Bookish Buzz

OMP at SCBWI

Nat, Kate and I (a.k.a. One More Page) and some familiar faces behind us at SCBWI Syd 2019

 

Amelia, Gemma, me and Victoria – pic by Debra Tidball

 

I’m fresh from the bookish buzz that was the Sydney SCBWI Conference, an epic multi-day series of events headed up by everyone’s favourite literary lady, Susanne Gervay! From a series of mini-launches at Beecroft’s The Children’s Bookshop to a mega conference day, a dinner, and a workshop day afterwards, it was full on and fun. There are some excellent summaries of the sessions over on the SCBWI blog, if you want to check them out. And there are some great blog posts by Oliver Phommavanh and Debra Tidball with pics and highlights.

As always, so much of it was all the catching up and meeting new people in the kids’ book industry. Highlights for me included the dialogue masterclass run by Penguin Random House publisher Zoe Walton, an excellent, helpful manuscript critique by Nancy Conescu on my chapter book series, and a great session on author websites, social media and branding via Allison Tait and Valerie Khoo – part pep-talk, part stand-up special! Speaking of Allison Tait, guess who’s the latest guest on our podcast, One More Page?! Except this time, she’s donning her authorial blazer as A.L. Tait, chatting about her two middle grade series. You can take a listen here. So, what else is happening?

Reading:

THE BOOK CHOOK! This is my friend and fellow critique group member Amelia McInerney’s debut picture book with Omnibus/Scholastic, illustrated so vibrantly by Connah Brecon. It’s the hilarious tale of a chicken called Ray who realises he’s not actually a real chook, he’s a drawing in a book! Amelia launched it as one of the 9 ‘speed launchers’ at the SCBWI event, with more events (and more books!) to come.

The Book Chook

 

I’ve also just read a brand new YA thriller called LOVE LIE REPEAT by Catherine Greer, which has a really compelling (if not sinister) voice. It’s set in Sydney in the world of privileged, private school teens where all is not as picture perfect as it seems. Totally recommend!

My next read (for my adult book club) is Jane Harper’s THE LOST MAN. Her debut THE DRY was one book we all actually loved, which rarely happens! So I’m really looking forward to this one.

Loving:

Kids’ book podcasts (I mean beyond One More Page)! I now have a constant feed full of awesome kidlit inspiration, whether it’s hearing about the latest middle grade reads or words of wisdom from top MG authors on Middle Grade Mavens, to in-depth advice on the craft and business of writing on Tania McCartney’s The Happy Book. There’s also a ‘vodcast’ to either watch or listen to (innovative, much?!), The KidLit Club with authors Adrian Beck and Sally Rippin. Each of these podcasts has its own personality and feel, and I’m so pleased One More Page is part of this new wave of kids’ book reviewing, interviewing and all-round fandom!

The Happy Book podcast

Anticipating:

Anna Walker newness!!! LOTTIE AND WALTER is almost here, written and illustrated by my (and possibly everyone’s) picture book idol. I can’t *wait* for this to grace my bookshelf! I had a sneak peak at The Children’s Bookshop at the SCBWI speed launch event, and it’s stunning in every way. Yay!

Lottie and Walter

What else? More books, more launches, more writerly things. I’ll be heading to the launch of Aura Parker’s beautiful new bug book, COCOON soon (a bigger launch, post-SCBWI mini-launch, where Aura presented the book in a really clever way, relating metamorphosis to the kids’ book creating journey).

The Creative Kids’ Tales festival is coming up (my first!) which I’m really looking forward to – author talks on tap. Then not too long after, it’s time for *another* writers’ conference, KidLitVic in Melbourne. I’ve been every year so far and to be honest, was thinking I need to reign in the conference attending (and spending) but once the program was out, do you think I could help myself? It also ties in with a Scribbles Masterclass run by author Jen Storer, so there’s that, too. Of course, I totally have to go! Maybe I’ll see you there?

Snapshots 20.08.15

Luna Park

Daytripping – Luna Park fun

 

August so far has seen hot weather hopefulness with trips to the beach, lots of good reads, much picture book love and some delicious Sydney food finds for good measure.

Kids’ books

We are fully aboard the Andy Griffiths train in this house, with the obligatory purchase of the latest Treehouse book (made all the more exciting after meeting Andy at the Sydney’s Writer’s Festival this year!). Here are a couple of great articles post 65-Storey Treehouse release: the importance of humour in kids’ books, and why Andy Griffiths thinks many children’s stories are boring.

Other favourite kids’ reads right now: Lulu by Georgie Donaghey, Lisa absolutely loves art by Sophie Norsa, The Cleo Stories by Libby Gleeson, The Colour Thief by Gabriel Alborozo and Why I love Australia by Bronwyn Bancroft (you can read my review for Buzz Words here).

 

Kids books we love - August

 

Lulu author Georgie (who signed her book for my kids at the recent CYA Conference) sent us a lovely package of Lulu-themed craft and fun things (like chocolate) – the kids were super impressed to receive something in the mail from a real-life author!

 

All things Lulu

 

Other reads

I recently devoured Bejing Tai Tai by Tania McCartney, an expat memoir of the now kids’ author (and brains behind Kids Book Review, one my favourite go-to kids’ book sites) on her expat years in Beijing. I felt swept up in her story as it was so relatable, There were many things that mirrored my own time living in Asia in the late 2000s – everything from maid dramas and navigating expat friendships, to cultural differences and bringing up kids ‘elsewhere’. It’s humourous, warm, insightful – a bit like reading someone’s diary. I don’t think I’ll ever tire of expat or travel non-fiction.

Current reads

I’ve also just read Motherhood and Creativity by Rachel Power, a collection of stories by Australian women who grapple with juggling motherhood with a creative career, whether it be acting, art or writing. It was so interesting to read insights into these women’s lives, especially admired writers like Sally Rippin and Nikki Gemmell. Such a great read for anyone balancing all things kids with a passion pursuit.

Now, I’m reading Emily Bitto’s The Strays (loving so far), with a side detour into YA for uni (Risk by Fleur Ferris and Just_a_Girl by Kristen Krauth – both engaging yet chilling in their own ways).

 

Weekend wanderings // Sydney

Smalltown

 

Daytrips, food loves and fun things of late have included:

+ an exploration of the far northern beaches (winter denial), including a pitstop at a great Avalon cafe, Smalltown (like a slice of the inner-west, transported to beachland)

+ Luna Park on a blue sky day, with a side serve of Americana at Batch burgers in Kirribilli

+ a sushi train restaurant with iPads for ordering (new favourite city sushi)

+ oysters at The Gretz and dinner at Hartsyard (balancing all the ‘heartiness’ – ahem, fried chicken – with their amazing broccoli dish)

 

Wanderlust wishlist

+ this cafe

+ this hotel

+ this restaurant

 

Weekend wanderings: Rosebery + Zetland

Coveting all the kids things at Koskela

Coveting all the kids things at Koskela

Our latest weekend wander was around Sydney’s post-industrial (and still a bit industrial) inner southeast. Rosebery and Zetland (just south of Redfern) are home to some fantastic finds, from off the radar factory outlet stores to cool cafes and furniture designers. In a matter of metres you can shop for discounted Zimmermann clothes, then lunch at the latest outpost of Newtown’s famed Black Star Pastry (everything here is good, but we tried and loved the roast pork banh mi and the brownies – heavenly!).

Rosebery’s Black Star Pastry – bakery heaven

Rosebery’s Black Star Pastry – bakery heaven

There’s more deliciousness on offer in Koskela’s inhouse cafe, Kitchen by Mike, in a huge warehouse conversion right next to Black Star. Koskela itself features an amazing edit of homewares, furniture, books and textiles by talented Australian designers, plus rotating art exhibits. Right now the colourful works of Melbourne artist Miranda Skoczek are brightening Koskela’s immense space (showing ’til 25 May – go!).

Miranda Skoczek’s vibrant paintings at Koskela

Miranda Skoczek’s vibrant paintings at Koskela

There’s also much to love and covet in the kids’ corner at Koskela, from the old school lockers to the wooden toys and colourful cushions. There’s a well-curated selection of picture books, featuring most of the CBCA 2014 shortlist and lots of crafty kid wares.

Koskela’s picture book edit

Koskela’s picture book edit

Venturing to next-door suburb Zetland, we also visited small contemporary art gallery Sullivan + Strumpf to see an exhibition by Japanese artist Hiromi Tango featuring installations bursting with colour – a 3D, abstract reflection of the inner self. It’s also on for a few more weeks and there’s an interesting group exhibition on the second level too, which we lost ourselves in for a while.

One of Hiromi Tango’s captivatingly colourful installations

One of Hiromi Tango’s captivatingly colourful installations

This is but the tip of the Rosebery/Zetland iceberg – definitely an area of Sydney worth unearthing for food, coffee, art and shopping finds, design inspiration and repeat pastry-fests.

Where to wander:

Black Star Pastry: 85-113 Dunning Ave (cnr. Hayes Rd), Rosebery
Koskela/Kitchen by Mike: 1/85 Dunning Ave, Rosebery
Sullivan + Strumpf: 799 Elizabeth St, Zetland
Zimmermann Outlet: 2E Hayes Rd, Rosebery

{Cafe crush} Anonymous Cafe, Blackheath

Anonymous Cafe

Anon cafe_interior

Anon Cafe Ploughmans

The Blue Mountains offers many a cafe option for travellers heading west of Sydney and back, but Anonymous Cafe in Blackheath is a standout. Not only does it brew a mean cup of Campos and offer a range of unique herbal teas (like Green Mango) from T Totaller, but features an enticing menu using much locally-sourced produce.

The Ploughman’s Lunch is no ordinary version – it comes laden with ‘real’ ham as well as prosciutto, a hard, soft and blue cheese, delicious homemade herb bread, figs, relish and salad, all vibrant and artisanal and all-round awesome. I would never normally order this dish (placing it firmly in the yawn category), but am now a convert. Also delicious – the baguette with roast pork, crackling and Vietnamese herbs and salad. Anonymous bypasses touristville and serves up food on par (or better) than many urban offerings. So happy to have a new go-to place for future Blue Mountains sojourns!

Anonymous Cafe, 237-238 Great Western Highway, Blackheath, NSW

Anonymous Cafe on Urbanspoon

{Sydney} Weekend wanderings 10.11.13

Armchair Collective

Image credit: Armchair Collective

Sydney weekends mean wandering to me – from exploring new places in our ‘hood to venturing far and wide, often in search of good eats. Here’s a little round-up of some food, finds and fun from recent weeks, which will hopefully inspire you to set out and explore your city.

The last few weekends have been a blur of kids parties (sooo many kids parties), beach walks and cafe hits and misses. We recently ventured to the Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Month’s night noodle markets in the city (twice) and now have a full blown Mamak crush (best roti this side of KL). We’ve dragged our kids out for Mexican, Vietnamese, and too many places for babycinos.

Armchair Collective

Image credit: Armchair Collective

One of my favourite cafe jaunts has been to Armchair Collective in Mona Vale. We were in the area anyway for a birthday so took a beach detour afterwards. The cafe looks kind of 70s from the outside, but inside is like a colourful beach shack. It’s a combined cafe and homewares store, and I fell a little bit in love with the ikat cushions, Moroccan ceramics and hippy luxe by the beach vibe of it all. The menu offers a great mix of typical cafe fare, not particularly experimental but hearty, wholesome and with high quality ingredients. The salad of beetroot, pumpkin, spinach and quinoa with goats cheese was light on the quinoa, but vegetable heavy and featured a tangy dressing – virtuous and delicious. There’s also a great BRT (with rocket substituting lettuce). If you’re stopping by for a post-beach takeaway Single Origin, you can also pick up a bunch of hydrangeas to go from the onsite florist, which adds to Armchair’s already colourful and inspiring aesthetics. And yes, the beach is a short walk away at the end of the street, so it’s an excursion-worthy combo.

On last weekend’s agenda: a school fete where I scored big time at the book stall (a wine box worth of books for the grand total of $15, including four cookbooks, some kids books, travel anthologies and novels, including one by my favourite travel writer, Pico Iyer. Score!), and a girls’ night to Icebergs Dining Room and Bar in Bondi with two of my food loving friends. Sipping cocktails on the glass-panelled balcony perched over the iconic Icebergs pool and a sprawl of surfer-studded ocean was not a bad way to kick off a Saturday evening. Dinner was a fishy affair, with shared oysters, school prawns and crab, with cod and delicious sides including my favourite, the lemon drenched kale. Icebergs had a kind of special occasion, date night vibe, but was nevertheless a beautiful setting for a catchup.

As for this weekend – we made a round two visit to Chi and Co. and it was just as good, if not better, as we had an extra person this time hence more dishes! If you go, the XO pork belly is a decadent, spicy, rich must-have. We also gorged on cannolis, jam doughnuts and lemon tarts at the Italian sweet-fest Pasticceria Tamborrino in Five Dock (they have everything from arancini to gelato, and all the cakes, biscuits and Italian desserty things you can think of – heaven).

How do you like to spend your weekends? And how was yours?

{Sydney eats} Chi and Co., Canley Heights

Inside Chi and Co

Inside Chi and Co

It was really hard to visit Canley Heights without eating at the amazing Thai-Lao Holy Basil, but this time we had Chi and Co. firmly in our sights.

Tucked just around the corner from Canley Heights’ bustling main street, Chi and Co. (formerly known as Chi Chi) would not be out of place in the inner-city. It features a pan-Asian menu spanning everything from Vietnamese classics to Thai treats and hawker-style Malaysian fare. It’s a mish mash of cuisines, but somehow, it all works.

Chi and Co. inhabits an expansive space with a converted warehouse look, mostly black and white with touches of yellow. A huge mural spans one entire wall. It’s seriously gorgeous and the food is outstanding, from the more-ish son-in-law eggs topped with spicy XO sauce (said to be their signature dish), to the expertly smoky char kway teow. Our favourite dish was the fried crispy skin salmon and green papaya salad – an amazing jumble of texture and flavour, all zesty, herby, crunchy goodness.

Scallops with nam jim

Scallops with nam jim, son-in-law eggs with XO sauce, crispy skin salmon & green papaya salad

One of my favourite things about the menu is the selection of small starters at under $5 a pop, like the spanner crab on betel leaf and the grilled scallop with nam jim – bite-sized morsels bursting with flavour. I love being able to sample as many things as possible when I eat out, and Chi and Co. is the perfect place for those who like a pick and mix approach. I keep telling people about this place (first reaction – ‘Where?!’) and have plans to return with food loving friends and family, who I know will have a ‘can’t believe this place is here’ reaction, like we did! Even if Canley Heights is far from your usual haunts, it’s definitely worth the trip. And it’s an easier place to find a park than neighbouring Cabramatta (just!).

Chi and Co., Shop 3/264 Canley Vale Road (entrance via Derby Street), tel: 02 9727 2068, www.chiandco.com.au 

Chi and Co. (Chi Chi) on Urbanspoon