Written by A. Colleen Jones, Regional Advisor
Eileen Moynihan has been a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) since October 2008. She is also a long-time member of the SCBWI Ireland Scribblers, an online critique group of writers submitting sections of their work for feedback and in return providing honest critiques to their peers.
More recently, Eileen volunteered to be the social liaison for the Midlands area, so if you’re interested in meeting up with other children’s book writers and illustrators in a café in Longford, please let us know!
Photo by Shelley Corcoran: Author Eileen Moynihan
Like many of our members, Eileen has put in a lot of effort to learn the writing craft, upgrade her skills and knowledge, and get published. But rather than depending on traditional publishers, she has taken on the bigger challenge of self-publishing her books. I asked Eileen some questions about her writing process and her experience with self-publishing.
SCBWI: How long have you been writing? How did your work in education influence your writing?
Eileen: I have been writing poems and stories since childhood. Seeing the enjoyment on the children’s faces when you read a great book to them, and their interaction with the story and illustrations is heart warming. Books can be fun, but they can be a great educational tool too. So when I write I definitely have my teacher’s hat on.
SCBWI: What age range you do you usually write for? Are you planning to write for any other age groups?
Eileen: I usually write for 5 to 8 years. I am hoping to write for a slightly older audience with my next book. But I do enjoy writing for a younger age group.
SCBWI: What topics do you want to write about now and in the future? Why? What made you decide to focus on children’s books?
Eileen: Well, I definitely think there is scope to have sequels to the books I’ve written already. My next book is a kind of Enid Blyton adventure involving dog-nappers. I also have a picture book in mind told in a traditional fairy story style. I decided to focus on children’s books as I enjoyed books as a child, and as a former teacher working with children, it just seemed a natural development.
SCBWI: What is your process for coming up with ideas and developing them?
Eileen: I don’t know if I have a particular process. Something just strikes me and then I explore ideas around that topic, and begin to develop a storyline. But as I write, things can develop and change. Getting other people’s thoughts is helpful too.
SCBWI: How has being part of a critique group impacted your writing? Do you belong to any face-to-face groups or have a writing partner that you meet in person?
Eileen: Being part of a critique group has been very important for me, and has helped my writing grow and develop. I am a member of Longford Writers’ Group as well, where I tend to write short stories and poetry for adults. But the members also give me feedback and support on my children’s books.
SCBWI: Has being a member of SCBWI helped you as a writer? How? Do you belong to any other organizations?
Eileen: Being a member of SCBWI has helped me to be more professional. It is a great resource online, and is a great way to socially meet other writers and illustrators to exchange ideas.
SCBWI: What made you decide to self- publish? What was your experience with traditional publishers and agents, if any?
Eileen: I decided I wasn’t getting any younger, and finding out about Kindle Direct Publishing and CreateSpace made me go for it. I had some nice reactions and advice from traditional publishers, some I never heard back from, and some said it didn’t quite fit with them. I found the waiting for news the hardest.
SCBWI: What was the process you used to actually publish your text? How did you find an illustrator for each book? How long did the entire publishing cycle take?
Eileen: I used the Amazon companies I mentioned in the last question. With these, you upload your stories yourself, either as eBooks or books that can be printed on demand. For my first two books, Rory Gumboots and The Reckolahesperus, I came across a company called ePublishingeXperts in India through LinkedIn. They were very helpful and quick. I had less illustrations done than I would have liked to keep costs down, but they were very reasonable.
My most recent book, Hattie and Jacques Love London, was illustrated by a local artist to whom I was introduced by a mutual acquaintance. The illustrator was just starting out, so we came to an arrangement where I paid him a very reasonable sum and gave him promotion as well. His real name is Jason Silva, but to keep his different art styles separate, he goes by the name Stephen Ribeiro for his children’s work. This way I was able to get more illustrations done, and have regular face-to-face meetings. Because of life getting in the way, the whole process could take 6 to 12 months.
SCBWI: How did you launch and promote each book?
Eileen: For my first book, I launched it at Creative Ardagh, part of the Ardagh Heritage and Creativity Centre, which is run by two of my cousins. Local Longford writer Alan McMonagle launched the book. He ran a writing course that I had attended.
I had previously written Rory Gumboots as Danger in Noddinghead Nook with no illustrations, and I explained this to the children present. I read them the first version and didn’t show them any illustrations, but got them to draw their own illustrations as I read. Afterwards I let them compare the illustrations in the newer versions with their own drawings.
For my second book, The Reckolahesperus, I sent an announcement to the local papers, to save the expense of a launch.
In February 2016, I had a book launch for my latest book, Hattie and Jacques Love London, in the Longford Library. The County Librarian, Mary Carleton Reynolds, was very generous in keeping expenses down, and she spoke at the launch. Maggi McKenna, a friend from the Longford Writers’ Group who does storytelling in the library, read some extracts from my book. Sally Martin, another friend from the Writers’ Group, took the money for the book sales. The Mayor of Longford, Gerry Warnock, launched the book. The illustrator, Stephen Ribeiro aka Jason Silva, was there with his illustrations on display. The Longford Leader and the Roscommon Herald both wrote about the launch.
I also promoted the book through:
What have you learned with each book that has helped you to publish the next one?
Eileen: Well first of all, I realised I needed illustrations, and then larger print, and then that I needed a lot more illustrations. I am also working on improving editing and formatting.
SCBWI: Will you continue to self-publish? What tips and warnings would you give to other writers who are considering self-publishing?
Eileen: At the moment, I will continue to self-publish but won’t totally give up on traditional publishers. I’ve learned a lot on my journey and still have a lot to learn, about formatting for example. You can pay people to edit, design, and do formatting, but that all costs money. I am still in the red and am trying to claw back my money, so am continuing to do this on a budget and at my own pace.
Thank you so much, Eileen, for taking the time to answer all my questions!
Photo by Sally Martin: Eileen reads from "Hattie and Jacques Love London" at the Longford Library
Eileen Moynihan was born in Essex England, and grew up on the Isle of Wight from the age of three. At 22, she moved permanently to Ireland, where she lived in West Cork for many years before settling on the border between Counties Roscommon and Longford. For many years, Eileen taught children with special needs and raised her three children with her husband. After taking early retirement, Eileen concentrated on her writing, especially writing for children. To date, she has self-published three children's books. Eileen’s website: http://childhoodbooks.weebly.com/
♦ Rory Gumboots was written by Eileen, illustrated by ePublishingXperts, and published in April 2013.
♦ The Reckolahesperus was written by Eileen, illustrated by ePublishingXperts, and published in November 2013.
♦ Hattie and Jacques Love London was written by Eileen, illustrated by Stephen Ribeiro, and published in October 2015.