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.

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.

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!

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.

Lovely first review for Magical Tales from French Camelot

There’s a lovely first review of Magical Tales from French Camelot, by the fantastic book blogger Ashleigh Meikle, on The Book Muse.

Here’s a couple of bits from the review:

Sophie’s retellings are lyrical and emotive, and as she explains in her rationale at the end of each tale, she chose the most powerful moments in each tale to retell, leaving off where she needed to, and at times, explaining the rest of the story and its context within the French canon as well as its relationship to the British stories. Doing this gave an extra layer to the book, and it is the same process Kate Forsyth uses for her Long Lost Fairytales collections as well. In giving readers a history of the tale and letting us know what they have done, Sophie, like Kate, invites us into her world and writing process….

These stories bring part of the Arthurian legends and myth cycle to life for adult and young adult readers, and I loved reading them, loved feeling like I was part of the world that they came from, and loved the beautiful illustrations by Lorena, created with many different aspects digitally to tell the stories just as much as the words did. I find it hard to put her illustrations into words because I think they are the kind of illustrations you have to experience for yourself – they’re just that magical!

You can read the whole review here.

Online launch of Magical Tales from French Camelot

Delighted to be celebrating the launch of Magical Tales from French Camelot, online (livestreamed via FB) this Sunday, the 21st August, at 5.30 pm Australian Eastern Standard Time, 3.30 pm West Australian time. Lorena and I will be talking about the book with our publisher Karen McDermott of Serenity Press. Do consider joining us, we’d love to see you there! You can find all the details on the Serenity Press Facebook page, here.

Crowdfunding campaign to launch Pardalote Press

Exciting news! The wonderful illustrator Lorena Carrington and I have established Pardalote Press, a tiny Press making small surprising things. We’ve launched a crowdfunding campaign this morning to support our first two projects, Bird’s Eye View and Wayfarer. Bird’s Eye View is a chapbook of words—poetry and prose—and black and white images, which together form glimpses into the world of birds, and the world as seen by birds. Wayfarer is a unique set of sixteen beautiful full colour cards which in words and pictures take you on a journey of mystery, magic and meaning.

The campaign is to raise funds towards production and printing of the projects. We hope you might be interested in having a look! Here’s the direct link: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/pardalote-press-launch#/

You can learn more about the Press and our first two projects on our website, and social media: Facebook and Instagram. There’s also a great little news item about it at Books+Publishing. And here below are a few words from Lorena and I, extracted from that article, as to why we started Pardalote Press:

It was in fact a mock medieval bestiary—published as an appendix to our joint book Magical Tales from French Camelotwhich first made us think of the idea of working on unusual little projects. We started with the idea of Bird’s Eye View, and then, later, came the idea for Wayfarer.

We knew these were a bit too left-field to fit into mainstream publishing lists, so decided to create our own tiny press to produce them and other things we might come up with.

So–do check us out, have a look, and if you are interested, we would be very grateful for your support in the launch of this tiny press making small surprising things to help the imagination take flight!

Meeting about an exciting collaborative project with artist Angus Nivison

Today I met with the wonderful locally-based painter Angus Nivison, as well as Arts North West director Caroline Downer, New England Regional Art Museum Director Rachael Parsons and NERAM exhibition director Belinda Hungerford, to plan the final stages for a wonderful collaborative exhibition that Angus and I are creating. Called Angel Time, it will open on July 1 at NERAM and will go till August 28. It is something that grew out of an Arts North West workshop last year called Looking Both Ways, where artists and writers were paired together to create joint works. Angus and I led that workshop and part of it was that he and I would then create works for an exhibition this year. Angus had recently read my book The Ghost Squad and to my delight he loved it so much that he decided to use it as the basis for a series of paintings, based on certain elements of the book and its themes and allusions. Then, based on my seeing these paintings, in my turn I created some new pieces for several of his artworks: poems, prose, song lyrics and more…As well, for several of the paintings directly inspired by incidents or moments in the book, I’ve recorded short readings from The Ghost Squad.

It’s been such an inspiring and exciting process–and today, with both painting and word-based works created, it was all at the stage where we could sit down with the NERAM directors and talk about how it will all be shown in the physical space of the gallery. It’s going to be just amazing, I can’t wait!