mid-winter update

Friday, 4 August 2017

Hello, possums! Are you toasty warm? I truly hope so.

We are having a strange winter in Canberra. Some of the coldest mornings we've had in years (I think minus 8 recently?? who knows. I was tucked up to the chin in bed!), yet I only trimmed the last of our iceberg roses (above) about 10 days ago. So so strange. AND they'd turned pink. Perhaps that rosy blush helped keep them warm?

Lemon meringue pie with macarons and strawberries has helped stave off the cold, though I promise I only gobbled a sliver. It was for my girl's 17th birthday, and no, I didn't make it. Those days are long gone. All creative time now goes into writing and illustration, so thank you, Jamie Oliver!

This past month has been pretty hectic and quite social (ahead of a period of self-imposed exile) and one of my favourite events was the opening of the Imagine If... exhibition of children's book art at the University of Canberra, put together by Emeritus Professor Belle Alderman and her team at the National Centre for Australian Children's Literature. Oh my, you simply must must must MUST go.

It runs until 30 August, and is only open four hours in the middle of the day, from 10am to 2pm, so do get your timing right. You'll not only enjoy some stunning original works by such luminaries as Bob Graham, Shaun Tan, Graeme Base, Kerry Argent, Narelle Oliver and Gregory Rogers, you'll also fall in love with the series of Book Week posters over time, including Freya Blackwood's stunning piece for 2017, below. (Had to harness every ounce of will power not to tear it from the wall and run. Seriously.)

I hope you get a chance to see it. I mean, look, below--an original Shaun Tan. It will knock your socks off.

Belle (below left) opened the evening, followed by words from John Faulks, NCACL Chair, and Professor Nick Klomp from UC. It was wonderful to have CBCA Chair Margo Hillel (below right) in town to speak, too, followed by the superb Bob Graham. Needless to say, there were goosebumps all round.

You can read more about the event via Leanne Barrett's blog right here, and also see her post on the Muse event, where Bob dissects the anatomy of a picture book (here).

Click on the poster below for more about the event, and for your chance to win this original Bob Graham artwork. Yes, original. And look how gorgeous. You want it, don't you?


Okay, what else has been going on. Oh--of course! The cover reveal for Merry Everything!, illustrated by Jess Racklyeft and out with Windy Hollow this October. If you're in Melbourne, there'll be a launch on Saturday 30 Sept at 10.30am at The Little Bookroom in Carlton, so watch this space for more details.

Here is an internal peek. Isn't Jess so clever?

Jess and I also have a sequel to Smile Cry coming out early 2018--entitled See Hear (EK Books). It's just divine--we had so much fun working on it. Here is a peek...

And here is me as a bunny. Don't you love Snapchat for making you look like a bunny who's, like, about 12? If only I had that filter in real life...

These last couple of weeks, Christina Booth and I have been finishing off our latest book for the National Library of Australia. Wait till you see her illustrations. The cover is being finalised and I've been working on the addendum pages.

Here is a peek...

The book will be out sometime next year.

I've also been powering through the illustrations for my collaboration with Jackie French for the NLA, and have finished the first illo draft. Here is a peek. It's been digitally crafted, with hand-painted textures and photographs of textures (cement, trees, grass, tiles) from the waterfront near the NLA.

My map for Hardie Grant Travel has gone to print and I'm in the midst of designing the packaging for the tubing and dump bin (which holds 12 maps). This should be done in the next week or so. The map is out December and will be available around Australia and online. Here are some birds from the map... (I like birds)...

Book Week is coming, of course (fave week of the year!) and I'll be attending the Book of the Year Announcement at the National Library on Friday 18 August. Myself and several other authors will be signing books in the foyer afterwards, so come along! Click the poster below to reserve a place for the announcement event. Space is limited.


Very soon I'll be starting work on my presentation for the SCBWI Inaugural Conference (click the poster below for more) on 9 September here in Canberra. It's a full day event and is going to be sensational. There are still some tix available, but get in quick because seats are really limited. Manuscript critiques with Clare Hallifax from Scholastic have all been snaffled but I'll be doing (along with Tony Flowers) some portfolio critiques, if you're interested in such things, and I think there are a few spaces left. Get in quick.


I've been reworking a junior fiction novel and my aim is to take it from middle grade down to early junior fiction. It was originally 36K words then was cut to 26K around a years ago. I've recently cut it to 6K and am letting it marinate before cutting another 1K (such a good thing to do). It's been an interesting process! But I'm really happy with how it's emerged from the wringer. Thank goodness.

An exciting development: I'm about to sign with a major publisher for a dream picture book, which I'm writing and illustrating. Not that I ever stop learning and honing my craft, but I've felt particularly compelled to focus on characterisation, emotion and movement in my characters, and who better to teach me than kids' book illustrator extraordinare, Nina Rycroft. She has some fabulous classes on Skillshare (see them here) and I'm loving each and every one (my efforts below). I'm hoping you can see the link I've shared to Nina, as I was signed in to Skillshare when I copied it. If it fails, just search for her yourself on the site.

We've long been a one-car family (would prefer to travel than have a second car; plus, you know, the planet and all that) but with my daughter turning 17, we've needed to finally bite the bullet and invest in a little buzz-around. This has eased the strain on our schedule somewhat, but it's also meant I can now do the author-writing-in-a-cafe thing, which I SO miss. Only thing is, I need a laptop (something I've not had for about 8 years; I know).

I want a Surface Pro because Macs drive me nuts, and when a friend bought one recently, she was in rapture over the fact that you can use the screen with Adobe Illustrator, just as you would a Cintique tablet (which costs about a billion dollars). Gasp. I knew I had to get one. Alas, after buying that car and earning an author's massive wage (ha ha ha ha haaaa! ha ha ha ha haaaa!--if I didn't laugh, I'd cry), I knew I'd be paying for a Surface Pro with buttons. So I asked the Universe to send me some money to buy one, and frankly, I highly recommend asking the Universe for something you are intensely passionately about, because it's quite a miraculous thing. The money has popped up out of nowhere and very soon, I'll be sitting in a cafe, writing like I'm living in Paris, or something. I might have to dig out the beret.

What else? This post is getting long.

Oh--I finally, finally bought myself some superb watercolours (with a slice of the Universe gift). Yes, I am a Winsor and Newton virgin, but... no more! It took me 20 minutes to unwrap each little darling brick for my pan palette, and it was a therapeutic and joyful thing. At first hesitant to wet and scuff a brush over a pristine block, I jumped in, and it was so happy-making. I really did need these and I'm simply busting to create. Next week, for sure.

We don't have a cat. That may sound like a random statement but it's a big part of our family life because my kids have asked if we can get a dog or cat or rabbit or guinea pig or goldfish almost EVERY SINGLE DAY of our lives ensemble (and they are now well into their teens).

We can't have a pet (won't bore you with details but most of it involves my husband's and my own hectic work schedules), so I asked the Pet God to send something to ease the strain, and we were sent a neighbour's cat, who pops in almost daily for a scrap of food and a cuddle, before disappearing again. Perfect. This is the most blase cat on the planet, but we adore him. He used to be fat but now he is slim, so we call him Fat Boy Slim.

Recently, I stumbled on a YouTube vid--Cats Scared of Cucumbers and I wet myself three times (see it here) at the total freakouts cats have over cukes. My son kept pestering me to try the cucumber trick on Fat Boy Slim, so I did it the other day. And it's an absolute HOOT (though my fave part is when he finishes drinking his milk, and also--why is it that a cat will turn its head the complete OPPOSITE way to the way you want it to, every single time? What is it with that?). Anyhoo, I hope you enjoy this 30 seconds (listen for my whisky laugh at the end). Strongly recommend you watch the original cat/cucumber video on YouTube first.

Okay. I must go scuff another brush into my pan palette. But first, this morning, I had a mentoring session with the lovely Genevieve Hopkins of www.verybrambleberry.com on her path towards book stardom, and she gifted me this totes adorable mouse--William Brambleberry. Isn't he divine? I'm wondering if he'll pass for a pet with the kids. Will let you know how I go...

Keep snug!


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