Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Counting down to SCBWI LA Summer Conference, 2011!

Wow - soon I will land on US shores and attend the 2011 SCBWI Summer Conference in LA! It's great to think that I'll no longer be a first-timer with all the associated jitters. I'll even know a few people this time around. I'm looking forward to the keynotes, the workshops, the chatting, the elevators, the coffee, the Saturday night gala (I even found nursery rhyme pyjamas)... but what about the Monday? Intensives!? Round-table critiques!? What's it all about? What should I know? Can I handle it???

Does anyone have any tips or similar questions? With exactly ONE month left, it's time to get serious!!


Saturday, May 21, 2011

Perth's northern suburbs suffer disastrous book drought

I am very frustrated at the moment. Things have gone from bad to worse in this neck of the woods. I live just a little south of Geraldton (okay, I'm exaggerating - it's a little south of Yanchep). We are a new growth area on the northern fringe of Perth. Many, many new families live out this way.

The Ocean Keys shopping complex came to our neighbourhood several years ago. Suddenly we had several retailers including a bookshop. It wasn't fancy, but still ... it did sell books. Now it has closed (another one bites the dust!)

So, we must make-do with such exquisite book retailers as 'Coles', 'Woolworths' and 'The Salvation Army'.


So, in a flash of panic I contacted a children's book retailer recommended to me by some very knowledgable children's book enthusiasts. I will be taking approximately 100 QUALITY children's books (including many by local authors and illustrators) to the six playgroup sessions at my local community centre in a couple of weeks.


That's all I can do for now, but I figure it's worth something. I'm not profiting from it, but the playgroup will, because the very kind retailer offers 10% of the sales towards new books for the organisation. This wonderful retailer does not have a website that I can link to, but I do think you should call Child Education Services on 9225 6516 if you feel the urge to do something similar. What a great fundraiser for your school, playgroup or other organisation.


Saturday, May 7, 2011

NaPiBoWriWee - day 7 (in the northern hemisphere)

I am certainly not making excuses, but yesterday there were TWO parties to attend. So because Paula Yoo is running this challenge from California, where the time is 10.51pm on the 7th May - I can claim to have finished NaPiBoWriWee 2011 on time! Yes, it's true - we're well into the afternoon now on the 8th May in Western Australia, but please, let's not squabble over minor details. It's still a great achievement to write 7 picture book drafts in 7 (and-a-half) days!!

Thanks again to Paula for putting in such a great effort. Thanks also to everyone in twitterland and blogland for your support. It's been another great kick in the pants for my writing career. I look forward to getting these drafts polished and perhaps taking one or two with me to the SCBWI LA summer conference in August! See you there, Paula (and anyone else who's going along)!

Congrats to everyone who took part. Until next time...

Friday, May 6, 2011

NaPiBoWriWee 2011 - day 6: It's okay. Really...it's okay.

Do you BELIEVE me? Do you really think that things are fine and DANDY over here on day 6 of NaPiBoWriWee? Ha ha ha ha! Ha ha ha ha! Ha ha ha ha haaaaaaa! Aaaaaaaargh!!!

No, no. Really - things are okay. But it is very HARD to commit an already small number of 'free' minutes to making up stories. Someone tell ME the stories, please!! Boo hoo :P

Alas, tomorrow is the last day of Paula Yoo's annual challenge. She has done it again - updating her blog THREE times daily for her NaPiBoWriWee writers. I don't know HOW she does it when she has 149 cats to hand-feed and run errands for every day!? Oh, and she is also a writer for a show called Eureka on SyFy. PLUS she writes books. So how and why does she do this? I don't know! But I'm glad!

As for me: I have two children, a husband, one dog and one bottle of wine (minus one glass) in the pantry (*note - ONLY the bottle of wine is in the pantry - not the family and pet!!). I also have six rough picture book drafts to work on in the year ahead thanks to NaPiBoWriWee. Woo hoo!

So on that note, I am going to watch TV and deplete my bottle of red by one more glass. I hope everyone's on a roll and ready for a BIG finish on day 7! GOOD LUCK!


Thursday, May 5, 2011

NaPiBoWriWee 2011 - day 5: Barely Alive

Even as I type this post, I am not thinking about NaPiBoWriWee. I am thinking about bed. I am so insanely tired. Didn't get the little man to sleep until very late. Fortunately I scribbled something about food in the scrapbook just before lunch today, so I've used that in a pretty silly story (if you can even call it that).

That's...okay...I'll live to tell...another...

(head on keyboard)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

NaPiBoWriWee 2011 - day 4: RECORD SMASHED!

This is so funny. Twenty-five minutes ago I was grizzling because it was 9pm and I hadn't done my story. Now I've produced a story draft ... and I don't even hate it! I might even have time to go and watch something mindless on TV. WOW :)

I must admit - my inspiration came earlier today when I was fooling around with a Sharpie, sticky notes and a new scrap book (we went on a stationery spree yesterday!) This was a new thing for me ... I am in the habit of buying nice stationery once in a blue moon, only to lock it away in a drawer because the nice paper is TOO PRECIOUS. Ha ha :) I think because it was a $1 scrapbook I allowed myself to go for it.

Looks like we're over the half-way mark! This is great news. Are you still plugging away at NaPiBoWriWee 2011? Aren't you so glad you started?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

NaPiBoWriWee 2011 - day 3

I am learning to love this challenge more every day, and appreciate it for what it is. Those daily deadlines we impose on ourselves give us a 7 day holiday from procrastination and give our sub-conscious a chance to be heard. After all, I find there ain't much calculation going on between the hours of 8pm and 10pm at night (when I have a chance to write).

Story drafts 2 and 3 have pretty much been spur-of-the-moment surprises. They are by no means perfect (if they were that would just be FREAKY!) Rather than chastising myself for producing mediocre work, I am congratulating myself for putting 7 story ideas in the NaPiBoWriWee 2011 folder by Saturday 7th May.

So, I am happy to say that day 3 has been a success because another story has been born. After this challenge I can put it through it's paces - maybe get it to shed 10 kilos and give it a facelift (oh, my poor baby).

Has anyone out there in PiBo land written a perfect picture book this time (or come close)? Come on, be honest! Maybe there's someone out there? You can blow your own trumpet - I won't mind :)

See you over at Paula Yoo's place.

Monday, May 2, 2011

NaPiBoWriWee 2011 - day 2

How's everyone going? Now, Sunday may have been a walk in the park ... but MONDAY... well, it was another walk in the park! :D Yippee! Even with the 12-hour mummy shift thrown in! I am feeling very lucky.

I must admit that last night (Sunday night) I started writing what I thought was story number two. It wasn't going well. So I figured that tonight (Monday night) I'd be tearing my hair out.

Lucky for me, I remembered that NaPiBoWriWee is meant to be a FUN event! I imagined Paula Yoo frowning and waving her pointer finger at me for being a PiBo party pooper. This was enough for me to lighten up! Whaddya know... a brand new story was on a roll by 8pm, and was all wrapped up and tucked in by 8.40pm. Now it's 8.46pm and I'm writing the blog post. YAY!!

Did you have a Monday a success story, too?

Saturday, April 30, 2011

NaPiBoWriWee 2011 - Story draft #1 is done!

Holy cow! I can't believe it's only 2pm on Sunday and I have written my first story of NaPiBoWriWee 2011. One (1) picture book draft is complete. If I do say so myself, this is a story with potential :) The bar is set high for stories 2-7. By Saturday, I'm sure the quality of stories will have deteriorated :P This is going to get tough. But with Paula Yoo cheering me on from the sidelines, I will do it!

After all, 12 months ago I wrote five stories while at a sleep clinic with my six month old bubba! Now that he's toddling around and sleeping easily, things are getting easier.

I am astounded that last weekend I spent almost five days getting one story up to standard, and today I wrote a pretty sound one in a couple of hours. I guess that's the way it goes!

How was your story today? Was it fairly cooperative, or was it a kicker and screamer? If you're yet to start, best of luck! Just type, type, type - you can do it!


Thursday, April 28, 2011

NaPiBoWriWee 2011

It's here! Paula Yoo's annual challenge to write seven picture books in seven days - National Picture Book Writing Week, 2011 or NaPiBoWriWee. It seems like a ridiculous goal, but it CAN be done. Draft a story a day for seven days *emphasis on DRAFT* between May 1st and May 7th. Go to Paula's website for full details.

Last year I completed six first drafts in the seven days and was really spurred on by Paula's tips and advice. Those drafts were my very first attempts at writing picture books for children. I even MET Paula herself at the SCBWI LA Summer Conference last year and gave her a big thankyou hug! She works very hard for PiBos :)

It is hair-raising and motivating. Give it a whirl - you never know what magic you'll produce with those deadlines looming daily! I look forward to seeing what sorts of ideas spill out spontaneously - I haven't planned ahead like I did last year. It will be interesting...

If you're taking part, let me know.


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

XMediaLab Perth and more...

Gosh, it was a heck of a conference this 'ex-media-lab' (shock, horror I was calling it the wrong name in my head - thank goodness I heard someone say 'cross-media-lab' before I made a fool of myself!) The theme of the conference was 'Storytelling in a Digital Age'. The State Theatre of WA is a great venue, and it was a really well catered event. Quite the 'day off' - I really felt like a grown-up! Check out the XML website here.
Photo courtesy of XMediaLab
I was all ablaze with new ideas after listening to some really interesting speakers and some creative conference-goers. Loved hearing about what is possible with today's technology. I was particularly inspired by the raw media being produced by 'average' people and, in particular, marginalised groups. Apparently you don't need a lot of money or resources to share a message with the world these days. It was so refreshing to hear people talk about projects for the 'greater good' and I met quite a few community-focused people with interesting projects to talk about.

There are some crazy youtube videos I need to check out - I was really blown away by what was presented. I had not considered that creativity could be expressed in so many ways. I feel kind of overwhelmed! Now it seems there's no end to the possibilities. It's really great.

I was really pleased to meet Perth illustrator, Chris Nixon after the event. I recognised him after seeing him at The Children's Book Council of Australia WA Branch's A Night With Our Stars last month. He illustrates the 'Jake' series by Ken Spillman and has a real knack with a pencil and paper (okay I don't know if that's his preferred medium, but that's as far as my art training goes!) Check out his website here.

In super-exciting news, I am booked for the 40th SCBWI LA Summer Conference. Hooray! I am very much looking forward to being there again. It is such a brilliant event. I have a round-table critique booked as well as a picture book intensive. After hearing about some very technological ways of interacting with others, I feel comforted in the knowledge that I am simply a writer of picture books! Just dealing with pieces of paper bound together that you can read and enjoy - even when the power is out or the Internet is down :)

Oh, and did I mention that I'm also visiting Rottnest Island in June for the annual SCBWI WA writing retreat? I'm booked for a critique and cannot wait for some Rocky Horror Picture Show and karaoke action. Yes, life is like that when you're a 'pre-published' author.


Saturday, April 2, 2011

Pleased to meet you...I'm your maker!

I'm a bit excited because I met my character this week. I must admit that I've felt like a bit of a writer-fraud lately. I've been so bogged down with day-to-day life and exploring so much great information on the web (tweet, tweet!) that I've neglected the act of writing creatively. Oh dear.

Anyway, after a few disheartening blinking cursor / blank screen moments, I discovered that pen and paper are where it's at. I'm talking about BIG paper - lots of it! Here's the product of a huge mind-purge that took place yesterday.
I did not know there was so much inside my brain! Wow, it felt good to get that out!

When I started scribbling I didn't know what I was trying to achieve, but I kept an open mind. I even asked my four-year-old to throw some scenarios at me - this was actually a lot of fun for us both! One thing led to another and I ended up meeting a character who I'd like to find out more about.

My next step will be to fill in a 'form to form a character' courtesy of Rachel Vail who I met at the SCBWI conference in LA last year. Characters complete statements such as 'I wish I weren't so...' and 'The worst thing that could happen to me right now is...' It hadn't occurred to me that this was an important step before putting a character in a story. It feels a bit foolish to admit that, now! Oh well, I have learned at least one thing about writing in the last twelve months :) 

Do you have a similar way of meeting the stars of your stories? How do you know where to start?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Loving my local library

I sometimes feel a bit sad that we live in the outskirts of Perth when there seems to be so much going on closer to the city. It's true that there are advantages to living outside the hustle and bustle, but you know how that grass can look look when it's way over yonder.

With that said, we were lucky enough to have a couple of author talks recently at our local library in Clarkson. In late January children's book author Ken Spillman spoke about his 'Jake' series of books. My very-nearly-four-year-old got a kick out of his signed copy of Jake's Gigantic List, the story of Jake's quest for the perfect birthday present.

I was multi-tasking as always, listening for writing tips, birthday gift hints and corralling the littlest mister. Afterwards whilst getting our books signed I learned that the proceeds of 'Jake's Gigantic List' go to the Children's Book Council of Australia. What a great show of support for a very hard-working organisation.

Then a couple of weeks ago I was pleasantly surprised to stumble upon a flyer advertising a talk by local author Sara Foster. Her latest book 'Beneath the Shadows' was released last month.

So off I went again, this time without children, to attend a very civilised event which even included refreshments! Of course, the crowd were all there to listen. Many had questions - including myself, but I was not quick enough to get them in! Anyway, Sara was very easy to talk to afterwards during the book signing. As fate would have it I bumped into her at the local market the following night. So who knows, maybe next time she'll be ahead of me in the grocery queue and I can ask her how the heck you're supposed to write novels with young children in the house!? As for the book itself, I'm very much engrossed and cannot wait to stop writing this so I can get back to it.

So, I'm very much looking forward to finding out what talent will be heading our way next. We really do appreciate them thinking of us out here in 'upper-whoop-whoop' :)

Saturday, March 12, 2011

More ANWOS - plus giveaway news!

See! I told you I was rubbing shoulders with superstar authors at 'A Night With Our Stars' :)

Cristy Burne, Lara Morgan, Shirley Marr, Caz Williams
(photo courtesy of Shirley Marr)

Take in Shirley Marr's writeup of the night here. Then check out The Tales Compendium for their spin on ANWOS, and to win signed copies of 'Fury' by Shirley Marr, '90 Packets of Instant Noodles' by Deb Fitzpatrick and 'Wave Length' by AJ Betts! Who wouldn't want to be in on that?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

A Night With Our Stars - A West Australian Author and Illustrator showcase

What a great time I had at Westbooks last night! I was there in my role as volunteer and committee member with the Children's Book Council of Australia (WA branch).

I always feel so honoured to chat with 'real' authors and illustrators. Are we lucky here in the west, or what?! Not only are these people talented and inspiring, but they are also approachable, friendly and happy to chat. I love being a 'pre-published' (love that one) protégé. I learn so much from these knowledgable neighbours of mine :) Sadly I don't have any photos to share right now, but I'll share them as they come to hand. I know there's one on Shirley Marr's camera of herself, Cristy Burne, Lara Morgan and myself. See? I was in esteemed company!

Don't forget to visit the CBCA WA blog for the latest about WA authors and illustrators, as well as some posts I've been doing about early literacy.


Sunday, January 30, 2011

Blogging again

I am back in the world of blog! I am excited to announce that I have become an official blogger at the Children's Book Council of Australia's WA branch blog. I have so many ideas for blog posts racing through my mind. I would love to write blog posts that other parents and caregivers of emergent readers and writers find useful. I am on the lookout for experts who also write in this field. I came across The Book Chook today and it looks well-worth some exploration. Can you suggest any others?

In particular, I would love to focus on everyday teachable moments that we surreptitiously weave into our interactions with children. I like to think of myself as an 'Undercover Educator' - I love that my children don't even realise they're being taught (insert menacing laughter here!) I love my job :)