April and May 2017
I spent the month of April in China, where I worked with students at international and local schools. Michael and I spent nine days at the Western Academy of Beijing (WAB), which was great fun. We even went on a school camp (specially dedicated to writing) with the senior students, and we slept in a yurt!
We worked with every year level in the school. The library at WAB has a yurt as well!
The lovely people at WAB looked after us so well and we made lots of new friends. I also caught up with my old friends at Magic Elephant Books, and did an author tour that included Beijing, Shijiazhuang and Xi'an. Here are some pictures of that part of the trip. The kids did some lovely drawings of the days when they have no plans, based on Anna Walker and my book Today We Have No Plans.
Now I'm back and catching up on everything here in Melbourne. Anna and I are working away on our new book, and I'm planning for school workshops throughout the next term.
February and March 2017
During February and March, my friend Anna Walker and I have been working on our new book, which is called Go Go and the Silver Shoes. It takes a long time to make a picture book, and this one won't be published until early next year. Here are some of Anna's drawings of the characters for the story:
Speaking of Anna, her beautiful book Florette was published this month, and Anna asked me if I would launch it for her. I was delighted to do this, and we had a great launch at Glasshaus in Richmond which was a perfect place to launch this book as it is a nursery filled with fabulous plants and flowers, just like the place that Mae discovers in Anna's book. Here are some pictures from the launch:
That last picture is of a shop window. Embiggen Books in Melbourne worked with Anna to create their own Florette window. It looks fabulous!
I launched two books in March, actually! The other book is called Under the Love Umbrella, and it's a wonderful creation by two friends of mine, Davina Bell and Allison Colpoys. Here's a picture of the book, and some photos of the launch, which was held at The Little Bookroom in Melbourne.
My friend Davina and I also went on a road trip to Wangaratta in north eastern Victoria. We visited Cathedral College and worked with the students there. We had such a great time. Everyone at the school was so friendly, and they were great writers, too! Here are some pictures of some of the students talking to Davina about their stories, and also a picture of some of the cheese we ate when we were there. They make great cheese in those parts!
December 2016 and January 2017
I've been working with my friend Alison Lester on her new book called The Very Noisy Baby. It's a really fun story based on Alison's own granddaughter Beatrix who is extremely noisy! Alison always does a storyboard for her books. You'll see in the picture below that we ticked off each page on the storyboard when Alison had completed it. See all the pink ticks?
The other pictures above were taken during the school holidays when I ran a workshop with kids at Abbotsford Convent as part of Kids' Own Publishing. We had a lovely day walking through the beautiful gardens of the convent, then writing our own sensory poetry, which we then turned into little books that people took home with them.
It takes such a long time to make a picture book - usually more than one year! - so I am busy working on several new picture books that won't be actual books until next year. Anna Walker and I are working on our new book which is called Go Go and the Silver Shoes. I'm also doing a photographic picture book about shapes with my friends Beci Orpin and Hilary Walker. I've never done a photographic picture book before so it will be a fun and interesting challenge. Jane Reiseger and I are also making a book together which is all about colour. If you've ever been to the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne and see all the beautiful artwork on the walls, ceilings, actually everywhere in that building, then you will have seen Jane's work because she did it all. And that red car in the pictures above is painted by Jane, too.
And I think I've nearly finished my novel. I think...
October and November 2016
During October I read lots and lots (and lots!) of stories for my job as a judge of the young writers' section of the Boroondara Literary Awards. There were funny stories, moving stories, sad stories and intriguing stories - it was hard to select a winner and commended entries because they all had great things about them.
I also was part of two videos! One is a film clip for my son Wil's band. The boys in the band decided that it would be a great idea to make a video clip of their new song but instead of them being in the clip, it would star their mothers! So here I am being a rock star for a day!
The other video has a slightly different vibe - it was filmed by the lovely people at Storybox Library. Fiona and Shannon came to our house and filmed Michael and I talking about our lives as children's writers. The video will be on the Storybox Library website in a couple of months.
During November I also worked with the year three students at Beaconhills College. We had lots of fun exploring storywriting together and the kids did some great work. I also spent time with year 3/4s at Brunswick South West Primary School, where I really enjoyed conducting workshops and discovering how creative and resourceful the students were with their stories. Well done, Beaconhills and Brunswick South West!
And while we're on workshops, the Stonnington Literary Festival asked me to run a workshop for adults who write for kids, so I did that and it was an action-packed three hours of writing exercises and me sharing with the participants everything I know about the world of writing and publishing books for young people! I think we were all exhausted by the end of it!
A special event occurred in November as well - my good friend Alison Lester was awarded the Dromkeen Medal for outstanding achievement in the creation of Australian Children's Literature. I'm sure everyone knows Alison's books! My favourites are Imagine, Magic Beach and Kissed by the Moon. Oh, and Are We There Yet? Below on the right is a picture of Alison with her medal. The middle picture is a selection of books I've been looking at this month, and the picture of the left is my dear friend Anna Walker looking at her beautiful new book Florette. It's not available yet but it will be in March next year!
During September, Michael and I visited Park Ridge Primary School in Rowville, and I also spoke at Ruyton Girls School in Kew. Here are some lovely drawings that kids have sent me, and also a pic of me and Kate from Park Ridge PS. The sea creature stencils and the fabulous turtle are works of art created with the patients and teachers at the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne, where my friend Alison Lester and I are making a book with the kids.
Oh, and the photo of Bear Make Den? That's Lachlan, who received Bear Make Den as one of his fifth birthday presents - in fact he says it's his favourite birthday present! Thanks, Lachlan! I'm glad you're enjoying Bear Make Den!
I also spent a week in Tasmania, speaking in schools and doing some work with the Tasmanian Writers' Centre. I had a great time there, and I took some photos of my all-time favourite boat, the Aurora Australis. That's the boat that travels down to Antarctica from Hobart. I also went for a hike up Mount Wellington, which was misty and beautiful (and quite strenuous!).
August was a very busy month! The time leading up to Book Week, and Book Week itself, is always full of school visits. I spoke at St Kevins in Ormond, Huntingtower, North Fitzroy Primary School, Canterbury Primary School, Geelong Grammar, St Mary's in Thornbury and Yarraville West Primary School. Also St Pauls in Endeavour Hills and Parade College in Bundoora and Preston. It was a big couple of weeks! I also spoke to students at Melbourne University and RMIT. My talk at Melbourne Uni was on at exactly the same time that my son Wil's band was playing there! For a moment we considered a mother/son double act, but there's a bit too much swearing in Wil's songs so we decided against it.
My friend Alison Lester and I are also working with the teachers and patients at the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne. We are making a book together. The children are doing all the artwork. The book is called The Silver Sea, and we think it will look very beautiful when it's finished!
After all those talks I escaped down to Lorne (a beautiful beach on the Great Ocean Road in southwest Victoria) to finish the novel I have been working on for what seems like 100 years (but is actually about 6 years). I think I'm nearly finished! Here are a few pictures - one of a fabulous bear drawn by one of the children at Canterbury Primary School, one of the interesting Arts West building I spoke at at Melbourne University, and one of beautiful Lorne! Oh, and one that I took today of some lovely wattle on a cliff at Aireys Inlet - happy springtime, everyone!
At the end of July, my friend and fellow author Davina Bell and I went back to visit our friend and illustrator Freya Blackwood in her home town of Orange. We had an event at Collins Bookshop in Orange which was lots of fun, and we also shared the book we created together, Hattie Helps Out, to kids in libraries and schools along the way. Here are some pictures from the trip. You can see the beautiful Murray River, Lake Mulwala in Yarrawonga, a great little library right on the banks of the river in Barooga, Davina and Ivy at netball, and I even got to photograph some oranges in Orange! You can also see here Freya doing a drawing at Collins Bookshop, and some cut outs of our character Hattie from Hattie Helps Out.
May, June, July 2016
During May, June and July, I've been busy out and about working with school students in various parts of Australia. I travelled to Sydney in May, where I spoke with girls at Ascham and SCEGGS, then I had a couple of days in Goulburn where I worked with the kids in schools there. It was lots of fun, and the place where I stayed in Goulburn was right next to the Big Merino! Here's a picture of him!
I also spoke at Chairo Christian School in Pakenham and Drouin. It was a cold, foggy morning the day I visited. Here's a picture I took when I arrived at the school, and also some great bear drawings that the kids did.
Another school I visited was Moama Grammar in Moama, and also Bunnaloo Primary School which is a small school in New South Wales. It was beautiful country, and I had a great time working with the kids there.
When I got home, my beautiful painting from What Do You Wish For? was ready to be collected from the framers. Doesn't it look lovely? My friend and collaborator Anna Walker gave me this piece of original art from our most recent book that we did together. I will treasure it always.
During June, I spent a week in Western Australia, working with kids in schools, and then I had the honour of launching a new book by my friend and fellow author Davina Bell. The book is called Oh, Albert! I really love it! It's about a family, their mischievous dog called Albert, and a space-themed birthday party. Here are some pictures from the book launch, which was held at the Paper Bird bookshop in Fremantle.
What books am I working on? Well, I'm exploring a new book idea with artist Jane Reiseger. Here's an early picture of one of the characters.
And in late July, Davina and I will be travelling back to Orange to see our friend Freya who illustrated our latest book, Hattie Helps Out.
Hattie Helps Out has just been published in March 2016. Here's the front cover! It's written by me and my friend Davina Bell, and illustrated by Freya Blackwood. Freya's daughter Ivy launched the book for us on April 2nd in Orange, NSW, where Freya lives. Collins Booksellers in Orange did a fabulous job and the launch was heaps of fun. It felt like a party! Here are some pictures:
I have also just returned from a trip to China! I went there as part of the Australian Writers' Week in Beijing, and I participated in The Bookworm Festival and spent some time with my Chinese publishers, The Magic Elephant Books. Here are a few pictures from the trip.