At this time of year, you can’t go very far without being driven from the shops, parcels jammed firmly over your ears like misshapen earmuffs, to escape the looping Christmas muzak. Despite this yearly musical murder, the soundtrack of my Christmas past remains fondly etched into my musical memory like the grooves in the old vinyl record. I only need dig the cover out of the decorations box to start my own rendition of Donde Esta Santa Claus? And now, digging around the internet, Olay! I’ve just found it on YouTube, so I can bring the Do-Re-Me Sing-along Children’s Chorus alive again! What joy my family will experience this Christmas!
Who knows, this blast from the past may eclipse the soundtrack to my children’s’ Christmas in the CD age - Peter Combe’s Christmas Album?!
Enough nostalgia! Now onto the month and half that was:
I was inspired by Sandy Fussell's article in Buzz Words this month to spruce up my website. It’s amazing how quickly things need updating. I'm putting up links to all the author interviews I’ve done for Just Write For Kids in one place on my website. Check them out here. Don't miss the latest two instalments of my interview with Kids and YA author Penny Reeve AKA Penny Jaye. I've also updated my website banner - take a look on the home page. I'm still going on the sprucing, it's a never-ending story!
With Christmas and the end of the year approaching, it's the season for celebrations, and I've been to as many as I can manage!
I had a such a wonderful time at the Sydney SCBWI Christmas celebration. Susanne Gervay had picked up my Crystal Kite trophy all the way from LA and lugged it (and two others – for Tania McCartney and Jess Racklyeft, last year’s winners) home. No wonder she has a bad back! Bless her! She presented it to me on the day (complete with white gloves to hold it!) and I was almost moved to tears (again). Here’s a lovely collage (below) put together by Amelia McInerny (who is about to have 5 books published - look out for my interview with her on the Just Write For Kids Blog in February)
As I was preparing a little acceptance speech, I came across these few lines from a poem by John Dryden that seemed to beautifully represent what I was feeling:
“My heart’s so full of Joy, That I shall do some wild extravagance Of love, in public; and the foolish world, Which knows not tenderness, will think me mad.”
Isn’t poetry perfect for expressing feeling? PLUS – I won a package of books from the One More Page Podcast team who gave a spectacular presentation. They are so fabulous! And so are the books!
Talking about winning, it was my privilege to provide a writing workshop as a prize for the Lunch With The Stars Writing Competition, to Dia’s class at Terry Hills PS. Dia’s story certainly resonated with primary school me, being all about horses and the special relationship with people. Congratulations Dia! She’s one to look out for in the future!
Another winner recently was the delightful Belinda Murrell who is on the committee of my CBCA sub-branch and was named the KOALA legend! I’m so thrilled for her. Find out more about Kid's Own Australian Literary Awards here. Belinda's been out and about on the book-trail recently, promoting her newest in the delightful Pippa’s Island series.
Also in CBCA news, my sub-branch wanted to do something for the kids in the country who are doing it tough with the drought. We thought a Bale of Books from the authors/illustrators of our sub-branch might help lift the spirits of the kids at Condoblin Public School. And by all reports, we did:
‘It made some of the staff teary when they read the card. You guys have no idea how much you hit the nail on the head. It made us smile and that is one of the greatest gifts any one can give when things are grim… Again thanks, you made a difference.’
I love my CBCA Sub-branch! We also know how to put on a good party, and this year’s Christmas bash was a beauty. We had the legendary Kate Forsyth in conversation with the equally legendary John Flanagan. It felt like we were onlookers to an intimate fireside chat between friends. And look what I brought home from the silent auction:
Also on parties, I had my writers' group dinner last night, and I'm so excited that TWO of my group will have mid-grade novels out mid next year. Watch this space!
The Children’s Bookshop had a celebration of publishers from Armidale event recently. Kathy and Peter Creamer from Little Pink Dog Books and Sophie Masson from Christmas Press came to ‘the big smoke’ to show off all the wonderful books that are coming from their region. Did you know Armidale is a publishing hotspot? Do look out for their books. I came home with these (left):
In other news… I have been asked by kid's author and radio presenter, Katrina Roe, to be her regular book reviewer on the kid’s book club segment on Hope 103.2. I get to talk on the radio about books I love. I'm so excited! We kicked off with my favourite genre - Picture Books! I told everyone what I loved about Sue Whiting & Annie White's Beware the Deep Dark Forest and Davina Bell and Alison Colpoys' All the Ways to be Smart.
What I’ve enjoyed reading:
The Tales of Mr Walker – I’m a sucker for beautiful books and books about dogs, and this book is both. Jackpot! The whimsical illustrations by Sara Acton bring to life the humorous dogs-nose view of the world of Labrador Ambassador at the Park Hyatt, Melbourne, Mr Walker. Written by Jess Black, the stories are charming and delightful, and I’m not the only one who thinks so -Mr Walker is longlisted for the Indie Book Awards.
Also charming is Anne of Green Gables which I’ve delved into after watching and loving the Netflix series Anne with an E. It was a beautiful world to be lost in. I was reminded of Anne when reading the picture book, All the Ways to be Smart: There’s a divine full page spread: ‘and floating off on daytime dreams’ that looks just like Anne dreaming in a field of flowers.
I have adored Oliver Phommavanh’s Natural Born Loser. I think it’s my mid-grade pick of the year. This is a big-hearted book delivered with big laughs. A book I wanted to hug when I finished.
Jackie French’s Just a Girl, is a remarkable historical fiction about a 14 year old girl, Judith, hiding in a cave in Judea, Israel, in 72 AD with her sister, grandmother, a freed Roman slave and a goat. The rest of her family has been murdered by the Roman army. Her grandmother reflects on the life of her friend, Mary, the mother of Jesus. Thought provoking, inspiring and ultimately uplifting, this is historical fiction at its best, and perfect timing to enter into an authentic Christmas experience.
Chip the Lifeguard by Kylie Howarth. This is Kylie's second book about Chip the seagull. It's funny for kids and adults. It's also heartwarming and sneakily teaches kids about surf safety.
What I'm watching:
The Secret Life of Four/Five Year Olds. This is gold for people who write for kids! And so adorable! Watch it on catch up TV, from channel 10.
Things I am looking forward to:
Christmas: Twinkling lights, Christmas tea (think Candy Cane or Sleigh Ride tea), my favourite people and reading. Lots of reading.
And then in the New Year, conducting a Writing Workshop for 6-8 year olds at The Children’s Bookshop, Beecroft, on the 21st January 9-12. Call the store on 9481 8811 for bookings.
I've also booked for the SCBWI conference in Sydney in February, and the Creative Kids Tales festival in April. I've booked a manuscript assessment with Sue Whiting at the latter, and I'm very much looking forward to that. I'd better get my pencil out and start scribbling!
And now to wish you all a wonderful Christmas abounding in love, joy and books.
I can’t gift you a song, like my talented friend, Renee Price who serenaded her friends on facebook, with Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas (so beautiful - sigh!) but I can gift you the soundtrack to my Christmas past! Straight from the 1960’s to you! The song I mentioned before is at 18mins&30secs – but why limit yourself to one song? Press here!
Have yourself a very happy (musical) Christmas!
And for bloopers... here's a Christmas elf trying to rid himself of his elf attire :)
PS What’s the soundtrack to your Christmas past and present?
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