Long time Tung Chung resident Susanna Lynam has turned the spark of an idea into a reality with the launch of her first children's book The Turtle That Churtled. I couldn't catch up with Susanna in person before she headed off for a well earned summer vacation, so I pinged her some questions instead.
What was the inspiration behind The Turtle That Churtled?:
Some years ago I worked for an NGO in China. Their mission was to give love, hope and opportunity to disabled and abandoned kids. These kids taught me that even though they were very different to me, they still wanted to be known, to be loved, accepted and to have the opportunity to find out what they were capable of achieving. This book is dedicated to them.
Was it hard getting it from an idea in your head to a physical printed copy? What was the process?:
Yes it was hard going from the idea to the realisation of a dream. I didn’t know what I was doing! The easy part was writing my first draft then it all got a little difficult. I didn’t know the steps to take so I procrastinated. I felt like there was a huge mountain in front of me and I didn’t have what it took to climb it.
Did working where you do (in ICHK Primary Schoo) help with the research and testing of the book, if there was any?:
It was my school ICHK primary that gave me a big shove forward. I remember casually mentioning to my Deputy Principal that I had drafted a children’s book. She immediately said, “Good, Book Day is coming up, you can be the visiting author and share your book with each age group”. I remember having 2 weeks holiday before Book Day. I frantically worked on polishing my draft and creating illustrations for my book. So working in a school definitely helped me in the testing of my book. The students also drew what they thought ‘chufflers’ and ‘churtlers’ looked like gave me inspiration for the illustrations. It was while I was sharing my earliest versions that I finally started to believe that I had something truly worth sharing. I’ll never forget one of my students, Tyler asking, “Mrs Lynam where can I buy your book?” It suddenly hit me that a kid wanted to buy my book. The teachers in my school were also incredibly supportive. One of them after sharing my book with students said, "We have to make this happen!” Her faith in me helped drive me to keep going.
How has it been received?:
My book was finally published this June and I got to read it to the whole school population on zoom. It blew me away how much the students loved it and were immediately asking for a sequel. They wrote me cards and drew pictures of my characters. I have to say that these things have brought me the greatest joy!
Any plans for follow-up Churtles?
Yes! There will definitely be sequels to “The Turtle that Churtled “.
Any tips for budding writers?
Get a community around you. Test your versions out on potential audiences. Listen to their feedback. Be willing to change the direction eg by sharing my earliest versions the librarian at the time said to me that she noticed the year 6s were really into it. She also noted that they loved graphic novels. This caused me to shift the style of my book from a traditional children’s book layout to more of a comic book style layout. Also- don’t give up! When you are stuck ask for help. There are many authors in HK that can help you out!
Where can one get a copy?
Finally, why do you choose Tung Chung as a home?
We came to Tung Chung to be close to our kid’s school and to be close to friends. It’s all about community for us. We love the parks, the hiking trails and the proximity to places like Mui Wo.
Thanks very much for your time Susanna and for sharing the book publishing journey with me. I wish you all the success in the world going forward.