0

The Next Generation of Authors

As I sat at my computer today reading the work of the Year Five and Year Six children that were selected for the Writing Masterclass at my local Public School last week I was blown away. Some of these kids have an astounding amount of talent. In some of the stories I read (all capped at a 600 word limit and with the guidelines of being based around a 10-12 year old protagonist who suddenly finds themselves in another country) I found myself swept away by brilliantly crafted images, strong story lines and authentic dialogue.

It is a wonderful experience to see the plot lines and characters that are oozing from our next generation of authors. In some it is possible to see influence of currently popular middle grade books, and in some the influence of current affairs and the media. Some follow the traditional spy book format and others find something that feels new and unchartered. In each case there was a glimpse of something special and it was a privilege to work with such gifted children.

0

Scallywags

I Just spent the most delightful morning at East Lindfield Community Pre-School. Armed with a Pirate ship and a pirate manuscript I hit the classroom for some Jolly Roger fun.                                  Pic 4  Pic 3

The kids walked the plank, scrubbed the decks and climbed the rigging and we also chased a scurvy pirate around his boat before leaving him marooned on an island and steeling his ship and his crew.

Pic 5

The kids had all made themselves eye patches, hats and flags leading up to my visit, so they all looked the part and played the part beautifully. So much fun. Arrr!

0

Maurice Saxby Lecture

Last night I navigated my way through the maze of Sydney University campus to attend the Maurice Saxby Lecture. This year’s lecture was delivered by the very accomplished Libby Gleeson. After a moment to reflect on the life, work and achievement of the wonderful Maurice Saxby, Libby went on to discuss the topic of STORY. Leading with a quote from Maurice himself. ‘We are all largely governed by and at the same time enriched by story.’

Libby spoke on how our lives are saturated by story, and how the existence of story in every Age and Culture is indisputable. It penetrates every corner of the Earth. It is used by Societies to bind communities, for example the Bible, a collection of stories used to guide Christianity. Folk tales, passed down through the generations used to pass on instructions of how to live in their world, all neatly wrapped up in story.

Libby talked about the magic of story and the ability of story to transport us to unknown places and times, to capture our imagination and to transport us to other realms. Story has the ability to evoke such strong reactions. And as writers we have the opportunity to take people to places they would never otherwise experience, what a joyful privilege that is!

Thank you to the NSW CBCA and Libby Gleeson and for a fabulous evening.

0

An Announcement Here Soon!!

Apologies for my silence. I am swan-like at the moment, with everything happening like crazy under the surface. I look forward to sharing my news with you soon!

But whilst I’m here, I’ll do a couple of quick recommendations.

Girl Online by Zoe Sugg. Whilst I haven’t quite finished this fabulous Young Adult novel I am thoroughly enjoying it, and planning to lend it to my gorgeous step daughter Zoe before she heads off to New York for Easter (It is set mostly in New York)
And my Picture Book pick of the moment is Dangerous! by Tim Warnes, such a clever concept to deliver an important message to young children; appearances can be deceiving.

0

How Audio Books have improved my self-editing

I find School holidays leave very little time for writing. However as we approached this six week long break I committed myself to as much reading as possible. And I discovered the wonder of audio books. What is so brilliant about audio books is that you can watch the kids on the beach whilst listening to a story. You can iron, fold washing and even make dinner whilst listening to a story. So I probably doubled my book consumption by way of audio books.

Having just completed the Editing Essentials course with Faber Writing Academy I was ‘deep reading’ and critically evaluating everything that I read, or listened to. And a brilliant thing happened. I always read my work aloud, but having listened to audio books I have developed a much stronger ear for when the rhythm and pace are working, or not, and when the dialogue feels authentic, or not. I feel that it has greatly improved my ability to asses my own writing.

So I am now an official advocate of the audio book. Not only does it double your reading time, it also improves your writing (Well mine at least :)) Just don’t all jump on board at once, audio books via the library are very limited and the best books have quite a wait time.

3

How I Got My Agent

Firstly woohoo!! I have an agent!

Now that’s out of the way, here is the story behind my signing with Alex Adsett of Alex Adsett Publishing Services.

It all started three years ago, when I decided that I was going to be a writer. I threw myself into this decision whole heartedly, signing up for many courses, attending as many conferences and networking sessions as possible, and most importantly finding myself the most awesome and talented critique group with which to workshop my work.

I was starting to get wonderful and encouraging feedback from editors and publishers and a couple of manuscripts came very close. But then I had an idea. It was on the 18th October, so really not very long ago. I was in bed and I suddenly sat up, woke my husband up and told him. Despite being woken, which as a bit of an insomniac, really is his pet hate, he was enthusiastic. He even threw in some suggestions before letting his head hit the pillow again. The idea is for a picture book series, and it is so obvious now that I’ve thought of it, it’s amazing that it’s not already out there.

I threw together a first draft for the last book in the series. I was a jittering bundle of excitement. Fortunately I didn’t have to wait very long until my next critique group session. I needed to test the water and make sure I wasn’t over-reacting to my idea. The good news was; the girls agreed it was the start of something big, and that golden word ‘commercial’.

So I worked that one book until it felt solid and sent it off to one of my favourite publishers, with a very excited letter. Then I went to work on the other four books. They all came out at great pace and with a really joyous voice, not one was difficult to work on, they all felt like they wanted to be written.

Time was of the essence to get them to a presentable state as I had a conference on the 1st November where I was meeting with an editor and I wanted to have the whole series ready to pitch. Happily she loved the idea and was keen to take it back to her publisher.

Then came the ASA literary speed-dating event. I had avoided this event the year before because I didn’t feel confident that I knew how to pitch. But following an ASA course focused on pitching, I felt I had a much clearer grasp on what to include in a pitch and how to deliver it. I was armed with my picture book series pitch and my YA novel pitch. It was a nerve-wracking experience, but I have to say all of the publishers and editors were very supportive and encouraging. I had a very enthusiastic response to my series from the two publishers I pitched it to and came away feeling kind of floaty. Having run out of people to pitch that to, I decided to pitch my YA novel. It had been away resting for about 3 months, so I was a bit rusty, and I don’t think my first pitch did it justice, however, the questions the editor asked made me evaluate and improve how I delivered it. The second time was much better!

The second time was with Alex Adsett. I hadn’t planned to pitch to Alex, because she had stated that she was looking for ‘well polished’ novels. I was just about to embark on an editing course with Faber Writing Academy, which I knew would mean a re-write, pushing my ‘well polished’ back by about 4-6 months. But I decided I would be upfront about that and pitch anyway. Alex was interested. She was such a pleasure to talk to and she gave really great insight and feedback. So I took the opportunity, and asked whether she ever represented picture book authors. ‘Occasionally,’ was her response. So I pitched my series, and left a copy of all five manuscripts with her.

Alex emailed me on the Tuesday to say that she had thoroughly enjoyed reading them and could understand why there was so much interest in them. And so we began a discussion. Having more than one publishing house interested in a piece of work is an absolute dream come true. However, the idea of having to negotiate with them was really taking the shine off the excitement for me. The idea of Alex taking over the communication, and helping me through the decision making process took a huge pressure off my shoulders, and I am now living in the moment again. Of course this is still the very beginning of my journey, and there are never any guarantees of what will happen from here. But needless to say, I am very excited and hopeful.

And the moral of the story is to always ask. You have to put it out there. If I hadn’t taken the opportunity to speak to Alex, or asked the question about picture book representation I would still be a bundle of nerves, desperately waiting for the phone to ring, but also dreading the conversation.

Good luck everyone. And I’ll keep you posted about the series.

0

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!