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Win Win Win!!

Shelly and books

This week the Australian Writers’ Centre is running a competition for one lucky winner to walk away with the complete You’re series! That’s all five books! You’re One! to You’re Five! So… if you’ve got some special little ones in your life why don’t you give it a go. It’s super easy!!

Just follow the link below …

and Good Luck xxx

click here to enter

Could this be yours??? book stack

https://www.writerscentre.com.au/blog/win-whats-favourite-number/

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Podcast Interview

It was with great pleasure that I took a trip down memory lane with Valerie Khoo on her wonderful podcast ‘So You Want to be a Writer.’ Valerie was keen to explore what made me want to become a writer, how I ran my ‘writing business’ and how I was eventually fortunate enough to find a publishing home for my You’re Five! series with Allen & Unwin.

19957001_10154890433778391_9044094780228070033_o-2Listen here

Valerie is the National Director of The Australian Writer’s Centre, which was where I embarked on my very first writing course: ‘Writing Picture Books’ and she was wonderfully generous in agreeing  to launch my series when they first hit the market in June this year.

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With Valerie Khoo, speaker extraordinaire, National Director of the Australian Writers Centre, Author, Journalist and the list goes on. Basically an incredible lady!

I feel very lucky to have Valerie’s support and it was an absolute delight to chat to her on her podcast. Listen here

One of the things I forgot to mention during the interview when Valerie asked how I had spent my time when I was working towards becoming an author, was building my author platform. This blog post – my Facebook page Facebook link, my Instagram Account Insta link and my Twitter Account, Twitter link  have all taken time to establish and build. They’re all still a work in progress, but something that has definitely been valuable in finding a writing community.

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Kids Book Review : 12 Curly Questions with author Shelly Unwin

http://www.kids-bookreview.com/2017/06/12-curly-questions-with-author-shelly.html

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you. 

I used to be a chronic sleepwalker. I once packed up my entire bedroom, including the pictures on the walls and the curtains. Fortunately I grew out of it!

2. What is your nickname? 

 I have a few! My school friends and sports friends call me Froggy because my maiden name was Froggatt. My brother calls me Spud, because he’s strange. And my husband calls me Twinkle.

3. What is your greatest fear?

Never having another great picture book idea again.

4. Describe your writing style in 10 words. 

Fun, engaging, sneakily informative, with lots of rhyme and rhythm.

5. Tell us five positive words that describe you as a writer. 
 Exciting, educating, emotive, engaging, and effervescent (the last one is one my agent used to describe me – I’ve stolen it).

6. What book character would you be, and why?

Miss Petitfour. She’s this wonderful woman who flies around with the wind caught in her tablecloth and her 16 cats hanging from her coat tails. She heads off on beautiful little adventures and always comes back to a delicious cream tea. It’s a simple but whimsical life.

7. If you could time travel, what year would you go to and why? 
1982. I would love to be five again and have just started school. I’d be playing with the water wheel in the water play area or having three-legged races in the playground. I think five is such a magical age; the whole world is starting to open up and every day is an adventure.

8. What would your 10-year-old self say to you now? 
Why aren’t you a professional horse rider? I thought that was our plan?

9. Who is your greatest influence? 

Wow this is really hard to narrow down. I take influence from so many different aspects of life. Some of my closest friends are such wonderful parents. My husband is so smart and dedicated. And then there is the world of books. I love the sheer talent and capacity of Jacqueline Harvey, the picture book humour of Nick Bland, the brilliant rhythm and rhyme of Julia Donaldson. I could go on!

10. What/who made you start writing? 

It was an epiphany. A sudden realisation of what it was that I wanted to do. Nothing has ever felt quite so right. At that moment, I happened to be reading Incy Wincy Spider, by Keith Chapman and Jack Tickle.

11. What is your favourite word and why?

Bedtime! I love this word twice. Once when I get to say it to the kids and once when it’s mine and I get to crawl under my doona at the end of a long day.

12. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life, what would it be? 
 Bill Bryson’s The Thunderbolt Kid. If I had to read one book forever it would need to be one that made me laugh.

Shelly Unwin grew up in a tiny English village where she was surrounded by animals, the occasional pixie fairy and her best friend Cracker, a feisty palomino pony. She was the middle child of three, but also had 11 foster siblings (not all at the same time). Shelly studied teaching and biology at university in Birmingham and moved to Australia in 2002, where she has since married an Aussie with two beautiful kids and added another two to the brood. She plays with words all week long and loves that she can call it ‘work’. For more information, see shellyunwin.com.

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The ‘Big’ Book Launch

Thursday night was epic! As we held an adult book launch over wine and cheese to celebrate the release of You’re One! You’re Two! You’re Three! You’re Four! and You’re Five!

The evening started with Valerie Khoo talking about the dedication, education and commitment it takes to establish a career in writing picture books. We then talked about my path to publication and I read from You’re One! which is dedicated, To Sean, my one in a million! We had a video from Katherine Battersby, who spoke about the fun she had illustrating the series, the different materials she used for the collages and how she works digitally to create the artwork for the books.

Anna McFarlane, Children’s Publisher from Allen & Unwin gave a beautiful and very moving speech about how she felt when she first received the texts for this series. We played a fun game of Heads and Tails with the crowd to win a full set of books. And then toasted the launch of the series.

On the night we also ran a social media competition to win two framed, signed prints from the book which Katherine had kindly organised. Which was won by a very excited Alex who managed to garner 108 like is just over an hour! That is some serious social media power!

We still have two major launches to go – One at Abbotsleigh ELC this Tuesday and the funky ‘numbers disco’ at East Lindfield preschool on Thursday.

But here is the show real from Thursday night….

 

The evening was such a buzz as we celebrated three years in the making for this gorgeous series.

Huge thank you’s have to go to Valerie Khoo, National Director of the Australian Writers Centre who was the most spectacular MC and launched the series on the night.

To Anna McFarlane, Publisher, Allen & Unwin for her beautiful and moving speech.

To Alex Adsett, Director of AAPS for coming to celebrate all the way from Brisbane.

To my Critique group, Picture This, for all of their help and support on the night and over the last three years.

To our fabulous illustrator Katherine Battersby, who couldn’t attend the evening as she now lives in Canada, but who sent a wonderful video.

To all the people who helped with set up, organisation and lending equipment – Nicola, Alyce, Adele, Felicity & Ross and Andrew Stevenson.

To the team at The Lindfield Learning Hub for hosting such a wonderful night.

To my dad for coming over from the UK to help out during this very hectic time.

To all the friends and family who came along to support the evening,

and of course,

To my gorgeous husband Sean, for the years of believing in me and supporting me in this exciting venture – You’re The Best!

 

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The Curse of Jasper Rust

For the last two years I have been involved with the gifted and talented writers at my local primary school, mentoring them through the plotting, writing and editing of a chapter book. Last year I shadowed another fabulous local author, Tony Davis, who had been responsible for pulling the programme together with the school four years ago.

This is last years book: The Disappearance of Jasper Rust

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This year I took the reigns. It has been an amazing experience, from the first full day workshop, through to the final edits. I have been so lucky to have had a team of exceptionally gifted writers, who soaked up everything I taught during the workshop session and delivered it so beautifully throughout the term as we plotted and wrote the 6 chapter, 8,000 word book.

The character Jasper Rust was a legacy from the previous three years, and the title ‘The Curse of Jasper Rust’ was our starting point. We took our time to map out a thorough plot and workshop our main characters and then each of the six students were assigned a chapter. This year we wrote the book chronologically, so our Chapter One writer had a week to write her chapter, then our Chapter Two writer had his week, and so followed through to Chapter Six.

As the chapters took shape I provided feedback and the writers edited their chapters against this and against the changes that came about because of what was written in the previous or subsequent chapters. The children’s ability to take on board the feedback and make the necessary changes to their chapters was inspiring.

We also developed ‘hit squads’ I had a ‘Hamish and Andy’ duo, who had shown a natural ability to write humour into their chapters, so they worked through the other chapters adding hints of their comedy brilliance. I also had character and setting teams who were able to embellish the story with detail, all the while helping to move the plot forward.

Writing in this form is all about re-writing and it is so far removed from a piece of homework that you write once and hand in. They had to go back over their 1,000+ word chapters between 8 and 10 times to get it to mesh seamlessly with the rest of the book. They also had to willingly let others tweak their work. Throughout this whole process the group was amazing, dedicated and flexible. I am so proud of each and every one of them and can’t wait for the launch of book four, pencilled for the 22nd November.

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In the Room with Aussie Greatness

Gleebooks in Glebe brought together some of Australia’s finest Young Adult Writing talent last night for what turned out to be a very humorous and enjoyable panel discussion.  Melina Marchetta, Erin Gough, Will Kostakis and  Chris Morphew were chaired by Felicity Castagna and discussed a range of topics pertinent to the current YA market.

One of the most striking facts from the evening was a statistic, only 1 out of 10 Young Adult books sold in Australia is from Australia. The majority are bought in from the US and the UK. Will, who has just released his latest novel Sidekicks, commented on how great our Aussie talent is at the moment, particularly some of the contemporary voices. He said he connects to seeing the places he lives being reflected in the work. Melina, who’s work includes The Lumatere Chronicles, thought the statistic to be very sad and believes that the Young Adult novels from Australia have been very strong over the last two years. It would be interesting to know how much the block busters such as John Green’s various titles influence these numbers. It would also be interesting to know how many Australian titles are released by Australian publishers compared to the number of titles they buy in from overseas.

There was a vibrant conversation about the appeal of writing for a YA audience. Chris, who is hilarious (and who’s book, Man in the Shadows, I had to buy because I know I will belly laugh when I read it) said that he loves the YA audience because they are so up for the adventure you want to take them on, they’re open minded readers. Erin added that this audience is all embracing, and to write for them gives you a sense of freedom.

The big conversation of the evening was around covering diversity in text. Both Erin and Will’s books have characters with different sexual orientation. Erin spent about eight years trying to write the great Australian novel, she didn’t want to be pigeonholed as ‘the gay writer’ and have a limited readership. But she has found this not to be the case, people have embraced her book, Flywheel, and they’ve embraced it for more than its lesbian content.

I’ve read and enjoyed work from most of these authors and I now have a handful of new books that I can’t wait to get stuck into. Felicity, who’s own book The Incredible Here and Now received the Prime Minister’s Literature Award, was an eloquent and engaging chair. Thank you for sharing Melina, Erin, Will, Chris and Felicity, and to Gleebooks for pulling such an awesome panel together and hosting such an enjoyable evening.

 

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Truth and Vulnerability

At the Writers Unleashed festival last weekend, I sat bolted to my chair as Trinity Doyle shared with us her insights on dealing with emotions in Young Adult literature.

She highlighted the importance of Truth and Vulnerability in our work. “Nobody is going to connect with ‘I’m fine'” she said. And she’s absolutely right. Teenagers are emotional, hormonal and for the most part melodramatic. Their crushes are all consuming, they fall in love, they fall out of love, they hate, they envy, they need and they need now! So as adults writing for Young Adults it’s important to remember the immediacy of their love, wants and needs, and not let our years of experience, and somewhat tamed hormones influence their reactions. “Let the raw, intense feelings of adolescence flood your work,” Trinity says.

Trinity pointed out that for the most part teenagers are outsiders all trying to fit in to what they see as the social norms. She suggests digging deep into the memory banks and thinking about what made you hurt as a teenager. Connection with readers comes from vulnerability. “Do not undermine the emotions of your characters,” she said.

I sat in awe of the amount of thought she had put into writing the emotions of her characters and can’t wait to read her debut novel Pieces of Sky, “A soaring, uplifting novel about love and loss from an exciting new voice.”

Pieces of Sky