July has been a relatively relaxing month for me, having had the opportunity to take not one, but two mini-breaks – one in warm, sub-tropical Queensland, and the other in freezing Canberra. Both infused with warm emotions, despite the differences in outside temperatures.
Noosa is one of my favourite places in the whole world. It was a joy to read a grown-up book by the beach (The Nancys by RWR McDonald – fun and a little bit scary - I loved it), sip hot chocolates in cafes and sample fine food from a different restaurant each night. My husband and I didn’t want to come home. It did, however, mean I missed the CYA conference in Brisbane on the same weekend we were away – so close and yet so far! By all accounts it was amazing, as usual, with some new and innovative segments like author ‘boot camps’ on the Friday.
In Canberra I went to see the Monet exhibition (wonderful) and have a tour and a wander around the galleries at the National Library (photo of pencil mobile in the bookshop). What a treasure the library is! (My kidlit buddies who live in the nation’s capital already know this.) The library’s latest exhibition, Inked: Australian Cartoons, is really thought provoking and I was amazed at how many children’s authors have also contributed to the social and political discourse over the years via cartoons, including May Gibbs. It was so good, I bought the book! Photo below of Judy Horacek (Where is the Green Sheep and many, many more, illustrator)
I managed to get to two amazing book launches this month. The first (technically the end of June) was Amelia McInerney’s almost wordless picture book with Philip Bunting as illustrator – Bad Crab. This book is a delight. How Philip Bunting emits emotion from a crustacean has to be seen to be believed - it is picture book magic at its best! The story by Amelia is delightfully fresh and oh-so pertinent to little people who might find it hard to keep their ‘nippers’ to themselves, but also just plain funny on its own. You can check out my recent interview with Amelia, HERE, if you haven't already.
The second launch was for a picture book illustrated by Beth McDonald, of The Children’s Bookshop fame. Paperboy is a thoughtful, reflective evocative book written by Danny Parker and published by Dirt Lane Press. Paul McDonald describes it (and many of the books published by this publisher) as open-ended, with the story going beyond the ending of the book, inviting thought and discussion. This book is worth reading for Beth’s exquisite collage alone. At the launch, it was fascinating to hear her talk about the process of illustration, and if you look closely, you will see that Paperboy is clothed in his own story – quite literally, his clothes are cut from the manuscript. So much love and consideration has gone into this book, It is really quite remarkable.
Talking about The Children’s Bookshop, I’m interviewing Paul and Beth MacDonald on the Just Write For Kids blog this Friday, about their picture book collaboration, The Hole Idea, that I mentioned last month, so look out for that. I also chatted to Katrina Roe about the book on Hope 103.2 radio, along with Real Pigeons Eat Danger from the Junior Fiction Real Pigeons series by Andrew McDonald and Ben Wood.
Plus, last night I had the pleasure of speaking to the emerging writers group that meets monthly at the bookshop. It’s always a joy to speak about kids books and the children’s literature community to an enthusiastic group of writers and illustrators. (Thanks to Paul and Beth for the photo below),
I was asked recently to write an article for the Students Need School Libraries campaign, and after speaking with a Teacher Librarian friend of mine about the state of her school library, I was inspired to write The Mystery of Shrinking School Libraries. I’ve been stunned at how this post has resonated and generated discussion in online forums. I’ve never had so many 'shares' of a Facebook post in my life! Do check out the website and get informed about this important issue.
On my radar:
Congratulations to Aura Parker who launched Meerkat Splash this month. I wasn’t able to make the launch but the book looks joyous.
Brydie Wright has started a fabulous community radio program on Radio Northern Beaches called By the Book about all things related to children's literature. It's on Saturday afternoons from 3-4 pm. I loved listening to Lesley Gibbes on the show recently, and finding out about her inventive 'googling!'. This Saturday's show has a music theme -nursery rhymes and music from kid's movies.
I finished Nat Amoore’s MG Secrets of a Schoolyard Millionaire this month. It’s great fun. Brydie Wright likened it to the movie Home Alone, and I’d have to agree, but with lashings of heart and wisdom.
I loved Vincent and the Grandest Hotel on Earth - do yourself a favour and read this MG novel, if only for Lisa Nicol's brilliant use of language. I constantly marvelled at her metaphors and similes - they were so captivating I couldn't let them go - I had to write them down to marvel at again and again, and try and work out how she does it! And the story is divine - full of all the feels.
Both these books are so eloquently reviewed on the Middle Grade Mavens Podcast, with bonus interviews with the authors, so I highly recommend tuning in (I even get a mention in one :-) The photos below are Instagram sensation, @storyhound Archie with the books.
I am in the middle of reading Don't follow Vee by Oliver Phommavanh. I love Oliver’s characters and his humour and heart, and the way he nails playground politics – perfect!
I’ve also got myself a copy of Raising Readers by Megan Daley of Children’s Books Daily fame – teacher librarian extraordinaire! I was bummed to see that I missed Megan speaking in Sydney recently (don’t know how I missed that one) but she is a fount of bookish wisdom and her book is infused with it.
Lastly, I’m a bit late to the party with Wonder, but I finally caught up with what all the hype is about!
Out and About
My daughter and I went to a lego fair this month and met Henry, one of the winners of Lego Masters, and Marielle, one of the other contestants. It was so inspiring seeing some amazing lego creations and hearing Henry and Marielle talk about developing their Lego skills and it was fun to hear the behind-the-scenes stories from the show. My daughter bought me these fabulous Lego flowers from a trip to the new LEGO shop in Bondi recently.
What I’m Looking forward to:
Tonight is the CBCA NSW Northern Sydney Sub branch dinner with Margaret Wild and David Legge. I’ll have a few books tucked under my arm for Margaret to sign, and I’m in the market for a copy of David’s Bamboozled – it was a strong favourite in our house when the kids were little, and I see that it’s actually 25 years old!
August means Book Week, and the month when authors and illustrators become stars! I’m one of the stars’ at Lunch with the Stars for both the Illawarra CBCA sub branch on the 14th August, and Northern Sydney sub branch, at Manly on the 3rd September, PLUS I’ll be popping into a few schools and preschools to share bookish fun with the kids.
Launches, launches, launches! I’m hoping to get along to a few book launches this month:
Susanne Gervay is launching her book illustrated by Marjory Crosby-Fairall, The Boy in the Big, Blue Glasses on Tuesday 6th August at Waverley library.
Kate Simpson is launching her second picture book, Dear Grandpa, illustrated by Ronojoy Ghosh, on the 10th August at Miranda Harry Hartog. Unfortunately I can't make it, but do get along to support Kate, if you can. This is also Love Your Bookshop Day, so pop into any bookshop and show them love! Quite a few bookstores are holding events – I know my ‘local’ The Children’s Bookshop, has a day packed with things to see and do.
Tim Harris’ new series Toffle Towers is launching at The Children’s Bookshop, Beecroft on the 17th August. I hope to be there.
Wai Chim is launching her YA The Surprising Power of a Dim Sim at Kinokonyia in Sydney on the 22nd August. I've been following her Instagram posts and they are very intriguing and inviting. Story Hound Archie is hoping I’ll bring some dim sims home for him! EDITED UPDATE: the launch has been moved to Wednesday 21st and I don't know if I can make that now :-( .
Robert Vescio is launching yet another picture book, this time with illustrator Nicky Johnston, Under the Same Sky, on the 31st August at The Children’s Bookshop, Beecroft.
And if August couldn’t get any better, I’m celebrating my own birthday at the end of the month – I’m sure books will be involved!
So much to do and celebrate this month. I hope I’ll see some of you at these events.
I’ll leave with the fave Story Hound Insta posts this month (did you notice I sneakily snuck a few others in this blog post? Because you can't have enough of a French bulldog with books) :-)
I bought a pot of gerberas this month! I got a bargain! They are such happy flowers, don't you think? They make me smile. They bring me joy! As do my adventures in KidLitLand! So what's been happening in June?
I was excited to be asked to be one of the guest judges for the Northern Beaches Young Writer’s Competition this year. Entries are OPEN now and close on the 7th August. It’s for anyone who lives or goes to school on the Northern Beaches of NSW. The judges are an awesome line-up – and I don’t mean just me ;-) There’s also greats like Anna Feinberg, Oliver Phommavanh, Nathan Luff, Jaclyn Moriarty and Erin Gough - I’m shaking my head how I even got a look-in! But I am excited! Follow the link here for more info.
I was also happy to receive the edit of my short story for the Christmas Press Anthology to be released at the end of the year. It makes it feel like it's on its way. But I was mortified at my rookie mistake of not capitalising the proper noun for 'Mum.' How could I have overlooked that! Argh!
I also had the most amazing time reading my flash fiction story, Tagging, at an event in the Blue Mountains recently. Organised by a new private gallery and a writing friend, Arna Radovich, I can’t tell you what a wonderful experience it was! Ten authors read their very short stories to an open, generous crowd of people amongst stunning artworks. It was spine-tingling to feel the mood of the room as the pieces were read. As writers, most often our work is read in the privacy of someone else’s head, so being able to read aloud and sense the crowd being carried along with the story was truly magical. Below is a photo of Arna reading her piece, How to go with the Flow: a Survival Guide, which is published in a brilliant little anthology, Story Cities: A City Guide for the Imagination. And at right is a photo of me mucking around with the Impact Anthology, edited by Irma Gold, in which Tagging is the lead story. (PS Technically not KidLit, but I'm not apologising ;-) )
It was fascinating to hear author Catherine Greer and psychologist Mary Arlington Watt in conversation about Catherine’s thrilling YA novel Love, Lie Repeat, at the Gordon library. A focus of the discussion was perfectionism in young girls. I reviewed this gripping novel last month.
Belrose Public School hosted a fabulous Author Afternoon Tea for TEN members of the CBCA NSW Northern Sydney sub branch this month. The kids were absolutely delightful, listening to and engaging with the authors/illustrators, and the school community so wonderfully supportive. We even had our names up in lights!
The week after, we were back at the school as they generously hosted our CBCA Sub-branch event in the library. The topic of the night was publishing, with self-published Matthew Shallvey and Big Sky Publisher, Diane Evans. As usual, it was a wonderfully interesting and insightful night, with lots of fun networking and catching up with friends.
Talking about publishing, I hope you got to read the third and final part of my interview with the delightful Jo Sandhu on the Just Write For Kids Blog. Jo was a generous interviewee and I learnt heaps from the interview. I hope you got something out of it to. You can recap here.
What fun to be invited to the launch of the century - Nat Amoore launching her debut mid-grade novel, Secrets of a Schoolyard Millionaire in over-the-top millionaire style, complete with money raining over the crowd, and school principal and a couple of police officers coming to investigate. The crowds were so thick, I didn't get my fan-girl photo! The kids were super-hyped to hear Nat read – or was that to do with the fistfuls of sugar consumed??!! It was a brilliant launch, in true Nat style, although not a fart joke to be heard! What happened there, Nat? I hope you upped your game in Melbourne ;-)
I’m so excited that members from my writer’s group have not one, not two, but THREE books being launched over the next couple of months, not to mention, the great, fun short stories being published in The School Magazine.
First launch is Lisa Nicol’s Vincent and the Grandest Hotel on Earth. Reviews in already are making comparisons to Roald Dahl, Kate DiCamillo, and Jessica Townsend! How’s that for grand! I’ve had sneak peeks along the way, and I can tell you it will be truly, marvellously, wonderful! I’m bummed to not be able to get to the launch but I’m sure it will be fabulous – I hear smoking drinks are on the menu!
Next up is Lisa Siberry with her Ampersand Prize winning mid-grade novel, The Brilliant ideas of Lily Green. I’ve had sneak peeks along the way with this one too, but I can’t wait to see how glimmering it will be after the editing process. The cover alone (middle, below) takes my breath away!
The third is a picture book by Stephanie Ward, with gloriously whimsical illustrations and a fun story that kids with siblings especially, will relate to. Available for pre-order on the EK books website. More on all of these in upcoming newsletters.
Talking about new books, Story Hound Archie and I got to catch up with wildlife photographer and writer, Jan Latta this month, and reviewed her latest book, Adventures in the Wild with Jan Latta, on my blog here.
I’m also excited to celebrate the launch of Amelia McInerney’s Bad Crab, illustrated by Philip Bunting, on Saturday. I’ll have photos in next month’s news! This is her second picture book and it looks fantastic. I reviewed her The Book Chook on Hope radio this month, along with Robert Vescio’s Bigger than Yesterday, Smaller than Tomorrow. Robert also has another gorgeous looking book coming out soon with illustrator Nicky Johnston, Under the Same Sky.
#amreading: two books I’ve read this month have been stand-outs:
In the Dark Spaces by Cally Black is an extraordinary YA and totally deserved all the accolades it got last year. See my Goodreads review here.
Mrs Whitlam by Bruce Pascoe set my horse-loving young-girl heart ablaze. See my Goodreads review here.
What I’m into:
Given that writing is a sedentary activity, I decided at the beginning of the year that I needed to invest in my cardio health. I was inspired by my physiotherapist telling me about a 90-year-old client who does a workout everyday via youtube. I figured if a 90-year-old could do it, so could I! My daughter recommended POPSUGAR Fitness, and I haven’t looked back. I started small, deciding that I could invest 10-15 minutes most mornings, and now I supplement those workouts with 30-minute ones, or combine a couple of my favourites, a few times a week. Click here for one of my staples, if you’re interested. Noe: I’m often doing the ‘modified’ option!
My favourite instructor is Anna Renderer, and I ignore any talk about calories, and just think about keeping my heart healthy. For some infuriating reason, talk about calories goes hand in dumbbells with exercise for women – is it the same for men, I wonder? Anyway, POPSUGAR Fitness have a range of different styles of workouts – being a dancer, my daughter likes ones that are more dancey.
A good friend’s very dear daughter got married last month and I was privileged to be invited to the wedding. I love it when the couple’s personalities shine through in the little touches on the day – like the amazing table decorations with each guest’s name carved in wood, and bonbonniere’s that were a donation to Oxfam with a bamboo goat pin to take home. Joy multiplied!
June has been birthday month for Story Hound Archie. Here’s his birthday Insta post this week:
What I’m looking forward to:
1. Launch of Bad Crab on Saturday.
2. Launch of Paperboy, illustrated by Beth MacDonald and written by Danny Parker, on the 20th July.
3. CBCA NSW Inc Northern Sydney Sub branch Christmas in July with Margaret Wild and David Legge. I’m wildly excited about this! It’s on the 31st July and there’s still time to book - details here.
The CYA Conference is on in July, and it's on my radar to get to one of these years, it sounds fabulous and the writing comp is second-to-none. Congrats to many of my friends who were shortlisted! But instead, this year I’m going on a little mini-break to Noosa with my husband. Can’t wait!
Happy July everyone! Keep warm,
PS signing off with the three most popular Story Hound images this month, two of them taken on location with a trip to the beach:
As I was growing up, I had a heat-bursting desire to go on safari in Africa, fuelled, in part, by my favourite TV shows like Daktari and Kimba the White Lion. Fast forward 20 years and my 6-year-old daughter is gifted a copy of Jan Latta’s Diary of a Wildlife Photographer, and her fascination with Africa begins. I admit to harbouring misgivings about the rather text-heavy content, but what I didn’t foresee was the lasting impression this book would have on my daughter, as she flipped through the pages of beautiful animal photography and interesting details about them. It was a book she returned to, on her own, for years to come. She was in awe of Jan.
Fast forward anther 20 years and who would have dreamed that Jan and I would share involvement in the same writing networks and become friends? My daughter is impressed! Jan is a prolific author, whose fourteen True to Life Books bring into focus the world’s endangered animals in a way that is accessible and delightful for children. It’s brilliant narrative non-fiction.
Jan’s new book, Adventures in the wild with Jan Latta, is different. It’s a tour with Jan through the sights, sounds and smells of Africa as she takes the reader on safari with her. This is a record of her 11th trip to Africa earlier this year, to photograph wild animals for her True to Life story books, and she reflects upon experiences from her other trips too. It’s aimed at a young readership and makes a great companion to her other books.
Each page of this adventure book is alive with her photographs of animals, bursting with colour and personality. The anecdotes of her safaris draw the reader into the moment. Jan’s evocative writing style allows the reader to experience the rich texture of Africa using all the senses.
Hippos, it seems, are an explosion of senses – literally! Giving out ‘soft, contented musical notes,’ munching as they nibble grass, loud angry honking and farting, not to mention the swish of dung into their neighbour’s faces. Delightful! Oh- and be careful where you tread when you get out of the tent in the morning or you might just step in something soft and stinky!
I enjoyed reading about Jan’s reaction to her adventures: the difficulty of photographing Zebra’s, for instance, or the fear of walking past lions to get to her tent at night, or the thrill of watching a hunt. It is a wildlife book, and there are a few shots of big cats eating their prey. Jan acknowledges the seeming cruelty from our viewpoint, but emphasises the need for the animal’s survival.
With comments like: ‘At night, owls make a soft, hooting sound, contrasting with the roar of the lions. It’s all part of the orchestra of the sounds in the night.’ (P56) it makes me wonder how Jan ever got some sleep with all the ruckus! And makes me glad that she has done the adventuring for me and I can sit back and enjoy reading about it from the comfort and safety of my cosy sofa!
The book has interesting headings like ‘How to get close to a lion without being eaten,’ and it’s set out in neat chapters for each animal, moving from lions, through elephants, the big migration, leopard, zebra, cheetah, giraffe, birds and other interesting creatures.
As I mentioned above, Adventures in the Wild with Jan Latta is a brilliant addition to read alongside her True to Life books to extend learning and give a behind-the-scenes look at the experiences that went into making them.
At the end is a helpful compendium of useful information if you wanted to recreate her trips, or foster an elephant, as Jan has done for many years.
If you wanted hear Jan talk first hand about her adventures, she gives fascinating author talks for schools - check out her website for details. http://www.truetolifebooks.com.au/ Failing that, this book is the next best thing.
Also, to celebrate the launch of Adventures in the Wild with Jan Latta, Jan is giving an author talk at Gordon library (details below) and running an art competition (you may not know that Jan is a celebrated artist too!).
Art entry details download here:
You can buy Jan's book from The Children's Bookshop, Beecoft, and Lindfield Bookshop, from July 1st, or contact email@example.com. RRP for the hard cover is $24.99 and Paperback $ 19.99.
After a delightfully mild May, winter announced itself this week with gusty and frosty force, giving the trees one final shake to loose the straggling leaves and send them whipping around in wild flurries. Hunkered down in the warm indoors, we primed ourselves with vitamin C against winter colds by juicing the oranges from our groaning tree - don't you just love the synchronicity of nature? Vitamin C just when you need it! And the sweet juice, squeezed by loving hands is to be savoured, not taken for granted like a supermarket commodity.
With a new season comes a re-naming of my regular news updates. I think it encapsulates the heart of my ramblings and saves you, dear reader, from cheesy attempts at alliterative or clever titles! Plus, each title was only good for one time, a bit like single-use plastic bags.
This month's kidlit adventures included a visit to the Sydney Writer's festival, where I got to see Sally Rippin talk about the new and last book in the gorgeous Polly and Buster series. My adult daughter shares a love for fine kids and YA books, and this series has captured her heart. I also saw Sally and her co-host of The Kid Lit Club vlog/podcast/facebook, Adrian Beck host an impromptu story-telling session with Deb Abela, RA Spratt and Oliver Phommavanh (authors included in Total Quack Up anthology). So zany and fun! You can listen to a great interview with Sally and Adrian at the festival on the One More Page Podcast: Beyond the Book here.
This month I also had a fun-filled author visit to Horsley Kids Early Childhood Centre, where the kids enthusiastically searched for hearts that had 'bloomed' whilst I read the love-story When I See Grandma. The kids then they showered their teachers with love by covering them with the post-it note hearts. It was blooming lovely!
Whilst (vaguely) in the area, I visited Lost In Books, in Fairfield. This is an amazing kid's bookshop that seeks to engage the local culturally and linguistically diverse community in amazing and creative ways. Their tagline is 'A kid's bookshop that speaks you language.' Do check out their website. It also had two other attractions for me:
1. They had an exhibition of children's books from around the world, presented in conjunction with IBBY (international Board on Books for Young People). As it turned out, the exhibition had been packed up by the time I got there, but the super friendly and accommodating Jane Stratton and her team allowed me to dive into cases of packed-up books.
2. The illustrator of The Scared Book, Kim Siew, painted the murals that adorn the walls of the shop, and she regularly runs workshops there, so there was a personal connection that I wanted to explore.
That also led me to visiting the Fairfield City Museum and Art Gallery. This not only houses an amazing display from Farifield's bygone eras (it's like a little historical village), but also cutting edge art installations that I found thought provoking and moving. One of the highlights is an exhibition called 'The Gatherer' by none other than... Kim Siew! It was a thrill to see The Scared Book peeking out from a display cabinet with some of the things you can buy on her etsy store - worth checking out!
I went to a book launch for The Children's Bookshop owners, Paul and Beth MacDonald's new picture book, The Hole Idea, illustrated by Nathaniel Eckstrom. Author and editor, Sue Whiting, helped launch the book, describing it as 'an ode to the creative process and the power of story.' It is a great book by a super-supportive duo who help keep this industry afloat. And there was cake! Watch out for interview with them on the Just Write For Kids blog soon.
Talking about the JWFK blog, I hope you've been following my interview with the wonderfully generous and talented Jo Sandhu. May's instalment is here and it's a real treat for writers. Watch out Friday next week for the final part.
May is also the month for what has fast become one of the premier conferences on the Australian kidlit calendar: KidLitVic. I went to the inaugural event a few years ago now, and it was a seminal time for building a foundation of friendships that have been a source of encouragement and mutual support in out writing lives. I found this reflections post by Emma Bowd a good summary of this year's conference.
I have friends going to the CBCA National Conference in Canberra this weekend. It is also a (bi-annual) highlight of the Kidlit calendar. I went a number of years ago when When I See Grandma had recently been published. It was the first ever conference I attended as a writer. It was scary but wonderful and awe-inspiring. I met Bob Graham! Say no more! The line-up this year is fantastic too.
You know that I didn't get to the Flash Fiction Festival in Canberra last month, but a friend of mine went and found it invaluable. She even told me that my story was used in one of the workshops as an example of strong openings. How cool is that? Irma Gold has blogged her experiences on this event in her post Four Launches and a festival (don't you love the title?) and you can read it here. Also, I recommend subscribing to Irma's newsletter for great industry information and inspiration.
I have read some brilliant books this month: 1. Catherine Greer's YA debut Love, Lie, Repeat was a gripping thriller that was unsettling and crept up on you unexpectedly. You can read my review over on Goodreads here. 2. Everything You've Never said by Samantha Wheeler: an insightful and important book for upper primary kids and beyond. You can read my review on Goodreads here.
I'm also enjoying the clever-zany junior fiction Juno Jones by Kate Gordon, (check out the Books on Tour blogs) and I was fortunate win a copy of the gorgeous picture book Colouroos by Anna McGregor, (check out the The Books On Tour blogs for this one too). You might have noticed, that following Books on Tour is a great way to find out about new release books and authors, and also WIN copies of books - it's how I won the Colouroos, thanks to the generosity at the people at Hachette. You can subscribe at Just Write For Kids here.
With Mother's Day being in May, my family gifted me with two wonderful books for grown-ups with one, Gravity is the Thing, being written by an author of books for kids too: Jaclyn Moriarty. I'm loving it! Below is a photo of me reading it with Cat-on-a-lap, not wanting to be outdone by Story Hound!
You can see what other books have been on my radar by following @story_hound on Instagram. At then of this post, you'll find three that have been favourites so far in May.
Things I'm looking forward to:
1. Author talk at Gordon library tomorrow night, by Catherine Greer about the aforementioned Love lie Repeat. Technically in May, but I'm preparing my news early this month!
2. Attending a Flash Fiction reading event at a new gallery in the Blue Mountains on Friday night (also technically in May). I'll be reading my award-winning piece, Tagging. It's a bit unnerving having adults as the audience instead of kids!
3. Attending an author afternoon tea at Belrose public school, organised by my local CBCA sub-branch on the 6th June. These are always wonderful events where a bunch of authors visit the school and excite kids about books.
4. CBCA Northern Sydney sub branch event at Belrose Public School on June 12th for a book launch with Matthew Shallvey and meet the publisher of Big Sky Publishing, Diane Evans. You'd be welcome to join. Details here.
5. Launch of Nat Amoore's hotly anticipated mid-grade novel, Secrets of a Schoolyard Millionaire on the 8th June.
6. CBCA Northern Sydney Christmas in July at Forestville RSL on the 31st July. This a not-to-be-missed opportunity to hear from the amazing, award winning author Margaret Wild and the fabulous and award winning illustrator David Legge. I am looking forward to getting a signed copy of Bamboozled - a book which had my girls enthralled when it was first published 21 years ago. There's now a 21st anniversary copy available! Details here.
As promised, I'll leave you with the most popular stills on Instagram. Until next time...
For the super-cute moving pictures, you need check out Instagram :)
Easter is one of my favourite holidays. I love the opportunity to slow and reflect, and appreciate the beauty of the natural world as the weather cools and buds bloom. We’ve had some stunning Autumn days in Sydney this Easter and I’ve taken a few shots around my garden to share.
There have also been some blooming good times in my little patch of the kidlit world this month. Like the CBCA Northern Sydney sub-branch event and AGM. The crew behind One More Page podcast wowed us with a fun, engaging and fascinating behind the scenes look into the making of the podcast, with even a quiz and book give-aways! The evening was held at The Children’s Bookshop, and I got to hold and have a sneak peek at Ben and Beth MacDonald’s first picture book, The Hole Idea, published by their company, Book Trail and illustrated by Nathaniel Eckstrom – it’s fabulous! Watch out for an interview with Paul and Beth on the JWFK blog in the coming months. Also keep an eye on their Facebook page for launch details, in May. At the AGM, I was voted in to resume as secretary of the sub branch and I’m looking forward to continuing to work with the marvellous team with Jan Latta as this year’s sub branch president.
I also attended the Creative Kids Tales festival in Gymea, with this year's theme being Invest – it certainly was well worth investing in! Inspiring, encouraging, thought provoking, moving. There were so many highlights but I only managed to capture one photo - finally meeting Emily Lighezzolo from Wombat Books! Check out the CKT blog for a wrap up of the day.
It was a joy to be able to celebrate the launch of Georgie Donaghey and Sandra Severgnini’s Picture book with Little Pink Dog Books, In the Shadow of an Elephant, at the festival. This is such a beautiful, stunning, moving book with text and pictures so perfectly intertwined that it's nothing less than magical. I was thrilled to hear that the book sold out even before it hit the shelves. It is that good!
On the subject of pachyderms, it was a pleasure to interview Jo Sandhu, author of Tarin of the Mammoths, on the Just Write for Kids blog this month. Don't forget to look out for part two of the interview this Friday. Catch up with Part one here.
As well as elephants, there's been a bit of a canine theme running through this month:
On Hope 103.2 radio I spoke with Katrina Roe about books featuring canine companions that would be perfect for the school holidays. The gorgeous, gentle, Mr Walker by Jess Back and Sarah Acton was my junior fiction choice - I mentioned this book in my Nov/Dec news. Then, for a totally different canine experience, The Peski Kids by RA Spratt with scruffy Pumpkin's 'take no prisoners' approach, was my middle-grade choice.
I attended the launch of Katrina McKelvey and Cherri Hughes' No baths week. This wasn't a launch, it was a festival! Put on in conjunction with the Newcastle Libraries, there was an array of stalls with all things doggie - vets, pet portraits and products, dog wash etc- plus competitions, like the dog with the longest ears. Katrina also spoke about her reading initiative, the RUFF challenge encouraging children to read to their dog for a comforting non-judgemental reading experience. Find out more about it here. What a fun and engaging way to inspire kids to read! Katrina read and launched her book, with illustrator Cherri, to a crowd of human and canine listeners. I also got to catch up with illustrators Gwynneth Jones and Kirrili Lonergan. It was so worth the trip from Sydney!
Inspired by Katrina’s RUFF challenge and Paul MacDonald at the CBCA event encouraging people to post pics of books, not food, on social media, Archie, my French Bulldog buddy and I launched a new Instagram account, story_hound. The idea is simple – to showcase kids and YA books with Archie as the pin-up boy. Here’s our logo and the two photos with equal most likes so far. Do check us out!
What's on my radar?:
A couple of book launches on the same day in May – sadly you’ll have to choose between them! I don’t have to agonise over the decision as I had already RSVP’s to a wedding that day, so that’s where I’ll be :)
1. Oliver Phommavanh has a launch for his new book, Don't Follow Vee on the 18th May at 3.30 at Gleebooks. It will also be a celebration of the 10th anniversary of launching his first book, Thai-riffic! Details here.
2. Serena Geddes is launching Rosie and Rasmus, a picture book that she both wrote and illustrated, at The Children’s Bookshop, Beecroft at 4pm on the 18th May. She also has a Melbourne launch on the 11th May.
This event/exhibition at Lost In Books, Fairfield, (pictured) put on in conjunction with IBBY and the National Centre for Australian Children's Literature, also looks interesting, but I'm not sure if I'll manage to get there. Details here.
Also on my radar is The KidLit Club facebook page and group, where kidlit is top of the pops! Moderated by the delightful duo, Sally Rippin and Adrian Beck, this is a great online place to find out about everything kidlit and hang out with other devotees. Every second Tuesday there's a vodcast and the interview between Sally Rippin and Davina Bell was a highlight for me. If you’re a writer or illustrator, you’ll find it a fascinating insight into the interplay between creatives and the publishing house – Davina speaking as both an author and publisher. This episode was on the 2nd April, if you want to find it.
If you're a SCBWI member, the Crystal Kite award voting is closing in a couple of days, so be quick to vote. I still get a thrill thinking about when I found out I won this award last year. This year it will be one of these finalists -the amazing Dimity Powell with Nicky Johnston, Tania McCartney and Kelly Canby. Three fabulous books and four amazing creators! Who to choose???
Totally unrelated, I'm loving Lego Masters, hosted by Hamish Blake, on TV, although blowing up a Noah's Ark lego spaceship was mildly disturbing!
What I'm looking forward to:
Sydney writers festival. I'm going to check out the family day on Sunday and I've got tickets to a couple of events on the day.
Unfortunately, I couldn't manage to wrangle my way to the Flash fiction Fun weekend in Canberra this time, but I am keen to get my hands on the anthology that was launched on the weekend. I am, however, excited to be reading my story from the anthology at a Flash Fiction evening at a new art gallery in the Blue Mountains at the end of the month.
And one for the diary - Wombat books writers conference in September 28 in Brisbane. It’s a great line-up so get in early if you’re interested! Details here.
Wishing you a marvellous May!
Until next time,
I’ve had the joy this month to get away with family for a couple of weekends, to the mountains and the city. In the mountains we stayed at the grande dame, The Hydro Majestic, where my husband and I spent a night on our honeymoon. This month was the first time I'd been back to stay since. I found the same misty mountains, the same creaky floorboards and the same small rooms, but my, what a reno! I loved the art deco fittings and finishing and the black and white photo aspects of the old girl in her glory adorning the rooms and hallways. It was a delight!
All this gallivanting was very nice, but it also meant I missed out on a few fab kid-lit events too, like the launch of Aura Parker’s gorgeous new picture book, Cocoon, and the 10th birthday celebration of RA Spratt’s Nanny Piggins series. As a consolation, I did manage to snavel a copy of Cocoon at the SCBWI conference (see last month's post), and I have been snort-laughing my way through the first of RA Spratt’s newest series, The Peski Kids. It’s a cockroach-infested hoot! How did I go with the bookface photo with Archie?
When I have been in author mode, I’ve had the chance to:
...Talk with a year 7 group at Arden Anglican School about developing great characters.
...Attend Amelia McInerney’s The Book Chook book launch at my old stomping ground in the mountains. The launch was a joy to attend, complete with real live chook and chook poop! The book is fabulous, and so too is my interview with Amelia on the Just Write For Kids blog - if I do say so myself ;) I even managed to schmoose my way into a photo on the Blue Mountains Gazette website. Isn’t it a great shot? I’m resisting all the captions that come to mind!
...Be interviewed by Kate Gordon, author of CBCA Notable YA novel Girl Running, Boy Falling, for her blog. You can check it out here.
...Catch up with a retired teacher librarian friend who horrified me with the tale of what’s become of her school library in a disadvantaged area of Sydney. I felt like crying. It propelled me to write an article for the Students Need School Libraries website/blog. Check out the website if you haven’t already, and watch out for my article.
...Write up my notes from the SCBWI conference. I’ve posted them on the Just Write for Kids blog, with links to the in-depth roving reporter notes for each session on the SCBWI conference blog.
...Organise an interview with Jo Sandu of Tarin of the Mammoths fame for Just Write for Kids – keep your eye out for that one on Friday 5th April.
...celebrate the CBCA Book of the year shortlist and with tweets and gifs across social media (I couldn't get to the AAA event this year, but it looked like brilliant fun).
...Catch up with a small group of author friends and meet the amazing Lisa Shanahan, whose Hark it’s me, Ruby Lee and The Grand Genius Summer of Henry Hoobler both made the CBCA Notable list last year, with Ruby Lee going on to become an Honour book. These books brim over with wisdom, warmth and heart and I commend them to you. I mention Lisa’s speech to the QLD CBCA Book Week dinner in my interview with Kate Gordon. If you haven’t read it already, I suggest you do. It’s beautiful and brings a tear to my eye every time I read it. Find it here. Listening to Lisa is like being wrapped in a warm, fluffy jumper whist dabbing at tears as she opens the world to you in a new way, unravelling the beauty in the painful, hard things as well as the happy, joyful things. I was encouraged to take notice of small moments, and to jot those down in my notebook.
On my radar:
Brain Awareness week was during this month, highlighting the advance in, and need for brain research. You may not know, but I donate my author royalties for When I See Grandma to Alzheimer's Australia's Hazel Hawke fund for dementia research and care, in memory of mum, to whom the book is dedicated. By the way, it's on sale now on the Wombat Book's website ;)
SCBWI Crystal Kite voting starts tomorrow. Looking through the brilliant list of Australian and New Zealand books this year, I am once again moved that The Scared Book was honoured with this award last year. If you're a SCBWI member, look out for the voting.
Katrina McKelvy launches two of her books in April, both, it would seem, in spectacular style: one of them at the Newcastle writers festival and the other at a community dog picnic! They sound amazing! I might not be able to get to them, but if you’re in the area, do go along. Find out more here.
As well as The Peski Kids, I’ve been reading an ARC of Kat Colmer’s You Can’t Beat the Chemistry. The sign of good book is when you don’t want the train to arrive at your stop because you are so wrapped up in the story. It has such great characters and I loved the Pride and Prejudice meets The Rosie Project feel. It was also the perfect book to read on weekends away. It’s out mid April. You can read a review by Kate Gordon on the JWFK blog.
Flash Fiction Fun Weekend in Canberra. I have a flash fiction story in the anthology that will be launched at this event. It has an amazing line-up of speakers including Graeme Simsion, Bettina Arndt, Irma Gold and Jack Heath, to name a very few. I went last year and it really did turbocharge my writing. I recommend it to the writers amongst you. I’m going to try hard to get there this year. Check back next month to see if I made it! Find out more here.
Other things I am looking forward to:
1 CBCA NSW Inc Northern Sydney sub-branch AGM and event at The Children’s Bookshop, featuring the voices behind the One More Page Podcast. Wednesday the 3rd April. Find out about it and rsvp here.
2. CKT festival and manuscript assessment on the 6th April at Gymea. This is a sold-out event!
3. CBCA NSW High Tea with the authors Saturday 13th April. Details here.
4. Flash Fiction Fun weekend 26th – 28th April, details above.
I'll leave you with some atmospheric shots from the Hydro Majestic. Until next time...
This month of February has felt a bit like my French Bulldog, Archie – truncated, heavy at one end, and bringing me a lot of joy! At the end of the month, there was a lot to pack into a short space: I’m talking about the SCBWI conference and the Night of the Notables. And herein lies the shenanigans!
Anything run by the truly wonderful Susanne Gervay is bound to have elements of zany mixed in with the warm and wise. So the SCBWI Sydney conference was hallmark Gervay!
It started off with a pre-conference speed-launch at The Children’s Bookshop, Beecroft, with not one, not two, not three, but NINE books by uber-talented creators: Aura Parker, Dimity Powell, Caz Goodwin, Amelia McInerney, Kelly Hibbert, Meredith Costain, Shelly Unwin, Aleesah Darlison, Christina Booth. They each had 3 minutes to creatively introduce their book. Cram 150 conference (and other) spectators into a 40 person capacity venue, and you had a great test what the Aussie kidlit community is known for – kindness and generosity of spirit. The place was oozing it! It was also oozing with crittters…
There was a rascally raccoon and giant Koala on the loose. There were authors emerging from writing cocoons with giant wings. There was a chook stuck in a book. And a London Bobby to rustle them all up. Such imagination! Such inventiveness! Such fun!
It was a special joy to get my hands on a signed copy of Amelia McInerney’s yet-to-be-released Book Chook. I interviewed Amelia recently for the Just Write for Kids blog. You can read part one HERE and part two comes out tomorrow – don’t miss it.
Here are a couple of (tame) photos of the day. I see you, Nat Amoore from One More Page, peeking through the cracks! Attempted photo bomb!
On Monday, the SCBWI conference was in full swing. I had great fun catching up with writing friends, meeting online friends IRL (in the real life) and forming new friendships and connections. And tweeting. Lots of tweeting! Although I couldn’t keep up with Oliver Phommavanh on the day – he has some sort of tweeting super-power. Must be all the hamburgers! He also speed-wrote a blog about his conference take-homes – it’s worth a read Here.
Also, check out the official SCBWI conference blog HERE. I hope to write up something about the conference for JWFK in the near future.
After sitting in the conference room all day, it was great to put the glad rags on and dance to the groovy beats of the SCBWI Beatnickers band after dinner. I’ve seen a few photos on facebook of the groovers and shakers of kidlit… I’m looking at you, Sue Whiting 😊. Nice moves! My photos are a bit more tame...
On Tuesday I recuperated in the morning and started with Mira Reisberg’s humour workshop in the afternoon (I took home a great idea for a story) followed by the CBCA Night of the Notables at Dymocks. Matt Cosgrove’s speech on the night was delightfully funny. I discovered we had a few things in common – growing up in Western Sydney and fathers who were both Vietnam veterans. He showed us how to draw his famous Macca the Alpaca using only the letters YOU. A stroke of brilliance for the authors in the room (there were many), playing to our strengths – words! Below are some photos, finishing with a zombie appaccalypse - Matt's words, not mine :-)
I was thrilled to see some of the books I’ve mentioned in my news and on the radio included on the CBCA notables list: Duck!, Beware the Deep, Dark Forest, All the ways to be Smart, Mr Walker, Chip the Lifeguard, A Boat of Stars, Room on our Rock, and three of the older readers: Lenny’s Book of Everything, The Things that Will Not Stand and Girl Running, Boy Falling. The latter book by Kate Gordon I’m especially thrilled about as the publisher, Rhiza Edge is an imprint of my Indie publisher, Wombat Books. I'm in the photo with Kate and fellow Wombat books AND Rhiza Edge author Penny Reeve/Jaye.
In publishing news, I’m excited to have TWO stories to be published in anthologies this year! It’s been a joy to work with Irma Gold on my prize-winning story, Tagging, for inclusion in a flash fiction anthology released mid-year. I’ve also just found out that Christmas Press has accepted my short story for their illustrated Christmas Cornucopia anthology released – you guessed it – in time for Christmas this year. Can’t wait to see both stories in print!
On my radar this month:
Bird on a Wire (Little hare). I love this rhyming, fun picture book about one-upmanship, with a gorgeous and clever message of contentment at the end. I lugged my copy around both days of the SCBWI conference hoping to have it signed by the author, Kate Gordon, (of Girl Running, Boy Falling fame, above) and Nathaniel Eckstrom (who also illustrated Duck! mentioned above). And voila! Don't you love the endpapers?!
The Book Chook (Schlastic), Amelia McInerney and Connah Brecon’s story about Ray the chook, who is surprised to discover that he is a drawing in a book. Delightful and funny.
The Box Cars (EK Books). I went to the launch of this sweet book at the beginning of the month and was rewarded to see Robert Vescio again and meet Cara King! This book is getting some great reviews – here’s one. I interviewed Robert a few books back (he’s creating quite a library) for the JWFK blog- you can check out the interview in two parts HERE.
You MUST look out for Christina Booth's hauntingly beautiful picture book One Careless Night. It's so moving, The words are poetic, lyrical and divine, and the illustrations powerful. It's about the last thylacine. It has a touch of Margaret Wild and Ron Brook's iconic Fox about it. And Aura Parker has another charming, delightfully quirky picture book - Cocoon. It's gorgeous. She's launching it at Kinokuniya, Sydney. She'd love to see you there: find out about it here.
Another thing I loved this month was the Mary Poppins Movie. I loved it. Loved the music. Loved the story. Loved the way Emily Blunt played Mary. Love Emily Blunt!
Things I’m looking forward to:
1 Talking with a year 7 class at Arden Anglican School next week
2 Posting part two of my interview with Amelia McInerney tomorrow and the launch of The Book Chook, Monday 11th March.
3 Creative Kids Tales conference 6th April with a manuscript assessment with Sue Whiting. I’m polishing off the story with my writer’s group before submitting it to Sue.
4 CBCA shortlist announcement on the 26th. They have a fabulous AAA event on the day - details here.
5 CBCA Northern Sydney sub-branch AGM and first event of the year on the 3rd April. Head here for details.
Wishing you a wonderful March.
I do hope you had a wonderful Christmas and are ready for the start of a bright new year sparkling with possibilities. Last January I wrote about the Push-me-Pull-you nature of January, with all the looking forward and looking backwards. This year, you can find my Looking Backwards over 2018 in the post - 'My Year in Pictures' here.
The year has started off with a burst of administration and organisation, which does feel like a never-ending stream, however it has been happily sprinkled with flecks of gold along the way with the discovery of Marie Kondo and her joy-filled tidying philosophy. She might not be for everyone, and I'm yet to discover how she sorts her books (I have an ominous premonition) but she has brought joy to some mundane tasks and for that I'm thankful! In fact, I think I have to call it... the word for my year is... JOY!
Some other things that have brought me joy this month include:
1 This jigsaw of books (pictured) featuring brave girls from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and these nostalgic books that my family gifted me for Christmas. Brought tears of joy to my eyes, they did. And many, many happy moments lost in puzzle and time.
2 Australia Post Children's literature legend stamps - I love this video:
3 Australia Day honours to creators that make the children's literature space a wonderful place to be: Sophie Masson, Emily Rodda (Jennifer Rowe), Alison Lester and a lovely local honour to Alison Tait. Alison Lester was also awarded the Melbourne prize for literature, presented every three years to a Victorian author ‘whose body of published work has made an outstanding contribution to Australian literature, as well as to cultural and intellectual life.' I don't know about your home library, but Alison Lester books feature prominently in ours.
4 My beautiful stationary that has already inspired me to write and send away two new stories! So much joy!
In January I ran a choc-a-block Monster Mayhem workshop at The Children's Bookshop, Beecroft. We had fun on a gruesome treasure hunt through the store, looking for monster body-parts (would you call that treasure?!) and then assembled our own monster together, before kids were let loose with paper and pencils to design their own monster characters. At the end, the kids all created their own talking monster puppet, using a basic chatterbox design and lots of embellishments. Here's mine:
Discoveries (Apart from Marie Kondo on Netflix):
I've enjoyed listening to a new podcast by some online friends of mine. It's about writing and reviewing books for mid grade readers, called Middle Grade Mavens. If you write for this genre, this is must. The first and second podcasts include an interview with Danielle Binks which gives great industry insights - I recommend having a paper and pen handy!
Another new adventurer on the podcast scene is Tania McCartney - is there anything this multi-talented gal can't do? (she does tell me singing is not something we'll hear her do anytime soon :-). The Happy Book, has tips and information about finding your way in the children's publishing world.
This fantastic article in the Wall Street Journal about The Secret Power of the Children's picture Book. It may be subscriber only now :( but it says how MRIs of kids brains show that reading a story alone is 'too cold' for young kid's brain activity, that animation is 'too hot,' but picture books, where the child is able to synthesise the spoken words as their eyes are free to roam over the pictures at their own pace, are 'just right' for firing up the perfect cognitive processes. It also gives a warning about the effect of parental use of electronic devices and the way that user's facial expressions mirror a depressed affect that is anxiety producing for young children. I found the research fascinating!
On my reading radar:
Girl Running, Boy Falling - is an important YA book for our times, unfortunately. With youth suicide rates a national disgrace, this book speaks to those left behind, like a guiding light through the darkness and into the light. Kate Gordon's book threads a compelling narrative around grief and loss, hints at prevention strategies and seeks to stem the pull of suicide contagion by holding out a hand of hope.
The Things That Will Not Stand by Michael Gerard Bauer - the kind of book I want to hug when I've finished. It's a YA that will suit the younger end of the spectrum; short and easy to read (thankfully, because I couldn't put it down -I read it in an afternoon/evening); humorous yet deep and an ode to creativity that helps us hope for and imagine a better future. So much love for this book. I found it at my local library after not being able to find it in the shops at Christmas time. I think it must be very popular!
Lenny's Book of Everything by Karen Foxlee- for the more mature end of the mid grade market, with its length and themes. A book that would also appeal to an adult readership. It's poignant with an incredible strong and quirky voice that I thoroughly enjoyed. Tear-jerking but not maudlin, infused with resilient hopefulness and unexpected humour.
Who Dresses God by Teena Raffa-Mulligan and Veronica Rooke - I won this book via a Books on Tour competition. It's a gorgeous rhyming conversation between a mother and child within a picture book. The softly painted illustrations profiling faces from different perspectives will engage small children who delight in seeking out faces.
My chats with Katrina Roe on Hope 103.2 this month included these gorgeous junior fiction and picture books. All highly recommended!
Looking forward to:
My interview with up-and-coming author Amelia McInerney on the Just Write For Kids Blog. Amelia's first of five picture books comes out in a month and the first peek will be at ...
The SCBWI conference in February! So much excitement about this! Great events, kicking off with a whole lot of mini book launches (including Amelia's) at The Children's Bookshop, Beecroft on Sunday 24th details here
Robert Vescio launches yet another wonderful picture book - The Box Cars. It's also at The Children's Bookshop, this Saturday 2nd. I hope to be there.
Picture Book Book Club twitter party featuring Shelly Unwin. Do join in if you can!
CBCA Night of the Notables on Tuesday the 26th Feb- when the CBCA announces the long-list for the Book of the Year awards. So excited to see who makes the list!
Laureate summit on the 28th Feb - not sure I can get to this one, but what a line-up!
I'm sure I'll catch up with some of you at one or more of these events!
Wishing everyone a Joyful new year!
I've been inspired by some facebook friends to pick out the top nine photos that highlight my year. (thanks Max Hamilton!) So here goes...
Explanations - L to R each row:
Getting a gig at the Sydney Writer's Festival in their Storytime Clubhouse
Attending the inaugural Flash Fiction Festival in Canberra
Being invited to be the children's book reviewer on Hope 103.2
Being on a panel with my writers' group at the Kids and YA Festival at Writing NSW
The Scared Book getting not one, not two, but three stickers (Cheating a bit here - each one deserves its own pic, but alas, not enough room in this 3x3 collage)
Launching writing buddy Katrina Roe's Lily's Balloon
Being the guest on Picture Book Book Club's October chat
Winning the FAWQ Flash fiction (refined after the above-mentioned Flash Fiction Festival)
My SCBWI Crystal Kite trophy
I also needed a separate nine for all the wonderful celebrations I had with others at their launches (I actually needed a few more thank nine):
From L to R row by row:
Caroline Magerl's Maya and Cat
Katrina Roe and Helene Maggison's Lily's Balloon
Shelly Unwin and Ben Wood's Blast Off
Zanni Louise and Gillian Flint's Tiggy and the Magic Paintbrush
Shelly Unwin and Vivienne To's There's a Baddie Running Through this Book
Sue Whiting and Annie White's Beware the Deep Dark Forest
Francis Watts and David Legge's It's a Story, Rory
Rebecka Sharpe-Shelberg and Andrea Edmonds' Visiting You
Penny Reeves' and Leigh Hedstrom's Camp Max
Penny Reeves' Out of the Cages
Dave Ley's The Institute of Fantastical Adventures
Julie Thorndyke Anna Seed's Waiting for the Night
And two launches I desperately wanted to get to but couldn't: Catherine Pelosi's Quark's Academy and Something For Fleur (illos Caitlin Murray)
And I couldn't resist some fabulous bookweek, library, workshop, school and Writer's Festival visits!
Thanks to all my family, friends and supporters for the wild and wonderful ride this year has been. I really couldn't have done it without you. I have the best fan-club! As years go, I don't think they get better than this!
Now, looking forward...
Wishing you a New Year of health, happiness and some wonderful surprises.
At this time of year, you can’t go very far without being driven from the shops, parcels jammed firmly over your ears like misshapen earmuffs, to escape the looping Christmas muzak. Despite this yearly musical murder, the soundtrack of my Christmas past remains fondly etched into my musical memory like the grooves in the old vinyl record. I only need dig the cover out of the decorations box to start my own rendition of Donde Esta Santa Claus? And now, digging around the internet, Olay! I’ve just found it on YouTube, so I can bring the Do-Re-Me Sing-along Children’s Chorus alive again! What joy my family will experience this Christmas!
Who knows, this blast from the past may eclipse the soundtrack to my children’s’ Christmas in the CD age - Peter Combe’s Christmas Album?!
Enough nostalgia! Now onto the month and half that was:
I was inspired by Sandy Fussell's article in Buzz Words this month to spruce up my website. It’s amazing how quickly things need updating. I'm putting up links to all the author interviews I’ve done for Just Write For Kids in one place on my website. Check them out here. Don't miss the latest two instalments of my interview with Kids and YA author Penny Reeve AKA Penny Jaye. I've also updated my website banner - take a look on the home page. I'm still going on the sprucing, it's a never-ending story!
With Christmas and the end of the year approaching, it's the season for celebrations, and I've been to as many as I can manage!
I had a such a wonderful time at the Sydney SCBWI Christmas celebration. Susanne Gervay had picked up my Crystal Kite trophy all the way from LA and lugged it (and two others – for Tania McCartney and Jess Racklyeft, last year’s winners) home. No wonder she has a bad back! Bless her! She presented it to me on the day (complete with white gloves to hold it!) and I was almost moved to tears (again). Here’s a lovely collage (below) put together by Amelia McInerny (who is about to have 5 books published - look out for my interview with her on the Just Write For Kids Blog in February)
As I was preparing a little acceptance speech, I came across these few lines from a poem by John Dryden that seemed to beautifully represent what I was feeling:
“My heart’s so full of Joy, That I shall do some wild extravagance Of love, in public; and the foolish world, Which knows not tenderness, will think me mad.”
Isn’t poetry perfect for expressing feeling? PLUS – I won a package of books from the One More Page Podcast team who gave a spectacular presentation. They are so fabulous! And so are the books!
Talking about winning, it was my privilege to provide a writing workshop as a prize for the Lunch With The Stars Writing Competition, to Dia’s class at Terry Hills PS. Dia’s story certainly resonated with primary school me, being all about horses and the special relationship with people. Congratulations Dia! She’s one to look out for in the future!
Another winner recently was the delightful Belinda Murrell who is on the committee of my CBCA sub-branch and was named the KOALA legend! I’m so thrilled for her. Find out more about Kid's Own Australian Literary Awards here. Belinda's been out and about on the book-trail recently, promoting her newest in the delightful Pippa’s Island series.
Also in CBCA news, my sub-branch wanted to do something for the kids in the country who are doing it tough with the drought. We thought a Bale of Books from the authors/illustrators of our sub-branch might help lift the spirits of the kids at Condoblin Public School. And by all reports, we did:
‘It made some of the staff teary when they read the card. You guys have no idea how much you hit the nail on the head. It made us smile and that is one of the greatest gifts any one can give when things are grim… Again thanks, you made a difference.’
I love my CBCA Sub-branch! We also know how to put on a good party, and this year’s Christmas bash was a beauty. We had the legendary Kate Forsyth in conversation with the equally legendary John Flanagan. It felt like we were onlookers to an intimate fireside chat between friends. And look what I brought home from the silent auction:
Also on parties, I had my writers' group dinner last night, and I'm so excited that TWO of my group will have mid-grade novels out mid next year. Watch this space!
The Children’s Bookshop had a celebration of publishers from Armidale event recently. Kathy and Peter Creamer from Little Pink Dog Books and Sophie Masson from Christmas Press came to ‘the big smoke’ to show off all the wonderful books that are coming from their region. Did you know Armidale is a publishing hotspot? Do look out for their books. I came home with these (left):
In other news… I have been asked by kid's author and radio presenter, Katrina Roe, to be her regular book reviewer on the kid’s book club segment on Hope 103.2. I get to talk on the radio about books I love. I'm so excited! We kicked off with my favourite genre - Picture Books! I told everyone what I loved about Sue Whiting & Annie White's Beware the Deep Dark Forest and Davina Bell and Alison Colpoys' All the Ways to be Smart.
What I’ve enjoyed reading:
The Tales of Mr Walker – I’m a sucker for beautiful books and books about dogs, and this book is both. Jackpot! The whimsical illustrations by Sara Acton bring to life the humorous dogs-nose view of the world of Labrador Ambassador at the Park Hyatt, Melbourne, Mr Walker. Written by Jess Black, the stories are charming and delightful, and I’m not the only one who thinks so -Mr Walker is longlisted for the Indie Book Awards.
Also charming is Anne of Green Gables which I’ve delved into after watching and loving the Netflix series Anne with an E. It was a beautiful world to be lost in. I was reminded of Anne when reading the picture book, All the Ways to be Smart: There’s a divine full page spread: ‘and floating off on daytime dreams’ that looks just like Anne dreaming in a field of flowers.
I have adored Oliver Phommavanh’s Natural Born Loser. I think it’s my mid-grade pick of the year. This is a big-hearted book delivered with big laughs. A book I wanted to hug when I finished.
Jackie French’s Just a Girl, is a remarkable historical fiction about a 14 year old girl, Judith, hiding in a cave in Judea, Israel, in 72 AD with her sister, grandmother, a freed Roman slave and a goat. The rest of her family has been murdered by the Roman army. Her grandmother reflects on the life of her friend, Mary, the mother of Jesus. Thought provoking, inspiring and ultimately uplifting, this is historical fiction at its best, and perfect timing to enter into an authentic Christmas experience.
Chip the Lifeguard by Kylie Howarth. This is Kylie's second book about Chip the seagull. It's funny for kids and adults. It's also heartwarming and sneakily teaches kids about surf safety.
What I'm watching:
The Secret Life of Four/Five Year Olds. This is gold for people who write for kids! And so adorable! Watch it on catch up TV, from channel 10.
Things I am looking forward to:
Christmas: Twinkling lights, Christmas tea (think Candy Cane or Sleigh Ride tea), my favourite people and reading. Lots of reading.
And then in the New Year, conducting a Writing Workshop for 6-8 year olds at The Children’s Bookshop, Beecroft, on the 21st January 9-12. Call the store on 9481 8811 for bookings.
I've also booked for the SCBWI conference in Sydney in February, and the Creative Kids Tales festival in April. I've booked a manuscript assessment with Sue Whiting at the latter, and I'm very much looking forward to that. I'd better get my pencil out and start scribbling!
And now to wish you all a wonderful Christmas abounding in love, joy and books.
I can’t gift you a song, like my talented friend, Renee Price who serenaded her friends on facebook, with Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas (so beautiful - sigh!) but I can gift you the soundtrack to my Christmas past! Straight from the 1960’s to you! The song I mentioned before is at 18mins&30secs – but why limit yourself to one song? Press here!
Have yourself a very happy (musical) Christmas!
And for bloopers... here's a Christmas elf trying to rid himself of his elf attire :)
PS What’s the soundtrack to your Christmas past and present?
PPS Some people are saying lovely things about my newsletter. If you enjoy reading these monthly blog roundups, make sure you’ve subscribed – go to the front page of my website.