Tuesday, December 2, 2014

On my walks around Pinerolo, Blackheath

Taking a daily walk at around lunchtime helps to clear my head, rest my eyes and refresh my creative mind. Having a completely new neighbourhood to explore while down in the Blue Mts of New South Wales, filled my walk with unexpected surprises and treasured moments. 

For example, I did not know that the State Flower of New South Wales, the Waratah, would be in full bloom at this time of year. And there it was, popping up proudly and sporadically, surprisingly bright,  red and vibrant against the muted eucalypt greens of the Australian bush. Wow, just wow!
The area around Pinerolo children's book cottage in Blackheath was breathtaking.

The road I walked along was often shaded, always lush right to the edges, and reminiscent of my childhood home in New Zealand. Emotions rose to the surface as I kept up a steady pace.

A country gate stood open, inviting. I could almost smell the tea and scones.

A single waratah fought for room within a cottage garden.

And then my heart stopped. 
I saw an orchard. An old orchard with mature apple trees that had been structurally well-shaped, but that now needed pruning and treatment for canker – a fungal disease which damages tree bark and can make the tree particularly vulnerable to insects and bacteria, and can affect the fruit. 

I could just hear my father's voice in my ear, telling me this. And strangely, I felt close to him then and missed him even more. He would've knocked on the door of that orchardist's farmhouse and spent a happy hour or so touring the farm and discussing horticultural methodology with the owner. 
It was his bliss.
As a child, no holiday would've been complete without a bit of drive-by 'orchard spying' and the obligatory visit to the tractor sales yard.

Apparently the entire area around Pinerolo was well known for its apple orchards, though most now had been turned into acreage lots and hobby farms. It reminded me so much of our old orchard farm in Oratia, New Zealand. Only the sign on the picket fence spelled out Australia.

Heady scents filled my head as I kept walking.

And came upon another gate slightly ajar, beckoning. It lead into a beautifully manicured, park-like garden. I could live here, I thought. And it snowed in winter, which was a bonus.

An Italian farmhouse looked completely at home

with the cottage gardens

and waratahs...

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Illustrator in Residence at Pinerolo

The sign beside the front door was a clue. Many magical owls would keep me company during my week's stay as Illustrator in Residence at Pinerolo.
And I would be sharing my bedroom with a bear and thousands of Australia's best picture books. How was I to sleep with so much reading to do?
In the evening I might watch some TV in the lounge, but who could concentrate when the walls were hung with original artworks by some of Australia's leading children's book illustrators? And what's more there were even more picture books to read in there, including the latest releases. I was kept very busy and up late at night.
And I could always pick up a book and find the original painting hanging on the wall in front of me. Here is Where Does Thursday Go? by Janeen Brian beside the artwork of Stephen Michael King. I was particularly impressed with how true to the original colour the print production was (photo does not show this.) Publisher Margaret Hamilton's fine eye for detail was evident.
Another nook in the lounge had books and artworks for sale. Pinerolo's owner Margaret Hamilton is the rep for Stephen Michael King's illustration sales.
Inspired by all that was around me I set to work with my pencil on character sketches and storyboarding for my picture book about a little girl and her grandmother. A common link binds them to one another and the grandmother to her past.
No internet, no distraction, no writing.
While above me hung the many awards of a successful career in publishing and championing children's books in Australia. Margaret Hamilton AM is a national treasure, a true lady and such a sweet soul. I feel so honoured and privileged to have had Margaret's mentorship during my week as Illustrator in Residence. You'll enjoy reading her interview on Kids Book Review here.
Margaret captured me hard at work. I found the late afternoon light the best. The longer daylight saving evenings were put to good use and my storyboard was very close to finished by the end of the week. Read the Pinerolo newsletter about my stay here
The colour and vibrancy of illustrator Julie Vivas' watercolours – one of my favourites.

I was very tempted to buy this grayscale watercolour by Stephen Michael King.
By reading through Stephen's notes it amazed me that he sometimes threw together a storyboard in  little more than a day!
Besides picture books, Pinerolo also has a wealth of reference books on children's books and illustration – perfect for anyone researching or studying.

With the clear eye and kind feedback of Margaret Hamilton, my picture book manuscript is ready to go, the storyboard is almost there and very close to being what I had imagined.

Thank you most sincerely to Margaret and Max Hamilton of Pinerolo Children's Book Cottage for your hospitality, support and care during my busy week in Blackheath. 
I loved spending time with you!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Pinerolo Children's Book Cottage

At the very end of a super busy month, which included a full weekend of launching my new release Snap Magic and two weeks visiting blogs for a promotional tour, I was tired and definitely in need of some 'me time' – time to reflect,  recharge, and revisit my picture book in progress. It was time for my visit to Pinerolo Children's Book Cottage.
Nestled on the edge of the historic township of Blackheath in the Blue Mts, Pinerolo was a sanctuary of creative bliss just waiting for me to explore its secrets. I was thrilled, overwhelmed with joy and very proud to have been chosen as one of the Illustrators in Residence this year.  
Pinerolo is owned and operated by Margaret Hamilton AM, a former award-winning publisher of children's books and now a picture book author herself – B is for Bedtime. I was excited to have the opportunity of being mentored by Margaret during my week's stay in the cottage. There's a lovely interview with Margaret Hamilton on the Reading Time blog of the CBCA here
My first afternoon in the cottage was spent settling in after seven hours travelling. Then I went for a walk around the extensive grounds, enjoying the mature trees and large flowering shrubs of azaleas and rhododendrons. Blackheath was holding its annual Rhododendron Festival that coming weekend – another reason I was pleased to have chosen springtime for my week's stay.
Beside the cottage a large Italian farmhouse transported me to a holiday in Tuscany and treasured memories of our time spent there with my young family.
But from the corners of my imagination Banksia men intruded, reminding me that I was in fact in Australia.
After a very comfortable sleep I had my breakfast on the little back veranda of the cottage.
And enjoyed the view.
While more children's stories and a reference to my first book Pond Magic entered my thoughts.
At the bottom of the garden a large pine (Pinerolo means Place of Pines) held counsel with a circle of magical pine stools. The perfect place for storytelling and listening.

Or perhaps just reading...

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Snap Magic Launch – Mt Tamborine

In a Secret Garden on top of a southeast Queensland mountain 
warlocks, witches, kids and grown-ups came trick or treating.
All had gathered for the launch of a bewitchingly funny new book, Snap Magic,

Some had trouble transferring back into their human form...

While a witch of great lineage instructed the gathered populus on proper wand usage.

And read a scene from her hilarious new book, Snap Magic.

 Bewitching beauty cast its spell.

And my wicked and whacky sister Nadia Sunde launched Snap Magic on the Mt.

For the large crowd we had a number of macaron towers
 courtesy of our sponsor Passiontree Velvet

The macaron-taking ceremony!

 The kids showed off their false fangs and scarred faces in the dress-up competition.

A sweet devil.

 More magical witches.

How did you get that scar?

Advanced broomstick flying!

Scar face bowls a pumpkin six.


Little warlock, were you that bat in the tree?

A gaggle of witchie poos.

Snap Magic
The coven of witches and warlocks in the adult dress-up competition.

Bestie witchies.

What the young witch of today was wearing.

You win the pumpkin wine!

 Two can fit on my broom.

All the way from Melbourne to surprise me – feeling the love, 
but why does that eye keep moving on your T-shirt?

Ghoulie lanterns and colour-ins.

 The winner of the raffle – a Family Pass to Drax 4 Kids
courtesy of our sponsor Draculas.

 Wand off competition. First to smile loses!

Snap Magic is launched!

One very happy author/illustrator

for hosting the Mt Tamborine
Snap Magic launch.

Thank you to our sponsors, Draculas, and Passiontree Velvet.

Thank you to our official photographer Jorge Branco.

And thank you sincerely to all who came along or sent well wishes.