Today it is my pleasure to introduce you to Caroline Tuohey author of the delightful picture book Skadoodle and Snug’s Magnificent Plan.
I previously introduced you to some of Caroline’s work when I interviewed illustrator Muza Ulasowski about another of Caroline’s beautiful books Forest Wonder. But today we are talking about the adorable Skadoodle and Snug.
About Caroline Tuohey
Caroline Tuohey is a children’s writer and poet whose main interest is picture books. She has five published picture books in print with a sixth due out with Ford Street Publishing in October 2020. She has also been published in children’s literature magazines in Australia and Ireland as well as in anthologies and poetry sites online. She enjoys holding story time sessions at libraries, schools and preschools and conducts workshops for both school students and adults. Her other interest is bush poetry – which she writes and performs. She lives on a farm in the Riverina region of New South Wales, with her husband, two children, several dogs and a horse or two.
About Skadoodle and Snug’s Magnificent Plan
Skadoodle & Snug’s Magnificent Plan is a hilarious tale about two neighbouring dogs who decide that they’re just not matched with their owners. The two dogs come up with a perfect plan for a switcheroo, but even the best laid plans can go pear-shaped. Share in the antics of what happens when dogs take matters into their own hands (or paws) …
Welcome to readilearn, Caroline. First, let’s talk about you as a writer. When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve always loved writing – even as a child in primary school, writing stories was one of my favourite tasks, but in terms of published writing and picture books, it was probably after I’d finished university and realised that I’d be thinking about story ideas when I was meant to be thinking about other things. I figured that was an indication I should be a writer and so I started to take it seriously.
Where do you write? Do you like to be by yourself in the quiet, or do you like to write in a noisy space?
I write everywhere – at the computer, on the couch while the ads are on the TV, in bed, in the car while I wait to pick up the kids from school, while I’m waiting for the pasta to cook on the stove. I’ve trained myself to write in noise simply because if I waited for a quiet house, I’d never write! Having said that, I do like it to be quiet when I’m trying to sort a rhyme that isn’t working so that I can read out loud and not have to compete with background noise.
What do you use to write – pencil and paper or computer?
I use both. Sometimes an idea will come to me when I’m away from the computer, so I use pen and paper. If I’m at home, I generally go to the computer. I always work on hardcopy printouts for subsequent drafts though – seeing text on paper seems to help me get the story sorted more easily. And I like to use a pen to handwrite ideas on the printed draft.
When do you write?
Whenever I get the chance. I have no set routine. Sometimes I can go weeks without writing anything, then all of a sudden, an idea will present itself and off I go in a frenzy. But it would be rare for me to get a block of more than 2 hours at a time for writing – it’s something I fit in around everything else. And because I write picture books and poems, sometimes I might only need to be thinking about a line or a sentence, so short bursts of writing time are effective.
When do you get your ideas?
They pop into my head at all sorts of times – I might see or hear something that triggers an idea. I find that often just before I fall asleep I have story ideas (I keep a notebook next to my bed). I spend a lot of time in the car, so often as I’m driving, I’ll be pondering on different ideas too.
Do you think of the story in your head before you write it?
I’ve never really thought about that – good question! I guess in some regards I do, because I’ll run lines of rhyme around my head before they reach the page. As I also write performance poems, I will often recite the lines out loud before they end up being written down. But it would be rare for the entire story to be in my head – I would have the idea and then maybe some of the story which, once written down, helps create the rest.
What gave you the idea for Skadoodle and Snug’s Magnificent Plan?
Our family had a pug and my sister had a poodle – the dogs were complete opposites but best mates. It got me thinking about what would happen if two dogs ended up with owners that were better suited to the other. And off I went with the idea.
What do you like best about Skadoodle and Snug?
I like the fact that the humans respect and love their dogs enough to realise the dogs’ plan was magnificent – not just for the dogs, but for them too.
Do you like the way Karen Sagovac has illustrated your story?
I love, love, love Karen’s illustrations. I was able to have quite a lot of input into the choice of illustrator with the publisher – James Layton of Larrikin House. We both had a similar vision for the pictures and we both knew Karen’s style was going to be exactly right. Karen has captured the dogs’ characters beautifully. She has also created a wonderful connection between the two humans. I’ve been fortunate to work with excellent illustrators and really hope I get to work with Karen again.
How did you feel when you wrote Skadoodle and Snug’s Magnificent Plan?
I felt happy. I just loved spending time with those two little dogs as they got into more and more mischief! As it was based on our own pets, it had a special place in my heart and I knew if it was never published, I would be forever disappointed. When Larrikin House picked up the manuscript, I literally cried tears of happiness.
How do you hope readers will feel?
I hope readers will love both the dogs and enjoy their friendship and the fact they are both so happy with life. I also hope readers enjoy the fact that the dogs are clever and understand that their humans haven’t got their choice of dog quite right, but that it can be easily sorted!
How would you like teachers to present Skadoodle and Snugs to children?
I would like them to present it as a fun story with lots of animation in their voice when they read it. As it is in rhyme, I hope it’s one that children can also recite out loud once they become familiar with the rhyming text. I think they also have an opportunity to relate the story back to the children’s own pets and their mischievous antics. The dogs have very good imaginations when it comes to their disguises – this is also something that I hope teachers encourage – being creative can be lots of fun.
Are there any messages you would like them to discuss?
The importance of choosing a pet that is the right fit for your situation is something I think is worth discussing – so many pets end up being given away because not enough thought was given to their needs as animals. I also think there’s great scope to discuss friendships and relationships. The two human characters are next door neighbours who know each other well enough to know each other’s dogs – so often, especially in large cities, people live next door to strangers. They don’t even know their neighbours’ names. I hope Skadoodle & Snug’s Magnificent Plan allows teachers to talk about the value of getting to know people and making connections.
Do you have any advice for teachers in their role as writing guides?
When I run workshops I like to encourage children to know that all ideas are great ideas and that writing is something everyone does – generally all jobs require writing of some sort, so if we encourage children to see writing as a part of their everyday lives, it allows them to be proud of all their writing. I also like to encourage story-telling in general because for some, writing can be a challenge but that doesn’t mean they aren’t writers – it just means that the story or idea may be recorded or captured in a different way. So I guess the focus ultimately is on story-telling and how much fun stories are to create.
Do you have any advice for children as writers?
Read lots! Find a person who is happy to help you – whether that’s a parent, teacher or a writer who might visit the school or offer a workshop. Having a mentor or an experienced writer to guide you makes the journey easier and more enjoyable. And last but not least – keep all your story ideas – never throw them away. Sometimes it can be years between the initial idea and the finished story so it’s worth keeping all the bits of paper.
What is your favourite picture book?
My favourite picture book (apart from my own) is Pig the Elf by Aaron Blabey. Another favourite is Ted by Leila Rudge.
Who is your favourite author? What do you like about his or her work?
I have so many! In terms of children’s writers, Aaron Blabey is a favourite and also Jackie Hosking – they both write in rhyme which is what I love doing. I also have a friend – Kate O’Neil – she is a poet who can write for both children and adults. Her work is always surprising and entertaining – she is a very clever wordsmith. Her work is starting to be published more and more which is fantastic. In terms of my favourite author of fiction it’s Kerry Greenwood. I love her Phryne Fisher stories. I also like Toni Jordan. I have all her books. And Paulo Coelho.
Caroline, thank you for visiting with us today and telling us about your fun picture book Skadoodle and Snug’s Magnificent Plan. We enjoyed hearing about your inspiration for writing the story and your writing process.
Find out more about Caroline
on her website: www.carolinetuohey.com
or connect with her on social media
Purchase Skadoodle and Snug’s Magnificent Plan from
Caroline: www.carolinetuohey.com (if you’d like a signed copy)
the publisher: www.larrikinhouse.com
And from all good bookshops – shopfront and online
(if your local bookshop doesn’t have it, they can order it in from distributor NewSouthBooks – www.newsouthbooks.com.au)
This interview is now available free in a ready-to-print format in the Author Spotlight Literary Resources Author Spotlight — Caroline Tuohey.
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