‘What Rot!’ was my first picture book and it began as a short play for children. The language is rich and ornate, perhaps reflecting its beginnings as a performance piece and the humour is very dark. It’s a rare thing for nearly all the main characters to die on the second last page of a picture book—but then again, these characters are incredibly vain! I did wonder if this would make it difficult to publish but Mark Macleod, the publisher who gave me my first break as a picture book writer, loved it. I can still remember pouring over the pictures for the book on the floor at work, gasping in fevered astonishment that Eric Lobbecke could give insects such vividness and character.
Every book published goes through an extensive editing process, both text and the illustrations. It’s easy to forget this when the book is in your hands and the pages smell so deliciously bookish and crisp, and the text is flowing so elegantly, and the illustrations are glimmering and glowing. But before there is ever a book, there is the back and forth wrestling with the text, character sketches, storyboards and roughs.
I’m pleased to say my subsequent texts have never been quite so heavily edited…but the infuriating and exhilarating truth about writing is that there is always something new to learn, every single day.
Notable Book 2000: The Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA) Picture Book of the Year.