A huge welcome to children's author Lee Fox.
Have you always wanted to be an author?
As a child I dreamed of being a writer because I enjoyed writing poetry but I didn't have a sense of what being a writer/author meant or how one became a writer/author. In 1987 I thought about being a writer again, very briefly, because I was doing my VCE as a mature aged student and really, really loved all the writing components of the course. Other students thought I was crazy for this. In 2000 I decided to go for it and set out to do everything I could to make my dream a reality.
What was your road to publication like?
Once I'd made the decision to be a writer, and set a goal to have my work published, I began calling myself a writer. I promptly enrolled in a Freelance Journalism course with the Australian College of Journalism. Each week I received my tutorial and set about completing it. It was so much fun to have a writing task to focus on then send off to my tutor for comments and feedback. As a result of this course I had my first article published and received some money! It was such a great feeling. By the end of the 25 week correspondence course I'd had three articles published in The Age newspaper and made $1,800. This was a clear indication that I should keep going. But I didn't want to do journalism. So I enrolled in the Professional Writing and Editing course at RMIT and was accepted. I thought this course would give me the opportunity to try a few different genres and find what I was good at. I should mention that my goal by this stage was to write a book and have it published. I started with two subjects in the PWE course - Short Story and Editing.
Short Story was great for creating short writing projects and getting feedback from the class. Editing was great for perfecting my writing and learning about grammar and punctuation. I found the editing class tough at times but I would highly recommend it to anyone who is serious about improving their writing skills. I also did a short course on proofreading which helped immensely. The following year I enrolled in the Writing for Children subject, not because I particularly wanted to be a children's author but because I'd heard that the teacher was great. I didn't think I was too good at writing for children but I persisted because the teacher was actually great and her classes were a hoot.
During that year I wrote a story in rhyme about a girl who wouldn't let her mother brush her hair. I faced the same issue at home with my youngest child. I didn't show my teacher because she'd said that although kids, parents, teachers and librarians loved rhyming stories, publishers tended not to publish them (that's all I heard) unless they were very good (didn't catch that last bit). But I had enjoyed writing the story so I read it to my daughter then put it away. Sometime later - perhaps six months - I began thinking about the story again. I kept pushing the thoughts away but it was like the story was calling to me. One day I went - oh, I think I need to take notice of something here. I got the story out and sent it to a writer friend. She loved it and asked if I would like her to send it to her publisher. I said no. Only joking. I said, 'Yes, please do!!!' The publisher also said yes and Ella Kazoo was let loose on the world.
Tell us about your well loved picture book character, Ella Kazoo.
I love Ella Kazoo. She has such a mind of her own. The idea for Ella came from my daughter, Mia, the youngest of my five children, because at the time of writing the story Mia was refusing to let me brush her hair. But once I decided on the name, Ella Kazoo took on a life of her own - much like her hair. I think children love Ella because they can relate to her but also because they love reading about someone else being very naughty and getting into trouble. Children tell me that they think Ella Kazoo is very funny. Cathy Wilcox did a wonderful job of creating Ella's physical body and her hair is particularly wild. Just like Ella really.
What advice would give writers trying to perfect the art of rhyme?
What do you like to do when you're not writing?