Monday, August 29, 2011

The first step on the road to publication...join up...

Storylines Family Days. I have attended two in the past ten days. One running the Kiwiwrite4kidz desk in Wellington on Sunday 21st and another in Auckland Sunday 28th. They are full on days. Even though most of the time is spent sitting, you must keep your wits about you chatting with children who might be readers or writers or both, and adults, who might be parents, teachers, librarians, readers or writers or any mixture of the aforementioned. Its a busy time.

On both weekends the people wanted to know who we were (authors and/or illustrators) ,what our books were about and what age they might be suitable for, whether they could take away the activity sheets, where they could buy the books and if they were writers, how one went about the business of getting published. Sitting at those desks reminded me of one very important thing if you want to be a writer. The first step I took when I decided to take the writing bull by the horns was I joined Storylines ( )and I started going to their annual AGM/Margaret Mahy Day. I met other writers, published and unpublished. I met teachers and librarians passionate about children's literature. I heard about the Storylines writing competitions and I started entering. I got shortlisted and I met competition winners, one of whom had recently become part of a brand new group of NZ writers called Kiwiwrite4kidz ( ). I joined that too. I went to workshops and joined a local Kiwiwrite4kidz critique group and made some very close writing friends that have changed my writing life in brilliant ways. And now I go along to Storylines family days as a Kiwiwrite4kidz member. If you are published this is where you get to meet your readers, old and new. If you are yet to be published, this is where you meet other writers, both published and unpublished. This is where you feel inspired and motivated to write and discover through the hordes of children and their parents that books and stories still matter. That there is hope. And where you might hear, "...this is the person who wrote this book...Yes really..." and the child's eyes widen, or maybe even "you wrote this book? I love this book..." This is where you get to hang out with kindred spirits who feel the same way you do about writing and stories and the pleasure of reading. Sigh.... If you don't already belong, and you are serious about books for children and/or writing, go sign up now. If you want to get published, these are the best ways to get started on the journey. They have made a big difference to me and to many of my writery friends. I remember one of my first years on the Kiwiwrite4kidz table at the Storylines family day in Auckland when we had maybe six or seven published books by members on the table...this year we had over 30 (and that didn't include those first 6 or 7). Next year will be even bigger. Okay folks, that is all. My job here today is done.

and btw they are reading my book here -

Monday, August 22, 2011

She's gone

Right up until yesterday we were not sure that our eldest child would be heading away to the US on a student exchange. After applying around August last year she was accepted onto the exchange programme, we paid our monies and they circulated her info amongst prospective families. Several potential host families put their hands up but then things began to unravel when our daughter realised she would not be able to do the one thing she wanted to do while she was away - cheerlead. School teams are wildly variable and the only way to guarantee a certain standard is to train at a gym. But the hosts lived hours away from gyms and the programme could not factor this in to the selection process. In desperation our girl got in touch with the cheerleading community in America and said 'help'. This was her last chance. If a suitable family wasn't found in the two months remaining she would be staying home. Then someone put their hand up and said they would love to have her stay. Their local cheer gym is the top gym in the country. The gym was keen too. Could the details be sorted and approvals given in time? Would the local high school take her? Yesterday, we finally got a yes. We took her to the airport for a 10am meet this morning and the plane took off at 1.05. This time tomorrow she should be in South Miami where she will be living for the next 10 months. I am very proud of what she achieved through her own efforts and thrilled the exchange programme came to the party and organised the necessary paperwork. I hope she has a wonderful experience. I miss her already.

I'm glad she didn't get the call up to fly on the weekend. I flew down to Wellington last thursday night to do a bit of book promotion, reading The House That Went to Sea at storytime on friday at the legendary Children's Bookshop in Kilbirnie and then manning the Kiwiwrite4kidz table (available for the first time ever) at the Storylines Family Day at the Wellington Town Hall on Sunday. Lots of people checked out the books by our members, some talked to author Bridget Feehan and I about writing and getting published and some folk bought books for us to sign. It was a wonderful event with many happy young book lovers enjoying themselves, making fun things at the craft tables and meeting beloved authors and illustrators. Its a buzz to be a part of such a positive occasion. Wellington put on a brilliant day. Huge congratulations to Adele Jackson, Fifi Colston and the Storylines team. I will be at the Kiwiwritekidz table at the Auckland Storylines family day this coming Sunday August 28th.

Last tuesday Duck Creek Press held a combined first birthday party and book launch for their 2011 titles including my book The House That Went to Sea, Goodnight Pumpkin (by Belynda Smith illus. Marie Sanders) and Whetu: The Little Blue Duck (by Jennifer Beck, illus. Renee Haggo). There was a large crowd and sales went well (in a sold-out kind of way). Thank you to my sisters, niece, SO and son, and friends for their support on the night.

I think now maybe a little lie down is in order :)

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The House That Went to Sea - reviewed

We are in the grip of a cold snap. It is snowing in places it never usually snows. The one time it snowed in Auckland that I remember, I was eleven or twelve. I have not been eleven or twelve for a few years now. The rain that is falling right now looks like it is thinking about being snow. Snow is only romantic when you are somewhere warm. I am not friends with winter. It has been somewhat rude and obnoxious this year and I have asked it to leave. It is taking its time, as rude, obnoxious things are want to do. I will not be sorry when it is gone.

Tomorrow night Duck Creek Press are having a first birthday party and book launch for their three new titles (including The House That Went to Sea) at the Takapuna Library at 6pm. The books will be on sale at super duper prices (cash or cheque only). I could not wrangle the official invite on to this post with blogger (it is being very fussy) and apologise for insufficient notice although the info has been wandering around in other bookish quarters for a week or two. RSVP to Helen Woodhouse or ph 486 8469.

A few reviews have popped up for The House That Went to Sea including these nice words by Linda Hall in the Hastings Leader in July. She begins by saying I know school holidays are almost over but I am so impressed with these two children’s books I’m starting with them anyway and then goes on to say this:- Now to The House That Went to Sea, by Melinda Szymanik. It was illustrated by Gabriella Klepatski and what wonderful illustrations they are. The pictures in this book made me smile, especially the ones with Granny in them. Granny Gale lives by the sea with her grandson Michael. Granny tries her best to get Michael to join her racing paper boats and sorting starfish, but he just wants to watch television. In desperation Granny pulls up the anchor and the house sets sail. It takes awhile but finally Granny coaxes Michael outdoors and they have all sorts of adventures.

The book is also reviewed here at and was in the Canvas Magazine section of the Weekend Herald on July 30th where reviewer Graham Hepburn said When Michael's parents get lost in a tropical rainforest he has to stay with nature-loving Granny Gale in her fishy, ramshackle cottage beside the sea in Hurricane Cove. After he continues to shut himself in his room each day to watch television, Granny Gale sets the house sailing on the sea while he's asleep. With no TV, Michael gradually enters into the spirit of the adventure and slowly but surely the generation gap is bridged.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

London's burning...

I wish it was just an old Clash song replaying in my head. I have been getting a glimpse of the literary classic Beowulf through my studies recently. What terrifying creatures lie in wait for us in the dark, preparing to strike terror in to our hearts and separate us cruelly from the living world? How violent is humankind, energized by hate and greed? How different are our stories now, how civilized we have become since Viking times, since the days of swords and warriors? Not civilized enough - apparently modern man is still capable of looting, burning and pillaging like the days of old. It is frightening to watch the anarchy descending on London right now. Are we just violent creatures at heart or have these eleven year old children been pushed to it by socio-economic forces? After watching a double episode of UK series Silent Witness recently with gang violence as its central theme I fear for where this is all heading. Are we breeding a new Viking warrior?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Don't try cure your kids of stubborn - it comes in handy in adulthood if you're a writer

And they just keep coming - sometimes uplifting and a clear reminder of how, even though you are just hanging on by your fingernails, you have to keep hanging on - Thanks to Janet Reid for the link.

Or sometimes it's the voice of reason - (via Beattie's Blog) - which, having written a YA to be published later this year with some close physical contact of the boy-girl kind, I was grateful to read. Sex is a normal part of the world we live in. Teenagers want to know what it's like. Books give them a chance to check it out before they check it out in person.

And for a book that just might knock your socks off (dammit) - read this review of Florence and Giles at Nicola Morgan's blog -

In other news, The House That Went to Sea is now for sail in smart bookshops and online. There have been a few reviews and I will post these up soon.