Join me and several of the story collection authors on Saturday 26th October for a fun-filled launch at Harry Hartog Miranda. There'll be arts and crafts, light refreshments and of course story time!
Thank you to Mrs McGann and all the wonderful students who attended a library time storytelling session during book week. We had great fun reading Clarrie's Pig Day Out, acting out a book poem and watching a video all about reading and writing. The year one students sat very patiently listening to my story, 'Lucy's Library' . It has no pictures yet, so in the five minutes we had left at the end, students became the illustrators, and decided what they would like to draw from all the stories we had heard. Given it was a very quick drawing session they did a wonderful job! Can you find yours?!
Congratulations to Cooper and Renna!
Their stories made them the lucky recipients of a copy the Bad Guys books!
There were so many lovely pieces of writing from students across K-6, it was a very hard decision!
Thanks to Mrs Rio for all her hard work before and after the assembly.
The Central Coast CBCA did a wonderful job with their student luncheon on Friday 16th August, when they hosted three authors and a room full of local students from various schools across the coast. Students clearly enjoyed the antics of Yvette Poshoglian, Tim Harris and Matt, (M.C.D) Etheridge and eagerly queued at the pop-up Bookface Erina stall to buy copies of the author's works ready for a signature! This event was part of the annual CBCA's book of the year announcements.
To see this year's winners, head to cbca.org.au/winners-2019
Last week I had the pleasure of visiting Wyoming Public School as a role model on behalf of charity Books in Homes. With the aid of some wonderful K-6 helpers, we performed a poem about adventures in books, enjoyed the video that amazing authors Cate Whittle, Oliver Phommavanh and Deborah Abela had so kindly recorded footage for, and finished up with a well researched Q&A from each stage group. A wonderful bonus to the assembly was another donation - this time from author Aaron Blabey, who gifted me with two of his Bad Guys books to give away. The recipients will be decided during the school holidays when I will take time to read the letters and stories that I challenged the children to write if they want to be in it to win it! After the assembly, along with Julie Ditrich from Books in Homes and Murray Hawkins, our local Scholastic Head Rep, we met with the children to hand out their long-awaited book packs and chat to them about their choices. I was so impressed with the welcome from the school, and the knowledge and excitement of the children, and sadly had to turn down the requests to sign autographs in someone else's book. I did however get to sign a piece of paper for Riley borrowed in haste from the library, so keep reading Riley - one day I will sign my book for you for real :)
If you'd like to find out more about this wonderful charity, head to their website, or check out my write up on the Creative Kids Tales website here.
On Friday 7th June, prompted by friend, artist and author Selina Fenech, we organised a get together of local writers on the Central Coast. The Central Coast is often overlooked when it comes to organising 'writerly events', as we are right between Sydney and Newcastle where all the major workshops and festivals are held. So we put a call out on social media to see if there was anyone else local who was interested in writing. Several people turned up (more than pictured) and it was a lovely evening discovering each others areas of interest and enjoying a new local venue. I'm sure we will do it again. Who knows where this may lead!
As per their website, KidLitVic - Meet the Publishers was established to give new, emerging and experienced writers and illustrators the opportunity to meet and hear from industry professionals about publishing children's and YA books in the current Australian market. Every year, the event has proven to be a sellout, and no wonder. KidLit team Alison Reynolds, Coral Vass, Nicky Johnston and Sarah Reynolds do an incredible job putting it together, answering questions and building excitement as the day draws closer.
I had never heard of Kid Lit Vic two years ago. Since attending the Creative Kids Tales Festival in 2018, I have been constantly amazed just how many events, associations, social media groups and training opportunities there are in the world of Australian writing. Clearly Kid Lit Vic was an opportunity not to be missed. But I nearly didn't get there. On the very day 'Santa' decided to buy me a ticket, facebook announced that the last one had sold just ten minutes before. Devastating! Santa was not to be deterred. He set about getting me on the waitlist straight away. 6 weeks later, an email arrived from the wonderful Alison Reynolds, the brain behind KidLit Vic, to say a ticket had become available. That was the fastest I have scrambled to get on the phone. I instantly knew from the conversation that I was going to have an amazing experience. Alison was so warm and welcoming and I felt like I'd known her forever by the time I 'hung up'.
Saturday 25th May dawned crisp and clear. All over Melbourne more than two hundred kid lit writers, illustrators and publishers were getting ready for a huge - and it was huge - day. I joined the queue outside the town hall, and soon we were let inside the hallowed doors, finding name badges, friends and a wonderful sense of belonging in the beautiful Swanston Hall. I found the real people behind the tiny social media icons that I had interacted with over the last year, and there were plenty of hugs and exclamations.
At the time of booking assessments, I was disappointed not to have been able to check out everything in my shopping cart, indeed I was actively having to remove items and try to check out several times before finally getting the assessment and Up Close session that I did manage to book. As we kicked off the day, I realised that was a blessing in disguise. It was my first time attending and really, I just needed to soak it all up and let it process without having four different sessions to try to focus on.
I spent a lot of the day standing at the back of the hall, watching the panel discussions over the nodding and bobbing heads, and comers and goers. Davina Bell and Katrina McKelvey beautifully hosted their respective publishers, keeping us engaged and laughing, and drawing out a wealth of information.
Our panels this year were, What Makes a Publisher say Yes?, Secret Agent Business, The Inside Story, and Finding Your Perfect Match: From Big Publishers to Small Indie Houses. Sadly I missed the last one, but I will be searching for that nugget of information from the blogs and groups on Facebook. Clearly a standout 'voice' and good old fashioned do the work, were the clear messages of the day, with so many insights and tips reeled off I will have to spend time deciphering my rapid scribbles!
Nervous for my assessment, I climbed the stairs and headed to the quiet room, a beautiful area complete with a picture of HRH UK (not HRH AUS - Jen Storer, although wouldn't that have been hilarious!) It seems there was a bit of a manuscript mix up, which invalidated some of the comments, but I did get some great food for thought which has allowed me to grow the pieces yet again. Whilst not being handed the golden offer to stay in touch, it was a great opportunity and I'm so pleased I got that session in my speedy shopping cart!
In the afternoon, I once again hooked up with my critique buddy Sharna, and we met in a cosy group of six to 'interview' the inspiring (and am I allowed to say seductive?) Lisa Berryman. Lisa was the ultimate professional, giving truthful no nonsense answers, with such encouragement that it was impossible not to go away inspired. I made a goal for myself - I want to be so good that Lisa wants to publish me! Now that would really be like getting inside the doors of the Wonka Factory. Can I be Charlie Bucket?! Anyone can dream…
By the time the cocktail hour arrived, we were all a little brain befuddled, and a glass of wine was very welcome! Now, as throughout the day at any refreshment break, publishers and hosts mingled openly and chatted to the delegates. Through my work in television, I have attended many events, but none where the playing field seems as level and lacking in ego as these children's literature events. This art form contains the most supportive set of people out of any of the arts I have participated in and it is always a pleasure to be amongst these inspiring creatives.
Later that night, pushing through my mental fatigue to head to a small jazz bar and a (literally) smoking cocktail, I reflected on the day against the backdrop of smooth saxophone tones. From all the information, discussions and advice, I had confirmed where I had suspected my true strength lies and from that I now have a specific direction. I was excited to one day find the partner or team with the respect, trust and boundaries that Jen Storer and Lisa Berryman attributed to their long-term partnership, and to keep dreaming, working hard and stay connected with this wonderful special tribe of creators.
A huge thanks to Alison, Sarah, Coral and Nicky and the attending publishers/panellists. Your dedication is so appreciated by attendees at every stage of their career. Congratulations on a wonderful event. I hope to be back for more pearls of wisdom next time!
The weekend of the 24th May was one to remember. A week later, I'm still recovering, and just beginning to sift through all the information and feedback that I can actually remember. These events are such whirlwinds that I often find it hard to recall everything. The first challenge was actually getting there. Kid Lit Vic, as you might suspect, is held in Victoria, in this case in the beautiful Melbourne town hall. So first things first, take a deep breath and get on that plane. Not my favourite past time. Luckily I had Oliver Phommavanh to keep me company, or rather his hilarious book Thai-riffic. I thoroughly recommend it, especially if you have an embarassing family. The flight proved to be very pleasant and I arrived to a beautiful sunny day, in one piece!
I have to admit I was really nervous heading into that classroom. After over a year of online involvement with the amazing Duck Pond community, I was actually going to meet these people for real. Were we all really going to be introverts, only just brave enough to come out from behind our computer screens? Would I actually take in anything from the session with nerves addling my already ADD brain?! And then there was meeting Jen...
Walking in to an Edward Albee quote on the whiteboard, 'Creativity is magic. Don't examine it too closely', my fears, of course, were unfounded. We played who looks like their facebook photo, I met my over-a-year-long critique partner Sharna, and Jen guided us through a fantastic session on what makes a good story, focusing on dramatic need with examples from several texts. We spot wrote with hilarious results. The afternoon was topped off with insights from author/ illustrators Judith Rossell and Lucinda Gifford, (which I personally found very interesting as I know nothing about the journey to illustration), and a hearty panel discussion resulted in more laughter. Jude, your illustration from your school days was priceless. The fun continued into the evening as we shared stories and experiences, but not too late.... we were all ready for a heads down in preparation for the big Kid Lit day itself.
I'm so grateful to have participated in this vibrant masterclass. I'll be revisiting all my notes in the coming weeks to keep on tightening and heightening my work. Thanks Jen for signing your book Clarrie's Pig Day Out for my daughter. It made her day.
Something different - an exciting writing challenge working with theatre-in-education specialist Therase Neve of Blue Whale Theatre.
Therase recently engaged me to write lyrics for a song for one of her early years shows, 'Staying healthy with Sailor Sam.' Blue Whale Theatre was established by actor and theatre in education specialist Therase Neve, to provide exciting and engaging dramatic experiences for children in Early Years and Primary schools. Therase has written and developed six shows - four early years, and two specialist plays, 'A Bright Light in the Darkness’, telling the story of Catherine McAuley, founder of the Sisters of Mercy, and 'Mary - A Story of Courage', the story of Saint Mary MacKillop.
Therase is proud to be touring these shows to schools both here and in New Zealand with her very talented cast!
Sam loves to eat 5 fruit and veg a day, and exercises every day to keep both mind and body happy and healthy! Children help Sailor Sam recognise ‘good foods’ from ‘not so good foods’ , learn about sun safety and dental hygiene, and join in with our jolly song to climb the riggings, scrub the decks, and hoist the flags on this fun interactive, sailing adventure!
I also had fun creating Blue Whale Theatre's website videos via my 'real job' with Thaumaturgy Post Production.
Thanks Therase for this wonderful opportunity.
The tune will be stuck in my head for a long time!
Since discovering the Creative Kids Tales Festival in 2018, I couldn't wait to attend this year. The theme was INVEST, and organiser Georgie Donaghey did an amazing job lining up our speakers, Jacqueline Harvey, Deb Abela, illustrators favourite Emma Quay and keynote speaker Jackie French AM. As expected, as soon as I lined up at the registration desk, the excitement was palpable. Friends greeted friends, new members were quickly embraced and conversations flew about manuscript assessment nerves.
Georgie kicked off the proceedings with a welcome before handing over to Jackie French for her presentation, 'How to begin the journey, how to keep going, and how to be an overnight success in a decade, (subtitled, 'or what the publishers probably won't tell you'). An immediate hush fell on the room as Jackie started with a surprising analogy - we are all cows. She described the process of getting published, starting with writers producing 'hopefully superior' milk, then passing it over to the editors, illustrators and publishers to turn it into a gourmet cheese. Her point on impressing people with your book cover in just seven seconds, really hit home to me. I hadn't really thought about it, but yes, when I'm browsing I choose firstly by the cover, then the blurb and if still curious, a quick flick inside to see whether the style of writing is appealing will have me putting it back on the shelf or in my shopping basket in approximately seven seconds. Scary. Jackie went on to talk about being ruthless in your editing, using imagery sparingly and finished on an inspiring and (for me) tear inducing speech about how we - just simple authors and illustrators like us, can shape the future for our kids. Luckily it was then time for the British remedy for all things emotional - a cup of tea :)
'Kids today are depressed, and fearful with the rise of terrorism. Write history so kids know the world changes, write books about surmounting challenges and succeeding against the odds, so kids know how to build resilience, write books that are pure joy and escapism so kids know happiness and how laughter helps, even when the world seems dark. The friends we make in books are with us forever.' Jackie French
Whilst others browsed the book stall, I headed to a manuscript assessment with Sue Whiting. I had seen Sue speak at last years festival, and sought out her books in the months afterwards. I had also attended one of her picture book courses in Newcastle, but this was the first time I had really had an opportunity to speak with her directly. Sue, true to the word impressed upon me by everyone who has met her, was absolutely lovely. She took me through my manuscript explaining what worked and what didn't, and was even kind enough to allow me to accost her later that day for clarification on something I hadn't quite taken in at the time in all the excitement. Overall, I was on a high walking away with my pencil comments from the 'not sure why's and 'less is more's' to 'A compelling start. Congratulations!'
Taking a quiet moment to let this sink in, and realising that now I had better get down and do the work of writing more chapters, I went back to catch the end of Emma Quay's presentation,' Giving Voice, Then Keeping Quiet: the art of making children's picture books.. and letting them go.'
Emma, like me, grew up in the U.K, and in a brief online chat on the CKT facebook page, I was delighted to learn that she had actually studied Graphic Design in my home town at Newcastle upon Tyne Polytechnic. Emma's work is featured globally and includes a collection held in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
Emma showed us some of her illustrations from her new book 'My Sunbeam Baby', and talked about her passion for creation. She highlighted the importance of accepting that not everyone will like your work, before sharing some hilarious reviews for her award winning picture book, 'Rudie Nudie', including 'The illustrations are lousy because they lacked effort and detail. There was very little colour and the lines don't contain it.' and '… Rudie Nudie is an ok book, give it a go but don't expect much because it's boring, with average illustrations and story.'
Find your voice Be obsessed with what you want to do Invest your time
You have to truly care Keep doing it - work every day to get better Do your best work
Give all parts of the illustrating equal attention
Pick projects you are passionate about
Every part of the book matters not just the main characters
Never give up
Emma's tips were equally applicable to authors and illustrators.
Our final speaker of the day Deborah Abela, lifted our spirits with her amusing and inspiring talk titled,
'Hard, painful, brilliant and intoxicating: why, how, and what you need to invest in to be a successful writer.' quoting George Orwell (see final image), and reminding me of the statement made by author's agent Brian Cook, on a panel discussion I once produced,along the lines of 'Writers are cursed. They' re driven….once you're driven like that there's nothing else you can do -you have to write.'
Deb went on to share her main ingredients of story: character, setting and problems, explaining that it is our job to make it hard for our characters to get what they truly want, immerse yourself in your setting (another validation for my picture pin board!), and identify the thing that drives the story forward - what makes the reader want to turn the page? She also shared her drafting process and gave us some
recommended reading: 'The Mindful Writer' by Dinty W Moore and 'On Writing' by Stephen King.
I thoroughly enjoyed watching Deb's video where she shares her journey researching her new book,
'Teresa A New Australian', which tells the story of a young girl and her family who survive the bombing of Malta during WW2, before migrating to Australia to start a new life.
During her talk, Deb had shared the ups and downs, citing her disappointment that her 'Ghost Club' books hadn't done as well as she had hoped. I later contacted Deb to let her know that my daughter had chosen Ghost club as her book of choice for her school task to redesign a cover for her favourite book. So it wasn't a flop by any means Deb!
After a much needed second cuppa with some of Georgie's cake, we launched into the publishers panel and Pitch Ya Book session. This was a fascinating insight into the decisions made and the do's and don'ts, with some good laughs and an opportunity to have questions answered. Desperately hoping to have my name pulled out of the pitching hat,(which it sadly didn't) I watched on as several brave and nervous authors rose to pitch their book to the assembled panel.
The room cheered as author Serge Smagarinsky won a request to submit his manuscript for consideration by Omnibus (Scholastic).
And that was the high we finished on. The day had flown, a wealth of information imparted, and we went home with hopes, dreams….and a lot of work to do.
Thanks go to Georgie Donaghey and her family, Susan Hili our critique group manager, speakers, and publishers for yet another highlight event for the future of children's literature.