Generosity

After the horror and devastation of the bush fires human kindness emerges. From lemonade stands to celebrity donations, people across Australia and the world are opening their hearts, homes and wallets. Thinking about the lost lives, habitat and wildlife is overwhelming so for now I’m trying to focus on kindness and ways to help.

One inspirational campaign is the twitter auction #AuthorsForFireys. Started by authors Emily Gale and Nova Weetman the auction ends at 11 pm tonight EST. The opportunities being offered are wide-reaching. You can buy original artworks, signed books, have an author name a human or even wombat character after you (Jackie French), bid for an author visit to your school or book group, have authors cook for you … All funds raised go directly to an Australian state fire service.

My donation is a stack of signed books and a cake/coffee meeting or postage. I joined Twitter to take part and so am still learning how it all works. Thanks to the current top bidder Peter Williams with a generous $250. Thank you also to Melinda Tognini, Heather Delfs, Louise Brooks, Julie Woodland, Felix from website designers Social Force, Audrey Davidson and Tamara Moss for kicking off the bids. More details: https://twitter.com/diannewolfer/status/1214347769713790977 or the website is here. Please dig deep to help our fire fighters.

Embers

After the horrendous fires are extinguished the ripples will continue. Socials ripples of devastated families and ravaged town, loss of stock and wildlife, financial hardship and deep emotional scars.

Yesterday my sister evacuated from her remote home in the Snowy Mountains. Their property is home to endangered quoll (filmed by the BBC), as well as wombats, echidna and beautiful mountain birds. My heart aches for the dying wildlife, innocent victims of our lack of environmental care. The photos show the home track; on a normal day and earlier this week.

Before leaving they nailed tin sheets over the wooden verandas, left water for the animals and nailed meat from the freezer onto the quoll trees. Further south my cousins and niece are fighting fires, and my daughter returns from holiday to toxic Canberra air. Amongst all this devastation there is another tiny loss, insignificant to anyone but me.

For several months I’ve been working on a novel. I’m two-thirds into a first draft with funding help from the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries. The setting of this story is a road journey through regions now devastated by fire; Gippsland, Eden, Batlow, the lower Snowies … Given the catastrophic fires, horror and sadness my current storyline now seems trivial. I will need to alter the setting or indeed the whole tone of my project. But first we need to get through Saturday. We’re en route to family in Albury. Let’s hope communities across Australia are safe during the next bout of extreme weather. Thank you to our brave firies.

Animals who Talk

I’m thrilled to announce the launch of my new website www.animalswhotalk.com. A website dedicated to all things anthropomorphic.

For several months Zoe and Felix from Social Force have been patiently helping me the shape the website and the accompanying Wolfish Blog. I love the final look of the site and look forward to adding more information over summer. My regular blog posts will look at ways authors and illustrators use animal characters in fiction. I’ll be sharing background to my own works, listing favourite animal titles and providing links to interesting articles and discussions about anthropomorphism.

For teachers, there will be links to themes, topics and animal species which you may find useful when programming. For book-lovers I hope you’ll find your next favourite animal story. You can also Join the Pack to receive regular posts and I’d love to hear from you. Who are your favourite animal characters? Do you love Bottersnikes? What is your daemon?

During the next few weeks clips of authors and illustrators will appear on the Instagram carousel. They’ll be sharing their thoughts on how animals inspire their creativity. The first clip will be up soon. Enjoy!

The word count is growing …

Summer = Writing Time.

Like many people at this time of the year I am planning a road trip. However this road trip is a fictitious one. The novel that I’m working on revolves around the twelve year old daughter of a truck driver and a special summer journey she takes with her dad. Their travels so far have taken them from Benalla in Victoria to Frankston, Sale, the Ninety Mile Beach and Eden. I hope to visit these locations after this first read-through draft is completed. In the meantime I’m learning a lot about trucks and it’s exciting to see the word count of this project growing. Thanks to the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries for 13 weeks of funded creative writing time.

Writing Time

For an author writing time is a precious gift and I’m grateful to the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries for providing me with 13 weeks of funded creative writing time via a Creative Development grant. This means that the manuscript I’ve been trying to write between doing other day-job-work will actually be written!

The project is for middle-grade readers with a probable final word length of around 30,000 words. I have characters in place, chapters roughed out and it’s exciting to see the story coming to life as I start joining the dots. My aim is to complete a read-through draft ready to submit to publishers by mid-February. I’ll be posting four progress blogs between now and then sharing details of my writing journey, how the characters are unfolding and updates on the elusive word count. The latter goes up and down as I edit. The working title of my story is Scout and the Big Rig. More details in another post soon …

Speech Pathology Awards

This morning The Dog with Seven Names won the Best Book for Language Development in the 8 to 10 category of the Speech Pathology Awards. What a week! I’m thrilled to win this prestigious award. Little dog’s fictitious tail is wagging. 

Today I’m presenting at the wonderful Celebrate Reading Conference in Fremantle, so I’m unable to be in Melbourne to accept. Lisa Riley, Publisher for Young Readers at Penguin Random House has stepped in again to accept on my behalf. Thank you Lisa.

The Speech Pathology Awards support literacy development and celebrate richness in language. Winning is a great honour for me. Here is my acceptance speech with some background of how the story came to be. 

Harry award pic

Thank you for this great honour. I wish I could be with you at the awards ceremony today however I have a prior commitment, presenting at the Celebrate Reading Conference in Fremantle, WA. Thank you, Lisa Riley, Publisher for Young Readers at Penguin Random House for representing me and accepting the Speech Pathology Book of the Year Award on my behalf.

My heartfelt thanks to the organisers, judges, sponsors and supporters of the Speech Pathology Awards. I am thrilled to win the Best Book for Language Development in the 8 to 10 Years category, especially with such prestigious fellow shortlistees. The Speech Pathology Awards are greatly valued by children’s authors as they celebrate all that is significant and precious in children’s literature. I love the way the judging criteria is broken into seven book elements and each element is then subdivided into four or more sub-points (35 in total). This level of detailed reading and seeing of books is professionally delightful.

When I read the judging guidelines, I was humbled that the judges felt that my Dog with Seven Names met such thoughtful and considered criteria. In particular I loved that they felt Dog represents diverse Australia, creates a sense of wonder, mystery and excitement, has universal appeal, tells a good tale and leads to conversation during the reading and long after the book has finished. I’m not sure which of those two latter elements I was most excited by.

As a regional author living five hours drive from what is said to be one of the most isolated cities in the world, it’s wonderfully reaffirming that a story set in wartime in an even more regional area of north-western Australia, told from the point of view of a dog, can win. Although I am far away, please imagine me at this moment sharing the good news with my peers at The Literature Centre. We will raise a glass to you all and later when I am home in Albany, my rescue dog, Harry, will receive an enormous bone. Writing anthropomorphically was not easy and watching the way he interprets our world often inspired my writing. Thanks Harry!

The Dog with Seven Names was one of two PhD Creative Works. The other work, The Shark Caller is told from a very different anthropomorphic viewpoint. Thank you to the University of Western Australia for scholarship funding. Thanks also to my agent, Clive Newman, my patient family and the team at Penguin Random House. Special accolades to Publisher, Zoe Walton and Editor, Mary Verney for their wise editing.

To research this story I travelled to remote parts of Western Australia’s Pilbara and Kimberley regions. I wanted to visit Port Hedland, Marble Bar and the harsh bushland beyond Australia’s hottest town. I went in search of the secret WW2 airfield at Corunna Downs and imagined Liberators lumbering north on bombing raids in 1943.

I timed my research trip to coincide with Broome’s extreme low tide, one of the few times each year when the wrecks of wartime flying boats are visible in the mudflats. I stopped to remember the countless women and children who died there and in a beautiful moment of synchronicity, met the daughter of one of the Dutch pilots. Karen Hasselo’s dad was 99 and living in Melbourne. She’d made the trip to photograph the wreck of his plane. I focused on sounds and smells, trying to imagine these settings from a dog’s perspective and I also thought about the child evacuees who fled their northern homes for safety in Perth and Geraldton.

The Dog with Seven Names explores a little known aspect of Australian history. I am grateful that winning this important award will help bring diverse voices from the past to the attention of contemporary readers. Writing can be a solitary and sometimes frustrating occupation. Days like this make it all worthwhile. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

 

 

 

The Nance Donkin Award

I’m thrilled to announce that today I was awarded the Society of Women Writers Nance Donkin Literary Award. This national award is given biennially to a woman writing for children. Thank you Lisa Riley, Publisher for Young Readers at Penguin Random House for attending the ceremony on my behalf. I’m deeply honoured to receive an award in memory of this pioneering Australian author and as I’ve outlined in my acceptance speech below, the award links back to the first steps I took on my writing journey with the WA branch of  the Society of Women Writers. The image below shows me accepting the SWW Bronze Quill Award in 1992 with baby Sophie (now 27) in tow.

Jumping ahead to 2019 …

Here is my Acceptance Speech for the  2019 Nance Donkin Literary Award

Thank you for this great honour. I wish I could be with you at the awards ceremony today however I am in Albany, Western Australia, taking part in the University of WA (Albany campus, where I work as tutor) 20 year celebrations. Thank you, Lisa Riley, Publisher for Young Readers at Penguin Random House, for kindly representing me and accepting the Nance Donkin Award on my behalf.

As a regional author living five hours from what is said to be the most isolated capital city in the world, it’s wonderfully reaffirming and humbling to be chosen as winner for a national award that recognises and encourages women who write for children. Although I’m not with you in person today, I know that we are all together in spirit as women who write.

The Society of Women Writers will always hold a special place in my heart. As a nervous young aspiring author, living away from family and friends on the other side of the country, I joined the WA branch of the Society of Women Writers. A warm circle of kind, wise and supportive women welcomed me. I’d found my tribe. I was teaching at the time and could not attend weekday meetings, so I joined a magazine group. How I looked forward to seeing that bulky envelope sticking out of my letterbox each month. I’d make a cuppa then settle down to read my fellow members’ offerings, write gentle suggestions for them and pore over their feedback on my own scribblings. This group provided valuable encouragement and counsel as I learnt my craft. Years later when a few SWW members decided to begin a critique group focusing on writing for children and younger readers, I became editor.

The WA branch of the Society of Women Writers also sponsors the Bronze Quill Short Story Award. It was the first writing award I won, in 1992. My story, Gokiburi (meaning cockroach in Japanese), was loosely inspired by moving north to Carnarvon as a young Victorian-trained teacher after living in Japan for three years. The story is about a Japanese wife trying to adapt to life in a new place, something I’d experienced both in Tokyo and in the west.

I’m thrilled to now win another Society of Women Writers Award, one that honours an inspirational, dynamic Australian woman who was a pioneer of children’s literature. Sadly I never met Nance Donkin, however I know that, amongst many other things, she worked tirelessly to enable children’s authors to visit regional schools, a cause very dear to my heart. Each year I travel to remote communities across Australia, reading stories and facilitating workshops for hundreds of students. I love quirky outback stories and now serve as Remote Regions Advisor for the WA branch of my current tribe, the Society of Children’s Book Authors and Illustrators. Now, when I visit students across WA and beyond, I will think fondly of Nance and her important work in promoting regional school visits.

I would like to thank my peers, the family of Nance Donkin, the judges and all who facilitate this prestigious award which inspires and validates children’s literature. Thank you also to my agent, Clive Newman and publishers, Fremantle Press, Walker Books, Cengage Learning and Penguin Random House for publishing my nineteen books to date.  I hope there will be many more.

Writing can be a solitary and sometimes frustrating occupation. Moments like this make the months of writing, researching and editing worthwhile. I am deeply humbled to receive the Nance Donkin Award. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.