On Saturday, November 24th, the Wham Bam Author Jam is coming to Christchurch. Showcasing both local, national, and international independent and traditionally published authors, this is an event not to be missed: for writers, readers, and those seeking new authors and new talents.The organiser, Stacey Broadbent, has agreed to take some time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions about the event.
Firstly Stacey, would you like to tell us a bit about yourself, your own writing, and what inspired you to host the Wham Bam Author Jam?
I would love to! I’m a multi-genre author based in Ashburton. I can’t decide on just one genre, so I write a bit of everything; contemporary romance, comedies about motherhood, zombie thrillers, LGBTQ shorts, and even some picture books for the kids.
Wham Bam Author Jam is a twofold event. Before I started writing, I had no idea just how many authors we have here in New Zealand, and I wanted to create an event to introduce readers to authors they perhaps haven’t heard of before. We’ve also managed to get a few joining us from across the ditch, and a New Zealand publishing company, The Copy Press, for those of you who are interested in pursuing a writing career.
As well as creating a conversation between authors and readers, it’s also about giving back to the community. I’ve chosen the Mental Health Foundation of NZ as our charity because I want to support those who support others in their time of need. I know they have helped my family and friends throughout the years, as well as many of our attending authors. This is our way of supporting them.
Ticket and raffle proceeds are all being donated to Mental Health.
Can you tell us a little about some of the authors that are attending?
We have an almost even split of New Zealand and Australian authors attending, including several from Canterbury. There will be a variety of genres available; children’s books, contemporary romance, mystery, historical, paranormal, and even Mills and Boons. You can find out more on our website www.whambamauthorjam.weebly.com
Organising an event of this scale must be quite daunting – can you tell us a little about how you recruited the authors? What were some of the challenges of organising an event in a city a distance from your home?
It’s a challenge. It’s actually something I’ve wanted to do for several years, but it wasn’t until I’d been to other signings and met more authors that I was able to get it off the ground. Recruiting authors was the easy part. All I did was put up (on social media) an expression of interest form, and the authors came flocking.
As for the distance, it can be a little tricky. Finding people to help advertise and spread the word from another town hasn’t been the easiest, and I’ve had to make several trips up to get posters and fliers out. In fact, I’ve still got more to do.
Finding a venue that was suitable and not priced too high wasn’t easy from a distance either, but Addington Raceway and Events Centre have been fantastic. It took a lot of emailing back and forth, but we made a plan, and everything seems to be running smoothly there.
How can we get tickets? Are their advantages for purchasing our tickets in advance?
Tickets are available online at Eventbrite, but we will also have general admission on the day. VIP tickets are only available online, prior to the event though. VIP tickets are only $10 and you get a goodie bag on entry, as well as three entries in the raffle draws. We’ve had some amazing prizes donated for the raffles, so you want to be in to win those!
Proceeds from the door sales and raffle will be donated in support of a national charity, would you like to tell us a little about the charity you have chosen and why, (if you feel comfortable sharing)?
As mentioned above, Mental Health Foundation of NZ is our chosen charity. A few years ago, I received a call to say my child had been talking about suicide. I was shocked. I had no idea. We had a pretty rough year, dealing with self harm and anxiety. With the help of the Mental Health Foundation, we were able to get through the other side. They were so supportive, and never once made me feel like my worries weren’t warranted. They explained things, and offered counselling to us all.
These issues are prevalent in today’s society, and this is my way of offering help.
How can local authors become involved? Is it too late to hire space and a table?
The expression of interest form is closed now, but I can still fit more in if anyone wants to join us. The more the merrier!
Anyone interested can either message me on Facebook (Stacey Broadbent Author) or send me an email, firstname.lastname@example.org
Any plans to make this an annual event?Because it takes a lot of time to organise, and I’m doing this by myself, I’m looking at doing it every two years rather than annually. But I’d love for it to take off so I could.
Anything else you would like to add?
I always think of Christchurch as the Arts centre of New Zealand, and that’s why I thought it would be the perfect place for an event like this. I’m also excited because, like most people attending, I will be meeting some of these authors for the first time too. I’ll be there as an author, but I’ll also be there as a reader, and I can’t wait!
Thank you very much for your time Stacey! And to all our writers – and readers! – please drop by and pick up a few goodies. Authors will mostly be accepting paypal, bank deposit or cash, so come prepared as there will be a lot of awesome books to tempt you!
And if you want to know more about the individual authors, there’s a Facebook group as well: https://www.facebook.com/whambamauthorjam/
Shelley Chappell is a writer of fantasy fiction and fairy tale retellings for children and young adults. She is the author of Beyond the Briar: A Collection of Romantic Fairy Tales (nominated for a Sir Julius Vogel Award), and various short stories. Today we are talking to her about her recent project, Wish Upon a Southern Star, an anthology of retold fairy tales by New Zealand and Australian authors, which is scheduled for release on September 2nd, 2017.
Hi Shelley, thank you for joining us today. What was the inspiration behind Wish Upon a Southern Star?
I was invited to meet with the Christchurch Children’s Literature Hub to speak about fairy tales. I had already published my own collection of retold fairy tales, Beyond the Briar, and it was great fun to share my passion for fairy tales with the group. One of the activities involved leading the group through the process of rethinking and rewriting their own chosen fairy tale and that gave me the idea of editing a collection of writing by other authors in New Zealand and Australia.
Can you tell us about some of the stories?
Every author has their own unique way of reinterpreting the original tales and it’s fun to read how they reshape the original characters and plots. I met some very memorable characters walking through these pages and enjoyed their adventures. With twenty-one stories, it’s hard to pick one or two to highlight but I can say that there are stories set in this world and stories set in other places, comical stories and stories that pluck at the heart-strings. With such a range of different stories hopefully there will be something to appeal to everyone!
Would you be able to share with us a little about the anthology creation process?
The anthology began with a call for submissions nearly a year ago, which I sent out to all the writing groups I could reach in New Zealand and Australia. Once the submissions came in, I got to enjoy the process of reading them all. I read lots of great stories, including some I had to decline because they just weren’t ultimately a good fit for the collection. The editing process came next, and I really enjoyed working with the contributing authors to get their stories ready for the collection. With twenty-one contributing authors this took some time to complete, but once a final draft was ready it was time for proofreading and formatting the manuscript for Createspace and Kindle (the publishing platforms for Wish Upon a Southern Star). After that came the marketing and advertising in preparation for the anthology’s release.
The official book launch is Saturday, September 2nd. Where is it, and what can we expect?
The book launch will take place between 2 – 4 pm on Saturday 2nd September in the Sydenham Room at the South Library at 66 Colombo Street. Seventeen of the contributing authors will be in attendance, some coming from the North Island and Australia, so it should be a really fun occasion. The launch will start at 2pm with some speeches and author introductions, followed by a mix and mingle with light refreshments, allowing guests an opportunity to purchase and sign books and meet the authors.
Thank you Shelley, looking forward to meeting you and the other authors there.
Michele Clark McConnochie is a Christchurch-based children’s author with over 25 years’ experience in education. She teaches creative writing and is a freelance features writer for local newspapers. Her trilogy, The Strange Sagas of Sabrina Summers, was first published via Createspace, but the first book, the Uncooperative Flying Carpet, was recently picked up by Morgan James Kids.
Welcome Michele, and thank you for joining us today to answer a few questions.
Firstly, can you tell us a little about the Sabrina Summers series?
It’s a middle-grade trilogy which, although each book has serious messages for readers, is designed to be funny and engaging. Sabrina Summers and her friends are accidentally sent to a strange and mysterious land where they find that being traditional fairy-tale characters is really no fun at all. The books follow a traditional quest format but turn fairytales inside out. Once the magic objects are found, a battle ensues with the kingdom of Dralfynia at stake. Along the way there is treachery and betrayal, and the traditional happy ending where a character becomes a ruler is given a very 21st century twist. I want children to think for themselves and learn to take responsibility for what they do, but to enjoy themselves at the same time.
I have also seen that your series has been released in a special dyslexic-friendly format. Are you able to tell us a little about the difference in style, and how that is helpful to the reader?
I contacted the Dyslexia Foundation of NZ. They recommended dyslexie font and I bought a publisher’s licence from them. As well as using that font, the books are on cream paper and have a ragged, not straight, right-hand margin. I also deliberately used short chapters with cliffhangers to encourage reluctant readers.
You’ve also put a lot of thought into creating additional resources for the readers, such as teaching notes. Any advice to other middle-grade authors who might want to include some of their own? Does it help to be a teacher?
Well, all teachers pinch ideas from other teachers, so take a look at other author’s websites and see what looks like a good match (David Walliams and Roald Dahl both have tons of resources). You don’t need to be a teacher, just be creative. I was going to link my worksheets to the national curricula of the UK and NZ, but it was quite complicated to do both.
When your third book was released, you held a book launch, which I attended. Do you feel book launches are important? How much planning and organisation is required to make it successful?
I absolutely think they are important, even though many authors are introverts and dread public speaking! I launched at the NZ Society of Author’s Book Buzz, and they’re happy to give you a platform with another couple of authors and organise the room booking etc, but I also launched at a local library, after running a Canterbury-wide children’s story and drawing competition. Helen Mongillo was incredibly generous and did heaps of the organising, and arranged for Gavin Bishop, Heather McQuillan and Bob Docherty to be the judges. I got entries from around Canterbury, it was heaps of fun, but I found it was a ‘loss leader’ and a lot of work. It’s easier if you work with someone else (a friend is a photographer and we talked about a joint launch/exhibition but the audiences were too different), and it helps if you have a gimmick such as a raffle or food. Basically, ask for help – the Guild seems incredibly supportive!
Any tips on inviting in new readers to introduce to your series?
Because I write for children, I’ve tried getting my books on the catalogue for Scholastic (they said ‘no’) and I’ve done some teaching in schools and donated the dyslexia-friendly copy of my books to the dyslexia foundation which did lead to publicity and sales. Copies were donated to libraries in the UK (thanks Mum) and here and again, both led to sales. AllbooksNZ are great to use for schools and libraries, I think Scorpio have a publication and if they stock your books, they’ll include it (but I haven’t got that far yet).
What other sorts of promotion and marketing have you done for your books?
I’ve done some Facebook advertising, have a blog (which I hardly ever do) and have my Twitter and Instagram accounts linked to Facebook. Sending copies to be reviewed is good, but I think you have to be a ‘dripping tap’ and keep on getting yourself out there to maintain, or extend, the shelf-life of your book.
Can you tell us a bit about your publishing deal?
Yes, it’s very exciting. Having self-published, I was a bit reluctant to hand over the reins to a traditional publisher and, although I did contact a number of agents in the UK as well as a couple of publishers in the US (who all rejected me), Morgan James Kids was a perfect fit. Their background was in old-fashioned ‘vanity publishing’ and they still offer a similar service for their non-fiction books, but they recently branched out into children’s books. They take 12 new publications a year and the copyright remains with the author. We work together for marketing (they get the books on shelves in the US and UK and I have books for sale via my website), and their authors are treated as equal partners, which is fantastic. I have input all the way through the re-editing, book design and cover process, and in return, they ask authors to ‘put some skin in the game’ by taking a number of books at cost and selling them to generate buzz. I approached them, heard nothing for a while then got an initial email. That was followed up with a phone call with their fiction acquisitions editor before the book went to their reading committee to be voted on. The reason for the call is they want to make sure they are dealing with authors who also have a sensible, commercial approach and are prepared to go out and do school visits etc. They have agreed to publish book one of the Strange Sagas of Sabrina Summers, The Uncooperative Flying Carpet and that is released early 2018.
And finally, what other projects are you working on now?
I’m still chipping away at a travel book, working titled Big Boots, based on a trip I took last July and August to sites associated with classic children’s books such as the actual Pooh Corner and Secret Garden, and for light relief, I’m developing a book of short stories based on the background characters from the Strange Sagas of Sabrina Summers.
Thank you for your time, Michele.
And if you wish to read her books, or learn more about Michele Clark McConnochie, please check out her website: http://mcmauthor.com