Sunday, October 16, 2016

Alby and the Cat review

So chuffed with this review from Mum's Delivery for my new children's book, 'Alby and the Cat: All Holed Up'.  Thank you Sara!  So glad you enjoyed the book!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Alby and the Cat

The Alby and the Cat adventures continue with my new book, 'Alby and the Cat: All Holed Up', which has just been released and is available now!

These books are close to my heart, as you know.  My Dad was blinded in an industrial accident many years ago and he had a beautiful black Labrador Guide Dog named Duke.  Duke not only provided Dad with independence and gave him the confidence to face the world again, he was his best friend, and when he died of bone cancer after over 10 years of service, Dad was devastated and swore he would never have another Guide Dog again.  The relationship forged between a visually impaired person and his Guide Dog is like no other.  Dad had to place his total trust in Duke, who literally had Dad's life in his paws.  Their bond was so deep and strong.  Dad didn't want to have to go through the same thing with another dog, and then, another, so he has used his cane ever since. 

It was interesting watching Dad and Duke, and people they came into contact with.  Because Labradors are well accepted by the community and are very people-friendly, people just assumed Duke was a normal pet, even though they knew he helped Dad.  They would come up and pat Duke, sometimes before they even spoke to Dad.  What they didn't realise was, that when Duke was in harness, he was working and couldn't be distracted, or Dad was put at risk.

I wrote these books not only for children, but also for adults, to educate them a little about guide dogs, what they do, and why they make such a difference to the lives of visually impaired people.  The situations in the book are based on situations that Dad is faced with every day. 

The original 'Alby and the Cat' was out of stock so has been revised and reprinted and is also available now!  'Alby and the Cat' and 'Alby and the Cat: Showbusiness' are both on the 2016 Premier's Reading Challenge booklists in Victoria, NSW and SA.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Getting back into it!

Wow, how time flies!

After having six books published in a relatively short period of time, I decided to take a short sabbatical to spend time with my family.  My three boys were heavily into sport.  You name it and they did it.  So a lot of time was spent with them, if not watching them, it was driving them around.  But I wouldn't change it for the world.  You never get that time back, so spending it doing things with your kids is a blessing.

I'd already half-finished a manuscript for my third Alby and the Cat book, so took my time finishing it, then I sent it off to my editor, Nan McNab.  At the time Nan was busy editing for Bryce Courtenay, but I was in no rush, so told her to take her time with it.  I thought no more of it as I was busy with other things.

Then, last year, I was asked to visit the wonderful Flinders Christian Community College in Traralgon for Book Week.  I'd visited Flinders previously.  They have been great supporters of mine, to the extent of having both 'Quizzical' and 'Money Bags' on the Year 5 & 6 booklist.  It was wonderful speaking to the children, and I always bring along my 'Quizmaster' for some fun quiz action.  The children gather around you like you're a rock God.  But I always tell them, I was exactly like them.  I went to school.  I had hobbies.  I grew up and got married.  I now have kids like them. I'm no-one special, I just like to write books, and I'm lucky enough that people want to read them. Anyone can be like me.  You just need to have a dream and want to chase it.  Because that's exactly what I did.  It wasn't easy at first, but it was interesting, even fun.  And I learned a lot. 

That school visit reminded me of how much I enjoy being an author; how rewarding it is to write books for people to read, and to have those people enjoy reading them.

Then, I was invited to be a guest speaker for the Baw Baw Writers' Network alongside fellow author, Michelle Path.  Michelle had just released her first two books, Suki and the Seedling, and Xalien the Purple Alien, and her enthusiasm and love for writing was evident.  She really inspired me and we have kept in contact ever since.

It was these two events that brought the writing bug back.  Writing is such a creative thing.  It's hard to step away from unless you have another outlet, or keep busy with other things.  Luckily I was busy with other things.     

Then, just a few weeks ago, I received my edited Alby manuscript back from Nan!  I went through the edits and Nan's notes, and cannot believe how much I had missed this process, as stressful as it can sometimes be.  It's amazing how a good editor can make a book so much better, just by changing small things.  And Nan is awesome.  It also helps when it's a chapter book for younger readers because the word count is a lot smaller, so the editing doesn't take as long. 

With the editing now done, the manuscript is currently with the wonderful Kim Dingwall, who illustrated Alby and the Cat: Showbusiness.  She is also the niece of the late Allan Cornwell, who was not only a wonderful man, but instrumental in publishing all my books and getting them to the standard that saw them picked up by The Five Mile Press.  It's fantastic to have her on board again.

So, I'm very excited to tell you that some time in the next few months, Alby and the Cat: All Holed Up will be published!
So all you Alby fans, watch out for updates!


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Book Week

Book Week can be one of the busiest and most challenging times of the year for an author, but it is one of the most rewarding, too, and I always come away thinking how fortunate I am.

Every school and library I have visited since my first book, Quizzical, came out, has been so welcoming, and the staff and children, wonderful. All are different, yet similar, and I have enjoyed each and every one.

I remember a couple of years ago I visited a library and was booked for two sessions. The most children I'd had in a session prior to that was about 80, and I was expecting about the same amount for these particular sessions, except that when I got there I was told that the schools had given the the library the wrong student numbers and there would, in fact, be approximately 120 students in each session.

I absorbed this, with a smile. I figured, what's forty more? The more the merrier! Well, I was hoping that would be the case, anyway! And it was. The children were brilliant. They were all so into the session. They were loud, but only when they needed to be, and excited, but always respectful, and it was one of the best sessions I've ever had!

I visited four schools over four days this year, leaving one day of the week free to catch my breath. As most authors would know, a lot of preparation goes into each session, whether it be at a school, or a library, and most schools and libraries request more than one session. It is not unusual to spend a day at a school, especially around Book Week, so you have to tailor each session to suit whatever year level you are speaking to. Your first session may be for Year 6's and your very next may be Preps and while each may be similar, they can be very different in many ways, too. They can be very draining, too. But I wouldn't swap it for anything. It is such a privilege to be invited to schools and libraries, and to get the opportunity to speak to children about your books.

I feel like I'm leading a second life, being an author - a whole different person than the one I am at home! When I'm not writing, or visiting schools and libraries, I'm just an ordinary mother and wife, doing what all mothers and wives do - working, running children around, doing the housework, cooking meals (and the list goes on!) Believe me, I'm no more special than anyone else. I'm just someone who is living a dream I've always had. And it's wonderful!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

'Alby' nominated for another award

I am very excited!!!! After the disappointment of the Cybils Awards I have just learned that 'Alby and the Cat: Showbusiness' has been nominated for the 2011 Speech Pathology Australia Book of the Year Awards. To be eligible for nomination, a book had to be nominated by a member and meet the following criteria: 1. a strong narrative format; 2. contain characters that appeal to the intended audience; 3. encourage the reader to explore new ideas and concepts; 4. encourage the development of imagination and curiousity; 5. use appropriate language; 6. be engaging; 7. be well presented and be attractive to children, with appropriate pictures and an appealing layout. My distributor now has to send off 12 copies of the book so that they can be read by a judging panel who will then decide on a shortlist. Fingers crossed that a little luck will be with me this time!!!!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Thank you libraries!

It's always wonderful to see your books in schools, libraries and bookshops. It's nice to know people read them. Once my son was on a train on his way back from Melbourne and a young girl opposite him was reading my book, 'Quizzical'. He was pretty blown away by that. I'm sure he thought nobody would ever read my books. After all, he didn't! But then he's not into books, unlike my youngest son, who's eleven. He absolutely loves books, and reads religiously for up to an hour each night before bed. I've found the libraries extremely supportive of my books. Some even have them on standing order. That's when, as soon as a book is released by a particular author, they automatically order them in. Some libraries in Melbourne, Queensland and Sydney have multiple copies of my books, and in one library in particular (The Hills Shire Library) my books are consistently booked out. As an author, this is very heartening to see! So, to all the libraries that support authors like me, and especially those who are prepared to give new authors a go, thankyou! It is appreciated more than you know!

What's coming up?

I know I've said this before ... lots ... but I love author visits to schools and libraries! And I have several coming up in the next few weeks, which I'm really looking forward to. Each school is different, some are big, some are small, but no matter how big or small, in every school I've visited so far, I am always made to feel welcome. The teachers are always friendly and welcoming, and the children delightful. A typical session of mine will include some information about myself and my books, and background on how a book is put together. I'm sure that when you go into a bookshop or library, the last thing you think about is the process behind how a book is made. But, take it from me, it's very interesting. I use examples from the different stages of my latest book, Puzzle Palace. Then, after some question time, we launch into 'Interactive Quizzical', the quiz show I bring into the classroom (or library) to help promote literacy and to encourage student participation in a fun way. The questions are designed to promote thinking, but they're not hard - some are probably even too easy, but I'd rather students know the answer to an easy question than struggle and subsequently feel embarrassed if they are thrown a question that's too hard - and the emphasis is never about winning, it's about getting up and having a go. Instead of giving prizes to the winners I hand out raffle tickets at the start of the session, and at the end of the session we have a draw for spot prizes, where everyone has an equal chance of winning something. It's a lot of fun! And it's one of my favourite things about being an author!