February update . . . creative things a-happening

Monday, 13 February 2017

I love February. It's sunshiny and warm (though a four-week+ heatwave here in Canberra is getting kind of ridiculous) and there's always extra chocolate involved, even if it means melted chocolate--a February phenomenon exclusive to the Southern Hemisphere.

Some very special friends and colleagues have birthdays this month. Then the 14th is International Book Giving Day (#IBGD), Library Lovers Day and Valentine's Day all in one--could it possibly be a more heart-thumping date??


On the 17th, I have my beautiful son's birthday and mine is two days later, meaning a weekend of cake and quite possibly champagne, if I have my way.

February doesn't muck around. It gets down to business after the long hot summer holidays. The inbox starts flooding again, and all the publishers get back to work. It feels like I've done a year's work already and we're only at the month's midpoint!

It seems to have a creative energy about it, February. I'm always refreshed, renewed and ready for brand new projects and shiny new directions. Here's what's going down for Feb.

This month, Tina and Snerling and I have just sent off the next two books in the A Kids' Year series off to print (EK Books). We always 'appear' on the dedication page, and here we are, below. Any guesses where these books might be set? Wherever that first one is, I want to be there right now!

This is Banjo Paterson was just launched yesterday (illustrated by my February Friend Christina Booth). We had the sweetest event at the National Library (a wrap-up here).

I'm now working through the text for a new book book with the National Library, discussing illustration format. It's going to be a whopper of a book--stacks of pages and some incredible content compiled by a prominent Australian; very exciting. This is my first official illustration commission and I'm both nervous and breathtaken. I have lots of wonderful ideas for the illos which will be digitally rendered, and I'm going to feature a range of textures that I hope to achieve with some mono-printing. Will post some pics of my mono-printing setup.

On the National Library, my 2012 book Australian Story was reissued this month--and BigW are stocking it--my very first experience with the BigW phenomenon. So happy for this quiet little book that tends to slide under the radar and pop up all over schools and libraries, who rely heavily on its content. Fantastic to see it achieve some more commercial attention.

Jess Racklyeft and I worked on a Christmas book idea over the summer and we're thrilled to have signed with divine Indie publisher Windy Hollow Books. The book is out this October, so Jess will be a busy bee these coming months! On top of that, we're busy working on a sequel to Smile Cry, featuring Piglet, Bunny and Cat (EK Books). It's going to be adorable--the roughs are too cute for words. Hope to have some sneak peeks for you later in the year.

Smile Cry is actually coming out in paperback this March, too. Two copies arrived this week (below). Can you even believe this succulent plant I found at IKEA? If anyone knows what it is, please tell me. It's like peas on stalks. Obsessed.

You can see the paperbacks again at the top of this post, with my newest flamingo family member--a surprise from my gorgeous friend Coral Vass. More too cute for words.

Another recent arrival--my very first illustrator postcards. I'm showing my very first portfolio at KidLitVic in Melbourne this coming May, and these will sit alongside, along with my business cards. Scary! but beside myself for this conference ... will get to catch up with treasured friends and fabulous industry folk; some I'll be meeting for the very first time.

2017 is certainly shaping up to be a year of very firsts.

It was pretty special to be accepted for the Australian Society of Author's The Style File this month, too--alongside some wonderful established talent. Quite surreal. Just goes to show how things unfold when you dedicate yourself and practice fiercely!


An interesting thing has occurred since the start of the year. I've been working on some secret squirrel business--a picture book I've long dreamed of creating, about a well-known Australian. The format for this book is unusual in terms of its narrative structure (not typically biographical), and I've been having the time of my life creating it without deadlines--just full creative expression with no limits or constraints. I've never been so focused and happy.

I don't even know if I'll have this book contracted, but it doesn't even matter, I'm loving it that much!

What else?

Oh--it's often the little things that mean a lot, yes? When I lived in Melbourne, I developed quite the obsession with Readings in Carlton (est. 1969). Over time, the store has expanded, and--if you didn't already know--they recently opened a children's store. Gasp.

I could only dream of having one of my books on face-out display in this beautiful store ... and look! Australia Illustrated in the publicity shots! I not only did a double-take, I did a quadruple-take, AND it's sitting right next to Iggy Peck Architect which is one of my favourite books of all time. Too too much. It was a sit-down-before-I-fall-down kind of reaction, that one.

Yes, it's the little things.

This coming Friday, 17 Feb (which is Banjo Paterson's birthday), I'll be chatting with Genevieve Jacobs on 666ABC Radio Canberra, all about Banjo. You can listen live here (just after 9.30am). Then at 1pm, I'll be chatting with NLA publicist Candice Cappe in a live Periscope video (another very-first). We'll be showcasing the actual original manuscript of Waltzing Matilda, which I've never seen, can you believe it? View the Library's Periscope channel right here.

Right--I think that's it for Feb! I'll be head-down, paintbrush up these coming weeks, trying to resist the temptation to check in on the train-wreck that is US politics right now (horrifying but unable to look away). I know 2017 will be a hugely productive year for me, and I'll be online a lot less as a result. Since commencing my illustration journey, it's more important than ever to trade off sitting time with movement time--so this year will be all about physical and mental balance.

I hope your February is full of very-firsts, and creative pursuits that make you focused and happy.


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