Hello from long ago - an update

Sunday, 8 November 2020

Well, hello booklovers, 

Just wanted to say hi and send an update into the grand void. It's been a while. The last update was August, can you believe it. You know, life and all that - least of all this bonkers year. I don't really know where to start, so this post will be a little random and won't anywhere near include everything. But I'll try.

Most important news of all is that Canberra has had endless weeks of consistent rain. I can't even tell you a) how rare this is, and b) what this means to me (let alone the farmers). It's immensely happy-making for so many reasons, least of all setting us up for an easier summer, hopefully less fires, and a garden out of Eden. Our fruit trees are flourishing for the first time in too-long-to-remember. I'm spending decent tracts of time just walking outside and staring, sometimes sitting and staring. Running fingers over leaf. Sighing. It's just wonderful.

Weirdest thing of all is that I've taken to gum-chewing. I hate gum-chewing, and so do it in seclusion, but my God, I'm chumbling like a freight train (as I type!). A friend suggested it may be a way of dealing with stress, and I suppose it's better than out-of-control shopping. Oh. Wait...

So, America has a new president. That's a grand thing. I felt the Earth's axis tilt a little. That's an even better thing. Let's hope this heralds a new world energy that's exponentially more positive and less crappy.

It's been wonderful to see the release of Australia's Wild Weird Wonderful Weather and the imminent release of AlphaKid: An A to Z of Antics. This year has been a little bonkers will releases, and books often tend to come out all at once. AlphaKid had extra copies added to its print-run (yay!) but has hence been a little delayed (booo) but it should be in shops by the end of next week—and you can, of course, pre-order online or instore (always so appreciated).

Fauna recently won the 2020 Museums Australasia Multimedia & Publication Design Awards (Children's Books). What an overwhelming thing to be awarded for my layout and design on this book, and how grateful I am to my publisher, Susan Hall, for believing in me. It's not the first book I've designed and laid out, but it was by far the most comprehensive and challenging.

Fauna has just gone into reprint, so here it is with a cover sporting recent sticker embellishments. I really love this book with all my heart.

We've had a few health challenges in our family this year (who hasn't) and I'm sure so much of it has been due to this pervasive undercurrent of stress the world has been drenched with. This kind of thing really does force a step back, and for the first time EVER in my career, I've had to reluctantly delay one book, and cancel another. I have some truly wonderful publishers, and am fortunate to be in a position where this has provided much relief, not upset.

Back in September, Meet Matilda at the Festival, written by Jacqueline de Rose-Ahern and published by Puffin, was released. This incredible series of early readers was such a joy to be part of - it covers all Australian states and territories, and Jacqueline and I did, of course, the ACT. I was illustrator for this gorgeous little book - and it was heaps of fun bringing Matilda to life. Learn more about the book here.

If you'd like some fun Matilda activities for the kids, click the image below.

I Heart the World was printed especially for Kmart in August. It's a smaller version, with a smaller price-point. You can find it instore or online.

I bought a vintage Glomesh purse. Told you this post would be random.

And yes, I'm still Styling Tan (Facebook, Instagram) and loving it. Not only because it involves sequins and ruffles, but because I actually MOVE my body when I'm playing dress-ups. 12-hour days sitting in one position with back and arms locked is not good for the body, who'd have thunk it. And it's even worse when you pass your half-century. So, Styling Tan is my physio. If you're even part-way sartorial, head to the above links and give me a follow.

Book Week was, of course, set back to October this year. It's always a joy to see kids dress as your characters - and parents and carers and teachers - authors and illustrators so love to see pics! Thanks to these beautiful peeps who sent me these photos and have given me permission to publish. So incredibly creative and beautiful.

And check out some of the Fauna library displays - amazing!!

My latest puzzles were released these past months, too - Animals of Australia and Birds of Australia. Also The World Map Puzzle, all through Hardie Grant Travel. I'm creating some BigW versions of the bird and animal puzzles, with booklets attached (like the World Map one). Look out for them instore soon. Click on the images below to learn more about each one.

My book partner, Stephanie Owen Reeder, did a fabulous blog post for the National Library recently - all about how our book, Australia's Wild Weird Wonderful Weather, was created - from her first concept for a book on weather, through several incarnations, to what we have produced. If you love behind-the-scenes peeks, this post is for you. Click the image below to read.

Stephanie and I installed a Weather window at the National Library in late September. Gosh, it was fun. We even have a working fan in the window! It will be in-situ for a wee while longer, so do check it out if you're stopping by the NLA. And snaffle a signed book, too.

Stephanie and I also did a fab photo shoot for the Canberra Times recently. Click pic below to read.

Here are some recent picture book finds that I really love.

Oh, and here are two of the grown-up books I'm currently reading.

Also, I gave away around 700 picture books recently. I know. It was a huge thing. As my husband nears retirement, and we contemplate 'where we'll go' (hopefully Europe; it WAS Mars, but you know, things have shifted in a positive way these last couple of days), I knew it was time to let some go. But don't worry, I still have probably 2000 left. It's not all tragic.

And anyway - it's even more Not Tragic because of two things. The first is that picture books are no good sitting on a shelf being seen by no one, except me, with the occasional page-flick. So most of them (the mint ones) went to the Children's Book Council's Christmas Book Drive (ACT). Knowing the books will go to kids and be thoroughly thumbed, is pure joy to me. The rest (lightly thumbed) went to The Salvos. 

The second reason is a selfish one - removing these books made space for me to create a Walk-in-Room. As in, walk-in-robe, but a room. Yep. And I feel NO shame.

Here are some pictures. Whatever makes us happy, right?

Here is another picture of our rain-drenched garden. This is the garden outside our bedroom. You can see why it's so happy-making, this rain.

As for what I'm working on and what's coming up... I am deep in the first of a picture book series for Hardie Grant Travel, which is very exciting. It's about travel, yes, and it all starts in Antarctica. Here is a peek at the character... more on this soon.

In the new year, I'm starting on a picture book with a very well-known YA author. I'm playing the role of illustrator and it's all about animals and I'll be totally dressing them up couture. It's going to be heaps of fun.

I'll then be working on a sort of a sequel to Mamie, which is very, very exciting. I'm reading up on and researching Dorrie, and will be writing and illustrating in the new year.

Later next year, I'll be starting on the second in my picture book series, above, and also working on my huge animal book, which is going to be a whopping 104 pages. I'll also be sketching up illos for an adorable picture book with my friend Stephanie Owen Reeder, which I hope to have finished by the end of 2021.

It's shaping up for another busy year, and I won't get much time off over Christmas, but it's been really nice to enforce more downtime and Real Life time of late, hence the lack of blog posts.

Okay, peeps, I think that's enough randomness for now. I'll try to pop back again when I can. I hope you're having a lovely lead-up to Christmas. Of course, I'll be back soon enough with my annual Christmas decoration post, which I always, always make time for (albeit more simple the older I get).

Big love to you all. Happy reading, writing and dreaming.



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