We held the virtual launch of A House of Mud yesterday, and it was fabulous! The launch consisted of a live Q and A Zoom event (not recorded) plus a series of pre-recorded videos which you can view at any time. The videos feature Peter Creamer of publisher Little Pink Dog Books, myself, and illustrator Katrina Fisher, and also includes a reading by me, and a book trailer. You can view it all here: hope you enjoy!
This week is launch week for A House of Mud, and to celebrate, there’s all kinds of things planned. A ‘real-world’ launch is happening today at 4pm at Reader’s Companion in Armidale, and a virtual launch on Saturday (July 25) . The virtual launch will include both some great pre-recorded videos which you can view at your leisure on the United Publishers of Armidale website(will provide the link on Saturday), and also a live Zoom Q and A session with me, the illustrator Katrina Fisher, and publishers Peter and Kathy Creamer of Little Pink Dog Books, on Saturday at 3.30 pm. The Q and A session is free, but you need to book, here.
There’s also a wonderful activities page for the book on the United Publishers of Armidale website, which includes a presentation by me on the story behind the story of A House of Mud, a link to some great activities created by Katrina for kids, and this fascinating video by her on the stage-by-stage process of creating the beautiful visual world of A House of Mud. Enjoy!
It’s launch time for The Snowman’s Wish! And I’m very happy to be hosting the virtual launch on this blog, in collaboration with my publisher, Dirt Lane Press. The virtual launch consists of three videos released at 10 am today, but which you can view at your leisure any time today–and well beyond!
The book is being launched by Australian Children’s Laureate, multi-award winning author Ursula Dubosarsky, and you’ll hear from her in the first video, then from me, in the second, as the author, taking you through the book’s creative and production process, and highlighting my co-creator Ronak Taher’s superb illustrations. The final video is a reading I did of the book. So–welcome, thank you for joining our celebrations–and we hope you enjoy!
The book is now available in all good bookshops and library suppliers across Australia. You can read a review of it here.
Today, I’m delighted to welcome June Perkins to my blog. June’s new book, Illuminations, which is a collaboration between her as a writer and illustrators Ruha and Minaira Fifita, comes out early next month, and in this guest post, June writes about the process of creating Hope, one of the poems from the collection, which is reproduced below.
Writing ‘Hope’ for Illuminations – June Perkins
My poem ‘Hope’ is a speculative imagining of how Emily Dickinson would respond to Cyclone Yasi if she had been a poet based in Far North Queensland and draws particular inspiration from her work 314, often titled ‘Hope’ although she didn’t give it a title.
I first heard of Dickinson from a vinyl record, Parsley, Sage Rosemary and Thyme by Simon and Garfunkel, the song was’ The Dangling Conversation’ And yet it was years before I took the time to learn more about her poetry and life.
After Cyclone Yasi in 2011, I began to compose poetry in response to both its damage, and the way people and nature fared in its aftermath. Living in Far North Queensland in a rural community, I became acutely aware of birds – king fishers, cassowaries, curlews and more. We had a pet bird, Peep, who amused us and helped us keep calm during the cyclone. He disappeared briefly to spend time with other birds before returning with all of them in tow as if we could put them all up in the house. He died a few days after of shock. I took solace in Dickinson’s poems. I was particularly drawn to 314 because it speaks of hope as if it has feathers like a bird.
The poem used to live on my blog, but in recent times, joined part of the working collection for Illuminations and it made the final cut for the book. The poem fits well with the overall themes of the collection and picks up on the symbolism of birds. Over the last few years, since our move to Brisbane, the poem has come to mean much more to me than a response to a cyclone’s aftermath, and an expression of respect to Emily Dickinson; it represents that wider theme of how poets can through their creativity bring hope to any situation including a pandemic.
Author: June Perkins
Illustrators: Ruha and Minaira Fifita
ISBN: 9780980731194 (paperback)
ISBN: 9780648720508 (hard cover, dustcover)
Publication Date: 20/6/2020
This collection captures the wonder of the act of creation, the burst of excitement associated with the birth of the new, and the challenges and sacrifice involved in bringing inspiration to fruition. Reflecting on the impact of the challenge of the new, in both the material and spiritual worlds, several of the poems refer to the advent of the Báb, the 19th century Prophetic figure, whose contemporary message inspired and challenged a sacrificial response on the part of those who embraced His Cause.
You can pre-order Illuminations here. The book is available for pre-order in Australia, New Zealand, the US, UK and Canada.
About the author:
Dr June Perkins is a multi-arts creative born to a Papua New Guinean Indigenous mother and Australian father. She was raised in Tasmania as a Bahá’i and combines poetry, blogging, photography, story and more to explore themes interesting her – peace, ecology, spirituality, cultural diversity, resilience and empowerment. Earlier poetry book is, Magic Fish Dreaming (2016). June has had poems published in Nineteen Months, Tokens, Voices in the North, Under One Sky, Etchings, Cracks in the Canopy, World Order, Spooktacular Stories, Creative Kids Tales, Story Collection 2, Writing the Pacific, ABC Open, The Queensland Art Galley, Ridvan is Everywhere, and Talking Ink from Ochre.
About Illustrators Fifita Sisters / IVI Designs
Ruha Fifita was born in Vava’u, Tonga and spent most of her life immersed in the culture and vibrancy of life in the Pacific. Her love for visual and performative forms of expression have been nurtured through the support and encouragement of her extended family and study of the writings of the Bahá’i Faith.
Minaira Fifita is a visual and performing artist whose work aspires to reflect her love of creation and faith in the unity of humanity. Her style of creativity blends together her Polynesian and Celtic roots and experiences of vibrancy, balance and harmony within the Pacific and her spiritual beliefs as a Bahá’i.
With The Snowman’s Wish, Sophie Masson and Ronak Taher have crafted a soft tale about the passage of time and the beauty in the world. Mr Snowman, a kindly soul existing happily in an ever-shifting natural environment, welcomes everything around him……..Taher’s illustrations—watercolour in texture, with shapes reminiscent of collage—are an ideal complement to Masson’s careful story of enjoying what is around us and knowing that things will always change. This is a lovely book for young readers aged 3–7 and can be read either at narrative face value or as a way of discussing both the senses and the notion of death.
You can read the whole review here.
A Story of Hope in Troubled Times
By Dee White
People have likened the current pandemic to life during WW2, but it’s different. Covid-19 is an unseen enemy. Where I live, there are no marching soldiers with guns or snarling dogs chasing us down the street, filling our waking hours and our sleep with terror.
That’s the life my main character Ruben has to endure in my new historical fiction, Beyond Belief, after Paris is invaded. It’s 1942, just after the Vel D’hiv roundup when more than 13,000 Jews were arrested and taken to the Vélodrome d’Hiver (Winter Velodrome) before being transported to concentration camps and killed.
Ruben is one of the lucky ones who flees his home before he and his parents can be arrested. Although he’s a fictitious character, his story is inspired by true events. After the arrest of so many men, women and children, the Algerian Muslims of Paris decided that something must be done. They offered protection to Jews and gave them false identities and helped them escape the city.
Ruben is one of the children who seeks refuge at the Mosque and there he must change his name to Abdul and learn to pass himself off as a Muslim. If his true identity is discovered, he’ll be killed and so will those trying to save him. Even if Ruben escapes Paris, that won’t be the end of his story. Nowhere in France is safe for Jews.
Although Ruben’s life is hard, it has hope – and not just for Ruben, but for the whole of mankind. I wanted this story of interfaith solidarity and support to be about humanity and how strong people are when we unite – and we can make it through adversity if we help each other. I started writing this story four years ago, but here we are in adversity, working together to make it through.
Ruben has to endure hardship and it changes him as a person, but he emerges stronger and more resilient. War is hard. I haven’t glossed over that. But there is hope, that tomorrow things can be different and although it’s a new reality and we emerge changed from hardship, the pieces can be rebuilt.
Although I wrote Beyond Belief for children, adults are connecting with it too. One adult reader wrote to me and said, “I loved the book: despite the suffering and loss experienced by the children, there was such courage and an underlying spirituality and wisdom passed on to them by their parents and the Muslim community. This imbued them with amazing strength.”
I spent a month in Paris researching Beyond Belief. I wanted to walk in my main character, Ruben’s shoes and write his story with authenticity and understanding. And I wanted to reflect the experiences of all the Jews, gypsies and people with mental and physical illnesses who became victims of Hitler and if they survived, suffered lifelong trauma. My father was one of them.
You can find out more about Beyond Belief and my personal journey writing this book, at my website www.deescribe.com.au my Youtube channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC9kDJT5Al7QknKwpCYd09oQ
and at DeeWhiteAuthor on social media.
Beyond Belief is available at all good book stores and online from
Boomerang Books htt https://www.boomerangbooks.com.au/
Collins Booksellers http://www.collinsbooks.com.au/book/9781760662516
Today is the publication day of Kate Forsyth and Lorena Carrington’s latest beautiful collection of fairy tales, Snow White, Rose Red and Other Tales of Kind Young Women, published by Serenity Press. It joins Kate and Lorena’s other fairy tale collections with Serenity Press, Vasilisa the Wise and Other Tales of Brave Young Women, and The Buried Moon and Other Tales of Bright Young Women. To celebrate, I’ve invited Kate and Lorena to write about their joint creation of the book. (There’s also an online launch of the book on Facebook today, see here for details).
Sometimes we agree on a tale, and but then I find I cannot retell it – the story doesn’t spark with me.
For example, we thought about working with Hans Christian Andersen’s ‘The Snow Queen’ – but when I began to work on it, I found the character of Gerda too passive. So I emailed Lorena, and we talked about it, and came up with other ideas, and ended up replacing that tale with another.
Next week sees the publication of author-illustrator Kathy Creamer’s new picture book, The Big Old Rambutan Tree, a book which had a very special inspiration and process, as Kathy explains in this fascinating guest post.
Creation of The Big Old Rambutan Tree
by Kathy Creamer
Someone once pronounced an orangutan to be an animal that looked somewhat like a sad heap of deflated bicycle wheel inner tubing. I met my first orangutan when I was working at Singapore Zoological Gardens as a volunteer docent, and they were nothing at all like the description of sad deflated bicycle tubing. I became completely enchanted by the beauty and charm of these effervescent and mischievous primates, and one lovely orangutan in particular, who happened to be the zoo’s celebrity, became my favourite. She was a gentle female named Ah Meng, who I met in the days when visitors to the zoo were allowed to get close up to some of the tame orangutans and even share breakfast with them. Ah Meng, who was sitting with her new baby, calmly allowed me to be seated next to her. I was almost nine months pregnant at the time and Ah Meng was clearly interested in the huge size of my baby bump, so much so, she reached out and placed her hand gently on my tummy and kept it there whilst she gazed knowingly into my eyes. I was totally astounded by her gesture and in that instant, I realized she possessed a great intelligence which comprehended precisely what was growing in there.
Orangutans and humans share 97 per cent of their DNA sequence, which makes us very close cousins. And indeed, they are so much like us in displaying facial expression and emotion such as joy, excitement, jealousy and fear, and when a young orangutan displays his anger or frustration, it is exactly like watching a temper tantrum in a two-year-old human toddler.
I began researching a little more about orangutans and learned just how endangered they are in the wild. I was distressed by the fact that their young are much sought after for the illegal exotic pet trade; the mothers who fearlessly fight to protect their offspring are usually shot dead by the animal poachers in order to steal the babies. Then there is the significant threat of habitat destruction from human development such as farming; the biggest threat being the recent expansion of enormous palm oil plantations. I was so moved by what I read that I wanted to do something to highlight the plight of these beautiful animals in the wild. So, I decided to create a picture book story about Ah Meng, which was published by the zoo and succeeded in raising much needed funds for the Zoo’s own orangutan conservation program. Ah Meng was so pleased with her book that she painted me an extraordinary picture for the book launch at the zoo!
Some years later, after watching a nature program about the uncontrolled destruction of thousands of acres of pristine Asian rainforest for palm oil plantation, I realized that the orangutan’s struggle for survival had become even worse, and that they were now dangerously further down the path to total extinction in the wild. Moved to try and do something to highlight the problem, however small, I decided to create another children’s picture book story, The Big Old Rambutan Tree.
The idea for the story was inspired by a newspaper report on how a young orangutan in a nature reserve actively helped to look after two orphaned tiger cubs by helping the human carers to bottle feed them. Obviously, as the two tiger cubs grew bigger, they eventually had to be separated from the orangutan.
In the illustrations for the book, I tried to display emotion and movement, as well as revealing the gentle, peaceful expression and exuberant mischievousness of orangutan personality. Unfortunately, I was unable to find a publisher for the manuscript, so it lay for almost ten years in my desk drawer until I decided to send it to Orangutan Outreach to see if they would be interested in endorsing the book should it be published. They were! So, I decided to publish with Little Pink Dog Books, which is a children’s picture book publishing partnership specializing in books by new and emerging writers and illustrators, which I happen to run with my husband. We also began a crowdfunding site with IndieGoGo, to help with the publication costs, and I am pleased to say that many people from around the world have either made a financial donation or have purchased copies of the book. To help Orangutan Outreach I decided all profits from the book would go to their organisation to help with their valuable conservation work.
I am particularly pleased that after many years of effort the book is now on sale, and I would like to encourage readers to help support the conservation of these beautiful primates by purchasing a copy of the book from your local bookshop or by ordering the book directly from the Little Pink Dog Books website.
The Big Old Rambutan Tree
Written and illustrated by Kathy Creamer
Little Pink Dog Books (May 2020)
From the flames of the burning rainforest, an extraordinary bond of friendship ignites between a savage tiger and a gentle orangutan, as they both struggle to survive in their fast diminishing habitat.
Kathy’s website: www.kathycreamer.com
Connect with Kathy on Facebook
Writing The Tell
by Martin Chatterton
I’d been writing books for children across a variety of genres and age ranges before I ‘migrated’ into becoming an adult crime fiction writer. After I’d written three or four crime novels I started to think that writing a middle grade thriller in the style of my ‘grown up’ books might be a good idea. During that same time period, I was also visiting and performing/speaking at a large number of schools and literature festivals and, as someone who regularly switched genres and target age range of readers, I’d noticed that writers often altered their writing ‘voice’ when it came to stories for children. Often – in my humble opinion – that voice could sometimes be tinged with a patronising tone.
I didn’t mean that my ‘school’ thriller should be age inappropriate, just that it should be as visceral, paced and hard-edged as my crime novels. So that was the thought behind the project.
When it came to the ‘what’ of the story, I looked to doing the same things I was doing in crime fiction: namely, being interested in criminality as a subject in which those engaged in crime were not one- dimensional ciphers. After a chance conversation with someone who’d been raised in families where crime was normalised – was in fact, the family ‘business’ – I started to wonder about what that would be like, and soon realised that was going to be the primary subject of The Tell. There have been many (too many) novels, movies and TV shows set in the world of the gangster. Few, if any, have told that story from the perspective of a child born into a crime family. I set out to do just that: effectively to re-write a Godfather novel, only with the centre of the narrative lying not with Don Corleone but with his 14-year-old son (Rey ‘Raze’ Tanic).
This would be a coming-of-age story with a difference. It would invoke (I hoped) other stories in which young people run headlong into reality, accelerating their transition to adulthood (for better or worse). I was thinking specifically of Stephen King’s novella, The Body, in which four twelve-year-olds set out to find the body of a missing young man. The Body (which was made into the movie, Stand By Me) skilfully sketches the emerging adults in the four protagonists. The Tell, like The Body, is anchored in reality: in The Body there is a dead body (‘The kid was dead. The kid wasn’t sick, the kid wasn’t sleeping. The kid wasn’t going to get up in the morning anymore . . . or catch poison ivy or wear out the eraser on the end of his Ticonderoga No 2 during a hard math test. The kid was dead.’) while in The Tell, the gangsters who rule Sydney are just that: gangsters. For Raze Tanic, negotiating his path through puberty is complicated beyond measure when he is thrust into the centre of a red-hot news story with his own family as ‘stars’.
Like a lot of writers I often ‘go back’ to myths, legends and William Shakespeare for inspiration and thematic ideas. Particularly Shakespeare, who is forever putting sons and daughters into conflict with their fathers. I visited Shakespeare’s family home recently (in Stratford-upon-Avon in England) and it was obvious that Shakespeare’s dad was a powerful figure in the town. He owned the biggest house and was well respected. It’s not hard to imagine Will rebelling in some way against that kind of authority. He certainly wrote about it in plays like Hamlet, Henry IV and King Lear. I actually ‘stole’ the idea of Dejan Tanic seeing himself as the ‘King’ of Sydney from King Lear: a play in which the King deliberately tries to make his children as ruthless as he is. And, in Hamlet, Shakespeare has Hamlet say this line about his (step)father, Claudius: ‘A little more than kin, and less than kind.’
That’s not a bad summary of the relationship between Raze and Dejan Tanic.
More about the book:
by Martin Chatterton
Penguin Random House (April 2020)
The Coffin is a maximum security facility holding the worst criminals in the country – terrorists, armed robbers, gangsters, cold-eyed killers and those too flat out dangerous to keep anywhere else. It was built for one reason and only one reason: to keep the wolves away from the sheep. It’s where my dad lives.
The Tell is a fast-paced, coming-of-age, Sydney-based middle grade thriller, centred on thirteen year-old Rey (‘Raze’) Tanic, the youngest son of Dejan Tanic, the self-styled ‘King of Sydney’, a feared organised crime boss currently locked up in the Deep Cut Correctional Centre. It is expected of Raze that he will soon join his elder brother Solo in the family business. During a visit to see his father in prison Raze tells his dad he’s not going to become part of the family business when he’s older. To Raze’s surprise, his father doesn’t react. That’s because Dejan has more pressing worries; worries that soon become a major problem for Raze and force him into making the biggest decision of his life.
Connect with Martin on Facebook
by Richard Yaxley
I wanted to write about brothers. I don’t mean my own experience, nor do I mean writing in a hokey, folksy manner about boys chiacking together. I mean: the phenomenon. The flux of being brothers. Determining the dynamic, the way brothers are.
I mean the way they can ignore and trick and hurl abuse and punch on but then, a minute later, defend each other with an absolute conviction of muscle, vitriol and, if necessary, blood. I mean the constant, simmering resentment of being forced to share rooms, rituals, families and histories; the bitter scramble for top place in the presumed apex of a mother’s heart; the need to be different to each other and their father while at the same time being praised by each other and their father.
That weird feeling of never being in control as you slide back and forth along a tightrope that stretches between slashes of pain and circles of affection.
My novel, A New Kind of Everything, published by Scholastic Australia in February, features the Gallagher brothers. Seventeen-year-old Carl and fourteen-year-old Dinny are dealing with the sudden loss of their father in a car accident. At a surface level, their methods of grieving are as far apart as their characters. Carl is aggressive, independent and filled with a violent anger for his father. Dinny is lost, pliable and manifestly uncertain about what his relationship with his dad ever was.
Yet, as much as they are a study in contrasts, so too are they the same in that, ultimately, it is the love that they feel, more so than their often instinctive actions and reactions, that defines them. Carl and Dinny have a deep love for each other and for their mother – and, they come to realise, for their father. This was what I discovered as I was constructing the novel; that the exploration of grief that I had planned to write became, by necessity, an exploration of familial love, because it is that love in its many forms which makes us grieve as we do. The two are utterly intertwined.
In Ann Patchett’s wonderful novel, Commonwealth, Theresa believes that the genuine measure of a life is how well we cope with the inevitable series of losses that all lives bring. Carl and Dinny lose a great deal in my novel: their father, of course, but also determinations about their futures and the chance to properly understand their past and its intricate engagement with their father’s hitherto untold story. With his death comes the difficult realisation that their imprint upon the Earth is instantly lightened and so it will remain. However, despite all of that, and the many challenges tossed up by the narrative, the brothers never lose each other.
In Commonwealth, when her daughter Holly reminds Theresa that she ‘got through’ the grief of losing her first-born, her mother responds: ‘We all did, I guess, in our own ways. You don’t think you’re going to but then you do. You’re still alive. That was the thing that caught me in the end: I was still alive.’
Alive to love, I think she means. And to love again, and again, until we are no more.
Anne Patchett. 2016. Commonwealth. Bloomsbury, London, p. 286
Connect with Richard:
Website: Richard Yaxley