I love being on tour. It’s one of the most rewarding aspects of being a children’s author – when you have the opportunity to meet the readers. I recently spent a couple of days in Brisbane visiting schools and bookshops, and the lovely folks of the Children’s Book Council, all of which was great fun.
The week started with another four am wake up call to get to the flight at half past six. That was a little better than the six am flight to Melbourne the week before but I can tell you the barista in the Qantas Club never looks so good as that time in the morning.
Zoe and I were off on another adventure, our first stop, St Margaret’s School for Girls. I love the feeling at St Mag’s as it’s affectionately known. The girls are sweet and the location of the school right on the river at Ascot is ideal – they get a breeze and the view is spectacular too.
I spoke to the younger girls then to the older students and had a ball answering their many questions. The Head of Junior School, Angela is a dynamo and I was thrilled to find out the the girls have an exchange program with a school in Japan. There will be a copy of Alice-Miranda In Japan accompanying the students on their next trip.
We had to leave St Margaret’s and zip around to Clayfield College, which fortunately is just around the corner. Again it was wonderful to meet the students and I talked to them in their beautiful chapel. The boys were especially responsive and I loved that when they ask me whether ‘they’re just books for girls’ I can tell them lots of the boys’ stories in the series’ too. It was a pleasure to sign lots of books and talk to the children one on one afterwards.
We then headed back to St Margaret’s to sign the girls’ books and were treated to a spectacular Japanese lunch with Angela and the librarian Claire.
I was really looking forward to the afternoon event with Riverbend Books in Bulimba. Owner Suzy Wilson is one of those people who just make things happen. I first worked with Suzy years ago when she started the Riverbend Readers’ Challenge supporting Indigenous communities by providing books. That Challenge morphed into the Indigenous Literacy Challenge and is now the Indigenous Literacy Foundation. Suzy should be so proud of what she and the team have achieved over the years and it was wonderful to see her after so many years.
The afternoon event was amazing. There were so many children bubbling with excitement. It was wonderful to see a group of local librarians there too and families who had come from as far away as the Gold Coast. One little girl was having her birthday party in the back of the shop. I went and sat with the girls and signed all of their books and they came to the talk out the front. It was lovely to meet them all and see how excited they were.
It was great to catch up with Cath Dawson and her three gorgeous children too. Cath and I used to work together at Abbotsleigh. It only seemed like yesterday but so much has happened since she and her husband moved back to Brisbane.
There were other very special children there – big fans who had left school early and two sisters and their mother for whom Alice-Miranda has provided a welcome respite from some fierce challenges. I really had to hold back the tears at one stage.
That night I got to catch up with Julie who is my mum’s best friend since they were little girls. She lives in Queensland and we hardly ever see each other so it was really special to have dinner and time for a chat.
In the morning Zoe and I headed around to Dymocks in Brisbane to say hello to the lovely staff and sign all their stock. Hopefully next time we’re up there we can do some events with them too. Then we were off to St Aidan’s School to meet librarian extraordinaire Megan Daley. She write a fabulous book blog and I was thrilled to be interviewed by Megan before my visit. She’s a stunning cook too – morning tea was delicious.
I talked to the girls in Years 4, 5 and 6 and then had another session with Year 7. I looked into the crowd of faces and spotted someone I knew. Mackenzie Curtis – an ex Abbotsleigh student. I think she was surprised that I remembered her but I certainly did. What a beautiful young woman she’s growing into.
Our final school visit was to West End Primary. It was hot and I was wilting a little by this stage. Their lovely librarian Tania rustled up some frozen yoghurts for Zoe and me and that was the little sugar hit I needed to get through the afternoon. The kids were fantastic and I really have to commend them on their almost perfect behaviour in a very warm space.
I signed lots of books and then we rushed around the corner for a small signing at Avid Reader. It was wonderful to see so many children coming from school to meet me. Avid Reader is an amazing shop with a phenomenal author program. That night they were having Hugh Mackay but he was only one of the big names in for the week. I love when bookshops really set themselves apart and offer things that patrons can’t get anywhere else. In this day and age with the fierce online competition that hand selling and expert knowledge is so valuable.
From Avid Reader we high tailed it to the State Library to meet the Children’s Book Council group. It was such a thrill for me to meet a lady I have become friends with on Facebook and who I felt like I already knew so well. Coralie Ross is a sweetheart – always positive and encouraging, I feel like she’s been with me on so much of my journey in the past few years. I loved meeting her and everyone else – and what a treat to be able to talk to them about books and some of my experiences. They also had delicious pizzas afterwards too!
Zoe and I then drove to the Gold Coast for the Somerset Festival of Children’s Literature.
My time in Brisbane was way too short – and I can’t wait to get back up there again soon.