Goodreads giveaway

I, like thousands of people, love using Goodreads. It's a great way to find new books and share your literary loves with others. I particularly find it handy for book club, for keeping the list of our upcoming titles close by for when I find myself with a 'spare' 10 minutes to hide in a book shop! In preparation for the launch  of 'Elizabeth Rose on Parade', I wanted to give those who don't yet have my first book 'I Love You 5 Lollipops', the chance to win a copy and get to know Elizabeth Rose and her extraordinary family.

Click on the links below to enter or share with friends. Giveaway ends on the 20th of July!

Good luck!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

I Love You 5 Lollipops by Jaquelyn Muller

I Love You 5 Lollipops

by Jaquelyn Muller

Giveaway ends July 20, 2014.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter to win

 

A Few of my Favourite Things

The Christmas season, can mean a stressful haze of parties, shopping and a consumption of food that any other time of the year would be deemed unhealthy (surely it is normal to obliterate 5 fruit mince tarts in one sitting)? But looking past the empty bottles, declarations of detox and last minute dashes to the shops for more gift boxes of Ferrero Rocher, the month of December also surrounds me with daily reminders of how blessed we are. After all isn't that the wonderful thing about Christmas? Everywhere we look there are those memories of Christmases shared and a coming together, making it more than just one day of the year.

These are just a few of my favourite things about Christmas and certainly why by Boxing Day I am in need of a Bex and a good lie down.

CTreeArts and crafts are an obsession for me and my youngest. The local art supply store rolls out the red carpet every time we come in knowing that a simple purchase of glitter glue will result in a buy-up of random MDF shapes, bags of pom-poms and balls of wire. We have Christmas art projects every year that usually deliver two hours of intense concentration and breath holding, compromise on original design due to waning patience and substandard materials topped with clapping, cart wheeling and booty dancing upon finishing said project. There is of course no correlation between our level of enthusiasm and talent, but it's just what we do.

Combining our love of artsy fartsy projects with food has been our more recent tradition of building gingerbread houses. The girls and I somehow manage to bathe ourselves in royal GHouseicing but we end up with a sweet cottage to be shared on Christmas day with the family.  The hardest part is knowing when to pull the pin on the decorations. Lizzie thinks there is no such thing as OTT at Christmas time (I happen to agree), Grace just rolls her eyes and waives responsibility.

AnneEvery year putting up the tree is like an annual 'This Is Your Life' with all the precious ornaments and decorations that mark special occasions, a gift from a loved one or a place visited. My family have given Christmas decorations as gifts for years and my girls will have family heirlooms that can be passed on to them and their children in years to come, each with their little story attached to it.

12 daysThe excitement of Christmas is not only generated from your own family's stories but from those in history and around the world. Naturally books play a big part of our holiday season with old favourites dusted off to share and new brightly told tales to enjoy. I have vowed to learn 'Twas the Night Before Christmas' off by heart by the time my grandchildren are born - I can see it turning into a one woman panto actually!

Family is of course the only reason why this time of year is special. The stresses and manic Mullersmonths prior melt away as the fun and love of Christmas takes over. My girls indulge me in my unashamed love of all things Christmas while as parents we get to enjoy school carols, end of year concerts, presentation nights and the spoils from art projects. From my family to yours I wish you the best for the season, filled with love happiness and just another slice of everything!

China Shanghai International Children's Book Fair 2013

As a novice to the children's book fair scene, the idea of rolling up to a foreign city to display my book alongside titles from all over the world from so many amazing well known authors was more than just a little daunting. Luckily for me as someone who regularly trips over their own feet in public, I have suffered greater humiliations so how confronting could this be? photo 1 photo 3 photo 4

The China Shanghai International Children’s Book Fair 2013 was the first of its kind in the city. Running from the 7th to the 9th of November the book fair aimed to bring together the best of Chinese children’s publishing. It also looked at the development of this genre to ensure China’s 230 million children under 16 have access to a wide range of literature from across the country and around the globe. To me it was an exciting prospect to learn more about this emerging market of readers.

That is how after several months of planning, 3 in-flight movies, 2 unsuccessful attempts at sleep and a vegan meal that would cause any Brunswick Street cafe to turn up its organic, fair trade, gluten-free nose, I arrived in Shanghai.

For anyone who has never been to Shanghai the best way to describe it is as a ride at an amusement park; a kaleidoscope of lights, noise, excitement and at times heart-stopping, but once you get off all you say is....AGAIN!

The morning of the first trade day found me careering my way to the exhibition centre. After multiple cardiac arrests courtesy of my taxi driver and Shanghai peak hour, I kissed the ground and made my way to registration. I was greeted by a scene similar to that of the Boxing Day sales which required a deep breath and a willingness to get the elbows out if need be.

Fortunately no such rough and tumble was required and I was soon on the main exhibition floor feeling like a golden ticket winner to Willie Wonka’s Chocolate Factory (minus the obligatory confectionery required for a chocolate factory). The iridescent colours, lights and whimsical displays complete with large novelty sized mushrooms and book characters immediately satisfied my expectations of a children’s book fair and I giggled to think how it would all look after they let the kids loose on it?

I have to admit that seeing my book on display at an international book fair was definitely up there as one of the most satisfying moments I have had. As any author knows, the road to publication is a long one so this took it to another level and should a happy dance not have drawn some perplexed looks, I would have gone there! Not the time to employ the 'dance like no one is watching' mantra!

In among all the merriment was of course the serious side of children's publishing and I was fortunate enough to sit in on some great forums once we had the 'running of the bulls' to find a seat.  It was like musical chairs where you all dived on to the nearest stoop. I love party games so I joined in!

Feeling very UN with my interpreter receiver thingy and headphones I was able to extract some fabulous insight about how far the Chinese children's book market has come and where it intends on heading......at break neck speed (apply the running for chairs analogy)!

While a couple of the key note speakers went a bit hard on the self-promotion bandwagon rather than delivering quality research and market assessment, the thirst for innovation was one of the clear points to come out of most of the sessions.

In his discussion on The Globalisation Era of Children's Book Publishing in China, Xia Shunhua, GM of Dolphin Media, explained that Chinese publishers must continually improve the quality of their content and cultivate their talents by working with overseas authors, illustrators and designers. The look to western cultures and expertise coupled with Chinese production capability will make this an exciting industry over the next 5 years.

In the International Forum on Children's Digital Publishing, the idea of eBook 3.0 was discussed with the need to provide for parents and teachers as well as children in the integration of audio, visual and interactivity to ensure that the experience delivered could reach maximum potential.

Other key points included:

  • the licensing of products to become more scalable as a result of new technology.
  • data mining allows publishers to record how users are interacting with content.
  • product development is based on more immediate user lead knowledge rather than long term sales patterns.
  • the trend of end users accessing high value content for reasonable cost will continue as technology develops.

For me the value in attending CCBF and being part of the New Title Showcase gave me more than just daily exercise, and for anyone thinking of attending in future I would make the following recommendations.

  • Pre-register early. I was able to build relationships with the great staff at Reed Exhibitions who ran the event and they assisted me greatly with making appointments. I now have some wonderful contacts in the industry who I will be working with closely over the coming months.
  • Once you have appointments booked then determine if you will need translation services for any of these. They can be booked in ahead of time.
  • Register for the forums they are a fabulous insight in to the market and the key note speakers are happy to chat after the sessions.
  • Eat a big breakfast, you won't have time for lunch.
  • Pack the Nikes!

I look forward to seeing how this event develops for next year. If you attended CCBF I would love to hear your experiences. Please feel free to contact me at jaquelyn.muller@gmail.com.

You can see more of CCBF 2013 via my Facebook page facebook.com/jmullerbooks or follow me on twitter @JaquelynMuller and LinkedIn linkedin.com/in/jaquelynmuller.

Cold Mini Quiches and other School Committee Atrocities

So you have managed to survive pregnancy, childbirth, sleep deprivation, teething, nappy rash, immunisations, kindergarten, and you somehow navigate your highly energised offspring to begin their education. Tears and separation anxiety aside, you think this is the beginning of the rest of your life, right? You will  have 'time' to go back to work, get fit, build a vegetable garden, shop for food only at sustainable organic markets, volunteer at the local hospital, cook 3 course dinners every night with ingredients only sourced from previously mentioned sustainable organic markets and reacquaint yourself with...well,  yourself! The possibilities now opened up to you are endless! Sorry lovey, but by the end of the first week you will find your email looped into every working bee, fruit and scoring duty roster, social committee and in-class reading group that you can be emotionally blackmailed into. Yes, apparently your child's ability to make Melbourne University Medicine is directly related to how many cupcakes you can churn out in a 12 month period.

For most parents this is generally a positive experience so long as the activity does have some correlation to skill set (so you will never find my name next to the commemorative quilt hanging at school reception). It can be a great deal of fun, surprising friendships are formed and you do get an appreciation of what it takes to make our kids' school lives that much richer and enjoyable. However (and you knew it was coming), nothing prepares you for the joys of forming part of a SCHOOL COMMITTEE! The life skills you will learn from attending meetings in small rooms on uncomfortable chairs often without decent coffee (or other psychologically supportive beverages) knows no bounds. You will come to understand the importance of over working and dissecting topics that  make local government look efficient and worthwhile. Who knew that there could possibly be opposing views on serving a buffet dinner as opposed to a stand up cocktail party for a school social, that tanbark for the playground comes in either dark brown or red and a business case is required for both or that a 'thank you' bouquet of Gerberas for any occasion is a strict 'no-no'.

These are all remarkably important issues and fabulous blog fodder. The amusement value is abundant, although a sad reflection on what I deem as entertainment, however along the way you manage to do some good, raise money and give our kids a sense of what it means to be part of a community (one of the biggest lessons being that we are all different I would have thought). So, to those who feel the need to write a three page diatribe on the irresponsibility of serving cold mini quiches at the Grandparents morning tea, (which is surely better than when Bridget Jones' mum served miniature spotted dick to Mark Darcy's parents), may I recommend that next time perhaps send an email to the parent who gave up their time to put out the plate of miniature food and just say 'thank you'; because if I didn't have to think about it, prepare it, order it or hand it around then good on the person who did!

 

Holiday home

Summer is almost over and mozzie ridden ankles are soon to be shoved into fleece-lined boots once more.  I have replayed childhood summers against the denim palette of a Chiko Roll poster and reflected on how my younger brother and I would horsey-dive wholeheartedly into each day, maximising all that is great about summer. Substituting a bath for a dip in the pool, integrating an icy-pole into the daily diet and wearing clothes only when it was socially necessary, we some of my highlights. As a kid you seem to remember summers more than you do as an adult. Grown ups still have to go to work, come home and make dinner, feed the dog and put out the rubbish just as they do in colder months, it's just whether you do it sans swimming cossie. However despite both working full-time, I do remember how summer meant Mum and Dad relaxed from routine and allowed a certain 'feral' element to creep into domestic life from December to March. Great news for my brother who could often be seen in nothing more than his Speedo and gumboots dragging off-cuts of wood home from building sites. His face would often look like he had eaten with wolves and the lovely crust of green around his nose was cemented until bath time.

For me (older and less attracted to dirt), it was more an opportunity to perfect handstands, back-bends, and rollerskating in my Hang Ten bikini out in the street till after dark while singing 'Wired for Sound' in my head, (YouTube video link: I don't remember being as confronted as I am now about the men in the Lycra jump suits).

It was all rather blissful unscheduled fun.

While all this 'anarchy' was taking place, my parents tended to position themselves outside after work not doing anything other than just talking. They didn't cradle smart phones while Face-booking photos of wine glasses next to cheese platters or download bank statements on to tablet devices...they just sat. I have no idea what they would talk about, (as I was often whizzing past at 10km/hour), however it never seemed overly serious. There was more laughing and smiling than not, and I had their complete and undivided attention when the latest feat against gravity was ready for critiquing. I couldn't tell you what time we would eat dinner, because we clearly never starved and my  brother would occasionally go to bed in his Speedos with a rock or piece of wood under his pillow and black feet.

I don't think these few months that mum and dad had 'off' had any adverse affects on us, in fact and not surprisingly my brother is now a builder. We still understood the house rules, showed respect to adults, used a knife and fork, wiped our noses with a tissue (my brother every so often with his sleeve) and said 'please' and 'thank you'. I think they must have felt like it was a holiday from being themselves.

So, why should holidays only happen when you are not at home?

While my eldest daughter would argue that I am on 'permanent holiday' from being a normal mum, I would like to think that our dancing in the kitchen and choreographing of movie musicals (none of which is deterred by our self-assessed lack of talent) are small ways we can bring in a bit of vacation. Not doing the school reader every single night, eating weet-bix for dinner and burping competitions at the table, while shameful and outrageous acts, are  nice 'long weekends to have on Wednesdays'.

Note: I did not recieve any Chiko Rolls in exchange for this article. Wouldn't turn down a pair of white boot skates though!

Happy birthday to 'The Best Worst Dog in the World'

Obsessing over shoes, in constant search for food, always looking for affection and leaving hair everywhere. You wouldn't be too far off the mark if you thought this was a 'selfie post', in fact I never realised I had so much in common with the family pet until just now, so one could argue that all of her behaviours (mostly bad) are all  my fault. Surely just as the children's offbeat personality traits are usually laid at my feet - why not the dog's? We call her 'The Best Worst Dog in the World', primarily because she is just that. No excuses, no outlandish promises to stop eating the garden hose (now I can't be blamed for that, I think that is just a dog thing), or ripping washing off the line, taking off down the hallway with underwear best not described or eating out of the garbage bin. There is no intention of spending better engaged hours heading off to obedience school, despite my mother insisting, 'you really do need to do something about that dog', we have just accepted that we have the world's worst behaved dog, and she is the best at it!

Millie, her socially acceptable name, came to us when she was 12 weeks old and celebrates her first birthday on February 14th; Valentines Day (nawwwwwww). And while her image certainly evokes domestic scenes akin to a Kleenex commercial, the reality is harshly different.

Some of her most unsavoury behaviours not already mentioned include: photo2

  • Barking when the door bell goes and frightening visitors
  • Jumping up on above mentioned visitors once they have bravely entered the house and pushing over small children
  • Not eating her own food
  • Sitting by the dinner table waiting for roast lamb, grilled chicken, fish and chips (its the good quality cotton seed oil that does it) or smoked salmon
  • Jumping up to the kitchen bench to see what you are cooking and if there is anything worth hanging around the dinner table for
  • Pushing the door open when you are on the toilet
  • Drinking water off the shower recess
  • Eating everything but not limited to: reading glasses, bath plugs, thongs (the expensive ones - twice), homework, hairbrushes, netballs, plants, possum poo, the edges of sofas, her own bed... I could go on!

In fact she pretty much views the house and all its contents as an all-day, all-you-can-eat buffet! No wonder she doesn't eat her own food - she is full!

In a mere 9 months Millie had compiled a wrap sheet as long as your arm and developed into an habitual repeat offender. The Girls (trying to be helpful) suggested that merely screaming 'MILLIE', every time she broke ranks (or wind for that matter) was not effective. They proposed that just as their names are extrapolated out to GRACE CATHERINE or ELIZABETH ROSE in reference to flung school bags, dropped towels, abandoned arts projects and dirty dishes, so too should the dog's, to emphasize the level of annoyance at her destructive and mostly uncouth shenanigans.

So now I am sure the neighbours think we have adopted another child (due to an absence of a pregnancy), as you will regularly hear echoing from bedroom, pantry or parlour.......... 'MILLICENT OLIVIA'!

Do I feel ridiculous calling the dog by a first and given name? Of course. Has this curbed our hairy nosed outlaw of her demonic outings....no. She mocks our mortal stupidity and knows that if she is still here after the stunts she has pulled in the last year, no amount of ripping, chewing, begging, sniffing in places too impolite to discuss over tea and scones, releasing of toxins, or failure to come when asked, will compromise what we all know;  we have the worst dog in the world and we don't care!

Happy birthday Millicent Olivia. xx

 

High School Amuseical

An open letter to my daughter Grace as she begins secondary school today.

Dear Grace,

You have reached that time in your life where the skies you look to will widen, and the seas you travel may at times be choppy.....and if I could impart anything more profound than that I would.  However,  I can act only as a conduit to acne plagued memories seeped in self-doubt and academic mediocrity (with shining lights provided by the odd intercept at Wing Defence).

At best, I can offer you my top tips for navigating the next 6 years (with the odd cautionary tale). You are smarter, funnier, more self-confident and mature than I was, so much of this you may find perplexing and downright embarrassing, but then again - what's new?

Your father and I have hopefully mitigated some of the perils of pubescence that befell myself at your age, by sending you to an all-girl school, however there are some learnings that can be garnered regardless of the institution or decade.

Tip 1: The length of your dress is not directly related to the circle of friends you have: it is a misconceived notion that your uniform length directly relates to your ability to create and maintain meaningful friendships . At the rate you grow it will be a mute point by the end of the 3rd week anyway, so don't ring Gran she isn't going to take up the hem.

Tip 2: Tomato sauce sachets from the cafeteria are a menace and should be avoided at all costs. The ever-evolving mechanism for opening a tomato sauce sachet means that you are prone to wet, cold sprays of red gooey condiment landing everywhere  (face, lap, chest, hair, eyebrow) except for the item for which it was intended.  The rest of the day will be consumed by flashbacks and over-exaggerated memories of the entire student body seeing the incident, pointing fingers and laughing! Hardly conducive to study?

Tip 3: Casual clothes days. Pick a couple of key items for each fashion season and resist the temptation to buy everything that is considered 'on trend'. The shelf-life of Pink Panther earrings, bubblegum jeans, 'Choose Life' t-shirts (both the black and white and the fluro coloured versions) and white le Specs sunnies with the matching neck chain, were remarkably not as long as initially anticipated. I do however insist that legwarmers were prematurely removed from mainstream fashion.

Tip 4: Question authority and be committed to your views; just not those of your, English teacher (or have a good bank of essay topics on hand), Home Economics teacher (apparently there is only one way to bake scones), Math professor (I don't even have to explain that one), the school principal (career limiting) or visiting members of Parliament, (or at least have a back up question in case their press secretary questions whether you are wearing a recording device)? Home-room teachers, sport masters, career advisors and art teachers - go your hardest!

Tip 5: Staying home when the science class is dissecting frogs as a protest against animal cruelty is not going to affect the university you get accepted into or result in 'conscientious objector' being stamped on your permanent record.

Tip 6: All official secondary school photos are vile and have no place on a family mantelpiece - don't worry I have your back on this one. However still bring home the order form because Gran may want a copy! Note: I know at this point it would have been good to insert a high school photo of myself..............hence the need for Tip 6!

Tip 7: Winning an academic prize for an elective subject still counts and your father and I will be proud of you regardless, (shorthand is a remarkably difficult skill to master and sitting a Pitman 1000 exam anyone will tell you is stressful)!

Tip 8: Joining the editorial team of the senior yearbook committee is a valuable and worthwhile way you can leave a legacy with the school. If that ensures that only the good photos of you make the publication and the not-so-good ones of the girl that gave you a hard time for 6 years does, then so be it.

Tip 9: Although a new hairstyle before camp sounds like a good idea, any 'do' that requires a minimum of a half-hour blow wave and a vertical fringe won't survive a flying fox or 5 km mountain hike, so save it till you get home.

And finally...

Tip 10: As much as I am the 'follow your dreams' kinda gal, it is highly unlikely that any of the quaffed and laser teeth young men from any boy band is going to send through a marriage proposal in the next 6 years. John Taylor certainly left something to be desired in terms of return communication, so allocate an appropriate amount of time for poster gazing then hit the books, it is a far better investment of your time.

So there you have it, pearls to take with you I know -  and there is plenty more where that lot came from!  Consider me an anthology of teenage angst. I look forward to our teapot chats as I am certain you will be keen to extract my view on just about anything!

All my love,

Mum xx

 

Epic kale

I am lucky to live in a lovely part of the world with very community-minded people who are able to mobilise residents into various extra curricular pursuits such as tying red Christmas bows around trees, book clubs and street scape preservation. It makes for a very pleasant plot and gives residents endless conversation starters at the street Christmas party. A more recent initiative has been the establishment of a community veggie garden. The idea being that we create our own veggie gardens then share excess produce with neighbours to minimise waste, promote sustainability then brag about it at school drop off!

Cheekiness aside however, I have always wanted a veggie garden, if for nothing else but to feel the pride over a well rounded pumpkin or the adoration for a shiny skinned aubergine (and seeing as though I am a vegetarian - quite a handy resource). However, after several unsuccessful attempts at growing anything but continental parsley, (only wonderful news for lovers of tabouli), I have continued to make the weekly trudge to the market or grocery store for my staples of fresh produce.

So with a mix of anxiety and anticipation (anxipation if you will), I bravely committed to joining the community veggie garden. My daydreams of sharing gardening tips, swapping produce with neighbours and enjoying lovingly cultivated segments, batons and bushels from our own street began...and then I woke up. I am totally rubbish at growing anything likely to be considered fit for human consumption. This would normally not be a problem should this shameful practice of vegetable abuse be only limited to dissappointment from within the household, but to now have the discerning eyes and baskets of the street firmly fixed over the fence? We are now talking game changer.

With my plant pampering to be put under the microscope (literally as I can't imagine growing anything of significant size), I navigated the multitude of packets and bottles in the shed to better acquaint myself with the science of keeping alive the most innocent of bulbs (what on earth is blood and bone anyway and it doesn't sound like anything a vego like me would want to have seeping in to their tomatoes)!

We agreed a realistic approach of starting small, so we selected  our crops and planted our hopes and dreams.....well at least the desire to be able to knock together a half decent salad.

After weeks of daily checks, and reprimanding an over inquisitive cavoodle you can imagine my surprise when after a family holiday we were greeted with bright, plump tomatoes (the dog looked guilty when quizzed about a deformed capsicum).

Now before you put your orders in for homemade relish you need to understand that these tomatoes couldn't feed an ant farm, hence my reference to a microscope earlier.

What is that noise you say? That would be my fellow veggie gardeners knocking at the door wanting their 1/50 of quite possibly the most pathetic looking tomato ever harvested.

I am hoping the kale will lead me to redemption!

A 'rawther' fancy Christmas

A highlight of any trip to New York City would have to be a visit to the iconic Plaza Hotel. Its imposing shadow over Central Park, delivers on years of anticipation built from books and movies, so you can imagine how the idea of having Christmas lunch at the famed Palm Court, summoned my inner Eloise. Arriving in our Christmas day finery, we were greeted in the Plaza foyer by a Christmas tree that sang “your Christmases have not existed till now”! As someone that considers herself to be a lover of all things festive, my annual ornamentation now seemed sad and ill conceived so I made a mental note that next year - the gloves are coming off!

Up until this point I was doing ‘rawther’ well and despite wanting to ‘skipperdee’ around in a circle, I was managing to keep myself composed…..then I saw the dessert table!!!

Built completely from chocolate, cream and caramel with each delight created in miniature, entrees and main courses were merely distractions as the end game came closer and the dessert buffet called hauntingly. I have one rule around Christmas day food consumption, if it feels good – do it, and I was in the perfect environment to give this a good crack. My biggest challenge? How would I make 3 trips to the dessert table without drawing gasps and hand-hidden sniggers from fellow patrons? Luckily we were all in good company and I was not the only one heading back to the platter with the salted-caramel slice thingy, the description of its taste best served by the vision of my eyes rolling back in my head.

At this point it is important to mention that the mood of the table could not have been happier. Travel highlights, laughter and endless compliments about our surroundings made it one of the most memorable Christmas days ever. Even though we were thousands of kilometres from home and Millie the Cavoodle, a sad absentee, it reminded us that you can make any Christmas fabulous so long as you are with loved ones and a bottle of Eno!

Thank you Eloise!

Postscript: No dignity or self-respect was harmed during the research for this article.