Thursday, November 10, 2011

Art in Auckland

Recently I flew to New Zealand to visit friends and family and network with the NZ children's book industry. Below is a little sketch I did on the plane.

Auckland is my home town. This is where I first drove my car to uni, had my first date at the movies and made the friends I have for life. Whenever I go back, I like to visit some of my old haunts. I thought I'd share with you three of my favourite historic buildings in downtown Auckland.

The Civic Theatre. Built in 1929, when I was a kid it was a movie theatre and the queue would stretch up the hill and around the corner. I used to love looking at the twinkling stars on the blue night sky ceiling. After a complete restoration in 2000 it is now a live theatre venue. The inside is so beautiful it is heritage listed and people often miss part of a performance because they're too busy staring at the ceiling. It is internationally significant as the largest surviving atmospheric cinema in Australasia (and also one of the only seven of its style remaining in the world) in which lights and design were used to convey an impression of being seated in an outdoor auditorium at night.  

Top left of the photo is the Town Hall tower - where I graduated from uni many years ago.

Smith and Caughey's Department Store. A classic art deco purpose built store which has retained its character, charm, personal service and extensive range of quality goods. They've been in business since 1880, so they must be doing something right. It was about 1979 that I had my first 'application of make-up' lesson together with my besties in one of the rooms upstairs. We laughed so hard as we walked down Queen St later - none of us looked like our normal selves. 

This is the Auckland Art Gallery - Toi O Tamaki. Opened in 1888, it is New Zealand's oldest established and largest public art gallery. I used to walk past it every morning up the hill on the way to uni. And I always wished I could just stop and immerse myself in the art for the rest of the day.

So that's what I did on one of the days while I was visiting. Above is the new modern section and new front entrance of the Art Gallery which opened late this year. It joins the old building on the right and is just perfect!

Don't you love the vaulted wooden ceiling?

The floral installation above was a gift from the artist. Made from a type of parachute fabric, the petals open close on their own - just gorgeous and huge.

The interior of the old art gallery is breathtaking and beautifully restored.

A highlight of any visit are the many Goldies in the gallery's collection. Charles Goldie was a New Zealand painter well known for his portraits of Maori dignitaries.

Lunch with friends at the gallery. Life is good!

Even if it's raining outside.

A few days later I catch up for lunch with my cousin, Tania Sunde, who is also an Auckland artist. (It runs in the family). That's Tania below in the cafe which recently purchased her triptych in acrylics above the fireplace. It's just fabulous.

Friday, November 4, 2011

We are National Winners!

We won!!! 
We are the Eastern States Winner, open section!

My writers group, Prana Writers have been awarded ‘National Winner’ and 'Eastern States Winner' for our book, The Coral Sea Monster, in the open section of the Write-a-Book-in-a-Day 2011 challenge!!!
Woo Hoo, Yee Haa!
In a single day, between 8am and 8pm, our Prana Writers team planned, plotted, wrote, illustrated, printed and bound a 16,500 word children’s book - The Coral Sea Monster.

and... raised $940 in sponsorship for the Royal Children’s Hospital in Brisbane.
And we did all of this without a single meltdown!

The team that worked on the Coral Sea Monster were: Tom Betts, Rob Brown (my husband), Margaret Choinski, Rebecca Fraser, Janis Hanley, Kerry McGuicken, Helen Stubbs, Angela Sunde and Amanda Worlley  (We also acknowledge the assistance of my daughter, Daniela Sunde-Brown).

The Coral Sea Monster was illustrated by Angela Sunde (me)!

And here are the Write-a-Book-in-a-Day judge's comments:

“The Winner of the Open Section this year is the most beautifully illustrated as well as the best written story of the bunch: ‘The Coral Sea Monster’ by Prana Writers. 

"The team was given the challenge to include a podiatrist, a sheep shearer and a sea animal in their work, as well as to employ the setting of a motorway and the theme of love.
“The result is an amusing and engaging story of a 13 year-old sheep-whisperer, Jack, whose hopes of competing in the shearing event at the Ekka showgrounds are shot through when a truck overturns on the motorway into Brisbane, blocking the traffic in both directions. The truck in question is carrying a sea monster, of course, and Jack and his new found friend, a teen podiatrist (yes, there is such a girl!), set out on a fun-packed adventure to save the sea monster from the clutches of Lionel Measly, the greedy Ocean-World curator who hopes to make a million out of the endangered species.

“A competition like Book-in-a -Day challenges all of its competitors to take an imaginative leap, to work together against the ticking clock, to produce something extraordinary and new. ‘The Coral Sea Monster’ is a delightful example of the best kind of new work this competition is capable of producing." Judge (Open Section) - Julienne van Loon, (Vogel Award Winner 2004), Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at Curtin University of Technology, Perth, WA.

In the words of Prana Writer, Janis Hanley (more photos of the day are on her blog): “Words that come to mind are cohesive, talented, creative, in tune – but that really doesn’t come near to describing it. Being there was like arriving and plugging into some sort of communal brain. We didn’t just network our laptops - we somehow networked our minds.” 
See more photos of our day here

So... just who are Prana Writers you're wondering...

Prana Writers are dedicated to the craft of writing. By supporting each other and sharing our knowledge with others we hope to develop, learn, and celebrate together, whilst also contributing to the community. Our work spans a range of genres including speculative fiction, children’s, young adult, chic lit, contemporary drama, literary fiction, short stories and more. We meet five times a year for a full day of workshops, free writing and critiquing and in between for coffee, drinks or special events.

Originally brought together through the Gold Coast City Council’s Creative Juices program, Prana Writers hope that winning the WaBiaD National Award will help to promote the Gold Coast as a centre for creativity and culture. 
Prana Writers are: Tom Betts, Margaret Choinski, Rebecca Fraser, Bridget Gray, Janis Hanley, Kerry McGuicken, Helen StubbsDavid Stringer, Angela SundeNicola Tierney and Amanda Worlley. 

Find us on Facebook here.
And our blog.

I'd like to thank Louise Cusack, who is not only our mentor, but also a close friend and lifetime member of Prana Writers. Louise worked with the Prana Writers group from 2009-2010 through the Gold Coast Council's Creative Juices development program in 2009 and the support of a RADF grant in 2010.
I'd also like to thank the Gold Coast City Council for bringing Prana Writers together through the Creative Juices Write That Book program in 2009. Three years on and we are great friends and writing buddies. We appreciate your support!

Thank you to the Katherine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre and the Write-a-Book-in-a-Day team for the opportunity to raise funds ($940) for the Royal Children's Hospital in Brisbane. With a twelve hour time limit it was tough going at times, but we knew it was even tougher for the kids in the hospital, and that drove us on.
Thank you to my husband, Rob, for all the muffins on the day, for taking photos and blogging throughout the challenge, for cooking sausages at lunch, for his cool calm serenity under stress as he and Amanda loaded all the chapters, placed the illustrations, formatted the book and emailed it off. Whew! I'm glad it wasn't me.

Thank you to my Prana Writers buddies. This last year has been so enriching and so much fun. I'm very glad to be on this journey together with you.

And finally, congratulations to all the teams who entered Write-a-Book-in-a-Day. The real winners are the many children we have helped through raising funds for children's hospitals around Australia.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Shortlisted for the Write-a-Book-in-a-Day Awards

In August this year I posted about the Write-a-Book-in-a-Day challenge. Our children's book, The Coral Sea Monster, is a shortlisted entry in the open section, and my writers group, Prana Writers have been waiting eagerly for the official announcement. We won't have to wait much longer... the announcement is tonight.

The Write-a-Book-in-a-Day challenge is a wonderful, fun, team building and writing experience, open to people of all ages and offered by the Katherine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre, WA.

Teams register 5-10 people in the Open, Secondary or Primary category and get sponsors to donate to their local state's hospital for children. Each book is also donated to their chosen hospital.

On the day of our challenge, our team was emailed a random setting, two human characters, a non-human character, an issue and five random words at 8.00am local time. Then we had twelve hours to write a book and email it to KSPWC by 8.00pm the same day.

Unfortunately we won't be able to attend the awards ceremony at the Katherine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre in Perth, West Australia, but I am expecting an email as soon as it is announced.

So fingers crossed everyone! We worked very hard for this.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Baby Tawnies

There is great joy at our house when the Tawny Frogmouths return to nest in the tree outside our kitchen/family room window. While we relax in comfort on the sofa, Mum or Dad Tawny perch on their egg/s for weeks as rain and strong winds threaten to push their knitted collection of down and twigs off the intersection of branches they have chosen. It must work for them as every year they choose the exact same spot.

 After two weeks visiting New Zealand, there was good news for me on my return. A chick had hatched; a creamy bundle of fluff with wide eyes was staring at me as I made my breakfast.

 This mini me, carbon copy mimicked Mum's every stance.

 And grew day by day, turning a light grey with beautiful markings and inquisitive eyes.

 The orange glow of a bush fire reflected on matching feathers.

But is this the same baby chick? 
Wasn't there another rustle of down on the other side of the nest?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Kindle Fire Re-ignites the Picture E-book Market

Have you ever played with an iPad picture book? I say 'play', because its interactivity can no longer be simply termed as 'reading'. Before the iPad came onto the market, the picture book looked to have a longer life as a traditional book. But now times are changing.

Here's a sample of an iPad picture e-book, 'Wild About Books' from Random House Books, written by Judy Sierra and illustrated by Marc Brown:

Ipad's reign over the picture e-book market may soon be challenged however. Amazon's new Kindle Fire Tablet, which comes out on the 15th November in the US,  is set to open up the world of e-books to a wider picture book market, using a new format called Kindle Format 8 (KF8). Not only is it smaller than the iPad, it's also cheaper, retailing at US$199.

In their announcement Amazon said, "As showcased on Kindle Fire, KF8 enables publishers to create great-looking books in categories that require rich formatting and design such as children's picture books, comics & graphic novels, technical and engineering books, and cookbooks"; "Kindle Format 8 replaces the Mobi format and adds over 150 formatting capabilities, including fixed layouts, nested tables, callouts, sidebars and Scalable Vector Graphics, opening up more opportunities to create Kindle books that readers will love"; "Children's picture books come to life with brilliant images, fixed layouts and Kindle Text Pop Up."

Read more about it here and here.

It looks like the last frontier of traditional publishing, the paper picture book, is now also heading for the archival vaults of the National and State Libraries (and also at my house, even if I have to hide them under the bed).

Below is a sample of an award winning picture book, 'I'll follow the Moon' by Stephanie Lisa Tara and illustrated by Lee Edward Fodi that has successfully been translated to a tablet while retaining its integrity as a book to be 'read'.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Roses and Tea

I'm taking some time out, time to cut some heritage roses from my garden, pop them in a milk jug and pour myself a cup of tea. It's been a tough year.

After a summer season of disasters it was a slow start for me creatively. But recently I attained the goals I set for myself. A new manuscript is sitting with my publisher and a new picture book has just been mailed off to my mentor at Create a Kids' Book.

Not only that, but the book I illustrated and co-wrote with my writers' group, Prana Writers, has been shortlisted for the Write a Book in a Day Awards. We're in with a good chance.

The original manuscript, The Coral Sea Monster, was written within the twelve hour deadline, but now prior to publishing it, we're giving it a serious edit this weekend.

The tea has brewed. Won't you join me?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Halloween Book Launch Hoe Down

Pumpkins make me smile; pumpkin soup, scones, roasted or mashed, it doesn't really matter how they come. There's something about the sweetness of Australian grown pumpkins that have us lining up at the buffet table for second helpings.

At Halloween, pumpkins take centre stage with funny faces carved or drawn onto their rotund bellies. You can hear them smirking with mischief or giggling in embarrassment. Could a pumpkin be embarrassed? Of course, why not.

But if you don't have pumpkins in your yard or market this time of year (it's springtime in Australia after all), never fear. Take a look at a wonderful site called Pinterest - an online pin board where you can organise and share the things you love or even just pics you've found on the internet that inspire you. Beware however, because this site is addictive. It's like your favourite magazine with an endless array of creative ideas to play with. While you're there, look up Halloween.

Here's something my daughter, Daniela, created on the weekend from a Halloween idea on Pinterest. 

From a selection of glass jars she found in the garage (you know in case I ever decide to make jam or pickles) she has created smirking, sneering, and scared Jack o' Lantern faces (painted with acrylics) to light up a veranda or room for Halloween. Just fill their tum with a tea light. I especially like the squat fat ones.

Yesterday I went along to Marks and Gardner Gallery on Mt Tamborine for the launch of the 'digital' version of my sister, Nadia Sunde's delightful new picture book, Three Little Pumpkins (you were wondering where I was going with all the pumpkin stories), illustrated by Jody McGregor.

Nadia is an international award winning songwriter and Three Little Pumpkins is a story adapted from one of her children's songs. The song Three Little Pumpkins is so catchy children and adults all joined in loudly for the chorus 'Hay hoe, what did I see? One little pumpkin looking at me'. 

In the book - a riotous celebration of all things growing, the main character, Nadia, cares for a whimsical garden full of scratching, catching chickens, chirping crickets and two mischievous friends - a goat and a goose. Each day when Nadia tends to her garden she finds a new pumpkin growing in amongst the tangle of plants. All is perfect until one morning she discovers the pumpkins are gone! Oh dear. Who has eaten them all? And now what will Nadia cook for her Halloween feast?

Here's Nadia setting up the sound equipment.

Hootenanny Books is the Australian publisher of Three Little Pumpkins and you can purchase the digital version at their website or pre-order the hard copy, which will be available in January 2012.

Nadia sings the Three Little Pumpkins song 
'I went down to the pumpkin patch...'

Nadia Sunde and Jody McGregor
Nadia and Jody read from Three Little Pumpkins

The mischievous goose

Kids join in with maracas and music sticks.

Also launching at Marks and Gardner was award winning illustrator and my dear friend Lucia Masciullo, whose gorgeous book, Come Down Cat, written by the internationally awarded Australian children's author, Sonya Hartnett, will certainly win more awards for for them both.

Lucia demonstrates how to draw 'Marl Cat' from 'Come Down Cat', while Janene from Marks and Gardner Gallery shows Lucia's original illustrations from her portfolio.


Thursday, September 8, 2011

Tickling the Cat at Woodlands

Under an azure sky Woodlands dwarves the marquee set up for larger groups of students. 

The Ipswich Festival of Children's Literature hosted some 9,000 school children over the two weeks. It's an ideal venue with so many large outbuildings and seminar rooms.

Here I am on my first day at the festival in my 'Pond Magic' dress, waiting to be picked up for my first author session at Lockrose State School. I had a class of Prep to Year 3. Then I was whisked back to Woodlands for two sessions with Years 5-7. My presentation was called 'Tickle the Cat' , and did I make the Year 7's laugh out loud - absolutely!

Book signing for three adorable Year 7's.
 I've never had anyone ask if they could hug me before.