Mentone Public Library – A Hidden Gem

Last weekend, I had the most wonderful visit to the Mentone Public Library.

I had been asked to talk about my writing journey by Julia Reichstein, a volunteer at Mentone Public Library, and also at the Jewish Holocaust Centre in Elsternwick, which provided so much support and assistance with my research for Beyond Belief.

Earlier this year, when I mentioned to a Mentone resident at a SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) meeting that I was going to be speaking at her library, she looked at me bewildered, and said, “You must mean Cheltenham. Mentone doesn’t have a library.”

But it does!

Mentone Public Library is situated in a quaint little building in the middle of the Coles Car Park, not easy to find unless you are ‘in the know’. Thanks to Julia’s efficiency in making sure that everything was perfect for my visit, I was able to find my way. She had given me great directions explaining exactly where to go.The library has been running since 1925, just prior to the beginning of the Great Depression. It was started by a group of people seeking to lift flagging spirits and provide community support for locals who had fallen on hard times.

Today, the library is still run by volunteers, and going strong. It collects and preserves works by local historians, and is an enthusiastic supporter of local (and visiting) authors and their works. It is funded by annual subscriptions, and is an intimate and inspiring space with an eclectic collection.

I received a warm welcome from Julia, and President, Tony, and a room full of book lovers and writers.

It was so much fun to talk books and writing with such an enthusiastic group of all ages.

Afterwards, there were book sales and signings, followed by lunch at a quaint Mentone Cafe.

Thanks Julia and Tony for inviting me to visit your fascinating library. I enjoyed becoming part of its history.

Photos courtesy of Julia Reichstein.

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A Book For All Children

What an amazing experience it has been to see our new picture book, Reena’s Rainbow released to both deaf and hearing communities.

Reena’s Rainbow tells the story of a deaf girl and a homeless dog and how they bridge the gap between the deaf and hearing worlds.

One of the most amazing things about our Reena’s Rainbow events has been being able to include both deaf and hearing children.

This was made possible thanks to a grant from Regional Arts Victoria that funded our fabulous Auslan Interpreters Meg, Pauline and Bec.

It meant that deaf children could feel included and valued, and be introduced to a story in which they could see themselves represented.

It meant that hearing children could experience communicating in Auslan, and it allowed them to walk in the shoes of deaf children.

We were truly fortunate to be able to also be able to have both deaf and hearing children at our workshops where they could learn about how books are created.

There were interpreters.

Our Auslan Interpreter, Meg, our fabulous launcher Mitch Vane, me and Tracie at Dromkeen.

Tracie, me and Bec our Auslan Interpreter

Auslan Interpreter, Pauline, interpreting how to create Rainbow Stories

There were lots of eager young readers.

There were supportive bookshops and galleries including Dromkeen, Squishy Minnie and Collins Bookstores.

And there was cake. And books of course.Thanks to everyone who has supported Reena’s Rainbow and its launch into the deaf and hearing worlds. Special thanks to my fabulous partner-in-picture books, Tracie Grimwood who created all the fabulous illustrations and did so much more.

Happy writing, illustrating and creating 🙂

Dee

Nurture Your Creative Dreams

When I was seven years-old I decided to become a writer.

I had written a poem for arbor day (tree planting day) that I was asked to read at school assembly.

Little oak tree by the mill
standing there so quiet and still
stretch your branches up to the sky
up to the birds flying by.

And when the wind oh how it blows
It blows the leaves down to my toes
With little acorns yellow and brown
“Folks gather them all over town.

Oak tree I like you when you’re small
and I like you when you’re tall
But I like it best of all
When the coloured leaves fall from the trees
Look at the things that the butterfly sees.

Not a literary masterpiece and that last stanza is pretty random I know, but I was only seven 🙂

Reading my poem out at assembly and seeing how people reacted to it was amazing, I think it was the first time I realised the power of written words, that what we write can have an impact on people.

Of course I didn’t realise at that time what being a writer actually meant. All I knew was that I loved to write.

English and writing were the only subjects where I shone,  but there was nobody at high school to advise me  how you become a writer.

So I wrote. I thought that seemed the best way to follow my passion. Then I went to Vic Uni and did their Professional Writing and Editing Diploma, and I wrote some more. I wrote because it’s who I am … a writer.

I battled self doubt often … and the judgements of friends and family who didn’t think that writing was a ‘proper job’.

And after a while I started to see things their way. What other profession would you face constant rejection … constant letters/emails from people saying that your work was not what they wanted? What other profession would you devote hundreds of hours to a project with no guarantee of any financial reward?

I took a job in insurance because it enabled me to eat, but still I wrote. It was a compulsion with me. It was who I was … a writer.

Eventually I went from insurance to marketing to advertising to copywriting … and finally I was a writer.

From there, it was a short step to being an author … or so I thought.

But getting a novel published isn’t easy. You have to find someone that loves your book, loves the story idea and the writing so much that they are willing to publish it.

So began the long road of rejections.

As the years went by, the rejection letters got better … if you can use such a word for rejection. I started receiving letters that weren’t the standard rejection. Editors and agents began to offer feedback on my work … offered suggestions on how to make it more ‘publication ready’, and I embraced all their suggestions.

But still I wasn’t published. And I have to say I became more desperate. I submitted to publishers I might not normally have sent work to. If I’d had the money I think I would have been open to all kinds of publishers offering to publish my work for a ‘not so small’ fee.

The reason I’m sharing this is because writing is hard. No matter how patient we are, how hard we work, sometimes it feels like it’s never going to happen.

My new book out this year with Scholastic Australia

But if you have talent and dedication and lots of ideas i firmly believe that you will find someone who will love and believe in your work as much as you do.

So take heart, don’t give up, but don’t sell yourself short either. Don’t fall victim to scammers and companies seeking to make a lot of money from your desire to be published.

Have faith in yourself and wait for the right opportunity, wait for the publisher who wants to pay to publish your work rather than the company who wants you to pay hundreds or thousands to see your work in print,

Out 1st September with EK books. Loved working with illustrator Tracie Grimwood on this one 🙂

Be patient (although I know how hard that can be). Keep writing, take courses and get better at your craft.

Anyone who values your writing as much as you do will be prepared to pay for it.

Feed and nurture your creative dreams until they bear fruit.

Good luck, keep going and happy writing 🙂

Dee

Here’s a link to a page I’ve set up about some of the traps you can face as an author: https://deescribewriting.wordpress.com/authors-beware/

 

    

 

 

Sunday for Children’s Writers at the Sunshine Coast International Readers and Writer’s Festival

If you’re coming to the Sunshine Coast International Readers and Writer’s Festival, make sure you pop in and say, “Hi”.

I’ll be talking about writing for the international market, and the delightful Dimity Powell will be launching my new books, Reena’s Rainbow and K9 Heroes.

The festival has a great line up of speakers, launches and presentations – Sunday is especially for those who write children’s and YA books.

Bookings can be made through festival website.

Hope to see you there.

Dee

Writing With Love

Writing about what you love is such a joyous experience.

Not only that, your passion for your subject comes through in your writing, and makes it sparkle.

Recently, I realised that both my new books due to be released this year involve dogs. And I LOVE dogs.

In Reena’s Rainbow, to be published by EK Books, Reena meets a stray dog and it changes her life. (I love illustrator, Tracie Grimwood’s sensitive and beautiful interpretation of my Dog).

In K9 Heroes, to be published by Scholastic Australia, all four stories are about amazing dogs who have saved people’s lives.

Here are my tips for writing about what you love. I hope you find them helpful.

WRITING ABOUT WHAT YOU LOVE

  1. Remember that your reader might not know as much about your passion as you do … so some explanation might be required.
  2. Story comes first … so don’t let your love for your subject distract you from the art of good story telling.
  3. What you love is part of who you are, it’s part of your natural voice so allow it to filter through organically in your work. Don’t let it become contrived. For example, me bringing dogs into my story happened in my subconscious, and while I love writing about them, that doesn’t mean I should have a dog in every story.
  4. Enjoy the experience. It’s okay to love what you do … even if it’s not paying the bills … yet.
  5. Look for markets that publish pieces about your passion.

What do you love writing about? Do you find recurring themes or symbols in your writing. If so, we’d love you to share your experiences in the comments section of this post.

Happy writing 🙂

Dee