Saturday, October 23, 2010

A Little Bit of Pond Magic

Writing for Girls...

Today, I'd like to welcome Angela Sunde to my blog to talk about her new book, Pond Magic, which is one of Peguin's Aussie Chomps series. Angela has a love for languages and previously worked as a teacher. She now works as a children's writer in the beautiful Gold Coast hinterland, where she lives with her family, her manx cat, two cockatiels and three bush rats in the compost heap. In 2009 she was awarded 3rd place in the CYA Conference 'Illustrated Picture Book ' category for Chee Chee and Mia and two of her childrens stories were short-listed for the Charlotte Duncan Award. Pond Magic is Angela's first published children's book.

Lily Padd, an intolerant, self-obsessed 'tween', finds her relationships with her family, her best friend and a French exchange student are made all the more difficult by a little magic and a lot of burping.

Fitting in at school is hard enough when you're small and your mother drives a beaten-up old French car, without the added embarrassment of turning green.

Hi Angela, great to have you here as part of your blog tour for Pond Magic. Firstly, can you tell us what the target reading range is for Pond Magic?
Pond Magic is one of the Aussie Chomps series published by Penguin Australia. Aussie Chomps are targeted at the 8-12 year old market.

The book's main character is a girl, do you like writing stories for girls in particular?

The main character, Lily Padd, is the sort of girl I was at twelve. At that age problems seemed unsurmountable and I would worry about the smallest thing. For Lily, the problem of being unable to stop burping causes all sorts of hilarious consequences and Lily’s reactions to these challenges and embarrassing situations show a strong personality which the target readers (girls or boys) will be able to relate to. When I wrote Pond Magic I didn’t feel I was writing a story especially for girls.

What are the challenges in writing books for girls... do you see these as being any different from writing stories for boys?

Stories for girls focus more on relationships with peers and while girls will ‘cross over’ and read stories for boys, the opposite is not generally common. Perhaps boys don’t want to be seen with a pink-coloured book in their hand. But if girls are reading boys’ books, I’d ask - why? Is it because they’ve run out of girls’ books in the library? I doubt it. Perhaps it’s because boys’ books for the 8-12 year old market are generally fast paced and packed with physical problems, action, drama and humour. They are hard to put down.

I don’t approach writing for girls differently to writing for boys. When writing Pond Magic I was influenced by the boys’ books I had read. Those are the stories I enjoy and buy, not because the protagonist is a boy, but because they reflect the interests of many girl readers too. One of the most successful girls’ cross over series is Deborah Abela’s ‘Max Remy Super Spy’. At twelve my son was a huge fan and it wasn’t until I pointed it out to him that he realised Max was short for Maxine. So, girls can do anything.

How old are your children and do they play any part in your writing or editing processes? eg do they read the stories and comment?

My daughter who is now eighteen is one of my critique readers. I rely on her opinions. She has a good eye for detail. My son, fifteen, won’t read my work until it is finished and edited.

What strategies do you have for making the 'voice' authentic?

Each character’s voice is unique and the children cannot sound like mini adults. I have been a teacher for many years, teaching in primary and high schools, and I spent a lot of time in conversation with my students and was privy to a lot of tween talk. As a writer you have to ‘speak’ from the child’s perspective. Their views on everything from burping in public to trying to fit in with their friends will be very different from my own. Adult wisdom does not exist and they may make rash choices.
The action tags which accompany their speech help to add authenticity to the dialogue too and I include internal monologue throughout so the reader is aware of Lily’s thoughts and opinions. For example, for the first half of the book she never addresses or refers to the French exchange student, Rainier, by name, but in her thoughts she makes up all sorts of nicknames for him: Raingauge, Raincoat, Dolphin Boy. As Lily becomes more tolerant she begins to call him Rainy and then finally Rainier. This helps to show her development as a character. Lily’s voice is not just about what she says, but what she doesn’t say too.

What is next for you, Angela?

I’m working on the illustrations for a picture book I have written and I have nearly completed a junior novel. I’m looking forward to visiting schools to talk about Pond Magic and the writing process and I give workshops on writing and illustrating. I’m also collaborating on a picture book project with my sister, who is a children’s playwright and songwriter. I’m very excited about the future.

Thank you so much for having me on your blog, Catriona. I enjoyed my visit!

You're welcome. Good luck with Pond Magic ...and I hope all goes well for both you and Lily.

For more about Angela and Pond Magic, you can visit her blog at

Or.... visit some of these other blogs as Angela tours the blogging world.

22nd October – Write and Read with Dale – Dale Harcombe
Review and Developing a Character

23rd October – Sally Murphy’s Writing for Children Blog
Getting Published for the First Time

24th October – Cat Up Over - Catriona Hoy
What Girls Read

26th October – Tuesday Writing Tips – Dee White
Writing to this Length

27th October – Kids’ Book Capers – Boomerang Books
Review and Where Story Ideas Come From

28th October – Kids Book Review
The Aussie Chomp Format

29th October – Tales I Tell - Mabel Kaplan
Promoting your First Book & Planning a Book Launch

30th October – SherylGwyther4Kids
Once upon a time in a far away place…

Please leave a comment if you've visited, to encourage both Angela and me!

Friday, July 23, 2010

A Woman Who Cares

Today I’d like to welcome to my blog , friend and author Clare Mulley. Clare and I met when I lived in the UK in a little town called Saffron Walden and our children attended the same school. Clare was also a member of the same book club and I must say that I sadly miss the challenging and stimulating books and conversations...and of course the odd glass of red wine.
Clare’s book, The Woman Who Saved The Children, is the biography of Eglantyne Jebb, founder of Save The Children. It has just been released in Australia, so I’ve invited her over for a chat. Clare won the Daily Mail Biographer’s Prize in 2007 and all royalties from the book go to the charity.She has a strong social conscience and is a source of great inspiration.

Welcome Clare, from the other end of the world!

Hello, thank you for hosting me Catriona!

Clare, who was Eglantyne Jebb and what makes her story interesting and relevant today?

Eglantyne was the founder of the world's largest independent children's charity - Save the Children - and author of the pioneering statement of children's human rights that has since evolved into the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child; the most widely accepted human rights instrument in history. What makes her story so pertinent today is partly that although much has been done children's human rights are sadly yet to be fully realised. 'It is not impossible to save the children of the world', Eglantyne once said. 'It is only impossible if we make it so, by our refusal to attempt it'. Inspiring stuff.

But it is not just this - Eglantyne's personal story also resonates deeply with modern life. A woman with many inner conflicts, one of the things I love most about her is the fact that despite dedicating her life to promoting children's welfare and rights she was not fond of individual children, whom she once called 'the little wretches', and she never had any of her own. This is not a sentimental story about frustrated maternal impulse, but that of a passionate and compassionate woman, with whom we might all identify, who found children tiring, noisy and stressful but recognised that they hold both huge appeal in the present and collective responsibility for the future and who, unlike those around her, when confronted with children starving to death, bravely decided to do something about it whatever the costs.

Eglantyne’s story takes place long ago and far away from Australia. Can you set the scene for us in terms of the socio economic conditions of the time and the broader context of what was happening in Europe?

In 1919 Eglantyne was arrested in London's Trafalgar Square for distributing leaflets showing photographs of starving Austrian children, that had not been cleared by the British Government censors. Eglantyne was outraged that despite the armistice the Liberal government had decided to continue the economic blockade of Europe to push through harsh peace terms with the defeated countries after the First World War. The net result was that children and the elderly, particularly in Austria and Germany, were starving to death in huge numbers. At her trial Eglantyne insisted on conducting her own defence, focusing on the moral case and giving the court reporters plenty to pad out their stories with. She was found technically guilty and fined £5, 'which', she wrote home triumphantly 'is the equivalent of victory'. The Crown Prosecutor then pressed £5 into her hands - the sum of her fine and the first donation put towards Eglantyne's new 'Save the Children Fund'. Within a year, and after several adventures, Eglantyne had raised over £10,000 and saved the lives of many thousands of children. A few years later, having won the support of the Pope for her non-religious, non-political cause, after a skirt-raising chase round the Vatican, she had moved the charity headquarters to the international city of Geneva and made its programmes truly global. Australia was one of the first countries to set up an affiliate Save the Children Fund, which is still today coordinating fantastic international children's programmes from its base in Melbourne.

What was it about Eglantyne’s character that resonated with you ? To what extent were her life choices different to the conventions of her time?

Eglantyne was a rebel from the start. One of just the second generation of women allowed a university education, when presented with the college rules on her arrival she wondered whether she should 'leave immediately or stay long enough to break all the rules and be sent down...' She stayed but not quietly, and later went on to break just about every social convention going when she chose to teach in a working-class school, decided against marriage and children, embarked on a passionate affair with the younger sister of the economist John Maynard Keynes, undertook secret war work in the Balkans in 1913, rejected the established church for her own spiritual brand of Christianity, and was finally arrested in Trafalgar Square for daring to suggest that the country treat the children of its former enemies with compassion. Courageous, smart and driven, she fought plenty of her own demons, even considering suicide more than once, but finally succeeded in putting children's human rights and welfare on the world agenda for the first time. Like most people I like a flawed heroine, defying convention in the cause of the greater good.

As a fiction writer, I have to get inside my character’s head...even if it’s a baby echidna. To what degree did you get inside Eglantyne’s head . Did you find, like a method actor, that you were taking on aspects of Eglantyne’s persona?

Not really! I used to work for Save the Children as a rather struggling fundraiser, and started researching the book when I left the Fund to have my first child - thereby showing far less commitment to the cause than Eglantyne who of course never had children and remained devoted to the Fund throughout her life. As time went on I became increasingly aware of the irony as I found myself creeping away from some of my childcare responsibilities to research the life of this children's champion, who did not care much for individual children herself. At times I felt like a sort of anti-Jebb! By the end of the book I had been through the whole gamut of affinity and disillusionment, and I hope come to some sort of more objective picture of what Eglantyne was like. But I had certainly inhabited her space in some emotional as well as occasionally literal sense, and I still feel very close to this dead woman whom I have never met.

What is a baby echidna like on the inside?

Answer: wordless! Responds to smells and touch!...

You spent a long time writing Eglantyne’s story. How did you feel when you wrote the last words?

Yes, the book took seven years, in between having kids and the other stuff that life throws at you, so it was very hard to let go, although I was also ready to move on really. Luckily I was late delivering to the publisher already, otherwise I think I could have kept on adding and amending forever. My husband on the other hand was more relieved!

What’s next for you Clare...any chance of branching out into writing for children, or fiction perhaps?

Yes, not fiction, but I am working on two book proposals at the moment, one of which is for a beautiful children's illustrated life of Eglantyne which will look at the issues of children's rights etc through her story. I have a fantastic illustrator to work with so it is very exciting. The other book is a group biography of three passionate, dissident Victorian sisters burdened with the inheritance of having a hugely infamous father. I think it will be great looking at family dynamics, especially now that I have three daughters of my own to manage centre stage.

That sounds fantastic Clare. Keep me posted as I'd love to get copies of both books. It's been great catching up and I'm going out to buy our book club's latest choice and be with you all in spirit.

If you'd like to find out more about Clare, her website is

You can hear and see Clare in action here.

Her book can be ordered through all good bookstores .
For a sneak preview, click here

Clare's book can also be ordered online at boomerang books.

For futher reading, visit some of my friends blogs...

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Clowning Around

Today is another first for me. I've invited childrens author Sheryl Gwyther over to talk about, amongst other things, her new book Princess Clown.

This blog tour is to celebrate the launch of Princess Clown, Sheryl Gwyther’s latest book. Every day until the official book launch on Friday, 16th July, Princess Belle and Sheryl will be visiting a new blogsite. Check out the list below.

Welcome Sheryl, you're my firstest ever guest!
Can you briefly tell us about Princess Clown and what age group it is aimed at?

Thank you for having me on your blog, Cat. 
Princess Clown is a chapter book for 7-8 year olds. It's the funny story of Belle, a princess who wants more than anything to be a clown. But one thing stands in her way – she is the heir to the throne. Does that stop Princess Belle wanting to follow her dream? No way!

What age groups do you prefer to write for?

I usually write Junior Fiction – that's for ages 10-13 year olds, but last year I started writing this new genre – chapter books. I love them. They are faster to write, but require a lot of thought and consideration about the plot and the structure.
Chapter books are designed for young readers who have discovered the joys of reading stories. They have moved beyond the 'learning to read' readers. Now they're able to have a go at books that look like what the big kids read – with chapters. The stories usually have lots of illustrations, shorter sentences, strong plot lines and a likeable main character. Kids in this age bracket love humour and adventure especially.

Are there any teaching notes supplied for this and is it part of a series?

Yes, there are teaching notes and ideas to enhance the reading. They’re in the back of the book and kids can access them themselves. Princess Clown is part of Blake Publishing's Gigglers Blue Series 2. It is one of eight stories.
I've heard that some of the ideas for Princess Clown came when you put two words together that didn't seem to fit. Can you tell me how you developed your characters from there? Are they based on any real princesses or clowns?
I did start Princess Clown as a challenge to put to words together that didn't match – that's what provides conflict. Conflict is what pushes the story. The character of Belle tumbled out of my head quickly – she is a lot like me, I suspect. Not that I can somersault! The story came as I thought of obstacles for Belle – there are tons of things that can go wrong for a princess with a mind of her own. The only princesses and clowns I know live in my head!

Some of my students tell me they have a clown phobia and I'm always a little uncertain as to whether they are pulling my leg...any comments?

I can understand that very well – when adults dress up with painted white faces, huge red lips and frothy clown wigs, their real identity is masked. I think I’m still affected by that creepy, horror movie of Stephen King’s book called It. So freaky!
But I do applaud all those clowns who work hard at their jobs to make kids laugh – especially the Doctor Clowns who work in hospitals to make sick kids happier.

When I was interviewed by Kat Apel, we chatted about wearing different 'hats'. As well as being a talented children's author, you are also an ex teacher and literacy coordinator...can you tell us about your recent involvement in the fight to save Australian school libraries?

Yes, I have been outspoken in the current campaign to rescue Australian school libraries and the jobs of trained Teacher-Librarians, especially those in public state schools. They and the small Catholic schools are the ones that need help the most.

In the past you have been a strong campaigner against parallel importation of books into Australia. When you take on something like that, there is sometimes some negative backlash, especially personal comments in the media. How did you handle the pressure of being in the media spotlight?

Funny you should ask that, Cat. I was pushed into a bit of media spotlight in the fight against Parallel Importation of Books into this country. It was not something I was comfortable with, but practice makes perfect, as they say. I and many other children's authors felt so strongly about this issue, we set up a blog called SAVING AUSSIE BOOKS – if you want to see what we did, here is the link.
The fight was successful. During the campaign, my integrity was attacked by an anonymous source (I know who it was, of course). A journalist alerted me, and I refuted the comments. But it did show me how desperate the other side was – and I could understand it, they felt their profits were at risk by the Parallel Importation Restrictions. It didn't stop me speaking out – the cause to protect Australian children's books was too important to scare us off.

Well Done!
And a final question Sheryl, what's the book you want to write but haven't written yet?

I have started this book – it is one so important to me I sometimes dream about it. It's called Mountain. The story is set in far north Queensland where I was born. Place holds a significant part for me in many of my stories. It is the same with this one. The mountain in my story is a real mountain – and it is one that is embedded deep in my consciousness.
It is the place where a terrible tragedy happened in 1921 – a coal mine explosion where 75 miners were killed; a third of the small town's population. My uncle was the last stationmaster before the mining company finally shut down its town in 1959. I spent my school holidays there and have never forgotten the mountain, a spectacular sight of sandstone cliffs, red and raw against the startling blue skies of north Queensland.
I have travelled back there twice since starting writing my story. The mountain affects me every time, especially when I stand in the small graveyard of that ghost town and read the headstones of the dead miners. In 2008, I was awarded a May Gibbs Literature Trust Fellowship residency in Adelaide to work on the story. I will be ever grateful to them.
So yes, this story will get finished one day – I have to.

Thanks Sheryl for visitng and all the best for the launch of Princess Clown. And 'goodonya' for the hard work you put in on behalf of literacy and making reading accessable to children.

Join Sheryl on the rest of her blog tour at:

Blog Tour Dates:

06 July 2010
Dee White –
07 July 2010
Alphabet Soup magazine –

08 July 2010
Robyn Opie –

09 July 2010
Catriona Hoy –

10 July 2010
Kat Apel –

11 July 2010
Sheryl Gwyther –

12 July 2010
Sandy Fussell –

13 July 2010
Sally Murphy –

14 July 2010
Claire Saxby –

15 July 2010
Mabel Kaplan –

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Goodnight Music Tree

I have now reached a milestone in my writing career that leaves me a little sad. The Music Tree, my first acceptance, has gone out of print and the rights have been returned to me. There are no more copies in the warehouse and silly me didn't think to check how many were left. I can still buy copies on Amazon UK or Amazon US. Since they've been reduced over there they are actually much cheaper than they would be here, even taking postage into account. So I'm going to order some of those last remaining copies. Seems silly that they'll have travelled all around the world to end up back where they started. A bit like our family really!

I loved The Music Tree because it was so good for reading aloud to children at school visits. I had my little suitcase full of bells, hubcaps, clangers and bangers. When I went to the UK, I even started up another collection which I sadly had to deposit back at the charity shops when we left.

Liam, the subject of the story, has long since deserted his music tree for a basketball court and is now in high school. Lothian, my original publisher, is now part of Hachette, a huge multinational publishing company. Helen Chamberlin, the editor who gave me my first break has retired. The world moves on and we must move with it.

Liam put his arms around the trunk of the ree and laid his cheek against the rough, war bark. 'Goodnight Music Tree,' he whispered.

Back in bed, Liam thought he heard the wind chimes call, 'Goodnight, Liam', but he couldn't really be sure.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Puggle visits Clayton Library

Yesterday I visited Clayton library to read Puggle at their preschool storytime. As I'd spent most of the weekend in bed with a virus, it all went well considering! As I drove there I was wishing I could be curled up under my doona. I was welcomed by Michelle and Suzi, the libarians and a host of little curious faces. The library also had copies of all my books, which is always a good start.

I'm always amazed by the enthusiasm of librarians who organise these sessions. Michelle began the session with a song, then an exercise to get the wriggles out. She read one of Rod Campbells stories to begin with and then a photographer from Waverley Leader took some photos. I always hate my photo in newspapers. They always choose the wrinkliest one of me I'm sure! At least there will be some kids in there for the cuteness factor.

Reading Puggle to a roomful of wriggly, squiggly two to three year olds was a challenge, but I had a few older children who sat in front of me and nodded in the right places. It wasn't the venue to amaze them with my new found echidna knowledge.

Michelle finished up with an echidna puppet, which she made eat imaginary 'ants' out of the children's hands. I really need a puppet! I'll do better next time Michelle...

Suzi Jenkins, the Youth Services Librarian, had drawn a picture of an echidna. All the children were able to colour in a copy and stick on spines made of coloured matchsticks. It was such a great idea and so simple. I'd been trying to think of things to do with toothpicks and plasticine but this was much safer and less messy.

Back to bed the company of my youngest daughter who seems to have come down with the same thing.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

My First Blog Tour

Well it all starts next week. I'm touring some blogs to chat about Puggle and writing in general. I hope I can think of enough things to say! Please join me on some of the dates and cyberplaces below.

At the last blog, I'll be evaluating what I've found out about blog touring.

April 12
April 13
April 14
April 15
April 16
April 17
April 18
April 19
April 20
April 21
April 22

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Creating Your Own Publicity

It's not enough to just give birth to a story these days. After those initial heady days of first conception, nurturing and monitoring the progress of your little creation comes the first time you hold it in your hands...and it's wonderful, don't get me wrong. But then you start to worry, how will it do out there in the big world. Will it be a success, will people like it? What can I do to help? How can I help it to make friends?

Increasingly, publicity is becoming the responsibility of the author. The internet provides fantastic opportunities...which while exciting can also seem quite daunting. It's simply not enough these days to have a web page. We must blog, facebook, tweet... and I must say I find it tricky to decide what to put on line. How much do I want my year 10 students to know about my life, should they stumble upon my blog? What is the etiquette when someone you've never met requests to be your friend on facebook? Will your friends be annoyed if you keep putting up what can sound like blatant plugs?

While not a luddite, I do like to know that things work before I jump right in. I remember thinking that a friend was quite mad a few years ago when she started up a myspace site. I took it as evidence that she was undergoing a mid life crisis. While she had chosen an alter ego, she was still easily identifiable. I have an alter ego myself. Actually it's just someone else with my name. She lives in Limerick and I know a lot about her. Mainly because when doing a bit of 'self googling' her bebo posts would pop up while she was young. I knew what she did on a Saturday night and wondered if she knew this middle aged woman on the other side of the world was stalking her. She's now at university and trying to get in to modelling. Sometimes I hope that people searching for me will find her because her photo is much nicer than mine!

With this in mind I tried to keep facebook for friends or people whom I had personally met. I figured if my daughter threw up all over the bench in the school library, my friends might get a laugh but the whole world didn't need to know. However, this doesn't allow me to use the full power of facebook as a networking tool. So I now have a facebook fan page. It's only got about 8 fans. I'm hoping for more! The beauty of this is that when I look, these aren't people I've met and they are still interested in what I have to say...maybe!

Twitter! I thought I could avoid that altogether but apparently I shouldn't. I have a twitter page. A tax adviser in the US is following me after I tweeted about my frustrations completing my UK tax return. I know many writerly friends use it for chatting on subjects writerly but I haven't quite worked that out yet. I'll have it figured out by the time the next new big thing comes along.

And now to blogging. A friend put this quote on facebook...never has so much been said by so many about so little. Or words to that effect. However, there are some fantastic blogs out there. I just have to work out what mine is about.

I'm setting myself little technology goals this year. Inaddition to blogging, I'm going to undertake my first blog tour, where I visit other people's blogs to promote my new book Puggle. So far only one person has offered to host me. Fingers crossed more wil fill up.

Then the NEXT BIG THING. Well for me anyway. Book trailers. Lots of great book trailers on youtube. Arrrgh...can't the world just stay still and let me catch up!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Puggle: Baby echidna photos.

Just a short note today.
I've just posted new pictures of the real Puggle, the baby echidna in my book.

Thanks to Helen Joakim for sending these to me.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Puggle the baby echidna is launched.

On Saturday, I launched my picture book, Puggle, at the Toorak/Sth Yarra library...and my family has almost forgiven me! I was a bundle of nerves on the day, which was silly, considering I'd done two talks at country libraries the previous weekends, basically doing a practice run. Still it's different when you are far away from home!

I owe a really big thankyou to the following people:

  • Claire and Linda from Jeffreys Books in Malvern for coordinating the event.

  • Stonnington Libraries for providing the venue and supporting the event with refreshments.

  • Patricia Arkoudi from Stonnington Libraries for helping with organisation.

  • Lily Merry from Stonnington Libraries for her fantastic efforts on the day, with setting up and clearing up, you have my eternal gratitude!

  • Andrew Plant for his delicious echidna cake and for his patience in drawing animals for my daughter and her friends.

  • Helen Joakim for providing the gorgeous photos of Puggle growing up.

  • Adriana Simmonds from Wildlife Victorie for her heartfelt speech and launching the book with such enthusiasm.

And most importantly my editor and publisher Jane Covernton of Working Title Press. Working Title Press is a small, independent, Australian publisher. It has been wonderul to work with Jane as her dedication to every aspect of the book is legendary. She's made me work hard as a writer and I've learnt a lot. Despite the fact that she is a small(ish) pulisher, Jane had no hesitation in providing wine for the launch and for that I am doubly grateful. It inspires me to work harder to make the book a success for us all.

And of course everyone who came! It was great to see so many friends, some of whom I hadn't seen in years as I'd been overseas.

I was quoted by Virginia Lowe in her newsletter recently, talking about book launches. I'm not sure if it came out right or not. Her question was, did I expect everyone to buy a book who comes to my launch. My answer was no...books are expensive, especially hardback picture books. For me a launch is a chance to celebrate those successes which are often a long time coming, to share with friends and also publicity. Of course, I'd like to sell books too! If people don't buy books, there are other things they can do to support me, such as fill your glass, give you a kiss, tell everyone at school/work what a great book it was and recommend it to others. They can blog about it, or tweet about it, request it from their local library.

Bridget Jones also has a lot to answer for. Like many people, before I started writing I thought that publishers put on a lovely party for you...perhaps they did once. Perhaps they do for famous people. The reality is that most writers organise their own launch. If you are lucky, a bookshop might support you, throw in a couple of bottles of wine, some sandwiches or a venue. My first launch, for My Grandad Marches on Anzac Day was sponsored by the East Malvern RSL, who provided wonderful food, wine and a venue. Many books were sold on that day but the resultant 'buzz' was what was important too. did my day begin?

Firstly, I was a little seedy from the night before. Not a great start but it was Twilight Sports at my youngest daughters school. I made lots of hamburgers and put loads of sausages in buns, just managed to see my daughter lose her race in the great family tradition but then I SHOULD HAVE GONE STRAIGHT HOME.

Next, my husband woke me with his incessant restlessness at 3am because he has a dodgy knee.

Then daughter number two had a fancy dress party and I'd forgotten to get a present so we had to brave the hordes at Chadstone.

I had to run to Harvey Norman to get a remote for the laptop.

I went to the wine shop to get more wine as I panicked.

My husband cleaned the house and told me I should have a glass of wine to calm down. ...I didn't .

My daughter told me to calm down and that allwould be fine.

I rang the library to check numbers and convinced myself that no one was coming.

I dropped daughter off at a friends, who would then take her to fancy dress party.

Once people started arriving, I was fine. I realised that these were supporters, not hecklers and it wasn't like I was going to be voted off the island if no one liked my speech.

Andrew and his family had made a beautiful echidna cake, complete with chocolate bullet spines. It was such a shame to cut it and slightly surreal to see children eating it's head.

Adriana Simmonds from Wildlife Victoria gave an inspirational speech about why it is important to care for all our wildlife, not just those on the endangered list. As a carer herself we could all tell how much she loved Australian wildlife.

And I apologised to my family for being a bad mum that morning. I guess they're the ones I should really thank most of all. They put up with me day in , day out.

Several glasses of wine, and many signed books later, I managed to herd the last people out of the library just as the security guard was shutting up.

So for pictures of PUGGLE, they'll soon be posted on my website.


Friday, February 19, 2010

SCBWI Regional Meeting

Last week I drove up to Castlemaine, to the SCBWI regional meeting held in Stoneman's bookstore. A real old-fashioned bookstore it was, full of nooks, crannies and interesting finds. If you are ever in the area, make sure you check it out. John was a great host, even providing us with a showbag. I'm using the sleeping mask that was in my relaxation kit every night...

We heard from two different speakers, Bernadette Kelly and Glenda Millard, with two different approaches to their writing. Bernadette spoke about her determination to be published and how she used every opportunity to become involved in the trade. She did volunteer work and in one project, worked with primary school students to edit and publish books of short stories. This successful venture continued for a number of years. Bernadette is the author of the Riding High and Pony Patch series of books and also writes non fiction.

Glenda Millard had us all in stitches with her descriptions of local life and growing up in Castlemaine. She had a little snippet of gossip about everyone and made me feel as if I'd grown up there too. I'm looking forward to reading some of her work as she has such as sense of character, time and place. Her book 'Perry Angel's Suitcase' is shortlisted for this years Patricia Wrightson Award.

During the break, we were treated to a reading of Claire Saxby's new picture book 'There Was An Old Sailor.' This is a fantastic book and is sure to do really well for Claire. Growing up, I always enjoyed books that were not only entertaining but where I learnt something too. Claire's book excels on both counts. A variation on the old rhyme, there was an old lady who swallowed a fly...Claire's sailor swallows a krill....of course 'it'll make him ill!' A succession of sea creatures are swallowed by the sailor to catch that krill. Claire says that although she had the scaffold of the original rhyme, she had a lot of work to do to find creatures and rhymes that would work. The endpapers are a delight, with funny facts about the sea creatures. Cassandra Allen's illustrations are perfect. The sailor never looks daunted by the creatures he swallows and we are amazed as he manages to fit them all in. This is such a great read aloud book that every home and school should have one. I'm looking forward to Claire's launch in a week's time.

The first book launch I attended was for Leigh Hobbs at Books Illustrated. This was when I was just an aspiring writer with a dream. Upstairs was jam packed and I was flattened against the stair railing, glass of champagne in hand. It was fantastic to be able to see the artwork for Old Tom as I didn't at that stage have an appreciation of the visual side of picture books. Seems silly doesn't it, now I write picture books!

Anne Haddon and Anne James have now moved from the Gasworks but now operate a gallery for illustrators by appointment. It means they can have more time off. Anne Haddon spoke at the SCBWI meeting about some of the things they had been doing recently, including preparing tours of illustators work for regional areas. Anne H prompted by Anne J also gave us an insight on their trip to China and what that country is looking for in terms of books... and the sometimes difficulties of setting up exhibitions without and interpreter.

As always a drink afterwards, unfortunately half of us were on febfast. What a silly month to have it!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Faking It.

One day when I'm grown up, I want to be a real writer. I wonder what it will feel like. My friends say..'that's ridiculous, you have five published picture books, of course you're a writer.'

But my secret fear is that each book will be the last. I have a book coming out in March and one in September in the UK. BUT I STILL DON'T FEEL LIKE A WRITER! Happily this week I had an acceptance for another book so that feeling that it's all going to evaporate tomorrow has gone a little for now.

When I first started out all I wanted was that first acceptance. But it wasn't enough.

I was worried that I would be the Plastic Bertrand of childrens books. There, showing my age now. But Ca Plane Pour Moi can still get middle aged people at a person dancing like a bungee jumper. Then the next acceptance came. You'd think I'd relax then but no, it was worse. What if I only had two ideas that were any good??? I'd always wanted to be a writer and be able to utter those words, so I told myself that once I had three books published I could actually say to people, 'I'm a writer.' But now, I tell people I'm a chemistry teacher. Go figure.

I'm friends with some wonderfully talented writers. It's nice to know I'm not the only one who feels that way. This was a comment from Trudie Trewin ( I wish I was as funny as her. She must be a real writer!

Says Trudie 'I really hope there's a point where the pretend-writer feeling goes away
too! Or will there be a Current Affair expose one day, with me trying to
slam the door on the camera - and the reporter calling out 'You just
fluked it a couple of times, didn't you - you're not really a writer are
you? - Can you tell us what a mixed metaphor is Mrs Trewin? or a
fragmented sentence? ... Mrs Trewin?... we know you're in there'

It's nice to know someone else feels the same way!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Handling Rejection

Late January is the time when editors and publishers come back from holidays, like the rest of Australia. It's a time of excitement for some, with phone calls and contracts. For me the year began with two rejections.

I emailed a friend and her reply was sympathetic. She's a single mum with two kids and she has just joined an on line dating agency. Of the fifteen 'nuffies' sent to her, the only one she was interested rejected her before they had a meeting. Her take on it was, rejection sucks no matter what form it takes.

I guess I know I've progressed somewhat up the writing ladder. I submitted to my UK publisher and received an email rejection in a couple of days. In between time, I went camping with the family. I sat under the shade , with my feet in a river, drinking a cold beer and dreamt of my next book. It's like the time between buying a lotto ticket and when the numbers are drawn.

When I first began submitting to publishers, the wait could be as long as 9 months, which was a very long time to wait. Because of this long wait, writers who are just starting out often ask the question about multiple submissions. You'll get lots of different answers. I started out being a little indiscriminate about submitting and submitted to many at a time, anticipating rejection. I knew what those large white envelopes addressed to me, in my own handwriting meant when they were sitting in my mailbox. Sometimes I'd bring the envelope in and leave it on the bench and pour myself a large glass of wine before I could bring myself around to opening it.

Publishers get so many submissions, they can't give personal rejections to everyone and many are simply one line standard letters stating that your manuscript doesn't fit their list. My first submission was amateurish in the extreme, poorly written, with a cover letter which was an embarrassment. Thankfully, I received a nice rejection letter from Penguin, encouraging me to keep writing. Their rejection letters seemed varied was only later when I heard one of their editors give a talk that I found out they have rejection letters from about A to K!

Still, I knew I was progressing, when my rejection letters began to sound like someone had actually read the book and evaluated it's potential. My Grandad Marches on Anzac Day was rejected by a number of publishers before it ended up with Lothian. It continues to be reprinted every year. I still have the rejection letters which said 'we only publish works which have commercial potential or literary merit' and the one which said ' we like your book, but it would only sell once a year.'

I comfort myself with thoughts like this when I have a rejection now. However, then I have to pick myself up, read the reasons for rejections and decide whether I can a) improve the manuscript, b) target it to a different publisher or d) put it in the bottom drawer.

My husband is a teacher and yesterday had a professional development session where apparently the topic came up about handling rejection. He piped up with, 'I know all about that, my wife's a writer.' He told them that this was a bad week as I'd had a rejection and he was asked how he handled it and supported it. In a way, existing in my own little vacuum of self pity, I didn't realise it affected him. I share rejection with my on line buddies, who I feel really know what that rejection letter or email feels like. But maybe my friend is right, rejection is the same no matter what form it takes and it sucks.

But tomorrow is a new day and I'm really liking writing about mad chickens at the moment. Until then, my daughter wants a new haircut, I need to tidy the house and decide whether I'm really going to start stripping the skirting boards in the hallway.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Googleing On....

Further to my last post on the google settlement, I received an email from my UK publisher regarding their position on the google settlement. They will claim but make unavailable for display purposes. If an author disagrees, they can contact the publisher. By now, the time to opt out has passed, so those who have not actively done so will be deemed to have opted in.

The publisher recommended reading the following:

Also the link to the presentation given by CAL is to be found at

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

CAL Google Settlement Seminar

With the deadline of 28th January looming to opt out of the Google Settlement, I thought I'd better attend the seminar in Melbourne run by CAL at the State Library, to see how it would affect me...if at all.

The seminar was run by Karen Pitt, general counsel for CAL and her powerpoint presentation will be available via the CAL website by the end of the week.

For those in the dark, Google announced in 2004 that it was going to digitise the holdings of major US research libraries, without the permission of the rightsholders ie publishers and authors. Funnily enough the rightsholders objected and started a class action.

There is now a settlement on the table, whereby Google agrees to pay a one off payment to those whose works were digitised prior to May 5 2009. This absolves them from all liability for past scanning. As to the future, it depends on whether your book is classified as commercially available...which is deemed as being offered for sale new by a seller anywhere in the world to a buyer in the US, Canada, the UK or Australia. If it is commercially available,the default position is that the work is out unless rightsholders opt in.

One of the most useful parts of the seminar was the question time. question as primarily a picture book writer does this affect me.
Copyright for the text of a picture book is retained by the author while the copyright for the illustrations is retained by the illustrator. Therefore, both author and illustrator must agree to opt in/out. If one doesn't, the most restrictive ruling applies ie if my illustrator says no and I say yes, then the work is not included.

After the seminar my next step was to find out whether or not my works had been digitised. So that's where I am right now, with another tab open on my browser. Come with me if you like.

I've typed in
I've been here before but it was a long time ago. I've got the option of creating an account but I take a stab at what I might have put in as a user name and a password and I'm successful. I must be so predictable.

I'm told I can now manage my claimed books and inserts. I click on 'find and claim'
and then enter my name and publisher. Up pops a list of my books, including paperback and hardback versions. The most recent book isn't listed.

Notably, I'm told that none of my books were digitised prior to May 2009. I'm not surprised as I doubt my Australian picture books would be found in a major US research library. There are now other libraries which are participating in the library project including Oxford University, but no Australian libraries. So that means that I'm not entitled to the one off payment.

I am however surprised to see the listing of The Music Tree as not commercially available. Hmm, I know it is for sale in some places and I disagree with this. We were told at the seminar that if a rights holder asserts that a book is commercially available, Google will not display the book unless it is commercially available. Now I'm going to put that to the test.

I tick the boxes and claim all the books listed.

Now I am on the claim form.I click on 'assert rights' for The Music Tree and am asked whether the rights have reverted to me...which they haven't because frankly it's not out of print. This is getting complicated.

I click submit and claim and I'm back to the main claim form. I certify that the book was published in one of the countries listed. Now I click on Claim and it confirms that I have one book claimed and five pending.

Next, click on Manage claims and inserts. Hopefully now I'm at the stage where I can tell them it's commercially available. If I don't change this then Google will be able to make all display uses for my book, including print on demand and public display at libraries (no different from my book being in a library anyway but I don't get PLR)

I click on the title of the book and come to the part where I can challenge the commercially available status. Interestingly on this page it states that I challenge that it is not commercially available in the US. This is possibly a throwback to the original settlement, whereas in the new settlement the definition has been widened. I'm asked to provide proof of my challenge. So I open yet another tab in the brower and go to amazon uk and find my book for sale. Sadly for my ego, it is reduced to £2.98. Strangely it lists the publisher as Orchard, not Lothian and the publication date as May 2008...did someone sell the rights overseas and not tell me??? I also go to Dymocks and find it at RRP with Dymocks on line. Hmm, if anyone wants a copy it's cheaper to have it shipped from the UK. How's that for book miles. I copy and paste these listings as proof that it is commercially available.

I now get to control the display uses. As the book was deemed not commercially available, Google has all the boxes ticked. I'm going to change them.

I tick Consumer Purchase, but specify a price of $US 28. I want to remove it from Public Access Service but this means I have to also remove it from Consumer Purchase, so I do so.

I select Preview, which means that it can be displayed as a marketing tool and I select the Fixed Preview option which means that only 10% of the book can be displayed. I also allow Snippet display, Front Matter display and Advertising.

There, I'm done.

For commercially available works, payment goes to the publisher and then flows on to the author via the agreement in the contract.

Apparently the ASA supports the ammended settlement saying that will 'provide income opportunities for authors of out-of- print books.

As the deadline for opting out approaches, I'm not going to opt out. As a picture book writer, I don't think the Google Settlement is going to affect me. My publisher is still the rightsholder for all my books. The advice at the seminar was to contact your publisher if you wished to discuss the status of your works. If the work is in print, both publisher and author must direct google and the process is initiated by the publisher. If the rights have reverted to the author it's a whole different ballgame.

Ahh, I hear children stirring, my time of peace is over. I must say however my two beautiful daughters deserve a medal for sitting through the seminar with me for over an hour. They did enjoy the meringues and biscuits afterwards though!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Freezing or Roasting!!!!

Ahh, back in sunny Australia and feeling a little like a writer again. Geographically the UK is much smaller than Australia but still it felt so much bigger. When I came back to Australia in 1992, I felt terribly isolated but Skype and the internet have changed all that. My daughters can keep up with their friends and even take them on a tour of our house with the laptop. I'll miss my family over in Scotland but I hope that I've tempted at least some of the cousins to come out and visit. I've promised Stuart that I'll take him somewhere camping where it doesn't rain! We'll also miss some great friends we met overseas but hope to meet again some day.

Before leaving the UK, I was lucky enought to attend the Hodder Christmas Party in London. It was vewy vewy scary. I wanted to make a good impression, so I bought a new red coat that I'd been eyeing up for weeks. Then we stayed at friend's...and my husband who is a compulsive tidier put my new red coat in their cupboard and we left it there. Let me tell you, there were tears and tantrums. However, on arrival as it was an upstairsvenue, we all checked our coats in downstairs, so no one saw the coat I'd had to borrow at the last minute anyway. Shhh don't tell my husband though.

I'd been looking forward to this ever since the invitation popped through the mailbox but the actuality was daunting. Suddenly there was a room full of strangers and some of them were probably famous. I started the process of trying to read name tags without appearing to be starting at people's breasts. I noticed Shirley Hughes on the first round.

I got back to where I'd started and thought it would be easier with a drink in hand. Then I did the rounds again. Couldn't see Emma Layfield, my editor, and began to panic. I did consider slinking out and going back to the hotel where my family waited but I thought that wouldn't be a very good example to set the kids. So I gritted my teeth and made my mind up to just walk up and introduce myself with the rather pathetic 'Hi, I'm Catriona from Australia and I don't know anyone...' Someone up there was looking after me. By chance one of the people in the group had worked on my book 'George and Ghost' and said that she loved it.

I was then introduced to my wonderful editor, Emma...who then introduced me to Cassia Thomas, the illustrator who I'd been really keen to meet. We chatted about the book and before I knew it, I was chatting away to people I didn't know as if I did it every week.

The Christmas speech included acolades for books from both Orchard and Hodder, both of which are now under the umbrella of Hachette. Some important pointers for new writers...the age of the bookshop is over, whether we like it or not on line bookshops are here to stay and....we are all responsible for our own marketing. Every author should have a webpage, a blog and be tweeting and twittering for all we are worth. Hence my resolution to resurrect my blog.

Finally, the wine ran out and the venue had to leave. A conga line of die hards headed off to the nearest pub, while I headed back to my hotel with my new friend Alison Murray. As she's from Scotland, I used my other accent. Alison doesn't have a website, so that's her project for the new year.

So the new year begins for me back in my old house. It feels like I've only been away for a moment as putting on my old life is like putting on an old familiar piece of clothing...only it isn't because none of my old clothes fit!