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The blog of children's author Christopher Cheng -- with words about children's books, his books and being a writer

Number of Readers that added this blog to their MyJacketFlap: 2
1. Hello Tasmania

... and the Children's Book Council crew in Hobart and Launceston,especially Nella Pickup and Patsy Jones.
Thanks for organising a most splendid four days with you all down there in Hobart and Launceston.

Patsy and Nella
 Usually I drop a quick bite of my happenings when tripping around each day but down south the wifi was a little hard to come by - even the local library in Launceston didn't have it. So here is a bit of a blurb about the last few days.

Last week we flew down to Hobart for me to do my Children's Book Council of Australia Tassie Branch and SCBWI and National Year of Reading gigs. On Wednesday two sessions were presented, one professional development session on Writing History for teachers in the afternoon at the local Princes Street Primary school (it was so delighful being able to just plug that laptop in and go and have a nice large IWB to display my images!) and then the other session early in the evening to parents and the general community on eBooks, Book Apps and Reading! That session had a few parents and quite a few teachers as well. It generated lots of chat and discussions about using the iPads in schools with a little bit of home usage discussed as well, and of course the continuing issue of being able to use the same book app on multiple devices came up. We had a look at good and bad examples of ones that I have worked on as well as a few classy creations like the Very Itchy Bear and the Yellow Submarine. Lots of chatting too about what makes a good App / eBook and how to go about creating them - and of course some of the pitfalls - all of which I can talk about from first hand experience!!

Then it was a wind driven drive up to Launceston (I am sure the hire car was returned with the imprint of my fingers still in the steering wheel) to do it all again in the upstairs of Fullers Bookshop which was just a terrific setting, with carpet and nice comfy chairs, as well as at the Launceston library. But first things first ... before we got to Launceston we had to stop for some wine and cheese tastings along the way. Okay, I didn't partake of the wine swilling but I did sample lots of cheeses and we have returned to Sydney with more than a few wedges. We also took a stroll around town and came across the museum and I was just thriled to the core when we stumbled across the Albert Ullin exhibition of artwork from children's book creators. Yeah!

The final activity of the Tassie jaunt was to join Corinne and Claire for the regional SCBWI Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia gathering (Corrine is in charge of a few states and she does it so wonderfully well too!) again in the bookshop. It was wonderful to catch up and meet (some for the very first time) with the Tasmanian SCBWI members like Christina Booth, Julie Hunt, and Penny Garnsworthy, many of whom I have emailed with over lots of years.

What was super amazing and completely dumbfounded me was finding out about the status of specialists children's librarians in Tasmania. What specialist children's librarians? I don't think there are many in the state education system, and the community libraries are also devoid of children's specialist librarians. Oh that's right - we've gone digital so we don't need them! How short sighted!
Children's specialist librarians are crucial to the efficient operation of any library.
Teacher trained librarians are essential
to put the right book into the hands of students;
to find the right book (be it traditional or digital) for the teaching staff;
to find the right website to support the teachers in their curriculum development and with the removal of essential curriculum staff in state education offices this is even more crucial;
to choose the right books for the school libraries ... and so much more.
I am amazed how authorities can consider that one central buying office for all branches, or the authority in head office, can decide the books that would be appropriate to all. You need a teacher trained librarian to decide the material for his or her school, surely! Or have we decided that homogenised education - the one size fits all policy - is the education of the future. No wonder the standards are slipping!

So, for the Tasmanian branch of the Children's Book Council three cheers for creating the booklet for parents and for getting out there and supporting parents and kids with advice about what to read.

with Christina Booth
Just a few snaps of me in action:

contemplating that question
And just a few snaps of things discovered along the way!

 a few old bridges ... including the oldest surviving in Australia.

Alexandra Bridge at Launceston Gorge - we walked it of course!

doorway to .....

gathering recalcitrant sheep - the cheese is delicious

sheep jokes on the toilet wall!

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2. And now

We're happy little vegemites;

So what was the result of that day at the Powerhouse Museum with the ABC TV film crew?
... well I can't embed the ABC TV clip so here is the link. Go on. Have a look. You know I want you to!


I thought this was going to be shown tomorrow morning (Sunday) but as it is already out there then obviously not! And yikes ... they even include some playing of the piano too (no commentary from me on that) except that i did have a few people watching and listening.

And I am now officially an amateur musician!

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3. Meet me at the Powerhouse Museum

... with ABC TV and that was this afternoon's activity. In fact, straight after the radio session this morning it was off to the museum to have my photo taken for the museum collection - and to accompany an article I wrote for the museum's next magazine.

the black box flight recorder (and not a toaster!)

Then after a quick dash home (via Newtown for a cup of coffee and a bite to eat) it was back to the museum this afternoon for a session of filming with Debbie and the ABC TV crew that will be broadcast this weekend promoting Inventions and Innovations.

But imagine my joy when while sipping a latte Debbie rings and asks me if I can play the piano - oh JOY! And if you don't believe me ... then have a look at this. That IS me playing the Stuart and Sons piano! Thanks to my lovely Bini who didn't even tell me she was taking this. I was just tinkering around while the film crew set up!

and a few snaps too:

atmospheric photo


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4. Meet me at the TARDIS

... that was the message from Dot, my publicist at Random House, for the new book created with Linsay, Australia's Greatest Inventions and Innovations. And the Tardis is not some weak joking reference to the blue Dr. Who police box. It IS the Tardis at the ABC Radio Studios. The book is just about to be released and I have already rolled out a few newspaper interviews. This morning, Debbie Rudder (the wonderful curator from the Powerhouse who collated so much of the background material and who is like a living encyclopedia on the objects) was with me for the on-air chat with ABC Radio North Coast.
Lotsafun ... especially listening to Debbie and her humungous knowledge!

door text: ABC Tardis Radio Interview Booths, Master Control

In Tardis Booth 2 with Debbie Rudder

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5. Go Strolling

Ahh. The sweet smell of Dencorub and muscle linament filled the early moring train carriage. It must be the Sydney Running Festival - and then when we walked onto Milson's Point Station we definitely knew we were in the right place. Not only was the aroma so very, very strong but there were a gazillion bodies dressed in varying forms of running gear (and lots of lycra). And no - we weren't running. We were in the family and community groups section of the running festival. We strolled across the Sydney Harbour Bridge as part of the orange-clad Books In Homes crew. It was an absolute thrill to be part of the team (thanks Hester for organising our gathering) and we must have stood out because as we crossed the finish line (46 minute stroll) at the Botanical Gardens our team was congratulated over the PA system! Yeah for Books in Homes!

Not sure about Books in Homes? It is one of the organisations which I am delighted to be involved in. Books in Homes Australia’s vision is to re-awaken a sense of wonder in children and excitement in parents, by creating an Australia where every child and family has access to books of choice at home. There are Books in Homes Role Models across the country. We volunteer to inspire young readers and are featured in the Books in Homes catalogues, participate in school Book Giving Assemblies, and promote the enjoyment of reading ... something that is right down my alley!

Find out more about Books in Homes here.
We are most definitley walking the bridge again with Books in Homes in next year!

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6. Hello Bookfeast

Thursday was the annual Bookfeast gathering organised by the intrepid Teacher Librarian Michael Fraser from Haberfield Primary School ... which I might add is a spectacularly excellent school (even if I do say so myself and I am not too biased!)

Nearly 40 tables, more than 40 authors and illustrators, more than 300 students and their Teacher Librarians from primary and high schools gathered to feast on stuffed chicken fillets with roast potatoes and vegetables (I thought it was quite delicious but some of those lunching with me did not like the green gooey stuff oozing from the chicken) or a vegetarina pasta if you prefered; to listen to a spectacular Q&A session with a panel of authors - and they told all manner of crazy shenanigans; to listen to John Heffernan and Jacqueline Harvey tell of their new titles ... and of course to meet all the authors and illustrators. Our fathering was MC'd by the magnaplurious Duncan Ball. The creative types in attendance was a roll call of Sydney folk with a few extras like Andy Griffths thrown in. We, the creative type, had barely a chance to chit chat but I did get to exchange words with Anna Fienberg, Sarah Davis, Jacqueline Harvey, Peter Macinnis, Oliver Phommavanh, Lesley Vamos, Sue Whiting, John Heffernan and Belinda Murrell - and I did wave to a bunch more too across a very crowded room!

Events like this are glorious celebrations. They are wonderful fun and it is a thrill to spend time with the kids. A big hello to the kids who shared lunch with me from Lansvale and  Clempton Park. T'was rather nice feasting with you all!

Q&A panel

Lesley Vamos signing

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7. Hello Book Bazaar and ....

... Umina Public School and St John the Baptist Primary at Woy Woy.

Book Bazaar is a lovely little independent bookshop at Umina and they organise a Book Week visit that is just a little different. They have arranged a Lunchtime Author Club with their local primary schools. The premise is simple. Kids who love books and have parents who support that love, sign up for a once a term lunch time meeting with an author or illustrator and they agree to buy one book per term. The kids are enthusiastic and excited about it and look forward to the announcement of who is coming next.

So here I am up at Umina Beach (perfect beach weather too) as the featured author for the term visiting the two schools and even squeezing in a coffee at lunchtime. I signed a nice bundle of books and of course I had fun! Yeah! And ... it is over sooo quickly too!

nice window display

me standing next to nice window display

some of the Umina Lunchtime Author Club crew
And this is amazing! What a library here at St John the Baptist. It's big and they have a tent, slap bang in the middle of the library - the Reading Tent ... I have sat on Reading Chairs to present but never in a Reading Tent. This is totally fantasmagorical - worthy of a story or two for sure!

oops. forgot to do up the shirt!

And I have already received messages:
I have already had great feedback from parents who had children attend and have returned home very enthusiastic. One Mum posted up on facebook pics of her boy at home getting started in his new ideas book!

Thanks once again for a wonderful visit! It was a perfect presentation – funny, interesting and most of all, inspiring for our kids. Great job!

Thanks Mandi at Book bazaar for organising the gig and the wonderful teacher librarians who support the club!

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8. Feasting with Linda Sue

I am sure that I have mentioned this a number of times but one of the glorious things about being a children's book creator is meeting other magnaplurious children's book creators and not once, but twice in the past few days I have been able to feast with Linda Sue Park and her husband.

She was here for the Melbourne Writer's Festival last week and then jumped into the car and took the cruising road with her husband to Sydney - and now they have buzzed up north for the Brisbane Writer's Festival before they venture off somewhere else in Asia.

We had a few long chats, swapped books (I will deliver mine to her next year so that she doesn't have to cart it around on her current expedition) and we shared local dining treats - and some of the cake baekd with my hands too! Wonderful! Seven years ago when she was here with her kids as well as her husband, we caught up then too. That time I forgot to get her to sign the visitors book but that slip of the brain is now rectified!

Thankfully Linda Sue is also on the SCBWI board so I am able to see her at least once a year! Yeah!
Just a lovely time!

swapping our latest creations

just because

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9. Hello Dobroyd Point Public School

Nearly at the tail end of Book Week / Month and one of my final vists for this year was to the lovely school at Dobroyd Point. I know this school quite well as it is near my old stomping ground -- where I spent my early years in primary and high school! And I also visited this school a few years ago so it was lovely to be welcomed back to the school.

The librarians have done a splendid Sounds Spooky investigation in the primary grades - in fact throughout most of the school - so it was wonderful to be able to chit chat to the students about the inspiration behind the book ... some of the students even knew the house that was solidly in my brain when I wrote the text. Thankfully, there was no one who now lives in the Sounds Spooky house althrough there was one student who does live very close to my old house, and also to the Sounds Spooky inspiration house!
And I realised this afternoon too that I don't have a picture of the house so straight after school it was a quick drive and here is the house that was clearly in my head when I wrote Sounds Spooky. It still looks a little like the house that I remember - complete with creaking squeaking gate (left hand corner of photo) although the trees are taller and bushier.

First session this morning at Dobroyd Point School was with years 3 and 4. Lots of tales about writing and books and inspiration and idea generation. I prattled on for ages. Then I glanced at the hall clock and the session was done ... with barely a question asked but at we did talk about Sounds Spooky and Python too!

Straight on to Year 5 and more Sounds Spooky, and a discussion on historical fction too ... but then the real task - writing narratives. Like most folks there were quite a few stumbles as I told them to write about anything they would like to write about. The need for inspiration and ideas was discussed and then the writing continued. I was rather intrigued about a car - the name of which was new to me and which I could not pronounce ... but for one student it was an easy writing task. He knew absolutely everything about the car (which caused much laughter when I called it a gazzoomby umby car)! A chat about descriptions and details and plotting and planning and then we were already at lunch break time (love the lunch time before midday). After lunch it was the turn for year 6 with a session much the same as year 5.

My school day done it was a few minutes drive to my old stomping ground for photos and time to sit in my car and remember!

Today was definitely a day of memories of growing up, of my early years in Haberfield, of vines and creapers, of gmaes and schools, or walking home, of playing in a tree house that I built, of the old house and those spooky sounds.

Thanks Barbara for organsing a lovely day.

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10. Hello Our Lady Queen of Peace Gladesville

Book Week for some of us visiting authors and illustrators has stretched into Book Month and today found me in the library of OLQP at Gladesville.

For the past 6 weeks the library has been doing all things to do with shortlisted books - a short list of books chosen by the students from the books in their library! What fun it was with the OLQP characters - and they ARE characters. I have attended many Book Week parades in my time as a visiting author but never have I had the chance to host the gathering. Today I did! I MC'd the Book Week character parade and it was so wonderful to see character costumes that have been lovingly created from the 'things around the house' with the characters chosen from teh school's shortlist books. And there were heaps!
  • Three amazing boys dressed up as the Three Aunties from Nick Bland's hilarious  Aunties Three,
  • There were many Terrys and Andys from Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton's 13 Storey Tree House - and from the same book there was also one creative student who came dressed as the pillow room with numerous pillows strapped to his body. Ingenious.
  • a spooky haunting of ghosts from Sounds Spooky and a gathering of kids who were exploring the haunted house too complete with teddy bears and torches and even cameras made from boxes! Yeah! I wonder why I liked these soooo much!
  • prominent were the protesting students carrying placards, and fairy tale characters who were adorned with No Bears ... plus a few who wanted Bears! 
  • a wonderfully attired Grace from the Our Australian Girl books.
  • The school was also extremely powerfully protected too for there were many ninjas silently and secretly patrolling the grounds from Moonshadow - the Wrath of Silverwolf.
Huge congratulations to the adults who helped create the wonderful costumes, and who joined in the celebration watching the parade in the morning. It was wonderful seeing so much enthusiasm and camera flashes and so much laughter and giggling going on. There will be some very embarrassing photos shown at future 18th birthday parties. And HUGE congratulations to ALL the teachers who dressed up for the day and joined in the celebrations! Just look at some of the crew ... I think they had fun!

As well as being MC for the morning I spoke to all the grades - about my favourite subject - ME!

But along with the super book week parade there was a special lunchtime feast for the School Librarians, the Principal, Library staff and the visiting book creator - ME! Quiche, salad, soft drinks, cupcakes ... yummo! And this year Gemma was presented with the Library Monitor badge for her sterling work in the library ... I  have been hearing all year how wonderful she is in the library so this is a well deserved recognition.

Gemma's Library Monitor badge being pinned

Gemma and Shauna with Miss Bini (one of the three aunties) and Me

Now I will say that I adore this school but then I am a little biased, which might have something to do with the fact that I am married to the Teacher Librarian!

Thanks OLQP for hosting me at your school and for such a fun filled day!

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11. Hello Holy Cross Primary School Glenwood

Today is the last 'official' day of Book Week - although there are still a few schools for me to visit that will make my Book Week Book Month! And what a terrific school to finish the week. Definitely Champions here! I had an absolutely gloriously fun time today at Glenwood. And the school uniforms are just beautiful.

There were some terrific questions asked but THE question of the day, actually I think it is the question of the year is most definitely a question that I have never had before ...
What would you do if there were no kids?
For me, that question is a real challenge for all the things that I like to do involve working with kids! There would be no need for Infants and Primary School Teachers (the second best job in the wrold) either. What a world that would be!

There were three sessions today, Kindergarten, first class and second class, and then after lunch (which is in the morning and a jolly sensible idea having a long lunch break early on), first the lower primary classes and then the upper primary classes.

Lots of chit chatting about story ideas; a creepy old house near where I grew up and the night-time noises that were the spark for Sounds Spooky; lots of looking at pictures to see exactly what Mark Jackson (illustrator) created for Python; and just a  few tales that I love to share from my days working at the zoo with all sorts of animals - including the human ones!
And we had to talk too about saving the brain strain for teachers by students creating the best possible stories with numerous edits and sparkling imagery.
The excitement and smiles (with just a few grimaces too when I showed some of the picture from Python) were just marvelous.

Thanks too to Holy Cross for sharing your photos with me. Keep on readings and loving books!

Friday is done and Book Week is done but there are a few more schools left for me to appear in this year for Book Week!

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12. Hello Merrylands Library ...

and the years 5 & 6 classes from
Merrylands East Primary School,
Parramatta West Primary School
and Giraween Primary School

Yes it's another Book Week event speaking to hundreds of kids in the open spaces at the beautiful Merrylands Library. They were well prepared for Book Week with great competitions and a wall display that tied in well with the olympics too! Champions!

Lots of great questions (including ones like:
Why don't you write books for older kids?
What's the worst book you have ever read? and
Which animal has the stronger smelling poo, a bilby or a northern quoll?
Now I know quite a bit about animals but it doesn't stretch to poo smelling!).
And I hope lots of listeners have returned to school with some fun writing ideas! My reading of Sounds Spooky scared a few kids - and the big kids sitting on the side too, and there were attentive listeners for some of the zoo stories. Python is a hit, especially Mark's illustrations of the open-jawed python attempting to catch a bird and then the constricting python in action! Lots more giggles and fun and laughing.

... and thanks to the children's librarian at Merrylands Library Kirsty Plumridge for organising me to come to the library.

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13. Hello St Lukes Grammer School Dee Why

What a fun time it was at St Luke's Grammar School in Dee Why today doing literacy focussed workshops.
It was a day of brainstorming and compiling writing ideas and developing stories and getting excited, and me trying to write neartly on the white board!
We created lists of ideas that would make great stories.
We compiled lists and mind maps of the happenings that would expand the initial ideas and then we created a collection of great sentence starts that would really hook the reader.
We talked about descriptions and detail - especially when we tried to describe some of the students - there are some eyes in some rather wierd places, and ears that were rather strangely attached to our heads!
We laughed and giggled and shared and we all wrote stories - or at least the ideas that will be our stories.

Some of the ideas that filled our white board:
dinosaurs, dancing leprechauns, more than a few zombies and nasty beasties, a few investigators, dragons, a fun filled talking breakfast (bacon for mouth, eggs for eyes, toast for the face and a whole lot more), a wide assortment of native and non native animals that did all manner of peculiar things, ghosts and spooks, rattling windows, flying pancakes, disappearing food, disappearing people - I wish that I could remember them all but I am a little too tired right now!

But what was really fun and what makes these days so thrilling for me is seeing and hearing these kids excited about being able to write a story idea that is their very own!
Thanks to Mrs Smith and Mrs Griffiths for organsing our fun!

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14. Hello Wahroonga Public School

Ah, what a blast it was today with the wonderful students from Wahroonga Public School and their fantasmagorical Teacher Librarian Mrs Crys Mills.

Right at the start of Book Week 2012 I want to give a huge, gigantic and exhillerating shout out for all those amazing teacher librarians, and not just because I am married to one. How critical and essential are our teacher librarians to the whole education of our students. In many schools it is the teacher librarian who teaches every child each week. They don't just manage the book collection or turn on the school computers. They share the joy of holding books and develop or continue a love of all things book. They teach research skills ... and they can usually find just the perfect book for each child to read. Just like Crys Mills.

And of course without teacher librarians where would authors and illustrators be!

I visited Wahroonga school a few years ago so some of the upper primary students already knew lots about me but many things change in two years so it was wonderful to be able to introduce my more recent titles - Sounds Spooky and Python.
We chit chatted about the importance of the process of writing and especially the editing part of writing ... once is never enough! Editing and rewriting is all part of the writing process - not just coming up with ideas. And we even discussed the brains of teachers ... but you will have to find a Wahroonga student to find out what that is all about!

in the library
Thanks Wahroonga for a lovely day.

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15. And so it begins ... Book Week 2012

Every year, around about this time for countless years, authors and illustrators of children's books around Australia have woken up knowing that they have this one peaceful day before the craziness of Book Week begins. For some of us Book Week has already begun and that one week has now evolved into Book Month!

We make sure that the laptops have all the images that we might want to project onto the IWBs; old stories have been brushed up so that we remember them clearly; the props we use to tell those stories are uncovered, rejuvenated and stitched, sewn or glued back together again (the local children have been playing with them for the past 51 weeks); copies of our published books - especially the new ones - are filling the bags, and those so very talented illustrators - well they have the added advantage of having countless examples of artwork from their wonderful creations to show. 

Tonight we will have one hearty meal and jump into bed early for what will be a restless sleep, our minds a buzzing and remembering, ready to venture out to schools and libraries near and far, within the state and out of state, to be with the very young and not so young, and those who are simply young at heart. We will sing and dance and read stories and create stories and share our thoughts and talk about the wonderful world that is children's books ... the best books!

I love it!

... and maybe, just maybe we will spark a young author or illustrator of the future in one of our classes who will one day blog (or by then there will be some new form of social media for sure) that they are venturing off for the very first time, now as an adult, into a school or library to share the joys of being a children's book creator!

And they will remember when an author or illustrator came to their school one Book Week.

And they will love it!

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16. Conference Day 3

Just a little late but here we go:

The highlight time for the day has to be the Golden Kite Luncheon and the wonderful and delightful and so excellent Susanne Williams being announced as Member of the Year ... yeah.

This is an amazing award ... I know because this is the award that I received in 2010. It is a total surprise and the recipient is chosen by the LA office. As Susie Williams proceeded to the stage from the back of the ballroom all the Regional Advisors stood and clapped and cheered our excitement at her award.

The chaotic time of the day has to be the autograph party where the throngs of folks gathered to get their books singed. Patricia Wiles and I have just about got this down pat and organised so that it runs smoothly - if not a little crazily. Now if we could just solve the sort feet problem!

it was a long snaking line around the ballroom foyer

a normal chaotic autograph party

The not so highlight time of the day has to be getting up at 7 am to go to a breakfast meeting. I was sooooooo tired, but at least the company was grand and we chit chatted lots discussing all things international.

not breakfast at Tiffany's but the Hyatt!

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17. Summer Conference Day 2

A time full of meetings ...
meeting last night,
meeting at lunchtime today,
meeting tomorrow morning ...
lotsa meetings ...
but it is all good!

A late night to bed on Friday due to time swap and lots of catching up with friends I don't see often enough (and that most definitely needs to be done), so meant that it was a late morning rising here. I did make it down in time in time (just) for the early session but alas, no coffee so I had to raid Starbucks! Still it is better than no coffee fix at all.

Today was more listening to speakers - many whom are able to tell such inspiration and loving stories from folks including Bryan Collier, Deborah Underwood, Ruta Sepetys and Deboarh Halverson. emotion and warmth and beautiful stories.

This evening was a glimpse into the wonderful stunning talents of the illustrators here at the conference. Was it 160+ portfolios on display - not sure but I can't imagine the difficulty this posed for the judges. How the heck do they decide? It is beyond this mind! There were some amazing pieces and I am just in awe when I see some of this artwork. Some of these should most definitely be hung in galleries .. I was often walking around and seeing the art and imagining stories!

And then it was the social event of the SCBWI calendar ... the gala ball. This time it was the 60s Hippie Hop and it was good ... it was very very good. So many wonderful colourful pieces of clothing and lots of great music. But not only was there music and dancing ... we had the first SCBWI flash mob to the tune of Aquarius! Lots of emailing, an instruction clip to follow, and a secret practise session at our Thursday meeting was very worthwhile ... and we were good ... and yes I did join in - my two left feet worked appropriately!

18. Summer Conference begins

So today the conference begins ...
again a stellar lineup has been organised and again it is a near sellout!!!

What's happened.
keynotes including Arthur Levine who delivered a timeless keynote referencing his 15 years of books published under his own imprint.Another very entertaining and humorous one from Tony DiTerlizzi on imagination,
and workshops,
and lunch meetings,
and afternoon tea meetings
and workshops
and the PAL Showcase and Pizza party
and social gathering
and then post social gathering meeting in the deep dark of the evening ... before a very late night of sleeping.
A busy day 1.

The Pal showcase and Pizza party was the chance for published members to showcase and sell their books. Interestingly for me when people saw the title of my book they did one of two tinges. They either came over and had a look - or they got as far away from the books possible - me thinks they don't like Pythons!

For a few of us who were showcasing their books though, the pizza part of tonight's gathering never eventuated and we missed eating pizza, too much talking about our books which then went into the last programmed part of day one -- the various evening social gatherings (as well as internationals there was a gathering for illustrators and another for yoga enthusiasts. Tonight the Internationals gathered and chit chatted about all things international - we even had gate crashers ... okay so they probably didn't fit into any of the other programmed socials but we are a pretty amazing group! Just look at the assembled throng. It is just so amazing to see the reach of the SCBWI tribe.

By now though a few of us had barely eaten a snack, let alone had dinner, so the international RA crew continued to chat over food!

But first I had to zap up the pen and ink room to do a quick camera piece on advice for J.J. Pennifur (Penny the hamster) who is seeking editorial wisdom. Pen and Ink created the pirate alphabet clip - this year it is hamster editorial time! More on that later!

Arthur's keynote on Timeless titles - Shaun Tan!

The PAL Pizza Party

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19. Python - the bookmark

My new book Python hits the book stores next month and just look what my wonderful publisher has created for me, especially the item at the bottom of this picture ... diecut bookmarks. And on the reverse of the bookmark are facts about snakes - including pythons of course! Awesomely excellent is Walker Books Australia.

The other two items (book cover and a photo of me!) are from the sales conference that I spoke at a little while ago and they too will accompany me as I am chit chatting about Python!

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20. Python in the library

What fun!

Today (Thursday) was time for me to get out and do a few gigs as 2012 National Year of Reading Ambassador and also to start promotion for the new book Python! Thanks to Walker Books for getting it going and to Nicolle from the City of Sydney Library network (the City of Sydney have a whole bunch of libraries).

First off it was a visit to Newtown Library my local library. I have visited the library quite a few times over the years that I have dwelled here but have never before noticed the loft where they now do all their author gigs. It was lovely up there and it was a rather intimate session this morning ... more of a one on one ... but I loved it. It was very much like being back in the classroom - I spent the time reading the books and chit chatting perched on cushions on the floor. First was a quick read of Sounds Spooky and then it was time for Python. This was the very fist time that I got to open a finished copy of Python ... it was in my hands and the experience of turning pages of a brand new book, the pages of which have never been opened before, that crispy, crackily sound, it hasn't changed after all these years.
After lunch it was time for Ultimo library ... another nearly local library. This afternoon's gathering (with a few more bodies than this morning) spied a box sitting on the table. Also on display were copies of my picture books with Python right at the front. Of course having the box and the book with the title of Python there generated the first important question (there were a few nervous adults too) ... is there a Python in the box? Alas, no, although if I had thought about it I could have created quite an investigative drama peering into the box -- in search of the rare and endangered cardboard python! There were 101 other questions about Pythons too - like where does it go to the toilet (that's one statemnt I forgot to include on the back of the bookmarks!

One more City of Sydney gig to come.

Just love what I do!

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21. Python in the library - again

This morning the team at Walker Books organised another venture out promoting Python in the library, this time with the lovely crew at Glebe Library (another local library for me). And this time, I was not alone.

The staff (thanks Beth) had arranged for my talk, part of their 8 Stories High (a bi-monthly National Year of Reading activity) to include a visit by Amy from Australian Wildlife Displays. Accompanying Amy was the gorgeous Precious. So my chit chat about my new picture book Python ended up being a very lively hands-on book reading and information sesson. It was absolutely thrilling to once again to be entwined with one of my favourite Australian animals, a Diamond python - as this photos shows. It all came soooo naturally!

The kids (big and little) were able to get a close up with Precious and we had nearly all of them transforming into tree branches so that they could discover how wonderful snakes really are:
the way their muscles massage;
the way their tongue flicks in and out;
the way they effortlessly move;
the way they warm up as they absorb external heat;
their beauthiful body patterns.
... and oh so much more!

Now you see another reason why I just love what I do!

Thanks to Amy and Australian Wildlife Displays and of course very special thanks to Precious for being there.

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22. Speech Day at Cheng Chek Chee Secondary School

Most regular readers of this blog will know that around this time every year in Hong Kong Cheng Chek Chee Secondary School (named after my grandfather) hold their annual Speech Day. And most regular readers also know that each year a prize is presented to a student who shows great promise in English writing as chosen by the school English Department - the 'Christopher Cheng Book Prize' pack. Humm. I don't know if I have told them that I have a Chinese name too!
Last Tuesday the school held their 2012 Speech Day and a link to the school photo gallery has just been sent to me. I loved flicking through the pags of the gallery and seeing the students - they all looked so very excited. Have a look at the ceremony!

Here is Hung Yeung Ki receiving his prize (with the school Alumni Manager who presented it to him!)

Congratulations Yeung Ki. This gives me such a thrill to be part of the ceremony.

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23. Opening of the Martian Embassy

The Martians Have Landed!

I was absolutely delighted today to attend the official opening by the lovely Governor of NSW, Prof. Marie Bashir of the Sydney Story Factory and the first Australian Martian Embassy and Gift Store (who knows, there might be a Martian Embassy in some other planetary system). And part of the official opening was the launch of the anthology - I Met a Martian and other stories for which I wrote a piece. Every aspect of the anthology was donated including the stories editing, cover design, illustration, typesetting, paper and printing.

As one who believes in the power of story and creativity and how they can change lives I was absolutely buzzed to jump on board (sometime last year) and write my Martian piece. Now don't expect to read it here. You need to go buy the book! But I will let you know that it is a description of a Martian (Martianous martian). There are stacks of stories from other creative folk including Deborah Abela, Jaccqueline Harvey, Markus Zuzak, Sophie Masson, Melina Marchetta and Markus Zusak.

What is the Sydney Story Factory:
The Sydney Story Factory is a not-for-profit creative writing centre for young people in Redfern, Sydney. Our volunteer tutors offer free help to write stories of all kinds, which are published in as many ways as possible.

Find out lots more about Sydney Story Factory at the website
... and also have a look at the short film called Measuring Up.
This is a glorious initiative.

Governor Bashir & Tim Dick (Co-Founder)
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24. Look At My Desk - Anna Walker

Welcome to the latest post for Look at my Desk, where we peek into the creating places of some of my friends from around the world. This time, back in Australia, we are uncovering the studio of the delightful Anna Walker, the illustrator of delicious books such as All Through the Year, Little Cat and the Big Red Bus, and the beautiful I Love books starring Ollie and Fred.


I am an illustrator and I tell stories. I paint pictures, knit wooly animals and play with mediums such as woodblock printing and collage.

My studio is like the cubby I have always dreamed of. I fill it with pieces I have collected and created – things such as a small wooden cow I bought in Rome, a knitted pigeon, rabbit tea cups and a paper mache toadstool I made. The space is in a basement shared by a photographer, a printmaker and a graphic designer. I love playing in the studio. It has a history of creative souls, as once upon a time a printmaker and artist used the space and there was a gallery above and another gallery next door. It is great to share ideas and collaborate with the others in the studio. We are making a short video of the space and showing part of the creative process of making a picture book and you can see it here:

I have just finished ‘Peggy’ my latest book which will be released in September 2012 and before I begin my next book (in collaboration with the lovely Jane Godwin) I am preparing for an exhibition to be held later this year.

For more about Anna you can find her in the following places

the desk

the bookshelf

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25. SCBWI Summer Conference

So just where am I now ... at the SCBWI 41st Summer Conference in Los Angeles of course. I left Sydney just a a few hours ago according to the clock on this computer (but we all know there is no such thing as time travel unless you are a Dr Who fan and you know a Time Lord) - although as I haven't adjusted the timezone settings it still thinks I am home in OZ and it is mid afternoon on Friday.

Today has been the pre-conference meeting and networking - catching up with some of the folk I haven't seen for so long, well since January in New York, and other folk who I haven't seen since this time last year! And a few knew bods as well. It is always a blast seeing all those lovely smiling faces ... and of course if I had not left my firewire cable that connects my camera to this laptop I could add some photos now - photos of the RA meeting and all the action therein, like:
- unwrapping presents for babies, 
- proud grandparents (and those to be) and 
- photos of us dining in the Westfield complex and pulling funny faces
- and just seeing such fun folks.
But photos will just have to wait till I zap out to the shops and buy the cable!

One of the most common phrases hear from many mouths comes to the general conclusion that we are amazed that it is just a year since we were last here. Time flies!

Really this is a most wonderful time when we all gather together and yes it really is just like one great big family - with groups all over the world. So much hugging HAS to be a good and great thing.

So, now to catch up on some sleep and then the conference shall begin!

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