In August I enjoyed my first Book Week as a full time writer. I visited Tangara, Warrawee, PLC Prep, Loreto Kirribilli, our Lady of Good Counsel Forestville and Abbotsleigh. I was thrilled to have so many photographs of girls dressed as characters from Alice-Miranda and Clementine Rose sent to me during the month and I've posted them on Alice-Miranda's blog.
The Saturday after Book Week, Ian and I headed to Melbourne for my first Melbourne Writers' Festival. It was fabulous. I had a great event with Michael Bauer hosted by Andrew McDonald (which I believe is now part of a package that schools can purchase and view at their leisure!), as well as a terrific session at Drop in and Draw hosted by the irrepressible Lachlann Carter - who is the brains behind Melbourne's fabulous new 100 Story Building and my own chat with the delightful and talented Cordelia Rice.
It was great to meet Mike Shuttleworth and his team, who work so hard to make the program run seamlessly. There was a fun dinner with the other children's authors and it was lovely to catch up with people I don't often see, including Michael Pryor, Gabrielle Wang, James Roy and Nick Earls. It was a pleasure to meet Adele Walsh too, who is the Program Director at the Centre for Youth Literature at the Victorian State Library. And my nephew Darcy was absolutely thrilled (as was I) to meet Sally Rippin and Aki Fukuoka the team behind Billie B. Brown. Sally is of course the talented author and illustrator of many books including the Hey Jack! series which Darcy adores.
Melbourne was followed by some intensive writing between events.
On the 31st August we had a fabulous launch for Alice-Miranda Shines Bright, The Alice-Miranda Diary for 2014 and Clementine Rose and the Farm Fiasco at The Children's Bookshop at Beecroft. There was a terrific crowd and Paul Macdonald had also arranged for some baby farm animals to come along which was very fitting given that both books are chock full of critters. It was great to have family support on the day too with my husband, sisters, brother in law and nephews and niece coming along. Our niece Eden was the model for what Clementine Rose looks like and she loved having her photograph taken with our Clemmie standee and being her Aunty Jacq's assistant - she was great at handing out the bookmarks!
September began with Lunch with the Stars at St Patrick's Estate in Manly which is always an amazing day. Guest speaker Gabrielle Lord kept the audience entertained with her tales of the creation of Conspiracy 365 and its spin off, Black Ops.
Serena Geddes, the hugely talented illustrator of many books including Belinda Murrell's new Lulu Bell series had everyone mesmerised with her drawing and there was also a 'Draw Off' between Serena and Tony Flowers, of Saurus Street fame.
I have to admit I wasn't feeling on top of things that day
and my voice had gone west the weekend before - just in time for my launch, so I croaked and rasped my way through the one minute introduction and wasn't nearly as chatty as usual over lunch with the lovely students from Mimosa Public School.
I love the Lunch with the Stars - it's great to see so many enthusiastic young readers and their teachers and it's also a wonderful opportunity to catch up with lots of my friends! Poor Susanne Gervay was similarly suffering with a bug but couldn't stay away either.
Two days later I was speaking (croaking) at Stories On Screen, an annual competition run by the NSW branch of the Children's Book Council where students turn picture books into short films. This one is really close to my heart, having developed the competition and trialled it with my students from Abbotsleigh Year 6 way back in 2005. I'm thrilled that it has been an ongoing addition to the CBCA calendar and I do hope that it continues. It fits perfectly with the curriculum and gives students an opportunity to get their teeth into experiential learning (which I think is the best learning of all). This year's entries were fabulous and we were treated to a screening of the highly commended and winning films. The first place getter was a young boy from Newington College who created an outstanding stop motion pro offering that consisted of over 2000 photographs. It was incredible. The day's host, Nathan Luff did a great job and kept the jokes coming.
Unfortunately my voice was still pretty awful at this stage and afterwards I had no voice at all for almost three weeks. I'll know better than to continue straining it in future - it's way too important in my line of work!!
Alice-Miranda Day at Tara School was something I couldn't miss - no matter how bad the voice was. The girls in Year 2 Alice-Miranda and Year 3 Elizabeth and their teachers and headmistress all dressed up as Alice-Miranda for a fabulous day. They cleverly replicated the challenges set by Miss Grimm in the first book and had a high tea to rival the best of them.
I also had the pleasure of speaking to the Beecroft Brownies. What a gorgeous group of girls! Led by Nicola McGee from Beecroft Children's bookshop and Jane Harris - an Abbotsleigh Old Girl.
Into the mix I spent a lovely Saturday afternoon with a group of girls from Kambala at Dunbar House in Watson's Bay. We had one of the most delicious high teas I've ever had and the views weren't bad either. The girls were so sweet - and clearly enjoyed playing ladies and learning lots of things about being a writer.
September is Get Reading Month and this year I was so excited to have Alice-Miranda Shines Bright on the list of 50 Books You Can't Put Down. Get Reading took me to Brisbane, Ipswich and Toowoomba for a whirlwind tour mid September. The lovely Belinda Kelso was the publicist looking after me. The events were fabulous and I was particularly thrilled to be able to see my aunty and cousin who came to my talk in Toowoomba. Leah is responsible for several of the recipes in the new Alice-Miranda 2014 Diary and Scarlett helped too, creating the icing for Heaven Cake (which Leah invented from scratch and I have to say is absolutely delicious).
I also got to see the incredible Sounds Spooky Exhibition at the Ipswich Library by the amazingly talented Sarah Davis - WOW!
We visited Black Cat Books at Paddington as well as the public libraries in Toowoomba, Ipswich, Logan North and Capalaba. We also had an opportunity to visit Dymocks Indooroopilly, Riverbend Books and Avid Reader - it's always great to meet the passionate booksellers.
And then it was the CBCA NSW AGM and Author/Illustrator Showcase, in which I shared the stage with the irrepressible Deb Abela (hosting and making us all laugh), Tony Flowers (drawing funny pictures), Jan Latta (with extraordinary animal tales), Aleesah Darlison (who wore unicorn slippers) and Susanne Gervay (who was a great sport when Tony Flowers turned her into a pirate!).
A couple of weeks ago I attended the Students 4 Students Conference at the University of Wollongong to present a workshop about telling stories and using story telling in your career. I couldn't have had a more diverse student audience. They were a most appreciative and interesting group and it was a pleasure to have the opportunity to speak to them. Being a UOW alumnus it's always good to go back and see how things have changed. The facilities are amazing these days.
Last week was lovely. Busy but lovely. It began with lots of editing then there were two High Teas at the Tea Salon in Westfield, on Tuesday and Wednesday. So many little girls and their mothers, aunts and grandmothers enjoying a morning out. Janet Grundy was there to sell books - she and I go way back, being the first bookseller that I really got to know when she owned the bookshop in Wahroonga.
Tuesday afternoon Holly, from Random House emailed to say that Alice-Miranda At School and Clementine Rose and the Surprise Visitor had made the Dymocks Top 51 Children's Books - which is AMAZING! There are only 13 Australian books on the list and I still can't quite believe that my girls are there.
The rest of the week was spent editing then I had an event on Saturday at Costco. What an incredible place. The warehouse is huge, the trolleys are huge, the shopping is huge. It was great to meet some ardent Alice-Miranda fans who snuck their books in to be signed. Costco is like a club with a sign on fee, so the only way people know you're going to be there is if they are members, so it was really gratifying to meet children who had come especially.
I'm afraid the rest of the Long weekend is a blur of editing, writing and more editing.
I think the funniest thing that's happened recently was finding out from a friend that Alice-Miranda and I were a question in the daily quiz in the Telegraph. Question number 5. Who created the character Alice-Miranda Highton-Smith-Kennington-Jones? The quiz writer must have children!
There's just one tour day and another day teaching before I head to Singapore where I will be working in 8 schools. After that I fly to London for the Clementine Rose launch tour which will involve 2 weeks travelling around the UK - details will be here and on the website asap. Then I'm really looking forward to some free time in England and finally a holiday in Portugal - where I will not write, edit, respond to emails or blog for 10 days!! It will be the first time in about four years that I will have a proper break without writing. I definitely owe it to my husband, Ian - who has supported this crazy writing life every step of the way. I can't wait to play some golf and see some new sights - and who knows - I'm sure there will be a new Alice-Miranda or Clementine Rose adventure inspired along the way.
PS If you are interested in having me visit your school in 2014, Paul Macdonald from The Children's Bookshop Speaking Agency is taking bookings now.