Category Archives: my process

Nanna’s Button Tin – first peek

This afternoon something special arrived in the mail. After publication delays beyond my control, I’m so excited to at last hold my new picture book, Nanna’s Button Tin. Heather Potter’s illustrations are beautiful and every time I read the story I find lovely details in her artwork. The release date with Walker Books is June 1st but here is a first sneak peek…

The story was inspired by memories of playing with my mum’s and grandmothers’ button tins. I loved tipping their tins upside down, sorting shapes and colours and looking for my favourite buttons. Some buttons held special memories; a favourite party dress or a bear-shaped button from a cardigan. The book is dedicated to every Nanna with a button tin.

First Review:

I couldn’t have hoped for a better first review than the one published in the current issue of Books+Publishing by esteemed publisher, academic, author (and more) Margaret Hamilton AM. She writes: …The heart-warming story is sensitively told in simple and expressive language. The reader is invited to join this loving family to experience the special relationship between a small girl and her nanna and to relive treasured family memories, all through the special buttons in nanna’s jar…  Stories about family togetherness are very important in the life of a child. They reinforce family experiences and loving relationships, and when they are as warmly portrayed as those in this book, they become keepsakes.

Thank you Heather, Editor Mary Verney and the rest of the team at Walker Books.

 

 

Breaksea Island -photos & aerial maps

Yesterday I was fortunate to return to Breaksea Island, long ago home of ‘lighthouse girl’ Fay Catherine Howe. The weather was perfect. After circling the island, Rainer our pilot landed on the helicopter pad just below the lighthouse.

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We circled the ruins of the original lighthouse then walked down the hill to visit the old cottages. Each time I visit I have a strong sense of Fay in the furthest keeper’s cottage, particularly in one of the front rooms.

Just before this visit there’d been robust discussion, accompanied by some impressive forensic laptop studies of several old photos at the Albany History Collection. We were looking at a photograph of a young woman outside this furthest cottage. I’d always hoped it was Fay, but had been told it was an earlier keeper’s wife, however… it now seems it may actually be Fay. More on that in a later post. The young woman is standing by the cottage steps (below), with two donkeys, dogs and goats.

A highlight of the trip was hiking down the old zigzag donkey track to the jetty. I hadn’t been to the jetty since the original research trip over ten years ago, long before there was the helicopter option. There have been a few changes; with a safety cage around the swinging boat access ladder, but otherwise it all looked similar.

 It was great to see Elephant Rock again as that appears in the story.

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Our allocated island time whizzed past and soon it was time to climb back into the chopper for the short trip back to the mainland. I’m already looking forward to next time.

 

 

 

 

Ring in the new…

Happy New Year !

After five years working on PhD research; my two novels (The Shark Caller, The Dog with Seven Names) and the accompanying exegesis, “Crafting Animals Characters in Fiction for Young Readers”, it’s a wonderful (and somewhat fizzy) feeling to be able to at last be free to give attention to other projects which have been circling in a holding pattern. The first being Light from a Broken Lantern (working title).

Between final drafts of the exegesis I’ve been researching this manuscript; the third (and final?) book in the Lighthouse/Horse Boy series. The story steps back to explore the early WW1 years from the perspective of English nurse, Rose before she meets Jim (Light Horse Boy). This early stage of shaping an historical story is exciting in that research reveals all sorts of potential leads, some of which will be followed and woven into the plotline while others slip quietly back into history. I’ve been keeping a scrapbook journal of progress and notes, so that I can revisit some of the quieter snippets in later drafts.buttons-proofs

In early June, another long-term project, Nanna’s Button Tin will be released by Walker Books Australia (and Candlewick for the U.S. market). Heather Potter’s beautiful illustrations hold lovely details which add multiple layers to the story. I can’t wait to share more details in a following post.

2017 also brings exciting events linking to Lighthouse Girl and Light Horse Boy, as well as festival and school bookings. Here are some details for those:

  • Feb: Lighthouse Girl and Light Horse Boy will be included in an exhibition of Australian and New Zealand Children’s picture books called Anzac Stories Behind the Pages – held in Brisbane libraries.
  • March: I’ll be filling in for Warren Flynn while he takes leave from his position as English tutor at the Albany UWA campus. I’m looking forward to working with first year students on texts including Shaun Tan’s The Arrival and Art Spiegelman’s Maus.
  • Also in March: Between the Lines Writer’s Festival is on again in Busselton. I’ll be talking about The Shark Caller as well as sharing ideas for creating animal characters.
    • April 21 and 22 : Time to frock up for Black Swan Theatre’s premiere of Lighthouse Girl in Albany. Playwright, Hellie Turner’s terrific adaptation also links to Light Horse Boy.black-swan
  • April – May:  Black Swan Theatre’s season of Lighthouse Girl continues in Perth.
  • June : Nanna’s Button Tin will be released by Walker Books Australia (and Candlewick).
  • August: For the first time in many years, Children’s Bookweek will be spent in Albany and the Great Southern, coinciding with the Albany exhibition of Anzac Stories Behind the Pages. As well as Albany and Denmark sessions, I’ll be travelling to smaller communities and schools across the Great Southern.
  • Repeat bookings are always lovely and in 2017 I’ll be revisiting some favourite schools and places including; St Marks, The Literature Centre, Woodthorpe and Margaret River Library. More about dates and details in following posts.

Until then, thank you for your interest in my books and this blog. I enjoy receiving feedback, so please feel free to send me a message. In 2017, I hope to post more regularly, let’s see how I go …

 

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).

World Oceans Day

good one

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.