My May Gibbs Creative Time Fellowship – 2 months on…

Now that I’ve settled back in at home I’m asking myself exactly how creative was I during my month in Canberra? Well, let’s see…

I polished the text for my next picture book with Walker, due out by Christmas next year (2020).

Walker is also considering another picture book at the moment, fingers, toes and eyes are crossed.

I wrote a number of poems, one of which has been purchased by The School Magazine (they are sitting on 3 others). I also wrote a couple of picture books, one of which is being considered by one of the major publishers in Australia, for this I am holding my breath.

A new publisher Larrikin House has accepted a picture book called Temper Tabitha due out in March 2020 and is seriously considering another one.

I’ve submitted five other picture books to five different publishers that, as yet, haven’t been officially rejected – I like to live in hope, you have to in this game, so no news is good news, until it isn’t.

I submitted 3 stories and two were accepted into Michelle Worthington’s anthology – Spooktacular Stories: Thrilling Tales for Brave Kids.

And of course one of the highlights was the launch of Jackie’s French and Tania McCartney’s stunning book (in which I have two poems), This is Home: Essential Australian Poems for Children, published by The National Library of Victoria.

So all in all, pretty creative I’d say and I cannot thank the May Gibbs Trust enough for giving me that precious gift of time but I’ll give it a go…

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Poetry Friday

This week’s roundup can be found at ELIZABETH STEINGLASS
Poetry for Children and their Grownups here

Elizabeth is celebrating the release of her new book Soccerverse: Poems about Soccer which includes 22 poems about everything soccer – the ball, shin guards, uniforms, teammates, dribbling, fans and even the handshake after the game. So in the same tradition I thought I’d share a poem that I wrote, wait for it, 13 years ago about my oldest child Harrison and his love of Aussie Rules Football. And as it’s Mothers’ Day here in Australia on Sunday I thought that this was the perfect poem to share. It actually came to be written as the football club had a competition running for mothers to write a short story about what it was that they enjoyed about mothering a junior football player. So this is what I wrote. It won the competition in case you were wondering.

My May Gibbs Creative Time Fellowship

Welcomed at the airport by the wonderful Virginia West on April Fool’s Day – so my adventure began. Today is my final day in Canberra and I can’t believe how quickly four weeks have passed. This post will be a little summary of my time here.

The first adventure began at the airport as we were unable to find where Virginia had parked the car! It reminded me of that Seinfeld episode. It was very funny and made me feel right at home. Once the car was found we went to the National Museum for a lovely lunch and I stared in awe across the lake at the The National Library.

You can see the library poking through the trees

After a lovely lunch of pulled pork and salad we did a quick grocery shop before I was taken to my new home at The Australian National University. My apartment was very cosy and I particularly loved the shower – great water pressure!

Reading back over my notes – which I wasn’t very consistent with, I can tell you that I wrote all afternoon and most of the next day which made me feel very writerly. Now I don’t want to do a day by day report so I’ll only mention some of the highlights. The first was a visit to the Botanical Gardens where I accidentally walked up Black Mountain to the Telstra Tower. I say accidentally because I had no intention of walking up the mountain until I stumbled upon a sign that said – this way to the Telstra Tower – and I thought, how hard can it be? Well, very hard, that’s how hard. But I did it!

The second was Tania McCartney’s Hip Hip Hooray Book Launch at Harry Hartog’s. Only a ten minute walk from the apartment I managed not to get lost and enjoyed catching up with some fellow writers that I’d only ever met online.

Hip Hip Hooray Book Launch

Next was the absolutely wonderful launch of This is Home – Essential Australian Poems for Children (in which I have two) selected by Jackie French and illustrated by Tania McCartney – one of reasons for choosing to spend my time in Canberra apart from the fact that I’d never been here before. Apologies for my lack of photographs I was too busy getting the authors to sign their poems for me.

Mum and Dad drove up from Ballarat for the launch which was a huge effort. Caught up with them a few times – one time included visiting the Portrait Gallery.

On Monday 15th Tania McCartney organised a get together of the SCBWI ACT group at the NLA’s cafe Bookplate where I was surprised with birthday gifts and made to feel incredibly welcome. Again so nice to put faces to names.

A lovely and very thoughtful surprise.

Another thing that I have done is create a photobook of my poetry this time with Mixbook. This is such a fun thing to do and a lovely way to showcase your work. My dream of course would be a proper published collection of my poetry illustrated by a proper illustrator and published by a proper publisher – the dream of any children’s poet I should think.

I’ve written quite a few new poems while I’ve been here. One was inspired by the Eagle’s Nest Sculpture at the Arboretum which I was able to visit twice thanks to Virginia West. The first time was a drive through where I took this picture then wrote a little poem.

Gilded

It sits atop a farmer’s hill
A wedged-tailed eagle’s nest
Made from lost machinery
The perfect place to rest

A tangled weave of welded steel
Abandoned from the farm
A striking metal sculpture
Reflecting Canberra’s charm

The second time we visited was for lunch and what a funny lunch that was! The views were spectacular, my entree, however, was not. We ordered their lunch special which consisted of 3 courses. I ordered the prawn bisque for my entree which turned out to be 3 huge king prawns ankle deep in a tiny bowl of red-ish, luke-warmish soup. I managed to tackle the flesh from 2 prawns but gave up after that as the soup was now cold and my hands were completely covered in it, prawn flesh, shell and another liquid that I couldn’t quite determine. When asked how my dish was I had to be honest and suggest that it wasn’t the best way to serve soup. For what it’s worth, soup, in my opinion should not be eaten with your hands. The main dish was better and the cheese was lovely and the fact that they overcharged me by $100 has been rectified. A memorable and comedic day!

Another terrific experience was my visit to the National Centre for Australian Children’s Literature (NCACL) thanks to Belle Alderman. For those of you who don’t know NCACL is an independent not-for-profit body that collects, preserves and shares the works of Australian’s children’s book writers and illustrators. If you’d like to learn more about this amazing organisation their website can be found here.

Wrapping this up I would really like to thank everyone who has made this time available to me. This is the first time in my life where I have been on my own for this length of time. My children are now all adults and this time has given me a moment to reflect on, not only my writing but also my life which lately has offered up quite a few challenges. I have been able to use this time to reset and rethink and rejuvenate. It really has been the most wonderful experience and I encourage everyone to consider applying. The next round’s deadline is Tuesday 30th April – so you’d better get a move on.

I fly out tomorrow and I’ll be very sad to go but I am also very much looking forward to seeing my family again. I really have missed them terribly which is also another lovely reason to go away for a bit. Thank you to the May Gibbs Literature Trust, thank you to Virginia West, thank you to the SCBWI ACT gals particularly Tania McCartney for including me in so many things. Here are some random photos that I did manage to take. Thanks again Canberra – it’s been swell!!

Poetry Friday

I haven’t participated in Poetry Friday for a while but as it’s World Poetry Day (yesterday for me here in Oz) I wanted to keep the poetry thing going.

Today’s poetry roundup can be found at Rebecca Herzog’s Sloth Reads who also informs us that it’s National Goof Off Day so she sent a challenge out for some goofy poems.

And here is mine. Please enjoy Silly Pigs.

Results are in….

Huge congratulations to everyone who entered my Spring Poetry/Story in Verse Competition last Spring – you’ve all be incredibly patient but here is the moment you’ve all been waiting for. I have to say this was an incredibly hard decision to make hence all the highly commendeds and honourable mentions – the standard was fantastic. Prizes will be sent out shortly along with a email. Thanks to all of you who entered, the entries were an absolute joy to judge.

 

Beginnings and endings

It is with a heavy heart that I write this post. Ten days ago I lost my brother in law, Jason. Jason was only 41 years old when he slipped and fatally hit it head. He wasn’t found until the next morning and all efforts to save him ultimately failed. The family is understandably devastated. Jason was such a generous soul. Here he is setting up the swag that his brother, Jamie (my husband) and I slept in when we first bought our new property.

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Another thing that Jason loved to do was burn big bonfires and they were the tidiest bonfires that I’ve ever seen. This one took place a few weeks ago, just before the fire season started. He was always very responsible and was so looking forward to helping us clean up our property once the danger period was over.

We moved to our new home on 30th November, our youngest son’s 18th birthday. It’s a ten acre property on the Surf Coast of Victoria about a 20 min drive inland. It’s a beautiful property with so much birdlife, as I type I can hear so many birds twittering away. On the day that our son entered adulthood another tragedy was about to unfold. While we were busy unpacking, our blue staffordshire bullterrier Rex got into the next door neighbour’s yard and attacked their baby goat, the neighbour’s screams brought us running. Having always lived in houses with fences this was something that none of us had ever experienced with Rex – he was always such a gentle soul with even the smallest child. I guess we were naive, Rex was just following his instincts, which, as we were to find out later, possibly saved our lives. Unfortunately the goat didn’t survive, it was too badly injured and here’s where my instincts took over – something I never knew I had in me. The goat was suffering and I knew it had to be put down but to call in a vet would have taken too long. I won’t go into details but I was able, through sheer compassion, to put the goat to rest. It certainly wasn’t the best way to be introduced to your neighbours. Understandably upset, the mother of 3 wanted Rex reported to the council, we knew this wouldn’t end well for Rex. Immediately we build Rex an enclosed area and I assured her that I wouldn’t let him off his lead if he wasn’t in it and I hoped that she’d reconsider. Our son was devastated, he’s had Rex since he was nine and they’d slept together every night since. It was just awful. Here’s Rex in his enclosure. He didn’t like it one bit.

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As it was our son’s party was the next day, a Saturday, we asked that the neighbours hold off reporting him to the council until the Monday and they agreed. Now I’m not sure if I believe in Karma but what happened next seemed very Karmic to me. The party was held on the property. Two fires, one for our son and his friends and one for the “grown ups”. I let Rex out of the enclosure and put him on a long lead tied to tree. He could move about freely among us and was happy enough doing that. A friend of ours, Ross, who is a transplant recipient (kidney) was clearing a path between the house and the area that we were all sitting in. His wife and I were inside doing something when we hear, “Snake! Snake!” We ran to the back door in time to see Rex trotting back to Jamie. The snake was dead and I knew Rex had been bitten, this was his second snake bite. As I went to him he reared up and collapsed. We rushed him to emergency but it was too late. He wasn’t breathing on his own and even though they gave him a shot of anti-venom he was going to need another as well as having to be put on a ventilator and still with no guarantees of survival. It was going to cost thousands, money we didn’t have and so we made the very painful decision to have him put down. We didn’t tell our son until the next day.

So the month of December has been full of beginnings and endings. It’s been such a difficult time and I’ll be glad when this year is over. We will miss Jason and Rex so much and are ever grateful that Jason was able to donate his organs to 3 people and that Rex very likely saved Ross’s life as organ recipients have very compromised immune systems and wouldn’t likely survive a snake bite.

Here are some pictures of happier times. And as you can see below, one of the most beautiful beginnings is our niece Jaya – she will miss never knowing her Uncle Jason but we will keep his stories alive and believe me there are so many of them to tell. RIP dear Jason, you gave us so many laughs with your quirky ways. We will miss you terribly.

If at first you don’t succeed…

…what ever you do, don’t give up!

This morning I received some lovely news. A magazine in which I’ve been longing to appear accepted a poem to be published in their Winter Issue (Christmas because they are in the northern hemisphere). I have been submitting poems to this particular magazine since 2015 – 18 poems all up and I’ve also entered their competition a few times.

This particular poem I wrote for a different magazine for their “Crows” theme. The poem I wrote is called “Stone the Crows” – the rejection was lovely but a rejection all the same.

Thank you for submitting ‘Stone the Crows.’ We weren’t able to place it in the crows issue, but we wanted to let you know that we enjoyed your style and sense of humor. We hope you’ll submit to Root & Star again in the future.

If you visit their website you’ll see that the magazine is a lovely production and I will continue to submit to them. It’s a challenge now.

The magazine that has decided to publish “Stone the Crows” is The Caterpillar Magazine.

It too is a beautiful place to be published and I can’t wait to see how it is illustrated, one of the most satisfying things when it comes to having a poem published. And oh, for anyone who is interested, the poem rhymes, of course it does.

 

If I Were a Poet…

 

If I were a poet I wonder if I

could write lots of poems that spread wings and fly

 

Well that’s exactly what one of my poems has done. The very first poem that I wrote specifically for children, If I Were a Giant, has flown the coop and landed not only in the pages of The School Magazine (2005 & 2016)

 

but also in Oxford University Press India’s Mulberry English Course Book (2 editions)

and more recently at Cambridge University UK as part of their Festival of Ideas.

If I Were a Giant

First published by The School Magazine – Orbit 2005 and again in 2016 and illustrated by Kim Gamble

 

This poem is very special to me, not only because it is my first children’s poem but also because it was illustrated by Kim Gamble who sadly passed away in 2016. I’ve since decided to name my giant Jamble (Jackie & Gamble).

While I also write picture books, my first love is poetry, particularly rhyming poetry and when I think of it even my picture book The Croc and Platypus is really a poem, an Aussie twist on Lear’s nonsense poem, The Owl and the Pussycat and soon to be released with a brand new cover (here’s the old one) – it begins…

The croc and the platypus trundled off

In a rusty old holden ute

They took some damper and tea in a hamper

And bundled it up in the boot

The Croc and the Platypus-COV

My next picture book, Road Trip, is also being published by Walker Books (black dog books) and is due for release next year. Is it too a poem? Well if not a poem then certainly a story in verse that is being illustrated by the very talented Tom Jellett. Can’t wait to share more about that one.

So have I written any poems that don’t rhyme? Yes I have, with two recently being published by Balloons Lit. Journal (Hong Kong, China). These two poems came to be during a poetry writing course that I did with the amazing Lorraine Marwood. Prose poems don’t come naturally to me but with some gentle coaxing I managed to produce two that I’m quite proud of.

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Two more poems that ended up in China can be found in a book edited by Mark Carthew and Kit Kelen, titled When the Moon is Swimming Naked (Flying Island Books). These two poems appear in both English and Chinese which I think is wonderful.

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Two more poems have ended up in America, Night Rain in Spider Magazine (Cricket Group) 2010

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and Morning Star in Kenn Nesbitt’s One Minute till Bedtime (little brown). 

A few of my poems have also ended up in England via a lovely publication called The Scrumbler that’s no longer in production.

Here’s a favourite…

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So if I were a poet and I think I must be

Then I’d write lots of poems and set them all free