Hosting a Fabulous Book Launch – Part 2

Tania continues PART 2 of her post on successful book launching. On the day ….  

Goodie Bags
I do offer goodie bags at my launches, but again, they are inexpensive. I pad them with sponsorship stickers, small toys, my publisher’s bookmarks. Sponsor Jennie from Posie Patchwork does these amazing buttons for me from Kieron’s artwork – they are great goodie bag stuffers and the kids love them. For Grumpy Wombat, I have created a really simple, staple-together activity book, printed on A4 paper and folded, for kids to take home. It includes mazes, dot-to-dot, colouring in, word search, etc.

I have helium balloons at my Canberra launch. It costs around $80 to hire a tank and fill them yourself just before the launch, but they are a HUGE drawcard for kids (I say there’ll be balloons on the event poster!) and they are virtually ALL you need for decorating. Easy peasy and worth the cost. I also glam up the food table a bit, and have a lovely book display and any relevant fluffy toys and my real tin plane that Riley flies around in.

Unless you’re Andy Griffiths (hi, Andy!), if you really want to draw in the crowds, give away some prizes. Everyone loves to win a prize and this is a sure fire way to attract guests. I always give away a copy of my own book, a few books from some sponsors, and maybe one or two other items.

I always offer an activity for kids to get into while they wait for all guests to arrive. For Riley and the Curious Koala, I printed off simple koala masks which kids cut out and attached to elastic. For Grumpy Wombat, it will be wombat ears on a headband which the kids staple together – and can wear for the book reading. 

The Reading
After the kids have done their activity, we all settle in for the reading. I start it with a quick intro and thank yous, then I get stuck in. At the end, I ask if anyone has questions.

Illustrator Demo
If you are fortunate to have your illustrator close by, like I do, ask them to perform some live illustration during the launch. You could hear a pin drop every time Kieron draws live for the kids. They LOVE it – and he gives away pictures to the lucky crowd.

Many bookstores don’t want 100 kids running around holding a cup of fizzy orange drink. Consider offering food either outside (I offer it in an outdoor food court next to Dalton’s bookstore) or offer enclosed drinks like juice poppers. I have started offering a candy bar because it a) looks incredible, b) is inexpensive and c) the kids go bananas. Best of all, lollies are NOT messy! and will not spill on precious books. Be sure to offer nut free food and always have something on hand for adults – tea and coffee is lovely.

Once all the formalities are done, I have an entertainer (sponsor Steve from Kelly Sports is my man of choice) who helps the kids run wild outside with some circus style activities. If you have a limited venue, you could still offer some less boisterous activities. Leave this play time until the very end – you will NOT be able to easily recalibrate children to settle down once they are up and nibbling on food and playing.

The Timing
Think about the timing of your launch. Saturdays are usually fraught with sporting and extracurricular activities for primary school-aged children, so consider Sunday. I have held events at many different times but have found either 11am or 2pm the best – slightly leaning towards the morning session, as by the afternoon, some people may not be keen to dress up and head out the door.

The Schedule
I find the following schedule works best for younger kids – it’s the perfect formula for keeping their attention and focus.

  • Kids arrive – have them do an activity
  • Gather kids for reading
  • Quick Intro and thank yous
  • Book reading
  • Questions
  • Illustrator demo
  • Prize giveaways
  • Food
  • Play
  • Hand out goodie bags and let the kids grab a handful of balloons as they leave. 

That’s it! My recipe for a truly fabulous launch people will talk about forever. Good luck!

See some of Tania’s book launches here:
Riley and the Curious Koala: A journey around Sydney
Riley and the Dancing Lion: A journey around Hong Kong
Riley and the Sleeping Dragon: A journey around Beijing

For more on Tania’s work, see and 

Thank you very much for all your great hints, Tania! I can’t wait to use them next time I have a book launch!!


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Hosting a Fabulous Book Launch – PART 1

Guest blogger: Tania McCartney, author. Today, as part of her blog tour for her new book, Riley and the Grumpy Wombat, Tania gives us some fabulous hints on how to host a book launch.

Welcome again to my blog, Tania, so happy to have you visit again! I can’t wait to hear your thoughts and suggestions about Hosting a Fabulous Book Launch. And from the look of your previous very successful book launches, we’re in for a treat. Over to Tania….

Congratulations! You’re published! All that hard work, intense editing process, endless hours slaving away over a hot keyboard… finally your dream has come true and your book is on the market, ready to leap into the arms of readers everywhere. The hard work is done. Or is it?

Tania McCartney

Having been both a published and self-published author, I’m extremely familiar with the post-publication fallacy that the hard work is over. In reality, the hard work has just begun. Writing, editing, publishing, are all good and well – but marketing and selling are where the real challenges lie. People need to buy your book! And self-marketing is vital, even if you have a team of publicists behind you.

Events are one of the best ways to attract attention for a new book. Your publisher may host a celebratory shindig or you may want to organise a few yourself. I always host a big launch party here in Canberra when my books are released – and for my latest book – Riley and the Grumpy Wombat: A journey around Melbourne – I will also be travelling to Melbourne in October for a launch at Yarra Valley Grammar.

The amount of launch events you organise is totally up to you – it can be one, two, three or more – and hosting them upon release is a great way to get some real ‘buzz’ going about your book.

So, how do you throw a fabulous book launch party?

I’m about to throw my ninth launch party, so I have my format down pat. And it works. I’ve had over 100 guests at most of the launches, and each one has been an absolute hoot. Launch parties do NOT have to be expensive nor complicated. Here are my tips on how to run the most fabulous party possible.

Host it at Home
It’s much easier to host something in your home town… organising a venue, carting around book copies, sorting out food, drink, goodie bags, balloons – it’s much harder from a distance, so throw something locally. If you must host something interstate, enlist the help of a good friend or a publicist from your publisher.

Find the Perfect Venue
Bookstores are ideal because having you visit is mighty beneficial to the store – both in terms of sales and bringing in new clients. Meredith Wright from Dalton’s Bookstore in Canberra has consistently hosted many of my book launch parties. She always puts on tea and coffee, hires cups and saucers and even home-bakes treats for the guests. She organised sponsorship for wine for my Beijing Tai Tai launch – so she has been amazingly generous and supportive. If you can build a wonderful relationship with a local bookstore, you will benefit from that loyalty – and so will the bookstore.

Activities for the kids

Unless you are rich, hiring a venue is not an option for a launch. It’s just too expensive. Writers’ Centres may be able to help – or if you know a friend who can help you with a hall or provide a large backyard – ask away! Local parks are great during good weather but many require a permit to have large amounts of people onsite, and I would imagine selling books would be an issue. So bookstores are really the way to go.

You will pay store owners roughly 40% of RRP for each book sold at the store during the launch. Well worth it.

For my very first book launches in Beijing, I asked the local expat magazines to sponsor the events by advertising them in their magazines. In return, I splashed their logos all over my website, blog, launch posters and handouts.

I also asked a local bakery to create biscuits with the letter R for Riley on them – and again, splashed their logo around. The venues that hosted me kindly offered book giveaways for the launch. This was the beginning of my sponsorship strategy.

Since then, I’ve had sponsors provide goodie bag contents, badges, prizes (books, party vouchers, sporting equipment, toys), amazing food including an astonishing display of characterised cupcakes by pARTy Cakes in Canberra.

yum yum!

I have also had some extraordinary service providers – photographers, caterers, even entertainment – for free. The sponsors love the exposure to a whole new demographic and I work hard to make sure their logos are out there during my promotions.

Make sure you thank sponsors at the launch, and have their business cards, posters or flyers on hand – preferably near your book display.

When you organise any event, explore ways you can ‘advertise’ it for free. Send a press release to local and national media, search for websites that offer free listings. Ask fabulous sites like Alphabet Street, Bug in A Book and My Little Bookcase if they will list your event. And of course, put it on your website.

Also, invite media to attend the launch. If they can’t make it, send photos to your local media for possible inclusion in their social pages. Have someone take photos of guests and write down their name in a small notebook. Be sure to ask their permission to send their pic to local media.

a book launch advertising poster

Posters and Invitations
Spend the time creating special posters and invitations for your event. It doesn’t take a lot of time and publishing them online is free. You can also attach them to an email to act as an invitation. I print about a dozen A3 posters through a local printer ($20 all up) and give them to my venue, libraries, local business, etc. It’s worth it.

JOIN US TOMORROW, September 3rd for PART 2 of Hosting a Fabulous Book Launch – where Tania will take us through the LAUNCH DAY with lots of hints for a fun-filled event!  


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Opportunity for children’s writers – don’t miss out!

Do you write stories for children and would like to break into the educational writing market? Here’s your chance to learn all about it in Brisbane on the 11th August 2011.  

Pam Rushby

Writing and selling an educational book isn’t quite the same as publishing a novel. Educational publishers have different needs and constraints, and it’s essential to know the market before you get started with your project. Experienced professional author Pamela Rushby will explain what’s different about this publishing category and how you can maximise your chances of success.

SPECIAL DEAL: You can get 2 tickets for the price of 1 if you mention my name when you ring the Queensland Writers Centre.

Author, Pam Rushby will present a workshop, More about Getting Published in the Educational Market.

Pam is a very successful writer of both fiction and non-fiction and she has many titles in all areas of the educational publishing arena. She is also a generous sharer of knowledge and experience.

WHEN: Thursday 11 August 6pm-8pm
COST: QWC members $65; Concession members $55; Non-members $110 (remember, 2 for 1 so you and a friend will only pay half each)
VENUE: Queensland Writers Centre, Level 2, State Library of Queensland
Bookings: contact QWC by calling 07 3842 9922


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Ian Irvine – 10 Best Things about writing the ‘Grim and Grimmer’ series…

Today, my guest author is Ian Irvine, the popular Australian author of the Grim and Grimmer series. Ian is currently on a blog tour to celebrate the release of The Calamitous Queen, the last book in his series. 

Ian tells us some of his fond memories about writing the series. I also asked him to consider some things that almost drove him nuts, a more difficult task! 


 1. Villains
The most fun I had writing the Grim and Grimmer books, apart from tormenting and humiliating the hero, poor Ike, at every opportunity, ha! was creating the despicable (or in some cases, noble) scoundrels with which these books are peopled so extravagantly. (Covers, blurbs, reviews and first chapters for the four books can be seen here: Here’s a small sampling of villains from the scoundrel-crammed final book, The Calamitous Queen

There’s Achernix, the dreadful Duke of Darkness, the ruler of the underworld of Orcus. When he flies into a rage – as he did after Ike’s best friend, the apprentice thief-girl, Mellie, pulled off the most outrageous theft of all time in Book 3, The Desperate Dwarf, and stole his Bloody Baton – the very stones of Orcus grind together and the whole underworld shakes. But in Grim and Grimmer nothing and no one is what they seem, and in reality Achernix is a whining bully, as this exchange shows –

‘My reputation’s not what it used to be, Ike. Can’t do the hard yards any more – torture, maiming, gizzard grinding – you know the sort of thing.’
‘Of course,’ said Ike, playing along. ‘Do it all the time.’
‘Back’s been playing up lately. Can hardly get off my bed of red-hot nails some days. And the sciatica – it’s killing me.’ Achernix laughed mirthlessly. ‘Not literally, you understand. Immortal, and all that.’

 Poor old Achernix is rather put upon at the moment, for the beautiful though simple-minded sprite, Mothooliel, has robbed him of what he holds most dear. And now she’s after Ike –

‘You have the loveliest eyes,’ said Mothooliel, coming closer.
‘Th-thank you,’ said Ike. He reminded himself that a sprite was a lowly kind of demon, and therefore untrustworthy, but she was still enchanting.
‘Can I have them?’ said Mothooliel.

And Grogire the intellectually gifted firewyrm, who nurses a bitter enmity against Ike for beating her in a contest a month ago. Grogire’s chief pleasure in life is eating baby trolls, though they give her ferocious indigestion and eye-watering flatulence, and now she’s trapped Ike in a cave, planning to gas him to death in revenge. And there’s no way out.

One of my favourites is the headless highwayman, Lord Montmorency Bartilope, known to his friends as Monty and to his enemies as Stumpneck. Monty is noble and decent and brave and kind, though he does go on about his teaspoon collection more than is strictly necessary. But Monty has one major handicap – lacking a head, he has no option but to talk through his bottom, which makes him an object of derision everywhere. And especially to the vicious little guard-imp, Nuckl, who takes more pleasure in bum jokes than even the author, and mocks Monty at every opportunity.

Monty has been forlornly searching for his lost head for the past ten years. Now, thanks to Ike and Mellie, he has it back, though the head turned itself around at the instant Monty cast the spell to reattach it, resulting in it now being on backwards.

The bigger problem is that the head is the opposite of Monty in every way, and it loathes him. Indeed, rumour says that the head cut itself off ten years ago to get away from Monty … though there’s something about that story that doesn’t add up.

Monty’s noble steed is the carnivorous horse, Naggerly, who has a fondness for three things: debating the unanswerable questions of life, chewing his philosophy books to pulp after he’s read them and spitting them in your eye, and a deep-seated yearning to run off and find adventure, as indeed he does with the princess after Ike and Mellie rescue her. Oh, and never forget Naggerly’s inordinate love for onions, which poor Monty (despite his own, er, breath problems), finds rather a trial.

A number of books on writing advise that most characters fail not from too much exaggeration, but from too little. In other words, the characters are too ordinary. In a more serious book I find it hard to create characters as exaggerated as they should be, but since the Grim and Grimmers were humorous books for younger readers I felt free to let rip. And what fun it was.

For instance in the creation of Gorm, the mad hermit who’s life’s work is the search for the key to all magics. Gorm traps Ike and Mellie and forces them to search for frozen lightning, even knowing that it will kill anyone who touches it. Gorm isn’t just a dirty old hermit, he’s the filthiest and most disgusting brute who has ever drawn breath. He hasn’t bathed in 50 years and whole ecosystems are visibly evolving under his putrid toenails. Yuk!

Small Heroes and Great Deeds
The Grim and Grimmers set forth a tale of small heroes fighting terrible foes with little hope of succeeding. The smallest yet most courageous of all is the boy, Pook, who, as one of the Collected children, has been held prisoner by the Fey Queen all his life, and tormented by her terrible night-gaunt, Nocty. Perhaps as an escape from this grim existence, Pook is a prodigious liar and teller of fantastical tales, though, as Mellie notes, he never lies about important things. Pook’s dream is to rescue the Collected children, as shown in this small moment –

‘Out of the way, brat,’ hissed the night-gaunt.
Nocty lifted into the air on leather wings and Ike saw Pook. The small boy was standing in front of the children, his thin arms spread as if to protect them from the gigantic night-gaunt.
Pook’s eyes were open, his whole body was shaking, but he would not step aside. He had known what the night-gaunt would do to him, but he had run to protect the children anyway, and Ike felt tears flooding down his own face. Compared to such selfless courage, Ike supposed he was a coward.

Ian doing cutting edge science, 1976.

Writing Fast
These books were a dream to write, partly because I did a lot of planning for what are relatively small books, and for once I got things right at the beginning. The story world isn’t terrifically original and I should have done a bit more work on it, but I think the characters are, and the characters really drove the story (as they should).

The books were all written quickly, in long, intensive bursts of writing, which is the way I like to write when I can. It’s definitely the method by which I produce my best books. I have to do far less rewriting of those books that flood out of me in 80-hour weeks than for the stories I grind out an hour here and two hours there.

My Publisher
These books are published by Scholastic but all the editing and associated work is done through their Omnibus imprint in Adelaide, and all the people at Omnibus are lovely and a pleasure to deal with.

The Covers
Covers are difficult. I recall with my huge Three Worlds fantasy novels, the books for which I’m best known–, that we had a major crisis with five or six of the 11 book covers. But there were no dramas with Grim and Grimmer. The covers were done by World Fantasy Award-winning UK artist, Martin McKenna and I love them; they’re just perfect for these books. Particularly the cover for book 3, The Desperate Dwarf, where Martin has captured the smirking, gold-toothed huckster Con Glomryt to perfection.

Writing Funny
I’ve never attempted to write humorous books before, and had more than a few moments of self-doubt over these ones. It’s not easy to write funny, and what if I couldn’t do it? But judging by the reviews and the fans, my first essay in the craft has been a modest success.

There’s no more fulfilling moment than when hearing how much readers have enjoyed your books, and I’ve had mail from readers as young as seven and people well into their fifties for these children’s books. I hadn’t expected the Grim and Grimmers would be read much by adults.

Ian Irvine

Small Books

I mainly write huge books. The Three Worlds’ novels are 200,000+ words each and there are eleven of them, with some more promised. They take a long time to write and rewrite, and much concentration – with such a vast series it’s a real struggle to iron out all the inconsistencies. I started working on the first of these books in 1987 and by the time I finish the last, it could well be 2017. I love writing them, but it’s also a treat to write small books that can be done quickly. And to be able to say that the series is finished.

I’m afraid I’m going to disappoint people here, for which I apologise in advance. But there wasn’t anything about these books that nearly drove me nuts. They were a pleasure to work on, definitely the most fun I’ve ever had writing.

Don’t get me wrong. There were moments. For instance, I always hate my first drafts, and have moments of quiet desperation that they’ll never turn out, though with these books they were fleeting. That’s the other thing about small books. If there’s a structural problem, it’s easy to find, and easier to fix.

I should like to mention, however, in case people think I find writing a breeze, that I have had many hair-tearing problems with certain of my other books. I’ve agonised over some of my big fantasy novels, rewritten them a dozen times and more, done twice as many pages of analysis as I have for the books themselves, and still ended up unhappy with the way they turned out.

That’s writing. You can never predict it. You just have to enjoy it when it works (and grit your teeth when it doesn’t).

The Calamitous Queen is published by ScholasticAustralia
You and you can read the first chapters here, calamitousqueen_ch1.html.

Follow the rest of Ian’s blog tour:


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Coming soon: Ian Irvine, author of the GRIM AND GRIMMER series

Popular children’s author, Ian Irvine will be on this blog on the 16th June 2011, to celebrate the launch of the 4th book in the  Grim and Grimmer series, The Calamitous Queen!

Ian might even be persuaded to tell us … The 10 Best Things about writing ‘Grim and Grimmer’ + 10 Things that Almost Drove Me Nuts!


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How to write a picture book … on tour with ‘Samuel’s Kisses’

My guest blogger is Australian author, Karen Collum who, this week, celebrates the launch of her first picture book, Samuel’s Kisses. Mother to three beautiful boys, with a baby girl about to join the family this month, Karen is passionate about developing optimism in children and empowering them to make a difference in the world.

Samuel’s Kisses is aimed at the pre-school age group. It’s a warm-hearted story of optimism and hope – as little Samuel blows kisses to people he meets, they are transformed  from impatient to happy, tired to playful, run-down to energetic. Filled with love and warmth, and with beautiful illustrations by the amazing Serena Geddes, Samuel’s Kisses makes the perfect bedtime story.

Now, I’ll hand over to Karen Collum…..

Picture books are my very favourite books to read and therefore it’s probably no surprise they are also my very favourite books to write. Perhaps what draws me to them is the exquisite marrying of text and illustrations, each of which becomes more in the presence of the other. I also like a good challenge and there’s nothing more challenging that writing a ripper of a tale in under 700 words. Samuel’s Kisses is my first picture book to be published and I thought I’d share with you my writing processes.

1.    Thinking time
Never underestimate the power of thinking time. I came up with the idea for Samuel’s Kisses many, many months before I wrote a single word. I watched my then-toddler son blow kisses to complete strangers in the shops and saw how each person was transformed on the spot. He had no idea how powerful that simple act of kindness was. I spent a long time thinking about what a beautiful book that would make and mulled over how to approach the story in my mind. Eventually, it was time for step 2.

2.    Choose an angle
A child blowing kisses to strangers is a cute concept but it isn’t exactly a story so I had to choose an angle to approach the story. I decided to focus on the journey of the blown kiss was Samuel to the recipient, and thus the pattern for my picture book was born. Readers will notice that the kisses travel through, around, under, over, behind. This was a deliberate choice on my behalf as I felt that it created a teaching opportunity for parents and children and also added to the tension of where the kiss was going to go. I also wanted to highlight exactly how each person’s behaviour changed upon receiving the kiss. Once these elements were in place, the book almost wrote itself. Almost 🙂

3.    Storyboard
Now that I had an angle and a story, I used a template I’ve developed to map the story into pages. I also leave room for illustration notes that are purely for personal use. I like to jot down how I imagine the illustrations will be as I write; it helps me to visualise each page of the story. Although storyboarding isn’t necessary when submitting to publishers, it also helps me get an overall picture of how the words might fit on the page. Standard picture books have 32-pages however not all of those pages are for use by the author; some of them are taken up by front and back cover pages, as well as half-title etc. By storyboarding my manuscript I get a feel for whether I need to add words or to chop some out. I also get a sense of where the all-important page turns might be. Page turns are crucial in a picture book as the young readers need to be compelled to turn the page to find out what happens next.

4.    Rewrite and walk away. Repeat as often as necessary.
Samuel’s Kisses was one of those stories that came to me almost complete. Although there was some minor editing that happened throughout the publishing process, the very first draft and the published version aren’t all that different. This is not usually the case for me, however, and I still make it a habit of rewriting multiple times. I read my work aloud (this is essential for picture book writers) and make small or large changes that I feel will enhance the rhythm, the readability or the flow of the text. Then I have to walk away. I’m best to leave the manuscript for a few days – a week or a month is even better – before returning and doing the same thing again. It’s not until I feel that each word has earned its place am I happy to submit it to a publisher.

5.    Submit
I research publishers thoroughly before I submit and try and match what I’ve written to the feel of that publisher’s list. This means I read a lot of picture books and try and keep track of all the new releases and award-winning books. When I feel like I’ve found the perfect home for my manuscript, I write a compelling cover letter (that’s a whole other art form in itself!) and send my beloved book off on a wing and a prayer. It worked for Samuel’s Kisses and I’m hoping it will work again soon.

To find out how to purchase your copy of Samuel’s Kisses and to read more about Karen’s work visit her website at


Thank you, Karen for these interesting and useful insights into how you wrote Samuel’s Kisseswould-be authors of picture books will get some useful pointers! I might even be tempted to write a picture book myself – nah, just kidding, I’d better stick to junior fiction 🙂

Wishing you all the best for Samuel’s Kisses!

Samuel’s Kisses Blog tour:

Dec 1: Kathryn Apel – author
Dec 2: Kids Book Capers with Dee White – Boomerang Books blog
Dec 3: Sheryl Gwyther – author
Dec 4: New Frontier – publishing house &  Serena Geddes – illustrator of Samuel’s Kisses
Dec 5: Rebecca Newman – editor of the Soup Blog magazine
Dec 6: Susan Stephenson – editor of The Book Chook blog
Dec 7: Katrina Germein – author


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Once upon a time in a far away place… PART 2

Part 2 continues my conversation with Angela Sunde. Fairytales, both traditional and modern yet again proves to be a topic there is much to talk about. Hope you agree! Please leave comments!!

Hansel and Gretel

In this post, Angela talks about writing Pond Magic and gives some hints to anyone wanting to write their own modern fairytale for children.  We also spar in a competition: THE FAIRYTALE PLAY-OFF at the end of the post. See if you can name the quotes!

SG:  Angela, you studied the Grimms’ Fairytales as part of your uni degree in New Zealand, majoring in German and Spanish. And you taught ‘Fairytales’ to your German classes both in senior high school and upper primary.  I wonder if you have a distinct sense that children nowadays (and their parents) aren’t reading or being told the traditional fairytales we enjoyed when we were kids. Or am I just pessimistic?

AS:  No, I think you’re right. Luckily, the children in my classes always loved studying fairytales and acting them out. All the boys wanted to be the wolf. Nowadays, I think cinema has taken over the role of telling folktales. Movies like ‘The Princess and the Frog’ and ‘Shrek’ fulfil the desire of children to escape to a world where anything is possible.
Unfortunately, the marketing of these movies also comes with a price tag for the parents as they are tricked into buying the accompanying merchandise.
However, because of the popularity of these movies, I believe children are still keen to read a modern fairytale where a child just like themselves must overcome a great problem and ‘conquer evil’ (or the class bully). My book, Pond Magic is just such a story.

SG:  Remember Hans Christian Andersen’s The Princess and the Pea? How the Queen found out the poor girl was really a princess by hiding a pea under 20 mattresses and 20 eiderdowns quilts where the girl was to sleep. The next morning, the girl complains, “God knows what was in that bed: but it was something hard, and I am black and blue all over.” The King and Queen decided only a princess could be that sensitive!
That’s me whenever we go camping! One tiny little pebble under my camping mattress and I’m tossing and turning all night.
Of course, Andersen was pushing a little moral in his story – “true quality is what is within a person not in outward appearance”. This could also apply to the characters in Pond Magic, would you say? AS:  Yes, like every good fairytale, Pond Magic has a moral. The main character, Lily Padd learns to accept the cultural differences of the French exchange student who has come to stay and becomes a more tolerant, supportive friend. So while she is undergoing a ‘frog’ metamorphosis on the outside, an important inner metamorphosis is also occurring.
In true fairytale fashion, Lily, the hero, solves her problem with the help of magic and her new tolerant self, and of course the evil bully is punished. It’s a very satisfying ending.


SG: When writing fairytales, particularly modern versions, is there a formula children’s writers could follow?

AS:  A modern fairytale writer can use any of the traditional elements of fairytales. A traditional fairytale must have certain elements (to be accepted by a purist like me):

  • Three parts – a difficult situation in the beginning where the hero is treated badly – the path of the hero, who must overcome danger and/or other problems – and the solution, where using magic the hero (Lily)wins and evil is punished (Rick the bully).
  • Characters and places in traditional fairytales are not real; the characters have no real names and time stands still.
  • There is only one world and anything can happen.
  • The characters are opposites: very old or very young (Lily and Mrs Swan), very big or very small (Lily and Maureen), very good or very evil (Rainier and Rick) – there is no wishy washy in between.
  • The magic numbers and repetition – 3, 6, 7, 12. e.g. 7 Dwarves, 3 wishes etc. In Pond Magic, Lily must repeat the spell three times.
  • Precious metals and minerals – castles made of gold, people turned to stone etc.
  • The hero is alone; an only child, abandoned, cast out, the youngest/oldest/poorest, only girl, orphaned etc. (Lily is the oldest)

Angela, we’ve almost run out of time! But to finish off, I have a little treat for you:  THE FAIRYTALE PLAYOFF!! Da-daaaaa, roll of drums.
That’s where we take turns coming up with sentences we know from well-known fairytales, QUICKLY!

Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair, so that I may climb the golden stair.
AngelaMy, what big ears you have, Sheryl! (Haha, no cheating, Angela. Everyone knows it’s grandma!)
SherylI’ll huff, and I’ll puff, and I’ll blow your house in.
AngelaNibble, nibble little mouse. Who is nibbling at my house
SherylMirror, mirror, on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?
Angela:  Help! Help! The Marquis of Carabas is drowning!
SherylI’ve run away from a little old woman, a little old man, and I can run away from you, I can!
Angela: And out of the houses the rats came tumbling…
Sheryl: When you are sixteen, you will injure yourself with a spindle and die!
Angela: But he hasn’t got anything on!

Okay, I have to call it a draw!! I think we could keep going right off the page. See if you can work out which 10 fairytales the quotes are from … no google-ing though! 🙂
Thank you, Angela for a fun-filled chat with you (on my back verandah, drinking tea and eating yummy food!) All the best with Pond Magic and here’s to the next one! Cheers!

Pond Magic's book launch


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Once upon a time in a far away place… PART 1

In conversation with Angela Sunde, Australian children’s author …

“I love fairytales. There’s something timeless and classic about their stories. Pond Magic is proof of this – a thoroughly modern setting and cast with a familiar ring of magic and message.” Angela Sunde

The Frog Prince..illustrated by Gustaf Tenggren

My guest today is children’s author, Angela Sunde. Angela is a fellow Queenslander and good friend who lives in a beautiful part of the country, the Gold Coast hinterland.

With her first novel, Pond Magic firmly under her belt, Angela is living her own personal fairytale – to become a children’s author. Her book for 8-12 year-olds is one of this year’s Aussie Chomps, Penguin Australia’s successful and highly-sought after imprint.

Rather than interview Angela or get her to write an article for my blog, I’ve decided we should have an online conversation. So she has no idea what direction I might take, and neither do I! Who knows where this will end up?

SG:  Hi Angela! Welcome to my blog. I’m just pouring out our cups of tea. Help yourself to a biscuit and get comfortable.

AS:  Hi Sheryl. I’m so excited to be here today to talk about one of my favourite topics – fairytales! And it’s always great to chat with you.

SG:  Likewise! Congratulations on the release of Pond Magic, Angela. I loved it – clever, witty, funny and a story kids of that tween age will love. I also love its link to fairytales – that’s why I’ve titled this blog conversation Once upon a time in a far away place… I suspect you (like me) thrill at the sound of those words and the wonders they may hold.

AS: Absolutely true, Sheryl. It takes me back to my childhood and the beautiful illustrations which accompanied the fairytales. They were my only picture books. I remember loving the Little Golden Books version of Little Red Riding Hood too. I can still see her face under the red cape.

Angela Sunde

SG:  When I was a girl, I treasured two lovely thick books of tales from the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen, but they were lost in one of our many house moves. I remember how so many of the stories were filled with tales of horror, cruelty and sadness. But we still lapped them up? I wonder why?

AS:  I guess we knew they weren’t true, just as kids today know the difference between reality and fantasy.

SG:  Like the Brothers Grimm stories – some of them are absolutely terrifying!

AS:  The Grimms’ fairytales were intended for both adults and children – that’s why they’re sometimes horrifying. Did you know they were originally called Kinder und Hausmaerchen? That means ‘Children’s and Household tales’ – the whole family would gather around the hearth to hear the re-telling of these stories. Then, like Chinese Whispers, the fairytales would change with each re-telling and so often villages ended up with a different version of the same tale.

SG:  So with Pond Magic, you’ve carried on that Kinder und Hausmaerchen tradition?

AS:  I can’t help putting fairytale elements into my writing! Fairytales have always been a part of my life. I had a running joke with a friend when we were in our 20s about The Frog Prince … that you have to kiss a lot of toads to find the handsome prince. Eventually I did find Rob, but her’s turned out to be a toad!
In Pond Magic, when I gave my character Lily Padd the problem of being unable to stop burping, the logical reason behind this had to be what I call ‘fairytale logic’ – she must be turning into a frog! In fairytales, anything can happen: people do magic, animals talk, fairies marry princes, small children enter the world of giants and frogs can turn into princes.

SG:  I just discovered (research can be very useful!) that the Grimm Brothers’ version of The Frog Prince was quite different to the English version I knew as a child. The original German fairytale had the princess (a bit of a nasty girl, to be sure), after putting up with the frog knocking on her door and then sitting on her pillow for three nights, throws that poor creature to the floor in a temper. That’s when he changes into the gorgeous prince.
The English translator of The Frog King, Edgar Taylor altered the title and revised the ending, replacing the Grimms’ violent resolution with one of passivity. Apparently, ‘the English readers of the 1820s could not accept a heroine who throws her frisky bed companion against the wall’.
Angela, your Croatian ancestry goes back 400 years, and you speak five languages. Have you noticed similar cross-cultural differences between other well-known fairytales?

AS:  Croatia used to be a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire up to WWI, so the European folktales of the Brothers Grimm are well-loved there too.
The Grimm fairytales were stories they collected on their travels around Germany. Jacob Grimm said this about the origin of the fairytale: All these are neither devised nor invented; they are a distillation of the oldest popular beliefs.
The brothers were interested in the historical roots of the stories as much as the stories themselves. And some are much older than many myths of gods and heroes. It’s not unusual then to have violent resolutions in the original tales.

Perrault's version of Cinderella

In the original Cinderella, for example, the first step-sister cuts off her toes in order to fit into the slipper (which is gold not glass) and the second sister cuts off her heel. The French translator Perrault also added mice and pumpkins to Cinderella, which did not exist in the original.
The sensibilities of the time (1800s) caused these changes as the stories grew to be just for children and not adults as well.
The children of the Middle Ages used to watch hangings at executions the way our kids go to the movies – violence was a part of life.

SG:  Oh no! We’ve run out of space…looks like we’ll be chatting again tomorrow?

AS:  Sounds good to me, Sheryl See you bright and early on Sunday morning. 🙂

We’ll bring you more about fascinating fairytales and writing stories in the next episode.
Angela will also share her fairytale-writing formula for writing your own modern day fairytale.
And as an extra bonus: Angela and I will face-off in THE FAIRYTALE PLAYOFF competition! Who will win?

Illustration of The Frog Prince, courtesy of

Angela also appears on other blogs during her blog tour for Pond Magic. Check them out:
21st October – Stories Are Light – Sandy Fussell
22nd October – Write and Read with Dale – Dale Harcombe
Review and Developing a Character
23rd October – Sally Murphy’s Writing for Children Blog
Getting Published for the First Time
24th October – Cat Up Over – Catriona Hoy
What Girls Read
24th October – Kids Book Review
Review of Pond Magic
26th October – Tuesday Writing Tips – Dee White
Writing to this Length
27th October – Kids’ Book Capers – Boomerang Books
Review and Where Story Ideas Come From
28th October – Kids Book Review
The Aussie Chomp Format
29th October – Tales I Tell – Mabel Kaplan
Promoting your First Book & Planning a Book Launch
30th/31st October – SherylGwyther4Kids
Once upon a time in a far away place… PART 1 and PART 2


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‘Pond Magic’ blog tour coming tomorrow!

AUSTRALIAN AUTHOR, Angela Sunde‘s new Aussie Chomp book, Pond Magic (for 10-12 year olds), has just been released. The book will have its very own blog tour via the sites of other Australian authors below.

Pond Magic

This site will also host Angela and Pond Magic onthe 30th October. Tune in for a fascinating interview with Angela about fairytales -v- modern stories for young people.

21st October – Stories Are Light – Sandy Fussell
22nd October – Write and Read with Dale – Dale Harcombe
Review and Developing a Character
23rd October – Sally Murphy’s Writing for Children Blog
Getting Published for the First Time
24th October – Cat Up Over – Catriona Hoy
What Girls Read
24th October – Kids Book Review
Review of Pond Magic
26th October – Tuesday Writing Tips – Dee White
Writing to this Length
27th October – Kids’ Book Capers – Boomerang Books
Review and Where Story Ideas Come From
28th October – Kids Book Review
The Aussie Chomp Format
29th October – Tales I Tell – Mabel Kaplan
Promoting your First Book & Planning a Book Launch
30th October – SherylGwyther4Kids
Once upon a time in a far away place…


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A most unusual book … Skellig

There’s a book that keeps disappearing from its spot on the A-J shelves of our local high school library – a small novel that been smuggled through the security bars at the library exit. Skellig by British author, David Almond has had to be replaced at least three times.

So why is this particular book so ‘theft-worthy’? Is it the beautifully designed cover in tones of blue, white, black and fawn shafts of light and movement? Or maybe the Celtic lure of its title, or the intriguing blurb on the back cover? Or is it the magic of the story itself?

Skellig (1998) was British author, David Almond’s first story for children. It’s written in first person viewpoint of a young boy, Michael who is unhappy when his family moves to a ramshackle house in a new neighbourhood.

Michael’s parents are distracted because his new baby sister is gravely ill and this adds to his feelings of isolation and loneliness. But then he meets the unusual Mina, home-schooled and a loner, a girl who quotes William Blake and knows everything there is to know about birds.

Their lives change forever when Michael wanders into the derelict shed in his back yard and discovers under the rubbish, a crumpled, shrivelled creature that could be human or beast or both:

‘I thought he was dead. He was sitting with his legs stretched out, and his head tipped back against the wall. He was covered in dust and webs like everything else and his face was thin and pale. Dead bluebottles were scattered on his hair and shoulders. I shone the torch on his white face and his black suit.’

Michael confides in Mina and they move the strange creature into a safe place. As the barely alive part-human/bird/angel responds to Michael’s gentle care both he and Mina are drawn into the wonder that is Skellig.

This brilliant novel has won many awards, both UK and international. It’s also been made into a play and a movie was made from the story.

David Almond said once that he wanted ‘to write for a readership whose minds are still fluid and flexible, readers who are able to easily mix reality and imagination’. But it’s not only young readers who are captivated by the story of Skellig. His skill as a writer is evident in this thought-provoking, haunting tale of friendship, love, life and death – a book to own and treasure. Just like all of Almond’s books.

Not that long ago I checked the shelf again in The Gap High School library … and yes, the copy of Skellig had disappeared again. No, I’m not the culprit! I’ve got my own copy of the novel and maybe I’ll start reading it again (for the third time) today.

Other books by David Almond include Kit’s Wilderness, Heaven Eyes, Secret Heart, The Fire Eaters, Counting Stars, and Kate, the Cat and the Moon, Clay.

PS I want to see the movie of Skellig! Has anyone else seen it?


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