Date of Success:
Ben started writing quirky rhymes as a way of entertaining himself on his lengthy train commute to the office when he worked as a research scientist.
After successfully releasing two picture books as an indie publisher, Ben landed a contract with Ford Street Publishing for his third picture book – Ready, Steady, Hatch! – released in 2017.
WHAT CYA CONFERENCE DID FOR ME
About eight years ago, I found the courage to declare aloud to my friends and family that I wanted to be a picture book author. I knew absolutely nothing about the industry, but I was directed to the CYA Conference by friend and former Brisbane Writers Festival Director, Michael Campbell. I had no other clues, so CYA was at the top of my list.
I have always been one to give things a go, even if I'm unsure of what might come of it. (I think this approach to life has helped me a lot when it comes to finding and pursuing my passions.) So in 2009 I submitted four picture book manuscripts to the competition with a kind of naive confidence. I turned up on the morning of the conference, still with a hope of winning, only to find that the first two rows of the theatre were signed RESERVED FOR COMPETITION WINNERS. I was deflated. (NOTE FROM CYA: We do not give out the winners before conference - only the shortlist names.)
Not to be discouraged, the following year I submitted to the competition again and, that year, I came away with a second place award for an earlier version of Ready, Steady, Hatch! (called Niki Twik at the time). Together with an artist, Tom Hermman, I submitted an illustrated excerpt of another of my manuscripts called Tickle Me Zoo. It also came second in the same year. This time at the conference, I took my place in the front two rows of the theatre where I was approached and told, 'These rows are for competition winners only.' I smiled and stayed put.
Knowing that it could take many years to get a publishing contract, I had been wondering about the possibility of indie publishing, and winning these awards gave me the confidence to attempt it. There was a lot to learn, but whenever I am facing a new obstacle my approach is always to break it down into a series of smaller steps, visualise the path ahead, and then take it on one challenge at a time. In 2012 I published Tickle Me Zoo and in 2014 I published Higgledee Giggledee (both illustrated by Tom Hermann), and received a lot of support from the CYA community.
After learning the ins and outs of publishing and distribution, I was given an opportunity to present a talk on indie publishing at the 10th CYA Conference in 2015, passing on what I had learned to other aspiring and emerging writers. Throughout the day I also had an opportunity to catch up with Paul Collins of Ford Street Publishing. We had spoken at previous conferences, and once again I was keeping him up to date with my publishing successes, and once again he suggested I send something to Ford Street. This time I submitted Ready, Steady, Hatch!and we signed the contract shortly after.
I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with Paul and benefit from his wealth of experience in the industry, and none of this would have happened without the CYA Conference and the commitment and passion of Tina and the rest of the CYA team.