Blog Archive

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Interview with Children's Chapter Book Author, Julie Scott

The beauty of the internet is that I can do interviews around the world. I've chatted with authors in the United States, Canada and Great Britain. Today we will discussing writing with an author in New Zealand, which is a lovely country that I have had the pleasure of visiting and hope to again someday. So let's get on to the interview...And at the end there is an opportunity to win a free book!

How did you come up with the idea of your current book?
My current book, Milly and the Chittens is a chapter book aimed at 7-10 year olds. It is about a young girl, whose room is so messy that it becomes a hatching-ground for mysterious garbage-eating creatures. Milly then has to come up with ways to persuade her Mum to let her keep them.

Not surprisingly, the idea for this book came from my daughter's messy room when she was younger. I told her there might be creatures living in there and she wanted to know what sort of creatures. Of course, in the story everything is exaggerated. The room got messier and messier; the creatures got more fantastic. 

How much did the story change if any in the process?
When I first wrote it, it was quite short, only a few thousand words and I submitted it to Penguin NZ for a series they were producing of very simple chapter books for beginning readers. The publisher liked it, but thought that the language was a bit complex for their target audience. I wanted to keep the style of writing so I developed the story into something longer and a bit more complicated.

I see the book is in both eBook and standard print format but it is soon coming out in audio as well. Did you do the audio yourself?
The audio book is still in development, but we're planning to get an actor to do the voice - something I'm very happy about:) happy! I think a lot of acting skills are involved making a good audio book and that's not really my forte. For example, Oscar nominated actress Keisha Castle-Hughes (Whalerider) has recorded the audio version of one of the Pear Jam titles, Aroha, so Milly will be read by someone at that level.

Did you send this book out to other publishers prior to going with Pear Jam Books? 
Milly and the Chittens went out to a couple of publishers prior to Pear Jam Books. And although this is the first book I've had published, I have written several others, so I've had my share of rejection letters.

What kept you going in spite of rejections?
I think the most important thing as a beginning writer is to make contact with other writers. They can give you much better feedback than friends and family. When you find someone whose opinion you trust and who is willing to be open and honest about your work, it is incredibly helpful.

You have to learn to accept the negative as well as the positive comments, but at least you know that when they tell you to keep sending work out, they really do mean it. Rejections do hurt, so you need someone who believes in what you have written and won't let you just slip it into a drawer and forget about it.

Prior to writing this book, what other writing credits or writing background did you have?
I have been writing for a while, mostly children's books, but for a slightly older age group than Milly and the Chittens. I have done a several writing courses, had a play published in the NZ school journal, and been short-listed for the Tom Fitzgibbon award which is for a novel by an unpublished children's writer. In 2010, I did a Masters in Creative Writing, which involved classes and mentoring by an established writer.

I see that Pear Jam Books does not accept unsolicited manuscripts. It shows that you have to go through their affiliated company, Write Good Stuff Writing Consultancy. What was this process like for you?  
Pear Jam Books is a wonderful publishing company. It was started just over a year ago by Jill Marshall, a well-known children's author, who is also a manuscript assessor and writing teacher. She got into publishing initially as a way of raising funds for people affected by the big earthquake we had in Christchurch last February, producing a picture book called Curly from Shirley and donating the proceeds to the relief fund.

From her writing courses and from doing manuscript assessment, she knew a lot of people with unpublished, but really good manuscripts. Having become frustrated with the difficulty that some of these people had in getting published, she decided to create her own publishing company, but one centered on the authors. 

How did you first get acquainted with the publisher?
I met Jill several years ago when I did one of her courses, and I had shown her Milly and the Chittens, although she never officially assessed it for me. She had liked it so much that she recommended I try sending it to her publisher, but that didn't work out.

When she set up Pear Jam Books, she asked if she could publish it herself. So my route into finally being published has been rather unusual. No submitting a manuscript and waiting weeks to hear; lots of consultation and advice; and only about 6 months from signing the contract to the eBook coming out and then the print book a couple of months after that.

Jill still runs her writing courses, coaching and manuscript assessments through Write Good Stuff and selects books to publish from those she’s seen, partly because she knows the quality of both the writing and the writer, and partly because it’s a way to take a few strong writers from first thinking about writing on a course, through mentoring and coaching, to the final goal of publication!

What are some of the most productive things you have done to promote your book?
I am still learning about the promotional side of writing. So far one of the best things I have done is the Goodreads giveaway. It was very easy and certainly seems to have increased awareness of my book. I had not realized quite how much self-promotion is involved after the book is written.

What has surprised you the most (in a good or bad way) about the publishing process?
As I said, my experience of being published is probably not typical. When I talk to friends who have been published by more traditional publishers, my experience has been much more inclusive and enjoyable. I have been very lucky in that the other authors involved in Pear Jam are extremely supportive and I have learned a lot from them.

What is some of the best advice you’ve been given on writing?
I think probably the best advice I was given was not to rely on the opinions of your family and friends - they won't tell you what is wrong with your book.  And also, read! As much as you can!

Do you have any special advice you’d like to give other writers?
Something that I find works really well for me is to read my work out loud. It helps me hear when the writing is awkward or uneven. This is especially useful if you are writing for children, but it also helps for adult writing. It was great when my kids were little as I had the perfect audience, but now they are too big. Teenagers don't let you read to them!
Do you have any other books in the process of being published?
I'm currently working on a sequel to Milly and the Chittens, which I'm hoping will be out by the end of the year.

That’s it for today’s interview. If you would like to be entered to win this story as an eBook, then leave a comment below. We will choose a winner from there. If you would like to learn more about Julie and her writing, here is a link to her website and the publisher

BONUS GIVEAWAY! Enter to win another children's book called Cows Can't Quack here
or enter for a chance to win The Pea in Peanut Butter by clicking here



  1. I would love to win the drawing for Milly and the Chittens! It sounds like a delightful book that would be enjoyed by my seven year old great-granddaughter.

    My first children's book, Benny's Angel, was recently published and two more in the God's Secret Garden Adventures series are in process.

    I enjoyed the interview with Julie Scott and can relate to her experience in the area of marketing. I didn't realize how much would be involved in getting my book out. I am learning more all the time from conferences, my writer's group, and discussion forums.

    Thank you, Christine, for an informative interview.

    1. Laura, I would like to follow up with you on your writing as well and get your take on the process. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Hi Chris,

    I read on the Verla Kay website that you're looking for a guest blogger to blog about picture book dummies. I didn't see on your blog how I could contact you other than to leave a message on this comment section, although it has nothing to do with this post. But I wanted to let you know I'm interested in guest blogging on your blog.

    I'm the author of the picture books "Otto's Rainy Day" (Charlesbridge Publishing, 2000), "Cixi, The Dragon Empress" (Goosebottom Books, 2011), and the upcoming "Sacajawea of the Shoshone" (Goosebottom Books, 2012) and "Goldy Luck and the Three Chans" (Charlesbridge Publishing, 2014).

    You can find out more about me on my blog:; my website:; and Facebook:

  3. Hi Chris,
    I enjoyed this interview. Good choice, and good job. I love your blogsite; it's very encouraging!

    "Milly and the Chittens" looks adorable! I'd like to enter to win it, for my great nephew Mark.


  4. Thanks, SandiGrace! Glad you like the blog. If you've got suggestions for topics let me know.