Works-in-progress, KidLitVic and Crystal Kite!

Monday 22 May 2017

It's all too much. I have to get my head out of the clouds and my feet on the ground!

Still coming down from our beautiful May Gibbs event with the National Centre for Australian Children's Literature, the memory-making has continued this past week with some very happy news and an overwhelming trip to Melbourne and a slew of delightful happenings and encounters. Where will I begin??

Right. Let's start here...

Author copies of A Canadian Year and A Kiwi Year arrived. They are so scrumptious. A handful were dashed off in the post, and I always sign one each for my kids, then nestle them on their pillows for nighttime reading. It's a wee tradition. Even now that they're 14 and almost 17. Dear love them--they humor me. Both titles are released 1 June and if you're keen to snaffle either/or, you can find them here - Canada, Kiwiland (aka Across the Dutch--love you, NZ!).

Then, this loveliness called Mother's Day happened, and I did nothing but nothing all day, at great insistence by the fam. I hope you all had a beautiful day. It's so often bittersweet, non?

Shortly thereafter, this enormous thing (below) arrived. It's actually much bigger than it looks in this pic--the illustrated map I'm doing for Hardie Grant Travel. I couldn't get the wrapping undone fast enough, and there was all sorts of impatient peeping going on. I mean, rolled up, it's over a metre long and it's boggling to see it life-size. Edits will soon begin and then I'll start working on packaging design. Looking like a December release but I'll let you know a pub date as soon as I have one (just in case you need an illustrated map for your wall, of course).

While gearing up to travel to Melbourne for KidLitVic, I bustled under an illustration fog, prepping my portfolio to have printed for my trip, and trying to achieve a little more work for my current National Library book, a collaboration with the gorgeous Jackie French. This flustered darling, below, popped out of the end of my WACOM pen... don't you want to get her a chair and a nice cold glass of sav blanc? You should see her boots. She's so cool.

On Friday, Jess and I were thrilled to celebrate our SCBWI Crystal Kite win for the Australia/New Zealand region. Our darling wee book Smile Cry was voted for by our peers, and what greater honour than receiving a nod from peers--people who really know books, inside out, upside down and so intimately?

Thank you to everyone who voted. Jess and I had a toast at KidLitVic! And huge thanks to our beautiful publisher Anouska Jones who was very much a part of the creation of this book, and to the entire team at EK Books for their support. You can see the book on their site here.

You can see all the winners, for all regions, right here.

And now to KidLitVic 2017!

It was a HUGE weekend, and I'm exhausted but thoroughly enriched. Here is my account. Just a caveat: although I have a handful of notes at the end of this post that I thought might be helpful to readers, if you're looking for more detailed tips and tricks that people gleaned from the day, there are many, many people doing such things on their blogs, and you can also check out the KidLitVic Facebook Page for pics, and their blog for upcoming posts. Use hashtag #kidlitvic2017 in your search online.

This is just my personal weekend rundown and I'm hoping it will, at the very least, encourage you to go next year, because you simply must.


I jumped on a plane too-early-for-sanity on Friday morning and had a divine catch-up with my in-laws and nieces at Naughty Boy Cafe in Carlton. I then hightailed it to my darling Jen Storer's house--Duck Pond HQ--for a solid four hours of quackery that filled my heart and soul more than I could ever put into words here. This pic shows how intensely serious we were about our quackfest, even as the ducks went nuts!

Jen's Facebook Group--The Duck Pond--is part of her Girl and Duck empire, and now has 200 members. It's a truly brilliant kidlit place to be. If you want to join and come in for a paddle, you need to be a subscriber to Girl and Duck (another must if you want to be a children's book creator). Learn more about how to do this here.

After our quack, Jen and her super dooper clever hubbie (along with the legendary Dulcie Duckworth) fed me the most divine pumpkin soup you could ever imagine, then popped me on a train for the city. I sat quietly, enjoying my little tour. Melbourne is 'home' to me, and it was wonderful to be back, even so briefly.

At the State Library of Victoria cafe, I found two beautiful children's book angels awaiting my arrival... Coral Vass (left) and Nicky Johnston (centre). Both girls are part of the supersonic KidLitVic organising team, along with Alison Reynolds and Jaquelyn Muller.

Nicky and I have been friends for a long, long time. She is also involved with Kids' Book Review and has been Director of the 52-Week Illustration Challenge for three years now, and Coral has also been a reviewer for KBR. It was so wonderful to spend quality time with them during such a hectic weekend.

We nattered up a storm before being joined by Dee White--another longtime friend--and Kat Appel, for another round of nattering. Conferences are always so overwhelming and busy--these moments to connect are so precious.

Kat, Dee, Coral, me, Nicky

By 6pm, I finally checked into my room where I gobbled a rice paper roll and fell asleep to the serenade of clanging trams outside my window.


Another early start, a hair crisis (never cut your hair off before a conference!!), and it was off to the SLV again to meet my partner in Smile Cry crime, Jess Racklyeft. Oh my--you know when you just instantly connect with someone (we had never met, even after making several books together) and can't get enough of them? That's Jess. She's just scrumptious, as I knew she would be.

We managed to register for KidLit, drop our portfolios, then snaffle a coffee outside the library before diving into a full-on day of children's book glory.

Coral Vass opened proceedings and then we enjoyed a wonderful introduction from Bethany Macdonald, the SLV Family Programs Coordinator.

Coral Vass
The first panel on chapter and middle grade was absolutely fascinating. Panelists were Paul Collins from Ford Street, Jane Pearson from Text, Clare Forster from Curtis Brown Agency, Suzanne O'Sullivan from Hachette Lothian, and emcee was the glorious Michael Wagner.

After morning tea, it was the Illustration panel, with panelists Melissa Keil from The Five Mile Press, Michelle Madden from Penguin Random House, Sarah Mumme from Lake Press and Cristina Pase from Windy Hollow, emceed by the dynamic Adam Wallace. This panel went the fastest for me. It was special.

Lunch was over in two mins, then it was the Picture Book panel. Pure heaven. Panelists were Susannah Chambers from A&U, Kimberley Bennett from Penguin Random House, Miriam Rosenbloom from Scribble and Andrew Wilkins from Wilkins Farago, emceed again by Michael Wagner.

I would have loved to see the YA panel after afternoon tea, but it wasn't to be--I instead took on a Health McKenzie digital illustration workshop that was so enriching. I learned a lot, and just loved seeing his processes. At the end of his session, the poor man was flocked by eager ducklings wanting to know more more more! Wonderful stuff.

Nicky Johnston introduces Heath

Priceless peeks with Heath

The finale session for the day was a super fun Q&A, followed by closing remarks and thank yous by the KidLitVic team, left to right: Jaq Muller, Alison Reynolds, Nicky Johnston and Coral Vass.

Fifteen minutes later, the dam broke and the delegates flooded into the courtyard for the cocktail party. I think Nicky and I literally RAN when we saw the tall, cool glasses of fizz. So funny. With drinks and nibbles galore, and much catching up to be had, we worked the room.

Above left, Jess and me finally toasting our Crystal Kite win! Above right, with Romi Sharp of Just Write for Kids. And below, we are joined by Challenge members Katrin Dreiling and Cara King.

Below, gathering up some more Challenge peeps. It was so hard to get everyone together with almost 200 people in the room! I similarly failed to get Duck Pond girls together.

Below, Nicky and me. Yes, champagne was involved! #sorrynotsorry

And I love this pic below! With Nicky, me, Dee, Penelope Pratley and Coral.

I met too many people to mention--both those I've only ever met online, and those I've met in the past. If there's one drawback to conferences like this, it's the teensy flecks of time we get to spend with people. They're just never, ever enough, and you can barely take two steps without running into someone else. It's both maddening and marvellous.

That night, I had a light bite with Challenge girls Suzy Houghton, Cara King, Sarah Epstein and Pen Pratley, and new Canberra native Irene Tan. It was such a lovely way to finish a huge day. I was in bed asleep shortly thereafter!

For those who are interested, here are some notes I made during the panels. They come complete with a sneak peek at Nicky Johnston's superb doodlings of a dog and boy (how lucky are you??) and my daggy floral doodlings. Yes, I stole Nicky's notebook. Yes I did. I hope you can decipher my scrawl.

Biggest congrats to this amazing team for all their hard work and nous--you did a brilliant job, and everyone is still quacking about how special this day was, how enriching, enlightening and rewarding. A warm, inclusive, social day--it will long leave its mark on delegates.

Nicky, Jaq, Alison, Coral

Sunday morning I was out early for a beautiful breakfast with Nicky and Coral. We went to Long Story Short in Port Melbourne. Have you been? Oh my, you must. My tastebuds are still zinging. And what kind of kids' book creator could resist the name of that cafe??

Nicky and Coral then did the airport run. You know someone loves you when they do the airport run. It was actually a great way to spend more quality time together, and I have to say it was hard to say goodbye.

At the airport, I took a treasure (below) from my bag--gifted by Jess Racklyeft. Jess had the great fortune of designing Snugglepot and Cuddlepie brooches for Erstwilder recently (this is one talented woman) and I am still overwhelmed one of them found its way to me. It's instantly become one of my greatest treasures. If you are keen for your own May Gibbs pin, keep an eye on the Erstwilder site. They sell out in moments, so keep an eye out for the next 'print run'!

And now for some gratuitous sky shots. I used to be a flight attendant, for goodness sake, but I never tire of the beauty up there on high.

I also have to give a shoutout to Qantas for this light lunch. It is seriously one of the most beautiful plates I've ever eaten, and this was airplane food! You can't see it, but also on the tray was a rather large slab of milk chocolate from Koko Black. Could a weekend have been more perfect?

Especially when you come home and the neighbour's cat not only comes over for a cuddle but sits on your books. As they should.

Okay, I think I've bombarded you with enough! I'm off for a lie down before I launch headlong into deadline.

I so highly recommend networking and information-gathering and enjoying kidlit conferences and festivals. They are overwhelming but magical. And oftentimes life-changing ... even if it's as simple as a new friend.


Anonymous said...

What a perfect summary of a perfect time. SO WONDERFUL we finally got to meet in person, although we knew it would be a delight, it was just brilliant! Remind me next time to AVOID ALL PHOTOS after I've slammed a couple of red wines. Big love T! xxx

Debra Tidball said...

Phew - I'm exhausted just reading all you got up to! What a wonderful weekend! Big congrats on the Crystal Kite award! I was unable to make Kidlitvic this year but have to content myself with memories of last year's event - it is a super day! Looking forward to seeing your girl and duck quackerthon with Jen.

Jambo said...

Brilliant!!!!! Nothing more to be said, except, I didn't get to chat with you, wahhhhh!!!!!

Buzz Words Magazine said...

I'm sold on your blog post. I nearly went to KidLit Vic this year but just couldn't make up my mind. Next time, definitely.

Sheryl Gwyther said...

Tania, I really enjoyed reading your version of the conference and all. Wonderful!! :)

sister outlaws said...

Wasn't it all a hoot! My mind was a-buzzing like crazy! Sooooooooooooooooo lovely to meet you - you are luminosity incarnate!

sister outlaws said...

Oh I should have said who I was - It's me! Mrs Slocombe haired Julianne!

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