Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Claire Saxby's Blog Tour - There Was an Old Sailor

Welcome to Writing Children's Books with Robyn Opie. Today, Claire Saxby has come back to visit us as part of her new blog tour. Yes, Claire has another picture book, which was released this month. Congratulations, Claire!

Today, Claire is talking to us about There Was an Old Sailor and how she went from idea to book. Sound easy? Let's hear what Claire has to say about that.

Welcome Claire - and over to you.

From Idea to Book – ‘There Was an Old Sailor’
Claire Saxby

I was sitting watching my son and his circus classmates do their warm-ups when my friend and her daughter arrived. Her daughter stripped off her shoes and socks and joined the others on the mat. My storyteller friend dropped into the chair near me and said ‘I wish someone would write a fishy rhyme…you know…like “There Was an Old Lady”.’ She was just back from a storytelling session and bemoaned the fact that there was no nautical cumulative rhyme in this Year of the Ocean. ‘And everyone wants fishy tales,’ she said.

‘I’m game,’ I said. ‘I’ll give it a go.’

And so the idea for ‘There Was an Old Sailor’ was born.

Easy, I thought. Hah! I should know better. Less words generally means more difficult, when it comes to picture books. Certainly has for me anyway. My first picture book, Ebi’s Boat’ has 198 words.

And when you consider that when you are modeling on an existing rhyme, you can’t fudge any of the lines or play with the structure, it’s a bit like dancing with an octopus in a shower…dangly bits everywhere!

Where to start? Well that at least seemed obvious. The animals. So I built a list of eight sea animals. Krill and whale were my bookends. Made sense, although I worried a little about children not knowing what krill were. The other six animals changed a few times as I played with the rhymes. Most had to be single syllable, so jellyfish became jelly, stingray became ray (more accurate terms any way I discovered).

I shared progress with my storyteller friend and her enthusiasm kept me buoyant when the rhymes wouldn’t come and it all seemed futile. Eventually the story was done and I sent it off to publishers.

No response. Well, yes, there were responses, but nothing to tell me why they didn’t want it. That’s just the way it is, often. So after a few submissions, I was again despondent. Then my storyteller friend arrived with a present for me…a bollard sailor with a wide open mouth. She’d been taking my story into classrooms and kindergartens and they loved it. So her husband had made two sailors, one for her, one for me. We searched shops for the fishy creatures to perform the rhyme. Some were easy…fish are everywhere. But krill? Hmm not so easy. Eventually we found a fishing supply store who gave us shrimp/krill looking lures, complete with hook and sinker. Children love the Old Sailor and love helping to feed him.

Around that time I was asked to do a writing workshop for upper primary children and developed one around the Old Sailor. It was and continues to be a fun and successful workshop. I began to think that perhaps that was the Old Sailor’s destiny, rather than to be a book.

But then I sent out the manuscript once more. Walker Books accepted it and Cassandra Allen agreed to illustrate it.
On Feb 1 2010, There Was an Old Sailor hit the bookshops. Magic. Just magic. It only took eight years.

Thanks for hosting me, Robyn.

Thanks for visiting, Claire, and sharing your experiences.

To find out more about There Was an Old Sailor by Claire Saxby, please visit Walker Books Australian web site:

Dates for Claire Saxby's Blog Tour

Monday 8 February: Sally Murphy's Writing for Children

Tues 9 February: Dee White's Tuesday Writing Tips

Wed 10 February: Dale Harcombe's Read and Write with Dale

Thurs 11 February: Robyn Opie's Writing Children's books

Fri 12 February: Lorraine Marwood's Words into Writing

Sat 13 February: Mabel Kaplan's Tales I Tell

Sun 14 February: Sandy Fussell's Stories are Light


Dee White said...

Thanks for a great interview Robyn and Claire.

Sounds like There Was an Old Sailor has had quite a journey.


Claire said...

Thanks for hosting me robyn!