Exciting event coming up in January!

I’m excited to be taking part in a fabulous event, Word.Play Presents the Jigsaw Cinema, which is a multi-arts production for children, with words, music and visuals. It’s based around children’s books, and one of my books, Join the Armidale Parade, illustrated by Kathy Creamer (Little Pink Dog Books), will be featured. The event will be held as part of Bellingen Shire Arts Week in both Dorrigo and Bellingen on January 11, 2021, and if you’re in the area, why not come along?

Here’s a description of the event:

Word.Play presents “The Jigsaw Cinema” – a storybook adventure! Live narration & music (composed & improvised) set to films of quirky peephole illustrations from our featured children’s books. Come & hear sound worlds collide, sonic textures, live projections, “jigsaw puzzle” films of our featured book’s illustrations – bringing an almost cinematic concert experience to life for audiences, young & old.Curiosity is awakened. What picture will be revealed next? Who is creeping in the moonlight? The instruments sound, another piece of the puzzle is revealed…

Author Sophie Masson brings your adventure to life as your live narrator. Sophie is joined on stage by director Maryanne Piper (clarinets, percussion, saxophone, whistles, electroacoustic sounds), Alana Blackburn (recorders, electroacoustic Sounds) & Damian Wright (Guitar – aka Bandaluzia Flamenco).

You can find out more here.

What a lovely launch of French Fairy Tales!

It was such a wonderful launch last night, so much enjoyed it! Below you can find a link to the video of the launch(which was live online)

To get a copy of the book, visit the Serenity Press website. Here’s a link to the print edition: https://www.serenitypress.org/product-page/french-fairy-tales

And here’s a link to the flipbook edition(like an ebook, only better!): https://www.flipsnack.com/…/french-fairy…/full-view.html

Cover reveal for The Ghost Squad!

Thrilled to reveal the atmospheric cover of my upcoming YA novel, The Ghost Squad, to be released by the wonderful publisher, MidnightSun Publishing, in February 2021. Isn’t it gorgeous!

Here’s the blurb:

Imagine a world where all seems normal yet nothing is -a world very much like our own yet jarringly unlike. A world where two clandestine organisations, the Ghost Squad and the Base, are engaged in a secret battle for control of information so dangerous it could literally change life as humans
have always known it…
A bold, exciting novel with thrilling twists and turns, The Ghost Squad is a novel that will keep readers guessing – and keep them awake at night!

And here’s a little video I made for the publisher, introducing The Ghost Squad:

Launching the fabulous Cat and Mouse Activity Pack!

I am delighted to announce that today my lovely illustrator friend Kathy Creamer and I are launching a fabulous new creative resource for children, families and schools: the Cat and Mouse Creative Activity Pack. Fully illustrated in colour, it’s packed full of fun reading, discussion, writing and art activities, and is a follow-up to the very popular Fox and Chooks Creative Activity Pack, which Kathy and I launched back in April.

In this new Pack, you can find fun facts and stories about cats and mice; story starters to get you writing, a look at books featuring cats and mice as characters and a look at some fabulous artworks featuring these animals (with many thanks to the wonderful people at NERAM!); great drawing, colouring and modelling activities, and more. We hope you will enjoy it and let your imaginations roam free!

You can download the Pack here: Cat and Mouse Creative Activity pack by Sophie Masson and Kathy Creamer or at the Sophie Masson Presents site.

Note: the Cat and Mouse Creative Activity Pack, like the earlier one, is free to download, use and print at home or in schools, but must not be used commercially in any way, except with our written permission.

Happy publication day to Santagram!

Today is the official publication day of my latest picture book, Santagram, which is illustrated by the fabulous Shiloh Gordon and published by Little Hare. It was such a fun text to write, the idea coming to me out of the blue one day when I thought about how letters to Santa are such a big thing, still: so what would happen if more ‘modern’ methods were suggested to him? I was so delighted when Ana Vivas and her team at Little Hare loved the book and took it on for their big Christmas title this year!

And I just love the wonderful, warm and funny visual world Shiloh has created for my text, full of great detail and so appealing! Plus there is even a real (blank) letter and envelope that children can write to Santa. Hope lots of children and families enjoy!

Here’s a bit about the story:

Santa’s mailbox is overflowing.
 
Santa loves getting letters, but the elves are FED UP with sorting through the huge piles of mail.
Surely an app would be better – quick, easy and heaps of fun! They’ll call it ‘Santagram’.
 
But once the letters stop arriving, will they be missed?
 
Can Santa use social media? And should he? This is a Christmas story with a twist that will have the whole family laughing out loud.
Includes special Christmas notepaper so you can send your very own letter to Santa!

My favourite French castle, an inspirational fairy tale setting

Cross-posted from my Fairytale Country site.

Today I want to write  a bit about the castle that for me, since childhood, has represented the absolute epitome of the classic French fairy tale setting: and that is the gorgeous small chateau of  Azay-le-Rideau, in the Loire Valley.  Of course the Loire Valley is full of beautiful castles; but this one is my favourite of them, indeed it’s my top favourite in all of France. Not only does this absolute jewel of a chateau represent for me that epitome of fairy tale magic and charm, but it’s also the setting for the Beast’s castle in my retelling of Beauty and the Beast, which is the longest story in French Fairy Tales.

Chateau d’Azay-le-Rideau, September 2018. Photo: Sophie Masson

Built in the early 16th century on the ruins of the previous fortress suited there, the castle of Azay-le-Rideau has a tumultuous history. It’s situated  within the charming little village of the same name, down a small road away from the main highway, amongst green fields and little woods. The castle is set on a small lake, in superb parkland, and I’ve visited it a number of times, the most recent being in September 2018. That time, in a glorious early autumn with blue skies and trees still green but starting to turn gold, we stayed in a lovely little hotel in the village, a few steps away from the castle. At the time we were there, an extraordinary, eerily beautiful art installation called ‘Les enchantements d’Azay‘, by artists Piet.sO  and Peter Keene, was displayed in the castle. Together, the castle, the parkland gardens, the art installation, and the amazing, magical feel of the whole place, were just the most perfect elements to help create the Beast’s world.

It isn’t just in Beauty and the Beast, however, that you will see the enchanting influence of Azay-le-Rideau; for in the next post, Lorena will be writing about how her own stay there and her visits to other places in the Loire Valley, became the source for her glorious illustrations in French Fairy Tales.

Complete Your Book in a Year: an interview with Hazel Edwards

Today, I’m delighted to bring you an interview with fabulous, dynamic author Hazel Edwards, talking about her new projects, especially her new book, Complete Your Book in a Year, which has come out of her very successful and popular writing workshops. Of course, due to the COVID19 situation, these in person workshops had to shift online, but nothing daunted, Hazel found ways of still engaging her audience, dubbing her approach ‘strategies for writing in a pandemic’.

Welcome, Hazel! Your unique how-to writing and publishing manual for family historians, Complete your Book in a Year, has just been published. Can you give us some background on how the book came about?

The Pandemic has given a sense of the need to act NOW on writing projects.

The inspirational ‘Hazelnuts’ and the Pandemic Lockdown of my f2f (face to face) writing workshops led to this manual.

The term ‘Hazelnuts’ was affectionately started by some of my former writing students who HAD been procrastinators. To qualify as a ‘Hazelnut’, you have been mentored in my courses, finished AND published your writing project. Across decades, it’s satisfying to see so many non-fiction books on diverse subjects gained from crafting and workshopping across a year.

Then came the pandemic postponement of face-to-face classes like monthly sessions at (Public Records Office) PRO’s Victorian Archives Centre. Apart from Zooming, a 12 part manual was an attempt to keep people writing to finish their book projects by December deadline.

During Lockdown, others de-cluttering became interested in writing memoirs, organising family memorabilia and evaluating their lives for their families and themselves.  So there was a wider demand than my adult students.

Requests came for a manual of strategies to help with writing in Lockdown.   So I converted my notes and ‘Your Turn’ exercises.

Why?

Telling the stories of ‘extra-ordinary-ordinary heroes’ is worthwhile. So are ‘How To…’ books. And then there is the mutual help Hazelnuts offer each other by reading drafts or attending launches. And the research skills from visiting archives, historic locations, interviewing via digital devices or sleuthing family secrets.

So I put the Hazelnuts’ books on the back cover, as inspiration.  They did it, so could others.

 

‘Complete a book in a year’ is quite a challenge to throw down to authors! Tell us about something how the book works and what it covers. How did you decide what to include in it?

Based on the strategies, activities and notes I’d normally share in my face to face workshops but MINUS the companionship of learning from others and their WIP (Work in Progress). Often workshoppers become ‘step-parents to another’s bookchild and help craft it. Or they suggest titles.  And they work through the various drafts, reading aloud, celebrating and finding relevant resources to share.  Working alone, writers miss that. So the personal and quirky tone of the manual is as if I’m sharing anecdotes and hints with the reader. Zooming, the students can also use the manual.

Mid-project I woke up with the idea of having a cover which was a compilation of Hazelnut covers. To inspire. The publisher suggested including a Schedule for the Year’s Writing Needed to Complete a Book. I wrote a realistic timetable and scared even myself. But it works based on averaging 200 words per day. And the timetable has been renamed ‘You Can Do It.’

Others can use the manual as a substitute for Hazelnut style workshopping in these surreal times.

There are twelve main segments which match the monthly workshops. Projects include memoir, autobiography, non-fiction, biography, fiction, graphic novels, young adult and children’s books.

What is the manual about?

Strategies to overcome ‘Procrastination’ and get your book finished.

Includes: Choosing titles, writing Conversational Table of Contents, ways to structure, characterisation (Your Turn exercises), Common Q and A, making it non-boring, use of anecdotes, mini launches and publication options.

The ‘Your Turn’ exercises are very practical.

Participants voted The Ancestor Interview  (see below) as the most valuable exercise. But you’ll need an in-house or online ‘helper’ for this one.

YOUR TURN

Interview Your Ancestor (in pairs, 8 minutes each).

Become your selected ancestor and answer the interviewer’s questions as honestly as you can, even admitting to crimes. Use ‘I’ not ‘he’ or ‘she’ and get into the perspective of your character and their times.

You’ll also find out what you don’t know and need to research.

How does this book differ from your earlier popular title, Writing a Non-Boring Family History?

It’s for procrastinators, so they can finish in a year. Not all projects are histories or memoirs.  More emphasis on the strategies to finish to deadline.

I deliberately didn’t repeat myself so the books could be complementary. Plus the Non-Boring one was written over 20 years ago and much reprinted, so it was time for an online approach. At first I was going to have an e-book only, but the publisher convinced me to have print too.

You’ve also got a great fiction project on the go, writing a podcast for the ABC. Can you tell us about it, and how it came about?

Adult mystery ‘Celebrant Sleuth; I do or Die’ (BookPod) was inspired by a diverse gender woman who said, ‘How come nobody writes about a woman like me? Why don’t you?’ I’d been playing with the concept of a celebrant who conducted weddings and funerals, for a mystery series, so I did.  She acted as my expert reader. I changed the terms she suggested. Chapters were written with future TV episodes in mind. E and print book and then I ‘voiced’ the audio, a challenging experience for a non actor but important to have an Australian voice on AUDIBLE.  Then I wrote ‘ Wed, then Dead on The Ghan’ intending it as the first chapter of the sequel but now Geoffrey Wright and I have been commissioned to adapt it for the ABC as a podcast. I knew it had the ingredients of an iconic train, literary tourism role-play of Agatha Christie and a diverse sleuth, but….

Hijabi Girl Plays Footy Too” is a sequel which may be a bindup around the time the ‘Hijabi Girl’ puppet musical is performed post-Pandemic by Larrikin Puppeteers and tours regionally. We even have an Aussie Rules football puppet.

The Future?

I’d love more of my books to be adapted for TV, audio or theatre.  And to be translated into languages like Spanish and Turkish.

The Lockdown has forced me to evaluate. Although traditionally published by Penguin, my ‘riskier’ projects have been author-published in recent years.

I persisted with these ‘soul’ projects (of value for themselves and ironically later commercially viable). It has been the right decision. I also control the rights which enables faster decisions when new media offers are available.

Ironically in 2006 I wrote ‘Outback Ferals’ set in Darwin about a feral pig pandemic threat. Writers ask ‘What if?’ and then things happen. It’s called fiction prediction!

LINKS:

https://hazeledwards.com/complete-your-book-in-a-year.html

Free downloadable Schedule to Finish Your Book in a Year

Available: BookPod http://www.bookstore.bookpod.com.au/p/9426321/complete-your-book-in-a-year—pbk.html

 

More about Hazel and her work:

Hazel Edwards writes quirky, thought-provoking fiction and fact for adults and children. Coping successfully with being different is a common theme. Co-written ‘junior novel ‘Hijabi Girl’ soon to be a ‘Larrikin Puppets’ musical post Pandemic and YA novel ‘f2m;the boy within’ which has inspired a graphic novel , explore cultural diversity.

Best known for ‘There’s a Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Cake’ series, recently touring as a musical, Hazel has grandkids for whom she writes a story each birthday. ‘Outback Ferals’ her YA novel set in Darwin, is a sequel to ‘Antarctica’s Frozen Chosen’, researched during her 2001 Antarctic expedition.

Hazel runs book-linked workshops on ‘Authorpreneurship’ and ‘Writing a Non Boring Family History’. ‘Complete Your Book in a Year’ is a yearlong master class at PROV (Public Records Office) and all her mentored ‘Hazelnuts’ finish their projects.

’Trail Magic; Going Walkabout for 2184 Miles on the Appalachian Trail ’ with her son Trevelyan is an adventure memoir. He did ALL the walking.

A National Reading Ambassador, in 2013 Hazel was awarded an OAM for Literature. Her memoir ‘Not Just a Piece of Cake-Being an Author’ explores longterm creativity.

Interested in stories crossing mediums, ‘Celebrant Sleuth;I do or die’ an adult mystery with an asexual sleuth is her latest AUDIBLE fiction, plus the sequel ‘Wed Then Dead on The Ghan’ available on Kindle and being adapted as a screenplay for ABC.

Hazel served on the board of The Australian Society of Authors’ for 20 years and is the current patron of the Society of Women’s Writers (Victoria)

Husband Garnet does her BAS, daughter Kim advises on marketing and three grandsons act as readers, so writing is an Edwards’ family trade.

She also reads in the bath.

An interview with Charlotte McConaghy

Today I have the great pleasure of interviewing Charlotte McConaghy, whose extraordinary, beautiful new novel, The Last Migration (published as Migrations in the US) has taken both the US and Australia by storm, garnering rave reviews and great sales. I’ve known Charlotte a long time, ever since she and my son Xavier went to the same high school in our hometown. I’ve been aware of her talent and persistence as a writer from that time on, too, having read her writing early on, while she was still at school, and it’s been wonderful to see her going from strength to strength ever since then. She has not only written several other books than The Last Migration, but also worked on screenplays, and has a Master’s degree in Screenwriting from the Australian Film and Television School.

Welcome, Charlotte–and congratulations! You must be thrilled to see the response to The Last Migration, despite the difficulties caused by the current situation, and the fact that the planned book tour of the US had to be cancelled. Can you tell us something about the background to the publication of the book, and what’s it been like, to see those reviews rolling in? Will there also be further editions of the book, in translation, for instance?

Thank you for having me, Sophie!

It’s certainly been a long publication process – longer than it took to write the book, actually. I finished it 3 years ago and signed with Flatiron, which is an imprint of Macmillan in America, and it’s been such a long wait until publication that I thought this day would never come! It’s amazing to finally be here, and to have the book come out in my home country (Australia) at the same time. We’ll be publishing in the UK in January (this was meant to be released simultaneously but due to corona virus it was pushed back to 2021) and then I think we’ve also sold to about 22 other countries for translation, which is very exciting. I’ve just been absolutely stunned to see the reviews coming in, and the response of the readers. I’m so incredibly grateful for the generosity, and to know that the book is being enjoyed. It’s the whole point of writing, I think, to reach people, to connect. 

The Last Migration is beautiful and gripping but also challenging, in that it dares us to imagine a world in which nature–and human life–has been hollowed out by the disappearance of wild animal life. What was the inspiration for the novel, and how did you go about creating it? What challenges and discoveries did you face in its writing?

Toni Morrison said ‘If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.’ And this book was like that for me. It just felt necessary for me to engage with this climate crisis in a personal, intimate way, to write about something that’s breaking my heart. For me, when I write, the main priority is to move a reader, to make them feel something, and I think that happens when you can write from an honest and intimate place. And I think it’s true that we’re all starting to feel the loss of our natural world in a viscerally painful way. We’re connected by it. But I didn’t know quite how to engage with that, not at first.

First I went travelling. I wanted to explore Ireland and get to know the land my ancestors were from as I’ve always had a fascination for it. I also went to Iceland, an extraordinary place, and saw the beautiful graylag geese, which got me thinking about migratory birds and the incredible journeys they take, and the type of people that study these birds. I think that’s how the story of an ornithologist who decides to chase the last flock of Arctic terns from one end of the earth to the other came about.

So it was Franny who came first, it’s always character first for me. And as I got to know her, and understand this journey she was on, and why, I started to realise the kind of world I needed to place her in to really be able to tell her story with impact, and to safely engage with my own fear around the climate crisis. So that’s how the environmental side of this book got slowly drawn in – to support her. And the truth is that the more I wrote about it, the more I explored it, the more concerned I became. I discovered that in the last 50 years alone, humans have killed over 60% of all wild animal life on the earth. That statistic is almost incomprehensible in its enormity and it broke my heart, and I knew instantly that I needed to set the book in this future, to show how close it really is.

Like all your books, The Last Migration has a strong visual, indeed cinematic quality, as well as a lovely poetic sense. How do you think your work as a screenwriter has influenced your work as a fiction writer? And is there any talk of a screen adaptation of the book?

Learning the craft of screenwriting was an amazing way to learn about story. I learnt about how to structure stories and where to place certain major moments for a character to get the most emotional impact, I learnt about drawing a complex character and challenging them to transform, I learnt about genre and theme. It was also very good training for my prose, which I tend to overwrite; screenwriting schools you to be simple and strong with your word choice. You need to convey a lot in few words, and I think that’s great advice for any writing style. So all in all, it helped me improve my writing enormously.

And yes, there has been talk of a screen adaptation – we’ve fielded a few offers and are still in the negotiating stages. I have my fingers crossed it could one day be a film or tv series!

The Last Migration is sometimes described as a ‘debut novel’, or alternatively as a ‘first literary novel,’ but of course you have written several other excellent novels, most of which are in the speculative fiction genre. Indeed, it could be said that the near-future dystopian world of The Last Migration has a definite speculative-fiction element. What are your thoughts on this? How do you yourself view The Last Migration as against the background of your other books?

Yes it’s interesting that it’s being called my debut novel, which I think came about because the US publishers who picked the book up first wanted to ‘break me out’ in America as a debut author, so it was called my US literary debut, but as you’ve said I’ve written multiple fantasy and sci-fi books published in Australia. And I agree, The Last Migration is speculative, certainly – as I mentioned above, I decided to set the book a stone’s throw into the future, during the peak of the animal extinction crisis. And maybe this is a comfortable space for me, looking ahead to the ‘what ifs’. I got good practice at it in my dystopian sci-fi series, but I wanted this book to feel different. I intentionally didn’t want it to feel dystopian because in a way that places human suffering at the heart of the story, whereas I was more interested in removing us from the centre of all things and looking at the loss of the animals as a tragic thing, not just because of what they have to offer us, but because they’re wondrous in their own right. We’re not the only living things that matter. And so I guess that shift in focus, and leaving the world of the novel as otherwise unchanged, places the book less in the sci-fi realm and more in the fiction genre.

As a young writer just out of school, you self-published your first novel, which was acquired a few years later by a trade publisher and republished. And you’ve gone from strength to strength since then. Can you tell us a bit  about your journey as a writer, from those early days to now?

I started writing books when I was 14, totally in love with telling stories. As you mentioned I self published that first book and then was very lucky when it got picked up by a trade publisher. That led to me acquiring an Australian agent, and publishing several more books with multiple Australian publishers. I think I was about 25 when I realised I really wanted to learn more about the craft of telling stories, and so that’s when I enrolled at film school to study screenwriting. And that led me to want to travel and see the world, which in turn led me to The Last Migration. I’ve worked in film and television development too, but currently I’m writing novels full time and couldn’t imagine wanting to spend my life doing anything else. I feel so lucky that I’m able to, and hope it can continue!

What’s next for you as a writer–what is the next project you are working on?

I’ve spent the last year and half (while I waited for The Last Migration to be released) writing and editing my next literary novel ‘Creatures, All’, which is the story of a wolf biologist charged with reintroducing wolves to a forest in the Scottish Highlands in order to rewild the landscape. It’s a mystery and a love story and a story about the healing power of nature – which is a common theme for me these days! That will be released in the US this time next year, and hopefully here in Australia too.

 

Find out more about The Last Migration here.

Charlotte’s website is here.

Facebook author page here.

Twitter page here.

Instagram: @charlottemcconaghy

 

 

Shortlistings for two of my picture books!

I’m thrilled to announce that two of my recent picture books have been shortlisted for the 2020 Speech Pathology Australia Book of the Year Awards!

They are There’s A Tiger Out There, illustrated by Ruth Waters and published by Little Hare, which was shortlisted in the Birth to Three Years category; and and Join the Armidale Parade, illustrated by Kathy Creamer and published by Little Pink Dog Books, shortlisted in the Five to Eight Years category.

The Speech Pathology Australia Book of the Year Awards are announced every year and aim to promote quality Australian books that help children get the best, most literate start in life.

Each book is judged on its appeal to children, interactive quality and ability to assist speech pathologists and parents in communication and literacy development.

Winners are announced in November.