I was fortunate to be part of a wonderful group of no less than 10 amazing authors who volunteered to be involved in an author afternoon tea at Terry Hills Public School last week representing the Children's Book Council of Australia (CBCA) Northern Sydney sub-branch. Inspiring kids with books is the aim of these events, and what inspiration we get back!
I had such tremendous fun test driving my 'hot off the press' advance copies of my upcoming release The Scared Book. The photos below show the waving hands of the kids as they participate in the story - it was priceless.
You never know what you'll get when you throw the floor open to questions - this time I got these gems:
'Where you scared when you wrote The Scared Book?'
'Did you write Scary Night?'
Don't you just love the way kids brains work?
For the first I was able to answer that I had to think what it was like to be scared in order to imagine a book feeling that way. For the second, it was a pleasure to point out that my friend and co-presenter on the day, Lesley Gibbes, had that honour.
A presentation of flowers and book sales and signings ended a wonderful afternoon. It was lovely to see When I See Grandma selling well at this event.
Many thanks to the school and the organisers.
Here are some other photos of the day: Aura Parker drawing Heidi from Twig; Lesley Gibbes talking about her Fizz series and her new picture book, Fluke; and Shelly Unwin with her new You're one...five series.
So this came in the mail the other day, and in the absence of a human fan-club, I had to recruit these two! Could the cat be any more nonplussed or the dog more quizzical?
Despite their reactions, I am thrilled to finally hold this advance copy in my hands. By the time it is released in September, it will be almost two years since I plucked up the courage to pitch the idea to the wonderful Suzanne O'Sullivan at Hachette, and I couldn't be happier with the process of working with them and what they have produced.
I adore the illustrations created by the amazingly talented Kim Siew. You can visit her website here - and she has a gorgeous etsy store to explore too!
And guess what? The Scared Book is available for pre-order here - it comes in hardcover and paperback, and both of them have a beautifully tactile embossed cover - not to mention the best smell in the world - new book!
Watch this space for details of launches in September/October - I hope to see you there!
I feel like this blog is looking a bit unloved - it's been ages since I posted - the year has just taken off!
But I thought that on the eve of International Read To Me Day (it's the 19th) I'd link to last years' post as I don't think I could say it any better! Click here.
To find out more about the day and how you can join in, click here.
Looking forward to seeing all the pics of children being read to on social media channels.
Happy reading :)
Do you love my photo? It says so much about me and those I love. The trunk was my mother's that she used to migrate to Australia from England on a cruise ship. The blocks are from my childhood spent building castles for snails on our front porch. The books are all about what Christmas means to me - the nativity story - read to my two girls over the years (although the Guinea Pigs are a recent addition, bought on a pilgimage to the Christmas Markets in Europe and found in London!). The angels of hope and joy warm our hearts. The fine linen is from a dear friend, the flowers from my husband - and the elf? Well, he's my daily companion, chasing me from room to room each day and then plonking at my feet when I sit down to write (he's there as I type this) and providing plenty of distraction and humour.
So from my household to yours, we wish you a Merry Christmas. We hope that you get to share times of loving closenss with those dear to you, as well as time to contemplate the wonder of the season.
If you've missed them elsewhere, I've contrubted to a few end of year posts over here:
Just Write For Kids, reflecting with the team.
Reading Time where I select my five fave reads of the year - it's a licorice-all-sorts selection with something for everyone!
You can also follow any seasonal posts on my facebook page.
Until the New Year, may love, joy and peace abide with you.
So far in November, I've not been home much - I've been...somewhere else. In fact, quite a few somewhere elses - including the launch of a book called Somewhere Else!
Here's a few photos of where else I've been: Two book launches - Twig and Somewhere Else
Below, I'm with Aura Parker, talented author/illustrator of Twig, complete with a creepy, crawly stick insect! To the side, renowned author Anna Fienberg helps author/illustrator Gus Gordon launch Somewhere Else.
Both book launches were at The Children's Bookshop in Beecroft, NSW and the owner of the bookshop, Paul MacDonald was awarded the Lady Cutler Award by the Children's Book Council for 'Distinguished Service in the field of Australian Children’s Literature' - well deserved! I went to the dinner where Paul was presented with the award. Here's a photo of many of the winners of the award through the years, with Paul on the left:
At the dinner, Leigh Hobbs, Children's Laureate spoke and showed us all how to draw his character, Old Tom. Below is Leigh showing us and my attempt - not bad, I reckon :)
I accompanied the amazing president of my local CBCA sub-branch, Wendy Fitzgerald, author and creative writing teacher to a creative writing workshop at a school. I'm looking forward to going with her to Bonnyrigg High School in a couple of weeks. Below is a picture of me and Wendy and the winner of a CBCA writing competition.
I speed-dated a couple of children's book publishers at an event put on by the Australian Society of Authors and was asked to send in my manuscripts. That was exciting, but I have no photos :(
I've also been out at all the usual things like meeting with my local writing buddies where they tell me what's wrong with my writing so I can improve it :) Maybe I should be home a bit more for the rest of the month, so I can work on those improvements!
Yesterday I wrote a letter to Charlie (aged 8) in response to a letter he sent me recently. Below is my response to his brother Tommy (aged 7) who also wrote me a letter. See my original post here and their letters in full on their mum's abc Jenny website here
Thank you so much for your wonderful, thoughtful letter. I really enjoyed reading it. The part about your missing teeth made me laugh. That’s what I love about Leigh Hedstrom’s illustrations – the details that kids can relate to that add humour and light to a situation that can feel sad. One of my favourite pages is when the little girl practices her violin- it reminds me of the frustrations of learning something new.
Thank you for the suggestion of putting an age on my book so that people don’t get upset. It is interesting how people of different ages respond. When I speak in schools, it is the older children who seem to understand and be affected by the final pages, the younger grades just really enjoy the story. I wonder if that’s how it was with you when you read it at six and then again at seven?
I like what you say about seeds – how they are something that you used to share with your grandpa and how they are like life. If I were writing this in my book I might have said something like “When I See Grandma I bring her some plants for her dreams to bloom on.” You might think of a better way to say this. I didn’t mention plants in the book, but did you notice the flowers on many of the pages?
I’m glad that you have some fun memories of your grandparents and you can still talk with them anytime and make new memories. It is also lovely that you visit people in a retirement home with your school. I am sure that the people living there look forward to your visits very much.
I would love to hear from you again when my next book comes out in October next year. It is a fun book about being scared. I am excited that I get to peek at the work of the illustrator before the end of this year. I can hardly wait to see what she does with the words I have written!
Thanks so much for encouraging your boys to write these lovely letters. I love them! And thank you for using When I See Grandma in a thoughtful, sensitive way to open up conversations in a difficult time for you all.
Wishing you all the best.
In my last post, I wrote about a letter I received from Charlie (aged 8) and his brother, Tommy (aged 7). See my post here and their letters in full on their mum's abc Jenny website here. Below is my response to Charlie, and tomorrow I will post my response to Tommy.
Thank you for your wonderful, thoughtful letter.
I do sometimes worry when adults have tears in their eyes at the end of my book – but I cheer myself up by remembering that some adults like a good cry when reading a book or watching a movie. I once bought a book because it made me cry - it is called Love You Forever by Robert Munsch. It is a bestselling book in the USA and Canada – I wonder if you know it? My kids thought it was very funny that I couldn’t read it to them without crying. I can hardly believe that one reviewer compared When I see Grandma to Love You Forever – I was totally amazed! When I’ve read When I See Grandma to kids, they usually don’t feel sad, unless it’s something they recognise from their own life, and then I hope it gives them encouragement for the sad times.
I am sorry that your grandpa is sick and that he spends a lot of time sleeping like the grandma in my story. I like how you can see yourself helping your grandpa like the kids in my book – reminding him of the ‘old fashioned days.’
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there was a magic teapot that helps people stay alive longer, like you say? You have a fabulous imagination and I’d love to see your books one day. I like the sound of Seal Magic as I like animals. I didn’t write lots of stories when I was your age – it is something I started to do when I was an adult, but I wish I had as all that practice would have made me even better sooner!
My next book is due out in October next year, and it is not at all sad. It is a book about being scared –but in a fun way. My words are with the publisher, Hachette, and an illustrator is now working on the pictures. I’m very excited to see how it will look!
I look forward to hearing from you again,
All the best with your writing
I received an amazing letter from two gorgeous boys whose mother used When I See Grandma to open up a discussion about their Grandfather's declining health. You can view it here on the abcJenny website
Jen Graham is an educational consultant and literary specialist, as well as a writer, teacher and parent. I value her insights and regularly re-post her creative wisdom on social media. How lovely that she chose my book to help connect her children with the issues their grandfather is facing. As she says in her part of the letter: "children can happily read the book without dealing with the complexities of death. However, it is a great chance to open up discussions if needed."
I also love how the boys have an idea of their grandfather's history and can remind him of 'the old fashioned days' and things they've shared together like raising seeds - and how they can draw the connection with the children in my book. So beautiful!
Thank you ABC Charlie, Tommy and Jenny. Your letter means so much to me.
I shall reply when I've let your words sink in a little more.
I've been to some wonderful events recently, all courtesy of the Children's Book Council of Australia. Here are the highlights:
1. A gathering to view the Shaun Tan Exhibition at the Grace Cossington Smith Gallery within Abbotsleigh School. The exhibition focus was on The Lost Thing and the production of the movie from the book. Amazing detail in Shaun Tan's notes.
2. The announcement of the Book Of the Year Award in Sydney. I was mesmerised by the Great 'Hall of Fame' created by The School Magazine 100 years of covers. I was laughing at the hilarious introduction by Nathan Luff who got the audience to imagine a big-budget awards production despite the reality :). The proceedings were given an air of dignity by the presence of Govenor-General Peter Cosgrove and Lady Cosgrove. And I was awe-struck at the glitterati of authors, illustrators and publishers. It was a thrill to be there for the announcements!
3. Lunch With the Stars. Always a wonderful event put on by the Northern Sydney Sub-branch and organised by the amazing Belinda Murrell. This is my second time of being a STAR! 22 authors/illustrators sitting at tables of school children and chatting about reading and writing. I sat with some gorgeous girls from St Mary's Manly and their teacher Librarian. It was inspiring listening to the amazing Deb Abella and trying our hand at illustration under the direction of Marjory Crosby-Fairall. And lunch wasn't bad either - in the great hall of the old St Patrick's seminary, Manly, now the International College of Management.
So as you can see, I've not been missing in action - just in action. The children's book industry is a delightful space within which to loose yourself - but I think it's time to find myself again - and get writing...
It's felt like a long time coming, but I can finally announce that I have signed a contract with Hachette Australia for a picture book to come out (hopefully) second half of next year.
The story so far:
My writer's group buddy who told me about an event she was going to run by the Emerging Writers Festival called 'Inside the Publishing House' held at Hachette in Sydney in October last year .
The stranger I met at the event (whose name I forget) who trail-blazed the way, pitching to the scary publisher so I could see that she came back alive and in one piece.
The staff at Hachette who supplied the bubbly needed to approach said publisher.
Said publisher, Suzanne O'Sullivan, who graciously listened to my pitch, offered encouraging words and gave me her business card.
ME! Who sent marvelous manuscript which said publisher liked. A lot. (Quote: 'Such a terrific concept')!!
Writer approaches a publisher at an event. She pitches a book concept. The publisher likes the idea. Emails are exchanged. Time rolls on. Slowly. A.lot.of.time. And voila! An offer is made. A contract is signed. Everyone is happy. Very happy. Very,very happy. Very, very, very happy. Very...(you get the idea!)
And now I just need to sit tight, like a hen on an egg, waiting patiently as the illustrator weaves his/her magic around my words before the book hatches into the world.
So - I'm off to look for some bubbly. Who'll join me?
(Here's my crowing rooster GIF again!)