Mar 16, 2022

PODCAST: ONE MORE PAGE

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15/03/2022, 23:11 Episode 67 – The Magic of Childhood – One More Page Podcast

Liz interviews Edwina Wyatt

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Edwina Wyatt is an Australian children’s author. She grew up in Sydney and worked as a lawyer and a high school teacher before becoming a writer of books for young readers.

Her debut junior fiction novel The Secrets of Magnolia Moon (Walker Books) was awarded the CBCA Honour Book of the Year for Younger Readers, and shortlisted for the Readings’ Children’s Book Prize. She has received three CBCA Notables for her picture books.

Edwina lives in country Victoria with her husband, two children, and too many animals. She divides her time between writing and working in youth mental health.

LISTEN TO PODCAST HERE

Jan 02, 2022

PAPERBARK WORDS: THE MAGIC OF MAGNOLIA MOON

Posted by Joy Lawn:

Edwina Wyatt writes as beautifully and with as much care for PaperbarkWords about her new children’s novel, The Magic of Magnolia Moon, as she does in her books. The Magnolia Moon trilogy (Walker Books Australia) is shaping up to be an exquisite and important body of work for children.

Edwina Wyatt writes about The Magic of Magnolia Moon:

The Magic of Magnolia Moon is the second instalment in the Magnolia Moon Trilogy Following on from The Secrets of Magnolia Moon (CBCA Honour Book 2020), Magnolia is now ten years old, living in Crocus Cottage with her family in the town of Thistledown. She is re-joined by the same cast of friends including her oldest friend, the moon, who whispers to her every night. However, there are some new additions: a red robin, Hetty, who makes a home in Magnolia’s feather-filled hair. And a ticking, tutting grandfather clock that nags her for being late to add to the fuss made by her creaking, groaning staircase.

As a way to navigate the world around her, Magnolia uses everyday magic to make sense and meaning out of life’s challenges. For Magnolia, magic is everywhere. Not the ordinary sorts of magic, but the quiet, rarer kinds that are easily missed. Like Dog Magic: when the dog outside the fruit shop looks you right in the eye. Or Potato Magic, when you eat a hot buttery potato after a very bad day, and all your problems melt away. Magnolia is enchanted by the most ordinary things. Like puddles and ponds. Hats and umbrellas. Pots of paint and bowls of soup. She finds magic in bubbles, peach pies, wild herbs and the ink from a pen. And by hanging upside down in the Wishing Tree on sticky purple evenings when the frogs are all full of song.

But some people do not understand Magnolia’s way of thinking, they do not listen and miss the magic that is right before their eyes. Sometimes Magnolia’s magic works in surprising, unintended ways, but sometimes she makes mistakes and it does not work at all. Like when the most magical boy that she knows loses his smile and his secret powers through his grief over his parents’ divorce. And when her best friend, Imogen May, gets a new best friend. Or when the bully at school says that magic is not real and is just for babies. Magnolia is forced to question whether she really believes in magic, or whether she, too, should give up on it. Ultimately, Magnolia discovers that Real Magic is the stuff you cannot see; “Like true love and kindness. Forgiveness, bravery and second chances.”

Continuing on with the episodic structure set up in the first book, each chapter is a little vignette and presents a new type of magic all within a gently overarching narrative with two subplots. Perfect for newly independent readers aged 7+ ready for a chapter book, or as a read-aloud for younger children.The book addresses themes of family, belonging, change, identity and friendship. As with The Secrets, I wanted Magnolia to have a new favourite book which informed her inner life and some of the themes. So just as she was captivated by the drama and high stakes of the Greek myths in the first book, in The Magic, Magnolia is inspired by her book of fairytales and she tries to make real-life connections with the stories she reads.

The Magic of Magnolia Moon by Edwina Wyatt, illustrated Katherine Quinn (Walker Books Australia)

My favourite illustration by the wonderful Katherine Quinn is perhaps where we see Magnolia feeling as though she is lost in the woods with the Big Bad Wolf when she is being taunted by the school bully. I also love the illustrations from the midnight feast that goes wrong in the chapter Midnight Magic.

The Magic of Magnolia Moon by Edwina Wyatt, illustrated Katherine Quinn (Walker Books Australia)

Whilst the books are not autobiographical, each book addresses some pressing question that is of interest to me at the time. For example, when I was writing The Secrets I was interested in change and what it meant, as I was experiencing a lot of change. In The Magic, I wanted to know if it was really possible to have a magical, enchanted life full of beauty and surprise in a world full of so much suffering, pain and instability. And in the third which is set to arrive in October 2022, I was interested in fear, anxiety and bravery. Also, in money and the true meaning of wealth and happiness. Magnolia asks the question, “Who am I?” when the world around her is telling her stories of who she is that do not ring true. Whilst these can all be read separately as stand-alone books, I look forward to them being able to be enjoyed as a collection.

Edwina Wyatt

The challenge for me with these books has been striking the balance between light and shade. Trying to keep it very dreamy, naïve and simple, without being simplistic. I wanted the books to cover big and complex themes but provide the reader with enough space to wade as shallow or deeply as they choose. I wanted to keep the language clear and unpretentious but also let myself play with words and not shy away from using odd metaphors and abstract ideas like the way time is represented. In other words, I didn’t want to be whimsical at the expense of truth. But did not want to let truth get in the way of beauty and innocence.

It has been so wonderful revisiting Magnolia’s world. It has certainly helped me to find a little magic – to stay open and curious to all possibilities. Even if it means looking twice or checking in the dark places under the table when it seems to be hiding.

LINK TO ARTICLE:

The Magic of Magnolia Moon by Edwina Wyatt

Apr 07, 2021

WELCOME TISH!

 

TISH has arrived! Thrilled to be able to welcome this new junior fiction novel into the world.

 

 

MEET TISH

This is the exquisite tale of an imaginary friend, desperate to be loved and the children whose beliefs make him real – at least for now.

CBCA Honour Award-winning author Edwina Wyatt has created a heart-warming story of friendship, longing and courage. Once you know Tish, you won’t ever forget him.

REVIEWS:

“Edwina Wyatt is one of my favourite authors…Tish is a gorgeous story about imaginary friends with a bitter sweet feeling to it. That universal story of needing to be loved and have friends, and finding new friends, and saying goodbye to old friends. It’s absolutely beautiful, gentle and heart-warming and highly, highly recommended reading. Beautiful read aloud for 7 – 10 year olds.”

– Megan Daley (Episode 7, Your Kid’s Next Read Podcast)

“Highly recommended. A delightful, bitter-sweet story about the qualities of friendship, of searching, finding, saying goodbye and hello and learning to know oneself. 

Stories like Tish are important for children as they talk of the universal need to be loved, the process of trying to adapt, trying to please and the development of confidence in what is important to oneself in a friend. Tish represents unrequited friendship, gentleness, hurt and goodness. A beautiful tale!”– ReadPlus

“Edwina Wyatt writes with such a dazzling sense of wonder. I simply adore her descriptive language. The opening sentence drew me into the world of Charles Dimple and Tish and then I was hooked. This story is full of heart, imaginary friends, friendship and loyalty…A wonderful book to read aloud to a class or together at bed time.”– A Librarian Who Wonders

“A loveable middle-grade fiction about an imaginary friend who is looking to fit in and find his place in the world. A comforting book about friendship, loneliness, freedom and fitting in, especially in our formative years.”– Better Read Than Dead

“The perfect cosy bedtime story. Grab a blanket and your little one and enjoy this heartwarming book.” – The Chestnut Tree Bookshop.

“An imaginative, well-written story, this book will appeal to kids who might feel they are misunderstood or being sidelined by their friends’ behaviour. Tish could provide a comfort to them, especially those in the 7–12 age bracket.” – Bookseller + Publisher

Key Selling Points

*A jaw-droppingly gorgeous read about having the power to imagine*For fans of Katherine Applegate and Kate DiCamillo

*Written by the CBCA Honour winning author of The Secrets of Magnolia Moon and illustrated by debut French illustrator Aurélie Barbedette​

*Tish is the story of a lovable imaginary friend who is looking for his place in the world and finds it through his companionship with three different children who need him. It’s a story of friendship, goodbyes and longing, and a tale of having the confidence to believe

*Stunningly illustrated hardback edition making it the perfect gift

*Junior Fiction novel for ages 7-12

 

 

Oct 30, 2020

KIDS’ Q&A WITH EDWINA WYATT

 

 

Kids take over! It was such a pleasure to talk all things writing and MAGNOLIA MOON with students in Year 3 and 4.

Who are your favourite children’s authors?

Oh, this is tough…there are so many. But as a start:

 

Norman Lindsay (The Magic Pudding)

Arnold Lobel (Frog and Toad)

A.A. Milne (Winnie the Pooh)

E.B. White (Charlotte’s Web)

J.M Barrie (Peter Pan)

David Almond (Skellig)

Kate Di Camillo (The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tullane)

Katherine Applegate (Crenshaw)

 

What did you do for a living before you started writing novels?

So far, I have worked: at a fruit shop; washing dishes at a nursing home, as an assistant nurse; as a waitress; as a phlebotomist in pathology – otherwise known as “a blood collecter” (ew!) where I not only gave people needles, I also had to clip their toenails (double-ew!) Most recently, I have worked as a high school teacher, and a lawyer (for people and animals!)

But mostly, I just love to write stories, play with my chickens, and drink banana smoothies.

 

What did you do to become a writer? How did you start?

To be a writer, you need to do three very simple things. They might seem obvious, but some people don’t think to do them: you need to read. You need to write. You need to stay curious.

Funnily enough, lots of people say that they dream of becoming a writer. But they don’t actually write. They don’t think they have time. They don’t think they have the skills. They are afraid of it being terrible.

But writing is like anything else – you just need to practise. You can learn how to do it. So I started by being curious. I rewrote a picture book that I liked at the kitchen table. To see how it looked without the pictures. To see how long it was. To see how it all hung together. Then I tried to write one myself.

 

Did someone inspire you to be an author?

I would say in the beginning, that my creative spirit – the thing that all humans have – was so bruised and battered from not being used, that it just fought its way to be heard. I had stopped being creative. But later, when I was already an author of picture books, I was very inspired by my editor, Nancy, who suggested that I might try to write novels.

 

What are your favourite things about being an author?

Meeting people like you! Having a sense of belonging – I feel like I have found my tribe. Also having a place to go whenever I want – my very own world to escape into.

 

How many books have you written?

About 10, I think.

 

How long have you been writing for?

For 10 years.

 

How do you get your ideas?

Ideas are everywhere, but I would say from words. Most of my books have just come from one word. Sometimes Cake is an example of this. I keep lists of words that I like, and on one very ordinary day, I couldn’t think of anything to write and was feeling a bit sorry for myself. So, I opened up my book of words, I found the word ‘confetti’. I wrote it down as a title, without even having a story. And it attracted other words. Words like: balloon, hat, cake, celebrations, purple and orange. All of which are words that appear in the book. But interestingly, the word ‘confetti’ is not there, rather it features in the illustrations. And it is a book all about celebrating ordinary days, written on an especially ordinary day.

So, you don’t need to wait for inspiration to strike. You don’t need to be feeling creative and excited. You just need to make a start and play, even if it is just starting with one word.

There is an expression that there are no wasted words: that every word you write leads you closer to the writer that you want to be.

 

Is THE SECRETS OF MAGNOLIA MOON the best book you have ever written?

I want my writing to improve and get better with each book I write, so I usually feel that the best book I have written, is the most recent one that I am working on.

So, I don’t know about the best – but it is certainly the book that I am most proud of. Because I had to work my hardest to bring it to life. It also feels the truest to my natural writing voice – I was not trying to make it sound like another author that I like. And in some ways, it is the best, because without it – I wouldn’t have written the books that I have written since.

 

What inspired you to write your first junior fiction book?

That wonderful editor, Nancy, who suggested that I try something different and take a chance. At first I was very afraid; picture books were what I knew, what I had spent years learning about. But I am so glad that I took a chance.

 

What made you want to write this book with such a strange girl as the main character?

I think that people are strange. That feelings are strange. That we are all strange in the very best way. And that life can feel strange sometimes. The gift of fiction, is that we get to see inside a character’s head and heart.  So, for the book to feel true, and for the reader to feel like they were really getting to see inside Magnolia’s mind,  then things needed to get a little strange! And I hope that my characters just get stranger and stranger.

 

Is the book about someone you know?

No. But I wish I knew Magnolia Moon!

 

Do you know someone named Magnolia Moon?

No. But I wish that was my name!

 

 Why did you choose to have a character with such a big imagination?

Can I tell you a secret? Your imagination is the most precious thing that you own. It helps us to understand how someone else might be feeling – so it makes us kinder and more accepting and therefore happier. It helps us to feel hopeful. It helps us understand things.

So, I wanted to write a character that really uses and appreciates her imagination.

 

How did you think of the name Magnolia Moon? And other names in the book?

I started by looking up names beginning with M and went from there. Matlida….Maudie….Miriam…. But then I found Magnolia. Perfect. Magnolia flowers represent love for nature, beauty, perseverance, longevity, nobility and feminine sweetness. Magnolias also remind me of my family and favourite gardens. One of my very first paintings at school was of a magnolia – my mum still has it framed on her wall. The surname of ‘Moon’ was also a deliberate choice (and was why I was looking for names beginning with ‘M’ in the first place for some lovely alliteration) since I wanted my main character to have lunar, ‘moonish’ qualities. I had a lot of fun playing with those comparative passages in the book – they were some of my favourite passages to write.

When auditioning character names for the secondary characters, much of it came down to how it sounded when read aloud. I spent a lot of time reading the book out loud to my dog, to make sure the rhythm was right. For example, I had to add the “May” onto “Imogen”, as the name alone didn’t have enough syllables to sound right when said in combination with Magnolia.

“Magnolia Moon and Imogen May” just sounded so much better than: “Magnolia Moon and Imogen.” Bonkers! I know.

 

Why does Magnolia lie a lot in the story?

Well, everybody lies sometimes, do they not? But the important thing is that Magnolia tells the truth in the end. It seems like she lies a lot, but all of those lies started with just one teensy lie about her name. And lies have a way of snowballing. Because to keep it going, and cover your tracks, you have to tell more lies until they get out of control. There is an old expression: the truth will set you free. And in Magnolia’s case, it really does, because it’s only when she tells the truth that she can fly with Reuben.

 

Where did you get the idea of Magnolia talking to the moon and stairs?

I have a bit of an obsession with the moon. It is so magical. I also didn’t want Magnolia to feel alone and burdened with all her secrets. By sharing her feelings and problems with something so big, it allows her to step back and get some perspective. In this sense, the moon plays an important role as the ultimate secret keeper – keeping the secrets of the universe and representing the things beyond Magnolia’s control.

And I got the idea for the talking stairs because of the creaking floorboards in our old house. When I had my first baby, he was a very bad sleeper. And I would spend what seemed like hours walking him up the hallway. And as soon as he would drop off to sleep, and I put him in his cot, the floorboards would squeak and creak and wake him up! And they only ever seemed to do it, when I didn’t want them to – when I was trying to be quiet. So I spent a lot of time getting cross with them, and telling them to “shush!”. So I think there is a bit of that in there.

 

Does Magnolia think about talking to the stairs? Or does she actually talk to the stairs?

What do you think? I will leave that one up to your imagination. But I will say, that in Book 2: The Magic of Magnolia Moon –out next October, there is a talking Grandfather clock, that is always nagging her and telling her off for being late.

 

Why does Magnolia like the moon and Greek Myths?

These parts were such fun to write. The Greek myths arm Magnolia with the language and mental machinery to understand some of the situations she finds herself in. Viewing the world this way gives her courage and bravery, transforms the mundane into something magical and allows her travel in style when she would rather fly on a winged-horse than walk home from school. The drama and high-stakes of Greek myths also helped display the brevity of Magnolia’s feelings. As whilst she is experiencing small, ordinary moments, to her they seem like great triumphs or tragedies as she feels things on such a grand scale.

 

Why do the stairs creak when she is sneaking around?

Because they are trying to give her away and get her into trouble. Because they are sick of being walked on.

 

Why did you use the line:

“That’s a lifetime if you’re a cake in an oven”?

I wanted to play with time in this book. There is a line in the story that says that time is tricky, because it can feel long and short all at once. There are a couple of ways you can interpret this – both are equally silly. The first is to say, well, a cake only lives for an hour – because in an hour, it can be made, baked and eaten (if you like cake as much as my family does). Or it could mean, that when you are waiting for a cake to bake, and you are hungry, and hour feels like a lifetime. I did all sorts of experiments at home to see how long things took, and learned all sorts of facts about mayflies (that only live for a day) and giant jellyfish!

 

Will Magnolia fly again?

I think she will. What do you think? And best of all, in Book 2, she helps somebody else to find their wings and fly through their secret sky.

 

Are Magnolia Moon and Imogen May friends because they argue over fruit?

Sometimes, Magnolia and Imogen May use their fruit game to talk about the things that are worrying them – speak the things on their mind without ever saying them. So, I think that whilst they both enjoying playing the same games, and they have a lot in common, they are really friends because they share their true feelings with each other and trust the other person with their fears and thoughts. In this sense, the fruit is a metaphor. Like when Imogen May is moving house, and she wishes she could be a grapefruit, because they are too sour – nobody wants a grapefruit – so she could stay in the fruit bowl forever and ever.

 

What did Magnolia tell her little brother?

I think she said, that they are going to have lots of fun together. And that she loves him.

 

Why did Magnolia like looking for the ghost?

One of my favourite FROG & TOAD stories is ‘The Shivers’ byArnold Lobel. In that story, they feel ‘the shivers’ and delight in being scared. “It was a good, warm feeling.” So, I wanted you to get the shivers; for the chapter to feel deliciously spooky, but also fun and safe because it all turns out ok in the end. I always wanted the reader to see Magnolia being brave, because then it has more impact when she helps Ernest to be brave.

 

When did you write this book?

In 2018. Lots of it I wrote on the floor, surrounded by kids playing.

Did you hand write the book or type it?

A mix of both! I write it on a keyboard, print it out, then add handwritten notes which I then type back in.

 

Of all the books you’ve written, who is your favourite character that you have created?

I do adore Magnolia. In that I have a lot of fun writing about her. But I have just finished a novel which is coming out next April about a character called Tish. And I am especially fond of him.

 

Were you naughty when you were younger?

What do you reckon? Of course! Nah… I truly don’t think there is any such thing as a naughty kid. Just kids that make good and bad choices. And I certainly made a lot of bad choices… And just like Magnolia, I loved sneaking into rooms – crawling on my hands and knees, to overhear important conversations.

 

Did you ever go through similar problems to Magnolia when you were her age?

Magnolia’s life is changing: her family is growing, there is an angel at school, and her best friend is moving away. On top of that, people are sharing their secrets with her: problems or challenges they are facing. Magnolia has to come up with a way to help others solve their problems whilst maintaining their trust, all the while having her own secrets and big feelings to deal with. And whilst those things haven’t all happened to me – I have felt every emotion that Magnolia has felt, even if it is indirectly or vicariously. So, there is an emotional truth to the book, even though the stories are made up. There is a lovely expression that writing fiction is a radical act of empathy, and that resonates with me.

 

What advice would you give other writers who want to be published authors?

Focus on the parts that you can control. That’s the story, the work, your effort. Don’t worry about the things that you can’t control. That’s what people might think about it. Whether it’s any good. Whether it will ultimately be a published book.

Where attention goes, energy flows. So don’t worry about things that you can’t control.

Just stay curious. About the world. About yourself.

Practise empathy – think about how it might feel to be in the situations that others find themselves in. And give yourself permission to write. A writer is someone who writes. Simple. You don’t need anything else but yourself, to become a writer.

 

When you were a kid did you guess what the letter of the day was?

No, but I wish I had! I think that game is in there, because I wanted to put some food into the book. I love reading about food in stories, and so I invented this game as a way of getting some food in there! My favourite ‘foodie’ moments in literature, is the picnic scene on the riverbank in THE WIND AND THE WILLOWS between Rat and Mole. And, also, in THE MAGIC PUDDING by Norman Lindsay.

 

What’s the scariest thing you’ve ever done?

Have you ever seen a chicken that’s scared? It drops to the ground. That’s what I do when I am scared. And my kids and husband know this and think it is very funny. So, they have formed a gang called the MTC: The Mummy Tricking Club. And it’s their mission to jump out of cupboards, or sneak up behind me and watch me drop to the ground. It happens ALL the time, and I never get used to it.

Oct 16, 2020

MAGNOLIA MOON AWARDED CBCA HONOUR BOOK OF THE YEAR

So.

This year I:
Turned 34;
Moved states;
Got a cat;
Lost a best friend – my horse, Axel;
Became a yoga addict (despite being a long-time yoga nay-sayer/eye-roller);
Wrote a novel;
Watched The Biggest Little Farm doco TWICE? (Have you seen this? On Stan. That Pig!);
Started composting;
Watched my country burn;
Watched my country fight over toilet paper;
Discovered that I DO like frozen peas and corn (it’s just those wretched little cubed carrots that I take exception to);
And was awarded an Honour by The Children’s Book Council of Australia. Wow. Gosh.

But the biggest thing that happened?
My son learned how to read.
I busted him one night, after lights out, reading a book that I wrote. Reading Magnolia Moon. Wow. Gosh.

Literacy is freedom, so they say. And this year, where we have all faced unprecedented uncertainty, and I have doubted my ability to navigate parenthood – because this is scary! Because I don’t have the answers! Because bad things do happen! But it’s all so darn wonderful! – I have been armed with books.
“Read this!” I can now say to him when asked to explain the inexplicable.

A door, a window, has been opened for my son. And it’s because of this community. Because of readers and writers and illustrators and publishers and editors and booksellers and book designers and the whole darn lot of you.

This year, whenever I have been scared, sad, lost, angry, happy, tired, lonely, bored, confused, and overwhelmed, I have picked up a book and returned home.

So.

Thank you to the CBCA for this huge honour, and congratulations to our Australian creators, on and off the list.  Let’s keep this life-long party going!

WATCH AWARDS CEREMONY HERE

#CBCA2020 @cbcaustralia

 

Jul 23, 2020

PAPERBARK WORDS: INTERVIEW WITH EDWINA WYATT

Inside the CBCA Shortlist with Joy Lawn

The Secrets of Magnolia Moon by Edwina Wyatt, illustrated by Katherine Quinn (Walker Books Australia) is shortlisted for the Children’s Book Council of Australia in the Book of the Year: Younger Readers category.

The Secrets of Magnolia Moon is an appealing story about Magnolia Moon told in lyrical, engaging writing.

Congratulations on your CBCA shortlisting, Edwina, and thank you for speaking to PaperbarkWords.

Where are you based and what is your background in children’s books?

It’s such a pleasure. Thank you for having me!

I am based in the Victorian high country. I am the author of six picture books, the first of which was published in 2015. The Secrets of Magnolia Moon is my first chapter book and now I am hooked!

Your character of Magnolia Moon is thoughtful and endearing. Could you please introduce her to us?

Oh, I am so pleased! That’s lovely to hear – thank you.

Magnolia Moon is nine years old and lives in the town of Thistledown. She has a curmudgeonly talking staircase, a best friend called Imogen May, a head full of twigs and feathers, and a special understanding with the moon. Magnolia is a romantic and curious child with a fascination in Greek mythology, a huge imagination and a love of nature. Her quirky way of looking at the world is uniquely hers and helps her find magic and inspiration in everything she does. Above all else, she is a deep thinker, a compassionate friend and a good listener – the kind of person who can be entrusted with a great many secrets.

What are some of the experiences that she is facing?

Magnolia’s life is changing: her family is growing, there is an angel at school, and her best friend is moving away. On top of that, people are sharing their secrets with her: problems or challenges they are facing. Magnolia has to come up with a way to help others solve their problems whilst maintaining their trust, all the while having her own secrets and big feelings to deal with. Some are funny secrets, some are silly and some more serious. But all are highly relatable for any child. Through helping other people, Magnolia has to develop her own values, question her assumptions and try to make sense of the world.

Why have you used an episodic structure?

While the book spans a year in Magnolia’s life giving the story continuity, each chapter is a separate entity, so it is perfect for that bedtime read when just a chapter is enough. This structure is also ideal for newly independent readers who are building their confidence and skills.

Using this episodic structure allowed me to drill down into the small micro-details of life. I also enjoyed the mental challenge of having to write ten tight little stories, all with a separate problem to be solved, that added up to one bigger story. Working this way also made the task feel more manageable, as I just told myself I had to make one neat little quilt square at a time and then could stitch it all together and make something substantial. I think it’s also a product of my picture book sensibility, where everything needs to be so tight and economical. It helped me keep control of the narrative and stopped it from going saggy in the middle!

Could you tell us a little about her friends and family?

There is quite a large cast of characters in the book, including:

Imogen May, Magnolia’s best friend, (who understands the importance of questions like, “If you could be a fruit, any fruit, what would you be?”, wishing trees, and talking crows); Mama Moon and Daddy Moon, Magnolia’s messy, musical parents; Grandma Moon, Magnolia’s eccentric, irreverent, insect-loving grandmother who lives with a menagerie of animals; Reuben, the angel-boy; Atlas, the family cat; Casper Sloan, the shy, reticent and slightly cynical new boy in town who has a porridge-eating basset hound called Bonnie, and always packs an ‘alphabet lunch’ in paper bag; and, of course, the magical moon.

What is the significance of some of your characters’ names?

 

Magnolia blossoms photo by izik (Creative Commons)

 

Magnolia flowers represent love for nature, beauty, perseverance, longevity, nobility and feminine sweetness. Magnolias also remind me of my family and favourite gardens. One of my earliest paintings at school was of a magnolia – my mum still has it framed on her wall.

 

‘Magnolia’ by Edwina Wyatt, age 12 (1998)

The surname of ‘Moon’ was also a deliberate choice, since I wanted my main character to have lunar, ‘moonish’ qualities. I had a lot of fun playing with those comparative passages in the book – they were some of my favourite passages to write.

When auditioning character names, much of it came down to how it sounded when read aloud. I spent a lot of time reading the book out loud to my dog, to make sure the rhythm was right. For example, I had to add the “May” onto “Imogen”, as the name alone didn’t have enough syllables to sound right when said in combination with Magnolia.

“Magnolia Moon and Imogen May” just sounded so much better than: “Magnolia Moon and Imogen.” Bonkers! I know.

You have used moon symbolism beautifully. Why have you featured the moon?

That’s so kind– thank you. I have a bit of an obsession with the moon. It’s a powerful symbol in art and literature and has such magical and divine feminine energy. And when personified, it offers some wonderful character traits to play with, since it is so magnetic, mysterious, cyclical and omnipresent.

I also didn’t want Magnolia to feel alone and burdened with all her secrets. By sharing her feelings and problems with something so big, it allows her to step back and get some perspective. In this sense, the moon plays a pivotal role as the ultimate secret keeper – keeping the secrets of the universe and representing the things beyond Magnolia’s control:

“The moon whispered back. It told her all sorts of things. About the oceans it moves, the stars that pass by. About what it’s like to be old and full of holes. To live so far away. But there were some things it would not tell Magnolia: secrets it wanted to keep. Such as what she was getting for her birthday. And why her brother Finnegan crawls backwards and not forwards. And why it was taking so long to grow up. It wasn’t easy being almost ten. And no matter how she prodded and poked for it to tell her, the moon only winked.” (page 151)

What is the significance of Greek myths to Magnolia?

These parts were such fun to write. The Greek myths arm Magnolia with the language and mental machinery to understand some of the situations she finds herself in. Viewing the world this way gives her courage and bravery, transforms the mundane into something magical and allows her travel in style when she would rather fly on a winged-horse than walk home from school.

The drama and high-stakes of Greek myths also helped display the brevity of Magnolia’s feelings. As whilst she is experiencing small, ordinary moments, to her they seem like great triumphs or tragedies as she feels things on such a grand scale.

What is your favourite flower?

This is such a tough question as I adore so many flowers. A gift from my mother, which she inherited from her own mother. Wisteria holds a special place for me and I managed to sneak a vine or two into the book. And I love magnolias of course! The white grandifloras are beautiful, but it is the more common pink and purple magnolias with the fuzzy little green slipper buds that I love the most (Magnolia Soulangeana).

As I write this, I currently have a vase on the kitchen table full of two favourites including stock (the most amazing perfume) and jonquils. I also adore lilac, sweet peas and hydrangeas. I have just finished planting out my spring bulbs and have been guarding them against attack from the chickens!

(I have shamelessly cheated on this question…sorry!)

(I love all these flowers as well, Edwina, so am glad you added more.)

How have you incorporated hope into the story?

I wanted this book to feel like a big old hug – a veritable hot mug of hope. Yet I never want to be didactic or pretend that I have any answers – because I don’t. The moon is used as a symbol of hope throughout the book and so is Magnolia’s ‘little red kite’ that dives and swoops in her heart. Magnolia also has to figure out whether she believes there is any point to having hope when she is faced with Casper Sloan’s rather resigned outlook. But Magnolia is convinced that we must always hope and says:

“That the seeds of hope can live in the darkest places – in the deepest holes and cracks of a broken heart. Fed by tears. Fuelled by courage. Wending their way towards the light until they bloomed inside. Growing into something new and unexpected.” (page 33)

Which of Katherine Quinn’s lovely illustrations is your favourite, and why?

I adore all of the illustrations – Katherine Quinn has done such an exquisite job. I am particularly fond of this image, though: Magnolia and Mama Moon dancing the Heel and Toe Polka on page 55, since it captures Magnolia’s spirit so well (and I love Katherine’s sneaky inclusion of snow drops in there which has significance in the story).

Heel and Toe Polka from The Secrets of Magnolia Moon Illustration by Katherine Quinn

What impact has being shortlisted for the CBCA Book of the Year: Younger Reader award this year had on you or this book?

It’s such a huge honour and a privilege, and also a great help. These awards help creators and publishers share what has been a labour of love, keeps the book alive for longer and helps put the book into children’s hands. The book has also been shortlisted for Readings’ Children’s Book Prize 2020, which is just so lovely and it means a great deal to me to have industry support.

It’s very encouraging, as it’s not a hysterical, fast-paced read full of action and dramatic tension, but rather a gently humorous and tender portrayal of friendship and family with just a touch of fantasy, that zooms in on the small moments in everyday life.  In this way I feel that it offers something unique for a different sort of child, a more reflective, and overlooked sort of reader who might be in want of a different sort of hero.

Also, very pleased that it has happened at this stage of my career, several years in when I understand the value of it, and have really had to work hard to establish my voice and learn how to deal with rejection and criticism. I realise how hard it is to get a book to break through, but by the same token, how important it is not to be too distracted by opinion. I now know how to keep my eyes on what’s important, how to stay in my own lane and focus on my job, which is to keep creating, and working as hard as I can to create the very best worlds that I can for kids to escape into. So that they can always find a friend, an adventure and a safe, magical place on the page.

Could you tell us about some of your other books?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have a picture book just out recently (May 2020) called Sometimes Cake illustrated by Tamsin Ainslie. That’s a gorgeous little project and I can’t wait to introduce the two characters in this story: Audrey and Lion. It’s a story about finding joy in the smallest things and discovering that, even on the most ordinary of days, there is always a reason to have cake. It’s out now in Australia and the UK, published by Walker Books and to be released in the USA in March 2021 (Candlewick Press).

Some of my earlier work includes picture books Together Always illustrated by Lucia Masciullo (CBCA NOTABLE 2017, Early Childhood Book of the Year) and In the Evening illustrated by Gaye Chapman (CBCA NOTABLE 2016, Picture Book of the Year) published by Little Hare Books.

 

What are you writing or working on now?

I am very excited to say that Book 2: THE MAGIC OF MAGNOLIA MOON will be out late next year with the wonderful Walker Books. It is currently being illustrated and I cannot wait to see this project come together. I am busy editing this and polishing it up.

I have also just finished a new stand-alone middle grade novel which will be out early next year at this stage. More on that soon!

What have you been reading that you would like to recommend?

In terms of recent children’s fiction that I have read and adored, I highly recommend Beyond the Laughing Sky and The Care and Feeding of a Pet Black Hole by Michelle Cuevas.I also loved the “My Happy Life” books by Rose Lagercrantz, The Girl, the Cat and the Navigator by Matilda Woods and The Secret Library of Hummingbird House by Julianne Negri.

How can your readers contact you?

Do drop by and say hello via Instagram or send me an email via the contact page on my website: https://edwinawyatt.com.au

The Secrets of Magnolia Moon is a beautiful hard cover gift book and a lovely work to share with young children. Magnolia is a well-rounded character whose imaginative nature is perfectly balanced with surprises and intrepidness.

Thank you for your wonderful responses, Edwina, and all the best with this novel and its sequel as well as your other books, Edwina.

 

Mar 31, 2020

MAGNOLIA MOON: CBCA SHORTLISTED BOOK

Very lovely to hear that THE SECRETS OF MAGNOLIA MOON has been shortlisted for the CBCA  Younger Readers’ Book of the Year. Warmest thanks to the Children’s Book Council of Australia and Walker Books for this huge honour. And congratulations to all the amazing creators on and off the list, and the teams of passionate people who work so hard to bring our book babies into the world!

xx,

Edwina

Feb 18, 2020

THE READINGS CHILDREN’S BOOK PRIZE SHORTLIST

The Readings Children’s Book Prize shortlist 2020

We’re very excited to reveal this year’s shortlist for the Readings Children’s Book Prize. This prize celebrates exciting new voices in Australian children’s literature for readers aged 5 to 12.

The six shortlisted books are:

This year’s shortlist reflects the rich array of children’s publishing in Australia: there is a book for every child here. Beginner readers will delight in a highly appealing and hilarious graphic novel; more advanced readers will be captivated by a gripping, action-packed tale touching on climate crisis, and a moving novel that incorporates comics in its exploration of grief and immigration. Families will discover some great read-alouds: Indigenous fables, a timeless adventure, a single transformative year for a nine-year-old. Each book on this shortlist is of the highest quality and digs into themes relevant to young people; we predict these books will be adored by readers.

You can read the judges’ comments for each shortlisted title below.

The Secrets of Magnolia Moon by Edwina Wyatt & illustrated by Katherine Quinn

Join Magnolia Moon for a year of her life. In each self-contained chapter of this book, she shares new experiences in her world, including farewelling a best friend and becoming a big sister. There are surprises and changes, upsets and joys. There are goodbyes, hellos, and everything in between. But Magnolia always manages to get along in unexpected and clever ways.

The Secrets of Magnolia Moon is for the whimsical child in your life. A curious and irrepressible nine-year-old, Magnolia is fascinated by mythology and approaches the world with a sense of wonder that’s infectious. The challenges she encounters throughout a single year will be deeply relatable to children, and Edwina Wyatt’s serious and generous depiction of them will be appreciated. Rich storytelling and lovely illustrations from New Zealand-based illustrator Katherine Quinn make this a sweet and charming read-aloud to share together.

For ages 6+ as a family read-aloud, or for independent readers aged 7+.