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READ WRITE INSPIRE. Welcome to my Words, a place devoted to making Reading and Writing for children more Inspired.


Thursday, 25 May 2017

Appreciating Asia - The AFCC in a lotus nut

There are over two billion children in Asia. That's approximately two billion potential little humans to reach with story, impact educationally and influence for tomorrow. Mind blowing, don't think? I do.

My home away from home - The Interlace, architecturally radical
As mind blowing as the Asian Festival of Children's Content from which I've just returned. Based in Singapore, this annual event encompassing over four distinct yet complementary conferences, 'promotes and celebrates the creation, development and appreciation of quality' children's content in a way I have never experienced before.

While the focus is understandably on Asian content and its creators, the flavour and vibe of the festival is undeniably international. I, along with a handful of other ANZ creators and industry personnel including Wai Chim, Briony Stewart, Lee Battersby, Kirsty Murray and Frances Plumpton, felt nothing but the quintessential open-armed warmth of Asian hospitality. In spite of the mind boggling number of delegates and presenters, every one had time for everyone else, or so it felt to me. An air of congeniality pervaded throughout the festival long after the aroma of our lunch time repasts faded.
My other home - the National Library Singapore
My week was packed with presenting, moderating sessions for others, launching The Fix-It Man to adoring Asian audiences, book signings and conducting pop-up readings.  I couldn't have asked for a more absurdly absorbing and satisfying week of kids' lit love.
Book Launch of The Fix-It Man in My Tree House, Central Library
The utterly delightful Far'ain Jaafar sharing our love of books
Although Singapore is a nation that favours high academic achievement and a strong moral code, there was an underlying and reoccurring desire that kept percolating to the top of each session and discussion;  that we must develop the social and emotional education of our children just as enthusiastically. This strong undercurrent to improve the quality and content of reading material for (Asian based) children was shared by teachers, librarians, education educators, kids' lit enthusiasts and publishers alike and was simultaneously heartening and frustrating to behold, for change does not come easily nor quickly. Nonetheless, without change, there can be no butterflies...nor Garudas - the legendary Indonesian mythical bird (Indonesia being the Country of Focus this year).

Pop-Up Reading of The Fix-It Man to fixated and weeping crowds
I'll detail some of the sessions I presented and moderated soon, for now here are a few pictorial tip bits to whet your appetite. You won't find any scenic shots here; previous trips to Singapore and conferencing 12 hours a day precluded any touristy intentions. Also, I seem to get sidetracked by the cuisine a lot these days, forgetting to snap digital reminders of my fellow delegates, but I hope you get the idea.
Closetful of Books' Denise Tan and Kelvin Ng were sales superstars
Opening Night Ceremony with James Mayhew paintforming with Rosemarie Somaiah
Frances Plumpton Literary Agent NZ
Festival Director, Kenneth Quek, Celebrating Our Stars in the Pod
View from the stunning 17th floor Pod atop the National Library Building
Gorgeous Singaporean illustrator, Melissa Tan aka Melt

My stash of Festival goodies and gifts. I had already scoffed all of Melissa's homemade bickies
Cake, the Books Actually bookshop cat. Don't touch his favourite titles
 I ended my sensational Singaporean sojourn with a few quick visits to some local bookshops.
http://www.woodsinthebooks.sg/
Next year promises to be even bigger and better with Singapore being the festival's Country of Focus. It is also the 50th Anniversary of the National Book Development Council of Singapore (NBDCS). And while I'd love to stick around for a Singapore Sling or two to celebrate that one, I may have to hand over my paper plane for now. Thank you AFCC for a truly enriching and fulfilling week.

http://bookcouncil.sg/


Thursday, 27 April 2017

Thank Yous

Living is an uncompromising occupation at times. You often have to sift through mountains of detritus to find even the tiniest diamond chips. Sometimes, you get lucky. But more often you discover the hard way that fate is a capricious companion and good luck is never guaranteed.
 
Despite all this, I believe that good things do come to those who wait, and as the saying goes, better things come to those who work for them.

I've been one of the so-called lucky ones these past few months. Realising a dream come true has the tendency to inflate joy, rekindle hope and raise esteem. The release of The Fix-It Man, has done all that and more for me.
I want to say THANK YOU  to all those who have thanked me and Nicky Johnston for this book - for all the 'thank yous'. You have embraced our humble story with full and open hearts. Some degree of fan fare always surrounds any new book release. Ours was no exception. The groundswell of appreciation and positive reviews for The Fix-It Man has exceeded all expectations. Support like that is coveted and of course, cherished.

However, sometimes the most decisive moments of all, the ones that banish any doubt you may have harboured that your story failed to find its mark, the ones that validate every minute of hard work and every ounce of effort you expended to make your dream a reality, these moments often come after the main event is well and truly over.

Unsolicited reactions are the most telling and for me among the most precious of all. Responses like this one from June Perkins, published on her blog Pearlz Dreaming.







And this, from Shaye Wardrop, writer, reader and dreamer. Shaye has graciously permitted me to share her words with you because she hopes it will 'help others to see its beauty'.

Excerpt from Shaye Wardrop to Nicky Johnston and me about The Fix-It Man March 2017

I just have to tell you how much I adore The Fix-It Man.

I knew it was going to be good, but I wasn’t ready for how much I would connect with the words and illustrations, how much my heart would ache and then smile as I read it, and how much I would think about the story after I closed the cover.

My mother had cancer. I was a teenager when she passed away, but she was diagnosed when I was in primary school. Every word and illustration was so accurate, I was crying five pages in when I saw Mama watching the family from her chair with a scarf on her head.


The jumble of happiness mixed with sadness while Mama is sick tore at my heartstrings, and the little girl making tea and doing washing had my heart pounding, because I know how young kids often have to grow up fast when a parent is sick (washing was what I used to do to try and help).

But for me, the shining star of The Fix-It Man is the hope it offers. Hope that there can be smiles after tragedy and kids can find a new identity, a new place in the world, after losing someone they love.

It breaks my heart, but bad things do happen, often to very good people. And while not all kids have been through this exact experience, they may have lost a pet or grandparent or even a cherished toy, and I think acknowledging what loss and grief is for kids is such an amazing gift.


So thank you so much for bringing The Fix-It Man to the world. The wisdom and strength it will provide children is immeasurable.

I have not met Shaye personally yet nor have I known her long, but her words, shared with such raw honesty, will remain with me forever. 'Happy-sad tears'. That is what life is about, as uncompromising and incongruous as our emotions. 

Thank you for all your Thank Yous


Thursday, 30 March 2017

After the Storm - Launching into the Future

As I sit in disbelief, still reeling slightly at images of my old digs on an island in the Whitsundays that I used to call home, I reflect on what it means to loose something. The trees on Hamilton Island are completely denuded, reduced to leafless trunks standing damp and defenceless in a landscape that resembles a nuclear test sight. It is truly heartbreaking to see.
Harbour View apartments Hamilton Island photo attribute Newcastle Herald

I have some idea of what it must be like there. I have lived through one or two cyclones in my time, after all, even whilst on Hamilton but I can't pretend to know what those who've lost their homes, their boats, their livelihoods are feeling. Loss is a personal thing that affects each and every one of us in profoundly different ways.

 

On a far less violent and brutal front, now that the new-publication storm surrounding the launch of The Fix-It Man subsides, I take a further moment to reflect on this book of mine and Nicky's. This story about loss and grief that we knew was purposeful and beautiful but never really understood just how meaningful it would be for all those who would read it, that is until now.

video
Three launches, a dozen or so media interviews, and a sky-full of reviews later and we are just beginning to understand how this story can affect everyone because loss is not selective. It does not discriminate between colour and creed, age or circumstance. It doesn't care about the car you drive or what you eat for breakfast. It comes in many guises; the death of a loved one, the passing of a pet, the relocation of a friend, the destruction of a former haven you called home. Sometimes it just can't be avoided.

The one common denominator about loss of any kind, I think, is the destabilising of the memories associated with that thing or situation or person removed from your life, which makes their absence all the more keenly felt. Sometimes memories are all we are left with. They can sting or strengthen. They are part of the gaps left behind by loss and crucial to the grieving and rebuilding process.

Fortunately for me, I have wonderful indelible memories of both Hamilton Island and every single minute of our launch parties (yes we had three). I'd like to share some of them with you and remind you that it's okay to feel moved to tears, laughter or even just quiet resignation whenever you encounter a situation that challenges your emotions, like reading a sad story or witnessing heartbreaking images. If you didn't, you wouldn't be human.

So please, until the sun shines again, enjoy. Cherish. Rejoice. We did.

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Fixing Things One Word at a Time

Today's feature in the Gold Coast Bullentin's Weekend Coast magazine lift out, sums up much of what I feel about what and why I create as a children's author. Read John Affleck's impressions on my 'compelling children's book in which healing a broken family takes more than a quick fix'.

Befittingly, illustrator Nicky Johnston's melting illustrations 'say plenty' as well.


Read John's additional article in the Bully about, The Fix-It Man and my next picture book due out with EK Books in 2018, here.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Happy Publication Day!

Today,


we celebrate this
 

in all its wonderful glory.

Thank you EK Books and Nicky Johnston for being part of an amazing dream come true.


I'll be celebrating with a live cross to ABC Canberra Radio. Feel free to pop a bottle of bubbles on my behalf until I return. 😊

Monday, 27 February 2017

Love Revealed - The Fix-It Man Blog Burst

I mustn't give too much away. There are enough marvellous revelations about The Fix-It Man today as it is thanks in huge part to our sensational collection of Blog Bursting hosts. However, in the essence of a short sweet bubble burst, here are a few insights that didn't make their final cuts.

Inspiration for:

A baby, a bowl, a daddy and many, many tubes of Superglue

First draft generated:

April 2014

Number of drafts and rewrites:

17

Number of title changes:

None -truly

Number of thank you cards I would have to send to those who helped get this baby off the ground, before it was published:

At least eight, not counting the husband who kept working to feed us throughout my creative confinement.

Ante-publication awards won:

Kids' Book Review Unpublished Picture Book Manuscript Award 2013 - shortlisted. Now that it has a real cover and pictures, it might win some more.

Location of author when the contract confirmation call came through...finally:

Westfield car park attempting a one handed reverse park with less than one nugget of mobile battery power left. It was a herculean achievement, not side swiping parked cars, accidentally taking out an OAP or blubbing into the phone but I managed, as you do with significant life moments.

Amount of consultation between Nicky (illustrator) and I about the text / illustration fit:

None - in the sense that Nicky was spectacularly brilliant at divining my exact intentions. She just seemed to intuitively get the emotion and meaning of the narrative.There was very little deviation from her first roughs to finals in terms of ideas and symbolism used. There was, however a lot of delicious discussion over a multitude of details; the type of tiny, easy to miss yet potently significant things that little readers have a real eye for.

Days until publication release:

Three 😀

Number of launch celebrations: 

Three (rule of three 😉) View them all, here.

Real life encounters with the illustrator, Nicky Johnston:

Three (we think). Nearly all of The Fix-It Man collaboration was done through emails.

One word summation of the entire process of creation for The Fix-It Man:

Sweet Deliverance (okay that's two, but so is Blog Burst)

To unearth more scintillating insights about our new picture book (including Nicky's works-in-progress post), please join the party. Pop into these beaut Blog Sites, today. Be sure to say hi from me. 




Monday, 20 February 2017

Bursting with Excitement - An invitation to bubble

In little over a week, The Fix-It Man will officially enter the much venerated world of picture books. And I couldn't be more proud. I feel as intoxicated with joy and fulfillment as a six-year-old in a jelly bean factory.

It's difficult to bottle such excitement - why would you want to? So to mark the publication of our first book baby together, Nicky Johnston and I are throwing a wee party to which you are ALL invited.

It's not a month long Blog Tour, or insanely hectic Blog Blast even. 

It's a baby BLOG BURST featuring some of our favourite Bookish Blog sites and buddies. 

http://dimswritestuff.blogspot.com.au/p/the-fix-it-man.html 

Feel free to float back and forth between these fantastic sites for information on the book, insights on the creators (us 😊), and reviews. 

Come join the party. We can't wait to meet you there.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Sharing the Love

While it's been hot enough here to melt the toenails off an elephant, I'm looking forward to cooling my heels and chilling out with a room full of glacial bright and beautiful stars this Friday.

Book Links QLD's inaugural Romancing the Stars Gold Coast night is all set to kick off at the All Saints Anglican School from 6.30 pm.



Tickets are still available via Try Booking - visit the site, here to make one and for the full details.

Do you know a young person who can't get enough of children's books? Someone who loves the art of story and writing or perhaps there's a budding artist in your life itching to see how real life book illustrators do it. Then bring them along, too. Children are welcome for the discounted price of $25.

Not only will they and you get to 'speed date' dozens of children's book creators like myself, but there will be games, raffles, books signings, yummy things to tuck into and, joy of joys, AIR CONDITIONING.

Similar events are taking place in Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast, as well.

So, to extend the joy of Valentine's Day and share the love of literature, be sure to join us.


Monday, 30 January 2017

New Year's News - Sneaking a peak at what's to come

The race to Christmas felt more frenetic than a skyful of reindeer on a gingerbread sugar rush so in an extreme effort to replace the usual SE Queensland Christmas glitter and heat, I headed overseas to the only equatorial city on earth that could celebrate Christmas with even more glitter and heat, Singapore.

Not as bad a choice as you may think. There were sites a plenty to keep us goggling well into the fairy-light encrusted evenings, cheap local delights to banish every sensation of hunger, and enough chilled department stores pumping out Michale Buble carols to remind us what time of year it was.

But 'dreams and schemes and holidays must always have an end' and as another summer of  magnificent holidays melts into a new school term and a new full year, I pause for thought. There's a heck of a lot about to happen and a lot that has already happened in Dim's world of words. Here are some of the more 'wow factor' ones that it's about time I made a bit of a big deal about:


  • The Chapel of Unlove scored a Shortlisting for the Western Australian Premier's Book Award 2016. Hurrah for digital narrative and Story City. 😁
  • Concrete Boots won first prize in the Charlotte Duncan Awards 2016. Years of practice finally paid off. 😌
  • Circus School becomes part of Virgin Australia's inflight children's entertainment program (February 2017) as part of the Kindergo App launching this year. The first picture book manuscript I ever penned will finally see the light of day...a 1000 miles high at least.🎪
  • Virtually Yours becomes my first published YA (short) story published as part of the Lodestone anthology for teen readers. 💫
  • The Asian Festival for Children's Content invited me to participate in their Writers' and Illustrators' conference in May this year. Look out Singapore, here I come...again. 😄
  • Greenleaf Press embraced me as part of their new line up of talent. My first Kinderfest presentation for them is later on this year.👼
  • Kids Book Review appointed me as their new Managing Editor. Lordy lordy. I could not be surrounded by more glorious kids' lit or people who adore it if I tried. 😊
  • And last but not least (it is still only January), my first picture book baby, The Fix-It Man has arrived. 😂😀 It's officially available in March and you are all invited to come to one or more or all of any of the events illustrator, Nicky Johnston and I are throwing to marvel at and caress it as much as we do, because that's how new book love works. Click on the images below for a sneak peak of the book trailer, some of Nicky's artwork and some of the dates we've got locked in so far. 
    The Fix-It Man Book Trailer
Nicky and Dimity appearing here
Click on this invitation to view more event dates