I’m excited to be at Writers’ Rumpus today for the Book Birthday of my first picture book, CLOUD CONDUCTOR. It’s out today from Wombat Books in hardcover (the publisher is Australian but they ship internationally for just AUD$5) and is beautifully illustrated by accomplished artist Ann-Marie Finn.
I’ve been anticipating this day for a couple of years now, but am still a bit shocked that it’s finally here! In 2015, a little while after the break-up of my marriage and subsequent reevaluation of my life, I took a trip to the UK and attended a literary festival in Wales. This prompted me to make the firm decision that it was high time I did something about making my author dreams come true, rather than only ever writing content for other people (I’m a freelance writer). There’s nothing quite like a big life change and travel to motivate you to go after your goals!
One of the first ideas I ever came up with was CLOUD CONDUCTOR. When I started to try and write it, though, I realized I needed to learn a whole lot more about picture books. I studied hundreds of them, completed courses, paid for mentoring, and otherwise educated myself. Happily, when I summoned up the courage to start submitting my work to editors in 2016 (via paid manuscript appraisals at a conference), I had interest from my publisher, Rochelle at Wombat Books. After making some suggested revisions I resubmitted my manuscript, and was over the moon when I was offered a contract a couple of months later.
I think it’s fitting that CLOUD CONDUCTOR, being my first real picture book idea, is also my first book to be published. I love looking at the sky and daydreaming, and think creativity is incredibly important, so when the title came to me, I knew it was something I had to write.
CLOUD CONDUCTOR is about a little girl, Frankie, who is active and inventive, until illness confines her to bed. Luckily, her imagination and love of “conducting” clouds lets her float away on the clouds to any destination she desires. As the seasons progress, we see Frankie escape to the ocean, the outback, and other places in her mind. She also discovers how she can help other children in a similar position to her.
The book takes readers through the seasons and looks at weather changes, so it’s also a good tie in for the curriculum. It is also links to music, through the conducting element. Primarily, though, the story showcases the benefits of the imagination and how children can use their creativity to deal with tough times, negative emotions, trauma and the like. The book can also be used as a tool to prompt discussions about how to help others who may be struggling, whether with something emotional or physical.
I’m thrilled to now have the chance to talk to kids about topics that mean so much to me. I hope the story both entertains and inspires children, and that it helps those who need it – especially kids in hospital, since the book features (in a small, non-confrontational way) a hospital setting.
I’m so grateful my author journey has started, and appreciate Writers Rumpus having me here today to talk about CLOUD CONDUCTOR.
Teachers’ notes are available online, on the Wombat website and my own, plus there is a media kit and high-res image available. Wombat Books are also releasing a range of gift cards based on the book, so keep an eye out for those.
I’d love to hear what you think about CLOUD CONDUCTOR, so please comment here and find me on social media and my website to let me know what you think!
You can find the book on Goodreads at this link.
Kellie Byrnes is a children’s author, freelance writer, book reviewer and blogger. Her first picture book, CLOUD CONDUCTOR, releases May 1 2018, and her second picture book, YES! NO. will be published in 2019. Kellie was recently selected as a
mentee in the 2018 Writing with the Stars mentorship program, and can be found interviewing creatives, reviewing books, and just generally talking all things literature on her blog at www.KellieByrnes.com/blog