With Santa and his reindeer only a few sleeps away, I am thrilled to think that The Scared Book might be found wrapped up under sparkling trees this Christmas (not just mine). My heart glows with thankfulness and gratitude for all who made this possible - the fabulous illustrator, Kim Siew, publisher Suzanne O'Sullivan and the team at Hachette, and some pretty awesome support crews and cheer squads, not the least being my wonderful online community of Just Write for Kids, my fabulous NSW Writer's Centre writing group and amazing CBCA sub branch.
Thanks too, to the marvellous booksellers who have The Scared Book on their shelves, some of whom have even allowed me to accost their customers with story times and games, especially The Children's Bookshop who hosted my launch. Thanks to the schools who invited me to talk with their fabulous students and Greenleaf Press who enabled some of these visits, and to the hundreds who entered my monstrous monster competition.
At this time of year when we make room to spend time with family, I am especially grateful to the shining lights of my life whose love and laughter is my chief source of inspiration and joy.
Hoping your Christmas is likewise adorned with the twinkle of love and laughter from Christmas past and present.
I’ve hurtled through November at the speed of Santa’s sleigh, to arrive in December, breathless. But what a ride! Despite giving you brief snap shots, this post is l-o-n-g due to all that's been happening. I hope you can stay with me till the end, or skip to the end - it's peaceful there :)
I visited the schools of my The Scared Book Monster Competition winners, and what fun that was! The two winners – Alyssa from Whalan Public School in Sydney’s west, and Nadav from Masada College in Sydney’s north – were ecstatic! The classes were wonderful and we had fun reading, talking and playing roll-the-dice-monster.
I ran a 1 ½ hour writing workshop as the prize for one of the winners of the CBCA Lunch With The Stars writing competition. Year 5 at St Kevin’s Dee Why were a hoot! Such great ideas and imagination. We discovered how writing is just like playing with lego, and did lots of playing around with words and characters. The Assistant Principal was so delighted with what we did – she was taking notes herself! ‘Best. Workshop. Ever.’ is what she said (or something like that)! I was chuffed. Sorry - no photos to show :(
I also went to a workshop run by the NSW Writer's Centre about writing comedy with Luke Ryan. I brought lots of great ideas home to play around with - so watch out! My writing buddy Wendy Fitzgerald was at the course with me. Here's a photo of us with Luke. You can't miss me with the name badge!
I popped into Harry Hartog Warringha Mall bookshop for story-time. They have some of the kids from the day-care centre to come along to their weekday story-time sessions – so it was the best -crowd- ever! Great Fun! Again, no photos! I need to remember to ask someone to snap a pic with my phone - I'm a slow learner!
You know I love a book launch, and this month I was at the launch of four books – Rainforest Feasts by Carolyn Eldridge- Alfonzetti, Sleepy the Sloth by Jan Latta, Bouncing Bouncing Little Joeys by Lesley Gibbes and A very Quacky Christmas by Frances Watts, all at one of my favourite haunts – The Children’s Bookshop in Beecroft.
My photo was the #sundayshelfie for Picture Book Book Club, I was interviewed by both the Young Authors Academy, and Kellie Byrnes blog and The scared Book was featured in the inaugural Kid's Corner of the CBCA. I also recorded a short section of a video that Hachette are putting together for Christmas - look out for that one, I'm sure it will be hilarious!
Talking about Christmas - Christmas parties start in November - did you know? I’ve already eaten my way through three Christmas feasts before December! One with the Children’s Bookshop Speaker’s Agency, another with the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SBWI) and finally with the Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA) Northern Sydney sub-branch.
At the SCBWI event, it was fabulous to hear from Linsay Knight (Publisher) about Walker books (blog post coming…) and Corrine Fenton and Marjorie Crosby-Fairall about their collaboration to write a book that would form the basis for the Melbourne Myer Christmas windows – One Christmas Eve. And what a book! It is glorious – capturing my childhood dreams of dapple-grey merry-go-round horses. Had. To. Have. Signed copies by author and illustrator, thank you very much :)
I got to sit next to literary giant Libby Gleeson at the CBCA party and share the table with Freya Blackwood (photos mid and right, below). What a great night hearing them talk about their collaborations and insights behind them. I also picked up a signed copy of Libby’s aptly named classic (now out of print) Making Picture Books – a must have for anyone writing for kids. And the amazing president of our sub branch, Marian McGuinness, made all the committee a scrumptious Christmas cake each. It was so chocked full of yumminess that it was a weightlifting workout carrying it to the car!
I managed to catch a glimpse of the #8wordstory run by the Queensland writer’s centre. Did you see it? People tweeted stories in eight words and selected ones were written across billboards in south east Queensland. They had over 10,000 entries – that’s 80,000 words – novel-length! Mine didn’t make the cut, but I’ll tell you my two anyway:
She jumped! Splat! Mud speckled her yellow gumboots.
Write by numbers - such fun! Eight word story.
And around all this I continued with the usual – attending my wonderful writer’s group, sending various submissions to publishers, interviewing and blogging for Just Write For Kids (my interview with Tim Harris is here and Jan Latta is here), updating my website with book reviews as they come in (visit here) and I even squeezed in some reading (Nevermoor, a fantasy by Jessica Townsend and the Slated Trilogy, a dystopian series by Teri Terry - great reads!)
I got to pop to the shops and guess what I saw? The Scared Book in my local Target - I nearly jumped out of skin when I saw it! Right next to books about burps and bums and books that you should't open, apparently! It's enough to make The Scared Book blush!
I even have another story of mine in print. It's an epic battle between zombies and unicorns for popularity! You'll never guess what happens in the end! You can read it along with some other great stories in this Magic Day anthology:
And although this is a post about November, I’ll sneak in the first day of December, when fellow Wombat author and Hope 103.2 presenter Katrina Roe and I attended the Twilight Christmas Markets at Gordon. It was lovely to meet parents, kids and educators and have them read and admire, and even buy, our books. Such fun!
So, after a rather frantic November, I think I’ll leave any frenzy this month to Santa. I’m going to put my feet up and have a cuppa – a different tea each advent day, a perfect way to be still and reflect. To make space and prepare room for the miracle of Christmas. Do you like the tea-time advent calendar I made? (photo bottom left) My daughter found some amazing Christmas-inspired teas for us to share from the English Tea Shop. She can hardly wait for ‘Candy Cane’ (day 8) and ‘Gingerbread man’ (day 15). And me? I’m hanging out for ‘Silent Night.’
I may try and put together a little year-that-was slide show before the end of the year, but if not, I'll see you on the other side of Christmas!
Blessings to you all.
Inter-generational connection between grandparents and grandchildren is a theme close to my heart. My first picture book, When I See Grandma was based on visiting my mother with my children when she was in an aged care home, and helping them connect despite the distance of age and limitations of infirmity. And now as my children have grown into adults, it could well be me that is soon the grandmother! Scary thought! So when I saw Susan Day's new non-fiction book for grandparents to help them connect with their grandchildren, I had to learn more.
I knew of Susan over social media connections. She has been encouraging grandparents to read to their grandkids for some time, and even provided a resource - Astro's Adventures Book Club, to assist. On her blog, she often features books by other authors as well as her own books.
I had a quick peek inside The Top 10 Things Happy Grandparents Never Regret Doing! online, and it struck me as a well researched and inherently practical guide for grandparents wanting to be thoughtful and intentional in developing relationships with grandchildren rather than leaving it to chance. So I am delighted to host a guest post by Susan Day where she tells of the impetus to write this helpful resource. So, over to Susan Day:
From Children’s Author to Grandmother in 47 years
I have been writing children’s books for so long I can’t remember. My first children’s book was written when I was a child, quite a small one, and I still have the book. It’s really old, but I can still make out the story even though the tiresome effort of writing all five pages resulted in the last lines literally falling off the page.
Years later, and even though I was technically a grown up, I still wrote children’s books. Only these books have a lot more words in them, and thanks to computers none of the lines fall of the page.
When I became a grandmother at the very young age of 47, I still continued to write children’s books, but there was a nagging issue ebbing away in the back of my mind.
Questions All Grandparents Face
What would this little person think of me? Did I have to buy presents every time I saw him? What if he didn’t like me? Me? I’m nice, I think.
I decided to do some research, and that’s just what I did.
I discovered that grandparents are richer and healthier than they have ever been in the history of the world. I discovered that they come in all different shapes and sizes, and that they suffered terrible depression and were even suicidal when separated from their grandkids.
Now, this made me very sad so I thought more deeply about my role as a grandparent (by this time I had added to my collection of small people substantially). What could we grandparents do to make a positive effect on our grandchildren’s lives? What memories could we leave them with? What if they grew up not knowing us, and not laughing at all of my terrible jokes?
The Journey from Children’s Author to Non Fiction Writer
So, I embarked on my journey to write my first non-fiction book, The Top 10 Things Happy Grandparents Never Regret Doing!
Sure, the title is long, but being a grandparent is a serious business, and we all know many important things have very long titles.
In this book I set out how all grandparents should develop their own grandparenting philosophy, and learn from each other. I even have questions to answer at the end of each chapter, but I think that’s because the teacher in me won over a few times.
Best of all this book is relatable and sometimes funny. It doesn’t take the role of grandparenting too seriously, but it also demands that its readers step out from behind those aprons or workbenches and actively take part in their grandchildren’s lives.
We grannies and grandpas have so much to offer. We are strong, healthy, have a bit of extra cash, and most importantly soooo much time to share. Some of us also have the best, no I mean the worst, jokes of all.
Well, what else can I do? I don’t knit, bake or watch daytime TV. I write, I draw, and I’m learning to box (Muhammad Ali style, kind of). Now, there’s a useful skill to pass on to my granddaughters – jab, upper cut, duck!
Do you have precious memories of your grandparents? Do you find your role as grandparent a little confusing or do you have it perfectly sown up? If it’s the latter, how did you achieve such a miracle?
About Susan Day
Susan Day is a passionate author, educator and, of course, a grandmother. She wants to empower all grandparents to build meaningful relationships with their grandchildren. Discover here the Top 10 Things Happy Grandparents Never Regret Doing.
Also, her blog, Astro’s Adventures Book Club, is full of ideas and tips for grandparents who want to build a strong relationship with their grandchildren through reading and sharing books.
Susan lives in country Australia with four dogs, three bossy cats, two rescue guinea pigs, and an errant kangaroo.
You may know that I launched a book recently! You may not know, that so did my writing friend, Katrina Roe. And guess what? They actually share a similar theme - anxiety and fear. But they are totally different books in every way: The Scared Book is quirky and interactive and needs reader participation and involvement for the story to develop. Gemma gets the Jitters is colourful and heartfelt with a biographical feel. Both offer strategies for dealing with feelings: Gemma shows the 'stepladder' approach to managing anxiety through a story about a Giraffe who is scared of heights, whilst The Scared Book gets kids to practice calming down by blowing away butterflies and tracing a calming spiral. Kids will love them both for the engaging stories and fabulous illustrations (Gemma's illustrator, Leigh Hedstrom, also illustrated my When I see Grandma!).
It reminded me of this post, re-posted below, that I wrote for the Just Write For kids Blog last year.
Lessons from a punnet of Tomatoes.
One thing I love about the creative industries is that several people can have a similar idea yet express it in totally different ways. This was brought home to me the other evening when attending a talk by CBCA judge, Cathie Tasker. Cathie pointed out that two of the books shortlisted for awards this year were on the same theme, yet they were different in so many ways – Mr Huff and What’s Up MuMu?
You can see even from the covers the difference in approach and mood – such a contrast! Walker’s pastel coloured story of a boy’s day being clouded by Mr Huff is gentle and contemplative whilst Mackintosh’s contrary MuMU who refuses to be cheered up is bold and humorous. Both books are fabulous. Both books are needed – each will reach a reader in a different way and each will reinforce the message of the other.
I love that my publisher, Wombat Books, published two books within a short space of time on the theme of aging and dementia. One is When I See Grandma, written by yours truly and the other is Do You Remember by O’Gara and McNeil. Both books invoke the power of memories, yet again the look and feel are totally different.
So where do the tomatoes fit in? It reminds me of the tomato medley you can buy at the grocers – the packet only contains tomatoes- but what a variety! There are yellow ones, red ones, round ones, tear-shaped and stripy. They all look different and have subtle differences in flavour. Our palate and diet is enriched from the variety. So it is with books for kids – variety within a theme is important.
When we think of it this way, we realise that as authors and illustrators, we are not in competition. We can (and must) support and champion each other and our books. My book will reach a readership in a different way to yours, despite any similarities in story and theme. And they are both important. There’s room on the shelf for us all!
PS I’d love to hear what books you love that have a similar theme in the comments below!
With 207 entries, this really was a monster competition - and so terribly hard to judge! Big thank you to all who entered, and to Whalan and Leonay Public Schools and St Martin's Davidson for getting behind this competition so enthusiastically.
There were so many weird and wonderful, colourful, scary, funny, bizarre monsters to choose from. One winner didn't seem enough - so I have two, PLUS runners-up, PLUS finalists!
All of the entries were amazingly creative, so I needed to consider other things in choosing the finalists and winners. So above and beyond creative, they needed to display one or more of the following:
Lots of detail and thought
Colourful and original drawing/model
Quirky combination of drawing, name and interest
Made me laugh
And that very personal thing - it just appealed to me!
To be a winner or runner-up they had to fulfil the total brief - ie not only have created a monster but also gave it a name and an interest.
SO - without further ado, my two WINNERS are:
Nadav who is in kindergarten, with his monster, Doug:
From the minute I saw Doug, I loved him! He's colourful, there's even a bit of collage going on with the pasted fish, his interests are also drawn, colour-coordinated and so original! He ticks so many boxes - original, colourful, effort, unusual interests, cute name and made me laugh.
My other WINNER is...
Alyssa who is in year 1. Her monster, Seretja likes to be with pets, has 54 friends, she is good and lives in a house made from grass.
Seretja is such a colourful and interesting monster with a unique name who can stand up on her own. Alyssa has gone to so much effort with her. Seretja is also gentle which made such a refreshing change from many of the violent monsters I saw! So this monster ticked a lot of boxes - original appearance, colourful, interesting, effort, detailed, unique personality and interests.
Now for my Runners-up:
First runner-up is Rylie in year 5 with Moo
I love the details of high heels and Moo's quirky love of umbrellas. Rylie has also included Moo's dream of being a barber in Sydney! This is one monster I'd like to meet! Plus, he's my favourite colour - purple!
My second runner-up is Noah in year 3 with Mixed Animal
I love the details of all the animals mixed up in this monster, and how he gets to grow and develop - by eating animals to get their body parts - a bit gruesome, but clever. Also, as I love animals, I liked the way Noah has made an animal mash-up.
My third runner-up is Claire in year 2 with Bad Bob
Bob is cute and colourful, but what I liked most about him was that his interest was unique (he likes water slides) and also included a complication - his teeth always pop the water slides! He was the only monster in the competition that I felt sorry for! I think Claire has what it takes to make up great stories!
All my winners and runners-up will receive a copy of The Scared Book, as will Alex, who was the enthusiastic first entry (see post here). I'll organise a time with my winners to come and speak to their class.
In addition, certificates will be sent out to a number of finalists whose monsters I felt had a certain something extra-special - think hamster monster, pineapple minions, invisible ninjas, 50 toothpicks through wrapping foam, a speed stinger that has both land and aquatic form, a little robotic monster that looks scary but actually likes to have fun with little kids, and a Donald Trump monster making a political statement!
THANK YOU to all of those brave and creative students who had a go and entered. I loved that you would share your creativity with me.
Before I announce the winners of the blog comment competitions, I wanted to fill you in on the process. In keeping with The Scared Book theme...
Congratulations winners, and thanks to everyone who followed along and commented over the week.
And what of the make/draw your own monster competition? I have been inundated with over 100 entries, and due to technical glitches at the last minute, the announcement will be postponed as I await some entries that are flying in by 'snail mail' - I'm at the mercy of Australia Post here!
But in the mean time, enjoy some of the fabulous creations - it will be soooo hard to judge!
Watch this space!
Follow the links to all the places I've been over last week's Book Blog Blitz to catch up on all the blog posts - it was pretty frantic! Don't forget to comment (by 9/9/17) on as many as you like to go in the draw to WIN a signed copy of The Scared Book and the chance to PITCH and SUBMIT a picture book manuscript to Suzanne O'Sullivan, publisher at Lothian Children's Books (part of the Hachette) - include #thescaredpitch for the latter. Winners announced on this blog by the 12th September.
Greenleaf Press Newsletter - not a blog, but you can comment on the facebook post
Just Write for Kids - Book review
Just Write for Kids - Book trailer and sneak peek
Kid's Book Review. This was not officially part of the blog tour, so feel free to comment but it doesn't count for the competition.
Just Write for Kids - Character Q and A
Creative Kids Tales - comments not enabled on this but it's an interesting interview :-)
Just Write For Kids- Three books that helped shape The Scared Book
Buzz Words - interview about the publication of The Scared Book
Just Write For Kids - Activities for kids
Just Write for Kids - Craft activity - monster shaker
Just Write for Kids - Craft activity - fan
Just Write For Kids - recap
Books on Tour - another competition for Books on Tour 'likers' on facebook
We had the launch at The Children's Bookshop, Beecroft NSW which was heaps of fun! A huge thank you to them! And for those who couldn't make it to watch me read the book live, here is a youtube video with the amazing Renee Price and Digby Fixit where we read and discuss The Scared Book.
Are you exhausted yet? I sure am! Another huge thank you to all the places that hosted me over the week.
I must give a special shout out to Romi Sharp from Just Write For Kids for her amazing creativity and effort in taking The Scared Book on tour with Books On Tour. Any book creators reading this, please note - I could not recommend her services more highly for generating creative ideas and content, and being fabulous to work with.
And entries are flying in for the draw/make your own monster competition - I hear that students at Leonay and Whalan Public Schools have been very busy!
Thank you also to a number of reviewers who have posted reviews over the week:
Toddler book reviews - on Instagram
It's been a huge week, and I'm loving hearing stories of The Scared Book getting out and about and being loved! So good!
What a whirlwind this week leading up to the launch of The Scared Book has been! I must say I'm a tad exhausted, but I wanted to share a few things with you before I go to bed for a week!
The first is to make sure you catch up on my blog blitz posts throughout the week - there's still time to enter the competitions. Check out 'blog central' at Books on Tour at www.justkidslit.com/the-scared-book-competitions-and-launch-details. I'll also post links to all the blogs when I'm out of hibernation!
The second thing is to share with you the stupendous video I made with author, musician, performer and puppeteer extraordinaire, Renee Price and her puppet friend, Digby. Check it out here.
Last but not least is to share a tiny snippet of the launch today - featuring the cake and goosebump pop-tarts made by my darling daughter - aren't they fabulous?! More photos to come when I emerge from under my covers...
I hope you'll join me this week as I blitz out across the blogosphere with all things The Scared Book related. 'Blog central' will be Books On Tour hosted over on the Just Write For Kids website. Do sign up so you don't miss out. I hope you'll join in the festivities with competitions and giveaways - comment on any or all of the blogs (or original f/b posts) and you'll have a chance to WIN a signed copy of The Scared Book PLUS if you add #thescaredpitch to your comment you go in the draw to WIN the chance to pitch and submit a picture book manuscript (up to 500 words) to publisher at Lothian Children's Books, Suzanne Sullivan.
You can follow on facebook on the Books on Tour page, and/or follow me on facebook here.
Other breakout blogs will be at Buzz Words on Monday and Thursday and Creative Kids Tales on Wednesday. I'll be in the Greenleaf Press newsletter on Monday, so you might like sign up for Greenleaf press news here.
I hope to see you on (virtual) tour.
Oh, and don't forget my other arty competition running here. AND... don't forget the launch - I'd love to see you if you could make it!
Thanks to Alex for being the FIRST to get her entry in to the Make your own Monster Competition. Congratulations Alex, you've already won a prize for enthusiasm!
To refresh your memory, the rules are SIMPLE:
Simply Draw or Make your own unique monster. Write its name and something it likes to do. Post a photo to Facebook or twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #thescaredbook (if you are a child ask an adult to do this for you) or email to email@example.com. The winner will be the one I like the most!
WIN a signed copy of the book PLUS an author visit from me to the classroom of your choice, within the Sydney Metropolitan area. You don't have to live in Sydney to enter, I'll send the book anywhere in Australia, but the nominated classroom must be in Sydney.
Open to all those who are young and all those who are young at heart.
Entries will close 9th September. Winners will be announced and contacted by the 12th September.
See more launch competitions in the prior post here