My goodness, it's the middle of the year already! I hope you are able to keep snug on these winter days. I've needed the heater on to warm the house, but this newsletter is filled with the warmth of childhood recollections, endearing books and news that has put a glow in my heart.
In case you missed it, I’m thrilled that The Scared Book won the SCBWI Crystal Kite Award for Australia and New Zealand. This is a peer voted award and I’m honoured that my peers chose The Scared Book! I made a video of heartfelt thanks - if you want to watch, it's at the bottom of this post.
I also made some Goosebump Bites to help celebrate – because what’s a celebration without food? See the blog post here.
The Scared Book is also on the Premier’s Reading Challenge for NSW – I’m thrilled about that too! I continue to be delighted when parents tell me how much their children enjoy interacting with my playful book – crumpled pages and Vegemite stains attest to its popularity 😊. Laura sent me a video of her 2 year old son reading it. She said:
“I wish I'd kept recording because he started sniffing the book because of the smelly monsters. By the time you get to sign it I fear it will be very "well loved" by two little people who have demanded I read it "again, again!" constantly since it arrived. Miss E is already almost reciting the whole thing along with me as I read it. I love that books excite them like this though. Hopefully they hold on to this kind of lifelong love.”
This makes my little heart sing! Thanks so much Laura!
Being part of the launch of the new CBCA Eastern Suburbs sub-branch was a blast! You can read about it here. Involvement in my local sub-branch has been a massive source of inspiration, support and encouragement for me over the years (so much so, I'm now the secretary of the Northern Sydney sub-branch!) plus its a brilliant way to engage kids with literature, and we know how vital that is for so many positive life outcomes. Here's an article I read recently about Storytime's Hidden Power.
I thoroughly enjoyed prepping for the CBCA talk, and boy, was it a trip down memory lane! I spoke about my love of my own sub-branch, and connecting with literature, as that is the heart of CBCA. I looked at how I connected with literature, particularly picture books, as a child, as a parent and then as a writer. And boy, oh boy, those memories (and a few tears, to be honest) came flooding back!
What really blew my socks off was the development of a vibrant, strong Australia and New Zealand kids lit industry that had grown up in the space of my early adulthood, and the explosion of picture books as a genre.
My childhood was limited to little golden books, with a few notable exceptions, like Harry the Dog, and this treasure, below, that I rediscovered on this beautifully curated website. (My copy of Peter and the Wolf was in English) I spent hours listening to the music and narration on a vinyl record, and following along in the book. Look at how stunning these illustrations are!
Back in current time, I attended the launch of Kate Simpson’s picture book, Finding Granny. This is a beautiful book after my own heart. Like my When I see Grandma, the child in this story finds her granny hidden by illness – in this case, not dementia but a stroke.
On my radar:
It was an absolute delight to read Tonya Alexandra’s YA The Implausible Story of Olive Far, Far Away. The story of feisty, invisible Olive and her journey of self-discovery was surprising, funny, wise, and poignant. I loved it! The YA themes are subtle enough for readers at the younger end of this genre.
I was lucky to have a sneak peek at Catherine Pelosi's new picture book, Something for Fleur, out at the end of July, about Bo Hippo's birthday present to his friend, Fleur Flamingo. Caitlin Murray's illustrations are candy-coated goodness and this book leaves you with a warm, fuzzy fruit-tingly feeling.
I have listened to two audio books this month:
1. Mr Bambuckles Remarkables by Tim Harris. Mr Bambuckle is a year six teacher like no other. He sees the unique qualities in each of his students and establishes an environment in which they come to value themselves and each other. Each student has a story to tell, often with outrageous (highland fling) and fanciful (killer washing machine) elements. Mr Bambuckle's and the children's voices were vividly brought to life on the audio recording by Englishman Kris Dyer. I interviewed Tim for the Just Write For Kids blog last year - if you missed it, you can track back through the interview from here.
2. Two Wolves, a YA novel by Tristan Bancks. This is a suspenseful, taut and tense coming of age story with references to My Side of the Mountain which I vividly remember from my High School days. Thirteen year old Ben Silver wrestles with the ultimate moral dilemma of loyalty to his family and being true to himself - and discovering himself along the way. The ending is incredibly powerful and satisfying. With a background in acting, Tristan eloquently reads this book himself on the audio recording.
Not so much for kids, but I have really enjoyed watching Employable Me on ABC i-view. This three part series follows adults with neuro-diverse conditions such as autism and Tourette Syndrome as they search for meaningful employment. I found it uplifting, warm and insightful.
Sandy Fussell’s Write-tech newsletter. I’ve mentioned it before, and it continues to be a great source of help for this non-tech savvy writer. This month's tech is all about finances, and I'm pleased to say I'm ahead of the game here, having already a Square reader, for taking credit card payments, in my possession. Advice re receipts etc, I'm keen to action.
Chrissy Byer’s video about her 'disastrous' experiences at a manuscript assessment session with a publisher at the recent KidLitVic conference in Melbourne is delightful and insightful. She describes a litany of errors with great warmth, respect for the publishers and self-deprecating humour. If you are considering having a publisher assess your manuscrpt at any time in the future, do yourself a favour and watch the video on Chrissy's website, here.
The third and final instalment of my interview with the fabulous Katrina McKelvey is on the Just Write For Kids Blog here. Next month, I look forward to interviewing mid grade and picture book author Catherine Pelosi.
Things I am looking forward to:
1. The NSW Writer’s Centre Kids and YA Festival. I’m on a panel taking about writing groups. It's technically still in June (30th), but this blog will be posted before then.
2. SCBWI, Polishing, Pitching and getting Published event on the !st June in Woolhara.
3. Launch of Penny Jaye’s YA Out of the Cages about child trafficking. I’ve read an extract here and can hardly wait to read the rest. Definitely YA with strong themes. I’m sure it’s going to be a tough read, but worth it.
4. Virtual book launch of Tabitha Page’s Mikah's Big Move, about a cheeky monkey who's deaf and uses sign language, and for whom moving home threatens his security. The launch is on the 6th July- find out about it here.
5. Launch of Pat Simmons’ picture book, Ziggy's Zoo on Saturday 7th July. Sadly I won’t get to the event, but I'm excited for Pat.
Finally, I hope you have found a place to snuggle down these cold winter evenings, like my cat, Opal. who I found in my warm winter woollens. Note to self - close the drawer if you don't want cat fur all over your clothes!
What a thrill and honour that The Scared Book won the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) Crystal Kite Award! It was announced on the 1st of June, but it still gives me goosebumps just thinking about it! You can read the list of winners throughout the SCBWI 15 regions here.
As I reckon food is important to any celebration, how perfect are these goosebump bites?
The basic chocolate/coconut ball recipe is pretty standard and very kid-friendly - you'll find it on a number of places on the internet. It's a packet of Milk Arrowroot biscuits blitzed to crumbs, 1/3 cup cocoa powder, 1/2 cup desiccated coconut all mixed together, to which is added 1 tin of condensed milk. Roll into balls and coat with extra coconut.
To decorate as monster goosebumps, add three eyes. I used the things in the photo, adding pupils to the polka dots using the icing tube. This bit gets a bit fiddly! You might have better ideas for what works for eyes - let me know! When you are done, place in the fridge for about 1/2 an hour - if you can wait that long!
Cheers and bon appetit!