Isn’t 2020 a WEIRD year? I’ve been very lucky, though — in between all the weird stuff I’ve had some wonderful happenings, too. After my Paper Bird Fellowship event back in January, I had a poem published in the March 2020 issue of The School Magazine. This one’s called ‘The Button Jar’ and has a fabulous illustration by Cheryl Orsini to go with it.
Also in March: I was interviewed by author Nadia L King about poetry and poetry writing. You can read that interview here.
Then, when all the social distancing started to happen (thanks, COVID-19), Paper Bird Books started the Paper Bird Books Home Club. On weekdays they host a children’s writer or illustrator on Instagram Live. And in Episode 10 I found myself in the Home Club chair talking about my poetry, where to get ideas, and what to do with a poem. You can watch my 1/2 hour video on the Home Club YouTube channel.
Make sure you check out this Monday’s visitor, too (it’s the fabulous Kathryn Lefroy!). Head to Paper Bird’s Instagram (@paperbird_books) at 10.30am AWST on Monday to watch that livestream.
And my LAST piece of news: This week I was selected as one of 8 poets for the next postcard series by Poetry on Postcards. My poem is called ‘Indian Ocean’. You can read about Poetry on Postcards here.
Now I’m at home all day (thanks again, COVID-19) I’m trying to get a bit of work done on my children’s novel. I’ve also done a lot more gardening over the past few weeks. To sign off with, here’s a photo of an overachieving sweet pea seedling. It grew so quickly that it made me laugh. (The tiny seedlings beneath it are strawberry plants.)
So, 2019 is off to a fabulous start! I sold a poem to Bloomsbury Education in the UK for their 2019 children’s poetry anthology Fire Burn, Cauldron Bubble: Magical Poems Chosen by Paul Cookson. This is extra exciting news for me – I’ve had quite a few poems published by The School Magazine, but this will be my first poem in an anthology. I’m looking forward to holding a book in my hands later this year. (My poem is called ‘Potion problems’.)
Here’s a picture of me posting off my signed contract:
And, yes, I made one of my kids come along when I posted the letter just so they could photograph me with the post box. Nothing’s official until you’ve been photographed with a post box.
In totally unrelated news (unless you file it under ‘2019 successes’), I’ve been trying my hand at propagating succulents. And look!
[Off camera: a pile of brown shriveled succulent leaves that were clearly not a success. Let’s not dwell on those.]
A magical poem and baby succulent magic … a good start to the new year.
Lots of excellent happenings have been … happening … around here. A few months back I said yes to a shared studio space at Paper Bird Books and Arts in Fremantle. There are three of us being creative in the studio space. It’s light and bright, and since I started writing here (about twice a week) I’ve finished three picture books and I’ve written a good number of poems, too.
Don’t you love this mat?
Speaking of poems (and not so much about mats), The School Magazine has bought two more of my poems this year. And I’ve posted new poems to the Poetry Tag site. Here they are, and if you haven’t already, you should definitely zip straight over and see them in all their glory:
BACK TO SCHOOL BLUES
AFTER A STORM
For my birthday, my very clever musical daughter composed a choral work based on ‘Sea Secrets’, which I might post to the blog once I figure out how. *ahem*.
And I’m now on instagram. Over there I’m @rebeccanewmanbooks. I post some poetry stuff, some booky stuff, some garden-y stuff, and some day-to-day-just-sort-of-noodling-about stuff.
In other (kitchen garden) news: this season we’ve planted a new passionfruit vine to replace the old one that’s not really thriving, cucumbers (which are thriving and already have flowers on them, go little cucumber plants!), watermelon, sunflowers, and lettuce. Everyone is thrilled to know that the succulents I planted earlier this year seem to be doing OK. But I imagine even I would have trouble killing those …
New Years’ Resolutions — I have some.
Submit manuscripts to publishers.
I need to send more of my work out on submission. Shortly after coming to this conclusion: I submitted a short story to an anthology on 5th January. Pat on the back for me.
Turn my garden into a low-maintenance garden that has actual living plants in it.
Ready to plant …
I bought pots of succulents. Lots of them. I don’t love succulents — I prefer leafier sorts of plants that rustle when the wind blows (the same sorts of plants, it turns out, that can be burnt to death by summer sun and desiccated by scorching salty winds). But, emboldened by my new resolve to stock my garden with appropriate flora, I bought a stack of succulents — in particular the ones with labels that said:
LOW WATER NEEDS
THRIVES ON NEGLECT
FULL SUN ONLY
They are now planted in between my roses (because I can’t give up my roses). I’m still growing some edible plants, too. This year we have cherry tomatoes (with tomatoes on), cucumber vines (with no sign of a cucumber), passionfruit vines (with two passionfruit, hang in there!) and basil, thyme, rosemary and mint.
Draw something little every day.
I’ve always wanted to be able to draw. And so I’ll try to draw something little every day, even if it’s complete rubbish. Because I quite like drawing. Even if it’s complete rubbish.
In other news, I was very excited to find real mail in my postbox this week.
It’s my latest poem ‘Body Beat’ in the February 2017 issue of The School Magazine (Countdown). The wonderful illustration is by Cheryl Orsini.
And I’ve had a couple more poems up at Poetry Tag (which were not written in 2017 but I thought I’d catch you up). Here they are:
2017 is looking good.
Since we returned from the summer holidays, I have taught myself how to make fromage blanc (with the help of the internet, and a kit), and one of my lovely sisters-in-law taught me how to make sourdough bread.
Here’s my first attempt at fromage blanc:
Fromage blanc. Weird, huh?
And here’s my latest batch of sourdough:
As you can see, my sister-in-law is a very good teacher.
I’ve also been busy poem-making, and you can see two of my recent poems over at Poetry Tag:
- Beneath the Backyard Lemon Tree and
- Cottesloe Beach Skipping Rhyme (with bonus instructions for skipping in a group). BYO skipping rope. And a large bottle of water if you’re in Perth and suffering through this heatwave.
Speaking of heatwaves, looking out of my window I can see my sad garden. Other than my brave rosebushes, there’s not much in it because we were away over the summer break. So, here’s a photo of some of my roses because I didn’t get around taking a shot of the cos lettuces … or the weeds.
Roses from my garden. They smell like turkish delight.
Happy spring! You can tell it’s spring because this is flowering in my garden.
Term 3 is always the busiest term of the year at our house. The calendar pages stuck to our fridge (actually just A4 sheets I’ve printed out) get so full of writing that they can’t take the weight of all that activity and they drop onto the floor … and slide underneath the fridge. Calendar pages that hide underneath the fridge really don’t help much with the Term 3 Busy-ness.
(Also, on a side note: our fridge door is silver-coloured but is not magnetic. Who makes non-magnetic fridge doors, I ask you? Where am I supposed to stick up my magnetic words for fridge-door poetry-writing? And artwork by our artists-in-residence? What am I supposed to do with all the fridge magnets that inevitably accumulate in a house?!)
In poem-y news, I have new poems up at Poetry Tag: the first one is called ‘The Birth of an Idea’ (Sally gave me the words birth, and together) and the most recent poem is ‘For Sally (on her birthday)’ (my words were take, feline, and cloud). Now I’ve tagged Sally, and it’s her turn to write …
As Term 3 draws to a close (we still have a week to go here in WA) I am back to writing as much as I can. This week I’ve been writing first drafts of poems, and working on the final drafts of my folktale-style picture book.
Garden update: No carrots, and the green stuff wasn’t a success. There are nasturtiums flowering though, as well as ranunculi, and one poppy plant. You might find that single poppy plant amusing if you follow me on Twitter:
Oh, April Rebecca. So optimistic.
Wait! I did get some passionfruit off the vine. Three in fact. Proof:
8 sleeps till the school holidays. I’ve got some more writing to do.
The year is skipping along nicely. Here it is April and I still haven’t posted up a photo of my poem from the March issue of The School Magazine (specifically ‘Countdown’). You can see me, very excited, on the day my copy arrived in the mail:
The illustrations are by the wonderful Kimberly Andrews.
What else has been happening?
- Over at the Poetry Tag site I’ve posted a new poem called ‘Waiting’. (Sally gave me the word prompts GO, FREAKY and TREE.) The resulting poem is inspired by a childhood memory.
- I’ve been interviewed! At the Australian Children’s Poetry site, Teena Raffa-Mulligan and I talked about What Makes a Good Poem, and some other poem-y stuff.
- I’ll have three poems published in a forthcoming anthology edited by Sally Odgers. (The anthology is called Prints Rhyming: Singing the Year.) More on that soon …
As well as cheering about exciting poetry-in-print news, I’ve been out in my little garden planting seeds for spring flowers, lettuce, carrots and rainbow chard. (No-one in the house likes rainbow chard much but I say IT’S GOOD FOR YOU so if it grows it will be going into our winter cooking.) I’ve never been able to grow carrots successfully but I’m giving it another go because I had a packet of seeds and they were about to expire. What I’m extra clever at is growing Spooky Carrots — wonky carrots with legs and arms and strange twisty shapes. Spooky Carrots still taste like the everyday sort but they are much harder to peel and to wash all the dirt off.
Here’s a spooky carrot I prepared earlier …
A scene from The Juniper Tree. Collage. By me!
It’s hot, hot, hot in Perth this week. That means more tomatoes picked from my garden (yay!) and more washing flapping on the line (also yay! because it dries super fast in this hot weather, and if there’s no washing flapping on the line then that means it’s still in the laundry and that can’t be good).
Other than picking tomatoes and pegging out washing, I’ve also been writing heaps of new poems (here’s one of them — a Rat Lullaby), and creating artwork. I’m taking part in the 52-week illustration challenge — that illustration at the top of this post is my collage for the first week’s theme, fairy tale. I used magazine pages torn into tiny pieces. So it also counts as spring-cleaning, sort of …
And now it’s time for a photo of a lemon cucumber and some little tomatoes from my garden. Lemon cucumbers taste like regular cucumbers, but they are shaped like a lemon with a yellowish blush to the skin. And the skin is edible! So we eat them like apples. (You have to brush off the tiny prickles first though, so you don’t get prickles on your tongue.)
I love pottering around in our (rather small) kitchen garden and I like to plant seeds rather than seedlings. I’ve got some seed packets of vegetables — heirloom varieties — but last year lots of the seeds I planted directly in the soil didn’t germinate. So this year (three weeks ago, in fact) I decided to try planting them in seed-raising trays and then planting them out. Here are some before shots:
In this tray I sowed seeds of lettuce, sunflowers, beetroot, tomatoes, tansy, and capsicum. (There were actually two trays like this, but they looked exactly alike, so … well … you know.)
In this tray I sowed cucumbers.
My kids eat a lot — A LOT — of cucumbers. So, in the second tray I planted three varieties of cucumber: burpless, mini lebanese, and lemon. These are in cups I can plant straight into the soil and the cups will break down naturally as the seedlings grow. (Cucumbers don’t like to be disturbed too much, so this makes transplanting them easier. <– I almost sound like I know what I’m doing, don’t I? Ha!)
Two weeks later — ta-daa!
Magic! (The giants are sunflowers.)
Only 4 out of 12 sunflowers germinated, but then they took off pretty quickly. The second biggest are lettuces. I sense a few salads in our future …
Very happy cucumbers. Look at them grow!
I planted the cucumbers and the sunflowers into the ground today. Spring is here!
Do you grow your own veggies or fruit?