Monday, August 30, 2010

Lucky Last

Thanks to a wonderfully relaxing weekend, I headed off to Blaxland School this morning full of beans for my last Book Week school visit.

There is nothing like an eager audience, eyes wide, totally engaged with your stories to fire you up. Thanks Blaxland! Your bubbling enthusiasm, astute questions and lively participation has motivated and inspired me. I can't wait to get my fingers typing on some new stories.

And so it's back to the office tomorrow for the "day job". But that's not so bad, as I'm lucky enough to have a job where I get to work with other authors and illustrators helping them to create fantastic new books.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Glorious Saturday

Glorious Saturday. After a week of zipping from one side of the countryside to the other, from Galston to Dapto, from Camden to Pymble to Bankstown, speaking to well over a 1,000 children, today I spoiled myself with walks on the beach, cafe breakfast with my hubbie, coffee with friends and lying around reading (Saving Francesca - Melina Machetta) and dozing. Ahh - it's been wonderful.

What a week! Friday saw me heading off to Bankstown City Library. The wonderful children's librarian there, Tara, conducts an amazing Book Week program (which runs for about three weeks!) ferrying authors and illustrators to schools and libraries all over the Bankstown area. This year she has had Sarah Davis, Di Wu, John Heffernan, John Larkin and moi.

First up we shot across to Al Sadiq College, Yagoona to speak to Years 2 & 3. We needed to lug my rather heavy "bag of tricks" and other paraphernalia up two steep flights of stairs - but it was worth it! The kids were fantastic. Attentive and bubbling with enthusiasm - they were intrigued with the whole process of how an idea became a book and asked some rather intelligent questions about the publishing process. The only minor hiccup occurred when I nearly scared one poor young lady half to death with Charlie - my enormous puppet spider. (Sorry!)

Next we headed to Greenacre Library to share stories with Year 2 from Greenacre Primary. Their love of books was catchy and the session was a lot of fun - made even more so by Fire Chief Holden's wonderful help with the dramatisation of The Firefighters. I felt it wise to leave Charlie in the bag for this session as I didn't want to be responsible for any more frights or potential nightmares!

Last session for the week was at Sefton Infants School and I must admit that the enormity of the week sort of hit me halfway through the session and I found myself suddenly very weary and extremely tired of my own voice. Fortunately, adrenaline kicked in and aided by a sea of smiling, excited faces we bravely saved Lulu's Ice-Creamery and toiled over bubbling pots of sugary syrup, until the session was over and so was Book Week. Phew!

Well ... almost. I still have one more school on Monday. Blaxland Public, here I come!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

All worth it

To avoid having to drive two hours each way two days in a row, I shouted myself to a night in a hotel in Pennant Hills last night. It was a good move. I had noble intentions of using the solitude of my lonely room to write long into the night. Instead, I flaked. The bed was the hardest bed I have ever slept in, but it didn't seem to matter - I slept like a baby.

So this morning, I was ready and rearing to go, especially as Galston School was now only about twenty minutes away. Yay!

The kids at Galston love their stories and I had a ball sharing mine with them. Freaky again starred and so did my "Adventure Story". Question time was a blast with hands shooting in the air and kids almost begging to be picked - many having to save their questions until lunchtime.

I always hope that just a tiny bit of my enthusiasm for writing will rub off when I am doing these visits, so I was thrilled when one kindi teacher told me how inspired and excited the kids were to write after my session. One student in particular responded really well and wrote not only with increased confidence and enthusiasm - she also wrote far, far more than she usually does. Ahhh ... stories like this make it all worthwhile.

Bankstown Library tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Freaky - the star of the show

Another day, another school. This time Sacred Heart, Pymble, where I was greeted with much enthusiasm and excitement. (They even had a parking spot reserved for me!) And, oh, what a gorgeous library - I started tingling the moment I walked through the door!

Book Week and school visits are such a great opportunity to see what works, and what doesn't - to really get an understanding of what makes your readership tick. And I am always amazed at how different every school you visit is - how different the reactions are. One school might fall about laughing over a story or anecdote, where the next school may barely crack a smile over the same material. What interests one group enormously, may seemingly wash over the next.

I find this intriguing and such a useful exercise in discovering what elements of my books appeal most widely. This year, the "star" book - the one that has had the most kids talking at the most schools - is Freaky. There seems to be a lot of excitement surrounding the possibility of a story containing giant spiders. The kids at Sacred Heart certainly followed this trend and seemed to really enjoy meeting my very hairy pet spider, Charlie!

Thanks, Sacred Heart - I had so much fun sharing my stories with you all.

Tomorrow - Galston.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Day Two - Lakelands Primary, Dapto

Well, today found me zipping down the coast to Lakelands Primary at Dapto.

There were two things that really struck me about Lakelands Primary (apart from its gorgeous name). Firstly, the kids were extremely well-behaved and attentive and it was obvious that the teaching staff worked really hard towards this end. Secondly, there was a wonderful buzz on the playground after my sessions. Kids everywhere talking about their favourite stories, favourite books, favourite authors, planning their own stories, bursting with questions as I walked through. The excitement about books was palpable.

This is why I love Book Week. It energises me. Inspires. Motivates.
Great stuff.
Thanks, Lakelands.

Monday, August 23, 2010

A great start to Book Week at St Paul's Camden + wonderful review at Kids' Book Capers

Just spent the day with the wonderful kids of St Paul's Primary at Camden (Kindi - grade 3).

We created a crazy monster called Hornhead, put out several raging fires at Lulu's Ice-Creamery, got freaked out over large and very hairy spiders, twirled to Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy and toiled over bubbling pots of sugary syrup! No wonder I'm exhausted. Hope you had as much fun as I did, kids!

I also had another interesting question that required some research back at home to find the answer. The question: "How many different illustrators have illustrated my books?" Great question - and I had no idea. But after a bit of a stock take at home, I think the answer is 35. (Even I was surprised.)

Four sessions down, fifteen more to go.

For those interested, check out this great review for Get a Grip, Cooper Jones at Kids Book Capers, Boomerang Blog. This one had me grinning all weekend.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

An Interesting Question and Abbotsleigh Literary Festival

Last Monday I had the pleasure of speaking at the Abbotsleigh Literary Festival. I was a little nervous prior to the event as I was going to present Get a Grip, Cooper Jones for the first time and wasn't sure how Cooper would be received. I felt like the mother of a kindi student about to send her precious child off for his first day at school. Will the other kids be kind? Will he make any friends? Will the kids like him as much as I do?

As is often the case, I need not have worried. Cooper held his own and I had numerous students milling around me after my sessions asking the question author's love to hear: "Where can I buy the book?"

It was a wonderful event, the students were fantastic and I had a great time.

During one session, I had a question from a student (Miriam) that I couldn't think of an answer for at the time and I promised to think about it and get back to her. The question was: "If you could be a character from any book, who would you be?"

I have been mulling over this ever since and I haven't yet been able to come up with a female character that I sincerely would want to be. This troubles me slightly.

If I look to my own books, I think I would want to be Sasha from A Strange Little Monster because she has a kind heart, but is also strong and courageous and true to herself. If I look elsewhere in Children's Literature, I guess I am partial to Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series - for similar reasons, and also because of her intelligence.

When I look to adult literature, I really can't get past Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird. I love Atticus because of his honesty and integrity.

I'm sure there are plenty of wonderful characters out there that I have overlooked. Any ideas? (Thanks for the great question, Miriam.)

Tomorrow is the first day of Book Week, and to mark the week, I have set myself the task of writing a blog post about each school/library I visit. Book Week is exhausting at best, so I'm not sure if I will be up for the challenge, but I will give it my best shot.

Congrats to all the winners in the CBCA Book of the Year Awards - especially the wonderfully talented bunch from Walker Books : Glenda Millard, Rebecca Cool, Sally Murphy and Heather Potter. You rock, gals!

Happy Book Week everyone!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Get a Grip, Cooper Jones - Release Day

I may be on the other side of the world (Vancouver at the moment) but I couldn't let the release day of Get a Grip, Cooper Jones slip by without at least raising a glass of cyber-bubbles and saying "Good luck, Cooper!" with my cyber buddies.

I will be returning in a week or so - after a kayak and camping trip out of Vancouver Island - just in time for Book Week and a full program of school and library visits to help celebrate Cooper's release "for real".

Until then, cyber-celebrations will have to suffice.
So ... here's cheers!