Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A Radio Star is Born

I'm appearing on radio this Friday, 25th March at 10.40am Qld time. Now can I say 'appearing' when no one will actually see me?

Nicole Dyer presents the Book Club, a program on ABC 91.7 Gold Coast FM once a month on a Friday morning.

For half an hour two listeners will review my book, Pond Magic, and ask me questions. And we will all be 'live' in the studio. It's exciting stuff.

Nicole Dyer and Louise Pieper

And so for my 'appearance' I'm having my haircut tomorrow. I know, I know they won't see me, but Nicole  usually takes photos of guests and puts them on the ABC 91.7 Facebook page. Plus I'm meeting two listeners/fans for the first time.

Can't wait!

Here are the details:

ABC 91.7 Coast FM
10.40am Qld Time (AEST -1)
Friday, 25th March 2011

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Author Talks and Presentations

One of my goals this year is to give more author talks and workshops at schools, libraries and literary festivals. With more than twenty years of teaching experience behind me, standing up to speak in front of a crowd doesn't worry me in the least. School assemblies of 1000 plus was just part of the job.

As a children's author, however, I am aware that children at an author talk are more expectant than the usual school situation. They want to get to know you better. They want to interact with you. They want to be engaged. They may have read your book and they may be looking forward to your presentation very much.

With that in mind, it's important to deliver this expectation and to engage your audience.

Children's Author Event at Black Cat Books, Paddington, Brisbane, Feb 2011

Of course the audience is sometimes a mix of children, parents, grandparents and writers, such as my last speaking event at Black Cat Books, Paddington, Brisbane. In that situation I spoke about the 'Seed of an Idea' and the steps I took to develop that seed into a story.

Reading from Pond Magic

Last week I spent three days at the Somerset Literature Festival. This is the sixth year that I have attended this festival, and it was in fact back in 2005, when I was at a Somerset literary breakfast, that the desire to become a children's author and illustrator was first born within me.

As a newly published author and as a presenter at the Ipswich Festival of Children's Literature later in the year, my intention was to observe the speakers and take notes on what engaged a young audience and what did not.

Many speakers gave anecdotes from their youth, told stories from their life experiences and talked about their road to publication. With older students, authors spoke about the craft of writing and with younger students they told a story - scary, funny or whimsical.

Power Point slide shows, book trailers, videos, sound bites and other visual and aural aids were popular amongst presenters and added to what might be otherwise a presentation similar to everyone else's.

I attended twelve author talks and two panel sessions. The very best presenters interacted with the audience directly. They asked questions like:

'Do you read the names of chapter headings?'
'What are you reading?'
'Have you ever made a spaceship out of a cardboard box?'
'What do you do to annoy your parents/brother/sister?'
'What if you won a trip to Antarctica...?'

I suspected some of the kids' answers would go toward the next book they're writing. I certainly wrote a few down. 

The most interesting authors stood up and moved around the stage and into the audience. This is something I've always done as a teacher. Close proximity is more engaging and helps with behaviour.

The authors who brought along props and costumes had their audience transfixed. Volunteers were called to the stage and a sea of hands went up. Every kid wanted to be picked to be blind folded (Sue Whiting), operated on (Andy Griffiths) or scared out of their wits (Ghostboy).

A couple of authors used a ball to interact with the kids, illiciting a response from whomever the ball was thrown to. I've done this when teaching German. It keeps kids on their toes and listening. They're never sure who the next person to be thrown the ball will be, and they need to concentrate on their response to the question asked.

But be sure not to do this as the first activity. Once the kids are excited, you'll have a hard job settling them back down to listen to what you have to say. And keep them in their seats.

My pick of the festival was Ghostboy - Brisbane performance poet, David Stavanger. He had his young audience in the cup of his hand even before he began to speak. His presentation was a feast for the senses. It was visual, aural, sensory and interactive. He had boys rhyming and the whole room begging to be picked for word association. Ghostboy transported the children to another place and mood through the use of music, costume, tone, gait, speed, imagery and sound. When discussing Performance Poetry he said,

"You have to become the performance. Own the words. If the word is 'wrath', then be 'wrath' in tone and sense. Inhabit your performance."

I think that's a good piece of advice for any time you have to stand up and speak to an audience. Own it.

Festival Highlights

  • Favourite quote - "You can't polish a turd, but you can roll it in glitter." Kate Hunter.
  • Favourite book trailer - The Billionaire's Curse by Richard Newsome.
  • Favourite prop - Sue Whiting's enormous spider for her novel 'Freaky' (Walker Books)
  • Favourite Reading - What Body Part is That? Andy Griffiths eg. "Shoulders are for avoiding questions."
  • Favourite Advice - "Don't study Creative Writing at Uni. Creativity cannot be given a mark." Matthew Reilly.
Matthew Reilly also had a few other pearls  of wisdom:

"There is no such thing as an aspiring writer. You are a writer, period."
"If you believe a good review, you have to believe a bad review too."
"Failure is fine as long as you learn from it."
"You need to practise your craft 10,000 hours to get it right."
"Be ready for a lucky break."
"Dare to succeed."
"Do debating. Everything in life comes down to public speaking."

And I will leave you with that last thought. Public speaking... are you ready for your lucky break? I think I'll go and join Toastmasters.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

One Thing Leads to Another

I'm finally getting into the swing of this year. My calendar is filling up and new opportunities arrive from the most surprising connections.

When submissions were opened for an art exhibition called 'The Art of Reading' at the Robina Art Gallery, I thought my work would be a perfect fit. The exhibition's objectives were to showcase books and the ephemera of reading.

I submitted four artworks - watercolour illustrations of picture book pages, including the illustration I did for my webpage.

Half way through the two week exhibition I was pleased to see that only three of my business cards were left. I replenished the pile and came back a week later to only one. My author/illustrator brand was connecting with the audience. But even better I received three invitations directly as a result of the Art of Reading Exhibition.

One of these I can tell you about now.

My book, Pond Magic, has been picked up by ABC Coast FM 91.7 radio, which transmits to the entire Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast and Tweed areas. Pond Magic will be discussed on Nicole Dyer's morning Book Program which is on the last Friday of each month. Nicole does a terrific job bringing books and authors into the lives of the ABC listeners and promoting Australian books by local authors.

Nicole Dyer of ABC Gold Coast 91.7 and Louise Pieper of Gold Coast City Libraries.
Photo courtesy of ABC Gold Coast 91.7 FM

Two ABC 91.7 listeners with children have been sent a copy each and on Friday the 25th March these listeners will be live (with me) in the studio to review Pond Magic and ask me questions. Can you imagine how thrilled I am? Well, even more than that.

So here's the details: Listen Australia 4GCR - ABC Gold Coast 91.7 FM Live Radio Online

ABC Gold Coast 91.7 FM
Friday the 25th March

10am till 10.30 am Queensland time
(11am till 11.30am Australian Eastern Daylight Saving Time)

I hope some of you are able to have a listen. I'll let you know how it goes.

Monday, March 7, 2011


This post is dedicated to the memory of blogging friend and fellow Australian children's writer Mabel Kaplan.

This year is the beginning of Year 5 in my Five Year Plan. Some of you will remember my very first post where I explained my plan to achieve the goal of becoming a published children's writer and illustrator. So far so good. I am well on the way with one book under my belt and two more half way there.

But today I'm going to talk about Collections. The stuff that fills our houses with memories and dust. I love to collect blue and white china and Australian Carltonware in green and yellow. You might collect things for their sentimental value or as a hobby to wile away a Sunday afternoon. Recently I rummaged through my Dad's old stamp collection hoping to find the one stamp that might pay off my mortgage. No such luck.

Travel spurs the collector's habit for many of us. That's why souvenir shops survive. We all want to bring back a little piece of that wonderful holiday when the kids were small and all we had to think about was whether to have fish and chips or hamburgers for dinner.

When we visited friends of ours in Germany back in 2006, I noticed they had a shelf of at least twenty jars in a neat row in their living room. Each jar was filled to the brim with sand.

Coarse sand,
soft sand,
talcum powder smooth sand.
Black sand,
white sand,
glistening with ore sand. 

And carefully labelled on the back of each jar was the name of the beach. They had collected sand from every beach holiday they had ever been on. And there it was ... Burleigh Beach 1991 - from when they had last visited us.

Now I was glad at that point my own collections had never been quite so unusual. Until...

I noticed my husband picking up bits of broken crockery from every town, street, city, lakeside, beach and mountain on our family trip around Europe. While I was photographing castles on the Rhine, he was scouring the river pebbles for washed up detritus. Then he would proudly open his hand to display his treasure. A broken bit of pot, or teacup or plate, quite often blue and white.

"What do you want with all that rubbish?" I'd ask.
"I'm collecting them," he'd say, as if a collection somehow validated their worth.

The pile gathers in the dashboard shelf carefully labelled.

As the weeks and months passed the collection multiplied and at one stage we even had to mail some home. Heaven knows what Australia Post thought as it passed through the x-ray.
After a while even the kids were helping out.

A piece of Cornish Ware from a beach in Cornwall, a fragment of Delft from a Dutch village, a slice of Bohemian porcelain from the Czech Republic, a chip of clay-fired earth from the Andalucian hills of Spain.

Every day brought more treasures.

As the collection of bits and pieces grew I also came to enjoy the fossicking; the hunt for the perfect piece which would remind us of the city or country we were visiting. I thought about the people who had used each piece when it was part of a whole. What was their story, their history? I even found a piece in my aunt's garden in Croatia. And it is my favourite.

Now if you're out and about and something catches your eye and you add to it later until it becomes a collection - Do not ask 'Why?' But simply 'Why not?'

I'd love to hear about your whimsical collections....