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!