Where has April gone? Before I could say 'Anzac Day,' April disappeared into an afterglow. I've captured the embers here
before they flicker away:
First, book news- I had to pick my jaw up from my laptop keyboard when I discovered that The Scared Book has been shortlisted with five other fabulous books for the SCBWI Crystal Kite award. This peer-voted award is where other children's authors and illustrators vote for their favourites in a number of rounds. I'm thrilled that Scared made the final round. Voting closes on the 30th.
Talking about SCBWI, I attended a fabulous afternoon catching up with other kid's-bookish people and getting all sorts of ideas about presenting in schools. I came home with a few tips on how to ramp my presentations up a notch or two! Perfect timing for my Sydney Writer's Festival gig in a few days time! There's a fabulous write-up about it on the SCBWI blog here.
I loved catching up with the regional head of SCBWI, Susanne Gervay, more personally at a Flash Fiction weekend I attended in Canberra last weekend. This was a fabulous time of networking, meeting facebook friends in person, hearing amazing presenters (like Jack Heath, Josh Donellan, Irma Gold, Carmel Bird, Craig Cormick and many more) and honing flash (ie really short) fiction stories. Organised brilliantly by the amazing Suzanne Kiraly. It was such fun! See the full schedule here. I'm going to have to blog about it more extensively later. If you're a writer, I commend it to you for next year. It also inspired me to get a copy of Susanne Gervay's YA novel Butterflies. I know I'm very late to the party on this one, but it was well worth discovering: surviving the trauma of severe burn injury is a subject I have not read about in any other novel, for children or adults, and in Butterflies, Susanne Gervay speaks sensitively, eloquently and insightfully to and about those who live in the aftermath of burns injury.
(PS how cool is the newspaper-spine wallpaper in the East Hotel conference rooms?)
On the writing front, I've been reworking a manuscript that hasn't been getting any traction in the publishing world. Michelle Worthington has helped me infuse the story with what I hope to be the perfect blend of humour and heart. I've started sending it out - wish me luck! I recommend Michelle's manuscript assessments - you can find her over at Share Your Story here. On the reworking front, I so identified with Sue Whiting's blog about the struggle of writing a measly 500 words, you might like to take a look here.
Talking about Michelle Worthington, she's the Reese Witherspoon of Aussie Kid Lit - a pocket-sized dynamo in high-heels, oozing intelligence and generosity! I've been part of her 30 Day Social Media Challenge for Creatives facebook group. What an eye-opener it has been, as Michelle has pushed participants beyond our comfort zone to engage more meaningfully with our followers and friends. For example, I never would have thought to go 'LIVE' on facebook, but as I and other participants braved our insecurities, it really felt like we were connecting in a more personal way. Facebook even told me that "your video is popular in NSW" and then "your video is popular with women 35 plus!" It was pretty hilarious!
Talking about connecting with people, in the real world, I finally caught up with Zanni Louise in person when she was in town for some holiday workshops at The Children's Bookshop, Breecroft. I interviewed Zanni last year on the Just Write For Kids Blog, and she has an avalanche of books out this year. Also at the bookshop, I went to the launch of Rebecka Sharpe Shelberg and Andrea Edmond's poignantly beautiful picture book, Visiting You (I bought 3 copies!) and I also caught up with Penny Reeve at the launch of her new chapter book, Camp Max, in my old home town of Penrith where my Mum worked in the library for about 20 years. I couldn't help myself sniffing all the newly-minted books!
I also loved meeting families when I partnered with Vinnies at Brookvale for a special Storytime session early in the month. We had a gorgeous little crowd of enthusiastic participants for a reading of The Scared Book. It's such a brilliant store with so many treasures - so worth checking out.
Meanwhile, in cyberspace:
I got to interview the crazy-fearless Katrina McKelvey for the Just Write For Kids blog this month. She is just so inspiring! Don't miss the interview here, and look out for part two and three in May and June.
If you are a writer and haven't subscribed to Sandy Fussell's newsletter, I advise you to do so. It combines her love of writing with her love of technology, and is chock-full of great writer-tech.
What I'm watching:
Have you discovered the delightfully effervescent Word Of Mouth TV with Kate Forsyth and Sarah Mills yet? It's all about books, authors and cooking - I'd recommend subscribing.
I'm also enjoying the remake of Lost In Space on Netflix. They have certainly remixed and turbo-charged Dr Smith and the robot, to add a higher dose of menace than the original, and it's compelling. Danger Will Robinson, Danger!
Books on my radar. April has been a YA and mid-grade month for me:
Sue Whiting's Missing is a beautiful, devastating reflection on grief, and the question: is it better to know even if the truth seems unbearable? There is alchemy in the writing. Brilliant.
Dragonfly Song, Wendy Orr's highly awarded epic triumph of a novel, has a mute heroine whose voice will paradoxiacally haunt you long after you've closed the book's cover.
llluminae, by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, is an intelligent, inventive dossier-style, genre-mashing politically charged romance-with-zombies-in-space, whose horror elements stretched my limits for this genre.
You can see my reviews for these books over on Goodreads
What I'm looking forward to in May:
1 Sydney Writer's Festival. I'll be in the Storytime Clubhouse Sunday May 6th at 3.00. I'd love to see you there. I'll also be hob-nobbing at the the launch party on Tuesday night, feeling very out of my depth but not wanting to miss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!
2. The launch of my friend, Shelly Unwin's new picture book, Blast Off on Saturday 12th May 4-5pm. Details here
3. Lights off Torches On event at Crown Street Public School Tuesday 15th May. I'll be there in my PJ's with lots of other amazing authors, like Jacqueline Harvey.
4. Another SCBWI event on the 20th May, conjuring up some Marketing Magic. Check out the details on the Australia East and NZ website.
5. Not one, but TWO fabulous CBCA events - A pitching panel on Wednesday 23rd and a fun day of bookish craft on Sunday 27th. See the website for details.
I can see I'm blasting off on a turbo-charged month! See you on the other side.
So many marvellous things to catch you up on from my March meanderings.
The BIG news, of course, is that The Scared Book was longlisted for the CBCA Book Of the Year! It's now a Notable Book! So much excitement! Technically, this was in February, but it was after my monthly wrap-up so I blogged about it and had a celebratory interview with Illustrator, Kim here.
However, despite Shaye from Kid's Book Review listing it as what she WOULD shortlist if she could choose - quote: "The Scared Book because it’s the most engaging picture book I’ve ever read," in the end, it wasn't. (Thanks Shaye!) No matter, my little book is both scared and proud, and I'm pleased as punch with how it looks with it's shiny Notable sticker! *
Other big news is that I'm on the Sydney Writer's Festival program! You can find about my appearance in the Storytime Clubhouse here (I'm on at 3pm on Sunday the 6th May).
This month I attended the book launch for A Boat of Stars poetry anthology at The Children's Bookshop and had so many fan-girl moments with the likes of Margaret Wild, Julie Vivas, Sarah Acton, Sophie Masson, Stephen Michael King and so many more. I was star-struck! I then stuck around for the Northern Sydney CBCA sub branch meeting with the remarkable Paul MacDonald speaking. I blogged about his address over at Just Write For Kids.
Of course, I couldn't walk away from the bookshop without a book or two, so these were my buys for the night - the launched book, of course, complete with signatures, and How To Be which I loved (reviewed on Goodreads) and was pleased to see made it onto the CBCA shortlist!
Another book on my radar this month is Michelle Worthington's Pugs Don't Wear Pyjamas - so cute! I wish I could have gotten to Queensland for the launch - it looked like such fun.
I left a review on Goodreads for Catherine Pelossi's Quark's Academy that I mentioned last month - but I'll reprint it here cause it's short and sweet:
"The 'i's have it where this book is concerned - Interesting, inventive, intriguing, imaginative, intelligent. A novel about kids and science that will turbo-charge their imaginations. Love the flawed but redeemable child characters and the crazy adults. Lots of fun."
My CBCA friend Tonya Alexandra has her new book out in book shops now. I loved the first in this series of magical realism YA about invisible Olive and her quest for love, or at least recognition. I'm so looking forward to seeing how Olive negotiates travel to far flung places. I interviewed Tonya when the first Olive story came out - you can catch up on that here.
And a shout out to my writing buddy Lisa Nicols, whose fabulous mid-grade novel Dr Boogaloo and the Girl Who Lost Her Laughter was also on the Notable list. I was fortunate to have seen some of this book through its development and I'm sure it's destined for big things.
This year I promised myself that I would attend at least one workshop for professional development, and so I attended a morning with Lesley Gibbes at the Australian Writers' Centre about writing chapter books for 6-9 year olds. It was fabulous! Well worth the time and money and I'd recommend it to anyone thinking about writing in this genre. Lesley's running another course in May - check it out here. You can also hear an informative talk from Lesley, on the Writers' Centre podcast - it is worth listening to. It was also great fun catching up with some familiar faces on the course! One of whom was Katrina MacKelvey, who I'll be interviewing next on the Just Write For Kids Blog - look out for the first instalment on the 6th April.
Talking about blogs, the second instalment of my interview with the delightful Aura Parker can be found here.
Did you read to a child on the 19th March for International Read to me Day? I read The Scared Book to a class of Kindies, but alas - no photos to show :( But check out organiser Emma Mactaggart's massive reading efforts in this article
If February be the month of love, why is it that I keep finding love hearts in March? I was inspired by Tania MacCartney to look out for the little things on my walks with Archie, and I found this gorgeous little heart-leaf. And then, look what popped up in my new vege garden - a heart-fennel-sprout
I had a whole lot of fun this month with the Picture Book Book Club Twitter party. This is such a fun forum where you can end up chatting with the most amazing picture book people, and doing the most crazy things! Last month Jackie French was the featured guest, and we were challenged to draw a wombat. This followed on from February's 'worm off' drawing with Will Mabbit. The next one is on the 5th April at 8pm with Damon Young. If you're on Twitter, do pop in and check it out - there's even a 'cheat sheet' of questions asked over on the blog. Here's a pic of my wombat:
Another thing I've been browsing through this month is Enthralled Magazine. Isn't that a great title for a mag for authors?! It's a collaborative magazine that's a place for authors and writers to share their ideas and journeys. So if you're interested in writing, why not check it out here. It's free for now, but if you find it useful, you might want to donate and/or contribute. It's been developed by some of my Aussie kid lit Facebook friends - they've done an amazing job.
Things I am looking forward to in April:
1. Easter. I love celebrating Easter by going to church, eating chocolate and hot cross buns! I wonder if you can guess my favourite type of Easter Egg? Hint: It's nursery rhyme related.
2. I'm chuffed to be partnering with Vinnies for an inaugural StoryTime at their flagship Brookvale store. Do come along and see me read The Scared Book and check out Vinnies treasure-trove! It's at 10.30 the Thursday after Easter (5th April). The next week, author Brydie Write will read her tongue-in-cheek take on toilet politics :)
3. SCBWI is having a session on school visits and what authors need to know. I always love a good SCBWI get-together and there's always something useful to take home.
4. Zanni Louise, who I interviewed for the Just Write For Kids Blog last year, and whom I've never met in person, will be at The Children's Bookshop, Beecoft, celebrating her latest release series - Tiggy and the Magic Paintbrush at 12MD on the 24th. I'm looking forward to finally meeting Zanni! The bookshop is also running amazing school holiday workshops for kids AND adults - including with Zanni herself, so be sure to check those out too.
Wishing you all a happy and blessed Easter.
* Shaye's other WOULD choose books were:"Hark, it’s Me, Ruby Lee! because it has awesome characters and a rich plot and Ready, Steady, Hatch! because it’s so much fun!"
Ruby Lee was shortlisted!
Here's The Scared Book with a bit of bling on the cover. Doesn't it look fancy?! It's been long-listed for the Children's Book Council of Australia (CBCA) Book Of the Year, and I feel honoured and thrilled for the #thescaredbook team! The book is born of collaboration. Kim, the illustrator has taken my words and brought them to life in the most amazing and unpredictable way, and Suzanne O'Sullivan and the team at Hachette have guided and overseen the process and added their own touches, like the gorgeous embossing on the cover.
In celebration of being a notable book, I thought it would be nice to hear from one of these co-collaborators, the amazing illustrator, Kim Siew.
I love what Kim brought to The Scared Book. It was an unusual manuscript – not your usual illustrating a story. Kim had to make the book a character and bring it to life, as well as make it appealing so children want to interact with it. Kim’s quirky and playful take on my manuscript is colourful, bold and amazing! Here's a Q & A with Kim Siew...
First off, thanks so much Kim, for taking on this book and helping make it something so very special. I’m interested in how you first felt when you saw the manuscript for The Scared Book and what inspired you to take it on?
I enjoyed that as the reader you were encouraged to be so interactive with the story. You guided it and were a part of it. I loved that sense of playfulness. (But really, I just wanted the chance to draw lots of monsters!)
What was your thinking processes that lead to coming up with the ideas we have?
When I first read the manuscript, all the words that jumped out to me were the interactive elements. It was fun! So I wanted the monsters to echo that sense of fun, for them to be silly and friendly rather than scary, so that kids would be more willing to engage and interact with the book.
What medium did you use to illustrate The Scared Book and why?
I like to start with pencil and paper as I find I’m a lot more loose and free, which helps to get my ideas out. Then I’ll start cutting out shapes with coloured paper and moving them about to see what forms I can create, and this tends to create a body, sometimes even a texture or personality for a character. After finding the essence of a character through this, I’ll hand draw again, but this time the character is more precise. This hand drawn image is my base, which I then scan onto my computer. All the monsters are then created through digital collage, using a mixture of textures and papers that I scanned into the computer, and then drawing into them again on the computer. I’m able to move things around a bit easier once I have them all on the screen, assembling all the parts just as I would do with paper collage.
Being a book bursting with monsters, I was worried that they might appear too scary for the child reader. I needn’t have worried – the result is cute and quirky – with only a hint of danger! How did you go about the process of getting the monsters with the right balance?
Big eyes, no sharp teeth! And such fantastic guidance and feedback from Suzanne from Lothians.
What made you think of adding monster elements to the scared aspects – the goose- bumps and butterflies for instance?
I wanted the book to be inundated with monsters in all forms…it is a story about monsters after all! The more monsters in the book the better, it keeps you turning the pages to find more!
What were your favourite spreads to illustrate?
Tingle and Smelly. They are probably the most simple of all the monsters, but they are both so loveable to me.
Here's a gorgeous animation that Kim made of the tingly spine:
When Suzanne O’Sullivan indicated an interest in my manuscript, she told me early on that she had someone in mind who had more of a graphic design background, which I thought was brilliant given the type of book it is. So tell me about your background and your work.
I started out painting murals and creating zines (small, limited run, self-published works). Through my murals I was approached by a couple who created children’s books, Rachel Williams and Peter Warrington from Not Quite Newtown, and they gave me my first opportunity to create a published collaborative work. (Rachel is a photographer, Peter writes the stories, and for ‘You Make the Dreams’ I drew illustrations on top of Rachel’s photographs). I do a bit of graphic design also, teach mural design and paper art workshops and try to exhibit at least once a year.
How did Suzanne know about you?
Through my mural work and paper work that I sell on Etsy. I was so happy when she got in touch with me. It was like a dream!
What made you want to illustrate kid’s books?
I’ve always been a book worm. I love children’s books, I love graphic novels, comics, cartoons, animations. With children’s books, your imagination can lead you anywhere. There are no rules, there’s a sense of freedom and play and a beautiful wonder. I have always loved the art of story telling in all its forms, and my illustrations tend to play to a more naïve, child-like quality, so I guess it all came about quite organically.
I’m so glad she chose you!
So here we are at the end of the creative process with our book in the world – tell me - would you do it again?
In a heart beat x
What a festive month February is! So much happening on the 14th February! How did you celebrate Valentine's Day, Library Lover's Day and Book Giving Day?
I love giving bouquets of kids books on Book Giving Day. I wrote a post about how I celebrate for the Wombat Books blog, here.
For Library Lover's Day, I discovered the joys of a Little Free Library in our local area, and of course, I was compelled to read a book!
And this little beauty arrived just in time for Valentine's Day - isn't she a sweety? She's one of Tania McCartney's 'Bear a Day' that I won in an auction on Instagram. She's auctioning 90 bears over 90 days! Do follow her on instagram here.
Also this month, I've been excited to see The Scared Book out and about not only in shops but also in blogs. Reading Time online, which is put together by the CBCA, published an article of mine about what I've discovered about the magic potential of monsters to unleash children's creativity. Read the article here.
In a few random minutes that I had this month, I found myself googling The Scared Book (as you do) and I discovered a fabulous blog from a speech pathologist in WA who analyses the book from a Speechy's perspective. How cool is that? You can read the blog here. And I'm sure if you follow Cecile on social media, you'll discover some other great books to use for speech and language development.
This month I have been listening a brand new podcast about kids books, called One More Page Podcast. It has something for all lovers of kids books - adults and kids alike. Do subscribe and listen in - it's a bit of a hoot. Just as a sample of their offbeat style, check out the video they made (below) for Halloween featuring the one and only, The Scared Book!
I've also been blogging over at the Just Write For Kids Blog, so check out part one of my interview with the amazing author and illustrator, Aura Parker here.
Some friends of mine had book launches this month which I was sad I couldn't get to - both mid-grade novels - it must be Mid Grade Month!
First is Tim Harris who launched the next book in his remarkable series Mr Bambuckle's Remarkables Fight Back. I interviewed Tim on the Just Write For Kids Blog last year - you can find the interview (in two parts) here.
Second is Catherine Pelosi launched her first book Quark's Academy. I'm so excited to learn that Catherine has two other books to be published this year and next, and I hope to interview her for the Just Write For Kids Blog in the near future! For now, you can listen to an interview with her by the One More Page Podcast crew, on their second episode.
A few other books that have caught my attention this month and I recommend looking out for are:
1. Macca the Alpaca by Matt Cosgrove. I've not met Matt, but we have been conversing over the twittersphere, and his new book is fun and the artwork is divine - vibrant colour, amazing texture and so rich in humour. Here's a collage I put together using a photo of one of my alpacas (I owned two many years ago) and Matt's Macca. Could be twins!!
2. Room on Our Rock written by Kate and Jol Temple and illustrated by Terri Rose Baynton. This is an incredible book that reads one thing one way, and the opposite thing backwards. Trying to workout how they wrote this is mind boggling - like back-masking a record (does that date me??). This is guaranteed to have kids reading it forward and backwards over and over and considering the different responses to those in need.
3. Begin End Begin a #LoveOzYA Anthology has the best YA short story I've read since... whenever! I thought Jaclyn Moriarty's story 'Competition Entry #349' was hilariously brilliant! Such wit, wisdom and insight, and an incredible object lesson on character's voice - superb! This anthology has been widely esteemed and most recently, in the raft of nominations for the Aurealis Awards shortlist.
And so what marvellous things am I looking forward to in March?
1. The Children's Book Council announces the Book of the Year long-list on Tuesday (I know it's technically still February but I needed to wrap this February post up before March otherwise it'd be weird) and the shortlist is announced on the 27th March (Yep, it will fit nicely within the scope of my March update!) So I'm sure I'll have lots of friends on the lists to celebrate with!
2. My CBCA sub-branch has another of their wonderful meetings for anyone interested in connecting kids with books. This one is at The Children's Bookshop, Beecroft on the first day of March - find out about it on the website here. And just prior, is the launch of A Boat of Stars poetry anthology that will see a galaxy of Australian Kid's Lit stars descend on the bookshop - should be an amazing launch!
3. International Read to Me Day on March 19 - who will you read to? The official website has a GREAT booklist if you need inspiration for what to read (wink, wink)! Find it here. And don't forget to post photos of you reading to a child on their social media pages.
Stay tuned for more adventures in Marvellous March! Until then, here's a pic of my little donkey, Telly, with his fancy new fly veil - because the world needs more photos of donkeys :)
At this time of year I feel a bit like Dr Doolittle's double-headed llama - his Push-me-Pull-you: looking back through the year that's gone, and looking forward to the year ahead.
Let's start with the year that was:
2017 was exciting and emotional (and exhausting) with the publication of The Scared Book and all the wonderful events and activities surrounding that, as well as the usual supporting friends at their book launches, attending conferences and events, and speaking at schools and bookshops. Here are some collages showing some of what I got up to:
Like I said in my Christmas message, I am profoundly thankful to all who supported me throughout the year in so many, many ways, and to everyone who took The Scared Book of the shelves and into their homes and libraries. Thank you!
On a personal note, my daughter got married last year on a beautiful sunshiny winter's day to the cheery chiming of wedding bells. Here's a photo that also has a graffitied reminder to an anxious Mother-of-the-bride :) Here's a link to the creative photographer.
Don't you love a shiny new year shimmering with all sorts of possibility? I have a number of exciting projects in the pipeline for this year - I'll update you as they draw near.
Something I'm particularly looking forward to this year is visiting more schools. I've updated my presentation information and I'm booked in for a number of school visits this year already - but i'm certainly up for more! If you want an author visit or writing workshop for your pre/school this year, check it out! I even have a PROMOTIONAL deal going at the moment - book a full or half day author visit or writing workshop through The Children's Bookshop Speaker's Agency before July 2018 and get $100 off the full price! So what are you waiting for? I'd love to come to a school near you!
With February hot on January's heals, don't forget International Book Giving Day on February 14th. This 100% volunteer initiative is aimed at increasing children’s access to and enthusiasm for books. What better way to say 'I love you' than with a book? In past years I have delivered book bouquets to local aged care facilities for children to read while visiting their grandparents. Check out what other people do on their website and Facebook page. Here's a photo of a Wombat Books bouquet.
So much to keep me busy!
Until next time,
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.