… there was a small rhinoceros.
It hung on the wall of an art gallery in Subiaco, all the way back in 1997. It was part of an exhibition entitled Three Narrative Artists.
And it looked like this:
[“Intrepid Journey” by Sue Templeton]
It was right near the entrance, and when I walked in on opening night, it stopped me in my tracks. There was something about the image I found intrinsically appealing. Or perhaps it was the combination of image and title – the word “intrepid” together with the rhinoceros and the boat.
It stayed with me, as things sometimes do unexpectedly. That’s something I love – that you never quite know what’s going to catch the light for someone. It isn’t always what you’d expect. In this case, it was a small rhinoceros.
But here’s where it gets interesting, because many years passed. Many, many years. And I guess my memory isn’t as good as I thought it was. Because when I thought about the rhino, I saw it as a tiny thing in a tiny boat on a very very wide and vast blue ocean. And I remembered the title as being simply “Intrepid”. I told myself it was the perfect marriage of that single-word title and the image that lent it appeal for me. Except that it wasn’t a single-word title and it also wasn’t a vast open ocean. In fact, looking at it now I’m not even sure it’s an ocean. Maybe it’s a desert. Maybe it’s a lava field. Maybe it’s the surface of the moon. Continue reading
I have a new publication out this month. It’s a picture book. It’s nothing at all like a picture book.
Allow me to explain.
Back in 2003, I was an aspiring children’s writer. My aspirations took me regularly to the local library, where I would comb review magazines such as Magpies and Viewpoint – to see what was being published, and by whom, to find reading recommendations, and – let’s be honest – to torture myself with little frissons of envy
One such frisson – more of a seismic tremor, really – occurred when, scanning the review columns, I happened upon the title How to Make a Bird, by Martine Murray.
Instantly, I was a mix of excitement and regret. For I knew exactly what this book must be – a slightly weird, lyrical picture book about someone trying to build a bird from raw materials, about the tangible and the intangible, maybe even the existential. And oh, how I wished I had written it. It felt like a perfect fit for me, rightfully mine somehow. If only I’d had the idea first.
To quote one of the great philosophers of our time, Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.
Ten years ago, I was feeling a bit discouraged. I’d been submitting work to publishers for a few years and had amassed a thick folder of rejection letters. There were a few personal notes in there, too — a few “Not for us but keep writing!”-type comments, a few “Revise and resubmit?” requests.
I felt like I was close, but also that I could stay close for the term of my natural life, that there was no guarantee a door would open for me, ever. I had begun wondering how much longer I could justify putting time into this writing thing for nil return. I was working long hours in academia; I had a young child. I was stealing time from all over the place in order to indulge this … whatever this was.
I knew I’d never stop writing, never stop jotting down small fragments here and there. But maybe I should stop trying to shape them into stories; maybe I should stick with poetry, which was where I’d started, after all.
Two months later, I signed a contract with Walker Books Australia to publish my first novel, Annabel, Again.
Over on the Ten Tiny Things blog, we’ve taken a break from our (ir)regularly scheduled tinies to bring you some news of the not-so-tiny kind …
Ten Tiny Things has just been announced as the winner of the Australia/New Zealand division of the SCBWI 2013 Crystal Kite Award!
The Crystal Kite Award is peer-voted by members of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, a global organisation to which I have belonged for many years.
I’ve been thrilled to have Candlewick Press pick up some of my work for US publication over the last year. There are all sorts of reasons why this is a good thing for me professionally, and those probably go without saying.
Lately, though, I’ve been on the receiving end of some more unexpected benefits. Letters! Actual letters coming to me from kids in the US. I get a bit of mail from kids here in Australia, but contact often tends to come via email. I’m not sure why that might be; perhaps there’s something exciting about the idea of picking up an actual pen (or texta) and sending a letter across the world. I know I’ve been having lots of fun writing back.
Yes, I know he isn’t exactly Mr Curly. That would be like saying I’m Ruby, or Cassie, or possibly even Max.
But last weekend at the Perth Writers Festival, I met the maker of Mr Curly and of many things duckish and otherly delightful – Michael Leunig. I’ve made no secret of the fact that the original inspiration for Duck for a Day came from an interview Leunig did with Andrew Denton, but beyond that, I’ve been a long-time fan of Leunig’s work, which my father shared with me from a very early age. The corkboard above this very desk is dotted with tattered Leunig cartoons, snipped from newspapers here and there over the years.