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!
Wow! I can’t believe my last post was in April! So much has been happening and yet not happening! It’s a paradoxical time!
I’ve been pretty preoccupied with the sale of our family home. Phase one moving was earlier in the year, but phase two has been protracted and bigger than I expected, and complicated by Coronavirus (what hasn’t been?). I’ve felt a bit like I’ve been wading through mud. But the sparkling diamond that has kept a glow in my heart has been signing with literary agent, Annabel Barker. You can read about her on her website and see her in action in an interview with Valerie Khoo on the Australian Writer’s centre facebook live here. It’s been a joy to work on my stories with Annabel, and I’m so thrilled and grateful to have her support my writing career.
Whilst I have managed to pop into both a bookshop and a library recently, most of my Kidlit adventures these months have been online, like most activities these days. Here’s some of what I’ve been up to…
I had a ball on the CBCA NSW Lunchtime Storytime live in May. Story Hound Archie joined me (photo above) as I read The Scared Book and revealed two things that he’s scared of (Hint: one is weather and the other medical related). My reading has been taken down now due to publisher permissions, but you can still see some of the other authors over on the facebook page. I took advantage of the Gleebooks special CBCA NSW offer and bought some books (included below, left).
One of the books that excited me and Archie was Kaye Baillie’s Boo Love Books - it could almost be our theme book! I interviewed Kaye Baillie on the Just Write for Kids Blog last month – you can find the interview here.
Talking about buying books, I also grabbed a copy of Deb Abela and Marjory Crosby Fairall's new picture book, Bear in Space, after hearing them chat about their unusual collaboration at a recent CBCA NSW Northern Sydney Sub-branch Zoom event. Paul Macdonald from The Children's Bookshop also spoke, and I ordered signed copies from him online.
The IRL bookshop I stumbled into was The Constant Reader in Crows Nest, and picked up a copy of Nat Amoore's latest Mid Grade novel, The Power of Positive Pranking. For a must-see star-studded video recording of the first chapter, check out the Youtube link here.
I videoed an unwrapping of these gems on Instagram and Facebook, if you want to check it out. I also filmed another book mail unwrapping earlier in May, with these great picture books - you can find that one on my Instagram feed too.
Talking about Deborah Abela, above, I popped my face into the ASA webinars where she was speaking about author presentations online. She’s always so upbeat and positive and encouraging and a fount of knowledge and experience. Thanks Deb, for always being willing to share!
I also Zoomed into the SCBWI Act branch mini conference in June, for a short while. It was great seeing some familiar and friendly faces that I have been missing In Real Life, and hearing about all things Kidlit.
Another zoom event recently with CBCA NSW Northern Sydney sub-branch hearing from Alice Achan and Philippa Tyndale and the experiences behind their book The School of Restoration, about the hope springing from the horrors of war violence in Uganda via the redeeming power of Alice's school for girls. It is both heartbreaking and inspiring.
I have been enjoying Aleesah Darlison's helpful resources dropping into my email inbox. These are short, easily digestible information bites for writers, and can be found on her Greenleaf Agency website here. I recommend subscribing to Greenleaf Agency's website, if you don't already.
I also came across the Lost in Books TV channel which extends the reach of their fabulous multilingual programs. I especially love the Baby music time “We love Music.’ Check it out here.
I'm excited about the new CBCA SCBWI joint venture, Story Scoop. The aim of Story Scoop is to connect SCBWI/CBCA authors/illustrators with schools and libraries, and provide an inspiring and useful teaching resource about children’s books and their creators for adults and kids to enjoy via a free, monthly 20 minute video. Find out more about it here, and watch it here.
Another fantastic CBCA NSW initiative, this time for the kids, is the Collide Book Trailer Competition, for students in Years 3-9 in NSW schools. It closes soon, so check it out here.
I’ve been asked to do a facetime live interview with not-for-profit Braille House, who do amazing things when it comes to sight impaired kids and literacy. They may even transcribe one of my books into Braille! How amazing is that? Look out for that in August.
On a not kidLit front, compulsive evening viewing this past month for my family has been Africam, a livecam at an African waterhole. To think that you can see the animals on the other side of the world, in real time, is strangely addictive! We’ve been watching animals at Tau waterhole, on the border of South Africa and Botswana, where elephants, zebras, wildebeests and antelopes are commonplace, and we even saw a lion on the weekend and were beside ourselves with excitement! Even Cat-on-lap, Opal, finds it addictive!
Things I am looking forward to:
9th September: The next CBCA NSW Northern Sydney Sub-branch zoom event with special guest, children's laureate, Ursula Dubosarsky. We will also be launching Oliver Phommavanh's new book of short stories, and have time for members and friends to show us their book babies. Learn more about it here.
My interview with Braille House.
My birthday this month and reading the books I'm looking forward to getting ;-)
Until next time, stay safe and warm,
Once upon a time, not so very long ago, I would hop into my messy little Mazda and drive off near and far on my adventures in kidlitland. But now, in this alternate universe, the adventures are coming to me! How good is that? Or is it? It’s a dystopian conundrum!
The good thing about it is that what I save on petrol and road tolls, I can spend on books! I did a live book parcel unwrapping with StoryHound Archie over on Instagram earlier this month, and I just might do another one with the next bundle that’s on order! Strange times indeed! You can see the books I got in the photo below (The Book of Dust is for my daughter). The other good thing is that reading always has been great to enjoy in isolation!
I’ve also pre-ordered a book as part of a pozible campaign, because It’s the companion book to a book I love featuring a stunning Blue Mountains setting and fabulous creatures, with a heart-warming story. The campaign concludes tomorrow (Thursday 30th), so if you love Lyrebirds and the Blue Mountains, check out author Jodie McCleod reading Leonard the Lyrebird on facebook here to see the quality of the book, and decide for yourself if Lilah is a bird worth investing in.
Three things I've loved having beamed into my home:
For kids (and kids at heart): The CBCA NSW are hosting lunchtime storytimes. I get to watch amazing authors read my favourite and new favourite books LIVE on Facetime while I’m slurping my pumpkin soup. Such a brilliant initiative! And I even get a turn! Yep – I’m on Friday the 15th May 12 MD and I’d love to see some friendly chit chat in the comments... Please! See this week's lineup below.
Book Launch Extravaganza over on the Just Write For Kids Facebook page. Five books launched by five authors over five hours on one day! What an feast of new kidlit! Congratulations Katrina McKelvey and Prue Pittock, Emily S Smith and Heidi Cooper Smith, Josh Langley, Victoria McKinlay and Sofya Karmazina, and Dee White. Check out the books and authors here, and keep an eye out for more. But be warned - don't be over-enthusiastic with your comments, or Facebook blocks them, thinking they're spam! There's a limit, apparently. I found out the hard way!!
For writers: SCBWI have FREE webinars for members. You can book to watch live and participate via chat, or you can view later, before they expire in about a month. I’m doing the latter. The episode with Lin Oliver and Henry Winkler (yes – THE Henry Winkler of The Fonz fame) was pure joy to listen to, and gold in terms of writerly advice. Highly recommend it. Another good reason to join SCBWI.
Somethings that are working well from home but I can’t wait until they are In Real Life again are the CBCA NSW Northern Sydney Sub-branch meetings and my regular Writing NSW writer’s group. CBCA NSW is Zooming its AGM on Saturday 2nd May (unfortunately the High Tea with the Stars component is postponed) and they’d love some new committee members. Why not consider it? Details here.
One of my Writer’s Group writing buddies had started a newsletter for kids to help them through long lockdown days. It’s called Salsy Jack , for kids aged around 8-12 and it’s rather fabulous. Find out more here and sign up. There's even a Facebook page too.
SCBWI connects website has a digital directory of remote learning resources, neatly divided into categories. You can find The Scared Book in the Emotional and Mental Wellbeing square.
I caught up with Katrina Roe on Hope 103.2 radio TWICE this month. We chatted about these great reads for kids and young adults. I’ve raved already in past blogs about the books on the pink tile, so let me rave about the ones on the stripy tile:
Aleesah Darlison’s League of Llamas is just as it’s abbreviation suggests LOL! These Secret agent Llamas give a wink to Mission Impossible, James Bond and Johnny English style films. Characterisation is fun, action is fast and the word play and bottom humour are papered thick. Kids will love them.
Zoe and Zac at the Zoo is Belinda Murrell and David Hardy’s contribution to a new series of early readers featuring kids living in diverse places in each of the Australian States and Territories. As a kid who always asked to go to the zoo for my birthday, I would have loved this book about Zoe and Zac who follow Zoe’s zoo-keeper mother to work for their 7th birthday treat. The illustrations are in lovely tones of ochre and orange echoing the Dubbo setting.
A Perfect Little Monster is a bright, colourful and fun picture book by Penny Morrison and Simon Howe. When twin monsters Iris and Fang start school, Iris is determined to show brother Fang how to act like perfect little monsters. But Fang’s behaviour is befuddling! He says ‘Thank you’ and ‘Please don’t do that’ and Iris doesn’t know where he’s heard such language! Such a fun book with sneaky opportunities for learning.
PS congratulations to Wai Chim for The Surprising Power of Good Dumpling making the shortlist for the ABIA (Australian Book Industry Awards)
I took over the interviewer seat for a chat with children’s author Kate Simpson, (pictured) on the Just Write For Kids Blog this month. Her latest book, non-fiction Anzac Girl is based on her great great grandmother and was perfect for Anzac Day this month. Check out the Show and Tell interview here.
I curled up with Cat-in-a-Lap this month while reading:
Deep Water by Sarah Epstein. Wow! Totally loved this YA mystery. It gave me a few sleepless un-put-downable book nights. Totally engaged with the characters, with a special softness for the boys - that's the social worker coming out in me!
The Book of Chance by Sue Whiting. Sue’s books are always gripping and blow me away. She tackles brave subjects like truth, lies, consequences and identity (in this novel) with amazing sensitivity, insight and wisdom. I was hooked from the first page.
I’m also comfort-reading one of my fave grown-up books of all time – Bel Canto by Ann Patchett. It’s exquisite, and a perfectly themed for long days in isolation (although it is a tear-jerker).
A book launch!! Online! Libby Hathorn is launching her new picture book, No! Never! with her co-author daughter Lisa Hathorn-Jarman and illustrator Mel Pearce. Featuring also Jessica Rowe. It’s tomorrow (Thursday 30th) at 4pm if you’d like to join, details here.
More CBCA NSW StoryTime sessions.
Books arriving in the mail (from an independent bookseller).
StoryHound Archie's Insta posts have sadly been suffering from the closure of public libraries. I'm sure we're not the only ones who are missing these treasure troves of books. However, he stepped it up a notch and posted a couple of videos this month! Below is a set-up shot of Archie wondering if this is a magic lamp - it has a handle and a spout. What would happen if he rubs this??
Until next time,
Stay safe and well,
All the best,
What a difference a month makes, hey? There we all were, getting on with our lives, making plans, and Wham! Someone slammed on the brakes. And we’re all still reeling, some a bit, others a lot, and some a heck of a lot. My heart is sad. But in this post, I’m going to go the full Pollyanna, and look for the good.
Where I’m writing from today it’s a beautiful sunny day. I’m thankful for that. And yesterday was rainy. I’m thankful for that. And also, last week was the announcement of the CBCA Book of the Year Shortlist – so there’s a celebration! Not only that, you can watch the announcement as it unfolded yourself, because it was all online – see here. Or if you want to just cut to the chase, the list is here.
I was thrilled to see several of my good friends on the list, and some of the favourite books I’ve read recently – like The Secrets of Magnolia Moon. I was especially thrilled to see one of my publishers, Wombat Books with a shortlisted title, The Thing About Oliver – that’s a great accolade for a boutique, independent publisher, PLUS I love the author, .Deb Kelly – I interviewed her for the JWFK blog a while back – find her on this page, here.
Other award celebrations include Wai Chim’s The Surprising Power of Good Dumpling and Sami Bayly’s The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Ugly Animals winning the Indie Book Awards (by the Australian Independent Booksellers) for the YA and Children’s categories respectively. You can watch Sami doing readings of her book on youtube here.
And one of my picture book heroes, Margaret Wild, was awarded the Lifetime Achievement
in Literature Award by the Australia Council. Congratulations, Margaret!
I also want to celebrate the release of some fabulous new books, especially as so many book launches and events have been cancelled. Every new book deserves to be welcomed into the world with a fanfare! So, despite not being able to launch books IRL (In Real Life), the kidlit community is a creative bunch, and there are some inventive ways of celebrating online. Here are a few I’ve found:
Victoria Mackinlay’s Ribbit Rabbit Robot has a fabulous launch video, ably assisted by Nat Amoore, Amelia McInerney and Amanda Lieber, here: PLUS Victoria will be doing a storytime on Facebook live TOMORROW (Tuesday 7th April) at 10.30– details here. I missed out on attending the cancelled launch at Berkelouw Books, Leichardt, so I'll definitely be tuning in!
Deep Water, the latest YA crime/mystery novel by Sarah Epstien is on it’s way to me via a package from Berkelouw Books, Leichardt. I can't wait to read it! Watch an event with Sarah on the 10th April, 6,30 PM LIVE on the Ozauthorsonline platform, set up to help virtually launch Aussie books and host events. The youtube channel is here.
Keep your eye on the Just Write For Kids facebook fan page for a number of online book launches you can be involved in, starting mid April, so make sure you LIKE the page https://www.facebook.com/JustWriteForKidsAustralia/ and follow along. Here’s a link to the first Children's Book Launch Extravaganza on Easter Monday: April 13, 10am-2pm.
Please support our Aussie book creators and local bookstores in these difficult times. Many bookshops are offering cheap mail or free delivery. I’ve got a stack of books on the way from Berkelouw Books, Leichardt, where I was to attend the (cancelled) launch of Ribbit Rabbit Robot.
With so many children schooling from home at the moment, authors and illustrators have come up with some creative ways to engage kids with books online via virtual readings and the like. I’ve posted a video reading of The Scared Book on the International Read to me Day youtube channel, here. Subscribe to the channel and find other author readings too, like Dimity Powell, Yvonne Mess and Emma Mactaggart.
Others doing online readings include Tania McCartney (on youtube) and Gus Gordon (on Instagram).
A few people are trying to keep a list of online author/illustrator resources, one of which is Sophie Masson, on her Feathers of the Firebird blog here. SCBWI is also compiling a directory (worlwide).
If you’re looking for a laugh to lift your spirits in these viral days, check out the twitter hashtag
#kidlitgoesantiviral. Started by author Meg McKinlay, it’s an hilarious splutter-laugh of kid’s book covers re-imagined for the viral age. Here's my book with it's make-over:
If you’re a member of SCBWI, you can attend FREE online workshops each week. They look fantastic, and I'm definitely going to be watching them.
CYA Conference, which I’ve always wanted to attend but haven’t been able, is going online this year too – so now I’ll be able to join in! And it’s over the whole month of July! They have an incredible line- up. Check it out here.
Publisher, Rhiza Edge, is running a short story competition for stories written for Young people and adults 13 + for inclusion in an anthology and with book voucher prizes. More here:
Things I’m looking forward to
1. Coronavirus eradicated and lockdown over
2. Reading those books
3. Zooming with my Writer's group
4. Zooming with my CBCA Northern Sydney Sub-Branch for a meeting an the AGM on Wednesday 8th April.
Until next time, I'm leaving you with Story Hound Archie's most popular recent post, below.
Please, stay healthy and safe.
My kidlitland adventures this month have been squeezed around a mountain of packing boxes and endlessly-expanding piles of junk – where does it all come from, this stuff?! And now Storyhound Archie and I (and the family) have a new base from which to explore the kidlit world. Here’s a photo taken around my new ‘hood. It makes my heart happy to look up and see this.
I was thrilled with the announcement of the latest Australia Children’s laureate this month. I’m a big Ursula Dubosarsky fan, and her theme is brilliant – read for your life. She’s encouraging children everywhere to use their local libraries, which I think is a wonderful place to start to discover a love of books. You can see the announcement event streamed via Facebook here. And you can find out more about the Laureate program here.
Talking about libraries, I love the initiative many local libraries are behind (and I’m sure Ursula would support too) the 1000 books before school program. It’s a free early literacy program designed to build important literacy skills before starting school. It provides goals and incentives to encourage parents and carers to read with their young children.
And more on libraries…
The 14th of February is best known as being valentine’s day, but did you know that it is also International Book Giving Day and Library Lover’s day all in one? What a trifecta! This year, I went on a blind date with a book at my local library, and presented a bouquet of books to an aged care home for the residents and young visitors to enjoy.
And some fantastic news on school libraries... Regular readers of my adventures will know that I wrote an article supporting the campaign for Students Need School Libraries. And now, it would seem that the NSW state Parliament has unanimously passed a motion calling for quality school libraries and teacher librarians in EVERY public school! How cool is that! I hope the implementation matches the intention! And I hope other states and territories follow suit.
Moving on from libraries now… I've been out and about a it this month...
The CBCA announced their long-list for the Book of the Year Awards this month. I love that the books on this list are called Notables. I also love the excitement (perhaps not the trepidation!) that goes into the announcement of the list. I enjoy attending the NSW ‘Night of the Notables.' This year it was fascinating listening to Claire Stuckey talk about trends in Kid's books, and the quality of Aussie books in the international market-space, especially non-fiction. She concluded by saying that "Quality is always trending," which is why these awards are so important. Kate and Jol Temple talked about writing with hope and humour about the real-life things that are concerning our kids, and they read from their fun, new picture book, Bin Chicken, before the unveiling of the notable books.
I love catching up and celebrating with friends who made the list. I know awards can’t tell how much a book is going to be loved by a reader, but getting on this list can start to boost the sales and therefore reach of your book, so that's something to celebrate! I do love the sentiment expressed by Meg McKinlay on twitter (See photo)
As always, there’s lively discussion around what did and didn’t make the list, and I was disappointed that some I was certain of, weren’t there. You can see the list here, and a blog about what one reviewer (Momo) thinks about it here. (I totally have to agree about Vincent and the Grandest Hotel on Earth.)
Talking about events, I attended the SCBWI Sydney event last weekend. After hearing from Sue Murray, I was inspired to write a play for The School Magazine – wish me luck! It was also fascinating to hear from Rebecca McRitchie from Scholastic Australia about what she looks for in a picture book manuscript – in a nutshell: rhyming, short (300-400 words) fun, often with animal character - and how these are sold in volume through the scholastic book clubs and fairs. It was also intriguing to see the difference between Rebecca’s imprint and the others – Omnibus and Scholastic Press – and how these might take something less commercial and more literary. You can read a summary of the event on the SCBWI website here.
As many of you know, I love a book launch, and yesterday I was fortunate to be able to attend the launch of the picture book, Jelly-Boy by Nicole Godwin and Christopher Nielson. It was a delight to meet Nicole and Chris for the first time, although I have been online 'friends' with Nicole for some time. The venue at Better Read than Dead, Newtown, was fabulous, and the book is amazing. It has an environmental theme but it's in no way preachy - it's a suspenseful story with humour and heart - in fact, I found myself audibly gasping at one point in the story - it's that good! The illustrations are in a quirky, retro style, which suits the story perfectly.
It's also great fun catching up with friends at launches - in the photo above, are authors Susanne Gervay and Victoria Mackinlay (whose debut picture book is out next month).
Also at the launch was talented illustrator, Marjory Crosby-Fairall and I couldn't resist getting a signed copy of her latest picture book with Frances Watts, Say Cheese - a fun take on school photo day.
I’ve mentioned the Middle Grade Mavens before. They are a podcast duo who review mid-grade books, but recently, in the lead up to the popular tickets-sold-out-in-8-minutes-KidLitVic (!!!) conference, they have been interviewing editors from various publishing houses, in their ‘Ask the editor’ Summer season. These are a brilliant resource for anyone who is writing for children. And such a treasure for the many who missed out on conference tickets (8 minutes!!). Check out the Maven’s website here.
PS if anyone has a ticket to KidLitvic and finds that they can’t go – I have friend who missed out and is desperate! Let me know!
As well as the play script I’m working on, I'm also writing a flash fiction story for another read-aloud event at Mounted Gallery in Springwood. Some of you may remember that I read for the inaugural event last year, and I’m keen to be involved in this one coming up in May, with the theme of ‘Memory.’ You can find out more about the gallery and exhibitions on their facebook page, here.
The Secrets of Magnolia Moon by Edwina Wyatt was a book that soothed my soul during the tumultuous time of moving. Whenever things threatened to overwhelm me I would hide behind a removal box, open this book, and read sentences so glorious I had to write them down to savour them. (The last book that had me drooling over the writing was Lisa Nicol’s Vincent and the Grandest Hotel on Earth). The theme of change and the quirky, calm, delightful way Magnolia deals with it, was like a balm. I can’t recommend this book highly enough – and I note that it deservedly gained a CBCA Notable title.
The Other Brother by Penny Jaye and Heidi Cooper-Smith is also a beautifully written book about change, -the words are so expertly crafted and the illustrations so evocative, that the reader can feel Jayden James’ emotional turmoil as his family makes room for the ‘other brother,’ Mitchell David, a foster child (although this term is never used). ‘But six whole people don’t fit on a picnic rug, not knees against knees, not without getting a wet bottom.’
Books about making room for new babies are not uncommon, so this was a fresh take on making room for a new family member, with richly layered levels of meaning, which particularly appeals to my Social Worker heart. You can read a bit more about The Other Brother on Penny’s website, I interviewed Penny for the Just Write For Kids blog a while ago – you can find the links here. I've included some photos, below - just look at the expert use of perspective and expression (that teddy!).
What I’m looking forward to:
1. Book launches! I have a couple coming up:
My Possum Plays the Drums by Catherine Meatheringham and Max Hamilton at Berkelouw Books, Leichardt, on the March 8th.
Ribbit, Rabbit, Robot, by Victoria Mackinlay and Sofya Karmazina also at Berkelouw Books Leichhardt on March 22nd.
2. The CBCA shortlist announcement on the 31st March. The CBCA NSW AAA Professional development Conference in NSW coincides with this event and is well worth attending, especially for children’s and teacher Librarians.
3. The first CBCA Northern Sydney Sub-branch first event for the year, at the Grace Cossington Smith Gallery at Abbotsliegh, is a viewing of the exhibition 'Visualising Stories' where attendees can mingle with some of the illustrators who will be there on the night. April 8th. Find out more here.
4. Ibby Australia also has a great night for International Children's Book Day, April 4th: Words Change the World, with guest speakers Maxine Beneba-Clark and Gabrielle Wang. Details here.
And for anyone who works in a school or preschool, book week will be here before you can blink, so make sure you book up a speaker before it’s too late. Greenleaf Press and Creative Kids Tales Speakers Agency have some terrific speakers, (including yours truly 😉) so check them out.
Storyhound Archie has had a sore eye for a lot of this year, so his reading has been a bit slow, but below is one of the faves this month, in keeping with the back-to-school theme (note, his sore eye is discretely turned away from the camera 😊)
Until next time,
All the best,
I wish all my readers a Happy New Year!
Unfortunately here in Australia, the exciting, shimmering start to the new year has been scorched in the blast of the fires. The heat of January has taken its toll and whilst my home and livelihood has not been threatened this year, none of us Aussies can remain unaffected by the devastation caused by raging fires. Our hearts have gone out to our land, our animals and our people. Our prayers and wishes and hopes have been for rain.
When we all felt immobilised by the horror unfolding, a couple of YA Aussie authors who thought they'd try and lend a helping hand to those working relentlessly on the front line - the rural fire fighters - gave us all a way to express our gratitude and do something practical to help, reducing our sense of hopelessness. So thanks to Emily Gale and Nova Weetman, and a myriad of other behind the scenes bookish people who made #authorsforfiries an amazing success.
If you didn't catch it, then in a nutshell, #authorsforfiries was a Twitter auction in January where authors and illustrators offered works, or their time, to the highest bidder. There were some big ticket items by big name authors, as well as modest items from equally modest authors, like yours truly, but combined, the effort made over half a million dollars! Amazing!
I'm looking forward to working with the winner of my auction. I've sent off the copies of my books and Story Hound Archie and I will be giving feedback on a short story written by a 9 year old. As the winner of an auction, I'm thrilled to be receiving an artwork (below) by illustrator Liz Anelli, from her Ten Pound Pom picture book. A story close to my daughter-of-a-Ten-Pound-Pom heart. To find out more about the auction, check out this link. And for an hilarious video advertisement from the unstoppable Nat Amoore, check out this facebook link.
Some exciting news for me recently, was that my short story, Waiting, was Highly Commended in the Odyssey House short story comp. the theme was 'Family' and had to make a reference to drugs or alcohol. You can read my story on their website here. Note - it's not a kid's story.
Talking about competitions, Greenleaf Press has a picture book manuscript competition - closing midnight tonight - so if you're a writer for kids and have a polished story- don't dilly dally!
I've been on Hope 103.2 radio twice this month, talking to Katrina Roe about books series to beat holiday boredom, and back-to-school picture books.
StoryHound Archie has been on an Instagram hiatus in January - he's had a stubborn sore eye that refuses to heal properly and he is rather sick of constant visits to the vets, although they do have much yummier liver treats that we have at home, apparently. So that's a consolation!
And whilst we're on things medical, I did a first aid course this month with a coach who comes to you (if you have two or more people). Chris was engaging and fabulous, and half of the learning is done online at your own pace so you actually have time to process the information. If you're interested: First Aid Coach
Things I'm looking forward to in February:
Two friends of have picture books coming out in February - both of them Pennys! Penny Morrison is launching A Perfect Little Monster at Harry Hartog Warringah Mall on Saturday 8th. Details here. And Penny Reeve's The Other Brother will be out at the end of the month. (See photos below)
And I always love seeing a new Lesley Gibbes Picture Book - her latest. Three Little Mermaids is on the shelves now, and looks gorgeous. (see below) It's by the same dream team that brought us Little Bear's First Sleep.
My CBCA sub branch committee will meet this month to plan our year - it's always fun to get together and toss ideas around.
The CBCA NSW Night of the Notables event at Dymocks in Sydney is the 25th Feb. This always a casual and interesting night full of excitement as the notable books are revealed. Details here.
It's not to early to book me for author talks and workshops for Book Week or other times throughout the year. Details on my website.
That's about all from me, at the beginning of the year. Wishing you health and success in the New Year!
Until next time,
I had the most marvellous time gallivanting around London and Oxford, with my husband, in November. It’s amazing how many children’s literary icons you bump into in that part of the world! From sipping mulled wine at JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis’ old haunt, the Eagle and Child pub, through to coming face to face with the Dodo from Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice’ in the Museum of natural history, and discovering Tolkien’s’ dragon-treasure in the Ashmolean museum, finding Harry Potter curios dotted throughout the town, to imagining Lyra from Philip Pullman’s books slipping around the alleyways as we sauntered around the cobble-stoned town. And that’s only Oxford! It's such an inspiring and stimulating place, the centuries of creative thought seem to have infused the air!
In London, I missed out on visiting Paddington Bear at the station by just a smidgen, due to an over-enthusiastic porter (I can’t complain- he took pity on us dragging our heavy bags from Oxford, and gave us a lift on his tractor, direct to the taxi rank, bypassing my plan to stop off at platform 1) but I got to catch up on some rebels in kid’s lit at an exhibition at the British Library. Imagine seeing Roald Dahl’s Matilda manuscript with editor’s notes, and Lauren Child’s original collage artwork for Clarice Bean! And then there is the permanent exhibition with Lewis Carroll's beautifully bound handwritten story of Alice’s Adventures Underground. Just WOW!
At the library, I also got to meet up with author and friend, Stephanie Ward, whose new picture book, Arabella and the Magic Pencil is glorious! I took home a signed copy!
And of course, a visit to Shakespeare’s globe is a must for any literature lover in London – the guided tour was an anniversary gift from our children and it brilliantly evoked a bygone era. Marvellous!
Back on the home front, I had fun making a little video trailer for my story, Nine Christmas Carrots, in the Christmas Cornucopia anthology – check it out here. Move over, Marvel movie trailers, I say - they'll be knocking on my door for hints soon ;-)
Inspired to polish my writing skills by my time away, I’ve done a few things since returning:
This month I got to talk with Katrina Roe on Hope 103.2 about two novels that are great for starting conversations around deep themes – Girl Running, Boy Falling, by Kate Gordon, a YA story around the aftermath of youth suicide, and All the Things I never Said, by Samantha Wheeler, a mid-grade novel about a girl with a severe disability and her family. Both books were CBCA notable books this year.
With Christmas fast approaching, I joined up with Penny Reeve to sell our books at a Christmas market stall. It’s a lovely way to engage with customers in an immediate way, sell a few books and make connections. Penny wrote a beautiful post about it that you can read if you’re on facebook, here.
The end of the school year is upon us, and I was honoured to be asked to present the library award at a K-2 presentation assembly at Brookvale Public School this week. I didn’t have a speaking role, but if I had, I would have explained that I think the library award is actually the most important, because as we know, reading feeds the imagination and, as Albert Einstein is quoted as saying:
‘Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution.’
‘If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.’
Also on the subject of libraries, I was so pleased to see this article recently about the way a school turned around flagging grades by reviving the library! It was a lovely antidote to the article I wrote for the Students Need School Libraries blog, The Mystery of Shrinking School Libraries, earlier this year - as I said in that... it's not rocket science!
And talking about schools, if you’re a TL and you want to book me for an author visit or workshop next year, check out my presentations page here. I’m happy to say that I’m now represented by Creative Kids Tales Speaker’s Agency and Greenleaf Press.
As we wind down (and ramp up) to Christmas and the New Year, here's what I am looking forward to…
To close the year, Archie and I wish all our readers and followers a joy-filled Christmas abounding in love and laughter - I think this photo encapsulates just that! Happy Christmas!