Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Brave Admissions

I haven’t been brave enough before to list publicly, ‘books I have been reading lately’ for fear that I will show my true nature. Then I thought…'what IS my true nature?’ and what do I like in a book? Do I read them to impress others or because I think I should or because I chanced upon one or had it recommended to me? Do I take notice of reviews both good and bad and find in the reading that my own opinion is what counts. Does it appeal? Does it have me riveted? Does it make me laugh, cry or think a bit about the world and where I sit within it? Do I press it on other people saying ‘You MUST read this!’

So in that spirit (the one that asserts itself above any pretensions I might have to anything) what I have really enjoyed lately are these three. This is how I stumbled upon them and why I didn’t turn to the last page after the first chapter to see if it was still worth reading…

The Ten PM Question- Kate De Goldi.

Heard reviews, saw it was still on the top ten best seller list and wholly admire Kate for her astounding knowledge and contribution to Children’s’ Literature. Loved the quirky characters, detail and writing style (also the cover by the exceptional Sarah Maxey) Left me with a smile and a genuine fondness for Frankie and his family. I cared about them. Wished I could write like that.

On Top of Everything- Sarah-Kate Lynch

Saw it was still on that top ten best seller list (this is a fairly good indication that something is eminently readable). Had a spare book voucher, was in Whitcoulls at the airport, am trying to write a kind of chic lit myself so deemed it ‘research’. Read it on the plane to and fro the capital, laughed as I continued to read, whilst waiting for a mammogram, then finally, reluctantly finished it late at night, sobbing deliciously into my pillow. Cried in the shower again the next morning just thinking about the ending. Wished I could write like that.

End of The Alphabet- Fleur Beale

Someone pointed out to me that Fleur had written me into her new YA book as 'Fifi on the telly' who on that occasion made houses and shops from boxes. So in case of art imitating life, or is it the other way around? I made the boxes detailed in the text, on the Good Morning Show today and we promoted Fleur’s latest book (see what you can happen if you mention me?) But to talk about the book of course I had to read it. And you know, I learned something new- about getting backbone (which the main character, Ruby, sets about doing). Whilst Ruby’s fortitude is needed around her brother, mine is around my son. So I followed the advice she was given and I can say….it worked! A great read with plenty to offer anyone who feels a little taken advantage of… and I wished I could write like that.

Here are the house boxes I made- 'Dream Homes'. Each has the thing you'd love most in them- you can just see Mr Darcy in one of them, and a man cooking in my kitchen in another. I am hoping that my three authors of the month might just think if they saw them ‘I wish I could wield a glue gun like that!’

Friday, February 20, 2009

Who ARE these people?

I came across these sketches in an old visual diary. They are circa 1995 and were my doodles of some of the people who attended a hui for Writer’s and Illustrators of Children’s Books. It was my first time venturing into the world of kid’s lit- not that I hadn’t illustrated anything back then; indeed I had around 8 books to my credit at that stage. But as a commercial illustrator for advertising and design, children’s books were just a poorly paid hobby that I indulged in from time to time- mostly for the joy of seeing my name immortalized in print (you ever see the artists name on a yoghurt pot beside the fruit illustrations?) Curious about this fringe arm of my occupation, I chose to immerse myself in a weekend full of people dedicated to this bizarre obsession that earned so little money- just for the hell of it and to get away from the demands of a family for a few days.

The hui, initially hosted by Joy Cowley in her Marlborough Sounds home was held at Wellington’s Capital House in Melrose, not far from the zoo. Lions roared eerily at night; the sounds carried up to the conference venue and sent a delicious shiver down the creative spine. So too did the talk. Some of it meant little to me ‘moral rights, global rights, authors fund…’ I barely looked at my contracts when I signed to do a bunch of pics for a book. I was only interested in when the advance would be paid; I obviously had plenty to learn.

I met the famous writers of books my children had read; Joy Cowley, Margaret Mahy, Tessa Duder to name drop just a few. I met illustrators whose worked I admired; Martin Baynton, Robin Belton; Trevor Pye...
I met writers and illustrators I didn’t yet know would become best selling authors, mentors and friends. I ate, I drank, I used my brand new mobile phone inexpertly and inappropriately (oh we’ve all come along way when it comes to turning the thing onto silent and let it go to message haven’t we?)

I fell back in love with Wellington which, when I had left it for Christchurch in 1981, had seemed sad and half torn down, bereft of decent bars and prospects. After the hui, I went back sulkily to Christchurch, determined to return to Wellington to live someday. I also went back in-love with the world of Children’s Books. We moved to the capital city a year later. Since then, I’ve done an MA in creative writing, illustrated a heap more books, toured schools with the Storylines Festival and NZ Book Council, written three novels, been an NZPost Book Awards Judge and Convener of the Wellington Children’s Book Association for the past two years. Wow- amazing what a weekend can inspire eh?

So it seems appropriate, given my fascination, that I am on a committee of writers, illustrators, teachers and librarians working hard to bring a full scale Children’s Book Writer’s and Illustrator’s conference back to Capital House in September 18th, 19th and 20th of this year. Keep an eye out on the WCBA blog for more details to be released as soon as we have confirmed our speakers and workshops. In the meantime, see if you can guess who my sketches are of. Of course I know- just seeing if you do!

Monday, February 09, 2009

Fifi at the Fringe

This weekend hosts the Open Studio Tour during the Wellington 2009 Fringe Festival. Download a map and visit working artists all around the city. This is a free event and this is your opportunity to have a yarn, make a wee Valentines Day gift, inspect some Wearable Art up close and personal, touch a velvet painting, view some original childrens book illustrations and get a feel for where I work and how. Bring yourself, friends, whanau- I would love to see you there!