Book Week … ah … month?

I love Book Week. I love it even more when it’s extended over more than a week. This year my ‘Book Week’ began in late July and continues until mid-September.

Fantastic.

First port of call was PNG, Oro Province where four writers and illustrators were lucky enough to be able to visit a range of schools from elementary (village-based) schools to secondary day and boarding schools.

Bonuses (as if we needed more):

1 x astronaut

1 x medical team determined to reduce/eradicate TB

1 x tiny frog

1 x water diviner (and yes we all tried it and yes we all found water)

1 x visit to Kokoda Trail (walked a few metres in … does that count?)

We had multiple ‘oh my’ moments, from the size of some of our groups, through incredible welcomes, odd food experiences (curried duck balls anyone?), and brilliant company.

Return to Melbourne was a rude (cold) awakening but my first dog walk affirmed the approach of Spring.

Then there was ‘Love Your Bookshop Day’ on Saturday. I visited both my local bookshops, Younger Sun in Yarraville and Book and Paper in Williamstown to join their celebrations.

Roll on Book Week!

Ballarat and back

I’ve spent two days this week in Ballarat. The first day I talked about books and writing with all primary levels at Sebastopol Primary School. We covered everything from drafting, editing, publishing and the challenges in getting the words right. I showed students why I don’t illustrate my own books and they were very encouraging. One group also learned and recited a poem I’d written about Koalas. We read books and considered what it would have been like to be aboard a convict ship in 1841. Despite all the horribles of that journey, there are always a few students who want to join that trip.

The second day was all about poetry. Young writers from six schools in and around Ballarat travelled to Sebastopol to take part. We began the day as a group of about 70 students, then broke into smaller groups to undertake poetry workshops. My session was free verse poetry and man those students came up with some amazing lines! Other sessions were blackout poetry and art poetry. As always, I wish there was time to also attend the other workshops.

The final part of the day involved the students breaking into small groups, writing, workshopping and selecting a rhyming verse invitation. The final seven were performed to the assembled students and I had the task of choosing one. The chosen verse will be used as the invitation to the closing ceremony of the Young Writers Program where parents and other invitees will have the opportunity to view the work of the students.

A great initiative, devised and delivered by some amazing teachers and schools. Congratulations to all who were part of it.

Oh, and it was cold. -4 overnight. But so crisp and clear the next morning. Just lovely.

Bitta dis, bitta dat …

It’s winter here in Melbourne, which means I’m typing while wearing very fetching fingerless mittens, multiple layers of woolies and a big scarf. My office gets a bit coolish. But it’s so beautiful. Much as I hate getting up in the dark, that’s dog walk time and it’s always worth the effort for the sunrises, and the early morning light (keeps the dog happy too).

And there are other things that happen in winter. Great new book releases to add to the reading pile (although a couple of these went straight to the top), I helped a friend launch her first book, our choir was part of a Folk to Classic concert at Newport Folk Festival, we finally managed to book our Christmas gift dinner, and Koala is about to be released. I’ve received posters and teacher notes. Plans for two launches are unfolding, one in Sydney and one here in Melbourne.

Before that though, I’m off to Ballarat for a couple of days, then to PNG. Where it will be warm.

Willy Lit Fest

There’s nothing like a festival to refill the well. And there’s nothing like Willy Lit Fest. This local lit fest is now in its fourteenth year and going strong. A small team of mostly volunteers put together a program that has something for everyone from young children to the most literary of readers. From the Markus Zusak/Andy Griffith conversation to folk music and Afgan dust, it was a treat.

This year, I was co-presenting a workshopping session with my friend and colleague Sue Lawson, author of many wonderful books and stories. We were ‘in conversation’, offering Insider Tips for Children’s Writers.

Totally unintentionally, we dressed in coordinating colours, carried red handbags and red black and white tote bags. We even brought some of the same books to share with the audience as examples of good writing!

Our session was sold out!

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We talked about picture books for different ages, lengths of longer fiction, organisations that can help hone skills and create networks. There was so much to share, so little time. We wanted this to be a Q&A session and it was. Hopefully we were able to share useful tips for all participants. We certainly had fun. But then, as we said at the beginning of our session: we could happily talk for hours … underwater … yano.

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We were looked after brilliantly, from the Green Room, to the volunteers to the ‘introducer’ to the personalised coffee!

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Suffering Succotash!

When I was small, I really loved Sylvester, despite him always been bested by a grinning yellow canary. I particularly loved his ‘Suffering Succotash!’ cry.

I thought it was a made up word, but I liked how it tasted. On this weekend just gone, I discovered that it’s real! It’s a combo of corn and beans widespread in part of the US. There are recipes for making it at home, or you can buy it in tins. Who knew?

This discovery was just one of very many made during the biannual Reading Matters conference, held at the Arts Centre in Melbourne. The conference mixes panel discussions with keynotes from local and international writers and image makers. This year also featured Dougal, illustrator of Introducing Teddy. His work, interpretations of presenters, were posted on Instagram. Take a look. His handle is 15mindrawings.

I could list the speakers, but I’d leave some out and feel bad. Besides I’m sure you can find the information on the CYL (Centre for Youth Literature) website. Suffice to say, by close on Saturday I was stuffed full of inspiration and admiration. So much to think about, so many authors to explore, so many new books to read. Well done RM team.

 

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And then this arrived: Danish editions of Koala. Oh my!

 

There was a tunnel

I feel like I’ve been absent for a while – much of this year really. Mostly to do with study. But I’ve submitted my final project, completed the feedback form and what happens next is beyond my ability to predict/affect.

I’ve culled my books and there’s a little room on my shelves. I’ve partially cleared my desk, I have my printer back and it’s sort of working, my email inbox is back to manageable and I’m starting to work through what’s been waiting patiently (the impatient things are also done) and I’m ready for what’s next.

But while I work on them, some exciting news. I have confirmation that Koala will also appear in Danish. And Big Red Kangaroo is to be in Korean! Can’t wait to see copies.

My Name is Lizzie Flynn is officially available in paperback from Thursday. Lovely to be able to share her again.

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I have left my cave occasionally. I had a lovely day workshopping story with students from 6 Ballarat primary schools. What a treat! I’ll be back in July for some more workshopping with the same students, focussing on poetry.

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I was as happy as a pig in long grass. The workshops were conducted at a farm school and I visited the pigs, some chooks and other animals before I drove home. Just call me Old MacDonald. Or not.

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Absent in Action

I know I’ve just flagged this new website and blog, but I feel like I’ve been absent for some time. Partly this is due to study, but that’s nearing its end and hopefully I’ll soon be fully present again.

On Friday I was part of the Queenscliffe Literary Festival school program. It was a lovely day, with engaged and enthusiastic students and ran like clockwork thanks to the hard work of an enthusiastic team. Each of the presenters: Martine Murray, Jedda Robard, Carole Wilkinson, Heath McKenzie, Tull Suwannakit, Andy Isaacs (who I didn’t get to meet) and I had our own ‘minders’, who made sure we had whatever we needed. My session with Yr 2 and Yr 3 students from several local schools was great fun. Many thanks to Alice and the team and to hosts Point Lonsdale Primary School (great  catering too).

While I have no pics of the students or the school, here are some from the surroundings. It’s a tough gig, but it has to be done.

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