The Adventures of Publishing

December 20th, 2018

Author Laura Van der Breggen reflects on the process of publishing her first book, ‘The Adventures of Hilda the Witch’, and what it was like to share what started out as a nightly bedtime story with her own children.

I remember as a young girl asking my dad every night for the same story, I just couldn't get enough of it and loved how he changed the storyline just a little each time he told it. I also loved listening to my nan who put so much spirit into a short story she grew up with herself about a witch that 'lived in the woods, who was not very pretty and not very good. Her eyes were dark and her hair was black and a great big pussycat sat on her back'. I would watch with fascination the expressions on my nan's face as she tried her best to make the poem come across as spooky as possible and I always remember begging her to recite it over and over again.

"I would use their antics from the day and incorporate them into a Hilda story in the hope that it would resonate..."

It was about the time my third child came along that child number one and two started getting up to mischief as my husband often worked away and I was distracted with a colicky baby. Walls were decorated with Crayola and I remember once a 24-pack of Kleenex toilet paper was shredded to bits and used to decorate the lounge room. As tired and cranky as I was at the end of the day something magical happened at bedtime when my little ones were tucked into bed and waiting eagerly for me to tell them a bedtime story. It was then that 'Hilda' was created. I would use their antics from the day and incorporate them into a Hilda story in the hope that it would resonate in their minds and realise that perhaps they would try a little harder tomorrow not to get up to mischief. BUT instead they thought Hilda was 'awesome' and asked for a new story every night for a very long time. It wasn't a problem as I had lots of material to work with.

My husband listened in on occasion and said I should try and turn Hilda into a book. I love writing, it feels like it comes easy to me. I write when I am stressed and need a release or a distraction and I write when I feel happy and want to share. So I thought why not, and started to look into it. But I got as far as creating a front page and get lost and eventually the idea was put to bed until few years later.

"I write when I am stressed and need a release or a distraction and I write when I feel happy and want to share."

Fresh from completing a course on 'Children's Writing' I started sending off submissions including my 'beloved' Hilda stories. Soon after I received an email from Little Steps, and so unfolded the amazing journey of bringing Hilda to print. I must say the process was very easy, it always felt right and I felt that I was in the hands of professionals which was very reassuring. I loved that I had the majority of the say in the process of it all and the overall look of the book. My favourite part of the process was choosing my illustrator. In my head I knew exactly what Hilda looked like and how I wanted her to come across - a cute, tomboyish looking character who looked like a witch but lived like a typical human child, ie messy room, shoelaces undone etc. Fiona Levings captured Hilda exactly how I had imagined in my head and my request for pictures whereby children would get completely absorbed and lost in the details while the parent read on was fulfilled. Fiona did an amazing job.

When the first copy of Hilda arrived I couldn't wait to show my children - I was literally bursting for them to come home from school. Watching their faces as I handed the copy over to them was a dream come true. Their mouths dropped open, they then squealed with delight and started reading it straight away. BUT I saved the best until last and showed them to look a couple of pages in where I had left a dedication to them. Their response was 'We are famous!!'. Well, not quite dears.

Laura Van der Breggen is a first time author, her debut picture book is 'The Adventures of Hilda the Witch'. You can hear more from Laura at her author facebook page or to see what the magic created purchase a copy of 'The Adventures of Hilda the Witch' here.

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Comments (1)

Helen Holgate - January 11th, 2019 7:52am
Congratulations Laura on a wonderful story book that will delight many a child. Of course your illustrator Fiona Levings (our daughter) has certainly added to your own talents and helped you to create a unique experience for young readers. We wish you and Fiona well in future endeavours.


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