[quote style=”boxed”]I would start sooner. I had written my books twenty years ago when getting published was done by letter writing and mail, not email. It took so much longer to organise![/quote]
Loulou Szal is a school teacher and an author of children’s literature. She is passionate about books and about using them to encourage literacy and vocabulary in children of all ages.
Her dedication has fostered a love of literature in her children and a love of writing in her son, who at 17, won a world wide Internet writing competition on ‘Author’s Promoter’ and is currently working on his latest sci-fi novel.
She also runs a construction and building restoration business with her husband and has home schooled her children most of their lives as they travelled the world. Loulou also taught English along the way, privately and in corporate circles as they travelled.
Her fantasy novel for teens; ” The Diary of Arnmore” has received great reviews and her illustrated hilarious story-book for young readers; “HUNGRY MR CROC” is told in rhyme, to encourage a love of poetry which she feels society is losing..
While Loulou has reps who sell her books, she herself works tirelessly to promote reading and literature in young children, through motivational visits to schools and libraries.
She can be contacted on Facebook and her website, http://loulouszalbooks.wordpress.com/
Where did the ideas for your novel’The Diary of Arnmore’ come from?
My husband and I were living and doing volunteer work in Papua New Guinea back in 1989-2000. At one time we stayed on a small island called Kavieng where there was very little to do during the evenings. There was a small library on the island and I was steadily reading through everything they had and relaying the stories back to my husband, till one evening I stopped in frustration because the book I had in my hands was so badly written I couldn’t read anymore.
I asked out loud how bad writing and boring, predictable stories ever got published.
My husband then said, ‘Why don’t you write a better one?’
He knew that I loved writing from long ago. I had won the literature prize at school three years running, beating the seniors when I was a junior.
My writing had been published in the university newspapers when I was there and I wrote copious amounts of poems, plays, send-ups of movies etc.
So, I thought the suggestion a good one and found a pen and note pad.
I loved fantasy, where you could enter other, amazing worlds and disappear into them, have fabulous adventures and come out the hero.
Books like “The Phantom Tollbooth,” “The Never Ending Story,” and the “Narnia” books, to name a few.
So I began the first chapter.
I had no idea how it would progress or what the outcome would be, which is usual when I write so I’m interested in finding out what happens at the end myself!
I read each chapter out to my husband as I churned it out and he couldn’t wait for the next chapter, he’d ask what would happen next and sometimes I didn’t know…..so I kept writing.
It all came together in the end and I even left an opening for a sequel. [Working on it].
What does your typical day look like?
My typical day is very family oriented, although I reach for my iPad and check my emails first thing. I answer them then get into organizing my teaching day. I have always home schooled both my children though my son is now finished and attends university while my daughter is still schooled at home. That means every subject, every day. Plus all the extras, like swimming, dance, music classes outside of home.
I also answer business calls and write reports for the building renovation business I run with my husband.
I also have to fill out book orders for my two books, these requests come personally and from book distributors.
I also try fit in a few book signings at book stores, or I’ll visit a local library and read my books to the children, then encourage them to find other books and read, read, read!!!! I love anything by Dr Suess.
Then in between I start to write, or continue to write novels, poetry, short stories etc. There is so much in the pipe line.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I’ve always loved writing and I simply describe what I see in my head.
I love making up other worlds because there are no real rules about fantastical places and I can make it a great place or a difficult one. I then love to create realistic characters and put them in these places and see how they progress.
I never really know the end of a story… I just keep writing to see how it will pan out and come together.
Usually it ties up nicely, even to my surprise.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
Collecting a storage of books on an iPad, or e-reader, to have a collection at hand that is easy to travel with and this is wonderful for kids as well.
Books virtually on tap!
I’m also really excited by programmes for kids on the Internet that enhance reading and learning. So many great ideas out there that make reading fun.
In the ‘old days’, I spent so many long nights doing research in books then preparing worksheets for classes and drawing pictures for kids, then gluing it all together before finding a copier!! Now it’s so much easier to go on the web, cut and paste and print so quickly.
Or at the touch of a screen, kids can play an alphabet game or a numbers activity on a phone or have a story read to them that is fully interactive and that’s great.
Yes, these things can also be detrimental to family communication etc, but all things in moderation!
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I’m extremely well organised and will plan things down to the last detail. I can see all possible scenarios in my head and will have a battle plan ready for each one, should the need arise.
As a back up plan I discuss everything with my husband who has a great business mind.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
I haven’t had a bad run of jobs, but one that was a huge trial was when I was 18. I had just finished school and had spent a small part of my last year at school as first speaker in a debating team. We won first place in the local school area. The adjudicators kept telling me I had a great speaking voice. This was news to me, so I thought I would exploit that resource…. I asked my teachers to give me a reference that made mention of this and my skill at being a fluent public speaker.
I sent this reference out to all the major department stores in Sydney, where I live and I had quite a response.
I got my first job announcing store wide specials over a microphone.
The only problem was that, while I thought they would hide me in a small office and my voice would float melodically over the store, I was shocked to find they wanted me to stand in the busiest parts if the main shopping floors and call everyone over to see what the store was offering. Non scripted.
I was actually rendered speechless. (I was quite a shy person)
But they were patient with me and gave me a chance. I stuck with it although I HATED it.
But within a few days I got the hang of it, had fun with it, became blasé about having hundreds of people turn around and stare at me as I spoke to them.
It was eventually a great confidence booster! I learned that what I was doing, I was good at and I didn’t let the shoppers bother me.I learned to enjoy it and spend my pay-cheque at the end of the week.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I would start sooner. I had written my books twenty years ago when getting published was done by letter writing and mail, not email. It took so much longer to organise!
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Keep trying. Keep a record of all your communications, then go back and contact them again till you get a response. Most people appreciate persistence and deal kindly with you. Always be well spoken and polite, it works wonders and gets you further.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
You have to believe in yourself and that your product is good, that it’s worth fighting for. But persistence is vital.
There isn’t always one way to do something, always research and look around, ask questions and LISTEN. Write it all down and compare.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
This is a hard question..after thinking a lot, I have to say I haven’t had a great failure, fortunately. But my business is new..so I have to be careful.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Magnetic lower case alphabet letters for kids, in the correct handwriting form of ‘foundation handwriting’.
Here in Australia we teach writing where the letters like ‘o’ and ‘a’ are not perfect circles but more egg shaped and leaning to the right. This helps the preparation for cursive, or running writing in later years.
To make these letters would be a great business, because all schools would want them.
Tell us something about you that very few people know?
For all my confidence and the ease of public speaking, for all the social activities I organise and partake in, for the relaxed classroom teaching and love of my family and friends; I am basically, innately anti-social. I can sit alone and read or write for weeks on end and be perfectly happy.
What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?
As a writer I love Microsoft “WORD” ofcourse. I love anything that allows me to put pen to paper in any form…
I use my website to communicate with people and this is connected to FACEBOOK, which works well, because people connect to people and don’t have to find them all myself,
I think HARO is great and so is SMASHWORDS, who recommend it.
HARO help me see what’s going on out there and what are the latest trends in thinking and interest about a variety of subjects.
SMASHWORDS is great because it’s a site dedicated to the writer and helping them get their work out there, virtually for free. They make it so easy. My son, an up and coming writer, loves it.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I have to say the Bible. Great pearls of wisdom and especially the words of Jesus where he encourages us to think well of all people and treat them the way we ourselves would like to be treated. The bible crosses all borders and nationalities and religions.
Apart from that, I think you have to read and get an education at the same time, so anything like Rodney Castelden’s “People and events that changed the World” makes for fascinating reading, where insight is given into sometimes seemingly insignificant events and yet you learn how these people and events influence our lives today, in so many ways.
What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?
I am inspired by any woman in literature, fictional or real, who overcomes any difficulty and uses it as a stepping stone to bettering herself and her life. Who fights for what she believes in, against all odds and doesn’t let others bring her down.
I grew up in a large family where my father was violent and vicious and suppressed us all with his desire for control and his need to see fear in his family. So, I read a lot as a form of escapism and I really felt drawn to strong women who were upright and who were fighters…. Jo in ‘Little women’, Scarlett in ‘Gone with the Wind,’ Jane in ‘Jane Eyre’, Sybilla in ‘My Brilliant Career’, Rebekah in ‘Ivanhoe’.
Others who inspire me….
My husband; A real go-getter and adventure seeker, without whose encouragement I would never have started my novel, “The Diary of Arnmore”.
He asked me to write something for him. The same goes for “HUNGRY MR CROC” ( My husband is a big kid at heart.)
My children, who inspire me to want to make things better and be the best I can be for them. They are proof that spending time and reading with your children makes for a solid relationship and a love of literature. My son recently won an international online writing competition with a short story called, “Dreams and Dust.”
A book reviewer wrote….
“I am impressed by Szal’s ability to create an entire new species and culture in so few pages….Szal thrusts readers into the middle of the action without dragging the story down… a skill many authors lack, and makes for a much more immersive experience for the reader. If you are looking for an entertaining science fiction story, go for Jeremy Szal’s Dreams and Dust.” – Tania Staley – Readers’ Favorite
Children I teach are inspiring