Friday, November 30, 2012

PS: Who Stole Santa's Mail? Blog Tour

When one of your dear friends celebrates the release of her debut children's book, it's time for no-holds-barred fun. And when she asks you to launch said book, the honour is very special indeed. In fact scouring through op shops for just the right outfit to wear suddenly becomes your number one priority.

This last weekend I had the very great pleasure of launching Dimity Powell's chapter book, PS: Who Stole Santa's Mail? (Morris Publishing) at Marks and Gardner Gallery on Mt Tamborine.

Filled with feisty characters, seat-of-your-pants drama and loads of Christmas cracker jokes, Dimity Powell's children's book, PS: Who Stole Santa's Mail? will bring the magic of believing into your home. Dragging along his jellybean-eating sidekick Tobii, nearly nine-year-old Sam Doolan's irrepressible optimism and determination to solve the mystery of the disappearing mail takes the reader on an action-packed journey full of mystery, mayhem and magic. It simply is a must-have for your Christmas stocking.

Dimity is a passionate and strong advocate of children’s literature, a member of Book Links Qld and a supporter of the Read-Up program. Her children's stories have been published in The School Magazine, Australia’s leading magazine for school children, and a variety of online sites, and she has won and been short-listed for numerous awards for her writing. Also a bubbly and fun person to be with (just like her stories), I’m really proud to have her visit with me Under the Apple Tree today.

Marks and Gardner Secret Garden
Hi Dimity! Welcome to my blog, Under the Apple Tree and congratulations! Grab a spot here on the picnic blanket. Have you recovered yet from all the excitement of PS: Who Stole Santa's Mail? 's release?

Almost! Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve celebrated the release of my first children’s chapter book with fabulous book launches, thrilling visits to schools and one of the most exhilarating cyber sleigh rides I’ve ever been on . And now, sitting in the shade of your fragrant apple tree, resting a while with my loyal reindeer, I’m able to reflect on it a little.

The book launch is under way
Here's Mrs Claus (aka me) rounding up the troops and getting the crowd excited.
Ha ha, yes. And may I offer you some apple pie? You had a great turn out of people for your launch on Sunday and the kids were laughing so hard at all your Christmas jokes. For me, connecting with my readers on a personal level is one of the perks of the job.
Introducing the star of the day, author Dimity Powell.

Absolutely! There’s been an amazing amount of support and excitement surrounding PS: Who Stole Santa’s Mail? I do love the froth and bubble of it all, but perhaps the most satisfying part of debuting my first children’s book has been watching the kids’ reactions. They’ve laughed and pondered, and best of all, read my words with such genuine enthusiasm, that I’ve been moved to tears. That has been my most tremendous writing achievement to date; that kids enjoy reading my stories!

Yes, it's a wonderful recognition of your talent and ability to connect with that age group. Engaging children in the joy of reading is like being Wonder Woman. I like to say: "I'm a children's author. What's your super power?"

Wonder Women: Renee Taprell, Dimity Powell and Angela Sunde (myself)
Angela, it’s proof positive to me that miracles really do happen; we just have to learn to recognise them, appreciate them and maintain them for as long as possible.

Dimity Powell's beautiful smile
I agree. So, what's your secret, Dimity, to maintaining that magic something? How do you go about holding on to all that passion and energy for your writing?

By being:
v  Bold – don’t hold back, on yourself or your dreams. Go for it.
v  Brave – don’t be afraid to take risks, with your writing or desires. It’s ok to hang around your comfort zone, but it’s exciting stepping out of it now and then.
v  Brilliant – if I fail at all else, I try to be at least professional and charming at all times – try to be. I’ve followed this credo since my college days because from here, you can be anything else you wish. Then, you can aim high. Being brilliant is hard work. Prepare well for it.
v  Believing – because without it (belief) you’re nothing but an out of work, vengeful, misguided little elf.

Ah! Like the evil elf in PS:Who Stole Santa's Mail?

In the words of Roald Dahl: 
'Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.’

I reckon he’s right. So did Sam in my story. What do you think?

Hmm, Sam certainly did believe in magic and in himself. I'd love to hear how my readers feel about the power of believing. Please drop us a comment below.

Mrs Claus and Dimity

Well, Dimity, this is the end of our quiet moment together Under the Apple Tree. Happily for me, I know we'll be seeing lots of each other in the future. Thanks so much for stopping by and for including me in your celebrations. How about a second slice of pie? I haven't got any jelly beans.

Thank you, I will. And Tobii is the one who loves jelly beans, not me.

(Editor's note: Angela and Dimity kept munching apple pie and sipping tea for many hours on that blanket Under the Apple Tree, talking about writerly kids stuff, unbeknown to them that their readers were waiting to say goodbye. So just let yourselves out, thanks.)

PS: Who Stole Santa's Mail? Blog Tour LINK

Monday, November 26, 2012

May Gibbs Children's Literature Trust Fellowship

I'm very proud and honoured to announce that I have been awarded a Creative Time Residential Fellowship by the May Gibbs Children's Literature Trust!

During my CTR Fellowship in 2013 I will be a resident of Adelaide for one month in a self-contained 'writer's retreat' appartment owned by the May Gibbs Children's Literature Trust. Whilst there I will be able to concentrate fully and without distraction on my children's novel and my illustrated picture book in progress. I'll also have the opportunity to work as an author-in-residence at one of the local schools, giving workshops and talks on the craft of writing and illustrating for children. 

The timing couldn't be better; next year my youngest will begin university. With the shadow of my son’s final year at school slipping away into the dawn of adulthood, I am now free to pursue my own dreams.

I chose Adelaide as my first choice for a CTR Fellowship as I would like to broaden my network of friends in the wonderful children’s writing and illustrating community. One of the highlights of my stay will also be the Writers' Week, Adelaide Festival. I just can't wait, and I relish the thought of sitting in a cafe in Adelaide's leafy suburbs observing, sketching and writing.

A Creative Time Residential Fellowship in 2013 is the next step in my career planning. After a very difficult year of family illness and grief, the award of the CTR Fellowship has lifted my heart and my spirit. I see it as an acknowledgment of my ability to produce beautiful art and an opportunity to bring the two projects I have been resolutely chipping away at closer to completion.

Front cover from Gum-nut Babies, 1916, May Gibbs.
From the State Library of NSW's collection

I'd like to sincerely thank the May Gibbs Children's Literature Trust for the wonderful work they do in support of Australian children's authors and illustrators. By providing the opportunity, the gift of time and a quiet space to create, inspire and strive, the trust continues to honour the legacy of literary heritage our own May Gibbs (MBE) left us. In the words of the trust:

"The members of MGCLT are passionate about Australia's cultural heritage and appreciate the contribution May Gibbs made to our cultural environment. Their purpose is to ensure that the high quality of work attained by May Gibbs in her time is achieved by contemporary Australian children's authors and illustrators; that they are able to retain the Australian voice and to develop the literary heritage of the future."

I am truly honoured, humbled and grateful to have been awarded this fellowship.

To view more of May Gibbs' original artwork and learn about her legacy of children's literature, check out the State Library of NSW's May Gibbs collection online here. It is absolutely inspiring and a fabulous online exhibition. You can zoom in to view the artworks so close each brush mark is clearly visible.