Friday, February 14, 2014

Playground Detectives - Billie B Mystery Number Three!

I've had a few enquiries lately about the release date for the next Billie Mystery so thought I should put a little sneak peek up here.

Billie and her friends have a brand new Secret Mystery Clubhouse, high up in the apple tree. Now they just need a brand new mystery to uncover. Billie comes up with an idea. Only last week Rebecca found leaves in her sandwich and Benny was immediately blamed. Lola says she even saw him loitering in the corridor that day. Everyone agrees it has to have been Benny. After all, Benny always does stupid things like that. But this time Benny is adamant it wasn't him. And, to Billie, something feels not quite right. But then, if it wasn't Benny, who was it? It's up to the Secret Mystery Club to find out!

Playground Detectives should be available at the beginning of March. So for any keen Billie readers, that's only fifteen more sleeps!


Sunday, January 5, 2014

Happy New Year and Five Non-Resolutions

So, everyone knows how hard it can be to keep New Year's resolutions. You wake up on the first of Jan, full of good intentions and determined to do things differently, but more often than not the most ambitious of those resolutions have well and truly slipped by the wayside by the end of the first week.

So, this year, I thought I'd try something different.

Five Things I Resolve NOT To Do In 2014:

1) I will not take on more work than I know I can handle - no matter how interesting it sounds - and no matter how much I convince myself I can squeeze it in. Too much work means not enough play time and we all know that makes Jack a dull boy.

2) I will not feel guilty about my pyjama days. Days when I am not really sick, just pretending, so that I can spend a day in bed napping, drinking tea and mindlessly scrolling through Facebook. After all I've found that one fake sick day can often ward off a real one.

3) I will not skip my yoga class, book group, singing class or piano lesson because I have too much work to do. (See no.1) I will also not feel guilty about a long lunch date with a friend. I work enough Sundays to justify the odd weekday tryst.

4) I will do my very best to be at all my kids school performances, parent-teacher interviews and fundraisers, but will not beat myself up if I miss one for whatever reason. There are plenty of other parents at the school who are better bakers than me. I am much better on the book stall anyway.

5) I will not forget to stop whatever it is I am doing and just enjoy those brief moments when my rapidly-growing sons want to share something funny with me they have seen on the internet, talk to me about their day at school or just sit with me in the kitchen when I'm cooking. The older they get the more it becomes clear to me that these days are numbered and I don't ever want to regret spending more time checking emails on my iPhone than being present with my kids. If I can only manage to keep one non-resolution this year, I think this might be the most important one for me for 2014.

Hope you are having some success in sticking to yours!



Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Code Breakers - Billie Mystery 2

One thing you may not know about me is that I used to be a detective. From about seven to nine years old, my friends and I kept a faithful watch over our neighbourhood, to make sure things were running just the way they should. At this time, I was living in Perth, Western Australia, in the supposedly quiet suburb of Mount Lawley, but you have no idea how many astonishing things went on under the inattentive gaze of our parents; things that went missing, unexplained noises in the night, mysterious stains on our clothing that would appear out of nowhere. I can tell you, if my friends and I hadn't been keeping careful watch over our parents and younger siblings, who knows what tragedies may have struck.

Obviously, when you're a detective, you can't have everybody knowing this. It's very important to remain undercover and to find ways to communicate with your fellow neighbourhood detectives in a way that is indecipherable to others. So, my friends and I would develop new languages and complex codes, that sometimes became too baffling to even decrypt ourselves.

Something as simple as Meet Me In The Park After School would become:

LOOHCS RETFA KRAP EHT NI EM TEEM

or

Teemay emay inay ethay arkpay afteray oolschay

or, worse still (because numbers were never my forte)

13-5-5-20 13-5 9-14 20-8-5 16-1-18-11 1-6-20-5-18 19-3-8-15-15-12

Often, to my chagrin, by the time I had cracked the code the meeting would be well and truly over.

Fortunately, Billie and her friends work together a little more constructively than my friends and I ever did and manage to crack a series of curious codes that appear one after the other in little envelopes all around their neighbourhood. The code in each envelope relies upon a child's particular skills; Mika's ability to read other languages, Alex's talent for numbers and Jack's technique for memorising tricky words. Billie begins to despair that she may never crack a code herself, but the last note they find requires a particularly imaginative thinker and Billie is able to work it out, thanks to a few clues she has gleaned along the way. They follow its instructions which lead them to discover something completely and unexpectedly glorious, hidden in Billie's very own backyard. Something just perfect for a Secret Mystery Club to ponder their next impending mystery.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

100 Story Building* launch


A great deal of people have crazy, beautiful dreams, but very few of them have the tenacity or enthusiasm to actually realise them. Yesterday, many years of hard work came together in one glorious moment when the 100 Story Building's actual building was launched.

I remember Lachlann Carter and Jenna Williams sitting at my kitchen table several years ago, fresh out of Melbourne Uni, telling me their dreams of starting a writing centre for kids inspired by the Valencia 826 model Dave Eggers had begun. Yesterday the doors to that centre were finally opened. Standing amongst the crowds of people who had turned up for the launch, I felt as proud as a mother hen.

Here are a few highlights of the launch in photos:

Lachlann gave a tour of the building, which you can see mapped out on this builder's blueprint below.


He explained that the other 99 stories were still in construction and while they were accessible through this trapdoor in the ground, it was still a dangerous work in progress so warned people to steer well clear.



Other than strange noises and smells coming from below, the only sign of the other residents were the occasional note they left each other on this pin-board.



Out front, storyteller extraordinaire, Bernard Caleo, entertained the crowds with a traditional Japanese tale on chalkboard, and did a tremendous job, especially as he was competing with the noise of the Ethiopian new year festival only 500 metres along.


Soon it was time for the formal proceedings. We heard first from Lachlann, then after the Welcome To Country...



we listened to a radio play put on by students...



then heard from the delightful Alice Pung, fellow ambassador and board member.


Co-founder, Jess Tran, cut the ribbon around the bookcase to declare the building officially open, only to discover it  swung open to hide a secret room - and access to the bank vaults next door! They left the money in the vaults for now, but handed out lucky-dip books to the kids instead...



who then went back to the activities set up for them...



which included drawing comic strips...


and pitching story ideas to the editorial team of Early Harvest including the brilliant and beautiful Davina Bell, wearing her bespoke paper editorial glasses.


It was a truly beautiful launch, so much love in one small building, and such a testament to all the hard work that Lach, Jess and Jenna have put in over the years. I know they have an extraordinary future ahead of them.


I couldn't be prouder to be associated with such a fine bunch of people.




* Now with 100% more building!


Saturday, August 3, 2013

Aki in Melbourne!


I am very excited to let you know that the fabulous Aki Fukuoka, illustrator of the Billie B Brown series, will be in Melbourne for one very busy week in August. She will be joining me at the Melbourne Writers Festival to help launch Spooky House the first of the Billie B Mysteries. If you haven't had the chance to see Aki draw live - you are in for a treat! From rabbits in top hats to dinosaurs in trousers, I have yet to find something she can't draw.

As well as the writers festival, Aki and I will have three bookstore events over the week where you can come and see her draw and be among the first to hear me read from Spooky House. We will also have lots of prizes and fun things to give away. Hope you can come! 

Here is a list of our public events:


- Saturday 24th August: 

The Reading Hour, The Edge Federation Square, 4pm


- Sunday 25th August:

Drop in and Draw, Artplay, 2.30pm.


- Monday 26th August:

The World of Billie and Jack, ACMI Cinema 1, 11.15am.


- Tuesday 27th August

Creating Characters, Artplay, 10am (this one is just with Aki).



- Wednesday 28th August



- Thursday 29th August








Sunday, July 28, 2013

A Little Varuna Magic

Well, it's been a long time since I've picked up a pencil to draw - years in fact, as I have been so very busy tapping away on my computer for the last three or four years. I have had a beautiful manuscript in my bottom drawer for a long time, written by my dear friend Whitney Stewart, regularly postponed by me or our publisher, until finally I knew it could be postponed no more. So, feeling apprehensive about not having illustrated for so long, I booked myself a week at Varuna, The Writers' House, to see if in the stillness of the Blue Mountains I could find that quiet drawing mind again.

There is nowhere else I know of where I can be so focussed and productive as at Varuna, sharing the house with four other writers tapping away quietly in their rooms, coming down for a meal by the fire in the evenings, thoughts turned inward from being so completely lost in their work all day. As the director says, the gift of Varuna is not just that it takes away all interruptions to your work, but that it takes away the fear of interruption.

As this is a picture book on meditation for children, I decided that each morning I would pick a meditation exercise to try out before I sat down to work. I struggle to find a still mind, like most of us do I imagine, and easily fall into the trap of wanting to fill empty space with words, spoken or written, any moment I am not busy. So, the combination of meditating in the morning and then illustrating all day in this quiet yellow house was like a balm to my restless, scratchy mind.


I began by working in pencil to find the mood of the illustration, then when I was happy with my sketch I would place it on a lightbox under a sheet of watercolour paper to trace it in ink. To my delight, the characters revealed themselves easily: an elephant to represent our heavy bumbling mind, and a monkey to represent our mind at its most skittish. I chose a limited palette to colour them with because I will add the backgrounds later with the designer once we have worked out how the words will fit across the page.


This is just a sneak peek of some of my favourite drawings. Later, after I have been working with the designer, I will post some full-colour pages-in-progress. Until then, 'Om' to you for your day.



Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Billie B Brown Treasury!


Here is a little treat for any Billie B Brown fans, which will arrive just in time for Christmas. A hardback full colour collection of ten Billie stories! I have only seen the cover so far, and a sneak peek of a few of Aki's illustrations in colour - but what I have seen so far looks gorgeous!