Brisbane based author Michelle Worthington and illustrator Giuseppe Poli jointly launched their picture book, Hootie the Cutie at Black Cat Books, Paddington on Saturday 21 June.
This magical picture book follows the adventures of a sweet owl called Hootie, yet despite her small size she wants to be brave and try many things in the enchanted wood. But Papa Owl stops Hootie from taking those risks, until one day, she is the only one in the woods small and brave enough to attempt to discover the source of the strange smoke billowing out of the cave.
Wow, the launch was a real hoot, especially for Giuseppe as this was his first picture book he illustrated. Introduced to New Frontier by one of their flagship author/illustrators, Peter Carnavas, Giuseppe received an email seven months later from Commissioning Editor, Sophia Whitfield after noticing he had an owl perched on his website.
Despite being “scared of making a mess of it,” Giuseppe has created a whimsical, enchanted wood for Hootie to inhabit filled with pixies and wonderment. After 50 drawings of Hootie and learning to make her look fluffy, Giuseppe achieved the illustrations through a four-step process. Giuseppe sketched his first drawings in pencil and black pen, then he traced over them on a light box. He also used water colour on the light box for the first layer of colour. Finally, he put all these layers together on the computer and added all the final amounts of colour. For Giuseppe, “this was a labour of failure,” which has helped him to be brave like Hootie and see the completion of a truly beautiful picture book.
Very much like her character Hootie, Michelle Worthington, based this creature on herself and her small stature. As a child Michelle recounted many times when she took risks and she wasn’t afraid to fail whether it was hockey, debating or musicals. Michelle’s parents allowed her to experience these things and were always her safe place to fall. This same 'can do' attitude is embodied by Hootie and is a message she wants children and parents today to take on. Michelle believes through taking risks and having a safe place, children will learn who they are and discover what they want to be.
Michelle’s 'can do' attitude has seen her achieve much success in her writing career to date, which did not come easy, taking 10 years to get her first picture book published. She has also gone down many different paths to get her work published, including traditional publishing of Yellow Dress Day (another New Frontier title), partnership publishing for The Pink Pirate and pitching her book Each the Same to Ambassador Publishing in the US and UK after it was rejected by all publishers in Australia. Each the Same has gone on to be a finalist in the 2013 USA Best Book Awards.
The delightful, Samantha Wheeler, author of Smooch and Rose was the event’s MC. A real treat for the Brisbane duo was having Sophia Whitfield from New Frontier attend the event.
Find more information about Michelle Worthington at michelleworthington.com/ and Giuseppe Poli at giuseppe-poli-artist.blogspot.com.au/.
On Monday, I quickly said goodbye to my students at 3pm when the bell rang, gathered my belongings and locked the classroom door. I was a little eager to get to The Book Garden at Toowong to hear Christine Bongers, Tristan Bancks and Belinda Murrell speak about their latest work. But not to appear too keen, I moseyed in at 3.55pm, a respectable entrance for a 4pm start.
Always happy to spot a few familiar faces in the crowd, I love catching up with fellow children’s literature buffs at these events.
Now, back to taking in all the pearls these three authors had to dish up.
I couldn’t wait to hear fellow Brisbane based author Christine Bongers speak after seeing her at previous events. Christine certainly knows how to hold the audience, and it’s easy to see why she captivates her readers whether making them laugh in Drongoes or on a more serious note, frighten them with her latest release Intruder.
Intruder is aimed at readers in upper primary and fits in well with the high school curriculum in grades 8 to 10. Described as being a page turner without being too scary, it sounds just like my kind of book. This seemed all good until Christine told the premise of the book is based on a terrifying real life moment experienced by her own daughter when she woke up one night to find a man standing over her bed. My heart stopped in my chest! Thankfully, Christine’s daughter stood up for herself and the intruder ran off.
This scenario gripped Christine as both a mother and author. Cue Kat Jones, a 14-15 year old girl who faces this very situation, except her mum is dead, her dad works nights and the neighbour she hates is the only person who can help. Wow, I think I’ll bite my fingernails the whole way through!
Find out more about Intruder and Christine’s other novels at her website christinebongers.wordpress.com.
Another favourite author of mine and my students is Tristan Bancks. I had the pleasure of taking Tristan’s workshop at last year’s CYA Conference in Brisbane. He has an uncanny way of tapping into the mindsets of upper primary aged children, nailing their voice and sense of humour in his books Nit Boy and the My Life and Other Stuff series.
Tristan bases his books on something that has either happened to him as a boy or adult and stretches these circumstances with his imagination. He also often throws out crazy scenarios at workshops with kids and brainstorms what happens next. Any school or kids who have had input into his stories, Tristan thanks in his books. I think that would make kids feel really chuffed!
His newest work, Two Wolves deviates from his usual comedic, witty writing style and delves into more serious territory taking five years to complete. Using Scrivener and writing several unplanned drafts, Two Wolves took a lot longer for Tristan to piece together, but overall he was able to achieve a raw novel.
That raw edge certainly grips the story’s main protagonist Ben Silver, nicknamed ‘Cop’ by his dad, who suddenly finds his life is speedily packed up after a visit from the police. Ben realises his family is on the run, and as a burgeoning detective he solves the mystery of what his parents have done. His only question is what does he do with this information. To tell or not to tell? Another book I think I’ll have trouble putting down.
For more information on Tristan’s work, visit his website tristanbancks.com.
What a pleasure for me to both meet and hear from Belinda for the first time. With 21 books under her belt, I couldn’t wait to soak up all Belinda had to say. Undoubtedly, Belinda loves children’s literature and I think she could talk endlessly about writing for children.
Well, it’s no wonder Belinda became a writer, considering her family’s writing pedigree. Belinda is a sixth generation writer, hailing back to her great, great, great, great Grandfather who wrote a non-fiction book on the colony of New South Wales. Not in the least to be outdone by her great, great, great, great Grandmother who wrote the first children's book published in Australia. Seriously, her siblings are also well-known authors, Kate Forsyth and Nick Humphrey. That’s what I call a literature family tree!
Excitingly, Belinda has three books coming out. The Sequin Star is the next novel in her timeslip series, which follows Claire who finds herself stranded and working for the Sterling Brothers Circus during the Great Depression of 1932. But one day, her circus friend Kit, is kidnapped.
Belinda also has two more books released in the ever popular Junior Fiction Lulu Bell series, namely Lulu Bell and The Tiger Cub and Lulu Bell and the Pyjama Party. The Lulu Bell series is close to home for Belinda, whose father is a vet and she spent her childhood surrounded by animals. This lead to Belinda creating the lovable eight year old Lulu Bell who grows up in a vet hospital and follows her adventures with friends, family and, of course, animals.
Check out Belinda’s website, belindamurrell.com.au to find out more about the other novels in her series.
This writing outing was definitely worth going to see these three incredible authors talk about their work. My reading pile, well after this, grew a lot bigger! Hope you enjoy reading these authors and their new titles as well.
Charmaine Clancy, Brisbane author and fellow Write Links member, launched her book Undead Kev at Black Cat Books, Paddington last Saturday, 7 June.
Undead Kev is the second book in her series, following the success of her first book, My Zombie Dog. The concept for the series began when Charmaine, a teacher wanted to inspire boys in her Year 7 class to read. What did they want to read? You guessed it, zombies and they became the beta readers for her book.
The premise for My Zombie Dog emerged from Charmaine’s somewhat possessed little pet dog who used to bite everyone and pick fights with big dogs. One day she found him dead in her yard, she covered with him a sheet and when she returned, he disappeared. It turns out he was fantastic at playing dead for 10 to 15 minutes at a time. Spooky! Her dog has moved on to greener pastures, now living with Charmaine’s mum.
After reading, My Zombie Dog, Charmaine’s readers wanted more of Kev. Undead Kev features zombies, invisible stealth monkeys and delves into what friends need to do to save their relationship.
Charmaine dangled a carrot for her fans, revealing the third book in the series will be titled The Invisible Kid.
Her method of writing is to meticulously plan her story on index cards and plot these from beginning to end. Once Charmaine starts writing in Scrivener she then goes rogue, ignoring her own planning and letting her characters take the story on a wild adventure.
Charmaine has found a way to combine both her love of teaching and writing. She conducts writing workshops for children for Juniors, 9-13 years and Young Adults, 13-17 years once a month at Black Cat Books, Paddington. She also has an upcoming holiday workshop for children on Friday, 11 July. Find out more at www.iteenwrite.com/brisbaneworkshops/.
Don’t worry adult writers, you haven’t been forgotten. Charmaine organises the Rainforest Writing Retreat. 2014 has been and gone, but the next one is organised for 2015.
For more fun snaps from the book launch, check out Charmaine’s website charmaineclancy.com.