production mode and a month in Adelaide

Friday 2 November 2018

Very soon, I'll be leaving for four weeks in Adelaide, thanks to the May Gibbs Children's Literature Trust. Four solid weeks of pure creative immersion (peppered with some fabulous and inspiring events, including a Mamie launch!).

I think I'm packed. I think I've left enough reminders for the family to lock the doors and check the post and water my orchids and hydrangeas. I think I'm ready to let go. I think I'm ready to seize this incredible opportunity to do nothing much (not even cooking or housework!!! OMG!!) but create create create. Thank you, MGCLT.

Sometime in December, I'll be able to reveal a wonderful new project I've been working on for emerging creators--both authors and illustrators. I can't wait to share it with you. It's been a lot of prep work (a LOT!) but I'm hoping it will be well worth it. At the top of this post is a peek at an image related to the project. More soon!

Yonks and yonks ago, I entered a call-out from one of my favourite magazines--Flow. It was for illustrations for their 365-day tear-off calendar.

Finally, finally, the calendars arrived and there is my balloon-toting girl! What a joy to be part of this amazing production, featuring stunning artworks from around the world by some of my favourite illustrators. A new image every day. Heaven.

You can check out the calendar yourself right here. It's available in Dutch and also German.

The new Kids' Reading Guide is out for 2018/2019 and I'm chuffed to see Mamie included (even though the cover was printed sideways). Just love this publication--it's a brilliant initiative. You can see the entire thing here.

I've been meaning to revamp my studio for a little while--it just needed a freshen-up and I wanted to put up new artwork, too. I mean, what good is it sitting in a drawer? I took some photos for a possible little opportunity--or should I say possibility--and here's hoping it comes true.

You can see, above, a paper mobile I made years ago out of my papery paraphernalia collection. Again, why stuff it in a drawer? It floats on the breeze every time you walk past, and it's one of my great treasures.

The Children's Book Council of Australia's biennial conference will be in Canberra next year and I'm excited to be a panelist, where I'll be talking about writing non-fiction children's books. Keep an eye on the CBCA website for the program announcement--there are some brilliant sessions and presenters planned.

Recently, the National Centre for Australian Children's Literature hosted a program entitled Sharing Stories, which celebrated Australian children's books and translations. A touring exhibition of 191 children's books in 50 different languages was a sight to behold, and we enjoyed talks by Jackie French and Ursula Dubosarsky at Woden Library, and a symposium at the University of Canberra featuring Libby Gleeson, Freya Blackwood, Matthew Callaghan and Angela Naomi, who discussed the art and science of translating Australian children's books.

I don't know if you've heard, but school libraries are evaporating into thin air (ach, makes my heart hurt to type this). If governments around the world were in the least bit tapped into the importance of books and literacy, ESPECIALLY for the very young, this would make headline news every day of the week. But, no. So, clever bookish people need to step up and do something about it.

Students Need School Libraries is doing just that. Check out what they're doing right here, and you can follow them on socials--facebook, twitter, instagram and youtube. Use the hashtag:


Because, well, they really do.

Spread the word! If you're an author or illustrator, why not send in your testimonial? See what other authors and illustrators have said by clicking the image above.

The Eric Carle museum shared this announcement on Instagram recently. I've been searching for a hardcover cope of The Very Hungry Caterpillar for literally 18 years--from when my daughter was born. This 50th Anniversary celebratory edition is not only hardcover, it's GOLD! And very best of all, it's been cuddled by Eric Carle himself! Cannot wait to get my hands on this. Will share a pic when it arrives.

Speaking of books, I've had a bit of a spree since we last spoke. Here are some treasures to add to your picture book collection:


This last book--The Writer's Map--blew me away. Ever-obsessed with maps, it was an astonishing journey through maps and story, with some of the world's most amazing creators--Chris Riddell, Coralie Bickford-Smith, Philip Pullman, Miraphora Mina, Brian Selznik, and more. You can see a content outline right here.

In this book, I discovered some astonishing story maps that I'd never seen before, including:


Are they not divine? Hard to see detail, I know, but they're so rich with children's literature, it's astonishing. Like, where Miss Muffet was scared by the spider, where Jack and Jill got married, where Poo Bear lives, where Captain Ahab pursued Moby Dick and the approximate location of Treasure Island. You know, heart-thumping stuff like that.

Now I just need to find out how I can source some prints of these (without a hefty price tag!).

I also learned this word:

It's Japanese. And it's a descriptive word for the perennial piles of books you've bought and haven't yet read. You know those? Thank God I'm not alone! I am in love with this word--and thank you, Japan, for having such cool words of such nuance.

Speaking of cool, it's now time for my November Insta Crush. Meet Holly McGuire. She's a UK-based freelance illustrator and I just love her quirky style, fresh ideas, divine colour palette with retro leanings. Honestly, don't you just want to sit all day and draw tins and packets and labels? I so do.

Feast the eyes!

What a gelato treat.

What else? In my quest to spend most of my time in Real Life, I've been peeling even further away from social media, and actually meet people--gasp!--in person. It's been enriching to catch up with friends and colleagues IRL, and October was a social month overall with stacks of events and book launches (at least one every weekend!) and coffee dates. And thank goodness, because I've bought some new frocks of late and where can one wear them when one spends 90 per cent of their time in their studio??


But seriously, I've finally reached my tipping point with online living. Not sure how you're feeling about this, but I can no longer sustain it. In fact, it has kind of eaten away at my health and sanity.

Since starting out on this kids' book journey, I've met and developed relationships with an enormous amount of incredible people, the vast majority of them online. When the 52-Week Illustration Challenge began, that number quadrupled. I've realised I can no longer sustain the vastness of those connections, especially when the effort isn't returned or if I'm only really needed when someone wants something (often). Both eat away at your heart over time and make you question your value.

In fact, I honestly feel like we've already entered that inevitable Apocalyptic world... each person for themselves, and the entire world's woes (oversharing--groan) are now in our laps, affecting us at the deepest of levels, especially when we're empaths (and so many creatives are).

So, since weaning myself offline (more and more each day) the improvement in my happiness and calm and reconnection has been vast, and I'm hoping my time in Adelaide will really cement this return to Real Life. It really is true--we prioritise what we value, and remembering this has really opened my eyes. 


Am I alone here? Surely I'm not alone?

The iGen kids have got it right--41 per cent say social media makes them depressed and anxious and more than a third want out for good, according to a recent study.

If you suffer from FOMO, read this.

And if you're worried about letting go of a way to promote your work or books, know that the hugely limiting algorithms put in place by most social media sites has already stunted exposure considerably, and most of your posts would only reach the people who already follow your work (therefore superfluous). As for friendships, well, getting off social media will be your real test for those, and that's not such a bad thing, is it?

On a lighter note, we've been redoing our garden. Right now, our backyard is a wasteland. We actually ripped out a super long and established hedge, as our weather conditions have changed so much this past decade, it wasn't going to survive another summer. God, that was painful. We're deciding on a new option to take its place, and have grand plans for even more birch trees, grasses, succulents, and another weeping maple.

My hydrangea garden (we began it last year) is doing well, as are our new standard iceberg roses. My son has been tasked with the veggie patch this year (it's been three years in fallow) and we can't wait to see what he does with it, and what he chooses to grow. Will post pics once it's all established. If global warming doesn't strike it down first.

Well, I'm off to finish packing. I'm scheduling a few posts to appear when Mamie hits the shelves (16 November), so watch out for those--you could win a book, and there are some treats for the kids. Irma Gold is also running a comp to win a copy of Mamie, so take a look here--scroll down and you'll see a book cover in the right sidebar, with all the details (closes 12 Nov).

Although I'll be pretty immersed, I'll try to post a peek at my Fellowship on social media in the coming weeks, including the Mamie launch at Carrick Hill Estate. If you're in or around Adelaide and can come along, the deets are below, just click the poster for more. I need RSVPs for kids (for catering).

As we barrel into summer, I wish you time--in the pre-Christmas rush--to sit quietly and pour your creative ideas onto paper or the digital page. Our creative core needs constant working out, just as our biological core does. We owe it to ourselves to commit that time to creative expression--it's so happy-making. And goodness knows, the world needs more happy right now.


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