Sunday, January 25, 2015

A new year, a new story.

So this blog has been very quiet of late. Life has taken over in scary, wonderful and unpredictable ways, as it is wont to do, but I feel like I am finally emerging out the other side again, a little battered and worn, but feeling excited about the future.

Two big boys have moved out and three little girls have moved in and we are all living in a great big old house on a hill with a view over the city and an attic and a secret staircase and our same lazy dog who is not quite sure what to make of the whole thing. When the sun goes down we can watch the bats soar across the darkening sky from our bedroom balcony. It is a house I have always dreamed of living in. A house of stories. And when the kids all go back to school next week I plan to start something new and magical, starring three little girls, a boy, a dog and a big old house on a hill.

But 2014 wasn't all about moving house and collecting children. I have been working, too. Promise. Here is the proof of it, above. A new Billie series. (What, Billie again?) No, this is for younger readers. Picture books. Illustrated by the wonderful Alisa Coburn in her inimitable warm and groovy style. Inspired by Where The Wild Things Are my favourite book of all time, Billie arrives at kinder each morning and immediately leaps into her imaginary world of the day: underwater wonderlands, sandy deserts, tangled jungles and has to confront whatever scary monster or catastrophe she finds there. Of course she does all this with aplomb, always getting back in time for fruit snack.

I loved writing this series. While a picture book text is limited by word count, the vocabulary can be as lush and evocative as poetry. The original Billie and Jack series - and even the Mysteries, to some extent - were very much written with the emerging reader in mind, so every word had to be the simplest, every sentence structure as clear and concise as possible. After four years of writing within these strict parameters, it felt like a real luxury to be able to use words of more than two syllables and sentences of more than five words again. The first two books will be released in March this year. Then another four books over the next twelve months.

Last year saw me become involved in another exciting venture, too. Which is kind of completely different to children's books, but not altogether as far removed as you might think. It is a performance space that packs away into a bike. A roving story-teller's tent, hand-sewn and lovingly constructed by my beau. It is a true work of art, born from a crazy idea and a sketch on the back of an envelope. You can find out more about it on Facebook under The Story Peddlers. A website is on its way.

Other than picture books and story tents, I have loved accompanying Kulja Coulston on 3RRR's The Grapevine. I had no idea how much I would love radio, especially being the one to ask the questions after years of being in the hot seat myself. We have another fabulous year of children's book people lined up (well, at least our first guest is confirmed) and I will strive to remember to post my monthly segments on Facebook for anyone who isn't able to tune in on a Monday morning. If there is someone fabulous (and local) in children's books or publishing you would like to hear from, let me know, and I'll see what I can wrangle.

Lastly, my favourite summer read would have to be We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, by Karen Joy Fowler, though admittedly I am not alone in this nomination. Now I have just started The Woman Upstairs by Clare Messud, which came highly recommended by a friend, and so far, only a couple of chapters in, I feel like I am reading a description of MYSELF. Spooky. I would love to hear anyone's else's tips for books I can't go past. I plan to make up for having fallen off that bandwagon last year. Well, not to be too hard on myself, it was a BIG year and something had to give.

Happy happy 2015. May you never find weevils in your muesli.