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The Rise and Rise of Shelly Unwin Part 3

The final interview in the series. We look at the events and associations that helped me achieve my publishing goal.

Just Write For Kids Blog

Today is the last interview with Shelly Unwin in which we look at some of the ‘nuts and bolts’ of her steps to her publishing dream. They include practical advice for anyone who is interested in getting published.

The things that impress me loud and clear from your story, Shelly are:

  1. although these books are only a very recent thing for you to be working on, the process of having written other things over several years (despite rejections and setbacks) helped you bring these ideas together at the right time.
  2. Having good networks and an understanding of the industry also developed over time and brought you into contact with the right people at the right time.Shelly 1.3

You’ve mentioned a few key steps in this process about building up networks and putting yourself in the right place at the right time. Can you comment further on these?

Faber Academy and “Stack…

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The beginning of the Christmas festivities already!?

We had a wonderful evening at the Children’s Book Council of Australia, Northern Sub Branch Christmas Dinner last night. It was great to listen to the incredibly talented Peter Carnarvas as he told us about his writing journey. He also played a couple of little songs on his ukulele and drew a quick picture of his George character from Oliver and George, which then went into the silent auction. So much talent. Peter then went on to signing books that people had bought that evening, and I wondered if he might be suffering from an acute bout  of signusitis today after signing so many? (sorry! I blame my dad for my silly sense of humour) I for one brought home six signed books! And he drew a little picture in each one – I love it when author/illustrators do that!

Peter Carnarvas

We also heard from Paul McDonald of The Children’s Bookshop, Beecroft. He talked about the age of visual literacy in which we find ourselves. He commented that Jessica’s Box by Peter Carnarvas is a great example of this. Schools are also pushing for interactive books and he recommended ‘Mix it up,’ by Herve Tullet, who also wrote ‘Press Here,’ both fantastic books for young children. For middle grade readers he recommended ‘Awful Auntie,’ by David Walliams, it’s apparently hilarious. And his suggested read for adult book clubs was ‘We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves,’ It has a major twist around page 70 and from there the book takes off and you can’t help but want to talk about it. It will be my recommendation to my book club this month!

Wendy Blaxland also launched her beautiful book, The Christmas Rose by Walker Books. She also spoke passionately about Marion Street Theatre for Young People, which has been thrown a lifeline by council, but still needs much public support to ensure it is an ongoing resource for the community. My stepson Jack participates in the weekly class for children with an intellectual disability and he absolutely loves it. We also love the opportunity to see him perform. I still smile when I think back to last years performance at the Concourse Theatre Chatswood, when Jack took about two minutes to walk to the back of the stage to hang a pretend picture, because he needed a real wall for his pretend picture – a beautiful moment J

It was a great night. It was lovely to catch up with so many warm, generous and gifted friends, and great to celebrate everyone’s successes for the year. But I still can’t believe we’re celebrating Christmas at the beginning of November!

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Sculpture by the Sea

A little off topic, but I wondered into the world of art, and more specifically sculptures last night when I attended the preview of the Sculptue by the Sea exhibition in Bondi. We were blessed with a beautiful evening and the company of some incredibly talented sculptors.

Stephen King, winner of last years Sculpture Prize talked us through his exhibit for this year. A sculpture called ‘the folly’. He was delightful and very humble. The sculpture is made from stringy bark that has fallen on his own farm in country NSW. Here he with ‘the folly’.

Stephen King Sculpture

 

I loved the ‘Coast Totem’ by Linda Matthews in collaboration with Carterwilliamson. It would look different again in bright sunlight, but looked just spectacular with the waves crashing behind it.

Linda Matthews Coast TotemBraddon Snape sculpture

and my favourite piece from the Sculpture Inside Gallery was Braddon Snape’s sculpture above. It was so full of wonder.

What was fascinating for me was how similar sculpture is to writing in its subjectivity. Just listening to the reactions of others in our group as they ooh’d and ahh’d, whilst I scratched my head, or as they walked straight passed a piece that I could have stood and looked at for hours. We were lucky enough to have Dr Michael Hill, Head of Art History & Theory, National Art School to talk us through many of the pieces. His love for sculpture was infectious. He was also able to give us a brief glimpse at the complexity and craft behind what can sometimes appear to be a fairly basic structure.

I would certainly recommend a visit to this years exhibition, some of the exhibits are truly interactive, making it great fun for all the family. But word is, don’t leave it until the last weekend, it is too packet to even get close to the sculptures. It runs from 23rd Oct to 9th Nov. Enjoy!

 

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Writers Unleashed

On Saturday I attended the Writers Unleashed Festival in Sutherland Shire. It was a fantastic festival, providing the opportunity to hear from some very talented writers, including the hilarious James Roy, Suzanne Gervay, Emma Quay and Libby Gleeson.

We also heard from a panel of publishers on what’s hot and what’s not right now in the world of children’s literature. In Middle Grade fiction and in YA it is smart, stand alone fiction, for strong readers, with a unique voice, strong characters and a funny or clever edge that is exciting publishers right now. Particularly contemporary fiction with strong friendship themes, and of course a bit of romance never goes a miss. (Sounds just like my novel!! ;))

What made this festival really special, however, was that I was able to share it with many of my writers group, Picture This, pictured at the festival below. It is wonderful to be a part of such a talented and supportive group!

Picture This at Writers Unleashed

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Monsters Under the Bed

I had the pleasure of attending the Talking Writing event at the NSW Writers’ Centre last night, where Kate Forsyth, Nyssa Harkness and Matt Finch discussed monsters and villains in kid’s and YA fiction.

One of the most interesting parts of the discussion, for me anyway, was what makes monsters and villains suitable for children’s literature. Kate having written many a children’s story with villains in, suggested that a well written monster or villain in a children’s book sends a delicious shiver of fear through the child, whilst allowing them to still feel safe in their reading space. A child should be almost giggling with fear, not sweating with terror. And the difference between a child’s monster and an adults monster is defined by the depth of depravity. Get it wrong and that will be the last book you sell to that family, no parent wants to be woken in the night by a terrified child! True!

Another very interesting point was made around the level of sympathy you can manipulate readers to feel for the villains in stories. Kate talked about two types of villains, static villains, who remain bad all the way through the story, and villains that learn a lesson and change through the story. Readers can be encouraged to find understanding and even empathy for the latter, but will rarely have any sympathy for the former. Children have a strong inbuilt sense of justice, and like to see the bad guy punished and the good guy triumph. The story that stands the test of time is the story with a strong sense of justice and where true love triumphs.

There were many more interesting points made and all three presenters provided a fantastic insight into their area of expertise. Whilst I don’t write fantasy or dystopian fiction I came away from the evening feeling like I have learnt things I can incorporate into my writing.

A big thank you to Matt, Kate and Nyssa, and of course the NSW Writers’ Centre for hosting the evening.