Welcome to my blog site, appreciate you dropping by, I think it is lovely way to get to know authors through these interviews, hope you think the same. Last week I had Rebecca McCray call in, and this week’s guest is the lovely Anita Kovacevic, so pour yourself a cuppa, sit back and enjoy.
Anita is a teacher, so who better to write children’s stories! Thank you Anita, you are always so willing to promote your colleagues in the writing world and their work, so it is a pleasure to have you share about yourself and your books.
Tell me how did your book come to life?
Well, amazingly enough, I already have several books out there (still can’t believe it myself), but today I will talk about my children’s book, Winky’s Colours.
I have been teaching English as a second language in a private school in Croatia for over 20 years now (Hi to all my ‘cricket’-pals, if anyone is reading!), and we believe games, art, music and storytelling are the best teaching tools you can have. I have this tendency to add an intro story to every nursery rhyme or grammar issue I teach (working with various levels and age groups), and Winky was one of such creations. It was a cold winter, Valentine’s Day was approaching, I was teaching polar animals and environment, so I was trying to find some story to make it all come together and engage the children. Winky and Betty just woke me up one veeeeeery cold and veeeeery early morning and said: ‘Look no further! Here we are!’ I got up, drew some flashcards, made story notes and told my students the story.
There is nothing quite like having childen engaged in storytelling! It gives me goosebumps just thinking about it! They react, suggest, question, demand, rethink, feel, ask… Kids are amazing. Their criticism is like no review out there – worth more than any treasure imagineable and thoroughly applicable! (Good thing they don’t charge for their editing services;)
With each telling, I polished the story a bit more, added voices to my characters, pruned the plot, improved the illustrations… My teacher colleagues were very helpful as well, as they accepted the story presented to them on one of our workshops, and also used it in their lessons, providing encouraging live feedback.
Did you plan to be an author? Can you explain your experience?
Oh my, no, not at all! But then again, as a kid I said I’d never be a teacher, too, and look where it’s gotten me;)!
Looking back now, I do see that stories and poetry have always been rooted in me. From the elementary school literature and drama clubs, to developing my own teaching materials, and then being encouraged by some colleagues to write it all down and make ‘something’ of it. My Croatian colleagues and teachers from an online teaching community (www.eslprintables.com ) got me thinking about writing my stories down, followed my first blogging attempts and helped proofread and comment. My characters kept waking me up, and I can remember so many sleepless nights, writing down in bed or on the floor next to it, trying not to wake my husband or kids up with my crazy insomniac creativity attacks. Still, all that was merely writing for myself, not daring to think I might publish some day. Gradually, I tried several publishers, having finished a YA fantasy, but the publishing world is so competitive now that I got used to polite rejection letters, all explaining the story had merit, but it just ‘didn’t grab them’. (I am editing it now and, having learned a lot in the meantime, I can see their point.)
Last year I was invited by a colleague from www.eslprintables.com to join a charity anti-bullying project, contributing a story or some poetry, or more, and I did. (Please, if you have a minute, check out this amazing project, which started as a timid idea by some teachers/parents, and turned into a 400-page e-book with educative stories, illustrations, essays, poems, teaching materials, photos and illustrations, all by artists and educators from all around the world.) The project is called Inner Giant, and it has helped me learn so much about how to improve my writing. It also encouraged me say to myself: ‘You will regret it if you never try!’ So, with patient support from family and friends, I tried. It is all pretty much diy for now, but I am learning, improving, and saving up for some proper editing and a pro-cover for my next book. My adult novelette The Threshold followed, then my dear children’s books: Winky’s Colours, and freshly self-published The Good Pirate. Dragon Core is being edited, The Forest of Trees is in the hands of my beta readers, and some more children’s books are still packed on my bookshelf, impatiently waiting their turn.
Did you have to think about the title of your book, and how did you come to choose the name?
The first thing Winky did when he woke me up that night/morning was wink and smile. His name was no problem at all. When he showed me Betty, all the colours of the world were reflected in her eyes and he loved her for it. So there was no problem with the title. Once you read the story, you will see the colours are not only about Betty. Betty’s name was kept a secret from me till the igloo scene came. So I pretty much knew it at about the same time as Winky.
What location(s) did you decide to use for your story and what were your reasons?
Well, the polar environment came natural, Winky being a penguin and all. I had no intention of putting him in a zoo, because, as educational as they are, I prefer it when children learn about animals in their natural habitat. Once I was there, I knew how much I would miss colours if I lived there (not to mention the problem I’d have with the cold there;). Winky and I being soulmates, he missed colours too. His journey developed logically… but if I tell you more, I will be spoiling the story.
Tell us – what is your book about?
The plot is based on a little penguin who leaves his home in search for some colours. He goes through a huge adventure, meets a seal, a polar bear cub, an orca whale, until he stumbles onto some colours, but not in the way he was hoping. An ecological disaster puts his life in danger, but he is rescued by a nice lady and Betty. There, told you too much already! It’s about going after your dream, daring to change your life, but not letting go of friends, love or family in the process! Boy, that’s some deep book, right?
What is the main theme running through your book and what does this main theme mean to you. Is it a passion in your life?
Having a dream and going for it? Friendship, love, family? Keeping your inner child alive? Hmmm… yes, absolutely all passions of mine. (Even when I am not as daring as Winky!)
What do you think makes a great writer? Do you need to be taught to write?
We are all born with something to show – some have a song in them, some a craft, some a special communicative ability or skill, some a story… Being able to find your gift, and then learning how to share it positively with the rest of the world is the best thing one can do. Great writers have this ability and skill – they share their stories and they make you think and feel. You can be taught to write better (I am still learning, oh boy, how I am learning!). You can not be taught to be a great writer. You can not be taught to be a great anything. You CAN be encouraged, but it is up to you whether you release your wings or hide them behind your back. (Do release them;)!)
Do you have a message you want to convey with your book(s)?
Not really, at least not on a conscious level. I just write what my characters tell me to. (Fine excuse, right?)
Do you have plans to write another book(s) with the same theme(s)?
More children’s books are merely a matter of me finding time to sit down and edit them, because they are already lurking in my lesson plans, notes and illustrations. There is a collection of adult stories waiting to be sorted and edited. My novel The Forest of Trees is truly weird, but I love it so, and plan to do my best to make it shine. I think those people in it deserve to have their story told. Oh and poetry! Hm…. Yeah, time, time…
How do you feel when you see the numbers of books on the market today and the number of self published authors increasing and everyone trying to get attention? How do you keep motivated?
With enormous difficulty and a lot of support. I whine a lot, I drown in self-pity, then I go into seclusion, then I talk too much, then I get a good/tough pep talk from my husband, a friend or a colleague (from work or in author groups – BGS, thank you)… Eventually, my characters just come over and tell me to wake up and smell some writing paper… It would probably be more difficult if I had to earn my living from writing; this way, I keep my teaching job, and writing is still more of a hobby.
But true, it is not easy when you look around. But it’s a choice – either you write or you don’t. The budgeting, competition, editing, promotion – those are all killers. But you cannot escape your characters. They don’t care about mundane stuff such as money, your weakness or vanity. They have found you and they will not take ‘no’ for an answer.
Is there is anything else you’d like to add?
Ha-ha, really? You thought I wouldn’t, after all that I’ve said. Well, I will. And it’s not going to be a thank you speech this time. Just a message for anyone reading this.
Please, read a lot. Read to others, especially to children. And read to those who’d love to but cannot any more. Tell your stories, share your gifts. And always learn. And all the good stuff you learn – teach them! Exchange that good energy.
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