Further information about author and illustrator, Shirley Todd.

When I started writing Albert Magpie and Timothy Rabbit In Clarry's Lost Pony Tail I had a dream, as do all authors, of seeing my story get picked up by a commercial publisher. Boy, did I have a lot to learn! Especially after receiving the rejection letters from commercial publishers. Although, one publishing company was interested but later changed their mind.

Never in my wildest dream did I ever think I would produce the whole book myself yet alone illustrate all the drawings for it. I had most of my characters drawn but wasn't the best at drawing background scenery. My adventure was about to begin.

One of my sons' was in the printing industry and is a graphics designer. He taught me the basics in Corel Draw and Adobe Photoshop. These are the two computer programs I have used for my illustrations. All the characters and background scenery were drawn on computer. This was very, very time consuming but very rewarding as I saw each page of my book develop and surprised myself of what I could do.

I also have children that knew word processing, so they taught me. This enabled me to do all the text in my book.

I have had to learn a lot about printing terms, digital and offset printing. I had to learn about imposing pages and the list goes on and on.

I had my story assessed and edited by Graeme Lay of Write Right, who at times been one of the judges in the NZ Post Book Awards for children and young adults. The assessment was done towards the end of 2003. After making the necessary adjustments to the story, I again contacted Graeme Lay in January 2004 and asked him if I could use part of his assessment on the back cover of my book. After reviewing the story further and seeing some of my illustrations he gave me written permission to put his endorsement on the back outside cover. I also had the story professionally proofread and corrected for grammar and punctuation errors, etc.

Now to find a printer, at the time it proved far too expensive to digitally print short runs of full colour children's picture books in New Zealand, so I looked overseas. Trafford Publishing is a print on demand company and seemed my only option. Although happy to finally receive copies of my finished book, I wanted a protective finish on the cover, i.e. a laminated gloss finish. Also, the overseas postage costs made the book too expensive.

I continued with my search for a book printing company in New Zealand. I couldn't afford to print large numbers so my option was still to digitally print short runs. I eventually found First Edition Ltd, they were a new company and the quality of print was very good. But I continued looking for even better digital printing companies using later technology. Finally, I learnt about a new digital printer which used liquid ink, like offset printing, and the quality was very comparable to offset printing. I found a couple of companies which used this technology in New Zealand and one company in particular offered very competitive pricing. EzyPrint Solutions is where my book is getting printed now.

During the process of producing my book I formed my own company and taught myself Web designing and designed my Web site. My son had installed a Web designing program on my computer along with an excellent tutorial and away I went. It's surprising what you can do when you have to and you don't have a lot of money to play around with.

I feel my book has been one of my greatest achievements, apart from having and raising children that is. I did it despite having M.E. My illness didn't get the better of me. Granted, it has been debilitating at times and I can't do all I want to, but at least I don't feel these have been wasted years. I can look at my book and know I achieved something. Amazing thing about the Web is that you can organize getting a book printed and so forth without venturing far from home, especially when feeling unwell. All can be done with a touch on a keyboard.

Another really good feeling is that there are children reading my book and enjoying my illustrations.

I'm busy preparing another manuscript for publication, which is a rhythm and rhyme story about a mischievous little girl who finds herself in a whole pile of trouble. I've had the story professionally assessed by Barbara Murison Assessment Services and after making the suggested changes, was encouraged to send the story to commercial publishers. I have done so but am realistic knowing that less than one percent of manuscripts received actually get published, and that commercial publishers prefer using proven authors and illustrators. Before sending off the manuscript I had it professionally proofread and corrected for grammar and punctuation, etc. Will keep you updated should something eventuate. In the meantime I am proceeding ahead with producing the book. The illustrations will be a challenge but it will be exciting to see what my finished book will look like. View updates below.

Also, I'm currently having the poem-story about my dog Missy assessed and will also produce the book for it. Will keep you posted. View update below.

Update: Well I've just finished having my poem-story about my dog Missy assessed and really cannot stress enough the importance of getting this done. My story turned into something far better then it's original version. One does have to be prepared for constructive criticism. Look at the suggestions made and then play around with the story further. You may be surprised at the finished result, I know it never ceases to surprise me, and I feel my writing has improved also. I again used Barbara Murison Assessment Services

I've also had the story professionally proofread and was surprised that I hadn't picked up on a couple of obvious grammar mistakes easy enough to miss — there was the usual corrections to the punctuation. I use Proofread NZ I haven't as yet had this web page proofread, but will do so in the near future. No doubt it is in need of their expert services.

Anyway, the story is now ready to be sent off to a couple of commercial publishers.

Update October 2011: Well it's been a while since my last update, a fews years really!!! Well I've entered a story I've written into MAKEMYMOVIE go check it out and if you like it click 'Like' in the top right hand corner. Check out my other website U-netverse. Also, I've written a story outline for a music video which will be showing soon. I will post a link to it when it has been uploaded.

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