Saturday, December 22, 2012

She's here!

A little bit of exciting news to squeeze in before Christmas. The advance copies of my first book in the Our Australian Girl series arrived this week. I am SO excited - and I can't WAIT for you to meet her! The first book comes out in February 2013 and the following three books, every two months after that. I am currently editing Book Two and about to start writing Book Three in January, so it is such a lovely treat to be able to hold Book One in my hands.

My girl is called Lina and the book is set in Carlton in 1956 - the year of the Melbourne Olympics AND the arrival of television. Lina's parents have recently arrived from Italy and they live in a tiny terrace house in a little lane way off Rathdowne Street with Lina's grandmother, their four children and an uncle. Lina has had a happy childhood, playing cricket with her brothers in the streets, helping her grandmother around the house and occasionally accompanying her parents down Lygon Street to do their shopping. Carlton has been Lina's whole world, the place where she feels like she belongs, until the year she wins a scholarship to an expensive private school in a far off suburb and her eyes are opened to a way of life she had never known existed. For the first time she begins to feel ashamed of the house and the family she had once loved. She makes new friends but she also makes enemies and life is no longer as simple as it had once been.

The books in this series are particularly dear to me as some of the stories are loosely based on my partner's family when they first arrived in Melbourne from Italy. I have so loved writing these books. I hope you will love reading them, too.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Reflections on a fortunate year.

Last Friday night, at the NSW Premier's Literary Awards dinner, sitting in the grand reading room of the NSW Library, I was overcome with an incredible sense of gratitude. Less than twenty years ago, when I was first starting out, the thought of being in a room with some of Australia's finest writers and being flown up to attend this dinner because one of my very own books had been shortlisted, would have been inconceivable. I still remember standing in front of my bookshelf thinking 'Imagine! Imagine having my very own book up there. My words in a book on somebody's bookshelf!' That was my greatest ambition. To have book published. Everything from there on has been gravy.

Listening to Clive James' moving address recorded from his home in London as he is now too unwell to travel, it struck home how much I should savour every moment and take nothing for granted. Especially when there were times, not that long ago, I came so close to tossing it all in. This has been an incredible year. I have travelled overseas to attend conferences and book festivals and had a residency at the Melbourne Zoo. I have won awards and been shortlisted for others and sat at tables with writers I have admired my whole lifetime. My books have been taken up by publishers in other countries and I have received messages from readers the world over. By Christmas, according to my publishers, I will have sold a million Billie B Brown books. I still can't quite believe it. From where I stand right now, I couldn't imagine a more fortunate life.

I remember hearing on a radio program once, years ago, that the secret to happiness was gratitude. That in everyone's life there will be ups and downs but if you can bring to mind the things you are truly grateful for, this will buoy you through the hardest times. I have so much to be grateful for; my friends and family of course will always be my brightest light, but I am also incredibly grateful that I am able to do something that I love on a daily basis - and make a living from it. For this I have to thank not only my publishers, who have been brilliant, but all those people out there who have supported me in different ways: the booksellers, the teachers, the librarians, the parents and anyone who has put my books into the hands of a child. I also feel so grateful for the incredibly generous and supportive community of Australian children's authors and illustrators that I am so lucky to be a part of.

This has been an amazing year, and I have so many more exciting things to look forward to in 2013, including four books in the Our Australian Girl series for Penguin, a picture book with Windy Hollow, and a brand new Billie series for slightly older readers. I will keep you posted. Until then, I hope that you get a ton of books for Christmas and that you have all the peace you need to read them over the break.