Welcome to the Writers' Clubhouse. Join us behind the scenes in the book industry as we talk to prominent authors and illustrators about the process of creating great books for kids. Have you ever wanted to be writer? Get inspired here!
Laura Bunting is the author of Koalas Eat Gum Leaves, Kookaburras Love to Laugh, and Another Book About Bears. She's lucky enough to work alongside her talented husband, Philip Bunting, who brings her characters to life with his incredible illustrations.
Along with making books together, they are busy raising three children in sunny Queensland, and are big believers that reading to your kids is hands-down one of the best things you can do with them in their early years (and beyond).
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Q. You have written some amazing books for children, but what was your professional background before you became an author?
A. I have always been a writer in some capacity, but my first job was at an advertising agency in Singapore, helping to produce TV commercials for companies like Nokia and Heineken. The commercial side of things wasn’t really my passion though, so I moved across into journalism, writing and editing for a range of magazines here and abroad, including a women’s magazine called VIVA in Dubai. Most recently, I worked as a sub-editor and writer for SBS Feast magazine – it was a food magazine that celebrated Australia’s diverse multicultural culinary landscape, and I absolutely loved it (so much free food to sample!)
Q. What is the best thing for you about being a published author?
A. Around 7pm is bedtime in most households with small children. It can be a crazy time of night, but it’s always been the time that I really look forward to with my kids – when we all snuggle up with a bunch of our favourite books and read together before bed – laughing, chatting, wondering, cuddling. It’s a scene that’s played out across the country, and it genuinely gives me such a huge thrill to think that my books are part of that special time for families. It’s a nightly ritual that has really bonded us together as a family, and has been hugely beneficial for all of us. To be part of that makes me feel incredibly honoured and deeply happy.
Q. What are some of the key ingredients that make a great book for kids?
A. It’s difficult, because I would say that any book that engages kids is a great book – and those ingredients will be different for every child. What’s exciting for one child will be boring for another. I’m a firm believer that there are (within reason) no bad book choices. You might prefer your child to read Wind In The Willows to Barbie’s Malibu Adventures, but if Barbie hooks them in and keeps them reading, then that’s great. You might rather they be reading Harry Potter instead of the series full of fart jokes, but if the fart jokes encourage them to walk around the house with their head in a book, that’s awesome.
Obviously, it’s an author’s responsibility to write the most engaging books they can, but I would also encourage parents to really try to get to know what their kids enjoy reading about, because finding books that engage their passions and interests is the key to keeping them reading. If kids learn to see books as portals of magic and wonder they will keep coming back to them, so let them lead the way.
Q. What advice would you give someone who is just starting out as a writer or illustrator?
A. Read. Read. And read some more. Of course, honing your craft and writing, writing, writing is important. But it’s equally as important to read as much and as widely as you can. If you want to write children’s books, get yourself a library card and spend as much time in there as you can. Read them and study them. Break them apart (not literally though!) and try to work out what made them a great book. This really is one of the best ways to start out, and it’s the way we started, too, simply reading a big old pile of books every single night to our first-born child in an attempt to get him to sleep (it didn’t get him to sleep, but it did ignite a new career for us!)
Q. What is your next big creative project?
A. My third picture book, called Liarbird, will be published in September with Scholastic, and my husband Philip once again worked his magic on the illustrations. It deals with the tricky topic of lying, and I’m really looking forward to seeing what people (honestly!) think. I have also just signed an exciting little junior fiction series, which I’m writing as we speak.