It has been a bit quiet on the writing news front, dear Reader, and the rest of life rather hectic, which accounts for my sparse blogging. On the news front, though, I am now about a third in to a middle grade novel, which has had ‘it’s got legs’ approval, so I’m very excited about this. Starting a new novel is as feeling-your-way-in-the-dark as it ever was: I am a beginner every time. Which is the joy (more of which below) and frustration both of this writing life.
Yesterday was the Perth launch for Dianne Wolfer‘s beautiful new picture book, Nanna’s Button Tin, illustrated by Heather Potter. Button-festooned Frané Lessac started a new trend by launching a picture book by way of reference to Captain Koons’ speech in Pulp Fiction: I’m sure Tarantino could never have imagined this would be one of the uses to which his script would be put, but I think more books should be launched in this manner, although it was possibly confusing to the small children present, who almost swallowed their buttons as adults in the audience guffawed about grandfathers dying. (You had to be there.) Anyway, it was a beautiful event for a special book. I have such admiration for Dianne and her creative openness and writing trajectory, and it was most excellent to see the latest in the Wolfer oeuvre.
Following this were the mainland events of the SCBWI Rottnest Retreat. I was excited to attend this not only so I could catch up with my SCBWI buddies and meet some new ones, but also because my publisher from Penguin Random House, Lisa Riley, was one of the panellists. The session on children’s and YA publishing was enlightening and sobering: Linsay Knight from Walker Books said that out of the 360 submissions (from published and unpublished authors) Walker had received since November, only one had been acquired, with a couple of others making progress. Penguin Random House received 2300 manuscripts in 2016, with many, many picture books among those: given that only 12 picture books are published each year, that gives you some insight into the odds. However, the final word was: if you have a great story, it will out. Eventually! Many, many thanks to the SCBWI volunteers who make the retreat possible: it is a wonderful thing you’re doing, and we know how much work (and prayer: see James Foley below) go into these things.
And speaking of good stories outing eventually, it was wonderful to be at dinner with Michael Speechley as he received his first offer of contract from Penguin Random House. Joyful in June, indeed!