Covers, Costumes, and Crashing some Blogs

The countdown is on till my next picture book hits the shelves. WALKING YOUR HUMAN is on its way – due out in February 2021! A bunch of sassy pups spill all the ways to walk your human, like the best places to eat, drink and even cool down. I just love all the animated doggos that illustrator Gabriella Petruso has created, and it’s already open for pre-orders on Booktopia – hooray! Here’s a peek at the cover:

 

 

In other bookish news, it’s Book Week 2020, with the theme of Curious Creatures, Wild Minds. It was a thrill to watch the CBCA Book of the Year Awards announced online last week, and see some favourite reads receive well-deserved gongs. I absolutely love the adorable MY FRIEND FRED by Frances Watts and A. Yi that took out the winning spot for Early Childhood, and for other favourite reads of the past year like NOP by Caroline Magerl and THE SECRETS OF MAGNOLIA MOON by Edwina Wyatt to win Honour awards. Another exciting win was for small publisher Ford Street (who published my picture book Tulip and Brutus) – with their title by Chris McKimmie, I NEED A PARROT winning Picture Book of the year.

Speaking of Book Week, there’s been many a costume idea floating around online lately, should you need some inspo. My friend Gemma Patience has collated an awesome round-up of dress-up ideas on her blog, here. Just a reminder that if you’re after a super last-minute (and super easy) ‘rustle up at home’ type costume, my bug book offers an easy out. Red and black clothes, some spots, some makeshift antennae and hey presto, you’re Tulip (the ladybug from Tulip and Brutus)!

 

 

I’ve also popped up on another amazing blog lately, by author and podcaster extraordinaire Allison Tait! I’m a long-time reader and fan of Allison’s blog, with its wealth of writing advice and inspiration (plus I’m a diehard So You Want Be a Writer podcast listener), so I loved having a guest blog post published by Allison, 6 things I’ve learned about podcasting. It’s a slightly tongue-in-cheek look at the ins and outs of producing and co-hosting a podcast, with some tips for aspiring podcasters included too.

 

 

Some recent One More Page podcast episodes we’ve released include an Own Voices ep, where I interviewed graphic novelist and middle grade author Remy Lai about her books like FLY ON THE WALL. Nat spoke to deaf activist and author Asphyxia, and Kate interviewed YA author Alison Evans. Then another jam-packed ep overloaded with guests was our very own Picture Book Palooza, starring Gus Gordon, Kate & Jol Temple and Lucinda Gifford.

I’m so proud of these epic episodes – not only are we getting to pick the brains of people we admire in the kidlit industry, but the fact they’re free and available for anyone to listen to is, well, pretty amazing. How good are podcasts?! For Book Week, I just made a little vid for Newtown Public School too, to help share some podcasterly advice and inspiration with the kids there who are delving into their own podcast projects.

Other than that, I’ve been devouring so many amazing new release kids’ books, like the beautiful HELLO JIMMY by Anna Walker and FINDING FRANCOIS by Gus Gordon. In the world of YA I escaped into STARS LIKE US by Frances Chapman, and a fun recent adult read was THE NANCYS by R.W.R. McDonald. The long awaited HOLLOWPOX by Jessica Townsend is now calling my name, along with the gorgeous (and gold foiled) THE GRANDEST BOOKSHOP IN THE WORLD, a debut middle grade by Amelia Mellor.

Happy Book Week, book lovers!

Podcast press, pranks and people

Our podcast One More Page features in the latest issue of Newswrite magazine, the member mag for Writing NSW. Hooray! It was exciting to be approached by the centre for this, especially since it’s our podcast HQ, plus we’re often there for writing critique groups in non-Corona times. I definitely have a soft spot for this place (the late night haunted feeling just adds to the charm). Here’s the piece:

Also on the podcast front, we’ve pulled together the last few episodes of One More Page via recording everything online (as is the way right now). Actually missing that kooky little Harry Potter room under the stairs at Writing NSW! I interviewed author Mick Elliot for our ‘Gross is Good’ episode, and we’ve also had agent Danielle Binks, Real Pigeons author Andrew McDonald and Laura Harris from Penguin Random House on the show (plus Adrian Beck in Ep 48’s Kids Capers, despite him being completely unaware – cue lawsuit). You can check them out here:

And another super exciting happening of late – the launch of my podcast co-host Nat’s latest middle grade book, The Power of Positive Pranking, complete with socially-distanced book launch at Berkelouw Leichhardt. Nat also celebrated the launch online via an *epic* reading of the first couple of chapters of the book by an array of kidlit creators, from Matt Cosgrove to Sally Rippin. Superstar UK author Katherine Rundell is even there! I was so thrilled to be included – see my little cameo between Zanni Louise and James Foley:

 

And here’s team OMP on launch day – excitement! Rachel at Berkelouw (who also hosted my picture book launch!) did an amazing job at setting up the store, from a prank hunt for the kids to installing Nat in the window, sneeze guard and all. Brilliant!

Coming up, I’ve just interviewed author Julianne Negri. It was so amazing hearing more about her debut middle grade novel, The Secret Library of Hummingbird House. Definite perks of the podcast – not only getting access to exciting new books before they hit the shelves, but delving deeper into the inspirations behind the stories. Looking forward to sharing this one, the book is simply magical. It features family problems as protagonist Hattie Maxwell deals with her parents divorce, melded with a timeslip adventure in an old house with a hidden library, a tree that grows lollies and so much more. It’s the kind of book I would’ve absolutely devoured and loved as a late-primary school aged reader.

Tulip and Brutus in puzzle!

In the time of Corona it’s allll about the simple things in life. Enter puzzles. And books. And books as puzzles. I discovered this awesome book puzzle site via Tania McCartney’s highly devourable blog. And hey presto, here’s the cover of Tulip and Brutus in puzzle form.

See if you can beat my completion time. It took me 9 minutes and 42 seconds (which in hindsight sounds kind of long!).

Tulip and Brutus activities for kids

Did I mention T&B has endpapers? It has endpapers!

 

In this cooped up time of Corona, there’s a bigger need than ever for ways to keep kids entertained, educated, or ideally a sneaky combo of both. Enter – bookish activity sheets!

I’ve put together some downloadable activities for kids themed around my bug and friendship picture book, Tulip and Brutus. They’re suitable for preschoolers through to primary schoolers, though the younger kids might need a bit of help! I’ve also included a doc containing a list of bug-related activities to try, for when there’s no printer handy.

The activity sheets can be downloaded from the Tulip and Brutus page under Books, OR here:

Tulip and Brutus Maze

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MAZE – get the bugs to the playground!

 

Tulip and Brutus - Fill in the Missing Letters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FILL IN THE MISSING LETTERS – T&B need a little help (hint: each word can be found within the pages of Tulip and Brutus)

 

Tulip and Brutus Find-A-Word

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FIND-A-WORD

 

Tulip and Brutus Printer-Free Activities

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PRINTER-FREE ACTIVITIES – some bug fun to keep the kids busy, no printing out required!

Recent reads in kidlit land

 

Over the last few months I’ve discovered and read a bunch of truly extraordinary kids’ books – some are by favourite creators, others by first-timers. They include:

THE BRILLIANT IDEAS OF LILY GREEN by Lisa Siberry

This is a debut middle grade novel which also happened to win Hardie Grant Egmont’s Ampersand Prize. It was a standout read for me this year – fresh, intriguing, full of feeling and tinged with suspense and magic.

NOP by Caroline Magerl

This is absolutely gorgeous – an abandoned stuffed bear at the Dumporium gets a new chance, in the most unexpected of ways. Dreamy illustrations, a work of art.

TILLY by Jane Godwin and Anna Walker

I was always going to love this. It’s Jane and Anna! The heartwarming story of a girl’s buried treasures under a staircase, and the bittersweet passing of time.

THE SECRETS OF MAGNOLIA MOON by Edwina Wyatt

This is Edwina Wyatt’s junior fiction debut, starring a lyrical, literary, whimsical character who looks at the world in her own unique way. Such beautiful writing. A stunning cover too, with illustrations by Katherine Quinn.

MISS KRAKEN by Nicki Greenberg

Fun, wry and quirky, Miss Kraken (yes, an actual Kraken) is the fed up teacher of a rowdy, cheeky bunch of kids. Everything comes to a head on an excursion to the aquarium. Hilarious details in the illustrations!


A HOME FOR LUNA
by Stef Gemmill and Mel Armstrong

A debut PB about a lost cat, penguins and a search for home. I loved this gorgeous story and the illustrations are totally my kind of style. Lovely language throughout.

MONTY AND THE POODLES by Katie Harnett

An unlikely friendship story (hooray!) about some posh poodles and a street dog, by the creator of Franklin’s Flying Bookshop, Ivy and Lonely Raincloud and more. A Parisian feel to the illustrations (hello, cover crush), and a super satisfying ending.

A buzzy, buggy book launch!

Tulip and Brutus is officially launched! I was completely overwhelmed with the turnout and buzz at the Sydney launch – a weird and wonderful whirlwind of a morning.

Held upstairs at Berkelouw Books in Leichhardt, with the amazing Rachel Robson at the organising helm, it was such a fun time. Think an overloaded table of buggish treats like strawberry, oreo and cupcake ladybugs, and cookie stinkbugs (promptly demolished), plus a truly spectacular rendition of ‘I Got You Bug’ (think I Got You Babe, on … a lot of sugar) by my giant buggy launchers – One More Page podcast co-hosts and writers’ group buddies, Kate and Nat. Totes brought the house down.

After a book reading, I ran a game where kids could spin a game show-ish wheel to win either a chocolate bug or a real bug, a crunchy cricket. The uptake for the crickets was far more enthusiastic than I anticipated. Yay! How delicious are bugs?!

There were so many awesome people in the room, from old friends and family members to my kids’ school friends to writerly people from all the kidlit places, like SCBWI. I had an epic book sign-a-thon which was *surreal*, a gazillion photos were taken, and it all went by in a dreamlike blur. And I get to do it all again soon in Melbourne with the book’s publisher Ford Street and illustrator Andrew Plant too, hooray! If you’re Melbourne-based and around on Saturday 9 November, I’d love to see you there (find the details over on my FB Author page).

Huge thanks to everyone who shared their snaps with me – my mum, Steve, Mali, Amelia, Amanda and probably more – thanks all!

What else?

An author talk
Soon after the Sydney launch, I visited Shellharbour Library for an author talk with the most lovely writers and illustrators group. It was a really fun morning complete with another book reading, signing and sales, and an extensive q&a type book chat about the writing and publication journey. And we ate more bugs! Local writer Karen Hendriks was a fab host, taking me on a tour of the town including a stunning beach viewpoint.

Some longlistings
I randomly entered the Lane Cove Literary Awards and found myself longlisted in the Travel Story category, woo hoo! I didn’t progress beyond the longlist, but it was nevertheless a bit of a boost and a reminder of my pre-kidlit love for non-fiction travel writing (and of course, travelling). I also entered a pitching contest via Just Write for Kids, and just found out I’m on the picture book longlist. Fingers crossed! But regardless of the outcome, it was a great way to pin down a pitch for that particular story anyway!!

A podcast interview
Along with getting to interview (aka fangirl over) amazing people for my kids’ book podcast with Nat and Kate, One More Page, I am now on the show as an interviewee! In Episode 39, we have none other than Newbery Medal-winning, New York Times bestselling author Kate DiCamillo on the show (!!!) which is surreal enough in itself. Then there’s a kid interviewer chatting with me about Tulip and Brutus and friendship in kids’ books in the same episode’s Kids Capers segment. Have I used the word surreal in this post already?! Yes. Yes, I have. You can listen to the episode here and subscribe to One More Page on whichever app you devour your podcasts.

A Twitter chat

I’ve found myself not only in a podcast interview but as the guest of a Twitter chat – happening next Thursday night! I’m a huge fan of Picture Book Book Club and love their monthly chats, so it’s pretty awesome to be a guest in one (vs usual groupie). Kidlit twitter peeps – feel free to find and join (#picbookbc).

Yet more book talk …

Find more Tulip and Brutus talk on Creative Kids Tales, Just Write for Kids, Kids Book Review (plus I popped up as one of their 12 Curly Questions posts), I wrote a piece on friendship and school libraries which is on the Ford Street blog, and if you subscribe to the Pass It On kidlit newsletter, you may have seen an interview with me there recently, too. Phew!

Ok, enough with all things me and my book. I will be back next time celebrating all the other books I’ve been reading and loving lately!

Tulip and Brutus is on its way!

Tulip and Brutus

 

My picture book Tulip and Brutus is nearly here!

It’s about friendship, teamwork, differences … and bugs! Some pre-order links are live on my Books page. Looking forward to sharing this stinky little story soon!

These are a few of my favourite books

I love knowing people’s favourite kids’ books. I feel like it tells me a little bit about that person. Do they gravitate to humour, or are they drawn to the dark side? Literary or commercial? A bit of everything?

I don’t want to pigeonhole myself as only reading and liking a certain kind of book, but then again, perhaps there are some themes tying my favourites together. I do gravitate to realism in the kids’ books I read (and write), then a dose of mystery or magic will find its way into my reading pile, or my keyboard.

Here are some of my favourite kids’ reads, from picture books to middle grade:

Picture Books
Florette by Anna Walker
Herman and Rosie by Gus Gordon
Go Go and the Silver Shoes by Jane Godwin & Anna Walker
Adelaide’s Secret World by Elise Hurst
Maya & Cat by Caroline Magerl
The Underwater Fancy Dress Parade by Davina Bell & Alison Colpoys
Mr Huff by Anna Walker
Harriet Gets Carried Away by Jessie Sima
The Children Who Loved Books by Peter Carnavas

Junior Fiction
Ginger Green Playdate Queen by Kim Kane
Lemonade Jones by Davina Bell
Isadora Moon by Harriet Muncaster
Truly Tan by Jen Storer
Violet Mackerel by Anna Branford
Polly and Buster by Sally Rippin

Middle Grade
The Girl, The Dog and the Writer trilogy by Katrina Nannestad
Stella Montgomery trilogy by Judith Rossell
Nevermoor series by Jessica Townsend
Missing by Sue Whiting
The Secrets We Share/Keep by Nova Weetman
Sickbay by Nova Weetman
The Other Christy (and many others) by Oliver Phommavanh
The Mulberry Tree by Allison Rushby

This is just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many more, but this is the top line ‘Books I REALLY Love’ list. The ones that straightaway come to mind. (I’ve purposefully omitted my writers’ group’s books as it goes without saying I love them all, and I don’t want to accidentally miss one. Yeah, there’s starting to be a lot!). I realise there’s a bit of a female author bias, but hey, at least there’s Gus, Peter and Oliver! Other binding themes – feelings, friendship, heart, and that old cliché, a strong and authentic voice. In the middle grade list, there’s also adventure, mystery and suspense.

80s/90s me LOVED these reads. Hooray for book hoarding!

I can also see that my current taste reflects that of childhood me. Picture book favourites included There’s a Sea in my Bedroom by Margaret Wild (still love Margaret Wild), Meg and Mog, and lots of Dreamtime stories. A hefty dose of Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl followed, then Selby’s Secret, Hating Alison Ashley, Harriet the Spy, the Anastasia Krupnik books by Lois Lowry, everything Judy Blume (on constant repeat), Paula Danziger’s books and The Baby-Sitters Club.

I loved books set in boarding schools, too. And there were definitely supernatural stories among the mix, I loved things like poltergeists and seances and witchcraft as a kid! A standout memory is Witch Week by Diana Wynne Jones (I so wanted to fly around on a broomstick by myself in the middle of the night). So, late-80s me was probably pretty similar to late 20-tens me – loving stories strong on feeling, with a side serve of mystery and magic.

Do you see any parallels between the books you loved most as a kid vs the ones you gravitate to now? I’d love to know what they are!

Top 5 surreal (but awesome) things about having a book

So I was book-stalking on Booktopia, as you do, when something compelled me to search for my *own* upcoming picture book. Oh, I don’t think I’ve mentioned the title yet? It’s called (drumroll …) TULIP AND BRUTUS and it’s illustrated by the stupendously talented Andrew Plant!

Anyway, maybe it was a moment of imagining what it would be like to look up your own book and magically see it there, on Australia’s mega-portal to *all the books*. I typed in the title and couldn’t believe it when IT WAS THERE! I swear I actually felt my heart skip a beat. I’m sure most authors and illustrators don’t bat an eyelid at such things after a while, but this being my first book, it felt like a momentous occasion – my first sighting of any mention of my book in the public domain. It then got me thinking, if seeing a not-out-yet book with a not-yet revealed cover listed on Booktopia is that exciting, what else will be heart palpitation-inducing?! Here are five more things …

1) Holding an actual physical copy in my hands for the first time.
There’s a reason for all those un-boxing videos circulating online. An actual book! On actual paper! It’s reeeeal!

2) First sighting ‘in the wild’.
This will be amazing (er, I think I’ve got something in my eye …). A book, on a shelf, in a shop. Something people can actually buy!

3) Spotting it in a library.
This might be even better? Not everyone can afford all the new releases, but there’s always borrowing! This will be super cool. Libraries are the actual best.

4) Reading a review. Or maybe not?
This will be surreal, that a book reviewer/blogger/lover has taken the time to read the book and share their thoughts with the world. Unless it’s one of those shocking Goodreads reviews that pop up from time to time, in which case I’ll see if Kate and Nat want to do a ‘celebrities reading mean tweets about themselves’ kind of skit and we can read them out on the podcast.

5) If anyone buys it or even shares it on social media and it’s someone I DON’T EVEN KNOW!
What??!! If this happens, I’ll be ridiculously grateful forever and ever.

So there you have it, my top 5 surreal (but awesome) things about having a book. Not sure if any of these things will ever feel old?! I hope not!