a handbook for school gardens

Working with Carolyn and Janet is a classic example of the organic process at work. Janet and I were enjoying the exquisite winter sunshine at the Sunshine Coast Show's Organic Courtyard in 2006 when she told me about a book concept that was quietly fermenting in her mind. For many years Janet and Carolyn, both primary school teachers, had worked to develop school gardens. You could certainly call them pioneers of the modern school garden and they were concerned that with the rise in interest they would soon be engulfed by teachers and parents eager to learn not only how to establish the gardens but more importantly how to incorporate the gardens into the curriculum. To that end they agreed to co-author a book that would become the handbook for school gardens.

In early 2007 we met with Janet, Carolyn and illustrator Mary-Anne Cotter at the Chevallum State School Permaculture Gardens to discuss their plan and to give them timelines for the editing, design, layout and printing process.

Janet and Carolyn would allow themselves another six months of writing on their own, then two months of working with me on the editing process, and two months with John for design, layout and printing. Their plan was to present their book at a national conference in May 2008 but, as with many organic processes this book took a little longer than that.

You may imagine how tricky it could be for two authors who have a tremendous amount of knowledge on the same subject to not substantially overlap on what they write. Part of the editing process was to ensure the continuity of the book was sound; to make sure Janet and Carolyn were not just using different words to deliver the same message.

We developed a close relationship over the months spent in the editing process. Many cups of tea were drunk, lots of lunches with much laughter and even a few tears. It was enormously rewarding for me to work with such inspiring women and I came away richer from the experience.

Once the editing was complete the work was then sent to John who placed the words and illustrations into the layout. Again, it was important to work closely with Carolyn and Janet to ensure the magnificent illustrations were placed to best effect, ensuring they enhanced the surrounding text. Most of this was an easy process but there were times where a flurry of emails and phone calls were needed to sort through an issue.

John also produced the cover design to Janet and Carolyn's brief and we encouraged them to engage in some low-key market research for both the design and book title. There is always room for comment from others and this process saw many cover variations until we hit upon the window idea. This was perfect and Mary-Anne was engaged to produce this beautiful drawing.

A working proof was then produced and re-read by Carolyn, Janet and myself. It is remarkable how different the work looks when in it's final form and how many errors can be found. We three combed through the text for punctuation, grammar and other errors before finally calling it perfect.

All the legal requirements of publishing were met. The ISBN, bar code and CiP were obtained and once printed, copies of the book were sent to the National Library, State Library and Parliamentary Library.

Our preference to use Queensland Complete Printers is for several reasons. Local is always a winner, well experienced book printers (and this is very important as not all printers can print books) and they come in with a good price. With the book at the printers it was time to start looking at any support material that was needed. Order forms, posters and website materials were produced and a few marketing strategies were discussed.

Then, with the book all bound (but never gagged) it was time for sparkling Australian wine, local cheeses and sighs of pleasure as both Carolyn and Janet looked forward to filling the many orders they already had.

Janet has written a lovely testimonial about our time together working on their project.

These are some samples of our design work for OUTDOOR CLASSROOMS

Order form designed for

Poster designed and printed for Janet to take to the
5th World Environmental Education Congress - Montreal, May 10-14, 2009


Portraits of the authors were taken by John
for the back cover and used in many promotional
and marketing exercises

Carolyn Nuttall

Janet Millington



I recently self published a book with a co writer, Carolyn Nuttall under the expert guidance of John Dick and Robyn Cook of PI Productions. I sought John’s guidance as I had seen some of his work and was really impressed. Our situation was a little tricky with two authors, both very committed and with different ideas. We were taken very thoroughly through the whole process so we were well aware of how the book could look. I was sure we would get a very professional result and am more than happy with the result and the sales and feedback from the book prove we were well advised.

Robyn's editing process was very thorough and gave us that third set of eyes to see our words from another view. We were taken through several editing processes that gave us the opportunity to continue to refine our work. The process was also enjoyable as we felt supported even as flaws in our writing were highlighted. As a book for teachers, we had to be so careful of our expression, grammar and layout and have received only praise for this aspect of our book.

During the printing phase, John was able to give us realistic time frames and kept us informed about all the printing choices and options during the entire process.

No matter what concern I have had related to the writing, printing, marketing and distribution John has given his full support and all the information I have needed. I am particularly grateful for his book storage which allowed us to do a larger, therefore cheaper, print run.

I have recommended John to other writers who are also equally impressed with the level of expertise and service at a very reasonable price.

I am happy to discuss my experiences with anyone wanting to self-publish.
Janet Millington



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