
The main characters are three mischievous brothers and one particularly cheeky little alien. You won't believe the antics and trouble they get up to together.
I have written the third book in the series and hope to publish it next year. I introduce a new female character in book 3 ( Alien Milkshakes) to encourage young girls to read the books even though so far I have found my boy characters does not seem to have limited my readership.
My Australian picture book series uses our beautiful wildlife to tell tales that help children explore their feelings and emotions while also learning about the birds and animals that are so unique to our country. I always add fact pages at the end of the books to learn a little about each character.
Emma the Eager Emu is a bird with tenacity. She is determined to learn to fly just like all her friends at flying school. Emma has to learn a different way of flying and in so doing discovers her own very special qualities. On reading the story children also learn that it is okay to be different, and that if they have a goal, they can strive to reach it if they practice and don't give up.
Frazzled Freya is a timid frill neck lizard much too frightened to join her friends and play in the heat of the desert sun no matter how much she desperately wants to join them. She must learn to reach out of her comfort zone to face her fears. Children come to realize that not all their fears are so bad after all.
I am now working on two kangaroo stores where little joey must learn to listen to his parents and one about a playful platypus discovering the important lesson of stranger danger.
Each tale is told with the moral tale being subtle so that children enjoy the story first and the lesson behind it second. I don't like to make it too obvious I like to encourage thinking and family or class group discussion.
In the 80's when I began my teaching career literacy was taught in a more holistic approach, a sort of one size fits all. It is great to see the changes that have arisen through the years since then. Now students are taught more individually, their different learning styles are taken into account. Guided reading groups and directed reading and writing are tailored to suit a wider range of needs within the classroom.
I began with teaching on a chalkboard, progressed to a whiteboard and today we have smart boards. The introduction of technology has dramatically changed the way we teach and children learn. The days of rote learning have disappeared in favor of a mixed bag of strategies to enhance how to learn, research, discover, and grow.
Children arrive at school far more equipped and ready to learn to read than ever before. What we taught in Kindergarten 25 years ago, is now taught in preschools. Sight words and reading strategies are abundant as classrooms continue to evolve to find the most suitable solutions. Reading records are constantly being updated and checked to ensure children aren't left behind.
Parent helpers are welcomed and encouraged to listen to children read and become more involved with the daily classroom routine and activities.
As an author now, I enjoy the opportunities that enable me to be invited into classrooms to read to children. I remember from my teacher college days being taught that a love of reading, and reading aloud lots of great stories produces readers. The more words a child hears and sees, the more they become familiar with the written word. If children enjoy my stories, then I am still helping in some small way towards developing their literacy without being in the classroom full time. I can now share my stories to many more students instead of one class at a time.
Diana Querubin is my illustrator for my alien short chapter books. I originally had another illustrator however have moved on. Dianna has now produced the illustrations for all three books in the series even though Alien Shenanigans is the only published one with her illustrations at present. We work really well together considering it is all via email as she is in the Philippines. We met through the company that has helped me self-publish. When I said I was looking for a new illustrator, Dianna was recommended to me and I haven't looked back.
Dianna Budd is my fabulous Australian illustrator who designs all the gorgeous drawings in my picture books. We met at a mutual friends book launch in Canberra where we both live. We began talking over a glass of champagne and hit it off instantly. I mentioned I had a couple of stories I really wanted to make into picture books if I could find the right illustrator. Dianna asked me to send her the manuscript to Emma the Eager Emu, which she adored and the rest is history. I loved her work, we developed a mutual respect and have worked together ever since. When I sent her the manuscript to Frazzled Freya she simply replied with "A Freya Fan."
It's funny how both my illustrators have turned out to be named Dianna. It can be a bit confusing at times. At least I can distinguish between the two by the number of "n"s in their name. Mind you Diana does all her illustrations through computer graphics, while Dianna uses fabulous vibrant pastels. They both have very different and unique styles. Each suitable to the age group the books are targeted towards.
The best advice I would give anyway about school visits is be prepared. By that I mean organization beforehand and during the visit.
Prepare a letter to be sent to parents and teachers at least two weeks prior to your visit introducing yourself with a brief explanation of what you plan to do with the children. Does it fit into the current curriculum? Give them a reason to want to see you there.
Also forward a poster for the school to display so that the children and school community become familiar with you before your visit.
Ask permission to send a pre-order form of your books for parents to prepay. It saves handling money on the day.
Make sure you arrive with plenty of time to introduce yourself to the organizing teacher or librarian and have plenty of time to set up.
Be courteous at all times and set expectations from the outset regarding behavior. E.g. welcome children for their good behavior as they enter quietly. Thank them for using their listening bodies etc.
Things don't always go to plan, so have alternative strategies and activities or books to read. The more
material you have up your sleeve the smoother the visit will go.
I like to use puppets to help read my stories and talk about our wildlife. Find something about your books that will engage the students and keep their interest.
Last, but not least, what advice would you give new authors starting out?
My advice to new authors starting out is never give up. If writing for children is your dream, then go for it! There are so many wonderful authors just willing to give support and advice never hesitate to ask. I love being a part of this wonderful writing community, it has given me so much encouragement and help, and I want to keep paying it forward. Write every day, keep honing your skills, seek reviews on your work and when you are ready to take the plunge and let your baby out into the world, dive right in. You'll never know if you don't give it a go!
To find Sandra, here are her links to her website and books:
Amazon: Frazzled Freya - https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01H8WPPMU
Emma the Eager Emu - https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00YUDDK1Y
Gingerbread Aliens - https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00H5WD2NI