A Bookish Adventure

I started this blog to document an extended trip to the US and UK in 2012, introducing children to my Alice-Miranda series. It's hard to believe that it's just on four years since we launched the first Alice-Miranda title - and now there are nine books out in Australia with another five still to come. When I first came up with the idea of this precocious seven and a quarter year old, I had no clue that she would take me on such an amazing journey, not only in Australia but also across the world. I visited 37 schools while we were away in 2012 and gave over 80 talks - it was fantastic. In 2013 I've been on lots of new adventures in the UK - visiting schools from London to Southampton, Lancashire, Scotland, Newcastle and back to London again. After that I headed off to meet readers in Singapore. In Australia I've been to Melbourne, Perth, Albany, Alice Springs and Brisbane. There's a new series too - about a gorgeous little girl called Clementine Rose. She and Alice-Miranda don't know each other yet, but they will soon.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Book Week in Australia, the Melbourne Writers' Festival and a huge Alice-Miranda launch!

It's been a great week.  My first Book Week as a full time writer and I've had a ball visiting five different schools in Sydney.  It's been wonderful to see the enthusiasm for reading from the teachers and students and I've had a ball.  I am looking forward to the Melbourne Writers' Festival next - another first for me.

My Melbourne Writers' Festival public event on Sunday is sold out but I believe there are still tickets available for my Tuesday event.  You can book tickets at Melbourne Writers' Festival Meet Jacqueline Harvey

It's been amazing to see Alice-Miranda and Clementine Rose selected as dress ups for the week and Alice-Miranda has been blogging about all her new friends over at http://alice-miranda.blogspot.com
I've got some of the photos below.  I bow down to the parents and grandparents who have made so many fabulous outfits this week - not only for Alice-Miranda and Clemmie but the myriad characters who weave their magic in children's lives.  Thank you to everyone for making stories important.

I'm thrilled that the Alice-Miranda Diary for 2014 is almost out and Alice-Miranda Shines Bright is in the shops in less than a week too.  We're having a huge launch party for the books and Clementine Rose and the Farm Fiasco at The Children's Bookshop in Beecroft on Saturday 31 August at 1pm.  Please come along - there will be animals (and hopefully a tea cup pig!).  I'd love to see you there.  Book at Launch party Alice-Miranda Shines Bright, the Alice-Miranda Diary 2014 and Clementine Rose and the Farm Fiasco

Friday, August 9, 2013

May Gibbs Children's Literature Trust Days 22, 23, 24, 25, 26

Sometimes finishing a story is not quite as straightforward as you hope it will be.  My goal to have the draft completed by Tuesday didn't eventuate.  Not because I wasn't putting in 14 hour writing days but because this story just has a lot more threads that needed pulling together.  So what I thought would be 56,000 words at most has turned into 62,500 - many of which will be trimmed!  I must admit I'm feeling a little exhausted and strangely overwhelmed - perhaps it's just the thought that my month here is almost over.  The draft needs much polishing and re-working to bring it to its best, but that's the process of being a writer.  I enjoy having the opportunity to step back from it - read through from beginning to end (aloud and with all the silly voices) to see what works and what doesn't.  To think about the plot flaws and ask myself - does that make sense?  How can this be better?  Would Alice-Miranda do that?  Is Jacinta being true to herself?  Etc etc...

Of course this means that I haven't started my new Clementine adventure yet and that needs to be underway asap.  It will get done.

This week I worked with the Norwood, Payneham and St Peter's Library visiting East Adelaide Public School.  The children were great fun and I enjoyed meeting them very much.  Sue Nosworthy from the Trust looked after me well.  I can't wait to spend time with her again - she's terrific fun as is her husband Ian.

Mary Wilson had me up to her beautiful home for dinner on Wednesday evening.  We had my favourite; rack of lamb, roast vegetables and cauliflower cheese.  I asked if she'd been reading the 'My Favourites' section on my website!  On the way home Mary took me to the top of Kensington Road where there is a lookout over the city.  It was a blustery evening and a little chilly but well worth the walk.  What a spectacular view.

It feels strange to be getting ready to leave the Burrow.  It's a perfect place to write and has all the creature comforts of home - including a hair dryer!  I know when I was getting ready to come down I wished I had asked some silly questions about whether or not there was an iron and ironing board and hairdryer and of course a printer.  If you are coming soon I can tell you that the printer is a Canon MP250 and the ink cartridges will cost about $75 if you get colour.  There's also an external keyboard that you can hook up to your laptop.  I brought my own from home but it would have been a good thing to know and save on the luggage.

Adelaide is a terrific place and I am looking forward to being back again soon.  I've had the opportunity to meet some teachers from other schools in the area and I'm already plotting a tour next year.  It's a great city and the area where I've been staying in Norwood is absolutely gorgeous.  There is a real vibrancy. 

Last night I had the pleasure of meeting up with fellow Sydney children's author Aleesah Darlison for dinner.  She's been down here working in schools and pre-schools and today she visited the Glenelg Library where I was last Friday.  It was lovely to see her and take a break from what has been a pretty intense week and yesterday an extremely intense day.

So, tomorrow I have my final bookshop event at Mostly Books in Mitcham at 11am - it's National Bookshop Day and I'm excited to be there to take part in the celebrations. 

The photographs I've included here are courtesy of Mary; the top one is Ian, myself and Elizabeth Hutchins; next is Mary Wilson, myself and Elizabeth Hutchens, the third is with teachers from Norwood Public School and last of all is Jacquie Holdich and me outside Dillon's at Norwood.

With a day and a bit to go it's good to reflect on what has been achieved while I've been here.
  • Written 40,000 words and completed the draft of Alice-Miranda In Japan
  • Visited Griffin Press to see how books are made (and saw my own being printed :)
  • Events with Norwood, East Marden and East Adelaide Public Schools on behalf of the Norwood, Payneham, St Peter's Library
  • Event with Glenelg Library
  • 3 bookshop events with another tomorrow
I've also managed to have a few days off to see some of the sights of this wonderful city and surrounds.  So in all, I think it's been a very successful Creative Time Residency.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

May Gibbs Children's Literature Trust Creative Time Fellowship Days 19, 20 and 21

If you were to read this post and this post only, you might come to the conclusion that I'm having a complete holiday - that is not true at all.  But I did have a day off to visit the beautiful Barossa Valley.  We awoke to torrential rain on Friday morning and a bleak forecast of 13 degrees and showers.  It didn't matter though - this was the only day we could get to the Barossa and we were going regardless of the weather.

We picked up my mother in law Joan and sister Sarah up and headed into Norwood to what is one of the best cafes I've been to in a long time.  It's called Argo and has delicious coffee and fantastic food.  We then set off for the Barossa with intermittent showers along the way.

I never expected it to be so pretty.  Rolling green hills and miles and miles of vineyards.  I think I had anticipated rougher countryside more like the Hunter Valley or Margaret River.  The Barossa is by far one of the most picturesque wine growing regions in the country.

We drove straight to Tanunda which is a gorgeous little town with one of the loveliest entrance points I've seen.  The road is bordered by two high stone walls and an archway celebrating the town and its fame as wine country.  We stopped at the tourist information which also happens to house the local library.  Never one to miss an opportunity I had a browse through the shelves then spoke to the librarian.  She said that Alice-Miranda and Clementine Rose were both part of the collection but as the facilities were small, they had boxes of series that rotated around the different branches.  She suggested that if we had time we should pop into Nuriootpa and meet Julie Bailey the coordinator of Library events and Community engagement. We then paid a visit to a beautiful little bookshop called The Raven's Parlour where I met Colleen, who was very keen to do some events with me next time I came to the Barossa.

We then headed for our first vineyard, Langmeil, which had a delicious selection of reds and whites and a fantastic vintner Jonathon who was incredibly knowledgeable.  We enjoyed the tasting and ordered some wines which will be shipped home.

We decided to drive to Seppeltsfield and have a look at the area including the Seppelt family crypt which dominates the side of a hill on the way into the vineyard.

The rows of palm trees are an impressive addition to the landscape and must have been planted many years ago to have matured to such a magnificent stage.

Maggie Beer's Pheasant Farm was high on our list of must sees - she's an Australian icon and we love her pheasant farm pate among other things.  The kitchen was serving mushroom soup which, on a chilly day was just perfect for lunch.  We also ordered a pate basket and had a leisurely stay, followed by a walk around the farm where Sarah and I witnessed some interesting animal behaviour!  Let's just say that the ducks we thought were doing a dance weren't.

We headed back toward Nuriootpa and found the library where I stopped in and met the lovely Julie and some of the other staff.  I can feel a 2014 Barossa book tour coming on!

Our final stop for the day was St Hallett winery where we sampled some more delicious wines and my mother in law Joan came up with the quote of the day.  She wanted to try one of the white wines she'd already sampled and said, 'I want that fluffy one.'  The young girl serving us laughed and said that she'd never heard that word used to describe any of their wines.  Of course we asked her if it was a technical term - Joan said that she meant light - 'you know a lovely light luncheon wine for little old ladies'.  We didn't know it before but we do now and it's one she's not going to live down for a long time!

The heavens really opened up as soon as got back into the car and we decided that we'd head back to the city and have a rest before dinner with James and Chrissy Williams and Rebecca Bird from Pegi Williams Bookshop.  I have so enjoyed getting to know the three of them (and James and Chrissy's gorgeous little boys) while I've been here and we made a date to go for dinner.

We went to a gorgeous spot on the river called Jolly's Boathouse.  It was loads of fun; great wine and great company and the food wasn't bad either.  Joan kept us entertained with her fluffy wine tales and it was terrific hearing more about James and Chrissy's business and life in Adelaide. Ian and James share a love of all things cricket.  I am looking forward to going to a match at the newly rebuilt Adelaide oval with James sometime in the future.

Saturday morning was similarly wet and miserable.  I did some writing first thing then headed over to Pegi Williams Bookshop in Walkerville to sign a pile of books for James for their upcoming catalogues.  I signed my very first Alice-Miranda diaries and the new Alice-Miranda Shines Bright, both of which will be out 1 September.  As well, I signed all of the other books in the series plus any Clementine Rose books they had too.  James had told one of his best customers, Stella and her dad that I would be in the shop so they stopped by and we had a lovely chat about Alice-Miranda and Stella's school and netball.  What a gorgeous girl.  I love meeting the readers and she was so a sweetie.  Ian and I then had a sneak peek at the plans for James and Chrissy's new shop which will be built just around the corner within the next 12 months.  Exciting times ahead for them and I can't wait to come back to Adelaide and work with them again soon.

I had a signing at Collins Edwardstown at 1pm so we picked up Joan and Sarah and headed down there.  I had to go to the ladies before we went to the shop.  I was in the toilet stall when I looked up only to see myself smiling back - not a mirror (that would be truly horrible) but a poster advertising the event.  Never seen myself on the back of a toilet door before and have to say it was a slightly strange and unnerving experience!  The staff had done a wonderful job of promoting the signing (not only in the loos!) and the shop looked amazing too with balloons, a lovely display and even a spot where the children could sit while I did a reading.  We were there about half an hour early and I was so thrilled to find that there was already one little girl, books in hand ready to say hello.  In the end we had a lovely crowd and it was great to meet everyone including some of the mums who follow my FB fan page and their daughters.

We had a late lunch back in Norwood and had a quiet afternoon.  Dinner consisted of wine, with pate from Maggie Beer.  I think we've eaten far too much the past couple of days!

On Sunday morning the family were heading home.  We had a lovely breakfast at another local gem of a spot over in Dulwich - where the houses are just as beautiful as Norwood - before they left for the airport.  I spent the next half hour doing some housework and getting myself organised for a full day of writing.  So far I've managed 2700 words and am hoping to double it before I go to bed tonight.  You see, it's getting close to the end and the action is really heating up - and I tend to write faster at this point too.  My goal is to have the draft finished by tomorrow night and spend Tuesday tidying it up before sending it to Chris (who will no doubt be pleased to read this!).  Then I have to make a very quick start on the next Clementine adventure - but it's been brewing for a few weeks now so I'm looking forward to leaping straight in. 


May Gibbs Children's Literature Trust Creative Time Residency Days 17 and 18

Wednesday proved a highly productive writing day with over 3000 words added to the manuscript.  It's been wonderful having Ian here with me and he has been reading furiously to give me feedback on how things are progressing.  His mother had a quiet day- reading my latest Alice-Miranda book which launches 1 September. She has reported that so far, she is very much enjoying it - and the thing about Joan is that I can rely on her to give an honest assessment.

We had a quiet night in so I could continue working well into the evening. 

Thursday morning saw a lot more writing - over 2000 words.  Wonderful Mary Wilson came to take Joan up to her place for morning tea - and brought some delicious home made treats for Ian and me too.  The ladies were gone for a couple of hours and it sounds like they enjoyed meeting very much.  I do hope that I get to see Mary again next week as she truly is one of the kindest people I've ever met.

Thursday afternoon I had a coffee date with Pat Pledger from Pledger Consulting and Fran Knight; both former teachers and teacher librarians who have transformed their careers using their incredible knowledge base to promote literature and literacy on the Read Plus website.  We met in a little café in Hutt Street in the city.  It was such a pleasure sharing a coffee and some more delicious cake (the past couple of days, my well intentioned diet has gone completely out the window).  Both ladies are about to take off to do some travelling.  Fran and her husband to New Zealand and Pat and her husband to the United Kingdom.  I was envious to hear that she was going to the Edinburgh Festival - I hope one day to get there too.  I'm looking forward to writing something for their website about my residency and reading Fran's review of Clementine Rose and the Farm Fiasco.

We parted company just before 4pm and I walked to the Art Gallery where Ian and Joan had spent a couple of hours.  Ian was determined to finish my manuscript and Joan enjoyed perusing the art - she was a little surprised at the compactness of the collection but enjoyed the afternoon nonetheless.

We returned to the apartment for me to get some more done on the book then headed to Chinatown for dinner.  My sister was flying in Thursday evening for the weekend and we picked her up at the airport afterwards.  She and Joan are flatting together for the next few nights.

The book is coming together.  I'm just shy of 48,000 words and can see it being finished within another 8,000.  It won't take too long but tomorrow I'm taking the day off so we can explore the Barossa Valley and see another part of Australia that I've never visited before.