Save the Date

Just a very quick post to share the excitement.

Black Swan Theatre’s production of ‘Lighthouse Girl’ will open in Albany in April for three shows before a two-week season in Perth. Hellie Turner’s play captures the essence of both Lighthouse Girl and Light Horse Boy and I can’t wait to see Fay’s story come to life on stage. Fay will be played by Daisy Coyle.

More details appeared in Saturday’s West Australian – between Green Day and Jerry Seinfield 😉 and can also be found on Black Swan Theatre’s website. Hope to see you at one of the shows…

Talented Young Writers

The Literature Centre runs a fabulous program called The Talented Young Writers Program in Fremantle as well as six regional centres across Western Australia. Last week I travelled to schools in Bunbury and Busselton with Education Officer Beck Blaxell to work with some of these creative students.

The students (from Years 6-12) meet four times a year with a visiting author to hone their writing skills. We talked about developing ideas, plotting, character development and my PhD research topic ‘anthropomorphism’. Students shared their own ideas and writing drafts. I heard so many great stories and can happily report that the future of WA storytelling is in safe hands.

Thank you to all at The Lit Centre for inviting me to be part of this great program, to the schools, teachers and parents for supporting this investment in our future. And… a  special shout-out to Beck who made sure everything ran smoothly, for being wonderful company and for introducing me to the delicious cabbage salad at Market Eating House (sounds weird, tastes great).

Susanne Gervay

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Multi-talented author, Susanne Gervay OAM works tirelessly to support children’s authors and illustrators. Last week she was in overdrive facilitating the Sydney SCBWI  Conference.

Susanne does so much for the children’s writing community in so many ways. This is a thank you shout-out to her, Deb AbelaMarjorie Crosby-Fairall and all the others who worked hard to make the SCBWI conference such a success.

Susanne writes across genres and is best known for her award-winning I am Jack series. These stories have been life-changing for children across the world who, like central character Jack, must find ways to cope with bullies.

My favourite Susanne Gervay book is the beautiful, wise and gentle Elephants have Wings. Her powerful YA titles; The Cave (the story of young men on a survival camp) and Butterflies are both books about courage. More fabulous titles can be found on Susanne’s website.

Thank you, Susanne for all you do to support children’s literacy. You are an inspiration.

 

Australia! Story Country

 

Thank you to all the wonderful students and teachers who hosted me for Bookweek. With schools ranging from inner-city Perth to Tom Price and Paraburdoo, this year’s theme certainly resonated with my travels …

‘Australia! Story Country’ was a fun theme and the 2016 displays seemed even better than usual. Granny Grommet and Me, Lighthouse Girl and The Kid whose Mum Kept Possums in her Bra worked particularly well with the Aussie theme.

Here are some of my favourite Bookweek photos.

 

Thanks again, Newman College, Mel Maria Catholic Primary, Paraburdoo Kindies, Tom Price Year 7, Presbyterian Ladies College and IONA Presentation College, Albany’s Australian Christian College (and next week Brighton Primary).

 

Haiku Fun

I love haiku. So do many young writers.winners & r up2

At first glance haiku poetry is simple; 5 syllables on line 1, 7 syllables on line 2 and 5 syllables again on line 3. Composing haiku is achievable and clapping syllables is fun for even young children, but for skilled poets, there is so much more…

Traditional haiku hold kigo, a word to hint at or signify seasonality. For example, with four clearly defined Japanese seasons, including the word ‘dragonfly’ or ‘persimmon’ indicate not just which season, but which part of the season the poem reflects. Haiku poets may thus refer to Saijiki (dictionaries listing kigo) when composing new works.

To celebrate the Albany launch of The Shark Caller, Year Six students from across The Great Southern were invited to enter a haiku poetry competition. Thank you to Dora Adeline and the Albany Library for their help collating entries and to esteemed poets, Barbara Temperton and Maree Dawes for their generosity and wisdom in judging the entries.

Selecting four Winning entries and four Highly Commended entries was challenging. As the judges said in their report:

… All poems showed some appreciation of the sea, and some of the images made us smile. Many showed an awareness of poetic devices, such as repetition, rhyme and sibilance…

Four Highly Commended haiku were selected (congratulations Summer, Maximus, Jasmyne and Devon), and there were four winning entries. The winning haiku by Maddy, Jake, Dannon and Becky are presented below:

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Each winner received a signed copy of The Shark Caller and met with me for a Milkshake Meeting to chat about books and writing. It was a pleasure to spend time with these budding poets. Thank you to home-schooling families, teachers from Albany’s John Calvin School and Spencer Park Primary as well as everyone else involved.

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5 sleeps until Bookweek

This year the theme is Australia! Story Country.

In addition to the amazing books that are shortlisted, here is a quick shout-out for Frane’ Lessac’s terrific new picture book, A is for Australia.

My favourite page is the Rottnest Island spread. With lots of fun facts, it’s a great Bookweek resource.

This year I’ll be at Newman College, Mel Maria Primary, Presbyterian Ladies College and Iona Presentation College for Bookweek. I’ll also be in Paraburdoo as part of Rio Tinto’s Groundbreaker Pilbara Exhibition. I’m looking forward to meeting hundreds of young readers and hearing all about their favourite Australian stories.

Shark Launch #2: Perth

AQWA, the Aquarium of Western Australia was the perfect venue for The Shark Caller Perth launch. Friends and colleagues gathered by the front door and were met by a snorkel-wearing shark and a glass of bubbles. Then we moved downstairs into the tunnel…

The tank at AQWA is huge with sharks, turtles and other exciting marine creatures. I am grateful to the AQWA team for their generosity, Beaufort Street Books, my agent Clive Newman and Professor Shaun Collin for his fascinating speech linking aspects of my new book with his leading edge research into shark sensory systems. I was thrilled that several other shark researchers were also able to attend; Lucille Chapuis, Kara Yopak and Caroline Kerr. Lucille has spent time in villages near the (fictitious) PNG setting in my story and I look forward to hearing more about her research.

Now that The Shark Caller has been launched twice, I am looking forward to sharing the story and writing process with students during Bookweek. Meanwhile the Albany Public Library has been running an ocean-themed haiku competition to tie-in with the Albany launch and winners will be announced next week. More details about that soon …

Friends appearing in the photographs above: Professor Shaun Collin, Jen Mars, Kris Williams, Meg McKinlay, Jen Banyard, Frane’ Lessac, Maree Whiteley, Mailee Clarke, Sasha Burbridge, Sophie Wolfer, Anni Wood and Melinda Tognini.

Shark Launch #1 Albany:

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The countdown to Launch #1 began with my sister flying in from the east. The Shark Caller is dedicated to three people and Karen is one of them. And last week, Karen surprised me with the most amazing gift; a shark carved from obsidian. If you read the book you will understand why this is such a precious gift. Over the past few years I’ve trawled the Internet for obsidian and never came close to finding anything like this.

For many children’s authors and illustrators, August is the busiest time of the year with Bookweek school and library visits spilling over into the rest of the month. For me, 2016 is busier than usual with two book launches to celebrate the release of The Shark Caller with Penguin Random House and a mini book tour of Esperance and Kalgoorlie.

Launch 1 was held at the Albany Surf Club, supported by Albany Public Library and Paperbark Merchants. It was a wonderful evening and here are some photos of the event.

 

 

Better Beginnings is a fabulous program that promotes early literacy.

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The pilot scheme began in 2004 with six WA libraries providing reading packs to the families of newborn babies. What a wonderful way to encourage a love of reading!

IMG_5061Since then, the program has grown and includes far flung communities from Wyndham to Esperance. Each year over 60,000 families  receive a Better Beginnings reading pack. I’m honoured that  Granny Grommet and Me, my picture book with illustrator, Karen Blair is one of the 30 recommended books for 4 and 5 year olds.  And the cover image sits beside one of my all-time favourite stories, Harry the Dirty Dog.

IMG_7022Better Beginnings is sponsored by state and local government as well as Rio Tinto. This year, to commemorate 50 years since iron ore ship, Houn Maru left Dampier for Japan, Rio Tinto is facilitating the Groundbreaker Pilbara Tour.

Last week I travelled from Perth to Wickham in the Pilbara to help celebrate Rio’s ongoing link with Better Beginnings.

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While I was there, I met lovely Pre-Primary to Year Two students from Wickham Primary. They were keen readers and we had fun sharing stories. I even met the son of one of the real Granny Grommets.

Before my sessions I squeezed in some sightseeing, with a quick trip to the old port of Cossack, the Burrup peninsula and a selfie with the wonderful Red Dog.

In August I will be visiting two other Pilbara communities as part of the Groundbreaker Tour. On 19th August I’ll be in Dampier and then on 22nd August I will travel to Paraburdoo. Thanks to the Rio Tinto organisers. I’m looking forward to meeting more Better Beginnings readers soon …

A shoal of Sharks

… or a shiver of sharks. Or just a school of sharks.

Either way, my first box load of The Shark Caller arrived today. After so many years and hundreds of drafts, it’s become a book.

shark cover

It’s not actually on bookshop shelves yet, but has officially reached the ‘pre-order’ status, so that shouldn’t be too far away. So exciting…

 

AQWA Story Readings

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Lilian loves stories

This week I’ve been meeting young readers at the WA Aquarium for story-time.

We’ve been reading Granny Grommet and Me in front of a tank that’s home to some of the sea creatures that appear in the story. Lilian spotted angel fish in the tank and in the book!

Young book lovers also knew the names of sea stars, leafy sea dragons and many other marine animals.

I’ll be reading again tomorrow at 11.45, so please come and say hello if you are planning a trip top AQWA.

For middle and upper primary teachers and students, I’ll be back again on July 29th to read from The Shark Caller on the same day it will be launched.

My favourite sea creature so far, was this friendly ray in sick bay.

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Gairdner Primary

The K-Year 2 students at Gairdner Primary and their teachers are very talented artists. Look what they made after we read Granny Grommet and Me!

I love the way the budding illustrators mixed the bright colours with edacol dye. If you look closely you can see all sorts of sea creatures; saw fish, octopus, jellyfish, angelfish, whales and even leafy sea dragons… Thank you for inviting me into your classroom.

World Oceans Day

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Happy World Oceans Day.

I had hoped to be celebrating with a walk at beautiful Middleton Beach in Albany, but given the wintry weather, have made do with a brisk walk at the harbour instead.

For the past three years as I’ve reworked drafts of nearly-published, The Shark Caller (Aug 1st), my mind has been focused on underwater creatures and the challenges threatening our oceans. Since completing the final draft in January, the situation has become even more dire for our Great Barrier Reef and here in WA, we hear heated community discussions over sharks and keeping swimmers safe. Sadly there are no easy answers.

I love swimming, diving, snorkelling and walking along the beach, and hope future generations will also be able to enjoy these simple pleasures in an ocean free of pollution and acidity.

The Shark Caller has been one of those stories that’s had a very long gestation, with the first idea, sparked by wonder at the beauty of marine life on a reef in Papua New Guinea. Despite our various inventions and deep-sea explorations, for me the ocean still holds that sense of wonder, mystery and adventure, qualities evident in some of the old classics like Hemingway’s, The Old Man and the Sea or Jules Verne’s fabulous, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. I never finished Moby Dick  but with whale season just starting, maybe I should give that one another go.

And there are so many fun ocean stories for children. My favourites include: Kylie Howarth’s Fish Jam, a jazzy picture book for young and old which is currently CBCA shortlisted; Bruce Whatley’s Looking for Crabs and Naomi Kojima’s quirky Singing Shijimi Clams (might be hard to find the latter). Karen Blair’s illustrations for Granny Grommet and Me also always make me smile! face3

For music lovers who like ocean themes, Simone Keane’s latest album, The Breath of the Ocean  donates proceeds to Sea Shepherd, and for me, one of Simone’s earlier songs, Life’s Ocean conjures lovely memories of Fay Catherine Howe (it was played at the Albany launch of Lighthouse Girl accompanied by historic photos of Breaksea Island)

There are so many ways to enjoy Ocean Day. I hope you find one…

 

 

What’s your Daemon?

crow

As my research into anthropomorphism and animal stories continues, I came across this lovely snippet from The Guardian whilst pondering Philip Pullman and his powerful use of daemon in His Dark Materials trilogy. I love the characters in Pullman’s series, particularly Iorek Byrnison; my all-time favourite character (along with Reepicheep and Eeyore). The article features illustrators drawing their own imaginary soul animals.

While I like to think my daemon would be some kind of large, shaggy dog (sorry little Harry), or a wolf or whale-shark, I remember once dozing on a plane and having a very strong sense of a wise, black crow on my shoulder. Or perhaps it was a raven. Either way, the image stayed with me. It felt like it was important and needed to stay.

Having googled Crow, the Universe of Symbolism site says this animal,’opens us to the gifts of ancient wisdom and sacred law.’ That seems to fit the sense of letting the crow stay. Alternatively Raven is, ‘the black winged messenger from beyond’. That sounds rather interesting too …

In a paper entitled What Makes a Classic? Daemons and Dual Audience in Philip Pullmans His Dark Materials, Professor Susan R. Bobby writes that:

… in The Golden Compass, the seaman tells Lyra that she can’t choose her daemon’s form, that he will choose his own (167-68). This is akin to saying to a child that one cannot reject part of one’s nature: if one prefers serving others, one’s daemon will settle as a dog, but if one is deceptive and crafty, one’s daemon may settle as a serpent. Pullman has revealed we should ask our friends what forms our daemons would take, because our friends may be more honest about our true nature than we would be ourselves (“Philip Pullman in his” 4). In fact, children may be surprised to know that Pullman sees his own daemon as a jackdaw or magpie, since he explains ” ‘A magpie is a thief: it takes the things that belong to someone else, bright and shiny things–and makes them his own. And that’s what writers do, isn’t it? ‘ ” (Andronik 43).

Philip Pullman is a writer I greatly admire. I guess if he has a magpie, then maybe having a crow on my shoulder is not such a bad thing, even though I think I’d prefer to be followed about by a grey wolf…

Daemon are interesting things to consider. If you have one (imaginary daemon included), I’d love to hear what shape it takes. And if you haven’t read Pullman’s His Dark Materials, an amazing journey awaits you.

 

 

The First Review

… and it isn’t even out yet! random cover pix

Thank you Joy Lawn for the wonderful early review in Australian Bookseller + Publisher:

The Shark Caller breaks new ground in junior YA fiction. [I]ssues of conservation and identity, as told from Izzy’s dual-cultural perspective, with a scattering of creole Tok Pisin words, will intrigue readers aged 11 and up.’ Joy Lawn, Australian Bookseller + Publisher

Here is a link to their website with the full review.

shark book uncorrectedAnd, my very first uncorrected proof copy arrived this week.

As I read through it for the multi-hundredth time, I couldn’t help getting out a pencil and making just a few more changes. How did I miss 2x ‘massive’ on pg 80 ? And why didn’t I delete ‘suddenly’ on pg 208?

Too late for this edition, but fingers crossed for a second print run. In the meantime, I think I need to channel Elsa and let it go…

More details closer to the publication date (1st August).

 

The Real Fay

Just in time for Anzac Day, I’ve added a new website link giving further details about Lighthouse Girl Fay’s life after she left Breaksea Island. Thank you to Fay’s descendants for ongoing help and support.

Here is another link to a Destination WA interview clip showing more about the island and Fay’s story. Enjoy!

Booktrailers

Book trailers are a wonderful way for readers to peek into a book and gain a quick understanding of what the story is about so they can then decide whether to buy/borrow and read.

James Foley and Fremantle Press created a cracker clip for my Light Horse Boy, and there are multiple clips linked to Lighthouse Girl (details below), however as yet, there are none for my other books. And so, my resolution for March, is to make at least one more book trailer…

There are two specific Lighthouse Girl clips on Youtube. I love the trailer that was created by Year 4 students at Rosalie Primary School in 2010 – great that it’s still out there…

Then there is my own first attempt at creating a trailer. It’s quite factual and a bit basic as far as clips go, but it gives a nice view of King George Sound and Breaksea Island.

There are many, many YouTube clips linked to the Little Girl Giant, a character which was inspired by the book, Lighthouse Girl (more details on earlier posts). Amongst the terrific clips below, is one posted by Tracey Timmins, the granddaughter of Fay (the lighthouse girl). It’s a crackly but close-up view of Fay as the Little Girl Giant at PIAF 2015. There’s also one that I posted, and others by people I don’t know.

The first waking up

Walking

Waking up to Edith Piaf      DSC_0245

A lovely soundtrack version clip linked to Lighthouse Girl is by Caddy Cooper  Her clip features a song that she wrote, The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter which was inspired by Fay.

I hope that more clips of my books will appear soon. In the meantime, you might like to check out these clips by other WA authors and illustrators:

My Dead Bunny , The Last Viking Returns, Ned Kelly and the Green Sash,  A is For Australia, Zac and Mia,

This is just a sample, you will find more on most authors’ websites…

 

Perth Writers Festival

The annual Perth Writers Festival has been a delightful blur. As a regional author, the loveliest part of the weekend is catching up with friends and colleagues. SCBWI (the Society of Children’s Authors and Illustrators) held their breakfast on the lawn meeting on Sunday. I loved exchanging news with people I don’t see as often as I’d like to …

karen and dipg

with award winning illustrator Karen Blair

The Friday afternoon Inspired Learning Program was inspirational with two streams; Primary and Secondary each with three panel sessions focusing on different aspects of literacy. Speakers included many of our talented local authors and illustrators as well as interstate  luminaries; Sally Rippin, Andy Griffiths, Carole Wilkinson and Greg Dreise.

There was (unconfirmed) talk of this being an annual event. If so, and if you missed out this year, I’d recommend it for 2017. If you are a teacher I believe you also get PD points…

An interesting part of the 2016 program was the Young Creatives Blog. Albany girl, Katie McAllister was one of the chosen bloggers. We had a great catch-up over coffee and Katie has some exciting ideas for developing the arts in the Great Southern!

FullSizeRenderI enjoyed many sessions. Simon Winchester’s presentation was informative and at times deeply shocking as was Rosemary Sayer’s In Conversation with North Korean defector, Hyeonseo Lee. I haven’t heard her TED talk yet, but will soon… My favourite session was UK’s, Katherine Rundell talk about her book, The Wolf Wilder. After hearing Katherine read the beginning, I had to buy a copy. Her story is beautifully written, evocative and surprising. I love it. (Even the cover is gorgeous!)

The PIAF Writers Festival continues in Albany this evening. Congratulations and thank you to all the organisers.

An Alternative to Red Hearts

Junior school teachers are probably helping their students make heart cards this week. As I walked past a mass of commercial ‘Made Somewhere Else’ heart stuff that may end up in landfill, I thought that a wonderful alternative present for a loved one, is a book celebrating love, not just romantic love… And that got me thinking about picture books with themes of love. Two favourites came to mind immediately; Old Pig (Margaret Wild & Ron Brooks) and Samsara Dog (Helen Manos & Julie Vivas).

I love both of these books. Both honour selfless love (perhaps that’s the best kind) and loss. Both are also anthropomorphic. I love animal stories too. Animal characters cross gender and racial boundaries. For me, they strip away the ‘trimmings’ and help young readers find the core of a story.

Love. There are so many other wonderful picture books on my shelves celebrating love; in glorious shades and forms. Great picture books like Old Pig and Samsara Dog can be read on many levels. Perhaps it would be fun to discuss different kinds of picture book love while the sticky heart card glue is drying…

Happy Valentines Day 🙂

* keep the tissues handy for these titles

Breaksea House @ GSG

This morning I went to Great Southern Grammar’s Start of Year Assembly to donate copies of my historical novels, Lighthouse Girl and Light Horse Boy. The occasion?

black and white photograph of the real Fay Howe

The real Fay, image courtesy of Don Watson

GSG’s new boarding house has been named Breaksea House to honour Fay Catherine Howe, the ‘lighthouse girl’ who signalled to the departing Anzac nurses, troops and horses in 1914.

I was honoured to present signed copies of my books to boarding house student leaders; Emma Taylor and James Gonzales.

LHG cover  LHB cover

GSG has also purchased original artwork by illustrator, Brian Simmonds. The image appears on page 94 of Lighthouse Girl and shows Fay searching the Albany Advertiser for news about the troops in the Middle East. This lovely charcoal illustration will now grace the walls of the new boarding facility. I hope to see it when I visit for an informal book chat.

The full school assembly was a terrific occasion, welcoming the 2016 student leaders who then offered a badge to each Year One student, celebrating their new beginnings.

breaksea1 breaksea2

Fay’s story continues to touch a chord with readers, particularly those living in WA. I often wonder how Fay would feel to know that so many people remember her…

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