Due to recent events, many Australian authors have had to cancel book launches and festival appearances. For some, this means new novels, series continuations and debut novels are heading into this scary, strange world without much publicity or attention. The good news is, you can still buy books – online or get your local bookstore to deliver if they’re offering that service. Buying these books, talking about them, sharing them, reading them, reviewing them – are all ways that for the next six months at least, we can ensure that these books don’t fall by the wayside.
Over the next few months, a lot of us will be consuming some form of art – entertainment, movies, TV, radio, music, books – the list goes on. It is something we will be turning to take our minds off things and to occupy vast swathes of free time. One of the things I will be doing to support the arts, and specifically, Australian Authors, will be reading and reviewing as many books as possible, conducting interviews like this where possible, and participating in virtual book tours for authors.
Caz Goodwin writes picture books, short stories, poetry and junior fiction. Her latest book, part of a picture book series,Daisy Goes Wild, came out in the midst of the pandemic and lockdown. Whilst her physical events were cancelled, like other authors, she has moved to online launches and publicity to connect with readers and get the word about her books out there. She discusses all of this and her writing process below.
Hi Caz, and welcome to The Book Muse!
1. To begin, can you tell my readers about what kind of books you write?
I write picture books, short stories, poetry and junior fiction.
2. The second book in your picture book series, Daisy Runs Wild, came out in March 2020. Did you have to cancel any events, launches or festival appearances linked to this book, or general appearances due to the pandemic?
Yes, I had to cancel over 10 events, including launches, festival appearances, bookshop events, school visits, library talks and so on. It was bad timing, but I’ve moved my focus to online events and opportunities.
3. Which events or appearances are the most fun for you, and why these ones in particular?
I love connecting with the audience I write for – children. I get a buzz from going to schools and getting kids excited about books and reading. It’s why I do what I do.
4. The Lazy Daisy books are rhyming picture books – what made you choose this style to tell the story?
I’ve always loved rhyming stories. As a child I devoured Dr Seuss, AA Milne and Roald Dahl’s work and was particularly drawn to their rhyming books. I still enjoy a good rollicking rhyming tale. I initially wrote Lazy Daisy and Daisy Runs Wild in prose, but felt the characters and the story were more appealing in rhyming form. The publisher agreed.
5. How did the idea of someone confusing a koala for a dog come to fruition?
The idea for Lazy Daisy came from my very lazy dog. He was always enthusiastic about going to the park, but once he got there, he never wanted to walk home. I’d often have to carry him home, which everyone thought was very amusing. I decided to write a book about my lazy dog, the title of which because Lazy Daisy. After discussing the concept with the publisher, we decided it would be funny if Jasper, who was desperate for his own puppy, confused a koala for a dog.
6. Animals seem to be one of the popular characteristics of children’s literature – as an author, why do you think this is?
Animals have always been popular subjects in children’s books. They have universal appeal, are delightful to illustrate and children often relate and respond well to animals.
7. Are koalas your favourite animal, and why?
Koalas, along with dogs, are my favourite animals. There are three dogs living in our house at the moment, but unfortunately no recent koala visitors. Koalas are cute, cuddly-looking creatures who, like me, enjoy eating and snoozing. There is something about their fluffy ears, soft fur and sweet faces that make them endearing and lovable.
8. One of your illustrators is also the illustrator of one of the Nim’s Island books – Kerry Millard. How were you paired with Kerry, and what process did the two of you go through when pairing the illustrations with the text?
Kerry Millard was chosen by the publisher to illustrate one of my rhyming stories. Although I didn’t have any say in the illustrator’s selection, I was delighted that Kerry was happy to illustrate my text and her illustrations still bring a smile to my face. (Check out my website to see some of Kerry’s illustrations of my story Running Away. http://www.cazgoodwin.com)
9. Your first book was Curse of the Viking Sword. What made you change from middle grade to picture books?
I enjoy writing in different genres and for different age groups. Several of my short stories and poems had been published before my first stand-alone book, Curse of the Viking Sword was published. Writing in a variety of styles helps to keep my work fresh and interesting.
10. You head SCWBI in Victoria, and also work with the YABBAs – what do each of these organisations do for children’s literature and books?
I love my role as head of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) in Victoria. SCBWI is an international professional organisation that supports the creation and availability of quality children’s books in every region of the world. It provides opportunities for writers and illustrators to network, develop their craft and learn about the children’s book publishing industry.
I am also on the council of the Young Australian Best Book Awards (YABBA) as the Creator Support Director. YABBA is a not-for-profit volunteer run organisation working to bring Australian books alive for children. Our ultimate goal is to have children Recommend, Read, Rate and Reward their favourite Australian books. We also deliver a series of virtual author visits to Victorian Schools throughout the year, partnering with the Victorian Department of Education.
11. Are you involved in any other industry organisations?
I am also a member of the Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA), Writers Victoria and the Australian Society of Authors (ASA).
12. When you’re not writing, what do you enjoy doing or reading?
In no particular order, I enjoy reading, movies, extended family get-togethers, walking my dogs, eating chocolate, drinking green tea, robust debates and laughing.
13. Have you found your background in psychology has helped your writing career?
I have always been interested in people and the motivations which drive their behaviour. I’m also intrigued by individual’s stories, and the stories behind the stories. I think having studied psychology and worked in organisational settings has only strengthened my interest human behaviour. Writing for young people enables me to explore issues and themes I find important through story. Themes that recur in my writing include acceptance and diversity, but no matter what I’m writing, humour always makes its way in.
14. What has been one of the most rewarding aspects of working in the arts industry?
That’s easy. The most rewarding aspect of working in the children’s book industry is the people I’ve met along the way. I have found creative people, including writers and illustrators, to be fun, inspirational, resourceful and generous. Those who succeed are also hard-working, resilient and dedicated. I also love engaging with children when I visit schools and libraries. To see their eyes shining with joy after finding a book they love is wonderful.
15. How can the arts help us in these trying times, and in your case, what do you hope your books bring to children during the pandemic?
Books are like magic. They can transport you to different worlds, provide moments of joy and laughter when times are bleak, and give you hope, even when those around you are anxious and fearful. I love reading books to escape, and I hope that at the moment, children have opportunities to develop a love of reading and experience the thrill of recognising themselves in the pages of a book.
16. What local bookstores do you support, and how are you hoping to do that during the pandemic?
I love specialty children’s bookshops and two of my favourites are The Little Bookroom in Nicholson Street, Carlton and the new Escape Hatch Books in Kew East. Both Leesa and Fran are knowledgeable and passionate about children’s books and can provide recommendations to inspire a love of reading in children and young adults.
Many bookstores are now holding online author events, story times and book clubs, and being involved in these or helping to promote them is a great way to support authors and local booksellers during this difficult time.
17. Finally, what are you working on at the moment?
I’m currently working on a video reading of my latest picture book, Daisy Runs Wild to use for virtual school visits and story times. It’s been fun to make and Daisy the giant koala makes an appearance to entertain the kids.
(See below a photo of Daisy and social media links.)