"Who in their right mind wouldn't want to read a book by Mark Barry!" (Mary Quallo, St Louis)

"Who in their right mind wouldn't want to read a book by Mark Barry!"  (Mary Quallo, St Louis)
Coming next week - Carla Eatherington

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Popular kidlit blogger, Nelson "Inkspokes" Suit is...Around The Cauldron!

Kidlit is as popular as it ever has been and this week, Nelson Suit, who is a big supporter and friend of the Cauldron joins me to discuss the state of Kidlit and also so his many readers learn a bit more about the man behind the 'spokes! A kidlit writer himself, I contacted him on the Wizphone as he scribbled away on his latest work - here's what he had to say.

Tell us a bit about you and Inkspokes, Nelson.

Thank you Mark for having Inkspokes and me at the Cauldron.  I’ve been a great admirer of your work here and so you can guess at my excitement for being invited in!

 Inkspokes is a website that showcases brilliant book illustrators, indie authors and creative folks in indie publishing. 

We have focused in particular on children’s literature, which may explain why there is such a big artistic presence (and a lot of cute, colourful and sometimes furry characters) at the site.

Corinna Holyoake

Oftentimes, children’s authors (and this can be from picture book authors to middle grade books) have a story idea but are not artists themselves. As an indie author, you cannot rely on a big publisher to source an illustrator for you. At the same time, there are a lot of very talented artists out there whose pure joy is to illustrate. So part of what we do at Inkspokes is to help build connections between indie authors and illustrators and provide a supportive place for that to happen.

Jill Cofsky

We also provide a forum for other indie publishing creatives – editors, book cover designers, voice actors (for your book trailer – check out Jill Cofsky who did a wonderful voiceover for the first chapter of one of my books!), crowdfunding folks – to make connections with authors as well – and a place to showcase quality indie work (in its own kidlit-centered way a bit like the Cauldron I suppose).

Right now we are having our Holiday Fair at Inkspokes – if you visit it, I think you will get a good glimpse of what Inkspokes is about. (Plus there is a weekly raffle drawing through December – to enter, just place a comment on the Holiday Fair page.)

As for me, I am an editor at Inkspokes and the author of the Tilley Pond Mouse adventure series for middle grade readers (ages 9 to 12). The series currently comprises of three books: Els Oot and the MapmakerEls Oot and the Baby Dragon and recently released Els Oot and the Lost City (published under my own imprint and all available on Amazon).

The books chronicle the adventures of Els the mouse as he journeys into the wilderness beyond Tilley Pond and discovers some unlikely friendships, danger and, most of all, wonder. The stories are in the tradition of classic animal stories such as Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows or George Seldon’s The Cricket in Time Square. They revolve around imaginative play and the wonder of wild spaces.

Wind In The Willows

Whereabouts in the US are you from?

We are at bit north of Boston (in the part of the U.S. we call New England), which for your U.K. and non-U.S. readers is about I would say a 5-hours drive north from New York City. New England (especially a bit further north) is popular with leaf-peepers in the fall. 

Japanese Maple

The trees around here turn the most brilliant oranges and yellows and reds and purples. We have a Japanese maple in our yard that when the leaves fall sends off a pool of red, like blood.

Why did you start Inkspokes? What are the goals?

We started it mainly to make connections.

For one, writing is a lonely endeavour mostly, as you might know Mark, and it’s nice to know there are others out there doing what you are doing and to send a few messages back and forth between typing on the computer.

More though, I think indie publishing despite its name requires really a bit of a team effort. You get to choose the team but, to do it well, I think indie authors need to engage others who may have the expertise that they do not. So you might need an illustrator, an editor, a proofreader, someone to help you think about or trade tips with you on marketing and sales. So we wanted to create a supportive place where those connections can be built.

Is it just you or do you work in a team? Who are your main allies?

In terms of the back-office editorial and formatting work and communications, it’s mostly me. My wife who is a former grade-school teacher and has experience in web design/administration helps me sometimes and gives me tips (or I guess frankly tells me what I have done wrong).

But you will see most of the good content is actually supplied by the absolutely astounding artists and authors and indie publishing creatives who take time to contribute to the site.

Could I send a shout-out to our Artists in Residence at Inkspokes for the fall? Yvonne Gartside, Corrina Holyoake and Jamie Stevens?

K. Lamb, the author of the Dani P. Mystery series, has been an indie author who has been a great support to us. And I am also thankful to Robin Hardy, author of the Chataine’s Guardian (among a myriad of other books), who not only has been supportive of the artists and authors appearing on Inkspokes (especially from her Facebook blog) but has been ever so encouraging about my own Els Oot books. And then, of course, Mark,  I have greatly appreciated your support of our work as well!

You are always welcome, Nelson. Do you think, like many academics, that the fact that children are no longer reading in the numbers they used to, is a genuine problem? Or will kids simply improve their literacy reading blogs, sport reports, celebrity sites on the internet?

I agree with you on what you said in your recent interview on your Brilliant Books project. I think reading (unlike other forms of narrative) provides a special place where a reader can build a story world the way he or she imagines it. It’s also a very private and personal world. To do this though, there needs to be books that facilitate that imaginative leap. That I think is the place for fiction and the place for brilliant books and some of the other avenues you note may not necessarily provide that.

K. Lamb

Why should children read fiction?

There was a period of time when I was younger when I didn’t want to read fiction. I read histories and books with a lot of facts in it. For what use is fiction? That was when I was a young adult.

I had forgotten that a great deal of who I am came out of being an avid reader of stories – from having absorbed old Biblical tales in Catholic school to reading series after series of fantasy and science fiction books in elementary and middle school.  

Not only do I owe my fluency with English (English is not my mother tongue) from reading Tolkien and C.S. Lewis and Stephen Donaldson and Anne McCaffrey, but they also imparted to me values that I carry with me to this day – including a love for the imaginative arc that a story takes you on.

"Reading fiction allows for those moments of joy that material life often does not provide".

Also as human beings, the practice of fiction, to be able to view the world from the perspective of someone else, to suspend disbelief, is also an exercise in empathy and understanding perspectives other than our own.

Finally, for those of us who pursue a spiritual path or come from faith traditions, fiction and imagination seem to me to also be crucial elements of that journey. Fiction teaches us this: that what we see is not real but what might be invisible is. Fiction takes us down that corridor.

What would you do to get kids reading if you were the Secretary of State for Children?

Mark, I’d probably do something akin to what you are doing in Brilliant Books. Send authors, artists ordinary folks excited about books out to schools and libraries and places where kids gather with books of all kinds and let these ambassadors give books to kids and read to them and talk to them about their own enthusiasm for books.

The other thing I would do might be to provide more resources for teachers, parents, caregivers so that they can find books and learn how to read to kids, approach kids on reading in a way that would make reading fun. The resources might also provide tips on how best to navigate between books and all the other media outlets surrounding our kids today.

Give me two books that inspired you as a child?

Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring

What would a guest at the Suit household enjoy for dinner?

We would try to cater to the guest, of course, but if the guest came in unannounced you might get what the kids eat – Mac and Cheese!

Stuffed crust or Italian flat bread pizza?

Hah. I like both. Most days, I would choose flat bread but on occasion I don’t mind indulging in a stuffed crust pizza.

What do followers of Inkspokes have to look forward to in 2015?

We are hoping to have the chance to showcase more authors on the site, creating more of a balance between illustrators and authors. Right now, we have an Artist in Residence program where an artist posts updates about his or her work on a more or less regular basis. We are hoping to develop something similar for indie authors who want to post more regularly on our site – as contributing authors or writers in residence.

Also, discoverability, as you know Mark, is a critical thing to understand and manage for any indie author, whether it is kidlit or otherwise, and so we want to facilitate more discussion about how indies can make their books discoverable. I also want to see how we can help facilitate that discoverability.

Finally, we’d like to post some articles that may appeal to readers beyond authors and those within the indie publishing field (although as you know some of the most avid readers are also authors). This might take the form of posting book introductions or reviews on books fitting a certain theme (for example, in connection with a particular holiday or season).

In the midst of it all, readers hopefully will make connections with authors and artists new and old.

Wishing you and your readers a joyful holiday season and a bit of adventure, friendship and wonder for the New Year!

Nelson, its been an absolute pleasure having you around the Cauldron and I wish you and the gang every success in 2015. Merry Christmas!

Follow Nelson on Twitter



Green Wizard: Do Children NEED to read books?


  1. What a wonderful post Nelson and Mark! Nelson it was lovely to learn more about you and great to hear all about kidlit and the terrific website you run. I have to say I absolutely love the illustrations for your books :-) All the best for 2015!

  2. Great post. Love the graphics. Best of luck, Nelson.

  3. Thank you for your kind comments Georgia and Mary Ann. And thank you Mark for your warm welcome and for having me around the Cauldron. Absolutely brilliant work that you do here. It's wonderful to have friends to chat with on this peculiar journey we are on. Best wishes to you all for a terrific 2015!

  4. Very inspiring. Interesting post. Thanks for sharing. Congrats on your success. Doing great things!


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