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July 2013

Megumi and the Bear Sydney launch

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On a foggy Saturday morning with Canberra due to reach just eight degrees we packed our kids into the car and headed for Sydney and its positively balmy 21 degrees. Some three hours later we rolled into the CBD. My bloke managed to drive up a bus-only road but then scored a street-side park just around the corner from Kinokuniya. A miracle frankly, or, if I was superstitious, a sign that it was going to be a good day. I’m not, but it certainly was.

AAIMG_0357As Allyx from Kinokuniya said when introducing us, it’s not often that you get both the author and illustrator in the same room. Especially given that Craig (once a Sydney-sider) now lives in New Zealand, and I’m down the highway in Canberra.

Craig kicked things off by talking about the back story. If you haven’t heard about Megumi and the Bear’s long and strange road to publication you can read about it in The Canberra Times here. I followed up with a reading of the book (a lovely hush descended over the room).

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Irma Gold_Megumi and the Bear launchAnd then Craig gave a show and tell that revealed the evolution of the artwork. Craig explained that the original bear (pictured below) was based on his friend, Zimzam, who had a mohawk. When Walker accepted the book for publication they asked Craig to make the bear more realistic. Needless to say Zimzam wasn’t pleased, but Craig was glad Walker made the call. I love our final (terribly sweet) bear but I still feel attached to his endearing teddy-like predecessor who inspired my story.

Then it was time for a tandem book signing. It’s always fun meeting readers and my favourite moment was writing a dedication to a baby born that very morning. I even got to see a snap of the gorgeous little man.

While the parents queued and we signed, the kids got busy with craft, making bear masks and decorating bear biscuits and cupcakes. Most of the kids used the technique my six-year-old self would have employed – cramming on as much icing and as many silver balls as possible. I’m sure my two-year-old son consumed more sugar in that one hour than in his lifetime thus far.

And that’s a wrap! My two older kids declared it ‘the best launch ever’, though truth be told they said that about the Megumi Canberra launch and will probably say it about whatever book launch we go to next. Afterall, what’s not to love about books and food and fun?

Special thanks must go to my bloke who did a damn good job of snapping these pics while wrangling our sugar-high, sleep-deprived toddler. And to all the sponsors who donated items for the launch to help make it such a special occasion: National Library of Australia, The Teddy Bear Shop (Canberra), Walker Books, Kinokuniya Bookstore, and The Art of Teddy Bears.

For lots more photos of all the Sydney launch shenanigans head to my Facebook page.

12 curly questions

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Kids’ Book Review recently interviewed me for their 12 Curly Questions series. I had a lot of fun, and revealed a few secrets along the way.

1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.
When I was 14 and on tour with a children’s choir in Los Angeles, I was in a house fire. I was staying with a billet who left me and a fellow chorister for dead. We escaped past exploding doors. It was like something out of an action flick.

2. What is your nickname?
Cheebles was my Dad’s favourite when I was young (no clue why). These days Irms is the more appropriate but terribly boring nickname of choice.

3. What is your greatest fear?
Heights. You could offer me a million dollars to jump out of a plane and I wouldn’t do it. Seriously.

4. Describe your writing style in ten words. 
I’m all about stories with heart, rhythm, and lyrical sentences.

5. Tell us five positive words that describe you as a writer.
Creative, sloooow, determined, joyous, diligent-deadline-meeter (what? that’s not a word? you’re kidding me?)

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6. What book character would you be, and why?
Silky in the Magic Faraway Tree. As a child I was convinced that Enid Blyton’s tree really existed, and one day I would find it.

Our late friend Hanafi Hayes' impression of the debacle
Our late friend Hanafi Hayes’ impression of the debacle

7. If you could time travel, what year would you go to and why?
I’d go back to 1995, when I was living in England with my then boyfriend (now husband), and tuck my British passport into my suitcase. For his birthday I surprised him with a weekend trip to Paris. Only in my absent-mindedness I packed my Australian passport. The real surprise was that we spent the night in a detention centre lock-up in Dover because they had nowhere else to put us. Not quite what I had in mind.

8. What would your ten-year-old self say to you now?
Damn it, you never figured out how to fly. But how the hell did you become a published writer? That seemed more impossible than flight.

9. Who is your greatest influence?
My parents. They taught me to believe in myself, discover what I loved, and chase it. So here I am. Chasing.

10. What/who made you start writing?
I’ve been writing ever since I can remember. My most prolific year was possibly aged seven. Among other works of literary genius, I recall researching, writing and illustrating The Big Book of Birds, savaging my mum’s magazines to produce expositions on British royalty, and writing a derivative fairy book with too many chapters because I couldn’t work out how to end the damn thing.

11. What is your favourite word and why?
As a teenager I read the dictionary cover to cover and recorded words I loved for future use. (Yes, I was a total nerd.) I became obsessed with the word ululation because of its onomatopoeic quality and a misplaced belief that it made me sound intelligent and poetic. I managed to find a way to slip it into pretty much everything I wrote. Consequently it is now a word that makes me shudder. A favourite word gone bad.

12. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life, what would it be?
That’s too depressing to even contemplate. My idea of torture.

This interview was first published on Kids’ Book Review here.