Dear Grandpa - Q&A Kate Simpson
Kate Simpson is a children's author and podcast host. Her first picture book, Finding Granny, was shortlisted for the 2019 Speech Pathology Book of the Year Awards. When she's not writing, Kate is one third of children's book podcast One More Page, which is a fortnightly foray into all things kids' books. One More Page features guest interviews, book reviews and giveaways, as well as a kid-centric segment called Kids Capers. In 2018, it was a finalist in the Best Newcomer category of the Australian Podcast Awards. Kate's second picture book, Dear Grandpa, is out now through Allen and Unwin.
What is Dear Grandpa about?
Dear Grandpa is the story of a boy who loves science and a grandfather with boundless imagination. Separated by distance, Henry and Grandpa send each other letters, sharing their love of the world around them and of each other.
Is there a particular theme in your story?
Dear Grandpa is a love story between a grandson and his grandfather, but it's also a celebration of science - of all the weird and wonderful surprises the world around us has to offer.
Was there an inspiration for your story?
Several years ago, my daughter asked me out of the blue (as children do) how much salt was in the ocean. At the time, I was working in desalination (turning seawater to fresh water), so I happened to know that there are around 35 grams of salt in every litre of seawater. My four year old did not consider this a satisfying answer. So, I did some Googling and discovered that if all the salt from the world's oceans was extracted and spread over the land, it would make a blanket of salt as tall as a skyscraper. Now that was interesting.
This exchange inspired me to write a story full of fascinating facts about the world around us. But the dynamic of a child asking the questions and the adult providing the answers didn't seem interesting to me. So I turned this on its head and imagined a child full of answers that he's busting to share with someone. And so Henry and Grandpa were born.
What was your path to publication?
I was an unpublished author when I submitted this manuscript to Allen and Unwin, although I did have a separate manuscript under contract with another publisher. Allen and Unwin showed quite a bit of interest, but told me the manuscript still needed some work. Would I consider re-writing the ending and re-submitting? Of course, very few aspiring authors would say no to such an opportunity. I diligently re-worked the ending of the manuscript and re-submitted. Before long I had my reply. The publisher was delighted with my revisions, but there was still something not quite right. Would I consider revising the beginning? There is now not a single page of Dear Grandpa that is unchanged from my first submission to Allen and Unwin. Most pages bear little resemblance at all to my original manuscript, except that they start Dear Grandpa and end Love, Henry. However, there was a spark in that first manuscript that attracted my publisher at Allen and Unwin and I hope that spark is still there now, with the added benefit of professional editing and many hours of redrafting. A&U was an absolute joy to work with - encouraging me and guiding me in just the right measure. I'm so pleased they took a chance on this manuscript by an unknown author.
What kind of research did you do to write this story?
I had so much fun researching this story! Most of my research was done on the internet, uncovering fun fact after fun fact about the world around us. Did you know that mosquitoes are attracted to smelly feet? It's true! Many, even most, of these fun facts didn't make the final cut, but I had hours of fun digging them out, and I could even call it work and not procrastination! Once I found a fact that I liked, I did make sure to verify it using reputable websites. I wouldn't want to be accused of spreading fake news!
Do you have any tips for people wanting to write for children?
Join a critique group! My critique group was an absolutely essential part of me achieving publication. They not only helped me immensely in improving my writing, they also taught me how the children's book industry works, pointed me towards competitions and publishing opportunities and simply supported me along the way. I genuinely believe that I would not have achieved publication without them.
You can find out more about Kate by visiting her website.