August and September have been zooming – quite literally! Whilst I’ve been relatively unscathed from lockdown measures cocooned in Canberra for a while, inevitably Covid invaded Canberra and everything moved to zoom. Even book week was on zoom again this year. However, it has been lovely to join in events around the country, and support my writing friends on social media. I’ve also taken the opportunity to give my website a bit of a spring clean: you can check it out here.
September is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, and I wrote a guest post on the Wombat Books Blog for Alzheimer’s Awareness Day on the theme ‘A little support makes a big difference.’ You can read it here, and Story Hound Archie thought he'd help demonstrate the concept in the photo, left.
I was so thrilled to see The Scared Book in ‘double vision’ in the Braille House library, with braille tape attached, so children and parents who are blind or have low vision can enjoy it! How cool is that? I wrote a post about the amazing work Braille House does for the Just Write For Kids blog last year - you can read it here.
I made a little video teaser about my piece in the Old Worlds, New Worlds, Other Worlds anthology, and you can see it here. I’ve also seen lots of cool videos by other creators about their pieces in the anthology too.
I’m excited to once again be one of the judges for the Just Write For Kids Pitch it competition – picture book category, and I’ve been asked to judge the exciting new Forevability Book Award next year, for books with themes of disability, illness and inclusion, and own voices creators. I’m pleased to have both my picture books listed on this website. You can find out more about Forevability here.
I've caught up with Katrina Roe on Hope 103.2 radio to chat about these brilliant books. I’ve raved about all of these books in earlier newsletters, except Lisa Nicol’s hot off the press The What on Earth Institute Of Wonder. It’s an exquisite middle grade novel which explores the interconnectedness of all things and the wonder to be found in nature and the human heart. With a talking Kakapo and a jazz loving African Forrest Elephant, and some huggable humans, it's written with the humour of Roald Dahl and the sensitivity and insight of Kate DiCamillo, it’s funny and it’s heartfelt and it’s a must read. Lisa is one of my writing buddies and I am so proud to have had even a tiny role in helping bring this beautiful book into the world - it was a buzz to get a mention in the acknowledgements!
August is always book party time with Book Week. What a shame that so many celebrations had to be online. I hope it didn't stop kids dressing up - Archie certainly got in on the spirit (see photo at the end). On the plus side, everyone had the opportunity to watch the online events, and if you missed them you can catch up here. I was particularly thrilled to see Kate Gordon’s quiet, wise, deep novel Aster’s Good Right Things, by a small indie publisher, take out the younger readers category.
Talking about awards, I was thrilled that Lian Tanner’s A Clue for Clara won the Sisters in Crime Davitt Award (I love this book so much and I can’t wait for the companion book) and Nat Amoore’s The Power of Positive Pranking won the Wilderness Society’s Environment Award for Children’s literature. So cool!
A new picture book out in time for Christmas is Star. I love a nativity book and Artelle Lenthall has written one from a unique perspective – the Christmas star! Star is a fable-like story with a lovely message about compassion and finding your ‘shine,’ and glowing illustrations on a vibrant blue backdrop, by Margaret Deware. I can see this delighting young children in the early school years.
Some gems I’ve taken away from recent events:
I’ve actioned a tip from Tina Clark’s CYA workshop and made a spreadsheet to keep track of my daily word count! Tina said it’s about monitoring, not measuring, and it’s surprising how motivating such a little thing is, to want to put a number in the daily column instead of leaving it blank! I’ve made a very small and achievable target, but anything at all, even a few words, is moving the manuscript forward, and I’m encouraged to keep it up every day for a perfect record! Thanks Tina!
At the SCBWI QLD Bibliotherapy conference I was interested to hear from Claire Mansour about the importance of books from a speech pathologist’s perspective, that spark kid’s imagination and curiosity, because engaging a child will help them learn, encourage conversation and play with new words. I was also interested to hear from Anouska Jones about how EK books rose out of the health, wellbeing and self-help Exisle Publishing. They asked ‘what if kids were given the tools to not need self-help books in the future?’ And EK developed into that space. Anouska generously allowed participants to email her a picture book manuscript to jump the slush pile – so fingers crossed for something I sent in!
Also in Queensland, I got to hear the wonderful Claire Saxby talk about narrative non-fiction picture books at a Book Links event. She specifically talked about her stunning book, Iceberg and how she came to this subject through the remarkable, evocative language of ice, like ‘cheeky growlers’ and ‘old grandfather blues’ etc. The language and pictures in this book are truly stunning - if you haven't read it, you absolutely must! One of the more difficult things for this genre is working out what, of the amazing creatures and information, to leave out – does it belong in this story? Is there room? Will it detract? What I also found particularly helpful was thinking about the setting’s duration – eg Iceberg is set over a year in Antarctica, Big Red is from dusk to dawn over one day, Dingo is set over four dusk hours in winter.
Irma Gold at the SCBWI ACT event, echoed some of the comments Deb Abela made at the CKT event earlier in the year, about the different functions of each manuscript draft. Paraphrased: every book is about something and with each re-write you distil and refine the essence of that something. Irma also recommends not only putting the manuscript away for at least six weeks before editing, but also printing it out in a different font and size to help you read it like a reader rather than a writer. Irma also echoed Claire Saxby in that research must be in the service of the story, and often the hardest thing for authors is to let go of fascinating research as it slows the story down.
I also found this really helpful post on the Children’s Book Academy blogfish, about search engines for libraries. It has so many uses for authors! Find it here.
Looking forward to:
Reading all the amazing Pitch It comp pitches!
CBCA NSW Northern Sydney Sub-branch zoom meeting on the 20th October with a showreel of authors presenting their 2021 new releases, and Paul MacDonald talking about the year from a bookseller's perspective. Find out more here.
Some easing of restrictions, now I am back in Sydney. Hooray!
Until next time, wishing you safe and well.
I’ll leave you with Archie’s Book Week costume, at left.
Caption: Archie has food allergies so he identifies with Zed. Although thankfully he CAN eat bread. But on a serious note - Archie hopes he hasn’t found Zed, dead, covered in bread! 😱😂 Did someone feed him bread, again?
P.S. Who knew Nike bags made such good dog dress ups?!
1/10/2021 11:56:25 am
Thanks for reviewing Star, Debra. I hope children in the early years of school and into their 90s 😉 Star too. And yes, the Nike bag is a perfect costume for Archie being Zed 😀
7/10/2021 02:02:37 pm
Pleasure, Artelle :-)
1/10/2021 12:31:24 pm
Archie’s pic with him dressed up as Zed is the funniest thing I’ve seen in ages! 👏
7/10/2021 02:03:13 pm
Thanks ;.-) It was a bit of fun!
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