I caught up with Peter Taylor, author of Once a Creepy Crocodile. We spoke about writing books for children, his journey in getting the books published through The Five Mile Press and his advice to people who are looking to get their own work published.
Here's some more about Peter...
Peter Ernest Taylor. I often slip the ‘E’ initial in between, as Peter E Taylor, because there are several writers named Peter Taylor who are, or who have been authors. One American Peter Taylor was very famous for writing short stories for adults, but he died in 1994. I’m one of those who are still alive.
My latest book, launched in July 2014, is called Once a Creepy Crocodile and I’m thrilled that it’s Shortlisted for the ‘2015 Book of the Year Award’ by Speech Pathology Australia as being enjoyable for children aged 3-5 and for adults to read to them. The winner will be announced in October. The story has been spectacularly illustrated in gorgeous water colours by Nina Rycroft, and like ‘Little Rockers Radio’ it’s packed with alliterative words that start with the same sound.
Once a creepy crocodile crawled toward a river bank,
He spied a baby brolga by a bottle-brush tree,
And his tail wagged and wiggled while he winked and grinned and giggled saying,
'Please come and join me for afternoon tea.'
'No!' squealed Echidna. 'Stop!' croaked the tree-frog,
'Run,' cried Koala, 'he'll eat you don't you see?' ... ...
Yes, it rhymes, too, and the words fit the rhythm of Waltzing Matilda, so its wonderful publisher, The Five Mile Press, has included a CD of the story being sung by Rusty Berther to the same tune, and also his rendition of the original song.
The action takes place in a mangrove swamp and surrounding dry land, and the 12 characters in the story are Australian animals and wildlife creatures ...and they could all actually be found in that kind of location. In real life, however, they might not be as friendly with each other as they are in the story.
It was started as a writing exercise set by famed picture book author and illustrator Jan Ormerod at a class for adults that she gave at the 2010 StoryArts Festival in Ipswich, Queensland. I worked with fellow author Julie Nickerson (who wrote Pippa’s Perfect Ponytail and other books), so some lines are partly hers. I’ll always be grateful that Julie allowed me to carry on writing Once a Creepy Crocodile without her, after the workshop ended - it could easily have been her book and story.
I was born in England and trained as a biologist, then at art colleges, and had jobs there as a nature reserve warden, a museum curator and also as a high school science and art teacher. I swapped science teaching posts with an Australian 30 years ago and stayed, but I’ve changed jobs now and work from home doing calligraphy for people and teaching the craft, and writing and illustrating books for all ages. I also give workshops, talks and readings in schools and Kindergartens, to adult organisations …anywhere I get invited.
My wife and children are Australian – the children now adults (25 and 28).
I still enjoy studying plants and animals, and if I hadn’t made the choice to do what I do now, I would have loved to be a wildlife photographer.
I have also Co-authored: 101 Things To Do Before You Grow Up (or before you get too old to enjoy them!) …which is for children about 7 and upwards. I wrote the sections on science and survival. Would you like to know the best way to survive in the bush in thunderstorm, or extract DNA from onions in your kitchen?
My other books have been for adults and children aged 10+ and on calligraphy and papercraft subjects - The Australian Manual of Calligraphy; Practical Calligraphy; Calligraphy for Greetings Cards and Scrapbooking
I wrote nature reserve guides when I was 15 and still at school, and I’ve particularly enjoyed writing in every job I’ve had – science workbooks when school teaching, museum display information. But I first started writing for children in 1991.
I started to write for children soon after my son and daughter were born. As well as buying books and borrowing them from the library to read, I’d spontaneously make up bedtime stories for my children. My stories were so dreadful then that I would fall asleep on their bed while telling them, and the children remained wide awake – so my wife suggested that I did a correspondence course to learn how to do it properly.
It’s always wonderful when children enjoy reading a book or having it read to them because, hopefully, they’ll then seek and explore a wide range of books by other authors and illustrators and eventually become passionate ‘book people’.
The very best part is being able to share stories and read books together with children and see their reaction, and also to stimulate their creativity. I love seeing how children interact with story characters and tell and draw their own stories, too. I’ve now got a full set of hand puppets to match Once a Creepy Crocodile, and I’m looking forward to children using these to tell the story together with me.
Once a Creepy Crocodile is for children aged about 3 to 5, but I know 2 year olds who love it so much that they know the words off by heart.
My website, http://writing-for-children.com has a downloadable music score that can be sung and played by slightly older children …and stick puppets to colour-in and make, and true facts about the wildlife characters.
My other books in print are non-fiction and for ages 10+ to adult. But I’m also working on a fun counting book for young children, more picture books for 3-8 year olds and a story that could be for older children or adults when it’s finished.
My writing style varies. Once a Creepy Crocodile and some other picture books in progress are definitely ‘fun’ and I try to make the words sound good when reading them. But not all stories are fun. Some paint a picture and hopefully help children develop empathy with others and new understanding.
Teachers and lecturers that I had in the past always wrote ‘Too chatty!’ on the end of technical articles and essays I wrote – but I still love writing science and other non-fiction in a familiar chatty way that people can easily understand. I always write in the same way that I speak when giving a workshop – but fortunately editors keep my books under control.
My future story ideas...
My Richard Lander Goes Missing story in progress (for 11 year olds and which may never be published) was begun after reading in a daily newspaper that the home of Joe Bugner, the former Australian Heavyweight Boxing Champion, was burgled while he was away at a fight. I wasn’t sure how to progress the plot until I was traveling home to Australia from the UK and checking-in at Heathrow airport.
The clerk asked what I did for a living and I told him I was writing a children's story and how it originated. He smiled. I looked at his name badge. He was Joe Bugner’s son ...and the plot suddenly became clearer, and the story is now well on its way.
My latest idea for a picture book is based on a family event. One day, a ‘wild’ owl alighted in my grandparents’ garden and stayed. We called him Ollie, and he must have been hand-raised from a chick. He sat on the hand, shoulder or head of anyone who came to visit, and he roosted in my grandparents’ shed. The local newspaper sent a reporter and also a photographer. If my grandfather left the bedroom window open, Ollie often flew into the house and perched on the end of his bed. After about a year, however, Ollie suddenly vanished…
Here’s Ollie and my grandfather
You can win a reading by Peter Taylor in your centre (Brisbane only).
Enter via Facebook competition post and tell us why you would love the reading in your Child Care Centre, Kindergarten or School. Winner announced Monday 28th September 2015 and prize must be claimed within 6-months. All other details around day & time of visit can be arranged by Peter direct with the winning centre. Prize is not transferrable or redeemable for cash.