This is the Launch – May 2009

(Transferred from another blog home – because I never want to lose these memories!)

Well, this is it. Time to reflect on ‘the launch’. Sorry I’ve been slow – but I was;

1) shattered after the emotional highs of last week,
2) savouring the emotions… and
3) a little scared that I won’t be able to capture the joy, the excitement, the busy-ness… the everything that was – the perfect launch day!

I’ll try.

What an incredible week it was! Here’s a recap in brief:

Standout Moments from my Muddy Month of May:

1. 5th May – author talks and activities at the Australian Beef Expo, where ‘This is the Mud!’ was very positively received by rural kids, their parents and/or teachers.

2. 6th May – Two boxes of books arrived for sale at the Miriam Vale Post Office – with my name printed all over the outside! From the factory!! Who’d have thought a cardboard box could be so exciting?

3. 7th May – ‘This is the Mud!’ went on sale throughout Australia and New Zealand. WOW!!!

4. 7th May – Great reviews online and in magazines! Check some out here:
aussiereviews
babycenter
storytimebooksNZ

5. 8th May – Muck, mess and mayhem and many incredibly special memories at the HUGE launch party as a part of Miriam Vale’s Muddy Under 8s Day celebrations. With three schools and community groups in attendance, there were about 400 children and 100 parents, teachers and community members there. I felt privileged to be a part of such a supportive school and community and I still can’t get over how perfectly muddy that day was! (And it didn’t even rain!)

6. 8th May – My first email alert from a friend saying she had seen – and bought – my book!

7. 11th May– Gladstone Observer Article – a whole page devoted to Miriam Vale’s Under 8’s Day celebrations and the muddy launch. Part of the page is here. (There was more – a whole PAGE worth.)

Since then, I’ve been exhausted, but ecstatic. But finally, I’ve put my memories of the muddy, mammoth MV party on the page.

Read on – but perhaps grab a cup of coffee and a wedge of mud cake before you begin…

This is the Launch!

Friday, 8th May was Under 8s Day at the Miriam Vale State School, with Under 8s visiting from Community Playgroups, Agnes Water State School and Bororen State School. All up – we’re guessing about 400 kids – including senior students from MV who assisted with activities. (And all members of the P-10 school were involved in the official launch activities in the middle of things.) Add about 100 parents, teachers and community members into the mix and you have a mammoth, muddy party!

The day started with a reading from the book. A tad daunting at first having (at that stage) 200 Under 8’s spread around an outdoor undercover area… The sudden, then sustained quiet during the reading was amazing, especially given the time-delay factor, showing illustrations to such a large group of kids. (We had two books on the go!)

From there the kids got down and very dirty! We had a whole range of activities in keeping with the muddy beef cow theme.

• chocolate bickie icing (bickies cut in cow shapes)
• cow pats (chocolate crackles)
• nutella (mud) on bread
• chocolate playdough (that you don’t eat!)
• cow masks
• cow finger puppets
• cow face painting
• paper mache cow
• a mural for illustrator Warren Crossett (You didn’t see that Warren! It’s a surprise…)
• colouring pages from the book
• collage
• mud painting
• hoola hoops (wheels spinning in the mud)
• mud printing with all the characters from the story – and, hot off the press, a MUD brand made by Felix at 5am on Friday morning! (One of those late night flashes of brilliance his wife has.)

Felix puts his mark on the launch.

And so much MORE!

We even had a dairy cow (Yeek!) wandering around for the day – proudly declaring ‘Beef is Best!’. (All just in fun. Her mum actually works on a neighbouring friend’s dairy farm!)

While kids were hard at work, I was talking to Jo Leslie, reporter for the Gladstone Observer. Check out her article here (http://www.gladstoneobserver.com.au/story/2009/05/11/this-is-the-mud-a-clear-winner/). There was more – a whole PAGE worth.

At 11am we gathered in the undercovered tennis courts for the official launching part of the day. (I make mention of the venue, because it explains the fenced in ‘jail’ effect that comes up in some of the photos. It was cool and shady and LARGE – all of which was important!)

School principal Margie Burrell officially launched the book – and you’d think we’d co-ordinated outfits and speeches. But we hadn’t. (With a book about Mud – I guess you can’t really be surprised when people wear brown.) I then shared some things myself – and I think it’s just easier if I include that speech below – in the muddy coloured text…

If you listen to what other people believe you can and can’t do, then it’s possible you won’t do anything.

This is the book that should never have been published. It was a ‘can’t do’ for many reasons – as I have been told by many people over the years.

1. Picture books are an impossible market to break into. They won’t publish picture books.
2. Publishers don’t publish rhyme anymore.
3. If you don’t have an agent, you won’t get published.
4. Manuscripts are never picked up and printed off the slushpile – that large pile of manuscripts that writers without agents send to publishers.
5. Publishers won’t touch an unpublished author.

Kind of makes you want to become a writer, doesn’t it?

Well, ignore all that, and hear this – something I grasped hold of 6 years ago and have held tight to ever since. And if you’re really smart you’ll realise that this can be twisted to apply to just about anything.

“Writing is 5% inspiration, 5% creativity, and 90% determination.”

For seven years, I have been DETERMINED to publish an Australian children’s picture book. A book that reflected our rural Australian lifestyle – in a fun way. A book to read purely for enjoyment.

Today – at long last – I am celebrating that book’s launch. Because even though I was, at the start of ‘Mud!’s journey, an unpublished author, without an agent, writing a picture book in rhyme, my manuscript was picked up off the slushpile, and today – here it is, this gorgeous picture book.The book I hold today is every bit the gorgeous Australian picture book I hoped it would be – and it took a lot of people working together to achieve this. Unfortunately, most of them are from Victoria or New South Wales, so they couldn’t be here today. I have to quickly mention two of them to you.

Warren Crossett as illustrator has reproduced a part of Australia that he has never seen – and done it brilliantly. I open this book to page one and I could be standing in my back yard, with my cow Amber in the foreground, rolling paddocks and dense, scrubby hills in the background. The fact that Warren modelled the cow on my Amber is just one more reason for me to love, and own, this book! Unfortunately, Amber is now too big to fit in the cattle truck, so she couldn’t be with us to celebrate today. (It also means she’ll never be going to market! Hurray!!!)

Helen Chamberlin, my editor at Lothian Children’s books. I know many children’s authors who hand over their manuscript and their role is finished. I will forever appreciate the fact that I was included throughout every step of the publication process, and everything I asked for, is in the book. So this never stopped being MY book – it just belongs to a lot more people now, as well.

Without determination, this picture book would be just an idea in my head, or maybe a manuscript on my computer. With determination – it became a book.

And you know what? Every one of you here can do big things! From the little tackers running around enjoying the muck, mess and mayhem of Under 8’s Day, to the high schoolers who are preparing for other pastures. Even the adults!

Because it’s not what others say you can and can’t do that matters – it’s what you believe in your heart.

Think BIG – and be determined!

There were of course many more thankyou’s on the day but this blog is getting very long…

After the launch – and the delicious mud cakes and mocha fudge courtesy of the MVSS staff – Sgt Owen took the fit-and-strong away to compete in a tug-of-war competition and pull the cow (a toy) out of the mud (the other team). And the Under 8’s were once again stuck in the mud! I started on the next round of author duties – book signings and photographs.

A BEEF snag (sausage) on bread rounded off the celebrations, and our guests were away – very muddy, very full and very tired!

Half an hour after the visiting schools left… the rain came down! Thankfully, most of the activities had already been packed up (though there was still a mammoth clean-up to do!) so the rain didn’t dampen spirits or celebrations one bit!

One of the really special things about this launch is the way the Miriam Vale School Staff and their spouses embraced the celebration, with so much work happening in their own time and at their own expense.

• The big mud cake was made by the husband of one of our teachers – delicious! (It was iced & decorated by Kat who easily bogged those brand new toys on top! Should have been Felix…)
• The mini mud cakes enjoyed by all were made by primary teachers.
• The gourmet mocha fudge that adults rhapsodised over was the work of our Home Ec teacher.
• The paper mache cow frame was constructed by our Man Arts teacher.
• The finger puppets were cut and sewn by a teacher-aide on her day off.
• Craft preparations were greatly assisted by the work of primary and secondary students and teachers during break time.
• Many others stepped up on the day to cook and distribute sausages, and be actively involved in the whole school celebrations.

Deputy Mayor Gail Sellers and Cr Matt Burnett

There’s a lot of words and memories on this blog (if you’ve read this far, you’ve done well!) but it really doesn’t even start to express the awesome day of muck, mess and mayhem that was Under 8s 2009 at Miriam Vale. Or my thankfulness to all those who contributed – either during the book’s journey, or at the book launch.

It was perfect.

I thank you.

PS Yesterday, my youngest son slipped me this work of art, made entirely by himself over two months ago – then put away and… forgotten!! (I remember the secretive afternoon he did it.) What a talented treasure he is! I love it! (But I love him more!!!) His reproduction of the front cover of ‘This is the Mud!’ – minus the title, because he didn’t think he could get that on without wrecking it. (Just 5cm x 2cm finished piece!)

(He later made this into a necklace and I have worn it many times since. Special indeed – and much admired!)

And that reminds me… My mismatched earrings – because there’s no way I could have made them the same if I’d tried! But you can’t see them in the photos – hence their own special pic.

This is the cow who was chewing her cud... and this is the cow, enjoying a swing!

Such was the wonderful day…


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