Poetry Journey of Kate O’Neil

The personal experiences of poet Kate O’Neil offer a diverse and interesting look into the creative world of poetry.

After chatting to Kate over our shared memories of the old poem ‘Wynken, Blynken and Nod’ she kindly showed me her ‘waking up’ version (excerpt below) which fits beautifully with the original.  Kate then agreed to answer some tricky questions for me and her responses are both thoughtful and revealing.


Welcome, Kate!

Kate-ONeil-2001

Thank you so much for your time.
My favourite poem of yours is short and sweet; ‘Paragliders Bald Hill Lookout’ invokes in my mind’s eye vivid colour, movement and summer days at the beach.
Talking of short and sweet, I recall asking you which would you choose ‘Lollipop or Cake?’ and you immediately said ‘Cake’, supplying a recipe with almonds smothered on top.  I can identify with that!
I had read your work on Australian Children’s Poetry under Kate O’Neil and recently discovered your real name is Dianne Cook.  You explain why in our Q&A, and give readers a peek behind the scenes of your poetry life.

Okay, let’s get those thoughts into words…


What highlights stand out in your poetry journey?

I’ve been hanging out with poetry for most of my life, so there have been lots of decades for highlights to happen in.

Highlights of poetry reading still happen with amazing frequency.  They began when I first realised what magical particles words and sounds are, and what selection, arrangement, combination – even omission, can play in shaping and delivering meaning.  There were the ‘greats’ I studied at school – some fantastic stuff there, and I’ve stored many riches from them.  But the thing is – poetry keeps on coming.  There are poets all over the world publishing collections, submitting to competitions and anthologies and magazines – and sharing a way of seeing.  Some poems have knocked me flat, left me breathless.  Some have lifted me to heaven; it’s a great ride.

There have been highlights of poetry writing, too.  For years the only public airing of my poems was in eisteddfod performances by drama students for whom I had written them (but who did not know this – hence my use of a pen-name).  There have been lovely moments hearing something performed well.

A major ‘highlight’ was having my submission to the inaugural (and only) Manchester Writing for Children prize short-listed.  This competition was set up by Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy’s team at Manchester Uni.

There have been some wonderful outcomes from this.  These poems were published in Let in the Stars, the competition anthology, and one of them has since been chosen for inclusion by Roger McGough in his anthology Happy PoemsAND I have kept in touch with several other poets in the book.  I love the book.  I love so many of the poems in it, and the illustrations (by Manchester art students) are wonderful.

Since then I’ve made successful submissions to several magazines and anthologies – for adults and children.  See ‘Cool Poems’ information further down.  And I keep on submitting – (loads of rejections, of course).

Kate O'Neil Bookcovers 2019
See OOPS! at the end of Q&A for more book details.

Is there a significant thread through your creativity?

I would say not.  If anyone ever notices one I‘d like to be told.  At the Manchester Prize event, Mandy Coe (one of the judges) commented that I write in a variety of voices / styles.  She suggested it might be the influence of drama teaching.  I don’t know if that was praise or not.  Aren’t we writers meant to ‘find our voice’?

What challenges do you face when beginning a poem?

Nothing like the challenges of finishing it.  If a beginning (or middle) pops into my head at an inconvenient moment, I fear it will vanish if I don’t get it down on paper or in the notes on my phone.  This makes my amount of ‘screen time’ look dangerous.

Are you inspired or influenced by another poet?

Inevitably, and I could never know how many.  I’ve done some online workshops recently with UK poet Wendy Pratt, whose work I admire.  She, and others in the group, have helped me tighten my writing.  Lots of deleting went on.

Can you name just one of your favourite poems?

James Carter UK Children's Poet
James Carter UK Children’s Poet

You are asking this of someone whose word files are loaded with favourites!  If they are in the cloud, it will rain my favourite poems one day.  What if I narrow this to ‘favourite poem for children’?  Or better still, ‘favourite concrete / shape poem for children’?  I can do that.  It’s ‘The Moon Speaks!’ by James Carter.  It’s on his website:

http://www.jamescarterpoet.co.uk/poems.html

What is your definition of a successful poem?

This is getting difficult.  There are so many ways in which a poem can succeed (or fail).  I think I’d rate a poem’s success (for me) by the state I’m in after reading it.

How did you feel about poetry when growing up?

I’ve probably answered this in the first question.  I had no discrimination, but anything with rhyme, rhythm, sound patterns, imagery caught my attention.  Hymns, advertising jingles, greeting cards, bush ballads…

Do you draw on your own childhood memories?

Yes, at times, but much of that grist is still very much in the mill.

Kate O'Neil Poetry Cool Poems 04
Excerpt from Kate O’Neil verse expanding on the traditional children’s poem.

Have you experienced an awkward poetry moment?

Mostly private ones. (‘What? Did I really write that?’)

Are you a day dreamer or do you plan significant goals?

Genetically inclined to dreaming, but I try to impose goals to counter this.  (Hence the Wendy Pratt courses which involved writing on a prompt a day for four of the past six months).

Can you give us a hint about your work-in-progress?

‘Progress’ plays tricks on me? I have drafts of picture books, a chapter book, jottings for poems – ALL OVER THE SHOP!  Sometimes something gets finished, usually unexpectedly, usually when I think I am working on something else – and I send it somewhere.  Results are mixed.  This morning, for instance, I learned I have TWO poems long-listed in a comp (adult) and they will be published in an anthology.  Last week I sent off a poem I quite liked to The School Magazine just before I left for Sydney.  By the time I got there it had been rejected.

Do you have some guiding words for emerging poets?

I think it better to share another poet’s words that have guided me.  The main one is READ.

Jo Bell web image credit Lee Allen
Jo Bell web image credit Lee Allen

Jo Bell quote:  “If there is one thing I want you to take from this book, it is this: Nobody writes good poetry without reading good poetry.  Those who don’t take this seriously invariably write cliched, derivative and unoriginal work – just what we all want to avoid – because they aren’t aware of the context in which they are writing.”

‘52: A Year of Poetry Writing Prompts’  p11.  Jo Bell   Nine Arches Press 2015

Poetry Clipart 04

OOPS!  I haven’t mentioned the publication last year of my ‘Cool Poems’.  This was a major highlight!  The book belongs in a series published by Triple D Press, Wagga Wagga NSW.  It was a nail-biting thing to have a book which would sit alongside collections by Australians Bill Scott, Anne Bell, Colin Thiele, Christobel Mattingley and Max Fatchen.  Many thanks to Zita Denholm (Triple D) and Christina Booth (illustrator) for helping it happen.

Di Bates, editor of Buzz Words Magazine, wrote a lovely review on 23 December 2018 ‘Buzz Words: Cool Poems’.

The book Cool Poems’ can be ordered through my website www.kateoneil.com.au or by messaging me through Facebook.

Front-Cover-for-web
‘Cool Poems’ The Kate O’Neil Reciter, illustrations Christina Booth, publisher Triple D Books.

Thank you, Kate!

It has been delightful making your acquaintance and learning more about the workings behind your poetry.  I look forward to reading many more of your beautiful poems.  Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Poetry Clipart 09

Kei Ishii Q&A The Kollective Idea

The second part of our two-part interview with Queensland contemporary dance teacher Kei Ishii, founder of The Kollective Idea and workshops The Kontemporary Idea, which reveals his early passion for dance and an ongoing commitment to helping aspiring dancers reach their full potential.

Kei Ishii Contemporary Dancer & Teacher 

Q&A Interview | Profile Snapshot

kei ishii kollective ideas website 07

Early passion for dance

Q.  How and where did your passion for dance begin?

A.  It started when I was 7 years old.  I originally wanted to start Irish dancing, but my mother didn’t know the difference between Irish dance and tap dance, so she sent me to The Ritz which does Tap dance and the rest is history.

Creativity in the genes

Q.  Do you come from a creative family?

A.  I come from a very musical family, everyone has played an instrument at some point, but I am the only one who went into dance.

That pivotal moment

Q.  When and how did you become interested in contemporary dance?

A.  After high school, I found my interest in Contemporary dance.  I had already done a year of full-time dance at The Space in Melbourne and was wondering what to do with my career when one of my instructors suggested I go to Ev & Bow to pursue Contemporary dance.

Artistic inspiration

Q.  Which choreographers inspire you?

A.  So many different Choreographers to choose from!  Pina Bausch, Gary Stewart and Anton to name a few, but there are so many I have seen and worked with that my list would go on forever.

Your studies and qualifications

Q.  Where did you study and what are your dance qualifications?

A.  Well, I started learning dance at The Ritz then I completed full-time training at The Space in Melbourne and Ev & Bow in Sydney and gained a Cert IV in dance performance.

After you graduated

Q.  Any performance related highlights or working adventures in Australia?

A.  One of my first contracts was Legs On The Wall in their piece ‘Puncture’.  I have also done some independent work in Sydney Fringe Festival.  I entered a choreography competition Fast + Fresh with a short work ‘Memories’ which was awarded ‘Most Outstanding Choreography’ and ‘Most Outstanding Group’ which was quite amazing for me as it was the first work I’d created.

Formation of The Kollective Idea

Q.  What is the story behind your formation of The Kollective Idea?

A.  Coming back to Brisbane, I realised that the contemporary community is growing quite significantly, and Contemporary dance is become more popular amongst dance studios.  I wanted to contribute to this growth and help young aspiring dancers to experience what Contemporary dance has to offer.  Contemporary dance is something which needs to be experienced by teachers, it’s all about what you experience.

Planned events

Q.  What upcoming events do you have planned for The Kollective Idea?

A.  There’s our 3-day workshops The Kontemporary Idea in January and plans are underway to hold a few more workshops throughout 2019.  I have plans to create our first show/development this year.

Goals for The Kollective Idea

Q.  What are future goals for your workshops The Kontemporary Idea?

A.  I want to create a company for young dancers, so they can experience what it’s like to be in the Contemporary dance industry, what to expect, be part of the creation of different works.

Closing thoughts

Q.  Is there something encouraging you can say to aspiring dancers?

A.  Never take anything for granted, especially your teachers.  They offer a wealth of knowledge and are helping you to achieve your fullest potential.

contemporary dancer shadows

Many thanks for your time, Kei, and best wishes for your dance career.
CLICK to read the first part of our two-part interview.
Gretchen Bernet-Ward

kei ishii kollective ideas website 08

The Kollective Idea

Check the website for upcoming workshops

Website http://thekollectiveidea.com.au/
Events http://thekollectiveidea.com.au/events/
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/thekollectiveidea/
Instagram http://picdeer.com/thekollectiveidea

THE KOMBINED IMAGINATION
WORKSHOP JULY 2019 (details below)

Kei Ishii Kollective Ideas Website 13
Kei Ishii and The Kollective Idea back in Brisbane July 2019 with The Kombined Imagination contemporary workshop http://thekollectiveidea.com.au/events/

Book Tag: Shelfie by Shelfie #1

This fun tag was brought to my attention by productive book blogger Paula Bardell-Hedley of BookJotter fame.  Originally created by Beth of Bibliobeth the idea is to share a picture (aka ‘shelfie’) of your favourite bookshelf and then answer ten questions related to the titles displayed.

Visit Beth’s blog to see more info, the logo and tag and view posts by participating bloggers.  Then launch your own unique Q&A Shelfie by Shelfie.

I think many readers will find these titles unfamiliar…

IMG_20180901_131746
Part of Gretchen’s book shelves.

1.  Is there any reason for this shelf being organised the way it is or is it purely random?

Short answer is ‘subliminally shelved’.  Long answer is there are many bookshelves in our home and until I decided to participate in Shelfie by Shelfie I didn’t realise that most of my books are grouped.  Either when they arrived or over a period of time, I’m not sure.  There are clumps like non-fiction, poetry, humour, crime, fantasy and (not all shown) Australian content.

2.  Tell us a story about one of the books on this shelf that is special to you, i.e. how you got it / a memory associated with it, etc.

Hard to pick just one.  I know some of the authors (or received uncorrected bound proofs to review prior to publication) but my all-time special one would have to be ‘My Beachcombing Days: Ninety Sea Sonnets’ by Brisbane poet John Blight.  His daughter, a family friend, gave it to me as a birthday gift in the same year as disastrous flooding hit the city.  The flood waters also coincided with me securing a glam job in a travel agency which had 12 inches of river mud throughout the ground floor office.

3.  Which book from this shelf would you ditch if you were forced to and why?

No contest!  It would be Tom Keneally’s ‘Shame and the Captives’ a semi-factual diatribe about World War II prisoners-of-war from Italy and Japan who are held in a compound in Gawell, New South Wales, but allowed to work on a local farm.  It does have its altruistic moments but there’s bloodshed aplenty and the ‘uncertainty and chaos’ never worked for me.

4.  Which book from this shelf would you save in an emergency and why?

‘Withering-by-Sea’ written by children’s author and illustrator Judith Rossell.  Young heroine Stella Montgomery is the epitome of someone I would have loved to have known when I was a child.  I did read a lot of British kids books!  Set in Victorian England, the story is both adventurous and creepy.  Apart from dressing up as a mature-age Stella Montgomery for library Book Week, two years ago I had my copy of the book signed by Judith Rossell when I attended her writers workshop in historic Abbotsford Convent, Melbourne.

5.  Which book has been on this shelf for the longest time?

Hmm, that would be a toss-up between Nobel Prize for Literature winner Patrick White ‘The Cockatoos’ and Miles Franklin ‘My Brilliant Career’ both yellowing reprints dated 1974 and 1979 respectively.  I guess Mr White wins.

6.  Which book is the newest addition to this shelf?

Another toss of the coin.  ‘Truly Tan Hoodwinked!’ (Book 5) kids chapter book written by Jen Storer, and ‘Care of Australian Wildlife: For Gardeners, Landholders and Wildlife Carers’ by Erna Walraven, a 2004 revised edition but in mint condition and recently purchased in a second-hand bookshop.  The most adorable teeny tiny Koala baby is on the front cover.  The Koala wins by a nose.

7.  Which book from this shelf are you most excited to read (or re-read if this is a favourites shelf?)

I have a ‘thing’ for DBC Pierre, expat Aussie writer, and admire his off-kilter books.  I own two of his novels (the rest were loans) and love ‘Breakfast with the Borgias’ which I willingly re-read; and I’m usually not a re-reader.  Perhaps the fact that one of the characters is named Gretchen has something to do with it.

8.  If there is an object on this shelf apart from books, tell us the story behind it.

There is a small cardboard cut-out figure of Lisa Simpson from TV series The Simpsons which probably came with a McDonalds meal deal.  Lisa is holding an armload of books and in the show she is the lone advocate of literacy and learning.  I always like to think she influenced a generation of TV viewers to read.  And that she’s happy on this shelf.

9.  What does this shelf tell us about you as a reader?

It doesn’t tell you that I borrow hugely from my local library; or that I read too many e-books; nor that my current audio book is, ironically, ‘The Book Case’ by Dave Shelton narrated by Colleen Prendergast.  It does shout that I’m an Australian reader.

I read most genres and most writers regardless of nationality (translated helps!) but I keep coming back to Australian authors.  In an online book forum, I recall an American reader saying he only read American books because he understood them.  He didn’t mean the language, he meant emotional ties, recognition, connection.  That’s what I get from Australian books, nevertheless, I do think we have to step outside our comfort zone.

10.  Choose other bloggers to tag or choose a free question you make up yourself.

A free question I can make up sounds good.  NOTE I do not activate Comments, you will have to answer it in your own Shelfie by Shelfie blog post.

BONUS QUESTION:  Do you discuss the books you read in a face-to-face situation, online book reviews, or clutch your latest read to your chest saying ‘my precious, my precious’?

Happy reading, blog stars!

Gretchen Bernet-Ward


For modern Australian book reviews I can recommend blogger and bookseller Simon McDonald https://writtenbysime.com/ while this list contains notably mature Australian authors:
Thea Astley
Bruce Beaver
Geoffrey Blainey
Martin Boyd
Christopher Brennan
David Campbell
Peter Carey
Marcus Clarke
James Clavell
Bryce Courtenay
Geoffrey Dutton
Len Evans
John Farrow
R.D. FitzGerald
Miles Franklin
Joseph Furphy
Helen Garner
Germaine Greer
Kate Grenville
Charles Harpur
Alexander Harris
Shirley Hazzard
Xavier Herbert
Dorothy Hewett
A.D. Hope
Janette Turner Hospital
Robert Hughes
Joseph Jacobs
Colin Johnson
Elizabeth Jolley
Henry Kendall
Thomas Keneally
Jill Ker Conway
Henry Kingsley
C.J. Koch
Leonie Judith Kramer
John Dunmore Lang
Ray Lawler
Henry Lawson
Norman Lindsay
Ern Malley
David Malouf
Furnley Maurice
James Phillip McAuley
Hugh McCrae
Colleen McCullough
Les Murray
Oodgeroo Noonuccal
Bernard Patrick O’Dowd
Vance Palmer
Eric Partridge
Hal Porter
Peter Porter
Katherine Susannah Prichard
Henry Handel Richardson
Steele Rudd
Nevil Shute
Peter Singer
Kenneth Slessor
Christina Stead
Alfred George Stephens
Douglas Stewart
Kylie Tennant
P.L. Travers
Ethel Turner
Arthur William Upfield
Morris West
Patrick White
David Williamson
Tim Winton
Judith Wright
Markus Zusak

What is Bureau of Meteoranxiety?

As I read the posters on the Degraves Street subway wall, I wondered if BoMa is fact or fiction.  You see, I may have hot weather meteoranxiety.  Then I discovered that Perth-based multimedia artists Olivia Tartaglia and Alex Tate ran their ‘public wellness program trial’ at Blindside Gallery, Melbourne––so possibly both fact and fiction.

Incorporating clever posters and cutting-edge technologies including a virtual forest, an immersive storm simulation and an AI counsellor named Gail (developed by Howard Melbyczuk), BoMa offered its meteoranxious clients a means to manage their ‘symptoms’.

The Bureau of Meteoranxiety program ran from 10 - 19 May 2018 at Blindside Gallery as part of Next Wave Festival and unProjects.

Image 04: Olivia Tartaglia and Alex Tate, Bureau of Meteoranxiety (propaganda posters) 2018, A3 posters. Photo credit: Jess Cockerill.

Interviewer Jess Cockerill asks “Are you worried about the weather? Feel like the seasons are out of sync? Fretting about longer summers, strange storms or rising sea levels?  Fear not; the Bureau of Meteoranxiety (or BoMa) may have the appropriate therapy to calm your climate concerns”.  Read on––

Jess Cockerill
How did the Bureau of Meteoranxiety come about?
Alex Tate
Our original idea was definitely set more in the future, where climate change has happened, it’s devastated earth. But as we went through Next Wave’s artist development program, sincerity became more important, particularly present-day sincerity.
Olivia Tartaglia
We were thinking about how we deal with this thing that’s already upon us. You could talk about so many different ways of how it will happen, but we thought it could be more interesting to look at how it is happening right now, and how we’re dealing with that, which, in some respects, is not very well.
JC
I am curious about your choice of terminology: why meteoranxiety, and not ecoanxiety?
OT
Ecoanxiety was a starting point. We were doing a lot of research and we discovered Glenn Albrecht, who is a Western Australian ecophilosopher, and he coined the term meteoranxiety … it just seemed like a more specific definition.

It’s the feeling of being anxious about weird weather, or suddenly-changing weather, due to climate change. Glenn Albrecht talks about it as an anxiety we have but we wouldn’t necessarily know that we’re feeling it. The main point of the work is to make people aware of what they’re feeling, to put a word to the feeling.

AT
The feeling of ecoanxiety is much more closely linked to climate change, whereas with meteoranxiety, even if climate change is real or not, you still feel it. The media will just say ‘weird weather!’ ‘strange weather event!’ ‘record temperatures!’. They avoid saying climate change, because they don’t want to politically-charge these articles, but they still want to get the clicks.

And of course, it’s a play on the Bureau of Meteorology. People already have that association with bureaucracy and government policy.

JC
What are some instances where you have felt meteoranxiety?
AT
I see it in the day-to-day. You see bananas on special because there’s a bumper crop, because of unusual weather. We just moved into a new place and watched the tree at the park shed its leaves three months early.

I think we’re hypersensitive to it now we’ve done this project. We were looking for articles and research to source material, so I kinda see it in everything.

JC
To what extent do you feel growing up in Western Australia has informed this work?
OT
I always would go down south WA, once a year or even more, and I think that’s why we featured the Boranup Karri Forest in the Virtual Reality, because it’s so beautiful. We both love it there and have such a connection to that space; we want people to experience it.
AT
In Western Australia we have the Fremantle Doctor, and all these other features in our weather, that it was a given they’d be a part of BoMa.1 And in the southwest of WA, there’s so many unique plants and animals that rely on consistency, and exist because of it, that are at risk due to the weather.

We live on that point of the earth where we feel it. It will hit us closer to home sooner than other states, except probably the Northern Territory. When we get a 40°c day in autumn, I notice it, other people notice it.

OT
It’s everywhere! On the news, social media, you talk about it to like five people you see, you can’t escape it.
JC
Having created this work, what do you think: do we need to just accept these changes and adapt? Or should we still be pushing against it?
OT
Of course we need to stop climate change but I also don’t think that’s going to happen. I think people are just going to try again and again to adapt.
AT
The heavy use of technology in the work is a way of bringing up the common notion that technology will save us, that we can just use technology to solve the problem. It’s kind of a really sad waiting game, where something really terrible seems to have to happen before the government will do anything. And there’s an anxiety in that. But even once that happens, maybe it’ll be passed off as just an anomaly, just weird weather. Or even just a condition we can manage using technology.

But I really hope that BoMa serves as a starting point for people thinking about the real world … if the Bureau of Meteoranxiety fails in one aspect – which it will, because these therapies are not real – and they don’t feel that it meets their requirements, then maybe they can relate it to our real government not meeting their needs, and see the connection there.

Interview by Jess Cockerill

Image 06: as above.

Image: Olivia Tartaglia and Alex Tate, Bureau of Meteoranxiety 2018, multimedia. Photo credit: Michael Tartaglia.


  1. The ‘Fremantle Doctor’ is local Western Australian slang for the cool afternoon sea breeze that occurs during summer in the south-west of the state.
  2. Read the full BoMa article with images and credits here
  3. Review by Hannah Francis of The Age newspaper.
  4. Quote “Perhaps a future treatment for Facebookfomophobia” GBW.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Monica McInerney’s Writing Regimen

Monica McInerney Bookcover 02

An interview extract on the writing regimen of Monica McInerney, best-selling Australian-born, Dublin-based author of twelve novels, Monica was voted into the top ten of Booktopia’s “Australia’s Favourite Novelist” poll 2014, 2016 and 2018.

The following quote is from Books+Publishing Q&A and Monica mentions two of her earlier novels which I can highly recommend:


Q:  Could you describe your approach to writing and your working regimen?

A:  “I spend about six months plotting in my head before I sit at the computer and start writing.  There’s usually an overlap between my books.  I had the idea for ‘At Home with the Templetons’ about three months before I finished ‘Those Faraday Girls’.  Similarly, I had the idea for what will be my next book halfway through writing the ‘Templetons’.

I aim for 2,000 words a day minimum in the early stages of writing, getting very attached to the word-count button.  A day always comes when the word count is irrelevant, when all I want to do is be at the desk writing.

The final six months are usually seven days a week.  I edit as I write, and also show the manuscript to two people in the early stages, my husband, who is a journalist, and my younger sister, who is an editor.  I completely trust their feedback, and their encouragement keeps me on track until the manuscript is as polished as I can make it before sending it to my publishers.  I also love deadlines.  They terrify me into finishing.”


Monica McInerney Author

Author http://www.monicamcinerney.com/
Interview Books+Publishing https://www.booksandpublishing.com.au/
Booktopia https://www.booktopia.com.au/

 


Synopsis of Monica McInerney’s latest novel ‘The Trip of a Lifetime’

“I always thought memories were unchangeable. Set in stone, shaped by the years. But there are always others too, ones you haven’t let yourself remember ...”
The wilful and eccentric Lola Quinlan is off on the trip of a lifetime, taking her beloved granddaughter and great-granddaughter with her.  More than sixty years after emigrating to Australia, she’s keeping a secret promise to return to her Irish homeland.  But as she embarks on her journey, the flamboyant Lola is still hiding the hurtful reasons she left Ireland in the first place. What – and who – will be waiting for her on the other side of the world?
Books by Monica McInerney:
  •    The Trip of a Lifetime
  •    Hello from the Gillespies
  •    The House of Memories
  •    Lola’s Secret
  •    At Home with the Templetons
  •    All Together Now
  •    Those Faraday Girls
  •    Family Baggage
  •    Alphabet Sisters
  •    Spin the Bottle
  •    Upside Down Inside Out
  •    A Taste For It

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Q&A Katrin Dreiling Children’s Illustrator

Katrin Dreiling World's Worst Pirate 04

Katrin Dreiling went from language teacher to illustrator and received prestigious recognition for her picture book illustrations in “The World’s Worst Pirate”.  This book, written by Michelle Worthington and published by Little Pink Dog Books, has been awarded Notable Book of 2018 by Children’s Book Council of Australia.

Willkommen! Welcome!

It’s wonderful to have you here, Katrin, I love your beautiful art techniques and I’m excited to learn about your journey as a children’s book illustrator.  First, here’s a sneak peek at this special pirate story:

William is The World’s Worst Pirate so does that suggest he’s rude and nasty?  Read on…

“Pirates are swashbuckling, treasure hunting, buccaneers of the seven seas.  But if your mother is the Pirate Captain and you can’t stand on deck without getting seasick … that makes William The World’s Worst Pirate.”  However, young William does have a special talent.  Can he use it when the ship is under attack?  Save the day, me hearty!

Q&A illustrator background

Katrin Dreiling, originally from Germany, loves to come up with quirky creations that inspire children to get creative.  She enjoys giving colourful and messy art classes and says “Children are the true perfect grown-ups. Their hearts and minds are pure and good and it is important to nurture this – I strive to do that with art.”  On the studious side, she provided the characters for animated University lectures and Government staff coaching videos that attracted over 320,000 views worldwide.  In her free time, Katrin relaxes with her husband, three children and their Golden Retriever.


Katrin Dreiling World's Worst Pirate 02Q1. What is your favourite part of “The World’s Worst Pirate”?

Thank you, Gretchen, for this interview! My favourite part text-wise is when the Kraken attacks and everyone is supposed to run for their lives. Then there is a silence and Will quietly throws a cupcake to tame the beast. I like the contrast between noise and quietness and that it is such a peaceful, gentle approach. In terms of illustrations I think I like the cover the best. I just really enjoyed doing those ocean waves.

Q2. Of all your creations, who is your best loved character so far?

That would be Anton the Pig. This character has been in the works for a while now and so I really got used to him being around. He is also very sweet-hearted and funny and reminds me of a certain someone…

Q3. Where did the inspiration for this character come from?

Anton and his world are certainly inspired by my German background. The region I grew up in is known for their excessive bicycle riding because it’s very flat. So Anton is a passionate cyclist but I merged the landscape with a lot of ideas I picked up while living in Brisbane, Queensland. The inspiration for Anton’s story, though, came from years of working with children at school and my own three kids.Katrin Dreiling World's Worst Pirate 08

Q4. How would you describe your creative process on an average day?

My working day usually starts with a good walk with my Goldi to keep him happy and clear my head. Then I usually work down a list of things I have to do for my illustrating business. Once this is done I start creating. This can include simple sketching, commission work or extending my portfolio.

Q5. Do you like working in a group or home-office environment?

I am very happy to work by myself from home but I do seek professional input from other industry professionals on a regular basis. There is the Brisbane Illustrators Group where I made many good friends, WriteLinks and our local SCBWI group. I think it is very important to stay connected in which ever way you prefer, be that online or in real life.

Katrin Dreiling World's Worst Pirate 06
In costume The World’s Worst Pirate book launch

Q6. Was it enjoyable working with writer Michelle Worthington?

Absolutely loved working with Michelle Worthington and would always choose to do so again. She is professional, smart and supportive and I felt very appreciated in my illustrating.

Q7. What is it like collaborating with an editor and publisher?

In the case of Little Pink Dog Books it was the perfect synergy between author, publisher and illustrator. Kathy and Peter Creamer were very inspired to keep this project a creative process which involved everyone in the same measure, and I believe the result reflects this very well. When I worked with other publishers it was a different, yet also enjoyable experience. I had to meet more firm requirements and learned new things along the way. I think you have to be adaptable as an illustrator in order to deliver the best possible outcome for the project.

Q8. Do you like to work with artistic freedom or a strict deadline?

I can do both 😊

Q9. Have you stayed up past midnight to finish an assignment?

Yes. I have worked through nights but if the work does not feel like work it is not a problem.

IMG_20180422_234859Q10. Have you ever received harsh criticism for your work?

I have been very lucky so far and mostly received constructive criticism which I value a lot. It’s easy to get too complacent and lose distance to your work. This is why I regularly book in for portfolio assessments with editors to get a fresh perspective on my work.

Q11. What is your favourite medium to work with and why?

I mix a lot of media together because I enjoy many things at the same time. I seem to always come back to ink in some form, though.

Q12. What colour would you be if you were an extra pencil in the box?

Black.

Q13. What are your thoughts on hand-painted vs computer generated artwork?

It works really well TOGETHER if you know how to.

Katrin Dreiling The Princess and The Pea 02Q14. Who are your favourite artists and have they influenced you?

Absolutely adore the work of Beatrice Alemagna. She has inspired me to go my own way, like she did. Then there is the quirky and unconventional style of Russell Ayto that I love. I think both artists truly work to delight and inspire children.

Q15. Are you involved in teaching workshops for children?

Yes, I will be giving workshops with Michelle Worthington to children at selected libraries in Brisbane during school holidays in July 2018.  Also I give workshops for both children and grown-ups at a bookstore in Red Hill, Brisbane, as well as giving regular extra-curricular art classes once a week at New Farm State School.

Q16. Do you have a special creative goal for this year or is it a secret?

For my Anton the Pig story, I’d like to finish the manuscript and illustrations completely. Also getting published by one of the ‘big’ publishing houses has always been my dream and I’m still working towards this goal.


And this Q&A draws to a close

My sincere thanks, Katrin, for your personal insights into the world of picture book illustrating.  I am sure you will reach your goal and I look forward to reading all about Anton!

Hey, is anyone else left wondering who that 'certain someone' is and why Katrin would be a black pencil...

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Katrin Dreiling World's Worst Pirate 05Information:
Katrin Dreiling Illustrations https://www.katrindreiling.com/
Instagram https://www.instagram.com/katrinartworks/
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/katrinartworks/
Twitter https://twitter.com/dreiling_katrin

Interviewed by Self

Computer 03

INTERVIEWER:
How many unfinished manuscripts do you have on file?
ME:
I have nine in varying stages of incompleteness.  I love them all, they start off well, the concepts are intriguing, then I stall.
INTERVIEWER:
How do you get over writer’s block?
ME:
At this point my stories can veer one of two ways.  Boringly predictable or Man-I-didn’t-expect-that!  And believe me, you will know the difference when the creative spark ignites.  The momentum is strong, the words flow and come alive.  I run with it and don’t look back.
INTERVIEWER:
What has made you stop writing a particular story?
ME:
When that inspired catalyst fizzles out, mundaneness moves in.  My tale slips into the writing doldrums and my incentive fades away.  I no longer feel the need to flesh out the plot.  Of course, a looming deadline can always prod me into action.
INTERVIEWER:
Do you prefer plot structure or character development?
ME:
Oh, I much prefer characters, I love creating their voices, habits and lifestyles.
INTERVIEWER:
Do you delete your unfinished work?
ME:
Perhaps it sounds better if I say I have nine good story ideas pending completion.
INTERVIEWER:
Does that mean you keep everything you write?
ME:
Yes, and I return to scrappy stories on a regular basis to see if they are worth saving.  Maybe one of them is a work of genius.  To find out, I must keep writing.
INTERVIEWER:
Do you want a coffee?
ME:
Sounds like a good idea!

Gretchen Bernet-Ward       

Notepad and Pencil