Creativity Strikes! Interview with Children’s Writer Sandra Arthur

As the social media manager here at Lulu, I have the lucky task of monitoring our Facebook Page. I can’t tell you what a delight it is to communicate directly with so many of our authors and to get a chance to see the creative ways you all have to reach your readers. I’m constantly impressed. The other day I saw a post from an author named Sandra Arthur and wanted to share with you about an ingenious workshop she created to get kids excited about reading and to teach them about endangered orangutans and the rainforest of Borneo. She kindly agreed to an interview (shown below), so I hope you will enjoy getting to read a bit about one of your fellow Lulu authors.

Can you please share a few words about the Jungle Workshop you organized?

I ran a “Jungle Workshop” to provide a fun storytelling experience for children. I was lucky to get support from a local, independent bookshop/café/toy shop. I created a Rainforest Room with a tent and decorations. The formula for the event was a mix of creative art, songs/music playing, discovering facts and stats on the Borneo rainforest (via slide show I created about animals, fruit, flowers and music) and finally hearing my two stories: Crocodile Attack and Orang Utan to the Rescue! The kids loved sitting in the tent, whilst listening and seeing my book projected on a large screen. It was a big success, and I plan to run similar events in Canada, UK and also back in France.

What is your book about?

Crocodile Attack features Borneo’s rainforest as its backdrop for the curious story of “Radio Ron” (a Royal Air Force Radio Technician) who takes a journey with Dayak tribes-people. This is a vivid, fun and thought-provoking adventure book for children under nine years that is also proving popular with children who are learning English as a second language. The book includes a short story about Radio Ron’s adventures and also includes games, puzzles and environmental information about orangutans. The story is a work of fiction, but was written as a tribute to my late father, who was with the British Royal Air Force in Borneo during the mid 1960’s. In fact, I have written a junior fiction book, Corporal Ron’s Borneo Warrior Rescue that develops this theme.

What message are you hoping to send to children through your book?

First, I hope that my latest book, Crocodile Attack, will be picked up by parents in their quest to help children develop a passion for books. Learning to read is one of the biggest milestones young children face. By offering a fun approach to early reading practice, I hope my work may encourage a life long love affair with reading and books (whether on an electronic screen or paper).

My Radio Ron’s Postcards from Borneo series, may be a young child’s first introduction to environmental issues.  I believe that children who learn about environmental issues will become more conservation-conscious, develop empathy for such issues, and grow up to become informed adults.

My Illustrator, Lisa Williams, a British Student/Artist  – whom I “met” online and joined forces to create this delightful book – also remarked, “I think this book offers young children a great way to discover a little about the oldest rainforest in the world, Borneo.  I had great fun drawing the images and developing the games.  I have learned so much about orangutans and hope teachers and parents will use this material to engage and inform their children whilst having fun learning to read.”

What was the publishing process like for you?

I have to say it was fairly easy to follow, once you understood each step of the process with LULU. I spent hours learning good layout and publishing tricks and was grateful for the great advice and guidance found online. The support Forum offered by LULU was also invaluable.  It’s great that so many people are willing to help rookies, no matter how silly one’s question might be!

What recommendations do you have for aspiring children’s authors?

Prepare for disappointment. The majority of mainstream publishers have now closed their doors to “new” authors. Self-publishing can be fun but also fraught with issues. Getting the correct layout/illustrations/cover/different formats etc may be beyond some people who have no design or desktop publishing experience. The main challenge to highlight is the realisation that you must invest more than 10x the effort on marketing and selling than time spent writing the book. That sounds negative, but the harsh facts are the market is bursting with millions of writers/authors and competition is strong. New authors need to understand their target market and ensure their story appeals and that they can reach out to connect and promote. Otherwise, simply enjoy the journey of writing and the satisfaction of seeing your work in print. If you get any sales, that will be a bonus!

What are some of the shining moments in your writing career?

Two special moments were when I visited Venice, Italy to arrange some post book publicity for my first junior novel, Venice Escape. It was wonderful to walk around this beautiful city and discover locations I had included in my book. And feeling like a film star as crowds gathered to watch the video being shot of me live in the streets.

The second “trip of a lifetime” was to observe the wonderful orangutans in their unique home, Borneo that I featured in my Radio Ron’s Postcard from Borneo series. I shared details of my books and visit via a blog report with a hotel manager in Borneo. He responded that he was humbled that I knew more about his own country than himself and was thrilled that I was educating young kids about orangutans and encouraging their help.

I was also thrilled to receive feedback from a teacher/librarian group in USA who advised that they loved my Corporal Ron’s Borneo Warrior Rescue Book and felt it was a great book for boys. With my British hat on, I was equally happy to have received a letter from Prince William’s office stating that he was deeply touched to also receive my book, ahead of his Royal visit to Borneo.

What have you done to help promote the book?

Hopefully I have checked most boxes on “how to promote a book” but sadly one is limited by funds and time. Key publicity included:

  • A news release shared with key online PR Wire services.
  • Original music composed to support my eBook – an early version is promoted on YouTube.
  • An eBook (audio version with narration and music) – it really brings the book alive and has received great feedback.
  • My website, blog, FB and emailed content and links to all my contacts. (I probably annoyed many of my friends with constant reminders – but luckily they are my biggest fans).
  • Sample books sent to schools, libraries etc.
  • Collaboration with StoryCub, who offer video stories for kids online. They will feature my book later in the year.
  • Promotion on Facebook: I ran a short advertising campaign this has built up a fan base.
  • Publicity of my eBook at kids clubs in hotels in Borneo.
  • Posters around my village and in local shops.
  • Charity fundraising: As my book aims to raise funds for charity, I work with charities who are using my book with their own fund raising efforts.
  • Jungle theme storytelling workshops.

Related Reading: How To Market Children’s Books

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Bio: Who is Sandra Arthur?

Author, Sandra Arthur has a love for adventure which is reflected in the stories she writes.  Her goal in writing is to Make Reading Fun.  She achieves this by creating unusual story lines and offering additional content via her multi-media website.   To-date, she has written five books: Three early learning readers and two junior fiction.  She is passionate about Borneo and has devoted much of her free time to promoting and raising funds to assist the endangered orangutans.  She also supports other charities including Help for Heroes, Children’s Home, Nepal, WWF and cancer charities.  Sandra currently lives in the south of France with her husband and two sons.  Sandra works with two talented illustrators, Will Stevens and Lisa Williams.

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2 Comments

  1. HI

    Im trying to find a telephone number for lulu.com, do you have any idea? im from london uk.

    Basically i want to enter a short story competition and i only have 500 words, its says 2000 – 2500, do you know if i will be considered?
    sorry i know your not the company but saw you n here so thought you may know more about them. many thanks karen

  2. Morgan, Lulu

    Hi Karen – Lulu is not currently running any short story contest, so you will have to check with the people running the contest to determine if your entry is valid. If you’d like to contact Lulu’s support team for other questions, they can be reached via email and live chat here: http://ar.gy/.8Y. Thanks.

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