The start of 2019 has been uplifting and affirming. Most of my writing time was dedicated to preparing three manuscripts. I polished and polished and polished the first two chapters of a novel to be assessed by Sue Whiting, author, editor and everything books, at the Creative Kids Tales festival in April, and two picture book texts to be assessed by Cristina Pase, commissioning editor at Windy Hollow Books, at KidLit Vic in May.
I started February attending a book launch at The Children's Bookshop in Beecroft. It was boiling hot in the packed room, and my view was obscured by a Giant Koala (how did you survive in that hot costume?!) but it was so inspiring chatting to the authors afterwards.
I then attended a SCBWI masterclass with Diane Evans and Allison Paterson of Big Sky Publishing at the wonderful State Library of New South Wales. Of the many topics covered, those of particular interest to me (in relation to my work-in-progress novel) were 'weaving history, powerful messages and important events into entertaining and informative novels', and 'can you link your work to the national curriculum?', which I had never really explored. I also got the pleasure of finally meeting my year long critique partner David, who travelled from Adelaide!
March brought two family birthdays - a growing-up -too-fast 8 and a special 13 - number two teenager in the house! It also brought an exciting opportunity to visit Angophora House Education Learning Hub, a fantastic new initiative set up right here on the Central Coast, by Jacqui Barton, former education manager at Harper Collins. I was thrilled to meet Yvette Poshoglian, best known for 'Ella and Olivia', and Tania McCartney, prolific author, illustrator and podcaster, with her gorgeous new picture book 'Mamie' , about the creator of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, May Gibbs.
The afternoon was presented by one of my favourite amazing ladies, Susanne Gervay OAM, (is there anywhere Susanne isn't? I think she must own a time-turner), and the wonderful Jacqui herself. The enthusiasm of everyone in the room was clear and some wonderful connections were made.
One of those connections was Alison, manager of Bookface . Alison was very happy to let me do a photoshoot in her store at Erina. It was great fun, and the resulting images are displayed throughout the site. Thanks Alison, my talented friend Lee Hanly ,and my wonderful photographer Tanya Stokes!
The end of March brought a wonderful surprise and a confirmation to myself that all the passion and hours put in are paying off. I received news that I had been long-listed in the Greenleaf Blossoms Competition! Sadly I didn't make the shortlist (congratulations to those who did!), but it proved I'm on the right track and with more work, more self-learning and more skill, my goals are realistic.
This weekend brings my second Creative Kids Tales Festival, where I've been given the opportunity by organiser and author Georgie Donaghey, to speak briefly on the benefits of joining a critique group. The theme is INVEST - something I've consciously worked towards over the last three years. I'll be taking my snazzy business cards, designed by the awesome Max Hamilton, who I met this time last year at the inaugural CKT festival.
It's going to be an amazing day - stay tuned for how it went
In 2017 I wrote a novel. 50, 000 words in a fantasy world with characters that had been driving me nuts for months beforehand, screaming to be put on paper. A year later, I took it on holiday to take another look. It was awful. The story was ok - I still think it has potential, one day, after a heck of a lot of work.
The characters were cardboard cut outs. The descriptions were flowery. The POV's were only just under control, and there were chapters that should have been evicted to the desert to roll with the other tumbleweeds. BUT - a year on, I could see this as clearly as if the manuscript had jumped up and slapped me across the face, and that, I consider, is serious progress.
Because in that year, I had learned an awful lot.
I have always wanted to write. Always. Always. But life took me in other directions, and it fell off my radar and, I believed, beyond my capabilities. Now don't get me wrong, I've done a lot of fun things. I've had a lot of jobs, lived in a lot of places, have a wonderful family and friends, and despite many ups and downs, have never had a dull moment. But this 'writing thing' was still waiting, buried under layers of 'too busy, not good enough and not yet.'
Until it wasn't anymore.
I had already 'harnessed the power' with my other long-term dream of working in television. Not, as I originally thought, in front of the camera, but very happily behind, in the post-production team. So when I happened upon an author with several novels under her belt, written whilst parenting and working, a second light bulb went off. What's stopping me? And so it began in earnest. I joined Creative Kids Tales, and attended the festival - kid in candy store material. Publishers, illustrators, authors - in person, beaming in from who knows where in Australia, and excitingly, other aspiring authors like me. We compared notes. We found each other on Facebook. We're still in touch and supporting each other all the way. I wrote more. I did an online bootcamp, dragging myself up at 5am to be live in America. I went to writer's festivals, author talks at the local library, a masterclass with Sue Whiting, and a 'Polishing, Pitching and getting Published' seminar with Heather Curdie from Penguin Random House and Suzanne O’Sullivan from Hachette. I joined a critique group, found a facebook community and joined SCBWI (the society of children's book writers and illustrators).
I joined 'Scribbles' where I was tasked with making my own notebook cover, on which I included one of my favourite quotes from the Wizard of Oz: 'You've always had the power, my dear, you just had to learn it for yourself.'
I entered, and was shortlisted in the Scribbles Creative Writing Awards. And I wrote. A lot.
I have made it my goal to do one thing every day towards the business of writing, whether it's reading, making notes, networking, marketing, listening to podcasts, researching publishers, critiquing others, getting, or working through feedback, discussing ideas and always being open to learning.
I feel privileged to have met, and become part of this amazing community of authors where I can be myself. I understand this is hard work. I know I can do it.
2019 - watch out. I'm coming.
If I hadn't attended the 2018 Creative Kids Tales festival, I would never have made friends with Max, and if I hadn't made friends with Max she would never have said, 'You must check out 'The Duck Pond!'
The Duck Pond is a facebook group dedicated to aspiring and already published authors and illustrators, run by children's author Jen Storer. It is the most supportive community of any of the creative arts that I have ever been involved with. Wait for it....people actually want you to succeed! And give you hints, and tips and generally share the love. Amazing!!!
So I became a Duckie.
From 'The Pond', I discovered 'Scribbles', an online course designed to help you rediscover your inner child whilst (hopefully) squashing your inner critic. It's fun! But whilst the end result of writing for children is often fun, it's also very hard work, so when the opportunity to enter the inaugural Scribbles creative writing awards came up, I knuckled down.
The competition was judged by industry professionals Gabrielle Wang, Judith Rossell, Lucinda Gifford and Jen Storer. Knuckling down became biting knuckles, as the Duck Pond and Scribbles facebook groups counted down the days to the announcement. I tried not to care. Impossible.
Max messaged me. 'You seen your email?!!!!'
My email that said I'd been shortlisted. The email that I'd been sure I would never receive.
But I did. Another proof to myself that if you 'do the verk', at some point, it has to pay off.
I didn't win. and I genuinely didn't care. I was so happy and excited for those that did, that it felt like I had won anyway. The whole experience was a roller coaster. I was thrilled to ride it with others who are equally passionate about what they do, and who are doing it better, because those are the people I want to be around, and that is the type of person I want to be, for someone else like me. Thank you Jen and judges for giving me an opportunity to have my work read by you.
I'll be meeting some of the Scribbbles gang in May when I head to the Kid Lit conference in Melbourne. I'm sure it will be a wonderful play day.