Friday, 6 December 2013

Singapore SCBWI Christmas Celebrations 2013

Singapore SCBWI 2013 Christmas Celebratory Dinner

Some of the Singapore SCBWI crowd got together last night for a Christmas dinner and a great time was had by all.
We enjoyed a sumptuous buffet at the Merchant Court Hotel, Swissotel and not only did we eat, drink and be very very merry, we also reflected on our year and celebrated our collective achievements.

We put our heads together, sharing our writerly highlights for the year and came up with the following statistics.

 2013 we managed to ;
get 12 children's books published
sign another 9 books with publishing houses ready for release in 2014
hold 10 book launches
critique each others work and make significant progress on over 50 different manuscripts
win 2 moonbeam awards
get shortlisted for the red dot award (aside neil gaiman) and the crystal kite
sign with agents, sell foreign rights, have books adapted into plays
travel to hong kong, shanghai, australia, kuala lumpur and london for various conferences, book fairs and workshops
get published in magazines
work on creative projects such as murals, canvasses and Asian content bibliographies 
hold more than 120 school talks at over 70 schools
host dinners with visiting authors Wendy Orr, Sally Rippin and Jacqueline Harvey
and attend the amazing Asian Festival of Children's Content

And these numbers don't include the other 30 members of Singapore SCBWI that were unable to attend the dinner. Some pretty impressive highlights and statistics for a group that started three years ago with a small but enthusiastic group of only five members.

Any SCBWI member will know what I mean when I say that SCBWI is a truly special organisation. Full of creative, passionate and inspiring people who welcome, encourage and support each other through the ups and downs of our creative endeavors. 

Singapore SCBWI has become like family to me. 2013 has been amazing, last night was heaps of fun  and I look forward to sharing the journey together in 2014. 

Monday, 11 November 2013

Proud Mum Moment #3 How to Clean Up Your Room

How To Clean Up Your Room

By Sian Carvell

(although I think there may have been a brainstorm among friends to get all these gems)

If you want to clean up your room you have to be a very brave person or else you will not get it done but I know the trick.

There are actually a few ways and here they are.

Stuff everything in your closet!

Hide it under your bed. Shhhhh!

Put your stuff in your brother/sisters room! Don't tell anyone

Blame it on your dad for playing rugby in your room.

Ask your helper to do it.

Lock the door if necessary.

If your mum is uptight do it anyway ... or do you?

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Proud Mum Moment #2 cobra golden eyeball finger rotten wizardry hair nose

Another one of Sian's astonishing snippets of writing came home, scrumpled in the bottom of her bag.

She says she just wrote it just for fun.

I had to share!

How to Make a Witches' Potion.

this is how you make a witches potion:


* take a teaspoon of cobra wine and pour it into a big cauldron with a golden outside

* then plop three mens fingers in and if they don't turn into eyeballs put in a bit of rotten bread

*add a pinch full of wizardry essence and then a bowl full of singed chest hair

* get a fat pig nose and a wooden spoon. Stir the pig nose until it is at the bottom.

* all this will result to a delishus stew. It is called cobra golden eyeball finger rotten wizardry hair nose.

YUM SCRUM in my TUM !!!

There's Soup on my Fly

Story Book Theatre performs 'There's Soup on my Fly,' by David Seow

Last week I went to see the Storybook Theatre's 'trial' performance of 'There's Soup on my Fly' by David Seow which will be released next February. David is a good friend of mine but any of you who know him will understand he can be somewhat 'unpredictable.' So I was a little nervous. This was the first time he had seen the interpretation of his story. What if things went wrong? What if he didn't like it?

But, of course, Storybook Theatre were fantastic and we were treated to a clever mix of humour, music, dance and puppetry. We all loved it. Especially the very adorable children who were lucky enough to be little guinea pigs (and puppies, kittens and hamsters) for the preview performance. There was plenty of audience interaction and the kids were calling out, barking, meowing and squealing with delight all the way through. I couldn't wipe the grin of my face.

Storybook Theatre brings books to life and introduces children to performance and local authors.  Click here then scroll down for more details.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Curtis Brown Creative

The Creative Brown Creative crew, Singapore Writer's Festival 2013

I just completed a three day novel writing course with fifteen of the most inspiring and creative people I have ever met. Here we are all are at the end of the course looking incredibly inspired and somewhat intellectually drained. After such an intense three days, it was sad to say goodbye but happily, we all swapped emails and already have a facebook page where we intend to share our writerly news and hopefully, establish some critiquing relationships.

Anna Davis and Jake Arnott
The course was run by Curtis Brown Creative as part of the Singapore Writer's Festival. It was tutored by  Anna Davis and Jake Arnott, so we knew we were in good hands.

Anna is an agent for Curtis Brown UK as well as director of Curtis Brown Creative. She is also the author of 5 novels which have been published around the world in over twenty languages.

Jake is the author of six best selling novels, two of which have been serialized for British television.

The course itself, Writing Your Novel - From Beginning to End and Beyond, was certainly everything it promised to be. We discussed beginnings, character, point of view, story, plot, editing, rewriting, endings, letters to agents and how to get published. We also did plenty of writing exercises focussing on our own work and got a personal twenty minute critique of our manuscripts from both Anna and Jake. Invaluable stuff!

Personally, I got a great deal from the course. Not only did I have several epiphanies about how to improve my story, but I also enjoyed listening to the enormous diversity of stories taking shape amongst the participants. We had crime thrillers, historical fiction, autobiographical, dystopian, photographic and detective novels as well as my children's story and more. It was a delight and an honour to get a glimpse into the creative process of this amazing group of people.

I also enjoyed getting out of my pyjamas and leaving the school run, dinner and dishwasher hum drum to my ever supportive husband for several days :-)

Curtis Brown Creative have a new online novel writing course available. Applications open soon and the next course starts February 2014.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Singapore Writer's Festival - Two Book Launches

Yesterday was the start of the 2013 Singapore Writer's Festival and today I celebrated by attending the book launch of two fabulous books.

Tibby the Tiger Bunny by Emily Lim and The Robot in my Playground by Pauline Loh.

Emily Lim and I met at the SCBWI West Australian Rottnest Retreat earlier this year and on our return to Singapore, Emily introduced me to Pauline Loh. Since then the three of us have met once a month to critique our mid-grade manuscripts and have become firm friends.

So it was with great pleasure that I was able to share their excitement today.

It was an extra bonus that Emily Lim's book, Tibby the Tiger Bunny, was illustrated by Jade Fang who also illustrated my good friend, Sarah Mounsey's books, Purple Paw Prints and Paw Prints on the Magic Sofa. 

It was a bit of a party to tell you the truth. A book launch, a reunion, and a happy day all round.

Emily Lim, me and Jade Fang with Tibby the Tiger Bunny

Emily Lim launched Tibby the Tiger Bunny, illustrated by Jade Fang.

Poor Tibby! All he ever wanted was some friends to play with, but the other rabbits thought he was too strange. After all, he could pounce and roar like a tiger. But he also had long floppy ears and could hop like a bunny.

Was he a tiger or a bunny?

No one knew, until the day Tibby showed everyone just how much of a tiger - and a bunny - he really was.

Pauline Loh, Edmund Wee (Managing Director of Epigram) and Avina Tan

Pauline Loh launched her picture book, The Robot in my Playground, illustrated by Avina Tan.

Lucus loves robots. Especially the robot in the playground near his house. How he wishes that the robot would come to life, and after a big storm, he does!

Both books were published by leading Singapore publishing house, Epigram Books.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

An Author/Illustrator Blog Hop - Hip hop hurray!

I have been tagged by Myra Garces-Bacsal of Gathering Books (a website for children's literature and YA fiction) to participate in the author/illustrator blog hop that is doing the blogosphere at the moment.

The first time I met Myra was at the 2012 Asian Festival of Children's Content in Singapore when I attended her conference session entitled, Picture Books as Portals to Enchantment and Imagination — Choosing Books that Challenge the Mind, in which Myra did what she does best and inspired us all with her passionate belief that the power and beauty of children's literature can be some of the most thought provoking art for all ages.

Since then I have been lucky enough to cross paths with Myra at several conferences and workshops and more recently we both became members of Saturday Night Out for Book Geeks,  a book club for likeminded grown ups with a passion for children's literature. 

Myra's bio on the Gathering Books website has this information about her:

Asst/Prof Myra Garces-Bacsal is a Teacher Educator and Coordinator of the Masters and Bachelor’s Program in High Ability Studies and Gifted Education at the National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. As a clinical psychologist, she has done extensive work with the gifted which range from conducting psychological assessments to counseling and developing indigenous gifted programs for highly-able learners. Aside from doing teaching supervision in Singapore Schools, she also does clinical supervision among graduate students in counseling psychology.

Dr. Bacsal has published on socioaffective concerns of gifted learners, family influences in talent development, and experiences of flow among young artists. Her research interests include psychology of artists, Asian folktales, identification of the disadvantaged gifted, experiences of flow among creatives, and bibliotherapy.

Okay. Now to answer my Blog Hop Questions ...

What are you working on right now? 

My first book Darcy Moon and the Deep Fried Frogs is due for release in March 2014 so I am currently learning about how to market a book from my publishing house, Fremantle Press. Big learning curve!
I am also writing my second book for children entitled, Mergul. I am about 15 000 words into what I imagine will be a 30 000 word story. I am hoping to finish the first draft before the end of the year, but realistically it will take much longer than that.

How does it differ from other works in the genre?

Mergul is a mid-grade adventure story about two fourteen year olds who discover a wounded mermaid in the mangroves and must overcome the authorities to set her free. Set in the mudflats, the strange but beautiful zone between land and sea, the story explores themes of belonging, control and finding your way in a confusing world. Unlike other books in this genre, the setting plays a pivotal role in telling the story and the mermaid is more wild animal than maiden.

Why do you write/illustrate what you do?

I was born in England and as a small child I enjoyed reading, writing and collecting things from nature (snails, earthworms and tadpoles were my favourites).

My family migrated to Australia when I was eight and I was raised in the northern suburbs of Perth. My love of nature and stories continued so I studied botany and journalism, with an aim to get a job doing something I loved. But, as often happens in life, I landed a sensible government position, and lost sight of the original plan.
I moved to Sydney, met my husband and several years later, as I read to my two small children, I remembered my childhood dream and realized something amazing ...I had motorbiked across Australia, backpacked through Europe and explored South East Asia, but my most exciting adventures of all, had taken place within a children's book.I finally knew what I wanted to do - write fantastic stories for children to love.

What is the hardest part about writing/illustrating?

For me, the most difficult part of writing is staying focussed and not getting sidetracked by face book or tempting lunch invitations. 

Part of the author/illustrator blog is to introduce 3 author/illustrators. So here they are;

Kelly Canby I met illustrator Kelly Canby at the 2012 SCBWI Rottnest Retreat and am a huge fan of her work.
Kelly Canby studied BA Design and Illustration and Design at Curtin University in Western Australia then worked as a graphic designer until now. Recently she saw a twitter from The Bright Group International, calling for new work. She took a risk, tweeted her portfolio and is now represented worldwide by The Bright Group. Watch this space! Kelly Canby is on the rise.

Click here for Kelly's website and blog.

James Foley
I met James Foley at the 2010 SCBWI Rottnest retreat and since then have watched his career go from strength to strength. 

His website has this information about him; 
James is a children’s author and illustrator, cartoonist, public speaker and workshop

facilitator. He is the author/illustrator of In The Lion(Walker Books, 2012) and the illustrator of The Amity Kids Adventures (2013) and The Last Viking (Fremantle Press, 2011). In The Lion was selected for the International Youth library’s White Raven list in 2013. The Last Viking won the 2012 Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators’ Crystal Kite Award, the 2012 WA Young Readers’
Hoffman Award, and a 2012 Children’s Book Council of Australia Junior Judges Award. It was shortlisted for a further four awards. James is a Books In Homes ambassador and the Illustrator Coordinator for SCBWI Australia West. He is a big fan of yoga and gardening and has far too many books in his bedside reading pile.

Click here for James's website and blog.

Emma Nicholson is a fellow member of the SIngapore chapter of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. She is originally from England where she worked for many years in the publishing industry. She is now writing her own stories and her first book, Princess Petunia's Dragon will be out soon.

Click here for Emma's blog

Saturday, 26 October 2013

SCBWI Singapore dinner with Jacqueline Harvey

Sarah, Simon, Jeff, Catherine, Jacqueline, Emma, Evelyn and David took the photo

One of the best things about being a member of SCBWI is the inspiring, creative and talented people you get to meet.

This week we had dinner with Jacqueline Harvey, the best selling author of the Alice-Miranda and Clementine Rose series. She is in Singapore for school visits on her way to the UK  for a promotional tour of her latest book.

A full time writer with two best selling series (both recently optioned for animation), more books in the pipeline, a full schedule of school visits, and plenty of world wide travel, Jacqueline is a great Australian success story.

Add to the equation a balmy evening in Singapore, a bustling riverfront, great company and delicious food and you have a very memorable night out.

A good time was had by all.

For more information on Jacqueline Harvey, click on the link below.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Saturday Night Out Book Geeks

A quick blog to say how excited I am to be part of the newest book club in Singapore, 
The Saturday Night Out Book Geeks!

Felicia, Adan, Myra, Me, Amelia, Dave (and Ken took the photo)

We are a group of book nerds with a shared passion for children's literature.  We plan to meet once a month, on a Saturday of course, because we are book geeks and there is nothing else we'd rather do.
There are so many fantastic children's/ YA books on our want to read list, I'm not sure how we will ever get through them.  But last night, we made a start.

We met at the Book Cafe and discussed 'The Terrible Thing That Happened to Barnaby Brocket,' written by John Boyne and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers.

The Terrible Thing That happened to Barnaby Brocket.

'From the moment Barnaby Brocket comes into the world, it's clear he is anything but normal. To his parents horror, Barnaby defies the laws of gravity - and FLOATS.'

Most of us loved the book with its whimsical tone, floaty pace, oddball characters and poignant exploration of self acceptance in the face of parental criticism. Others were frustrated with Barnaby's lack of initiative and felt the book's message was somewhat contrived and one dimensional.

Personally, I found the book enchanting and am inspired to read more John Boynes, in particular the very famous, 'The Boy in The Striped Pyjamas'.

I give Barnaby 3 and a half stars.

Next month we will be looking at 'The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,' by Sherman Alexie, art by Ellen Forney. 

I'm off to find myself a copy. Can't wait to read it :-)

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Proud Mum Moment #1 Rapunzel Not

This story came home from school and I am so proud of Sian's hilarious and well written tale that I had to share. What a proud writerly Mum I am! Love the title, well developed characters and the clever plot twist at the end. Still smiling :-)

Rupunzel Not

By Sian Carvell (aged 8)

Once upon a time but not very long ago there lived a beautiful princess called Rupunzel. She lived in a castle behind a hill with her maid. Way out in the city lived a prince. He was ordinary but lonely.

One day the prince was out riding a troll and he found Rupunzel's tower. The prince did not know that Rupunzel was deaf. So the prince said, "Let down your hair.' So Rupunzel let down a chair. 

"No," said the prince, "Let down a rope." So Rupunzel let down a billy goat. "No," said the prince. 

"Oh it's pointless. Ah I know ..."

"Rupunzel PLEASE let down your braid."  So Rupunzel let down her maid.

The prince fell in love with the maid. And they all lived happily ever after.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Rottnest - I got an AWARD!

I'm writing this blog from my sunny balcony on Rottnest Island. I'm overlooking the ocean, the waves are rolling and the air is full of salt and eucalyptus. I'm here for SCBWI WA's annual Rottnest Retreat so not only am I in one of my favourite places in the world, but I can talk about writing all day without boring anyone. Everyone here is as obsessed with children's books as I am. It is heaven.
This is my third SCBWI Rottnest retreat. It's four days of fun, laughter, peace and creativity. I look forward to it every year, but this year has been very special because I won an AWARD!

With my very own name engraved on it *squee*

 I'll show it to you in a moment, but first I need to give you some background. 

One of the traditions at Rottnest is the 'Two Minute Pitch'. 

The idea is we get two minutes each to pitch our story idea to the group, making it sound as enticing as possible.
(This is hands on practise for when we trap some hapless publisher/agent in the queue for the loo and have two minutes to convince them to sign us up). 

Whoever gets the first publishing deal for their  pitch wins the award.

And guess what? I pitched Darcy Moon in 2010, which means that I won the award in 2012!

Too much happiness!

Here it is. Isn't it pretty? The engraving says,

Does this mean I get a little gold sticker on my book cover?
Hmmm. Maybe not.

But seriously ...

Thank you everyone at SCBWI WA for being a great group of people
For all the fun and encouragement and support over the years 
Getting this award felt like another great big hurrah from my very own personal cheer squad.
You guys rock!
Now race you for the Pitch Award 2011 !!!

Friday, 7 June 2013

My tiny piece of the AFCC Pie

Attending The Asian Festival of Children's Content (AFCC) the last three years in a row has been one of the highlights of living in Singapore for me. AFCC is Asia's biggest celebration of children's books. And 2013 was by far the most exciting for me so far.

For many reasons.

First I got to have a cocktail with the beautiful Renae Hayward who came across from Perth for the event (as well as a bit of a holiday). Renae and I met through SCBWI WA in 2009 and have been on the same writerly journey together ever since. Her first book Barking Mad will be released by Walker Books Australia in August 2012 - just a few months before mine. We couldn't wipe the smiles off our faces.  Being together in this fabulous city with a book contract each, was not something we ever dreamed possible when we met four years ago.
Check out those happy grins. Me and my writerly sister Renae Hayward at Blu Jaz, Kampong Glam.

Secondly, I was lucky enough to sit next to Wendy Orr at dinner. I have always been a huge fan of Wendy's, particularly her Nim's Island stories. To me, her writing is brilliant. When I read Wendy's books, her writing is invisible and I see only story. I must be her greatest fan! Here I am doing my best to impress her. Luckily we are both wearing bibs, because I am splashing chilli crab everywhere.

The whole SCBWI Singapore crowd with Wendy Orr at Jumbo Seafood, Boat Quay.

Thirdly I had the great honour of hosting a book launch for my good friend David Seow's 28th picture book, Emma's Elephant. David is one of Singapore's most popular and prolific writers and I was thrilled to be a part of it.  I'm getting better at this public speaking thing. Next time I might even relax enough to smile. Thanks Candy Gourlay for the photos :-)


And fourthly, I got to see the sun set over Singapore with some of my favourite people. The ever gracious and supportive Norman Jorgensen (Award winning Author of The Last Viking and In Flanders' Fields),  his lovely wife Jan (amazing school librarian extraordinaire)  and my husband, Jeff (who has read every word I've ever written and has the patience of a Saint).
Me, Norm, Jan and Jeff at the roof top bar, 1-Altitude.

There were so many more highlights, of which I failed to take photos because I was so enraptured at the time. But in summary,  it was a joy to see so many familiar faces. An inspiration to mix with such talented writers and illustrators. And a complete thrill to be a part of one of the most exciting literary events of the year.

Monday, 3 June 2013

Blogging the Journey.

I've been inspired to blog after a wonderful writerly week at the Asian Festival of Children's Content (AFCC) in Singapore.

I attended the AFCC back in 2011 and 2012, but 2013 was my first year with a publishing deal under my belt. My first chapter book, Darcy Moon and the Deep Fried Frogs (working title) is signed with Fremantle Press and is due for release early 2014.

But more about that another time.

This blog is a reach out to all of those aspiring authors I've talked to over the years, all those I've met at AFCC, and all those I know are out there, who share my secret dream, almost too raw and private to share, that one day I might get published.

I've kept this dream inside of me my whole life. Since I was a small girl reading under the covers with a torch.

But it wasn't until 2007, after the birth of my second child, that I actually allowed myself to try. Before that, I had been too scared of failure to admit how much the dream meant to me.

I lived in Perth, Western Australia. I wanted to write for children but had no idea where to start. I found a local writer's group (very easily through google) and joined a 10 week short story writing course at the Peter Cowan Writer's Centre.

We were required to write a short story and read it out the following week. I was terrified. But I stood up and read my story. I was told the story was 'nice' but full of cliches. Cliches! I looked up the word when I got home and wept. Then I got my pen out and began to write another story, careful to avoid cliches.

I learned many things that day.

Firstly, avoid cliches when writing (Yes, I had that much to learn!)

But also, that if I wanted to be a good writer, I was going to have to work at it. Work hard.

Through PCWC,  I learned about the Society of Children's Book Writer' and Illustrators (SCBWI) and joined up in early 2008.

I felt like a fraud when I attended my first meeting but was inspired and thrilled to meet so many talented and passionate people.

These people have supported, encouraged and inspired me ever since.

I joined an online critique group with some other aspiring SCBWIs. Critiquing others' work was as much a learning experience as getting my work critiqued. I highly recommend joining a critique group.

Through this critique group, I heard about and enrolled in an online writing course. I completed the Diploma in Professional Children's Writing through Cengage Australia. I absorbed every word. I wrote whenever my children slept. I lived and breathed my story.

In mid 2010, I completed my first manuscript. It had taken me two years.

I attended the 2010 WA SCBWI Rottnest Retreat and paid a visiting editor to critique the first 10 pages of my manuscript. Her feedback was invaluable, and I realised I had a long way to go before my manuscript would be anyway near publishable.

But I didn't have time to dwell on things, because soon after, we discovered we were moving to Singapore. With two children under 5, the move kept me busy and when I picked up my manuscript six months later, I was able to see it with fresh eyes. I knew exactly where I needed to make changes.

I rewrote the whole thing.

In the mean time, I had joined the Singapore SCBWI group and was happy to find they met every month to discuss all things writerly in Singapore, and critique each others' work. Fantastic!

I kept writing, and kept getting feedback through every avenue I could access (competitions, conferences, panels, peers) and eventually, by early 2012. I had a manuscript I was happy with.

So then I started researching publishers. Were they accepting unsolicited manuscripts? What sort of titles did they publish? All that stuff. Scary.

Fremantle Press were accepting manuscripts by West Australian Authors or with West Australian content and setting. And they had a strong children's section, which included mid grade. My manuscript seemed like the perfect fit.

So I sent it off.

And 7 weeks later I got a 'we would like to publish your manuscript' email.

I almost wet myself.

It was a miracle!

A miracle five years in the making.

This is my story.

And for every book published, there will be a different story.

Keep working on yours.