My life as a children's author while juggling being a mum, a wife and professional volunteer. (Sometimes it gets complicated)

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Katapult - Edition 4 - Newcastle Writers Festival - April, 2018

Welcome to Katapult!

In this edition I would like to reflect on what a wonderful time everyone involved had during the 2018 Newcastle Writers Festival last week. The festival had three main parts: the Schools Program, the Main Program, and the Family Fun Day.

The Schools Program was held over two days. The first day (Thursday) was hosted by Cessnock Library and involved Kate and Jol Temple, Yvette Poshoglian and Tristan Bancks presenting in lots of schools in the Cessnock area. I heard they all had a hoot! 

Books by Yvette Poshoglian

Books by Jol and Kate Temple

Tristan Bancks (photo from NWF 2014)

The second day (Friday) was held in Newcastle between Newcastle Region Library and Newcastle City Hall. Wonderful presenters included Leigh Hobbs, Yvette Poshoglian, Jess Black, Paul Russell, Kate and Jol Temple, Liz Anelli, Gregg Dreise, and Tristan Bancks. The kids were treated to presentations and workshops that left them inspired to read and write. This is always my favourite day of the festival. It takes me back to my teaching days.

There may be a story about a bus full of kids attending the festival getting a flat tyre before they even arrived which could have caused me as a program supervisor a minor breakdown, but everything worked out in the end - thank goodness :)

Liz Anelli

Books by Leigh Hobbs

Books by Jess Black 

That night I attended the festival's opening night event: Jimmy Barnes - Working Class Man at the Civic Theatre. Jimmy told the story of his life in the Cold Chisel days as well has his solo career. He laughed, cracked jokes, sang, and shared his very personal journey with suicide, drug and alcohol addiction, and depression. I was left wondering how he's still alive! 

Civic theatre just before Jimmy Barnes took the stage

On the Sunday, the festival hosted the Family Fun Day. Kids and their families were entertained by a host of guests and local talent including Zanni Louise, Gregg Dreise, Lynn Jenkins and Kirrili Lonergan from Lessons of a LAC, Renee Price from Digby Fixit Live!, and Emily S. Smith and Graham Davidson from Storytime Lane. This was another jam-packed event full of fun, dancing, entertainment and inspiration.

Zanni Loiuse and Digby's Moon Misison by Renee Price

Images from Lessons of a LAC

Of course I had to buy books at the festival. Here's a few of my purchases. My kids ran off with them as soon as I brought them home. Now I need to find them so I can read them.

Books by Jol and Kate Temple, and Zanni Loiuse

Congratulations to all involved in bringing the festival alive again this year. Thanks to all the schools and parents who brought their kids along. And congratulations to all the kids who threw themselves into the activities and stories presented to them. 

    Family Fun Day marquee in Wheeler Place

If you want to keep up with out-of-festival events and next year's festival to be held 5-7 April, subscribe to the NWF newsletter here.

One of these upcoming out-of-festival events: Terry Denton and Andy Griffiths are coming to Newcastle on the 15th July to present their new book, The 104-Storey Treehouse. Ticket still available here. Hurry! Tickets selling fast. I'll be there!

I look forward to doing it all again next year. I may even launch a book or two!

(Of course Blogger and my computer are not talking today so only a few 
of my photos have loaded. Head over to my author Facebook page  
and my general Facebook page to see more photos.)

Where can you find me on social media?

I’ve made it easy. Just click on the live links below and like or follow me.

Feel free to leave a comment or drop me an email:

I’d love to hear from you!

Blast from the past: A photo of Matt Ottley and myself (NWF 2015).

Thursday, 5 April 2018

Katapult - Edition 3 - April, 2018

Welcome to Katapult!

Here’s the April edition of my newsletter, Katapult. So what has been happening at my desk since the last time we had a chat? Heaps!

Don’t forget: I’m not apologising for any typos. 

What’s Up?

CBCA NSW AGM Guest Speaker: I was very honoured to be the guest speaker at the CBCA NSW AGM on Saturday, 17th March. I may have shown a few sneak peeks of upcoming books but you had to be there to know what they were. All will be revealed in time. I know, it's a slow business :)

I broke my toe! Yes I did - I am a clumsy monkey. It has slowed me down but it’s more of an inconvenience than anything - thank goodness I can still drive! So how did I do it? A mixture of losing my balance and trying not to land head first on sharp-cornered furniture. SNAP! I have a pretty photo of my bone and three hours wasted in ER thanks to my efforts.

I attended the AWC Writing Chapter Books for 6-9 year olds course with Lesley Gibbes. I’ve been thinking about and planning an early chapter book series for a few years now. I keep hearing some of the big publishers are keen for new voices in this area. So after completing Lesley’s course, I now feel I have the tools to seriously jump in. Watch this space!  

CBCA NSW AAA Event - Shortlist of Book Week Awards: I boarded a 5:27am train to attend this very exciting event. It was a long day (didn’t get home until 8pm) but it was worth the effort. Not only did we have engaging speakers try to predict which titles would be shortlisted in each of the categories, we heard amazing authors and illustrators talk about their books and how they match the new Geography syllabus. They included Jackie French, Bruce Whatley, Tim Harris and Susanne Gervay. 

~ I have some photos but Blogger won't let me load them. Grrr! ~

CBCA NSW Branch Inc Newcastle Meeting: Exhibition - The Art of Anne Spudvilas: Our lastest local CBCA meeting was held at Newcastle Region Library. As part of that meeting, we had a tour of the recently renovated library space as well as a look at the Anne Spudvilas exhibition. This exhibition was breathtaking!

It will be on Monday 26 February to Saturday 14 April so be quick if you want to catch it. 

From the Newcastle Region Library website:

25 years of illustration - The art of Anne Spudvilas.

A visually stunning exhibition of illustrations from the multi-award-winning artist and children’s book illustrator Anne Spudvilas.  This striking exhibition includes works from picture books by well-known Australian authors such as Isobelle Carmody, Margaret Wild, Bryce Courtney and Gary Crew. 

From sketchbooks, dummy books, storyboards and background material viewers will be taken on a creative journey to discover some iconic Australian picture books. The exhibition includes original artworks from award-winning books The Race, Jenny Angel, Woolvs in the Sitee and The Peasant Prince.  Beginning with the cover of Isobelle Carmody’s picture book The Gathering, the exhibition includes work from Li Cunxin’s popular story Mao’s Last Dancer in its picture book  – The Peasant Prince.

The exhibition provides rich opportunities for students to explore the nature of visual texts and to participate in illustrator workshops.

More information can be found here.

Upcoming Events

1) In a special edition of Katapult next week, I’ll give a run down on how the Newcastle Writers Festival went. It started today with the Cessnock Schools Program. Tomorrow I’ll be at the Newcastle Library helping supervise the Newcastle Schools Program and then I’ll be attending the Jimmy Barnes Opening Night event at Civic Theatre. Over the weekend the main program will be in full swing. And the finale on Sunday will be the free Family Fun Day.

2) I’m looking forward to the upcoming school holidays. I dare say we’ll get up to some literary fun.

3) I have submitted my interview for the Just Write For Kids blog visit. It will be broken into three parts. I think the first part will be released tomorrow. I’ll share the link on my social media platforms.

Publishing Update

We've been working hard on edits for the cover of No Baths Week. It’s not ready to reveal yet but it’s looking great.

Kirrili has started mapping out the spreads for Up To Something and preparing the paper for the final illustrations. We’ve also been chatting about a few design features. This is the magical stage - where stories come to life thanks to illustrations. 

Anything to Share?

If you're keen to attend the next Writing Chapter Books for 6-9 year olds with Lesley Gibbes on 16th May in Sydney, the link is here.

Recent Book Purchase/s?

Suri’s Wall by Lucy Estela and Matt Ottley (signed copy by Lucy)
Pea Pod Lullaby by Glenda Millard and Stephen Michael King
The Feather by Margaret Wild and freya Blackwood
Archie and the Bear by Zanni Louise and David MacKintosh
Exploding Endings - Book 1: Painted Dogs & Doom Cakes by Tim Harris (signed copy)
A Boat of Stars written and illustrated by Australian authors and illustrators and edited by Margaret Connolly and Natalie Jane Prior  

Where can you find me on social media?

I’ve made it easy. Just click on the live links below and like or follow me.

Feel free to leave a comment or drop me an email:

I’d love to hear from you!

~ I usually put something inspirational here but Blogger isn't playing niceat the moment. 
So here's a lovely memory of mine. Thanks Ramona! ~

Sunday, 11 March 2018

Katapult - Edition 2 - March, 2018

Welcome to Katapult!

Here’s the March edition of my newsletter, Katapult. So what has been happening at my desk since the last time we chatted? A lot! 

Don’t forget: I’m not apologising for any typos. Just read over them and assume I was rushed, distracted, trying to do three things at once, I’m a terrible typer, or I lost my mind.

What’s Up?

I attended the CBCA NSW event, ‘Night of the Notables’ at Dymocks, George Street, Sydney on Tuesday, 27th February to hear the announcement of the long listed titles for the CBCA Book Week Awards for 2018. Click here to see all the long listed titles. 

I have lots of friends in each of the categories but congratulations to my local friends, Deb Kelly, Leila Rudge, Liz Anelli, Paul Russell and Fern Martins who have all been long listed. Very clever creatives!

At this event, I really enjoyed hearing about the new series, The Poppa Platoon by the successful team behind Little Lunch, Danny Katz and Mitch Vane.  Book 1 will be released 1st April but I now own a signed early-released copy :) - lucky me. My daughter is a huge fan of the Little Lunch series so she devoured it within 24hr of the book being in the house. 

The shortlist will be announced at noon on Tuesday, 27th March. Information about this professional development event for adults can be found here. Information about the event for kids can be found here.

Kirrili Lonergan and I spent last Thursday night with Aleesah Darlison at the NSW Writers Centre participating in her workshop, ‘Book Promotion Essentials’. It was a jam-packed session that was motivating and inspiring. We now have lots of ideas brewing as we start to think about how we would like to help promote and launch our new picture book, Up To Something next year.

I had dinner with some lovely children’s authors in Sydney on Friday, 9th March in North Ryde (or Macquarie Park if you ask my GPS. Hmmm ...). It was so lovely to catch up with Aleesah Darlison, Susanne Gervay, Amelia McInerney and other newbie children’s authors.

I had a manuscript assessment at the NSW Writers Centre with Leonie Tyle on Saturday - a very pleasant experience. Leonie looked at two picture book manuscripts for me. She advised me to develop the main charter a little more in one. It was suggested the other one go into a complete rewrite with a new storyline triggered by an event in the original manuscript. 


I’m still thinking about that feedback but she could be right. I may write the new story anyway as it did bubble away nicely in my head during the long drive back to Newcastle. But I might try my luck with the original version a little more. It’s a hard one as this industry is full of subjective opinions - some are right and some are wrong. 

I’ve just submitted two picture book manuscripts to be assessed by a publisher at the Kitlitivc Conference I’m attending in May. One of them is my apple pie story mentioned in last month’s newsletter - the one I sent to a professional editor. I’m including the recipe with that one so last weekend I road tested it. I’d pushed together a couple of recipes and added a new ingredient so I own the copyright - but I wasn’t sure it would actually work. I’ve never cooked a pie from scratch before. But my taste buds told me it worked. Yum! I’ve now sent the recipe off to be road tested by my mother-in-law. She’s a wonderful cook. 

It has a secret ingredient I can't mention, that's why I haven't shown you a photo of the filling. If I find a publisher and you buy the book, you'll know what it is - one day :)

The other one is a story that went all the way to a Scholastic acquisition meeting last year but didn’t quite get over the line. It’s a crazy, funny story about chickens. Fingers crossed either or both of these manuscripts have something that resinates with her so I get lots of juicy feedback or an invitation to rewrite and then resubmit.

I’m still playing the waiting game on whether the picture book manuscript I mentioned in my last newsletter made it through its acquisition meeting. Keep those fingers crossed!

Are you having trouble keeping up with all these manuscripts? Me too!

Upcoming Events

I’m very honoured to be speaking at the CBCA NSW Branch AGM this Saturday, 17th March. It’s a great opportunity to share my journey so far as a writer and share some sneak peeks of my upcoming books.

I’ll be attending the upcoming course at the Australian Writers Centre, ‘Chapter Books for 6-9 year olds’ by Lesley Gibbs later in March. I’m looking forward to it as this is an area I want to move into very soon.

I'll be featured in a two-part interview on the Just Write for Kids Blog in April. I'll put the links in my April and May newsletters and on my social media platforms as soon as they're available. Thanks for interviewing me Deb Tidball! They have a great Facebook page community too.

Publishing Update

Last night I saw three coloured options for the cover of No Baths Week. Cheri Hughes is very clever! I’ll reveal the final cover soon once we work out which one and it’s been approved. Sorry to make you wait.

Chasing Rainbows, my third picture book (second one with BSP) will be released early in 2019 so it will be illustrated mid this year.

And my fourth picture book titled Up To Something, the second with EK Books and Kirrili Lonergan (same team as Dandelions) will be illustrated mid this year with a release date of May, 2019. 

Anything to Share?

The Newcastle Writers Festival is on its way. The program was released a few weeks ago. I’m looking forward to seeing the children’s faces as they leave their sessions inspired to jump into new books. 

Recent Book Purchases?

The Great Rabbit Chase by Freya Blackwood
The Lion in our Living Room by Emma Middleton and Briony Stewart
The Poppa Platoon by Danny Katz and Mitch Vane
Here We Are - Notes for Living on Planet Earth by Oliver Jeffers
Rodney Loses It! by Michael Gerard Bauer and Chrissie Krebs
The Fabulous Friend Machine by Nick Bland
Missing by Sue Whiting

Where can you find me on social media?

I’ve made it easy. Just click on the live links below and like or follow me.

If you missed last month's newsletter, you can find it here.

Feel free to leave a comment or drop me an email:

I’d love to hear from you!

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Katapult - Edition 1 - February, 2018

Welcome to Katapult!

This is a new thingy for me - a monthly newsletter. It will evolve with time and have many changes I'm sure, until I find the structure that works for you and me. Some newsletters will be long and some will be short. Sub-headings will change and some will say the same, but I'm glad you're here to share this journey with me :)

So why call my newsletter ‘Katapult’?

Kat is obviously from my name.

Catapult is a fun word. As a verb it means to hurl or launch. I often find my mind hurling into stories and ideas (anywhere, anytime), or launching into crazy and spontaneous decisions (some I regret later!). What a way to live one’s life!

I pushed the two words together and ‘Katapult’ emerged. I love it!

A Book Joke?

What do you do if a librarian rolls her eyes at you?

The answer is at the bottom :)

What’s Up?

Well, 2018 started nearly two months ago - where has that time gone? - and I have made a pledge to myself I’m going to write a monthly newsletter. I find snippets of news on my social media don’t quite give the full picture of what’s happening here at my desk. 

Yes, I’ve missed a January newsletter, but everyone was on holidays including me so that doesn’t count. Right? No one would have poked their heads out of their Summer reading books and read it anyway. So let’s just merge January happenings into this February newsletter. 

I’m not going to promise I’ll have my newsletters up and running on the first of every month. Too much pressure! But I’ll try to have it out during the first week of the month. Having said that, I’m already late with February, and March starts next week. Eek! 

And I’m not apologising for any typos either. Just read over them and assume I was rushed, distracted, trying to do three things at once, I’m a terrible typer, or I just lost my mind. Any or all of these things could have been true at the time of that typo.

Let’s go back to December. My head was in a mess. There, I said it. A mess! 

I had a pile of picture book manuscripts at 90% finished, I was waiting for a signed contract for two new picture books and I was getting anxious (I thought it was never going to come and that the publisher must have changed her mind - she’d just forgotten to tell me!), the end of the year was hurtling towards me at an alarming rate, Christmas was around the corner, and I started to consider getting an agent. Of course, then I got sick - flat on my back for two days!

I emailed a professional friend of mine to help me sort out my head so I could make a plan (maybe I should have enlisted a team of psychologists)

As a result, I spent December and January finishing some of my favourite manuscripts, sending them to her for editing, and then making a submission plan for 2018. I also sent another manuscript to a different professional editor.

I booked into the children’s literature Kidlitvic Conference in Melbourne held in May this year, and I joined The Duck Pond Facebook group to keep my motivation fresh and ongoing.

Santa came and went, the signed contract arrived (phew!), we rang in the new year, and relaxed and soaked up Summer holidays.

Hello 2018!

So January was relaxing and all about my husband and I entertaining our two children. We went to the Sydney Opera House to see the 78-Storey Treehouse on the stage. We also saw Operation Ouch at the Civic Theatre in Newcastle. Both were great shows!

Our CBCA Newcastle Sub-branch was on my mind too. I had been the president for nearly four years, and had spend the fifth year as the vice president. I had enjoyed being the VP as a lot of the workload have been taken off me. But did I still want to be an executive committee member? 

I had also found out who was going to illustrate my first Big Sky Publishing (BSP) book called No Baths Week

Drum roll …

I was very excited by this. Cheri is very talented and has illustrated several titles for BSP. I was then in communications with BSP to help set up Cheri’s illustration brief. What fun!

The rest of January involved school shoes, labelling uniforms, testing out lunch boxes and making sure new school drink bottles didn’t leak - ha!

And here we are in February.

I submitted one of the professionally edited manuscripts to a publisher. I found out recently it’s going to an acquisition meeting. YAY! Anxiety builds while I wait.

No Baths Week is moving along very quickly. We’ve been working on cover concepts, back cover blurbs, initial character concepts, and sales documents. This part of the process is extremely exciting!

I have also been working on a picture book manuscript based on my childhood memories at my grandmother’s house. It’s such a lovely story and includes some of my favourite sweet delights. Mmmm … jam drops and apple pie! It went to a professional editor yesterday. Fingers crossed.

Flights, workshops and a manuscript assessment have been booked for the Kidlitvic Conference in May. 

We had our CBCA Newcastle Sub-branch AGM early February. So did I put my hand up for an executive position? No I didn’t. But I am happy to be a general committee member. It was time for Kirrili and I to hand over the sub-branch we started mid 2013. It’s in wonderful hands now (thanks Jodie and Liane) so I look forward to seeing it evolve with fresh blood and new ideas. I also have loads of undistracted time to write now so I can seal the deal on more publishing contracts this year

I have also booked into a manuscript assessment at the NSW Writers Centre in March with Leonie Tyle. I’ll be working on that manuscript all of next week so it’s ready to submit to her a week beforehand.

Upcoming Events

I’m very honoured to be speaking at the upcoming CBCA NSW AGM on the 17th March. It’s a great opportunity to share my journey so far as a writer and share some sneak peeks of my upcoming books.

I'll be volunteering at the upcoming Newcastle Writers Festival. I'm going to the VIP program launch tomorrow. The Schools Program has been released and is selling out fast. We have some wonderful visitors coming to inspire primary school kids in the Hunter area.

I'll also be attending the CBCA NSW Branch Night of the Notables event at Dymocks, Sydney on the 27th February. This event celebrates the longlisted titles for the CBCA Book Week awards in August.

Publishing Update

My first picture book, Dandelions, is still out and about. I love to hear stories of children still enjoying it and I continuously see dandelions everywhere.

No Baths Week, my second picture book is being illustrated as you read this. I can’t wait to see a storyboard and more sketches. It is scheduled to be released in October this year. I have booked in a venue and date for the launch party, and I’ve started to plan food and decorations. These October school holidays will see me doing some interesting story times in conjunction with Newcastle Region Libraries. More information soon.

Chasing Rainbows, my third picture book (second one with BSP) will be released early in 2019 so it will be illustrated mid this year.

And my fourth picture book, Up To Something, the second with EK Books and Kirrili Lonergan (same team as Dandelions) will be illustrated mid this year with a release date of May, 2019. We’re planning some exclusive pre-launch local activities but it’s too early to reveal anything yet.

Anything to Share?

I’d love to share a secret. I have major problems with passive voice. When working on my manuscripts, I often copy and paste the text into a website called Hemingway Editor to get rid of it.

I know a group of clever girls doing podcasts for lovers of kids' books. It's called One More Page. The second episode was released today. These podcasts are for anyone and everyone who loves books for kids. Very funny stuff!

Recent Book Purchase/s?

Bold Australian Girl by Jess Black and Fern Martins
Grace and Katie by Susanne Merritt and Liz Anelli
Perfect Petunias by Lynn Jenkins and Kirrili Lonergan
Betty the Yeti’s Disappointing Day by Emily S. Smith and Graham Davidson
Ella by Nicole Godwin and Demelsa Haughton
Ella Saw the Tree by Robert Vescio and Cheri Hughes

Where can you find me on social media?

I’ve made it easy. Just click on the live links below and like, subscribe or follow me.

Feel free to leave a comment or drop me an email:

I’d love to hear from you!

Kat x

PS: So what do you do if a librarian rolls her eyes at you?

You roll them back of course! :)