The end of 2013 marks the end of my first year as a full time writer. It has been an amazing time and as I reflect on all that has happened I feel so grateful to have made that leap of faith. I’m certainly much calmer and a lot more organised than when I was juggling writing as the hobby in my spare time. Fitter – not so much. I need to find a balance between sitting and writing, and exercise. But now that things are falling into a bit more established pattern, I intend to make 2014 the year of getting fitter and losing those few kilos that are making me feel uncomfortable. I won’t be taking up any extreme sports – just walking and hopefully getting back into golf more regularly. So, I’ve written a bit of a summary of the year – here are just some of the highlights of what kept me out of trouble (and frequently out of the state and country!). in 2013.
I spent the month madly working on Alice-Miranda’s 8th adventure, Alice-Miranda Shines Bright, which was released in September. According to my calendar notes, I managed to achieve thousands of words per day (and am about to embark on the same for this January!). I was also busy finalising details for my February/March tours of the UK and Singapore and taught a writing course for Abbotsleigh as part of their school holiday program. On the home front, I spent a couple of weeks having a massive clean out and starting to re-organise in anticipation of our little study extension (which has been a fantastic addition – quite possibly the world’s smallest extension but so functional). Alice-Miranda Takes the Lead and Alice-Miranda At Sea were published in the UK.
We headed overseas for the Alice-Miranda tour of England and Scotland for three weeks then back to Singapore for two weeks to work with Cheryle Hum from Bookaburra and the lovely ladies at Pansing. I had dinner with the local SCBWI group and have made a friend for life in Dave Seow. I adored my first visit to Edinburgh and met so many wonderful booksellers, teachers, parents and children all over the UK, many of whom I had the opportunity to work with again in November. A huge highlight was meeting the Sayer family – Lily and Emma and their gorgeous parents John and Christine. They visited us at our hotel in Newcastle one evening. The girls and Christine are big Alice-Miranda fans and we ‘met’ online. Once we met in person I knew we had to visit the girls’ school when we returned.
We had a fabulous launch for Alice-Miranda In Paris with Shearer’s in Leichhardt followed by a six day tour of Melbourne and Geelong. I started working on Clementine Rose and the Farm Fiasco too and had that finished in near record time. We also had a fantastic day out at Taronga Zoo with my sister and brother in law and our gorgeous nephews and niece.
A week in WA visiting Perth then down south to Albany for the Great Southern Grammar School Literary Festival. Followed up with lots of editing and writing a story called Josephine for the Random House book Stories for Girls which was released in December. Ian and I managed a lovely short break in the Hunter Valley where we got to play some golf.
The month started with Alice-Miranda Diary Revisions and editing Alice-Miranda Shines Bright. I began teaching at Roseville College for an hour on a Monday afternoon too. The girls were fantastic and so keen about writing. Had a lovely second launch celebration for Alice-Miranda In Paris at the Beecroft Children’s Bookshop and started teaching an adult course at the NSW Writers’ Centre on a Tuesday evenings for six weeks. May also saw lots of local school visits as part of my RHA touring. The month ended with editing for Clementine Rose and the Farm Fiasco. Alice-Miranda Takes the Stage hit the shops in the US.
There was more editing for Alice-Miranda Shines Bright as well as the plotting and planning for Alice-Miranda In Japan. I had a wonderful couple of days teaching at Macarthur Anglican School working with students and staff before heading off to Alice Springs for a week in the red centre working at lots of schools and with gorgeous Celia and Ruth. My mother in law Joan came with me and we had a great adventure. I started writing Alice-Miranda in Japan when we came home and had about 22,500 words completed before I headed off to Adelaide.
Halfway through July I travelled to Adelaide for a month on a May Gibbs’ Creative Time Residency. The month was filled with writing as well as visiting schools and doing some in store promotions. I met so many wonderful people and I can’t wait to get down there again. An absolute highlight was visiting Griffin Press where we saw Alice-Miranda Shines Bright being printed – as well as reprints for Alice-Miranda At School and Clementine Rose – it was a surreal day shared with Ian and Clive Jackson (the RHA rep for SA). Ian was able to visit a couple of times and my mother in law, with the newly minted travel bug, popped down and stayed in an apartment around the corner for a week – some of that time with my sister Sarah.
I finished Alice-Miranda In Japan and headed home for lots of work around Book Week. I was a guest at the Melbourne Writers’ Festival which was great fun – loved presenting with Michael Bauer but then on the 31st I caught an awful throat bug, which rendered me voiceless for almost three weeks. The voice went west the same day as my combined launch for Clementine Rose and the Farm Fiasco, Alice-Miranda Shines Bright and The Alice-Miranda Diary at The Children’s Bookshop Beecroft. It was a great day in spite of my ill health.
Lunch with the Stars (with no voice), the CBCA Stories on Screen (pushed the voice way too hard) and a bookshop event at St Ives Book Review (thankfully not too much talking) as well as lots of writing, as I was determined to get Clementine Rose and the Seaside Escape finished before the next overseas adventure. Fortunately I finished it early, as I then rewrote most of it, having not been pleased with the first result. Then there was Alice-Miranda Day at Tara School where the Year 2 class is called 2Alice-Miranda! I had a great time in Queensland as part of the Get Reading Program too. A highlight was a trip to Toowoomba Library where my Aunty Leah and cousin Scarlett came to see me – and Leah (who stars in the diary with her recipes) baked chocolate brownies which were eagerly consumed.
The month began with two fabulous high teas at the Tea Salon in Westfield, followed by editing for Alice-Miranda In Japan and an event at Costco. Having just submitted Clemmie 5 I rolled straight into Clementine Rose and the Treasure Box (number 6) and hoped to have that finished too before I headed to Singapore. We celebrated my beloved Pop’s 90th birthday. There were some more school days in Western Sydney before I packed an enormous suitcase with clothes for hot weather, cold weather and in between weather and boarded a plane for Singapore. I managed to finish Clementine Rose 6 the first week I was there with the help of some ‘almost’ all nighters. There were lots of school visits, both teaching writing and working with Cheryle Hum from Bookaburra. I had a great dinner with the local SCWBI Branch (they are amazing and so welcoming). My sister Sarah came to Singapore in the second week. I worked, while she shopped during the day and then we hung out in the evenings. We had a fun lunch and afternoon with Dave Seow and his mother Eileen. On the 31st I met Ian at Changi airport and we boarded another plane to London.
Two weeks of book touring followed by a week of editing for Clementine Rose and the Seaside Escape then another week of school visits. So many highlights – visiting schools I’d been to before; Charlotte House and Royal Masonic; seeing booksellers we’d met in February and this time visiting Sunderland to spend a day at Emma and Lily Sayer’s school – where I got to cut the ribbon opening the newly renovated library. As always I adored our time in the UK and can’t wait to go back again in 2014.
It was time for a holiday. Ian and I headed for Portugal on 31 November for 10 days. It was amazing. Portugal is beautiful and the people are even more so. We had a terrific time but it was difficult too as back home my darling Pop was fading fast. I got to talk to him on Skype twice before he passed away and we made it home for his funeral – for which I was very grateful. I’ve found it hard to get settled since we’ve been home. I think there are times in your life when you just want the clock to stop. I think it has everything to do with Pop going and realising that no matter how young you feel, time marches on regardless. I am so fortunate to have had him in my life for so long and I feel extremely lucky to still have both of mum’s parents, Ian’s mother and his aunt (who are all over 80 and in Aunty Joan’s case, 95!) but life passes by way too quickly.
2013 has been a brilliant year in so many ways and I have much to be grateful for. I hope you had a great year and I wish you every success and happiness in 2014.