Scotty Day at Nutcote

Sunday, 20 January 2019

Of course, May has my favourite flower on her doorstep

Sydney, especially its north shore, was my stomping ground in the mid-1980s and early '90s. It was an incredible time of glamour and excess. I still have my diary from that time, and 30 nights of every month were pretty much filled with some fabulous event (yes, even February). Days were for work. Things were a wee spot busy.

Perhaps that's why I failed to visit May Gibbs' beautiful house in Neutral Bay--Nutcote. Sometimes we have bliss on our doorstep and we simply miss it, you know? I don't know why we do that to ourselves. Why do we do that?

I made up for things today.

Hubster and I drove to Nutcote early this morning, where I had three hours of happy. The gorgeous Stephanie greeted me and showed me around. The grounds are superb and of course the house--the house. I stood in wonder.

I touched May's drawing desk. And her writing desk. It was momentous. There may have been tears.

And I imagined her busy by the sweet little studio light dangling from the ceiling, as she often created at night. I saw hand-knitted socks made just for her. I swooped my hand in the sink with its wooden bench and imagined her washing dishes. I pictured her tending the hydrangeas outside the front door, and sitting on the balcony overlooking the Harbour Bridge, the city skyline, the bobbing boats ... and the ferries swooshing by.

The house is magnificent, and testament to May's progressive nature. The architecture is a blending of Georgian, Arts and Crafts and Mediterranean architecture (thank you, Edwina) and hosts many features that were unusual for the time (the house was designed and built in 1924/25 with architect BJ Waterhouse; read more about it here), such as built-in bookshelves and wardrobes, and a large main room that cleverly provided several living spaces.

THE HAPPY BOOK Children's Book Podcast

Wednesday, 2 January 2019

Hello, I’m Tania McCartney. I’m an author, illustrator and editor of children’s books. I’ve always wanted to live inside a book, and now I practically do.

I'm here to share with you over thirty years of writing and publishing experience. This is where you'll find insights, insider info, interviews and inspiration to take with you on your kids' book journey. I’ll be discussing the publication journey in all its incarnations—from baby books to young adult literature—from emerging status right through to taking your career up a level.

I’ll share with you my own journey and experience, and will also regularly pick the brains of some amazing people—authors, illustrators, editors, publishers, booksellers, librarians and other industry professionals.

In Series One, we’ll be covering a wealth of ideas, from sowing story seeds through editing, picture book construction and into illustrator journeys. We’ll look at assessments, plotting and planning middle grade, conferences and festivals—there’s just SO much to cover.

As the series of 10 podcasts goes live, you’ll see details of each one listed in the space below. Content will suit both emerging creators and those who’ve been in the game a while.

If you have any questions or comments, you can say hello at

So, let’s get started. Fire up your device, cram in those earbuds and enjoy this foray into the magical world of kids’ book creation. Welcome to this happy place—The Happy Book.

December - home, heat, family, books and happy new year

Sunday, 30 December 2018

Oh, December! You are nearly done! You were oddly frosty for a while there, but on Christmas Day, you succumbed to a summer of freakish proportions. We're not expecting a cool change in Canberra until the 8th of January. Heavens to Betsy, are we now desert? I can't even cast my eye over the garden--it's too heartbreaking.

And so, the next few weeks will be spent at home and perhaps snuck inside the odd icy cinema--this is the first year in ages where I've had to make a film list (and check it twice)--there's so much I want to see. Holmes and Watson, Mary Poppins Returns (HATE the abhorrently uncreative title, but can't wait to see it), Bohemian Rhapsody (très late, I know), The Grinch, The Nutcracker, Colette. I've missed Ladies in Black, but I'm going to see the costumes from the film soon--more on that shortly. Any other film recommendations? And also--looking back at these film choices, am I still a child? Honestly??

So the next few weeks will be housebound which isn't such a bad thing, as my break is nearly over, and deadlines call. A couple more days of reading in bed till midday, then I'm up and at them.

I hope you had a lovely Christmas. Ours was quiet and around three-kilos' worth (I'm nibbling rabbit food as I type). We actually celebrated on Christmas Eve this year and it was so lovely--you get to drink cocktails as you unwrap gifts and it can be a real hoot. The kids were spoiled, as ever, and we ate our fill of antipasto, and it made Christmas Day so much more leisurely.

Speaking of Christmas, just feast your eyes on this wreath I snaffled in the pre-Christmas sales (Provincial Home Living). Is it not dazzling? It's the type of thing that stops you as you walk by, and begs a little staring. I'm in love. It's staying up all year--I'm telling you now.

Chrissy Decs 2018

Saturday, 15 December 2018

I've decked the halls! About a month later than I normally do, but that's what being out of town for a month and diving headfirst into deadlines does to a gal.

I also baked gingerbread and made our Christmas cake, though this year I made it in a bundt tin (AND it came out clean, I might add ... phew).

And now I am complete.

Decs are super slim this year--I just didn't have the energy to go full bore, and I have to say I like the sparseness. It's calming. We all need calm.

Our girl may be working this Christmas morning, so our family life is certainly changing. We might have to do the Euro thing and open pressies on Christmas Eve. Of course, we'd then need to have fortified wine and stöllen, ja? Actually does stollen have an umlaut? I don't think it does, but I want to give it one, so there you go. Happy Christmas, stöllen.

Wishing you all a sugarplum Christmas that's calm and bright. I hope you find merry, peace and quiet under the Christmas tree this year (along with a book or twenty). Whatever you do, and wherever you are ... whether you spend it out on a deck overlooking the ocean or in a hammock in the garden or snuggled up on the couch with a book 'neath a snow-dredged mountain, I send you love--from my house to yours.


Mamie window and book reading at Harry Hartog

Friday, 14 December 2018

The Mamie celebrations continue with a book reading at Harry Hartog in Woden last weekend. Such a hugely busy time of year, I'm so grateful to everyone for coming along. Any excuse to catch up, too!

A frollick of fairies and gumnut babies appeared, and got busy making their own fairy/elf crowns. Then we had a book reading (my little Mamie doll helped!) then I signed books while guests had a peek at the window, gobbled fairy cakes and sipped champagne (the big fairies!).

We sold out of all books, including those in the window display, oh no!! I know James is expecting more copies in soon, so I hope you can get to Woden and have a peek at the window and pick up a copy of the book.

Enjoy this peek at this divine little celebration. I don't think any more words are necessary other than to thank James and the lovely HH team for hosting the Mamie window and this reading so close to Christmas. Oh, and I also want to say, gosh I love kids. They are just so completely divine. Thank you, kids, for being kids.

Big thanks to Tracey Hawkins and Leanne Barrett (and others) for the sensational photos!

week four of my May Gibbs Children's Literature Trust Fellowship - A Productive, Creative Outpouring

Thursday, 13 December 2018

My final week in Adelaide was my most productive yet. I called it 'A Productive, Creative Outpouring' in the Fellows' Journal. I really put my head down and finished all the stories for my junior fiction series. I also sketched up some more line drawings and did a little more on my ABC book.

I made a point of walking a lot, too, snapping some more photos of stunning local architecture. This block of flats, below... heavenly. It had a history, complete with plaque, but I forgot to take a photo of it, so can't tell you much more. But couldn't you imagine this as a grand old family home with picnics on the lawn?

Mamie book launch wrap-up!

Monday, 10 December 2018

What an absolute stunner of a day at Carrick Hill Estate on 25 November. This truly divine historical site in Adelaide is a must-see. The house, the grounds--wow wow. Enormous thanks to Christine and Ilonka and the team for the opportunity to launch Mamie onsite. It was such an honour and I know in my heart that May Gibbs would have heartily approved!

week three of my May Gibbs Children's Literature Trust Fellowship - Hello! Inspiration!

Sunday, 9 December 2018

Week three! Getting there! If you're wondering about the Kate Greenaway book in the image above (who wouldn't!?), it was part of a silent auction of beautiful books during the MGCLT High Tea (read about it here). The lovely Mary Wilson, Patron, agreed to allow me to buy it after I'd got distracted and didn't put a bid in! How unusual of me to get distracted. Anyway--I adore this book.

Also in the image is a massive chocolate frog from Haigh's (from the Trust), and a lovely gin and tonic inspired by my hotelier daughter and her adoration for beautifully balanced cocktails. It has orange and rosemary in it. The orange is freshly squeezed from the orange tree outside the little cottage I stayed in. There's also gum blossom branches from the High Tea--they lasted until the end of my stay; I adored them. You'll also notice a pine cone--one of many I collected from the lawns of a nearby park, and the Fellows' Journal, which I wrote in, drew in and read from cover to cover, marvelling at the experiences of my previous Fellows--all, incidentally, with major similarities to my own journey. So very interesting.

In the journal, I called week three 'Hello! Inspiration!'

May Gibbs Children's Literature Trust High Tea + Scotch College visit

Thursday, 6 December 2018

We all have those events that will stay for us a lifetime, and during my MGCLT Creative Time residency in Adelaide, I had one of those.

The gorgeous women at the Trust organised a beautiful high tea in honour of my Fellowship (and in celebration of May Gibbs!) at the Lenzerheide Restaurant in Hawthorn. Around 60 of us sipped champagne and gathered in the sun-strewn conservatory for a divine high-tea style lunch.

The MGCLT Chair, Julie Wells, introduced me, then I spoke about both May and my Mamie journey. It was a bit of an emotional speech and what a thrill to have fellow May Gibbs-adorers in the room, nodding and smiling and sighing as I spoke. I signed copies of Mamie afterwards, and had some beautiful conversations, including one woman who made me cry! (in a good way),

Trust Patron Mary Wilson closed the proceedings, and I presented her with an original watercolour--one of the versions of Mamie (before I decided on the final version for the book). This one (pictured above) is much more traditional in style, and includes gumnuts and gum blossoms. The piece will be housed in the Burrow residency in Norwood.

It was amazing to catch up with and meet people I'd only ever heard about over the years. Also loved seeing fellow author/illustrators Janeen Brian and Sally Heinrich. It was also a joy to have my friend Jane Brummitt and a group of her friends there to share in this special day.

Pictures speak a thousand words, so I'll wrap up this beautiful event with some photos, showcasing just how lovely and memorable it was. Thank you to the ladies at MGCLT.  What a joy it was.

week two of my May Gibbs Children's Literature Trust Fellowship - Hitting My Stride

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

My MGCLT Creative Time Fellowship gained momentum in week two. In the Fellows' Journal, I called it 'hitting my stride'. And I did. Much of that striding was performed in local cafés and can I just say the coffee is GOOD in Adelaide. My favourite spots were the Lion Hotel, First Pour (where my junior fiction series magically poured forth--'scuse the pun) and St Louis, all in North Adelaide. Oh, and the Art Gallery of South Australia's café in the city. Below is my view at the window at First Pour. I always sat here.

It was a much busier week, with lots of skittling around, working on several things including a new idea for an alphabet book. I collect ABC books, and creating one has been on my bucket list for about eighty-five years. I didn't want to just 'do one'. The right idea had to appear. And it did. Below is a peek at one of the images from the book, and I worked on a few more during my residency.

the people of Perth read Merry Everything!

Monday, 3 December 2018

As a creator of kids' books, there could be nothing more thrilling than this--people enjoying your work. Add the joy of diversity in age and race (some of those accents!), the sparkle of tinsel, the squeal of a baby and the smiles and the laughter - there are no words.

Thank you, Carillon City Perth, for this memorable, touching and utterly beautiful festive experience. Jess and I are thrilled.

#carillonchristmas #merryeverything #kidsbooksareeverything 

week one of May Gibbs Children's Literature Trust Fellowship - Dithering 101

Sunday, 2 December 2018

I'm baaaack! Where to begin? This Week One post will likely be all over the shop--I just have so much to tell you. It was the most unexpected month away, and of course--it went in a gumnut heartbeat.

I've been wading though a million photos and I'm still not unpacked. It's already 2 December and there's nary a Christmas bauble in sight in our house (quelle horreur!). I'm melting the butter in a ray of afternoon sunshine as I type, because my annual Christmas cake is two months late.

Since arriving home yesterday, I've cuddled and yabbered with my kids, performed repotting surgery on two fiddle leaf figs, put on three loads of washing (ironically, most of it not mine), walked straight past the mountain of ironing without batting an eyelid (I'm a changed woman), picked up a custom-made gift for my dear friend Sylvia, drank champagne with my husband in celebration of signing for my first junior fiction series, got a heavenly night's sleep, and have completed a flurry of 'omgihaveboughtnoxmasgifts' online shopping (feeling awfully guilty, I'm committing to shopping local for the rest).

This afternoon I'm finishing the Christmas cake and prepping the goodies for tomorrow's Mamie (author copies were waiting for me when I got home!) window installation at Harry Hartog bookstore. Then I'm meeting my dear friend Sylvia (she is leaving me for another town) for coffee.
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