I'm a children's author, wife and mum in no particular order. I perform these jobs simultaneously and I love them all!

Monday 26 May 2014

The Sydney Writers’ Festival 2014

My little family went on an amazing adventure to Sydney yesterday for the SWF2014 Family Day.

We started with some cut-out photography fun on our way to Cornelia Funke’s official ‘Family Day’ opening speech.

At story time, I revisited my childhood as I listened to Damon Young read his funny picture book, ‘My Nana is a Ninja’. Deb Kelly was a superstar as she shared ‘Jam for Nana’ and ‘The Bouncing Ball’ with excited festival munchkins. Deb also shared the chair with Gus Gordon, Jane Godwin, Grug, Ursula Dubosarsky and many more.

Following story time, we shared morning tea with some very well-known children’s authors. (Somehow we missed you Jacqueline Harvey – sorry!)

I was a little awestruck listening to Jane Godwin share an exclusive peek of her new picture book illustrated by Anna Walker titled ‘What Do You Wish For?’ due for release Christmas 2015. She promised us we were the first to see her ‘dummy book’.

Ursula Dubosarsky explained how she felt excited to have her picture book, ‘Too Many Elephants in this House’ chosen as the 2014 National Simultaneous Story Time book. On the day, she shared her book with an intimate audience at the State Library.

Funny man Oliver Phommavanh chaired the ‘greatest drawing showdown this side of the harbour’.  Eight children’s illustrators including Gus Gordon, Tony Flowers and the ‘The Bouncing Ball’ illustrator, Georgia Perry entertained us as Oliver picked random topics from the children in the audience. Very funny stuff! (Gus, Tony or Georgia didn’t win)

Tony Flowers drew this wonderful dragon on the footpath outside the ‘Big Top’ as part of his new picture book series, ‘Billy is a Dragon’. The 3D effect this 2D chalk drawing reflected was amazing!

My treasured ones then tried some illustration techniques guided by the very talented Dav Pilkey, creator of the unique children’s character, Captain Underpants. Their attempts were not too bad!


To finish off we hung around for Vivid Sydney. Words cannot explain how amazing this is. You must go to Sydney and experience it for yourself. Lights/projections/displays are turned on at 6pm and are turned off at midnight.

The SWF2014 Family Day was wonderful. I thoroughly enjoyed sharing the children’s book industry with my family. It was a very busy program but we all had a great time.


Tuesday 20 May 2014

Highlights from the CBCA National Conference, 2014

The CBCA National Conference, 2014 is an event I will remember fondly for a long time. I loved mingling with respected children’s authors and illustrators for two and a half glorious days. Here are ten of my favourite highlights. I could have listed a hundred!

1) Meeting Stephen Michael King and Glenda Millard

Glenda Millard, Kirrili Lonergan, Katrina McKelvey, Stephen Michael King

Stephen and Glenda are such a gentle yet powerful team. The themes in their stories run deep into my heart and touch me profoundly. 

2) Drinking champagne in the foyer of the National Library with much loved children’s authors and illustrators

Photo by Tania McCartney

What a way to start a conference! There is no better place to host literary events and toast wonderful publication news than here. Can you find me in this photo?

3) Watching Bob Graham sign my first edition of ‘Rose Meets Mr Wintergarten’

I was given this copy while I was at university studying my Bachelor of Education degree in the early 1990’s. My copy is very worn as it has had many children inside its pages. I attended Bob’s workshop at the Sydney Writers’ Festival two years ago and he talked about the story behind his latest picture book, ‘Silver Buttons’. Now I have my own signed copy. 

4) Canberra in Autumn

Photo by Tania McCartney
Photo by Tania McCartney

The colours were amazing! I enjoyed sharing breakfast Sunday morning on the banks of Lake Burley Griffin while chatting to Canberra’s local authors and illustrators. Every colour of the rainbow was represented in the trees that surrounded the lake. A breathtaking site indeed!

5) Dinner in the Australian War Memorial

Words cannot explain the atmosphere of this night. Being in the Australian War Memorial seated in a dimly lit room underneath the tail of a war plane was incredible. We were moved to by war stories by Jackie French. Morris Gleitzman’s ‘Loyal Creatures’ (a war horse story) was dramatically performed by a solo artist. Very moving!

6) Andy Griffiths - legend

I ‘accidently’ ran into Andy in an empty foyer. What else could his biggest fan do other then ask for a photo? See – he is happy to see me! We made a date to cross over at this year’s Byron Bay Writers’ Festival. Now I can’t let the man down can I?

My copy of ‘The Bad Book’ was signed by Andy at the Byron Bay Writers’ Festival in 2012 (For Katrina, the very bad teacher) and ‘The Very Bad Book’ was signed at this conference (For Aidan, the very bad son). I could go on and on about how bloody amazing this man is but I won’t. You should already know!

7) Catching up with people who I have connected with on Facebook

There were many people I chatted with who I follow on Facebook, but it was just beautiful to especially catch up with this talented one  – Tania McCartney.

8) Mixing with respected children’s authors and illustrators

Freya Blackwood, Katrina McKelvey, Libby Gleeson

Katrina McKelvey and Julie Vivas

Jackie French signing one of my favourite picture books, 'Queen Victoria's Underpants'

Lynn Jenkins, Kirrili Lonergan, Choechoe Brereton, Katrina McKelvey
I lined up for a long time across the weekend (often while eating my lunch with a knife and fork standing up) to see Libby Gleeson, Freya Blackwood, Julie Vivas, Glenda Millard, Stephen Michael King, Bronwyn Bancroft, Choechoe Brereton, Bob Graham, Barry Jonsberg, Michael Gerard Bauer, Jackie French and Andy Griffiths. I managed to get no less than 36 of my books signed (most of them I bought from home). Is that a record?

9) Being inspired by Jackie French

Jackie's passion for children’s literature is contagious, inspiring and overwhelming. No wonder she is the current Australian Children’s Laureate. My only regret is that I couldn’t go on the visit to her property on the Monday.

10) Taking some time out of my life as a busy mum, wife and volunteer to refocus and be reinspired to write my little heart out.

It was so luxurious to take a few uninterrupted deep breaths. Thank you to my beautiful family for helping me take some time out and be self-indulgent – even if it was only for a few days. I feel like a new person.

Quote of the conference for me: ‘You cannot be all things to all people, but you can do the impossible.’ Thanks Erica Wagner (Allen and Unwin publisher) for this reminder I needed to hear.