We were walking, the duck and I, on our way up the hill to work on campus. The duck was riding, as he always does, in the mesh outer pocket of my backpack, the source of occasional stares, giggles, and some interesting conversations. If you want to break the ice in a strange place, I heartily recommend the “duck in pocket” strategy.
We were walking up the hill when we stopped in our (my) tracks. There were beady eyes upon us. Two pairs.
It looks like the duck is going to have to waddle aside for a time.
It looks like the penguins are coming.
It’s official! Duck for a Day launched yesterday, 1 May. Since I’m in Japan, which makes it difficult to serve hors d’oeuvres and sign books in Australia, it launched not so much with a quack as with a whimper, but nonetheless it should be waddling its way to libraries and bookstores near you very shortly.
As it happens, there are two ducks in my life at the moment. There’s the aforementioned Duck, quacky visage brought to you by the wonderful Leila Rudge …
Okay, I know I talk a lot of talk about ducks, about Duck the First and Duck the Second as if they are actual books, rather than just ideas quacking softly in a corner of my brain.
But over the last few months I have been watching quietly while Duck the First came into being. I have seen pencil sketches of a little girl working at her desk, of a slightly grotty boy hanging over her backyard from a branch. I have squeed over colour roughs of Abby and Noah and Mrs Melvino and most of all, Max – the
difficult demanding different duck who takes up residence in Abby’s class.
I have been thrilled and delighted by the work of the wonderful Leila Rudge. It’s not that the characters are as I’d imagined them, that I feel satisfied seeing ‘my’ vision come to life. The truth is that I’m not much of a visual thinker and am not sure I had imagined them in any great detail at all. It’s rather that they are just so absolutely right for the book. Illustrators are wizards, I tell you.
Revisions on Duck for a Day are finished. The book is done. Now is the time to sit back, put my hands behind my head and forget about ducks for a while.
That’s what I think.
Then I open my door in the morning, and find this:
A duck. A completely random duck. On my doorstep.
Is it a sign?
And if so, what does it mean?
So I’m writing these duck books. Because I love ducks. But it seems that with duck-love comes responsibility. It seems that if you love a duck, you must not feed it Belgian chocolates. My eagle-eyed editor reads my manuscript and informs me that chocolates are not good for ducks and can actually be fatal. This is not good for my story-duck, Max, who is very fond of them. And whose fondness for said chocolates is very important to the story.
When my editor tells me of this unfortunate fact, I take a moment to pause. I say “Damn you, facts! Why must you always get in the way of a good story?”
The length of time between this post and the last represents how long it took me to recover from Book Week. Two weeks? Not too bad, I think, given that I had a solid ten days of work, a husband overseas, a sick dog, a daughter turning eleven, and two copyediting deadlines smack bang in the middle.
It was an energising, exhausting and above all, fun week (or two, in the case of some libraries). We talked about images and broken bones and the dangers of too much cotton wool around kids. And ducks. We talked about the way a duck seems to be insinuating itself into everything I write at the moment. After some gnashing of teeth, I have decided not to fight it. When the duck calls your name, it’s a good idea to follow it. In the words of the incomparable Michael Leunig, “I think a nation is in trouble that cannot accept a duck.” Watch this space for some duck-related books hopefully coming your way in the next year or so.