Joy Aimee, Director of A&A Publishing, talks with prizewinning A&A authors Wendy Fitzgerald and Bridget McKern about the opportunities that have come their way since their books were published.

Joy: Welcome, Wendy and Bridget. First of all, congratulations to both of you for your recent successes. Being shortlisted and then awarded ‘Commended’ status in the Society of Women Writers Biennial Book Awards is a great achievement. Please tell us about your awards.

Wendy: Thanks Joy. I received a ‘Commended’ for my Young Adults book, Bollywood Dreams.

Joy: What readership is Bollywood Dreams aimed at Wendy?

Wendy: Well, my main character is a sixteen year old Indian girl, so I would say the readership for my book is twelve to sixteen year olds.

Joy: Bridget, congratulations to you too. Please tell us about your win.

Bridget: My book, Living the Journey: Everyday Heroes Tell their Story, received Commended in the Society’s Non Fiction category. Living the Journey is for adults who like biographical stories with a social welfare and health/spirituality agenda.

Joy: What gave you the idea or inspiration to write your book?

Bridget: Well, for me it was the people I was meeting on a regular basis who started to spontaneously tell me their stories.

Wendy: My inspiration for Bollywood Dreams came from an Indian writing retreat I went to in 2005. We went to Kolkata, Kalimpong, Gantok and Darjeeling. I started to wonder what it would be like to bring a family of teenage kids from such different cultures to live in Sydney — how they would fit into the school system and what they would think of Australia’s lifestyle.

Joy: So how long did it take you to write your book and publish it?

Wendy: Well Joy, I spent about four years dreaming up the idea and working on the story, on and off. I did lots of writing courses and received lots of feedback and advice on my progress. After I did your writing course, Gulp!Fiction, and then came to you for some coaching, I felt encouraged to publish Bollywood Dreams with A&A.

Joy: What about you, Bridget, how long did it take you to write and publish Living the Journey?

Bridget: It took two years from inception to publishing my book.

Joy: How did you feel, Bridget, when you held your published book for the first time?

Bridget: Absolutely ecstatic — it was such a buzz! A lot of people gave me favourable feedback and encouragement, and it gave me the confidence that it was worthwhile to have had my book published.

Wendy: I had a similar feeling when I held my published book for the first time; I was thrilled when I saw the finished product. The whole production process took about four months where we worked through the edit, the cover design, the layout, proofreading and changes. It was a very rewarding experience.

Joy: That is one of the best things about the publishing process; the satisfaction you get when all the hard work and dedication to your writing turns your dream of being published into reality. Tell us about the success your book has had since its publication.

Bridget: Living the Journey has been distributed around Australia by Gary Allen. I have personally done several tours, offering my book to different bookshops up the NSW coast to Queensland, and I have given numerous talks to groups in Sydney and Canberra. It was only last week that my book had been awarded a commended prize in the Society of Women Writers Biennial Book Awards. That was a big thrill; the award has brought my book back to the attention of people who are interested. I still have many books to get out into the world but I’m stumped for ideas on how to achieve this. I’ll have to wait and see what happens.

Wendy: I also had some very positive feedback for Bollywood Dreams. I received reviews in Pass It On, Buzz Words, Reading Stack, Girl Magazine, Indian Link, Bharat Times and Indus Age newspapers, Fiction Focus, Ciao and North Shore Times. On 11th November I was thrilled to receive the commended prize from the Society of Women Writers Biennial Book Awards.

Joy: What unexpected opportunities opened up for you since publishing your book, Wendy?

Wendy: Publishing Bollywood Dreams has opened up a host of wonderful surprises and taken me to places I would never have dreamed of going. Firstly, the book launch that you organized at Berkelouw Books in Leichhardt in February, Joy, was a fantastic night.

Other highlights include the interview I had with Anita Barar from the Hindu channel on SBS radio, as well as two other radio interviews I did, one with FM 88.7 in Adelaide and the other with FM 99.3 in Sydney. I also had an interview with Joy Hruby on TVS community television, an article in the North Shore Times and I gave an author talk at the Lindfield Library as part of Youth Week. On top of that, I was involved in a number of school visits and activities in Book Week through the Children’s Book Council and then I was invited to be a judge at the Miss Bollywood Australian Beauty Pageant at Riverside Theatre in Parramatta. It was such a thrill, I didn’t even know that there was a Miss Bollywood competition until I was invited!

I am now teaching creative writing for teens at the Ku-ring-gai Art Centre in Roseville.

Joy: What unexpected opportunities has publishing Living the Journey opened for you, Bridget?

Bridget: Well, I was asked to run a writing workshop last year at a writer’s weekend in far west NSW. That was fun and well received. I think it opened my eyes to what is possible for me as writer. I have produced a collection of my own poetry and self-published that last year. It is titled Five Seasons – poetry of the soul. I have also become known as someone who can help others to get their story into print; so far, I have helped two other women achieve this. I continue to write for my own satisfaction and to study the written works of a wide variety of writers. Early last year I joined the Society of Women Writers NSW and started to work on their Committee, which I enjoyed very much. I enjoy the regular monthly meetings and the fellowship of other women writers.

Joy: That’s fantastic, Wendy and Bridget. You must be very proud of your achievements. It seems you are both enjoying the successes that come with publishing. What was your favourite part of the publishing experience and why?

Wendy: My favourite part was being involved in the publishing process. With the A&A team I enjoyed working through the editing and I liked being linked to the design forum where I could help plan the cover, the layout, the puzzle section in the back etc. I am glad I published Bollywood Dreams with A&A and I have learnt a lot. I feel that my experience with publishing Bollywood Dreams has kickstarted a very exciting phase in my writing life. It is very hard to break into the industry without experience and a record of success. I’d like to thank you, Joy, for giving me the push I needed.

Joy: Oh, you’re very welcome, Wendy. I thoroughly enjoyed working with you throughout the publishing process, too, and I am pleased to hear that you are doing so well with your writing endeavours. What was your favourite part of the publishing experience, Bridget, and why?

Bridget: Favourite part?… Well, meeting you, Joy; your enthusiastic approval of my book was a big thing. But so was the follow up with weeks of working with you to get my book finished. It was satisfying to work to a timeline with a definite end in sight. I also got a lot of pleasure working with David Andor and his ideas were so brilliant, I really think David’s cover design does a lot of the selling. Then the extra attention by the printer, Ligare, and their very respectful treatment of my “job” – even giving us a tour of the book factory was fun and really involved us in the nuts and bolts of publishing at ground level. I also loved getting ready for the Big Night of the launch and was delighted at the way it went off.

Joy: It is great to hear how much you enjoyed working with the A&A team on publishing Living the Journey, Bridget. I’d like to thank you both for joining me to talk about your experiences with publishing, the successes you’ve gained and the opportunities that have been presented to you from publishing your books. I’d like to congratulate you both again for being awarded the commendation prize from the Society of Women Writers Biennial Book Awards and I wish you will with your future writing endeavours. We all hope to see more of your quality writing published for others to read.