Springtime Books author, Judyth Gregory-Smith talks to the Expat Bookshop about her wonderful children’s book, Bernard the Wombat of Ugly Gully.
Q: Tell us about your book, what is it about? Could you describe it in just a few sentences?
A: Bernard the Wombat of Ugly Gully is a true story. Well almost. Bernard is the only upwardly mobile wombat in Ugly Gully, Lower Australia. He has a caravan with bunk beds, a fridge and a deck outside. From there he can watch Honeyeaters coming down to drink from the pond Bernard thoughtfully dug so that the birds didn’t have to go behind the caravan to drink. And, of course, he enjoyed watching the little dears come down to his pond. But then the pond was ruined. This book tracks the possibilities of who ruined it and shows that things are not always what they seem.
Q: What made you did you decide to write it?
A: We love our property in the Araluen valley of New South Wales, Australia and all the animals that use it when we are not around. And sometimes even when we are around. Richard, my late husband and I dug a pool and lined it with thick black plastic so the water couldn’t escape, but our resident wombat who lives and burrows beneath The White House (a caravan with a roof, deck and water tanks) wrecked it. I thought a story on how the animals rectified the problem would be interesting and amusing.
Q: Why do you think your book needed to be written?
A: I wanted to introduce children to Australia’s animals, but in an amusing and appealing way in the hope that they would protect them and their environment for future generations.
Q: Who do you think will read your book? Who would you like to read it? Did you have a target audience in mind before you wrote it?
A: The target audience for reading the book would be 8-14 years. However, an adult\older reader would enjoy reading the book to much younger children of say 5-8.
Q: What steps have you taken or are planning to take to promote your book? Which methods do you think will work best to meet your target audience?
A: I am writing and publishing the latest news on Bernard every day. I take some copies to every meeting and function I attend and give out small typed links to Bernard’s website for those who might like to read more about his book on line. I have been given the opportunity to speak and read at several schools. The schools are also buying some Bernard books for their library which I think will work best to meet my target audience.
Recently, I ‘worked’ at a Christmas Bazaar. We will put up posters around the Renaissance Hotel (Kuala Lumpur) alerting people to Bernard’s presence and I will sell copy after copy of his book all day. That is the plan.
Q: How did you choose your publisher and method of publishing? Did you do much research before you made your choice? And what made you choose this route?
A: I did much research on writing and publishing the book through Queensland Writers’ Editorial Consultancy Service in 2000-2001. However, Richard, my husband became ill and subsequently died. I put the project on hold until 2016 when I felt able to revisit Bernard and his friends. By this time, I had moved to Kuala Lumpur and met Jo Parfitt of Summertime Books. She read the manuscript and declared it a charming tale.
Q: What was your biggest challenge once you decided to write your book and how did you overcome it?
A: My challenge was a combination of Richard’s illness and subsequent death and my being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. I am still overcoming the challenges.
Q: What were the highlights of the writing and publishing process from starting to write your book to it being sent to print?
A: I enjoyed working with Jo Parfitt who guided me in the directions I should go. Once the manuscript was to Jo’s satisfaction, Bernard and I were passed to Jack Scott who has given Bernard much time, effort and advertising: I could not be more pleased with the results. Part of this praise must also go to Justin Dean whose drawings and paintings are fabulous. Jud painted Bernard exactly as I imagined Bernard to be: slightly crossed eyes, slightly protruding buck teeth, chubby legs and chubby feet tucked into chubby shoes – perfect.
Q: If you were to give advice to someone thinking about writing a book, what would be your number one tip?
A: Persevere, take all the advice that is offered by publishers and make it happen.
Bernard the Wombat was released on Springtime Books on 1st October 2017.