‘Whatever you do, don’t be boring’
BRIGHTLY coloured spitting alpacas feature in the latest children’s book by Mackay author Rhonda Brown but that’s not the only thing that sets it apart.
Mrs Brown wanted her third book to be a produced locally with the writing, illustration and printing all happening in Mackay.
And she’s proud of the result of her collaboration with internationally-renowned Mackay artist Rob Wiezel and local business Payne Print, who designed and printed the book.
“I approached Rob for my first book but the timing wasn’t right,” Mrs Brown said. But third time lucky, she was able to collaborate with Mr Wiezel for her latest venture.
Mr Wiezel said although he was familiar with camels he didn’t have any experience drawing alpacas. With the help of the internet, a visit to a Mackay farm to check out its alpacas and the assistance of his granddaughter, Kaatje, the illustrator was able to capture the character of the animals.
Mrs Brown said she was inspired to write about alpacas by a family friend.
“His granddaughter, who had seen sheep before, hadn’t seen an alpaca and so when she did she called it a long-necked lamb,” she said.
So a book was eventually written titled Alpaca Prue, the Long-Necked Spit Lamb.
Mrs Brown said the book had evolved to have a message about bullying – something she hadn’t initially intended.
Being an author isn’t her day job. Mrs Brown, a bookkeeper’s assistant, writes when she has the time and finances to take on the expensive exercise of self-publication.
Born in Rockhampton but growing up in Mackay, Mrs Brown wrote her first children’s book — about an eraser who rubbed out a town — at 12, as part of a school English assignment. Her teacher gave her an ‘A’.
After leaving school she worked as a stenographer for six years before moving from Mackay to work in the Whitsundays and backpack through Europe.
Returning to Australia, she worked as a personal assistant in a remote construction camp office, then for a tourism body in Airlie Beach before marrying and having a family.
Mrs Brown returned to Mackay for the birth of her third child and six years later went back to work.
At the age of 49 and with all her children out of home, the ideas for her first book Hello Rainbow came to life in the passenger seat of her husband’s ute on a road trip to Cooktown. But it took another four years before it was made into a book.
Mrs Brown proudly said Hello Rainbow was a sell-out success and she has ordered more books to be printed.
Pussilldoo was book number two. It was launched the same year, in late 2017.
With many ideas floating around in her mind and notes scribbled down, Mrs Brown said she had many stories on the go at once. Ideas just popped into her head and words somehow flowed in rhyme.
Mrs Brown said her favourite children’s author was Aaron Blabey who wrote the Pig the Pug series.
She particularly likes his motto, Don’t be boring.
And that was something Mr Wiezel didn’t want to be either.
The first version of the Alpaca Prue cover was scrapped when his granddaughter said it was boring. He made it more vibrant and it got the stamp of approval from Kaatje.
Mr Wiezel was born in Amsterdam and emigrated to Australia at the age of nine with his parents. His father was offered a position with a major Sydney newspaper.
His love of cartooning was inspired by the works of Walt Disney. Drawing and painting cartoons and selling them to stores in Ingleburn, Sydney, was his way of making pocket money.
His early working life was within the film industry with Air Programmes International, where he was an assistant camera director for a cartoon series, King Arthur and the Square Knights of the Round Table.
He moved to Mackay in 1971 where he met and later married Beryl Porter, a music teacher and accomplished pianist. They have two sons.
Mr Wiezel’s love of art and cartooning was further inspired when he created his cartoon strip Bart, published first in the Daily Mercury and later in several other newspapers.
This was followed by a daily cartoon strip, Kitty Creek, published in more than 20 newspapers across Australia, and a second daily strip, Burger, which is syndicated by Auspac Media.
He has won several national and international awards for his cartoons and his art now incorporates a mixture of comic, digital and traditional styles.
In 2013 Mr Wiezel had images shown in New York City as part of the international exhibition The Story of the Creative.
Copies of Alpaca Prue, The Long-necked Spit Lamb are available at Let the Children Play, the Mount Pleasant post office and online through Oombee Woombee.