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BOOKS FOR CHILDREN

ACT Notable Awards

4 August 2022

It was a glorious night at the ACT Notable Awards! In typical fashion I managed to go to the wrong venue (in my defence I went to where the gallery used to be for about 20 years, not realising it had moved) and arrived very late. Unfashionably so, one might say, given that the ceremony was already underway.

I had barely divested myself of my coat before I was called up for The Breaking, so I wasn’t quite sure what was going on! It turns out that I was Highly Commended (one step above shortlisting) in the Fiction category. What a thrill that was! This book still means so much to me, and over a year after its release it is such a joy to see it still out there in the world doing so well.

 

But the celebrations weren’t over yet! I then won the Children’s category for my picture book Where the Heart Is. To be the only person shortlisted in two different categories was wonderful enough but to take out two awards was extremely happy-making. I love how big illustrator Susannah Crispe’s smile is! It says it all.

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Much champagne was drunk in celebration, and to be surrounded by so many author friends who I admire and respect made the night extra special. Thanks to ACT Writers for everything that they do to support writers, and of course to the judges. Thanks also the artsACT for the grants that supported the development of The Breaking, without which it wouldn’t have happened.

In celebration of the awards I’m giving away all nine of my books this month. To go in the draw just sign up to my newsletter (box on this page). There’s something for every age and interest!

All the happenings

8 July 2022

It almost feels like we’re back to normal with events again, and it was so lovely to recently head over to gorgeous Western Australia for the Margaret River Readers and Writers Festival. I took a week beforehand to travel the coast from Bremer Bay to Margaret River and, my goodness, it is stunning! I knew that the beaches were all white sand and turquoise water but I didn’t realise that they were next-level stunning. World class, in fact. If anyone wants to hand me the job of WA publicist, I’m up for it! The weather was warm and we swam and hiked and explored and generally had the most glorious time.

 

I finished up with a weekend at the festival where I interviewed a bunch of lovely people for my Secrets from the Green Room podcast as part of a special partnership with the festival. It was so great to be hanging with my literary tribe again! The first ep with Claire G. Coleman is up now and – like all our guests – she speaks with brutal honesty about the writing and publishing process.

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Following her will be an ep with brother and sister duo Brooke Davis, of the international smash Lost and Found, and Rhett Davis, who won the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript for Hovering. It was such a delight being around these two lovely and very funny humans and witnessing their sibling bond. They both rated the green room soup as the best ever, and they weren’t the only ones to rave about it on the podcast. (Frankly, you may begin to think we have all gone a bit mad on soup, of all things.)

 

Third in line will be New York Times bestselling author Natasha Lester who I finally met after many years of online chat. We got very silly on the blue velvet couch in the green room and generally had a grand time. She is gorgeous inside and out, and I loved chatting with her both on and off the podcast.

Finally, I spoke with Australian literary royalty Craig Silvey of Jasper Jones and Honeybee fame. Because of a mix-up, we had to change the time of the interview to after the festival close on the final day. This meant we were the last ones left inside the locked building, bar the janitor. It felt like the beginning of a crime novel, but thankfully Craig did not murder me in the green room with a microphone stand. Stay tuned for these eps!

There have been more events since I’ve returned to Canberra. I had the absolute pleasure of being in-conversation with Ashley Goldberg about his debut novel, Abomination, at The Book Cow. Ashley took my editing course at the University of Canberra many years ago, so it is especially wonderful to see him publish his first book, and for it to be garnering such great reviews.

 

Ashley’s novel explores new territory for me as a reader. Abomination delves into the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in Melbourne through the lives of two friends – atheist and secular Ezra and rabbi Yonatan – who are reunited by the sexual abuse trial of a former teacher. Neither of the students were violated by this teacher, and along the book pivots around this case,  it is really about the crises of identity that these two men are experiencing in different ways. The book explores identity, faith, family, love, belonging and what it means to be a good person. It’s such a thought-provoking and beautifully written book. I recommend you get yourself a copy!

Launching the Harry Hartog Tuggeranong store

During our chat Ashley revealed that he originally submitted his manuscript to the Penguin Literary Prize but it was not even longlisted. But guess who ended up publishing it? Penguin, of course, after his agent sent it through the usual channels. Publishing is full of weird stories like this – timing and luck is just as crucial as talent.

Last month I was also delighted to launch the beautiful new Harry Hartog store in Tuggeranong with crime author extraordinaire Chris Hammer and bookselling legends Robert and David Berkelouw. This bookshop is now my local – hurrah for that! A couple of weeks later, as part of their grand opening celebrations, I did a storytime event with my two latest picture books, Seree’s Story and Where the Heart Is. Meeting young readers has to be one of the best parts of this job, and I must give a special shout out to Yusuf from Bonython Primary who is on his way to becoming a published author.

A week later I passed the store and literally found my story. My novel, The Breaking, featured in a particularly gorgeous window display. Always a thrill! #findyourstory

 

Coming up I’ll be at the Canberra Writers Festival on 13 August. It’s great to be back out in the world talking books!

Events are back, baby!

9 March 2022

Yeeeeeees! How great is it that we’re getting out and about again — seeing our fellow literary peeps and drinking champagne and talking books. Oh, how I have missed it.

If you’re in need of a good literary dose, I’ve got events coming up for both adults and kids. I’ll be talking ‘Adulting and Other Catastrophes’ with Lucy Neave and Nigel Featherstone, and I’m certain this one is going to be heaps of fun.

Then I’m off on a trio of launches for my new picture book, Seree’s Story, illustrated by the incredible Wayne Harris. I’ll be in Brisbane, Canberra and Sydney, dishing out elephantine-sized fun. At all three there’ll be a book reading, craft activity, cupcakes and an awesome prize for the best elephant costume! Find details on my Events page.

 

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Then in May, I’m excited to be appearing at the Margaret River Readers and Writers Festival. (Thank goodness Perth has finally opened its borders!) It will be my first time in Western Australia, and I’ve been hearing great things about this festival, so I can’t wait. Plus I’m going to be recording a series of episodes for my Secrets from the Green Room podcast, so look out for those.

And because I haven’t posted here for months I want to highlight a couple of past events that deserve a mention. I was thrilled to be in conversation with Omar Musa for his new book of poetry and wood cuts, Killernova. The event had everything, including both laughter and tears, and Omar’s artwork surrounding us, making it a truly memorable event. The book itself is a thing of beauty, and worth your dollars!

 

I also attended fellow publishing stablemate Michael Burge’s launch for Tank Water. He was in-conversation with Nigel Featherstone and it was a fascinating evening. The book is an absolute cracker and held me to the end. It’s rural crime fiction like I haven’t read before, set against the backdrop of gay hate crimes. Definitely also worth your dollars!

Oh, and one final lovely piece of news. It’s not an event but My latest picture book, Where the Heart Is, has just been released across South America. I cannot explain the thrill of seeing your book in another language. I’m not entirely sure why it’s so happy-making but let’s just say this is a definite highlight of my career to date. Plus it means that now our story can be read in the country that inspired it (Brazil). ¿Qué Bonito! (Perhaps this calls for an event in Brazil?!)

Here’s to lots more lovely events to bring us all together. And here’s to seeing you at one of them!

Zooming through lockdown

10 September 2021

Like half the country, the ACT is back in lockdown and this means that a bunch of my IRL bookish happenings shifted to Zoom. But one that was always intended for Zoom was F*CK COVID: An Online Literary Affair, organised by the dynamic team at the ACT Writers Centre.

 

When the event was first proposed I remember thinking that online probably wasn’t necessary. Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra weren’t in lockdown — oh, how those days seem like a distant dream! But clearly the organisers are fortune tellers and this event ended up being the highlight of my locked-down weekend. Plus every time I typed ‘F*CK COVID’ it was like a fist punch of defiance.

 

The event sold out in three days. Then more tickets were released, and it quickly sold out again. I was on a panel with Mark Brandi, moderated by Nigel Featherstone, called ‘Hard truths; Risky fiction’, and what an absolute delight it was. Nigel was his usual magnificent and thoughtful self, expertly guiding the conversation, and Mark and I found so many synergies in our work and writing process.

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My ‘set’ for F*CK COVID

Mark’s The Others is an absolute cracker of a book and kept me up until the early hours of the morning. Like The Breaking, which I was there to discuss, it’s tricky to talk about without giving away key plot points! But I found our conversation so rich and thought-provoking, and I hope the audience did too! It’s always difficult post-event to remember exactly what was said, which is why Sue Terry’s incredible write-up of the panel is invaluable! I will defer to her summary of everything, except to say that I work full-time as an editor, not part-time, which makes finding time to write extra challenging, especially when you combine that with being a single parent of three children. But there are cracks in life, and I seize on them whenever I can!

Jumping now to school visits, I wanted to mention the gorgeous kids at Dawul Remote Community School which is located in the East Kimberley region of Western Australia. This is where Zoom comes into its own, because how lucky was I to visit this school remotely! I shared the stage (or screen!) with DeadlyScience’s Corey Tutt. I was fortunate to edit Corey’s brilliant middle-grade book, The First Scientists (Hardie Grant, out 13 October 2021), so it was an absolute blast chatting to the kids with him. They had so many great questions about books and writing, and I came away enlivened, as I always do. My own kids are homeschooling during lockdown and were under strict instructions to keep out! Just one of the many challenges (as all parents know) of trying to simultaneously work and homeschool.

 

Next up was a pre-record for the inaugural Macgregor Primary Writers Festival — a whole week in which the school does nothing but celebrate books and writers. How blissful does that sound! They had an incredible line-up, including Andy Griffiths, Jackie French, Bronwyn Bancroft and yours truly, among others. If only I could travel back in time and be a kid at that school!

 

And finally there was my Editing Essentials presentation for SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) which covered editing the full gamut of kids books, from picture books through to YA. The SCBWI crew organised a stellar line-up and there was a lovely big crowd who had great questions. When asked which was my favourite children’s genre to edit I had to say ALL OF THEM!

These events have brightened my lockdown immeasurably. Massive thanks to all the organisers who are making sure adults and kids alike have plenty of literary goodness to sustain them in these crazy times.

Fergie reads my book!

16 July 2021

What a few weeks it has been! My latest picture book, Where the Heart Is, illustrated by Susannah Crispe, came out last month and I had no idea that it would result in possibly the greatest moment of my life. None other than the Fergie, Duchess of York, selected our humble little book to read on her Storytime channel. And it is blowing up. As I write this is has been just a little over 24 hours since it went live and already it’s had 20K views!

The reading features Paddy the dog and a complementary fruit platter that may look a bit like something other than palm trees. It’s a little wacky and a lot thrilling. And it is in fact the childhood dream that I didn’t know I had.

Paddy loving Where the Heart Is (for about two seconds)

When I was 11, like every other little English girl, I watched Princess Sarah Ferguson walk down the aisle and practically drooled over her satiny confection of a dress. Afterwards I sat on my floor and made a ‘book’ all about the wedding. I cut out pictures from magazines and wrote my best royal reportage.

Now that princess has read a real book that I wrote and it all feels completely surreal. She even pronounced my name right. All of this would have my 11-year-old self hyperventilating or screaming with joy or jumping up and down on the bed. Actually, probably all of those on rotation. Needless to say, even adult me has been riding a Fergulicious high.

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But before that came another high in the form of our book launch. We managed to sneak it in just before mandatory masks were brought in, and Dymocks Civic did the most amazing job of dressing up the shop in Where the Heart Is paraphernalia. We had a great crowd of small and big people – as Susannah said, we couldn’t have fit another person in.

 

It was such a joy to share this story, and I suppose I should tell you what it’s about! It’s based on a true story about a man named Joao who rescued a penguin, who he named Dindim, from an oil spill, just off the coast of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. They developed such a close bond that since his rescue, Dindim has spent eight months of every year with Joao, leaving in February for the Patagonia coasts of Argentina and Chile, and returning in June. The trip back to Joao is an extraordinary 8,000 kilometres. Scientists have never seen anything like it. So you can see why this heartwarming true story inspired me to write Where the Heart Is!

 

If you want to get your hands on a copy it’s available in Australia, New Zealand, the UK, US and Canada, in stores and online.