Saturday, 21 December 2013

Sittin' on the dock...with Petunia

Today I'm writing from my kitchen in England. The weather is wet and windy, though yesterday on our return we were greeted with glorious blue skies which lasted all day long. 

Here is what I was doing at the beginning of the week, when I should have been wrapping Christmas presents.  Well,  I was just sittin' on the dock of the bay, watching the tide roll away (what tide?)...Wastin' time

See how many places you recognize. And, if Singapore isn't familiar to you, enjoy the views:

The weather was sunny and breezy ... a little too breezy at times - Ooops!

But, like mad dogs and Englishmen we didn't give up.... Most people ignored me as I balanced Petunia in random places. Does this happen all the time, maybe?

We were tempted to have a splash...

We passed several bridges:

and stopped to cool off in a shopping centre:  

and finally headed off to Patterson Road
to catch the bus home.  If I don't have time to write again within the next few days, please have a Very Merry Christmas. And if you already have a copy of Petunia, please enjoy reading it. 

Saturday, 14 December 2013

BooooOOOOO!! with Emma's Elephant

Ooh! You scared me. 

But no, that's not MY elephant. It's David's Seow's picture book,'Emma's Elephant'.
David presented a brilliant workshop yesterday at the National Library in front of scores of young readers.  

The story of a little girl - Emma - and her invisible elephant friend helping endangered animals is great fun to read aloud. Even if saying the 'Boooooo!' nearly gets my tonsils in a twist. 

David kicked off, bantering with these eager fans who are now on holiday until January.

After I had read the story, David asked some tricky question to find out who had really been listening.

Then to the really fun part - with two wonderfully inventive and energetic teachers, Susanna Goho Quek and Karen Quek, the children set to designing their own elephant masks. No one could resist trying their hand.

Here's one from an older reader -

then a younger reader, with help from Mum.

and from Susanna.

And of course there were prizes for the best masks, judged by David, Karen, and Susanna.

Another sample of the children's original artwork:

Who's sitting in MY chair!

What a cheek! Someone's sitting in my chair.  But it isn't Goldilocks. It's ........

As of Friday, I am the proud owner of a few advance copies of Princess Petunia's Dragon! So lovely to feel the whole book, printed and bound and snug inside its glossy cover. And today I must clear a space for the stock, arriving tomorrow! Send me your orders as fast as you like. (Or you can wait to see the book in the bookshops and libraries here in Singapore.) 

Charlotte's illustrations are fantastic! Here's the King you can see peeking out of the open page:
 And here's Charlotte's blog too:  Thanks, Charlotte, for a really professional job.  Great fun working with you. 

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Friday at the printers...

I was so eager to see my book, Princess Petunia's Dragon, on the presses that I arrived early and had to sit with a cup of tea and a copy of the paper in the food centre...

But on the dot of 9.15 I went up to the printing floor. And what jolly nice people my printers are! There I was, wandering around, poking my lens into their business as they adjusted the weight of ink (or at least I think that was what they were doing). And they didn't mind in the very least.  

Below is the cutting machine with a horribly efficient blade (not my printed pages yet!)

And then, after a gap of an hour (and another cup of tea - iced this time) I was back to see the first inside page being printed! There's Petunia's head, upside down. Feeling dizzy?

David Seow arrived hot-foot from the wet market to keep me company. His presence was reassuring until he thought he spotted a mistake on the printed page. Ha! Nice try, David! 

I gathered up some rejected pages (used to get the ink just right) which I shall use for presentations.  

But the work didn't stop there.  David had plans. And we went downstairs to work on a one of his projects with a very patient designer.  It's his wonderful story, 'There's Soup on my Fly', which is being staged by The Learning Connection.

That evening was the SCBWI writers' group Christmas dinner - an extremely tasty and enjoyable celebration of a successful year. But more of that later....

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

On the home stretch...

Princess Petunia's Dragon is ready for the 'off'. 

I have been to the printers several times, to discuss paper quality and check proofs. 

Here is David Seow helping me with a final check. I'm indebted to you, Dave! 

Below you can see the six signatures of my book. 'Signatures?' you ask. Yes! But they're not those scribbles you get on prescriptions or cheques. Or thumb prints, or dragon claw-prints either! A signature is a batch of sixteen pages.  VoilĂ ! 
Taking a break from this technical stuff, 
today my young friends came round to tea 
and decorated Charlotte Micklewright's
lovely pictures of Petunia and dragons. 
Super colouring, Kitty, Eleanor and Alice! 

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

A brief get-away

With the printing of Princess Petunia's Dragon imminent, we took a short break away from our tropical home. We wanted a contrast to the daily grind of Singapore, so we chose to stay in the heart of Hanoi which we visited last year, and to take a trip to Halong Bay. 

We were the only ones who stayed for two nights on the boat. On our 'middle' day, we were on our own, looked after royally by a lovely girl. I was in a sketching mood, so I made this one of her, and gave it to her.  Later she led us in kayaks through rock overhangs to quiet places away from the busy bay. And told us so much about her life and family in the fishing village which will soon be requisitioned by the government. 

Thank you and good luck with everything, Tran Hung Gam!
 I'll let the photos and my quick sketches do the talking.

Monday, 11 November 2013

The proof - It's behind you!

Over the last week or so, I've been to two big events with David Seow, prolific picture book author. First, watching the proofs of his new book, Sam, Sebbie and Di-di-di at the SEA Aquarium, sliding off the presses. And then, the first dramatization of his wonderful story, Soup on my Fly, by The Learning Connection

First we hot foot it to the printers, to see the page proofs with Stephanie Wong, Epigram's designer, checking the colour matches. 
Here are the proofs showing Soefara's lovely, lively illustrations. (And don't worry, the illustrations look odd in this order, but it's because they are cut and folded to make the final book!).

I love seeing all the activity at the printers, the noise of the machines as the book comes to life - and of course it's easy for me because it isn't my book! It will be my turn with Princess Petunia's Dragon in a few weeks' time...!

Soefara couldn't help a big smile with the cover proof. This is the second book she has illustrated in David's 'Sam, Sebbie and Di-di-di' series, after At the Night Safari.  Both great reads, and a super way to see a glimpse of Singapore through children's eyes. 

The next meet-up required David, Catherine and me to drive out to a nursery school at Changi. 'Soup on my Fly' was being staged for its very first time before being taken round schools and stages early next year. The story of a boy desperate for a pet may be aimed at nursery and infant schools, but the acting, singing and dancing were truly infectious for us writers. 

David watched warily as his story was retold on the stage. The actors used both puppets and costumes for the different animals involved (the fly in the title is very versatile!). All the children were entranced, joining in with all the animal sounds and bouncing in anticipation at every cliff-hanger. 

 Full-marks to the young cast for a wonderfully entertaining romp and keeping a whole room of infants mesmerized! I wouldn't dare try my hand at manipulating a puppet in the shape of a fly. But there again, that Tango number early in the play would be great fun. Any takers?

FInally, here's the author in the middle surrounded by the cast and obviously very pleased with the result! 
Thanks to David, the talented TLC cast, and Catherine Carvell for a very enjoyable morning.