The past week and a half has been a little on the surreal side. Although my time at Abbotsleigh officially came to an end on Wednesday 31 October up until last Friday there were hand over and finishing up days (except on Thursday when Dot and I hit the road to Newcastle for two library and one bookstore events). My farewells were extraordinary; particularly the High Tea for the whole Junior School and a large group of senior girls who came over as well. There were lots of little girls dressed as Alice-Miranda and Clementine Rose and I felt quite overwhelmed by the speeches, cards and emails that I had from the girls.
This week is my first real experience of being a full time writer and speaker. Yesterday we visited Parramatta East and Parramatta West Public Schools, where the kids were fantastic. We had such a warm welcome – and I was really impressed with the staff too. Today I spent time at the KOALA awards (Kids’ Own Australian Literature Awards). I’ve never been before and it was great to catch up with friends and meet lots of keen readers. Alice-Miranda At School received an Honour Book award (runner up) in the Younger Readers Category, along with Andy Griffiths’ Just Macbeth. The winner was Tashi and the Golem by Anna Fienberg and Kim Gamble. Last week, to my great surprise and delight Alice-Miranda At School won the YABBA (Young Australian’s Best Book Awards) in the same category in Victoria.
It’s incredibly rewarding and humbling to know that children are reading Alice-Miranda’s adventures. Chris Morphew took out the YABBA and KOALA for his book The Phoenix Files: Arrival and summed up what perhaps a lot of us were thinking – ‘but there are real writers here’. It’s hard not to feel like a fraud in this business. I think because we spend so much time admiring others’ work, it doesn’t quite seem real to be talked about in the same sentence as many of your idols.
So the rest of the week holds more school visits and a lot of editing and re-writing for Alice-Miranda In Paris. It still feels a little (ok, a lot) strange not to be going to work every day in the more conventional sense. And I haven’t yet really tasted the freedom that I hope this new path offers. But I’m sure that it will come. One thing’s for sure, I don’t plan to waste a minute.