Dear fellow adventurer,
The jingle of Christmas bells is a distant memory and the Easter Bunny has hippity-hopped out of town (although my keyboard is still a bit sticky with chocolate!) and so much has happened in my corner of KidLitLand in the months in between! Here’s something I’ve discovered – the longer I’ve taken to start writing this news, the harder it is to start. It’s a bit like all those photos stacking up on my phone - the more there are, the more I’m putting off downloading or dealing with them! But here I am! I shall put this news off no more! You might like to grab a cuppa before we set off!
Whilst the weather is cooling down, my writing life is hotting up! I mentioned in my Cheers to Christmas that I have signed a contract with EK Books for a picture book to be illustrated by Arielle Li and released mid next year. And what a joy this is! I’ve already seen some initial artwork and the storyboard for the book – and I can’t stop sighing, it’s that beautiful! I can’t wait for you to see it too! But in the meantime, you can check out Arielle's latest picture book, just released, Get Ready, Mamma written by Sharon Giltrow and also published with EK Books. It is ‘touring’ with Books On Tour on the Just Write for Kids blog - you can read the review and follow along from here. Check out the cute trailer below. You could even WIN a copy! And, on a side note, congratulations to EK books for being shortlisted for the Best Children’s Publisher of the Year (Oceana Region) at the Bologna Book Fair!
It was marvellous to back in front of kids, post Covid lockdowns, in the Easter Holidays, conducting a writing workshop with WestWords, at the Dundas library. I do love the energy and imagination of kids! PLUS most of them knew my play in The School Magazine published last year, and one of them had seen it performed by their class!! How incredible is that??!! I’m now represented for author visits by Creative Kids Tales Speakers Agency (check me out here) and I have some spaces left for book week if you’d like to book me up!
Talking about in-person events, I also had a bookstore appearance at Dymocks Neutral Bay for their VIP shopping night. And how fabulous to see families who already know and love my books, and to have booksellers who are so supportive.
Another thing that’s back in full swing is my writer’s group meeting in person again! Zoom’s been great for iso times, but there’s nothing like the energy of a group of writers in a room! And we’ve had such exciting news: several of us have had pieces picked up and published in The School Magazine, PLUS Jenny Hale has gloriously illustrated a new picture book, Buster Follows his Nose, written by Paula Stevenson and published by Little Pink Dog Books. It releases in May. AND group member Lisa Nicol’s MG book, Dr Boogaloo and the Girl Who lost Her Laughter has been selected in the top 10 Children’s books for 2021 in China! Awarded at Shenzhen Reading Month, a large literary festival and also home to the world’s largest bookshop. How cool is that??
After a bit of an hiatus, I enjoyed blogging over at Just Write For Kids with an interview with author Martine Murray, who, despite being an award-winning traditionally published author, has chosen to establish her own publishing company (Parachute Press) in conjunction with Anna Read, to publish their own picture books. Find out why and about their latest book, The Owl Who was Left Behind, on the JWFK blog, here.
Sadly, as some things crank up, another winds down, and with Katrina Roe leaving Hope 103.2, our book chats will come to an end. Our Dec, Jan, and March final chat are of the books below (Feb was a CBCA Notables recap). You can find out more about the books by checking out my Facebook and Instagram posts.
I’m sure, like me, you watched in horror as the floods earlier in the year devastated many families and communities. Kid’s author Zanni Louise organised an auction of mainly literary prizes to help raise funds to help rebuild Lismore. The auction raised over $56,000 and I was the lucky winner of a soon-to-be-released picture book by Crystal Corocher The Naked Sheep, which looks like lots of fun!
A bit of industry news, in case you missed it:
CBCA Notables and Shortlist has been announced, and, as usual I am thrilled for my fiends who made the lists! You can find them here.
The inaugural Forevability Awards, celebrating books for kids with a theme of disability, illness and inclusion, were announced recently. It was a joy to be one of the judges and see what amazing books are being created dealing with these important topics. Congratulations to the winners and shortlisted creators, and to all creators who reflect a diversity of characters and situations and help readers stretch their empathy muscles by creating books with great artfulness, insight and sensitivity. You can see the winners on the awards Facebook page here.
On this theme (Blatant pug here): Wombat Books, has a fantastic value Empathy book pack with four 4 books for $55 – including my When I See Grandma and books from my friends, Katrina Roe, Penny Jaye and Heather Gallagher. It would be a fabulous resource for school libraries as well as for in the home. You can order the pack on their website here.
For those who’d like an insider’s guide to publishing for children, United Publishers of Armidale (UPA) have compiled Inside Story, a book with heaps of useful information about the publishing process, from writing and illustrating picture books, through MG and non-fiction, to editing, marketing and distribution and everything in between. I’ve got my copy and was excited to see some of Jenny Hale’s illustrations included, and CBCA friend, Jan Latta with a segment.
The new Australian Children’s Laureate has been announced for the next two years, and I think Gabrielle Wang is a marvellous choice! You can see a short video of her here.
If your inbox is anything like mine, it gets filled with an awful lot of junk (another thing that I put off auditing!), but a couple of author newsletters that are always welcome are Al Tait’s and Irma Gold’s. They always have some great book industry and/or writing news in them (Al’s is kidlit related and Irma’s is a broader audience). Both writers also have podcasts – Your Kid’s Next Read (Al with with Megan Daily), and Secrets from the Green Room (Irma with Craig Cormick).
Writing NSW also has a great newsletter with courses and opportunities (I’ve had a bit of success submitting to writing competitions found in them) and also the chance to WIN free books - recently I won a book that I was desperate to read –Kate Simpson’s Non-fiction picture book, Ouch! Tales of Gravity. Archie reviewed this one on his Story_hound Insta page (below - some stills from the video). Writing NSW also has free seminars for members, like the First Friday Club, which I zoomed into recently, and heard all about Panterra Press. These really are informative and helpful sessions for writers, especially if you want to be published. Children’s author and festival director of the next Kids and YA Festival in June, Belinda Murrell is speaking at the next one, on the first Friday (6th) of May.
Things I’m looking forward to:
Finding a contract in my inbox ;-)
Nat Amoore is launching her newest MG book – this time it’s a graphic novel with Mike Barry, We Run Tomorrow, which sounds amazing. You can meet her and Mike at Gleebooks on Saturday, 7th May between 1 and 5 pm.
Checking out a few sessions at the Sydney Writer's Festival 16-22 May.
Writing NSW Kids and YA Festival 25th June.
I’m booked in for the CYA conference again this year in July. It’s over three Saturdays (9, 16, 23) and online, like last year, and I’ve booked a couple of assessments with publishers/editors which I got a lot out of last year.
Until next time (and hopefully not so belated)
All the best,
Cheers to Christmas! It's been a crazy couple of years, and books have been the heroes for many of us, kids and adults alike, keeping us company when we were lonely, wrapping us in their cosy, comforting warmth like a hug, or helping us escape Covid constraints by going on an adventure. As wonderful as books are, I hope that you can spend this holiday time in the real life company of friends and family as well.
And the best early Christmas present I got this year, was a new picture book contract! I'm excited to bring into the world a couple of characters that I hope everyone will fall in love with, thanks to EK Books and illustrator Arielle Li. So cheers to that as well!
Wishing you a Happy Christmas and bright, sparkly New Year.
It’s so good to be out and about in Sydney again! I hope you’ve been able to enjoy some time with family and friends as restrictions ease. I'm looking forward to catching up with my writer's group in person, for an end of year celebration, FINALLY after nearly two years on zoom! SO exciting! Talking about writing...
I am super-thrilled to have my play Dancing with the Cars published in The School Magazine, ‘Touchdown’ edition, illustrated by the incredible Tohby Riddle! I can hardly believe it! I’ve taken happy snaps of all the pages and posted them here. I’m also excited to be talking to a publisher about a picture book manuscript. Things are progressing very nicely and I’m trying to be 'quietly' hopeful!
I had the privilege of doing a couple of manuscript assessments for Greenleaf Press recently. It was really gratifying helping others polish their stories, and also instructive to be on the other side of the pen!
I was honoured to part of launching Jean Saxby’s YA The Craving, on zoom. Jean is the minutes secretary of our CBCA NSW Northern Sydney Sub-branch and I was chuffed that she asked me to interview her at the launch. The Craving is a fantasy romance with deep themes and steeped in allegory. I love Jean’s visceral way of writing, it pulls you right into the world she’s created. It’s a compelling read.
On the subject of launches, I enjoyed attending Libby Hathorn’s launch of her picture book, The Best Cat, the Est Cat, about the NSW State Library and its collections. The library has such a huge collection of artefacts, so I love how Libby decided what to include – the -est things, like the small-est, the old-est etc. Kids love -est!
Results of the Just Write For Kids Pitch It competition are in and you can see the winners here. I love judging this competition and I'm thrilled about the success of previous winner (and one of this year's judges), Stef Gemmill, whose pitched manuscript has now been turned into a real-life picture book- Toy Mountain is published by EK books and colourfully illustrated by Katharine Hall.
I'm also pleased to be one of the judges of the new Forevability Book Award, for books with themes of disability, illness and inclusion, and own voices creators. You can find out more about these children's book awards (entries closing today, I think) here, and more about Forevability and their aims here. I’m pleased to have both my picture books listed on this website.
On the subjects of awards, I was thrilled that one of my favourite recent picture books was among the winners of the Speech Pathology Australia Book of the Year awards. Congratulations to Kaye Baillie and Tracie Grimwood for Boo Loves Books (a story close to StoryHound Archie's heart!) You can see the winners here. I interviewed Kaye for the Just Write For Kids blog, and you can read the interview here.
Talking about Archie, he's been lying low for bit. He had an operation to amputate his dew claw due to a (benign) tumour :-( Thankfully he is getting back to being himself again now. It won't be long before he's back in front of the camera!
So many books! It was a pleasure to review some of them with Katrina Roe on Hope 103.2 radio recently (see picture below). Dinosaur Dads by two of my favourite authors/illustrators, Lesley Gibbes and Marjory Crosby-Fairall is a rhyming, rollicking, romping, stomping delight of a book. Full of playful fun between kids and dads.
Where's my Dinosaur? by Ashling Kwok and Jasmine Berry is a fun, sweet, charming book about expecting a new baby - perfect for growing families.
The Song of Lewis Carmichael, is a mid-grade novel by Sofie Laguna & Marc Mcbride. It's an atmospheric, whimsical, moving adventure through the Arctic in a hot air balloon, with a young boy and a talking bird with broken wing. It’s stunning and beautiful. I cried. Gave me all the feels of Charlottes Web.
I’ve also collected these books for Christmas presents:
The Lion Who Came to Stay by Victoria Mackinlay and Ronojoy Ghosh is the remarkable true story of Victoria’s Grandfather getting a lion cub for a present!
Mary Had a Little Lamb: What really Happened, by the hilarious picture book writer, Amelia McInerney and illustrated by Natashia Curtain. This is a wickedly funny fractured fairy-tale guaranteed to get the kids giggling, and maybe even raise a few eyebrows!
Tish and Magnolia Moon both Junior Fiction books by Edwina Wyatt with her trademark heartfelt delight and whimsy. With illustrations by Odette Barberousse and Katherine Quinn respectively.
The travelling Bookshop: Mim and the Baffling Bully, a new JF series by Katrina Nannestead and illustrated by Cheryl Ornsini
I’m also excited to see a new YA book by Sarah Epstein, Sugar Coated. If you sign up to her newsletter, you’ll get a free e-novella set in this world. I can’t wait to start reading mine!
Have you discovered Project ARI podcast yet? It’s written by One More Page podcaster and author Nat Amoore for NOVA FM and the government’s Stop it at the Start campaign about respect. It’s about 10-year-old Ari, who’s the world’s first artificial intelligence prototype, trying to wrap his ‘data brain’ around the human experience. This series is Nat’s trademark funny and silly, with plenty of heart, and has been designed as a tool to help start meaningful conversations with kids about respectful behaviour. And it’s been nominated for two Australian Podcast Awards! Congratulations Nat! Listen here.
I'm late to the party (as usual) but I am so loving Ted Lasso! (NB not for kids). It's such a feel-good, funny, heart-warming, wise show. I don't know what I'm going to do when I've binge-watched the lot! I love what I read in the paper on the weekend about the show: that there are two types of people in the world - those who love Ted Lasso and those who haven't watched it yet!
Looking forward to:
Catching up with my CBCA NSW Sub-branch committee in real life in December.
Catching up with my writer's group for a real life dinner in December!
SCBWI zoom Christmas festivities.
Hoping your December brings with it a chance to unwind a little and spend time in the company of family and friends.
Until next time, I'll leave you with a photo from the launch of The Best Cat, the Est Cat - can you see the small-est book in the library's collection?
August and September have been zooming – quite literally! Whilst I’ve been relatively unscathed from lockdown measures cocooned in Canberra for a while, inevitably Covid invaded Canberra and everything moved to zoom. Even book week was on zoom again this year. However, it has been lovely to join in events around the country, and support my writing friends on social media. I’ve also taken the opportunity to give my website a bit of a spring clean: you can check it out here.
September is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, and I wrote a guest post on the Wombat Books Blog for Alzheimer’s Awareness Day on the theme ‘A little support makes a big difference.’ You can read it here, and Story Hound Archie thought he'd help demonstrate the concept in the photo, left.
I was so thrilled to see The Scared Book in ‘double vision’ in the Braille House library, with braille tape attached, so children and parents who are blind or have low vision can enjoy it! How cool is that? I wrote a post about the amazing work Braille House does for the Just Write For Kids blog last year - you can read it here.
I made a little video teaser about my piece in the Old Worlds, New Worlds, Other Worlds anthology, and you can see it here. I’ve also seen lots of cool videos by other creators about their pieces in the anthology too.
I’m excited to once again be one of the judges for the Just Write For Kids Pitch it competition – picture book category, and I’ve been asked to judge the exciting new Forevability Book Award next year, for books with themes of disability, illness and inclusion, and own voices creators. I’m pleased to have both my picture books listed on this website. You can find out more about Forevability here.
I've caught up with Katrina Roe on Hope 103.2 radio to chat about these brilliant books. I’ve raved about all of these books in earlier newsletters, except Lisa Nicol’s hot off the press The What on Earth Institute Of Wonder. It’s an exquisite middle grade novel which explores the interconnectedness of all things and the wonder to be found in nature and the human heart. With a talking Kakapo and a jazz loving African Forrest Elephant, and some huggable humans, it's written with the humour of Roald Dahl and the sensitivity and insight of Kate DiCamillo, it’s funny and it’s heartfelt and it’s a must read. Lisa is one of my writing buddies and I am so proud to have had even a tiny role in helping bring this beautiful book into the world - it was a buzz to get a mention in the acknowledgements!
August is always book party time with Book Week. What a shame that so many celebrations had to be online. I hope it didn't stop kids dressing up - Archie certainly got in on the spirit (see photo at the end). On the plus side, everyone had the opportunity to watch the online events, and if you missed them you can catch up here. I was particularly thrilled to see Kate Gordon’s quiet, wise, deep novel Aster’s Good Right Things, by a small indie publisher, take out the younger readers category.
Talking about awards, I was thrilled that Lian Tanner’s A Clue for Clara won the Sisters in Crime Davitt Award (I love this book so much and I can’t wait for the companion book) and Nat Amoore’s The Power of Positive Pranking won the Wilderness Society’s Environment Award for Children’s literature. So cool!
A new picture book out in time for Christmas is Star. I love a nativity book and Artelle Lenthall has written one from a unique perspective – the Christmas star! Star is a fable-like story with a lovely message about compassion and finding your ‘shine,’ and glowing illustrations on a vibrant blue backdrop, by Margaret Deware. I can see this delighting young children in the early school years.
Some gems I’ve taken away from recent events:
I’ve actioned a tip from Tina Clark’s CYA workshop and made a spreadsheet to keep track of my daily word count! Tina said it’s about monitoring, not measuring, and it’s surprising how motivating such a little thing is, to want to put a number in the daily column instead of leaving it blank! I’ve made a very small and achievable target, but anything at all, even a few words, is moving the manuscript forward, and I’m encouraged to keep it up every day for a perfect record! Thanks Tina!
At the SCBWI QLD Bibliotherapy conference I was interested to hear from Claire Mansour about the importance of books from a speech pathologist’s perspective, that spark kid’s imagination and curiosity, because engaging a child will help them learn, encourage conversation and play with new words. I was also interested to hear from Anouska Jones about how EK books rose out of the health, wellbeing and self-help Exisle Publishing. They asked ‘what if kids were given the tools to not need self-help books in the future?’ And EK developed into that space. Anouska generously allowed participants to email her a picture book manuscript to jump the slush pile – so fingers crossed for something I sent in!
Also in Queensland, I got to hear the wonderful Claire Saxby talk about narrative non-fiction picture books at a Book Links event. She specifically talked about her stunning book, Iceberg and how she came to this subject through the remarkable, evocative language of ice, like ‘cheeky growlers’ and ‘old grandfather blues’ etc. The language and pictures in this book are truly stunning - if you haven't read it, you absolutely must! One of the more difficult things for this genre is working out what, of the amazing creatures and information, to leave out – does it belong in this story? Is there room? Will it detract? What I also found particularly helpful was thinking about the setting’s duration – eg Iceberg is set over a year in Antarctica, Big Red is from dusk to dawn over one day, Dingo is set over four dusk hours in winter.
Irma Gold at the SCBWI ACT event, echoed some of the comments Deb Abela made at the CKT event earlier in the year, about the different functions of each manuscript draft. Paraphrased: every book is about something and with each re-write you distil and refine the essence of that something. Irma also recommends not only putting the manuscript away for at least six weeks before editing, but also printing it out in a different font and size to help you read it like a reader rather than a writer. Irma also echoed Claire Saxby in that research must be in the service of the story, and often the hardest thing for authors is to let go of fascinating research as it slows the story down.
I also found this really helpful post on the Children’s Book Academy blogfish, about search engines for libraries. It has so many uses for authors! Find it here.
Looking forward to:
Reading all the amazing Pitch It comp pitches!
CBCA NSW Northern Sydney Sub-branch zoom meeting on the 20th October with a showreel of authors presenting their 2021 new releases, and Paul MacDonald talking about the year from a bookseller's perspective. Find out more here.
Some easing of restrictions, now I am back in Sydney. Hooray!
Until next time, wishing you safe and well.
I’ll leave you with Archie’s Book Week costume, at left.
Caption: Archie has food allergies so he identifies with Zed. Although thankfully he CAN eat bread. But on a serious note - Archie hopes he hasn’t found Zed, dead, covered in bread! 😱😂 Did someone feed him bread, again?
P.S. Who knew Nike bags made such good dog dress ups?!
June started off with a book launch extravaganza which sadly fizzled to nothing by the end of July, with restrictions in Sydney and many other places. I’m writing this from Canberra (cue frosty seat and boardwalk pic) having narrowly escaped Sydney lock-down, and It’s been a joy to share book-baby sightings and encourage my Sydney friends whose new releases are arriving into the world without the deserved fanfare.
To that end, let me acknowledge some of them here (apologies to those I've missed):
Penny Jaye and Alicia Rogerson’s One Potoroo is a very special, beautiful and evocative picture book telling the story of the world's most endangered marsupial, the Gilbert's Potoroo. This is a moving story of survival with Penny Jaye's rich, poetic language and the stunning artwork by Alicia Rogerson. This book does it all: entertains, inspires and educates. I would have loved this book on my bookshelf as a child. You can read my full review on Goodreads.
Another picture book about the relationship between an animal and a human is Irma Gold’s Where the Heart Is, illustrated by Susannah Crispe. This did get a Canberra launch, but plans to go further afield were kyboshed by Covid. You can watch it being hilariously read by Fergie, Duchess of York, if you check out Irma’s blog, here.
Lesley Gibbes and Marjory Crosby-Fairall have a colourful rhyming dino-romp, Dinosaur Dads, which will be perfect for Father’s Day. I love the work of each these creators separately, so together, they're a fantastic combo!
Lisa Shanahan and Leila Rudge are a great picture book duo and they have another gorgeous book together, told through the eyes of a toddler, Hello World!
The book launch extravaganza I mentioned was of, course, Nat Amoore’s launch for her third mid-grade novel, The Right Way to Rock! What a super-star Nat is! Such a fabulous Broadway-style performance. It was a spectacular! And the book is fabulous too – it has some of THE MOST LIKEABLE characters in a book I’ve ever read! I love Mac and Flynn. I also really enjoyed listening to Nat’s interview with her sensitivity reader for the book, Jess Thom, on the One More Page Podcast. It was a really eye-opening and thought provoking, and I learnt a lot about Tourette’s syndrome and representation of people with disabilities in general. I highly recommend listening in here.
Whilst I feel like I’m in a bit of suspended reality in Canberra, it’s been fabulous to catch up with bookish friends here. I managed a real-life launch of Catherine Meatheringham’s new picture book, All Dogs Bark, which is a brilliantly simple, yet fascinating and sublimely illustrated book, by Deb Hudson, about dogs barking in different countries. The French patisserie page is adorable - of course it's Story Hound Archie's favourite, and he's learnt how to bark in French - Jappe! (see his Insta photos at the end of this post.) And yes, the way dogs bark in different countries is heard differently! Who knew?? Catherine, obviously! It's a delight! I went to the 'launch with dogs' - and caught up with some human friends too! Fun!
Something that brightened my little author's heart recently was some fan mail! I was sent this photo of a school assignment, to 'read a book and say why you relate to it' - and look what this young fan chose! The Scared Book! How amazing is it to write books that speak into children’s lives?? Thanks so much to the parent who sent this to me - you can’t get more encouraging than that!
I’ve taken advantage of things slowing down a bit by attending some great online conferences over June/July. I’ve got so much out of the CKT festival and CYA Conference and I’ve also been catching up on some of the wonderful workshops offered by SCBWI in the US. There’s been a lot to help me think through writing issues and see my works in progress with new eyes. Thank you to all the presenters – I’ve taken away some great stuff from each of you!
Of note for creators, I loved Kathryn Apel’s poem Perseverance, found on her website – the last line especially resonated: ‘Endurance sweetens success.’ You’ll find the poem at the end of her post about her gorgeous new rhyming picture book, with Renee Treml as illustrator, The Bird in the Herd, here. It’s a fun cumulative tale- I’ve got myself a copy and recommend you do to.
I took advantage of a publisher assessment in conjunction with the CYA conference, and got some really positive feedback! Fingers crossed that something comes of it!
I always love talking kids books with Katrina Roe at Hope 103.2 radio, and these are my latest reviews:
Amelia McInerney and Adam Nickel’s Who Fed Zed: A darkly humorous book with a subtly disguised message about food allergies and reading food labels. The fun mono-rhyme has a Dr Zeus feel and it has fabulous retro illustrations.
Pawcasso by Remi Lai. I can’t tell you how much I love this book! Warm and wise, covering deep themes of friendship and fitting in, family, love and loss, lies, misunderstandings, responsible dog ownership and more! I loved the multi-dimensional storytelling in this graphic novel, that adds layers of meaning, and left me with a warm, fuzzy afterglow! This book would delight any mid-grade reader – especially those who love dogs.
Found by Bruce Pasco and Charmaine Ledden-Lewis. Such a stunningly illustrated and evocative book about a calf whose family is taken away in a rumbling truck, with echoes of the Stolen Generations in this heart-tugging and yet hopeful picture book.
It’s great to see the CBCA anthology Old Worlds, New Worlds, Other Worlds, getting some great coverage, despite now being unable to take it ‘on the road’ for book week. Here's an article in The Beast Magazine. And talking about book week, if kids are at school by then, I have some ideas about how to dress up in The Scared Book theme, from a blog post I did few years ago here, and check out the costumes kids came up with, below.
I also wanted to give a big SHOUT OUT to author Wai Chim who is a contestant on Australian Survivor! How amazing is that? I’ve raved about Wai’s books in prior posts (The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling was her latest YA novel). On Survivor, she’s on team Brains. I'm yet to tune in, but that doesn't stop me being amazed and cheering her on! And I know she survives because she lives to post on her Instagram account! GO Wai!
Things I'm looking forward to:
My second Covid vax and lockdown ending!
Book week (I'll be celebrating even if kids aren't at school!) and the 75th Book of the Year Awards - online at cbca.org.au 20th August at noon, Sydney time.
SCBWI Queensland Bibliotherapy Symposium, 29th August, online. Details here.
My birthday - I've asked for a KOBO e-reader this year. I reckon it's a great way to borrow books when I can't get to a library, as well as maybe buy a few. Thanks to Kate Simpson who started a twitter chat about e-readers a while ago - it was really helpful!.
Wishing you all safe and well.
I'll leave you with Archie's French lessons :-)
I wanted to start off this news with the most exciting part of the last couple of months, and give a BIG SHOUT OUT to the CBCA NSW Eastern Suburbs Sub-branch for the launch of their anthology, Old Worlds, New Worlds, Other Worlds.
This is such a brilliant concept, and not just because I have a poem in it! It's a wonderful collection of bite-sized stories, poetry and plays, generously written and illustrated by some wonderfully talented creators, including a few famous faces, on this year's book week theme. It really has been community coming together! The book is perfect for kids to flick though before bed, or read with a parent, and a MUST for school libraries and classrooms. Check out #ownwow on social media to see some of the hype.
I must say I was a little daunted to read my piece at the launch in front of the Her Excellency the Honourable Margaret Beazley AC QC, Governor of NSW, especially since my poem is titled 'Toilet Tales' and inevitably includes the P word! It consists of three discreet (or should that be indiscrete??) nine word stories, each set in a different world (Old, New, and Other) with a rhyme at the end of them. You can see me reading it on my YouTube channel here. It was inspired by my father's experiences as a boy using the outhouse at night.
Can I also say, what warm and wonderful patrons the Governor and her husband are. Her Excellency described the book as a ‘classic’ and a book “we wished we had read while in upper primary years.” They had also prepared a funny video to advertise the CBCA Collide Book trailer competition. In all they did, they left the guests under no illusion as to who the VIPs in the room were... the children!
Of course, launches are always highlights, and I got to celebrate another one recently - Shelly Unwin's Hello Baby (Jedda Robaard illustrator). I raved about this book last time! At the launch I had an amazing time catching up with many kidlit friends, and while zoom has its benefits, there’s nothing like a good in-person free-ranging natter about all things kidlit. It was so encouraging and inspiring, plus I picked up some great insider hints and tips. I also won an artwork from this gorgeous book!
While in town, Shelly was on the radio giving some great advice about reading to your baby, on Hope 103.2 radio with Katrina Roe. You can listen in here.
So many of my adventures these last two months have gone to the dogs! Archie and I have been overjoyed to see so many pooches in our KidLitLand adventures and even on our TV screen, and in our puzzles! Even the abovementioned anthology has dogs running through it - from green space puppies and Pixie the cavoodle, to graphically illustrated Treepy. There may be more, but I haven't read right through yet!
Apart from the anthology, I've also been reading:
Paws, by Kate Foster. It's a great mid-grade novel about a boy and his dog! Told with warmth, kindness and insight, an own voices, first person narrative about an 11 year old boy with autism and his quest to make friends. Kate celebrated publication day with a fabulous social media campaign, with pooches (including Archie, of course) flooding the internet!
Heroes of the Secret Underground. Susanne Gervay has written a heart-stopping timeslip adventure based on her family’s experience in Budapest, Hungary during the Holocaust. A book that needed to be written, by an author of great skill, sensitivity and insight, who brings the story to light and makes it relevant for today.
Kate Gordon is a master at writing achingly beautiful books, and CBCA notable, Aster’s Good, Right Things, is another of them. It’s a tender story from the perspective a child with anxiety, and is shortlisted for the CBCA book of the year award.
On a recent trip to Canberra, I listened to Catching Teller Crow by Ambelin Kwaymullina and Ezekiel Kwaymullina and read by one of my favourite actresses, Miranda Tapsell. Set in a small country town, it was the perfect mystery, suspense story (albeit chillingly tragic) to read while driving through country NSW.
I always love chatting to Katrina Roe on Hope 103.2 about kids and YA Books, and here is the selection over the past two months:
As you can see, pooches feature prominently (with a few farm animals thrown into the mix)! I've written about Walking Your Human and Future Girl before - I recommend them everywhere!
The four Junior Fiction books are all part of new series, which is exciting. Pepper Creek Ponies by Jess Black and illustrated by Serena Geddes is perfect for 8-10 y/o horse-loving children, like I was. On the younger end of the reading scale, Nerd Herd by Nathan Luff and illustrated by Chris Kennett has lots of slapstick humour reminiscent of old cartoons I used to watch as a kid, but with a kinder feel.
Puppy diary is the latest series from Yvette Poshoglian of Ella and Olivia fame, illustrated by Phil Judd
and is the diary of Archie (not to be confused with StoryHound) and his adventures in doggy day care. The Underdogs by Kate & Jol Temple and illustrated by Shiloh Gordon is a great madcap mystery that kids will giggle at as they try and piece together the clues, and adults will love the zany pop culture references (Dr Spots the gadget-girl Dalmatian is a wink to Q from James Bond, princess Leia, and Dr Spock!) Check out their Instagram account for more.
Talking about Instagram, Archie is barking mad over The Underdogs competition! Post a photo of your pet on Instagram and tag The Underdogs, and you could win your pet a place in their upcoming book! Archie is so excited, he's entered - check the moving image out at Story_hound. You can find more details on The_Underdogs_official Instagram account.
On the back of having a play accepted by The School Magazine, I've sent a couple of other stories to them, without the same success :-( So now I'll look elsewhere for placement. I've also sent out a few stories for adults, and had the pleasure of reading one, titled 'Pickles' to a flash fiction event in the Blue Mountains last weekend.
On my radar:
How good was the National Simultaneous Storytime read from space? How cool to see Philip Bunting’s book, Give Me Some Space, float in zero gravity! And what a brilliant reading by astronaut Shannon! You can watch it here.
The National centre for Australian Children's Literature in Canberra has a fantastically doggy exhibition on until 23rd June, Dog tales: Dogs in Australian Children's Literature. Featuring the works of Bob Graham, Alison Lester and Anne James. I do hope I can get to it before it closes.
Two doggish TV shows: the UK The Dog House, on 10 Play, which is a sigh-and-cry-fest for my daughter and I. The stories of rescue dogs and those who adopt them is both heart-breaking and heart-warming; and Top Jobs For Dogs on ABC i-view, where we've discovered some amazing working dogs.
Looking forward to:
The launch of Nat Amoore's latest mid-grade novel, The Right Way to Rock, on Friday. If you haven't seen Nat's unboxing video of this book, you simply must view it here.
Creative Kid's Tales Writer's Festival on this weekend (I'll be juggling between this and Nat's launch)
CBCA NSW Northern Sydney Sub-branch next event at Gordon library on the 9th June, and our dinner with fantastic Great Debate by some of the funniest authors and illustrators from our sub-branch, on the 21st July. Find out more here.
CYA Conference in July. I have a couple of writing assessments I'm looking forward to.
Well, that's about all from me,
Until next time, stay safe,
PS I'll leave you with a pic of our doggie puzzle - perfect for winter!
I had such fun in Canberra recently, catching up with author friends Amelia McInerney and Shelly Unwin, to celebrate the CBCA Night of the Notables. Here’s us (at left) cheering on all the notable creators! You can see all the notable books here.
But the most exciting thing was seeing the advance author copies of Shelly and Amelia’s latest books. True to form, Amelia’s upcoming picture book is another fun, quirky, rhyming tale. It’s hilarious! Keep your eye out for it in July. I also got her to sign my copy of My Bird Bertie, (illustrated by Shane McG) which has the strongest rhyme and beat in a book I’ve read for ages – you’ll be guaranteed to be tapping along to the rhythm (for days later… be warned!).
Shelly’s new picture book (illustrated by Jedda Robaard) is a prequel to her You’re series and it’s a divine, rhyming celebration of a new born baby. The illustrations of baby and parent animals are absolutely gorgeous. Perfect for new parents and babies. I'm excited to get along to her Sydney 'drop-in' launch on the 24th April between 10.30-2.30 at the Lindfield Learning Hub. Shelly's also doing a roving book signing in Canberra on the 17th April. Find out more about the Canberra and Sydney events here.
While in Canberra, I also caught up with Instagram friend, Rhian Williams, and got to congratulate her on her picture book, Ten Little Figs (illustrated by Nathaniel Eckstrom) being included on the Notable list. I also met her Gidi-dog, an Insta-friend of StoryHound Archie.
Back in Sydney, it was so lovely to once again catch up with my CBCA NSW Northern Sydney sub-branch friends at a meeting IN REAL LIFE this month! Amazing sub-branch authors Belinda Murrell and Jacqueline Harvey talked about their recent books, and Wendy Blaxland inspired us with her poetry.
Another treat was getting along to the launch of Paul and Beth MacDonald’s Book Trail Press’ second picture book, this time written by Ursula Dubosarsky and illustrated by Tohby Riddle, The March of the Ants. This is a delightful book about the power of story to help through hard times, and a message that couldn’t be more pertinent with all that the world has been through this past year.
I love a book launch and all the behind-the-scenes glimpses about breathing life into a book. Ursula and Tohby have a long friendship, formed during time they spent at The School Magazine. Ursula was inspired to write March of the Ants when a friend said ‘Books can give you something no-one else can give you.’ Then to bring the ants to life, Tohby had to look no further than his own kitchen where ants love to hang out! He was relieved to know that his illustrations got the tick of approval from not only child readers (a hard audience) but also Paul’s entomologist brother!
StoryHound Archie and I had a ball helping launch Liz Ledden's Walking Your Human, on Twitter. So much tail-wagging fun! (Photo at the end of the post.)
Talking about The School Magazine, I was thrilled to have two writing successes recently. One is a play I wrote that has been accepted by the iconic magazine, and the second is a flash fiction/poem I wrote being included in the Book Week anthology, put together by the amazing, energetic Eastern Suburbs CBCA NSW sub-branch. I can’t wait to see them both in print.
I’ve also sent some stories away to the CYA Competition and I’ve booked for the online conference this year. I've always wanted to go, but the timing has never worked. So this year, being online, I have no excuse! I’m also going to enter some stories into the Writer’s Unleashed Picture Book competition.
I had the pleasure of chatting with Katrina Roe on Hope 103.2 radio about A Clue For Clara, (Lian Tanner/ Cheryl Orsini) a middle grade novel that I’ve written about previously, Ling Li’s Lantern, (Steve Heron/ Benjamin Johnston) a beautiful, philosophical Chinese Fable-like picture book, and All of the Factors Of Why I Love Tractors, (Davina Bell/ Jenny Lovlie) an hilarious rhyming romp of a picture book, as much about books and libraries as it is about kid’s obsessions (in this case, tractors).
With ANZAC day approaching, I recommend a book that came out last year in lockdown, and I’ve only just discovered - Red Day by Sandy Fussell. This is an amazing middle grade novel with so much that is fresh and new. The protagonist, Charlie, is in Year 7 and has synaesthesia. When a Japanese exchange student comes to stay, Charlie starts to relive events of the Japanese break out from the Cowra POW camp in WW2, as if she was there, and she and Kenichi are drawn into a mystery from the past. This is a great novel about a part of history that I really knew nothing about, with so many satisfying layers.
I finally got around to reading Nat Amoore's The Power of Positive Pranking. I loved her Secrets of a Schoolyard Millionaire, and didn't think it could get any better - but I was wrong! I adored this cheeky, fun midgrade novel with a whole lot of heart! It's even been shortlisted for the Readings Children's Book Prize. You can watch a star-studded reading of the hilarious first chapter here.
StoryHound Archie reviewed an exquisite picture book recently, Claudette, by Helene Magisson. This is a visually stunning book with an enchanting story about finding your place and the value of story. I fell in love with the sumptuous artwork with a French flair, and the adorable puppet, Claudette.
I've also been reading about reading, in this article on the TBR Blog recently, which is a great exploration of the value of re-reading books to children.
I was then fascinated to hear Louise Park, on a panel with Ursula Dubosarsky, hosted by The State Library of NSW, talking about getting children to read (the topic of her most recent book, Seven Steps to Get Your Child Reading). She said that a 20-year study over 27 nations found that the biggest predictor of how far a person goes with education is having 20 books in the home as children. Having books to re-read is that valuable! It made me think about how important a program like Books In Homes is. Ursula followed this up with saying that a good idea is to borrow books from a library and then buy the ones your kids love, to have at home.
I always find Easter a great time for reading, and if you’re interested in the what I think about the grown up books I've read recently, you can find me on Goodreads here.
The wonderful Belinda Murrell (who is getting around everywhere at the moment promoting her latest MG novel, The Golden Tower) sent me this snap of The Scared Book front and centre at Kinokuniya, Sydney. After doing some detective work, I discovered the clue as to why… the mural underneath is the key! Can you guess? The illustrator, Kim Siew, did the artwork for the All About Women Festival this year! Isn't it brilliant? Check it all out on her website here.
Looking forward to:
I'm excited to go to the Sydney launch of Shelly Unwin’s adorable new book, Hello Baby, 24TH April.
Chatting to Katrina Roe on Hope 103.2 this week.
Seeing Kazuo Ishiguro at the Sydney Writer's Festival via video link on the 29th April.
Launch of the CBCA anthology on the 28th May.
Launch of Nat Amoore's new book, AND Creative Kids Tales conference (online) 5th June.
PLUS: Updating you with all the April events that have escaped this news!
Until next time,
Happy new year! I hope that the Christmas season was sprinkled with joyful moments, whatever it looked like for you this past, unpredictable year. The picture at left shows one of our joyful moments - Archie as T-shirt art! Thanks to Mol at Pictures of Ernest for the great design!
I’m pleased to say that I feel like the year has gotten off to a productive start for me, and StoryHound Archie has enjoyed romping around the virtual playground of Instagram and Twitter, despite having cracked a tooth and needing dental surgery!
I love long lazy days of reading over the Christmas break, and as well as some gown-up books, I’ve enjoyed these from the kidlit world:
Searching for Charlotte: It was fascinating finding out about Australia’s first published children’s author, Charlotte Waring Atkinson and more broadly, early Australian colonial life from her family’s perspective. It was a joy to read Belinda Murrell’s and Kate Forsyth’s reflections on their ancestors and their writing. PS not a kid’s book, but about a kid’s author
Future Girl: This book is amazing - I’ve already handed my copy to a friend! With fresh characters and a unique perspective, this coming-of-age YA novel is set in an all-too imaginable dystopian Melbourne future. The colourful, journal style physical book is a feast for the senses with its unique texture and colours. I was intrigued to read this novel after hearing an interview with the author, Asphyxia on One More Page Podcast. I’m so glad I did. I learned so much about the deaf community and sign language. I highly recommend this book.
Walking Your Human by Liz Ledden and Gabriella Petruso: Archie and I are super-excited to help launch this fab, funny picture book on Twitter in a couple of weeks. Packed with hilarious dog and owner combos and action, this one’s a dog-lover’s delight! And I adore the playful front/back cover art. Please join in the twitter fun on Tuesday 9th at 8.30 PM Sydney time.
I've been so fortunate to win not one, but TWO books recently!
Searching for Cicadas by Lesley Gibbes and Judy Watson: This is such a stunning book! At once a celebration of the strange and wonderful cicadas, and of the relationship between a grandfather and grandson. Infused with warmth and wonder. No surprise that it’s a CBCA shortlisted book. Thanks to Picture Book Book Club and Walker Books for the prize.
Gemma Riley and the Fashion Fiasco by Jules Van Mil: I’ve just started the first few pages of this one, and already I’m loving the fashion world of Gemma and her sidekick cat, Mr Dior. You can see the author read chapter one here. Thanks to WritingNSW and Pan Macmillan for the book.
My WritingNSW writers’ group restarted this month. I love how this group pushes my writing to be better and helps me find solutions to problems. Already this month I’ve prepared submissions for an anthology and the CYA comp, and their advice has been invaluable. I’ve also just written a new picture book manuscript that I can’t wait to test out on them next month!
This year I decided to commit to StoryStorm – a picture book idea-generating initiative run by author Tara Lazar in the USA. I’ve been on the mailing list and dabbled around the edges in years gone by, but this year I’ve got myself a dedicated journal (appropriately themed, see at left) and I’m off! I’m loving the informative and inspiring daily blog posts. I’m not up to date, but I will catch up, and I’m confident that at the end I’ll have 31 new picture book ideas to play with throughout the year.
Poor Archie has had a traumatic start to the year with a cracked tooth and dental surgery, but he’s back up and running now, and couldn’t have picked more summer-time themed books than Lesley Gibbes’ and Judy Watson’s Searching for Cicadas and Rhian Williams and Nathaniel Eckstrom’s Ten Little Figs (photos below).
Archie has been loving romping around Twitter while he’s been recovering from his surgery. He’s found a virtual doggy playground! So many dog-friendly tweets and parties to go to! Text Publishing offered to recommend a book based on a photo of your pet – so we had to join the fun!
Picture Book Book Club is having a DOG themed twitter party to kick off the year, on Thursday the 4th, with special guest UK author, Richard Jones, whose new book, Perdu, looks adorable! And of course, Archie will be helping me co-host Walking Your Human, with Liz Ledden on Twitter the next week.
Things I’m looking forward to:
1 My local CBCA NSW sub branch planning meeting next week – it's always fun to meet up with friends and plan events for the year ahead.
2 Picture Book Book Club party on the 4th Feb.
3 Launching Walking Your Human with Liz Ledden on Tuesday 9th Feb 2021.
Until nest time, wishing you all the best,
The thrill of Hope,
The weary world rejoices...
Never have the words to my favourite Christmas carol meant so much, at the end of this year, when the whole world is weary. My family and I have felt this on a global and personal scale. Pandemic aside, we have orchestrated three moves this year (if you want the name of fantastic removalists, let me know – they are certainly tried and tested!). My kidlitland adventures have been squished and squeezed around taping guns and boxcutters, scrubbing brushes and long lists, never-ending on-hold phone calls, open houses, negotiations, and even furniture stores. So you can see why it's been a long time between write-ups. But here I am in December - the Christmas tree is up in a new house and I'm thankful to have squeezed in at least a few bookish treats!
There was a lot of bookish love in October, with Love Your Bookshop Day and the CBCA Book of the Year awards, as well as time for bit of reading for #AustraliaReads. To show my local bookshop love, I went all metafictive and bought a book about a bookshop, in a bookshop, on Love Your Bookshop Day. (I can't tell you much about the book, The Grandest Bookshop in the World because my daughter snavelled it. It is very pretty, though, and I'm hearing great things about it.) Some of my friends went all-out for LYBD and put together this crazy funny video. It's sure to make you giggle. (Thanks Nat Amoore and merry band of helpers.)
Of course, the excitement of book week never fades, even during a pandemic. It was delayed and sent online, but the fanfare this year was the same! Congratulations to all the winning book creators! And more broadly, to everyone who had a book published this year – you are all winners too!
Talking about awards, I was thrilled to see that Deborah Kelly’s The Thing About Oliver won the Australian Association of Family Therapy Book of the Year in the younger readers category, and that the winning books in both categories (older reader category was Memphis Grace by Catriona McKeown) are Wombat Books titles. That’s a big deal for an independent publisher, and an especially big deal because these awards are not given lightly – they don’t automatically award books each year unless they are worthy. Find out more here.
Talking about Deb Kelly’s book, it was a pleasure to chat with Katrina Roe about it on Hope 103.2 radio recently, as well as the delightful picture book, My Possum Plays the Drums by Catherine Meatheringham and Max Hamilton.
Talking about radio interviews, many thanks to BrydieWright who replayed our Halloween interview on Northern Beaches radio in November.
Out and/or about:
I managed to catch a beautiful little exhibition at the Sate Library of NSW of author/illustrator Pamela Allen’s work. Pamela’s books hold a special place in my family’s heart, with Alexander’s Outing a particular stand out. I got to see original manuscripts and drawings of Alexander and others. It was pure delight! And topped off with a ferry ride on the May Gibbs thrown into the bargain!
I was so excited to be able to attend an event In Real Life last month, for the first time in AGES! (See photo evidence below!) It was so wonderful to catch up with friends and hear Libby Hathorn speak as she was presented with the CBCA Lady Cutler Award, at the CBCA NSW event. I also got to hear Belinda Murrell and Kate Forsyth speak on their new book collaboration, Searching for Charlotte, about their 4xGreat grandmother and Australian’s first published children’s author. It’s a fascinating tale, and I have it on my wish list for Christmas. It was also wonderful to watch authors giving a quick pitch about their latest and upcoming books. I'm particularly excited for Amelia McInerney's picture book, My Bird, Bertie (with illustrator Shane McG), and Jess Black's junior reader series, Pepper Creek Ponies (with illustrator Serena Geddes) - ones to look out for next year.
Zoom has continued to be a safe and happy place for many events, like my CBCA NSW Northern Sydney Sub-branch Christmas celebration. We heard from Melbourne based publishers Eva Mills from Allen and Unwin, and Alexandra Yatomi-Clark from Berbay Publishing, as well as help launch a new junior fiction series by Amy Adeney, called Tilda Teaches. We had prizes for a Christmas book themed quiz, and the best decorated zoom room. A fun and informative combo!
Sadly I couldn’t get to the SCBWI celebration, despite it being on zoom – blame it on the moving!
I had disappointing news recently, when a manuscript I’ve been working on with a publisher, and which we both loved, fell down at the acquisitions stage. This is a disappointment not only for me but also the publisher who puts their all into backing a project they believe in. It was a mixed blessing that I didn’t have time to wallow in self pity as I needed to throw myself into the final push of moving house! And today I’ve pressed ‘send’ on another manuscript to see if that’s the right fit. You’ve got have deep reserves of perseverance in this writing game!
Like everyone other grown-up I know, I’m watching and loving The Queen’s Gambit. The filming and the costumes especially, are stunning. I’m also keen to watch the latest series of The Crown. And I always enjoy catching up on a few episodes of the delightful cattle-dog, Bluey. My friend, Gemma Patience, wrote a brilliant article for Kidspot about the magic of Bluey earlier this year, and it's just as timely now - you can read it here.
A Clue for Clara by Lian Tanner. I'm loving this middle grade novel so much. Lots of chuckles and heart-warming chookish mystery/action/drama – It couldn’t get better than that! It's a light and easy read but with deceptively sophisticated humour and a deep emotional core (think grief, loss and bullying) all rendered with a light touch. Highly recommended for 8 year olds and up.
I was excited to receive a copy of Lilah the Lyrebird, companion picture book to award winning Leonard the Lyrebird by Blue Mountains locals Jodie McLeod and Eloise Short. These books so evocatively capture the Blue Mountains, which hold a fond place in my heart, having grown up at the foot of the mountains, and having lived in Warrimoo and Blaxland for a number of years.
Things I’m looking forward to:
A calm Christmas settled into our new hopefully-almost-forever home… box free!
Catching up with family and friends – restriction free! (Although that may be premature!?)
A New Year – Covid free! (Something to aim for, at least!)
Wishing you joy, love and peace this Christmas… and the shining light of hope, of which the angles sing!
Until the New Year,
With the sun coming out and the weather warming, I managed to emerge from my doona cocoon and enjoy same fabulous, scenic harbour walks with my pal, StoryHound Archie. I've also managed a few, wonderful adventures in KidLitLand In Real Life recently, as well as some great online adventures.
A lot has been happening in my CBCA world. My Northern Sydney Sub-branch had a fabulous zoom meeting with Australian Children’s Laureate, Ursula Dubosarsky, whose theme for her laureate years is ‘read for your life,’ which exemplifies her work as both an author and laureate. Ursula’s books have encouraged children over many years to read, with engaging stories that stick with them throughout their lives. Case in point: my now adult daughter still holds Ursula’s Fairy Bread as a touchstone of her childhood reading.
At the zoom meeting we also launched Oliver Phommavanh’s collection of short stories, Brain Freeze. These stories are such fun, and filled with warmth. I’m hoping reading them will inspire me to write a story for the Buzz Words short story comp! I’m not sure it’s worked yet! BTW If you’re interested in the Buzz Words Comp, you can find details here.
I also had the privilege of catching up with Anna Fienberg IRL to help her film a CBCA NSW professional development segment. I was enthralled by her gentle wisdom, warmed by her kindness and generosity, and chuffed that we had so much in common, including our tea mugs, and the ability to laugh at ourselves! Double bonus... she gave me signed copies of some of her stunning books, including a gorgeous hardcover 25th anniversary Tashi – another of my daughter’s touchstones!
Have you caught up on the CBCA and SCBWI collaboration, the monthly Story Scoop? Authors and illustrators talk about their latest books - it's great to get a behind the scenes peek into how the books came about. You can watch them here.
I’m also excited to watch all the episodes of CBCA’s 'Curious Creatures, Wild Minds’ filmed at one of my childhood's happy places... Taronga Zoo! The first one with Sami Bayly is LIVE now and you can watch it here.
And big congratulations to Libby Hathorn who has been awarded the prestigious Lady Cutler Award, recognizing her contribution to children’s literature in Australia. Libby is such an icon and it's such a well-deserved award.
In other news, I was interviewed by Andrew Backhouse on the Braille House facebook page in August. You can watch the interview here. Also check out interviews with some of my author friends, like Amelia McInerny, Michelle Worthington, Aleesah Darlison, Sonia Bestulic and Lesley Gibbes.
I was so amazed by what Braille House does to facilitate access to reading and books for kids and adults with low or no vision, that I interviewed Andrew back on the Just Write Kids blog here. It's fascinating reading if I do say so myself ;-)
I was so happy to find out that a poem of mine has been long-listed for a proposed Threatened Treasures Anthology. Thanks to the team behind this initiative. I'm sure it's been a lot of work, and still is. If I don't make the final cut, I'm still a winner as I discovered some amazing Australian threatened flora and fauna, and I've been inspired to write about it!
Happily, my writer’s group is thriving on zoom, but I can’t wait to be able to meet back in person. I’ve been working on a few new stories, which has been fun, and I am revising another manuscript with my publisher at Lothian Children’s Books at the moment – wish me luck that it gets through!
Talking about my writing group, have you seen that Writing NSW has lost its CreateNSW funding for next year? I can’t believe that the peak body for writers in NSW can be defunded in this way. I’ve signed a petition and written to my local member and the minister for the arts. If you’d like to be involved in the #savewritingnsw you can find out more here.
You know I love taking about kid’s books, and that my softest spot is for picture books, so I was thrilled to be able to chat to Katrina Roe on Hope 103.2 radio about two special picture books I've read recently: Bear in Space by Deborah Abela and Marjory Crosby-Fairall is a perfect example of the picture book genre, and Boo Loves Books by Kaye Baillie and Tracie Grimwood is a story close to StoryHound Archie and my hearts.
And as well as Oliver’s Brain Freeze, I’ve also been reading two beautiful, blue books:
I finally got a copy of Deborah Kelly’s CBCA shortlisted MG book, The Thing About Oliver in my eager hands! I loved it. Written with so much heart and understanding about the complexities of having a brother with autism, in all the love and pain. Deb builds up the story so well, that by the time I reached the climax, my heart was in my throat, and the ending is so movingly gratifying. To quote KBR: ‘The Thing About Oliver is a stunning and profoundly moving portrayal of glass children. Deborah Kelly has deeply immersed herself in her characters. The result renders the story authentic and pure. The prose shines in the light that Tilly’s narrative voice creates.’
I was spoilt on my birthday this year with a gift of a gorgeous copy of Kate Gordon’s The Heartsong of Wonder Quin, from the author herself! This is a hauntingly beautiful book for kids who love tender, emotional stories about friendship and courage. Full of love and longing, it is truly a heart-song.
I've had a couple of trips to Canberra recently, and I love listening to audio books in the car. Invisible, an upper-midgrade/early YA novel by Cecily Anne Paterson with audio narration by Katrina Roe, was great company. And whislt in Canberra, it was lovely to catch up for walk round the lake with SCBWI ACT co-ordinator, Shelly Unwin and her pooch, Biscuit.
I've also been a test reader for a cute new junior fiction series written by a couple of my friends under the pen-name, Ella Shine. Pet Sitters is a series I would have LOVED as a pet-yearning kid - featuring friends, pets, and magic. Initially coming out in ebook and audio format, with paper books due out early next year.
On my radar:
I’ve seen some fabulous book launch videos online recently. Two of my favourites are Lesley Gibbes launching Four On The Run, a chapter book by Sophie Masson and Chery Orsini (illust); and Tania McCartney and Stephanie Owen Reeder launching their non-fiction picture book, Australia's Wild, Weird, Wonderful Weather. (click the hyperlink titles to view)
A few other books that have caught my eye recently include:
Marg (MJ) Gibbs' picture book with a very relatable story of a child who stumbles to get his words out - Jasper’s Jumbled Up Words, with Emma Stewart. Marg also has a poetry book for kids with a title I love - Goose at the Gate. with Margeaux Davis illustrating. For more information, check out her website and/or interviews on Just Write For Kids (Jasper is here and Goose is here.)
Elizabeth Mary Cummings has again paired up with illustrator, Cheri Hughes, to produce a gently environmental picture book, Rain Shaker, with poetiec language and rich pictures that look amazing.
And in super-exciting news... The Aussie YA thriller, Small Spaces by Sarah Epstein that I wrote about some time ago, is going to be made into a movie! How thrilling is that??
I've just discovered the charming, funny Tasmanian series, Rosehaven. Unfortunatley the earlier episodes have been retired from streaming, but I loved it so much that I had to go 'old school' and buy the DVD's.
As I mentioned, my birthday was in August, and I got the most amazing writerly present, something I'd not seen before but something that will really help plotting and pacing my picture books... a Rocketbook! This nifty reusable book is the perfect 32 pages for when I plan out the pagination of my text. In the interview with Braille House, above, I mention a handy hint of cutting up my manuscript and sticking it in a 32 page notebook to check for page turns, pacing etc. (thanks to Sue Whiting for the tip). Well, this rocketbook allows me to do something similar in a wipe-clean, reuseable way. It has heaps of other functions, like being able to digitally scan and file the pages into your computer! Not that I'm going to get that techy! But it is pretty amazing!
Things I'm looking forward to:
More Story Scoop and Curious Creatures, Wild Minds videos.
3rd October - Love your bookshop day.
17-23 October - Book week.
12th November - Australia reads
Until next time,
Stay safe and take care.
PS Canberra is looking stunning at this time of the year... here are some photos to prove it!