A challenge to strike fear into the heart of most children's authors - capture and hold the attention of 130 kids at once! Altona Primary School here in Melbourne kindly agreed to "host" the launch of Sixth Grade Style Queen (Not!), and their 5th and 6th graders piled into the school's multi-purpose room. Purpose today? Launch and talk.
I explained to the kids that normally at a launch we have a big celebration with champagne, and I was a little worried at the number of kids whose eyes lit up at the thought of a glass of bubbly or two! But it was more likely the mention of the word party.
After a lovely intro by student Sarah, Federal pollie Nicola Roxon made the official launch speech and then it was over to me. I told them what the book was about, and described how a verse novel works. When I said, 'Like lots of little chapters' I could see heads nodding. Then I read a few poems to give them an idea of what happens. After a few questions, I then did an 'author talk' about how a book gets published.
It's always fun to show them drafts of stories with crossings-out and scribbles everywhere, and then to show stages of galley proofs, with more scribbles and notes. Also my chapter books with illustrations go through several stages, with roughs and final pics. I have lots of research stuff to show as well, including lots of pirate pictures and examples.
The students asked some really good questions, including 'Why are there often blank pages at the back of a book?' I threw that one over to Christine Alesich, my editor at Penguin, so she could explain the whole thing about multiples and big sheets of paper in printing.
It was a fun morning, and the next day, I was able to go back so a lot of the kids could get a copy of the book (signed by me!).
APS has a great reading and literacy program, and it shows in the students' interest in books and reading, and their thoughtful questions.
It's been an odd week of reading - I finished off an old Tami Hoag mystery, still musing over her continual 'head jumping' in terms of point of view, and wondering if the average reader would notice it happening. I leapt into my new Sarah Dessen YA novel - The Truth About Forever - and enjoyed it immensely. She has such rich characters, and even though on the surface there might not be a huge amount happening in terms of action, underneath everything is working very deeply.
I've also been reading the Poets & Writers magazine, especially the ads. There are so many MFA writing courses in the US, and so many conferences. I keep asking: Why doesn't that happen here? (The last time I asked that question, I ended up organising one myself. Hmmm.)