The highlight of the afternoon, in my opinion, was Molly, who the book is dedicated to. Katrina and Molly entertained us with a comedy routine.
Katrina announced that we would sing some songs together before she read the book. But a few bars into 'Rock-a-bye Baby' Molly shouted, 'STOP!' The song was too scary because people would be afraid of the baby falling. 'Incy Wincy' (stop!) would scare people with a fear of spiders and 'Twinkle Twinkle' (stop!) was no good either, because some people are afraid of the dark. They eventually agreed to ignore parents' fear of getting the carpet dirty and sang 'Twinkle Twinkle Vegemite'. (if you drop it upside down, it will turn the carpet brown)
I enjoyed celebrating another friend's book launch today. Katrina Roe launched her fourth book, Gemma Gets the Jitters.
Katrina sure knows how to put on a great launch! When we arrived there was a band playing, craft for the kids and a delicious afternoon tea. Authors Katharina Colmer and Marian McGuinness talked about writing and psychologist Collett Smart talked about how to help with kids' anxiety--very helpful! I will use all her ideas with my own kids. Some of her points which stuck with me were:
- Never ridicule a child's fear.
- Don't allow them to completely avoid their fears.
- Give them gradual exposure, getting a step closer to the goal every time.
Collett has also written the parent notes at the end of the book.
My little introvert actually wanted to come to a book launch for once, because Gemma gets the Jitters is about being scared of heights. Also because the first book in the series, Marty's Nut-free Party is one his favourite books. He is amazed that the series covers all his own issues - allergies, asthma and fear of heights. He wondered what issue might be covered next ... smoking??? He can't understand why this made me laugh.
Every year I want to go to the CBCA announcement of the Notables list, but I always have something on. A few of my friends went this year, but I already had something on my calendar. Oh well, maybe next year.
That evening I felt my phone vibrate and discovered a list of missed calls from my friends. Oh no! Why was everyone trying to call me? Something terrible must have happened. And then I remembered. They were meeting each other at the CBCA event. They were probably asking me for each others' phone number. Yes, that would be it.
No! They were ringing to tell me Captain Sneer, the Buccaneer was on the Notables List for Picture Books! I had forgotten it was even possible. Even then I didn't want to get excited in case they had made a mistake. But Shelly sent me photographic proof. My book really is notable. How exciting!
Youthworks sent our editor Natasha Percy to launch the book. They also sent a box full of fantastic lolly bags. The highlight for me was watching Lisa's 'illustrated journey'. She told the story of Mary and Joseph travelling to Bethlehem, drawing their journey's ups and downs. I knew the lines on the page were going to turn into something recognisable by the end, but I gasped along with all the children when the last stroke turned the squiggles into a sleeping baby. It felt like magic!
The winner of the dress-up competition was a shepherd complete with cuddly sheep. The winner of the door prize was my own Dad. He won a gorgeous pack of cards by Lisa. The kids decorated kings' crowns and went home happy because there were just enough lolly bags for everyone.
The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators has a conference in Sydney every second year. It's great to meet other authors and illustrators, get to know them and hear their stories.
I was honoured to be part of a SCBWI event at The Children's Bookshop which showcased 6 authors from around Australia and New Zealand.
It poured with rain but the preschool was packed with little pirates. Arr! Thank you to Anna, Vici, Heidi, Sharmila and Mei Ling.
After years of looking at roughs, proofs and possible covers, it was wonderful to finally remember what it was about it the first place--reading the book to children. It was so satisfying to chat to the kids about different aspects of the book and to see them enjoy it.
Over the last couple of weeks I've had lots of exciting packages arrive in the mail:
And tomorrow is the first launch. Woo hoo!
There was a mystery parcel for me at the post office today. I wasn't excited until I saw 'Walker Books' listed as the sender.
I said, 'Oooooooh, looks exciting.'
The post office guy shrugged. 'It looks like a book.'
'It is! It is! It's my book.'
He recognised my name as the author and managed a happy face. I guess it's hard to get excited about parcels when you're a post office guy.
But not when you're an author and you get an advance copy and it finally feels like it's a real, actual book. Woo hoo!
I got a wonderful surprise last week - a contract in the mail!!! Yes!!! It's enough to make any author overuse exclamation marks!!!!!
Youthworks will be publishing my Christmas picture book - The Mighty Mighty King. The book is lots of fun and will show children how the events of Christmas point to Jesus as the king.
Still, I knew I'd be nervous on the day. But I had a plan. I would pretend I was Deb Abela. If I could pretend to be confident, then the kids would never suspect.
I woke in the morning to find I still wasn't nervous. I was sure I would be when I arrived.
I was nervous when I was stuck in a traffic jam on the way, but when I arrived, I didn't think of Deb Abela once. (Sorry Deb!) I was having too much fun.
The kids enjoyed my presentations and workshops and seemed genuinely interested in everything I had to say. Unbelievable.
I went through the whole stupidly-nervous-until-I-was-prepared thing again for Inspire Conference. I had to write a talk and 2 workshops. Again, all my jitters disappeared once I was prepared and I loved speaking at the conference.
I will be more relaxed about future bookings. You know, the kids were very impressed by me. It had nothing to do with my books or my workshops though. They thought I was great because I ... you won't believe this ... I've actually MET Andy Griffiths. He signed my book. Wowww!
It's doubly exciting getting my author copies this time. I have just started a DynaMites Music group at my church, so this means I get to USE my own program.
It has been great running the first three weeks with a program all ready to go - amazing compared to when I started out and had to write it myself each week. And so much easier than when I had been running it for a few years and had to spend time each week searching for new ideas and songs. AND I can use all the clip art and songs from the CD ROM.
I've now made a website for DynaMites Music. I've put links to samples of the books and I've begun a forum for anyone running a music group. And here's a link straight to Year 2.
I went to my very first author expo today, at Koorong Books, West Ryde. I'm thrilled that Koorong is making an effort to promote Sydney picture book authors and illustrators.
As well as meeting parents and children, I enjoyed hanging out with some other authors. Here I am with author Katrina Roe.
What happens when children don't act like you hope they will?
Click here to read my post on the Growing Faith website.
With my two big kids away for the weekend, my seven-year old book-loving boy had me to himself. And he had plans. We needed to make a lamington man, just like in the picture book by Kel Richards and Glen Singleton. And it would be made of bread.
And then we had a lamington man picnic. One lamington man each. He ate mine.
Marshall Ballantine-Jones officially launched 'Hey! Is that how God made animals?' and 'Hey! Is that how God made families?'
We had story time,
and learnt a poem.
Then there were prizes. And food.
The highlight was kindifarm.
To top it all off, people even asked me to sign their books - such an honour. I'm glad so many people could celebrate with me. Thanks Youthworks!
What am I working on?
What I'm meant to be working on, is my third book in the DynaMites Music series. The first has just been published, second one about to go to the printer, and the deadline for the third one is coming up. And I am working on it, I really am. Honest.
DynaMites is a church music program for preschoolers, so it involves more programming than real writing. I've finished the exciting part, the programming, and now I'm setting it out neatly and checking list after list of songs, books and resources so I can send it to the editor. Dead boring work.
What I'm spending more time on is manuscripts for board books on the same themes as the program I've written. I can't find the sort of books I would like to recommend to go with the program and I'm overflowing with ideas of my own.
I'm also working on plenty of other manuscripts for picture books. These are stories which I will submit to mainstream publishers. The one on my mind right now is an Anzac Day story.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
My Hey! series is FUN. It doesn't seem worth writing a children's book unless I can see it being a child's favourite. I aim to write books which have an element of surprise or something to make a child laugh. I want my books to have a natural message without being overly didactic. I also want to write books which work well with a group, such as at a playgroup or music group.
DynaMites Music is the only Australian church music program for preschoolers which has been published, as far as I know. The songs I have used are available on itunes and I suggest lots of fun resources such as a variety of percussion instruments, dancing ribbons and boomwhackers. I think parachute games are a must for every week - every session ends with a few parachute songs.
Why do I write what I do?
I have all these ideas, and I have to do something with them.
I love writing picture books. Some of my stories are simply for the fun of it, and others are more meaningful to me. Creating new characters and stories is satisfying, and I love the challenge of making the story work and the sport of attempting to get it published.
The Christian books have the added dimension that I am benefiting others in a deeper way, if they can learn about God through my books. I'm more practical than artistic, and I'm motivated to create resources which others can use.
How does my writing process work?
I begin with writing ideas in a notebook. If I don't write them down, I forget them. Picture book idea month is fantastic for inspiring ideas. Usually it's only half an idea, but I write it down anyway, and hope that it will match up with another half-idea.
When I have a chunk of time, I sit down and write a first draft. I often do this at the computer, but I love doing it sitting on the beach. I don't care if it's terrible, because nobody else will read it. At least I then have something to work on.
I'm a slow thinker, but that doesn't seem to matter when writing picture books . I write a gazillion drafts with teensy changes. I enjoy the rewriting, because it feels like solving a puzzle, and it's satisfying to see the manuscript get better and better. I also love my writers' group. They tell me what isn't working in the story and I always come home from our meetings feeling inspired.
When I think the manuscript is the best it can possibly be, I usually make up a dummy. It always looks lame. This isn't for anyone else to see, but I'll let you see a page. The dummy helps me see how the text could fit into a 32-page layout, see more clearly how it might work with illustrations, and whether or not the page turns work well. When I think it's absolutely ready, then I still often keep it for a few months before submitting, so that I can see it again with fresh eyes.
Next Monday, Cecily, Julia and Ramona will blog about their writing processes.
I am a children's author.