Saturday, April 28, 2012

New Zealand Post Children's Book Award Tour

This Saturday I leave for Nelson.  I arrive a couple of days before the tour so that I can visit the beautiful Nelson/Marlborough area first.  On the Sunday, I'm going on a four wheel drive trip to Farewell Spit.  Ever since writing my children's book 'Save Our Seas' - where I had to research every bit of coastline around New Zealand - I have wanted to visit Farewell Spit.  I hope to see lots of sea birds and perhaps some seals.

After the Farewell Spit trip I travel slowly to Blenheim in time for the tour.  I'll be at these schools and libraries for the next couple of days:

Tuesday 8th May - Witherlea School, Marlborough District Library, Raupara School
Wednesday 9th May- Motueka South School, Motueka Public Library, Hampden St School
Thursday 10th May- Waimea Intermediate School, Nayland Primary School.

Students with puppets at one of my talks

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

E-book Workshop

This Saturday (28th April) Kiwi Write4Kidz is holding an e-book workshop at Massey University.  It's a workshop for authors and illustrators thinking about writing an e-book in the future.

I've been thinking about venturing into this arena for a year now; but fear has stalled me from doing so.  I wouldn't be surprised if there are a lot of other writers who have put off doing the same.  To help authors navigate this new technology we have the following speakers:

Our guest speaker is well known Australian author Hazel Edwards.  Hazel will talk about her experience of selling e-books from her website, working with publishers to sell e-books and turning some of out-of-print books into e-books.  Hazel will also talk about 'authorpreneurship' a term she has coined herself.  I'm really looking forward to Hazel's live skype session with us.

Jill Marshall talks next about her experience of being a publisher and organising her authors' books to be published as e-books.  Afterwards, we have two panels. Panel 1 includes Maggie Tarver (NZSA), Rhonda Kite (Kiwa Media) and Paul du Temple (Wheelers).  They'll talk about the industry; its pitfalls, how to safeguard your copyright and how they think the book industry will look in the future.  Panel 2 includes Chair Melinda Szymanik, and authors Maureen Crisp and Phillip Simpson.  They'll talk about their experiences of publishing e-books and how they market them.

Then participants get the opportunity to talk with industry experts such as designers, editors, proof readers, e-book publishers etc to ask their own questions and network.

If you're interested in the workshop go to: (events page) - there are still some places available.

I believe learning how to publish and or market e-books is the way of the future - whether we like it or not.  I intend to be ready - will you be?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Book Reviews

I review New Zealand authored books on but sometimes I'm sent books from overseas.  I've just finished two that I'd like to share with you.

Wonder by R.J. Palacio published by Random House

When Augie finds out his mother wants him to attend school he is frightened.  He likes being home schooled - at least there, he doesn't have to deal with kids making fun of him.  Augie has a facial abnormality. His eyes are like diagonal slits and hang halfway down his face. His ears - also lower than they should be - resemble little cauliflours. He doesn't have cheekbones and there are deep creases running down both sides of his nose to his mouth. And that is after the surgery.

After a tour of the school 10-year-old Augie decides to be brave and risk going. For the first couple of months, he endures the stares, and people avoiding touching him but when he overhears his best friend saying he had to befriend him; it all comes crashing down around him.  With the support of Summer, his sister Olivia , loving parents, and Jack who realises he is missing out on a real friend; Augie manages to navigate his first year of school.  This is a heartwarming story of a boy coming of age. It's also about kindness, not judging a
book by its coverboy by his face, and recognising true friends.  The author has written the story from five point of views, which children under 14 years might find difficult to follow. It helps that the designer symbolises those changes by calling them Part 1-8 with a different symbolised face for each person. I think the quotes on those pages, though interesting for sophisticated readers could be confusing for younger readers. However, I'm glad the author gave us the different perspectives, as I thought hearing why Jack had put-down Augie and how he felt bad about it and redressed it, gave an interesting perspective. Also, we heard what it felt like being Augie's sister; a character that would often be largely ignored in a story. The changing perspectives also helped the story not be over-sentimentalised. Though, the last chapter did veer too much into this territory but not so you stop reading it; more like you have to wipe the tears away so you can continue reading it. Highly recommended for 14+ readers but most probably read by adult females. Teachers, it would be a great book to study for Health or English at Intermediate/Highschool level, or read aloud to the class because of the issues it covers, and the warm feeling the book leaves you with. Plenty to talk about afterwards.

Six Days by Philip Webb, Scholastic, UK

Six Days is part dystopian, part fantasy.

Cass and her brother Wilbur make a living with their father ransacking a devastated London.  For hundreds of years the scavengers have been searching for a lost artefact. Wilbur believes he knows where it is.  It is up to Cass to help him find it, help two strangers, and then save the Earth.

This first time author narrates the story through the main character's cockney voice. He skilfully introduces back story - the fight between father and grandfather, the death of their mother, into the story. There's a little bit of romance but not too much because Cass is a tough nut. But ultimately this is a quest story - finding the lost flinder before the Russians use it for evil purposes.

I thoroughly enjoyed the story but my 12 year old daughter became confused when it changed style (dystopian to fantasy). For some people this transition is unexpected. You couldn't call it unoriginal though. The characters are three dimensional and likeable (or not likeable as in the case of the bad guys).  However, I'm not sure if I liked one of the main characters changing sides, and some of the characters were given a lot of introduction then they disappeared from the story. I thought it a bit old fashioned to have the bad buys as the Russians. The Cold War has long gone. Worth reading though.

School Holidays

My Office

I work from home, which is great because I don't have to waste time travelling to and from my office. It is also quiet so I can concentrate. And it means I am around for my kids during the school holidays.  Today in point:  I made 26 pancakes for my 13 year old daughter's birthday party with her five friends. Then I travelled over to Algies Bay Sailing Club and helped make 100 ham salad French bread rolls for the sailing team.  My 15 year old son is a reserve in the National 420 school team for Mahurangi College.  Then I came home made lunch for the six 13 year old girls, and after checking my emails made two dinners; one to go to the sailing team. I'll be glad when the kids go back to school because I'll be exhausted by the end of the week but I feel I am not missing out on important events in their life.

When I'm being mum and author; I find it difficult to settle to writing tasks so I don't try.  I do my accounts. Some interviews.  Tweak picture books I have on hold. Gather research notes for my next two writing projects. Plus do all the things my kids want me to do (sometimes with a bit of negotiation). Next week, I'll be rearing to go and ready ...

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Scaling volcanoes for new book

In the weekend just gone, I walked the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. It took 9 1/2 hours for my friends and I to walk it. I have to confess I wasn't sure if I had the stamina. But we did it; albeit a bit longer than most. The next day I had sore everything.

The Tongariro crossing is only one of the volcanoes in New Zealand I have visited over the last six months.  Last year, I visited all the thermal areas in Taupo and Rotorua. With a friend (Kathy White) we caught a boat over to White Island; an active volcano near Whakatane.  That was a real thrill! We had to wear hard hats and masks. Then when I went to Christchurch I took the opportunity to go on a boat trip around Akaroa Harbour, which is a large shield volcano in the South Island. I've visited Rangitoto and One Tree Hill before.

So, why all this volcano activity on my part?  I've written a children's non-fiction book called 'Eruption! Discovering New Zealand's Volcanoes' due out in the first week of July.  I'm going to launch it at the National Library in Parnell, Auckland.  Lucky viewers will get a taste of my volcano cake and sparkly magma juice. You could say - I've been scaling volcanoes for my new book!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Storylines Notable Book list 2012

 New Zealand Hall of  Fame

Call of the Kokako
Yeah! New Zealand Hall of Fame and The Call of the Kokako were included in the Storylines Notable Book List for 2012.  It's a big thanks to the illustrators: Heather Arnold and Bruce Potter for their gorgeous artwork. Plus big thanks to the team at New Holland Publishers for believing in the books and putting the extra expense into them so they are hardbacks.
You can see what other books are notable here.  Congrats to all the other authors, illustrators and publishers.  Especially the other New Holland published book 'Party Food for Girls' by Alessandra Zecchini and her daughter Arantxa Zecchini Dowling.  The book is a favourite of my daughters and her friends.