Looking forward to the High Country Writers’ Festival!

Next Saturday, I’ll be heading to Glen Innes for the High Country Writers’ Festival, where I’ll be presenting a workshop on creating children’s books, based on Inside Story: the wonderful world of writing, illustrating and publishing children’s books, which I was involved in writing. I’m really looking forward to it! The workshop is two hours long and features a talk, Q and A, and hands on activity. You can get tickets for the workshop here.

The rest of the program is great too, with sessions on true crime, historical fiction, how to get a book project back on track, and more. See the full program here. Concurrently with the Festival also is the High Country Writers’ Retreat.

So looking forward to Satin coming out!

I am so looking forward to the publication next year of Satin, my forthcoming picture book with the wonderful illustrator Lorena Carrington, to be published by MidnightSun Publishing in March 2023. I am really excited about this book, which came about in the most magical way (which I’ll write about in another post, later), and which I think is going to be just loved by both children and adults.

Here’s the gorgeous cover:

And here’s the blurb:

Every morning early, when no-one’s about, Satin slips out of the forest and walks along the sleepy sunrise streets, looking for blue…

He’s collected all kinds of blues, from all kinds of places. He’s making something beautiful, with all those blues. But something’s missing, and he doesn’t know what it is. And then, one day, he comes to a street he’s never been in before. And what he finds there will change his lonely life forever.

A beautiful, haunting fable by award-winning writer Sophie Masson and acclaimed illustrator Lorena Carrington.

Lorena’s exquisite, superb creation of Satin’s visual world is just stunning in its depth and beauty, conveying a mix of natural enchantment and human warmth which goes right to the heart of the story. (Below is a sneak peek at the first page spread)

I am so happy that Lorena is co-creator with me on this gorgeous book, and so happy too that it was taken on by such a wonderful publisher as Anna Solding of Midnight Sun.

Making rotisserie-style chicken at home

One of my favourite food things, whenever I’m back in France, is to head to a small neighbourhood rotisserie or one in a market, and grab a delicious roast chicken for a picnic lunch with family. French rotisserie chickens have a very particular taste you just can’t seem to get elsewhere. Sometimes it has to do with the fact they are poulets fermiers, chickens that are really free range, and often fed on corn, so the flesh is golden rather than white. Those are, of course, particularly delicious. But not all rotisserie chickens are from those superior breeds (the cheaper ones aren’t, anyway), yet all of the roast birds taste really very good indeed. It’s to do with a savoury, deep golden brown skin(not crisp, but melt-in-the-mouth) and very moist flesh, and up till recently I had no idea how you could possibly reproduce that at home. Did you need special rotisserie equipment, maybe? And then, I came across a page from a French blog which set out a very simple recipe for how you could in fact produce a roast which had exactly the taste of rotisserie chicken. I admit I was a little sceptical at first, because it seemed in a sense counter-intuitive, what you did with the chicken–and yet it turned out perfectly, and now it’s been several times since I’ve made a roast chicken that has that amazing rotisserie taste. Absolutely definitely worth trying!

So, what do you need? A chicken of course, then also Dijon mustard(about 1-2 tablespoons); 3 garlic cloves; juice of 1 lemon; butter; 125 mls warm chicken stock(use half a stock cube only); herbs(your choice, but thyme and bay leaf or thyme and parsley work well); salt and pepper. What you do is first massage the chicken with half the lemon juice, then pour the rest into the cavity. Put the herbs into the cavity, chop the garlic(don’t crush it) and put half in the cavity, half under the chicken. Next, massage the mustard into the chicken, taking care that all the skin of the bird is well-coated–the mustard needs to almost disappear into it. Place the chicken in a roasting tin, salt and pepper it, sprinkle a few small pieces of butter over it(I also add a tiny bit of canola/sunflower oil), and then pour in the stock under the chicken, not over it. Put in the oven at 210C for 30 minutes, then turn down to 180C and cook for a further 45-60 mins (depending on size of the chicken).

Serve with roast potatoes or salad and good bread. I also make a sauce for the chicken which is basically just the utterly delicious cooking juices, to which extra lemon juice and pepper have been added. The whole thing is truly sensational–and simple, at the same time!

Food in fiction: reposted from Writer Unboxed

I thought readers of this blog might enjoy my latest post around the craft of fiction, reposted from the wonderful site Writer Unboxed. This one’s on food in fiction.

In life, people’s days are punctuated by meals. Food is an important part of our lives: of course, we need it for survival, but it’s much more than that. It’s pleasure, it’s penance, it’s anxiety, it’s joy—depending on our relationship with it. Eating together or alone, eating at home or out in restaurants and cafes, eating on the go or around the family table: it’s all part of the fabric of human life, all over the globe.

And in fiction? Well, it always used to puzzle me, as a kid, when people in books never stopped to eat or drink or you never got to hear what was for lunch, if it was mentioned. For me as a child, it was important to know: my diary as a twelve-year-old is full of mentions of the delicious things my mother had cooked up for us that day, or the yummy thing I’d bought at the school canteen that day (which my mother would have considered rubbish) or, conversely, the yuckiness of something I’d been made to try by a friend, such as vegemite—an Australian classic but not to my taste. Sure, I’m from a French background and food was intensely important in our family, but we certainly weren’t alone in that. To read a story in which there was no mention of food at all seemed odd. But to read one in which exotic delights like ginger pop (as in Enid Blyton) were mentioned—often!—was such fun. I had no idea at the time what ginger pop was but it sounded exciting, like the adventures the Famous Five or Secret Seven went on. And when Edmund, in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, is offered endless Turkish Delight by the White Witch to bribe him to betray his siblings, I was horrified, but understood. Hard to resist Turkish Delight! Growing up through adolescence and into adulthood, I never lost my interest in food and cooking, and never ceased to wonder why in some novels, people seemed to exist on air.

When it came to writing my own books, that was never an issue. Food always appeared, whether glancingly or more substantially, in both my fiction for young readers and for adults. Sometimes it was just for the sheer pleasure of the description, sometimes to evoke an atmosphere, sometimes to symbolize something about a character. I couldn’t imagine leaving it out altogether. In my recent adult novel, for example, A Hundred Words for Butterfly, which is set in the French part of the Basque country, where my mother’s family is from, food functions very much too as an expression of an ancient, distinctive culture and landscape, as well as illuminating certain aspects of family. If you’re interested, the publisher produced a lovely, free digital magazine which featured some of my Basque family recipes as well as entries from a microlit competition they ran, as part of the publicity for my book.

Right now, I’m working on another adult novel in which food—and especially the creation of dishes and meals–is absolutely central, indeed a crucial part of the characters’ emotional journey. That’s a challenge in itself: because of course you can overdo it. You can cook up too rich a stew, you can overwhelm the senses with too many smells and tastes, you can nauseate the reader with too much indigestible detail. You can’t be too self-indulgent; but equally, you can’t be too restrained. It’s a fine line to tread.

I’d read recently a number of contemporary novels which featured food as a central theme—ranging from Jenny Colgan’s Meet Me at The Cupcake Café, to Erica Bauermeister’s The School of Essential Ingredients to Amy Tan’s Joy Luck Club, and others, all of which handled the food theme adeptly and enjoyably and with great diversity too. They all showed something important to me as a writer: in a time when people watch cooking shows for fun and cookbooks sell like, well, hotcakes, at the same time there’s less time for many around the actual stove or table. Getting the balance of ingredients right in a food-themed novel is more important than ever. Sure, they’re about dreams, escape, pleasure: but also about being grounded, about rediscovering simple things, about the basic human joy of creating something delicious that for the enchanted space of a good meal might unite us all.

Publication week for new edition of The Green Prince and The Firebird

Absolutely delighted to announce that this week marks the publication of the new print editions of two of my earlier fairytale novels, The Green Prince and The Firebird, published by Brio Books in the Untapped Australian Classics list. The Green Prince was originally published in 2000, was shortlisted in the Aurealis Awards, and also turned into a stage play. It was chosen to be republished as an ebook in the wonderful Untapped Australian Literary Heritage Project, and from there was selected for inclusion in the print republication by Brio Books. The Firebird was first published in 2001, and was produced as an audio book in 2005. It also was chosen to be republished as an ebook by the Untapped project, and from there selected for inclusion for a new print edition by Brio Books. Aren’t both covers gorgeous!

It’s so wonderful to see these books back in circulation, both as print and e-editions, and hopefully they will find their way into the hands of a new generation of readers, as well as earlier fans whose previous copies might have worn out :-)Thank you so much to Untapped and to Brio Books for keeping the books alive, available and accessible!

Later, in late October, will come the new print edition of Cold Iron. Watch this space!

Sample pack of our gorgeous Wayfarer cards!

We were excited to receive our sample pack of Wayfarer cards yesterday, for our Pardalote Press launch. Here’s a little video of how they look. And sound! They have best swish/thwack as you shuffle them, and they feel so lovely with their silk laminate.

We have five days left of crowdfunding, so head over to Indiegogo, if top quality story-telling, poem-forming, magic-image-making cards are your thing!

https://igg.me/at/PardalotePress/x/5644576#/

And we’re off to order another two hundred sets…

Great review of Inside Story in Magpies!

Delighted to see a wonderful review of Inside Story (for which I was one of the principal writers and compilers) in the latest issue of the prestigious children’s literature publication, Magpies Magazine. See below.

There’s also, in the same issue, a three-page interview with me and Kathy Creamer, another of the main writers/compilers, about how the book was created and produced. Not available online, but you can check out Magpies Magazine subscriptions here: for anyone interested in Australian and New Zealand children’s books, Magpies is an absolute must!

Great first review for Four Up In Lights!

There’s a great first review for Four Up In Lights in Buzz Words. Here’s a short extract:

Award-winning author of over 70 books, Sophie Masson has clearly had a lot of fun creating these four endearing characters, putting them in all sorts of trouble and helping them find their way out with plenty of chuckles and adventure along the way.

Cheryl Orsini’s fun illustrations bring the characters to life and capture both the tension and celebration of the story as it unfolds.

Perfect for young readers, aged 5–8, Maxie, Flash, Fergie, and Lady once again demonstrate the importance of friendship and the joy of adventure. With a hot-wheeling pace, Four Up in Lights will keep readers engaged and wanting to read the story in one sitting. 

You can read the whole review here.

Looking forward to the Dubbo Writers’ Festival!

I am much looking forward to the Dubbo Writers’ Festival, which is on this coming weekend, 9-11 September, in Dubbo of course! The theme is ‘Shorts’–with a feast of practical workshops on short fiction, short poetry, short blog posts, as well as consultations with publishers, an In-Conversation, and a ‘submissions spur’. I’m presenting at several events, see below. You can get tickets and the full program via this link here.

Friday Sept 9:

Saturday:

Sunday will be the Submissions Spur, 2-4pm.

Publication day for Four Up In Lights!

Yay! Today is publication day for Four Up In Lights, the third and final book in a little series I created with illustrator Cheryl Orsini, about the adventures of four friends who happen to be vintage vehicles! Published by Christmas Press, Four Up In Lights follows on from Four All At Sea(2021) and Four On the Run(2020) and were huge fun to write.

Here’s hoping the four friends’ final adventure finds many many readers, as the earlier books have done! And cheers to Maxie, Fergie, Lady and Flash, four fabulous characters who drove their way into my imagination quite a while ago–and who have been brought to such fantastic visual life by the wonderful Cheryl Orsini!

Four Up In Lights is available from any bookshop around Australia, as are the earlier two books. And you can find a fun little trailer for Four Up In Lights here.