Category Archives: My World

Meet The Chaos Quad Kitties, herein known as, “The ChaoS’Quad Kitties” © Sam Sochacka 2015

Shhhhhhhhhh, they’re asleep!

This is the only hope I have of introducing you to the Chaos Quad Kitties, herein known as the “ChaoS’quad Kitties” © Sam Sochacka2015.

Let me give you an idea, this is me attempting to get the washing out of the machine:

See what I mean?!

So, their name.  I initially thought that they were the Chaos Quad Kitties.  However, after spending 48 hours with them, I realised that they are way more stealthy, and organised than that.  Hence, the  “ChaoS’quad Kitties”.  So yes, they are the Chaos Quad (there are four of them), but they are so good at creating chaos, that they deserve to be named as a ‘Squad’.  So, blend those ideas together, and you have  “ChaoS’quad Kitties”.

I was feeling fairly uninspired recently, so I thought the best way to ‘cure’ myself, was to foster some kitties.  These four, 12 week old, kittens have changed my life.  A whole world of creative endeavours has opened up, and it’s only been 48 hours……

I mean, look!  How can you not be inspired by this lot:

Anyway, I must away.  Time to clean up the kitty litter, and enjoy my last few minutes of quiet before the “ChaoS’quad Kitties” wake up.  AND it’s a full moon.  Oh no!

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(from left to right: Molly, Eddie, Max, and Sparky)

#TravellingKoala borrows backpack from #BristolBear

#TravellingKoala has caught up with an old friend, #BristolBear, and borrowed his backpack, as #TravellingKoala is ………… going travelling!

From the Family Archives – a complete set of the Sesame Street Library published in the 70’s

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My Dad recently gave me a box of books from the Family Archives, and look at what I discovered!  A complete set of the Sesame Street Library featuring the muppets.  The series features the numbers 1 – 15, and the letters A – Z.  They were published from 1971 – 1978.  The books have their fair share of wear and tear, but this is due to at least a decade of time spent in my sister’s and my hands being read over and over again.

I highly recommend that you hold on to your, and your children’s, childhood book collections, it is simply magic to rediscover them.  Check out the slideshow below for a look at all the covers in the series.

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I am to illustrating as a barbeque skewer is to a blow-up castle at a school fete, but….

52 week illustration challenge

I am more than at home at a keyboard for hours on end.  I can also weave some magic with a camera.  But when it comes to starting with a blank piece of paper and creating something, I am to illustrating as a barbeque skewer is to a blow-up castle at a school fete.

I have watched a wonderful illustration group go from strength to strength on Facebook this year.  The 52-Week Illustration Challenge was set up by Tania McCartney so she could return to illustration after a 20 year break.  There are now 2, 416 members!  Each week has a theme, and members submit their work to the group on Facebook.

Here is my first post, put up mere minutes ago…..

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Time to be brave…

Week 38. Giraffe.

This is my first time posting. I have admired this group from the safety of my writer’s desk as I am to illustrating as a barbeque skewer is to a blow-up castle at a school fete. A 10 year old friend and I were hanging out recently, and his Mum suggested we paint. He was not keen as he is a perfectionist and felt he couldn’t do it. So to encourage him, I explained my total lack of skills, and said I would have a go. I soon received a bunch of painting things as a birthday pressie, so I thought I would try some procrastipainting.

Water colours and markers on ‘German paper rough tooth’ – I have no idea what that means. The main giraffe is trying to step back from being painted by someone like me. And the little guy in the corner snuck into the pic so I could practise my brush skills, he’s a bit grumpy that he is not the feature.

I had an incredibly enjoyable morning getting this guy ready for his debut.  Check out some pictures from the process below:

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The Day I Turned My Modem Off: how I actually got some writing done

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I cannot resist being here online. I turned my modem off early this afternoon to get some writing done, which I did, but here I am, talking about how much writing I got done whilst offline. I think ‘ironic’ is the word.

I use the internet all day, every day, for work and play. I teach aspiring authors and illustrators how to use Social Media – it is fair to say that I’m addicted. But a lot of what I do online is for work, and that is how I justify my overuse of social media and the internet. And the research opportunities online are infinite. Such as today, before I turned off the modem, I was polishing up on my Latin, and translating words that I could not remember.

I was not really surprised that I got things done, though I’m amazed at how much I got done, how focused I was, and at how long I sustained writing for. Just plain, old writing.  And a change in my work space also helped enormously.

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my outdoor, uncluttered, internet-free office

It was great, I got stuff done! Like I haven’t in a long time. I dusted the cobwebs off a folder of writing, despite the fact that it is a digital one. Picture Books was the folder. I completed a first draft, from scratch. I have been working on this story for a while. I am very much a planner, so I am super pleased that I added to the plans for three picture books. I also re-organised my writing priorities as well as my (digital) filing system.

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picture book plans

So, this was a great outcome, but I still needed the internet to write. I needed to research words, names, and images. I had questions pertaining to my story that I needed to ask my colleagues and friends. I even had to Google different types of grasses found on farms. I maintained my modem-less state, but it was exceptionally difficult.  It was a craving, a real physical sensation. I find it hard to explain. I started to wonder, how did people write and research before the internet? We are very lucky to live in these times.

And then there is the game I like (do I admit the plurality of this habit?), social media services, news sites, the BOM (Bureau of Meteorology) radar, and more that are constantly running in the background on multiple devices. I always have three devices running simultaneously at my desk, something that I now realise is detrimental to my writing career.

But the fact remains, I got a lot done. In three quarters of a day. More than I have in the last couple of months. If you haven’t tried turning off your modem*, then you really should give it a go. And stick to one device when writing.

Now I must post this, and then force myself to turn off my modem for the rest of the night **grits teeth, takes deep breaths, warms up ‘button pressing finger’**


*assistance from family and friends may be required in the form of an intervention, locking up of modem, throwing it out the window, or taking it for a leisurely drive so you can actually get some writing done.

Interviewing Aussie Animals & Christmas Baking

The 1st of December is here!  I hope you are all feeling on top of your end of year preparations.  I for one am not, especially as I am going on a fabulous holiday in mid-December, so I feel like I have to cram a month’s work into half a month.   But as my Dad says, “there’s nothing to it but to do it”, so I find myself at my desk on a beautiful, sunny Sunday afternoon.

I have been busy, so I thought I’d share with you what I’ve been up to.

Interviewing Aussie Animals

I’m working on a picture book that will have a few Aussie animal character in it.  For the purposes of authentic research, I recently visited Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary at the south end of the Gold Coast.  As the pictures below will attest, I got up close and personal with a few of them.  I found the Koala to be the most helpful, she gave me some good tips, yet appeared aloof when anyone passed by so as to not give the game away.  The Kangaroos were fairly lazy and not forthcoming, it was the hottest part of the day, so I will remember to set my book in the morning or evening when they are most active.  At first the emu was quite amenable, but when I asked him to pose for a photo he turned around and I thought I would lose an ear, see below.

Christmas Baking

I have a thing for cooking, any chance I get I’ll bake up a storm.   Christmas is one of the best times of year to bake, especially with all the Christmas parties happening.  I am attending the Book Links & CBCA – QLD Branch Christmas Party this afternoon so yesterday I thought I would bake my first ever batch of shortbread cookies.  I must be honest, they seem more like semi-burnt, severely-compacted croissants, but they are very delicious so are packed and ready.  I think the key thing is to never try a new recipe the afternoon before having to produce food that will sit alongside the creations of some of the best cooks in the Children’s Literature Industry in Brisbane.

PiBoIdMo – Picture Book Authors’ Answer to NaNoWriMo

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About PiBoIdMo

PiBoIdMo, or Picture Book Ideas Month, is picture book authors’ answer to NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month.  PiBoIdMo is the brainchild of Tara Lazar who created it as a 30 day challenge for picture book writers who seemingly miss out on all the fun of NaNoWriMo.  The challenge is to create 30 picture book ideas in 30 days.  The ideas need not be entire manuscripts, but could include a title, a name of a character, or a silly idea on which to base a picture book.

To participate in PiBoIdMo, simply click HERE to find out more.  Registration  started on October 24, 2013 and is open through the first week of November.

I have chosen to participate, along with a number of friends, to focus my writing efforts and imagination firmly on generating ideas and manuscripts for picture books.

The PiBoIdMo Blog Hop

As a participant I am also taking part in the PiBoIdMo Blog Hop.  The idea is to answer 4 questions about writing, and then tag more children’s writers to take part.    I’ve been tagged by aspiring, and inspiring, children’s author Yvonne Mes.  Yvonne works tirelessly on her writing, as well as supporting other aspiring authors and illustrators here in Brisbane and beyond.  She is certainly one to keep an eye on in the world of children’s literature.  Check out her blog Picture a Book HERE.

1.     What am I currently working on?

I have a head full of ideas for picture books at the moment, there are 13 in total on my ‘to write list’.  I am writing about what I am passionate about, including cooking, gardening, and finding the humorous side of day-to-day events.  I will use PiBoIdMo as a time to consolidate my ideas, to come up with firm plans for each picture book idea, filling in the gaps that I need to get from the ‘just an idea’ stage, to the ‘draft manuscript’ stage.

2.     How does it differ from other works in the genre?

I think it would be presumptuous to claim that I have stumbled upon the unique idea of the decade in the world of picture books.  Though I think that my take on day-to-day happenings will offer children an entertaining read, an opportunity to view their day-to-day activities a little differently, and the ability to find humour in the most mundane of activities.  I aim to encourage children to apply their imagination to everything they do to enhance their experiences.

3.     Why do I write what I do?

I write what I do as the ideas I come up with just seem too good to let slip.  I have woken up more than once in the middle of the night to write down an idea that I fear will be lost to me if I don’t record it.  As I write what I am passionate about, I have no difficulty in coming up with material to put into my manuscripts.  I am also passionate about children’s literature and literacy, so I write books which can be used by families and teachers to instil a love of reading in children with activities that go beyond the story itself.

4.     What is the hardest part about writing?

I think the hardest part of writing is maintaining momentum.  That is why I think challenges such as PiBoIdMo are invaluable to those of us who write.  Taking an idea and turning it into a manuscript which is suitable for submission to publishers can also be challenging, especially when I seem to have too many ideas on the go at any one time.

I have tagged local Brisbane authors as I believe it is essential to support my local literary community.  Let me introduce them to you….

Michelle Worthington

Michelle Worthington is a published Australian author. The stories she writes are like the stories she read when she was little and they have what may now be seen as an old fashioned feel, but they have a timeless message. Her goal is to be a successful Australian author known for classically elegant and compassionate stories for young children.  Find out more on Michelle’s website HERE.

Karen Tyrrell

Karen Tyrrell is a passionate mental health author-teacher.  Her picture book Bailey Beats the Blah empowers children to cope with sad days and worry thoughts, spring-boarding action plans on how to lift a child’s mood.  Bailey is aligned with the Kids Matter National Education Program, supported by Kids Helpline.  Free teachers notes and children’s activities are available on her website HERE.

Dimity Powell

Dimity Powell has trekked through many parts of the  world and across several of its oceans,  collecting crazy story ideas along  the way. She’s enjoyed working in the People Industry for many years but now  finds it more interesting juggling motherhood and writing full time for  children. Her stories appear in school magazines both in Australia and overseas,  online and in various anthologies and have been awarded in numerous writing  competitions. Her first junior novel for children, PS Who Stole Santa’s Mail? featured in  the Christmas stockings of hundreds of children for the first time in 2012.  Dimity is an enthusiastic member of Book Links QLD and avid supporter of Kids  Literature. To Read, Write and Inspire  sum up Dimity’s main passions in life, along with eating untold of amounts  of cake and ice cream, often at the same time.

Discover more of her story on her website HERE.

ideas taking flight

Amazing Times at StoryArts – The Adventures of a Children’s Literature Journalist

At a Children’s Literature industry Christmas Party in December 2012 I received the best Christmas present ever, an invitation to be the chief blogger and manager of the social media accounts for the 2013 StoryArts Children’s Literature Festival at Ipswich, Queensland, Australia.   My brief for the Festival was to document what went on in sessions for those who could not attend due to financial or geographical constraints, aspiring authors and illustrators, teachers and librarians, families and other interested industry professionals.  I felt honoured and privileged to be able to do this.

Fast forward 9 months and I found myself surrounded by legendary Australian, Kiwi and British authors and illustrators; dedicated teacher librarians; devoted book sellers; unstoppable volunteers; and enthusiastic kids who were blown away by the opportunity to see their favourite authors and illustrators as walking, talking human beings.  And all this in the stunning grounds of Woodlands at Marburg, the close-knit cluster of Arts venues in Ipswich City and the delightful rural outpost of Esk.

My days began early, thanks especially to the array of birdlife at Woodlands. I unhooked everything that had been charging overnight, it takes a lot of electronic tools to be a children’s literature journalist, and packed them into my bags for the day.  I tell you, working as a one-person media outlet is good for the muscles given everything I had to carry.  Breakfast with the Stars was next on the agenda, though there was an unspoken agreement that until everyone had caffeinated, all work conversations were off limits.

I spent the next 2 hours catching up on blog posts, editing photos and researching the authors and illustrators that I would be seeing that day.  As I sat typing at break neck speeds, people whirred past ensuring that everything was ready to welcome the kids.  Authors and illustrators were whisked away to various venues including local schools, and Andrew the Peacock screeched his encouragement to all.  I was amazed at how all this happened seamlessly day in and day out throughout the Festival.

When I was in Ipswich I attended 3 sessions a day, at Esk I attended 3 and at Woodlands I attended 4.  Depending on the presenter(s) I was treated to an insight into the book creation process, a frenzy of comic drawing, a tour through ancient China, a ‘how to draw’ lesson, a singing and dancing session, a tantalising tale by one of the world’s best storytellers, and even a magic show.  I duly and dutifully documented each session, and took a few pictures to add to each blog post.  I was completely inspired by all the presenters and thoroughly enjoyed watching the children discover more about their favourite books, authors and illustrators.  Though I am a fully fledged adult, I was often whisked away into another time or world by the creative genius of the presenters.  And as someone who is to illustrating as a BBQ skewer is to a blow up castle at a school fete, I was really surprised at how even I learned a thing or two about illustrating.

For every session I attended I attempted to capture the essence of each session, how each author or illustrator communicated with their audience, what the kids were encouraged to do, think and imagine, and the creative process of each presenter.  For a number of the presentations I know my efforts fell short.  If you have ever seen a children’s author or illustrator at work, you would know how lively and fast-paced these sessions can be.  However I did receive a number of compliments from authors, illustrators, teachers and librarians, so I guess I didn’t do too badly.

What I appreciate most about working as a Children’s Literature Journalist at StoryArts Festival Ipswich was the opportunity to network with and learn from the authors and illustrators, as well as seeing the Festival through the eyes of the children in attendance.  I was left in no doubt about the importance of Children’s Literature Festivals, and I look forward to being involved in many more in the future, as a journalist and (fingers crossed) an author as well.  Thanks must go the Festival organisers – The Ipswich District Teacher-Librarian Network, all the authors and illustrators, and of course the children whose joy and enthusiasm for reading and books was a pleasure to witness and share.