Welcome to the world little book! Out now in Australia with Walker Books, with release to follow shortly in the USA and the UK.
This project has been such a sweet treat to work on.
Check out this trailer for a taste:
May 02, 2020
Welcome to the world little book! Out now in Australia with Walker Books, with release to follow shortly in the USA and the UK.
This project has been such a sweet treat to work on.
Check out this trailer for a taste:
Apr 06, 2020
Mar 31, 2020
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!
Feb 18, 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.
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+.
Nov 15, 2019
Jul 12, 2019
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 …
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.
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).
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.
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.
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
Jun 08, 2018
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.
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.
Jun 06, 2018
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
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:
The story continues about the idyllic lives of Pig and Goat—they’re the best of friends:
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.
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.