This week has been a mix of writing and speaking. Which is a good thing when you’re on a deadline and I have one that needs to be met before I head off on my next trip to Perth and Albany in just over a week. It’s been good to spend some time at home, albeit mostly in front of the computer!
I had a wonderful afternoon on Tuesday talking to the girls from Year 2, 3 and 4 at Kambala in Rose Bay. When we arrived, the children were having a picnic on the lawn, dressed in a colour palette of purple. They were having a mufti day to raise money for Epilepsy as part of Epilepsy Australia’s ‘Go Purple’ campaign.
Chris, my publisher and Sam, who works with the marketing department came along with me to the school. Jo Laretive, the Junior School librarian asked if I’d like to judge a competition that they had run in conjunction with my visit. The girls had to write a short story about where they would take either Alice-Miranda or Clementine Rose if they got to meet them in person. The entries were gorgeous and it was very difficult selecting just one (and I was glad that it was a panel decision, not just me!). In the end we allocated first, second and third place and the winning entries included taking Alice-Miranda to Alice-Springs and Uluru, taking her to Luna Park where she and her friend foiled a bag snatch and then to New York City.
The girls were fabulous during my talk. They laughed in all the right places and we had a sensational snorer for the drama activity.
I also had a very surreal moment. In my current presentation there is a series of photographs of children in my former classes performing plays that I had written. There are two of a play called The Adventures of Texas Jack and in one of the photos you can see me and another adult standing behind the children. When I looked to my left in the auditorium I was stunned to see the student teacher, who had worked on my class (about 16 years ago!) sitting in the hall. I knew it was her – she hadn’t changed a bit. When I put the photo up, I looked at her and asked her name. It was Olivia Williams (indeed the same as when she’d been a young student working on my class). I pointed at the photograph and said, ‘that’s you up there Ms Williams’. She hadn’t recognised me because my surname had changed from when I was a teacher at Gib Gate all those years before. But as soon as I said it, I could see her realising that we had indeed spent several weeks together all those years before. My life tends to have a lot of strange coincidences like that. I love it!
It was a pleasure to sign the girls’ books and meet some of them afterwards. Unfortunately we ran out of time so I couldn’t meet them all.
Wednesday saw an afternoon at Queenwood School for Girls in Mosman. Having visited there last year I knew that the girls were enthusiastic Alice-Miranda readers. And they have certainly continued in that vein, with so many books to sign that Zoe and I had to bundle up a box full and take them with us to the after school event so I could finish them.
Julie Burland, who is in charge of the Children’s Books at Random House came along with us too – this is a photo of her and I and Alice-Miranda below.
I spoke with the Year 2, 3 and 5 girls over their lunch break. Year 4 were out on an excursion. Given that it was an optional activity, there were well over 130 girls present out of a possible 150 (I think). The girls’ excitement was palpable and I loved meeting them again. It was also fantastic to have not only the new librarian Ms McWilliams present but also the Acting Head of Junior School Mrs Angela Toohey and several other teachers as well.
One of the girls, Phoebe is a huge Alice-Miranda fan. She acted the part of Mr Sparks in our play from Clementine Rose and was wonderful. I loved meeting her.
I signed books in the short break between sessions and then I met the Year 6 girls. They had lots of questions and wanted to know more about the process of writing and how it all comes together.
After school we dashed up the hill and around the corner into Mosman village to Pages and Pages, one of Sydney’s best independent booksellers. When we arrived, there were lots of little girls and their parents already sitting in the ‘ampitheatre’ (a fantastic stair well that the shop can use for events!) I met Danica who had worked on arranging the event. By the time I started, the stairs were full and I had a great time talking to the children about the books and characters and what’s next for Alice-Miranda and Clementine Rose. There was a lot of enthusiasm about the diary and there were loads of good questions from the children and their parents. During the signing I always ask the children where they go to school and I was stunned to find girls had come from Randwick, Woollahra, Bondi, Hunter’s Hill and the Upper North Shore and Northern Beaches as well as locally. It’s always a pleasure to meet the readers and their parents.
I was particularly thrilled to meet Lola and Evie at the very end of the line with their mother Mel. I’ve known Mel and her husband Warwick for years and just last week when I was in Melbourne Lola read her first Alice-Miranda book and her mother sent a tweet to say that Lola had declared it to be ‘the best book ever’. I was very excited to hear that because Lola reads a lot! I signed the girls’ books, the first Clementine Rose for Evie and the second Alice-Miranda for Lola and we had some photos too.
Next week we’re off to visit Mt Annan Christian College and Mt Annan Public School, very close to where I grew up in Camden. Happy Easter everyone!