Pixie O’Harris Award recipient 2021 – Maryann Ballantyne
Jane Covernton who is a former publisher and was the Pixie O’Harris Award recipient in 2018, nominated this year’s Hall of Fame inductee, publisher Maryann Ballantyne from Wild Dog Books. Jane writes about Maryann’s career below.
The Pixie O’Harris Award recognises book industry representatives who have worked consistently in the field of children’s literature, demonstrated commitment beyond the call of duty, and who have developed a reputation for their contribution. It is named in honour of children’s book author and illustrator, Pixie O’Harris (1903 – 1991), who had a longstanding career in publishing and painted many murals for children in hospital wards, health centres and schools.
Maryann Ballantyne has worked in the Australian publishing industry as an editor, packager, publisher, and mentor to writers, illustrators and members of the book industry for more than 35 years.
She began her career in Australian publishing in 1983 as a work experience intern with Penguin Books Australia while studying for a degree in Communications at RMIT, Melbourne. Soon after she joined the company as a full-time editor working for the dynamic publishing director, Brian Johns, and associate publisher, Jacqui Yowell.
In 1989 after a brief move to Five Mile Press, Ballantyne took up a role as managing editor at the nascent Reed Books, where she worked on Lindy Chamberlain’s book Through My Eyes and the story of John Friedrich – Code Name Iago, ghost written by then unknown author, Richard Flanagan.
In 1991 Maryann was appointed the inaugural Children’s Publisher at Reed, going on to publish many notable books, such as The Blue Dress edited by Libby Hathorn, and a host of authors including David McRobbie, Gary Crew, Brian Caswell, Libby Gleeson, Sophie Masson, Nadia Wheatley and John Marsden.
In the early ’90s Ballantyne joined her husband, Andrew Kelly in his book packaging business, Black Dog Books. In 2000, after building up a very successful series of primary readers, Black Dog stepped into trade publishing, thus beginning Black Dog’s steady transition from a packager to an independent children’s publisher of note.
Between 2000 and 2010 the company published multiple award winning and short-list nominee titles – including When Mum Was Little by Mini Goss winner of the Crichton Award for Children’s Book Illustration in 2002 and Carole Wilkinson’s fantasy novel Dragon Keeper, winner of more than five awards, including the Children’s Book of the Year Award: Younger Readers.
In 2011 Black Dog Books was sold to Walker Books, with Maryann appointed as publisher to look after the Black Dog imprint. During this time Maryann focussed on the works of Indigenous Australians, with a particular emphasis on those living in urban areas. The book she is most of proud of publishing while at Walker is Welcome to Country, written by senior Wurundjeri elder Aunty Joy Murphy and beautifully illustrated by Trawawool woman Lisa Kennedy.
Seven years later Ballantyne left Walker Books to take up the role of publisher of children’s non-fiction and picture book imprint Wild Dog Books, and to pursue her interest in fostering the work of Indigenous writers and illustrators with the WA based independent publisher Magabala Books.
In 2019 as part of an editorial team with illustrator and designer Donna Rawlins she was responsible for producing the childrens’ book adaptation of Magabala’s best-selling title Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe, Young Dark Emu.
Maryann has always been passionate about publishing new authors and illustrators and stories that ‘tell us something about ourselves’ and reflect upon ‘where Australia has come from and who we are now’.
She is known for her fierce intellect and curiosity, her innate sense of style, taste and judgement, her unswerving loyalty to her authors and illustrators and her great respect and commitment to the Australian publishing industry. In her 30 or so years of publishing she has given several generations of young readers books and stories that explore what it means to be part of a dynamic, and ever-changing Australian culture and society and provided them with a valuable sense of community.
Congratulations Maryann Ballantyne.
Reflections from Kathy Kozlowski: Pixie O’Harris winner
Kathy Kozlowski was this year awarded the Pixie O’Harris Award for service to the children’s book industry. Starting out in libraries and making the move to bookselling not long after, Kathy shares her insights to the changes seen in the sector, and at the heart of the matter, what children’s books and booksellers offer the world. We start by asking her what has made her stay in the industry.
“It’s certainly not the pay! It’s a combination of things. It’s partly the fact that it’s such an important industry – we’re working with children and their imaginations and giving them the chance to stand in other people’s shoes, to laugh and escape from their worlds. It’s a really important thing to do and I love it.
There are also the people who work in the book trade – they’re so interesting. There are few of us that are career booksellers but there are musicians, photographers, artists, authors and playwrights – the whole lot. I’ve mixed with those people and often they are much younger than I am and that’s been a great pleasure.
I like the cutthroat aspect of the industry too. Unlike librarianship, you’re always trying to find a balance between having wonderful stock, keeping an eye on the bottom line and keeping your turnover high. How you do that is fascinating. How do you display books in a way that people will come in and love? And how do you handsell so that you get the right book for the right child?
What do you feel makes a good bookseller?
This is something, I admit, I’m not exactly sure about. We’re all so mixed and that’s lovely. Being a good listener is at the heart of things. People who come into the shop don’t know what they’re looking for. They’re either adults who are passed their childhood so they don’t know children’s books or they’re children who are unsure and wanting help.
Having worked out what is the best book, you have to find the best hook to inspire the child and sometimes you are balancing between what the child wants to read and the parent. Something that the child will love but it is more literature based and not some crappy thing that’s television related. That can be quite a challenge.
A good bookseller also needs to know how to put up dump bins, how to do a display, be willing to take storytime, be able to set up events. Half of those I fail at, but they’re some of the qualities.
What does your typical day look like?
A typical day for me in the store, apart from the ubiquitous shelving, is about talking with customers and getting them the right books. Often librarians come in too. I’m no longer doing the buying of books as I’m nearing retirement so I do the floor work which I really like.
Have you had a particular experience where you’ve seen the value of what booksellers do for readers?
There was one time when there was a teacher from a western suburbs school who came in saying the school wanted to change the non-reading culture of their students. They wondered if they could bring in their year eight class for us to present books to. The first group that came in were pretty out there, and not familiar with bookshops. They somehow found their way straight to the true crime section. All the boys wanted Chopper Read – and the girls wanted Britney Spears. I had to get them away from that and onto the books the school would want them to read, which we had chosen very carefully, to capture their imagination.
I started by saying to them, “If a writer came to your school and observed, what would they write about? What do you do in your recess? What makes you cool, what do you have to wear to be cool? What do you do at the weekends? What are your parents’ and your school’s expectations for your lives? How does that make you feel?” I could see from these questions that they were engaged and thinking. Then I said, “So if someone wrote a book about that, and I read it, and I’m three times your age and I live on the other side of the city and I don’t know your world, I’d suddenly know what life is like for you. Wouldn’t that make me a richer person?”
I looked up at this stage and it was one of those moments of eyeball to eyeball and I knew this boy was totally with me, and just longing to read books. It was great. It’s one of those special moments that lives on.
What have been the greatest changes you’ve seen in bookselling over the years?
My goodness, there have been changes in the industry – where do I start? There was no genre for young adult books. Of course, there were books like Little Women and Anne of Green Gables that you would give to older children. And you could go into the adult section and select Mary Webb or Georgette Heyer etcetera for girls and thrillers and Paul Brickhill’s The Dam-busters for boys. I still remember when Paul Zindel’s The Pigman came out. It was the first I knew of a purely teenage book, written just for teenagers, with teenage thinking behind it. We were fascinated and kind of a bit shocked.
Other lovely things have happened and more recently. Previously, if the front cover had a black face on it, sadly you knew it wouldn’t sell very well. It’s an appalling thing to say but it’s true. And now, by contrast, we sell a lot of Indigenous books all the time. It’s wonderful. When I first came to work with Readings about 14 years ago, we had a small row of Indigenous books that hardly moved but we kept them out of principle and tourists would occasionally buy them. Now we have three rows of Indigenous books and they sell all the time. It’s lovely knowing that young people are reading these stories and seeing them as part of their lives.
A book that has recently changed the publishing and book world is Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls. It was the beginning of a flood of books about women who have achieved in sports and history, in art, which we were sorely lacking. There’s been a crying out for books for boys on the same theme which are now coming. The feminists would say there have been books for boys in every history book, every science book they’ve ever read but it is good to get that balance. I love the fact that my granddaughter growing up today will think of what women do, and what women think in a totally different way to what I did and it’s because of her reading.
Is it possible for you to have a favourite children’s book?
Sometimes I am pushed to share what my favourite children’s book is. There are too many but if I have to pick it is Goodnight Mr Tom by Michelle Magorian. To me it is the perfect book. It has a very dramatic narrative, strong adult and children’s characters and it’s full of poignancy and emotion so very satisfying in many ways. I’d also put forward Shirley Hughes’ Dogger as it’s a perfect picture book. It’s a 70s book and looks its time, and I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone. They might think ‘who is this lady giving me this old book?’ But if you look past that, it’s a classic story about a small boy and his toy dog, the one you go to sleep with and take everywhere, and his losing it. The terrible drama of that for a child – losing your favorite thing. Then his sister does something very kind, to get it back. Aren’t you curious to read it now? And if I want to have a laugh, I pick up Bob Graham’s Greetings from Sandy Beach.
What was the industry like when you started?
I started out as a children’s librarian and around 1971 I moved over into bookselling. When I first started out, picture books were only really just starting to blossom. They were mostly two colour picture books, not a lot in the beautiful colours you get now. Australian children’s picture book publishing was almost non-existent.
What’s the most joyous part of your job?
Everything, really. I love customer service and reading books and introducing children to books and the pleasure of reading, so what a wonderful job!
I believe in stories and the power of story on the imagination. Booksellers are the purveyors of stories and ideas and playing that role has kept me here. What has been my greatest passion is the tradition of passing on our culture, and the things that are important to us and our dreaming and our imagination through story, and that’s a great privilege to have done.”
2019 Hall of Fame Awards Announced
Lloyd O’Neil Hall of Fame Award, the Pixie O’Harris Award & the Rising Star Award
The Australian Publishers Association is delighted to announce the following industry Hall of Fame awards: the Lloyd O’Neil Hall of Fame Award, which recognises outstanding service to the Australian Book Industry by an individual from within its ranks; the Pixie O’Harris Award for consistent contribution to children’s literature; and the Rising Star Award, which recognises emerging talent in the Australian publishing industry. For more information on the awards and the winners, see below.
Without further ado, this year’s winners are as follows:
Congratulations – Richard Walsh
This award recognises outstanding service to the Australian Book Industry by an individual from within its ranks, including publishers, booksellers, authors and other industry representatives with exceptional long service to the industry.
Lloyd O’Neil was a pioneer of Australian publishing, beginning his career as a bookseller and becoming an insightful and talented publisher, printing popular mass market titles that captured the mood of the nation and developing hugely successful educational and travel lists.
On receipt of the award, Richard said:
“I’m delighted to be the recipient of this year’s Lloyd O’Neil Award. As it happens, I knew Lloyd, he was a mentor of mine in my younger years and he was a fantastic, publishing guy and I loved him dearly.”
Patrick Gallagher, Chairman of Allen & Unwin, said:
“Richard Walsh has been a major figure in Australian publishing since 1972 when he became Managing Director of Angus & Robertson, then Australia’s leading independent publisher. Over his fourteen years there A&R published numerous classics of Australian writing, with authors including Frank Moorhouse, Christina Stead, Colleen McCullough, Laurie Oakes and Emily Rodda. In 1986 Richard became President of the ABPA (now APA). After his departure from Angus & Roberson to head APC magazines he maintained his publishing links through ACP’s acquisition of Greenhouse Publications. He has been a Director of the National Book Council and a Board Member of the Copyright Agency. In 2001 Richard took on the role of Consultant Publisher with Allen & Unwin, and has published a steady stream of successful authors, including Dick Smith, Sophie Laguna, Wendy Harmer, Tony Jones and Holly Throsby. He’s also an author, with nine books to his name.”
Congratulations – Kathy Kozlowski
The Pixie O’Harris Award recognises publishers, editors, creators, booksellers, publicists and other industry representatives who have worked consistently in the field of children’s literature, demonstrated commitment beyond the call of duty, and who have developed a reputation for their contribution to the children’s book sector.
It is named in honour of children’s book author and illustrator, Pixie O’Harris (1903 – 1991), who had a longstanding career in publishing and painted many murals in hospital wards, health centres and schools.
Kathy had this to say:
“I’m pleased and honoured to receive the Pixie O’Harris Award and do so on behalf of children’s specialist booksellers everywhere. We share a passion for bringing children and stories together.”
Angela Crocombe, Manager of Readings Kids bookstore in Carlton, where Kathy works, nominated Kathy for the award:
“Kathy is an amazing woman and amazing bookseller. She’s been in the industry more than 50 years where she’s been a bookseller, a rep, a volunteer for the Children’s Book Council of Australia, and she’s also an ad hoc advisor to authors such as ABIA winner Zana Fraillon who speaks very highly of her. The work she does on the floor of the bookshop is so valued by customers of varying ages and backgrounds. What she does is put into their hands books that she loves and thinks they will love. She’s wise but she’s not didactic. After all these years she’s still open to new ideas and approaches. She’s an absolute star and when she retires we don’t know what we’ll do without her.”
Rising Star Award – Proudly sponsored by McPherson’s
Congratulations – Ella Chapman
The Rising Star award recognises emerging talent in the Australian book industry whose record reflects ongoing excellence and growth in contribution to their profession. They must be currently working in the Australian book industry, and have been part of the industry for no more than 10 years.
Rising Stars are considered for their: enthusiasm, reliability and integrity; ability to take initiative, solve problems and provide solutions; ability to work effectively as part of a team, and to provide team leadership; and key contributions made in their role and/or in the wider industry.
Ella Chapman is the Head of Marketing Communications at Hachette Australia. She has worked at independent and conglomerate publishing houses in Sydney and London. She studied Publishing and English at Loughborough University and began her career as a Publishing and Events Assistant. In 2018, Ella was on the Australian Reading Hour committee and was a judge at the B&T Media Awards.
The Rising Star of the Publishing Industry had this to say on hearing the news:
“I’m absolutely delighted to be awarded the 2019 Rising Star. To be recognised for my work in an industry that I’m so passionate about is the biggest compliment. The other nominees are all incredibly talented and it was lovely to see my name alongside theirs. There have been a lot of people who have been generous with their time, expertise and guidance throughout my career and I’m grateful that I’ve been able to learn so much from them all. The Australian publishing industry has a wealth of talented people working within it and I’m constantly impressed by the creative, forward-thinking and world-class books that are published here. It has been a privilege to be able to work in Australian publishing. Like any person in publishing I’ve always found a deep joy in reading. To be able to carve out a career that’s rooted in books and then to be able to lead and work with a team of people who share that passion and drive to bring our books to a local and global audience is almost unbelievable to me. I hope that I can continue to find more innovative and industry-leading ways to promote books. Thank you very much for giving me this award.”
Richard Walsh, Kathy Kozlowski and Ella Chapman are available for interview.
For further information and media inquiries, please contact:
Brendan Fredericks | BFredericksPR | 0403 265 337 | firstname.lastname@example.org