My life as a children's author while juggling being a mum, a wife and professional volunteer. (Sometimes it gets complicated)

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Katapult - Edition 1 - February, 2018

Welcome to Katapult!

This is a new thingy for me - a monthly newsletter. It will evolve with time and have many changes I'm sure, until I find the structure that works for you and me. Some newsletters will be long and some will be short. Sub-headings will change and some will say the same, but I'm glad you're here to share this journey with me :)

So why call my newsletter ‘Katapult’?

Kat is obviously from my name.

Catapult is a fun word. As a verb it means to hurl or launch. I often find my mind hurling into stories and ideas (anywhere, anytime), or launching into crazy and spontaneous decisions (some I regret later!). What a way to live one’s life!

I pushed the two words together and ‘Katapult’ emerged. I love it!

A Book Joke?

What do you do if a librarian rolls her eyes at you?

The answer is at the bottom :)

What’s Up?

Well, 2018 started nearly two months ago - where has that time gone? - and I have made a pledge to myself I’m going to write a monthly newsletter. I find snippets of news on my social media don’t quite give the full picture of what’s happening here at my desk. 

Yes, I’ve missed a January newsletter, but everyone was on holidays including me so that doesn’t count. Right? No one would have poked their heads out of their Summer reading books and read it anyway. So let’s just merge January happenings into this February newsletter. 

I’m not going to promise I’ll have my newsletters up and running on the first of every month. Too much pressure! But I’ll try to have it out during the first week of the month. Having said that, I’m already late with February, and March starts next week. Eek! 

And I’m not apologising for any typos either. Just read over them and assume I was rushed, distracted, trying to do three things at once, I’m a terrible typer, or I just lost my mind. Any or all of these things could have been true at the time of that typo.

Let’s go back to December. My head was in a mess. There, I said it. A mess! 

I had a pile of picture book manuscripts at 90% finished, I was waiting for a signed contract for two new picture books and I was getting anxious (I thought it was never going to come and that the publisher must have changed her mind - she’d just forgotten to tell me!), the end of the year was hurtling towards me at an alarming rate, Christmas was around the corner, and I started to consider getting an agent. Of course, then I got sick - flat on my back for two days!

I emailed a professional friend of mine to help me sort out my head so I could make a plan (maybe I should have enlisted a team of psychologists)

As a result, I spent December and January finishing some of my favourite manuscripts, sending them to her for editing, and then making a submission plan for 2018. I also sent another manuscript to a different professional editor.

I booked into the children’s literature Kidlitvic Conference in Melbourne held in May this year, and I joined The Duck Pond Facebook group to keep my motivation fresh and ongoing.

Santa came and went, the signed contract arrived (phew!), we rang in the new year, and relaxed and soaked up Summer holidays.

Hello 2018!

So January was relaxing and all about my husband and I entertaining our two children. We went to the Sydney Opera House to see the 78-Storey Treehouse on the stage. We also saw Operation Ouch at the Civic Theatre in Newcastle. Both were great shows!

Our CBCA Newcastle Sub-branch was on my mind too. I had been the president for nearly four years, and had spend the fifth year as the vice president. I had enjoyed being the VP as a lot of the workload have been taken off me. But did I still want to be an executive committee member? 

I had also found out who was going to illustrate my first Big Sky Publishing (BSP) book called No Baths Week

Drum roll …

I was very excited by this. Cheri is very talented and has illustrated several titles for BSP. I was then in communications with BSP to help set up Cheri’s illustration brief. What fun!

The rest of January involved school shoes, labelling uniforms, testing out lunch boxes and making sure new school drink bottles didn’t leak - ha!

And here we are in February.

I submitted one of the professionally edited manuscripts to a publisher. I found out recently it’s going to an acquisition meeting. YAY! Anxiety builds while I wait.

No Baths Week is moving along very quickly. We’ve been working on cover concepts, back cover blurbs, initial character concepts, and sales documents. This part of the process is extremely exciting!

I have also been working on a picture book manuscript based on my childhood memories at my grandmother’s house. It’s such a lovely story and includes some of my favourite sweet delights. Mmmm … jam drops and apple pie! It went to a professional editor yesterday. Fingers crossed.

Flights, workshops and a manuscript assessment have been booked for the Kidlitvic Conference in May. 

We had our CBCA Newcastle Sub-branch AGM early February. So did I put my hand up for an executive position? No I didn’t. But I am happy to be a general committee member. It was time for Kirrili and I to hand over the sub-branch we started mid 2013. It’s in wonderful hands now (thanks Jodie and Liane) so I look forward to seeing it evolve with fresh blood and new ideas. I also have loads of undistracted time to write now so I can seal the deal on more publishing contracts this year

I have also booked into a manuscript assessment at the NSW Writers Centre in March with Leonie Tyle. I’ll be working on that manuscript all of next week so it’s ready to submit to her a week beforehand.

Upcoming Events

I’m very honoured to be speaking at the upcoming CBCA NSW AGM on the 17th March. It’s a great opportunity to share my journey so far as a writer and share some sneak peeks of my upcoming books.

I'll be volunteering at the upcoming Newcastle Writers Festival. I'm going to the VIP program launch tomorrow. The Schools Program has been released and is selling out fast. We have some wonderful visitors coming to inspire primary school kids in the Hunter area.

I'll also be attending the CBCA NSW Branch Night of the Notables event at Dymocks, Sydney on the 27th February. This event celebrates the longlisted titles for the CBCA Book Week awards in August.

Publishing Update

My first picture book, Dandelions, is still out and about. I love to hear stories of children still enjoying it and I continuously see dandelions everywhere.

No Baths Week, my second picture book is being illustrated as you read this. I can’t wait to see a storyboard and more sketches. It is scheduled to be released in October this year. I have booked in a venue and date for the launch party, and I’ve started to plan food and decorations. These October school holidays will see me doing some interesting story times in conjunction with Newcastle Region Libraries. More information soon.

Chasing Rainbows, my third picture book (second one with BSP) will be released early in 2019 so it will be illustrated mid this year.

And my fourth picture book, Up To Something, the second with EK Books and Kirrili Lonergan (same team as Dandelions) will be illustrated mid this year with a release date of May, 2019. We’re planning some exclusive pre-launch local activities but it’s too early to reveal anything yet.

Anything to Share?

I’d love to share a secret. I have major problems with passive voice. When working on my manuscripts, I often copy and paste the text into a website called Hemingway Editor to get rid of it.

I know a group of clever girls doing podcasts for lovers of kids' books. It's called One More Page. The second episode was released today. These podcasts are for anyone and everyone who loves books for kids. Very funny stuff!

Recent Book Purchase/s?

Bold Australian Girl by Jess Black and Fern Martins
Grace and Katie by Susanne Merritt and Liz Anelli
Perfect Petunias by Lynn Jenkins and Kirrili Lonergan
Betty the Yeti’s Disappointing Day by Emily S. Smith and Graham Davidson
Ella by Nicole Godwin and Demelsa Haughton
Ella Saw the Tree by Robert Vescio and Cheri Hughes

Where can you find me on social media?

I’ve made it easy. Just click on the live links below and like, subscribe or follow me.

Feel free to leave a comment or drop me an email:

I’d love to hear from you!

Kat x

PS: So what do you do if a librarian rolls her eyes at you?

You roll them back of course! :)

Thursday, 14 September 2017

CBCA Lunch with the Stars - Newcastle

Photo: CBCA NSW Branch Inc. Newcastle Sub-branch - Lunch with the Stars Booklet Cover

What a day we had yesterday!

The CBCA NSW Branch Inc. Newcastle Sub-branch hosted its third annual 

Lunch with the Stars

A committee of eight local CBCA members spend the last 6 months planning, discussing and organising this year's event. It's a mammoth task to pull together an event like this but it's all worth it once the kids enter the room and fill it with an overwhelming atmosphere of excitement and anticipation.

Thanks to: Kirrili (chief co-ordinator), Jodie, Ruth, Julie, Gwynne, Amanda, Lillian and myself. 
It would never have happened without this team.

Our local children's literature community is such a dedicated bunch when it comes to supporting our local CBCA branch. They jumped on board once again and gave us an entire day to be part of this event.

Photo: Lynn Jenkins, Liz Anelli, Renee Price, Katrina McKelvey, Ant Wood, Oliver Phommavanh, Karen Hughes, Deb Kelly, Paul Russell, Gwynne Jones, Lizzie Wilcock, Kirrili Lonergan, Jenny Blackford and Lillian Webb.

Thanks to our stars: Gwynne Jones, Deb Kelly, Kirrili Lonergan, Liz Anelli, Paul Russell, Oliver Phommavanh (special guest), Lizzie Wilcock, Lynn Jenkins, Anthony Wood, Lillian Webb, Jenny Blackford, and Karen Hughes. We missed you Jess Black - hope you feel better soon :)

Schools came from everywhere to join in the festivities with over 100 children having lunch and a chat with these 14 amazing local authors and illustrators. The kids decorated their tables so wonderfully - such a creative bunch! Check out the photos below.

Thanks to our schools: Bishop Tyrrell Anglican College, Ashtonfield PS, New Lambton PS, Edgeworth Heights PS, Tanilba Bay PS, St Therese's Primary - New Lambton, Kahibah PS, Belair PS, Our Lady of Lourdes Primary - Tarro, Tarro PS, Shortland PS, Waratah West PS, 
and Beresfield PS.

Photos: Bishop Tyrrell Anglican College - Jess Black, Katrina McKelvey, and Renee Price 
(long story as to why they had three stars!)

Photo: Waratah West PS - Jenny Blackford

Photo: St There's Primary, New Lambton - Paul Russell

Photo: Shortland PS - Lillian Webb

Photo: New Lambton PS - Deb Kelly (First Place)

Photo: Belair PS - Lizzie Wilcock

Photo: Our Lady of Lourdes Primary, Tarro - Lynn Jenkins

Photo: Edgeworth Heights PS - Kirrili Lonergan

Photo: Kahibah PS - Oliver Phommavanh

Photo: Tarro PS - Ant Wood

Photo: Tanilba Bay PS - Liz Anelli

Photo: Ashtonfield PS - Gwynne Jones

Photo: Beresfield PS - Karen Hughes

The unforgettable Oliver Phommavanh, our special guest, entertained the room 
with amazing stories and funny jokes. 

Thanks Oliver!


This event was impossible without financial support from our wonderful sponsors. We had schools sponsored who would otherwise have never been able to participate. I heard whispers these children went home after having the best day of their lives - happy days!

Newcastle Region Libraries sponsored several schools and gave a free, signed copy of one of Oliver's books to every child who attended. Thanks to Oliver who arrived super early to sign every single copy (over 100!).

Newcastle and Charlestown Toyota also sponsored several schools who would have otherwise not been able to attend.

MacLean's Booksellers in Hamilton always support our local CBCA events with book donations. Amanda also set up an amazing pop-up bookshop full to the brim with books from 
our participating stars for our attending schools to buy.

Beresfield Bowling Club supplied the venue and set up the room perfectly to meet the needs 
of our event. Nothing was too hard. The staff were superb!

Thanks to: Newcastle Region Libraries, Newcastle and Charlestown Toyota, MacLean's Booksellers and Beresfield Bowling Club.


We were very lucky to have had two beautiful volunteers on the day to help troubleshoot 
and support our guests (and the MC! - me). They ran around all day making sure 
everything was just right. And they left last!

Thanks Linda and Robyn - you're angels :)

Our booklet took a while to pull together but it finally did thanks to a huge team of clever people. This booklet is aways a popular keepsake from the day and treasured by the kids for years.

Thanks to: Gwynne and Deb for the internal pages
Thanks to: Liz, Kirrili, Gwynne and Lillian for designing the cover

The illustration activity was fun and challenging indeed. I asked children to chose nouns, verbs and places to mash together for our resident illustrators, Kirrili, Liz, Lillian and Gwynne to draw on easels around the room as the kids followed along. Six rounds, one minute time restrains, and lots of pressure made this part of the day truly 'challenging'. It proved to all of us just how clever these illustrators really are no matter how hard I tried to make the suggestions. 
They had to draw:

~ a rooster scratching for fleas in a helicopter, 
~ a unicorn wrangling a crocodile at the zoo, 
~ a librarian knitting underwater, 
~ an alien parachuting in outer space, 
~ an astronaut jumping on pogo stick on the back of a whale. 

Sounded hard to me but they nailed it!

Round six involved a 'Mr Squiggle' type activity and they named that too! Magic!


Photos: Gwynne Jones and Liz Anelli (photos by Karen Hughes)

Photos: Kirrili Lonergan and Lillian Webb (photos by Kirrili Lonergan)

Congratulations to the children and schools who won lucky seats prizes and 
book packs for best dressed tables.

It was an honour to have helped Kirrili and the committee provide such a unique and special event for our local community and to be the MC once again. The day ran smoothly thanks to everyone pitching in and helping when needed and for all the finer details being sorted before the day.

Kirrili did an amazing job co-ordinating this event this year (and for being a star, and for being my MC wingman). It's a hard task, especially when the odd thing goes wrong, but we handled it like pros and provided an experience these children will never forget. You're a star!

Thanks Kirrili!

It's now time for us to evaluate and recover. The feedback has been amazing so far and we've loved seeing all the photos popping up on social media. Hope you have too!

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Book Week School Visits 2017 - Escape to Everywhere!

Photo: Maroubra Junction PS library display

Book Week is such an exciting time for schools, libraries, librarians, teachers, parents and kids as the nation stops to celebrate books, reading, storytelling, writing, and illustrating.

Book Week is also a highlight on the calendars of authors and illustrators all over.

So where did I escape to? I went everywhere!

School 1: DALE Christian School, Waratah

DALE Christian School, Waratah is a special needs school catering for children aged 11-17 years. Kirrili and I had the great pleasure of talking to all of their students last Friday, 18th August, the afternoon of the Book Week Awards announcement. They had had a Book Week parade earlier in the day and Kirrili and I got to finish their celebrations by stepping them through the complicated process of how picture books are produced. Kirrili then workshopped some drawing techniques. These students were so tuned in and really appreciated our presentation. Kirrili and I left on a high!

Photo 1: Drawing emotions
Photo 2: sketches from our upcoming book, 'Up To Something'
Photo 3: Thank you gift

School 2: Greta Public School

Greta Public School recently refurbished their tired library and held their grand opening on Monday, 21st August. Kirrili and I were VIP guests along with several others including the local mayor. Their library is now amazing! 

Library monitors were ready to answer questions and demonstrate how the new technology worked. Some old visitor books were on display. I was very excited to look at old editions of The School Magazine from 1962!

After the official opening and morning tea, Kirrili and I ran two workshops with some lucky children. But we think we were the lucky ones!

We were introduced to a new Promethean 'smart board' (we were told it's like a smart phone on wheels). Kirrili learnt how to use the digital whiteboard app on this smart board only 30 minutes before our presentation and then demonstrated on it during our workshop. How clever!

The children had completed a lot of work on our book before we arrived so we were chuffed to see some of their artwork displayed on the library walls. Magic!

Photo: Kirrili and I

Photo: Kirrili in action

Photo: Dandelions artwork

Photo: Kirrili using the digital whiteboard app - very tech savvy!

Thank you gift: handmade charm with dandelion seeds encased - very thoughtful

School 3: Fern Bay Public School

Fern Bay Public School is a small seaside school with less than 60 students from K - 6.

While Kirrili was presenting at another school, I visited Fern Bay PS on 
Wednesday, 23rd August.

During my three sessions, we pulled my story apart and discussed the themes, we walked through the writing process (including rejections) and highlighted how important it is to edit, rewrite, edit, rewrite ... you get the picture ... until a story is just right.

Then I shared the process of submitting, finding an illustrator, the illustration process, and all the way to seeing the book in the shops or on library shelves.

This little school really appreciates books as they didn't have an onsite library until 2 weeks ago (YES - 2 weeks ago!) and the day I was there was their first library borrowing day.

It was an honour to be their first guest author in their brand new library and I'm sure they will adore every book they have after having barely any for so long. And now they also appreciate the process books go through to make it in their hands.

Photo: Here I am in action with some infants students

'We think you're DANDY and we're not lion :)' - super cute!

Photo 1: I adore my handmade welcome sign
Photo 2: School History sign

School 4: Maroubra Junction Public School

Photo: Welcome Sign - all these languages are spoken at MJPS 

A 4:30am get-up and a 5:15am leave to travel to Sydney was worth it once I met the 300 infants students of Maroubra Junction Public school on Thursday, 24th August. This was my last school visit for Book Week, 2017 and it finished with a bang!

Photo: Year 1 MJPS

The children were very engaged as I shared my publication journey with them and inspired them to never give up and keep reading and writing.

I was invited to visit their library and was blown away by how special their library space was. 
(Allisa, you are one super clever lady!) 
It was full of beautiful Book Week displays featuring some of their favourite shortlisted titles.

I was very honoured to be able to say I personally know or have met some of these clever book creators.

Photo: 'Gary' by Leila Rudge

Photo 1: 'Chip' by Kylie Howarth
Photo 2: 'Captain Jimmy Cook Discovers Third Grade' by Kate Temple, Jol Temple and John Foye

Photo: 'The Patchwork Bike' by Maxine Beneba Clarke and Van T Rudd 
(Van T Rudd is also the winner of the 2017 Crichton Award for a Debut Illustrator)

Photo: 'Nanny Loves' by Kylie Dunstan

Photo: 'Fabish' by Neridah McMullin and Andrew McLean

I presented three sessions to over 100 children each time and was amazed by the display of manners and enthusiasm for learning. It was a lovely way to end a very busy Book Week.

Thanks to The Children's Bookshop Speakers' Agency for co-ordinating this school visit.

Photo: Thank you gift: 'Maroubra on the Menu' - School Centenary Cook Book

Phew! Time for some rest and to catch up on some sleep. I hope you, your children, friends and family enjoyed Book Week celebrations wherever you were. My children's school is celebrating Book Week next week so it's now time to help my children organise their costumes. At least I have lots of ideas from my travels this week.