Jul 12, 2019

OH CREATIVE LADY: MEET EDWINA WYATT

There is something really special about being able to enjoy a book with your children and then connecting directly with the author thanks to the Interweb. I always get a bit giddy when an author comments back on something I’ve posted about their book on Instagram.
I’m just here still marveling at the awesomeness of the Internet.

Meanwhile Edwina Wyatt is there creating stories that make you sigh with their beauty. Her latest picture book, Fox and Bird, is on high rotation here. It is a beautifully simple and subtle tale about the need for reciprocity in friendship. Edwina’s words are paired with Alice Lindstrom’s exquisite collage illustrations.
I’m calling it early but this is one of the top ones for 2019.

It’s a pleasure and privilege to have Edwina Wyatt here as the latest Oh Creative Lady.

Through blogging and Instagramming, I’ve been introduced to an amazing Virtual Sisterhood of Creative Ladies.
The Oh Creative Lady series is your chance to meet these incredible, kind-hearted, inspiring <insert ALL the happy, positive adjectives HERE> women.

Photo of author Edwina Wyatt

I am… Edwina Wyatt, a children’s author from the south coast of New South Wales.

I find inspiration… in words. I can trace most of my stories back to something as simple as an affection for a certain word. I have notebooks full of single words that I like — the lists of a madwoman. Words like: confetti, chimes and mackerel. A good word will always stir up some sort of mood, image or association. Funnily, none of the original words have ended up featuring in the finished products – they were all cut out in the revisions – but they got me writing.

I am excited about … the unopened packet of biscuits in the cupboard.

Also looking forward to sharing my latest picture book Fox & Birdillustrated by the talented Alice Lindstrom and published by Little Hare Books. And my junior fiction novel, The Secrets of Magnolia Moonout in November, illustrated by Katherine Quinn and published by Walker Books.

Front cover of picture book Fox and Bird by Edwina Wyatt and ALice Lindstrom

When I’m in a creative slump, I… read and walk. A bit of dummy spitting can help too; sometimes quitting can help you find your way back. It can free up mental space and take the pressure off.

And if all else fails, refer to Dr Seuss. He has some good things to say about how to avoid going to The Waiting Place.

“And when you’re in a Slump,
You’re not in for much fun.
Un-slumping yourself
is not easily done.”

Oh, The Places You’ll Go

I’m really proud of…  My family.

Someone once told me… to ask myself WIBBOW: Would I Be Better Off Writing?

Such a brilliant acronym from Perth writer, H.Y. Hanna that I heard about from Annabel Smith on The First Time Podcast. It made me smile. The answer is unfailingly: yes! Always. This applies so well to social media hang-ups, procrastination, perfectionism, networking, courses, that extra blog post, time sucks like self-doubt, jealousy and negative self-talk that writers are so good at, refreshing your emails, checking Goodreads….

There is no substitute for time in the chair, mucking around and making a horrible mess of it all – it’s the only way out of it.

My advice to you is…I am not really one for giving advice, as usually when it comes to writing, I think there are no rules, and you need to follow your instincts – just do what feels right to you.

But I can tell you the advice I have been giving myself…

I have been listening to conversations between Charlotte Wood and psychologist, Allison Manning, on A Mind Of One’s Own. From those I have really taken away the importance of focusing on the thing that I can control, which is my relationship with the work: how I feel about it, and its quality. All the other externalities which writers obsess over belong to the publishing machine. You can’t do anything about those. Also learning how to separate the worth of the work from your worth as a person, so that you’re not invested in the idea of the book’s ‘success’ or ‘failure’ as being tied up in your own self-worth. I found these conversations to be fascinating and hugely comforting.

They have been a real gift to me in creating some good mental habits.

See article here

Mar 13, 2019

Article on ‘The Dirt’: On Darkness in Children’s Literature

Edwina is a talented author of elegant prose for young readers. Her picture-book texts are crafted and exquisite and her fiction is light, layered, quirky and beautiful.

Edwina also has some bold and brave ideas about the kinds of narratives young readers are capable of accommodating, whether emotionally, imaginatively, or conceptually.

We love bold and brave ideas on The Dirt, so Edwina is the perfect author for our first instalment of the year as she ponders the limits of darkness in literature for young readers.

Food for thought as we stride boldly into 2019 …

What is and what is not an appropriate subject for a children’s book is a highly political and contentious subject. Let’s call this ‘the danger of ideas in fiction’.

There seems to be a widely-held belief that if a child encounters a dangerous idea in a story, perhaps a character doing bad things, they will not have the power to form their own view on the moral integrity of that behaviour or distinguish fiction from reality.

They will ascribe to those values. Confuse parallel possibilities with the world they inhabit.

the danger of ideas in Danish children’s literature … (picture credits below)

THE DANGER OF IDEAS IN DANISH CHILDREN’S LITERATURE … (PICTURE CREDITS BELOW)

Perhaps it is the preservation of innocence or protection from pain or sorrow that is our primary concern. This is a valid and fair consideration when choosing books to read to children: we want our children to feel safe, loved, hopeful. But is it also true that sometimes our best intentions and efforts to censor and protect can present a different type of danger?  Is it possible that we are writing our own fears into stories and imposing them onto the child? Does the vigorous ‘shaping’ of children’s literature have the potential to do readers a disservice?

We need to ask, what is it that we are trying to protect children from? Is it possible that we are in fact trying to protect the self from being revealed to the self?

Author Hanya Yanigahara explored this possibility in her closing address at the 2016 Sydney Writers’ Festival titled, ‘The Conversations Between Words’. Here, her gaze is not turned to writing for children, but rather the relationship between the writer and her reader. She begins by discussing Goya’s ‘Saturn Devouring His Son’, the most famous of his Black Paintings (1819-1823) (below left).

Francisco_de_Goya,_Saturno_devorando_a_su_hijo_(1819-1823).jpg

 

WOLF EATS GRANDMA.jpg

 

Yanigahara posits that visual art illuminates but literature exposes. That as readers we are made to be co-creators; made to reach into the hidden places of our own pathologies. When confronted with darkness or ambiguity, our minds forage, often retrieving something rotten and unpleasant – our own ‘black imaginings’ as she puts it. Perhaps revealing the unpleasantness of yourself to you; we become vulnerable to ourselves.

Fiction is the lone form of storytelling in which the human imagination is allowed to run wild. Unregulated and unharnessed. This makes it singularly frightening. Fiction implicates us, the reader, in a way that other forms of art don’t.”

With so much focus in education on teaching children how to be resilient in the face of adversity, perhaps challenging, honest literature can foster this in a way that is not didactic or purposeful but rather entertaining, soulful and illuminating.

The best stories are those that pose questions but do not answer them. Of little interest are stories that tackle ‘issues’ or include strategic tokenism for the sake of it. Story must be king. And when a story ventures to probe the human condition, then it is essential that the narrative and in turn the imagination, be unfettered.

the unfettered imagination of matt Ottley (picture credits below)

 

Yanigahara also insightfully ponders the literary sadist, saying that writing that is designed purely to shock or repulse because the writer can, seeks only to test limits and provoke, making it nothing more than cheap pornography. She adds that pornographers desire only to create a reaction – to dare you to look for the spectacle of it which renders the literature meaningless and lazy.

But meaningful darkness creates empathy. And to not include it, to omit the violence of life in literature is to deny that it is a part of life – the stuff of being human. An act nothing short of, ‘…artistic irresponsibility. A covering of the eyes and silencing of the tongue because of some specious idea that there are certain territories into which fiction is not supposed to wander. But it is not only the fiction writer’s right, but the fiction writer’s duty to not just wander but to march into those territories.”

At Dirt Lane, we love to wander…

We invite you to march.

 

A-Monster-Calls.jpg

 

Picture credits:
1. Og De Onde Lo (Alvida 2017), by Ellen Holmboe & Kristian Eskild Jensen.
2: Fransisco Goya’s ‘Saturn Devouring His Son’
3: Italian illustrator Beni Monstresor (1926-2001) may have been inspired by Goya for this picture of the wolf devouring Red Riding Hood.
4. Illustration by Matt Ottley from
Teacup (Scholastic) by Rebecca Young.
5. Illustration by Jim Kay for
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness.

(c) Edwina Wyatt 2019

Link to Original Article

Jun 08, 2018

INTERVIEW: JUST WRITE FOR KIDS with Romi Sharp

EDWINA WYATT – THE PATH TO SUCCESS PART 1

 

Edwina Wyatt has been down the path to success with three picture books under her belt, and already had TWO of these awarded Notable Books in the Children’s Book Council of Australia awards. But more on that later. Today we have the pleasure of getting to know more about how she took the road from law to children’s writing, how she practises her craft, the most valuable thing she learned from the publishing process, and a bit on how her Dad was involved in the making of one of our personal favourites, Ponk! Anyone know what ‘ponk’ is in French?!

Thank you so much for agreeing to an interview, Edwina! Shall we begin with your journey into writing for children? Where did this interest come from? How did this lead you to become an author?

Hi Romi, thanks for having me.
It never occurred to me to be a writer. Although when I look back at the various careers I have invested in, I can see that they all have the common thread of people and story.

I started scribbling and submitting in 2009. It was my first year of law school. I was 23. There are loftier explanations I could invent for what got me started, but it is actually quite silly and accidental. My mum bought me a copy of EDWINA THE EMU by Sheena Knowles and Rod Clement, as you don’t often see characters called Edwina in books (Mo Willems has since taken one for the team though, cheers, Mo.)

I wasn’t collecting picture books at that stage…I have a real problem now.
I put it on the kitchen table. It was so bright and beautiful and I drew immense comfort from reading a children’s book again, so steeped in nostalgia as they are. I was surrounded by a wall of hefty law tomes, feeling overwhelmed, and my eye kept being drawn to this plucky emu. It is fitting that the story is all about finding your place in the world, and like my feathered friend, I had started many different career paths and was feeling a little lost.

I kept reading and analysing the story instead of doing my assignments, appreciating how taut and structured it was. How deceptively simple. In an act of massive procrastination, I typed out the whole story, word for word, to see what it looked like without the pictures.

That was the moment I would pinpoint the beginning of my obsession with picture books and I spent most of that year blowing my meagre earnings on picture books, digging out my old ones and writing horrible, awful, eye-clawing attempts: which I still do daily.

How did you go about learning and improving the craft of writing?
Your stories are always full of emotion, thought-provoking messages and beautiful, poetic-like language. How do you develop your ideas? Does your style come naturally or is it a part of your practice?

You are very generous, thank you.
Writing is most definitely a craft and I am happy to be a life-long student. Of course, you have to read and you have to write (freely, badly) to improve.
I think part of writing is giving yourself over to learning. To understanding that it will never be perfect, that your voice and style will change. That it is all subjective and that you will probably always be disappointed with the end product. But I think that is a small price to pay for the privilege of being able to give it a go and to engage with the vibrant kids’ lit community. And I am so very grateful to the editors, publishers, agents and readers who have given me a chance and an opportunity to improve.

I think most of my ideas develop from an interest in meaning. Finding ways to play with it. Dissect it. Tease it out. Explore it. Distort it. Probably not the best career choice for a chronic over-thinker…it only encourages more over-thinking! Voice and style is such an interesting, mysterious concept in general and I think I will always be pondering what it is, how it manifests and what it all…means. Oh no…and she’s off.

I think we can all relate!
Your first published picture book is ‘In the Evening’, illustrated by Gaye Chapman and published by Little Hare Books. How did you go about submitting this one and what was the process as a first-time author like for you? Does it get easier with subsequent books?

This story was submitted via an agent who took me on after reading a positive rejection letter/ invitation to resubmit from a major publisher. They had pulled the story (a different text) from the slush pile but never ended up taking it on. The lovely feedback helped me though, and was a huge leg up. Just goes to show that rejection can be good for you!

The process of getting each story acquired and brought through to publication has been very different: some quick and joyful, some slow and full of hurdles. No book has the same passage. As a first-time author, I just felt like I had got to base camp. Still do. Probably always will.
That said, there is no ascent I am trying to climb as the best days are just the ones where the words are flowing and you are enjoying it. It is not glamourous or lucrative or anything else that people might associate with writing.

Most books have taken between 2-6 years to come out once first being contracted. That is a long time and your life and tastes and writing changes in that period. And I have heard it said that picture books have a shelf life of a tub of yoghurt once they finally hit stores. This has certainly been my experience.
The best thing to come from it all is the relationships I have made through this pursuit. They are what keep me going. Any loss or small victory is short lived and superficial.

It sounds like a real mixed bag of emotions, but a journey well worth its weight in gold. Which leads me to my next question…
Your most recently released book is ‘Ponk!’, a gorgeous and comical story about a little bird determined to see the big world. Does this theme reflect your own personal belief, or motto, if you will, about never giving up, no matter how many times you fall? (Sounds a lot like the publishing journey!) What inspired you to write this?

 

This character comes directly from my childhood. We had a big Norfolk Island pine next door and my dad used to tell us about a little bird who lived up there and would fall to the ground: ponk! As kids we delighted in the slap-stick humour and would roll around. He would whistle when the bird fell.
The tree got chopped down. It was devastating when it happened and the whole street seemed different. I was sitting at my desk one day, thinking about that tree, and I thought that there was more to this bird. I wondered what his story was. Why did he keep going up? Why did he keep falling down? Could he see something up there? Were there others living in the tree? What did they think of him? What did he really want?
For fun I wrote a narrative as a surprise for my father.

You will see the tribute in the dedication:
To the true creator my father, Jim.
You put the ‘P’ in Ponk!

We call him P.

I remember I had my family over for lunch and shared that I was writing a book about that little bird. They were very excited and couldn’t imagine what Ponk’s story might be. I invited my father to co-author on a couple of occasions but he declined. It was one of the hardest stories that I have written. It is a very simple plot line, but tricky to construct as it was constrained by the fact that I insisted the book had to end with a ponk too. That he didn’t ever stop falling. So the ‘complication’ had to be something that was resolved clearly, whilst him still exhibiting the same problematic behaviour, if that makes sense. I was adamant that this was not a ‘learning how to fly story’ more a ‘learning how to fall.’

I wrote about fifty different versions with different themes and storylines, but in the end the device of Plunk, Thunk and Donk bird stopped me from ripping it to shreds. I am glad I didn’t give up as that would have been some poetic irony.

I didn’t reveal it to my family until it was finished. And when we did, my son helped me read it to Dad and he did the whistling sound effects. All very Lion King – Elton John- Circle of Life! So, it is special for me that my kids and my sister’s kids get to have Ponk now, too. And he is flying far, next stop France and China. We are all wondering what Ponk is in French?

So excited to see Ponk stretch his little wings overseas! Thank you, Edwina! We shall continue this interview next time…

 

EDWINA WYATT – THE PATH TO SUCCESS PART 2
Last time in our interview with Edwina Wyatt we learned how her own obsession with picture books led to publication, despite her attention meant for other things. In today’s installment, we find out why this chosen career path is so important to her and the ways she has immersed herself in her role as an author. I love how she remains so humble in light of her magnificent success!

Edwina, we’ve already established you love writing for children, but is there something in particular that warms your heart?

When a kid yells out ‘boring’ at the crucial part of your story when you are doing a reading and it only makes you laugh. And it’s still worth turning up to work the next day.
To be fair, it was a boring bit…
Noted, young sir.

Lol!
Do you write in genres other than picture books? How would you compare writing these to other forms of writing?

I do indeed, but only recently. My publisher at Walker Books, the incredible Nancy Conescu, suggested to me last year that I might try my hand at writing something for older readers. I am forever grateful that she has seen potential for my voice to stretch in new interesting ways and is willing to mentor me in this capacity.
As a result, I am working on some bits and pieces that I hope to share soon.

Two of your books, ‘In the Evening’ and ‘Together Always’ were awarded Notable Books in the Children’s Book Council of Australia Awards (2016 and 2017, respectively). Congratulations! How did these come about and what was your reaction to the news, on both accounts? What does this mean for you and your writing career?

I was very humbled on both occasions to be included alongside so many hardworking and talented creators. I think focusing too much on awards is not healthy or helpful, though. Many of the best books that I cherished through the year and predict as winners often miss out and I could list dozens of books I think deserve more recognition than they have received. If it was an objective measure of quality, then all the same books would win all the awards, but they don’t of course.

And how to measure the success of a book? The pressure on authors is immense: too literary, too commercial, too complex, too simple. You can win an award but not be commercial. You can miss out on an award but sell lots of books or make foreign sales. You can miss out on sales and awards but be loved by one reader. You can write a book that parents and teachers love but kids don’t or vice versa. You can do well with one and have your others compared to that. Or any other combination. There are just so many ways to measure success and all of them are equally fraught. So best not to concern yourself with it at all.

As an author, my goal is just to keep working; to keep creating in times of self-doubt and white noise. And I want to support all those other creatives at any stage of their careers, and thank them for giving their voice so generously to us.
And if incidentally, I make one little human feel a little less afraid, care a little more, or make them laugh or feel something or even say, I don’t get it? Then that is fantastic. Even if it has nothing to do with my story, but is merely a product of the time that someone is spending with them to read it. It’s enough just to have been part of something ephemeral and fleeting and for my kids to know that I spent my time doing something I am passionate about.

A very positive and wise attitude!
What kinds of events or presentations have you been involved in as a guest speaker? What value do you see for authors in presenting to children?

I am represented by the Children’s Bookshop Beecroft Speakers’ Agency. I have done some school visits and have been a guest speaker at various festivals and literary events including Sydney Writers’ Festival, Goulburn Writers’ Festival and the Southern Highlands Writers’ Festival. I have done the last couple of years at the Illawarra CBCA Kids’ Day Out and Literary Lunches: great fun. There is enormous value to be found in doing these presentations, although it’s hard to quantify. Perhaps for authors, it is just the unexpected moments that come from saying yes to challenging (potentially terrifying) things.

 

What projects are you currently working on? What can we look forward to seeing from you in the near future?
I am excited about my forthcoming picture book FOX AND BIRD out next June 2019 with Little Hare, illustrated by Alice Lindstrom. Also another with Little Hare later on called OLIVE.

I am also eagerly awaiting SOMETIMES CAKE in 2020 with Walker Books, illustrated by Tamsin Ainslie.

There are some other projects on the boil, too, including some exciting collaborations, which I am looking forward to sharing as the details are confirmed.

That all sounds hugely exciting! Looking forward to seeing your newest creations soon! Thanks so much for talking with me, Edwina! It’s been truly fascinating! 🙂

My pleasure, Romi. Thank you.

 

Edwina Wyatt – The Path to Success Part 1

 

 

Jun 06, 2018

Instagram Giveaway

To celebrate joining Insta, I have two book packs written by yours truly to give away. Includes: 1# copy of TOGETHER ALWAYS illustrated by Lucia Masciullo (CBCA Notable, Early Childhood Book of the Year, 2017), one copy of IN THE EVENING illustrated by Gaye Chapman (CBCA Notable, Picture Book of the Year, 2016) and one copy of PONK! illustrated by Chris Nielsen plus PONK! board game. To go into the draw, just tell me what you are reading at the moment and tag a friend. Closes 5pm this Friday the 8th

Jan 21, 2018

Where The Books Are: Together Always

Thank you to WHERE THE BOOKS ARE for featuring Together Always – such a nice surprise.

‘Together Always is a truly beautiful book—the story and the illustrations are full of hope, life and joy.’

Summer is in full swing in Tasmania and everywhere we look trees are laden with fruit. We’re closely watching our plum and nectarine trees, eagerly awaiting the first ripe fruit, and I think this is what drew us to Together Always when we saw it in the library. That and the wonderfulness of friendship for the start of a new year.

The opening line is:

From time to time, there were cherries and plums in the orchard.
From time to time, there were apples and pears.

The story continues about the idyllic lives of Pig and Goat—they’re the best of friends:

… no matter what hung from the trees, Pig and Goat were always together.
Side by side.

When Pig got lost, Goat found the way.
When Goat felt giddy, Pig told a story.

We will stick together, said Goat.
Always?
Always.

Pig and Goat do stick together—in the sun, in the orchard, in the stream. They help each other as friends do, and life is wonderful. But one day Goat feels BIG. He’s ready to leave the orchard to explore the world and, although Pig isn’t, friends stick together. So off they go.

Together through the gate.
Together through the mist.
Together over roots.
Together over rocks.
Climbing higher and higher.
But Pig longed for the orchard.

Pig wants to go home and Goat doesn’t, so the friends finally say goodbye. Their worlds are different without their friends, but they find that they are stronger because of what they’ve learned from each other. Eventually Pig and Goat discover that it doesn’t matter what is between them, they will be together. Always.

I’ve had some lovely discussions with Ivy around this book. It’s great for building emotional resilience, emotional independence, accepting change, and for understanding that even as friends grow and go their ways, the friendship can remain.

Together Always is a truly beautiful book—the story and the illustrations are full of hope, life and joy. All of us at WTBA wish you the same for 2018.

 

‘WTBA is a conversation about books and kids. You’ll see that we take a broad approach, but our core passion is picture and chapter books—and our primary motivator is emotional resilience.’

See more from Where The Books Are here

Jan 16, 2018

Q & A

At a reading I did recently, I met a lovely soul who was at the beginning of her own writing journey. Afterwards, she connected with me via email to ask some questions about my creative process. I thought I would share my response.

Q & A

When you have come up with a story or an idea how do you know it’s a good idea and do you have anyone to bounce your ideas off?

In terms of ideas, I am guided mainly by instinct and intuition. What is ‘good’ is of course totally subjective, and so rather than worry about its relative worth, I am trying to see if I can keep the idea alive and I find that if a story wants to be told, then I will tell it and decide later whether it was a good idea.

I think Andy Warhol was onto something when he said: Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.

I do have a few trusted readers that I like to show my work in the early stages: my husband, and my three friends who are also picture book authors. We have a critique group and it works well. It is a subtle art to be able to edit and give feedback in a constructive way and also to take feedback graciously – so really good if you can find people that can do this in a healthy way.  Then again you need to use your instincts to decide which bits of feedback you use and which bits you choose not to.

 

How do you break up your writing time/days up? For example do you come up with new ideas or focus on some older stories that you’ve written and need tidying up?

As a mother of two children under 4, I have no set routine and just squeeze everything in when I can. But I find that rather than complaining about not having enough time (which I do, regularly!) I find it is much more helpful to try and embrace your constraints as they only sharpen your hunger for it. So that when you do get the time (often after 10pm for me!) then you really maximise it.

 

 I like to have a number of projects on the go at one time, so that I don’t have too much emotion invested one thing. I find that helps when dealing with the inevitable rejections or delays and also cuts down on the wait time – the glacial speeds of the publishing industry! I find I go through cycles, I have a cycle of mad creation then a slower more considered phase of editing and then when those two things burn out, I turn to my own personal reading which I find is always refreshing and helps to ignite the passion once more. The ‘business’ side of being an author, though, doesn’t stop and it needs to be a daily thing. Whether answering emails, promoting your existing titles, or arranging events and things. I do these things as they come up.

 

Do you ever write stories with one character and another character suddenly appears and takes over your story?  The two of them compliment the story, even essential for the story but it appears there might be 2 stories in one and they could stand on their own or work in the same story- what would you do?  How do you know which is best- is there someone you discuss this with and who would that be?

This does happen, and I think it is ok to have several main characters as long as you make sure that your protagonist is not less interesting than the other minor characters. The protagonist needs to have the most profound ‘journey’ or change and so I try to keep that in mind, if any other interesting voices appear along the way.

 

Do you plot out your story or characters before writing or do they just appear whilst you’re writing? If they just appear do you free write and then fine tune it and develop it more then and there or do you let it sit for a while and go back to it?

With picture books, they are very much written in a free-form, organic way. I start with the first line and then follow it from there. If the story has any legs, it will come out pretty much fully formed and then I will go back and polish and refine. This is my favourite part of the process – I adore editing.

With longer projects, say a middle-grade novel, it is a mixture of plotting and then free writing. It is then a fun process to connect the dots. Many writers seem to say that they know how the story starts and how it ends, but it is the middle that is the tricky bit (the ‘muddle’).

I think that like all aspects of writing, there is never one approach that works – there are no rules, just what works for you. I like the fact that you are thinking about and reflecting upon your own process, as it is good to know what your strengths and weaknesses are and then make sure that you adopt a kind of mental hygiene to make sure that you are feeding the good things and not indulging the others (e.g. procrastination…social media!)

For example, I can’t work unless I have a clean work space. And so part of my writing process is to tidy my desk and make a cup of tea. But sometimes…that is all I end up doing and by the second cup of tea, my baby has woken up and the time to write is over. So, I have learnt not to fuss too much about how symmetrical my stack of books is otherwise, nothing will get done.

 

Do you feel a picture book needs in-depth character development?

Short answer – yes! But I don’t think that ‘in depth’ equates to lengthy word count. A few well-chosen words here or there can make all the difference and reveal a great deal. We could talk about this excellent question for hours though…there is so much in this.

 

How do you know or who would you talk to if you think you have a picture book but it seems to go on and you know it could develop into something longer?

I would just let the story go where it wants to, unfettered with considerations of form. I love the work of Richard Flanagan and recall he said in an interview that he spent years trying to find the right form for one of his novels. He tried long form and short form – even haiku! If you have the motivation and energy, I would try the story both ways until you feel you have found the right vehicle for it.

 

Do you write every day? Either morning pages or free writing or do you use writing prompts or do you focus on writing your stories?

I do not write every day. As I mentioned above, there should be no rules with this. Every writer seems to do something different. One of the most appealing approaches I have heard on this was, ‘Try to write a little every day. Without hope. Without despair.’ I am not sure who said it, but it is the second part of that which is the most resonant. I have ritualised writing more of late though, and find that the more I write, the more I want to.

Just Write For Kids Top 17 of ’17

Happy New Year!

So chuffed that PONK! has been included in Just Write For Kids top 17 reads of ’17!

Thank you so much! A real honour to be included alongside some of my favourite titles of the year, too. Looking forward to more bookish fun with everyone in 2018.

Top 17 of ’17

Posted on December 29, 2017 by Romi Sharp

It’s time for the annual book selections that topped our ‘favourites list’. The ones that had us rip roaring with giggles, the ones that made our hearts stop beating, and the ones that simply took our breath away. It’s always tough to choose, especially since we literally turn over hundreds of books in a year. But here they are, picture books as picked between my girls and myself. Which ones were your favourites?

 

Ponk!, Edwina Wyatt (author), Chris Nielsen (illus.), Hardie Grant Egmont, September 2017.

A little bird determined to see the world from the top of his tree, literally falls down time and time again. That is, until he gets by with a little help from his friends. I love the message of this story about persistence, broadening one’s horizons, and support and encouragement from those around you. For the kids, the quirky, retro-look illustrations and staunch bird character are absolutely endearing, not to mention the repeat of the whimsical phrase, Ponk! is hilarious and has now become our little nightly game into bed. Totally gorgeous and enlightening for preschool aged children, we adore Ponk! and his little eccentric characteristics.

 

See full post below:

 

A Very Quacky ChristmasFrances Watts (author), Ann James (illus.), ABC Books, October 2017.

A joyous story brimming with sunshine and optimism, friendship and generosity; A Very Quacky Christmas by Frances Watts and Ann James is a delightfully stunning story that reflects the true spirit of a bright Christmas. Samantha Duck joyously sings as she prepares for a festive day full of giving and sharing, but her pessimistic tortoise friend, Sebastian is somewhat, well, sceptical. When hope seems to be lost, who else shows his support, encouragement and nobility but Sebastian himself. A provocative, feel-good story with dreamy illustrations that allow the golden effervescence to wash over the pages and into your heart. Love.

 

Can You Find Me?Gordon Winch (author), Patrick Shirvington (illus.), New Frontier Publishing, September 2017.

This ‘look and find’ book is a fantastic introduction to Australian animals and their natural habitats, presented in an engaging way that is both simple and challenging enough to stimulate young readers’ success and intrigue. My four year old repeatedly enjoyed the repetitive clues and fine-tooth search within the intricately illustrated life-like scenes. Exploration of new and fascinating creatures, including a stick insect, a leaf moth and a great egret, also provided terrific talking points, and awareness of ‘camouflage’ and these creatures’ amazing survival characteristics. Can You Find Me? is like a hidden package of magic and wonder that is so obviously a winner for preschool aged children.

 

Digby and the Yodelayhee…Who?Renee Price (author), Anil Tortop (illus.), Create It Kids, March 2017.

Strumming up a musical storm in a delicious brimful of plonks, plinks and twangs is the energetic page-turner, Digby and the Yodelayhee… Who?. We’ve had so much fun following Price’s tuneful arrangement of rhyme and prose as her loveable characters embark on a melodic journey to discover the mystery of the noisy yodelling noise. Tortop’s illustrations bring life, joy and swag to the hand-clapping, bottom-wriggling experiences we’ve enjoyed with each and every read. This dynamic read aloud story has not only been delightfully imaginative and action-packed, but also allowed us to engage in various musical and mathematical learning opportunities. This book is a suitably orchestrated string of joyous commotion!

 

Finn and PussRobert Vescio (author), Melissa Mackie (illus.), EK Books, October 2017.

The beautifully simple storytelling format makes the premise of this book clear – good deeds end in reward. With Vescio’s minimal wording and Mackie’s pared back colour palette and unambiguous illustrations, Finn and Puss is a wonderfully accessible and universal concept of returning a lost pet that also brings with it a sense of emotive and moral qualities. Besides being animal lovers, my youngest daughter in particular found this book enticing for its principled storyline and fulfilling finale, as well as its well defined language and pre-reading capacity. Tender and heartwarming.

 

 

I Just Ate My FriendHeidi McKinnon (author, illus.), Allen & Unwin, July 2017.

I can’t count how many times we’ve read this book. The kids just never get enough. The concept of eating your friend is hilariously ridiculous, that’s what makes this one so loveable. Not to mention the expressions of the poor monster soul who inadvertently ate his friend and the attempts he makes to find a new one. Plus, with those animated illustrations and that brilliant twist at the end, the dark humour strips any inch of scariness to produce a fully delightful and vibrant read.

 

 

 

Merry Everything!Tania McCartney (author), Jess Racklyeft (illus.), Windy Hollow Books, October 2017.

We just adore this utterly joyous celebration wrapped with magic, love, community and togetherness. The scrumptious words and dazzlingly sweet illustrations will melt your heart with every page turn. Animal families around the world busily assemble, and then enjoy, the festivities with their loved ones; described and depicted with cheerful verbs and rhymes, humour and bursts of emotion. Merry Everything! has an unprecedented universal appeal packed with intimacy and happiness. Just perfect.

 

 

NoMax!, Shannon Horsfall (author, illus.), HarperCollins Publishers, May 2017.

We always, always love a good dog story, especially of the mischievous, raucous-inducing kind! NoMax! is a great read aloud story providing the capability to use voice and expression, and to reinforce rhyming language structures in such an energetic way. We could also appreciate the inferential contrasts between dog and human, making Max’s delinquent behaviour all the more entertaining. A timely story for us prior to committing to the joys of puppyhood, but oh, so much fun!

 

 

Once Upon a Small RhinocerosMeg McKinlay (author), Leila Rudge (illus.), Walker Books, September 2017.

In one word – superb! As a writer, it’s the story you wish you wrote. As a parent, it’s the story you hope your child will be inspired by. As a child, it’s the perfect combination of imagination, spirited resolve and adventure. This majestic little powerhouse of a character shows us all how self belief and courage to stand up for oneself, to reject the element of tedium, can lead to dreams being turned into reality. So fittingly, we just adore McKinlay’s dreamy language and Rudge’s equally dreamy mixed media illustrations. It definitely doesn’t feel monotonous reading this one over and over again.

 

 

Peas and QuietGabrielle Tozer (author), Sue DeGennaro (illus.), HarperCollins Publishers, June 2017.

Surprisingly, my four year old actually likes peas! But the clever metaphorical title and theme on differences between friends are equally enticing. The tri-coloured palette, that DeGennaro masters beautifully in many of her books, is just delightful and appropriately hued for the green-natured characters who, at times, induce a sense of ‘blue’. Tozer’s lolloping rhyme is the perfect accompaniment to the energy of the storyline; the eccentricities that the two peas in a pod challenge each other with daily, and finally learn to accommodate to in order for ‘peace’. Fun, charming and utterly endearing with a great message on accepting and negotiating differences.

 

Pig the StarAaron Blabey (author, illus.), Scholastic, January 2017.

Every year we include a Blabey book in our list because…how can you not?! Fifth in the Pig series, the audacious pug is back, this time posing as a star of the photo shoot. Living up to his infamous reputation, Pig steals the limelight from sausage dog, Trevor, at any cost, only to fall to his own demise. Including a hilarious medley of iconic characters that parents will enjoy as much as the kids, and of course Blabey’s dark humour in rollicking rhyming couplets and larger-than-life illustrations. Pig the Starsure has captured a prominent place on our book shelf and in our hearts.

 

Ponk!, Edwina Wyatt (author), Chris Nielsen (illus.), Hardie Grant Egmont, September 2017.

A little bird determined to see the world from the top of his tree, literally falls down time and time again. That is, until he gets by with a little help from his friends. I love the message of this story about persistence, broadening one’s horizons, and support and encouragement from those around you. For the kids, the quirky, retro-look illustrations and staunch bird character are absolutely endearing, not to mention the repeat of the whimsical phrase, Ponk! is hilarious and has now become our little nightly game into bed. Totally gorgeous and enlightening for preschool aged children, we adore Ponk! and his little eccentric characteristics.

 

The Catawumpus CatJason Carter Eaton (author), Gus Gordon (illus.), Penguin Books Australia, April 2017.

Clever, comical and crisp. The Catawumpus Cat makes our favourites list for its ingenuity and kookiness. Definitely an out-of-the-box tale of an askew-walking cat making a bold impression on the straight-talking townsfolk. Eaton‘s delectable dialogue paired with Gordon’s illuminating and imaginative illustrations just couldn’t be better. We pored over this book many a time and laughed out loud at the funny antics and charismatic pictures featured throughout. A great discussion tool for considering the world with fresh eyes, ears and gait!

 

 

The Chalk RainbowDeborah Kelly (author), Gwynneth Jones (illus.), EK Books, July 2017.

Whether it is their love of rainbows or the sweet, heartwarming tale, my daughters both loved reading The Chalk Rainbow over and over again. Literally, a beautiful book about a sister accommodating to her younger brother’s special needs by helping him avoid the darkness wherever they traveled. With or without a family member with similar circumstances, the love and protection between siblings is something that readers can relate to, and my girls certainly did. An important, engaging and gorgeously colourful book on many levels.

 

 

The Great Rabbit ChaseFreya Blackwood (author, illus.), Scholastic, September 2017.

This is a stunning release; penned by Freya Blackwood, with her naturally sublime illustrations that just melt your heart. The flow of her words in this beautiful mix of paces took us on an exciting adventure chasing the tail of the bunny escapee. Included is a glorious medley of interesting, and real, characters to meet and greet. I, especially, found relief in knowing I’m not the only mum to be caught off-guard in the middle of some much-needed alone time! Pure and sweet, playful, funny, and simply adorable, The Great Rabbit Chase has made a lasting impression on all of us.

 

The Scared BookDebra Tidball (author), Kim Siew (illus.), Hachette Lothian Children’s Books, August 2017.

Forever a favourite in our household, The Scared Book is perfect for active children eager to interact on a personal level. Its energetic, leading language and quirky, vibrant illustrations literally pull our attention towards physically helping the introspective ‘scared book’ character to overcome its fear of the monsters protruding from its spine and looming over its pages. Engaging giggles and teaching strategies for dealing with tough emotions like anxiety and fear all at the same time, this book is brilliant!

 

 

The Wolf, the Duck and the MouseMac Barnett (author), Jon Klassen (illus.), Walker Books UK, October 2017.

Here is some absolutely delicious literature-genius full of dark comedy, life-changing realisations and pure honest-to-goodness heart. Legends Barnett and Klassen totally satisfy with this fractured fairy tale/fable about a gobbled-up mouse and a bizarrely contented duck inside the belly of a ravenous wolf. Underlying meanings and concealed intentions are cleverly integrated into this hilarious and creative story. This book is set to become a fantastic contemporary classic. We think it’s exceptional!

 

 

There’s a Big Green Frog in the ToiletAnh Do (author), Heath McKenzie (illus.), Scholastic Australia, October 2017.

Yes, the book with the toilet humour had to ‘sneak’ in somewhere! We’ve seen bums and farts, now pee is ‘in’… or is it?! Singing along to our own tune (although this does come with its own bonus CD), my girls ‘cracked’ up every time each member of the bear family attempted to expel the big green frog from the toilet. Chanting loudly at the repetitive chorus provides a pleasurable language experience whilst the vibrant and exuberant illustrations had them busting with giggles. Good for a laugh, good for the musical element; There’s a Big Green Frog in the Toilet will be hard to dethrone from the favourites list.

Can’t wait to discover brand new books yet to be discovered, and even newer ones yet to be released! Happy New Year, everyone! Looking forward to all the amazing bookish things in 2018!

See original post here: http://www.justkidslit.com/top-17-of-17/

 

Dec 20, 2017

The Children’s Bookshop Speakers’ Agency

Excited to be working with the wonderful folks at The Children’s Bookshop Speakers’ Agency in 2018.

Repost thechildrensbookshop: The Children’s Bookshop Speakers’ Agency welcomes author Edwina Wyatt as a mentor and visiting author for schools and literary festivals. Email us at staff@thechildrensbookshop.com.au for booking details!

Edwina Wyatt is children’s author from the south coast of New South Wales. A trained lawyer and high school teacher, Edwina is currently enjoying a change of pace, pursuing her love of storytelling whilst looking after her two children.

Her debut book IN THE EVENING illustrated by Gaye Chapman was a CBCA Notable (Picture Book of the Year 2016) and included in the NSW Premier’s Reading Challenge. Her follow up title TOGETHER ALWAYS illustrated by Lucia Masciullo was also a CBCA Notable (Early Childhood Book of the Year 2017) and has been translated into several languages, travelling to the USA, Taiwan, Korea and China.

Edwina is looking forward to sharing further picture books scheduled over the next few years with Walker Books and Little Hare.

Edwina is passionate about helping people to unlock their creative potential and has a particular interest in exploring the power of picture books in creating new ways of thinking and feeling and their role in developing visual literacy. A dynamic presenter, Edwina provides innovative and engaging workshops that can be tailored for primary and secondary schools on any aspect of narrative craft. She is also available to present adult workshops for aspiring and emerging writers for younger readers.

 

Nov 26, 2017

Bookshop heaven?

Dropped in to one of my favourite bookshops today: The Children’s Bookshop Beecroft.

Here I am with Paul Macdonald. Beth and Paul are tireless advocates for authors, illustrators and everyone involved in the kids’ lit industry.

I went in there to buy Christmas presents…but there was a slight change of plan.

Happy Christmas to…me. Oops.