Saturday, July 25, 2015

Platypus play time

PLATYPUS hit the bookshop shelves this week. So it is Happy Dance time for me.

As with all new releases, I am now thinking of ways to present this book in the upcoming weeks of school visits and events that make up BOOK MONTH. (Book Week usually lasts for at least a month these days.)

So today I purchased online another wonderful FOLKMANIS puppet. Pretty cute, huh?

And I have wasted many hours watching numerous funny and informative platypus videos on YouTube. This one rates high on the cute stakes!

I have even found the most annoying platypus song ever! I dare you to listen to it.

So lots of valuable time wasting. And lots of platypus fun ahead, starting with the CBCA Illawarra-South Coast Sub Branch's Literary Luncheon on Wednesday. Food, kids, authors and books - a winning combination.

For the teachers who might stumble on this post, here is a link to some CLASSROOM IDEAS created by WALKER BOOKS.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Platypus sneak peek

PLATYPUS - my first ever trade nonfiction picture book - is due for release in a week or so.

Yes, I am happy dancing!

It is part of a gorgeous series, called Nature Storybooks, published by Walker Books, which combines lyrical narrative, facts and painterly art.

And I have been ever so lucky to have been paired with the the supremely talented illustrator MARK JACKSON. His work is divine!

Want a sneak peek? Feast your eyes on these.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

I love school holidays

I love school holidays. 

This may sound like a strange thing to say for someone who hasn’t been a teacher for ten years and whose kids are well past their school days.

But school holidays are wonderful.

Because school holidays mean delicious cocooning silence for the first half hour of my morning train commute.

Now please don’t think that this is a rant about the youth of today and their disrespect for others. It’s not. It’s just that the first half hour of my commute is the tiny bit of time that I have carved out for me to write. And for exactly sixteen minutes of that time the local high school kids surge into my carriage and command centre stage.

They don’t do anything wrong (mostly). They are just LOUD. Exuberant. As you should be when you are a teen. The carriage fills with their energy: sudden shots of laughter, high-pitched squeals, the click-clack of skateboards, the bouncing of soccer balls, shouted conversations about assignments, or exams or TV shows. Sometimes there is even singing. (I love the singing.) And dancing. And acrobatics. (True.) They are highly entertaining - and extremely distracting - but only once have I felt the need to say, Oh, come on, guys, keep it down. Please. Which they did immediately with red faces and swift apologies.

Funnily enough it wasn’t until midweek last week that I noticed their absence, that I snuggled into the silence of my empty carriage and immersed myself in the voices of my characters. It was nice, I have to admit.

And I have another whole week until the sixteen-minute daily circus returns. 

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Give them pleasure

In celebration of the release of the US edition of PORTRAITS OF CELINA, (hardback with a jacket - it looks so pretty!) I have reposted this post about writing a slightly creepy story.

“Give them pleasure. The same pleasure they have when they wake up from a nightmare.” Alfred Hitchcock

I didn’t set out to write a creepy story. But it seems that I have.

Many readers/reviewers of Portraits of Celina say that the novel is gripping, thrilling and seriously creepy. This comment is often followed by grimaces and shudders, and then the sharing of favourite “freak out” moments. All relayed with huge grins and much wide-eyed glee. Fantastic and appreciated feedback for me as the author, but it got me thinking what a weird lot we human beings are! Why do we gain pleasure from reading stories that scare us?

The answer can be found in biology and evolution. Feeling fear is a primeval response that has contributed to our species staying alive and thriving, and that has saved us from many dangers.

The science goes like this. When we are confronted with a dangerous situation, the brain immediately releases a surge of hormones, in particular, adrenaline, but also others such as dopamine. These hormones trigger our fear response that allows us to react swiftly. Our bodies go on high alert, we are charged with energy and our senses are intensified. Essential things for survival.

Now, for many, when these hormones are released in non-dangerous situations, where there is little or no risk of physical harm, this heady rush of hormones results in a type of exhilaration, or at the very least, exciting, pleasurable feelings. All thrill, but no price! Perfect.

I can assure you it is very unlikely that I will ever bungee jump off a bridge, go skydiving or swim with sharks. I’m not even that keen on roller coaster rides. For me, there is no better place to get my dose of thrills and chills than curling up on my sofa in the safety of my own home caught in the suspense of a nail-biting novel, experiencing fear vicariously.

So I am pleased to have written something a little creepy – something that allows readers the same pleasure as waking from a nightmare!

Hope you enjoy the rush.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Christmas, bushfires and Cooper Jones

Happy holidays everyone!

We had our family Christmas at my place this year, which of course meant lots of preparation, including a mid-summer spring clean and the peeling of many vegetables.

It also meant that some of the family stayed over for a Christmas sleepover. This is not one of our usual family Christmas traditions. In fact, it is only the second time it has happened. The last time was in 2001, when around 3 pm on Christmas afternoon, just as we finished our Christmas lunch, raging bushfires swept over the escarpment and our little village was surrounded, cut off and our house filled with stranded friends and family, many of whom stayed not just for Christmas night but for several days.

We had no power. Very little food. No communication with the outside world. When not hosing down friends' houses or rescuing their pets or keeping watch on advancing fronts, we sat out in the street with neighbours and shared a drink or two.

It was a strange time. A surreal time. A time that came to be known as Black Christmas. And a time that eventually inspired my mid-grade novel Get a Grip, Cooper Jones, which was published eight years later in 2010.

No houses were lost in my village, but many were lost in surrounding villages and in various parts of Sydney. Miraculously and thankfully no lives were lost. And now in 2014, with fires tearing through the Adelaide Hills and rural Victoria, I am once again reminded of that time. My thoughts are with you all! Stay safe.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Three things

This is not a post about things coming in threes. I do not believe in that notion at all. Rather, this post is simply about three things that happened a week or so ago, which all represent positive steps along the twisty track that is my journey as a writer. And they are all “firsts”.

So, as they say on reality TV, in no particular order, here they are:

1.     For the first time ever, I have my own dedicated CREATIVE SPACE/STUDIO. Pete bought me a beautiful desk a few years back, but I have never had a space for it that was ALL mine; it was always housed in a multi-use space, one that I frequently had to move out of when family members came and went (as they tend to do these days). But I now have MY space, complete with what I like to call my “thinking board”. My creative juices have become a torrent!

2.     For the first time ever, I have signed with a literary agent – Pippa Masson from Curtis Brown. This, I believe, is an important career move, one that feels very right.

3.     For the first time ever – drum roll please – one of my books has WON an award. A SWIM IN THE SEA, illustrated by Meredith Thomas, won the Speech Pathology Book of the Year Awards for the 3–5 years category. Yee- ha! As an ex-literacy teacher, winning this award was extra-specially sweet.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

What did my Book Week look like?

Book Week is always lots of fun. And always terribly hectic. This is what my Book Week looked like this year:

  • One road trip to Canberra for the CBCA Book of the Year Awards announcement.
  • One broken down car at Canberra airport where I stopped to pick up author Claire Saxby. Sadly, said car needed to be towed away and have a short holiday in our national capital - which meant I missed most of the award ceremony!
  • One yummy CBCA ACT Book Week dinner.
  • Many many hours of driving (in Pete's car) in terrible traffic and even worse weather to schools for school visits (all on the other side of Sydney to me). 
  • Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of smiling faces and enthusiastic young readers and writers. I am always blown away by the creativity, enthusiasm and passion of the kids I meet (and their teachers). 
  • One trip to Melbourne for the Book Design Awards + author meetings + a visit to Melbourne Writers festival + a little book research + beautiful sunshine.
  • Graham Byrne and Claire Saxby
    Graham won the Crichton Award for 
    Big Red Kangaroo
  • One radio interview with Julie Clift on ABC Broken Hill about Book Week and writing for children (while sitting on the floor in Melbourne airport - I'm all class!).
  • When one child brimming with excitement declared: "Oh my God, I can't believe the real Sue Whiting is really here!"
  • When about two hundred children spontaneously, unexpectedly and joyously joined in with my reading of The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, which they ALL knew off by heart. It was a little overwhelming actually and left me a little dazed - in a good way. (I think I had a bit of a rock star moment - got the feeling of what it must be like when an audience sings your lyrics back to you.)
The actual week is over - but the festivities aren't! The next couple of weeks are pretty hectic too starting with the CBCA BIG BOOK DAY OUT tomorrow at the NSW Writers' Centre.