October for me is always a month of celebrations: two family birthdays plus those of several friends, and a wedding anniversary. This October has had added celebrations: a WIN for me in a Flash Fiction competition, the launch of some wonderful books by friends and colleagues, and some other fabulous news from bookish friends. October has also shaped up to be a great month to creep around with The Scared Book and unleash heaps of Halloween fun! So keep reading to find out more...
First, let me tell you about a fun party I attended early in the month. I keep raving about Picture Book Book Club Twitter chat, which is a big online party on the first Thursday of the month on Twitter. If you're not on Twitter, it is worth joining for! The more the merrier! And this month, I was the star AKA guest with a spooky Halloween feel. Find some fabulous Halloween reads and check out the chat-wrap on their website HERE.
Talking about guest appearances, keep your ear out for a small cameo feature in the October 31st One More Page Podcast! Can you guess the theme?
Still on guest appearances, I was asked to contribute an article to Nicole Melanson's Word Mothers blog. I wrote about building community as an author, with a particular emphasis on my wonderful kid lit community. But wait, there's more... The blog was picked up by Al Tait and Val Khoo on their So You Want to be a Writer podcast. It proved to be a big hit (pun intended :) ) Read it HERE and listen HERE.
In the real world, I had a wonderful time at Gordon library last week for a monster themed story-time and craft session. It was brilliant fun reading The Scared Book among other monster/scary themed books, and making masks and bat bookmarks. We had a great turn out, and they were a delightfully enthusiastic and responsive bunch of kids. I've written up some notes on the event on the blog HERE and The Scared Book illustrator, Kim, has whipped up some ready-made themed masks that I've popped up on my website HERE.
Enough of me, now for the exciting news of others! I was thrilled to see that Suzanne Gervay has been nominated for the internationally prestigious Astrid Lindgren award for services to children's literature. Susanne is an amazing author, literacy campaigner, and powerhouse of support for Aussie authors and illustrators in her role as SCBWI regional advisor . There are some other incredible Aussie authors nominated, like the Ursula Dubosarsky, (sigh in admiration) and Margaret Wild (double sigh) so it will be a very close call.
I was also thrilled that Lesley Gibbes' and Michelle Dawson's Fluke won the young children's book category of the Whitley Awards from the Royal zoological society of NSW. Fluke is such a lovely book and I'm super pleased!
With the school holidays early in the month, came a flurry of launch events at my local, The Children's Bookshop, Beecoft. I couldn't get to them all, but I had fun at those I managed. The dynamic duo of Frances Watts and David Legge have produced a metafictive romp of a book with It's a Story, Rory, taking readers through the production of a story within this story, It's a brilliant resource for schools and creative writing, as well as an hilarious tale in its own right.
Sue Whiting took her book launch to whole new level with a carnivorous plant AKA Paul Macdonald, owner of the bookshop, almost swallowing a child live! The back story to this beautiful quest book's emergence into the world is interesting and a must-read for those who write and aspire for publication: read Sue's blog post Seven Years in the Making HERE and also check out To Quest or not to Quest for an insight into the structure of the text and how to use it in creative writing, HERE
It was also great to catch up with author friends at the launch - in the photo below is Artelle Lenthall, me, Sue Whiting, Victoria McInlay, Katrina McKelvey and Paul MacDonald as a carnivorous plant.
Other books on my radar:
I picked up the picture book Duck by Meg McKinlay and Nathan Eckstrom in a bookstore on the weekend, and laughed out loud! The frustration that duck feels when the farmyard animals dismiss him/her will be instantly relatable to child readers, and the intertexual reference at the end will have adults laughing along too. Great fun! Meg happens to be the guest on Picture Book Book Club this Thursday, so drop on by and say 'hi' on Twitter.
Elizabeth Cummings has written a book that deals with the sensitive topic of grief and loss, The Forever Kid, published by Big Sky Publishing. I followed the Books on Tour blogs out of interest, and Elizabeth is launching the book next month at... you guessed it - The Children's Bookshop!
Robert Vescio and Kathy Creamer have a new book released by Little Pink Dog Books, and I love the cover, because Great Danes were my first doggy love! The 'Apollo of Dogdom' was how Suzanne Troy described them in my much-loved copy of 'The Joy of Dogs.' I have heard great things about Bigger than Yesterday, Smaller than Tomorrow: check out Dimity Powell's review on the Boomerang Books blog, where she also mentions another book I have my eye on, Drew Prattley's Empty, and fave of mine, Katrina Roe's Lily's Balloon HERE. You can also read my interview with Robert from a while ago HERE.
Some beautiful books are coming out from the relatively new Little Pink Dog Books publishers - like Michelle Worthington and Katrin Dreiling's new one, Johnny's Beard, a follow up combo from the Notable The World's Worst Pirate. I was jumping-up-and-down-excited that my partner in creative crime (I'm talking about The Scared Book video!) Renee Price, creator of Digby and his series of books, has signed a contract with Little Pink Dog Books for a picture book to be released in 2021. So thrilled! Can't wait!
Speaking of publishers, the CBCA Northern Sydney subbranch held an event at the Lindfield Learning Hub with Zoe Walton from Penguin Random House and successful self-published author Jan Latta about traditional or self publishing choices. As usual, the evening was a warm, welcoming and bubbling over with ideas and conversation.
On the JWFK blog this month, I posted the first instalment of an interview with Penny Jaye AKA Penny Reeve, about her powerful new YA novel, Out of the Cages. It was a fascinating interview of insights into the process of writing this confronting true to life story. If you missed it, you can find it HERE. Watch out for the second instalment at the end of this week, when we focus on Penny's books for younger children, like Camp Max, which just won the children's AND overall category of the Caleb Prize for faith inspired writing. Congratulations Penny!!
Talking about JWFK, I had the absolute pleasure helping judge the Picth It Competition. We had over 100 entries and it was a fascinating insight into what it must be like for publishers sorting through a slush-stack. My top-scoring entries leapt out and grabbed me by the heart or funny-bone, or tickled my curiosity, and were inventively crafted, like a well-told story. You can find about the comp and shortlisted stories HERE.
And now about my winning story... I am thrilled that The Fellowship of Australian Writers Qld (FAW Qld) awarded my super-short story 'Tagging' first place in their flash fiction contest. It's a bit of a gruesome tale and not for kids, but it's great training for writing kids stories, being picture book length. I took an early draft of this story to the inaugural Flash Fiction Festival in Canberra earlier in the year, and worked on it in Irma Gold's instructive workshop. Looks like it paid off! You can find the full list of winners HERE. Congratulations to the others and I look forward to seeing your stories in print in an up-coming issue of SCOPE magazine.
CBCA NSW A Night for Aspiring Writers on the 8th November at Harper Collins office, Sydney.where the winner of the Aspiring Writer Mentorship is announced and Liz Anelli and Sheryl Gwyther are speaking. Should be a good night. I'm not sure I can make this one, but I commend it to you.
CBCA Christmas party with John Flanagan on the 22nd November at Dee Why RSL - there's still a few days left to book. I've got my ticket!
SCBWI Christmas party on the 9th December at Woollahra library (I might finally get my hands on that Crystal Kite trophy ;) )
I hope to see you at some of these events, or in cyberspace!
And as a special treat, in keeping with the spirit of Halloween, and my recent trip to the Blue Mountains to celebrate my wedding anniversary, I'll leave you with a fun and spooky story by my writing buddy, Marian McGuinness (pictured) for The School Magazine. We workshopped this in our writers' group and I love how it turned out! I'm attaching it here with Marian's permission as she has been unable to post it onto her website as yet.
(And if you feel a tingle in your spine this Halloween, you know what to do... grab a copy of The Scared Book and scratch, rub and blow the fears away! )
PS if you haven't already subscribed to my monthly news, you can do so HERE.
The Scared Book is chock-full of monsters, and what better time to let the monsters out than Halloween? The following is based on a monster author story-time and craft activity I ran at Gordon library last week, in the lead-up to Halloween.
1. Scary Night by Lesley Gibbes and Stephen Michael King sets a great Halloween mood. It has the perfect blend of suspense, warmth and fun.
2. The Scared Book. Before reading, I like to warm up the crowd by playing Simon says - the book is going to ask them to help it, so it’s good to practice following instructions. After reading, look at all the monsters and discus what makes them monster-like.
3. Monsters are Knocking by Alison Lester. This is a brilliant flap book that shows children how their imaginations can lead to unfounded fear, but also gets them working their imaginations about the shadow behind the door flap.
4. Monster Match by Caroline Grey. There are lots of different size, shape and coloured monsters in this warm and friendly monster book.
Use paper plates and over-sized paddle pop sticks as the base of a mask. Allow children to decorate with a variety of craft supplies, like paper patty-pans, pipe-cleaners (velour sticks), Pom poms, balloons, paper, textas and crayons. Help children cut holes for eyes in the paper plates.
See the photo for ideas. The nose is a balloon, lightly inflated, tied, with the knot inserted into a small hole in the paper plate.
Alternatively, Kim Siew has made some ready-wear masks from characters in the book. You can download them here and either print them on paper and glue to lightly thicker cardboard, or print them onto thicker paper/card (I used Officeworks).
Make origami book marks in the shape of a bat – watch this video for instructions. I also keep ideas on this pinterest board where you'll find a bat-shaped bookmark that I used as inspiration for my own bat.
This activity engaged both children and parents alike.
Books – any other books with monsters like:
Monsters by Ann Fienberg and illustrated by Kim Gamble and Stephen Axelson
The Dreadful Fluff by Aaron Blabey
Craft: See my pinterest board
Hope you find these ideas helpful to run your own story-time and craft activity. Have FUN!