Thursday, June 13, 2013

Winter days and meditation with elephants

As the weather grows colder I am bunkering down with my laptop, busy with work. Over the long weekend I finally finished the first draft of Book Four of my contribution to the Our Australian Girl series. I have loved writing Lina and feel slightly wistful about winding up my time with her, though it's been great to start hearing from my young readers.

I sometimes forget, because I am still so involved in writing the series, that my first two books are already out there, and only this week I visited a school where a group of girls came up to say how much they love Lina, which was a delightfully unexpected thrill. I feel very lucky to be writing for this series because there are already so many great authors on board and the books are already so well-loved by children and adults alike.

My third book in this series, Lina at the Games, comes out next month, and I think it might just be my favourite. Lina meets a boy on a bus who, with a single letter, changes the whole future of the Olympics. If you are interested in coming along to hear more about Lina and the Our Australian Girl series, I will speaking at the Northcote Library at 4pm on Thursday, June 20th.

Other exciting news, which I will post in more detail later, is that the fabulous Aki Fukuoka, illustrator of the Billie B Brown series, is coming to Melbourne for the Writers Festival. We will be appearing together at MWF on the 24th, 25th and 26th of August, then doing some bookstore events later that week. I will keep you posted - so watch this space if you'd like to see Aki in action! Hopefully there might even be a few previews of our new Billie Mysteries.

Lastly, I have finally begun sketching out ideas for a picture book I am illustrating for New Orleans author, Whitney Stewart, with whom I worked on Becoming Buddha: the Life of Siddhartha. Whitney has written a beautiful text on meditation for children which I can't wait to begin. It is warm and child-friendly but also has some wonderful ideas for meditation exercises that I'm keen to try myself. Other than the odd dabble at the end of a yoga class, I have never had much luck developing an on-going meditation practice, even though I know it's EXACTLY what I need, but these exercises make me think that even an easily-distracted, restless, over-thinker like myself could possibly manage them at home.

To get myself into the right frame of mind, I have booked myself a week at Varuna, the Writers' Retreat in July, where, in the foggy quietness of the Blue Mountains, I hope to meditate my way back into illustrating again - having not illustrated anything in over two years! I have also enlisted the help of designer extraordinaire, Regine Abos, who I worked with on Gabrielle Wang's The Race For The Chinese Zodiac. We have already met once to discuss how to combine my old-fashioned hand-drawn/painted artwork with her groovy design skills, in the way we did with the Zodiac book, even though we are planning on a very different look to accompany Whitney's text. Think Saul Bass meets Bruno Munari and a little bit of Eric Carle thrown in. With elephants! (Because who doesn't love elephants?) Will post pics-in-progress when I can. Wish me luck! I hope winter is treating you well and you are somewhere warm doing something you love.

* This is an early sketch from Mannie and the Long Brave Day, by Martine Murray