So many marvellous things to catch you up on from my March meanderings.
The BIG news, of course, is that The Scared Book was longlisted for the CBCA Book Of the Year! It's now a Notable Book! So much excitement! Technically, this was in February, but it was after my monthly wrap-up so I blogged about it and had a celebratory interview with Illustrator, Kim here.
However, despite Shaye from Kid's Book Review listing it as what she WOULD shortlist if she could choose - quote: "The Scared Book because it’s the most engaging picture book I’ve ever read," in the end, it wasn't. (Thanks Shaye!) No matter, my little book is both scared and proud, and I'm pleased as punch with how it looks with it's shiny Notable sticker! *
Other big news is that I'm on the Sydney Writer's Festival program! You can find about my appearance in the Storytime Clubhouse here (I'm on at 3pm on Sunday the 6th May).
This month I attended the book launch for A Boat of Stars poetry anthology at The Children's Bookshop and had so many fan-girl moments with the likes of Margaret Wild, Julie Vivas, Sarah Acton, Sophie Masson, Stephen Michael King and so many more. I was star-struck! I then stuck around for the Northern Sydney CBCA sub branch meeting with the remarkable Paul MacDonald speaking. I blogged about his address over at Just Write For Kids.
Of course, I couldn't walk away from the bookshop without a book or two, so these were my buys for the night - the launched book, of course, complete with signatures, and How To Be which I loved (reviewed on Goodreads) and was pleased to see made it onto the CBCA shortlist!
Another book on my radar this month is Michelle Worthington's Pugs Don't Wear Pyjamas - so cute! I wish I could have gotten to Queensland for the launch - it looked like such fun.
I left a review on Goodreads for Catherine Pelossi's Quark's Academy that I mentioned last month - but I'll reprint it here cause it's short and sweet:
"The 'i's have it where this book is concerned - Interesting, inventive, intriguing, imaginative, intelligent. A novel about kids and science that will turbo-charge their imaginations. Love the flawed but redeemable child characters and the crazy adults. Lots of fun."
My CBCA friend Tonya Alexandra has her new book out in book shops now. I loved the first in this series of magical realism YA about invisible Olive and her quest for love, or at least recognition. I'm so looking forward to seeing how Olive negotiates travel to far flung places. I interviewed Tonya when the first Olive story came out - you can catch up on that here.
And a shout out to my writing buddy Lisa Nicols, whose fabulous mid-grade novel Dr Boogaloo and the Girl Who Lost Her Laughter was also on the Notable list. I was fortunate to have seen some of this book through its development and I'm sure it's destined for big things.
This year I promised myself that I would attend at least one workshop for professional development, and so I attended a morning with Lesley Gibbes at the Australian Writers' Centre about writing chapter books for 6-9 year olds. It was fabulous! Well worth the time and money and I'd recommend it to anyone thinking about writing in this genre. Lesley's running another course in May - check it out here. You can also hear an informative talk from Lesley, on the Writers' Centre podcast - it is worth listening to. It was also great fun catching up with some familiar faces on the course! One of whom was Katrina MacKelvey, who I'll be interviewing next on the Just Write For Kids Blog - look out for the first instalment on the 6th April.
Talking about blogs, the second instalment of my interview with the delightful Aura Parker can be found here.
Did you read to a child on the 19th March for International Read to me Day? I read The Scared Book to a class of Kindies, but alas - no photos to show :( But check out organiser Emma Mactaggart's massive reading efforts in this article
If February be the month of love, why is it that I keep finding love hearts in March? I was inspired by Tania MacCartney to look out for the little things on my walks with Archie, and I found this gorgeous little heart-leaf. And then, look what popped up in my new vege garden - a heart-fennel-sprout
I had a whole lot of fun this month with the Picture Book Book Club Twitter party. This is such a fun forum where you can end up chatting with the most amazing picture book people, and doing the most crazy things! Last month Jackie French was the featured guest, and we were challenged to draw a wombat. This followed on from February's 'worm off' drawing with Will Mabbit. The next one is on the 5th April at 8pm with Damon Young. If you're on Twitter, do pop in and check it out - there's even a 'cheat sheet' of questions asked over on the blog. Here's a pic of my wombat:
Another thing I've been browsing through this month is Enthralled Magazine. Isn't that a great title for a mag for authors?! It's a collaborative magazine that's a place for authors and writers to share their ideas and journeys. So if you're interested in writing, why not check it out here. It's free for now, but if you find it useful, you might want to donate and/or contribute. It's been developed by some of my Aussie kid lit Facebook friends - they've done an amazing job.
Things I am looking forward to in April:
1. Easter. I love celebrating Easter by going to church, eating chocolate and hot cross buns! I wonder if you can guess my favourite type of Easter Egg? Hint: It's nursery rhyme related.
2. I'm chuffed to be partnering with Vinnies for an inaugural StoryTime at their flagship Brookvale store. Do come along and see me read The Scared Book and check out Vinnies treasure-trove! It's at 10.30 the Thursday after Easter (5th April). The next week, author Brydie Write will read her tongue-in-cheek take on toilet politics :)
3. SCBWI is having a session on school visits and what authors need to know. I always love a good SCBWI get-together and there's always something useful to take home.
4. Zanni Louise, who I interviewed for the Just Write For Kids Blog last year, and whom I've never met in person, will be at The Children's Bookshop, Beecoft, celebrating her latest release series - Tiggy and the Magic Paintbrush at 12MD on the 24th. I'm looking forward to finally meeting Zanni! The bookshop is also running amazing school holiday workshops for kids AND adults - including with Zanni herself, so be sure to check those out too.
Wishing you all a happy and blessed Easter.
* Shaye's other WOULD choose books were:"Hark, it’s Me, Ruby Lee! because it has awesome characters and a rich plot and Ready, Steady, Hatch! because it’s so much fun!"
Ruby Lee was shortlisted!
Here's The Scared Book with a bit of bling on the cover. Doesn't it look fancy?! It's been long-listed for the Children's Book Council of Australia (CBCA) Book Of the Year, and I feel honoured and thrilled for the #thescaredbook team! The book is born of collaboration. Kim, the illustrator has taken my words and brought them to life in the most amazing and unpredictable way, and Suzanne O'Sullivan and the team at Hachette have guided and overseen the process and added their own touches, like the gorgeous embossing on the cover.
In celebration of being a notable book, I thought it would be nice to hear from one of these co-collaborators, the amazing illustrator, Kim Siew.
I love what Kim brought to The Scared Book. It was an unusual manuscript – not your usual illustrating a story. Kim had to make the book a character and bring it to life, as well as make it appealing so children want to interact with it. Kim’s quirky and playful take on my manuscript is colourful, bold and amazing! Here's a Q & A with Kim Siew...
First off, thanks so much Kim, for taking on this book and helping make it something so very special. I’m interested in how you first felt when you saw the manuscript for The Scared Book and what inspired you to take it on?
I enjoyed that as the reader you were encouraged to be so interactive with the story. You guided it and were a part of it. I loved that sense of playfulness. (But really, I just wanted the chance to draw lots of monsters!)
What was your thinking processes that lead to coming up with the ideas we have?
When I first read the manuscript, all the words that jumped out to me were the interactive elements. It was fun! So I wanted the monsters to echo that sense of fun, for them to be silly and friendly rather than scary, so that kids would be more willing to engage and interact with the book.
What medium did you use to illustrate The Scared Book and why?
I like to start with pencil and paper as I find I’m a lot more loose and free, which helps to get my ideas out. Then I’ll start cutting out shapes with coloured paper and moving them about to see what forms I can create, and this tends to create a body, sometimes even a texture or personality for a character. After finding the essence of a character through this, I’ll hand draw again, but this time the character is more precise. This hand drawn image is my base, which I then scan onto my computer. All the monsters are then created through digital collage, using a mixture of textures and papers that I scanned into the computer, and then drawing into them again on the computer. I’m able to move things around a bit easier once I have them all on the screen, assembling all the parts just as I would do with paper collage.
Being a book bursting with monsters, I was worried that they might appear too scary for the child reader. I needn’t have worried – the result is cute and quirky – with only a hint of danger! How did you go about the process of getting the monsters with the right balance?
Big eyes, no sharp teeth! And such fantastic guidance and feedback from Suzanne from Lothians.
What made you think of adding monster elements to the scared aspects – the goose- bumps and butterflies for instance?
I wanted the book to be inundated with monsters in all forms…it is a story about monsters after all! The more monsters in the book the better, it keeps you turning the pages to find more!
What were your favourite spreads to illustrate?
Tingle and Smelly. They are probably the most simple of all the monsters, but they are both so loveable to me.
Here's a gorgeous animation that Kim made of the tingly spine:
When Suzanne O’Sullivan indicated an interest in my manuscript, she told me early on that she had someone in mind who had more of a graphic design background, which I thought was brilliant given the type of book it is. So tell me about your background and your work.
I started out painting murals and creating zines (small, limited run, self-published works). Through my murals I was approached by a couple who created children’s books, Rachel Williams and Peter Warrington from Not Quite Newtown, and they gave me my first opportunity to create a published collaborative work. (Rachel is a photographer, Peter writes the stories, and for ‘You Make the Dreams’ I drew illustrations on top of Rachel’s photographs). I do a bit of graphic design also, teach mural design and paper art workshops and try to exhibit at least once a year.
How did Suzanne know about you?
Through my mural work and paper work that I sell on Etsy. I was so happy when she got in touch with me. It was like a dream!
What made you want to illustrate kid’s books?
I’ve always been a book worm. I love children’s books, I love graphic novels, comics, cartoons, animations. With children’s books, your imagination can lead you anywhere. There are no rules, there’s a sense of freedom and play and a beautiful wonder. I have always loved the art of story telling in all its forms, and my illustrations tend to play to a more naïve, child-like quality, so I guess it all came about quite organically.
I’m so glad she chose you!
So here we are at the end of the creative process with our book in the world – tell me - would you do it again?
In a heart beat x