A Bookish Adventure
Wednesday, July 31, 2013
I've still managed to do a few thousand words on the book and I've enjoyed a couple of lovely dinners with Ian and his mother. We went to a beautiful restaurant called Red Ochre on the river and tonight, on Sue's recommendation, we tried Paul's which is a local fish and chip restaurant in Norwood. The whiting fillets were every bit as good as Sue said they would be.
A lovely highlight of today was meeting a young student who is currently doing a project on Alice-Miranda and me as the author. She had no idea that she was coming to see me at the library and it was the most wonderful surprise (for me as much as for her!).
Monday, July 29, 2013
Eight hours of solid writing was followed by a visit to Pegi Williams Bookshop in Walkerville. The lovely Rebecca Bird came to pick me up and we headed to the store to do an interview for their website. James Williams was on the camera and Rebecca asked the questions. Afterwards we went out to dinner in Norwood with James's lovely wife Chrissy and their two gorgeous little boys Jonah and Tobias.
After dinner I got back to the apartment and Ian and his mother arrived shortly afterwards, having flown in from Sydney for the week. Joan is staying at a nice little apartment a few streets away. I couldn't believe when she hobbled in, having strained her knee getting off the plane. Fortunately things have improved over the weekend. Probably helped by sampling a couple of the very tasty wines at some of the local vineyards :).
On Saturday morning we headed out for breakfast and then back to the apartment for some work. At 1pm I had a signing at Dillon's Bookshop in Norwood. I was thrilled to see a group of children already milling about when we arrived and the children kept coming for over an hour. At one stage I looked up and the queue snaked up the road to the Nordburger shop on the other side of the mall. The children were so lovely and there were quite a few 'number 1' fans among them. It would be lovely to be doing more school visits while I'm here but it's about balancing the writing and work for the Trust. I can certainly foresee a trip back to Adelaide next year and a very big school tour.
We had afternoon tea and took a stroll. Joan managed a reasonable distance too.
On Sunday morning I was keen to write and capitalise on Friday's progress. But I was also hoping to explore as we currently have a hire car. So we took off to McLaren Vale at midday. Ian had booked a table at a lovely small winery called Coreole. They served delicious platters to share for lunch with kangaroo, chicken salad, some stunning cheeses and sour dough bread. My diet went out the window!
We then decided to make the most of the lovely weather and drive on to Victor Harbour, another 40 minutes further to the coast. It is a gorgeous place and we were so lucky to get there just before a huge storm blew across the peninsular. We saw a baby whale frolicking off The Bluff and watched a steel grey sky engulf the coastline.
I would love to have a holiday in Victor Harbour - and take a proper walk to Granite Island. It's absolutely beautiful and I'm sure a favoured holiday destination with Adelaide locals.
You can just see the little whale coming up in the picture below.
Thursday, July 25, 2013
I've been getting out each day, making sure that I walk to The Parade in Norwood, grab a coffee and speak to people - even if it is just at the checkout in Coles. Complete author isolation would drive me batty; I need people to energise me.
On Tuesday afternoon I walked to the bakery on the corner and on the way back I decided to have a closer look at the sculpture in the middle of the very large median strip in Osmond Terrace. It's a series of circles and inside there are stories. Although I suspect to the passing motorists I may have looked a little strange as my head followed the great big loops, the stories are wonderful and tell snippets of Norwood's history from local residents. One tells of a well to do couple who stayed at a local hotel. The wife was devastated to find her jewellery gone one evening and reported it to the owner. A chamber maid was accused of the theft and sent off in disgrace. Some time later the owner discovered a magpie's nest with a an outstanding collection of jewels.
On Wednesday I had the pleasure of talking to two groups of students from Norwood Public School at the beautiful old Norwood Library. Mary Wilson came to collect me from the apartment. The sky was finally a dazzling blue and the warmth after quite a few chilly days was heavenly.
The children and teachers were a most enthusiastic and appreciative audience and I loved sharing stories with them, answering questions and doing some drama. Cutest question of the day was, 'do you play any sports?'
'Yes, I love to play golf,' was my response.
'Wow, you're the first girl I've ever met who can play golf.'
I didn't realise I was so unusual.
There were some great actors among the classes and they really got stuck into the group audition process.
Mary and I then headed back to drop off the bulky gear at the apartment.
Before I go any further I have to say that Mary Wilson is an extraordinary woman. She's one of those people who exude warmth and kindness - and wisdom. I have loved spending time with her and look forward to a few more visits before I head home. I wish I could have met her husband Ian too - he really sounds like the most extraordinary man and I'm sure they must have made an indomitable team.
As it happened, when we arrived at the apartment, another of the committee members, Jacquie Holdich telephoned to check on some arrangements for next week. On the spur of the moment we organised to meet her in Norwood and have a bite of lunch in the sun. It was great getting to know more about Jacqui's career and her recent travels. Mary and I then headed off down The Terrace to the corner where I was meeting Eliza, one of my former Abbotsleigh colleagues in the Development Office. It was great to see her too and hear about her new life in Adelaide.
Today I've struggled a little bit. I had to finish off an edit for my US publisher and so had my head back in Alice-Miranda At Sea yesterday afternoon and evening and then again first thing this morning. I have found it hard to get into the rhythm of things. I was also cross with myself for being a bit of a cranky pants yesterday. I know I'm missing Ian terribly and can't wait for him to arrive tomorrow night. This afternoon I received the most beautiful email from a reader, Violette - who certainly cheered my day. I've inserted an extract below:
It was very timely. Kids have told me that often when they find themselves in a bind, they will ask, 'what would Alice-Miranda do?' I need to take their advice. I know I've got the passion, but Alice-Miranda could teach me a thing or two about grace.
This afternoon one of my former Abbotsleigh colleagues, Jane came and picked me up and we went and had coffee in the city. It was wonderful to see her and catch up on all the news.
Tomorrow I need to make serious headway on the book. The threads are all there - it's just a matter of pulling gently and seeing how they unravel. I would have loved to be finishing the last few thousand words but that's a little way off yet - not too far, I can almost see it.
Tuesday, July 23, 2013
We then drove to Pegi Williams bookshop in Walkerville, another stunning suburb. Pegi Williams is a fantastic Australian success story. The shop is in a gorgeous heritage building and it was fabulous to meet owner James and the lovely Rebecca, sales consultant and avid reader. Both of them certainly know children's books and have a dedicated following around the country. I'm looking forward to heading back there next Friday evening to make a short video for their website.
Then we were off to Griffin Press for what had to be one of the most exciting afternoons I can recall in a very long time. We were going to see the process of how books are actually made - so that instead of saying 'well, I see the page proofs and then it goes back and it's a bit like magic - it returns to me as a book' I can tell children what really goes on - from how the orders are organised, covers are created, to the way the offset printing works, to how the pages are collated, bound, cut, trimmed and packaged. As an author I have wanted to see the process for a while now - but to arrive and find out that they were printing Alice-Miranda Shines Bright while we were there was AMAZING! Not only that, there were reprints of Alice-Miranda At School happening too - so we got to see the covers being created and two Clemmie books were being reprinted on the smaller run digital machines.
I felt like Charlie in Willy Wonka's chocolate factory - and I'm pretty sure Clive and Ian felt the same way. You couldn't wipe the smiles off our faces. Adrian, the factory manager was a gem. He explained the entire process and Dani and Ian, who both take care of front of house goings on, explained exactly how the files arrive and what happens prior to and following the printing process.
Their generosity was incredible and I loved every minute. We went to the plate room and they were apologising that there was no Alice-Miranda or Clementine being pressed at the time. However, when I looked at what was coming through, it was a reprint of Stories for 8 Year Olds - and my short story, Gruesome Grandads and Nasty Nans was there in the corner. I couldn't believe it - and I don't think they could either.
The paper store is incredible with 4 months worth of giant paper rolls piled high like a pre-publication forest. I was impressed with Griffin's dedication to recycling and the use of recyclable materials.
Adrian has been with the company for a long time - three decades I think. He was obviously very proud of his work and team and I suspect it was a bit of a thrill for him to be able to show us exactly how it all happens. I know it was a huge thrill for me and an afternoon I will never forget.
On Saturday morning we met Mary Wilson, who along with her husband Ian was responsible for setting up the May Gibb's Children's Literature Trust. Mary kindly came and picked us up. Then we drove over to get Elizabeth Hutchins before heading to Mary's magnificent home for a delicious morning tea. Sadly, Mary's husband Ian passed away recently. He sounds like a wonderful man and his work both for the Trust and in the community as a member of parliament have left an important legacy.
Mary's home is one of those places that ooze family and history. Her own grandmother was born in a timber house that sits adjacent to the main house.
Morning tea consisted of home made scones and cake - and was absolutely delicious. I hope to spend more time with Mary and Elizabeth during the visit.
Mary then drove us to Rundle Mall where I had a book signing at Dymocks. That was great fun too and I met some very enthusiastic Alice-Miranda fans. We also met Linda from Dymocks who was a fabulous host and Jo, Clive's wife, who also works in the store.
Rundle Mall is currently undergoing a substantial renovation so we're not seeing it at its best. Suffice to say it reminds me a little of Pitt Street Mall with the usual array of shops. The weather was very chilly on Saturday with snow falling on Mt Lofty - which we learned is a none too frequent occurrence. Ian and I returned to the Burrow and decided to walk to Norwood and find a cosy place for a late lunch. On the way down the street I was surprised to see this giant sign on the window in Dillon's Bookshop advertising my upcoming Saturday signing.
Sunday dawned just as drearily as Saturday and we decided to take the tram to Glenelg. Wow - the weather was wild and woolly down there - but I can imagine that on a clear day it is absolutely beautiful. We found the marina with lots of shops and restaurants and enjoyed another late lunch before Ian had to head back to Sydney and I had to reacquaint myself with the book.
All up, my first week in Adelaide has been great. The ladies from the Trust Committee are so kind - Alle brought me some delicious soup early in the week and Mary stopped by on Saturday evening with Osso Bucco, Minestrone and a bottle of red - from the family's own vines. I can't thank them all enough for making me feel at home.
I'm looking forward to a very productive week ahead. The goals are lofty with at least another 25,000 words of Alice-Miranda In Japan to write (hopefully by the end of the week). I don't mind if the weather stays chilly - it's wonderful for writing.
PS I have a lot more photos from the visit to Griffin Press and will post them as soon as I'm allowed.
Sunday, July 21, 2013
St Peter's is not far from Norwood - really just down Osmond Terrace. The library has recently undergone a complete renovation and is absolutely stunning. A very sympathetic restoration of the old building incorporated with dramatic modern finishes. My workshop took place in what used to be a hall but is a much swisher venue now. Alle and I met with Debi and got everything set up. The only small difficulty was a lack of white board, which I find invaluable when teaching and demonstrating writing techniques. Some butcher's paper and pens provided a work around solution.
The students arrived eager to get on with it. There were five boys and ten girls ranging in age from about 8-13. As soon as we began it was obvious there were a few very creative thinkers and I really enjoyed the time with them. Two hours flashed by.
I'm sure that I'll see her again - the coffee was great.
So last night I spent quite a lot of time thinking about the manuscript, researching some more Japanese quirks and customs and planning my work for Thursday. I also made some updates to my website and found that the cover for Alice-Miranda In New York was already on the Random House UK site in anticipation of it's April 2014 release.
Thursday morning and it's bright and sunny - and very windy. Last night the rain was intermittently torrential, but the Burrow is very warm and cosy.
Today I need to make serious progress on the manuscript if I want to have any chance of finishing it by the end of next week - and getting Clementine Rose done too.
So, back to the post after many hours at the computer. Good progress - and fun research. Looking forward to Ian arriving tomorrow.
As I flew in after midday, I spent the first afternoon getting acquainted with the apartment and the surrounding area. It's a short walk to the excellent Norwood shopping area. I popped into Dillon's Bookshop, which is huge and has a big reputation. I met Laura, the manager and am looking forward to doing an event with them on Saturday week (27 July). There are supermarkets and a cinema and lots of boutiques including far too many tempting shoe shops.
It was a wonderful surprise to find several treats in the apartment including home made shortbread (there goes the reformed diet plans) and fresh cut flowers too.
I find it hard being away from Ian, as we're such a great team. It's something I've had to get used to over the years - initially with school camps and excursions and this year, with touring. Although he's been with me on the overseas trips, I've taken several interstate excursions and he's stayed in Sydney working. He's coming down for part of the time and I can't wait until he's here. You see, I write better when he's around - we talk about plots and characters and he's a fantastic listener and excellent critic.
After a fitful sleep (it's always like that the first night away), I awoke to the sounds of silence - until 7.30am when a chainsaw buzzed to life on the block behind the apartments. Then the giant tree eating mulcher cranked up and the noise reached unbearable heights. I headed off to the shops in search of coffee and breakfast and a quiet place to read the manuscript thus far. My goals for the month are huge. I have another 30,000 words to write on Alice-Miranda In Japan and after that I plan to write Clementine Rose and the Seaside Escape. The plot for Japan is fairly well embedded with various things percolating but Seaside Escape is still forming.
I arrived back at the apartment hoping to find the noisy beasts gone, but alas that wasn't to be. They did break for lunch and lull me into a false sense of security. I left to go to the ABC studios about midday to do an interview with Deb Tribe on 891 Adelaide. That was fun - a little nerve racking and over way too quickly. I think I'd like to have my own show, as anyone who knows me is well aware that I could talk the leg off a pot. There would be no dead air on my shift! When I returned to my little home, I saw the giant tree shredding mulcher being towed away - Hooray! Until about ten minutes later when another machine started up. That's it - I went to investigate. The tree shredder had been replaced by a stump grinder. Yay! And when I walked around the block I counted at least 20 stumps. So I imagine they'll be back again tomorrow. That's okay - I'm teaching a masterclass for young writers and hoping that by the time I return, the stumps will be dust.
Heading home I knew I had to get on with it. There are goals to be met. So all up on Tuesday I achieved 2500 words of the book, quite a few more in my planning journal and this little blog post. Not quite enough on the book but tomorrow's a new day and I'm hoping for some peace and quiet - at least until the stump grinder arrives.
Saturday, July 13, 2013
If you have a keen Alice-Miranda or Clementine Rose reader I'd love to meet them on:
Saturday 20 July Dymocks Rundle Mall 1-2pm
Saturday 27 July Dillons Norwood 1-2pm
Saturday 3 August Collins Edwardstown
Saturday 10 August (National Bookshop Day) Mostly Books Mitcham 11-12
Looking forward to a fantastic time! And apologies for the poor quality of the scan.