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 firstname.lastname@example.org. RRP for the hard cover is $24.99 and Paperback $ 19.99.