Am thrilled to be able to share here a 3-minute podcast of me reading from At my door, my latest book. It’s for readers aged from 7 to 11. Hope you like it!
Look at these faces. These are the faces of the inspired, hard-working writers and illustrators I’ll have the pleasure of chatting with on stage at this year’s Perth Writers Festival.
It’s a tough gig, it really is.
I hope to see you there! It’s this weekend (18–21 February 2016) at UWA’s Crawley campus. The events I’ll be MCing will be mainly on Sunday. Come and say hello!
Welcome to the new year, everyone! I must say that I’m always glad to find myself on the ‘other side’ of the silly season.
I’ve had a lovely break in the karri and marri forest in southern WA with my family and am really excited to get into a couple of big writing projects in 2016 – one novel for kids and one for adults.
But before the hard work gets underway I’d like to say a huge thank you to all the schoolteachers, librarians and readers, and the festival and writing-centre peeps who invited me into their spaces in 2015. Without your support I’d struggle to remember why I write. If I seem enthusiastic when I meet you, it’s because your enthusiasm makes me that way! THANK YOU!
In between some serious writing in 2016, I have school, library and festival bookings in Perth, Mandurah, Karratha, Katanning, Balingup and Busselton in WA, and Mackay and Melbourne. And I can’t wait! Please use the contact page if you would like me to come to your school or library – I will do what I can to make it possible.
I had the pleasure of meeting Nic Emmerson and his dad, Roger, this week. Nic emailed me a couple of weeks ago. His email began like this:
My name is Nic Emmerson and I am 20 years old and I am interested in learning about writing books for children and young adults.
In January 2012 I had a very serious motor vehicle accident and it has left me unable to walk or talk. I was in Royal Perth and Shenton Park Hospitals for just over 12 months and now communicate with my iPad.
Last year I decided to write a book documenting my hospital and recovery journey to give to my nurses, family and close friends. My book “No Limits” has inspired me to continue writing but I have decided I would like to learn some basic book writing skills.
I knew I had to meet Nic. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I found a happy, funny young man who is, despite these setbacks, super positive, and incredibly good at communicating.
Nic gave me a copy of his book, No Limits, which he wrote and put together:
Through words and photos, No Limits tells the remarkable, inspiring story of Nic’s recovery. Immediately after his accident, Nic’s family was told that he might be a vegetable. I can’t imagine how much joy it must bring them, then, to watch Nic, only two years later, go riding on his purpose-built trike, or attend a dress-up party with mates, and generally enjoy life. No Limits is full of photos of Nic smiling and laughing while doing physio, before going in to surgery, hanging out with his family and friends, and going riding on his trike.
As a mum, I was both moved and inspired to meet Nic and his dad. They are champions. Here’s a photo of me and Nic after he’d downed a vanilla milkshake:
Thanks, Nic and Roger, for inviting me to meet you both and share a small part of your journey. Rock on, Nic!
Today I received a copy of the newly reprinted 90 packets of instant noodles. The first thing I did was flick through to the imprint page, where I saw this:
That line – reprinted 2013, 2015 – made me glow with happiness. I never, ever would have thought when I signed my first book contract back in 2009 for the manuscript that would become 90 packets, that it would go on to live such an excellent life.
This sort of stuff simply doesn’t happen without the support of many. So I’d like to thank you, readers, teachers, librarians, parents, booksellers and reviewers. I’d like to thank my editor, Amanda Curtin, and my publisher, Cate Sutherland, along with the awesome team at Fremantle Press. I actually couldn’t have done it without you.
My latest book, At My Door, is partly about being a mum. And the different kinds of mums out there. In the book we get glimpses of two mums, though one we never actually meet – Mei’s mum. Mei, a toddler, is left at the front door of Poppy’s house one night. Mei’s mum is somewhere off-stage, dealing with her demons.
As a mum of two healthy kids, living in a two-parent household, families have always fascinated me. Especially the range and number of roles parents are required to step up to, whether or not they have the requisite experience or skills or support.
There is cooking for, playing with and communicating with our children. There is conflict resolution, guiding friendships, helping with schoolwork, supporting hobbies, providing and maintaining a safe home for our children, choosing after-school activities (or not), then delivering and collecting the children to and from these. There is raising the money for these things.
Usually all of these tasks are done each day. Along with shopping for food, cleaning up after meals, overseeing showers, tooth- and hair-brushing, washing clothes, hanging out wet clothes and bringing in dry clothes, then sorting and returning these to the correct rooms (and yes some of these jobs can and should be done by the kids but often they are not and then more conflict resolution is required), and so on and so forth.
It is hard work. Some of it is woefully boring and it is quite often thankless. Some of it is confusing and worrying.
And then there is the mum – the off-stage mum, who we have trouble looking at straight-on – who has extra stuff. She might be without work, or without sufficient income to pay for all the household bills. She might be at war internally, with mental health problems. She might be fighting an addiction, or have given up this fight, given in to the relentless urges.
I just cannot imagine how hard this extra stuff makes a mum’s life. But I do know how hard it is just trying to be a good mum. It’s by turns exhausting and energising. And I think it’s okay to share some of this with our kids. So if you have a chance, check out At My Door. I’d love to know what you think.
Last week I had the huge pleasure of working with The Literature Centre with some of the south-west’s brightest readers and writers. I met students from Year 6 through to Year 12 and every single one of them had something to offer our intensive writing sessions. They worked hard and they shared joyfully. I can’t emphasise enough the value of these programs, nor the support of schools, teachers and librarians to the writers of the future (and the writers of now!). Thank you to The Literature Centre for giving me the opportunity to meet these amazing students and staff – I gained much more from them than I suspect they did from me!
Last week, children’s writers and illustrators all around Australia were helping kids, librarians and teachers to celebrate children’s books. I had a brilliant week visiting the City of Gosnells Libraries and the City of Canning Libraries, as well as Peter Carnley Anglican Community School for The Literature Centre. I met such lovely, engaged students from Years 3 right through to Year 10 and their incredibly hard-working and devoted librarians and teachers. We did workshops and lots of author talks (am pretty croaky now, I can tell you!). Thank you all for having me!
News. Love it, or hate it? I’ve learnt to approach all news with a very critical eye, but it’s taken me years to hone that critical skill and trust my own take on things. Ultimately, though, I am, as I tell students I visit at schools and libraries, a complete news junkie. First up in the morning it’s a little entrée of news via Twitter, then more substantial news on the radio as I drive to drop off and, later, collect my kids from school. Then it’s news on TV at 7pm, news analysis at 7.30, and international news at 9.30 (if I’m not curled up in bed by then with a good book). There are also feature news stories, such as those on Australian Story that I lap up like a cat at a saucer.
And every now and then, there’s something that sticks. Something that won’t leave my head. Something that I can’t help but ask ‘what if?’ questions about. What if there was a child in the glider that crashed in the Stirling Ranges is at the heart of The Amazing Spencer Gray. What if my characters lived through the Gracetown cliff collapse is the premise for The Break. And what if a toddler was delivered, alone, to your front door late at night is the question behind At My Door. Each one of these were ‘delivered’ to me, if you like, by the news.
So I shall keep watching, listening, reading. Shunning and questioning. And waiting for another story I just can’t get out of my head.
Compassion. If there is any word I would hope to have associated with my forthcoming book, At My Door, it’s compassion. Because we all need more of it – in the way we view others; in the way we view ourselves. And children, with their beautiful open minds and sponge-like absorbability, are the perfect ones to approach with this message.
At My Door is a book for readers aged 7 to 11 about a toddler left alone on another family’s front door. The story is told from the point of view of a 10-year-old child in the receiving family. It’s based on a true story.
When I go into classrooms and libraries to talk about At My Door, as I will be this Children’s Book Week, I’ll be asking students, What is compassion? Has anyone ever shown you compassion? and Have you ever felt compassion? How does it make you feel?
I think these are questions we can all ask ourselves.