I saw this picture the other day and felt very comforted. It’s a lovely thought isn’t it.
And after I’d seen it and shared it about, it occurred to me that there will be poems in the future that I love, but as yet, have not been written. Writers, all artists no doubt, will have similar thoughts – well that’s it, I’ll never create anything I love more than this and then we do.
One of my favourite poems for a long time is one titled Breathe. This poem was published by The School Magazine (Blast Off – February 2020) and was illustrated by Tohby Riddle.
Incidentally, if you’re a teacher, you can get a free trial of the digital for 4 weeks!
This poem was written in September 2018. I’ve written other poems of course, some I like more and some I like a little less but my point is, that unless you’ve heard the fat lady sing – do not put your creative tools down!
Here’s my current favourite. Published by The School Magazine (Countdown – November 2021) and illustrated by Michel Streich.
I would like to celebrate World Poetry Day this year by once again saying thank you to The School Magazine (and all its subscribers) for supporting me and my poetry. Since 2005 my poems/stories have appeared 36 issues of the various magazines – Countown, Blast Off, Orbit and Touchdown. The poster above is a little collage of some of them.
Why do I like writing for The School Magazine? Because of the illustrations! And the same goes, of course, for writing picture books. I have no illustration talent whatsoever and I absolutely adore seeing how my words have been translated, for lack of a better word. So today, and in no particular order, I would also like to say a huge thank you to all the talented illustrators who have brought my poetry and stories to life.
The late Kim Gamble – If I Were a Giant
Gaye Chapman – Magical Nine ~ Fire
Vilma Cencic – Nothing to Worry About ~ A Raindrop Race ~ A Pig Tale
Kerry Millard – Puppy & Me ~ Greens and Genes
Drahos Zak – The Wolf, the Woodcutter, Granny and the Red Riding Hood
Astra Lacis – My Cat ~ Birds of a Feather
Andrew Joyner – Get out of the Water! ~ It’s True
Stephen Axelsen – A Raindrop Race (reprint)
Veronica Rooke – The Crows
Anna Bron – Wherever
Bronwyn Bancroft – Fleeting ~ Birdsong
Matt Ottley – Hark ~ A Dessert Sky ~ Metamorphosis ~ A Sticky Situation ~ To Paint the Sky
Althea Aseoche – The Halloween Elf
Christopher Nielsen – It is What it is ~ A Not so Ordinary Afternoon ~ How Curious
Tohby Riddle – Breathe ~ The Invasion
Jenny Tan – My Mother’s Hands
Aśka – Stumped
Sheree Fiala – Inside
And Happy World Poetry Day!
And for anyone who’d like to read some of my poetry you can download this PDF for FREE until midnight tonight. I’ve prettied it up in CANVA. Just click the image below…
“If I Were a Giant” was the first poem of mine that The School Magazine published in ORBIT way back in 2005. This is what the cover of the magazine looked like. Tom Jellett illustrated it.
And here is the poem, beautifully illustrated by the late, great Kim Gamble.
I lived by the sea when I wrote this poem and every morning I would walk my dog, Jep. Here’s Jep…
On this particular morning I walked over the hill and saw the sun rising over the ocean and the town was spread below me and I felt very big because I could see so much. I felt like a giant and I wondered, if I were giant could I paint the world as beautifully as nature had. The poem is quite structured. It follows a day from morning to night. It also loosely follows the seasons with the blossoms of Spring, the beaches in Summer, the Autumn coloured sunset and the cold Winter night. I like patterns and I like order, this, I think, is why I also enjoy writing in rhyme and metre. It brings order to an otherwise chaotic and often unpredictable world. Mostly my poems are joyful, I like to think that they capture beauty and if they can also bring a smile to your face then that is the perfect outcome and really the reason I write at all.
So when I write a poem I see the subject matter in my head, like a movie or a painting. I’ve always thought of poetry as painting with words. Capturing an emotional moment by focusing on the essence of what I want to say. A poem, for me, is a way to condense so much into smaller, more manageable bites. Each poem that I write, in a way, is like a jigsaw piece, the completed jigsaw will show how I’ve seen and experienced the world. But of course it’s not finished yet!
On 6th January Lesley’s and my new book with Walker officially hit the shelves and I just wanted to share some of the wonderful things that have been said about it so far but before I do that I’d like to share the book’s journey to publication because that’s been a road trip in itself!
Back in 2016 (yes 5 years ago) I had the very great privilege of a manuscript assessment with Maryann Ballantyne at a Kid Lit Vic Conference. While the manuscript that I submitted wasn’t quite on target, the meeting began a conversation. One that ultimately led to the conception of a road trip book.
As you may well know, The Croc and the Platypus is a reworking of Lear’s The Owl and the Pussycat. “Reworking” is something that I love to do and originally I had the idea to “rework” John Williamson’s Home Among the Gum Trees.
Here’s how it went (more fun if you know the tune)…
I’ve been around the countryside
A hundred times or more
I’ve seen a roo and wombat too
And cockies by the score
But I would rather find myself
Amongst the city sprawl
And this is what I say
Give me a home amidst the city
The lights are pretty
And the Opera house is pretty grouse
The Sydney Harbour Bridge
Is also ridgy didge
It’s the city life for me
The problem however was that it was too similar to the original so copyright and permissions might have been an issue. However if I could come up with something more original then that (pardon the pun) would be another story!! And so the idea for An Amazing Australian Road Trip was born. That was in September 2017.
And here’s the original first and second verses…
We’ve packed the paraphernalia
For a road trip round Australia
There’s Mum and Dad and Flea
And Aunty Glo and me
‘Let’s go!’ says Aunty Gloria
And we head across Victoria
With lunch and luggage stowed
We hit the Ocean Road
The contract was signed at the end of 2017 then jump forward ten months and I begin working with the wonderful Linsay Knight. A few hiccups meant that we had to find a new illustrator (hello Lesley!) and push back the release date but such is the world of publishing.
During this time I applied for a May Gibbs Creative Time Fellowship – and am happy to say I was accepted. In April 2019 I spent a wonderful month in Canberra where I completely reworked my Road Trip story even changing the metre from a duple one to a triple one. I felt a triple metre suited a longer text without sounding too stilted.
The first verse now reads…
We’re travelling from Melbourne on a birthday trip west,
our aunty is sixty and we’re off on a quest.
She’s keen for a picnic and fancies a view,
a cake and a loud “Happy Birthday to You!”
And that’s the story behind the story with a wonderfully happy ending which brings me back to what this blog post is about. Sharing the wonderful things that are being said about our Amazing Australian Road Trip.
In no particular order – huge thanks to these guys!
So next week I’m going to be sharing a very exciting opportunity for anyone hoping to further their career as a children’s author/illustrator but before I do that I would like to invite you to download this e-book which is being offered free of charge by the crowd at INFOSTACK.
INFOSTACK have invited me to be part of their “KidLit Creators Super Stack” – which is a collection (a stack) of kidlit resources from all round the world. For one week this stack of info will be made available at a ridiculously affordable price. My contribution to the stack is my METRE MATTERS COURSE. But that’s for next week. In the meantime please enjoy this wonderful FREE resource and learn the secrets to crafting a timeless children’s classic straight from industry leaders such as…
*A former literary agent who is an award-winning author/illustrator, the acquiring editor and art director at Clearfork Publishing/Spork, and the founder of the Children’s Book Academy.
*A Random House published author, editor, agent, educator, and the publisher of Children’s Book Insider, and Children’s Writing Monthly.
*The award-winning author of children’s booksGrumbler, Joyride, and Pling’s Party, and the owner of Orange Blossom Publishing.
As this very strange year comes to a close I was thrilled to receive an early Christmas present from Walker Books, my author copies of my next picture book, An Amazing Australian Road Trip. How brilliant does it look! I absolutely love it.
Fingers crossed that I will be able to launch it into the world with all the celebration that it deserves.
In other news my poem, The Little Boat and Me, received a Highly Commended in The Scribbles Creative Writing Awards. Competitions are interesting animals, I know because I run them myself. Sometimes it’s difficult to know, particularly if you write in verse, if a piece is a story or a poem. For the competition that I run each Spring, I see the difference between the two like this – a story tells a story with a beginning, a middle and an end where a poem captures a moment or an emotion. When I first wrote The Little Boat and Me, I thought it was a picture book and I took it along to KidLitVic 2018 to be assessed by Cristina Pase from Windy Hollow Books and this is some of what she had to say about it…
“Language is beautifully used to evoke emotion. Language is very visual and sensory…I loved the imagery; the gentleness but the very things I loved, for me made it less of a picture book manuscript and more of a poem.”
Hence why I entered it into the poetry category of the Scribbles CWAs rather than the picture book one. Having said that, however, some folk would say that poems can tell stories too, and they can. No one would argue that The Man from Snowy River isn’t a poem but the reason that I draw a distinction between the two is because, for me, it would be like comparing apples with oranges. It just levels the playing field a bit I think.
So if you’ve been entering competitions or submitting to publishers with what you thought was a picture book text and you’ve not been getting anywhere – then maybe, just maybe, it’s a poem.
My last bit of news is that Temper Tabitha, published by Larrikin House is being released as a BIG BOOK in March next year and later in Hardback. I am thrilled to bits about this as this book is such fun to read aloud and we all love a naughty but nice story.
A reader contacted me recently and said…
“We bought your book ‘Temper Tabitha’ and we have read it 5 times already. Our 2 year old […] sat and listened, never usually happens.
Warmed the cockles it did.
If you fancy a copy of Temper Tabitha and the chance to win a cute bunny Shakespeare’s Bookshop in Blackwood South Australia is running a competition. To be in the draw see below…
So that’s about it I think. Keeping fingers crossed that next year is less traumatic, hoping to be able to celebrate (properly) the 3 new picture books that will be released, An Amazing Australian Road Trip (Walker Books) Jan 6th 2021, I Really Want a Pet (Scholastic) May 2021 and An Aussie Christmas Gum Tree (Walker Books) for Christmas 2021.
Until then, keep safe, enjoy the festive season and I’ll look forward to sharing my books with you in the New Year!
Today is the official release day for my new picture book with Larrikin House, illustrated by Leah Russack. No big fanfare or book launch, just a quiet announcement to welcome Tabitha into this very strange world that we are living in at the moment. And here’s a sneak peek of how the story begins.
When Tabitha wanted a that or a this
she wouldn’t ask nicely and give you a kiss,
she’d stamp and she’d stomp,
she’d rant and she’d rave,
Tabitha didn’t know how to behave.
When I originally sent this story to Larrikin House it had a very different ending to the one it has now, one that I thought was hilarious, but one that left the reader feeling unsatisfied. James however, saw the potential and together we coaxed it into a much more satisfying shape and of course, along came Leah who further improved it with her own interpretation. One of the things I like most about the whole process is seeing what the illustrator will bring to the story, Tabitha’s bunny being one of them.
So just for a bit of fun I thought I’d share with you how the story originally ended, because deep down, the wicked part of me, still thinks it’s funny.
The children lost interest and went on their way
The audience, speechless had nothing to say
Mother and Grandfather had a nice chat
Till Tabitha wanted a this and a that
This of course, this isn’t how the story ends but will Tabitha ever learn how to behave? If you know a Temper Tabitha, and we all do, this may well be the book for you and rest assured that the ending isn’t quite so wicked!
15 years ago The School Magazine published a poem titled, If I Were a Giant, and this was the beginning of a very beautiful friendship. Illustrated exquisitely by the late, great Kim Gamble, this poem still holds a special place in my heart.
Since then, along with so many wonderful illustrators, we have produced many beautiful poems but never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would be invited to be part of their Literary Festival. I am humbled and truly honoured and also a little apprehensive because while I know I can write poetry, I’ve never really thought about how I do it and then I wonder, is poetry a thing that can be taught anyway? Because I think, perhaps, we are all poets – so I guess what I hope to do is to encourage or coax the poet, that may be shy or too timid to show itself, out into the sunshine.
Thanks again to everyone who is part of creating this priceless magazine and I will look forward to being part of a festival that not only celebrates literacy but creativity in all its guises. So please join me and all these other wonderful creatives as we celebrate The Wonderful World of Worlds.
Just wanted to share what some of my poems have been up to lately should you fancy taking a look.
Stone the Crows
Stone the Crows was first published in The Caterpillar Magazine in 2018 and it recently appeared in their weekly mailout. It has been added to the Better Than Starbucks site here. Such a wonderful resource for all sorts of poetry. I’ve also been lucky enough to have it beautifully illustrated by Debbie Mourtzios. Debbie has illustrated a few of my poems. I really love her style.
It’s true was first published in The School Magazine (Blast Off 2013) and more recently on Kenn Nesbitt’s GiggleVerse site, another brilliant resource.
I think that walking on your tongue Would make it hard to eat But did you know the butterfly Has tastebuds on its feet?
And did you know the elephant With trunk and massive rump In fact’s the only animal That cannot ever jump?
The crocodile with gnashing teeth And gnarled and snarling snout Never sticks its tongue out Cause it cannot stick it out
And snails can sleep for years and years A problem hard to fix They fall asleep at three years old And wake up when their six
The ostrich is a flightless bird That runs along the plain And did you know its eyeball Is bigger than its brain?
And did you know the cockroach Can live without its head? It takes nine days for it to starve Before it drops down dead.
And did you know the slimy slug That slithers on the floor Is known to be quite nosey Not with one nose, but with four?
A flea can spring a distance Many times its size Like you could jump a football field And win the long-jump prize.
But here’s a thing you’ll never do Your mouth is not that wide A hippo’s on the other hand Can fit you right inside
But the weirdest of the animals The ones not in the zoo Live inside the mirror