The Sheep Have Landed!

Amidst all the brouhaha about Catch A Falling Star and Skylab and things that fall from the sky, something else has happened.

A new picture book has landed! Some sheep have landed – with heavy thuds on the floor of a little boy’s bedroom.

FinalcovermedresLet Me Sleep, Sheep hit shelves on 1 March, the same day Catch A Falling Star was published and just after DUCK! was named a Notable book in the Children’s Book Council Book of the Year Awards, at which point I suddenly realised I’ve written three books in a row about things unexpectedly falling from the sky-ish.

No, wait. Not written. Published. Because the truth is I wrote Let Me Sleep, Sheep a long time ago. A very long time ago. The story of this book begins in 2006 when I had the initial idea. I don’t know where this one came from. It’s just one of those quirky little things that appeared out of somewhere, and which I threw into my ‘random picture book ideas’ file alongside many many others.

OriginalSheepThoughts

My initial notes from 2006

I’d written about twelve picture books at that point, most of them pretty awful and none of them published. But this one was better, I thought. And moreover, my first novel had just been accepted for publication. By the time I had a submittable draft of Let Me Sleep, Sheep!, it was December 2006 and I was just three months away from being an actual real published author.

Then I stumbled across a book called The 108th Sheep, which was launching on exactly the same day as my debut novel, with a premise alarmingly similar to Let Me Sleep, Sheep! There was no way I could submit mine now, I thought. I told no one about it, tucked it away in the metaphorical bottom drawer.

A year later, when I saw a book called  The Eleventh Sheep come out, I thought, hmm, maybe there’s room for more materialising sheep books after all and pulled the manuscript again to tweak it for submission. When the following month, I saw a review of It’s Time To Sleep, You Crazy Sheep, I put my head down very firmly on the desk. I’d really missed the boat this time. Surely we’d reached critical mass for “materialising sheep” books in the picture book market, at least for now. Maybe if I waited a few more years?

Instasheep

I waited a few more years. I published a few more books, even some picture books. I had more credibility now! I had a publisher! Some other publishers knew my name!

I sent it off. I got rejections. It was fun but too difficult to illustrate. The problem, you see, was that all the action was taking place in one location.

But but but what about all those other counting sheep books? I wondered. I wanted to say. I did not say. I tucked it back in the metaphorical drawer, the third one down this time, where all the junk lives. I got on with other ideas, other books, other things.

And then, in late 2016, I signed with an agent. And I didn’t have anything new to send her so I went back to the Drawers of Rejection, to see if there was anything salvageable. The sheep made me laugh. I thought hey, I reckon this is actually okay. I did a quick google for new counting sheep books. I couldn’t find any. Clearly, this was my moment! I sent it off.

Three weeks later, I was offered a contract. Shortly after, the glorious Leila Rudge went to work, effortlessly breezing past the ‘single location’ problem. And in June 2018, approximately five days after we sent Let Me Sleep, Sheep! to the printer, a book called Go To Sleep, Sheep! was published and I DID NOT CARE AT ALL. And in March 2019, one of the very first reviews on Goodreads said this …

GRReview2

… and I laughed so hard I almost cried.

 

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Sea Monkeys, Sunny Boys & Skylab: Writing the 1970s

Just the title of this post makes me all kinds of nostalgic. This is because I was a childCoverfinalmedRES in the 1970s, which is when my new book, Catch A Falling Star, is set.

1979, to be specific. May-July 1979 to be specific-er.

And exactly that specific because it’s set against the backdrop of an actual historical event, the uncontrolled loss of orbit and eventual crashing to earth of Skylab, one of the world’s first space stations.

I’m told that the 1970s is long enough ago for Catch A Falling Star to be considered historical fiction. Luckily for me, though, having direct experience of that period, I didn’t need to do the kind of research this genre normally calls for. I grew up then! I remember stuff like sea monkeys and Sunny Boys and yelling SunnyBoyout “Spunk!” and lying on the warm concrete at the pool all day because skin cancer hadn’t been invented yet. The only things I needed to research were Skylab facts and figures – the exact timeline, direct quotes from newspapers, that sort of thing.

That’s what I thought, in the beginning.

Hahahaha.

Excuse me while I beat my head gently against this wall.

Continue reading

Speaking Youth to Power

Many moons ago when I was teaching at UWA, I heard a creative writing lecturer talk about how writers often find themselves ‘worrying at a particular knot’. Maybe they’re writing all kinds of different things, but somewhere in the midst of each of them, if you look deeply enough, or from the right angle, you’ll find some version of this one theme or concern.

The writer, of course, doesn’t always know this. Slightly fewer moons ago, when I was easing out of teaching at UWA, I had a student say to me, “It’s interesting how so many of your poems are sort of about containment.”

And I said Huh?

And she said, “You know … how you’re always talking about borders and margins, inside and outside, about edges and stuff like that.”

And I said, No I’m not … am I?

And then she showed me. And lo and behold, I was. And still am. At least in my poetry.

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There are similar knots in my work for young people, one of which I became aware of recently because it features in both The Penguins Are Coming! and DUCK! Continue reading

Two Birds, One Stone

… would be the name of my book launch, if I was having one. Which I’m not, even though Frané Lessac is standing by to dress up as anything I so choose.

Despite the allure of Frané in a duck costume or a penguin outfit, or possibly both in rapid succession like the quick-change artist she definitely is, I won’t be having an actual launch event this time, but two books will nonetheless be launched onto an unsuspecting picture-book-reading public.

One book about a duck. The other about penguins.

I told you a bit about the first one recently. I told you a bit about the second eight years ago, at which time I was also launching-but-not-launching my very first duck book. I guess there really is nothing new under the sun. Continue reading

DUCK!

Hello, it’s me. Yes indeed, I am alive. I just haven’t posted here in a long time because I’ve been writing. Which is a good thing.

The thing that I have been writing is a middle-grade novel, which is also a good thing. And hopefully a good book. It is approximately two years overdue, which is a less good thing, and also why I have not been posting here.

Because when your long-suffering publisher is patiently waiting for you to deliver a long-overdue book, it feels odd to be spending time rambling in a bloggy way. However, I am back to bloggy-rambling because my publisher is no longer suffering, at least not at my hands. This is for two reasons:

i) Long-overdue book is now done!

ii) In the process of working on long-overdue book, I got an idea for another book and that book is about to be published! Continue reading

Onward!

So I know what you’re thinking …

Thank goodness the rhinoceros is launched. Thank goodness the tour is over. Thank goodness we don’t have to see any more ‘arty’ photos of the book by the beach, or in a boat, or framed weirdly by random sticks. Thank goodness we don’t have to humour any more of Meg’s crazed attempts to draw rhinoceroses in tutus/jumpers/both at once.

Maybe she’ll go back to her cave now and stop shouting LOOK! MY BOOK!

Yes, well. About that.

There’s a little more shouting to come, my friends. Because if September was rhinos, then October is:

this guy …

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                and this guy …

 

 

 

 

Continue reading

A Rhinoceros By Any Other Gender…

As many of you know, I have a new picture book coming out very soon.OUASR_CVR_HR-RGB

Once Upon a Small Rhinoceros will officially hit bookstores on 1 September. I’ve blogged previously about the inspiration for the book, and a little about the process of writing it. During that process, many things changed. Some were big – like the title. Others were small – a shift in phrasing that made a line sing, an ellipsis that opened up the ending.

And there was one that was both – tiny but enormous.

Here’s the last line as it appeared in one of the roughs:

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If you’ve read the book, you should be able to spot the difference. If you haven’t, then know this: across many, many drafts, and until quite late in the process, my small rhinoceros was male. And then at a certain point, I said huh?

Because my small rhinoceros was male for no good reason. For no reason at all except that I had unconsciously defaulted to that without a moment’s thought. Continue reading